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» Common

With apologies to Julie Andrews
Big hoopy earrings and slag tags on mothers
Corsas with alloys and lily-assed brovvaz
annoying ring tones, played on the train
These are the things that I treat with disdain.

Tracksuits of velvet and estuary diction,
Low slung jean beltlines and Dan Brown's crap fiction
six inches of bare flesh, twixt thong top and arse,
These are a few of the things that lack class.

Girls in white Kappa and benefit culture,
Jeremy Kyle, the sensationalist vulture,
Closeups of z-listers thigh flab in Zoo,
Oh what is this world now coming to?

Owning a loud gob,
Having a boob-job,
Paid for by your Dad,
I simply cannot bear these commonest things,
I can't be the only one so mad?
(Thu 16th Oct 2008, 21:59, More)

» I'm going to Hell...

Time for another cathartic post from me I'm afraid.
My eldest brother Derek was born with severe cerebral palsy. He was confined to a wheelchair and lived in a care home for the majority of his life.

According to his regularly updated medical reports, Derek was partially sighted, partially deaf and his mental development was severely curtailed.

I only ever saw him a few times a year. It might sound awful, but it's difficult to interact with someone who can't respond to you in a way you can easily understand. However, despite his severe disability Derek was reputed amongst his carers to have a somewhat less than PC sense of humour. It wasn't really elaborated upon, but there were knowing looks and the occasional wink when the subject of Derek's hysterical belly laughs came up.

In May 2001 I returned from my honeymoon to discover that Derek had passed away suddenly. He'd reached the age of forty one and to be honest I assumed that the old bugger would keep going on forever. However, I was quite surprised at the scale of his funeral, two of his old carers had come out of retirement to see him off with a final goodbye. A lot of his carers seemed genuinely saddened by his passing, he'd made an impression on people.

I discovered quite how many later on that evening at the wake. One of his carers came over to me, a young woman of about nineteen or twenty, generously padded up front.

"Hi, I'm Rachel. You must be Derek's youngest brother. You have the same face as him" she said.

"Yes I am. Did you know him well?" I replied.

"I've been caring for him for six months"

A young man interjected.

"Actually Derek was rather fond of Rachel" he said, smiling.

Knowing looks were exchanged.

"Oh yes?"

"Well, Derek used to kick up a fuss if I was around and tending to someone else" replied his carer.

"Go on, tell him more" said the young man, who I correctly guessed was another care worker.

Guiltily she told me the rest.

"Well, I went through a bit of a phase with him. Every time I used to feed him in the morning he'd fit. I had to reach over and hit the panic alarm" she started to smile now.

"I couldn't figure it out, what did I do to cause these fits? He never fitted when anyone else was attending to him. Sometimes he'd stop fitting and start raucously laughing" she continued.

It transpired that the fits were faked. The cunning bugger had the hots for Rachel and was treated to a full in the face closeup of her large round norks each time she reached over and slapped the panic alarm button.

Here's to you brother.
(Fri 12th Dec 2008, 15:46, More)

» Bullies

Being bullied by an eleven year old
I recently moved in with my long-suffering girlfriend, in doing so I’ve inherited a couple of stepsons. Non-identical twins in fact.

The transition from friendly bonhomie while I was first dating their mother to becoming an authoritarian figure now that I’m living there has gone remarkably smoothly, with very little petulance over the change in status quo. I’ve grown very attached to the little chaps, most of the time they’re great kids and a pleasure to be around, but occasionally something will kick off and their competitive spirit will force them into small acts of rebelliousness against the new regime.

Of the two boys “F” is the prototype brooding alpha male. He’s a popular kid who loves sports and being the centre of attention, it’s also fair to say he’s had the hardest time coming to terms with someone else being in close physical proximity to his mother.

One afternoon whilst the twins, their mother and I were sat in the car, “F” expressed his displeasure in a very succinct way, stretching the very limits of sophistication for eleven year old wit and dropping the ultimate in wisecracks for which there simply is no answer to.

“You’re gay”

At that point both boys dissolve into teary laughter. The resolve of my authority was being tested and “F” knew it. My girlfriend turned her head toward me and raised an eyebrow. The bar had been lifted.

“You’re gay. G-A-Y. Gay”

How can I respond to that? Do I challenge him to an arm-wrestle? Do I open my beer bottles with my teeth? How do you best a physically confident eleven year old who in all probability is going to grow bigger than you within a couple of years?

I thought long and hard. Whatever I said next didn’t just have to top the last remark in the here and now, it had to stamp my authority on the situation for ever after. I took a deep breath and replied.

“Your mum”.
(Fri 15th May 2009, 12:58, More)

» Pet Stories

My cat Leonard
He's got to be in with a shout of being the best cat ever.

Shortly after moving into our house in 2000, Ex-Mrs PJM and I decided to get a couple of cats so off we went to the local cat rescue. I clocked Leonard fairly early on as he was sat there in the middle of a pack of cats just watching me. Some cats would hiss and spit, others just hurled themselves at you but he cooly sat there biding his time, never taking his eyes off me. He was a common or garden British shorthair with very fine blue/grey fur and the sort of demeanour best described as unflappable. Indeed he was as chilled out as a cat could be without either being aloof or comatose. As soon as my attention was diverted, he sauntered over to me and greeted me cooly and from that moment I knew I had been adopted, he was coming home with me. Ex-Mrs PJM chose this bedraggled bundle of black fluff which she named Jasmine. Without much further ado, both cats were in cat carriers and homeward bound.

Both cats were very different characters. Jasmine started to eat like a cat possessed and just grew, becoming a massive bundle of affectionate fluff in no time. She also suffered from an unfortunate flatulence issue which made her stink to high heaven, never has a name been so ironic.

Leonard meanwhile quickly began to reveal his persona. The whole laid back thing was a bit of a ruse to cover up the fact that he was a devious and clever little feline. First night we brought our cats home from the cat rescue, we shut the cats in the kitchen for the night. I was woken at 2am by the unmistakeable sound of purring in my ear and was immediately blamed by ex-Mrs PJM for letting the cats out. This happened at least three times during the night before we figured what was going on.

Yep, Leonard knew how to open doors.

This habit had many drawbacks, worst of which was the day I got home early from work and engaged in some sofa based sexytime with the then missus. Rather annoyed that no-one was on hand to let him out, Len indignantly decided to open the front door and head out that way instead, which treated the entire street to a view of my pale arse rocking like a fiddlers elbow. Bastard. Whenever we went out, we had to make sure doors were locked so they couldn't be opened from the inside. Neighbours thought we were nuts.

However despite these occasional acts of mischief, he was extremely affectionate, he'd follow me around the place like a dog and had his favorites amongst my friends, one of whom he'd greet at the door and not let out of his sight until my friend went home covered in cat fur. Being incredibly inqusitive, he loved people and indeed other cats, dogs and all sorts of passing fauna with equal devotion.

He befriended a neighbour's German Shepherd dog who used to jump over the fence into our garden which never fazed Leonard one bit, he'd just wander up and say hello. He'd also bring home random feline friends too, much to my amusement. In all the time I had him, he never raised a claw in anger, despite having to be bathed more than once on account of coming home covered in something unsavoury. He even seemed to enjoy his visits to the vet, despite being jabbed with a needle, he'd turn round and start purring at the vet, only to jump up, open the waiting room door and attempt to escape when the vet's back was turned.

The little fella would spend hours studying you, watching what you were doing if it was of any potential interest to him. Rather than let the cats out of the back door every time, I'd open the kitchen window and let them figure it out. However it wasn't long before I found him trying to paw open the handles on the windows when he wanted to go out and the door was locked.

One particular act of feline genius stands out. I returned from work to find him lying on the floor, drooling like a mong with his tongue hanging out, surrounded by green herbs and the remnants of a plastic bag.

"Honey, why is Len stoned?" I asked

We'd been giving him catnip for a while and kept a large bag of it in a drawer in the spare room which was always kept with the door shut. Len had figured this out and waited until we were both at work before hatching a plan and managing to break into a spare bedroom, climbing onto the chest of drawers, opening one and finally retrieving a bag of strong cat narcotics.

The little dope fiend was properly mullah'd for the next 24 hours before falling victim to a major case of the munchies.

There really wasn't a nasty bone in his body. Some cats catch and kill stuff, but not Len. Oh no. The only gifts he brought back in the house for me were frogs, which were physically undamaged but often understandably traumatised. He'd sit at the doorstep making a strained meow noise until I opened the door to see him sat triumphantly holding a frog in his mouth as if to say "Daddy! Guess what I've got for you?". I'd then take froggy and release it (again, totally unharmed) into the garden. Five minutes later Len would appear with the frog as if to say "Daddy, you carelessly lost your froggy, but it's okay, I've brought him back for you".

Being such a gentle soul, he'd insist on sleeping on my bed (and would expand in such a way as to seemingly cover an entire double bed in cat). If it was cold, I'd wake up to find him under the duvet suggled up with his back to me and without fail at 07:30 he'd wake me up with a subtle touch of his paw on my cheek. Actually, he used to do the latter in the middle of the night if he was bored and wanted a fuss. Bless.

When I briefly lodged with my builder mate Phil, Len was part of the deal and quickly befriended Phil's feline-phobic Springer Spaniel. I recall one Guy Fawkes night when the Springer, utterly terrified of loud noises, guns and bangs as befitting a carefully bred gun dog was curled in my lap shaking with fear. Upon seeing this, Len decides he's going to curl up on top of both of us and comfort the terrified hound. He never left the dog's side all night.

His most popular party trick was that he could be taught and trained like a dog. Guests were incredulous that we had a cat who would not only sit on command but would beg and also High Five me when requested (and bribed with a treat).

All in all, he was a damn fine cat but sadly he was run over three years ago. I'm not ashamed to admit that in all my life, including one divorce and numerous nasty relationship endings I've never cried so much as I did that day. Len was a cat in a million and remains much missed.
(Fri 8th Jun 2007, 10:13, More)

» DIY disasters

My father and DIY
By all rights, my Dad should be the best DIY Dad in the business. He spent the fifties building and maintaining vacuum valve computers and radar gear, the sixties designing bits of military jets and the seventies/eighties designing parts of oil refineries, rigs and pharmaceutical plants. The Handley Page Victor, English Electric Lightning, BAC TSR2, Jodrell Bank, half the North Sea oil platforms and even Concorde contained bits my father had designed himself.

Armed with this experience, you'd think that getting my Dad to hang a shelf would be like asking Stephen Hawking to help with your maths homework, right?

Wrong.

My father is blessed with the sort of self confidence akin to a herd of elephants, the patience of a small child and the easy going nature of Basil Fawlty. As a result, such trivialities as a set of instructions or even a cursory moment to check his calculations were frequently skipped, much to the hilarity of the neighbourhood.

I cringe looking back, neighbours must have been regularly regaled with the frenzied cry of "Oh SHIT!!!" being bellowed from inside sheds, under car bonnets or in the general vicinity of our tormented Black & Decker Workmate.

Boiler Room Rage:

Incident number one occurred when I was about nine years old. Dad decided that the unsightly hexagonal key used to gain entry to our central heating boiler under the stairs just wouldn't do.

I recall being scooped out of bed by my nervous mother and bundled into the back of the family car for the four mile trip to our local Marleys at some ungodly hour of a Saturday morning. After a thrilling thirty minutes, I was ordered to assist Dad with his project.

Four hours later and after being slapped twice for various misdemeanours (ie "not holding the wood properly") Dad has finished drilling into the metal door and is installing a proper handle.

"Wha... Wha... You BASTARD!"

Oh dear. I sense rage building...

I looked at the door and I looked at my dad. He wore an expression on his face that was midway between rage and utter confusion and befuddlement. His hand rested on the door handle he'd just fitted and he tried again, perhaps hoping his initial assessment was wrong.

Then Mount Etna erupted.

"They've sold me the wrong BLOODY handle. SHIT!" he yelled.

Yep, to open the boiler cupboard door, you had to pull the handle *up*.

Kitchen Fiasco:

Six months later, Dad decided that mum needed a new kitchen. MFI? Not a chance.

Dad meticulously planned the operation in his own brain. The thing that amazed me at the time was that not a single drawing or blueprint was used. It was all sketched out in his head.

We'd need tiles. Lots and lots of tiles. Saws, drills and spirit levels of some considerable vintage were produced. Lengths of wood were retrieved from the shed and I was ordered to patiently sit on the wood, hold screwdrivers and saws while absolutely not saying a word while my father intermittently sketched marks on the wood with a pencil, sawed and ranted at the neighbours' children for being too noisy. A bewildering range of aged, rusting tools were dangled in front of my face with the faint promise that I too might get to use them if I was quiet enough and concentrated long enough. Failure to concentrate to my father's satisfaction was rewarded with cold rage and a slap if I wasn't careful.

My mother kept her distance, she'd be told to "sod off!" when Dad got fed up of her nervously dispensed advice like "Oh, I think you need to put a screw in there" uttered at a hushed volume.

I guess she was desperately trying to contain his rage and placate him. Paradoxically, she was great at dispensing useless and rage inducing advice though, even a mild mannered soul like me cannot undertake any DIY while my mother is around, for being told "You need a phillips screwdriver for that" in hushed faux-knowledgeable tones usually has me grinding my teeth within seconds. Eventually, she resorted to her last line of defence - topping up cups of tea.

By lunchtime, our kitchen resembled the aftermath of Krakatoa crossed with a Greek Wedding. Bits of broken ceramic lay everywhere, in the middle stood a portly, red faced swearing man.

"The BLOODY walls aren't straight! SHIT!" yelled a voice kneeling on the floor, with three inches of arse-cleavage peek-a-booing up from the beltline of his jeans as he was attempting to tile from floor to ceiling. How he guessed from this altitude I'll never know.

"Shit! SHIT! You BASTARD!" he bellowed as another tile broke.

"These BLOODY tiles!"

The tiling was eventually comlete at long last. However, in a manner akin to one of those geometric illusion type drawings, if you traced the line of tiles along the top of the longest wall, the ceiling appeared to have been installed at an angle of two degrees off the horizontal.

By 9pm Saturday night, worktops were being sawn. I was attempting to watch "Dad's Army" above the sound of someone bellowing "Shit!" at the top of their voice before coming in to tell me I was lazy and useless for not helping him.

By 5pm Sunday he was attempting to mount doors onto new cupboards. Yep, a sturdy looking framework and new worktops were fitted. Not bad.

"Oh SHIT! BLOODY HELL!"

Due to a minor miscalculation of cupboard space, it tanspired that we suddenly had three previously unaccounted for inches between the cooker and a cupboard.

Dad stared at this intesnely for a few minutes, with the usual blend of befuddlement and barely contained rage.

Ingenuity eventually saved the day however. Dad wandered off with a saw and produced a cupboard door three and a half feet high by three inches wide. My mother was instructed to keep her baking trays there.

Record Cabinet Disaster:

Mum managed to win a small amount of money on the Football Pools. Yay mum! However, instead of treating herself to something nice, she pre-empted a Dad-rage by buying him some chipboard. Why?

Well Dad expressed a desire to make a record cabinet a few weeks previously. Hoping that giving him what he wanted would soothe his oft volcanic temper, mum did something truly daft thanks to an ill conceived moment of kindness.

It was a bright summer weekend, I sat on my bedroom floor assembling the Forth Bridge from Lego (again, without instructions). By 11am I was retrieved from my room and sat outside on bits of chipboard as Dad intermittently sawed and ranted.

"SIT STILL! Hold the bloody screwdriver properly, you won't be able to do any of this when you grow up if you don't pay attention!"

Yep. I was the walking toolbox, however at least I'd reached an age when he stopped slapping me around when things went pears. I think it goes some way to explaining why to this very day, I find the sound of someone drilling into a wall utterly terrifying.

By late afternoon, the job seemed nearly complete. Despite the lack of plans, the cabinet was cuboid in shape. I was confident, had my super dad managed to snatch a daring victory? It would appear so.

Takeaway that Saturday afternoon was almost a jovial affair. My mum wasn't a bag of nerves and things looked promising.

Sunday morning, my own construction was coming along nicely. I hummed along to the music coming from my brother's bedroom. I remain grateful for the sanity gifted to me from the Human League, Luther Vandross, Gary Numan and the Boomtown Rats courtesy of my brother's Realistic (read Tandy own brand) Hi Fi.

"SHIT!!!"

*sound of needle abruptly scratching across vinyl*

A blood curdling scream of rage and anguish pierced the air. Birds stopped singing outside.

"You BLOODY BASTARD!"

Then I recall hearing a loud banging noise, the type you might hear if someone kicks a chipboard record cabinet hard.

"SHIT!" *bang* "SHIT!" *thump* "SHIT" *splinter*

Startled I walked to the window, fearful that Dad might look up and take his rage out on me.

I was rewarded with the sight of a grown man toe-punting the rapidly disintegrating remains of a record cabinet around the garden. The wood, tools and everything else in earshot were excrementally denounced.

The reason for the destruction? Turned out that Dad had lost his temper attempting to take a plane to chipboard...
(Thu 3rd Apr 2008, 19:25, More)
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