Thursday, 14 February 2013

What's your beef?

Now you may be shocked by what you're about to see, so I'd advise you to sit down before reading on (or at least surround yourself with soft pillows to fall on, whilst removing all broken glass, knives and bear traps from your vicinity).

A news report this evening suggests that a company involved in the horse meat scandal bought in cheap horse meat and then passed it off as beef (by using the very sophisticated method known as 'sticking new labels on stuff'). They did this deliberately.

What's that I can hear? Why it's a collective gasp of surprise and astonishment!

Who knew that companies were being deliberately deceitful? I for one had previously assumed that a bunch of horses had dressed up in cow onesies in a prank that just went too far.

But no. It was actually in this instance a French company *cups hand to ear to hear another crescendo of astonished gasps* that was, what in the scientific community is known as, 'buggering about with the food chain'.

The company concerned is called 'Spanghero'. To be honest, that should have been enough of a warning in itself. It sounds very made up, like something out of a comic book.

A while back on Twitter, when the news of the buggered up food chain first broke, I saw several tweets (mainly from vegetarians) along the lines of 'If you're happy to eat beef, what does it matter if you actually end up eating horse?'

Whilst on one level I can appreciate the point that is being made, the reality is that despite what some militant vegetarians might think, just because I might choose to eat beef, doesn't mean I'm an actual omnivore. I'd never choose to eat horse. Or lamb, rabbit, goat, dog or most other living things.

If we're happy to shrug off such incidents with a 'well I don't know what you're complaining about, you dirty meat eater' attitude, what message does that send to the food manufactures and sellers?

If we can't trust the ingredients presented to us, even in a basic meal, how can any of us ever make a conscious choice about what we eat?

Whether you're buying a steak, chicken nuggets or a ready meal that contains Quorn, it's only fair to know for sure that it is what it purports to be.

Not to mention the fact that if food manufacturers are happy to blatantly lie about something as basic as the meat used in their products, how can they be trusted to be employing the necessary stringent hygiene controls? They could literally be 'pissing on your chips' just for a laugh.

Funnily enough, this whole incident has made me question what I'm eating and the conditions slaughtered animals face. I'm very tempted to go back to being a vegetarian (I was previously one for a total of 15 years at various periods of my life).

Unfortunately, the reason why I always ended up returning to meat was that no matter what I tried in order to maintain a healthy balanced diet, I always ended up feeling ridiculously weak and wobbly. The only antidote that I found to this was having a steak casserole or similar - suddenly the life force flooded back into me.

I guess the key with this, like any other situation is finding the right balance that suits you. And also, not pretending that X is actually Y.

In the spirit of ceasing to pretend that you are something that you're not, I will no longer be passing myself off as a black rapper. Apologies to all of you who used to enjoy my breakdancing on an old piece of lino down the shopping centre.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Like something out of a really dull episode of Hollyoaks...

Saint Valentine's day! The worst day of the year for my poor old postman. 

Oh no, not because his sack is overloaded with loving cards and trinkets from my scores of admirers, but because I verbally abuse him for having stolen all of it. Seriously, does he really think I believe his tale that nobody has sent me a single thing yet AGAIN? 

In reality, aside from the ones that I've sent to myself (and others that have been well disguised as bills and the Damart catalogue) I've only ever received one Valentine's card in my life.

This was when I was 15 and at school. It was from a girl called Kerry. She was very lovely and drew a picture on a folded Post It note of some cute creature (a cat I think) holding a heart. Inside it said something like "wishing you a happy Valentine's day", i.e. there was no actual declaration of undying love, just a wish for a happy day.

Despite this, it still warmed my heart. I carried it around in my jacket pocket and proudly showed it to anyone who would look. It was a bit like being a New York detective who would whip out his badge to prove his credentials. If anyone made out that I was in anyway undesirable, I'd produce my crumpled Post It note to prove them wrong. I then frisked them down and sent them away to be processed by the boys in the downtown precinct. 

In my own shambolic way, I then attempted to court Kerry for the last few months we were at school together. I'd casually loiter around the corridor where I knew she'd be having her last lesson of the day, just so I could say 'hi' to her as she filed past with her class mates. 

Just getting a glimpse and a word from her made the long walk home (having missed my bus by hanging around) much more bearable. The first half mile, I was walking on air. The rest of the journey, I was on my last legs (I've never had the gift of athleticism) but still glad I'd seen her nonetheless. 

Eventually, several months down the line - in the Easter holidays if I remember correctly - I summoned the courage to phone up and ask her out. This was long before the days of mobiles and texting. Back then, one had to actually talk to the person of their affection right from the outset. And worse still, there was always the possibility that you'd end up speaking to one of her parents if they were to answer the phone. 

Despite the risks involved, which felt like they may ACTUALLY kill me, I armed myself with a big glass of water to soothe my sandpaper-dry mouth and a little script of what I was going to say. I must have sounded like a telemarketer trying to sell someone double glazing. Except instead of new windows, the product was a dream date to watch 'Look Who's Talking Too' at the local Odeon.

Despite a very wobbly voice and several episodes of hyperventilation, somehow I managed to dupe her into thinking this would be a great idea and she agreed to accompany me. 

My initial euphoria soon turned to sheer terror as I realised that in just a couple of days time, I would be having to, you know, go on a date and stuff. What does one do on these things? Where would this lead? Should I propose before initiating any kind of physical contact? 

I felt both amazingly excited and extremely anxious about what lay before me. I couldn't sleep much, but I was weeing a lot. 

When the fateful day arrived, I got up early and had like three showers or something and washed my hair twice, trying to get it just right (it was 1990 and I had what I hoped were cool spikes, but they probably just looked a bad kind of messy, stuck fast with gel that went flaky before long).

About an hour before I was due to leave, I had a phone call. It was her! She was ever so sorry, but she couldn't make it after all. She had to babysit someone at short notice. 

Was this a genuine thing or had she had an epiphany about what she had agreed to? I guess I should have been upset, but in fact I was elated with relief. What to me was an almighty terrifying task, had just been removed. It was like receiving a stay of execution.

I can't really remember much of what happened after this. I left school to take my GCSEs and only saw her very occasionally. The last encounter I remember with her was at a bus stop a year or so later. I sensed she wasn't at all interested - she had blossomed and was really attractive and clever, so I suspect that she now had lots of fine chaps who could see in her what I always had. Without Twitter or Facebook or mobiles to keep in touch, that was that - we completely lost contact.

As it turns out, 'Look Who's Talking Too' was one of the worst films of all time, so at least I saved some money on that, not to mention the whole dying of embarrassment thing.

Anyway, in conclusion, I know that some people detest Valentine's day for its commercialism and also the pressure some single people feel it puts on them. But it can also be an opportunity to bring people together (even if everything eventually ends up going to rat shit).

I do wonder what St Valentine would make of everything that is now done in his name. I had a quick look on Wikipedia to see what he was like and was struck by the following quote:

"Nothing is reliably known of St. Valentine except his name and the fact that he died on February 14 on Via Flaminia in the north of Rome".

So it turns out that Valentine's Day IS actually nothing but bullshit after all!


Monday, 11 February 2013

Pope Application (as in applying for the job, not as in a little preachy widget for your iPhone)

So I’ve decided to apply to be Pope (or is it just ‘pope’ with a little p? Actually, probably quite a lot of p, as he is quite old now - those white robes are very unforgiving). Here is my letter of application:

“Dear Vatican Overlords,

I notice that a vacancy has arisen for the role of pope. I imagine there’s a grander, more formal title attached to the position than just ‘pope’, but let’s not get bogged down in any detail right now. Oh okay then, let’s compromise and settle on ‘Mr Pope’ so as to not to appear disrespectful.

Anyway, I would like to apply for said vacancy. I feel I have many skills to bring to this role and believe I’m exactly what you’re looking for.

Firstly though, let’s clear up one important point up right away; I’m not a Roman Catholic or even a Christian. But does that really matter? Does the Chief Executive of Pedigree Chum eat dog food? Well, given the recent horse meat scandal he possibly does, but that’s only coincidental. A bit like when I bless someone after they have sneezed.

I feel what’s more important is that I have a good heart. Most of my friends will agree with this (references available). Although not all of them perhaps, but then, who would they have to forgive if I wasn’t mean to them? I’m actually giving them an opportunity to be nice and kind, like Jesus was.

Unlike the present incumbent, I’ve never been a Nazi. But I have played as them in some of the older Call of Duty online games, so I have a broad understanding of their values and practices. 

Although I’ve never swung any incense around, I have experimented with joss sticks in my time (but I swear I didn’t inhale). 

If I were to be successful in the role, I would have to stipulate just a few conditions before accepting:

1. I usually enjoy a nice lie in on a Sunday morning. Sunday is a day of rest, so all services will now be carried out on a Wednesday (I need Monday and Tuesday to get over the weekend)

2. I’m not a fan of wine in any way, so Holy Communion will now have the option of Guinness being served instead. The little wafer things aren’t that tasty either, so they will be replaced with Hob-Nobs.

3. The pointy hat looks a bit stupid, so I will continue to wear one ONLY if a law is passed that EVERYONE else also has to wear one. All the time. Same goes for the dress.

4. The whole kissing of the ring thing is a bit weird, so that will be replaced with just a handshake.

5. Oh and no more interfering with kids. And we must become an Equal Opportunities employer. And promote contraception to halt the spread of AIDS and stuff. Basically let’s get with the game, and clean up all the shit in our own house before preaching to others. 

If after considering my application, you feel that I am the right man for the job, please bear in mind that I have to give one month’s notice to my current employer and would prefer to work from home when possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Tobias King


I know you get to choose a new official name when you become Mr Pope - I would like to be “Honor Rope”. 

Thanking you in advance,

Pope Honor Rope I”

Sunday, 10 February 2013

My kind of town...(or 'city' technically)

Having lived here all my life (due to a variety of unfortunate circumstances and bail conditions), I thought I'd share with you some of the highlights of my hometown - Salisbury. Please note, this is Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom - not one of around one million towns in the US by the same name, or the old name for Harare, capital of Zimbabwe. 

You see, for a bit of a backward place, Salisbury has quite a few extraordinary claims to fame and famous children. I promise you that all the details in this post are actual true facts (except for the bit where I mention my forthcoming wedding to Sarah Harding in Salisbury Cathedral). 

(Just for the record, we're actually having a small registry office ceremony)

Firstly, Salisbury is the birthplace of two of the most famous Franks the world has ever seen: Frank 'ooh Betty' Spencer (aka Phantom Of The Opera, Michael Crawford) and really quite bizarrely in my opinion, England and Chelsea stalwart Frank Lampard. Neither have been true to their Wiltshire accents.

Some of the biggest ever movie franchises have a strong Salisbury representation. Firstly, C3PO was born and lives here. To be fair, he's seen better days and you can often find him staggering out of Robert Dyas with a six pack of WD40 to take home and enjoy whilst reading the Screwfix catalogue. 

Ralph Fiennes was educated at Salisbury's grammar school for boys. You heard me right people, Voldemort learnt all his evil ways right here. Rumour has it that that his nose fell off during a particularly physical game of rugby and on the night of each full moon, it can still be heard sneezing (on rainy nights, you can even feel the droplets on your face). Thankfully, Voldemort has now become a goody, having taken up the role of James Bond's boss 'M'. 

Another star of the screen to first slither into existence in my city was John Rhys-Davies. He was the arab guy with the little hat and beard called Sallah in the Indiana Jones films and also Gimli in Lord of the Rings. In real life, he's not actually a dwarf (or a wearer of a funny hat).

Lord of the Rings, kind of leads me onto Lord of the Flies (which it turns out is about some kids going all tribal on an island and not about some guy with the best zip in his trousers ever). The Nobel Prize winning author of LOTF, William Golding, taught in the very same school that Voldemort went to.

Incidentally, this school is just a stones throw from where Handel composed some of his music back when he was like the Jay Z of his day. The drum n bass remix of his Water Music is well dope.

And slightly (but only slightly) more modern music also has a Salisbury connection. Mick Fleetwood of Mickfood Mac, no, I mean Fleetwood Mick, no Macwood Flick - oh you know the one - was brought up here. As was Dave Dee from Dave Dee, Dozy, Sleepy and Grumpy or whatever they were called.

Sting has a house in Salisbury! Well, it's just outside Salisbury in a little place just up the road from where I live called Wilsford Cum Lake. Yep, that is honestly what it's called. And given all that tantric sex he does, it's probably quite apt.

I'm not sure if he sings or not (I reckon he probably does when in pantomime and the shower), but Christopher Biggins grew up here. His brother still does and rents a room off a friend of a friend. 

The oldest part of Salisbury (called Old Sarum) has a lot of history associated with it - far more than I can list here. Or that I can remember if I'm honest. But one thing that does stick in my mind is that William the Conqueror used to hang out in the castle that was once there (it's now just some old bits of stone with English Heritage posters on the wall). 

With all the archaeology knocking around these parts, it's lucky that Salisbury is also home to Phil Harding from Time Team. He's the one with a hat and who gets really excited by old flint and stained mud. He can often be seen wandering around and always wears the same hat. Whilst he's obviously incredibly passionate and clever, I can't help thinking that he probably smells. Especially on a hot day after lots of trowel scraping and an exciting find.

You're probably thinking after reading this post that it's not possible for anyone humorous or funny to come from Salisbury. Well my friend, you'd be wrong, assuming that is, you find David Mitchell funny. I think he's funny. I like him in Peep Show and that thing on Channel 4 with Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr and that Geordie lass. He was actually born just one day before me. And has a beard. And that's where the similarities end really.

After mentioning some famous births, it seems fitting to end this post with a couple of notable deaths this city has seen. 

Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott died in the city's old hospital. It has since been converted into apartments and old people's flats. Someone now eats dinner or sleeps or washes in the space where Phil moved on to the big concert in the sky. And also in the same space I once had a rectal examination. Wonder if they'll ever put up a blue plaque to commemorate this when I'm famous?

Former PM (as in prime minister, not afternoon) Edward Heath lived out his final years in a big house in the cathedral close. You wouldn't really have know he lived there if it wasn't for the constant presence of armed police and the massive neon light-up sign he used to switch on at night that said, "I used to be leader of this bloody country you know".

So there we are folks, Salisbury in a nutshell. I didn't even have room for Britain's tallest cathedral spire, an original copy of the magna carter and the oldest working clock in existence. To be fair, the clock doesn't have a face, so crikey knows how you're supposed to tell the time. Let's relabel that one as the "world's oldest collection of rusty cogs and pulleys".

Anyway, you should all come and visit here sometime. Just ignore the young couples who look like they're actually siblings and the screams of whoever's turn it is to be sacrificed to keep the gods from sending us a plague of flaming locusts (which you may mock, but we've never had one yet, so screw you science).