Avatar A terrible waist

This week I’m going to a wedding in Jernsey, an island just off the coast of France near where I live. It’s been a while since I went to a fancy do, so I did the usual thing, which is to get my suit out of the wardrobe about a week beforehand and try it on.

I got a new shirt and tie, so I put those on and they look nice. The suit has a waistcoat – I like waistcoats – so I put that on, and it’s smashing. The jacket is also looking very swish. The trousers, on the other hand, are a cause of concern. They have three fastenings at the top and it’s a good job they do, because they are so tight that a single button would not have handled the strain.

I breathe in and I heave and I pull and eventually get them fastened, and then I attempt to sit down, an activity I rapidly have to abort due to the discomfort involved and the extreme risk it poses to my perfectly innocent trousers.

I contemplate attending a wedding at which I have to politely decline all opportunities to sit down and where I have to avoid eating anything all day long. I decide this is not a world I want to live in.

On Saturday I take the trousers to work with me, and in my lunchbreak head out to a tailoring and clothing alterations place nearby where the man has a look, explains that there’s enough extra in the waistline to let them out by about four centimetres, and gets this job done in the time it takes me to find a working cashpoint and come back with the money. I try them on and find this modest change is ideal – the trousers are now well fitted but with plenty of room to breathe, to sit, and to insert a three-course dinner. Problem solved.

I return to work and relate these events to one of my colleagues. Oh yes, she says, I think everyone’s going through a bit of that these days. She and her husband went to a wedding just last week, one that had been postponed since Spring 2020, and the pre-pandemic suit her husband had bought in February of that year no longer fit properly. He had to have the trousers adjusted in exactly the same way to fit his post-lockdown waistline.

It’s the lockdowns, she said. We all did less exercise and ate more food. It gets to us all. I laughed with her and agreed. It gets to us all.

In my head was a different thought. It’s not lockdown. I only bought this suit six months ago and it fitted then. It’s not lockdown, it’s just too many biscuits.

But I’m not saying that to anyone. They can never know.

Avatar The Craxford Diaries

A good few years passed with nothing much to take note of. Whatever he was expecting to happen in both his forties and his fifties did not happen, not a lot did. On the eve of his sixtieth birthday, McIver poured the boiling water from the kettle onto his Pot Noodle and decided now, five minutes before the deadline, he would put the lottery on one last time.

As he struggled with the tiny buttons on his phone, he remembered a time when the dexterical simplicities of his youth came to him so naturally and fluidly. He could amble, he could frolic, he could dial a phone number without repeatedly pressing the wrong digits, not that phone numbers existed in 2043.

An odd calm came over him as he bought the ticket and took his seat next to the large window, his trusty foot stool by his side, his old man blanket covering the delicate parts of his frail frame. As the numbers popped up one by one a fire was lit beneath his amble behind, a warmth he hadn’t felt in decades. Six numbers in a row picked out like posies in a summer meadow. A cool one point five million was his and his alone because there were no other winners that night.

The first thing he did was hire a butler. Mackford showed up the next day at 8am sharp dressed in the finest attire that the North-East could throw up. Mackford was not his name but the butler would go by any name to assume the position that lottery bucks could afford.

He looked at his new master, the greying yet still handsome Mr McIver, a cheerful look on his face admonishing all the years that ageing had taken away from him. Why, he looked ten years younger already dressed in his usual checked shirt and jumbledown jeans. A cut-price squire, a Lidl lord, the dapper red snapper.

“Take me to Greggs, Mackford,” he announced, stepping into his Seat Ibiza, carefully making his way into the back over the passenger seat, “I’m in the mood for pasties.”

Away they sped through the mid-morning air. The traffic, low and humming, the streets empty because it was a Tuesday morning and everyone of purpose was already at work. He hadn’t felt this at ease in years.

Outside they stood, Mackford eager to take up the challenge of his master, McIver licking his lips in anticipation of the prizes that awaited him. The latter entered the hallowed premises, softly at first but picking up speed as he deftly nimbled past the sandwiches. It wasn’t too long before there was a tap on his shoulder and Mackford was back at his side. “Is there a problem?” asked McIver. Mackford looked forlornly at his feet and nodded. Only the worst could have happened, they must be out already. Some fat pie hogger has hogged all the pies!

“I won’t stand for this! Out of my way, Mackford, I must see the manager!”

“It’s not what you think, sir,” replied Mackford, “there’s plenty on the trays. I… I don’t know how to say this but due to inflation the cost of a cheese and onion pasty has shot up to one hundred pounds a pasty.”

“A pasty? That’s outrageous. I’ve never heard of such an absurd concept, Mackford. What kind of a world do we live in when a ludicrous lukewarm smear of dairy and vegetable costs that much? Damn and blast, I can’t leave here empty-handed. I’ll have to settle for a sausage roll instead.”

“It only gets worse, sir, the sausage rolls are fifty pounds each.”

McIver took a seat on the nearest bench before he toppled over in disgust. A cold sweat appeared on his brow, a fearful chill down his back. He was finally living his dream, the dream of all dreams, the life of luxury only it was too late. The economy had caught up, inflation had made devils of them all and there was no way around it. With his head in his hands, McIver wept the sweet weeping of a lifetime and all the yum yums in the world couldn’t raise a smile on those lips.

Avatar Chris and Ian’s Rap Battle – Round 2

So here we have it.

Three years have passed since the world was shook by the resonating words of these titans of industry, these monoliths of maniacal word mastery. Ian “I was eating pie” McBugle and Sheriff Rockingham aka Chris Marshall, both ex members of pioneering genre-bending super group ‘The Rapples’, are back for another scintillating slice of lyrical suppositories.

But the real question is are they still up to scratch? Can you still expect the old and beardy to reach the dizzying heights of previous years? What can you expect from two almost middle aged men who spend their evenings sitting down and nothing more? Can they, in the eternal words of Kevindo Menendez, still mack it?

Of course they can, you fools!

Tickets have been sold out for ages but you lucky, lucky people get to hear the whole thing as it happens right here on Beans FM.

With a phat new stack of material, Chris is a seasoned pro and ready to take the stage once again. He’s got horses and a drinks cabinet full of dazzling wordplay and witty observations in his corner. He’s never been both fresher and on the fashions. McBugle, however, loves to play with people’s expectations. He’s slumped, unshaved, walking like the weight of the world is hanging on his shoulders only to shrug off his coat and flash a smile that could blind a box full of puppies.

Take a seat, ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a bumpy ride. Over to you, boys…

Avatar Younger Schmelves

Young Ian was an enigma and when I say enigma I actually mean ‘wrong in all the wrong places’. If I was to ever write a biography, to accompany my award-winning series of books, people wouldn’t believe it because of just how absurd it would all sound.

“What do you mean you were too lazy to make toast in the kitchen so you used the gas fire next to the TV in the living room so you could do both at the same time? What do you mean you broke into a building site just to start fires with some kids from school? You did a what on the side of the road on the way to pick up a parcel?”

I know, right? Truth is stranger than fiction.

Recently I have been remembering a lot of things Young Ian used to do. I expect this is a side effect to approaching middle age. Next thing you know I’ll come across an old advert for Radio Rentals and start weeping about all the electrical goods my parents used to rent from them. “Oh, the TV with the buttons missing on the front,” I’ll gush, “they would pop off if you pressed them too hard and they’d disappear under the sofa and you’d have to push them out using a ruler.” Nostalgia makes a fool out of everyone.

A strange fact about Young Ian is that he was amazed by the idea of convenience food. Not takeaways but those dinners you could put in the microwave and three minutes later you’d have a Sunday dinner (if your eyesight was impaired and you considered three painfully thin slices of beef and a few soggy potatoes to be a Sunday dinner). He wound marvel at the freezers in Tesco and Jack Fultons at the choice available to those with money to spare. I wasn’t very convincing so my mum would only ever buy one or two because children are fickle and she knew that the pictures on the front of the boxes were tarted up and would never resemble whatever came out of the microwave at the end.

That was the dream. Not to go to through the painstaking process of actually cooking a roast beef dinner but to get someone else to do it, freeze it and then buy it from somewhere down the street. The idea of doing this now makes my insides wince like watching anything on Tik Tok. Young Ian didn’t really know what he wanted but he wanted it all the same and thank baby cheeses he stopped before he turned into the white trash he could have been, sofa on the front lawn and everything.

Avatar Another lost classic

You know what I’m like. Always losing things, and then finding them 14 or more years later.

First it was Big Day Out. Then my long-lost footstool turned up on eBay. (Have I told you about the footstool? Remind me and I’ll take you through it all in exhausting detail later.) Now something else has arrived.

Back in 2002, Al had just got a camera and we excitedly made a series of five admittedly mediocre films with the title “AlCam”. The most ambitious, and possibly least terrible, was AlCam 4, where our theme was “culture” and we attempted to cover art, fine dining, foreign travel and music, among other things.

The finished movie was transferred to Super 8 tape on the camcorder, and then all the files were deleted because they took up lots of space and in 2002 disk space was expensive. Then Al, er, misplaced the tape. I had big plans to put all the AlCam movies on DVD, and in 2003 I did just that. In order to get the movie into a digital format, I gave Al my copy of the film, which was on VHS. Al then also lost that.

The result was that AlCam 1, 2, 3 and 5 have all safely been stored on DVD ever since. AlCam 4 was never seen again.

Until, that is, Al started going through old tapes when he had a clear-out over Christmas, and sent me this picture from the little screen on his old camcorder.

In it, we see a youthful Al and Chris introducing AlCam4, complete with branded t-shirts, in front of a very hi-tech bluescreen background. It’s been found. And when I get the time, I’m going to put it on DVD. Not because anyone wants to watch it – I don’t particularly want to watch it. But because it’s been an unfinished project for 20 years and finishing things is important. Especially to me. I’ve had an empty DVD box on my shelf for two decades and I’m damned if I’m not going to take this opportunity to finish the job.

To answer Kev’s next question in advance… no, Al still hasn’t found “An Evening with Kev and Chris”, now missing in action since 2003. Sorry.

Avatar Newsboost – Margaret Malfunction

Crisis in the world today as the World Margaret Organisation launches counterattack against the virtual virus spreading through the nations.

Through general word of mouth as well as a fitting and rather catchy song, the expression, “Stick it up your Margaret” has swept through the population like Romans at an orgy. We’ve seen everything from Tik Toks to vox pops, viral videos, memes and more tweets than a batch of fresh hens. Most people see it as a fad that will fade into obscurity within a few months however those who have been on the receiving end of it have not been able to take it in quite the same way.

As with most things, certain people have taken it a step too far. Leader of the World Margaret Organisation, Margaret Margarine, explains.

“It started off as something quite tame and within a few weeks has turned into something revolting and puerile. We’ve had reports of other Margarets being harangued in the streets by random passers by, heckling them with threats of sticking things up them. Now I’m not opposed to having someone wear me like a mink glove but only in the right context. The many Margarets in not only this fine nation but also further afield are being bullied and it’s just not on.”

Reports of “Margaret misalignment” as some experts are calling it have increased two thousand per cent since the beginning of January, helped by the popularity of social media platforms and general human silliness.

“Our dedicated helpline,” Margaret continues, “is available 24/7 for those who wish to document these instances to help the police round up those responsible. There haven’t been many arrests so far yet I am confident that as long as us Margarets stick together we will make it through this!”

During the early hours of the morning, the World Margaret Organisation issued a press release which reiterated these comments but also struck back with a sign of retaliation not expected. The WMO have written not one but two of their own jingles, “Slide it back to Colin” and “Bunty’s got your number.” A third effort entitled, “Force it up your Richard” was deemed too racy and dropped at the last minute.

The Dynasty of Colins and the Bunty Bouquet are yet to comment.

Avatar McIver ‘in the know’ newsletter – 2021

Dear all,

Gosh darn it another year has already passed. Where did the time go? What was I doing with my life? If you already knew the answers to these questions then there would be no point in this newsletter. Let me gladly waltz you through the BEST news from the family from the last twelve months.

Jeff, you remember Jeff right? The boxer? He had the biggest bout of his life in February. He was up against Cornwaller “Duck fat” Turner, a man so tall if you asked him for directions he could already see where you were trying to get to. I had a few nagging doubts yet thankfully Jeff took him out in the third round with the old 2-10-4. That would never had worked had he not wore him down with the 8-8-2 and a vicious 1-5-9 to the gut, ouch! I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that. Despite what his sister will tell you, I taught him that.

Uncle Tupperware finally returned from his travels in Vietnam in May. The family hadn’t seen him since mama c-word last made her gingerbread soul soup. He brought with him marvellous tales of lofty mountains, inner wisdom and getting tanked with a bunch of monks for eight weeks.

Cousin Plip-plop was released from prison as July turned to August and then forgot about August so it went back for a second round of July. She had used her time wisely and emerged not only as a free woman but also dragging three diplomas in feminist science studies and a hat made of time. I tried to get her to make one for me alas it was too late as she could stay for a few days before starting a job in Hollywood. I predict big things for her before we see her again.

Little Billy joined the circus because, as we all know, he is the sturdiest stilt walker we know. He is quite the prodigy if you ask me. At that age all I could do was scratch myself and tell jokes about kangeroos whereas Billy can juggle up to eight grapefruit, hang mice from his ears and perform tricks on a unicycle. When they see his piece de resistance, you remember, throwing up into the air and catching it back in his mouth, they will drop their trousers in gasp and awe.

Reuben (or Rude-Boi Throckers as he is known round these parts) finally passed his Pope exam and was crowned grand high Pope of Russia for the next four seasons. We had our fingers crossed for Minsk and thankfully we were not disappointed, with Rome and Doncaster as his (fairly predictable and pretty obvious, I know) second and third choices. On his first day of the job he blessed a crowd of thorns, created three new words and shouted scorn at a cloud until it watered a village’s crops.

Me? Well, there’s not much to tell. I can’t really compete with everyone else’s news. I opened a packet of custard powder, tried a new flavour of crisps, taught a dolphin about feelings, lived in a mushroom for a week, polished some cheeses, stretched some weasels, ate far too much shoe polish and watched two sailors arguing about figs. I know, I know, I should really get out more. I promise I’ll have more to tell next year.

All the best

Ian

Avatar Even more old news

Everyone – and by that, I mean I assume everyone without having actually checked with any of you – everyone enjoyed my previous forays into old news, looking back at what had happened on various days in May and January. Since I’m low on posts this month we’re coming to the end of another year, this seemed like a good time for a look back at December 19 in the personal history of one Christo M. Fury.

Given that we’re just a few days adrift from Christmas, I was surprised to discover that my camera roll from this day in years gone by does not contain as many Christmassy things as I expected. Let’s see what’s in here.

Read More: Even more old news »