Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Penniless and Sunburnt

It was completely unprovoked.

We were talking about something else, something neutral, something innocent, when my wife pointed out to me, à propos of nothing in particular, that I hadn't sold many books recently.
"I just can't find the time to buy new stock," I explained to her.
"Well, why isn't the old stock selling? What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing, other than that no-one wants to buy it."
She laughed at me in a way that undermined me somewhat. This happens fairly frequently and you get used to it. You adapt to the lowered regard and expectations of your loved ones.

Anyway, I have resolved to make her proud of me once more by exhibiting some entrepreneurial spirit ("The trouble with the French is...") and selling some Borrowed Philosophy merchandise.

So, hypocrite lecteurs, mes semblables, mes frères, if you really love me you'll buy a t-shirt, so that I can regain some sense of worth, and so that my daughter can hold her head high in class again.

I'll make time to trawl the charity shops of South Woodford for unconsidered literary gems which will sell immediately for many times their cost price, we'll be able to afford the car hire for our forthcoming sojourn to the South Coast (there's a wedding to attend on the way and our aged VW looks more like a stock car), and harmony will be restored to the Miles household. Isn't that a price worth paying?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Debt to Pleasure

Is there anything nicer than a ZOOM lolly? I'm not saying that they're better than sex. But I've had sex that was less pleasant than eating a ZOOM. And I've never had a ZOOM that was anything less than exceptional. Even one that's been in the freezer too long and has permafrost around the base. Still wonderful.

(In a future world, where men and women are truly free, you will be able to combine the two activities, mating copiously with an icy confection in one hand and a knot of your lover's hair in the other.)

They are available on demand and cost around 50p. The packaging is fully bio-degradable, they're low calorie too, unlike a Magnum, say, and accordingly can be consumed without guilt. And who's ever had sex without a little stab of conscience, before, during or after? Perhaps the most exciting thing about a ZOOM is its Proustian capacity to transport you back to a simpler time, when your thoughts and actions were driven by your taste buds, rather than your reproductive organs. Frustrated people everywhere should treat themselves to one of these marvellous moments of frozen delight. It may heal what ails ye.

Next week: the fab...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Rainbow Day

According to the Isihara test (above, if you can see the 6 you're normal) I suffer from garden variety red/green colourblindness. This means, amongst other things, that I am unable to fly fighters for the Royal Air Force, or to distinguish between certain shades of green and yellow. Colourblindness is a misnomer, evidently. It's not that I don't see colours it's just that I see them differently, anomalously, to use the opthamological term. I came across this quote when reading about the subject:-

From a practical standpoint... many protanomalous and deuteranomalous people breeze through life with very little difficulty doing tasks that require normal colour vision. Some may not even be aware that their colour perception is in any way different from normal. The only problem they have is passing a colour vision test.

I am deuteranomalous people. One in every twenty white European males. You'll see us in Top Shop juxtaposing hopelessly ill-matching shorts and shirts and thinking we're Fonzie. We're a happy-go-lucky bunch, because the only problem we have is passing a colour vision test.

I mention this excuse for a genetic defect because tomorrow, at my daughter's school, they are celebrating "Rainbow Day". I assumed that this was some kind of multicultural festival. The school is a model of multicultural interface, with the colours of the world all getting along in prelapsarian innocence. My daughter then explained to me that she was "Fry", and would have to wear purple. And that some other members of her class were "Lister". She didn't know what colour they had to wear. So it seems that Rainbow Day is a colour-coded celebration of Eminent Victorian Quakers. This was confusing enough a concept without me having to deal with the purple business.


See? No purple. Or is purple a blanket term covering all those high-frequency colours? I asked my wife. Her response was unhelpful. "Purple is purple," she said. "And our daughter doesn't have any purple clothes."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Brighter Later

London, having sweltered for almost a week in the high twenties and low thirties, is now darkened by monsoon conditions. Right now it's raining so hard that vehicle alarms are being set off, storm drains are overflowing, and it's twilight at four in the afternoon. Everyone is much relieved, although the temperature has only dropped marginally, the storms have at least brought a breeze to ease the inescapable stickiness of a city heatwave. It's that same kind of unique big city heat that Nick Carraway describes in The Great Gatsby. As I stroll to work in shorts, flip-flops and a crumpled gingham seersucker shirt I am almost moved to pity the suits sweating into their white collars, loosening their ties, admiring my pedicure (I'm considering a sarong for tomorrow). The suits can keep their six figure salaries, here at Handles With Care, where we work for the love of it, Wednesday is "Bring an Item of Your Wife's Clothing to Work Day".

Monday, June 05, 2006


My daughter's godmother has made it safely out of Iraq. She now faces a twelve hour stopover on a runway in Kuwait. It's 45° C there, and it was hotter in Basra. There are a thousand keyboards clicking around the world, as people register or rationalise their thoughts on the Iraq war, and I'm convinced that there is nothing fresh I can say about it. I'll make this observation, however, in the light of widespread whispering that Tony Blair is about to convert to Roman Catholicism. There is no God. God is a voice in your head. We shouldn't pretend that our brave boys (that's what they are, whichever way you look at it) are on some sort of Crusade out there. They've toppled a dictator, but, as happened in Yugoslavia, the nation has fragmented without the binding energy of that dictatorship. Oppressed people are thirsty for very specific freedoms.

So while it's utterly unacceptable for politicians to say "We are fighting for our way of life" when they are, in effect, colonising a country whose extant government posed no real threat at all to their way of life, you could argue that this idea is at least grounded in the real. There is such a thing as "a way of life", and if running a V8 on inexpensive gasoline falls under The Pursuit Of Happiness then you could even make a case that Bush Jr is constitutionally obliged to protect American oil interests in the Middle East.

Take God out of the equation and it's even more difficult to know what the rebel Iraqis are fighting for. Settle the sectarian issue, stop blowing people up, and Bush will have an exit strategy. He'll be able to withdraw, claiming to have established a democracy, and you can tell yourself that you've seen off the infidel.

Take God out of the equation and you have half a dozen middle-aged men standing around, pointing at each other and saying "I'm right and you're wrong". It's not as naive an idea as it might at first appear. Coalition forces went into Afghanistan with the express goals of destroying Al Qaeda bases, removing the Religious Maniacal government (taking God out of the equation, effectively) and capturing Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders. Resistance remains, but the operation, which was not blurred by political doublespeak, was a success, even if Bin Laden is still at large.

No-one mourns the passing of the Taliban, indeed the liberation of Afghanistan may prove to be the one positive to come out of the events of 9/11. But I hope not. Peace reigns in the Balkans, after all. It's a given that people everywhere should enjoy religious freedom right up the point where it impinges on someone else's civil rights. Tolerant, secular democracy is an ideal for Westerners, an ideal born out of The Enlightenment. The enlightened view is this:- you can believe in God all you want, Mr Blair, Mr Bush, Mr Al-Zarqawi, you can pretend that he informs your decisions, but God does not exist. God is a voice in your head.