Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Solitude - a cautionary tale

My flatmate is moving on to greener pastures, leaving me to cope with the various ghosts and spectres of the apartment by myself.

As I ready myself for a return to a solitary life, I came across the cautionary tale of a Greenland fur trapper in The Adventurer's Handbook.


An old trapper, Gustav, had taken on a young assistant, Olav, for the season. Olav was excellent company, being naturally lively and talkative. Sadly, however, he lacked the robustness of constitution required for surviving a Greenland winter and, after a month or two, he fell ill and died.

Trappers being, by necessity, fairly unsentimental, Gustav buried Olav and carried on with his work. The trappers had been completely isolated and a ship to collect their furs was not expected until the following summer.

After a while, Gustav grew to miss his erstwhile companion's gay banter so, with no other prospect of company, he dug Olav's body up and sat it a table in his cabin.

Naturally, dead Olav wasn't nearly as talkative as live Olav, plus Gustav was overwhelmed with shame. So he buried the body again. Whereupon he felt terribly lonely again. So he dug it up again. And so on.

Suffering from a terrible guilty conscience, Gustav became convinced that his companion's spirit was haunting him, so he dug the body up one last time and shot it through the head, then buried it again.

When the ship arrived to collect the season's haul of furs, the crew found Gustav quite agitated and, hearing that his companion had died, they took Gustav and the sadly abused cadaver back to Denmark, where Gustav was charged with murder on account of the apparent gunshot wound Olav's head.


There is, thankfully, a happy ending to this tale: an autopsy bore Gustav out in his claim to have shot the body after death. The murder charge was dropped and Gustav instead found himself in an insane asylum.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010


What was 'The Event'?

The Event, known by various other ominous names, occurred towards the end of the 20th century, setting in motion a chain of events that effectively saw the human race return to the stone age.

According to our best research, The Event happened some time between 1992 and 1994, when, after three excellent albums, The Beautiful South suddenly became absolutely and irredeemably shit.

The Beautiful South, just in case you were in a cave or a coma, were a musical phoenix arisen from the ashes of the Housemartins. They were my first proper favourite band and, for most of the early 90s, my CD of Choke spent more time in the stereo than it did in its box.

1989 Welcome to the Beautiful South

The Beautiful South's first album: massively popular, melodic tunes. Dark lyrics.

Although the album was a huge hit, the cover, with the girl sticking the gun in her mouth, was rather less so, particularly with the censors.

An alternative version was released with the suicidal wench and the smoking bloke replaced by a cuddly teddy bear and an adorable toy rabbit respectively.

Standout tunes:

Song for whoever - first single, satirising the music industry and paint-by-numbers love songs

Woman in the wall - song about a bloke doing his missus in

1990 Choke

Built on the success of the first album and yielded the band's only UK #1 ('A little time').

A truly tremendous album which filled the void in my soul left by not being old enough for self-abuse or alcohol. (Notice how I set those two apart, even after all these years - there's nothing as healthy as denial.)

Standout tracks:

Let love speak up itself - would bring a tear to a glass eye

Should've kept my eyes shut - another song about doing your missus in

1992 0898

Standout tracks:

Old Red Eyes is back - strangely uplifting song about alcoholism

You play glockenspiel, I'll play drums - killer synth riff

0898 was a bit of a departure from the previous two albums, with more of a rock feel and some downright disturbing album artwork. The title refers to the old prefix for premium phone rate numbers.

Of course, everyone has a mobile phone these days so every number's a premium rate number. Even my mother. (Your mother always was.)

1994 Miaow

Utter, utter cack. The group had lost Briana Corrigan as female vocalist, but that still didn't explain how dreary all the tunes were.

The signs were all there with the uninspiring first single release 'Good as gold'. The second single was 'Everybody's talkin'', a cover of someone else's song, which had been middle of the road way back in the day.

In an ironic little echo of the band's golden era, they had to withdraw the album sleeve for this too - because of a copyright infringement against HMV, Tesco's for music.

The South went onto to vomit out a greatest hits collection, a couple more albums and a couple more greatest hits collections, becoming in the process a persuasive argument for the 'die before you get old' school of thinking.

In a parallel universe, opinionated drunks are typing similar stuff about Kurt Cobain.


Friday, October 15, 2010


The monst'rous marathon mail

Just to update everyone on how the Loch Ness Marathon went, and very big thanks to those of you who donated to Macmillan Cancer Support via our Justgiving page; we've raised over £500, which will:

a. Provide more good days for people living with cancer

b. Land Macmillan another couple of London Marathon places, so some other pair of willing idiots have to pester their friends for something in the region of six grand

Either way, I'm sure you'll agree that's an outstanding result!

Right, how it went - I'm sure you're all dying to hear about how we faced and overcame our biggest challenge since illiteracy so I'll spare you details of our travel (which was a marathon in its own right) and skip to the race.

The course begins at the south end of Loch Ness and follows the main road all the way up into Inverness. The road is closed to traffic for the day, with the welcome exception of ambulances and the occasional hearse.

Not deeming the marathon sufficiently hellish in its own right, the organisers lined us up an hour-long bus trip to the start line. To be more exact, the bus dropped us off ten minutes from the start. Twenty minutes before the start. So long warm-up.

Just in case we were still suffering from any lingering vestiges of optimism, the morning had settled into the kind of steady, persistent drizzle which gives the people of the highlands their cheery disposition and impressive suicide rate.

Then some funny bastard put "500 miles" by the Proclaimers on the PA system and a couple of thousand soggy joggers lurched out onto the road, bound for Inverness.

The first nine miles or so were fairly steep downhill, which probably sounds ideal - it's not. Your legs get pulverised. After this, we emerged onto the side of Loch Ness for the next nine miles, which were flat and scenic.

Unfortunately, with all the damage wrought by the first section and the prospect of many, many more miles to come, you tend to plod along thinking things like: "I've stacked this," and "Marathons are rubbish".

Not being a big city marathon, there aren't the throngs of people cheering that you'd get in somewhere like London, New York or possibly even Leicester. This changed after around 17 miles when we went through a place called Dores.

People lined the streets of the town, cheering runners on and handing out sweets and drinks, not because they like runners, but simply because they're a collection of nasty, twisted perverts.

The reason is, straight after the town, from mile 18 onwards, is THE hill.

So, once a year the people of Dores take a break from watching Songs of Praise on the telly and take to the street to derive sadistic delight from encouraging a bunch of sweaty, exhausted runners to put on a bit of a spurt, knowing full well that they'll get overexcited and waste a bunch of energy. Then, when they're faced with a two-mile incline, they'll have shot their bolt and they will, in all probability, expire in a ditch.

(In fact, I went past a collapsed guy being loaded into an ambulance on this stretch, so the people of Dores can have a good laugh about that one.)

Fortunately, once you've made it up and over the hill, it's then plain sailing to the finish. Although it does take about an hour.

By this stage, the sun had at last come out, as had the people of Inverness. In one last twist of the knife, you go past the finish on the other side of the river before crossing and retracing your steps.

I crossed the line in just under 3h 30 and waddled off to get a coffee. Ed arrived just over an hour later, looking every inch the shot putter in his wicked Macmillan vest.

Both of us were walking like we'd had our first shower in prison. Of course, we were now free to get on the keg for the first time in a month. Sadly, the first pint we had was foul - some pubs just have no sense of occasion.

It was hard, our legs hurt, and our mouths tasted like we'd been eating bees. Nonetheless, we had made it through the marathon - it's a great feeling and I'd recommend anyone to have a crack at doing it*.

Anyway, if you've made it to the bottom of this rambling, please dry your eyes and pull yourself together. Many thanks again for supporting our effort and don't forget to check out the photos on our Facebook page.


*Except normal people

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Monday, October 11, 2010


Another e-mail to the BBC

Dear John Inverdale,

I agree wholeheartedly with your idea of a staggered start in the 800m at the end of the heptathlon, but why stop there? In order to clarify the event for spectators, I believe that all the events should be staggered after the first one, so competitors lagging behind have to throw their javelin from further back, do the long jump from further back, etc.

No, just kidding. Anyway, keep the crackpot suggestions coming.

Sincere regards,

Daniel McKeown


Sent today, after having been provoked once too often by the Commonwealth Games coverage.

Monday, October 04, 2010


Not big, not clever...

But she did leave herself logged in on the hostel computer.

So we took a few liberties with her profile picture.


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