Good afternoon, everybody. Please leave the donkeys alone for a moment. My name is The Honourable Sergeant-Major Professor Lord Sir Elbert Louche, KBE, QC (Junior). Thank you for joining me here in the stables at the Temple Newsam petting farm for the ninth annual State of the Beans Address.
I didn’t think my name was unusual or difficult to spell.
I was wrong.
The internet is too clever. If you go over here to a website or something, and do a bit of searching around, you’ll suddenly find that other shopping sites and social media are offering you adverts for the thing you searched for. How do they know? How are they so effectively tracking me around the place? It’s crazy.
Sometimes the suggestions that come scrolling past your face are so uncannily pinpoint accurate that it’s scary. Other times you feel like maybe the algorithm didn’t have enough to go on and it’s making a wild stab in the dark.
Recently on Instagram (follow me if you like, I never post anything) I’ve been seeing the same advert coming up again and again, posted there by some robot working for Amazon who clearly doesn’t have a very firm grasp on what I want to buy. Its headline suggestion is this all-plastic portable bath with a lid. You can apparently poke your head out to look at something on a laptop, presumably while out and about. Perhaps it’s for people who have sudden irresistible urges to take an immediate bath while, I don’t know, in the car park at Sainsbury’s or half way up a hill in the Peak District.
If you then scroll right, the rest of the suggestions are a real mixed bag. There’s a green leather Chesterfield-style chair and a frog-shaped plantpot. However, there’s also a bed covered in Lego studs that you can build Lego models on, and it even has a display area for minifigures in the headboard. Now that’s something I really do want.
After meeting a terrific vending machine earlier this year, I was delighted to find another incredibly convenient retail experience in London’s bustling West End.
It has everything for the world of today: a cash machine, tobacco, something to do with medicine or adding numbers together, mobile phones, vaping supplies, and Internet Explorer.
Naturally, I went straight in, withdrew some cash, and spent it on an ounce of snuff, some medicine and/or maths, having a SIM card unlocked, a pint of blueberry sherbet vape juice, and a crap browser from 20 years ago. If you need me to pick up any of that for you, just shout.
I am a hoarder by nature.
I refuse to let go when others would be quite happy to throw those things away. I know this and in my own way I am doing my best to try and be a twenty-first century Womble of sorts.
There are times though when even I am powerless.
I wanted to finish it, I really did. I was going to get some custard and finish it off with dignity. In the end all it did was take up space in my freezer and now, many months later, if I tried to defrost and eat it then it would taste weird and probably give me some kind of stomach cramps.
I am sorry that I let you all down. I do like it tangy.
Last weekend, me and the boy decided to live it up and catch the showing of classic cyberpunk anime ‘Akira’ at the local cinema. The cinema was so hot that I struggled to stay awake during the second half of the film; it didn’t help that the one we were in was on the top floor and, as all good little scientists know, hot air rises. I did stay awake but you would think that the combination of psychic children, exploding people and the end of the world would be enough to keep my brain and eyes functioning.
Before the film started, we discussed what would be the three best films we would like to see at the cinema. The conversation then inevitably came to what three worst films we would want. Having been witness to some of the abject atrocities of cinema from the last forty years, I believe I may have an insight into this that most people wouldn’t. I therefore present to you my choices for the three worst films I want to see on the big screen
John Woo was an excellent director from Hong Kong when he started his career. He ended it tucked away in Hollywood directing bollocks like this. ‘Paycheck’ is a personal favourite of mine because it wastes a story by Philip K. Dick, the acting talents of Ben Afleck and Paul Giamatti and features hilarious one-liners that aren’t meant to be funny including ‘I was eating pie!’. I used to own five copies of this however after moving around a few years ago I had to cut down to only two. If you can see this I strongly recommend it if only for Uma Thurman being horribly miscast as the love interest and displaying barely enough chemistry to boil a kettle.
The Jerk Too
As a child I was introduced to Steve Martin films through my siblings. I owned a copy of ‘The Jerk’ on VHS and watched it repeatedly. It’s not his best but it was his first and puts most modern comedy films to shame with the amount of ideas and general lunacy. What I wasn’t aware of was a made for TV sequel done some years later which only involved one of the cast from the original film (his mum). Steve Martin played the title character, Navin Johnson, as a sweet and misunderstood good-natured person. Mark Blankfield, however, plays him as someone with learning difficulties. It was quite unbearable to watch at times. If you need an example of this (it’s not on Youtube, I checked), try and find the poker game in the shack and the scene where someone mentions lemon merangue pie; you’ve never heard someone ejaculate a noise mixed in with an as worrying as Mr Blankfield does in your life. Throw in some bad guys who make The Little Rascals look like the cast of a Guy Ritchie film, a bizarre musical number in the middle for no apparent reason other than a homeless woman to serenade Navin and an opening credits scene that shows you the entire movie before you’ve seen it and you’ve got a perfect recipe for nonsense.
You all knew this was coming. The cinema could be decorated in hula flowers and coconut drink cups and… hang on, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Primarily funded by the Fiji tourist board as a way of enticing tourists to visit Fifi, ‘Bula Quo’ is a film that’s not a film because it’s a terrible rock band who can’t act running around Fiji being chased by the least threatening gangster villain since I put a fake cigar in my mouth and did an impression of Al Capone. The music is awful, the humour is awful, the acting is questionable and the whole thing stinks, no, reeks of desperation. Fiji should know better. I wouldn’t be surprised if tourism went down after this “film” was released. The only legitimate way to enjoy it is to be absolutely hammered or… no that seems to be the only way to enjoy it.
There were a lot of runners up: The Quest was a strong contender, Reuben in particular chose “Die Hard on Ice” (see ‘Sudden Death’ starring Jean Claude Van Damme), the Doom film, a parade of Adam Sandler films and anything starring Kevin James. Given how Chris has only ever seen one film I expect it will be a difficult question to answer but what would YOUR three films be?
Words. The world is full of them. They come in all different flavours and no matter what you need to say there is usually a word or collection of words out there to help you. That is unless you’re trying to spell the word jush… juxch… jgusssh… unless you’re trying to spell the famous word where the letters haven’t been invented yet.
Alicia Keys is a very talented musician and songwriter from the last twenty years or so. A quick look at her wikipedia page is enough to make your eyes spin with envy. I’m not talking about the eight albums she’s released or the glut of awards she’s got hiding on the mantelpiece though, I’m going back to the first single I remember.
‘Fallin” was the first single from her twelve million selling debut ‘Songs in A Minor’. Back in 2001 I enjoyed listening to it because it was sweet and simple. A song that could turn up on the radio at any time of the day and I wouldn’t be turning it off. It had heavy rotation on the music channels. She was labelled ‘the new queen of soul’ by some music magazine based on the hype for the album. ‘Fallin” was an excellent lead single, hand-crafted with love and attention, picked by some record executive because they could hear the sound of money at the door.
I heard the song again recently and frowned a big old man frown. Was this the same song that had enchanted me twenty years prior?
Firstly, the music is perfectly fine and lovely, it’s the words that make me remove the rose-tinted nostalgia glasses and question what exactly I was drinking at the age of seventeen. I did a word count and officially there’s only 227. Short, pop songs are as old as the music charts themselves. There’s nothing wrong with short songs. There has to actually be words in them though.
‘Fallin” is a song perpetually infested with oh’s. It’s so full of oh’s it may as well be a box of Cheerios. You can’t go a few seconds without one cropping up. Not even one but a whole host of oh’s, you’re never too far away from them. You’re not subjected to a Mariah Carey level of insane warbling that would make dogs cry out in pain but it’s still fairly distracting and not pleasant on the ears. Then there’s the repetition.
The chorus is used five times. It makes the cardinal sin of rhyming ‘you’ with ‘you’. The weirdest part is that the officially last word of the song is ‘what?’ which I didn’t even remember and had to go back to watch it on Youtube to check that was factually correct, which it is. She gives a sassy look at the camera and asks the question. Is she asking me this because I don’t like the song anymore? Who knows.
What I do know is that ‘Girlfriend’ from the same album is an infinitely better song and I won’t be going back to ‘Fallin” any time soon. If it comes on the radio at any time of the day, I will be turning it off.
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.