Sleeping with my head under the pillow.
Weighing myself before and after using the toilet.
Writing with propellor-pencils.
Commentating aloud, whenever watching sport alone.
Wearing two pairs of socks at once.
Cleaning my ears, even though they're already clean.
Re-reading books multiple times, rather than wasting time starting new ones.
Working out the publishing date of maps by what countries were in existence.
Preaching to myself when alone.
Cleaning under my nails with the page-edge of whatever I'm reading.
Hope you found that enlightening 🙂
Tour de France cycling champion and
serial adulterer Lance Armstrong this afternoon confided to a close circle of
friends (including Ellen DeGeneres, during a live recording of her syndicated
talk show) that he ‘lied in the face’ of Oprah Winfrey, when recently interrogated
by the chat-show queen.
Texan Armstrong, having admitted last week that his record-busting career had
been fuelled by an orchestrated regime of blood-doping ‘unparalleled in the
history of everything,’ today revealed to Ellen that his admission was, in
fact, a pack of lies.
[former team-mate] Tyler Hamilton’s admission of drug-taking, and the resulting
extraordinary sales of his book, I felt I had no other option but to follow
knew that every person in the whole of history is jealous of me and my success,
and I wanted – out of sheer humility – to show the plebs that I am as fallible,
weak, and susceptible to temptation as them.
I lied. It wasn’t true – none of
it – and I’m so sorry. I am Iron
‘I was shocked,’ confirmed Ms Chrow. ‘As far as I was concerned, Lance only went on Ellen’s show out of generosity: in order to badmouth as many former cyclists as possible, so that they could sue him and reclaim the millions of dollars in libel damages they had previously been ordered to pay him, and which he still possesses.’
‘But under the kind of duress that can only be brought on by Ms DeGeneres’ inane cheeriness, open-ended questions, and easy opportunities to show himself in a good light, Lance broke down and made this confession.
the show, with a melee of reporters lined up to confess their shame at doubting
Armstrong and begging to be allowed to kiss his feet, the great man's characteristic grace, gentility, and honesty overflowed. He smiled benevolently at the
throng, and declared:
ye of little faith – I am the Resurrection, and the Life! Behold the Man!
My dear wife has, this festive Yule-tide, furnished me with my first ever bottle of Ardbeg – a great moment in an Islay-lover's life. And Maria wins 'best wife award'.
The insert carries a review of several Arbeg whiskies, including the one I received. For the sake of art and good taste, I reproduce it here in full.
A burst of intense smoky fruit escapes into the atmosphere – peat infused with zesty lemon and lime, wrapped in waxy dark chocolate.
Bold menthol and black pepper slice through the sweet smoke followed by tarry ropes and graphite. As you dip your nose in further, savour the aroma of smoked fish and crispy bacon alongside green bell peppers, baked pineapple and pear juice.
Add water and breathe in the vortex of aromas rising from the glass. An oceanic minerality brings a breath of cool, briny seaspray on chalky cliffs. Waxed lemon and lime follows with coal tar soap, beeswax and herby pine woodlands. Toasted vanilla and sizzling cinnamon simmer in the background with warm hazelnut and almond toffee.
An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavour explosions on the tongue: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. This is followed by a wave of brine infused with smooth buttermilk, ripe bananas and currants. Smoke gradually wells up on the palate bringing a mouthful of warm creamy cappuccino and toasted marshmallows. As the taste lengthens and deepens, dry espresso, liquorice root and tarry smoke develop coating the palate with chewy peat oils.
The finish goes on and on – long and smoky with tarry espresso, aniseed, toasted almonds and traces of soft barley and fresh pear.
If you have followed these epistles thus far, you will doubtless have noticed that I'm managing to maintain a balanced, objective, non-partisan approach.
It's important. When you move to a new culture, you need to play the intrigued anthropologist for a while, before graduating to the high-horse of cynical critique. But, just for fun – and because it's been a crap week – today I'm going to slag off all things American.
So, let's launch forth into unbalanced diatribe …
ISSUE 1 – FAT PEOPLE
Yes, make no bones about it, Americans have 'fat bones' (translation: 'a lot of fat around their bones, with additional layers of blubber and padding on top of that'). They are the evolutionary missing link between human and hippo.
But let's not judge them: Americans are genetically predisposed to eat sugary, unnatural, pre-parepared crap in vast portions, and not to walk anywhere. It's in their nature. Which is why they think nothing of waddling to a doctor, in search of surgery or a pill to solve their type II diabetes, self-image issues, and lack of pep.
Which leads me neatly on to …
ISSUE 2 – PHARMACEUTICALS
'Do you occasionally feel vaguely less then perfect? Then ask your medical professional about new Ikansolvital, a cocktail of 37 industrially-produced compounds guaranteed to make you feel better, because it costs $37.99 for 6 tablets, and anything that expensive MUST be amazing, right?'
And don't get me on to insurance companies profiteering on people's poor health.
ISSUE 3 – CONFORMITY
Back in the 80s, we all used to smirk at those dumb, ugly communists building dumb, ugly carbon-copy tower blocks out of concrete. Well, the production-line, mass-produced capitalist dream has amounted to the same thing in modern America (only with slightly prettier concrete).
Cloning. Houses, neighborhoods, towns – all look the same. Likewise clothes, cars, churches, and shops (which all sell exactly the same stuff). In a country full of creativity and natural variety (desert, mountain, swamp, grassland), it is a crime that the man-made stuff conforms so utterly to the post-war baby-boomer bigger-is-better utilitarian mold.
ISSUE 4 – HOW ARE YOU TODAY?
The conversation goes something like this …
[phone rings, DAVID picks up]
DAVID: Hello, David speaking.
PERSON: Hi, how are you today?
DAVID: Um, I'm alright, though I do have a bit of a cough. Who is this?
PERSON: I'm good thanks.
ISSUE 6 – TAKING THE PISS OUT OF THE BRITISH WEATHER
Yes I know: the reason my green and pleasant land is green (and reasonably pleasant) is because we have a sizable annual rainfall. And yes, I know it's cold: if you were within 600 miles of the Arctic Circle, you'd be chilly too.
But the fact is, oh South Carolina, blessed as you are with with hot sunny day after hot sunny day, you'd have more integrity in your chiding if you actually went outside occasionally. And no, sitting in your car with the a/c up full does not count.
"Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith," Matthew 21:22
"Ask, and you shall receive," John 16:24
"I tell you, whatever you ask, believe that you have received it, & it will be yours." Mark 11:24
"Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do," John 14:13
"The prayer of a righteous person has great power," James 5:16
People – me occasionally included – regularly pray for 'good weather' (ie. hot, sunny days). Whether it's a loved-one's wedding, an open-air evangelistic meeting, or just the annual church fete, climatic intercession is never too far from our thoughts. Jesus did calm the storm, after all.
So is it too much to wonder whether the Almighty has been granting all these little faith-filled requests, resulting in cumulative global temperature increase over time? Did God cause global warming by granting our prayers?
"So what," I hear you ask, "is the Shahid-Rowe household doing for Lent?"
Well (replied Mr Rowe), we've effectively been fasting for 3 weeks already, due to our Paleo Month, which explains the lack of pancakes yesterday. Therefore, the idea of giving up even more than grains, sugars, pulses and other non-hunter-gatherer-type* foods is not exactly on our radar, especially since Maria is barely getting enough into her to stay alive anyway.
But I like Lent, and I want to 'do it'.
So what we've decided is to give up the 'giving up' side of the Fast, to sidestep it and instead use this period of the Church calendar to instil certain otherwise-lacking disciplines into our lives. I won't give you the whole list, but for example, every day until Easter I am going to be spending 20 minutes sitting in silence. Something I've always planned/wanted to have a go at, but never got round to.
And may God use the season to transform our hearts and lives. Amen.
Maria & I are going Paleo for a month – see here.
Which gives me the perfect excuse for a gratuitous PG Wodehouse quote:
It has sometimes seemed to me (said Mr Mulliner, thoughtfully sipping his hot Scotch and lemon) that to the modern craze for dieting may be attributed all the unhappiness which is afflicting the world today.
Women, of course, are chiefly responsible. They go in for these slimming systems, their sunny natures become warped, and they work off the resultant venom on their men-folk. These, looking about them for someone thay can take it out on, pick on the males of the neighbouring country, who themselves are spoiling for a fight because their own wives are on a diet.
Before you know where you are, war has broken out with all its attendant horrors.
[from 'The Juice of an Orange' in Blandings Castle]
I like big props and I cannot lie
You rugger-lovers can't deny
That when you see the fat boys scrumming down
With a 'crouch-touch-pause-engage'
You feel chuffed
With a proud chest out-puffed
Cos you know those props look tough
Deep in the mud at Twickers
You'll find a dumb ox like Vickers
Or maybe, it's a swampy fixture
Like Fran Cotton in that picture
Some League fans tried to recruit me
But with scrums like that – please!
Someone shoot me!
Ooh, God Almighty
I like to see them feisty
So scrummage, boys, scrummage
Use that epic tonnage
We've all seen them playing
Stuck in, with no complaining
They sweat, threat, keep going in dry or wet
I tire of old Australia
With a front row that's a failure
It's an average team, easy to stop
If you don't believe in props
So fellas, fellas – does that front row make you proud?
Then praise them, raise them; sing their names out loud.
Rugby needs props
[eighteen stone with a face like coleslaw]
I like them round and big
Ugly like a pig
I would not love this game if the scrum was dropped
And we lost our props
Those cauliflower ears
Say no – double up – no fears
Not talking about half-breaks
When a prop sidesteps, the Earth shakes!
I like them real thick like a brick
If you want that ball quick
On my perfect rugby canvas
Is a front-row hand-off
In the face of a stand-off
With legs like Os du Randt
Big and wide like an African elephant
Solid in the rear
Like that Tongan, Soane Tonga'uiha
A blood-clot mug-shot
Fat and squat like Gareth Chilcott
Pretty-boy face like Graham Roundtree
And harder than an iron foundry
Running wild in a strop
Like a triceritops
We need to love our props
So ladies, ladies – how d'you feel about having more babies?
If you feed them lard and beer by the yard
They'll be madder than dogs with rabies
Rugby needs props.
We all love Jeeves.
Obviously, no one is legally permitted to fail to admire someone publicly approved of by Stephen Fry, but this is more than that: we love him. Jeeves is the superhero without an ego; the unfailing saviour of the situation; the grown-up we all long to have hovering thoughtfully in the background, so that we can continue being children-in-adult-form, a la Bertie.
"You'd better consult Jeeves," I said.
"A hot and by not means unripe idea! Where is he?"
"Gone back to the kitchen, I suppose."
"I'll smite the good old bell, shall I? Yes? No?"
Jeeves poured silently in.
"Oh I say, Jeeves," began Cyril, "I just wanted to have a syllable or two with you. It's this way…"
It should have been obvious to me long ago, but I'm afraid I've only just realised:
Jeeves is Jesus.
Think about it! He is the king of servants – the Servant King; he is the selfless righter of wrongs; he is the all-knowing encyclopaedia; he arrives when needed, saves the day, then shimmers off to do something we don't need to know about behind the scenes. 'Jeeves,' as Bertie often remarked, 'You stand alone!'
But let me correct myself. When I say Jeeves is Jesus, I'm not saying that he is actually the Real Jesus or even a allegorical reflection of Him. No. Jeeves is the fake Jesus – the one the Christians believe in.
This is the Jesus who will find me a parking space but not step in to provide food for starving refugees; the Jesus who will grace my job application with a supernatural anointing but doesn't care too much what I do with the salary. This is the Jesus whose world revolves around me: answering my pleas, sorting out my problems, then bringing me a whisky-and-soda.
Christians have been very attached to this Jesus for such a long while because that's what we wish He was like – the fairy godmother, the genie in the lamp, Father Christmas – and it's often the process of discovering that He's not really like that which makes us lose our faith. Rather than the long, often-lonely pilgrimage to wherever-it-is that the Real Jesus has got to, we prefer to stick to our domesticated God, who will fetch and carry and recommend the correct tweed sports jacket for the occasion.
How many of my prayers are really requests for a butler to come along and do it for me? How much of my worship is in response to the times when He has? How much of my life is lived as if God Almighty is my employee, rather than I his?
Jeeves has been my Jesus for too long.