Friday, 30 November 2007

Friday Grab Bag: Itchy Head Edition

I never thought I'd say this but I wish I had lice.

Or ringworm. Or hemorrhagic fever. Some nasty contagion. Lice would probably be best since that would be the ideal way to pay back the thieving ne'er-do-well against whom I want revenge. You see, a couple of weeks ago we visited Oxford's Museum of Natural History. We rode our bicycles in a pouring rain and rather than lock my helmet to the bike, as I normally do, I left it sitting on a bench in the museum's entry way. The room was encrusted with the cast-off accouterments of wet visitors: dozens of umbrellas and coats, strollers dripping and steaming in the radiator heat. My Lovely Wife and I cleared a space and put our helmets down.

When we emerged 90 minutes later hers was there and mine wasn't. It had been stolen, nicked, pinched. As I rode home I entertained dark fantasies of retribution....

Let Us Give Thanks
A reader asked how our Thanksgiving was. Lovely. We held it last Sunday, rather than on the 22nd itself, the British rather sniffily refusing to celebrate Thanksgiving. We invited some Actual English People over and told them all about the history of the holiday (Jamestown vs. Plymouth, Pilgrims vs. Indians, Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers, real cranberry jelly versus the stuff in cans that has those little ridges in it). My Lovely Wife made a wonderful feast, the centerpiece of which was a free-range, organic turkey. Guess how much it cost. Go on, guess. No, higher. Higher. Yup, 45 pounds Sterling for a 13-pound turkey. That's $90. We sucked the meat off every bone.

BritNews Roundup
Another week, another Daily Mail story about women's breasts. I've written in this space before about that paper's fascination with female chestal regions (any my fascination with their fascination). Sometimes I think they write about bosoms just so I'll have something to include in my BritNews Roundup every Friday. This week's story involves an Oxford writer (!) named Clover Stroud who had a special effects artists craft her a set of lifelike silicon boobs that she could parade around town in. The ostensible purpose was to take an incisive sociological look at the commodification of big-breasted women. But regular readers of the BritNews Roundup know it was just an excuse to run saucy photos of a woman's cups runnething over.

The result of her experiment? The postman seems "much cheerier" than normal. (I can just imagine him thinking to himself: "I 'ardly earn any money, I 'ave to deliver the post in the rain, my missus is a fishwife, but that big-bosomed lady's made my day, she 'as.") Drivers do a double-take, one swerving violently to avoid a collision. (If someone had been killed, would the Daily Mail have been responsible?) Ms. Stroud concludes "large breasts really do work as a man magnet at at least a hundred yards."

But there's a dark side to the decollotage: Men ogle, some make saucy remarks. "I realised that a whole lifetime of being checked out, and commented on, like some prize heifer, would drive me quite mad." Or maybe she could just dress a little less trashily.

Emma Clarke, the voice-over artist who provided the recordings for the London Underground, has been fired for being quoted as saying she never rode the Tube any more because the service was dreadful. It probably didn't help that she also recorded gag announcements for her Web site, including one that went: "We would like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loud."

Hey, at least our breasts are real. Unless we're from California.

File under "yuck": An auction house in Yorkshire is selling an "anthropodermic" bound book. That's one covered in human skin. It just might be bound in the skin of the person the book is about, a Jesuit priest executed for his role in the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The Daily Mail (of course) has a story about how the priest's face is visible on the front of the book, like some ghostly Shroud of Turin image.

Here is where I would normally have a story about some British person attempting to have sex with an inanimate object (a bicycle, a fence, a backyard compost bin....) but that doesn't make news anymore. No, what's truly newsworthy is when someone has sex with a woman, especially if that someone is a "top England" soccer star. "Another Blow for England" is the suitably cheeky headline on the story in the News of the World about a birthday party at which a senior player, um, scored in public. "It's incredible that this should be going on so close to England becoming the laughing stock of Europe by not qualifying" for the European cup, said an onlooker. "If the players put as much effort into playing as this one did into boozing and shagging they might have got somewhere."

My favorite part of the story is one of the subheds, just a single evocative word: "Groin."

Stone Carving of the Week

This is the Fettiplace Monument, a wall tomb snapped by My Lovely Wife on a tour of St. Mary's Church in Swinbrook. Not dead, it seems to say. Just resting. They look like three guys on the sleeper train to Vienna.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.


suburbancorrespondent said...

Actually, those 3 guys are exercising. That's a yoga pose.

No one can beat the Brits for headlines. I'm still laughing.

And, I think I would have settled for the poison turkey, at those prices. That's what I did here, and the "healthy" kind (what's up with that? None of those turkeys are healthy - they're all dead) "only" costs about 40 or 50 dollars.

You don't want head lice, ever. If I should contract it ever again, you may expect the following headline: "Woman Cuts Off Own Head."

PAB said...

Glad to read that you and Ruth had an enjoyable Thanksgiving outside the friendly confines of the USA, and that you were able to procure a turkey, albeit at an inflated price. I once spent Thanksgiving Day in Akumal on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where no turkey could be found. I don't recall exactly what I had for dinner that evening but am pretty sure it involved a tortilla.

Candadai Tirumalai said...

Commisserations on the loss of the helmet. I once left a bag containing a library book on the local bus, and found the next day that both had been returned to the Oxford Library adjoining Westgate.
Some 15 years ago a young woman shopping in the Oxford Covered Market a week before Christmas (yes, the British don't really know Thanksgiving) looked at all the turkeys strung up head-down and said, "Poor buggers." Her sympathy was real, although she was not about to turn vegetarian.

mark from alexandria said...

I've never quite understood the concept of free range poultry as it would seem that, unless they were "homing turkeys," in this case, it would be difficult to get them all back from the range at the end of their lives. How does one organically end the life of such a beast? I prefer the kind that have evolved to grow a pop-up thermometer out of their torsos.

John Kelly said...

We really miss the pop-up thermometer. The oven is electric, not gas, and it's tiny. Plus the controls are in centigrade. We burned the first few chickens we cooked in there. We bought a meat thermometer but it broke. Our new one seems to do the trick, though.

Old Lady said...

I'm beginning to dread your return to the US - reading about your life in England is a daily treat. My favorite turkey story involves an American friend in Germany who ordered a turkey that weighed "20" - and discovered when it arrived that it was 20 kilos instead of pounds, and wouldn't fit into the oven.

Leigh Russell said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this. We Brits should definitely eschew McDonalds and adopt Thanksgiving.

As for the Daily Mail - I believe the name arose as the result of a typing error. Or was it named by someone who confused their homophones? I know it poses as a newspaper, but really...

The loss of your helmet is annoying. Is it possible someone mistook it for their own? Or am I being hopelessly charitable?

I agree with 'old lady' - when you leave the UK, are we going to start taking ourselves seriously again here? I hope not!

Colleen said...

John - I miss your column in the Post, but I love your blog!! I spent a year in London with my family, way back in 1979/80. Your stories bring back lots of memories!! I distinctly remember my Mom trying to put together a Thanksgiving dinner - quite a challenge!!

Anonymous said...

Those guys have some mighty strong obliques.