Monthly Archives: March 2007

Smashing glasses

Item: in the Mitre, a bloke carried a fresh pint about six inches before engaging butterfingers. It made a lovely crump as it hit the floor, spraying nearby punters with ale and glass. We were just out of range.

Item: in Ask, Andy knocked over his glass of red wine. Our “comedy” waiter picked up all the shards, which was a good idea since otherwise we may have slashed him.

Item: in the Fleur, someone had some nice spectacles.

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The blog blogging about the blog that’s blogged my brother’s blog

My brother’s newish, non-traditional and generally funny blog has been reviewed.

In the Guardian.

And they’ve even plugged his book and his web site!

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Once in every blog there is a post that goes like this

Yesterday Chris, Melanie, Chef, Andy, Louise and I cantered with coconut shells a-clacking to the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, for the matinee performance of Spamalot.

An opportune 3-for-2 offer meant that wine-drinking began almost as we left Cambridge; on arrival at King’s Cross we were on the second bottle. This tongue-loosener helped me heckle an out-of-towner standing on the left on an escalator, who was blissfully unaware that people have gone to the Tower for less.

Disgorged at Leicester Square blinking into a sunny spring day we found our pre-theatre pub, The Cambridge, and sat outside people-watching with a pint until the time came to saunter over the road for curtain up. Chris took a sneaky photo as we waited for the performance to start.

It’s a fantastic show. Very, very funny. Everyone in the audience was intimately familiar with the original film, of course, and all is present and correct, but there are still a few surprises (which I won’t spoil here). I’m glad to report the absence of anoraks with their weak lemon drinks joining in with the script, but certain lines, and the appearance of certain characters, did cause a round of applause. I found this amusing; it reminded me of the demented hollering of studio audiences when Fonzie gurned onto set, or the applause when a musical artiste starts banging out an old faithful.

No expense is spared in the production; it’s very twinkly indeed. The only slip-up I saw involved the gradual separation of a knight from his moustache. The cast is uniformly very good, and Simon Russell Beale made an excellent Arthur. Different from Graham Chapman in (a) height, (b) width and (c) sobriety.

Yes, you could buy coconut shell merchandise and tins of commemorative spam. No, we didn’t. However, Chef bought an “I’m not dead yet” t-shirt (not applicable to his car).

Avaragado’s rating: one bowl of assorted fruit

Post-Spamalot we boozed at Waxy O’Connors, a pub containing a tree for no adequately explained reason. And then we ate at Mela, an Indian restaurant near to the theatre, before training home.

See Chris’s photos of the day, if you haven’t already.

Back in Cambridge just before eleven, I all-too-predictably went to the Fleur and met up with Robert and Richard. There was a Shirley Bassey impersonator on stage; very poor, and inexplicably murdering Sinatra songs rather than the traditional Bassey staples. Once she’d finally warbled her last, the three of us set the world to rights until 1am before continuing up the road in the Rose for another couple of hours.

At closing time a bouncer (not Craig) took issue with Robert’s reluctance to drink up and his forthright tongue and, how can I put it, slapped his remaining half-pint (in plastic glass) from his hands to the floor via his trousers. Poor show. Robert declared that he’ll never go back there again, but he’s probably forgotten that.

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Refugees from Time War now inspecting tax for HMRC

As far as we know, all Time Lords but one were wiped out in the Time War with the Daleks. The details are sketchy; the survivor doesn’t seem to want to talk about it, for reasons of future storylines. However, I can exclusively reveal that some other Gallifreyans also escaped: they toppled through time, took a wrong turning just outside Cleethorpes and are now working at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs as tax inspectors.

My evidence is compelling and confusing. To be on the safe side I am currently inspecting all my photographic prints for missing or faded relatives. I am also naturally on the look-out for DeLoreans containing white-haired professors and thirty-year-old teenagers; telephone boxes containing valley stoners and sundry historical figures; and of course any one of at least ten odd gentlemen in varying degrees of fancy dress accompanied by screeching companions with a propensity for tripping, dawdling and/or wandering off.

Here’s the evidence. I would show a simple timeline of events, but there isn’t one. There are two. I shall present them in handy tabular form.

Dec 05

In my 04/05 tax return, I say that I’m now permie and not self-employed. Thus I’m paying tax through PAYE, and want to reduce my payments on account for 05/06 to nil. (This being a mechanism for getting the self-employed to pay tax in chunks in advance through the year rather than in one lump.)

Jan 06 HMRC says that’s fine. HMRC sets the Jan 06 and Jul 06 payments on account for 05/06 to half my tax bill for 05/06, as calculated eleven months in the future.
Jun 06 HMRC sends me a statement. Payments on account for both Jan 06 and Jul 06: zero. Nothing to pay. Lovely. HMRC sends me an incorrect statement saying I have nothing to pay, despite my clearly having missed the Jan 06 payment on account, and with another payment pending in Jul 06.
Dec 06 In my 05/06 tax return I declare two days of freelance work for the whole tax year, done perfectly legitimately on the side while remaining permie. I pay the tax in full.
Jan 07 HMRC decides that those two days mean I should have paid half my 05/06 tax bill on account in Jan and Jul, and sends an exiled Time Lord to sort it out. See column #2. HMRC says yes, well, paying the tax in full is all well and good now, but what about those payments on account? You should have paid up months ago!
Feb 07 HMRC sends me a statement. It thanks me for paying my 05/06 tax bill in full, but warns me that I still owe them money: interest accrued on the Jan 06 and Jul 06 payments on account for which I inexplicably failed to cough up.

This morning I phoned them up. A nice old man with a nasty cough performed about three hundred identity checks before telling me that I’d have to write to customer services. So I cranked up OpenOffice.

In the letter I have appealed to the Lord High Council of Gallifrey (Tax Department) that, under paragraph zz9 plural z alpha of the Finance (Alternate Timelines) Act, it is unfair to retrospectively apply charges to a corporeal sentient being without formally notifying that being in all applicable timelines such that he, she or it has the ability to avoid late payment. Subsequently (or is that presequently) I have decided to retrospectively fine them £1, effective 1 Jan 1665, the founding date of the Board of Taxes. I imagine that’s accrued some interest.

Anyway, that’ll teach them. In fact it may already have taught them. Oh yes.

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Bathing

Lynda, Chef, Mike and I scooted down to Bath on Friday for a weekend visiting Sarah, Ades, Jo and Alice.

Lynda and I left Cambridge in glorious sunshine; by the time we reached Bath – and orbited parts of it a couple of times trying to zero in on our hotel – it was raining. Once finally located the Paradise House hotel was most agreeable, verging on the posh. Free use of a net-connected laptop was a bonus, and it even had Firefox installed.

Unfortunately Lynda must have mortal enemies in Bath taxi firms. I think we tried three different companies and the only occasions we were picked up on time were post-midnight. We bailed out on one after 45 minutes and two “where is it then?” calls; it was faster to walk down the hill to get one from the railway station instead.

Friday night was spent at the Hop Pole, where the chef was persuaded via our waitress to serve food other than just mushrooms to vegetarians. Mike, Chef and I went back to Sarah’s for more booze afterwards; it was a 3am finish. Despite engaging in the cardinal sin of beer, white wine and red wine in the same evening I felt fine on Saturday.

We lunched by a swollen Avon (must’ve been Servalan, ah HA HA HA HA HA); the Jolly Sailor, I think, a ten-minute drive out of town. It was sunny and just warm enough to eat outside. The beer garden there is, amusingly, on an island reachable only by clambering over a lock gate; I can only guess at the shade of purple turned by the Health and Safety droid.

In the afternoon the climbers climbed and Lynda and I perused the shops. We also popped into the Bath Tap to peruse the locals. That evening we braved the world of taxis again to head to Sarah’s for home-made pizza, wine and the lunar eclipse.

On Sunday morning, after a very nice breakfast that we unaccountably skipped the day before (see the 3am finish), we checked out and headed home. It rained all the way until Cambridge, more or less.

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