Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Toffeewomble: on Tour Again

OK, I'm just back from the haunted islands of Italy, and tomorrow I gotta shoot off again.

But where? The above pic provides a clue. Any commenters who make a correct guess will receive the usual furnished apartment in London's fashionable South Woodford.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Off Colour Anti-Magyar Japery

A Hungarian, yesterday.

Hey guys, I know I haven't been blogging much lately, but I have a good excuse. I've been staying on a haunted island: Capraia, near Corsica. Right now I'm in an internet caff in Pisa, drinking macchiato.

I shall have much to tell on Capraia, a truly weird place, when I return - but I have to go somewhere else first (about which I shall also blog).

Before the world hurls rotten turnips at me for being a horribly gloating jet-setter, I should point out that I spent last night in the mosquito-ridden hellhole that is Livorno. Where it was raining. And cold. And dull. And polluted. Really. Never go to Livorno. It sucks.

Anyhoo, until I can blog properly (and I've got lots to tell) here is my favurite joke at the moment, with a suitably pan-European flavour.

Here it is. Prepare yourselves..

If you see a Hungarian in the street, go up to him and punch him. He'll know why.

I don't know why I find that so funny. Must be because I am a horrible racist, as some of my commenters never cease to point out. Knobheads. But there's just something funny about picking on the Hungarians. Dunno why.


Competition Number Three

Where am I?

I haven't done a competition for a while, as I have been travelling, writing, and can't be arsed. But I thought it was time to get all toffeewomblers a-cogitatin' once again. So. Here's the new puzzle. This picture was taken about ten minutes ago. If you study it closely, there are certain clues as to where it was taken. Can you guess?

If you are having trouble (I know it's a toughie) there is a tiny, subtle clue in the post above, where I actually say where I am.

Answers to the Womble, please. The provider of the first correct answer will
almost certainly win a large, furnished townhouse in London's fashionable Primrose Hill.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Needle Boats of Memory

Me, drunkenly embracing the statue of James Joyce, in Trieste. About four weeks ago.

I'm off on my travels again on Sunday. This time I'm going to Elba, the largest of the islands that comprise the Tuscan Archipelago. I'll also be visiting Capraia, in the same island chain, said to be an intriguingly deserted isle - until recently it was a prison island, stuffed to the gunnels with Mafiosi doing stir.

Anyway, these Italian travels have got me thinking about my last visit to Italy: a month ago, when the Beloved Fiancee and I checked out Trieste, on the Adriatic.

While I was there I read Jan Morris's book on the place - 'Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere'. It's a bittersweet book, beautifully written of course, but full of Morris's melancholy pensees on the passing of time and beauty.

It also includes this James Joyce poem, which I had not hitherto encountered. Joyce wrote the poem in Trieste, after a day by the sea watching the boy racers in their boats. On the face of it, it's not a really great poem... yet somehow it keeps ringing in my head.. there's something about it which won't let go... like mental itchycoos.

It is, perhaps, proof that the greatness of a lot of poetry lies in its subsconscious musicality, rather than any surface cleverness...

But I'll shut up now. Ciao!

Here's the poem (to get the full effect, try saying it out loud. While drunk)...

Watching the Needle Boats at San Sabba

by James Joyce

I heard their young hearts crying
Loveward above the glancing oar
And heard the prairie grasses sighing:
No more, return no more!

O hearts, O sighing grasses,
Vainly your loveblown bannerets mourn!
No more will the wild wind that passes
Return, no more return.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Worst Writing Job In The World

Me, yesterday.

I've been reading a book called L.A. Diaries, by one James Brown. No, not the Godfather of Soul. No, not the lad-mag hero and editor of Loaded. No, not the publisher of Viz and the Fortean Times. Sorry. This James Brown is a California-based scriptwriter and novelist; the book is an account of his life in literary La-la-land.

It's quite a good book. Harrowing in places, amusing in others, a deftly written piece of (occasionally maundering) confessional.

It also has this story about one of James Brown's writing chums. This guy once had this.... writing job. Which I think takes the biscuit as the worst, most demeaning writing job in human history.

All freelancers have to do crap jobs from time to time. I know writers who pen 200-page brochures for camera companies. Others are asked to write the stuff that goes on wine labels, the guff about soil and oak ageing (these label puffs are known as 'gurgle-blurbs', in the trade). Indeed, I once thought I had the naffest, silliest job in the writing world when I was reviewing Lego for amazon.com.

Yes, Lego.

But this friend of James Brown, he had to write the words.... used by Action Man. That's right. The one-liners the plastic doll comes out with when you pull the cord on his back. The crisp commands, the navigational queries, the heroic expostulations. Of a doll.

It's hard to believe the makers of Action Man actually employed a writer for this. But they did. What's more, they were very demanding, apparently. The writer only got paid for the lines they actually used. Which was about 1 in a 100, he reckoned.

If anyone's heard of a worse writing job than that, do please let us know at the toffeewomble. But I doubt there is one.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Two Greatest Albums in the World You've Never Heard Of

Whenever I hear people wanking on about the best album in the world - Thriller, or Dark Side of the Moon, or Astral Weeks, or Spiceworld: The Spice Girls Soundtrack, I feel like openly sneering at these people, and lambasting them with a hockey stick, and saying - Yeah, well, what the Fuck do you know, if you've never heard THIS album?

I'm talking Second Honeymoon by Deaf School. Deaf School were a Liverpool-based art-rock combo who briefly flourished in the late 70s, and made music influenced by Kurt Weil, Cole Porter, Broadway musicals, and French balladeering. The first of their three albums, 2nd Honeymoon, was by far the best of a fine bunch, not least because it contained the line: 'With your hand tight held in mine, we'd sign as Mr & Mrs Simply-Divine'.

Those lucky few who have heard 2nd Honeymoon will understand my passion; the rest of you can but dream of this glories of this album, whose art-jazz sonorities put it right at the top of the musically-brilliant-but-oddly-obscure pop-rock album Bundesliga...

... closely followed by this one. John Cale's immortal 'Paris 1919'. Bittersweet, insidiously melodic, effortlessly poetic, bizarre.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.