Two Observations on Rain

Observation 1:

When you are out in the rain at night-time, you don't get half as wet as you do when you go out in the rain during the day.

Observation 2:
When you are driving along and it's not raining and you put your windscreen washers on, it often starts to rain.

I think this latter one is somehow tied in with the Meaning of Life.

I'm Gonna Take This With Me.

I'm going to be facetious now.

So brace yourself.

I was thinking - what with all the doom and gloom that's currently around - wouldn't it be nice if I could write a post that would just raise a smile and... and 'accentuate the positive' and generally make you want to go and hug the cat.

(Go, go, hug him... hug him real tight... squeeeeeeeezzzze.)

But, as I was striving for this unerringly happy post, there was only one question that kept jumping into my head. It wouldn't go away.

So the 'happy post' turns out to be just a question.

"What song would I like to have played at my funeral?"

I know, I know, sorry, it's not exactly the cheeriest thing ever, is it? But it's what I was thinking of and I couldn't shake it off. So I'll play you the song I'd like to have played at my funeral down at the bottom.

But this all made me wonder, what tune/song would you like played at yours. Really, it did.

Now, you see, the post becomes almost salvageable. Granted, it may never be the happy-go-lucky recession-beater that I was aiming for but, at worst, we may yet achieve a little public service blogging here.

See, if you tell me what tune you want at your send-off, and then I hear that you died, I can contact the next of kin with the information.

That'd be kind of good, wouldn't it?

Perhaps you could do the same for me? I have a post prepared that's linked to my pulse so, thirty minutes after it stops, the post will come on the blog and announce my untimely... etc. Then, upon reading it, you all could email and remind my family about the song I want played.


Now, you may well ask, why doesn't the silly fecker just name the song in this epic pulse-related blog-post of his? Simple answer. That would be too easy, wouldn't it?

Anyway, here's my current funereal music. This may change as I get older and whither further, as I fully expect to. I'll keep you posted, literally.

Oh, and this song is my choice. Right? You go and get your own. Then come tell me all about it. I'd love to hear.

At least it's a change from the 'Seven Odd Things' meme, isn't it?

Okay. Are we happy yet?

Flash Fiction - Grated

Hopefully this qualifies as ‘Flash Fiction’ on two counts – firstly it’s under the requisite 1000 words and second I wrote it in a flash just this afternoon.

There’s a note about the inspiration at the end but that’s probably better left until after.


“What the hell is this?”

It’s not going well, this day. Not well at all.

“It’s the ‘Spaghetti al Forno’ sir”

“Al who?”

“’Forno’. Like you ordered.”

“Naw, ‘couldn’t be! I never eat anything with a name.”

Appreciative laughter all round the table. Christ, business lunches are the worst of all.

“Plus, it’s very undercooked. It’s tough.”

“It’s ‘Al Dente’, sir.”

“Another ‘Al’, what are they? Cousins?”

More laughter from the three other suits. Bordering on raucous. Two bottles of Chianti down, the third just opened.

“Plus this wine is corked. Here, taste it.”

Yes, yes, yes, how often is the poor wine accused of being corked? As if this Philistine would have any clue. I raise the bottle to my nose. I don’t need to taste it to tell if it’s corked. I sniff it gently of course it’s completely…

…corked. Jesus Christ.

“Sorry, sir, I’ll bring you another.”

“Do that. And get Al out here too, I want to talk to him.”

Haw haw haw.

I’m not even meant to be here today. The owner deserves one day off a week and Tuesdays are usually quiet. But Marco has to pick Monday evening to twist his ankle at five-a-side.

Thanks Marco.

And when somebody twists something, I’m never that hard to find. I live right up over the restaurant. People think it’s a hardship but really it’s quite elegant.

I was looking forward to catching up on my videoed shows too. One glorious day. Then I got the call. To tell the truth, I wasn’t all that annoyed. Maria had chosen today to do that thing she does – that gross disgusting thing – and she was doing it right in the TV room.


“Sorry sir. What was that?”

“I need some Palmerstown Cheese, for this ‘Al-Stuff.”

Is this fat bastard actually for real?

“You mean Parmesan?”

“Palmerstown, Parmesan, I need some of it before ‘Al’, here, freezes over.”

Hardy har harrrrr.

Parmesan. Right.

I go to the servery to get the prick his Parmesan cheese and a new bottle of wine.

There is none.

Not wine. There’s plenty of wine. Gallons. There isn’t any Parmesan, though. Not a speck. Oh my God, an Italian restaurant, without any Parmesan? Tell me why, I don’t like Tuesdays.

In the kitchen, Giovanni is sweating just like that pig which he is carving used to in life. He doesn’t have any Parmesan either. It’s on order, it’s being delivered any minute. Yeah, yeah, it’s not here though, is it? It’s no good to me 'on order', is it?.

Back at the table with some new wine, Porky and his cronies look up at me, ready for more fun.

“Here’s your wine.”


“Sorry we’re out.”

Silence. Loops of linguine dangling from pursed lips.

“You’re what?”

“Out. Sorry.”

Then I get the Litany. I’ll spare you. Just fill in the blanks, you’ve seen it often enough. The service staff get caught short for something. The head of the table uses the opportunity to enforce his alpha-male status by shitting all over the poor beleaguered guy. Blah, blah. Here’s the end of it;

“… and if you don’t get me some Palmerstown Cheese for my Spaghetti Al Caponey, I will refuse to pay for anything and I will never come back here again.”

Oh yeah, that last bit is worrying me – not. The first bit is though. These guys are three bottles in, four if you count the corked one. That kind of ditched bill can really sting.

I think I might have some spare Parmesan in the fridge upstairs. I bloody hope I do.

As I enter the apartment, I glance in at Maria in the room. She’s still doing that disgusting thing of hers. God, how long can it take?

Just Call me 'Old Mother Hubbard'. The fridge is bare – well, not ‘bare’ but bare of ‘Parmesan’. I kind of thought it was, but there was a small chance.

Maria looks up from her task as I slope in. She looks alluring in her dressing gown, maybe I should just stay up here with her. Good idea, except she’s doing that ‘thing’ and it’s a total passion-killer.

“Hi honey, 'you all right?”

“Trouble below, I’ll handle it.”

“I have no doubt you will handsome.”

I stare.

“Sexy stuff eh?”

“No… Why do you have to…?”

She shakes her head and smiles. Yup, still alluring despite this ongoing gross practice.

“We’ve talked about this. The soles of my feet get really really hard. It’s the sandals. This pumice stone takes off the hard skin and keeps me beautiful. I know it bugs you but…”

I stare at the newspaper on the floor. The shavings, so much shavings.

“Are you finished?” I ask, fake-distractedly.

“Just now. Why?”

“Nothing, it’s just that, I could take that out for you, as I go.”

“Could you darling? That would be great. I’ll just roll up this newspaper.”

I smile at her. She's lovely, really.

“No, don’t do that. I’ll get a little bowl.”

(c) Ken Armstrong 2009

This story was inspired by my friend Kathy's post of today over at her excellent Junk Drawer.

An Immaculate Misconception

This is not a religious post.

This is a post about something I thought I knew and didn't.

Driving to Dublin recently, I heard on the radio that a poll had discovered that lots of people in Ireland didn't really know much about their religion and stuff.

Are you with me so far?

90% of people, my radio said, did not know what 'The Immaculate Conception' was.

I snorted derisively. Try it, it's not easy... keep a little scrap of tissue handy just in case.

"I, for one", I said, "know what that is!".

Then... well... then they told me what it was... and I was wrong.

I was really wrong.

Now I was so sure that I knew what 'The Immaculate Conception' was that, had I been asked this question at the million pound point on 'Who Wants To Be a Millionaire' I would have answered confidently, arrogantly and, as it turns out, completely incorrectly.

It just goes to show you... something.

So, do you think you know what the 'Immaculate Conception' is? Check here and see if you're right:

I kinda reckon you're not.

This is what I thought it was:

No... the links are not 'Rick Rolls'...

Bad With Names

I have always been bad with names. Close family members are not a problem and my wife’s name trips easily off the tongue at this stage but all others remain difficult.

These days I have come to terms with the problem. The trick was to stop trying to bluff my way around the fact that I obviously haven’t a clue who you are. Generally, I’ll now come clean and just say, "I’m sorry but I’ve forgotten your name again." This honest approach seems to work well.

But this lesson was not learned easily. There were many stumbles along the road to realising that I have a head like a sieve. The final knock - also the worst - was the one which made me give up trying to muddle though, once and for all.

I had just started in the Architects office where I then worked. On my first day I had been introduced to fourteen very fine people and, true to form, I had immediately forgotten every single one of their names. All except the boss - I’m bad but not that bad. After three weeks of bluff, counter-bluff and confusion, a new recruit came to work in the office. I was no longer the ‘new-boy’ and I resolved I would make a clean start by committing this new man’s name to memory and never ever forget it again.

My happiness knew no bounds when we were finally introduced. His name turned out to be Finnegan... Michael Finnegan. "Now this will be easy," I said to myself, "I actually know a song about a man called Michael Finnegan. If I mentally file his name away with that song then I will never lose it." As I recall, I even sang a bit of the song to myself, to embed the knowledge in my brain.

"There was an auld man called Michael Finnegan,
he grew fat and then grew thin again,
he caught a fish and threw him in again
poor auld Michael Finnegan.
Begin again."

I had this one sorted, no bother. I looked forward, with great anticipation, to my amazing recollection of the new guy’s name.

I didn’t have very long to wait. A client was coming into our office and Michael was due to meet him. I was asked to look after the initial introductions. A request like this would normally have got me scribbling on my cuffs but not this time. This time I was in control.

This client and I were busy tucking into tea and digestive biscuits when the new man came in. Immediate introductions were required and I sprang to the task with no small measure of enthusiasm.

"I would like," said I, "I would like to introduce you to the man who will be dealing with your project from now on. His name is... Patrick McGinty."

So, if we ever meet and, with a smile, I admit that I can’t seem to remember your name, please forgive me.

It is definitely better if I don't try.

Go Wuss, Young Man…

So, it’s official, I am turning into a Big Wuss.

It seems that, the older I get, the more emotional I get. Things which once rolled off me like a… rolling… thing that’s… on me (maybe I’ll come back to that simile) now seem able to wound me to the very core.

It’s a sign of growing older, I know it is.

See, when we were fourteen or so, this movie came out that was widely advertised as being the most heart-breaking motion piccie of all time. No, it wasn’t one of the famous ones like ‘Love Story’, in fact I remember it quite well. It was called ‘The Last Snows of Spring’ and it was pretty crappy by any standards.

But people did cry, maybe they felt obliged after all the adverts. In among all this cinematic weeping-and-gnashing-of-teeth sat us, laughing our heads off, joking, giggling and poking each other in the ribs.

This tragedy crap meant nothing to us. And why would it? We were kids, we'd never known any tragedy.

I believe that we are most touched by drama which deals with things which we have experienced ourselves.

It’s not a rocket-science theory really. Here’s an example:

When I was about seventeen, I put my hand through a window (‘long story, I’ll tell you sometime). You can sometimes get away with putting your hand through a window but pulling it back out again at speed is liable to do you some considerable damage and, in my case, it did. The other day, twenty-eight years later, I was admiring the scars which are still clearly in evidence around my wrist. The point is, up until I did that silly thing, I could happily watch people go through glass panes, in movies and on telly, all day long. Immediately after that, and for ever after amen, I have winced and shuddered whenever I see it happen. The experience had become personal to me to an extent that now I could be touched and even shocked by seeing it dramatised.

It’s true of pretty much everything, I think.

Take the only movie to ever make me cry, really blub like. Before I tell you what it is (and you pack up and leave) let me explain that the first time I saw this film I hated it. Really. Although the lead actor won an Academy Award for his performance, I found the whole thing forced and obvious. That was back in 1994.

Unimpressed. Deeply. Me.

Then I saw it again in 2004. I’ll tell you the truth, I saw the second half of it, on television, late one night. I hated it again, easy. That celebrated ‘Opera’ scene just does my head in (sorry Tom, it just does) 'load of old... but then the last scene came on… and it reduced me to a wreck.

A Wreck.

The film was ‘Philadelphia'. If this rings a bell with anyone, I did discuss it briefly before in the middle of a movie meme. Anyway this final scene shows (OLD MOVIE SPOILER ALERT) the family party after the main character’s funeral. On the TV in the room there are videos of the guy as a kid, playing around, looking sad. And that’s what got me. I had a boy the same age as this little dude in the movie. No matter how hard I tried, he would grow up and see the world for the harsh place it often is. The world would hurt him. It was beyond my control. And there it was - the life experiences that I simply didn’t have back in ’94 came up and kicked me right in the ass in good old ’04.

Oh and Neil Young’s moving soundtrack song possibly threw me off over the edge.

And now, as years subside, I can feel myself getting worse. I have more life experiences with each passing day, you see. More reasons to blub.

Just last week I was watching the last part of the BBC’s fine new adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank. Seeing Anne portrayed as a wonderful testy vivacious teenager, criminally robbed of her liberty and life – well, it spoiled my day. What really threw me was the information at the end which said that the only survivor of that hidden household was Anne’s father – who lived until 1980. What a weight that poor man he had to carry through his life.

When I was seventeen, I wouldn’t have got any of that.

But I think I’m starting to now.

(PS: Are there movies that have reduced you to a blubbering mess? I'd be interested to know)

Two Simon and Garfunkel Lyrics Interpreted

Some of you know this already. Some of you think it's all wrong.

I used to be confused by Simon and Garfunkel's song 'So Long Frank Lloyd Wright' on that 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' album of so long ago.

Frank Lloyd Wright was arguably the world's most famous 20th Century Architect (my son John threw his soother into the FLW exhibit in the Victoria and Albert Museum twelve years ago - 'always the critic).

But Paul Simon wrote, "So long Frank Lloyd Wright, all of the nights we'd harmonised til dawn, I never laughed so long, so long, so long..." It's a nice lyric.

But the timeline doesn't work terribly well. FLW died in 1959 and it seemed unlikely that the very young Paul would have jammed with him.

Well... I am here to tell you that he didn't.

Art Garfunkel had considered becoming an architect and thus earned the nickname 'Frank Lloyd Wright' from his musical partner.

So the song is actually about the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel. Paul is saying goodbye to Art in it.

Now it makes some sense.

As a sort of a bonus-track of Paul Simon song-interpretation, it is helpful to note that St. Cecilia is the Patron saint of musicians.

Bear this in mind when listening to the Simon and Garfunkel song 'Cecilia'.

It throws a little light, I think.

The Dog Mumbler

So I’m going to let you in on an extraordinary tip-for-life which I’ve just discovered. I’d appreciate it if you could keep it to yourself though, this stuff doesn’t grow on trees.

I’ve mentioned before a little about my relationship with dogs (we’ve done cats too but let’s not revisit that fiasco). I’ve told how dogs seem to respond to me and how I think this is because I am at least twenty per cent dog myself.

What I didn’t mention last time was how much I really like dogs. I’ve owned a few in my younger years and they played a big part in my life. I don’t have any now because I don’t feel I could give one the time it would need from me. And therein lies the (tummy) rub: I really hate to see dogs who are not well attended to by their owners.

I don’t mean obvious neglect or abuse – obviously we all abhor that – I mean the more subtle avoidance of basic rations of care and attention.

I reckon that dogs need to have their place in the world reaffirmed to them on a fairly regular basis. They need to know who their boss is, or else they become unruly and even aggressive. The simple proof of this is the sheer delight one can see in a dog who has a great relationship with his owner, the respect and adoration which is so cheerfully given.

So it annoys me to see very many dogs around who are left off to do their own thing without their owners ever giving them any clue as to where they stand.

What’s this all about Ken, eh?

Okay. As I walk to and from work every day, I pass several houses with dogs who bark madly at everything that enters their field of vision. Their owners haven’t bothered their ass to take the 30 minutes to explain to their dogs that barking is not required so they bark and they bark. Their owners curse them, the neighbours hate them and I feel sorry for them.

Well , eighty per cent of me does…

The other twenty percent of me is pure mongrel and it doesn’t like being barked at. “This is my territory”, the doggy part of my brain says, “ and if you try asserting all over me, I will bite you on your furry ass.”

So, up until recently, as I passed the barking dogs, I would tell them to ‘be quiet’ in reasonably firm tones. All right, I would occasionally shout. And always – always – the dogs will stop barking. It’s a weird thing I have going for me - dogs listen to me. I think I can explain it but I won’t here, the comments would murder me.

It’s all quite satisfying, in a perverse way. The dog barks, I tell him to be quiet and he obeys. But it’s a bit uncouth too – me letting rip at the dogs everyday. I started to feel that it was a source of free amusement for the neighbours. “Here he comes, watch, he’ll shout at our Rover in a minute.”

Then, quite recently, I made my breakthrough discovery.

One morning, I was a long way down the street when the black dog (you know the one) appeared over his gate and started barking. I suddenly remembered a book my brother had years ago called ‘The Magic of the Senses’. I remembered how dogs could smell tiny particles of stuff and hear, yes, hear really well.

I reasoned, if he can hear that well, I don’t really need to shout at him, do I?

From my vantage point in the distance, I distinctly muttered, ‘Shut up’ to the dog.

He shut up. He really did!

Ever since then, I’ve been assuming a Clint Eastwood growl from great distances to encourage my neighbourhood canines to cease and desist. I haven’t failed yet. And the neighbours are bemused at my lack of shouting and cannot figure out what I am doing, which is rather fun.

This, then, is my discovery. You don’t have to yell at errant barking dogs. If you mutter at them with sufficient authority they will hear and obey.

Maybe that’s where the word ‘Mutt’er actually comes from.


In the Petrol Station

In the petrol station
a guy and girl in the queue
they were new
I could tell.

The guy waved at the displays
have anything you want,
he said,
anything they sell.

The girl looked around
chocolate bars, magazines, gum.
She went to the corner,
got something,
brought it back,
heaved it on the counter.


a five litre can of motor oil

at least she wouldn't be cheap.

(c) Ken Armstrong 2008