Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bastard of a room

I like Dunedin.
There's a quiet bookish air about the place and an undercurrent of creativity I quite enjoy. It's an easy city to get around and on a good day it's not a bad looking place either. I have to travel to Dunedin every six weeks for work and it's a trip I look forward to. Usually I get away with booking my accommodation for this trip a week in advance, this time I wasn't so lucky. Apparently there is a car rally on in town and almost all the hotels and motels in town are completely booked. I must have tried ringing fifteen places only to get told the same thing: we can fit you in Tuesday, but Wednesday night is fully booked. 
"Fuck," thinks I. "I can't ring every bloody hotel and motel in Dunners. I might try that Expedia crowd." I hop on the phone and ring Bangalore and they find me literally the last available room in Dunedin. "Excellent stuff. Sorted." thinks I. 

I should have known that this room was going to look like Dame Edna's pap smear. I thought they said it was $138 for a night and was only billed for that amount. Either I had scored a night for free or something was amiss. It turned out something was amiss and misgivings came flooding to the fore when I turned into the street Guest House Paradiso* was located. The street was about eight inches wide and lined with houses that had to, just had to contain Scarfies, burning couches and frozen bags of poo in the freezer. I did an eight hundred point turn and parked the car while trying to maintain some sort of optimism.
It didn't last.

*Not its real name, but not far off.

What the photo to the right cannot adequately represent is the smell, the result of a 'fragrance diffuser, fruit burst edition'. I tried to open the window and throw the fragrance diffuser, fruit burst edition out and get rid of the smell. It turned out that the window was nailed shut and I was stuck with not only the smell of fragrance diffuser, fruit burst edition but also the stank of a beer fridge that hadn't been opened since the Crimean War. 
I looked around me. It was a visual tableau that I couldn't take in all of it at once. Maybe it was the clash of patterns, maybe it was the presence of two pairs of slippers by the door that turned out to be around six sizes too small.

The size is okay, I'm just not sure about the colour.

Overcome with sensory overload, I sank down on the bed and lay back. Blinking with disbelief, I saw that the ceiling was liberally sprinkled with flourescent stars, such as you would find in a small child's bedroom... not in a hotel room.
Well fuck me. 

I took to Facebook where the room captured the imagination of my friends who said:

"Has the set for Mrs Brown's Boys moved to Dunedin?"

"You're either staying in the 1970's or in Barbra Steisand's fanny."

"That's not a picture, it's a window to the outside world and it's actually black and white out there."

"Did you get kicked out of home?"

"You haven't booked into a hotel, you've broken into someone's house."

"Still, it's better than the halfway-house/brothel I stayed in in Malawi with suspiciously wet mattresses and a hole in the floor for a toilet." 

I jokingly said to this that my friend hadn't seen what was behind the single bed. Then I thought I hadn't seen behind that single bed, so I had a look and found this:

It looks ludicrous and it absolutely is, but it is unbelievably sinister as well. I was expecting to be chopped to pieces by a Chucky doll. One Facebook offsider speculated I was actually going to be killed by Susan Boyle, although I suspect he had secretly booked her to do the job but she lost the address when she ate it.

In reality, the only danger I faced was from static electricity from the artifical fibres of the bedding causing an electrical fire that would burn the fucking joint to the ground with me in it... after all, it's not as if I could get out the window if I had to, is it?

I forgot to mention the splendid view of Otago Harbour was on the other side of the house. I hope you like garden gnomes outside the window you can't open.
Just a sample of the twee picture frames that still carry the stock images in them from when they were purchased from the Warehouse when in a stupour of mind-altering drugs. Well you'd have to be out of your tiny mind to buy this, wouldn't you?
Ah, all this and shared bathrooms.
So the moral of the story is twofold if there is only one hotel room left in Dunedin when you need it and it's probably this one:
1. Expedia can get fucked.
2. Stay in Oamaru.

Friday, 7 November 2014

You bastards

I'm sorry, but I could quite cheerfully tear your fucking head off.
You may donate significant amounts of time and money to worthy charitable causes and be in all respects an upstanding and reliable citizen, devoid of all malice, but if you are in front of me on the road you may as well be Graham Capill

I do a lot of driving on the open road these days, covering the entire South Island every six weeks. I enjoy long stretches of driving on empty roads: I think, I sing, I take in and appreciate the breathtaking scenery of the South Island, I listen to podcasts and lectures and generally enjoy my own company. It is meditatively restful and edifying and when the road becomes tricky and windy I relish its challenges: I enjoy picking the apex of the bends, attempting to come out with the best exit speed and position for the next corner (all done within speed limits that are blanketed to protect us from the least able drivers); I strive to make my passage as smooth as Jenson Button's own reknown driving style. As I fly through the Whangamoas, the Takaka Hill, the Lindis, or the Hundalees my fun comes shuddering to a halt as my progress is impeded by you... you fucker.

Takaka Hill
You. Yeah you. Fuck you.
It doesn't matter who you are actually and you might be innocuously and quite safely driving at respectable speed, but you are in front of me and I have to slow down: you are a hideously boring dumbo; you are a fly on my Eggs Benedict; you are the piss on my parade. As I slow down I will unleash a torrent of invective at you, tracing your family history with four letter words and imploring you away. I really don't hope that you die in a house-fire, but I will scream that at you. If you are a driving a truck in front of me I will surmise at great length and at ear splitting volume about how fucking rail fucking transport is a fucking grossly fucking underutilised fucking resource. But at least trucks generally pull over into slow vehicle bays, not like cars... or campervans.

Yeah, just you stay there until I've gone past,
or throw yourselves in that lake.
Campervans are a scourge on our roads. I am surprised that, given how widely they are hated by all drivers, the large yards that hold hundreds of the things at airports are not targeted for torching by a jihad of spiteful motorists. We are trapped in the tyranny of living in such a beautiful country. We entice tourists here and in turn they clog up our roads as they gurn and moon at lakes that are bluer than belief and jagged mountains that justify their remarkable name. My misery is manifested by more screaming, peppered with the term 'road-maggots'. I'm guessing that the cost of lost productivity to our economy thanks to these hideous, boring boxes dribbling along our roads is in the hundreds of billions. This figure may not be accurate, but I never said my ranting was reasonable either. 

Or even better...
Having been caught behind traffic, I will suffer until I can pass. I don't take unnecessary risks. I dutifully wait until an opportunity arises where the road ahead is clear and I am absolutely certain there is no on-coming traffic ahead that will be any closer than 100m away when I have finished my overtaking manoeuvre. In this respect I am a good citizen (my last speeding ticket was in 1999 and I have never had a serious road accident). But if other motorists could hear what I say about them, they would be mortified. If they could hear my vituperative abuse, campervan drivers wouldn't come back and would actively discourage other tourists. Truck drivers would carry on congesting my roads, but I would consider ridding New Zealand of road-maggots as a win.

Here's the thing though: I'm not even really angry. I'm not likely to pop a vein in my temple any time soon, it's just part of the catharsis of driving for me. I wouldn't even call it road rage because I genuinely don't feel angry and I enjoy heaping abuse on my fellow travellers. It's as much part of my journey as the singing, the sun and stopping off at breweries along the way.  So despite the loud, insistent and inventive stream of profanity that is aimed at you, don't take it personally. 
PS. I hate you.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Old bastard

Usually this blog has levity at heart surrounding behaving like a bastard. My posts spill bile and invective, but in general it is written for the amusement of me writing it and, hopefully, for you reading it. I have a question though. Is being a bastard acquired, or is it genetic?
I'll follow this with an observation. It was my father's 80th birthday on Wednesday this week and I doubt he received a birthday card. He certainly didn't get one from either or my brothers, 'nor my half-sister. He also didn't get one from me. I would imagine that he spent the day alone, maybe opened a bottle of home-brewed beer in celebration of entering his ninth decade, prayed a bit and then buggered off to bed in his home in Westport. I say I imagine because I haven't seen him in over ten years, let alone spoken to him. My father has not been a very nice man to his family and is probably as much a product of his surroundings as any genetically inherited tendency to be selfish, anger-prone or aloof to those who ought to love him.

A Dutch child, scavenging food from rubbish cans, 1944.
My father was born in the Netherlands in 1934. My grandmother was, according to the only photograph I have ever seen of her, beautiful, willowy and careworn. My grandfather, who I have never seen a photograph of, I am told was an electrician and regarded my father as being backward and stupid. That I think he wasn't very nice in all likelihood tells a fraction of the story of the dominance and domineering he probably put upon his household, I can only speculate. What I am certain of is that when my father turned five World War Two was declared and Germany invaded the Netherlands. When I think of myself at age five and imagine what it must have been like to see first hand the first waves of fighting and then capitulation in the face of overwhelming German force, it must have been incomprehensible and terrifying. Jewish citizens were taken away without explanation and food became so scarce that in 1944 when Germany was retreating through the Netherlands, there was a famine. By accounts, my father scavenged and stole food for him and his family. There were stories of many Dutch reduced to eating grass. I don't know what else he would have lived through in this time either when the Allies and the Axis were fighting their way through house to house. He would have seen sights that were undoubtedly emotionally scarring, losing friends and probably family in the bargain. When the Second World War ended he was eleven.

Fast forward to around 1962 my father was 28 and my mother was 18. He was a recent emigre to New Zealand, leaving behind his first wife and their daughter who had come with him, but then returned to the Netherlands with that marriage ending in divorce. My mother confesses she was naive and quite taken with my father, who was a handsome chap in his day. They married, despite my maternal-Grandmother's misgivings and shifted to Golden Bay where my brothers and I were born. The happiness of the early years of their marriage turned into repeated abuse and assault on my mother. At one point he was advancing on her with a raised fist and my mother defended herself by holding a knife pointing from her chest which punctured one of his lungs. After treating him, our family doctor was said to have made mutterings contrary to the Hippocratic Oath that my mother hadn't finished the job properly. The cycle of emotional abuse continued until when my mother was away with us children visiting relatives in England, my father locked most of our possessions in a garage and went to live with a German woman. Divorce followed and I have no memory of a family life together, just a series of unfulfilling and emotionally rending visits to stay with my father during school holidays. Eventually we moved away from my father and Golden Bay to North Canterbury and the visits petered out. My brothers and I would receive occasional birthday presents but contact with our father was usually infrequent and generally unwelcome. On one of the last childhood visits, I learned that my father had found religion in the Spiritualist Church and believed himself to be some sort of faith healer, involving crystals. My father married again, a union that similarly ended in divorce .

I am fairly certain that my distrust of religion arises out of my father's belief. I do not know whether he sought solace or forgiveness in the eyes of God when he embraced religion, but I would have thought that the path to forgiveness went through making amends with his own family. I would have given anything to have him around to watch me play sport and be there to see some of my personal triumphs such as winning the school speech trophy, my Army passing out parade where I won the top shot trophy, to watch me graduate from university or attend my wedding, but during those times my father never travelled, 'nor made any effort to be part of mine, or my brothers' lives. In fact, when sent photos of my new-born nephew, my father sent them back.
My sister has her own experiences of my father. Hers are harrowing, inordinately unpleasant and are not mine to tell, so I won't elaborate on them. However, for all the damage he has done to our family,I am grateful to my father that I have her and my brothers, but this does not stop me from looking with envy at other families, particularly that of my wife. I potentially shouldn't write this, but in the spirit of openness, I find it quite galling that my wife has such a large but close-kint family when mine is so small and spread across the globe. We have extremely infrequent gatherings, in fact, we haven't come together for a Christmas for about ten or twelve years. Her family come from thousands of miles to gather at events, to meet and hug, to all talk at once and not listen to each other. It is edifying and fulfilling to watch. It is also a reminder that my family had a traditional keystone removed from it very early on.What makes it worse is that her family have all been nothing but warm and loving to me since I insinuated myself into it by marriage. I cannot think of a more generous example of a family. They have had their own family issues, but they are resilient, forgiving and tightly bonded by love. My family is united by the analogous determination of a small nation, tenaciously clinging to its survival as a unit, fiercely proud of its culture and its people.

I would like to point out that I am sober at the time of writing this and tears are not coursing down my face with shame or anger for my father. There aren't any at all. I just feel disappointment, but really, when I imagine my father alone on his 80th birthday, my elder brother and I don't know what to think. One question we both ponder is that is he a man created by his environment, or is he who he is by choice?
Happy birthday.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Soccer is amusing, but not through playing or watching.

Among the inconsequential annoyances that I gain amusement from by inflicting on other people, by far the most entertaining is by mocking those people who think that soccer is important. 
This sentence contains two irritations to soccer supporters: my assertion that soccer isn't important and secondly that it is called soccer. The usual response is "It's called football, you bastard!" Look, I couldn't give even the remotest of shits what people call the game, I just say this to get a rise out of people. However, I am genuinely of the view that soccer just doesn't matter.
"Oh my God, I tripped over a lump in the pitch
near another player. I'm fucking dying."

Because of New Zealand's national sport being the oval ball code, rugby, the natural assumption by the offended party is that I take this view because I am an adherent of said oval ball code. This is somewhat true. I played rugby inconsistently but enthusiastically for around twenty years and have spent many happy hours cheering on local teams both live at a ground or on television. It is the reason why I have a long list of injuries and of happy memories. However, I enjoy creating friction with round-ball adherents because they are just as fanatical as militant feminists, fundamentalist Christians, or even fundamentalist atheists for that matter. I know that they will not be swayed in their (incorrect) opinion and I enjoy the journey of taking them from annoyance to purple-faced invective with absolutely no intention of changing their minds.

Footballists, or as I shall name them, Soccerites, abjectly refuse to accept that staring slack jawed at a screen of a game being played on the other side of the earth, where there is a distinct prospect of a scoreless draw, is completely absurd. Honestly, nil all is a result? The offended Soccerite may point toward a five day cricket test ending in a draw, but there will be hundreds of runs scored and dozens of wickets taken. In the entire history of international rugby there have only ever been 19 scoreless draws, none since 1964. When you sit down to watch even the most dour game of rugby, there will be points scored. When you sit down to watch a game of soccer, a nil all draw is as likely as there being a result.

Soccerites are impervious to the obscene notion that their purchase of each season's kit funds the astronomical salaries of the players. Yes, pay them a good salary, but are they really worth tens of millions of dollars? The highest paid footballers are on over US$1.3million per week, the equivalent of 1,219 full-time nurses, all for flouncing around a pitch, kicking a ball at a goalkeeper and being stretchered off when their hairspray gives out. Sorry, but there's summat wrong wi' that. In 1966 England football players were paid £60 per match. How on earth did it get to be as perverse as this? I realise soccer isn't alone and sits amongst basketball, boxing and golf in the colossal salary stakes, but it certainly creates a high benchmark in paying super-fit nonces to flop around on a field while pretending to work. Ask yourself, if you were building a utopian world, who would you pay more money to, the soccer player or someone putting you back together after a severe car crash?

Then there's the diving. Soccerites believe the comical dives of players who are stretchered off only to return minutes later to the field of play. They howl with righteous anger at the real or perceived wrong of their opposition, or scream their disbelief and denial that their player even touched the guy. This mirrors what occurs on the pitch. When a referee makes a decision in a game they are surrounded on all sides by gesticulating, slavering, overpaid ponces who shove, abuse and scream at the referee. This is sanctioned by the soccerite despite there being absolutely no tolerance for this in any other sport. The only time most cricket players will address the the umpire is to enquire after the state of their health*. When emotions run that high in a game, it's a sign it's being taken far too seriously. Let's not forget the impressionable children who watch this game. They will do what their heroes do.

Now that's worth a dive.
Then there's the teams these people support. They're usually English Premier League teams, sometimes Spanish La Liga teams and are usually chosen for the most tenuous connections. The Soccerite often hasn't been to the city, seen a game at the ground, has had no relative from that town and often has no English blood at all. Often it's just because they're almost certainties to win their championships. I recall seeing one Soccerite tear his shirt off after his team lost the championship, vowing to support the team that won... there's loyalty. I support the Tasman rugby team because I was born there. I support Canterbury and the Crusaders because I live there. I support the All Blacks for both reasons. I could support Hull City in the EPL, having a parent born there and having gone through the ordeal of living in such a colourless city, but I can't be arsed because it would involve potentially having to watch a game and definitely having to talk to a Soccerite about the game.

Then there's FIFA. John Oliver does a better job of picking FIFA apart than I ever will and he makes a good point that the acceptance of corruption on this global scale by those who participate in the game is utterly ridiculous. Seriously, Qatar to host the next World Cup? Good luck with that one.

Then there's the name. Soccer. Not football. Or rather, yes, football. 
I was having a beer the other night with a couple of blokes who also happen to be Professors of Law. In mid conversation a chap who I believe to be the most vehement Manchester United supporter walked past and I refused to let the chance to let the soccer dig go by unused.
"Hey Charles," says I, "... soccer isn't a proper sport."
"It's f-----g football, you c--t." he replies. Then one of my learned off-siders says:
"Well actually, it is soccer as well. It's a contraction of the words Association Football and despite its corruption, it is a perfectly acceptable piece of colloquial parlance."
"F-----g what?" says Charles before turning away and stalking off muttering the letters UC. 
In addition to my learned off-sider's argument, I contest that it may well be called football, but it shouldn't have exclusivity over the name as there are other competitive sports that involve contact between feet and balls**: rugby union football, American football, Australian football, arena football, Canadian football, Gaelic football, Harrow football etc. Calling soccer football invites ambiguity - "I went to watch the football last night." "So did I, the Crusaders pants-ed the Sharks in Christchurch. It was fucking brilliant." See? Rugby union football. Calling it soccer is a clear way of saying that the person in italics, who wasted ninety minutes watching a game with no scoreline and where no-one got hurt, was watching association football. 
Another argument the Soccerite will summon is that only the Americans call it soccer. The crushing response, particularly if the particular Soccerite is English***, is "Yeah, and they're better at it than you." 

Soccer just isn't important enough for me to be bothering with, but I retain the right to mock it and its acolytes. Stick your soccer... you blouse.

*(I paraphrase John Clarke)
** Yes, I did that on purpose.
*** And the Russians, the Danish, the Swedes, Nigerians, Japanese, Australians, New Zealanders and so on,

Sunday, 13 July 2014

I am soooo not negative, Liz you're completely wrong...

If you're happy and you know it...
I have been told that in general my blog posts are angry expletive-riddled rants by my friend Liz, in whose own blog on family the entry on her children learning the word vagina had me helpless with mirth to the extent that I may have weed a bit. In this post that boils with the irony of me negatively declaring that I am not negative, I say to you Liz, you're wrong. Wrong wrong wrong: I do like things; I can enjoy the sunshine without saying "We'll pay for that later"; I can feel contented; and I can live and let live. Here's why. My beloved Attila the Wife and I went away for the weekend and it was bliss... bliss interrupted only by her forcing us to go for a bike ride in gale-force winds for "a half hour tootle."¹
I don't offer recommendations lightly, but this one is
worth your left one.

A week ago Attila the Wife explained deliberately and slowly, so that even I could understand, that we were due some time away together as normal husbands and wives do. I couldn't help but agree because in this Attila has a point. If it were left to me, a trip away would be as far down the road as The Twisted Hop, maybe The Brewery, Mitre 10 Ferrymead if we are feeling expansive. When it comes to going out to places other than the pub, I am "...hopeless"² We wouldn't have stood a show of going to other places mentioned in this blog were it not for the careful planning and forethought of my beloved. So with this in mind, Attila took the proverbial by the other proverbial and booked us accommodation for a weekend away in tropical Little River. Now Little River isn't the most exotic location you could think of for a weekend away. As a town it is mostly unremarkable but for the art gallery. It is rightly seen as a stop for a pie before the rigours of the drive over hills that sit between it and equally tropical Akaroa, or as a place where those who enjoy recreational riding (not me) begin their odyssey on the rail trail back toward Christchurch. But then Little River now boasts remarkable accommodation that had Attila literally squealing with delight. SiloStay appeared on television to an enraptured wife who vowed then and there that we would sample the delights of temporary living in a purpose-converted grain silo, and so we did. We pottered half an hour out of town on Friday night, arriving to a literal warm welcome. The conversion from steel silo to living quarters was remarkable and we were delighted with our find. The photos here do the place a bit of justice and we found that Little River was a grand wee base for a tourist-incursion into Banks Peninsula without feeling too far from town. We really cannot recommend it highly enough.

Saturday saw our venturing take us to Barry's Bay to buy cheese and for a three course dinner at The Trading Rooms in tropical Akaroa. Students of this blog understand that I have a longstanding ambition to be one of those peculiar old men you see in a gentleman's club beside a fire in a wingback chair, gibbering incomprehensibly to themselves. When I have reached that vintage and I have a balloon of brandy in one hand and a cigar or a pipe in the other, amid the waffling about "...extraordinary thighs she had on her, looked like someone had filled a latex condom with sausage meat...", I shall be reminiscing about the pork terrine, the duo of roast lamb and a crème brûlée that left me speechless. The matched wines completed the picture (dry riesling, Cotes du Rhone and Beaumes de Venise)³ and as Attila and I walked arm in arm along the Akaroa waterfront in blissful, full-stomached satisfaction, I wouldn't have swapped positions with anyone, anywhere. It was that good and made better by the excellent company of Her Majesty the Wife.

So there, you see? All good positive stuff.

¹ Bullshit. It was closer to an hour of wind-blown misery, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a bloody good moan about it.
² The word hopeless is usually preceded by "You're fucking..." and applies only from the perspective that there is no hope for me.
³ Our grateful thanks to our wonderfully talented hosts Kathryn Curtis and Stephen Gilchrist.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

An overflowing bucket of fucks

Now I ask you, is that any way to hold
a cricket bat?
And what is she looking at?
In the back corner of my garage, next to my golf clubs and underneath an empty brewing tun, is a bucket filled with the fucks I couldn't give about the royal visit. I could have gone down to Latimer Square and given a few fucks as the Duke of Cambridge bowled his wife a few badly bowled deliveries, the Duchess awkwardly flailing a plastic cricket bat, but even though the bucket of fucks I have in the garage is close to overflowing, I couldn't be bothered giving the royals any. Nope, this visit got the same amount of fucks I have to give for Justin Bieber, New Zealand's Got Talent and English Premier League football - zero. There are things I go out to the garage to get some fucks to give, but when Wills, Kate and their screaming shit-machine* popped down for a $1.2m visit to give us a metaphorical pat on the head, I only went out to the garage to trouble the beer fridge.

"The Japs have invented this amazing
vibrating throne. This is why I haven't
abdicated and let Charles have a go.
I would understand if you thought I was a republican from the unchanged level of fucks in the bucket, but I'm not. I won my high school speech competition holding a picture of the Queen and with a Union Jack draped around my shoulders. I have guarded the Queen at Government House when she visited in 2002 and to be honest I rather like most of the royal family (especially Phil the Greek). I think the Queen is a practical, capable, conscientious and charismatic woman who has done credit to her role as head of state by being even-handed and even-tempered since taking the reins in 1952. She's been a paragon of dignity, when at times her own family has let her down. I do also think that New Zealand being a constitutional monarchy is an anachronism, like closing the pubs during Easter. We're as far away from London as we can geographically get and it's not as if we're beholden to the Crown for any reason. After all, it's 2014, not 1914, why have a New Zealand monarchy at all?

However, I'm not a republican either. 
There hasn't been one convincing reason the republican movement has offered that has swayed me one iota:
The head of state is not a New Zealander and having a G-G who is, is not adequate.
A republic reaffirms New Zealand's sense of nationhood.

A republic would make New Zealand more democratic.
A republic remains an effective constitutional safeguard.
I shan't be bothering to head out to the garage for any of these, particularly any aims to further democracy considering how flawed I think it is. Our monarchy is a constitutional convenience, if anything. We operate autonomously and the Queen has absolutely no say in how New Zealand is run. The only power she holds are the reserve powers to approve law and appointing and dissolving the government which are exercised by the proxy of the Governor-General. Even then, the approval of law is blindly applied to rubber-stamp legislation and the out of term dissolution of government has never happened in New Zealand. The monarchy is mostly harmless and would only apply its powers in the absolute worst-case scenario. Based upon this, my opinion of retaining the monarchy is one of unimpressed ambivalence. You just have to look through most of my previous posts. I also find the vehemence of those who argue for republicanism to be spectacularly unedifying. If anything the name calling and questioning the value everyone is supposed to get from the royal family galvanises my resolve not to give a fuck. But then I'm not going to go out of my way to argue for the monarchy either. Were it not for their position and lives of privilege, they would be almost unable to function in the real world, and I think that's what alienates them from their subjects... that and calling them their subjects.

Now, if you monarchists and republicans don't mind, I have some very important ironing to do.

*My grateful thanks to the broadcaster Dave Ward for introducing me to this term when writing about the over-publicised birth of some 'celebrity' baby about seven or eight years ago. I loved the Private Eye headline when Prince George was born satirizing the media over-reaction: Woman Has Baby.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Jono explains life through graphs 2: the pub bore.

Last month's post, where I explained to my friend how (and if) young men think during break-ups using graphs, was so successful that I decided that graphs can be used to explain a few other truths about the world. In this post I look at pub conversation and how to do it successfully. This can be applied freely to other arenas, but a pub is a microcosm of life and a place where strangers are more likely to indulge in conversation. This is considerably less likely in other places and conversation between two people who actually know each other is more likely to see the diagrammatic circles interlock, as we shall see shortly.

"Oh for fuck's sake, if I wanted to talk about teaching I
could be made miserable by it at home."
How often have you been cornered at a bar by some raving, drooling, drunken, bigotted wanker; or some midget cocooned in their own self-righteousness; or an angry pinko feminist lesbian who seeks to blame the problems of the world on some group that you may have been slightly aligned with politically? Yes, I have been cornered on occasion and these types bravely plough on despite my telling them that I don't care or, in the case of the self-righteous midget who was attempting to convince me that on his first day of university he got his entire class to walk out of their lecture because he knew more than the boffin at the head of the class did about agricultural chemistry, that I don't believe them. Tiresome bores will sometimes appear and in an effort to extricate myself to enjoy some hard-won pub time, I sometimes have to resort to drawing them a graph as to why they should leave me alone.

First, let's look at how successful conversation happens. Imagine you are leaning on the bar with a pint. You managed to find a bit of time your other half doesn't know about and you sup at every precious pub second like a draught of the water of life. Idle conversation with the barstaff breaks out sporadically while you search for inspiration to solve that nagging cryptic crossword clue and then out of the corner of your eye a bloke you never met before, Joe Lunchbox, begins to say something to you. Joe begins his sentence "It was good to see McCullum get some runs at Eden Park yesterday." In a flash this opening gambit offers an insight as to whether the conversation will be successful or not and it all depends on how interesting you find the keywords Brendan McCullum, cricket, or Eden Park. You may have an interest in just one of those things (i.e you don't like cricket, you find Eden Park ugly and boring but you're related to NZ Captain Brendan McCullum or have some photos of him in the shower that he doesn't know about), a mixture or all three. As long as you have some sort of interest, the conversation is away. I now refer you to the first diagram. 
Diagram 1. Successful pub conversation.

In this Venn diagram you will note the two rings. One signifies Joe's attempt to talk to you about Brendan McCullum's double ton against India at Eden Park. The other indicates your interest in all things related to Brendan McCullum, cricket and Eden Park. As long as there is some intersection  between the ventured topic and your areas of interest, then interesting, erudite and informed conversation and debate may flow, even if you don't agree with Joe's support of the contraversial 'three nations' ICC proposal and that you believe he's an idiot for not agreeing that Jonty Rhodes and Chris Harris were the two most exciting and able fielders in the modern game. They plainly were, but discussing this and the topics flowing on from that initial proposal from Joe Lunchbox will seem more edifying than not as long as the two circles on the diagram continue to interlock. 
But what happens if they don't?

Diagram 2. Where interest is non-existent or
suddenly disappears
Let's go back a moment. You look up from your crossword to see that Joe Lunchbox is looking at you and this sentence falls from his foul lips: "I think Kyle Chapman has a point: we should be proud of being white, we built Western civilization and now we need to defend it from the Asian invasion." Your eyebrows join your hairline in concern and you've started looking for where the camera is in case you're being punked. You want no part of this and given half a chance this vile piece of human wreckage will talk at you ad nauseum until you either leave in disgust or attempt to stab yourself in the eye to make it all stop. If we refer to the second diagram, what has happened here is that the circles no longer interlock and we have an indifference zone appear. This may even occur from a position where the circles had interlocked before but interest may have been diverted by boredom, the arrival of something more interesting such as your favourite barmaid/barman*, or you've had a flash of inspiration and you absolutely have to write down the solution to several crossword clues in succession.
*Whatever floats your boat. It's not my place to judge.

These handy diagrams can be drawn to explain with graphical bluntness that the conversation Mr Lunchbox wishes to pursue should be drawn to a hasty close. After all, your pub time is precious and should not be wasted suffering fools.

Next time, my diagrammatic series examines the phenomenon of coming home late from the pub.