Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A butterfly flaps it's wings

Nic and I killed a man on Saturday.

Having missed the junction we were supposed to have got out of the taxi at, we informed the driver that he needed to turn round and go back. Had it not just started throwing it down we probably would have stopped there, got out and walked back. As it was he did a three point turn on Trinity Road, drove back and stopped in a bus stop just before the junction of Bellevue Road.

A few seconds later a scooter swerved to avoid the car behind our taxi, which in turn was attempting to navigate around us to make the green light. The swerve resulted in the scooter driving in the opposite lane and BANG... one knew what had happened. Of the first people we saw, not one had seemed to see anything. All those people who'd ground to a halt and got out of their cars and not a clue between them.

All we saw was a bike next to where the taxi had been, a leather glove and a car bumper. No rider, no screaming. Silence.

Of course there was no silence. It was in fact defeaningly loud, but it may as well have been silent. The rider had disappeared.

Everyone's automatic assumption was that he'd got up and walked away. So which one was he? Of all the people milling about which looked the most shaken. Why wasn't anyone looking after him? There was a 20ish year old Eastern European looking girl with a rucksack. Nope. A middle aged couple with a dog. Nope. A fat afghan looking fella. Nope. A few skaters. Nope. A tall arab looking chap.

Suddenly a panicked scream.

'I know it's not my fault, but I don't want someone to be dead'.

The young woman who had been trying to drive around us in her little Polo was in pieces. She was being comforted by a tall, young man who must have been one of the car drivers. Maybe he knew where the rider was.

And then violently, everything slowed from warp speed to clear measured focus.

There was a flurry of activity further back up the road, civilians, urgently flitting around, calling 999. 'Shit 999. Why the hell haven't I dialled 999?'

Then to no one in particular I asked 'Where's the rider?'. None of this made any sense. It couldn't have been any of this lot in front of us, so where was he (I presumed it was a he).

A man who we previously hadn't noticed suddenly piped, 'Up there mate, under that car'.

Nic and I stopped looking at the scooter in front of us and slowly turned our attention back down the road, to the resting place of a green Vauxhall, which had come to a skidding halt. All air bags deployed.

This poor unfortunate wretch, who minutes earlier had been driving along happily, had been confronted with a scooter appearing out of the rainy dusk. In the wrong lane. He'd hit him head on and dragged the rider's body another 60 to 70 metres up the road under the car .

'You're joking?'

'He's still breathing apparently'


'I know'

Nic dissolved next to me and was gabbling 'We shouldn't have told him to stop here. We shouldn't even have been here. We should have been over there' pointing to the opposite side of the junction, where we'd asked the driver to stop originally. 'If we'd said it a bit louder, we would have stopped over there'

All I could think was that we should have told the taxi driver to stop and wait.

One thing I should mention at this point is that the taxi we'd been in had scarpered.

This is how we had come to actually be standing at the incident:

'How much is that mate?'

'Er, call it a tenner'

'There you go'

'I haven't got any change'

'Have you got two tens for a twenty Nic'

'No, I haven't got anything on me'


I'd been leaning through the centre of the car from the back seat negotiating with this guy. Nic was sat next to me leaning forward craning to hear what I was saying. The driver of the taxi on hearing the crash, had quick as a flash, put the car in gear and pulled away, back across the lights.

The next moments are a little bit blurred, but reveal some things that surprised me, but have taught me a lot. Not only, how bad I can be in a crisis, but also how deeply my British reserve runs.

'Listen just call me to drive you back'

'Are we going to go back?'

'It was a motorcyclist, it was his fault'


'Look he was driving up the centre it's his fault'


'Listen I'm just saying it's not my deal, he was in the wrong place'


I'm not sure we were screaming at each other for long, although it did seem an eternity. The next thing I did is fairly inexplicable. I ran in to the restaurant where my friends were sat at the bar and asked if anyone had two tens for a twenty. No 'hellos'. No 'how are you's'. Nope, just an explanation that I'd had an argument with a cabbie. No explanation that the cabbie may have been involved in the accident that they'd heard and were now craning to see from inside the restaurant 250 yards away. No as far as they were concerned I was just maniacally asking them to break a twenty.

Al handed me two tenners. I ran out handed one of them to the cabbie and then Nic and I started to sprint towards the accident.

At no point, did either Nic or I attempt to:

a) Stop the cabbie from driving away from the scene
b) Ask for his name
c) Note his registration
d) Even note what car it was that we'd been driving in.

In short, we were pretty much the worst witnesses the police could have asked for. 30 minutes later a policewoman took our details in case they needed more witnesses. They've yet to call us.

Our dinner appointment started 45 minutes late. We had a lovely night, after a bit of a quiet start. Too much wine. Very nice Italian food. Finished the night with Capirinha's. Lovely.

The scooter rider lost his fight for life in hospital 3 hours later. He never made his appointment and his family probably had one of the worst night's of their lives.

Both Nic and I feel irreversibly guilty. If only we hadn't suggested Bel Amici's. If only Nic had dried her hair 10 minutes earlier. If only it hadn't started to rain and we hadn't done the three point turn. If only, if only, if only...

We know it's fate. We know the scooter was basically 100% wrong. Whichever way you look at it, he shouldn't have been where he was. We know all that. Doesn't make a difference though.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Are you Dave Gorman?

'Er excuse me are you Dave Gorman?'

'Yes I am and I really need a piss'

'Oh sorry, I saw you when I came in here tonight and thought it was you, but it's only now I'm pissed enough, I thought I'd say hello'


'It's a bit weird, because I finished reading your book last week'

'Which one?'

'Googlewhack Adventure. And what's weirder, is I walked in here tonight reading Danny's book 'Join Me', looked up and you were sitting straight in front of me'

'Haha, yes that is a bit weird'

'Mind you, considering you guys kind of thrive on coincidence, I suppose it's becoming increasingly normal'

'Yes, I suppose it probably is'

'Anyway, I just thought I'd say, you've kind of changed my life, a little bit'

'Ah now... I take no responsibility for anybody else's actions, whatever you want to do is completly down to you. I don't want you to think that anything I've written is in any way meant to influence your actions'

'No, no, no, no. God no, that's not what I'm saying at all. I fully understand that's the last thing you'd want anyone to do. In fact I was reading your website yesterday bizarrely and I know exactly where you stand on that. No, what I meant was you've given me a miles more positive outlook on life, a much lighter view of life'

'Oh cool, I'm really touched. What's your name?'

'I'm Crispin'

'Thank you Crispin, good to meet you. Sorry I really need a piss.'

'Oh yeah sorry, good to meet you'

I'm a bit hung over this morning, but stoked that I actually did talk to the man. I hope he was touched. He did actually take the time to speak to me I suppose and after scaring him rigid, I think he genuinely meant it. Mind you I got the impression by his reaction that a few people may have gone up to him and said similar things.

He and Danny Wallace have become a bit legendary in my house in the last month, simply because the two of them are the most 'can do' people in the world. Now, there are lots of 'can do' people around and the ones that get deified are the Richard Bransons of this world, but anyone can start a business and make a bunch of money. These two (former flatmates) just get a mad idea in their head and pursue it to the ends of the earth for no reward whatsoever (well at the time it was for no reward - I would imagine actually their singlemindedness has probably become relatively lucrative now), other than their own - slightly mentally obsessive - satisfaction .

Anyway if you're interested, I would recommend the following:

By Dave Gorman:

Are you Dave Gorman?
Googlewhack Adventure

And by Danny Wallace:

Yes Man
Join me

All four books will have you crying with laughter and leave you with a very warm feeling about humanity.

Oh and while you're about, if you want to join Danny Wallace, as I'm now definitely going to do, all you need to do is send him a passport photo (see above link) and start performing one random act of kindness for a complete stranger each and every Friday.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Beach paraphanalia

Remember when you were younger and you went to the beach with your parents? What did you take? A towel, a picnic (of course) and a windbreak. Oh and maybe a football, a frisbee and a cricket set.

Wind forward a few years and look at today's beach family. Here they come, body boards, wetsuits, windbeaks x5 (to make a full on shelter), wind tent thingie, picnic, foldable chairs, full beach games kit (including, petang, that funny velcro throwing game and stick and hoop), buckets and spades, fishing net, crabbing lines, sea fishing rods, inflatable goals for football, football, aerobie, kite surfer, surf board, small RIB, canoes, spare dingy in case no one fancies the RIB...

...Bantham Sands is a sight to behold on a windy August day, it's more like a small tented village than a beach.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Great British Picnic

If we have to have a Britishness test surely the picnic, should be the true barometer of whether you stay, or you're sent back on the first RAF transport to Darfur.

The picnic is a fine art. In my pre-children days, I have to admit to over extravagance. Anything that involves having to mix a dressing and pour it over a salad, on location, is more of a faff than it's worth. I make this assertion on the basis that if you are making a dressing for a picnic, then you had better have the table, foldable chairs, crockery, whicker basket and napkins to back up your pretensions. Otherwise you're doomed to an oil stained rug and frustrated gastro buddies, plus the ignomy of the rest of the polo crowd trying to pretend you're not sitting there.

Nope the ingredients of the great British Picnic for four are thus.

-Two times cheese and pickle sandwiches (the cornerstone of all British culture)

-Two times egg and cucumber sandwiches (cress is not an option, you always get left with half a tray that wilts on the windowsill)

-Two times tuna mayo and cucumber sandwiches (see there was method in my egg and cucumber combo, buy half a cucumber and you have no waste)

All of the above should be cut into quarters and sheathed in two layers of clingfilm, wrapped in opposite directions. Failure to wrap two sheets of clingfilm (in opposite directions) and plumping for one, will result in lateral, structural weakness and filling all over the inside*. In the event of one layer being used, you can be assured that the egg mayo and probably the pickle, will fall and stain the oldest picnic party member's trousers and create a bad mood from the outset. You have been warned. Finally each of the three individually wrapped parcels should be placed back into the bread wrapper, from whence they came.

NB 1. Using fresh bread may seem like a good idea, but will result in your sandwich parcels rattling around in the bag. It's what sliced bread wrappers, were destined to do, don't deny them their destiny.

NB 2. For added authenticity, one of the sandwiches should be made using a crust. Dependent on your picnic guests, there will be one of two conversations.

Conversation 1

'No, no, no, you have it. I know you like the crusts. I'm not bothered'

'No, seriously you have it'

'Honestly I don't mind, have it, go on'

'No, you have it, you made them'

'Weeeell if you don't mind'

Conversation 2

'Oh for fuck's sake, why do I always get left with the crust'

'Well mum made the picnic, so it's only fair'

'Jeeesus don't worry, I'll just have a pork pie' (see below) - Proceed to nick more than your fair share of pork pies.

Please be aware both of the above conversations are equally British and will qualify you for citizenship.

Supplementary picnic items:

- Two boiled eggs - these will inevitably be left over, because you always think you need more eggs for the sandwiches than you actually use.

- Individual mini pork pies x6 - six is never enough really, but buying eight just seems greedy. However, we should learn that the purchase of six, leaves an imbalance of distribution and will inevitably lead to argument later on (see conversation 2 above)

- Snack eggs x1 pack - these horrendous processed monstrosities, are the most delicious food known to man (well picnic man anyway) - don't worry, that you've already got egg sandwiches and the left over boiled eggs, from having done too many for the sandwiches, what's a little constipation between friends.

- Cocktail sausages x40 (or 80, if you forgot to eat breakfast and you're standing at the chiller cabinet, salivating) - never ever look at the list of ingredients on a pack of cocktail sausages, they taste too good to be ruined by that kind of stupidity.

- Apples x4 - these are conscience salvers. Following the processed muck you've shovelled down prior to the apple, they will make you feel like a picnic is a much healthier option, than going to the beach cafe and ordering burger and chips.

- Carrot sticks - see apples above

- One 2 litre bottle of pre-mixed squash - remember for true authenticity the bottle should have previously contained something other than squash, preferably 1/2 a litre of flat carbonated water, that for some reason's been sat in the fridge for 6 or 7 months N.B. Inevitably the solution will always be either far too strong, or far too weak.

Please ensure that all of the above are placed in a bag that was designed, to only fit about 80% of the stuff you are trying to stuff in. This will ensure the sandwiches are well squashed on arrival. N.B. If the picnic appears to fit neatly in to the bag you are taking, you have forgotten the plastic plates, plastic cups, cutlery and napkins**. There is no getting away from the 80% rule I'm afraid.

* If you're thinking the lateral, structual weakness can be avoided by cutting the sandwiches in half, think again. Quarters is the only way to go on a picnic I'm afraid. Use a second piece of clingfilm you lazy cheapskate.

**Please note plates, plastic cups, cutlery and napkins are compulsary if you are picnicing with women. The 80% rule is therefore effectively their fault. If it was a bloke's picnic, the sandwiches wouldn't get squashed. Think about it next time women.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I'm just not sure.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Guilty pleasure

Somewhat inspired by David's thread on 5 Live I thought I ought to admit to this.

We're off on holiday tomorrow, so I dug in for a mountain of ironing last night in front of the TV and on flicking to ITV2 (don't ask), I was confronted with the opening credits to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Now in my defence, I was 15 when this film was released and it just happens to be targetted at the very narrow demographic of spotty 15 year old boys.

However, for some reason it's stood the test of time rather well. I think it's something to do with its complete disregard for historical accuracy, unashamed steroetyping, terrible acting and absurd dialogue:

''You see, eventually your music will help put an end to war and poverty. It will align the planets and bring them into universal harmony. Allowing meaningful contact with all forms of life. From extra terrestrials to common household pets. And, it's excellent for dancing.''

The package when thrown together is outstanding and frankly the ironing became a trifle as I immersed myself in the best/worst film of all time.