Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Balloon Debate



A wee archive curio this week; I spent most of my twenties working as a "trainer", it's a good time to be a trainer, you're generally still optimistic, enthusiastic and young enough not to realise that no one at your training sessions really cares what you say because they are largely going to just keep doing things the way they've been doing them. My career in training was actually not unlike my parallel foray into stand-up comedy; ultimately you stand in a room full of people (some of them drunk) who are waiting to be impressed, and you try your hardest to make them like you enough to keep listening. To further underline this connection, flipcharts featured heavily in the stand-up material. Not fun to carry home on the last train from Glasgow.

One of my favourite training games, was "The Balloon Debate"; you will doubtless have been forced to play this or a variant at some point in your life. In a life or death situation, you must debate and ultimately decide who gets to live or die from a selection of famous characters trapped in a hot air balloon falling rapidly to earth - losers are pushed over the edge for the greater good - great for bringing old work grudges, values and morality out to the fore, exactly where people don't like them. It's a right laugh. As part of a show we were writing for at the time, my comedy partner Ray and I prepared this sketch. Amazingly, it was never used. I like to think it has as much to say now as it did then, which is to say, not much...just to be clear, it was not written as any kind of commentary on Scottish independence, but I remember someone reading it that way at the time. Not really sure what the message is there..

(WARNING - we were young when we wrote this and so still thought swearing was big and clever)

BURNS, DAVID BOWIE, RUSS ABBOTT, OOR WULLIE and MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS are in a Balloon plummeting ever downwards...

RABBIE : Right. Here's the stat. We've ditched Michelle Mone, him oota Runrig, and frankly that big green monster wis takin' up a lot of room. But we're still fallin' fast. What de ye think Davy?

DAVID : To be honest Robert, I'm still not very sure what I'm doing here.

RABBIE : Davy...get this intae yer thin white heid, we're plummeting oot o the sky in a fucking big balloon.

DAVID : Ah. It's the classic "balloon debate".

RABBIE : It's no really been much 'o a classic Davy, we've really jist been howkin' folk we don't like ower the edge.

DAVID : Yes I...I was sorry to lose Annie Lennox like that.

RABBIE : We all were Davy, but it's a survival situation, and we need tae think quick. Which is why I'm thinkin' [nudges DAVID and points to MARY in a none too subtle fashion]

MARY : For fucks sake Rabbie. Would ye just stop throwing folk out of the balloon and think for a minute. And I have to say I have real issues with the fact that I'm now the only woman in this metaphorical balloon. I mean, what about Kirsty Young? Or Clare Grogan?

RABBIE: Aye. Well, thank yer lucky stars hen. Cause if either wan o' them wis here, your arse would be oot this basket quicker than you could say boo.

MARY: I can't believe we chucked Irvine Welsh and hung onto you.

RABBIE : Nobody pushed Irvine Welsh Mary, he jist fell oot. Dancin'. [mimes some dancing. Looks at the still silent OOR WULLIE and pushes him] Wullie! Wullie come on snap oot o it. There wis jist nae way we could hing ontae Boab.

MARY : [comforting hand on WULLIE's shoulder] He was too fat.

WULLIE : [head in hands, shaking head] Jings.

RUSS : [Coughs to get everyone's attention, then does his famous 'scots' accent, complete with 'see you jimmy' hair and bunnet]

RABBIE [pointing angrily] Wan mair stunt like that Abbot and you are oot! Yer only still here 'cos ah like yer daft fuckin' bunnet.

DAVID : I think I've thought up a Haiku about this.

WULLIE : Crivvens.

MARY : [comforting once more] I know Wullie. I know.

MARY : Well why shouldn't we just get rid of you Rab? Surely you're just an overated twat in a big shirt rebranded for largely marketing and tourist purposes.

RABBIE : Oh aye? Well is there a Castle in this whole country you didnae hide in at some point? Ye fart in Peebles and suddenly they're selling "Mary Queen of Scots" fudge in the gift shop...

DAVID: "Basket plummets, air flows free, balloon is tartan and my shirt is white."

RABBIE : If I were you Davy, I'd watch it, because if she chucks me oot, ye'll no be far behind, because quite frankly, you are hingin' right oot me at the minute.

DAVID : What if we...fix the balloon?

RABBIE : Oh bravo Ziggy! I'll jist brek oot the massive metaphorical tartan balloon puncture repair kit shall I?

WULLIE : Help ma boab.

RABBIE : Wullie will ye jist FUCK UP! We're tryin' tae figure a way ootae this nightmare.

WULLIE : Hing on! What if...I stuck this piece o chewing gum oan the end o a stick?

MARY : Wullie...

WULLIE : Either that, or something wi shoe polish. That usually does the trick. "Certain death in a big balloon is near, but our hero will fix it, have nae -"

[MARY walks over and kicks him out of the balloon. "Jings" echoes into the distance]

MARY : I've just had a look down, and in a bitter but predictable irony, this big tartan balloon's going to plummet right into a Kaleyard.

DAVID : What exactly is a Kaleyard?

RABBIE : It's aw jaggy Davy. Utter murder.

DAVID: I think there's a concept album in this.

MARY: Really.

DAVID: Yeah, I could call it 'hot air.'

RABBIE: Nae fuckin' change there then. Ho Davey! There's a couple of spiders on your jaicket there...

DAVID: [panicking] Where? Where are the spiders?

[The rest of them giggle mischeviously]

RABBIE: Sorry man. Ah've always wanted tae dae that. Tell ye what, how aboot a singalong...

[The Balloon continues to fall as RABBIE breaks into "Why does it always rain on me?"]

ENDS

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Troubleshooter General


The urn boiled and bubbled as the sales department took their seats and Mr Cooper stepped into meeting room 6c.
“Okay. Morning everyone, glad you could all make it along to this session.”
Mr Cooper tried a winning smile, but it just looked like he was in the midst of a mild seizure.
“Now as we know, profits are down, big time, and so we’re bringing in a troubleshooter. Everyone’s got their own theory about why we’re losing out, and whose fault it is.”
Sue raised her hand.
“Is it maybe because of the massive financial meltdown and global downturn?”
Mr Cooper smiled again and nodded.
“Or that our product is dated and stale and no one has any money to buy it?”
“There could be all sorts of reasons, and all sorts of people to blame,” said Mr Cooper, “but the last thing we want to do is turn this into some kind of witch hunt. So let me introduce the troubleshooter who’s going to sort things out…Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General.”
Matthew Hopkins swept into the office, his black cape billowing stylishly in the gentle breeze of the office fans.
“This is an unholy place. The stench of Satan oozes from every wall.”
“Actually” said Sue “that’s probably the tea urn. The water’s been lying there a few days so…”
“And who is this Whore of Beelzebub?”
“Hi.” said Sue, “It’s Sue.”
“I see.” said Matthew Hopkins, having clearly met her type before, “Excuse me one moment madam.”
There was an impressive swish of the cloak, quickly followed by a thud and a scream from Sue.
“See!” cried Matthew Hopkins, “See how the stapler has drawn blood.”
“Of course it’s drawn blood. You’ve just stapled me. Right under the nail as well.”
Matthew Hopkins was not about to back down, his Troubleshooter’s eyes had spotted…trouble.
“Burn her! Burn her and profits for this quarter are sure to rise.” he cried “She has hexed your financial structures with a most foul magic. Burn the witch!”
Mr Cooper looked a little uneasy. Plus he had read in a book that you really were supposed to attempt to stick up for your staff team in situations like this.
“Are you sure Matthew Hopkins? Sue’s been instrumental in setting up many of our most successful initiatives.”
“Witch!”
“Well the profit share index, the free trade expo, the…”
“ No…I…I was y’know shouting ‘witch!’.”
“Oh. Oh right sorry. Carry on.”
Sue was giving Mr Cooper ‘the face’, he could tell he wasn’t getting a muffin brought in at the next senior management meeting.
Matthew Hopkins was pacing theatrically up and down the office space.
“There is one more test which can prove her guilt beyond all shadow of doubt!”
“Oh really?” said Sue “And what’s that?”
“The ducking stool! Will this damned harlot sink or swim.”
Mr Cooper was now pretty sure he was going to get a formal complaint from Sue about this situation, ‘harlot’ had not been an acceptable office term since the nineties.
“The ducking stool!” laughed Sue “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“We don’t actually have a ducking stool Matthew Hopkins,” said Mr Cooper, “we relocated a lot of our resources towards the end of last financial year so…”
“Fear not…I have fashioned a new ducking stool out by the water cooler, using a filing cabinet and some buckets.”
Matthew Hopkins gestured to the jumble of office equipment out in the main suite.
“How would that even work?” asked Sue.
“It…is not foolproof.” said Matthew Hopkins, “Some of the water has spilled out a bit but…we shall know of her guilt! Bring her forth!”
Two of the junior managers grabbed Sue by the arms, the intern began slowly banging a drum.
“What…I…”
“Sorry Sue, but if you’re innocent you’ve nothing to fear in the eyes of God.” said Mr Cooper.
The sales department marched purposefully towards the filing cabinet ducking stool, the mournful beat of the drum echoing around the open plan office.
“No. Get off!” shouted Sue “Look, we keep losing money for one very simple reason. We keep paying these terrible black arts consultants thousands of pounds to come in and tell us how to do our job instead of just doing it ourselves.”
Matthew Hopkins was fiddling with one of the buckets.
“No! Shut up! See how she peddles her evil jibberish. Hurry…into the filing cabinet with you. Come on.”
Sue shook off one of the junior managers and turned to face Mr Cooper.
“Like when you decided to put a voodoo curse on our competitors and Baron Samedi turned up with all that chicken blood for us to drink.”
“Ah! But did our competitors lose business?”
“No!” said Sue “We were just all off sick from having to drink chicken blood and production was down eighty percent.”
Mr Cooper winced. He’d had to take everyone out for nandos and bowling to make up for that.
“That was regrettable…”
The drum had stopped beating, an awkward silence had fallen across the office, broken only by the rustling of snack-a-jack wrappers.
“Listen, do you want me to do this ducking stool thing or not?” asked Matthew Hopkins.
Sue glared at Mr Cooper.
“No…I think we should probably leave it.”
“What if I just set fire to her?”
“If you could just leave Matthew Hopkins, I’ll ensure your cheque is in the post.”
“I prefer BACS but okay. Bye then.”
And with that, the Witchfinder General swept out of the office, onto his next appointment with a lacklustre marketing department somewhere in Surrey.
The microwave pinged for someone’s soup.
“Sorry about that Sue.” said Mr Cooper, “That wasn’t the right way to go.”
“No.” said Sue, “It wasn’t.”
“No. Personally, I think the real problem is that we’ve built the office on an old indian burial ground, so I’ve arranged for a wee tiny lady to come in and exorcise it.”

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Churn


Gary Hobble sighed and half heartedly adjusted his clipboard as he followed the receptionist through the largely beige, foul smelling industrial unit. Crates of tinned pet food were stacked floor to ceiling,
“When did this happen?” he thought briefly, “At what point in my life did I take the wrong turn that led here, to this.”
The receptionist showed him into the magnolia office where the factory manager, Mr Fanshawe stood to greet him. His host filled two cracked and stained mugs with weak tea, and dropped some soft digestives onto a dirty plate. Time to get down to business.
“Okay Mr Fanshawe, you’ve now been running this recycling programme for young unemployed people for six months, so this is just a perfectly routine audit of what you’ve been doing.”
The office was also littered with tins and boxes, pet food marketing posters hung limply from the wall.
“Of course. Government needs to know the money is being well spent. I quite understand. I know these new programmes can be controversial.”
Gary shuffled his papers in a way that he hoped suggested he was remotely interested. Mr Fanshawe grinned a rictus grin.
“Now,” said Gary, “you’ve had really massive numbers of young people getting involved which is great, but I’d just like a word with a few of them...to see how they’ve been finding the work.”
Mr Fanshawe continued smiling, but a little wave of confusion rippled gently across his face.
“I’m not sure I understand. I mean...how would you be able to speak to them?”
“Arent they here?” asked Gary.
“Well...yes,” smiled Mr Fanshawe, “they’re everywhere really.”
Mr Fanshawe gestured around the room, and then picked up a tin.
“In these. Three varieties. But not very chatty.”
Mr Fanshawe chuckled genially.
“They’re...in the dogfood?”
“They are the dogfood.”
“You’ve turned them into dogfood!?”
Gary, for the first time in some months, started to panic.
“No! Dear me no! Not just dogfood. Cat food as well.”
“You’ve turned people into petfood?!”
Mr Fanshawe scrambled urgently through some papers on his desk and produced a report, holding it up in front of himself like a very flimsy shield.
“Well there was a bit of consumer resistance to eating spam made out of dead unemployed people. But we’re a nation of pet lovers so...”
“I can’t believe this is happening.” said Gary, no longer even pretending to look at his clipboard.
“It was all in the proposal.”
Mr Fanshawe handed Gary another document, this one entitled “Human Waste Recycling Project”.
“But...I thought human waste recycling meant...y’know...toilet stuff.”
Mr Fanshawe shook his head in disgust.
“Good lord no! I mean..what dog owner is going to buy a can of poo?”
“But this is terrible! This is supposed to be a work project for young people to help them get employed.”
Mr Fanshawe felt slightly on the backfoot, this wasn’t going at all how he had envisaged this morning in the shower.
“Young Tam’s got a job.”
“What does he do?” asked Gary
“He pushes everyone else into the mincer. Big lad. Plus we’ve managed to save a bit of money there by paying him on commission.”
Gary started to gently rock himself back and forward.

“He was a bit overkeen the first few weeks mind...lost a few cleaners..but thats all calmed down now. Great boy...credit to his family. God rest their souls.”
Gary upturned the plate of soft digestives in the nearest he could manage to a rage
“This is a charnel house!”
Mr Fanshawe was now on the verge of feeling a little hard done to.
“Well...yes....Did you actually read my proposal?”
“Not the detail...it's a black box approach...the numbers just looked really good...”
“The numbers are really good!”
Regaining ground, Mr Fanshawe enthusiastically unfolded a series of colourful bar graphs and pie charts.
“We’re at 150% productivity...way above original projections. Plus we’re recycling almost 95% of waste products. Teeth are a bit problematic at the minute...but I’m thinking we could look at some sort of jewellery line.”
Gary’s dead eyes danced numbly across the figures.
“These numbers are fantastic...”
Mr Fanshawe nodded, producing a nice pastel tone gant chart for the rest of the years activity.
“Local unemployment is down...local pet satisfaction is up. This is a good news story!”
“I suppose...apart from all the murdering. Listen...let me have a think about it.”
Gary got up from his chair, shaking only slightly.
“Makes a change from all that negativity around government work programmes eh? Let’s celebrate success!” said Mr Fanshawe, handing over a document entitled “Human Waste Recycling Franchise Opportunities”.
Gary looked at one of the tins
“Okay. You’re not totally convinced." said Mr Fanshawe, placing a reassuring hand on Gary's arm, "Do you have a pet at all?”
Gary shook his head
“Shame. Tell you what...come back next week and I’ll talk you through my proposals for a chain of old folks homes.”
Not even realising he had left his clipboard behind, Gary wandered out of the magnolia office and back onto the beige factory floor.
Mr Fanswhawe lifted the phone and dialled downstairs.
“Tam. Hi. See our guest out would you. Very meaty thighs.”

Monday, 5 March 2012

Platitudeypus


11 March 2012 would have been the 60th birthday of the writer and thinker Douglas Adams, author of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, lover of Apple Macs. This only slightly derivative story is by way of a wee tribute...

The assault fleet of the Galaxia Media Corporation hung silently in orbit, waiting. Below, the focus of their long mission, the last planet to provide a home to the almost entirely extinct platitudeypus, beloved of publishing companies and lecture circuits everywhere.
So important, so vital was this mission, that the entire operation was being beamed back to their homeworld as a reality TV series, the longest running in their planet’s history. In truth, most people preferred the first few series before all the staged wars and jacuzzi planets. Initially, the advertising revenue from the show had funded the tanks and guns. Now it was lucky to cover the freeze dried ice-cream.
Admiral Fnurt wearily straightened his lapels and walked on to what he was beginning to feel was the rather optimistically named Battle Deck.
“Admiral on deck!” chirped a well groomed lieutenant.
“Well Captain..are the forces preparing to strike?”
Captain Zstash shifted awkwardly in his very comfortable Captains chair.
“Well...yessss...but me and the lads we was thinking”
Fnurt sighed.
“Yes?”
“Well it’s not a very nice day is it? I mean looking at those monitors. It’s pouring down.”
“I fail to see what this has to do with our planned attack.”
“You don’t want to turn up on a wet day is all I’m saying. None of the lads have got macs or anything...and yknow...it might be sunny tomorrow. Sets a better tone for an invasion.”
Fnurt had known this was how his day was going to end up.
“This is not a holiday Captain. We cannot afford to wait.”
“You’d kick yourself it it was nice tomorrow though. I mean wouldn’t you?”
Fnurt had read a book earlier in the week, “Just Managing”, it suggested that you do the thing that you are most dreading first in the day because then the rest of the day would be a breeze. It did not allow for the possibility that the thing you are dreading most might take all day.
“Captain we have been orbiting this planet for the last ten years. And every time we are ready for attack...something goes wrong.”
“Oh come on sir. That last time was hardly my fault.”
“Well I can’t see how your emergency dental treatment would take priority over the mission.”
“I lead from the front Sir. If I’m not there the lads are all over the place.”
The assembled Generals on the Battle Bridge nodded in agreement, one or two dropped their weapons or held them upside down to illustrate their incompetence. Fnurt was fairly sure most of that was intentional.
“Captain we were here two years before you mentioned you’d forgotten to pack all the attack saucers.”
Fnurt winced at this memory, this remained one of the most popular episodes of the TV show.
“Well..”
“And what about the time before that when you couldn’t attack because your task force were all being fitted for new trousers?”
“But I think you’ll agree they looked a treat”
Second most popular episode. Third was the first time they found a jacuzzi planet.
“We are here to take this planet...rain or no rain.”
“It is awfully heavy rain.”
Admiral Fnurt recalled another lesson from his book.
“Now is not the time for us to pick the low hanging fruit. Moving forward I want us all singing off the same hymn sheet. Today, we attack!”

So, what was it that inspired the heroic Galaxia media empire armies to brave the near torrential rains? What could be worth travelling halfway across the universe for? Well, money obviously. The platitudeypus first came to prominence just over a century ago, indigenous to several hundred very similar carbon based planets it has since been hunted to near extinction not because it tastes particularly nice or looks good as mittens, but largely because it irritates many lifeforms to the point of violent fundamentalism. And that is because this bafflingly literate beast’s many and varied mating calls sound exactly like the sort of vague half baked false wisdom that people really like to hear in times of personal crisis. So, while a male platitudeypus might be frantically signalling all females within a five mile radius, it would sound to our ears like he was suggesting that “time heals all wounds” or “ah well, it wasn’t meant to be”. The fact that medicine and surgery are more likely to heal wounds than letting them fester over time, or the notion that you are solely responsible for your own destiny and frequent mistakes is really neither here or there - who likes to hear that miserable rationalism when you can listen to a reassuring platitudeypus instead. After all it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. As indeed, is almost anything.

It only took one savvy entrepreneur to set the whole nightmare in motion; by recording the mating calls of the platitudeypus, naturalist Fillian Trantantor realised he had enough material to release an audiobook on increasing your self esteem through interpretive dance. He released “Like No One Is Watching” on Monday, was able to quit being a naturalist by Wednesday, and by Thursday teatime, the platitudeypus was being pursued by publishers across the galaxy.

Behavioural discoveries came thick and fast; herds of captive platidudeypi would synchronise the style and theme of their mating calls to the point where within a week you could almost guarantee that you would have enough material for a book on management theory, the power of positive thinking or relationship counselling. The outlay was low, a few leafy cages with a tank full of aquatic insects, and with just a sprinkling of judicious ghost-writing, you could be hitting the bestseller lists in no time.

As is so often the case, the popularity of the platitudeypus became it’s ultimate undoing. Ruthless publishing companies scoured the universe for ever more creative mating calls in an effort to continually reinvent the self-serving self-help boom; mighty media empires turned their guns on one another in the race for supremacy, with whole galaxies laid waste; households paid furtive platitudeypus poachers to provide them with their own home based oracle, always there with helpful though largely vapid and insubstantial advice; whole countries began to interpret the messages of the beasts in wildly opposing fashions and self actualisation wars broke out all across the universe.  However, more problematic by far, was the attention of gangs of increasingly angry rationalists who were incredibly ticked off by the popularity of such patently ridiculous advice and the damage it seemed to be causing; this was especially galling given that its very existence appeared to be an evolutionary fluke.

Indeed on one planet, a crack team of fundamentalist rationalists hunted the platitudeypus to extinction for no other reason than they were sick of people taking its advice on low-carbohydrate diets and self worth so seriously all the time. And sure enough, once it had gone, and the final platitudeypus had been stubbornly parboiled and served on a nice bed of rice, everything did actually get a lot better and there were less disagreements and upsets all round; but the planet became so monumentally grey and dull that no one even remembers where it is anymore.

Meanwhile, on the planet below, the imminent arrival of the Galaxia media empire assault fleet had not gone unnoticed, partly because the planet was very self conscious and had telescopes trained on the skies to see if anyone was looking at them, but mostly because the Galaxia media empire had started beaming down adverts for their cutting edge, reasonably priced, market cornering services. Most people were at least mildly interested in the introductory offers, but could have done without the attack saucers. Here and there, disillusioned by the brutal assault on their world, or perhaps just unhappy that their area was not within coverage of Galaxia services, pockets of resistance were gathering.

Former civil servant Hershel Genshburger decided that the time had come to take a side, and having seen an advert for his local resistance group in a newspaper shop window, he turned up at the secret meeting and was rather surprised to find that there were plenty of biscuits and tea available. But not quite as many burly ex-military explosives experts and former special-ops as he might have hoped.
“And are you connected to any other groups?” asked Hershel, helping himself to another ginger nut.
“Sorry. Could you sign in please.” said The Secretary, passing a notepad and pen over to Hershel. “Thanks!”
“Well....” said The Chairman, “There’s a group up the road in Plantard. And one down in Lurg. Jessie’s sister runs that one.”
“Okay. Any national networks? What’s the plan?”
“Well...its really still developing at the moment. We’re hoping to have some sort of conference.” explained The Secretary.
“A conference?”
“Yes...then we can workshop it all out. Figure out exactly what it is we want to do?”
The Chairman nodded and smiled as The Secretary minuted this point.
“What you want to do?” Hershel looked around at the collection of rather pleasant elderly folk. “What you want to do?! Surely you want to get ready to fight all the alien invaders and get them off the planet! That’s what a resistance movement do. They resist!”
“Told you!” said a lady by the tea urn, “I told you if we said we were a resistance movement that people would expect more from us.”
“Well this is precisely one of the reasons we need a conference.” said The Chairman “An open forum to discuss all of these issues and come to some sort of consensus.”
“There doesn’t need to be a consensus...” said Hershel “The spaceships are landing right now...”
 “I mean...maybe it isn’t about resistance at all. Maybe it’s about negotiation and understanding between ourselves and the attackers.”
At this point, The Treasurer could hold his tongue no longer.
“I think we’re all concentrating on the wrong issues. Think about the carbon footprint these things are making.”
The Chairman shook his head angrily, gesturing helplessly to Hershel in attempt to make it clear that this was old ground, well trodden.
“I honestly think that an organised group with an agreed mandate and agenda has more chance of influencing the decision making of the invaders. That’s what we’d be striving for at this conference.”
The Treasurer threw his arms up in the air.
“Oh! You and your conference.”
“Strawberry Tart?” offered the lady at the urn. Hershel smiled and shook his head.
“No...ehm…thanks very much for that.” he said, walking slowly back out of the community hall towards the battle scarred and burning streets “Probably all a bit much for me to take on in one go.”
“No problem. We’re here every week.” said The Secretary “Oh! But not next week. There’s a bingo night on. And Jessie’s got her appointment.”
“Now then,” said The Chairman, “arrangements for the AGM....”

The first of the attack saucers exploded just after lunch on Friday. A delegation of Galaxia Media executives were on their way to address a peace conference, when the rain had really started chucking it down. The hard water and acidity level of this planets precipitation did not at all agree with the Galaxia Assault Fleet’s fusion generators. Within minutes, an entire squadron of anti-matter propelled saucers starting malfunctioning. It really was very heavy rain. The planet didn’t stand a chance.

As the world below exploded, drifting swiftly out across the dark emptiness in waves of dust and rock, Admiral Fnurt sighed and turned to the camera.
“Ah well. There’s plenty more fish in the sea.”

End
Douglas Adams said many wonderful things, among them this very poetic defence of science and secular reason,
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it as well."
I'm a non-believer myself, but in our increasingly polarised times, I'd certainly like to think that Douglas Adams wasn't suggesting that anyone who does believe in fairies is an idiot, and that maybe, it is really up to individuals what they do and see in their garden...providing they don't start berating other people for not seeing things too. I've eh..I've run out of metaphor.

Enjoy some of my very own Vogon Poetry.

Enjoy "Shada" a lost Doctor Who, which Douglas Adams wrote for the BBC .

Get tweets from "The Meaning of Liff", Adams dictionary of things there should be words for.

Here is an episode of the bizarre childrens TV show "Dr Snuggles" written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Liff's Too Short


March 11th 2012 would have been the 60th birthday of writer and thinker, Douglas Adams. This is the first of two blog entries which are by way of a wee tribute.

Adams is of course most famous for The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, but in 1983, he and John Lloyd published The Meaning of Liff, "a dictionary of things that there aren't any words for yet"

"In Life, there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist. On the other hand, the world is littererd with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places. Our job, as wee see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society."  Douglas Adams & John Lloyd

If you are interested in wordplay, you can win copies of the book by submitting your own definitions, or you can just increase your vocabulary daily by following on twitter. Here's a few of mine.

carmunnock - to scowl at small happy children in public places

ecclefechan - an ancient scottish curse. Now most often used after standing on a piece of stray lego during a night time trip to the bathroom 


largs - the chewy bits of gristle and batter at the bottom of a fish supper or more regularly, stuck to the side of a deep fried mars bar 

prestwick - descriptive of the figure hugging qualities of an especially tight pair of jeans

pittenweem - a close friend at work who becomes your manager and immediately, a prick

turners puddle - an irrational fear of swimming pool flumes

urquhart - the quiet, serious pause after a husband suggests that he and his wife should visit a swinging club

wickham market - to compose a shopping list during sexual intercourse


UPDATED - 10 March 2012
The Liff competition has now closed, here are the winning entries, official "new Liffs" as chosen by the mighty John Lloyd himself. I'm delighted to humblebrag that one of mine is among them, but hats off to the winner Craig Warhurst for Peakirk.

ANGLESEY n.
Hypothetical object at which a lazy eye is looking.
(AJ Dehany)

ARDENS GRAFTON n.
The extra work you have to do because you cut corners the first time.
(Ian Cattell) 1

BODELWYDDAN adj.
Unable to walk straight after getting off a roundabout.
(Simon Beasor)

BRUND n.
The mood you’re in when you don’t know what mood you’re in.
(Ian Cattell) 2

COBNASH n.
Anything that falls out of your sandwich and into your drink.
(Ian Cattell) 3

FACCOMBE v.
To decide against helping those less fortunate than yourself.
(UsrBinPRL)

GAWCOTT n.
A baby so ugly you can’t even tell which way up it is.
(Ian Cattell) 4

GRANTHAM n.
One who sniffs fruit in a supermarket.
(Ruth Maher)

GRINDLETON n.
The innocent smile adopted by a baby moments before it throws up all over you.
(Mal Blackburne)

HATFIELD n.
The sense that one is still wearing a baseball cap long after it has been removed.
(Philip Calvert)

LECHLADE v.
To coat one’s beloved in cottage cheese.
(Janette Taylor)

MAURITIUS n.
A clump of pubic hair that always gets missed when one is shaving one’s scrotum.
(Matthew Imrie)

MICHELMERSH n.
The off-putting watery residue that forms at the top of yoghurts, ketchup etc.
(Nick Kent) 1

NETHERAVON n.
Any nook, cranny or cavity with enough room for a small object, or your fingertips - but not both - to get into.
(Nick Kent) 2

ORTON WISTOW n.
A stretch intended to disguise the fact that you are sniffing yourself for B.O.
(Jon Freeman)

PALMERSTON n.
The dried streak left by an earlier attempt to clear a vehicle’s window of condensation.
(Will)

PEAKIRK n.
One who regularly points out that there are no lavatories on the USS Enterprise.
(Craig Warhurst) 1

SIX MILE BOTTOM n.
A lengthy and depressing period of time during which the question “What else could possibly go wrong?” is emphatically answered by a series of increasingly unlikely and embarrassing misfortunes.
(Matt Dupuy)

SPALDING ppl vb.
The futile waving of the hand in front of the mouth when eating something much hotter than expected.
(Craig Warhurst) 2

TRAQUAIR v.
To march purposefully in entirely the wrong direction.
(Doug Forrest)

TUTBURY n.
A jiggle of the leg in an attempt to free a sweaty scrotum from the thigh.
(Fiona Dickinson)

WICKHAM MARKET n.
An imaginary shopping list composed during sexual intercourse.
(Paul Bristow)

WINNINGTON n.
The sound of cheers carried on the breeze from a distant sports field.
(Terri Washburn)

WOOKEY HOLE n.
The small gap through which you can clearly see the gift after you cut the wrapping paper to almost exactly the right size.
(Nigel B)

WOOLLOOMOOLOO n.
The small, pinkish ball of lint found in the tumble-drier after washing one’s underthings.
(Holly)