Monday, December 15, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas (Again)

I saw another Nativity Play last week, and this reminded me of this...

I saw my two daughters in their first Nativity Play this week. It was a heart-warming and surreal affair. Singing donkeys playing xylophones and stuff, you know how it is. It reminded me of the unswerving and overwhelming love I have for my children, and it reminded me of Christmas. And when I thought about love and about Christmas it brought to mind the song
The Twelve Days of Christmas, a song I don't think I've ever heard sung properly.

I mean I've heard it attempted. Everyone at least gets it right up until five gold rings. In fact the whole song revolves around five gold rings. If you've forgotten how many pipers are piping, or lords are a-leaping you can rest assured that on the fifth day it was DEFINITELY five gold rings that my true love gave to me. And if you sing it with enough gusto the rest of the song hardly matters. Everything between five gold rings and a partridge in a pear tree is sung as the longest word that has ever appeared in a song.

"Fourcallingbirdsthreefrenchhenstwoturtledoves, AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREEEEEE."

Anyway. The thing is, I'm reckoning that this "true love" person was one hell of a rich mother-fucker, and obviously I'm having to make a few assumptions.

Firstly there's the packaging issue. Most of the stuff is alive, so we're not in bubble-wrap territory. And what's the deal with all the live creatures anyway? What is the method behind the madness? Why a pear tree? Was it just the alliteration?


I'm not particularly concerned with the events leading up to the twelve days of Christmas, and I'm not overly worried about understanding the psyche behind the purchases. I'm more interested in using as much hapless rhetoric and assumptive absurdity as possible. I'm thinking the deliveries were made in person, by the "True Love". Most of the information I have on prices is going to have to be pretty sketchy. I'm figuring that the whole lot is going to be pretty expensive, so in the absence of fact there'll be a bit of educated guesswork along the way.

For the purposes of this exercise, "My True Love" is a he/him/boyfriend, and "Me" is a she/her/girlfriend. And if you've got a problem with that, stop reading now.



Ok. So. Day one. The first day of Christmas. A partridge in a pear tree.

Now a pear tree, depending on the type of pear, is going to set you back about £17. The thing is, where the cost of this whole twelve days of Christmas thing starts to mount up, is the fact that each of the gifts is duplicated on each of the remaining days. So a partridge in a pear tree is given on the first day and each of the remaining eleven days.

Yes, I know, it's complicated.

Partridge meat costs about £7 per kilogram and the average weight of a partridge is about 500 grams, so that's about £3.50 per partridge. But how do you compare the cost of a dead partridge to a live one? I could compare the price of a pig to the price of bacon and work out some sort of dead:alive cost ratio index but, to be honest, I don't think there's a lot of point comparing a pig to a partridge. Turkey seems more festive, and more apt. I don't know if turkey prices go up at Christmas, necessarily. It's been a while since I studied supply and demand and now I'm looking into this, it's apparent that I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

Ok, major assumptions. You're going to have to run with me on this.

You can pick up a box of 10 dead partridge(s) for £47. Call it a fiver per partridge. Now, thinking out loud here, but thinking slowly... a... live... partridge... must... cost... less... than... a... dead... one. Right?

I mean, if you're going to sell ten dead partridge in a box, there has to be some sort of mark-up, unless you've raised them since they were eggs, or whatever. I can't imagine that you'd get a lot of waste product from a dead partridge. Do they use their feathers on shuttlecocks or anything? Not sure. Then there are economies of scale. If you buy in bulk the price per partridge has to be less than buying individual partridge. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a live partridge is probably going to cost about three quid. This will fall nicely in line with the £17 pear tree and make things easier to work out when the time comes.

There's no point in making it more complicated than it has to be, yeah?

Moving on. Turtle doves.

Day one was sweet. Granted that perfume might have been a more suitable choice, but the partridge and pear tree were a lovely thought. It probably would have been a bit of a surprise to get another partridge and another pear tree on day two, but the two turtle doves would have been a pleasant distraction. Fluttering away. Being turtle doves.

Now my basic knowledge of turtle doves is pretty slim as, coincidentally, is my knowledge of turtles and, indeed, doves. I'm more of a "know a little about a lot" kind of bloke. That's me.

Turtle doves are, essentially, free. They "occur" naturally. Although so do partridges and pear trees, and that didn't stop me putting a price on them. By my reckoning turtle doves are posh doves, and doves are posh pigeons. And racing pigeons are also posh pigeons. So by that rationale I'm thinking that a turtle dove would cost about the same as a posh racing pigeon. Which is about fifty quid. Two ponies. A tenth of a monkey.

On day three the alarm bells will have started ringing. They might be barely audible, like someone breaking into a butcher's around the corner from your house, but they're definitely there. Another partridge in a pear tree - the novelty is beginning to wear a bit thin. Two more turtle doves - blimey, they must have set you back about £100. And now three French hens.

It's a double whammy. The bird fixation, and the arithmetic progression. I'm guessing that if you call a hen French, that makes it a French hen. It won't cluck with an accent and it's not likely to get up when the La Marseillaise starts playing any more than a jar of French mustard would. On this basis a hen costs about a fiver.

At this point she asks him how long this is all going to last. And he tells her.

Day four. The alarm bell is next door. She's already made space in the garden for the fourth pear tree and the partridge have never looked so at home. They're roosting with the turtle doves.


Three French hens become six French hens, like some sort of hackneyed meiosis, and fuck me if it's not more fucking birds. Four calling birds or, to be more accurate, four collie birds.

Don't panic though. In the same way as turtle doves ARE NOT some sort of crazy seaweed sprig carrying ocean-dwellers of peace, collie birds have nothing to do with sheepdogs. The word collie or "colly" actually comes from an old word meaning coal or "coal". Thus a collie bird, now more familiarly referred to as a calling bird, is actually a blackbird. And if you've done the maths already, you're right. At the end of the twelfth day there will be enough to make one and a half dainty dishes to set before the king.

I'm not sure how much blackbirds cost, and neither does the internet, so the blackbirds didn't cost anything, okay? He caught them. At the park or somewhere. And put them into cages. Until the pear trees were available.

You'd be forgiven, if you were her, for thinking that enough was enough. By the end of day four she's looking at four pear trees populated by four partridges, eight turtle doves, and four calling birds. And she's had to build a coop for the six French hens. There's already enough room for eight more pear trees, so the fifth one isnt a problem.

The rest of the birds are unloaded from the van (which is the same van as the previous day) and he shuts the doors and walks towards her - she's standing in the porch. There are no obvious signs of other life shoved up or down his sweater. No twittering, chirping, squawking, or tweeting eminates from his slacks. He's got five of something, she's certain, but five of what? What will she have to house forty of in the not too distant future? He reaches into his pocket. His pocket Mind! And takes out five gold rings.

Argos. Ten pound a pop. Sorted.

The phew from her lips could be heard within a ten mile radius. The gasp the following day, twelve. Buttered up by a day's worth of jewellery, he saw a window of opportunity and, after arriving before dawn broke, in a slightly larger van, began unloading his feather orientated cargo.

Six geese-a-laying enter the fray.

Now at this point she's clearly upset, she's having nightmares about being ravaged by a dozen dodos in half a dozen days time, and is about to tell him that enough is enough. So he makes a promise. No more birds after tomorrow. And he'd stop sooner but they're on order. And look, you've got ten gold rings. So she says okay, as he's promised, and wonders if five gold rings on each finger will still allow her to knit.

A decent goose is going to set you back about £120, whether it's a-laying or not. The a-laying bit is something of a red herring. You could probably get a deal by buying them in bulk. Say six for £600. That's if you knew someone who sold geese in bulk.

You could haggle for a gaggle.

That's pure gold.

So she knew they were coming and that they'd have feathers. She knew there would be seven of them. Shit. That meant within a week there would be forty-two of them. Fuck. Whilst his avian MO would have stopped, that would still leave her having to look after 184 birds, and that's not counting any hatched geese (a-laying my arse). But she was ready for anything, pretty much, or she thought she was.

Her suspicions were aroused when he insisted on having a pond landscaped into her back garden (he called in a favour). It was a big pond, you could probably fit... oooooooh... forty-two swans in that (£300 each). To be honest, having swans swimming in a pond in your back garden would be pretty cool and, for a split second, she almost regretted enforcing his bird-gift embargo. But only for a split second. He had the opportunity to redeem himself over the next few days and she had the opportunity to develop Dove Fancier's Lung.

The eighth day and a new dawn, ushered in with the sort of racket you might associate with the sound that nearly seventy birds make. And hark? Is that the sound of cow-bells coming from the large truck that has pulled into the driveway? Forming not so much a queue of presents, more the failed auditions from some sort of demented Noah film, the possibly soon-to-be ex-boyfriend proudly parades the next stage in his attempted woo.

Eight maids-a-milking.

On the plus side she now had eight people who could help her gather eggs, scatter seed, and clean the bird shit off her windows. There would be an endless supply of milk, which could domino into cheese, butter, and pear yogurt production. And they downside? IN FOUR DAYS TIME THERE WOULD BE FORTY COWS IN HER FUCKING GARDEN.

At this point a wry smile crawls across his face. Although because it's only a joke that he's aware of, and because she is about to stove his skull in with a pail, it quickly crawls off again. He explains that seven of the cows are going back, and she'll only be left with one cow, and the maids will have to take it in turns a-milking it. Her face defines the antithesis of sidesplitting.

Anyhow, cows cost a grand, exactly. And maids cost...


Here's the possible flaw in my interpretation of The Twelve Days Of Christmas. I'm wanting to go down the Human Ownership route. Not so much because I have a penchant for slavery, but more that I've gone so far down this absurd road, it would be a shame to have to turn back. But where can you buy human life on the internet?

You have to love rhetoric.

It won't work though. I've got to consider pipers piping and drummers drumming. Ladies dancing I can change to something more noughties, like lapdancing (£20/dance). And everyone knows that Lords are a snip at £2,000, or at least that's how much they think people can be bought for. I'm going to have to tar maids, pipers and drummers with the same metaphorical minimum wage brush, and base their cost on a 35 hour working week. It would mean an ongoing wage-bill after The Twelve Days Of Christmas were over... but that could always be offset by selling goose eggs and dairy produce... although with only one cow and 40 maids to pay... except their wages wouldn't be her problem... maybe he'd have to draw up some sort of pre-nuptial agreement... I'm rambling.

In any case, who cares what happened after?

Because I'm feeling generous the maids get five pounds an hour for a seven hour day. End of.

Thus eight maids-a-milking begets nine-ladies dancing begets ten lords-a-leaping begets eleven pipers piping begets twelve drummers drumming.

This is how you end an incredibly tedious story.

By the end of the twelfth day of Christmas her garden comprises 12 pear trees and 12 partridges, 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens, 36 calling birds, 42 geese, and 42 swans. That's 184 birds plus sundry goslings, and one cow. 140 people variously milk, dance, leap, pipe and drum at her house every day, and despite the fact that she is also the owner of 40 gold rings, her life is actually a living hell.

And the value of these gifts? Well, if my calculations are correct, the total value of the gifts, as at the end of the twelfth day of Christmas, is £87,265.

The Twelve Days of Christmas actually start on Boxing day and finish on Epiphany. If you want to you can treat this as ironic. My guess is he forgot to buy her something for Christmas and was trying to make it up to her. I wonder who had the epiphany?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cheap C(o)unts

I've been meaning to write this blog for some time. It's something which has been bubbling away in my psyche for a while and was finally prompted by me hearing the phrase, "obviously I'm going to go for the cheapest."

It's a bit like a three course meal. But the menu will be written in the form of a meandering line. The thrust of it is a straight line - running from the top to the bottom (if you want to picture it in that way). But it's a faint straight line, and probably dotted. The meander is in bold. This is why it will only sometimes seem to make any sense. None of it is particularly new, or at least I don't think it is. None of what you'll read is especially radical or controversial. It's just ideas I've had. Things that I've thought. Stuff that has happened. Shit like that.

This blog is essentially about thrift. It's about being cheap. Penny pinching. Or at least it is eventually.

For my sins I work in the insurance industry. It's not a sexy industry, but then a lot of industries aren't sexy: the majority. When I left school, back in 1989, I worked temporarily for a market research company (yeah, I know, I can really pick 'em, eh?) and the market research was carried out over the phone. The main campaign involved calling consultant cardiologists and asking them a series of questions about the treatment of myocardial infarction (heart attacks). And despite the fact that it was very nearly twenty years ago, I still remember that APSAC stands for Anisoylated Plasminogen Streptokinase Activator Complex.

Whilst the point I imagined I might be trying to make just now escapes me, the subsequent point is that the job only lasted for six months - the term of the contract - and I found myself unemployed.

By 1996 I'd been working in the insurance industry for seven years. I wasn't entirely sure how this had happened. I mean I'm familiar with the passing of time, look, but I was more surprised that I'd managed to remain in employment during this time. This period in my life coincided with its supreme moments of irresponsibility, exactly as it should have done. I was young, I was mainly single, I was living away from home for the first time, I had very little concept of the value of money - other than the knowledge that I didn't have much of it and definitely needed more of it - yet it was my overriding senses of immortality and optimism which must have kept me going. It was a dangerous and expensive cocktail.

The insurance industry is one which you can only truly end up in by accident. An endearing memory from those first seven years was the schadenfreude I always took in explaining this fact to work-experiencing A-Level students who had "always wanted to work in insurance".


"You haven't."

"You're wrong."

"Sorry about that."

Just so you know, this is all leading to something.

I moved from an insurance company to an insurance broker to improve my career chances and was made redundant three months later. Whoops.

I temped for a year working for BT in a call centre. Ace.

I coupled my insurance and telephone experience and started working for Direct Line. For six years.

I got married and had two beautiful daughters.

In the space of one week in April 2004 I got divorced, moved house, and spoke at my Dad's funeral.

Moving house
Death of a relative
Public speaking

These four events feature fairly regularly in lists of life's Top Ten stressful events. Two years later I was fired from my job.

I was unemployed for ten months.

I worked for Sainsbury's as a delivery driver for five months.

For the last year I've been working in insurance again.

And all of this, this CV, and every event in every year of my adult life, has moulded me into the person I am today. Every month of every year has made me believe that I understand what I want. Every day of every month has helped me realise what I believe is right and wrong. Not without exception or consideration, or irrespective of anything, and not necessarily in black and white. Just right and wrong.

Anyway, that's the beef of the story, and here's mine.

Some people are becoming cheap.

The industry I work in is rife with these people.

I can almost understand why people want to save money. I'm familiar with the sentiment that if you look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves. That it all adds up. Believe me. I know. But at the same time I'm consumed by the overwhelming notion that the only thing you can actually do with money is spend it. This and the fact, The Fact, that we'll all be in the same place one hundred years from now.

Why on earth at the moment does there seem to be this futile desire for people to want to sacrifice peace of mind or pleasure or need or their future, all in the pursuit of cheapness? It's because television advertisement breaks are saturated with evidence of this cheapness. And these adverts propagate the idea that the cheapest version of an homogenous product must automatically be the best.

I'm sure that part of the reason I think like this is because I sell something that people have to buy. They have a legal obligation to buy it, and it's something they never want to have to use. Like buying a coffin. Also the perception of the consumer is that despite there being literally hundreds of companies offering a similar type of product, the misconception is that the products are identical. There is, no doubt, an element of truth in this, but only in the same way that a television set lets you watch the same channels. In all other ways there could be a wealth of differences. I could understand it if the thing I was selling was wholely useless, but it isn't. And yet people continue to want to s(h)ave inconsequential sums of money at the expense of quality.

£365 is one pound a day. £50 is less than one pound a week. Some people spend that much on satellite or cable TV every month. Since when did securing your livelihood have to be forfeited at the expense of what's on television?

Please don't answer that.

People like to think that they have found a bargain. They're proud of the fact that they can save money, even better if they can save more money than you. But people lie as well. All the time. They lie about how much they earn, how much their children sleep at night, and how much they pay for their car insurance.

The internet is also blameworthy.

I use the internet. True. But I'd never use the internet to buy insurance. It's far too complicated and there's no-one to blame if you click the wrong link, or leave the right box unticked, it takes too long to sort out and that's time you'll never get back. Ever.

And that's me. That's me with years of insurance and internet experience. I'll use the internet to buy a CD. I know the name of the artist, I know the name of the album, I know it has ten tracks on it, it's a no-brainer. But that's only on the occasion that I'm prepared to wait. If I want to find out how long I need to roast a joint of beef so it's well done there's any number of places on the internet I can garner that information. But I have to know where to draw the line. And that line is common sense. It's knowing my limits. This is why, with the aid of the internet, I might be able to self-diagnose coeliac disease, but I'm not about to conduct my own biopsy, no matter how good the diagrams are.

Today a reduction in the rate of VAT was announced. On the radio this morning, before the announcement, I heard an interview with A Man. He was asked whether or not he thought this reduction would prompt him into buying, for example, a digital camera - the example being a saving of about £3 on a £120 camera. The Man said that it wouldn't. In fact beyond that he said only a five or possibly ten percent saving would encourage him to spend his hard-earned money on such a thing.

He is a fucking moron.

If you want to buy a digital camera, you buy one. If you need a digital camera, you definitely buy one.

Whatever you want or need, you pay what you're happy to pay and what you can afford to pay for the best you can afford. I mean whatever it is, that's all you need to consider, isn't it?

Because Christmas is one month away, and unless I missed a meeting it's still a time for giving not receiving.

So use your time to consider the people you love and spend as much or as little as you like on them. Because love isn't sensible. Love doesn't need to have a budget. And love doesn't ask you for the receipt.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Foetuswatch (20 weeks)

1 x head - check
x fingers - check
1 x heart - check
x ventricles - check
x bladder - check
2 x knees - check
x backs of the knees - check
2 x femurs - check
1 x spine - check
x umbilical cord - check
1 x mouth - check
1 x brain - check
2 x excited parents-to-be - check

March 17th 2009

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Credit Crunchie

I really love Crunchie.

I remembered this when I ate one yesterday.

Chocolate is fantastic in its own right. One could argue that chocolate combined with any foodstuff is potentially 50% fantastic. Chocolate and orange, chocolate and toffee, chocolate and caramel, chocolate and coffee, chocolate and mint, chocolate and lamb, chocolate and nut, chocolate and et cetera. Chocolate and honeycomb is a great combination in exactly the same way that porridge and lamb probably isn't.

Honeycomb in particular reminds me of a bygone age. When my Dad worked for the brewery and used to visit Fry's Chocolate Factory every once in a while. Because among the best things about Fry's (and there were many, given its Chocolate Factory Status) was the fact that you could buy bags of broken honeycomb there. And my Dad never let us down.

Anyway, like I said, I had a Crunchie yesterday and it tasted good. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had a Crunchie prior to yesterday, and although I have no intention of keeping some sort of chocolate diary, I rationalised that I should always endeavour to remember My Last Crunchie. Not, I hasten to add, the last Crunchie I'll ever eat, but rather the tableau of my most recent Crunchie eating. It's something that we should all recall.

I think, for a limited period, that Cadbury should rename Crunchie as Credit Crunchie. And maybe knock 5p off the price.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

World Food Crisis

I don't know if this has been mentioned before.

I mean, I imagine it has.

What I mean is, it must have.

I've not had an original idea for years: ages.

The thing is, it's Shreddies. You know?

Shreddies keep hunger locked up til lunch. So my idea, my idea about Shreddies, is that you could eat them for lunch every day. And never be hungry.

But I don't want to be seen to be belittling starvation because, honestly, that isn't my style at all. So you should take this with a pinch of salt.


I know.

Monday, June 09, 2008





Tuesday, June 03, 2008


What the fuck happened to May? I mean, seriously, where did it go?

Answers please.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


I'll never have to tell you
How I feel today
Because I don't want to make you cry
Each time you say you love me
It's like New Year's Day
And my feelings start to magnify
I'll always want to tell you
That I love you too
Because the feeling is unsurpassed
Each time I say I love you
It's a heart tattoo
Until the next time and since the last

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I'm mostly shit at technology.

I have little to no idea if any of this will work. I've never really known if any of this has worked.

Here's a picture which represents a good cause.

HERE's a link which tells you about a worthy cause which will
benefit the good cause.

*fingers crosed*

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I like... brain. quick I am.
...the way I can make people laugh. much I know. Even though there are downsides to this. A lack of understanding: the way I feel like a Marmite person. I long, sometimes, to be naive. Although I know that I actually couldn't stand it.
...being unusual. That's my angle. I'm quirky and I'm comfortable being quirky. Who wants to be normal? arms and legs, for all sorts of reasons. achievements. history.
...the fact that I am generous. That if I can do something I will.
...talking and writing, and that I can talk and write.
...having a command of English.

I don't like...

...the fact that I smoke. It didn't even seem like a good idea when I started. It's the first thing I'd change about myself. It's the only thing I'd change if I could only change one thing. It's expensive. It smells. I don't want my children to have to live for fifty years without a father. weight. I'm overweight. I know I am. I have been for a while. I know what I need to do about it. I'm not daft. I know what I have to do about everything. vanity. I expect everything. I expect everything to happen without the least amount of effort on my part. I expect it all to fall into my lap. I expect luck.

...being pessimistic about my optimism.

...the way my conscience tells me things: speaks to me and tells me what to do, what I should be doing, when my mind and body won't obey its instructions. lazy I am. I don't seem able to do anything sometimes. No matter how important it is or how much it would benefit me or others.

...being flippant. My ex-wife said I should be jailed for flippancy know...whatever.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why are you such a pedant?

Cast your mind back to the spring of 1986, if you were alive.

My mind, at that time, was that of a fourteen year old schoolboy. Full of football and friends. Panini and puberty. Every day I would make my way down to the precinct in the morning to catch the coach to school. A ten mile trip full of laughter and punches, homework and wedgies. It took about three minutes for me to get from my house to the precinct on foot. A walk I had made hundreds of times before without event.

But on Wednesday 14th May I never made it to the coach. Instead I was knocked down by a transit van on a zebra crossing. The same zebra crossing I had used every school day prior to this event, and would every day after.

I was unconscious for two days in Weston General Hospital and was considered a potential patient for Frenchay Hospital before I came round. I spent a week in that hospital. Mainly hallucinating. Seeing babooshka bears running up and down the geriatric ward that I had been placed in due to the shortage of beds in the children's ward. My memories of my stay in hospital are fairly sketchy. I remember being presented with two football trophies that I would have collected on the evening of the date of the accident. I remember the terrible smell of incontinence. I remember requesting I Heard It Through The Grapevine every day on hospital radio and listening for it to be played.

I didn't used to be like I am now. I used to be the original happy-go-lucky kid. Loadsamates. Loadsafun. But immediately after the accident those friends who, I now realise, had been on the periphery soon faded away. Leaving me only with my truest friends. I was antagonistic to the point of insanity, would split hairs that had already been split. I never knew why. I couldn't help it.

I don't remember the accident at all, nor most of the year after it happened. Something in my brain prevents me from doing that. Something in there is telling me that it doesn't want to remember the accident. My brain is lying to me. Physically I was cut and bruised and subsequently scarred. Mentally, who knows? Before the accident I can't remember ever writing a word. Not a story or a poem or a limerick or a novel or a play or a sketch or a skit. Nothing. It's like the accident unlocked a creative part of me that had been previously hidden. A gift perhaps? Or a curse? Because at the expense of this "talent" came a criminal sense of pedantry.