Pac-Man days

October 31, 2006 at 4:42 pm (Anecdotal)

When I was a teenager we used to load computer games using audiocassette players. It would take several minutes. Two vertical bars exchanging a chunky pixel constituted ‘tennis’. Things got more advanced. One game, Paper Boy, involved a boy delivering papers. I don’t know how points were scored, maybe the trick was to avoid the dog, or getting shot and molested. Arcade games were always more advanced than what we had at home, but these required money. I was never much good at any of the games, and although I liked Pac-Man, I didn’t appreciate being called it at school (a derivative of Paki). It only happened once or twice, but that’s enough.
Even today, when I come across Pac-Man it doesn’t take long before I get frazzled. I always make the mistake of going for the disempowered ghosts just as they are about to regain their normal colour – and lethal potency – and getting eaten. Then, that terrible noise tells you you’re a loser – video games are good at those – and Pac-Man disintegrates.

The other week I saw my nine-year-old cousin, Dan, playing a video game in my parents’ house. There he was, both on TV and watching it: the gadget allows the child to be involved with the animation on screen, using kung-fu moves to deflect oncoming aliens. Viewer and viewed were one, my cousin’s imagination snared by that of an overpaid geek in a Slipknot T-shirt, who designs computer games in Slough. I got called Pac-Man, my little cousin is Pac-Man.

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Meat distinction

October 25, 2006 at 3:31 pm (Teaspoon verse)

The difference of lamb to pork is not very big,
One is from a sheep and the other, from a pig.

Another difference between pork and lamb
is one makes good kebabs and the other ham

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The foot and I

October 25, 2006 at 7:40 am (Double espresso)

It started with a picture. Diabetic foot, that is. I saw it in a magazine, inflamed, bruised, and blistered. Then, when my foot started to hurt, I thought I’d contracted it. The pain grew. My intelligence shrivelled. I hobbled around, waiting for gangrene to set in. Months passed. Walking became tough. I was dying.

–It might be a fracture, said a friend, a doctor, come in for a scan.

–To reveal I have cancer? No way. Thanks, man.

Out with another friend, Amir, for lunch, I noticed a blemish on his eyelid. (Diabetic eye!)  I asked what it was.
–Getting rusty, he said.

–No, we’re still young, I said.

I took a bite of my burger*. Wind jammed in my chest. Death? No, breathe said Amir. I took his advice. Alive, if shocked, I finished my burger. Diabetic chest or mini-heart attack, I shall never know.

One day, my left foot refused to support my weight any longer – unless, it said, we headed to a hospital. Who could refuse? We checked in at Charing Cross Hospital A&E. The foot got there before me. An older, rather posh, woman had fallen off her bicycle. Her helmet was still on. She looked like she should be preparing scones and jam for her nephews, but her elbow was bleeding.

My name was called. Head bowed, the sinner, I limped to be healed.

–Your foot hurts? the doctor said.

Owawwagghh, I replied.

–How long has it been?

–Three months, I said.

–Three months?

–Ouch.

–Don’t you have a GP?

G who?

Sock off, he gestured. I complied.

(Woman with grazed elbow had already been treated, worry not)

–You’ve got flat feet.

In fact, they’re boat-shaped, but who was I to argue.

–That’s it? 

–You need to see a chiropractor.

I’d rather see a velociraptor.

–Three months, eh? the doctor repeated, shaking his head in disbelief.

–Yes, I said, feeling like a five-year-old.

The pain subsided as I left the building, cured. Jesus was no miracle-worker but surrounded by morons.

Notes
* There are two burger vans in London’s Golbourne Road (off Portobello Road, and the tourist radar). Run by Moroccans, each burger is served with fried egg and chips stuffed into the bun, topped by a homemade red sauce. At two pounds, it is easily the best sandwich in London. Soups are also available (pea, bean and lentil). English is spoken. Occasionally. Opposite one of the vans is a mosque. Once a woman introducing herself as a journalist asked if Amir and I worshipped there. No, said Amir, pointing to the burger van, we worship there.

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Mobile phone sperm count shock

October 24, 2006 at 9:20 am (Espresso)

Apparently, mobile phones reduce sperm count. What really worries me is Diet Coke. One sip, and it feels like you’ll have to adopt the child of a non-Diet Coke drinker. Cigarettes, Diet Coke and a phone call, how’s that for contraception.

Last night I met a seven-year-old boy. He looked glum. Two weeks ago, his dad, 38, had lost his fight against cancer.

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War on terror clichés

October 23, 2006 at 11:06 am (Double espresso)

babyterrapin.jpg

Some phrases lose currency through repetition:

– “The future of our country is at threat from terrapins.”

– “We can’t let the terrapins win.”

– “We will round up all terrapin leaders”

– “Not all Muslims are terrapins. Only a radicalised minority.”

– “Terrapins have infiltrated the Iraqi police.”

– “Suspected terrapins will receive a fair trial.”

– “One man’s terrapin is another man’s freedom fighter.”

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Office clichés

October 23, 2006 at 7:25 am (Espresso)

1.) “Why don’t you liaise with Henry and the accounts department .”

Liaise? Henry I could handle, I’m not sleeping with the accounts department. The most boring group sex ever. Leaver-arch folder sex.

2.) “I’ll ping you the details.”

– Really? Sure you don’t want me to pong you first?

3.) “We have to improve synergies.”

– Sure. How about improving vocabulary?

4.) “Did you have a good weekend?”

– No. I found a tumour the size of Greenland on my neck. It is inhabited by polar bears and penguins. I am in discussions with doctors and ecologists about how to remove it.

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This morning

October 20, 2006 at 4:46 pm (War on terror)

Went jogging on Clapham Common. 7am. I saw a man, my age, with a small ball. He was walking, throwing it up in the air and catching it. It was odd. Perhaps he’s reconnecting with the boy inside him, I thought. How cute. He walked a few more metres, then his dog appeared and the mystery was solved.

On the way home, I went to the supermarket and bought some organic free-range eggs. This is how you cook eggs: the oil has to be hot, and I mean really hot. Then crack’em open. Pretty instantly the’ll go brown and crispy around the edges. Spoon some of the oil on to the yolk and surrounding areas. I am training myself not to add salt. There is enough in the baked beans, which should be simmering away. I take two eggs. Not every morning, but when I do, I take two eggs. Doesn’t matter what size, two eggs.

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Diary of David Banda, age 1

October 18, 2006 at 7:04 am (Espresso)

Tuesday 17 October

Mad woman, who calls herself ‘mom’, brings me to London. Apparently she’s pretty big out here. And a guy – called Guy for goodness sake – who makes poor movies is supposed to make a great dad. I was trying to hide when they came to our orphanage. A whisper went around: “A mad American who thinks she’s English is coming to shop here.”

I remember the two of them peering over the crib next to mine. I tried to look as white as possible so they wouldn’t pick me. But they did. “I want this one,” said mad-woman.
“You sure, Madge?” said Guy. “The one in crib three looked nice.”

“No, this one looks like Cassius Clay.”

“Sure you don’t want a girl, there’s loads next-door.”

“Hold on a minute, there’s a finger missing on this one.”

And then they came to me. I retracted my little finger so they would think I don’t have one. Then mad-woman uncoiled it.

“He has his finger!” she said.

And that was that.

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The Therapist, a dialogue

October 17, 2006 at 8:05 pm (Radio sketch, Technology)

The action takes place in what sounds like a large, empty warehouse.

Ms White: So, Mr Brown, your son is addicted to user-generated content.

Mr Brown: That’s right, he’s either making it or watching it — that damn YouTube.

Ms White: I understand you have a weblog Peter.

Peter: Got it for my birthday.

Ms White: How old are you?

Pause

Mr Brown: Tell Ms White how old you are Peter.

Peter: Thirteen.

Ms White: I’m sorry Peter, can you stop filming us with your mobile.

Peter: This is exactly the sort of thing my unique visitors want to see — me about to be committed to the nut-house.

Ms White: Please stop filming.

Peter: No.

Ms White: (Rummages, then, coolly) Well, you won’t mind me filming you for my weblog.

Peter: You can’t do that.

Ms White: Yes I can.

Peter: Dad, she’s filming me.

Ms White: (immitating him) Daaad, she’s filming me!

Mr Brown: Right, can you stop filming each other?

Ms White: He started it.

Peter: You’re the therapist, you’re supposed to be sane.

Mr Brown: Right (shuffles around his pockets).

Ms White: What are you doing?

Mr Brown: This is my cell phone, I’m filming you.

Ms White: Don’t tell me you’ve got a weblog.

Mr Brown: Why not, my opinions are valid. So are my experiences.

Peter: (excited) Keep it pointed at her dad. I’ll shoot you.

Ms White: Look, I’m sure we’ve got enough content for our respective blogs, let’s call it a day.

Peter: Don’t listen to her dad, this is the denouement, the three of us holding mobiles to each other’s heads. I’ll be the next Tarantino – Reservoir Blogs.

Sound of gunshot.


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What the general said

October 15, 2006 at 11:45 am (Teaspoon verse)

After Richard Dannatt, the head of the British army, recommended the pull-out of UK troops from Iraq

We kicked in the door to Iraq, the general said, we’re through.
It’s as if the Iraqis had lost their keys and called the boys in blue.

If only we had just kicked the door in, but we took away the roof,
We ripped out the foundations, the daily killings are the proof.

But in the Green Zone there’s a Burger King and a Subway too,
There wasn’t that before Saddam, reasons to complain are few.

We should stay and do what we promised, install a liberal state
Or leave these ungrateful natives to a more miserable fate.

Western democracy or oil-grabbing hypocrisy, take your pick
fact is we’ve got to stay, though it might make you sick

In a wider context, the barrels of oil are but cans of Coca-Cola.
We need our fix of energy. Aspirations of Iraq? – steamroller.

The general may say what we aim to achieve is a tad naïve,
but “I think, y’know, well, look, when Mr Bush says, we’ll leave”.

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