Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End of Year Résumé

So, we reach the end of another year, and what a year it’s been. Over here, one of the most significant features of 2009 has been the pleasure derived from blogging, and as we at Gadjo Dilo care about our readers we want to ensure that you are also deriving similar enjoyment. We would therefore appreciate it if you could fill out the questionnaire below, it'll only take you about half an hour and will help us to provide the Gadjo Dilo service you need:

#1: How Would You Rate Your Overall Level of Gadjo Dilo Satisfaction?
A: Excellent. I'm entirely satisfied and would now never dream of availing myself of any other form of entertainment.
B: Superb. I cannot wait to start my computer in the mornings and read what Gadjo has to say.
C: Wonderful. The only criticism I have is that Gadjo Dilo is simply too good, making all other experiences seem dull and mundane by comparison.
D: Rubbish. I'm a git with the cultural sophistication of a warthog and I'm happy to stay that way.

#2: Which of the Recurring Themes in Gadjo Dilo do you Enjoy the Most?
A: The epic tales of how he coped with his stammer have inspired me more than I can say.
B: His taste in music is a constant sourse of enlightenment and I've searched everywhere to get copies of the records played on Gadjo Dilo.
C: Gadjo's appreciation of women shows him to be a true gentlemen, which is very refreshing in this day and age.
D: It's all shite. Except the one about constipation. That wasn't shite. Ha ha!

#3: Do You Appreciate the Links that Gadjo Dilo Provides to Other Blogs?
A: I do, and I have also now linked to them.
B: Oh yes, I'm now best friends with all of them!!
C: Indeed. It's a very well selected group, providing a balance of blogs both educational and entertaining.
D: They're just another bunch of losers. Except maybe the Welsh bloke, who at least appreciates the value of swearing.

#4: What Do You Think of Gadjo's Garden?
A: The Garden of Eden, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Sissinghurst on a balmy June afternoon....
B: Mmm, makes me want to curl up in the sunshine on a chaise longue with Gadjo and a nice long pina colada!
C: I've been senior plantsman at The Royal Horticultural Society Gardens at Wisley for 30 years and I can honestly say that I've never seen anything to match it.
D: Is that a garden?? I've seen better weeds in Steptoe's backyard.

#5: Do You Like the Kittens?
A: I love the kittens, especially Elvis, ahhh he's so cute!!!
B: When I think that Gadjo rescued these poor starving cats, and gave them a home and food to eat, it makes me almost tearful to think that there is still such goodness in the world.
C: Every blog of note should feature kittens and it's a mark of Gadjo's perspicacity that he recognises this.
D: Stuff the kittens. Literally. The fat one especially would make an excellent tea cosy.

#6: How Do You Feel About the Level of Smut and Innuendo on Gadjo Dilo?
A: For me it's pitched just right: I don't want it "in my face' but, heck, I'm no prude and it's only natural after all.
B: It's done really quite beautifully at times; if only my husband could use language like this it might put a bit of pizzazz back into our marriage.
C: Before reading Gadjo Dilo I knew almost nothing about sex and had never, you know, "done it", but now I feel I could write a whole series of tastefully erotic novellas.
D: I can never have enough smut and innuendo and everything else on Gadjo Dilo is frankly a waste of my time. More pictures of Kylie Minogue.

I look forward to hearing your opinions, which I'm sure will help us fine-tune the already excellent service we provide. Unless you answered all Ds, in which case two large men called Vlad will shortly be calling at your house, though when I think about it you'd probably get on with them like a house on fire. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas

Mrs Dilo and I fly to England in a few hours time and, assuming the place hasn't become entirely snow-bound by the time we're due to land, will be having a well-earned rest with family and friends until 27th December. I'm not sure how much blogging I will be getting up to during this period. I wish you all a merry Christmas/Hannakah/Winter Solstice/etc. Carol singing is a big part of Crimbo here in Romania; here's the popular side of this tradition, first the soppy faced Fuego, then Mahala Raï Banda with their (I suspect) more pragmatically minded anthem about the business of carol singing. Have a good one!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Accentuate the Positive

I've decided that there's been a bit too much smut and degeneration on this blog of late and I feel it's time to emphasise the positive, to post something nice... and so here's my seasonal 7 without sin:

#7 Buffalo Milk: A diminuative Hungarian lady brings many litres of this, plus buffalo sour cream, in from her village once a week and sells it (illegally, now we're in the EU) in my wife's hospital. Not only do I admire her enterprize, her strength and her refusal to wear anything but her traditional costume at all times, but it is also the creamiest you will ever taste - no going back to gold-top after that.

#6 Hat Wearing: Country folk in Romania have the most wonderful array of whacky hats (a whole blog post in itself), each region having it's own style; elderly townsmen favour a small trilby, beret or flat cap - my father-in-law has all three. I bought a beautiful charcoal grey, fur-felt, Sinatra tile for my wedding and wear it whenever it looks like rain; it makes me look either a dandy or a member of a religious cult - and as we Dilos are Primitive Methodists many may agree with that evaluation - but slightly less so than I would do in Blighty.

#5 Kittens: I promise this will be the last post that mentions our kittens... for a while. By the way, they got called Elvis (not sure which one of you won the naming competition) and Mitzi (yep, one of them was a girl). Here they are with our new friend Karen "The Kitten Whisperer", from New Zealand, who's been delighting us not only with her vowels but also her kitten psychology which has got 'em purring with a passion.

#4 My Garden: If you think the kittens have become boring, be warned that I've barely started going on about my garden :-) From the wasteland it was when we got this place it's now got natural stone paving, raised beds, exotic flowers, outlandish vegetables, and a rockery in the shape the Matterhorn (due to be extended into the whole Alpine range in the spring).

#3 British Comedy: I pine for this, and it makes me proud to be British, but these days BBC Entertainment (née Prime) mainly serves up a diet of The Weakest Link, EastEnders and other such slack-jawed tosh. But there are still flickers of comedy greatness, and best of all is when The Missus gets it too. She's a huge fan of Del Boy (who speaks directly to all Eastern Europeans regardless of their nationality), and adores Richard Ayoade in The IT Crowd. Excellent. Now I have a new hero, Omid Djalili, and am trying to convince her that this slobberingly elegant bastard Iranian love-child of Andre Agassi and Alexei Sayle is the new comic Messiah.

#2 Poetry: I'm a total ponce when it comes to poetry, but it serves me well. In my job I rarely have breaks and when I do I usually waste them trying to drag a conversation out of one of my colleagues. But, I keep a small collection of John Donne's love poems in my pocket at all times (I've also got Keats) and when I'm desparate I sit in the nearby graveyard and whip it out:

Oh doe not die, for I shall hate
All women so when you are gone,
That thee I shall not celebrate,
When I remember, thou wast one.

#1 You! Yes, dear reader. I seek not world-wide fame; a small, regular readership is ample satisfaction for me. You cannot image - though actually, when I think about it, you probably can - how much joy I get from people's comments, and from the fact that (I dare to think) I could now probably post a picture of a dog turd and still get them in double figures, so thank you, thank you for your kindnesses, thank you for bearing with me, and thank you most of all for being you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lookalikes #3

Traian Băsescu*: windbag, slaphead, but still (arguably) marginally better than the alternative.

Neil Kinnock: errrr, right :-)

* Re-elected president of Romania this Sunday just passed, by the narrowest of margins, and amid (the usual) allegations of vote rigging, which (in this instance) might be significant enough to invalidate his election, were it not for the fact that the other side were up to exactly the same tricks though perhaps not quite as successfully. More info as always on Andy's blog.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Great Music for a White Wedding

I’ve been to a lot of weddings this year – four, in fact – and while I could suggest many ways in which I believe they could have been done better, I’m not going to: they were the marriages of friends, and a wedding is after all the happiest day of somebody’s life. The music has got to be changed though. If the couple were too scared to employ a taraf or too determinedly “sophisticated” to hire a DJ, then it’s standard non-threatening fare piped over the restaurant’s sound system:

#1 Eine Klein Nachte Wotsit.

#2 Handel’s Water Music (or is it Vivaldi’s Spring??)

#3 Something by Enya. A classic line from the classic (in my opinion) film School of Rock goes something like: “I’m taking them to a classical concert: you know, Beethoven, Mozart, Enya....”.

#4 The Radedski March: For when the many-tiered cake is wheeled in with it’s fireworks, looking like a confectioner’s mock-up of Flash Gordon’s spaceship.

#5 Something else by J. Strauss, e.g. the famous bit from the Blue Danube - honestly, anybody would think that Romanians wanted the Austro-Hungarian Empire back again....

Enough already. What they should play - but what’s happened to me, why have I become so cynical these days?? - is:

#1 The Beatles’ Your Mother Should Know.... how difficult you’re gonna to be to be married to.

#2 How You Gonna Keep Them Down on the Farm.... after they’ve seen Cluj. There’s no way that the country cousins after having eaten the Vol-au-vents and the bits of cheese wrapped around bits of ham are going share the trough with the pig again.

#3 Sonny and Cher’s (and with apologies to Gyppo in advance, here) Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.... is what your new in-laws are but we didn’t have the heart to tell you.

#4 In case there’s a bit of awkwardness on the wedding night they’re going to need a sense of humour (though hopefully not quite this much), Frankie Howerd’s version of Je T’Aime.

#5 About two thirds the way through, and a warning to the groom mainly, the Dead Kennedys’ (ahem, and I really must apologise for the indelicacy here, though I am in fact entirely responsible for it) Too Drunk to F**k: your beautiful bride has been refusing you until this night of nights, but the ţuică's really started to flow now and your new brothers-in-law want you in the hora and, well.... it’s your decision :-)

To end, the band they were too scared to book, Taraf de Haïdouks:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Look to the Future Now, It’s Only Just Begun Noddy Holder once sang. Now that I know I’ll (probably) soon be officially unemployed, I have to make alternative plans for my future. And here they are:

Gigolo: My ability to find all sorts of women attractive might have served me reasonably well in this job in the past, but now I’m “of a certain age” myself I’d probably remind them of their ex-husbands.

Model: I’m essentially dressed by my wife, and using stuff she’s found cruising the town’s second-hand shops, so more Jarvis Cocker than Nick Cayman then.

Rent Boy: My mum once asked my what I’d done at school that day and I said “Careers advice”; she was shocked, she thought I’d said “Queers advice”. No.

Stick Breaker: I quite fancied this as a vocation but it was another confusion at skool careers advice class – what he said actually was “Stock Broker”.

Horticulturalist: OK, onto the serious ones now. My standing as The Man Who Introduced the Broad Bean to Romania puts me on a par with Diego Alvarez Chanca (chillies), Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq (tulips) and Sir Walter Raleigh (spuds and fags); and ditto with heirloom tomatoes - the tasty 40+ Kg I got off my few plants I put down to buffalo manure and talking to them in the King’s Bloody English instead of the nonsense the locals use.

Teacher:Ha, that’s a laugh!” will be what everyone who actually knows me is thinking. But I’ve realised during my current job that I’ve been more concerned for the career advancement of my bright young protégé than I have been for my own – which was maybe noticed and what did for my chances there. Also, I’m in a foul mood, and relish the feel of a well-sprung cane in my hand, it’s still legal here and, as they say, “If you can’t beat them…. where’s the fun in teaching?!

Social Worker: Mrs Dilo is a trustee of a half-way house for orphans here and we know many lads who’ve been through this institution – and a very fine one it is too, teaching them cookery skills, tact, and suchlike – who turn up at our door hoping for a square meal and a bath etc. I flatter myself that I get on quite well with them, and have the advantage that I like some stuff which may appeal to them which their guardians wouldn’t touch, e.g. music and dancing (many are Romany). I wouldn’t be paid.

Please vote for which job I should do! (No voting twice, now, and no bussing in people from other places to vote, and dead people are not eligible, how many times do you have to be told this........)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

President John

Hi folks, the saucy mood has now well and truly left me, the reason being that around the corner on November 22nd we have The Romanian Presidential Elections, which are not sexy at all. However, despite that, and on account of the recent Berlusconi revelations, I’ve decided to take a prostitute’s-eye view of this event and hereby present my analysis of the seven most high profile candidates based on how they’d be as Sex Industry clients.

Traian Băsescu PDL (centre-right): The incumbent president. They tried to impeach him on corruption charges, but failed, and many Romanians believe their motive was that he was trying to stop their corruption, so he’s a fair chance of being re-elected. A “bluff” and “blustering” former sea captain who regularly pisses off all other politicians, so he might taste a bit rank, and having had a girl in every port he probably fancies himself in the sack, but is the charm now wearing a bit thin? Salty. Recent poll prediction 31%. Trick Rating 8/10.

Mircea Geoană PSD (socialists - and former communists - though culturally conservative): A career diplomat and former ambassador to USA, but Mrs Dilo says he’s as thick as two planks and Cluj students have gouged out the eyes on all his posters here. Would want it straight like he used to do it with his wife before she couldn’t be bothered any more, so you might have to tell him “no kissing”, but he’d be the only one not to think to take his wallet with him when he needed the bathroom. Dopey. Recent poll prediction 32%. Trick Rating 6.5/10.

Crin Antonescu PNL (economic liberalists): A PNL man got Cluj it's famous new Nokia factory, but how much economic liberalism can a country like Romania take?? Antonescu's a former Minister for Sport, but his forename means “Lily” and he has the blank, light-blue eyes of a man not entirely comfortable with his own masculinity. Would make straight for your wardrobe, then ask to be spanked with your hairbrush. A drag, but with the best blackmail opportunities, so keep your camera handy. Kinky. Recent poll prediction 18%. Trick Rating 7/10.

Hunor Kelemen UDMR (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania): I guess all ethnic Hungarians (6.6% of the population) will vote for him but, barring an otherwise poor turnout, this won’t be enough. Seems decent and probably with acceptable person hygiene – though you might catch a dose of Magyar Moustache rash - but would pull out half-way through the job for no apparent reason and start lecturing you about the iniquities of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon like it was your fault. Haughty. Recent poll prediction 6%. Trick Rating 7.5/10.

Sorin Oprescu (Independent): The current mayor of Bucharest – which is also the path that Băsescu took to the presidency. Looks like John Inman’s miserable old git of an older brother, and mean with it too, so would probably just want to watch and then grouse about the price afterwards. But he’s also a qualified medical doctor, so you could ask his advice about any STDs you’d picked up from the others. Stingy. Recent poll prediction 5%. Trick Rating 6/10.

Vadim Tudor Greater Romania Party (ultra-nationalist): Standard tosser along the lines of Nick Griffin, Jean Marie le Pen, etc. with irredentist policies toward Moldova, Transnistria, Northern Bukovina and probably also the parts of Spain and several British nursing homes where Romanians are now a large proportion of the population. Would want to drape you in the Romania flag and eat sarmale off your naked breasts. Flakey. Recent poll prediction 6%. Trick Rating 1/10.

Gigi Becali: (Self-Serving Bigotted Criminal Gobshite Party): MEP, owner (kinda) of Steaua Bucharest football club and the most corrupt man in Romania (recently sent goons to bribe Cluj players in a match vital to Steaua’s Champions League chances, but somehow got away with it, again). Would drink a bottle of Iancu, call you “a dirty whore”, then chuck a wad of readies on the bed (all of which except the visible one being no longer legal tender). Oh, and he's got a centre-parting. Nasty. Recent poll prediction n/a. Trick Rating 0/10.

(NB: Andy of Csíkszereda musings can probably give you much more accurate and responsible punditry about all this.) We heard one of them - Geoană or Antonescu - spouting off on the radio recently and he was definitely of the Ruth Badger school of self-belief and historical inevitability, which gave me a great idea for my own personally approved candidate: yes, after coming second in the second series of The Apprentice (UK) – where Sir Alan ultimately chose, well, anybody except Ruth Badger - it’s Badger or Bust.... it’s Our Ruthie for President of Romania!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gadjo Dilo’s Peccadillos #5: Neighbours

In the previous episode the charms of the housewife were discussed, and I suppose if you don’t have a housewife yourself then somebody else’s housewife is the next best thing. But, ah, the charm of The Neighbour goes far, far beyond that:

#1 Miss Balcony Nudist: When we lived in a block of flats we could shout to neighbours across the street, though we rarely did, contenting ourselves with “Ooo, look, No. 14E has become a right fat bastard since he got married”, etc.; but there was a young woman who I twice saw come naked onto her balcony to water her plants. Nothing more. Nothing more was required. They were perfect, golden moments that needed no further complication or adornment.

#2 Mrs Next Door: On one side we have the dishevelled geezer and his dachshunds, and on t’other we have a Hungarian lady and her husband. In my experience Hungarian women fall into three categories: A) Hard-faced bitches harbouring oceans of negativity and delusions of racial superiority, B) Modern girls with candid smiles suggesting an almost Scandinavian “availability”, or C) Nice, civilised women with admirable dress sense. Despite a surprising colourful vocabulary (says Mrs Dilo) for a demure middle-aged lady, #2 is a C (but with perhaps just a hint of B).

#3 Her Upstairs: When I lived in Tottenham the woman in the flat upstairs was a large West Indian lady with whom I got on well. But one abiding memory of my seven years there is of hearing her noisily going to toilet above me. Luckily I’m not squeamish about that sort of thing - and neither did it float my boat, before you ask, cheeky - but it shows that in some respects one knows one’s neighbour more intimately than does even her boyfriend or her proctologist.

#4 Washing Line Lady: The Archetypal Fanciable Neighbour – for is there anything more suggestive than washing?? Wet washing, fresh-smelling, limp and moist to the touch; or dry washing, smooth, crisp and new, an artist’s virgin canvass awaiting the imprint of a breast or a buttock to which to enspouse and to cleave.

#5 Kylie Minogue: Owing to my lack of interest in TV soap operas I only ever saw Kylie on Top Of The Pops, possibly. Call me old fashioned but I got the feeling that if you went round her house to borrow a cup of sugar or a couple AA batteries she’d lend you them, and with a smile that suggested “that’s when good neighbours become good friends”.

To end, of course, and because I'm feeling in a raunchy mood, another chance to covet that Neighbours' ass:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Name That Cat! #2


Yes folks they’ve finally arrived, 3 months after Ţuţica sprogged out she’s at last deigned to bring them to see us (and be fed, of course). We thought they’d died; we thought she’d had them, at location unknown, and they’d been eaten by the neighbourhood dogs or drowned by other deluded humans who considered themselves “owners” and with some heavy sense of responsibility. But there’s just two of them, which may be manageable and not necessitate a sack and a trip to the canal. And here’s what makes it all worthwhile: these two also need names. The names of the mother and Tanu, her “friend”, were chosen by your good selves and have served them well. We were unsure of the kittens parentage: it could have been Tanu, whose colouring is the same as Ţuţica’s, The Dark One, or The Ginger One; but the youngsters have a pleasing touch of the tarbrush and so it wasn’t incest and as Mrs Dilo and I agreed we’d be happy whatever they are as long as they’re not ginger... we’re very happy. We’re not entirely surely what sex they are either, but whenever we pick one up and have a look, it’s a boy; unfortunately we haven’t been able to catch both at the same time (cf, The Four Dachshunds Problem), but I’m with Chris Eubank (wasn’t it??) in believing that because I’m so incredibly butch and rugged any child on mine (albeit adopted, albeit of a different species) would have to be a manchild. The two names you chose last time are Romanian, but this time they’re going to be named after my heroes; oh, and the rules are slightly different - I’ve already decided, so you win a prize if your choice agrees with mine:

#1 Elvis: I’ve always wanted a pet called Elvis and I won’t get a better chance than this. (I admire his singing and dancing but most of all his noshing.) Also, due to the rubbish that is on cable TV, Mrs Dilo and I are often reduced to watching old films on MGM Channel and we’ve fallen in love with The King in a whole new way.

#2 Noddy Holder: Another personal Rock and Roll hero and with all the right attributes: a top pair of lungs, actual whiskers, and by all accounts one who can handle himself in a fight. Using The Jules’s excellent suggestions, I’d want our Noddy to introduce all the festive seasons for us by caterwauling on the doorstep: not only “It’s Christmasssss!!” but also “It’s Easterrrrrrrr/Ramadaaannnnn/Yom Kippurrrrrrrrr!!!!!” etc.

#3 Gandhi: I’ve always admired the Mahatma but felt he must have had a hard life what with one thing and another. I want to give him the chance to be reincarnated (if only in name) as a kitten so he can enjoy his sensual side and get the pampering he surely deserves.

#4 Nelson: Not named after genuine heroes Admiral Nelson or Nelson Mandela but, contrarily, after Nelson Gabriel, former BBC Radio 4 The Archers character, who made his living selling junk to gullible people - skills, sad to say, of much more use over here than those of the other two.

#5 Wellington: Again not a British wartime hero but the specky one off of The Wombles, those cute animated critters that tidied up the rubbish on Wimbledon Common, and he can start by tidying up the mess he’s made in the cardboard box we gave him to sleep in.

#6 Stig: Not named after that bloke off of Top Gear (who’s supposed to be a good driver, yeah, but has to wear a crash helmet inside the car… duh!), or after any number of Swedish blokes, but after Stig of the Dump, another childhood hero who was dead rugged.

#7 Bela Lugosi: Mrs Dilo’s often heard to say “Hmm, he looks a bit Hungarian” about any character in a film who’s started to behave in a disdainful manner. I’m expecting her to say this about one of the kittens when it turns its nose up at some new piece of bedding we’ve offered it from our wardrobe. Still a top name though.

#8 Linda Lusardi: (Just in case one of them is a lass.) I can’t get over the fact that I think cats are sexy. Ţuţica’s been full of milk and I’ve never seen such breasts on a cat, not even on Eurotrash. I don’t want to go down this road much further, but I might just go as far as naming a cat “Linda Lusardi”.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Alright, Caalm Down Caalm Down!!

Our Romanian dance teacher said something at class last week that cheered me up: I told her I was having trouble remembering a certain sequence and she said “Don’t worry, by summer you’ll be good enough to be an honorary Scouser!” “Hey, lady” I said, “I yield to none in my admiration of the business skills, comedy timing and joie de vivre of our Liverpudlian compadres, and I feel that is one accolade I may surely never deserve!!”; but no, what she said was “honoris causa- which sounds almost exactly the same - and means something like magna cum lauda, the best of the best, which was very sweet of her. So, here I come Ken Dodd, Cilla Black, Ricky Tomlinson, Robbie Fowler and especially Beth Jordache off of Brookside (right). Speaking of the last of these, that’s surely a Scouse version of a Romanian name. To end, a choice of listening: Beth’s 2nd cousin twice removed, world’s greatest ţambal player Toni Iordache; or the first few bars of Ferry Across the Mersey followed by a good fight:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back on the Rock and Roll

Hi folks, I’ve been in a lousy mood because my boss has told me he won’t be renewing my contract when it expires in the New Year. Here (A) is what he actually said, (B) what he may have thinking, (C) what I was expecting to hear, and (D) the nightmare scenario:

(A) I want to thank you for your contribution over the last year and a half but I feel your skills are rather too narrowly academic for any future projects at this company and that we require people who are better suited to general computer work. I wish you all the best in finding another job.
(B) I have other employees who are younger (can’t argue with that, I’m the oldest git in the office by a long chalk), quicker (well of course they’re quicker at computing than I am, their minds are not burdened by the massive sense of fun and absurdity under which I‘ve been forced to labour every day of my miserable benighted life), and I pay them less (probably the clincher).
(C) Gadjo, this has been the most wonderful time of my entire life and though I have other employees they’re just children, they don’t know life like you and I do, they’re holding you back and (tears start to well up in his eyes) some times when you love somebody (totally losing control of his emotions now) you have to let them go.... fly, Gadjo, fly!!!
(D) Alright, Dilo, enough’s enough. I know you’ve tried but frankly you’re an over-educated twit, a fop and a smurf, and if I ever catch sight of your silly grinning face again – you think you’re funny but you’re not – I’ll personally see to it that you’re kicked out of this goddam khazi of a country for once and for all!!

Well, then of course the self-recriminations start: what if I hadn’t been late for that meeting, what if X hadn’t overheard me saying what I said to Y, what if I hadn’t pressed myself up against Z in the lift that time. But the boss is a very fair man, and I did try my best. It’s a f**king miserable feeling but I’ll not starve; I’m a tryer if nothing else, I can survive on very little, and I’ve worked long enough and been fortuitous enough to build up some financial security for myself and Mrs Dilo.

To herald my return to the dole office – assuming I was eligible to receive the 50p a week that would get handed out to me at the Romanian equivalent, which I don’t think I am - here’s a song from Half Man Half Biscuit’s LP Back in the DHSS:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jazz Is Totally Up Itself

I’ve been compelled to write a post with this title as a consequence of my previous post in which I slandered another perfectly respectable music genre. However, such is my new-found cantankerousness and intolerance that I find myself able to fulfil this task as well.

I am going to present my argument solely in terms of Trumpet Playing and Anal Retention. Have a listen to the first part of Louis Armstrong’s West End Blues:

Over and over I tried to play that intro on my trumpet, then the tune, slow and melancholic (here’s a later, brassier version, which is also good) yet it flickers with the humanity that Armstrong could rarely keep to himself. Unfortunately I can find no clip of the only track to which I’ve ever attempted to do a striptease: Armstrong’s early recording of Tin Roof Blues (Tiger Rag and it would have all been over in a flash....) Satchmo kept himself ticking with a bit of marijuana and the help of Swiss Kriss, a laxative of which he was such a fan that he once recommended it to Britain’s Royal Family, and I admire him as a man who kept his embouchure clenched and his bowels open.

Now, there were other trumpeters with nice styles (and some modern players of other jazz instruments that I like). But somewhere it goes wrong, it all becomes a bit, well, Jazz Club. And I reckon the cause is Mr Miles Davis. He’s probably a genius, enough people have told me that he is, so I’m probably a philistine, I’m probably missing out. But for me the most accurate word I’ve ever heard applied to him is “costive” – I just want to shake him.... shake him and shout “Wake up, you dozy bastard!! Wake up and go to the lavatory!!!!”.

Fortunately, however, all is not lost. Musicians from other genres have been inspired by jazz and incorporated it into their shtick. Here are my favourite Russians, Markscheider Kunst, whose trumpeter I reckon listened to more Louis than Miles; have a listen to the intro in the 1st one, before the band gets into its lovely Latino-Leningrad stride, then look at the 2nd one if you wanna see them in a proper video. Now, this is obviously just my personal preference, but to me that’s Nice!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gadjo’s Heavy Half-Hour

(DISCLAIMER: Gadjo would like to state that many of his best friends are Greeboes, that he appreciates the valuable contribution they make in terms of IT support services, and that none of what he's about to say applies to them personally)

It seems Mr Lemmy Of Motörhead (2:48 into this classic comedy clip):

was the star of the previous post; everybody’s interested in him, and (in the John Lennon sense) he may very well now be “bigger than Jesus" (though his trademark habit of setting his mike higher than his gob - see right - tends to make him look smaller). Anyhow, this doesn’t stop me thinking that Heavy Metal is all just, well, A Little Bit Silly*, and for reasons I still don’t fully understand I feel required to issue this Ten Point Plan to deal with it.

#1 Identification
Metal fans often try to avoid persecution by subdividing themselves into smaller groups so they’re more difficult to catch: “Thrash Metal”, “Death Metal” and “Doom Metal” are examples. However, one thing unites them all: they all wear black t-shirts with Poland tour dates printed on the back.

#2 Divide and Rule
Disillusion may be generated by inventing some more Metal subdivisions which are rubbish: (A) Deaf Metal, like Death Metal but you can’t hear the lyrics; (B) Thresh Metal, like Thrash Metal but more agriculturally orientated - basically embittered folk singers with a crate of Jack Daniels; and (C) Green Metal, like Black Metal but instead of Satan they’ll sing the praises of The Universal Earth Mother.

#3 Systemization
In case they grow wise to our strategies in #1 and #2 we’ll require them to wear at all times a lovely, colourful, Paisley blouse.

#4 Acne Tax
This speaks for itself, but as with any fiscal policy it must be set out clearly and fairly. To this end a complicated algorithm has been devised which calculates the surface area, pustulance and predicted vulco-acnic activity.

#5 Unsubtle Make-Up Tax
Mainly just for Kiss fans. (Covering up acne with makeup turns you into a Goth, which is a whole other post entirely.)

#6 The Heavy Metal Lyrics Entailment Law
All Gadjo’s heroes walked the walk: Jagger spent the night together with many people, and Hendrix really kissed the sky. Metallers must now accept the implications of their own grandiose statements. For example, Iron Maiden’s Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter..... does the band’s singer have any female progeny? He does?? Great! “Get your coat on, poppet, your mother and I (gulp) have got to take you somewhere today”.

#7 Free Shampoo
Ok, I’m sure Headbangers wash their hair as much as anybody else, but this shampoo is different - it makes your hair fall out. Headbanging’s no fun without half a yard of Laboratoires Garnier-ed wedge to wave about! Admittedly this policy creates a lot of angry teenage skinheads, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

#8 A Moratorium on Death
Metallers name their bands after things that kill you and love to play with images of death, helping them feel “grounded”. To wean them off this I’m devising an elixir of life (still only in the ideas stage, admittedly) which’ll mean nobody’ll die, just for a while at least, and death will no longer be interesting - think on!

#9 Resettlement Policy
Metal fans love the darkness, where they can incubate their inverted ideas of happiness. Many are quite sedentary and may spend all their time in one place - e.g. Knebworth or Germany - where over the course of any calendar year they enjoy 50% of their time under the cloak of night. To stop this we’ll establish resettlement camps in Greenland and Tierra del Fuego: April-September in the former, October-March in the latter.

#10 Parody
When I think about it Metallers do have redeeming features, foremost being their good-natured acceptance of having the (Metal) Mickey taken out of them. Here’s Bad News:

So, there’s the plan for the brave new metal-free world. Are you thinking that it seems a bit, like, unnecessary? A bit over-the-top? A little heavy, perhaps?? Yes folks, it is! It’s treating like with like, akin to a homeopathic remedy. Rock on!

* Don’t fret, Metal fans, by way of balance there’ll be forthcoming posts entitled “Classical Music is for Poofs”, “Jazz is Totally Up Itself” and “There’s Nowt as Queer as Folk”.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fantasy Island Discs #1

Here's a completely arbitary list of records I’d like to be made. As on Desert Island Discs there are eight of them; the one I’d want with me if all the rest where washed away would be the one that I want to like but never actually listen to, and the book that I’d want with me apart from the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare’s Sister (... is that still a stipulation??) would be Harry Potter and the Witch-Finder General.

#1: The Dark Side of Keith Moon by Pink Floyd (with The Stockhausen Sinfonietta): The sound of television sets smashing on pavements, occasional tables being thrown against walls and baseball bats hitting Corby trouser presses.

#2: Smells Like Methylated Spirit by Nirvana: I’m not condoning imbibing meths, but if poor old Kurt Cobain had chosen this as his tipple instead of the smack then I wonder if, rather than dead, he might simply be blind, mad, and with an extremely unpleasant taste in his mouth.

#3: Glaswegian Rhapsody by Queen: “I see a little silhouetto of a man”… “You lookin’ at me?”… “Scaramouche,scaramouche will you do the fandango?”… “Sassanach, eh??”… “Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening meeee!!”… “Aye, sonny, and this is only me second-best Stanley knife!

#4: The Three of Clubs by Motörhead: In which Lemmy owns up that, despite having slept with 1,200 women and being covered in warts, when playing cards he can’t always guarantee to have the ace of spades in his hand. On the B-side he apologises for being a Nazi fetishist f**kwit and for using diacritics inappropriately.

#5: Live at Strangeways by Morrisey: Johnny Cash made a record called Live At Folsom Prison, which apparently is a classic of the genre, and The Smiths released an album called Strangeways, Here We Come. If Mozza was any sort of man he’d follow through on this and perform to the Scallies there; and, considering that his fanbase is the most astonishingly diverse of any singer ever, he’d probably do alright.

#6: Heartbreak Motel by Elvis: Like Heartbreak Hotel but it’s a bit cheaper and more convenient when parking your car. It’s never easy to get over heartbreak, but this time it’s lighter on your wallet and you can move on more quickly.

#7: Music to Watch Girls Buy by Andy Williams: Guys, ever been clothes shopping with your Significant Other? Ghastly, wasn’t it. Didn’t you wish there’d at least been a soundtrack to it? This follow up song by Mr Williams is a medley: You Wear it Well (so why don’t we just get buy it and get this over with), You've Lost that Loving Feeling, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place and Girlfriend in a Coma.

#8: Great Balls of Fur by Jerry Lee Lewis: He played the piano with his feet and with his arse and then married his 13-year-old first cousin; I reckon it would’ve been a great finale to his act if he’d then coughed up a couple of large fur-balls.

To end, of course, here's the Desert Island Discs theme tune By The Sleepy Lagoon by Eric Coates. So make yourself a mug of Horlicks, stoke the fire up, put a blanket over your lap and forget that New Labour, the X-Factor, Jade Goody, the 60s, etc ever happened. Nighty night!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lookalikes #2

I attempted a kind of homage to Gyppo in the previous post, and now it must be No Good Boyo's turn.


I was dragged up to a Nissen hut in the north of Wales every Easter as it was the only landscape bleak enough to accord with my father’s world-view and thereby help him feel comfortable within himself. An Ivor The Engine train ride from there is wonderful Port Merion, the “Village” from The Prisoner; and I was once further down the coast but remember nothing but jellyfish... big, red, flabby, embarrassing jellyfish, like a thousand Ron Davieses after an all-night “paddling” session. Over to the East we have the lachrymose beauty of The Llangollen_Canal but also places like Wrexham, Flint and Mold, which don’t really sound as Welsh as they should, maybe they're a bit traumatised by this. The middle, if my Counties of Britain jigsaw puzzle was correct, is Radnor and Merionethshire, which I've always imaged as R. S. Thomas country, in other words as miserable as f**k, though I’ll be happy to be wrong. But Down South are some splendid boyos and an ex-girlfriend whom I shall call Morfudd. I met her on the Internet and when I arrived for a first date found out she was really quite deformed - what’s the PC expression for this, guys? - poor lass; but that didn’t put me off at all; no; I’m like that. What did put me off however was her mother, who was a a witch: not the pointy-hatted, mixing-up-herbs type from Bangor University’s Department of Celtic Dawn Studies and Shamanism, but yer actual witch, a female nasty-piece-of-work. The fact that Morf was utterly devoted to her despite the constant put-downs made me eventually make my excuses and leave*. Moving on, we have the gorgeous Ystradfellte waterfalls, the deep sandy beaches at Rhossilli, the actually-quite-pleasant seaside destinations of Tenby and Manorbier and the invigorating Pembrokeshire coastline.

Siân Lloyd’s Face

The face of TV Weathergirl Siân Lloyd covers an area 0.000000003645847 the size of Wales, which is a fascinating statistic but not of immediate relevance here. What drew me to realise the similarity was the disproportion: Siân’s face is much bigger at the bottom that at the top, more fulsome, more generous, more sensual around the mouth and jowl region than around the forehead and crown. Down below we have a half of a face ready to enjoy life, to smile, to laugh, to eat and drink, and - oh yes - to kiss and to tell. Up top we have a more shrunken physiognomy, a personality meanly crouched inside a cranium that’s already too small for it. The mid region is represented by the eyes, supposedly the window to the soul: as we look at her, the left looks nice, bright, welcoming, but the right looks sad and, frankly, traumatised, half a seaweed short of a laverbread. The middle, the nose, is where LLoyd's ex Lembit Öpik is MP, and though I warm to him as an East European and an eccentric, he’s clearly been sticking his nose in where it’s not wanted, e.g. into the private affairs of asteroids and into Cluj’s own Gabriela Irimia, and he’s also reputedly as tight as a gnat’s chuff. Lloyd, Wales’s Marianne, deserves better, as does any country that looks a bit like her.

So there you go, that was my own Welsh Letter - like a French letter but made not from rubber but from the outermost “sheath” of a leek.... and not one of them thin spindly ones, innit - and I hope you enjoyed it. Further information, tourist brochures, Bara brith, etc can be had at the good offices of No Good Boyo, and while he’s dragging the judge, jury and punishment squad out of the Ffwrch & Fferkin in response to this (and to serve on me the martyrdom I’ve always craved) I shall bid you iechyd da!

*Also, her mother, though of retirement age, had a boyfriend who was young enough to be her son. Live and let live. Then I met other couples there with a similar reverse-May-September thing going on – nothing wrong with that, but it was the only community I’ve ever been in where this seemed to be the norm.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gypsy Dualism

This post is partly in honour of our own Raggle-Taggle Gypso-O Mr Gyppo Byard, who seems to be back blogging with a passion, and partly because I live in country that is virtually a stud farm supplying gypsies to the world. It’s often occurred to me that there’s a serious gap between the perceptions in, on the one hand, literature and, on the other, the pages of the e.g. The Daily Mail. I was once involved in a play based on an sappy Spanish story about the romantic lives of gypsies, then when the director was driving us back to his house he saw a caravan at the bottom of the road and exclaimed “Bloody tinkers back again – go on, clear off!!” I’m sure he had his reasons, and good ones, but the dichotomy struck me as exquisite and led me to thoughts of Cartesian Dualism, Platonic idealism, Hegelian dialectics and all manner of other types of shite. And so, I wish hereby to do my bit to close the gap between these two perceptions, creating a synthesis that fosters mutual understanding and allows the peoples of the world to live in peace etc, by substituting the pejorative “Gyppo” for the still romantic “Gypsy” into several well-known phrases:

The Gyppo Kings

Many people’s introduction to flamenco and flamboyant Spanish gypsies. But the group’s actually from France and plays mainly rumba, which is borderline flamenco at best. However, kings they are as all Gypsies are royalty: their sub-culture status allows this, while the rest of us are mere subjects of some inbred anachronism. The Romanian King (of kings) is a man called Florin Cioabă, whose surname means “soup” (almost) and who got into hot water when he forced his 12-year-old daughter (against her will) to get married. Them royals, eh??

Gyppo Creams

Whatever happened to Gypsy Creams? is one of those questions that people of a certain age with lots of spare time and an Internet connection love to ask. They were a type of biscuit made by McVities - and maybe will be again – and if memory serves were like round Bourbons but more crunchy and with a filling like butterscotch. I suppose the only “Gypsy” thing about them was that they were here one day and gone the next.

Gyppo Toast

Bread soaked in milk and raw egg and then fried in a pan. I’ve never heard of gypsies eating this, though in Romania they have a reputation for eating snails; (and I don’t blame them, the ones here are the most succulent-looking I’ve ever seen and remind me of those I’ve paid good money for in fancy delicatessens). I’ve also heard it called ”French toast”. Taking everything together, this begs the question: Les Gyppos… Les Français … ou est la différence??

Dehavilland Gyppo Moth

Geoffrey de Havilland must have been a brilliant engineer: he gave us the “Wooden Wonder” the world’s first commercial jet airliner, very nearly the world’s first plane to break the sound barrier, and the “Moth” series of biplanes beloved of amateur enthusiasts such as David Gower. Maybe it was due to de Havilland’s swashbuckling style that he gave the name “Gipsy” to the engines he manufactured to power many of these, and this stuck as a generic name for the ‘planes as well. Seeing the way that gypsies drive their horse and carts, it’s not a bad one.

Gossard Gyppo

Anybody remember this bra? Anybody ever worn one? Was it comfy?? I was once walking in the hills here on a very hot summer’s day and met a fine Gypsy woman of about 35 who’d stripped down to her skirt and bra and, judging by her smile, was enjoying the feeling. Had I been any sort of man I’d have laid her down her there and then in the corn field with the proud maize cobs battling like swords in the air above us. But she probably had her husband and brothers waiting with knives behind a tree for just such an occasion. I also never got to ask if the bra she was wearing was a Gossard, and if it was comfy.

Next time, to the same ends, I carry out the reverse process: “Oi, sling your hooks you Gentlemen of the Road!”, “Why don’t you clear up your bloody rubbish you Princes Amongst Men!” and pub signs declaring “No Real Rroms”. To end, scenes from the Moldovan Emil Loteanu’s 1971 film Şatra , based on stories by Gorki, and starting with a song that all Romanians can sing no matter what they think of Gypsies (and is if that wasn’t enough, the male “love interest” is an Austro-Hungarian!):

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Titbits from The Romanian Kitchen #1

As I said once before, it took me some time to adjust to the food here, and to be honest I still haven’t fully appreciated that Romanian is one of The World’s Great Cuisines, but, for your delectation, I've collected half a dozen exquisite examples that do present it at its best:

#6 Slănina: Romanian heaven will be made of slănina: they’ll be thrones carved from a solid blocks of it, and the white clouds upon which pass the harp-strumming gypsy seraphim and cherubim lăutari will also be slănina, still dripping translucent globules of cardiac-arresting goodness from their warming on the end of a stick at some celestial camp fire.

#5 Salată: This word covers both “salad” and “lettuce”, and of course the two meanings are not mutually exclusive. If you order salată in a Romanian restaurant you may very well get lettuce.......... with SUGAR on it.

#4 Sarmale: Actually, this is perfectly respectable food, one of the Archetypal Foods of Eastern Europe, a legacy from the Ottomans and recreated in one form or another by many nations over here. A confection of cabbage leaves and pig nonsense (lungs, knees, testicles, etc), and flavoured with savoury, a herb we no longer use in Britain, because it’s rubbish, and which for some reason I cannot smell without feeling ill.

#3 Cluj Tap Water: I recently organised a “no-frills” holiday for ourselves and some of Mrs Dilo’s friends and requested that we all “pack light”. Sure enough, the girls forewent many of their party dresses, but I couldn’t believe the amount of provisions they’d bought from home. The most astonishing was a 1 litre bottle of water. “Is that mineral water??”, I asked. “No, it’s tap water, I wasn’t sure if the water in Spain would be any good”. Bless.

#2 Ant Piss: Mrs Dilo: “When we were children we used to stick a twig into an ants’ nest, pull it out after a few minutes, shake the ants off and suck the twig. It’s got quite a funny taste - a bit acid.

#1 Bulă: A pig, lovingly executed with a Stanley knife, five full-sized cabbages shoved up its arse, its ears shoved up its nose, fried for five hours, then covered in a layer of mashed potato moulded in the shape of a slightly larger pig. (OK, I made that one up).

Ok. Now, at the end of this week I'm off back to the land of fish 'n' chips and Cheesy Wotsits, to my ancestral birthplace, the only two famous sons of which were Pope Adrian IV and Vinnie Jones, and so, 'cos the YouTube clip of Pope Adrian's version of My Way seems to have been removed, and while we have bad taste very much in mind.... take it away Vinnie! (and please don't bring it back again, ever):

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Once In A Lifetime

I’ve been kindly memed by Gyppo Byard and must name 10 things I've done once in my life which I wouldn't want to repeat ever. (Though in accordance with my previously stated desire to blog slightly less, I’m doing only 5) This sounds like a great opportunity for vanity - possibly even inverted vanity - since, though the things in question were presumably Not a Good Idea, they may also have been Incredibly Dangerous and Brave....:

#1: Walking Through a Railway Tunnel in Spain:Go along that path to the lake - it’s quicker if you walk through a couple of very short railway tunnels on the way”, they said; yeah, but forgot to add “.......but not the first one!”, which was very long, blacker than the Earl o’ Hell’s britches and in which I met a train coming the other way.

#2 Hugging a Psycho: I was out for a drink with a friend who’d brought along another bloke who’d recently moved into his house, a brawny security guard, who was clearly quite distressed. As we left to make our separate ways home, in an half-drunken outburst of naïvete and goodwill I hugged him in the hope that this would cheer him up a bit. I was told later that he was serious knife nutter.

#3: Writing the Most Incredibly Rude Things about my Maths Teacher, then By Mistake Handing this Missive in with my Maths Homework: She either didn’t read it or the words simply weren’t in her vocabulary.

#4: Crushing a Wine Glass with my Bare Hand: My girlfriend at the time was flirting with another guy. Many chaps in that situation have done far worse.....

#5: Letting the Oil Run Dry on a Gas Turbine: It was during my abortive attempt to train as a mechanical engineer. I simply didn’t have any common sense. Spectacularly so. Mechanical Engineering has flourished without me.

So, there they are, and I shall endeavour to make other, better mistakes rather than repeat these ones. Gyppo tagged 5 other people to perform this task and I shall tag Kevin Musgrove, Pearl, The Jules, Madame DeFarge and Brother Tobias; others are of course welcome to do it too. Mind how you go.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #8: Summer is A-Coming In

Hi everyone, I’m thinking I should write shorter posts for a while - for which you may be glad - and spend less time blogging so that I can concentrate on other things (like my singing lessons which start again today). Whether I can achieve this remains to be seen, as you lot may be So Gorgeous that I simply can’t leave It alone. Maybe it’s because summer’s ending that I feel this way. A season we’ve enjoyed, sitting in the garden soaking up the sun, but now dowager Autumn stirs from fragile slumber, starts to clear away the summer’s spread, soon laying lace upon the bare table. I’d like to string it out a little bit longer, before the fuel bills go up and the alcoholic members of Mrs Dilo’s family return to their self-defeating ways of getting through the winter. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”?? Arse. So, here are Helno and the lads of Les Négresses Vertes with their hymn to summer Voilà l'été:

And here they are again in the no less summery but more flamencoy Sous le Soleil de Bodega:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Seven "Quirky" Personality Traits About Myself

ADDENDUM: I've now realised that it was churlish - nay, hypocritical - of me to complain that nobody ever memes me (which is also not true, now I think about it) and then not pass on this thing to 7 other people as requested. So, I'm hereby passing it on to: Brother Tobias, GAW (here's hoping he is on the road to recovery), Brit, Ana (wherever she is), Barry Teeth, Mr Inkspot, and last-but-not-least The Dotterel.

I don’t usually do memes – mainly because nobody asks me – but now I’ve been memed by our Kevin Musgrove, thank you kindly, and must supply the information described in the title of this post. (There’s a modifying clause to this which reads “as evidenced in my blog”, but I shall ignore this: as Kevin sez that I can be counted upon to come up with something unexpected I maintain that my blog is intractable to such a coarse-grained sub-categorisation approach, even one that includes the word “quirky”).

1) I Talk to Myself: The legacy of having been a stammerer and a habit that I refuse to give up. Though actually I’m merely practicing the conversations that I’d like to have with others - it’s not the same thing.

2) I Talk to the Television: Ditto. And also I’ve found this the ideal way to relax after a long day at the office; e.g. “My grandma can sing better than that, and she’s dead!”, or “Blue trousers with an orange shirt??... what were you thinking!” or “Oi, get your hair cut!”, etc etc.

3) I Talk to Animals: Ditto friggin’ Ditto. I can practically talk a tabby cat into bed with me.

4) I Have the Most Appalling Posture Imaginable: For years - decades, even - I’ve earned a crust slumped in a chair at a computer screen and then spent the evenings at dance classes. The latter may have won my soul but the former has certainly triumphed corporally.

5) In Moments of Anxiety or Confusion I Pick My Nose: Drinkers open a bottle, smokers light a fag and Bonobo monkeys get jiggy wid it, but I find a bit of nasal excavation to be the ideal “security blanket”.

6) I Have in Me an Aching Gap where Hard, Naked Ambition Should Be: I wanted to be a dancer but started too late; I trained in martial arts but ultimately lacked the killer instinct; I wanted to be a famous poet... but, ahh, I may yet be one day - I do hate other poets and their poems sufficiently to achieve this.

7) I’m Quite Tactile: This served me rather well during the huggy-kissy “New Man” era of the 1980s but also led to episodes of “inappropriate behaviour”. Here’s Madness:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Book Review #1: Writing Therapy by Tim Atkinson


Tim Atkinson is one of our number, a blogger who goes by the name of The Dotterel and also writes Bringing up Charlie. He has written a book, which is quite excellent, and which I promised to review here. Now, I don’t have too much time or previous experience, so staff members on the Times Literary Supplement can breathe a sigh of relief, but here goes:

The story centres on a teenage girl who drops out of school and spends all her time reading in the local library. A good idea on many levels: hockey is not an important skill in the job market, (neither are history or geography but I’ll let that pass...) Atkinson somehow manages to understand this girl’s way of thinking – jealousy of her classmates, the failure of communication with her mother, her crush on a male teacher – very well indeed. He’s been a teacher himself and is clearly observant. She then gets admitted to a teenager unit of the local psychiatric hospital, where she meet other kids: self-harmers, bulimic, sex-addicts, fantasists… She has a lesbian relationship with another girl there, described in a direct and non-cringe-worthy manner. There ensues a battle between the “old guard” members of staff and a trainee who encourages her to write as a form of therapy. This fulfils what I take to be the theme of the book, and somehow she manages to avoid the traps of escapism and work her way to a clearer view of her place in the world. The conclusion is sufficiently heart-warming and, most importantly, convincing.

Its book that you keep on wanting to read and read. The subject matter is in and of itself engaging. (From a personal perspective, I had a close family member who also sought to escape the world through the medium of literature, though I don’t think this ever led him to having a lesbian affair.) In addition, the author manages to write it as the teenage girl, a feat he pulls off remarkably well. And it has coded literary references, which one hopes will give young readers inspiration to read further and maybe even write books of their own :-) I hope that it reaches a wider audience - it deserves one.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top Cats #2

Those kittens still haven’t showed up yet, so I’m forced to present the second half of my Top Cats list, my Five Favourite Fluffy Felines, as with the Ferals, mainly in terms of fictitious moggies*.

#5 Bagpuss off of Bagpuss: A very popular candidate in comments on the previous list. But I have to confess that I never “got” Bagpuss. Ivor the Engine, yes; The Clangers, most certainly; but Bagpuss was just too esoteric, too dense with subtexts, simply too Modernist – like trying Finnegan’s Wake after having enjoyed Ulysses. The plots seemed to involve mechanical mice and a large cat that did nothing: Waiting For Godot wasn’t in it. I’m clearly just irremediable middle-brow.

#4 Vienna/Ponsonby: I always remember Leonard Rossiter talking to large fluffy cats: it was the former in Rising Damp (6:14 minutes in), and the latter in The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Rossiter, by all accounts, had an exceptionally high opinion of his own talent, perhaps justifiably so considering his nanosecond perfect comic timing. There’s no more obliging straight-man than a lazy pussycat, which is he probably how he honed his craft.

#3 Custard off of Roobarb and Custard Admittedly the dog was the star, but as the phlegmatic pink cat from next door Custard was Sancho Panza to Roobarb’s knight-errant. The animation was as edgy and fidgety as most of the target audience surely felt at that age, and the theme-tune so perfectly grungy that it could’ve been written by The Ramones but with jazzy mouth-organ and (later) double-bass, by Toots Thielemans and Danny Thompson… just my little fantasy :-).

#2 Jess off of Postman Pat: I always felt there was something disturbing about Postman Pat. It’s the way he drives around the lanes of Greendale without ever having to slow down for corners or watch out for other traffic – he’s clearly made a pact with the Devil. And he’s never without the company of that cat – it’s his “familiar”. So what makes Jess A Fluffy? I hear you ask. Well, just think how much worse Pat would be without it.

#1 Tanu: Of our two, Ţuţica is the more trichologically luxuriant but, personality-wise, Tanu’s as Fluffy as they come - he’s simply too stupid to be Feral. Spends his energies chasing butterflies rather than eatables, and has a habit of banging his head on things - very endearing when the thing in question is a part of one's body; another good trick is, when he’s on your lap, surreptitiously move the chair under a table, when he wakes up he’ll yawn, stand up, and bang his head… every time.

* NB: I’ve made no mention of Mrs Slocum’s Pussy – also a popular viewers’ choice in the Feral category - as I felt we’d probably had quite enough of “that” sort of thing in the previous post....

To end, something for all you young people out there, here’s the rave version of Roobarb and Custard:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

R.I.P. #1

The recent death of Michael Jackson left me strangely unmoved. When Princess Di died I was living in a house in Denmark full of hippies who didn’t give a toss, so I’d no prior experience of being unmoved and being told this was strange. I felt genuinely sorry for their families but not much else, possibly because I hadn’t enjoyed Jackson’s later music much and adhered to the Jarvis Cocker school of thought that though talented and possibly harmless he probably wasn’t the saviour of all the world’s children. Then I remembered he had brothers called Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon; that night I dreamed a dream – good grief I must have eaten a lot of cheese the previous evening - what it would’ve been like if Jackie Chan, President Josip “Broz” Tito of Yugoslavia, Germaine Greer and Marlon Brando had been the pallbearers:

Germaine: You know, he was such a beautiful young man, in that special age between innocence and maturity.
Marlon: He coulda been a contender.
Germaine: He was a contender, you idiot! It’s just that you choose to judge him by the handed-down values of a Patriarchal society...
Jackie: Hey, this funeral is kinda boring, how about if the hearse is hijacked by the Triads, door opens, coffin flies down road and through the streets of Chinatown, and we go after it fighting everybody we meet on the way?
Germaine: ...that gives women nothing but second-class sexual citizenship and shitty orgasms
Marlon: Got any butter with you?*
Germaine: No I haven’t, you fat, pervy narcissist! So what are you rebelling against?
Marlon: What have you got? Dairylea would probably do.
Germaine: I didn't fight to get women out from behind vacuum cleaners to get them onto the cheese board.
Jackie: Ha, so you think your verbal kung fu is good, heh, Sheila?? You wait till Julie Birchill show up, then we see who is true master!
Marlon: The horror, the horror...
Tito: Hey, I successfully led partisan troops against the fascist armies during World War II and then united the mutually antagonistic Southern Slavic peoples during 35 years of relative harmony whilst both making friends with Western leaders and keeping the Red Army at bay, while this Jackson was just a singer with an squeeky voice and a funny face. I can’t believe I agreed to do this. Still, I ‘spose, a gig’s a gig.
Vicar (David Bowie, for it is he): Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, Michael Jackson was a junkie; Gone to the llama ranch in the sky, hitting an all-time high.
Everybody: Amen.

Gadjo Dilo wishes to thank the producers of On The Waterfront, Last Tango in Paris, The Wild One, Apocalypse Now and all of Jackie Chan’s films, and the publishers of The Female Eunuch, The Beautiful Boy , Ashes to Ashes and Yugo First: An Autobiography for their kind permission etc.

* I hesitated, much, before referencing this by-all-accounts terminally unpleasant film; but then I thought, if anyone can handle it Germaine Greer probably can.

Here's the geezer with his bros from the era which I personally prefer to remember:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Top Cats #1

The result of the votes counted after the Previous Moggie Post was that our two trencherman tabbies are now named Tanu and Ţuţica, the most Romanian names on offer, and already X is leaning how to mix dodgy cement and Y is seeing how much cheap gold she can fit into the gaps between her molars. And, hurrah, the miracle of childbirth has once again been visited upon the world! Somewhere. Ţuţica’s tummy is now full of milk rather than babies, though we have no idea where she’s put the latter. Mysterious. While we look for them, in honour of All Things Cat – for taxonomic reasons I’ve divided the contest into Feral and Fluffy - here’s my all time list of Five Favourite Feral Felines:

5: Tom off of Tom & Jerry

Only the episodes from the Fred Quimby era, of course, or Kevin would kill me, and rightly so. Not the most imaginative name for a cat, perhaps, but then he was EveryCat: playful, adventurous, soft-hearted, cowardly, greedy, but above all just very very violent.

4: Cat Stevens

Born Shakin’ Stevens to a Greek taramasalata salesman and a Swedish masseuse in London’s Welsh Quarter in 1948, he had a troubled youth not knowing who he was. Eventually he found solace in beard-wearing, in all its many fine manifestations, and changed his given name to something more hirsute-sounding. (With his peace campaigning and his moderate Islamic views he should maybe be a Fluffy rather than a Feral, but I fear I may need all 5 slots of the former for the kittens, when we find them.)

3: George Galloway out of Respect

A maverick, left-leaning politician with a following from Ken Loach to (at a guess, but for the man's sake I'm hoping not) Derek Hatton, when one fateful day in January 2006 he was seen purring and pretending to drink milk from a saucer. As a trained mime artist I respected him very much for this. He’s since confessed to suffering from felo-variant Kepler’s Syndrome, and has put himself on a special diet of Whiskas Junior as the first step in a rehabilitation programme.

2: Top Cat off of Top Cat

Pleasingly, exactly what is says on the tin: leads a mélange of alley cats in a constant scampery of foraging, romancing, rock ‘n’ rock and abuse of authority. Loosely based on Sgt. Bilko, apparently - indeed the actor playing Pvt. Doberman there voiced TC’s sidekick Benny - but with the leadership skills of Napoleon, Che Guevara and Mike Brierley all rolled into one. You’d follow this cat anywhere.

1: ”Cat” off of Red Dwarf

The coolest cat in the cat-basket. You might think I’m only saying that because he’s anthropomorphosised. But no, the comedy sci-fi show actually had it right: “Cat” is the Future of Felinism. A hundred or so years ago we became aware that Life Imitates Art, and now, I am sure, so will Evolution*; in 3,000,000 years I fully expect moggies to be standing on hind legs and wearing cyclamen-coloured zoot suits.

* Dilo, G. “Unnatural Selection: Post-Modern Evolution of Species”, PhD Thesis, University of Life, Cluj-Napoca, 2009.