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» Home Science

Putting the 'Ooooh' in 'Tenuous'
It was a dark winter's evening a few years ago. Mrs Costas and I had just battled through the usual hour-long struggle to convince our 4 year-old daughter that it was her bedtime. You know the drill; We'd been through "But I'm not tired", "Can I have a glass of water/milk/gin?", "I've tried to go to sleep for five minutes now" and "But I want to stay down here with you, what are you doing?". We'd assured her that she was tired, that she'd already drunk enough to drown a million bedbugs, that it might take longer than five minutes to fall asleep and that we were doing nothing of interest downstairs, just boring grown-up stuff like eating tea and watching TV. Finally, she gave up and turned in for the night.

As we tiptoed back to the living room, Mrs Costas had an idea. "Why don't we light that candle? It'll make the room smell nice" (we'd just moved in, and so everything smelt of a dog that'd been licking the bottom of Pete Doherty's fridge). "Great idea! I'll get the matches! Oh balls. I have no idea where they are" I replied (most of the house was still neatly packed into boxes with helpful labels like 'Breakable' - Rather a broad category, since everything's breakable if you've got a free weekend and a big enough hammer).

It was time to get resourceful. We must be able to get a flame somehow, we thought. But of course! We'll light a bit of paper on the cooker, then use it to light the candle. A great idea, were it not for that fact that it was an electric cooker.

I refused to be beaten by this minor setback. I think it must've been an evolutionary thing - Once man want fire, man not give up 'til man get fire (or tea get cold and man miss first bit of Poirot). I remembered that the previous occupants had left behind a few things, including a box of old fireworks. I fetched the box out and had a good rummage. Huzzah! I found pack of sparklers.

The experiment was on. Could we light a sparkler from an electric hob? Mrs Costas and I took one each, turned the hob on full blast and pressed the business ends of our sparklers firmly against the blistering heat.

Nothing happened.

Then - PFFFFTSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! Success! Almost in unison, our sparklers caught ablaze. Quickly, I touched mine against the candle and watched with glee as it took light. Man make fire!

It seemed a shame to waste them, so we turned off the kitchen light and spent the next few seconds joyfully writing our names in sparks in the air, celebrating the magic of science.

Then, from the doorway, we heard a little voice.

"What are you doing?"

It took about two years of bedtimes to convince our daughter that Yes, she should go to sleep now and that No, we weren't going to be having any indoor fireworks displays as soon as she'd gone to bed.
(Sat 11th Aug 2012, 10:14, More)

» The Credit Crunch

Since you mentioned Woolies...
When it was announced that Woolworths was going toes-up, overnight my local branch became a dumping ground for all the old crap that no other branch had ever managed to shift. Someone, somewhere in a Woolworths warehouse far far away obviously thought "Sod it, we're going under, let's just ship all these boxes of shit out and see what sells". Consequently, my local branch became a one-stop shop for;

- 'Fame Academy's David Sneddon - My Story' DVDs
- Diet Irn-Bru
- Alongside the DVDs and CDs, a whole rack of actual VHS videos
- Several hundred 'Worth It' toilet seats

Strangest of all though was the sudden arrival of about a thousand 'Worth It' ironing boards. One aisle was filled with the bloody things. It became something of a landmark, pile upon pile of cheap white ironing boards, all being completely ignored by everyone.

That was until the last day, when it was 80% off everything. Apparently there's something about the offer of an ironing board for 50p that triggers an involuntary reaction amongst the over-60s, compelling them to buy. They flew off the shelves in scenes reminiscent of the Cabbage-Patch riots of the early 1980s. Consequently, the High Street that day was awash with pensioners clutching 'Worth It' ironing boards under their arms.

So for all the bad things about Woolworths going under - The job losses, the end of an iconic brand etc - One positive did come out of it. For one day only, walking up the High Street felt like being in a care-home production of Point Break.
(Thu 22nd Jan 2009, 13:43, More)

» Professions I Hate

'Soap Experts'
I was a rubbish student. In my three years at St Foljambe De Fwar-Fwar's Metropolitan City University Academy of Excellence (formerly Bumhole Poly), I struggled to live up to the most basic of stereotypes. Not for me the surfeit of casual sex, the stealing of traffic-lights and the waking up in a kebab. Housemates would gasp in disbelief at my habit of including vegetables in meals and everything. I was well shit.

I did, however, manage to find time for the regulation gawping at daytime TV. Yes, I saw Chris Morris' welcome invasion of pretend-current-affairs-pishfest The Time The Place. I was there when indie outsiders Pulp mimed their legendary crossover performance of Common People on This Morning. And, once a week, I would swear like a fucking trooper with his balls caught on salt-n-vinegar barbed-wire when that same show gave airtime to their cunting 'Soap Expert'.

She was called Tina Baker, she looked like a rocking-horse's anus and her job description probably included the phrase 'wry, sideways glance at the week's soaps'. Once a week she'd sit in her bloody chair, pulling her bloody face while she made her bloody remarks about the comings and goings in Albert Square, Ramsay Street and wherever it is Coronation Street's set. And it got right on my wick.

What grated for me was the sheer pointlessness of it all. Her job was to talk about what had happened on TV, show a clip, make what she thought was an achingly clever quip, then struggle to contain a look of self-satisfaction akin to a cat who’s just shat a perfect ampersand. Worst of all, she only had one ‘joke’; Refer to two typically calamitous tragedies to befall a soap character, then add a light-hearted third one. i.e. “It’s been a bad week for Phil Mitchell. His dog died, his garage burnt down, and just WHAT was he thinking wearing that shirt?!” “Poor Cindy. First she’s diagnosed with a terminal illness, then she gets shot in the face, and worst of all, Ian Beale turns up and blah fucking blah”.

I have no idea if she’s still peddling her sorry act today. I suspect though that, considering people willingly pay actual money for the likes of Heat magazine in return for in-depth investigations into whether a Big Brother 5 runner-up’s cousin prefers scones or hammers, she’s probably about to be revealed as the new messiah.

(Crikey, imagine having to be a messiah. Your mate betrays you, you get nailed to a cross, and just LOOK at the state of those sandals!!!!LOL!!!111!!)
(Thu 27th May 2010, 23:13, More)

» Shops and Supermarkets

Can't think whether I've posted this before...
One day the missus woke up and decided we needed a trampoline. I heartily agreed, having realised months earlier that these £250 You've-Been-Framed-worthy spinal mishaps weren't going to magic themselves out of thin air, and so off we trooped to our nearest DIY store (mentioning no names, but I suspect theirs stood for Bellends and Quunts).

We walked in and immediately spotted what we were looking for - An eight-foot trampoline in a box. We decided against the optional safety net (which, if anything, served no purpose other than to give you something to tangle your leg in after you've fallen off the bloody thing), and so lugged the box to the till.

The cashier was about to scan the barcode when he noticed something. "It's not all there" he grunted.
"Isn't it?" we enquired.
"No, look" he replied, pointing at the label. "It says 'Box 1 of 1'"
"Yes?"
"So you need box 2 of 2 as well" he explained.
"Oh, I s- What?"
"It says Box 1 of 1, so you need to go and get Box 2 of 2. It should be on the same shelf"
We weren't convinced. "Surely 'Box 1 of 1' means there's only one box, and it's this one?" we asked.
"No, there's a Box 2 of 2 as well."
Now, this was a Sunday morning. And clearly there's something special about Sunday mornings that makes your brain extra-malleable and willing to believe any old toot, be it tales of invisible sky-wizards or imaginary boxes of trampoline parts, because we decided to humour this man. We ambled back to the shelf, cashier close behind, to look for box 2 of 2. Imagine our surprise when we found a metric arseload of box 1 of 1s, but precisely zero box 2 of 2s. It was almost as if they didn't exist.
At this point, the penny dropped with the cashier.
"They must all be out the back."
Fucking hell.
"I'll just go and check"
He just went and checked. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the feeling of our Sunday slowly ebbing away, pulled by a tide of tosswittery. A few minutes later, he returned. At this point, you may be ahead of me.
"There's none out the back" he revealed.
We were agog. It was time to try a different tack.
"Tell you what" we said, "Why don't we just take box 1 of 1 now, and then come back another day to pick up box 2 of 2?" Brilliant plan, chiz chiz.
"Hang on" he replied, completely ignoring our ingenious idea, "I'll just ask my colleague"
Aha! Someone to gently point out his dimbuggery in words he might understand! He called over Darren, a boy in an orange shirt.
"They want to buy this trampoline, but we can only find box 1 of 1, there's no box 2 of 2 anywhere" he explained to Darren.
"Well yeah, because there's only meant to be one box. That's what 'Box 1 of 1' means. There's one box, and this is it"
...is what Darren would've said in a perfect world.
"Have you checked out the back?" is what he actually said.
"Yeah"
Cue gentle sobbing. But wait! All was not lost.
"I'll check the computer" the cashier suggested. "There might be a box 2 of 2 at another branch."
Well yes, if they've just opened a branch that deals in fictional boxes, we could be in luck. To the computer!

The computer was surrounded by two more employees. Now, at this point you might think one of them would see what was going on, smack someone upside the head and calmly explain that there was no box 2 of 2.

Or you might not.

"No, there's none in the Bedford branch..."
"Have you tried Huntingdon?"
"No, I'll try them too"
"I can give them a ring and ask"
"What about Cambridge? They usually have loads"
"No, they've only got box 1 of 1"
"There, look, click on Wisbech, they've got - Oh no, that's a lawnmower"
"Have you checked out the back?"

As far as I know, they're still there to this day.
(Mon 14th May 2012, 23:51, More)

» Morning After Souvenirs

Mine's rubbish
In the late 1990s, the capital was regularly plastered with fly-posters plugging the latest sounds in the hit parade. On one night out in the Big Smoke, I spied one such poster for one of my favourite tunes of the moment, Air's sublime Sexy Boy. The poster was ace - A minimal affair with the main focus being a picture of the iconic monkey from the video and CD sleeve.

This poster was attached to one of those green junction boxes on the pavement, and was pretty much peeling off (along with the 45 posters underneath it, over which it had been pasted). I give it a quick tug. Then, when I'd calmed down, I carefully pulled at the poster and - Huzzah! It came away in one piece. I'd just bagged a cool free poster!

What with it actually being a stack of posters glued together, one on top of the other, it was able to stand up by itself. And so, back home, it took pride of place in my bedroom, propped up on a radiator.

It was only when the heating came on the next day that I realised exactly how many passers-by had used that junction box as an impromptu urinal.
(Thu 26th Apr 2012, 20:20, More)
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