Friday, July 11, 2014

In which I come clean: you want a mobile phone? I’ll give you a mobile phone (any colour, any make, any century). And as for laptops . . . Meanwhile, our government copies up with a novel way of making a fat fool of itself and solving the obesity crisis

Well, the inevitable just had to happen and, of course, it has happened, though I am glad to report (as, undoubtedly, you are glad to hear) that there are no serious consequences. (NB Jul 14: That first sentence is never explained and makes no sense at all. A friend got in touch asking for clarification, but I could give him none because I really can’t think what the hell I was talking about. So if you are baffled, don’t worry, so are we.) But first a little background. For some reason – I have resisted writing ‘for some very odd reason – I have a habit of having many of several items. Duplicates, spares, call it what you like. It is character trait I have had since I can remember.

For example, when I was at Das Cansius Kolleg, a Jesuit day school in Berlin, at the start of the year some firm or other dealing in school texts books would turn up for a day, possibly even two or three, and have for sale all the relevant textbooks we would need. It also, by way of PR I should imagine, gave away a kind of diary to anyone who wanted one. But I started collecting them, not one or two or three, but seven, eight, nine, I don’t know how many. I don’t know why and I cannot explain it except to say that at the time – Easter 1960 – I was ten years old and it was, perhaps, the kind of thing ten-year-old lads did.

That, at least, is my explanation, and and, to be honest, it holds, just. I am, now however – on July 11, 2014 – no longer ten years old, but closer to 65 than 10, but I still have that same trait. It’s a standing joke at work that I have loads of mobile phones. And the thing is I do. If I were – and I am not, because the reader of most blogs has, I assume, limited patience and (whisper it quietly) quite possibly a limited attention span, about to give chapter and verse as to when, why and how I acquired each. And, in isolation, there is nothing particularly whacky about each acquisition.

For example, a few years ago while in France I thought I had lost my mobile phone (Yanks: cellphone, Krauts: handy) and so bought another. It wasn’t expensive. But that meant when the other turned up (though I only got my hands on it a year later) I had, to put it gently, two. Except that by then, for one reason or another, I had a lot more than two. In fact, a rough count off the top of my head would total the number I have at, give or take a few, 14.

Funny farm material or what?

I’ll repeat that I can give a rational account for the acquisition of most of them: one is a phone I bought my daughter when she was younger but which, for some reason, she didn’t take to. A second was the phone which replaced it, but which she swapped for another I had which she thought was ‘cooler’. A third was a bargain (just £4.95 at Superdrug but that was about 12 years ago. And so one. But, and I am the first to

A small selection of my phones

admit as much, I would not blame anyone – in fact, I have no choice in the matter – to thinking that as far as mobile phones are concerned I am a sandwich short of a picnic. But that is just the phones. Let me now tell you about the computers, tablets and laptops of which I am the proud owner.

Once again, were I to explain (I suppose rather nervously) why, when and how I became the proud owner of so many, it all makes perfect sense, for I would be very put out were anyone reading this to include my in the community of the terminally irrational not to so downright whacky. But overall? Here goes: I am the proud owner two desktop computers (a Mac and a PC – well, make that three, because the PC replaced another which my son and I thought was on the blink but we discovered, once I had bought the replacement, wasn’t); five laptops (seven if you include the notebook my son uses and the laptop I bought for my daughter) and two tablets (and in mitigation might I plead that one is an Apple and the second an Google. Not convinced? No, I didn’t think so).

Here again I am, for the sake of my pride, obliged to try to extricate myself from the obvious suggestion that I am, to all intents and purposes, rather mad: one laptop, a Macbook, was bought because I thought a similar Macbook was on its way out. Except that once I had bought the second Macbook I discovered . . . Yes, of course, you can only use one mobile phone (cellphone, handy) at a time, and, yes, you can only use one computer – whether tablet, laptop or desktop at a time. But in a convoluted way it does make perfect sense.

So, for example, when I am at my stepmother’s (who I visit every day she doesn’t get out much since she had a stroke) where I keep two of my laptops, I don’t have to take one there with me. (Often when she is engrossed in Bargain Basement or any other the other terminally dull daytime TV programmes she seems to love, I shall sit with her surfing the net, as my tolerance level for daytime TV is in minus figures.)

So there you have it: not quite as mad as it might seem, eh? Eh? Not convinced. Well, tell me about your quirks then. And should I hear of any whispers in deepest Arkansas, Turkey, China, France, Germany or, of course, Old Blighty that despite my sincerest protests I am most definitely on the way out sanity wise, expect to hear from my lawyer. Or one of the several I keep on a retainer. (Can’t have too many lawyers, can we?)

. . .

The news tonight here in La-La Land (the new name for Great Britain) is that the government has decided to make weight reduction surgery available, free, gratis, on the National Health. No, I’m not joking. It is the latest ploy to ‘tackle our growing obesity/type 2 diabetes problem’. First the obvious joke: having so many fatties around is something of a boon. We now no longer have the good money on a holiday to the coast of Norway or New Zealand on a ‘whale-watching expedition’, but a short bus trip to any of our town centres is just as effective. Right, that’s the joke out of the way.

In fact, I refuse to accept that the good folk of the Western World, and, increasingly, many parts of urban Asia, are simply getting greedier and eating and drinking more. As far as I am concerned it is the nutritional quality of the food they buy to eat which is to blame. OK, so they don’t have to eat quite as much processed crap and


This one has to fart to give you a clue


‘ready meals’, granted, but essentially it is not their fault. Take a look at the ingredients of most of the ‘food’ sold in our supermarkets and you will see it is jam-packed with sugar, salt, trans-fats, but, worst of all corn starch/corn syrup.

The way I heard it was that as farming became big business (inevitably first in the U.S., but European greed is never far behind) and agri-scientists came up with ever more wheezes to grow more and more wheat on the land available, they found they slowly had too much of the stuff. And there was no good reason to grow it all if they couldn’t bloody sell it, making every great sums of money sadly being the name of the game.

That’s when they came up with 1,001 different uses for corn syrup and corn starch. And now you’ll find it in everything, from puddings to soups to cakes to sweets (candy) to I don’t know bloody what. But as today’s ‘time-poor’ generation (i.e. those who are so dumb they can think of nothing better than to watch as much TV as possible and just ‘don’t have the time to cook’) likes to eat, their ingestion of crap containing corn syrup and corn starch has increased dramatically over these past 30 years. The upshot is that we now have a generation of supersized fatties and diabetics.

The obvious solution, of course, would be for our government, and governments throughout the ‘civilised West’, to insist that processed food producers cut back drastically on the crap they put in the ‘product’. Obvious, certainly, but also a surefire way of drawing upon themselves the ire of these producers and, most pertinently, a withdrawal of party donations as well as the goodwill of the voters.

That is how we get to the situation where our government today feels it is more rational to pay for the population to go into hospital to have chunks of fat cut from their sorry bodies than to tackle the root cause of the problem. Someone once observed that what distinguishes humankind from all other animals is its capacity to ‘be rational’. Someone else then retorted that that was most certainly not the case: what distinguishes humankind from all other animals is the the capacity to be irrational. I think he or she made a very good point.

. . .

I am not fat, but I am, according to ‘the guidelines’ not my ideal weight. I go to the gym (mainly because I enjoy it, but also because I like to keep reasonably fit and healthy, especially after suffering a heart attack – which started in the gym by the way) three times a week, and it helps that at work we have a very good gym in the basement. Two weeks ago I was just over 86kg. On Tuesday I was down to just over 83kg.

In January 2013 I gave up eating bread, biscuts, pasta and everything else with wheat. I immediately felt the benefits. I carried on otherwise eating and drinking as normal. Over the next two years I slid back a little because, let’s be honest, a hunk of crusty bread or a pasta arrabiata is bloody tasty. But when I realised that I was once again getting that roll of flab in front of my tummy, two weeks ago, I decided to be a little stricter again and so again fave up bread.

According to ‘the guidelines’ I should, ideally, be about 70/72kg, but I’ll repeat, in conventional everyday language I am by no means fat. However, when I was about 11/12 and entered puberty my growth was initially sideways rather than upwards, so when I started at my boarding school I was nicknamed ‘Preggers’. It didn’t take more than a few years for my height and breadth to even itself out, but in my heart I am still what I then thought I was, a little fat boy.

It didn’t help that I was found to be rather short-sighted and was obliged to start wearing glasses. Oh, dear, the cruelty handed out by Life to a young teen. In a curious way – although at my age it really doesn’t matter anymore – I also felt unattractive and to this day find it very hard to believe that any woman can think of me as ‘attractive’. But what the hell.

Yet I do like eating and I do like food. It’s just that I don’t like eating crap and I also like eating tasty food. So, for example, I like making something like the following: a small can of beans – borlotti or whatever – with a thinly sliced onion, a few cloves of garlic, olive oil and freshly ground pepper. That is enough for three helpings. Today I had one helping with some boiled new potatoes and butter, and – I don’t know what it is called, but Lidl do a great version – soused herrings with gherkin and apple in a cream sauce. Potatoes, cream? And the whole lot will not have cost, proportionately more than £1. (I had about eight small new potatoes, a portion of the salad and about a third of the tub of herring salad).

Mind, not everyone has a taste for North German food, but to my mind it is a damn sight tastier, not to say a lot, lot healthier, than some kind of processed turkey twizzler, baked beans and bread. And don’t get me started on just how tastier Bratkartofflen are, with onion and, inevitably, more garlic.

Now back to the TV screen all of you, while I sit here and finish off my can of Scrumpy Jack cider (alc 6%) and a cigar. (Cigars, by the way are about a fifth of the price if you don’t buy them here in Old Blighty but by them on the internet from Holland and Germany. Full details on application.) Off to France next week for my twice-yearly dose of culcha. I’ll keep you posted, not least on the rather tasty meals my step-aunt prepares (and she doesn’t even think she is a good cook).

PS For another very palatable salad try very thinly slice raw leak, chopped up slices of apple and olive oil. Fuck corn starch. Oh, and I’m not a veggie by any means and do like meat – not least smoked Schinken, but I don’t eat much meat at all, though I am very partial to the occasional roast lamb, roast belly pork and roast beef.

PPS I was going to desribe how I have fucked up one of my ‘spare’ smartphones but rooting it, then dicking around. It now has what in Android circles is known as the ‘purple screen of death’. (Good Lord, 2,264 words. Another 30 of these entries and I’ll have one of the novels I keep meaning to write. And now make that 2,286 words.)

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