Friday Difficult Smut Names

I WAS on the bus today, and there was a woman in front of me reading a book. And it wasn’t That Book.

I was astonished. I took a closer, if still surreptitious, look, and determined that it wasn’t even a smutty book as the main characters appeared to be called Hilda and Pedro, and there is no way that they would be the names of people in smutty books.

It led me to ask people on Twitter if there were any other names which they would find difficult to accept in dirty books. And it turned out there were…

@Sara Priestley Edwina

@lola_spankcheek Gertrude, Percy and Fanny

@Er0_0 Boris, Beatrice

@Organic_Mummy Bob

@1755Dictionary Marcel, Sebastian, Denzil, Belshazzar, Twyla, Hildagard.

@rodgernash Leopold

@MrSamJohnstone Wenlock and Mandeville

@Shequeen Rover

@titianred Cecil, Tony Blair, Cliff

@joolzah Winifred and Melvyn

@Scunner666 Keith

@amwii Gary

@bettybluetoyou Gary

@auriablis Graham and Doris

@CheshireCaveman Max Mosley

@CatherineLawler Kevin, Ethel, Nigel, Barbara and Gary

@The_No_Show Brian Eno

@MarkW06 Joyce

@poeticsinBeta Boris Johnson

@heideewickes Obidiah

@nick241274 Alan

@TimWallington Deidre

@m2comms Adolf

@jo_the_hat Nigel, Graham and Delia

@Badger5000 Adolf

@Thekjhandbook Eileen, Albert, Doreen, Colin

@cjhancock Fanny

@mikiewoods Albert and Norma

@ejbreezenelmes Olwen, Dewi, Blodwyn, Pwll

@Strnks Charles, Camilla

@fenelope Colin

@geejaydee Clive

@kaylawoi Gertrude, Beryl, Agnes

@SarahPinborough Brian, Enid, Nigel

@JosieTrav Marjorie, Pam

@Tactless_Claire Doreen

@Twistedlilkitty Mum and Dad

@M2comms Ethel, Wilbur

@comedyfish Gilbert

@Notorious_QRG Boris

@CherryMakes Roger

@lukeosullivan Giles

@skirdyloon Gary

@DanPeroni Muriel

 

Then I worked out which names appeared most often – I could not count Boris and Boris Johnson, and Brian and Brian Eno as joint entries – and made a chart. Here is the chart…

 

Smutnames

Both @twistedlilkitty and @Shequeen made me laugh. But @twistedlilkitty wins because she made me laugh first and I make the rules.

Anyway, it is official. Gary is the name that most people would find difficult to accept in one of those books. I do not know how to process that information.

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Column: June 15, 2011

ONE of the great pleasures of my day job is that I get to see the regular Caught On Camera feature in our sister paper, the Liverpool Echo, before anybody else. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it is a bit like the Tatler society pages, except instead of debs and toffs it features low-level criminals.

It also has a higher level of interactivity, in the sense that readers are invited to ring a number and identify the subjects.

Now, I do not want you to think that I am in favour of crime in any way. If anything, I think it should definitely be illegal. But the ludicrousness of some of the crimes featured amuses me on occasion.

As an example, in yesterday’s Echo, police were keen to identify a driver who filled up his tank and left the forecourt without paying for the fuel. This is a common enough crime, but the detail which struck me was the amount taken: £50.01.

I suppose it is possible that there was a £50.01-sized deficit in the driver’s tank and that he filled it up to the brim, but somehow I doubt it.

It is also possible that what we might be dealing with here is a very considerate crook, one who has thought: “In many ways, I am disappointed with the course of action I am about to take. One of the ways I can ameliorate the crime which I am about to commit is by restricting the amount of fuel I will abstract, say £50.” And then he has accidentally and regretfully gone over the target.

If only more low-level criminals paid this sort of attention to the impact of their activities, it would go some way to improving their public image. Perhaps muggers, once they have performed their distasteful business, could hand over a card with the local Victim Support telephone number.

Graffiti artists could take courses in calligraphy and grammar. The more fastidious would study the laws of libel and ensure, before committing paint to wall, that Tracy M does indeed do it for a bag of chips.

But the most likely explanation is that the miscreant was not operating with malice a-forecourt. He probably just fell into The Other Penny Trap. I have written before at length about The Penny Trap, which one falls into whenever one overpays in a shop by a penny and then has to decide whether to stick around for the change and look like a miser, or nip out of the shop before the assistant can say: “Ey, love, ‘ere’s your change.”

But The Other Penny Trap is specific to filling stations. I am sure you have experienced it if you drive. When one intends to fill a tank with £50 of fuel, one clutches the nozzle nonchalantly. Perhaps one finds oneself reading the sign on the pump advertising a special offer on rubbish yellow torches.

But as the figure hits £49.50, one stops dead. Then one risks a final spurt up to £49.96. Then time slows down. One squeezes the trigger so gently that specialist measuring equipment would be required to prove that it has moved. And the figure goes up to £49.97. One feels like a pontoon player on 18. “Hit me,” one tells the dealer, as one squeezes the trigger. An ace! £49.98. “Hit me again,” one says. Another ace! £49.99. 

Will one fold now? No, because then one would be caught in the normal Penny Trap. “Hit me,” one says. One squeezes the trigger. A two of clubs. £50.01. One then has to trudge into the kiosk to take one’s punishment.

“Pump three,” one mutters. “Fifty pounds AND ONE PENCE,” the cashier cries out. Everybody else in the kiosk looks up and thinks: “Idiot. He has fallen into The Other Penny Trap. Oh, look, a tin of Old English Travel Sweets. I don’t think I have ever seen anybody buy them.”

So, if anything, I understand the fuel thief’s bid for freedom from The Other Penny Trap humiliation. But I can’t help thinking that it is now worse for him as now everybody in Liverpool knows he messed up at the pumps. Crime does not pay. Obviously. It steals.

Column: June 8, 2011

I VEER wildly between fancying myself as a suave James Bond-type – an image of me which regular readers will no doubt share – and accepting that I am actually the sort of man who produces a detailed drawing of a belt with a cup holder because he keeps letting mugs of tea go cold.

Delusion got the better of me last week when I bought a new suit. It was on special offer. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I bought an item of clothing that was not on special offer. I do not want you to think I am cheap, but you would not be wrong.

This new suit was part of the M&S Italian Collezione. Collezione is Italian for collection, I guess. I think I know this instinctively because I am one-16th Italian, although the only words of Italian I know for sure are “ciao” and “pizza”. In any case, it boasted the best in Italian styling, and that was good enough for me.

But when I got it home, I had to admit to myself that I had no idea what Italian styling was. I put it on the bed, next to my English-styled M&S suit, and, to be honest, I was baffled. It was like doing a spot the difference between two pictures where the puzzle compiler had forgotten to change any details on the picture on the right.

Eventually, I found an extra tiny pocket on the inside. That must be what Italian styling is. They probably use it for the keys to their Lambrettas, or to store parmesan cheese, or something. I don’t know, I am only one- 16th Italian. Nevertheless, it was enough.

And so, I wore it for work for the first time. I combined it with some brown Chelsea boots and an open-necked white shirt. And the sun was blazing, so I was wearing sunglasses. Obviously, I looked like a ponce, but I didn’t care. My latent Italianate nature had asserted itself. I felt Neapolitan, cosmopolitan even, as I strode through the city centre.

So when a group of three Mediterranean- looking tourists stopped me to ask directions, I was entirely unsurprised. They had clearly recognised me as one of them.

“Where is Mathew Street?” asked the lone woman in the group.

I could have told her. But we were about 30 metres away from the Cavern Quarter. And I had to walk through Mathew Street to get to work.

“Follow me,” I said. I will show you visitors to our city how friendly and helpful the people of Liverpool are, I thought, and it will not cost me anything.

I do not know if you have ever led a group of three people who do not speak your language terribly well, and who are determined to drink in the atmosphere of the crowded city centre you are in a hurry to get through in order to get to work, but it is not as easy as you would think.

“If you could just . . . erm, yes, this way . . . erm, no, that’s . . . ” I burbled, as I attempted to round up the tourists. I spoke to the female ringleader. “Where have you come from?”

“Spain,” she said. “My friends are fanatics of The Beatles. They do not speak English.”

Spain! Great. I know more Spanish than Italian. Specifically, I know the words for hello and goodbye.

“Oh, well, he’s come to the right place,” I said. “You’re much better off here for Beatles stuff than, say, Manchester.”

She looked blank.

“Where in Spain?” I asked.

“Murcia. You know it?”

Not really, I thought. I have no idea where Murcia is. But I refuse to feel guilty about it. You were 30 metres from Mathew Street and didn’t know where it was.

“Yes,” I said, determined to stick to the fiction that I was cosmopolitan. “Oh, here we are.” I had deposited them in Mathew Street. It was up to them now.

“Thank you,” said the woman. Her friends copied her. “Thank you.”

I was touched that they had spoken to me in my mother tongue. I decided I would say goodbye to them in theirs.

“Ciao,” I said. I turned away, and walked on to work, repeating the words “adios” and “idiot” in my head all the way.

Column: June 1, 2011

NOW for the second part of last week’s column. For those of you thinking, “I didn’t see a ‘to be continued . . . ’ at the end of last week’s column,” to be honest I didn’t know last week that there would be a Part Two either.

For those of you who did not see last week’s column, I had French onion soup for the first time and did not like it very much. That is pretty much all of last week’s column.

Anyway, while out shopping, I found myself in a situation where I would have to choose an ice cream from a selection proffered. All the usual suspects were there: vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, double chocolate, triple chocolate, apotheosis of chocolate.

And there, on the end, was a green one. “Oh, good,” I thought. “I like mint.” But when I looked more closely, I discovered it was pistachio.

“Oh, good,” I thought again. “I have never had pistachio ice cream before. People who say their favourite ice cream is pistachio always sound sophisticated. I bet this is right up my street.”

And then I remembered what happened with French onion soup. I eyed the vanilla. It had black bits in it. You can’t go wrong with vanilla with black bits in it.

Then I thought, “There is NO WAY it could happen again.”

The ice cream seller coughed. I looked up. I think his patience over my browsing had reached breaking point. I had to make a quick decision. “Pistachio, please,” I said.

I should have seen the warning signs. While all the other tubs of ice cream looked as if they had experienced heavy shelling, the pistachio was a bowling green.

I swear I saw the ice cream seller give his colleague a sly smile as the scoop broke into the tub on the end for the first time in living memory. I am surprised that he actually charged me.

Did I enjoy my pistachio treat? Perhaps this will answer your question…

THE SMASHING ICE-CREAM COMPANY BOARDROOM – 50 YEARS AGO

MD: Figgis, bring us up to speed.

FIGGIS: Obviously we have already done vanilla, strawberry and increasing potencies of chocolate. We have even forgotten to take out the black bits from vanilla and charged twice the price, but a new flavour, sir? You are asking for the moon.

MD: Give me the moon, Figgis. Give me the moon.

FIGGIS: OK. We have come up with pistachio.

MD: What the hell is pistachio? Let me have a lick.

MD LICKS THE GREEN ICE CREAM AND SPITS IT OUT ACROSS THE BOARDROOM TABLE.

MD: That is revolting. You made an ice cream that tastes of marzipan? That yellow stuff that all right-minded people spend Christmas Night picking off their fruitcake?

FIGGIS: AND we’ve coloured it precisely the same shade of green as Kryptonite and the nuclear fuel rods that Homer accidentally leaves in Springfield at the beginning of every episode of The Simpsons. If that doesn’t tip people off . . . 

MD: What is The Simpsons?

FIGGIS: Sorry, it’s an anachronistic reference to something that won’t be created for another 30 years. I did not think it through.

MD: You’ve done well, Figgis. Put this green glop next to our normal ice cream, and it will make our normal ice cream seem as ambrosia, the mythical food of the gods, in comparison. We’ll sell a shedload of the good stuff.

All you people who say you like pistachio, it’s all a big joke, isn’t it? You’ve all tried it and said, “This is vile. Let’s see if we can mess up some poor dupe’s ice cream eating experience by ‘bigging it up’ in the Sunday supplements.”

So, you win. I have had it with things that I have never tried before. Once bitten, twice shy. Twice bitten, retreat into an impervious cocoon and never come out. That is my new motto. There will be no Part Three.

Column: May 25, 2011

I’VE always assumed I’d be the sort of person who would like French onion soup. I like soup, generally. I’ve got a French GCSE. And if you asked me which was my favourite bulb-shaped allium, onion would be in the top two.

In fruit machine terms, that is three lemons, and I would expect a load of flavour and approval coins to spill out all over my shoes like somebody having a dream about winning big in Vegas in a sitcom.

So convinced have I been that I would like French onion soup, I had never actually had any. I mean, I am equally convinced I wouldn’t much like bungee jumping and don’t feel a pressing need to disprove my prejudice. I know how difficult it is to keep my own shoelaces tied all day, so the idea of somebody tying a knot capable of staying tied when something with the body weight of an actual body is yanking on it all the time is beyond my intelligence.

Nevertheless, I found myself in a situation last week where I could actually have French onion soup.

Moreover, the only other soup on offer was replete with cream and milk.

I don’t like cream and milk. I am not lactose intolerant, but if you tell me, “Oh, there’s only a bit of cream and milk in this thing I am giving you, you won’t even notice,” I will tell you I am lactose intolerant just to make you stop. I am not above lying to not get what I don’t want. I will notice. The only reason you don’t notice it is because YOU like it.

Essentially, I was being railroaded into finally breaking my French onion soup duck. I walked up to the till. “French onion soup, please,” I said, for the first time in my life.

“Regular or large?” asked the cashier.

“Regular,” I said. “Let’s not go mad at this stage.” She smiled at me, indulgently. Which surprised me as she had not been privy to my internal monologue. Perhaps she smiles indulgently at all her customers.

She ladled the rich broth into a polystyrene cup, bagged it up, and I was away.

I walked back to the office, genuinely excited that I was finally going to have French onion soup. I had a spring in my step and a smile on my face. People walking past me no doubt thought, “He’s smiling like that woman on the till in the sandwich shop.”

I sat down at my desk, removed the lid from the cup. “Are you having soup, Gary?” asked an observant colleague.

“Yes, I am. It’s French onion soup and it’s my first time.”

“You’re nearly 40, it’s your first time having French onion soup?”

“No, it’s the first time I’m having soup as a concept. Leave me alone.” I plunged the plastic spoon into the steaming nectar and lifted it to my lips, blowing on it slightly to cool.

It’s rubbish, isn’t it?

I was expecting something rich and sweet and mysterious. The consummate consommé. Something which explained the Gallic enigma.

What I got was weak Bovril, homeopathic oxtail soup, a beef rumour. With onions in it. Which fell off the spoon and landed in the polystyrene cup leaving a spatter pattern all over the desk which a police forensic scientist would no doubt identify as “classic French onion soup rookie spill”.

I have never been so disappointed in my life. I do not blame the shop in question.

It was probably moderate to excellent French onion soup. But I had invested so much expectation in my first experience of French onion soup, that I was setting myself up for a fall.

Not only that, but I now believe that all my preconceptions are now questionable. It was the worst thing I had ever bought, because it has proven that my judgment and my prejudices are baseless.

Apart from the bungee jump one. I am not an idiot.

Column: May 18, 2011

IF VENDING machines and I had any sort of relationship, and we were both on Facebook, it would definitely be described as “it’s complicated.”

As somebody who is not in a tea round in work, I am dependent on the office machine to prevent me from dehydrating. And it, itself, is dependent on the more-or-less constant stream of cash from my pocket for its own livelihood.

A vending machine only has one job to do: take my money and give me what I’ve paid for.

And yet it continually goads me and makes me jump through hoops in order to get at its little treasures.

On several occasions, I have had to seek out a ruler, assume a prone position and shove my hand into the slot to dislodge a bottle which has been trapped en route to the holding area.

This, of course, is something I will only do when nobody else is around. Nobody needs to see my impression of a vet for robots.

On several more occasions, I have found myself risking life and limb rocking the vending machine in a, usually doomed, attempt to shake free a tenacious packet of crisps hanging on to the spiral like Harold Lloyd to a clock face.

Depending on the level of my desperation, I eventually give in, and drop another couple of silver coins into the machine, assuming that I will end up with two packets of crisps, one of which I will put in my drawer for another time.

What I actually get is one packet of crisps and a new Harold Lloyd. While most people are taking advantage of BOGOF offers, I end up with a SODOF (Shelled Out Double. Oh, Flip).

On several fewer occasions, the vending machine will present me with an ethical question. It will give me too much change.

That leaves me with two options: pocket the cash – something I would never do if it happened to me in a shop – or insert the cash back into the machine and pass the moral dilemma on to the next person who wants a Vimto. That is my favoured option.

Or the machine will present me with two Kit-Kats – my own, and somebody else’s Harold Lloyd. Given that it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, I tend to give the windfall away, sanctifying it as a gift.

But yesterday, my usual vending machine played a new trick on me. I hankered after a refreshing can of Diet Coke. I appreciate that I am a man in his late 30s and not a 22-year-old woman, but this is by the by. It is not your place to judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes and that is not going to happen, because I jealously guard my shoes after a dream I once had about going to work without my shoes.

I digress . . . 

I dropped in a pound coin, carefully typed in the two-digit code (I’ve been burned by an accidental Diet Fanta on too many occasions) and waited. I wouldn’t say there was an air of eager anticipation about the enterprise, but I was fairly hopeful.

The machine beeped. “Cannot make change,” the display slowly scrolled. “Hmph,” I thought. The can was priced at 65p. I took my quid back and inserted a 50p and 20p. “Cannot make change,” it reiterated baldly. I realised that it was a lack of five pence pieces causing the difficulty. I did not have a five pence piece.

“Look, mate, you can keep the change,” I said. The machine did not reply. It was a machine.

I am not sure if there is a word for the frustration I felt at that point. I walked away and went to the shop next door. They didn’t have any cans of Diet Coke. I had to buy a bottle instead.

Nobody came out of this well. Because of the pig-headed honesty of the machine, it was deprived of a sale, plus an extra shiny five pence piece. And I had to shell out an extra 40p. And it was raining.

Thankfully, I was wearing my shoes.

Column: June 15, 2011

ONE of the great pleasures of my day job is that I get to see the regular Caught On Camera feature in our sister paper, the Liverpool Echo, before anybody else. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it is a bit like the Tatler society pages, except instead of debs and toffs it features low-level criminals.

It also has a higher level of interactivity, in the sense that readers are invited to ring a number and identify the subjects.

Now, I do not want you to think that I am in favour of crime in any way. If anything, I think it should definitely be illegal. But the ludicrousness of some of the crimes featured amuses me on occasion.

As an example, in yesterday’s Echo, police were keen to identify a driver who filled up his tank and left the forecourt without paying for the fuel. This is a common enough crime, but the detail which struck me was the amount taken: £50.01.

I suppose it is possible that there was a £50.01-sized deficit in the driver’s tank and that he filled it up to the brim, but somehow I doubt it.

It is also possible that what we might be dealing with here is a very considerate crook, one who has thought: “In many ways, I am disappointed with the course of action I am about to take. One of the ways I can ameliorate the crime which I am about to commit is by restricting the amount of fuel I will abstract, say £50.” And then he has accidentally and regretfully gone over the target.

If only more low-level criminals paid this sort of attention to the impact of their activities, it would go some way to improving their public image. Perhaps muggers, once they have performed their distasteful business, could hand over a card with the local Victim Support telephone number.

Graffiti artists could take courses in calligraphy and grammar. The more fastidious would study the laws of libel and ensure, before committing paint to wall, that Tracy M does indeed do it for a bag of chips.

But the most likely explanation is that the miscreant was not operating with malice a-forecourt. He probably just fell into The Other Penny Trap. I have written before at length about The Penny Trap, which one falls into whenever one overpays in a shop by a penny and then has to decide whether to stick around for the change and look like a miser, or nip out of the shop before the assistant can say: “Ey, love, ‘ere’s your change.”

But The Other Penny Trap is specific to filling stations. I am sure you have experienced it if you drive. When one intends to fill a tank with £50 of fuel, one clutches the nozzle nonchalantly. Perhaps one finds oneself reading the sign on the pump advertising a special offer on rubbish yellow torches.

But as the figure hits £49.50, one stops dead. Then one risks a final spurt up to £49.96. Then time slows down. One squeezes the trigger so gently that specialist measuring equipment would be required to prove that it has moved. And the figure goes up to £49.97. One feels like a pontoon player on 18. “Hit me,” one tells the dealer, as one squeezes the trigger. An ace! £49.98. “Hit me again,” one says. Another ace! £49.99. 

Will one fold now? No, because then one would be caught in the normal Penny Trap. “Hit me,” one says. One squeezes the trigger. A two of clubs. £50.01. One then has to trudge into the kiosk to take one’s punishment.

“Pump three,” one mutters. “Fifty pounds AND ONE PENCE,” the cashier cries out. Everybody else in the kiosk looks up and thinks: “Idiot. He has fallen into The Other Penny Trap. Oh, look, a tin of Old English Travel Sweets. I don’t think I have ever seen anybody buy them.”

So, if anything, I understand the fuel thief’s bid for freedom from The Other Penny Trap humiliation. But I can’t help thinking that it is now worse for him as now everybody in Liverpool knows he messed up at the pumps. Crime does not pay. Obviously. It steals.