Saturday, 10 November 2007

The definitive Oxymoron?

Who would have seen it coming?
The far-right bloc of the european parliament has collapsed, after Romania's contingent of xenophobes pulled out, citing xenophobic comments by some of their colleagues, from Italy. Perhaps it wasn't the best political planning, for MEPs whose election platform was predicated on borderline-racist demagoguery to ally themselves with their prima facie 'enemies'? The only real shock is that the bloc survived 10 months as an entity before collapsing like the vortex of hypocrisy that it was.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Cutting-edge Australian medicine

Recently I read a story that piqued by interest, and indeed, some degree of envy: about an Italian tourist in that antipodal land whose main exports include lamb, beer, and T.V. soaps. He evidently injested some sort of poison, and in order to save his life, was kept alive by doctors on an intravenous drip of...wait for!
Rather delightful, methinks. Of course, he couldn't enjoy it owing to his comatose state at the time. I just wonder, if I tried faking similar symptoms would the National Health Service here take a similar approach or would they just file me away in an MRSA-infected ward?

Thursday, 11 October 2007

"I am an equal opportunities employee"

Not really a statement that screams "hire me", is it? Yet some employers get away with writing the equivalent thing on job advertisements, which has got to be a candidate for 'Most Meaningless Statement of the Year'.

Does it mean they follow a quota system? That they hire lesser candidates just because of their background, to get their staff ratio back on track? Is that equal? Don't get me wrong; I'm all for equality and whatnot, it's just that the insinuations of such an overt statement are puzzling: Does it mean that every employer who doesn't proudly proclaim their merits in this department are, ipso facto, guilty of unequal hiring practices? Is their silence an admission of guilt? Conversely, does saying it act as surety against a lawsuit; is it effectively a license to practice the most repugnant nepotism?
Ultimately, I suppose, I would prefer to believe it is exactly what it says on the tin; and that they won't discriminate against me for being lazy.

Monday, 23 July 2007


I have recently left England for the greener pastures of home, though perhaps such a statement is unwarranted: a verdancy comparison of the two countries would likely reveal a degree of parity between the bucolic areas of the respective nations. But I digress.

Britain has taken a page out of McDonalds' book; learning from the practice of providing happy-meal toys themed to movie releases. Here's a copy of the press-release:

"To celebrate the launch of the film, "Bruce Almighty", Britain has decided to simulate a little diluvian event of its own, flooding major road and rail connections, as well as a fair number of domiciles."

The heavy rain, and consequent flooding, made travelling prohibitive, but nevertheless, I have accomplished my return homewards, and in time to witness a golfing victory, unequalled in the past 60 years: Pádraig Harrington's victory over Sergio Garcia in the playoffs of the Open Championship. Yeah, it doesn't mean anything to me, either. But one thing I did note was that
at the presentation of the winning trophy, the Irish contingent of fans regaled their countryman with a popular patriotic song dating back to the 1990 Irish participation in the Italian-hosted World Cup. As such, it is composed, when sung in refrain, entirely of a repetition, ad infinitum, of the spanish word 'Olé'. The irony most likely escaped many present, but it must have surprised, if not annoyed, the runner-up Garcia, to be serenaded, or indeed, goaded, in his own tongue, by the fans of his victorious opponent.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Dark Magic: Part 6

Apprehensively, he opened the door, and a dozen or so faces turned to look at him. He swallowed hard. He could be in any room. This was a crazy idea. He should see a doctor; he should...

"Lewis! My man! Bit heavy on the booze last night?" The tone was caustic, and came from a square-shouldered, blond-haired guy, seated by a large window at the left side of the room.

Someone laughed.

Lewis had a feeling he was in the correct room, though he was beginning to wish he wasn't. Without responding to the derision, he let his feet guide him to a chair, and as he sat down, he realised the view from the window was familiar; not just the view itself, but the angle. This was where he usually sat. He ran his finger over the inner edge of the desk, and found familiar grooves, recognisable graffiti. He saw...his handwriting, though characteristically illegible even to himself. Only the letters 'S*****um Wood' were visible.

"Never seen a desk before?" This voice was not unkind; the same, familiar, voice that he'd heard the previous night.

Lewis turned to look at the speaker. A tall, well-built guy of south-asian complexion was looking at him with a good-humoured expression, which changed to a querulous one.

"What happened to you last night?" He asked

"I..." Lewis trailed off, searching for the right words, but only one came to him: 'Rat'.

"You feeling ok?"

With those words, Lewis remembered who he was speaking to. Rat had been in his class for years. They'd been friends for most of that time, but Rat didn't know about....what? Lewis was aware of some aspect of his life, closed to this confrere. He was aware of it in a broad, amorphous sense; of its vast boundaries and great significance, but without knowledge of its specific features; as one is aware of a missed assignation, a forgotten responsibility.

"Y-yeah, i'm just a little, emm, tired." Lewis stuttered, unwilling to reveal any more until he had a clearer picture, himself. He wasn't sure who he could talk to.

"After last night? Yeah, you looked a bit pale." Rat observed. "I was going to go after you, but Jessie..."

"It's fine." Lewis cut in. "I'll be fine."
It was a parapraxis; he'd meant to speak in the past tense, but that was what he was beginning to feel - he WOULD be fine. He was aware of areas of his memory, obscured as by veils, but if he could just approach them armed with enough pieces of the jicksaw, they would fall away.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Dark Magic: Part 5

Lewis looked, uncertainly, at the gates before him. He knew them in a way that one knows a familiar painting. They had a certain austerity to them, characteristic of the Thatcherite era in which they were built; the buildings beyond, however, were older, and had an almost imperial look to them. The overall impression was somewhat stern and unwelcoming, but he took comfort in the echoes of a mundane, quotidian familiarity.

As they passed through the gates, Lewis felt more sure of himself, more secure. They walked in silence through the yard, towards the edifice of the main building.

As they reached the front doors, Jessie stopped on her heels.

"Maybe this is a bad idea. Maybe you should see a doctor." She spat the words out rapidly, as if she'd kept them bottled up for some time.

Lewis looked from her concerned countenance to the doorway, and although the greater part of him shared her concerns, he felt that with every step he took, he regained more of himself. He was loathe to give that up for the alien, questioning environment of a doctor's office. He could almost imagine the scene; being asked if he heard voices, too; if he saw little green men. No, he would persevere.

"It's ok. I feel... better" He lied, unconvincingly.

Jessie smiled hopefully, wanting to believe him.

"Ok, but if you need anything; if you feel dizzy, or...ANYTHING, you come get me." She said urgently, looking him in the eyes, and feeling guilty, as if she was abandoning him. She turned to walk away, and stopped,"I'll be in 12A, round by the side entrance; for form class, anyway." she smiled again, morosely, and hurried away.

As she turned the corner, Lewis realised he was on his own. No turning back. He pushed through the doors, and into the foyer. Taking the first left, he found himself perambulating on autopilot. He climbed a small flight of stairs, and turned where he felt a turn was appropriate; unsure of the destination, but certain, all the way, of the route, he eventually arrived at a nondescript door marked "17B".

Friday, 6 July 2007

Dark Magic: Part 4

Lewis sighed again and looked at her, dolefully.

"We can't let mum know. Not just yet." She pleaded

He nodded a reluctant affirmation.

"If you're still like this after school...God! will you be able to go to school?" She asked, anxious.
Seeing the fearful look on his face, she added quicky,
"It'll probably help you to remember. A familiar environment; seeing your friends. It'll all come back." She offered a weak smile.

They left the house in time to catch their bus, and sat together on the way to school. Neither spoke much, and tried to avoid the glances of other students. Jessie's friends were gossipping about a bulimic girl in the year below them; Lewis's friends (at least he thought they were his friends) were giving him curious glances. Jessie explained that they were halfwits, who couldn't conceive of him sitting next to his younger sister, instead of with them. Apparantly that was without precedent, and violated their social mores.
He wasn't in any hurry to immerse himself among his peers; the chatter on the bus was several decibels above comfort level for him at present, and only added to his anxiety. He did feel like he was on more familiar ground, though. As the bus turned a corner, Lewis's heart leapt. He noted familiar landmarks; the street; the houses; even some vehicles parked along the road looked familiar. Jessie, noting his interest, pointed towards a terraced house that appeared particularly salient to him.

"That's where we used to live. You remember it, don't you?" she inquired, excitedly.

A potpourri of emotions threatened to overwhelm him, as memories flooded his mind; memories of a childhood spent on these streets. Every corner and crevice of the neighbourhood was, he realised, indelibly imprinted on his being, so that the sight of it speeding past filled him with a greater notalgia than even Odyseus could have conceived of. He wanted to call out, to implore the bus driver to stop, or at least slow down so that this halcyon vision could be held onto for just a moment longer. He remained silent, though, and stared longingly at the retreating eaves of the last house visible, of that enchanted roadway.

He was silent for the remainder of the journey, staring at the seat-rest in front of him as if looking through it. Jessie pressed him to know if he was ok, but he merely grunted in response. He seemed to be cogitating deeply, as if ruminating over a complex problem.

The bus pulled up to the kerb outside the school. Though Jessie and Lewis were seated towards the front of the bus, they were among the last off.