Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Do you have a sweet tooth? No of course you don't because you dont taste with your teeth but with your tongue. Pedantic? Moi?

It seems that  mankind has had a taste for sugar since ancient times though we have Christopher Colombus to thank for bringing back cuttings of sugarcane from the Canary Islands in 1492.

In modern times though, sugar has been accused of contributing to our obese society and so, ever keen to meddle with things, we began to seek out substitutes. For a while, saccharin was all the vogue but although initially sweet, it had a bitter, metallic aftertaste which rather defeated the object of making things taste nice.

 Then we tried Aspartame. This does taste sweet and since it works, it is found in a great many foods and drinks. It has a slight downside though. It can trigger adverse food reactions, some serious enough to cause seizures or even death. The reactions include headaches, migraines, muscle spasms, weight gain, depression, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, tinnitus, memory loss, heart palpitations, loss of taste and joint pain. It can also trigger or worsen brain tumours, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, birth defects, fibromyalgia and diabetes. Otherwise its as safe as houses.

If you prefer a natural substitute there's honey of course or Stevia. In case you hadn't heard of this, its a plant from South America which tastes naturally sweet. A well-known fruit juice producer has brought out a new brand of orange juice which uses Stevia as the sweetening agent. I just tried it. It tastes sweet at first but then it has a bitter, metallic aftertaste like - well like saccharin.

Personally, I'm sticking with sugar. One lump or two? 

Sunday, 24 February 2013


If we can believe what we read in the papers, we are soon to have an influx of East European immigrants. 

If you are one of these newcomers, welcome. You are probably finding our language a bit hard to learn so here are a few tips to help you.

Let's start with pronunciation. If a word ends in '...ough' it is pronounced 'off' as in cough. Unless of course it is pronounced 'uff' as in rough or else when it is pronounced 'ow' as in bough.

If a word begins with a 'g' you say 'g' as in gun or 'j' as in gem.  

Words ending in '...ear' are pronounced 'eer' as in beer or sometimes 'air' as in pear.

I hope that's clear. This poem explains everything: 

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Gerald Nolst Trenite (1870-1946)

Finally  a few spelling tips. A very good rule is 'i' before 'e' except after 'c'. So friend has 'i' before 'e' but ceiling has 'e' before 'i' because it comes after 'c'. Of course if you are foreign then 'e' comes before 'i'. Is that sufficient? Note that here it is 'i' before 'e' even though it's after 'c'.

To make a word plural add 's' to the end as in book-books or bag-bags. Don't do this for sheep though. Or deer or child or man or foot or tooth etc.

Remember, English is very difficult as this popular piece demonstrates:


We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
This was a good time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
The bandage was wound around the wound.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in my clothes I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
I read it once and will read it agen
I learned much from this learned treatise.
I was content to note the content of the message.
The Blessed Virgin blessed her. Blessed her richly.
It's a bit wicked to over-trim a short wicked candle.
If he will absent himself we mark him absent.
I incline toward bypassing the incline.

Good luck! 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


This year I went a bit overboard for Valentine's Day. In truth, I needed a few 'Brownie points'.

A small fortune secured a bouquet of mixed flowers with a centrepiece of a red rose  with a diamante heart in the middle together with a box of the finest Belgian chocolates. I arranged for this to be delivered to my wife's workplace as a total surprise. 

Before you get too impressed at my loving gesture let me point out that the reason this was such a surprise is that I don't normally do more than a card.

But I was wondering ... why red roses specifically? Well it seems that red roses are a symbol of romantic love, synonymous with passion and romance. For this reason, the red rose is often called “the lover’s rose.”

Red roses are usually given as a gift to loved ones as a romantic gesture or “just because”, to let them know that someone cares about them.

Apparently there are different meanings associated with the various red shades of  roses too. Deep red roses (the most common gift) are usually associated with lovers. A bright red shade is a symbol of passion. If the roses are cardinal red they signify desire.

The age of red roses can also symbolise various things. Red rose buds that are as yet unopened are often used to signify love in its early stages or the beginning of a relationship. Fully open red roses however, are a symbol of a lasting firmly established relationship.

Anyway, my gesture was much appreciated and my Brownie point balance is now in a very healthy state. I wish I could say the same of my bank balance.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


As luck would have it, I share my home with an elephant

Fear not. I am not casting aspersions on my trim-figured wife. I value my life too much. No, I refer to a wood-carved figure of my favourite mammal which is to be found high up on a window sill at the top of my stairs. 

It points towards the front door below and most importantly, its trunk curls upwards at the end. Here's the point.

Elephants are often associated with good or bad luck and are also regarded as a symbol of strength, wisdom and prudence. The elephant is a sacred animal in Buddhism because it was said to have offered flowers to Buddha. According to Buddhist beliefs, elephants should be placed high on a shelf.

People believe that an elephant can bring bad luck if its trunk is pointing downwards towards the ground but if the elephant's trunk is facing down, with a little upturn at the end, as my elephant has, this should bring good luck.

The elephant's luck-bringing properties are now even better known because of the increasing interest in the Oriental practice of Feng Shui. This philosophy attempts to improve balance and harmony in man-made environments, especially with the positioning of furniture or objects in the home. According to Feng Shui beliefs, the trunk of an elephant should point toward the front door or to any door to the outside. It is believed that this can draw in money and prosperity. 

I shall order my Ferrari right away. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


No-one can have failed to have heard the recent news item of the discovery that certain frozen 'beef' products actually contained up to 100% horsemeat. In particular, Findus Beef Lasagne was a major culprit much to that company's embarassment. 

In true British style, this has led to a lot of horsemeat jokes. You will have heard many of these but in case you missed any, here is a collection of my personal favourites (acknowledging the author where known).

I put my Findus Lasagne into microwave. I took it out after 3 minutes & it still wasn't finished. I said, "I've backed you before haven't I?" - Danny Baker

BREAKING NEWS: Findus fish fingers test positive for 60% seahorse. - Chris Addison

My wife cooked me a Findus lasagne last night she said “do you want anything on it?” I said a fiver each way.

Horsemeat found in lasagne. Findus launch a steward's enquiry.

Findus recall all their 'Beef' lasagne. Talk about shutting the stable door...

Fancy some spaghetti bolog-neighs? 

Two horses hiding in a beef lasagne: "They'll never Findus in here"

Man hospitalised after eating Findus lasagne. His condition is said to be stable.

The Mafia are getting lazy. This morning I woke up and found a beef lasagne in bed with me.

Me? I'm hung like a lasagne! - Frankie Boyle 

Oh and someone pointed out that LASAGNE is an anagram of NAG SALE. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013


When my Dad died ...

Don't worry - you shouldn't need the box of tissues.

As I was saying - when my Dad died, I had to do the usual painful job of sorting out his stuff. There was accumulated rubbish to throw away, useful items to give to charity, the odd item of value to sell and a few mementos with associated memories.

It was a sad occasion of course but the saddest moment for me was when I was clearing the bedroom and found the book he had been reading at the side of the bed. He was half-way through it. How sad I thought, that he never got to finish the story.

Now like me, Dad liked nothing more than a good murder mystery novel. I began to wonder - which book will they find unfinished next to my bed after I check out

So here's my plea. Whether I find myself knocking on Heaven's Gates or Hades' Hatch, please will someone take pity on me and tell me Whodunnit?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Better late than never as they say. I'm sure you were onto it years ago, after all it started in 1989,  but me, I've just caught up with it. I refer to the daily cartoon strip 'Dilbert'

In case you have missed it, it deals with the bizarre goings on within the corporate culture of the office. It is utterly brilliant in the way it captures this and should be required reading by office employees and more importantly by their bosses.

Nothing quite defines the human race like our sense of humour and cartoons are a vital part of this. So much so that classic cartoons can have such a powerful effect that they influence our language.

The phrase 'A curate's egg' is often used in the context of  a review or critique and has the meaning that some parts of the work are good and some are bad. This is not the original meaning.

The origin of the phrase was a cartoon published in 'Punch' on 9th November 1895. Entitled "True Humility", it pictures a nervous-looking curate taking breakfast in his Bishop's house. The bishop points out "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones." Desperate not to offend his eminent host and  employer the curate replies: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"

Clearly a self-contained egg cannot be both partially bad and partially good. To pretend to find elements of freshness in a bad egg is thus a desperate attempt to find good in something which is irredeemably bad. The humour is derived from the fact that, given the social situation, the timid curate is so terrified of giving offence that he cannot admit that his superior has served a bad egg, and thereby ends up looking absurd himself by exposing his brown-nosing.

Sunday, 3 February 2013


This goes no further right? If I confess certain things its just between you and me agreed? O.K. I'll trust you.

At first glance you wouldn't think that Hugh Grant and I had a great deal in common. Indeed I'm sure that I could write a large volume about the many differences between us and yet...

I'm thinking of the dance scene in Love Actually. I'm sure you remember. Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister, is caught out by his secretary doing a dance routine to The Pointer Sisters track 'Jump (for my love)' just when he thought he was alone. 

I've done that too. Well not exactly that but when I'm alone I've been known to do silly dancing ... oh and while I'm in the confessional, silly singing too. I've even done the classic and used my toothbrush as the microphone.

There's more. I try out silly accents. It happens most often when I'm looking in the mirror. One moment I'm combing my hair and then a bad attack of cockney accent breaks out. Or sometimes a dreadful Scottish one.

But this is normal right? You're sitting there thinking 'Oh good, it isn't just me, someone else does silly stuff when there's no-one to see. At least I hope that's what you're thinking.

Hang on - the doorbell's ringing. There's  some men in white coats outside.