From his tree hollow lair in upstate New York,twisted genius Professor Slupperflange prepares to launch his guff powered spunk cannon on an unsuspecting world. Only one man can stop him..... Meanwhile, in a small town on the east coast of Italy...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Bollocks to it

Thanks to a combination of defective laptops, virus ridden work PCs, bizarre Chinese run internet cafes and a complete lack of patience on my part, I hereby announce this blog to be completely fucked. This is a technical term and can only really be comprehended if you have Science A-level at C-grade or above, or if you're from Finland (they understand all this shit).

From now on I shall devote my time to whicker basket weaving and inciting racial hatred.

Bye bye.

Monday, January 03, 2005

A novel in not many words

I've decided to write a masterpiece of English literature. Here's how it will go:

Trevor works as a key puncher in an office in Blandsworth, East Crump and spends his evenings playing acid jazz in an underground chin stroker of a place.
Prophet 57 is teaching at a community college in war-torn Limb, in central Treberia. He has just realized that love does not exist, and that Star Wars isn’t actually a particularly good film. This is puzzling him.
Julee is a terrible bitch teaching pond skiffing on a camp for potential faggots in upstate Burley Huff. She sees only the worst in people, and just like all her kind she has an unbearable inner child of sweet-hearted confusion, just busting to reek forth.
All are connected by the arrival of an intriguing character by the name of Stick, who thunders into the life of the trio in his camper van full of budgerigars and exotic plants. Spending one memorable night with each of them he convinces them all to buy an innocent looking plant called a Purple Plinklet. The plant will bring fulfilment to their lives he says, just as long as they don’t feel the need to vomit peanut sick into it.
Of course, over the period of several plot flaps all are goaded into the inevitable nut-belching scene. Conveniently all choose to commit their acts of stomach buggery at the same moment, and the plants decide to take over the world.
There follows a convoluted plot whereby these stem-sprouting motherfuckers fill up the world from all corners with their tentacle monstrosities. Governments are overthrown, panic grips the streets, a small dairy firm in Lower Wolfshit has to let their night watchman go.
“We don’t need no music, we got tumba”, is the call of the masses. This is, of course, ignored by the United States of Lollapalooza, whose government holds a summit from a hot air balloon above the Asthmatic Sea, saying that it plans to lead a world wide strike against the ghastly coloured ting.
At exactly this point, as if by voodoo, the Purple Pinklet stops growing. Having filled 70% of the world’s land and sea mass it simply ceases to expand. A prominent Professor of evolutionary studies suggests that all this occurred because he lied when he was 17. Everyone ignores him. A tall man who has the beard of a genius, but for the purposes of plot works in an owl startling factory in Greater Flazzmoof, claims that he has found a code hidden in the plant’s growth patterns which shows evidence of imminent ooglyness.
All of a sudden, just as the world is pondering the meaning of the word “imminent”, the Purple Pinklet decides to sprout its seeds. Everybody, apart from a disinterested Spungyiard called Jose, is shocked to find that the flowers of the Purple Pinklet are the most beautiful things imaginable. In each corner of the world, the buds display a different synonym of gorgeousity. The ice capped mountains twinkle in a new and captivating glow, the grey of the inner city is turned bumside with a fantastical blast of colour from the plant, the flagging heat of South Goshblam brings about a jaw flopping kaleidoscope of colours in the Pinklet. The whole world is gripped by paroclysms of joy and beauty. Even old people start having sex.
Over the following weeks the world’s governments get together and indulge in tea and biscuit fuelled chinwaggery, resulting in an international split between those who want to bomb the fucker and those who want to invite it in for coffee and some heavy petting in the shallow end. .
This eventually results in a world scuffle, sparked by the key conflict between rising global power, Chowgruff and the presiding world prefect, Lollapalooza. The two launch an all out assault, utilising their full arsenals of custard pie launchers, obliterating everything in their way, including great swathes of the Purple Pinklet.
Millions of light years away the diminutive but fiercely coiffeured Baasthalites, turn around their squadron of battle cruisers. Their leader, General Stick confirms to his troops, via squiff-mail, that the Earthlanders are not worthy of invasion. Give it a fortnight, and they’ll have done the job themselves, he promises. What they leave behind will be just right for that used space-clopper lot they’ve been hankering after for so long.
It’s finished. Now fuck off.

Little fish, big fish, cardboard box (from December)

Last night, with Andrea and Rosa, to a kind of rave in the country. The venue was a villa in the middle of beautiful nowhere, reached via a long gravel track; inside which the monotonous thump of generic house music jostled the foundations.
Andrea wasn’t keen to go, as he detests house music. It doesn’t really fit with his personality anyway. He resembles a lanky tortoise, which has just emerged from its shell and hasn’t had time for a spliff yet. He should be listening to reggae, and sitting next to a lava lamp. Pop-eyed, hand flapping, pill prancing doesn’t seem like his thing. It’s not mine either. I can only handle about an hour of house music before I develop the overwhelming urge to invert other people’s spines. Still, as Andrea pointed out, there would be lots of people there, and it was free.
The first obstacle was to obtain a name. Andrea phoned around his circle of amicas, and secured three names from the guest list. Rather disappointingly, they didn’t contain any Italian equivalents of Mike Hunt, Phil Yercrack or Ivan Cumalot. My name for the evening was Mattio Rippari. All I had to do was announce myself to the bouncer, and be waved through. Simple enough, apart from the distinct possibility of me pronouncing my very Italian name with a very British accent, thus arousing inevitable suspicion from the man in the monkey suit.
A car journey’s worth of voice coaching, and a few buttock clenching moments in front of a big, bald bloke with a laptop and we were in. Inside were two rooms, packed with an astonishing variety of punters. Mohicanned morons, in full nonciform, mingled with gaggles of thirtysomething women. Baggy trousered bling boys were fighting for a place at the bar with receding philosophy professors and sharp suited rich kids.
We arrived at about 1.30, which was apparently still early. Sure enough, by about 3 the place was heaving with people trying desperately to prove that it was possible to dance to that shit. I found the best tactic was to imagine you were batting away hordes of invisible, leaping salmon, while riding a space hopper.
I got bored pretty quickly but Rosa was enjoying herself so, as usual, got her own way. For one thing, I sobered up very soon after arriving and at five euros for a not-even-pint, that wasn’t gonna change. Andrea’s friend helped a fair bit, by insisting that I drink half of each of his drinks. Had there been about another five of him, things might have improved a little. The main problem was that the crowd, although very varied, was a very varied crowd of men. Women were out-numbered by about seven to one, and with a good number of them it was hard to tell which side of the line they stood.
By about 4, I was sober, bored and beginning to make trouble. Rosa was busy chatting with Andrea’s wine tasting teacher (…….. yeah, I know) was still enjoying herself. I tried to amuse myself by fiddling with the volume controls of the speaker above my head, but was soon warned that my limbs were in danger of being separated from each other if I continued with this. Next I had an interesting chat with a bloke in a pink t-shirt, who grabbed me round the neck and began bellowing pilled up shit blabber into my ear. My first tactic was to explain calmly that I didn’t speak much Italian. No joy. Next I tried to tell him, via very slow speech and body language, that I didn’t want very much to talk to him, and that he should piss off now. Still, the arm round my neck. Hmmm. The final, and by far the most successful, method was to put my own arm round his neck and apply a great deal of pressure, whilst elaborating on all the things I’d quite like to do to his sister. Off he fucked.
In an astounding display of far sightedness, the hosts of the party had provided one toilet for each sex. This was just perfect for me, as I’ve always been in the habit of realising about half an hour before the event that I need a slash. I was thus able to plan appropriately and didn’t spend half my night standing cross-legged in a queue of hopping clubbers. It did provide, however, another interesting opportunity for people watching. Englishmen are just as vain as their Italian counterparts; it’s just that, for some reason, we feel the need to be sneaky about it. To this end, a Brit in a crowded club toilet will give himself a sneaky once over in the mirror under the ridiculously far fetched disguise of washing his hands. An Italian, meanwhile, will sweep past a queue of potential pissers to stand in front of the sink and brazenly rearrange his quiff.
Finally, at about 4.30, when it was obvious that no one was going to buy Rosa another drink, we left.
Suddenly................... nah, nothing.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Day trippin' (from November)

Why does it always rain on me? Is it because I interfered with a ferret when I was 17? Unlikely really, but it would make a good epic poem, and possibly a Broadway musical on ice. The fact remains though, that the weather hates me, and likes it when I hit my funny bone on the cupboard door. The Marche region has seen some lovely days this week. Blinding sunshine, and views of the rolling hills and green-flecked mountains for miles around. My students have professed a new found enthusiasm for this type of weather, as they think it means I can't take the piss out of their propensity for wearing sunglasses all the time. Little did they know that I was saving up a plethora of snidey remarks about their silly hats, for a rainy (or, in this case sunny) day. Annoyingly, having trickled sunshine on us all through the working week, that ratty old bitch upstairs has deemed this weekend to be the annual celebration of fuck load of fog.
This turn of events is pure shittwittery , as this weekend was to be my first venture out into the Italy that exists beyond Civitanova. Saturday was pencilled in as an afternoon in Ancona, to have a butchers at some churches and go to the chocolate fair (the churches, to be honest, were a guilty afterthought), then in the evening to Barfly to see a bit of acid jazz, and stroke our chins some. Sunday was all about the much-hyped beach at Numana, and the pilgrimage town of Loreto.

The weekend kicked off to a not so spiffing start of peeling back the curtains to reveal that the whole world had suddenly gone grey. Visibility was just about sufficient to see the dribbling heaven plop that was liberally sprinkling the depressed looking market traders and hard headed bargain hunters in the square below me. The port and the sea, which was presumably still behind it, were hidden by a haze of Jack the Ripper fog. Everything seemed to have been painted an unsettling shade of light-England.
Still, plans are plans, and having been animatedly discussed over several bottles of sub-standard beer and screw-topped wine, they really had to be carried out.
This was the second time I had undertaken the trip between Civitanova and Ancona, and the second time that it had been backed by a sound track of drizzle. Having arrived at the train station it was then necessary to catch a bus into the centre. Bus etiquette in Italy is a surprisingly trusting affair. First you visit a Tabbacheria to purchase your ticket, then on entering the bus you are supposed to validate it through getting it stamped by an automated conductor. Apparently there is a fine for not doing so but is rarely enforced, as you can simply stamp the ticket if and when you see an inspector boarding the bus. So, in fact there is nothing to stop you from using one bus ticket to ride around the city forever and ever, bar your innate sense of decency and a respect for liberties afforded by other cultures. So, as I said, nothing to stop you.
I found Ancona to be a surprisingly good day out. Having read quotes such as "very little to delay you, bar the traffic", "hardly more than a port with a hill attached", and "a shithole", in various guidebooks, I was not expecting much. However, as with Civitanova, I think my ignorance of the other delights of Italy makes me naively susceptible to Marche's charms. Perhaps, if you've seen the architectural and cultural wonders of Rome, Florence, Venice and countless other Italian gems, then Ancona will warrant very little of your enthusiasm. I haven't seen an that crap, so I quite liked it.
The main attractions of the city are the churches, which invariably lunge at you from unexpected comers of innocuous looking piazzas. The highlight of the ecclesiastical tour is Cattedrale Di SanCiriaco, a hilltop collision of Byzantine and Gothic design, which affords some impressive views of the fog below.
Winding our way back down along Via Giovanni XXIII ("this time it's personal!"), we took advantage of the free final half hour of the Pinacoteca Communale, an art gallery constructed around an atmospheric open air courtyard, with an old well at its centre. My enthusiasm for art is generally dictated by what shoes I'm wearing and whether I had to walk up the stairs. In this instance I managed a perky curiosity through the renaissance boys, started to flag a little around the baroques, and simply couldn't be arsed with the modem, where a piss-artist in residence was waxing lyrical to anyone who couldn't run fast enough about his challenging images of the Pope in swimwear.
Onwards and downwards, we next took in the eccentric delights of the chocolate fair. Here a bustling gaggle of stalls competed to flog their own innovative ways of blending chocolate with silly things. I sampled some chocolate chip cream (nice), caramel ice cream (gorgeous), a cocoa flavoured Madonna (the icon, not the lip-synching slapper), and a choccy liqueur (dreadful, fucking dreadful). There were also liberal helpings of the Italian version of hot chocolate. This, I cannot recommend enough. Fuck your Cadbury's dishwater crap, this is pure thick, gloopy calorie hell.
Heading back towards the city centre, we took one last detour into a free exhibition of so-and-so Cirello, a very odd man who evidently had a thing about eggs, spoons and being trapped in a potato sack. He's dead now, which probably isn't that tragic.

Rather crushingly it soon became clear that pubs in Ancona are no more sympathetic to the penny pinching alcoholic than Civitanova. Six euros, the bastards wanted! Six fucking euros! For Tennents Super! Even the fucking Russians don't drink that crap.
So it was that I grumpily joined the queue for Barfly, completely stone mason cold sober.

Loreto (from November)

My student, Sandro asks me if I would like to visit Loreto. I say of course I would and that I've always longed to go. He wonders if I have heard the legend of Loreto. I say that it was my favourite bedtime story when I was a kitten. He suggests that after Loreto we could go to Sticky Flange, and see the levitating Madonna. I tell me it has always been a dream of mine to see it. He says that there's no such place as Sticky Flange and that I'm a silly person. He adds another five breezeblocks to my rickshaw, and says he'll race me to the top of the hill. And so it continues.
I have to admit that I didn't pay much attention to anything I was taught, shown or told to put in my mouth until about the time I left University. As a consequence I never seem to know anything about a place until I visit it. Not really my fault. How was I supposed to know about some fucking wall they built in China? I bet they don't know anything about my Dad's new chimney. He insists that you can see it from space, but I think he means the bathroom.
Anyway, anyway, anyway. ...I' d never heard of the small town of Loreto, or the tale that lies in the impressive basilica. Maybe this is pure ignorance (more than likely actually), although it could be to do with my lack of any religious education, or I might have popped to the loo when there was a question about it on The Weakest Link: Celebrity Pets Special.
Whatever. Loreto is a beautiful little community plonked on the side of a hill between the Potenza and Musone valleys, not far from the town of Ancona.
The basilica is the centrepiece of the town, looming over the 16th century walls and dominating the Piazza Della Madonna. The building's architecture is gothic, sporting a Brunelleschi influenced dome and decorations of a plethora of artists and architects, most notably Bramante. The interior is suitably splattered with ornament and illustration, with frescoes stretching back to the 16th century through to the 1970s. All well and good, I hear you say, but tell us about the state of the toilets. Fucking disgraceful, I tell you.
We chose, wisely or not, to visit Loreto on a Sunday. This meant, firstly, that we had to park the car in Germany and walk back, and also that we arrived bang in the middle of a dirty great mass.
As I mentioned, I don't have much of a religious background. My parents have a crippling fear of pews, so have never been abte to enter a church without being encased entirely in candyfloss. The only passage of the bible I'm familiar with is the one quoted by Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction, and R.E lessons at school were mostly spent lobbing berries at Anthony Bowden and trying to look down Samantha Hemming's top. As such I have never been to, or even thought very much about, a Catholic mass. I have to say that I found the whole thing a bit spooky. The way in which the crowd of hundreds of worshippers recited the lengthy prayers as one, monotone in voice but with expressions of sheer passion gave me the proper willies. As beautiful and as interesting as I found the place, my main emotion throughout the visit was awkwardness, with perhaps just a dash of guilt, to add flavour. Loreto is a pilgrimage site not a tourist resort (at least, not in winter), and it seemed that everybody else knew exactly where to stand, what expression to wear, and when to sneeze. I felt like an impostor, and I was sure that everyone else could see it. What was I doing in this most celebrated of holy places, who was I to squeeze my way through the worshipping masses just so I could gawp inappropriately at something which I couldn't possibly hope to comprehend? But then I figured, ah fuck it, it's all a giggle innit.
The reason for our visit to the Holy House of Loreto, sits at the centre of the basilica, surrounded in a mass of beautifully sculpted marble. According to legend this is the original home of the Virgin Mary, transported from Palestine in the late 13th century. The original story stated that angels carried the stone house, first to Croatia then to the hill of Loreto, where it was laid down on December 10, 1294.
More recent theories have suggested that the stones were transported by ship as a rather unorthodox wedding gift from Niceforo Angelo, ruler of Epirus, to his soon to be son-in-law, Filippo of Taranto, son of the King of Naples. This, I suppose, was the way of the world before toasted sandwich makers were invented.
Apparently, the three-walled stone house was once part of a larger structure, including a grotto dug into the rock. Archaeological and scientific boffery done in the 1960s has matched the stones found in the stone house at Loreto, with the supposed site in Nazareth. Other strokey beard types have identified the various graffiti cut into the stones of the Holy House as being of Jewish-Christian origin and extremely similar to those found at Nazareth.
Although the marble casing makes the house look impressively grand, the interior spans just 9 x 4 m, and is surprisingly bare. The viewer is afforded little time or space in the small chapel, as there are a constant stream of worshippers trooping in and out. A crowd of pilgrims stand shoulder-to- shoulder, staring at the alter which houses the strange dark wooden Madonna. Even for a decidedly non-religious observer, the atmosphere is over-powering. The walls are uneven and worn looking, while the frescoes are faded, as if battered by centuries of devotion and veneration.
After going in and out of the little holy land a few times, Sandro went off to have a bit of a confess, and I wandered around. I was surprised to see that confessions were not only taking place in the anonymity of the confessional but in full view of onlookers in every corner of every chapel. The confessors knelt in front of a variety of kindly looking priests, some dressed in full clergyman dress and Santa beard, others simply lounging in cords and jumper .
While waiting for Sandro to battle his way through the queue of guilty pilgrims, I strolled around one of the sacristies where a treasure trove of gifts and presents from visiting worshippers was displayed. Everything from family photos, trophies for first place in the 5OOm, and even a couple of model fishing boats had been handed over to the Holy House for what? I'm not sure I’ll ever understand.
I don't believe in God, and I’m not scared of Keyser Soze, but religion frightens me.
Mind you, so do clowns.
You can read too much into these things, can't you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


It's coming. I just need the love slop of a Swedish virgin and a few apricots, then it'll be done.

My Dad, and other whippets

To all the people who wonder where I get it from, witness this e-mail from my aged p.

Dear James

As I have nothing pressing to do I thought I would send you one last one, even if it's too late.

I've just done the same to Vicky. It seems a shame to send E mails to them as, of course, they have to stand on their heads to read them. They could turn the screen upside down but I know from experience that the wires get in the way when you do that. So I have to keep them short, the Emails, as there is only so much blood you can let run to your head, especially in a library. I've found that librarians of both sexes have a limited tolerance for bloodshotting and facial redness. It may be different in Oz as they have people standing on their heads all the time, not to mention the shark attacks when redness is de riguer.

This reminds me of an experience I read about at the Biblioteque de Abremerde only the other day. It told of a a monk with a dirty habit. This was in the 16th centuary when most monks had dirty habits. What to do about it, that was the problem , no laundrettes no nothing, just dirty puddles and the occasional river.

One of the monks with the dirtiest habits was a gent called Darren , Darren of the Dell. Dells as you know are invariably dirty and Darren lived in the dirtiest dell known to man, at that time. No doubt we have even dirtier dells nowadays than they did then but set in a historical context it was as mucky as they get.

He tried to clean up his act but what with all the wattle, not to mention the dawb he found it impossible. So he put his thinking cap on but it was too tight so he took it ooff again. He found that the elastic twanged when he took it off quickly and this intrigued him. Could he design a remedy for his dirty habit using the twang off his thinking cap(when he took it off quickly) He thought for a fortnight without his thinking cap and then thought for a week with it on. He would have done a full month but the tight cap made his veins throb and that made his habit problem even worse. Then Uripidese he had it. Trouble was he never wrote it down so we willnever know, only by word of mouth what the solution was.

B&Q have got cement on offer you know, buy one bag and get a brick free.

Do they have bricks in Ancona. Ask a passing peasant for me before you come back but what ever you do don't tell them airstewardesses about it. We don't want queues of Ryanair people in front of our B&Q over Xmas leaving all their liter and bottles of Guiness.

That's enough subtle thought for today.

Bye bye then

Love from Papa.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Vito Controversy

It’s probably not the best method of job hunting to search through the listings until you find the most desperate looking, apply for all of them and see which one is closest to the sea. That, however, is pretty much how I got this post. It was a perfect marriage between my suffocating desire to not get rutted in Cutnall Greeen, and Marzia’s urgent need to replace her recently absonded teacher.
The saga of why my predecessor did a bunk has been relayed to me so many times over the past three weeks that I feel like I lived through it myself. Twice. With slow motion replays, plus commentary from Alan Hansen and a frustrated badger. I’m going to share it with you now. Partly, I’m doing this to re-assure myself that it’s not particularly interesting. The venom with which my boss, Marzia and my flatmate, Rosa talk about Chritine (the absconder) is akin to the Daily Mail’s attitude towards asylum seekers or Keith Harris’ feelings about “that fucking duck”. Personally, I’m getting quite worried by how little of a fuck I give about the whole thing. Mind you, I’ve been the same since ‘nam.
So, here’s the testicles of the story. The two main protagonists are, firstly, Christine, a 34 year old Scottish tomboy who recently divorced from a German millionaire, then shagged her way through various teaching jobs in Italy, Spain and erm..... oh, I probably drifted off into thinking about breasts at this point. Her co-star is the boy bimbo, Vito, a 26 year old Mummy’s boy with the gift of the grease, and such an outrageously exagerrated Italian accent that at first I had a sneaking suspicion he was actually Welsh. His tone and mannerisms fluctuate maddeningly, depending on who he’s talking to. With me he seems to relax into a decent bloke, very interesting to chat with and curious enough about his interlocutor without ever seeming to creep. Unfortunately, as soon as a woman steps into frame Vito instantly transforms into Grand Master Chopwit. He immediately adopts a superstar sprawl, his speech suddenly contains a liberal peppering of gravely uums and errs, he starts tussling his hair like some fuck jockey off MTV, and does everything bar panting to show his interest in the approaching prey.
So, now you’re familiar with the headline acts, let’s get on with the story. It won’t take long, this is hardly Ben Hur. Although there are a surprising number of chariot races in it.
Christine arrives in this small fising town, not particularly close to anything cosmopolitan, and is shocked, nay disgusted to find that there’s not much life here. It’s almost like I’m in a small fishing village, not particularly close to anything cosmopolitan, she thunders to all who will listen. She reminds herself that these things take time, so gives herself till teatime to think about it, before reaching a decision to bugger off as soon as possible. Two weeks later she has it on her toes without telling a soul, leaving behind an acaemic vacuum and some mints that had gone off.
Before her colourful exit, Christine makes it her mission to liven up this comfortably small fishing town, which doesn’t particularly care that it’s not particularly close to anything cosmopolitan. These people can’t really want to exist like this, they obviously want to live thier lives exactly like I do, thinks this hyper-active scotch bucket cunt. So, she devotes her remaining lessons to informing the citizens of Civitanova how shit their town is, and how much better are all of the other places she’s been to. The students are of course thrilled to hear this. What a ray of sunshine she is, this big trapped, attention seeking trout, they all chorus. It’s a good job the Italians aren’t a proud or nationalistic race, otherwise she might have come across as a tad offensive.
Vito, thankfully, is far too dim witted to be piqued by anything Christine says. Thus, he promptly accepts the fair maiden’s offer to escort her for a night on the town, then take her forcibly up the tradesman’s entrance. Having been turned down by all the other eligible bachelors, eligible non-bachelors, non-eligible bachelors and butch looking widows in the school, Christine arranges to meet Vito one evening. Taking along her flatmate, Rosa, she is clealy only interested in stimulating chit-chat and perhaps a slow dance at the end of the night. Kicking off the civilised tete-a-tete, she recounts one of her favourite anecdotes of the bloke what licked honey off her naked body last Sunday. She goes on to innocently announce that she has some honey back at the flat, as well as copious amounts of baby oil and a Princess Leia outift. Vito naively expresses his interest in some honey on toast, and mentions that he’s a big fan of Star Wars.
While Christine and Vito go on to discuss his relationship with his long-term girlfriend, and how she doesn’t really understand him (a dilemma I later resolve for him by suggesting that he take off the welding mask when talking to her), Rosa is left to shoot the breeze with Vito’s friend.
Vito’s friend (his parents could never bring themselves to give him a name, as he’d probably only get cat poo on it) has obviously been invited on account of his scintillating wit and erudite opinions on a plethora of topics. After a very interesting chat about how nice peanuts are, but goodness aren’t they salty, he keeps a fairly low profile for another few hours. This is until Rosa can’t refrain any longer from mentioning his trousers. Vito’s friend, evidently in a bold statement of his masculinity, has bought a pair of jeans with glitter all over them. Ooooh, says Rosa, you’ve actually gone and bought some jeans with glitter on. You’ve paid actual money for those, haven’t you? You’ve done that on purpose. You’re really not joking. Aren’t you…………. interesting.
Vito’s friend gives a knowing smirk. You’ll never guess, he says.
Do you know what, you’re probably right, agrees Rosa.
I didn’t buy these.
Well, that’s something at least.
I made them.
He smiles. He always enjoys watching people’s reaction when his true calling becomes known. Normally they don’t actually burst into tears though. Ah, the presence of genius is an emotional rigour, thinks Vito’s friend as he readjusts one of his nipple clamps.

So, back at the flat Christine recruits Vito to help her iron out the lumps in her mattress, while Rosa is left to discuss the finer points of political instability in the Middle East with a man who puts glitter on his jeans.

A week later, after syphoning the brain juice of enough puppies to power her hydro-foil pirate ship, Christine exits stage right. Vito’s last words to her are to gain reasurance that Rosa will never let the details of their naughty deeds become public knowledge. Christine soothes him with firm assertions that Rosa is the sole of discretion. She would never relay the story to Marzia, the director of the school, who has known Vito since he was knee high to the knee of a small child. She would also never let the tale slip to her new flatmate, a seedy individual known for flooding the internet with wildly exaggerated character assasinations of everyone he comes into contact with. That’s all right then, says Vito, as he helps himself to another dried fig.

That’s the story. Wouldn’t get much of a reaction on Jerry Springer would it? Nevertheless, Marzia and Rosa are still intent on finding ways of embarassing Vito with knowing asides and awkward questions. I suppose this is what passes for excitement in a small fishing town, not particularly close to anything cosmopolitan.
So, the moral of the story is that Civitanova doesn’t look favourably on teachers who use their contact with students as a basis for sexual conquests, or find it hard to settle for a quiet life.
Fuck it, I really must get a better system for job hunting.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Sunday, and how it should be done

It's a whopping great relief to me that I don't have to write this in a seedy, nicotine drenched, muzac blurting internet cafe/manga library/porn archive. This time I’ve gone post-millenium.
This little spluttle of grunt babble is being transmitted to you from my air borne Pimpmobile, as it circles the streets of Gotham, searching out the deliciously weird and the logically squiffed for the entertainment and titillation of my army of battle hardened onion bargees. In front of me a bank of monitors digest cultural siphons from around the world, while an intravenous digital drip pumps me with tales of intrigue and petty perversion from my international ground troops of eaves-dropping hospital porters and curious badgers.
Actually I bought a laptop, but the other stuff let me use my thesaurus a bit more. It doesn’t have an internet connection yet, cos I’m a tight arse and I can do my web sledging at work.
The reason I’m pointing this out to you is because there may be a slight delay between my verbal flossing with certain subjects and there eventual appearence on the world wide whatsit. I’m only telling you because I care, and I know how stupid you are. So, to reiterate, this is all pre-recorded. Much like Match of the Day or kiddy porn.

I suppose I should add a bit of backstory for those of you who didn’t see the initial TV adaption or read the serialisation in "Distressed Pine Quarterly".
Last week I started work as a teacher of defence against the dark arts at Eton school of languages in Civitanova Marche, a town on the east coast of Italy. Civitanova is quite the throbbing industrial port, and serves as the purpley light thing for all the flies who reside in the Marche region. Except they don’t actually burst into flames if they come into Civitanova, they just get a wider selection of cake shops. Fuck it, I wish I could get the hang of metaphors.
The Marche region is principally known as a shoe producing region and as the birth place of the novelty tie pin (nah, I made that up, but I felt the sentence needed some jazz). Plonked between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic sea, the area is famous for it’s gorgeous coastal vistas, it’s enchanting hilltop villages, and it’s dust. Especially the dust.
Civitanova is made up of approximately 40,000 proper people, 247 blacks and a gay. It’s principal industries are fishing and shoe production, although camel smelting is a burgeoning market.

There we go, so you’re filled in. Here, sit on this inflatable cushion. You’ll soon start walking straight, once you figure out how to remove the pump.

So, initial impressions:

Yeah, s’alright.

What, you need more?! Damn, you and your insatiable curiosities. Very well then.
Italy kinda crept up on me. In all honesty, it wasn’t my premier choice of destination but eventually required less paperwork, injections and false beards than my preferred routes. Since I arrived I’ve been trying hard to make up a credible backstory for my choice and create an air of informed opinion.

“Why did I choose Italy? Well of course I’ve always felt at home in Pizza Hut, and I’ve seen the Godfather twelve times.”

“Well, obviously Rome is the ulitmate destination, innit. I mean, the Colosseum……… the, erm…. oh, and Italian football. It’s just…………. well isn’t it…………. compared to the English game……….. Totti………… Del Piero………. erm……… is Baggio still around?……………. erm…………. Goooooooooooooaallll Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaazio!!!…………….. plus, all that art………… Michaelangelo……………. Raphael………. Splinter and Shredder……….. oh, and you can’t beat a bit of DaVinci…………. you know why he painted that funny smile on the Mona Lisa don’t you?……… yes, she’s sitting on the holy grail apparently…………. digs right in, I should imagine…………. Oooooooooooh and I’m a big opera fan……… Puccini……… Rossini……… Fettucini…….. “Issa lovely day, shaddapa yer face”…………..erm……… And the Romans, the could build roads, eh!……… Isn’t Berlusconi shiny.”

Stereotypes? Yeah, of course I brought them with me. As usual I spent my first few days going out of my way to find evidence to disclaim them all, so I could then settle back for the rest of the year and collate enough observations and experiences to re-confirm them. That’s when you know it’s time to leave; when you’re smug enough to.
Actually, considering the haste with which I accepted this job (“I can’t stay in England too long, it’ll create an unecessary hiatus for my biographer”), I’m surprisingly content here. The town’s quiet but beautiful, and I still haven’t grown jaded to the thrill of opening the curtains every morning to be greeted by a sea vista. The school is small, but values the personal touch over the clinical corporate make-up which has been foisted on me in previous jobs. The director, Marzia, is a dream of a boss. Despite bearing an uncanny resemblance to the wicked witch of the east (or west, which one was wickedest?) she is the personification of good humour, patience and kindness. Plus, she lets me wear jeans to work and forces the students to take me out drinking. What’s to complain about?
My flat is a spacious three bedroomed jobby, in a block comprised mainly of fishermen and out of work garden gnomes. I share the flat with Rosa, who hails from Birmingham originally but has Italian family, leading to a curious collage of pronunciations depending on what she’s talking about. So far Rosa’s been the perfect flatmate, and doesn’t even seem to mind me drowning goats in the bidet, just as long as I don’t leave any carcuses drying on the radiator.

I’m writing this lyrical flob on a Sunday, so let’s discuss Sundays. Then perhaps we’ll have some biscuits, and sit round the ironing board.
I’m still adjusting to the Italian way of life, and moulding my lifestyle to fit their timetable. The siesta culture, which sees everything grind to a halt between 1 and 4, then crank slowly back to life and drift unhurriedly into the evening, is just one unfamiliar terrain on which I’m still finding my feet. Still not having quite shaken off my reliance on the uber-convenience of Tokyo’s 24 hour society, the weird bar has been raised even further by now being utterly unable to purchase brie in the mid-afternoon.
Sundays are another breed of things which are, well, simply not British. Or even Oompa-Loompan.
I’ve always hated Sundays. Even now that quite a few of the shops are open and the brothels have happy hours, I just find the whole thing a bit miserable. I seem to spend half the day recovering from Saturday, the the rest of it waiting for Monday. Plus, The Observer always gives me papercuts.
I have to admit though that Sundays in Civitanova are quite a charming affair. The atmosphere seems a nice encapsulation of what little I’ve gleaned so far about Italian life.
Venture on to the streets of Civitanova at Sunday Roast time and at first you’ll find plenty to mesh with the British way of celebrating the holy day (when our Lord didst twat around with his Black and Decker work bench, and gotteth pissed whilst watching Last of the Summer Wine). Houses are shuttered and still, shopping centres sit darkened and lifeless, apart from the occasional group of teenagers setting light to some Nuns. Piazza Septmebre XX, the focal point of the town, is deserted, but for a lone Transit van selling a strange mixture of nuts, deli meat and plastic guns to….. well…. no-one. The pebble beach on the east of the town is deserted, and a solitary old man’s club provides the only life overlooking the sandy beach of the west side (where Scooter-by shootings are an increasing worry).
Four O’clock is ushered in by an appalling collision of bell chimes from the local church. Clearly Sunday is learner bell ringer day, and I-think-I’m-a-bus-shelter Dave is first up this week.
Slowly the town begins to stir. The locals, having laced their digestion with a round of ponce portioned coffees, a moan about the newspaper and a good stare at anyone walking past the window, now venture out for a stroll. Italins are dedicated strollers, and on Sunday it seems to be the national sport.
A strange assortment of shops choose to open this afternoon. The supermarkets remain closed and most of the tobacconists keep their shutters down. The shop on the corner of the station, however, which seems to trade principally in umbrellas and hat stands, is doing a roaring trade. Most of the clothes stores are open and by five o’clock nearly every one of them is full. A newly opened jeans emporium even manages to attract a queue of eager customers, lining up out of the door and past the little picture frame place (also open, of course). The CD shop, Disco Parade begins to blare out Eminem’s latest whinings, while down the street a trendy shoe shop competes with its own piping of Italian ballads and wobbly chinned divas. Joining the melee comes the inevitable stream of cars, all advertising their own choices of musical identity.
By six o’clock it seems that the whole town and several small continents have taken to the streets, and with no particular purpose. The shops are packed, it’s true, but there are few signs of anyone actually buying anything, or even intending to. Strolling around the book shops, boutiques and inflatable mammal stores seems to be just an extension of the social dance that plays all around the town. There are also few indications of the social barriers that the British automatically erect. Teenagers gossip and flirt in clusters, then turn to share a joke with their parents, also ensconced in their own nattering gangs.
The whole atmosphere is addictive, and the overwhelming joie-de-vivre penetrates even my general demenour of morose indifference. I almost begin to understand those awful chartered accountants from Slough, who come out here to buy a roofless shack and stave off their mid-life crisis.
I’m still a stranger here, of course, but I have a sneaking suspicion I could feel quite at home in Civitanova.
Fucking hope not though, I’ll have nothing to write about.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Touch down

Hello, good evening and have a ferret. Welcome to my new arena of fart gags and ruminations on the nature of lino. It’s nicer than the old one, isn’t it? Roomier, and smells less of cat, plus I intend to update this one at least once a menstrual cycle. If I manage to borrow my flatmate’s digital camera, and if my computer skills ever extend beyond threatening the monitor with a can of Fanta every time there’s a problem, then I may add some lovely visuls to sit astride the word blobs. Might not though. Depends on whether the voices start speaking to me again. Must they speak West Country? They know I can’t abide the poor. Is it any wonder I burn people?
Anyway, come on in and make yourself comfortable. You can have the best chair. I’ll just wipe the walrus sweat off it. No, don’t sit there, there was a nasty incident involving a cheese grater and some loose clothing.
Are you sitting comfortbaly?
Well take off the chain mail then.
Silly person.
Righto, let’s vent some spleen.