Saturday, 20 September 2008

If yer knows of a better 'Ole

Evelyn Waugh founded Friends of the Neutron Bomb when he heard it wiped out people but left buildings and their contents standing. On balance, he thought that a very good thing.

He would have shared my disappointment when the Hadron Collider in the Cern experiment did not, as promised by some, send our planet scuttling down a Black Hole like some White Rabbit in our increasingly Alice in Wonderland times. It would have been ironic if Switzerland, which has assiduously kept out of European wars in order to collect money from both sides, had provided the force that ended it all.

Instead, in Stephen Hawkins’ memorable phrase, the Big Smash was like two mosquitoes colliding.

My understanding of scientific matters is, to say the least, patchy but I thought that the experiment was meant to replicate the Big Bang that created the World.

In which case, how do we know it didn’t?

How do we know that at this moment a parallel world isn’t forming and its inhabitants beginning the long and weary journey to being US?

I hope they do not send out a team of market researchers. I imagine them with Bristol boards and pencils distributed among their eight arms stopping a passer-by and asking him what he is about.

He might be going to one of the few pubs still open after the Government’s draconian smoking ban.

He will explain he is going to a pub


“A pub. A building with a wooden divider,” the passer-by will explain. “I stand on one side and a man stands on the other side selling me drink.”


“A drink is a liquid. I have to be careful not to drink too much of it because it will make me sick and cause me to do silly things before falling over.”

“You are being punished??????????????????????????”

“No, no. No. It’s a pleasure and it costs me a lot of money.”


“Money. Every day I spend eight hours locked in a building staring at a machine and at the end of the week I am given money.”

“??????????????????????????????Which you give to a man who gives you in return a substance which makes you sick and causes you to do silly things until you fall over………………………Is there a Black Hole we can go to, do you know?”

The other day four of the newspapers I read online carried pictures of Victoria Beckham's new hair-do. The Daily Mirror devoted its entire front page - and three more inside - to the "shock pixie cut" and declared that this was "literally the biggest thing to happen to hair since the Moss Fringe of '07". A smaller story disclosed that doctors and most secondary school teachers will no longer be recruited from outside the EU. But there will be exceptions for sheep shearers from Australia and New Zealand - and ballet dancers.

Black Hole, here I come*****************************************************

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For my money there is nothing more frightening at the front door than a builder going, “FFFFFFFFFF”. I am sure you recognise the sound. It is the noise a workman makes when he comes into your house for the first time and sees any bit of work at all that has already been done by another workman. “FFFFFFFFFFFF,” they go. “Who put that in for you? Must have been drunk. That cross-piece there. See. Pulling on the contra-levels of the stays.”

“Could you take it down then?” you ask. And have you noticed how they always repeat what you say. Scornfully.

“Take it down? Take it down? No need. Come down of its own accord before the year’s out.”

I have a friend who is a master plumber. And if there was an Eisteddfod competition for the solo “FFFFFFFF” he’d walk it. Not only does he have a “FFFFFFFF” that is the envy of the Federation of Master Plumbers; he can do it backwards. Straight up. Backwards. I’ve heard him.

“FFFFFFFFFF,” I’ve heard him say, time and again. “I don’t like the look of that universal joint.”

He is a man who only has to be confronted with a universal joint to become instantly racked with doubt.

“Can it be put right?” the more foolhardy would ask.
“FFFFFFFFFF. Put right? You’re joking. You’d have to rebuild the bathroom.”

And, do you know, in forty years of admiring friendship I have never once seen his lips change their conformation.

It’s not only plumbers. Motor mechanics, joiners, plasterers and bricklayers, they all do it. “FFFFFFFFF”. I don’t know why. But “FFFFFFFFFF” they go. And a century of Trades Union solidarity bites the dust. Nothing kindred about trades today. There are those workmen who would rather pour scorn than tea.