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 The smart man cometh

Welcome to a story that starts off well, gets a bit bad and then goes all grand mal on your ass before you realise what’s happening.

I’m a nerd. I’m sorry to hit you with that reality but I’m not the cool guy you thought I was. I know that I dazzle you all with my endless tales of motorcycles, bar fights, chicks and umm cool stuff however in reality it is the complete opposite. My nerdity stretches to almost all levels of nerdom (although I’ve yet to play a proper game of D & D and I’m not ready to quite drop my trousers and start collecting Magic: The Gathering cards) although recently, and for the last few years, it has settled in v. game town.

I collect for a huge range of systems. The Sony PSP, the slightly older, less attractive handheld cousin of the PS Vita, has a large library and currently most of the games are dirt cheap. We’re talking cup of coffee and a toffee crisp prices here, people. We’re talking a day ticket on the bus with all the trimmings (you know, some have TVs that don’t work and some have a USB port so you can charge your phone because it’s an electric bus and it’s the FUTURE). There will always be rarer titles as there is for every console and it is here we find me with an idea.

The PSP isn’t region locked meaning you can buy a game from the other side of the world and it will run on your machine. There’s a game I’ve had my eye on that only ever keeps going up in price in the UK so, in a flash of brilliance, I check a used video game website in the US that I’ve used previously. Lo and behold there it is, in stock and about twenty quid cheaper overall. I know there’ll be postage and import tax to pay yet it’s too enticing to ignore. Surely this is a good idea and nothing can go wrong. This is the loophole that will see me through to the good side of the fence. I go to the basket only to be told that the website doesn’t post to the UK anymore.

Sniff sniff, can you smell that? If you can, it’s probably Brexit.

Foiled and a little crestfallen I mull over this for a day or two. Then it hits me, a second brainwave. Twice in one lifetime? When you’re hot, you’re hot! There’s a website where you can order anything from the US and have it sent to a shipping depot in the US, they’ll then reroute it to your address in the UK and sort out the tax and everything else at the same time. This is too good to be true, right? Right?

My fingers are already going, it’s ordered and paid for. I get the notification that my parcel is on its way to the depot. I am the Thriftmaster. Thrifting is my middle name. Bow before me, peasants, for I am both the king of the Co-op and king of the thrift.

I go to create the shipping request. Duties and tax are reasonable, of course there’s VAT and… the shipping method. The cheapest option available is a little over thirty dollars. Taking into account the aforementioned other charges, this will now put the total cost of getting the fucker to my address in the UK ten dollars more than I actually paid for the game.

I wanted to believe that this was a good idea. This will be the last time I try to be clever. For now, I will be sitting in the corner wearing the dunce hat and counting up to ten only missing the seven out every single time I try. I await your lambasting.

Avatar Get out of my mind

Pop music, it’s dumb right?

Not all of it. A lot of it very intelligently made and well put together. There are those out there though that abuse it’s magic and only concoct the worst of the worst to make a cheap buck. Pop music is the house of the lazy songwriter. It has committed more crimes then I’d care to mention (I’m looking at you, ‘Boys of Summer’ by DJ Sammy).

I have recently been re-listening to ‘This Year’s Model’ by Elvis Costello and the Attractions, a lovely bouncy set of new wave poppy rocky songs from 1978. It features two stellar singles; (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea’, a sentiment I think we all share, and the ludicrously good ‘Pump it Up’. Costello is reported to have written the song on a fire escape during a stop in Newcastle of all places. What if he wrote it on my fire escape? Wait, I don’t have a fire escape.

The song ‘Pump it Up’ was later sampled by a sack of arse called Rogue Traders. In classic lazy pop fashion they took some bint they could find (in this case the Australian actress Natalie Bassingthwaite – she used to be in Neighbours because of course she did, she’s from Australia), got her to knock out some half-based vocals and called it ‘Voodoo Child’.

Rogue Traders – Voodoo Child (Video) – YouTube

It features lyrics so banal if you closed your eyes and pointed to random words in a dictionary you would come up with a better one. Would you like an example? Take a sweet glance at the chorus:

“Baby baby baby
You are my voodoo child, my voodoo child
Don’t say maybe maybe
It’s supernatural, I’m coming undone.”

Awful, yes. Catchy, yes. I do believe it has more to do with Elvis Costello and the Attractions more than anything else. If you took away the pounding organs and guitars you’d be left with an empty pickle of a song, a limp biscuit if you will. I only mention this because my brain, in its infinite wisdom, continues to remind me of things like this rather than remembering useful things. When the aliens come and take us all away I will be filed on a shelf of knowledge called ‘Why bother?’ and only called up when they need a particularly spicy pub quiz question.

Whenever I hear ‘Pump it Up’ there is the quiet unsightly ghost of Rogue Traders hiding in the background.

Absolute bastards.

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 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 Bad Ears

My hearing has been compromised for as long as I can remember.

We all know how questionable it is at times because if anyone is going to mishear something it’s going to be me. Matters took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago when the hearing in my right ear went a little bit six-wide.

As I was driving down to Leeds for Christmas I experienced what can only be described as “bad ear” when I could feel something wrong and part of my hearing just disappeared. I could still hear everything although it felt as though some kind of substance was blocking my ear canal. It was a big muffled as though I was doing that thing crappy singers do when they close their eyes and hold their ear to hear their pitch and reach the high notes only Mariah Carey and dogs can reach.

Over Christmas I gently started scooping out the contents and as disgusting as this is to write it’s another thing entirely when experiencing it first hand. Normally I’m quite adept as keeping on top of personal hygiene; during the month of December this must have taken a flight abroad and forgot to leave a note. Waves of wax came out in all shapes and colours. I cleaned my ear with a delicate hand and with no proper medical help until January when doctors returned from their Christmas-shaped holes (I was resolute that I was not going to A & E or calling III because of earwax) I put up with my folly.

There was a ringing too, a constant ringing that wouldn’t go away. Looking back now I think it may have been before all of this, meaning it may be two problems or one problem in two halves.

I did a grown up thing and called the doctors. “I’m sorry sir, we don’t syringe ears on the NHS anymore,” said the receptionist, “it’s not considered to be safe. You’ll have to try elsewhere.” Hmmmm, said a sarcastic voice in my head, you won’t help me but encourage me to look into it myself? Go private? Okay, sure, I’ve got this, leave it to me.

I went to Boots for a free hearing test where they told me both my ears needed to be sorted out. I made an appointment for less than a week later to use a futuristic sucking device to clear out the mess and afterwards it was like that fresh minty feeling you get after you have your teeth cleaned at the doctors… only in my ears.

“Do you want the bad news first?” said the Boots employee, shortly after vacuuming my inner sanctum. Apparently my ears are now free of wax because she can see my eardrums when looking in my ear. The bad news is that some of the wax went so balls deep into my ear that some of it is lying on my eardrum and it’s too dangerous to try and suck it out. The solution? Olive oil ear drops. I’ve been squirting this stuff now for about a week in the hope that it’ll shake loose the wax, stop the ringing and give me my hearing back. If this doesn’t work, I may have tinnitus.

All in all January could have been a lot worse but then again it could have been a lot better.

Avatar Smidge in writing

Smidge Manly is one of the UK’s most famous interviewers, entertainers and northerners, so it’s no surprise that YouTube is bristling with videos of him in action, doing all the things he does best.

What you might not know is that, nowadays, YouTube automatically generates subtitles for videos. It does this by running the soundtrack through a speech-to-text programme and putting the results up on the screen. It’s done this for all Smidge’s work.

Unfortunately for Smidge, YouTube hasn’t yet got the hang of his accent.

Avatar Dave Lister Egg

Sad sack egg

I know what you’re going to say so let me get my excuses out the way first.

Some time ago, in some post or re-post by Chris, I was given the task of trying to draw Craig Charles’ lovely viso/volto on an egg. How did this come about? Who can remember. I decided that now, on the last day of the month, was the time to act.

Perhaps the time wasn’t the best though. The actual time as in half past ten at night. I stupidly didn’t take the egg out of the fridge so that it could acclimatise to the temperature in the living room. It was an ice cold egg in a mostly tepid part of the flat. So, with pen in hand, I watched in horror as many efforts turned into one big fish face smudge fest.

The poor lad looks like fetid potato. Do you remember ‘Biker Mice from Mars’? Kind of like the main villain, Lawrence Limburger.

I have socially soiled myself so I’m going to wince away solemnly…