Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Holiday On Mars

Last night I was sitting on my male staff's lap and I made the schoolboy error of asking him to tell me his life story. Big mistake - BORING! Fortunately I went to sleep after about ten minutes, but in that time he told me that half a century ago he lived in a place called Oakham in England. That's right, you read correctly; half a century. He's done well to live this long without being eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger, squashed flat by a woolly mammoth or winding up as the fascinating find of some archaeologist having been discovered frozen in a glacier from a long forgotten ice age. Anyway, by some fluke of good fortune he avoided all these fates and as a four year old he would waddle from his house on legs that were almost as short and chubby as mine (Though decidedly less furry.) to the railway signal box less then a hundred yards away from his front gate.

By 'eck! They don't make 'em like that any more

He would be met at the foot of the signal box steps by Mr Smith the signalman who's job it was to operate the points and to manually open and close the railway crossing gates. Mr Smith would scoop up my male staff and carry him up the stairs to the signal box because he knew that my male staff was frightened of steps, especially the type with gaps between them. Once up in the box my male staff was usually given orange juice and half of Mr Smith's lunch. Fortunately Mr Smith never shared his snuff with my male staff, but it always fascinated the fat little fellow to see Mr Smith shove a pinch of yellow powder up his nose.

The signal box was fitted with a bank of large steel levers in different colours and Mr Smith would pull the appropriate lever in order to either alter the signals to stop trains or change the points and hopefully send the them off in the right direction.  There was one black lever and this is the only one my male staff was allowed to touch. He was allowed to pull this one black lever as much as he liked, which he did. Hopefully it wasn't connected to anything. My male staff didn't mention any great rail smashes where two trains travelling at a closing speed of two hundred miles an hour collided head on due to an inexplicable points error, so I assume that the black lever didn't actually do anything. Either that or it activated a trap door under Mr Smith's boss' chair, wherever he was. I suspect the former to be true which sadly is much less interesting and has far less comedic value. At the end of the week Mr Smith would give my male staff a wage packet for his "help" in the signal box. The wage packet was a little brown envelope with a penny in it. My male staff wasn't to know it at the time of course but this level of salary would help prepare him for his future profession a Reverse People Smuggler, or Travel Agent as he prefers to call himself. Bear in mind though that this was a time when a penny could buy a lot of sweeties for a four year old child, and what a touching gesture it was.

Do men like Mr Smith still exist? Men who are of such a kind, generous disposition? I'm sure they must, but I'm equally sure that they dare not show their kindness to children for fear of opening themselves up to accusations of being paedophiles and having gangs of vigilantes queueing up at their door in the hope that the accused might show himself to take out his garbage bin, thus presenting the mob with the opportunity to beat seven shades of bush chocolate out of him.

 The weapon of choice for irate little men.

Anyway, talking of memories, when I woke up I found Badger sitting on my female staff's lap stuffing basil into his face and watching "Total Recall" with Arnie Schwartzenthingy, not the crappy new version. It was the bit where Mr Schwartzenthingy is having memories of a holiday on Mars implanted into his muscular brain. As a travel agent my male staff really likes this idea and thinks that this could be the future of the travel industry, at least he did until Mr Schwartzenthingy tried to strangle the the travel agent. Nothing like that has ever happened to my male staff yet, though he did once have a hot meat pie thrown at him by a small angry man who had just missed his bus and wanted to take out his frustrations on someone. The little man wasn't a very good shot though and despite the point blank range the pie splattered against the wall map behind my male staff, totally obliterating Papua New Guinea. He then decided that he wanted to fight my male staff and politely invited him into "the fuckin' street" for "a fuckin' fight." Since my male staff was literally twice the size of the cross little dude he found it hard to suppress a slight snigger which only enraged the man further. He looked wildly around the office for more ammunition - another pie, a Cornish pastie, a sausage roll or even a cupcake. There was nothing but travel brochures, so he grabbed one out of the rack and tried to rip it in half. Unfortunately he's chosen a really thick one containing some rather nice upmarket European coach tours and he wasn't strong enough to tear it. So with a Homer Simpson-esque "DOH!" he threw it at my male staff, missed again and stormed off.  He didn't return but it took months for my male staff to rid the office of the smell of meat pies and Papua New Guinea was never the same again.

The cross little man was lucky he didn't tangle with my male staff, he might of accidentally trodden on him with his great size twelve clodhoppers. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be blessed with tiny neat feet like mine.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Where There's Smoke There's Ire

Very few guinea pigs smoke. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, its very hard to roll your own without the opposable thumbs that some inferior species possess. Secondly, with our notoriously prolific bladders, cigarettes are likely to rapidly become too damp to light. Thirdly nobody likes singed whiskers and last but not least, if we did manged to get the thing lit it would immediately become something of a fire hazard with all the hay and wood chips which most guinea pig cages contain. Some animals do smoke however. An orang utan in an Indonesian zoo is being forced to quit cold turkey.  His keepers finally decided that they had to do something about the crowds of locals who would throw lit cigarettes for him to smoke. All this goes to show that orang utans have evolved to a greater extent than many Indonesians.

The bumbling Australian Labor government had a rare win last week when the High Court upheld their right to force tobacco companies to sell their cigarettes in plain packaging. Well, not plain exactly. The packets will have graphic photos of some of the consequences of smoking on them. Gangrenous feet, rotten teeth, mouth cancer - all those good things. Now other countries are looking at similar legislation. Even India. Of course plain packaging won't stop hardened smokers buying the awful things. Many of them would smoke dogs' bush chocolate if it was wrapped in white paper and came in a packet of twenty. With any luck it might stop kids being attracted to smoking though. Even the dumbest, spottiest teenager is less likely to buy something featuring a gangrenous foot on the packet rather than a trendy, cool logo in attractive colours.

Smoking has become an integral part of love making.

It's another step towards eradicating this deadly habit. Just imagine how much money health systems around the world would save if nobody smoked. They'd have enough funds to start dealing with the problems of alcoholism. The Australian Liberal National Party coalition - the opposition party, very reluctantly supported the legislation because even they are not stupid enough to side with tobacco companies. However, it is interesting to note that they are the only political party in Australia still accepting donations from cigarette manufacturers.

I don't allow my staff to smoke of course and as a result they both hate the smell of cigarettes, and that's just as well because it is becoming harder and harder to be a smoker in Australia. Even the local beach is non-smoking now. You can imaging my staff's horror therefore when they visited Switzerland a couple of years ago and found that all the restaurants there still allowed smoking.  Sure there were non-smoking tables but they'd be right next to a table containing a family of eight all puffing away (even the two year old in the high chair).  Badger and I have never heard the last if that. To this day they still mutter "What's the point of having non-smoking tables in a smoking restaurant? You might as well have a pissing section in a swimming pool." Crude perhaps, but they make a good point don't you think? Switzerland! This is the nation that doesn't allow you to flush your toilet after eleven at night in case you wake your neighbours. Yet they are quite happy to let you kill your fellow restaurant goers by means of passive smoking.

A scene from a typical Swiss restaurant.

Most airlines are now non-smoking with the notable exception of Egypt Air who have a compulsory smoking policy. The cabin crew hand out packets of cigarettes as part of the safety demonstration. Demonstrating to novices how to light them instead of pointing out the emergency exits. In the event a failure in the aircraft's lighting system passengers are requested to ensure that their cigarettes are lit so that the cabin crew can locate them in the dark. My male staff told me this and he's a reverse people smuggler, so it must be true.
Naturally First and Business class passengers are given Cuban cigars which are traditionally rolled on the thighs of a virgin. This is true actually, not a myth at all, but what they don't tell is that the virgin is the geeky, obese forty-one year old son of a tobacco plantation owner with bad breath and a very unfortunate perspiration problem.

Professional cigar roller Juan Balltoomenni.

It must be so hard so escape the clutches of nicotine addiction. I'm sure that even those few smokers who say they don't want to give up really do. How could they not? These days everyone at least in the developed world is aware of the health consequences of smoking, not to mention the financial impact on their finances. That's why the bastards at British American Tobacco and others are turning their attention to the developing world where they have a ready market of less sophisticated clients who still think it's a good idea to shove burning organic matter into their young mouths.

So, what's next? Bottles of vodka with labels portraying rotten livers or the body of a young child killed by a drunk driver? Junk food wrappers with a photo of someone having a triple heart bypass operation? Poker machines on which the symbols portray empty wallets, kids sitting around a table with no food, a desperate man hanging himself because he's lost everything. Why not if it helps?

I agree with Billy. Having opposable thumbs is definitely over rated. Anyway I'd hate to have my beautiful, pristine feet stained yellow with tobacco.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Killer Queen

Who, apart from Badger and I has been watching the Olympic games on the telly? Our viewing has been a little sporadic due to the fact that my staff seem to feel the need to go to bed absurdly early. They claim it's because they're tired after a hard day at work, but Badger and I are convinced that they have another pair of guinea pigs in their bedroom with whom they are having an affair, Anyway, whatever the reason, the telly gets turned off just as we are getting involved in whatever event is taking place. The lights are flicked off and they call "G'night boys" over their shoulders as they slope furtively off to their bedroom for a spot of illicit cavy cuddling.

We didn't even get to see the opening ceremony which is a great shame because apparently it involved a spectacular entrance by Queen Elizabeth, who slid into the stadium on a flying fox cable from one of the floodlights, wearing a union jack bikini and distributing plush toy corgis to the crowd as she went, while singing "Killer Queen."

"One is a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, guillotine
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow one's mind

 At least that what my male staff told us we had missed. I would have liked to have seen that. But no, off went the telly and off went the lights, leaving Badger and I to discuss the lunacy of the Olympic committee who had just threatened a small butcher shop near the sailing venue at Weymouth with a thirty thousand dollar fine for daring to support the games by stringing up five sausage rings simulating the Olympic symbol in his shop window. No kidding, these silly old buggers have gone mad protecting the Olympic brand and those of their sponsors. A flower shop displaying a floral Olympic rings and a cardboard Olympic torch was also threatened with a huge fine. Meanwhile the two major sponsors Coca Cola and McDonalds are protected to an outrageous extent. Members of the public detected eating a Burger King burger or drinking Pepsi within a five mile radius of the Olympic stadium are not only subjected to thirty thousand dollar fines but are forced to do one hundred and fifty hours "community service" flipping burgers at their nearest Maccas.

Butcher sentenced to hang by the neck until he agrees to remove his 
Olympic ring sausages from his shop window.

 Don't you think it's a little odd that wealthy multi-national companies can do pretty much as they please to make a buck out of the games, while the poor buggers who actually paid for the games - the British taxpayers, are not even allowed to make an Olympic symbol out of sausages.  I also find it ironic than anyone regularly partaking of the two main sponsors products are extremely unlikely to be in any shape ever to participate in the games themselves, unless they introduce new sports at the Rio games. Track events like throwing the dentures,  the ten thousand metres for people in need of a triple heart bypass, the hundred metres sprint for athletes who are unlikely to make the first fifty without having a coronary. Then in the pool there's the four hundred metre backstroke whale impression and the ten metre platform belly flop.

Team America's Norma Stits in training for the 10 metre belly flop 
event in Rio 2016

Badger and I are going to miss the closing ceremony too because its on at six in the morning and my staff are too damned lazy to get up, feed us and turn the telly on for us. Honestly, they're so selfish. I really want to watch the closing ceremony too because my male staff tells me that there are rumours that Mick Jagger and Margaret Thatcher will be performing a duet, after which Baroness Thatcher will take part in a demonstration  nude mud wrestling bout with Cliff Richard. Prince Phillip will be there too, handing out eighty thousand union jack sick bags to the spectators. It's going to be great. I'd love to be there but they would never let me in since I can't stand Coca Cola or Big Macs.

Why are Olympic sports always measured in metres? Why can't they be measured in feet? Then it would be worth watching.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Another Funeral

My staff are tired and emotional. Not in the obnoxious, whiskey fueled, staggering about way made famous by Oliver Reed, although my male staff is frequently obnoxious and does occasionally stagger when my female staff kicks his shin when he makes one of his famous social gaffes. Like asking one of my female staff's friends when her baby was due, only to be told with what I thought was unwarranted venom that "Actually, I'm not pregnant." No, my staff are tired and emotional because just after dawn last Tuesday my female staff's dad passed away peacefully in his sleep at the aged care home, or Stalag luft 3 as he liked to call it. He was the head of the escape committee there and made several unsuccessful bids for freedom. He just wasn't quite fast enough on his wheelie-walker to elude the guards.  There have been a lot of leaky eyes this week, and Badger and I feel a special sympathy for my female staff's poor mum. She and my female staff's dad had been married for fifty seven years. How on earth do you fill a gap like that?

Sunny Days Aged Care Home

There has been much rushing around of humans since Tuesday morning. Apparently when a human goes to the Rainbow Bridge there are lots of things to be done. Funerals to be organised, paperwork to be completed, people to be notified, notices placed in newspapers. It's much easier when one of us animals "pops our clogs". Someone just digs a hole in the garden and shoves us into it. I think my female staff's dad would have preferred that actually. He was a down to earth sort of chap. Once while on holiday in London he decided that he needed a haircut. Just around the corner from the hotel was a hairdressing salon. It was full of camp, John Inman type stylists and the chairs were occupied by fashionably dressed young men all waiting to have their hair sculpted, streaked and gelled or whatever other unspeakable acts that young, fashionable men like to have inflicted on their hair. My female staff's dad's turn came and he was beckoned to the chair by one of the John Inman types with a wafted beckoning wave.
 "What can we do for Sir today?" Asked the stylist. "Would Sir like a wash and massage before I style your hair?"
 No, Sir wouldn't thank you very much." He replied. Sir would just like you to knock it off." My female staff's dad wasn't accustomed to such establishments. He was a farmer from the Australian bush. I think he used to get one of his sheep shearers to cut his hair. In any case, the stylist looked at him as though he had just loudly and noxiously passed bottom wind. Which knowing my female staff's dad he may well have done. Especially in his later years.

On Friday we all went to what is known as a "viewing". We all got to say our final farewells to my female staff's dad, my female staff, her mum, frantic sister, my male staff, Badger and I. They'd put the poor old fellow in a funny shaped box hidden behind a curtain in the chapel. The lid of the box had been removed so that we could see him. There were leaking eyes as one by one we said goodbye, yet he looked peaceful as if  he were sleeping. All the pain of his horrid illness had been cleansed from his face. We'd seen him dozing like this a hundred times and half expected his eyes to snap open at any moment. Mind you if they had, there would have certainly been a surfeit of bush chocolate in the chapel. My female staff's mum sobbed quietly as she gently touched his cheek and squeezed his hand. Frantic sister places a scarf that her dad had given her around his neck. Both daughters told their dad that they would take care of their mum. My male staff was juggling both Badger and I in his arms, so he did well to stroke the back of my female staff's dad's hand and tell him he'd look after his daughter, especially as I was wriggling like crazy, trying to get into a position to sniff Badger's bottom passage and Badger was wriggling like crazy trying to escape.  I suppose it's not surprising that he didn't notice when his cell phone slipped out of his shirt pocket and fell into the box with my female staff's dad.

Badger wanted to know why he couldn't have a cuddle with my female staff's dad. I had to explain to him that he'd gone to the Rainbow Bridge, but that we'd all see him again in due course. Badger then asked how my female staff's dad could be in the box and at the Rainbow Bridge at the same time. I distracted him from this rather tricky topic by sniffing his butt.

Today was the funeral service and on the whole it was a happy affair, with many friends and family there to give my female staff's dad a good send off. It was a splendid sub-tropical winter's day with crystal clear blue sky, warm sunshine and birdsong. There were prayers, a eulogy written by my male staff with personal additions from my female staff, frantic sister and my female staff's mum. There was also some of my female staff's dad's favourite music. "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", "Amazing Grace" and a really haunting pan flute number that had everyone in tears. Then the curtains drew across behind the Reverend to finally conceal my female staff's dad in his now sealed, funny shaped box. There was a moment of silence, followed by the urgent, slightly muffled ribbit ribbit ribbit....ribbit ribbit ribbit of  my male staff's cell phone's frog ringtone.

I still don't understand how Billy's female staff's dad can be in two places at once. I just wish he was here to stroke my feet the way he used to.