Today's post is from a guest blogger. Not just any guest blogger, you understand, but nothing less than a genius. So much a genius, in fact, as to design the new logo for this fast-neglected blog. I thank him for this, and bestow him with virtual kisses by way of this thanks. Regular readers of London's 'Time Out' magazine will recognise themanwhofellasleep as a man who falls asleep, listens to what people say on the underground, and then writes about what those people have said underground when he is overground, and probably goes on to make a pretty penny off the back of this, though I do not know this as an absolute fact. Those who do not read London's 'Time Out' magazine, however, not even regularly, but who might have Googled him, or taken the trouble to search on Amazon, or camped and lived outside his house for a short while without him noticing, will recognise him as a man of good words and funny words and words what have gone into a book what I am plugging here today. Greg, though, for that is the real name of themanwhofelllasleep man, is clearly not making a pretty penny enough as is undertaking a 'virtual book tour' to promote his aforementioned book and has chosen the hallowed ground of this blog as one of the stops on his aforementioned tour. I do not understand why he chosen to do this, but am proud and privilged to give over my valuable webspace to him, in the vain hope that all twenty of you go out and buy his book so that he stays awake some longer. Enjoy.
So, for today only, themanwhofellasleep discusses the concept of 'unluckiness':
Hello everyone. This is Greg, themanwhofellasleep. I’m taking over Unluckyman’s blog today to shamelessly plug my novel, A Year in the Life of TheManWhoFellAsleep. It’s a good book and you should all rush out and buy a copy. But don’t go to WH Smiths. They never stock it, although they do have an excellent range of magazines. I’m not quite sure how WH Smith manages to survive, given that everything in Smiths can be purchased much cheaper in other shops. Still, they have cornered the lucrative newsagent-in-train-station-market, so maybe that’s how they stay afloat.
So, right. The book. Yes. It’s quite hard to write positively about it without coming across like an egotistical twat. So I will just say that almost everyone who has read it says that it is very good. It’s quite funny, and it’s the right size to fit into stockings this Christmas. The pages are all the same size, and it has a nice, firm spine. It’s not one of those books that falls apart if you read it in the bath. And the print stays on the page (not on your fingers) no matter how hard you rub it.
Right. That’s the book done. Since I’m here, I thought I’d write a bit about luck, given that this is Unluckyman’s blog. (He doesn’t seem that unlucky. I’ve met him, and it’s not like he looks like Keith Harris or anything.)
What is luck? I don’t really know. It’s not a fruit or a vegetable. It’s not God. It’s just… something. I asked my girlfriend, who is a philosopher, what luck was, and she said that it was complicated and that she could be wrong.
“It’s not like chance,” she said, nodding sagely and pointing out the fact that I am sitting in my pants, trying to write a guest blog. “You can control luck. You can’t control chance. Chance is a risk, whereas luck is like a calculated risk. If you bet on a horse and it wins, it’s not just chance, because you can research the horse’s form. Luck does not exist outside and beyond our actions. A mathematician might say differently.”
Sadly, I don’t have a mathematician at hand. However, I would say that some people are luckier than others. Lottery winners, for example. But I suppose I’m reduced to saying that we’re all lucky, because we’re all living in relative comfort in relatively good health (apologies if you are reading this in the Sudan, and the Janjaweed militia are approaching. You are probably not lucky and everything I’ve written does not apply to you). It’s like the Woody Allen line in Annie Hall, where he divides everyone into the Horrible (holocaust victims, people with terrible diseases) and the Miserable (the rest of us). We’re lucky to be miserable and not horrible.
I suspect that luck depends on context. And the context for bad luck is always good luck. When the tsunami struck Asia and hundreds of thousands of people died, it wasn’t bad luck because a) it was a chance freak of nature and b) everyone in the situation suffered equally. But when you’re walking down the street and a brick falls from a building and hits only you, then it’s bad luck because only you suffered.
Obviously, I haven’t really thought any of this through and I will regret my words when I’m caught in a tsunami and a brick falls on my head. What I would say is this; if for any reason you’re asked to call heads or tails, always choose tails. You will never win anything if you call heads.
And if you’re the England cricket team, it doesn’t matter whether you call heads or tails, you will still lose. That’s definitely not luck, it’s being English.
"They're not letting him in!" squealed the Joe Pasquale-like voice of Dorset Boy's Joe Pasquale-like faced friend (his voice not normally Joe Pasquale-eque, except when squealing, so adding to the overall Joe Pasquale-ambience of the evening)
And a long evening it had been. It was raining inside, and the rain was battering hard on the roof of the converted Camden cinema, as we jigged among the teenagers. Joe returned to his mobile phone conversation.
"It's really easy!" continued Joe, "Just queue, and get in."
There was no reason why we were inside, our being at least double the age of everyone else in the queue. So less reason still Joe's friend being outside, his being a celebrity and all.
We had all been quite excited by the prospect of meeting Joe's celebrity friend. In a year of disappointment by our rugby, football, and currently cricket teams, outside stood an English athlete at the top of his game. An athelete at his peak, a World Champion, no less. A world champion therefore we were looking forward to meeting. But a world champion that was cutting no mustard with the doorstaff of this north London youth club.
"They're not letting him in!!!" complained an exasperated Joe Paquale back to us.
Dorset Boy and I look forlornly at one another.
For outside stood the new, undisputed, world champion of the World Rock Paper Scissors championship 2006, Mr Bob 'The Rock' Cooper. But outside, back from his Toronto award-winning exploits, Bob's fast-reacting hand movements meant absolutely nothing whatsover up against the jobsworth instincts of north London bouncers.
Bob's desperate calls of "Don't you know who I am?" fell on deaf ears.
David Beckham would never have been treated with such disdain.
Overcome injustice and recognise true talent in Bob's campaign to reopen the nominations for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year by signing the petition at http://rpschamp.co.uk/backbob/
Even if I didn't quite meet him.
World falls apart
The doorbell rings, and I knew exactly who it would be.
It would have come as a complete surprise but a couple of weeks before, but definitely not now.
I hurry downstairs to greet my visitor.
"Mate" the late-night text had read, "Chantelle* and I have just split up. Might need somewhere to crash for a couple of nights."
No matter it had been morning before I read it. I texted straight back, saying of course it was ok. And the offer was immediately accepted.
I rush down the hall to unlock the door.
"I'm at London Bridge" had come the reply, mere minutes after texting back. "Can I come straight over?".
Of course he could. Things had clearly not been pretty.
I open the door to greet a shaken and disheveled Dorset Boy, and give him a manly hug.
I make coffee for my new temporary flatmate, and we start putting the world bang to rights.
*Obviously ficticious to protect the innocent.
Starter For Ten
"No!" shouts the voice beside me. "You're wrong!!"
The evening had been passing with the sufficient etiquette that such an event demanded. The assembling crowd, mostly of mature age, had queued in an orderly fashion at the entrance of my old school. Tickets were taken in, unfolded and counted by voluntary doorstaff, and names crossed off a pre-prepared list. Lottery-numbered vouchers were handed back to individuals to ensure an even distribution of food: a choice of chicken or quiche lorraine. Attendees were directed to one of twenty-five pre-assigned tables, which were situated equidistant throughout the hall and unfailingly featuring ten members per team. The quiz itself was to consist of ten rounds, each comprising twelve questions, to which a laminated 'joker' card could be volunteered to double the points prior to each team's favoured round, in addition to which there would be a wildcard bonus round. Team sheets would be despatched at regular intervals by the teenage daughters of a couple of the organisers, clearly instructed to consistently distribute two sheets per table to help encourage group participation. The end of each ten-minute round would be pre-empted by an announcement approximately one minute prior, and again ten seconds prior, before the end itself would be signalled beyond any doubt by the beeping of the quizmaster's alarm clock. Completed sheets would be swiftly retrieved, marked by a team of four sitting at tables on the hall stage, and appended to an Excel spreadsheet on a laptop computer, the display of which was back-projected for everyone to see. All this, before the correct answers were announced, results accumulated, the raffle run and prizes - ranging from handmade fruitcake to a '2 for 1' voucher at Café Uno - duly awarded.
The quizmaster, it seemed, had thought of everything.
Everything, that is, apart from the scorn of a wronged Yorkshireman.
"Your answer's incorrect!" bellows the Vernon Kaye-like face of my sister Babyhand's boyfriend, clearly conscious our team's rapidly-attained third-place position was resting on a knife-edge.
A sea of blue rinse and greying combover turns to witness the increasingly tense commotion kicking off.
"I… I… I'm sorry…" replies the aggrieved quizmaster, "I can't quite hear you."
The sound of disapproving coos domino-topples through the hall.
"The year's four major championships are not a 'Grand Slam' in itself
" continues Vernon, "It is the winning of all four
that constitutes a 'Grand Slam'."
Disapproving coos give way to interested mutterings.
"I… I… I'll have to check my book" apologises the crestfallen quizmaster.
Interested mutterings give way to approving shouts. "He's right!" exclaims one table. "We put that too!" concurs another.
And then a gentle wave of applause lappingly encircles the hall. Vernon, like the great leaders before him, remains eyes resolutely transfixed on his enemy: the faltering quizmaster. Then this gentle applause steadily gives away to the slow handclap.
It is pensioner anarchy, and the beleagured quizmaster has little choice.
"I'll give that one then" he concedes, immediately rending all his other preparations irrelevant under his spineless bowing down.
There is now widespread applause, but Vernon is not done.
"Where's he going?" asks a bemused Babyhands, as he struts off to the stage to confront the red-faced quizmaster.
"To contest another two questions" I reply.
Her exasperated head falls in to her far-too-small hands, as I observe that I don't think the organisers will bother doing 'Golf' again.
Not lovin' it
Three days into my extended contract as a moderately-successful freelance digital marketer, I see fit to turn up with the Mother Of All Hangovers.
The previous night having been Hallowe'en, I will not be alone, I presume.
But alone is what I find myself as I apologetically munch on my rushedly-procured Sausage & Egg McMuffin™ at the start of our brainstorming meeting. I am no ambassador to the evil American sweatshop, I muse, but I am nothing if not practical. Even if the quick-fix benefits of such a feast do risk coming across as just a teensy-weensy little little bit pikey among such esteemed professionals.
"Shorry" I garble, mouthful, "I'll be with you shhortly."
The client services director looks at me in complete disdain.
"I'll have to sit over there" she points, green-faced, "My vegetarianism means I can't stand the smell of McDonalds."
She reseats allowing the meeting to commence, and within minutes I polish my breakfast off.
Folding the last of the remnants away, the client-services director returns, her absence having gone unnoticed by the rest of us.
"Can we move rooms?" she interrupts, white-faced, "It's just... I've just vomited."
Day three, and I've already made my boss sick.
"No, you're a cunt." announces the until-then mild-mannered singer.
Dorset Boy and I interrupt our conversation, acknowledging that all is not well at the front of the stage.
"No." replies a short dark-haired man, "you eez a cunt!"
"No." assertively replies the singer, "you
are a cunt."
"Cunt!" replies the short dark-haired man, pointing at the singer.
"CUNT!" replies the singer, as the short dark-haired man backs into the crowd.
"You eez all de CUNTS!" replies the short dark-haired man, "Get a GOOD BAND on insteeeed!"
"That…" replies the singer, turning back to address the crowd, pointing back at the short dark-haired man staggering through the audience, "is a cunt
"CUNTS!!!" replies the short dark-haired man, as he settles back at the bar behind myself and Dorset.
"So," I assert to the short dark-haired man as he quietens, "do you not like this band?!"
"No!!!" he replies, over-excitedly, "They eez all cunts!!!!!"
This seedy goth bar in north London, I muse, is making for the perfect Hallowe' en.
"Only…" I deadpan, staring intently at the short dark-haired man, "that man up there is my brother."
"Aaaaahhhh" apologises the short dark-haired man, his now obvious Italianness coming to the fore, "I eez so so so sorry to insults ya brother."
The short dark-haired Italian man moves to put an arm around me, as if this futile act of reconciliation would somehow make up for his completely unnecessary rudeness.
I glare at him, stock still, in mock offence.
He winces uncomfortably.
"Ha!" I exclaim, victorious. "...NOT REALLY!!!"
We hug, before both laughing.
"CUNTS!!!" he shouts again, as the band compose themselves to strike up another sweet gothic song.
The entrance is unpromising: a badly-lit village hall in a desperate sleepy commuter town at the end of the District Line.
"I wouldn't bother" she'd told me, just over twenty-four hours previously.
We gingerly ease inside, past the not entirely unpredicted group of hippies.
"But I'm on my way…" I'd protested, "to a fancy dress shop I looked up especially
The door creaks open to reveal the hall adorned with posters of the 60s, decorated genuinely impressively, as we squeeze past the Beatles.
"I really don't think people will be trying that hard" she'd replied.
We carry our cans to the table in the corner, politely excusing ourselves between a transvestite Diana Ross and probably-female Myra Hindley/Petula Clark.
"What about your hubby?" I'd asked, "...The Austin Powers suit?!"
Frank Sinatra sips on his Stella as he talks to Brian Wilson (shirt-rear labelled, unnecessarily, 'BEACH BOY').
"Shelved" she'd replied. "Just a Fred Perry top now. Mod, you see."
The night is already exceeding all expectations. An obviously-professional Ray Davies lookalike points at the ladies as he dances in the moonlight. Austin Powers is here as well, of course - twice.
"I'll just buy a sixties-ish
shirt from Top Man then." I'd conceded, sulkenly shrugging my shoulders.
"That's more like it!" she'd encouraged me, before we'd debated whether a Fred Perry Mod actually even constituted
the right decade.
Neil Armstrong, complete with papier-mache spacehelmet and Persil-boxed backpack, takes to the stage.
The band are annoyingly brilliant, atmosphere is great and, no, I have not been set up with the aging divorcee.