Monday, 26 October 2009

Boyo - Les cahiers de conversation, deux

Fellow bloggagers sometimes sigh "How wonderful it must be to have the chance, on an almost daily basis, to hear the beautifully crafted pearls of wisdom that drip from the lips of the great No Good Boyo rather than have to wait for days at a time for him to complete a posting."

For such pining addicts, I offer the following conversation I had with the man himself this morning. We were queuing up in the canteen, and Boyo - having mislaid his glasses - was sorting with unnecessary care through assorted foreign coins and buttons for something the Inca princess manning the till would accept in payment for a coffee and a muffin, while a queue of deadline-stressed journalists and radio presenters built up behind him like a writhing snake.

As he finally sorted out his debt and moved on, he opined "What's that island where they use 2-ton rocks as currency?"
"That's it. I reckon we should adopt that as currency - for a start, nobody would pick your pockets, and also which nation in the UK has the most rocks?"
"Wales, exactly. Wales consists largely of piles of rocks. You can't move in Wales without falling over huge, sprawling piles of slate, and anthracite, and - "

He paused for a moment while he struggled to think of another type of rock.

"Ignitheous twat-bollocks."
"I'm not sure that's a type of rock, Boyo."
"Look, basically you've got three kinds of rock: Igneous, which comes out of the middle of the earth in a molten state and then sets hard; sedimentary, which is loads of bits that settle in a layer and then go hard; and metamorphic, which start off sedimentary and then get cooked in to something else like dough turning into cake."

His brow furrowed while he attempted to synthesize this new and exciting information.

"Gyppo - you forgot the fourth sort."
"Which is?"
He nodded emphatically like Stan Laurel delivering a non-sequitur and wandered off to massage the coffee into his scalp and crumble the muffin down his trousers, as per normal.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Jeremy Kyle - the answer to global conflict

One of the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures is an unhealthy addiction to the Jeremy Kyle show. It's a sort of human version of those "Police, Camera, Unbelievably Thick Tosser in a Stolen Ford Escort" programmes that also rank among my guilty pleasures. I suppose the warm glow they occasion stems from a deep-seated smugness that however much one's wife complains about "getting too close to the kerb" when one is colliding with a lamppost or whingeing about 5 minutes spent filling in an innocent Sudoku while one's small children amuse themselves with knives, weedkiller sprays and pans of boiling water; there are others who are even worse at managing their daily lives.

Anyway, it struck me recently that if world leaders are serious about global peace and disarmament, they should appoint Jezzer secretary-general of the UN and have all peace conferences on daytime TV.

We can imagine what the result would look like:

JK: On Today's show - exes at war over nuclear weapons [Video clip of North Korea shouting at South: "Well you go runnin' off with America an' that, warram I s'pposed ter think? Eh?", and South shouting back "Tell them about the violence. You didn't mention that to the researchers, didja? You invaded me!"]

And a country that desperately wants to be father to it's ex's breakaway province [Video clip of JK intoning gravely - "Russia, Georgia: The DNA results show that the biological father of South Ossetia is -"]

That's all coming up later. But first, a family dispute that's dragged on for a long time, and threatened to involve the whole neighbourhood. Lots to unravel in this story. Now first up we have India. India has been arguing for years with sister Pakistan over a disputed cashmere. Please welcome India.
[India walks onstage and sits down nervously. If you can imagine such a thing.]
JK: Welcome to the show.
I: Good morning Jeremy.
JK: Now if we can go back a bit - you have been arguing about a lot of things even before this dispute we're here to talk about today.
I: Yes, even when Raj was alive we used to argue about religion a lot.
JK: Raj was your mother, yes?
I: Yes Jeremy.
JK: Please let's not get onto religion, but can you just tell us the sort of arguments you had?
I: Well Pakistan was always causing trouble, mistreating the cow, lookin' down like on anyone who thought diff'rently an' all. And after Raj passed on we decided to go our separate ways.
JK: Fair enough. So you wanted a clean break and to have nothing more to do with her.
I: Yes Jeremy - I could go my way and she could go hers and as far as I'm concerned, at the end o'the day, we're not related any more.
JK: But this current dispute is over a cashmere?
I: Yes - Raj had promised it to me as I'd always liked it, but at the funeral Pakistan made a scene and grabbed at it, tore it in half, and has kept her half saying she'll only sew it back together if I hand my half over to her.
JK: Which you're not prepared to do...
I: Which I'm certainly not prepared to do, Jeremy.
JK: OK, now take a breather. After the break, we'll talk to Pakistan and hear her side of the story. Don't go anywhere...

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Great Indonesian Novel - 4

Continuing the ongoing series with This Earth of Badly-Raised Twilight - Chapter 4 - June 1914

Ho Li Kow stroked the head of his beloved elder son, William of Orange Polder Windmill Rotterdam Pancake Li, and fed the boy a piece of Dutch chocolate. William loved being in his father's study, with its array of Dutch books and gramophone records. Here he could bask in the glories of the European culture that his father loved - reading the novels of Shakespeare and the poems of Jane Austen; and listening raptly to Wagner symphonies and Bach operas. Today he would be going off to the Dutch school to start learning Dutch. If only, he thought, his mother had not been a benighted native, he could really go somewhere. Holland, preferably.

As if on cue, his beautiful but cruelly mistreated and ignored native mother Raden Roro Royabot and irritating younger brother Hayamwuruk Gamelan Komodo-Dragon Hopeless-Dream-of-Independence Batik Li entered, soiling the Dutch carpet with their ugly, brown native feet. Royabot placed a small stone in the leather strap decorated with a Merlion and a picture of Sir Stamford Raffles, swung it round a couple of times and propelled the stone into her husband's forehead with a satisfying smack.


Royabot looked at the floor in dismay and confusion.

"I am sorry lord. I did not know the difference, lord. And in any case, that gag doesn't work in Javanese. Or even in English, unless the readers know at least a smattering of Singaporean history."

Ho Li Kow rubbed his sore head. "What do you want, anyway?"

Royabot overcame her nervousness and looked him straight in the eye.

"Do you remember how, in Chapter 2, you promised that after I had borne you two sons, I would be free to leave?"
"Nothing would make me happier."
"Then I ask you to free me."
"OK, bye then."

She hesitated, prepared as she had been for A Scene. She thought of shedding tears copiously, like chunks of freshly sliced lontong onto a banana leaf, to be covered with the satay of humilition and drenched in the peanut sauce of continuing poverty, but quite frankly she couldn't be arsed. She straightened up and walked out, taking Hayamwuruk Gamelan Komodo-Dragon Hopeless-Dream-of-Independence Batik Li with her.

"Wait a moment" her husband called after her. "Where will you go? What will you do?"

She turned back and looked at him. "I will go to the market and sell batik like a native woman. Which I am, of course, as you never let me forget. Not that I want to in the first place."

She paused.

"Where was I? Oh yes - batik in the market. And if that doesn't raise enough cash, I can offer sexual favours to visiting Filipino sailors. After marriage to you, nothing else can ever humiliate me more."

She walked proudly out, wishing inside that she had married Min, the simple village goat-carrier, and been poor but happy.


Far away in the village, Min - the simple village goat-carrier-turned-dokar-driver-turned-satay-seller who nursed within him a hopeless passion for Royabot - had finished serving satay for the night and was counting his takings. The business was doing well. Suddenly he heard a sharp sigh from his one remaining customer, sitting alone over his satay at a low table. Min walked over to him and asked, sympathetically "What's the matter sir?"

"It's hard to explain - you see, I am the vice-president of Goodyear Tyres (Southeast Asia) division and my marketing strategy is in a total mess. I would far prefer to be in a small business selling something simple like goat satay."

"Pak" said Min soothingly, "I am but a poor village goat-carrier-turned-dokar-driver-turned-satay-seller and know nothing about these things, but it strikes me that the main barrier to tire sales at this point is the non-viability of motor vehicles owing to poor infrastructure. If you could lobby the colonial government for a coordinated road-building programme, and go into some kind of loose associative partnership with the oil companies and vehicle importers to push for greater and more effective use of road transport using the internal combustion engine, the market would expand greatly and an existing network of franchisees fitting your firm's tires would be well-placed to take advantage."

"Wah, Min - you are so clever. We should swap places - you can be vice-president of Goodyear Tyres (Southeast Asia) division with responsibility for marketing and I will be the satay seller. For your cleverness, you deserve this."

Sunday, 18 October 2009

"Daddy, what's your favourite rom-com?"

"I like the one about the shy young geologist who impresses a beautiful American woman geologist by discovering successive layers of perfectly-preserved Llandovery, Wenlock, Ludlow and Pridoli limestone right next to a geo-thermal vent."
"Is there such a film?"
"Yes Djangolina - it's called Four Beddings and a Fumarole."

[Note to self - Remember not to do this over the dinner table when squirty-ketchup is within Djangolina's reach.]

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

"Daddy, what's your favourite family film?"

"I like the one about the man who goes to the West Indies to search for deposits of iron sulfides."
"Is there such a film?"
"Yes Djangolina - it's called Pyrites of the Caribbean."

[Note to self - Djangolina is getting increasingly strong and fearless, and thanks to misguided school sex education lessons, knows where one's nadgers are.]

Monday, 12 October 2009

A tale of two balls

Warning - this post is clean, but contains disturbing traces of snobbery

The more I learn of England, the more I am convinced I am an alien. Either that or everyone else is normal and I'm deeply eccentric. Or that I've had a bizarrely skewed upbringing. Or all three.

What am I on about?

Well, this weekend last Mrs Byard and I had a rare opportunity to go out and socialise, not once but twice. On Friday, we attended a charity ball at a converted stately home set in the rural magnificence of Berkshire (or was it Hampshire? Somewhere near the border, anyway); and on Sunday we turned up to an Indonesian community party in a village hall definitely in Berkshire, and indeed perilously close to Mrs Pouncer.

The charity ball was in part organised by some of Mrs Byard's new work colleagues (she's just started a new job), and she felt it would be a good opportunity to socialise with them and scare them by presenting me. The tickets were quite reasonably priced, and clearly stated that the dress code was black tie. Now one's formative experiences in ball-going were during one's Oxford years, during which - as a friend of mine put it "one learns three important life skills - how to tie one's own bow tie, how to punt, and one has forgotten the other one."

So out came the dinner suit, cummerbund, mirror-polished patent leather pumps, dress shirt, lapis-lazuli cufflinks and hand-tied blue paisley bow-tie to match (because black tie need not be black for a jolly social occasion. Mrs Byard looked radiant in a full-length gown the colour of which I can't quite describe but if pressed would call "grey with a hint of lilac" and a lilac-ish shawl of that flimsy transparent (but pretty) material the name of which I've forgotten. Mrs Pouncer would know. (It's a good job I'm not a celebrity columnist, isn't it? Can you imagine what a butt-clenchingly embarrasing mess I'd make of describing the frocks worn by A-listers on the red carpet?)

Anyway, we had got it about right. For our table. Mrs Byard's colleagues were indeed in decent evening dress, but with bow-ties in various jolly hues to match or compliment their partners' evening gowns. Our fellow guests on other tables, however, seemed to lack the poise and savoir-whatsit that a decent upbringing and/or education delivers. They were, one would guess, rat-faced estate agents and similar riff-raff who had no concept of "black tie" and for whom a grey polyester off-the-peg chain-store suit is the smartest thing they own. But they had read and acted on the words "black tie" by wearing straight, black ties; and consequently looked like rat-faced estate agents attending a funeral. They then descended on the bar to equip themselves with pints of lager in plastic "glasses" and blue vodka concoctions for their loud, over-made up accompanying slappers, after which they descended into looking like pissed rat-faced estate agents attending a funeral. There was also a live band playing ABBA covers after dinner, which effected a gender segregation of which a Saudi Imam would have approved, were it not for the fact that he wouldn't have approved of the pissed slappers threatening the dance-floor with imminent collpase and the rat-faced funereal estate-agents forming a lager-crazed scrum at the bar.

There are times when I horrify myself with my own opinions about the people around me. This was one of them. I stress that it was a worthwhile cause, that anyone willing to turn up and support a major cancer charity is worthy of praise rather than snobbish sarcasm and that Mrs Byard's colleagues are lovely people. But even so...

Anyway, event number 2 - a belated Lebaran (end of Ramadhan) party with the local Indonesian community at the village hall. Entrance price - none (but bring food...)Dress code - none (but batik is always appropriate). Alcohol - none. Band - us, playing gamelan. Games and face-painting for kids, silly party games for grown-ups thrown in for good measure. Money raised - £800 for the Sumatran earthquake appeal, so again a worthy charitable cause benefitted. A fantastic time was had by all. What I particularly like about Indonesian parties is that Indonesians are capable of having uproarious fun without needing a drink first. And they understand their own dress codes. And they don't dance like knob-ends.

Does even thinking such thoughts make me a bad person?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Simon Jenkins. Twat.

No Good Boyo - a man who rightly relishes the opportunity to provoke unnecessary violence - earlier drew my attention to a highly annoying article in the Guardian, by the aforementioned Jenkins.

Jenkins writes in what he clearly thinks is a moving and evocative way of a part of Romania which is a strong contender for the title of "Europe's least developed region". Furthermore, it is on target to have a Roma majority before long; a prospect he described as "the most exciting and daunting cultural challenge in Europe" (public-school tosser weasel-speak for "I say, do you think these primitive pikeys will manage when the grown-ups are away?")

Jenkins scrupulously avoids the word "Roma" throughout, preferring the outdated and moderately offensive "Gypsy", presumably to conjure up an image of picturesque simple folk in gaily emroidered costumes playing their jolly music. He clearly has an eye for the boys too:
There is no water or sewerage and no tarmac roads. The village well and a few desultory horses and carts are attended by attractive Gypsy youths.

No water or sewerage and mainly horses for transport. Sounds just wonderful, doesn't it? But of course "simple picturesque people" like the Roma would only be spoilt if you let them share the benefits of modern society. And their 'attractive youths' might not be quite so available either. Far better to tailor aid to their modest needs:
A truly minimalist venture had a Gypsy in the village of Floresti asking for, and getting, a tiled roof over an appalling hovel shared with his wife, two horses and a mountain of manure.

We wouldn't want to remove the manure, now, would we? Old Florian has grown so fond of it, and it provides such a lovely photo opportunity and story to tell over a glass of wine back in Hampstead.

And here we touch on his true concern for the region, if not its people:
There is thus a race to save the most endangered pre-industrial landscape in Europe from poverty-stricken newcomers understandably eager for modernity. One day these villages will be as treasured as those of the Cotswolds, Provence or Umbria, but until then they must pass through the valley of the shadow of possible death.

Yes folks - tired of how overrun with braying middle-class English pillocks your favourite holiday area is? Then come to Romania and patronise some Gyppoes. They won't mind, you know, they're happy with an unmetalled road and a pile of horse-poo!

I am seriously minded to start a new charitable organisation, possibly with EU funding, to provide the Roma of Transylvania with the development they actually want. Top of the list would be a supply of AK-47s and some leaflets explaining to them how all rich English tourists in 4x4s are agents of Satan.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Monosyllablism - it's the Anglo-Saxon way...

Last night my wife and I had a chat. She said that one thing she likes about the tongue used in this land is that there are a lot of words with but the one sound in them. This was not like her own birth tongue, in which a lot of the words have three or four sounds in them. "This is true" I said. "A lot of the key words used here have but one sound in them - earth, sun, moon, man, child, birth, death and so on. In fact, I bet you I could write a whole post on my blog and not have to use one word which has more than one sound in it."

"Go on then" she said.

Please feel free to add a word or two or your own. But be sure to use just the words which have one sound each in them.