Friday, 28 October 2011

Humpty's damages

The colourful nursery rhyme character Humpty Dumpty has won £500,000 in damages for the serious injuries he incurred after falling off a defective wall.

Mr Dumpty was shattered into several pieces in the accident, and was only put together again after a series of painstaking operations by the country's leading surgeons.

The controversial egg-shaped celebrity, beloved by children everywhere, sued Bodgit Builders for the loose bricks that caused the fall and Topnotch Properties for not placing warning signs about the state of the wall.

Barrister Olive Oyl, representing Mr Dumpty, said her client had innocently climbed the wall and sat on the top in order to watch a display of Morris Dancing.

Imagine his horror, continued Ms Oyl, when the wall began to collapse and Mr Dumpty tumbled unexpectedly to the pavement. The combined trauma of the fall and the gruelling remedial surgery had left her client profoundly traumatised as well as permanently frightened by brick walls and other brick structures such as houses and garages.

Her client would never regain a normal sense of psychic security and would be regularly troubled by feelings of deja vu, flashbacks and crippling panic attacks.

Barristers for the two companies claimed that Mr Dumpty was in perfect mental health and far from being traumatised had welcomed the unexpected fall as a valuable boost for his previously flagging career.

Judge Percy Popeye said it was quite clear Mr Dumpty was now a tormented and unsettled individual who would need therapeutic help for the rest of his life. He had no hesitation in awarding the popular entertainer substantial damages.

An ecstatic Mr Dumpty left the court hand in hand with his long-time boyfriend, Fred Flintstone.

Pic: Humpty Dumpty seen in Mesa, Arizona

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tent city

The 300 protesters camped outside St Paul's Cathedral in London seem rather confused. What exactly are they trying to achieve?

They're supposed to be taking a stand against nasty old capitalism and all its works, but all they seem to be doing at the moment is disrupting a place of worship which has more or less closed down because of the tent city.

St Paul's says it's losing about £20,000 in income a day, so maybe the protesters think they're taking a swipe at religious capitalists if not at capitalists proper.

But surely they should be joining the other encampment at Finsbury Square, which is heaving with blatant capitalist bastions like banks? Not that that protest is exactly rocking capitalism to its foundations either.

Just how are a few tents going to stop vast accumulations of wealth flowing into the coffers of a few greedy individuals and capitalists? All the refuseniks are doing right now is putting more cash into the bank accounts of tent manufacturers and primus stove suppliers.

It all seems astonishingly naive and historically ignorant. If anyone is going to challenge capitalism with any sort of clout, it's the trade unions who fight for a better deal for employees and restrain the wilder excesses of profit-grabbing companies.

They have at least forced a few millionaires and grasping shareholders to hand back some of their ill-gotten gains. Can the campaigning campers do any such thing before they get bored, pack up their tents and go back home?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Stranded alien

So Helen feels she's in the wrong time, place, century and country. I think a lot of us feel like that. I certainly do. I sometimes feel so profoundly estranged from this dysfunctional world, I think I must be an alien from the Planet Zog who's landed here by mistake.

I was probably just nipping down to the shops in Zog City for some more nectar, as you do, and I drove down the wrong street, as you do, and found myself swept into another dimension and heading straight for Planet Earth.

My arrival was doubtless so traumatic that I've totally repressed the memory, but I expect my reactions were something like this:

"Holy Zog, what the fuck's with this place? Are they all insane or what? Nothing but wars, poverty, brutality, pollution, slums, and half of them drugged to the eyeballs. Don't they know how to live sensibly? Don't they know how to help each other? These people are mad."

And now I can't get back to Planet Zog because I can't remember where I parked the car and my mobile phone's not working and I've forgotten how to fly through space. So it looks like I'm stuck here for a while, enduring the dismal weather and the dismal headlines.

There's one thing that really puzzles me. What's this stuff called money? And what's profit? Whatever it is, it only seems to screw people up. These earthlings are just doing everything wrong. Pea-sized brains, I guess.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Just tuck in

When I was young, there were endless rules about how to eat and drink, and how to do it politely rather than rudely. Thank goodness most of these pointless rules have now been binned and we can be more relaxed about what should, after all, be an enjoyable experience rather than a nerve-racking test of good breeding.

As a child, I was constantly admonished for speaking with my mouth full, slurping my drinks, eating with my fingers, eating too fast or too slowly, putting too much in my mouth, playing with my food, and countless other shocking habits. No wonder not many people actively enjoyed their meals in those days, seeing them more as fuelling stops than sources of pleasure.

I suppose one of the few advantages of my boarding school years was that teenage boys ignore every rule about eating and just shamelessly stuff their faces in whatever manner suits them. The school staff had clearly long given up trying to instil more suitable behaviour, so mealtimes were always wonderful uninhibited binges free of the petty criticisms of home.

Nowadays the emphasis on enjoying your food rather than showing off your table manners means that most of the old dos and donts have bitten the dust and we eat and drink in whatever way we're comfortable with, and we're happy for our eating companions to do the same. And if someone else has cooked the food, wholehearted appreciation of what they've provided is more important than exactly how you're eating it.

Obviously I'm not saying you should shovel your food into your mouth like a pig at a trough, but what's wrong with emptying your plate enthusiastically if the contents are mouth-wateringly tasty? Why take dainty little portions when you could take a good hearty mouthful?

I guess the increasingly relaxed attitude to how we eat stems largely from the surge in foreign travel and our discovery that people in other countries actually see food as a feast for the tastebuds rather than an etiquette check. And if you're picking delicately at what's on your plate rather than eagerly tucking in, they don't think you're being polite, they think you don't like the food. Mamma mia, non hai appetito?*

* Mamma mia, don't you have an appetite?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Not running amok

Jenny being away in England for a couple of days, you might think I'm seizing the chance to do all those wild masculine things that men normally keep in check for the sake of domestic harmony.

You might imagine, for instance, that I'm:

(1) Going down the pub with me mates
(2) Getting drunk as a skunk
(3) Watching crap TV
(4) Downloading porn
(5) Lying in bed till lunchtime
(6) Living on baked beans
(7) Checking out all the yummy mummies as they bring little Jemima and little Jamie to the school round the corner
(8) Spending an hour or two with that very attractive widow next door
(9) Snorting cocaine
(10) Trying on my Speedos

But you'd be wrong. All those classic male syndromes hold absolutely no appeal for me. I'm very happy just as I am and have no desire to adopt such asinine behaviour. I prefer a good book to a bottle of beer (I detest the stuff) and a good CD to Match of the Day (as I also detest football). I'm incapable of lying in bed after 8 am and I can cook a few tasty meals, thank you very much.

I have no sense whatever of my natural identity being horribly repressed by the chafing restrictions of monogamy. On the contrary, I would say my identity is positively enhanced by it.

I must shamefully admit however that there's an element of truth in number 7. I mean, good grief, have you seen the young mums who live round here? There's some serious primping and preening going on, not to mention gym workouts and strict dieting. Dawn French they are not.

But number 7 aside, I have to disappoint all those who think I'm letting my suppressed masculinity run amok. I don't actually have a masculine bone in my body. All I really need is a cup of tea and a choccy biscuit.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Love in a mist

Have I ever been infatuated with anyone? Depends what you mean by infatuation, doesn't it? The dictionary says "an intense, short-lived passion", but I wouldn't describe it that way at all.

I think the point about infatuation is that (a) it involves a completely false, rose-tinted picture of the person concerned and (b) far from being short-lived it can go on for quite a while, long enough in fact for you to cohabit or marry before you realise how deluded you've been.

I guess on the whole I'm too level-headed a person to have been infatuated with anyone for long, but I was absurdly besotted with one particular woman for a year or two, despite all the evidence that she wasn't nearly as special (or compatible, or even available) as I thought.

Fortunately for me it was an entirely unreciprocated besotting, so it never got to the stage of living together or tying any legal knots, and I never faced the humiliating final stage of seeing my perfect partner turn into a mere mortal who just got on my nerves rather than inspiring me.

Even if I'm not prone to infatuation, I've often idealised someone to the extent that infatuation wasn't far away. I've exaggerated their virtues and overlooked their faults to a ridiculous degree, I suppose for the usual pathetic reason that I'm beguiled by their beauty and assume they must have a beautiful brain to match. Which of course absolutely doesn't follow.

I'm also easily taken in by confidence and poise, which I carelessly equate with exceptional wisdom. While in reality it may only mean they've always had it easy.

But at my advanced age I've met enough people with bird brains and feet of clay to make me look long and hard at anyone who comes trailing a saintly aura. The saintly aura might just be a cloud of cobwebs.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

No room for doubt

It alarms me that people are so ready to make instant judgments on people in court cases when all they know about the case is whatever sensational bits and pieces the media choose to report.

For months every ill-informed Tom, Daphne and Hermione have been holding forth on the innocence or guilt of Amanda Knox, the American woman accused of murdering her roommate.

Either she's totally innocent, a crucified victim of the corrupt Italian legal system, or she's thoroughly guilty, an evil witch who's trying to wriggle out of well-deserved incarceration.

It doesn't matter if your grasp of the facts is woefully small. It doesn't matter if you've never met her and have no personal knowledge of what happened on that fateful day.

However ignorant you are, you're entitled to your knee-jerk reaction and your scornful dismissal of anyone who, heaven forbid, might keep an open mind on the subject.

Personally, I have no opinion on Amanda Knox's innocence or guilt. How could I possibly know the truth? Even the lawyers and the judges can't decide. Three years ago she was convicted, now she's been acquitted, but the case will trundle on to the Supreme Court for yet another decision.

But such uncertainty doesn't impress those whose minds are firmly made up on the basis of some mysterious personal insight, some sort of sixth sense that tells them what others aren't privileged to know. I just hope they never end up in the same position as Amanda, persecuted day in and day out by such self-righteous know-it-alls.

Pic: Amanda Knox