GOVERNMENT CUTS THAT WE CAN ALL GET BEHIND!!

Dear Dave and George,

It’s not really going so well, is it? Hasn’t quite planed out like you thought. You and Clegg thought you had boarded your very own Love Boat. Turned out to be the Poseidon instead. Unlucky.

It has to be said that, thus far, the three of you have proven to be about as much use as a pair of knickers to a Knightsbridge hooker. No disrespect to Mayfair hookers intended.The combination of Daleks and protocol droids that you refer to as a cabinet does, indeed, contain a certain amount of dead, varnished wood. But I digress..

Anyway…., I have been thinking this whole national debt crisis through and, if you’ll pardon the presumptions of a pig headed little pleb, I’d like to offer you a possible ‘exit route’ from our current predicament (I know it’s not really YOUR predicament, but that’s our secret). Bear with me.

‘Dave’… George…. I think you should both strongly consider volunteering for public decapitation on Tower Hill. Yes, I know that sounds a little drastic, but please bear with me, and consider the benefits. I’m sorry- unfortunate choice of words. I know ‘benefits’ are something you’re not really on board with. Heigh-ho…

The ticket sales alone to view your joint public executions would obliterate the entire national debt at a single stroke. OK, two strokes. If you’re both lucky. And think of the publicity it would bring to London! Every TV network in the world would be tripping over themselves to cover THAT gig! And what would it do for tourism, eh?

Nor should we forget the merchandising side. Imagine all those special ‘Dave’ and ‘George’ dolls you could sell. Hey, let’s get really enterprising, and make a ‘before’ and ‘after’ doll for each of you. In a thousand years time, these could still be treasured family heirlooms. Guys- I’m offering you immortality of a sort here. And all those toy rubber axes, black hoods and DIY executioner’s block kits would go like hot cakes! Ker-ching!

You should consider the potential boom it would give to the electronics industry also.Could well be the biggest one since Guy Fawkes got under the Houses of Parliament. The sales of digital cameras and recorders would go through the roof as people spent like drunken sailors, just to capture every last moment of your big day. And the rail companies would make a killing. Oops, a touch insensitive there. Just getting carried away by the swing of things. Oops, there I go again. Me bad….

We could build a special VIP area and charge an obscene small fortune for the best views. As for the plebs, they will have to make do with whatever space is left. No worries. I’m sure everyone will still enjoy the show. Even the Police will be far more smiling and good humoured than they have had reason to be for a long time.

And imagine what food outlets would make on the day! You could sell fish and chips, burgers, pasties. Well, pasties are basically… oh, never mind. You get the gist of it, I’m sure.

I’m sure your mate Boris could be relied upon to set the whole thing up with his usual zeal and effluence. And, for the first time in your wretched, pathetic apologies for existences, you would actually make a huge chunk of the British population delirious with joy.

We could get Davina McCall to do a live, no-holds barred commentary. Mind you, I doubt the BBC would dare touch it. We could have big screens put up in Hyde Park, and in city centres right across the country. Hell, make it a public holiday.

Can you see where I’m going with this, guys? It’s win-win!

Dave- you could go out in style. Holding a mournful, eve-of-execution banquet in the Tower with your good friends, Clarkson and Brooks. Hey, maybe you could even sell seats and donate the funds to the Tory Party- a Last Supper at £250,000 a pop? Bedpan and straw included.

George. Oh, George… you’ve always come across as the kind of guy who thinks he should be carried everywhere in a sedan chair. We could get you a nice, powdered wig for your ultimate gig. Then, you really would look like one of those haughty, defiant French aristocrats, sneering at the peasants as they mounted the steps to the guillotine. Not that you don’t already, of course.

Who could we get to actually perform the deed? Gawd, the demand would far outweigh the supply. Thing is, your ‘policies’ have outraged and crippled so many normally placid people that you’re creating a nation of latent psychopaths in your own image.

That’s why I propose selling raffle tickets- a kind of ‘People’s Lottery’ if you will. Still, you’d need to pulp every last Bible in the realm to create enough new tickets to meet the demand. Maybe we could get Danny Boyle in to make some commercials for it?

I think the demand to wield that axe would be phenomenal.Such a pity we can only do it once, really, isn’t it?

And what a glorious end to your legacy! Guys- you won’t get a better finish than this. With or without Ronseal.

I have to admit that I do quite favour the idea of putting your severed bonces on spikes, so that people can throw rotten vegetables at them for a year or two. You both know how important it is that our kids get their ‘five-a-day’. This would be easier if they could throw whatever was left at you.

Guys- you have spent what feels like a long, tortured lifetime telling us that we have to accept these cuts unflinchingly. Well, here’s YOUR perfect opportunity to lead by example!

And, after all we are ‘all in this together’, aren’t we Blackadder? Oops, I mean George.

Ah, Nick. There you are! No, I hadn’t forgotten about you. And neither has anyone else. Your Anakin to Darth ID change took us all so much by surprise. I have to say I’m a little disappointed in you.

But there is still a way for you, too, to belatedly serve the interests of the people of the country. Not by doing the Dave and George head dance, mind you. After all, two’s company, three’s a (happy) crowd. In your case, I’d let the people decide.

Ballots would be posted to every household in the country, outlining a uniform series of choices for an eventual reckoning with you. Many of the details need to be ironed out, but here’s my thinking for your eventual fate thus far.

A) You could be shrink wrapped to Ann Widdecombe and then thrown in a locked broom closet.

B) A live, televised event where you are catapulted, face first, into a very large brick wall.

C) You could be made to sit through One Direction concerts on an endless loop for all eternity.

D) They employ you as a slightly more popular replacement for Jeremy Kyle.

I tend to go for Option C myself but, yes, I’m happy with a nationwide ballot. You should be, too. That’s democracy in action.

Anyway chaps, do let me know what you think. I know a good carpenter who can knock you up a cheap scaffold in no time. Pip, pip!!

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MY FIRST CRUISE BY MRS. MYRTLE LARDBURGER III

"We were SO excited to be getting on a big ship!"

“We were SO excited to be getting on a big ship!”

Today, we’re very fortunate to be regaled with the informed musings of a first time ever cruise passenger as she presents her- ahem- unique take on the modern cruise experience. So, without further ado……..

“Hi! I wanna start off by introducing myself. I’m Myrtle Ethel Lardburger. I was travelling on this cruise with my husband, Herb, my eleven year old son, Dwayne, and our ten year old daughter, Fergie-Diana. We were accompanied by our good friends, Abe and Patti Fartle. All of us come from a small town in the mid-west called Grimville, where I work as a full time doughnut tester.

Well, let me tell you… I have a huge appetite for my work! So when I go on vacation, I just want to kick right on back and enjoy some personal pampering. I know you’re feeling me when I say that.

DAY ONE

We arrive at the ship. Wow, is it big. Can’t remember the name of the damned thing, but it looks like a cross between a disco and a Death Star. Had to go to some boat drill. Complete waste of time. Lucky, Herb had brought his carpenter’s stuff with him. Spent most of the cruise just quietly drilling holes in the bottom of the lifeboats. Fine by me, honey. Whatever floats your boat.

Sailaway party has lots of fun, dance type things going on. Fergie very disappointed to learn that the Macarena is not a kind of biscuit.

Dinner is a blast. We have some old broad named Ophelia at our table. Skinny as a lat. I’ve seen thicker straws. But boy, can that woman eat! And she’s so funny. Never met a woman that put gin in her after dinner cup of tea before. Yessir, she’s gonna be a hoot for sure!

DAY TWO

“This is Captain speaking….” Now that’s not the kind of wake up call I appreciate. Boy, does that guy like the sound of his own voice. Drones on like a whole squadron of kamikazes, too.

Buffet breakfast. Oh, the shame of it. Loaded up with bacon, eggs, waffles, ice cream, french toast, mushrooms and hash browns. Why do they have to make these goddamn plates so small, for crissakes?

Anyway… we were gonna get up for seconds, and then we found that Herb was stuck in his seat. Jammed right in there like a possum in a poke hole. Who designs these chairs- Snow White?

So the crew arrive with two crowbars. They are grunting, sweating and trying to lever poor Herb out of his seat. Herb is sweating, too. Well, the buffet was about to close. Anyway, now they are talking about bringing semtex. Then Dwayne-bless his little heart- turns up with one of daddy’s hacksaws.

So we saw the legs off the damned chair. Herb spends the next three days with the rest stuck to his butt. It’s like a codpiece, but on the other end.

Those Mexican parrots knew such atrocious swear words!

Those Mexican parrots knew such atrocious swear words!

DAY THREE

We arrive in Cozumel. Nice weather. Read online about how expensive these on board excursions are, so we decide to do our own thing. Pleased we did, as it turns out.

We all book with some local Mexican guy to go and see some ancient French ruins. I am, as it happens, a culture buffer. So we all pile into these little tricycles. Guys doing the pedalling are gasping for breath. They really should exercise more.

They drop us- literally- at the door of this ancient palace. The guides- some guys called Carlos and Charlie- invite us in.

Well, I’m all for local culture, but the shapes of some of the balloons in here are, I’m afraid, just OBSCENE!

There were ancient French ruins, for sure, About forty of ’em. Men and women. Apparently, they got hammered in here on their last cruise, and missed their boat. Some guy offers me a margarita in a goldfish bowl. Oh well, when in France….

Got a bit woozy after that. Woke up back on the boat to find some of those funny shaped balloons in my hair, and three empty yard ,margarita glasses on the table. The steward is standing, looking at me with his jaw scraping the top of his shoes. Might be time to put some clothes back on, I suppose.

DAY FOUR

I liked the beaches....

I liked the beaches….

Another day at sea. I pass Ophelia at around eight. She’s hanging on to the front of the lido bar with one hand. Got a Bloody Mary in the other. I have to ask..

‘Ophelia, sweetie… why are you drinking Bloody Mary’s at eight o’clock in the morning??’

‘Because the lazy, candy assed bartender wouldn’t get out of bed at seven…’ I move on. She is plainly afloat on a sea called Smirnoff.

Exercise class in the lounge. Delighted to get some personal instructions from the very dishy Portugonese fitness instructor. ‘Good morning, Mrs. Lardburger. Could you please stay in the middle of the ship, and try not to move suddenly…..’ They are so solicitous on here!

Oh dear. Patti got in the hot tub. All of it. She gets a little buoyant lift from the bubbles and comes bursting up into the sunlight. Some brat starts screaming as the sun disappears behind her. Thinks it’s an eclipse. Hear some prissy queen behind me hiss to his ho that it looks like the salvage scene from Raise the Titanic, when the damned thing comes back to the surface. Give them both my special, frosty death stare, then go back to my cake platter. Some people clearly have no class.

DAY FIVE- PRIVATE ISLAND BARBEQUE

We have to go ashore in the boats today. Six of them sink. The screams would have woken the dead. Instead, I am awakened- yet again- by Captain Speaking,,,,

Oh, but this time it’s not the loudspeaker. Hell, no. Some flunky has put a note under our door after knocking. I read it, and, well…

Apparently, we are invited to dinner with Captain Speaking. I can hardly contain my anger and disgust. I pay a vast amount of money for this trip, and now they expect us to eat with the designated driver!! I don’t think so, bubba, Jog on.

Afternoon ashore is nice. Beach is pretty, but bland as a Lionel Richie gig. Enjoyed watching all the German women, lining up to get their armpits braided. Makes it easier to tell them apart from the men, thank the Lord.

Herb enjoys the snorkeling, until some angry old buzzard with a white beard starts yelling, and then throws a harpoon at him.

The gay couple are simpering on loungers behind me. One looks at a well endowed woman, sniggers something about her ‘being turned on more times than Pavarotti’s microwave’. Patti guffaws a bit too loudly. Clearly, you cannot buy class.

DAY SIX

The ship had a jacoosy just like this one!

The ship had a jacoosy just like this one!

Cocktail party. Herb puts on his new white vest. I go with my best, black and white polka dot stretch kaftan. Patti goes for a green and gold Lurex number. I love her dearly. How do you tell your best friend that she looks like a badly wrapped Easter Egg?

Anyway, Ophelia is there. The drinks are going down quicker than a drunken hooker at the start of Fleet Week. This woman can rock and roll to a music all her own, she truly can.

Get into an argument with some ancient English dame- at least she thinks she is. Her nose is so far in the air that she leaves snot on the wings of any passing 747. She seems to think that only blue blooded Brits have any travel savvy and sophistication.

Er, ex-cuse me! I’m not taking that lying down. Not from Boadicea’s grandmother. I’m a beautiful person. I’ve eaten sushi in Stockholm, for crissake!

I make my excuses and leave before I lose my dignity.

DAY SEVEN

Sometimes, I am so proud of our children.

Fergie comes scampering up from the Children’s Club, clutching a piece of paper. Her little piggy eyes gleaming like a tractor’s headlights in a swamp.

She’s only gone and won the prize for the child with the hairiest teeth. I filled up. Right there and then.

Later, we find that Dwayne-bless his checkered cotton socks- has gone and won the dwarf throwing competition. He got to keep the dwarf as a prize. Some little feller called Tom. Kept jumping up and down on the sofa in the room. Herb threw him over the side, right off the balcony. Hit the sea with one hell of a splash for a little guy. Oh, well…

And so, our adventure comes to an end. Would we go again?

Well, yes. But we’d like to do something more sophisticated. Like in Europeland. Maybe we’ll wait until they clear those floods up in Venice first. And no wonder Greece is in such a state. Five thousand years, and they still haven’t managed to build an elevator into the Acropolis. Puh-leese… get some civilisation!!”

SHWEDAGON AT SUNSET

ImageOur entire twelve night adventure aboard the Aegean Odyssey was stupendous, but if I had to pick out just one highlight, then I would have to go with Shweydagon. The sights, sounds and scent of the place are indelibly etched into my memory forever.

ImageThe entire complex is more than 2,600 years old, and is without doubt one of the most serene, stupendous visual feasts you will ever see. There are vaulting, blue and gold temples and vast, smiling Buddhas everywhere. The main pagoda, sheathed in literally acres of shimmering gold leaf, dominates the ancient Rangoon skyline like a spectacular exclamation mark. All around it, slender, ornate gold stupas splinter the humid night sky, and the smell of incense hangs in the air like fine perfume.

ImageThe sheer scale of this amazing space is mind blowing, and matched only by the incredible sensation of serene, almost surreal calm that it radiates from every angle. We were fortunate to see the sumptuous, sprawling expanse of the entire complex at twilight, as the last rays of the sun burnished the giant, golden cupolas and stupas with several amazing shades of burnt orange.

ImageYet what truly amazed me was a complete absence of jostling, despite the early evening crowds. Sauntering around this beautiful Buddhist masterpiece was like being awake in some incredibly vivid dream. Even now, there still seems something wispy, almost ethereal, about the entire amazing experience.

ImageBuddhism is endemic in the daily life of the Burmese as a people. It runs through their very history like some deep, underground current, and it has allowed them to survive the brutal narcissism of one of the most awful military dictatorships ever known. And while that dictatorship seems to be slowly wilting, like some sagging puppet with its strings cut, the ancient religion that preceded and survived it is encompassed indelibly in Shwedagon, the stunning spiritual heartland of one of the most amazing peoples I have ever been privileged enough to visit.

A JAUNT AROUND JAMES BOND ISLAND

ImageThe long, brightly painted longboat thumped and skipped across the sparkling Andaman sea, throwing up ghostly wisps of spray that vanished as quickly as they came. Ahead of us, something hugely impressive was filling our field of vision.

ImageThe outcrop known as James Bond island looked like nothing so much as some jagged, long decayed molar, flung from the heavens into the ocean by a vengeful god. Stark and swathed in serried layers of dense green foliage, it loomed up in front of us like some ancient monolith.

The island itself is known to the locals as Koh Tapu, but it will always be always ‘James Bond Island’ for the estimated three thousand or so visitors who make the pilgrimage to it each day. It starred as the lair of Scaramanga, Bond’s would- be nemesis in The Man with The Golden Gun, and was used again as a backdrop for the more contemporary Tomorrow Never Dies.

Truth be told, it’s not hard to see why Koh Tapu makes for such a great locale. It is by turns part impregnable fortress and prison. The soaring limestone face has an imperious, craggy stance. Studded with small caves at different heights that look like gaping battle scars, it has an air of aggressive self confidence; the perfect lair for any cultured megalomaniac.

ImageAnd yet… as we beetled up to the brute… it revealed a softer, more layered facade just under the surface. The clumps of gaunt white limestone came splashed with shades of silver, grey and even rust red in places. What seemed like one solid facade folded back into several layers. Maybe the scales of some ancient sea dragon? In this land of half realised myth and legends, who knew the real truth?

ImageThe vast, emerald green carpet that sheathed and shielded the exterior was reflected almost to perfection in the still, silent expanse of water that lapped at the base of the island. At one point, small boats could actually sail right through the middle to emerge on the other side.

ImageOur visit to Koh Tapu was only one of the string of highlights on our cruise aboard the smart, stylish little Aegean Odyssey. The Voyages to Antiquity team created a series of excursions that unveiled a series of shimmering, magical experiences with almost each new day. And while I was stunned and awed by the jagged majesty of Koh Tapu, there was more- much more- waiting just beyond the line of the horizon…..