Friday, May 30, 2014

Bad joke of the day

The FBI had an opening for an assassin. After the background checks, interviews and testing were done, there were three finalists: two men and a woman.
For the final test, the FBI agents took one of the men to a large metal door and handed him a gun. "We must know that you will follow instructions, no matter what the circumstances. Inside the room you will find your wife sitting on a chair. Kill her!"
The man said, "You can't be serious, I could never shoot my wife!" The agent said, "Then you're not the right man for the job. Take your wife and go home."
The second man was given the same instructions. He took the gun and went into the room. All was quiet for about five minutes before he came out with tears in his eyes. "I tried but I can't kill my wife." The agent said, "You don't have what it takes. Take your wife and go home."
Finally it was the woman's turn. She was given instructions to kill her husband. She took the gun and went into the room. Shots were heard, one after another. They heard screaming, crashing, banging on the walls. After a few minutes, all was quiet. The door opened slowly and there stood the woman. She wiped the sweat from her brow. The FBI agents asked her what had happened.
"Well, someone had loaded the gun with blanks. But don't worry, I beat him to death with the chair!"

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fifty animals

I read Mary Beard's blog about the animals in the road sign with amusement as I'd seen this sign on the M4 on Sunday. She was asking whether it means fifty animals are on the road. I take comfort from the grammar: the capital A denotes the start of a sentence. Were "road" to have a capital R, it would be ambiguous, but it does not. Nevertheless, neither of us saw any animals roaming on the motorway. I did see a couple of horseboxes though. Perhaps that's what it refers to? After all, if there were cows on the road, you wouldn't want to drive at 50MPH, would you? If there were a truck load of animals going to the slaughter house, would they be treated with such deference?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Off their bikes

I met a Swiss woman who'd recently moved to Pretoria. She and her husband were cycling around, enjoying the countryside when they were suddenly mugged.
"What did they take?" I asked.
"My wedding ring, our cameras and MP3 players, even a bag of cookies. Fortunately they didn't realise that our most valuable possessions with us were in fact our bikes!"
They haven't been cycling there since.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Smoke screen

I was talking to a thirty-something Hong Kong Chinese man at a lunch party. He teaches surfing in Nicaragua and had brought along a stunning South American girl who was sitting next to his father at the other end of the table.
“Have you been dating long?” I asked.
“She’s a smoke screen,” he said.
I raised my eyebrows.
“I’ve been thrown out of every school I’ve been to,” he explained. “I was at yet another college, in my second year and hating it, just wanting to throw in the course. My father called me into his study and I assumed he was going to tell me to knuckle down and finish the course. Instead, he said he didn’t care if I gave it up. He didn’t care what I did, as long as I was happy. He didn’t mind what I did, as long as I wasn’t gay…”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bad joke of the day

A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and sees a sign in front of a broken-down shanty-style house: "Talking Dog For Sale." He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.
The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.
"You talk?" he asks.
"Yep," the Lab replies.
After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says, "So, what's your story?"
The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so...I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mass of puppies and now I'm just retired."
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.
"Ten dollars."
"Ten dollars? That dog's amazing! Why are you selling him so cheap?"
"Because he's a bullshitter. He's never been out of the yard!"

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Taipei is agog after a 22 year old, second year university student went on a knife rampage at 5pm today in an underground train, killing four people and injuring twenty. He had proclaimed on his Facebook page that he was planning a big event. He'd researched the tube system thoroughly, deliberately chosen the two stations furthest apart on the network (4 minutes between them) and he ran through the carriages creating carnage with a 30cm blade knife. He left the train at the next stop and was cornered and caught.
Taiwan has the death penalty and there's been a lot of criticism of it recently because people sit on death row for years, after all their appeals have run out, without actually being executed. Last month, the government caved into this pressure and four prisoners were killed. They don't use injections there, they have a firing squad.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On ice

My friend related this anecdote to an Austrian acquaintance:
"My mate had just moved to France and I was testing his vocabulary so I said to him, 'Il y a un epervier dans le refrigerateur. Do you know what an epervier is?" He did not so I told him, 'It's a sparrowhawk!'"
The Austrian replied:
"You remind me of an incident from my youth. My parents were away and my grandfather died. I did not know what to do and so I put his body in the freezer until they returned."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wildlife of Clapham

This photo of a back garden in Clapham was taken yesterday morning. Mrs Fox has six cubs in total.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mr Tenpercent

A management consultant at a European food company told me she was shocked. The external PR firm which is being used by the company always bills it for travel expenses plus 10%.
"Why do you always pay them 10% extra for travel?" she asked the CEO.
"Because otherwise they'd send us a separate bill for the time they spend filling in the expense form," was the explanation!

Friday, May 16, 2014


I visited my father who's in hospital for a blood transfusion. The ward doctor asked him some questions:
"Where are you now?"
"I've no idea!"
"Who's the Prime Minister?"
"I can't remember his name."
"Which year is it?"
"What time is it?"
"What were the dates of the First World War?"
"Did it begin in 1939?"
"Can you count backwards from 20 to 1?"
The doctor had run out of questions so I asked a couple:
"What year was the Battle of Bannockburn?"
"What year was Crecy?"
I smiled at the doctor.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Line in the Sand

James Barr's A Line in the Sand is a gripping read about the French/British division of the Middle East by Francois Georges-Picot and Sir Mark Sykes in 1916 and its consequences in the years up to the British leaving Palestine in 1948. The intrigue, rivalries and distrust between the different British and French personalities involved in the region are at once fascinating, amusing and distasteful, not to mention the tensions between individuals of the same nationality. Here's Lord Morley's character assassination of Lloyd George:
"For veracity Ananias, for friendship Brutus, for his other qualities I refer you to Signor Marconi."
(The Marconi affair was an insider-trading scandal in which Lloyd George was embroiled.)
After Lloyd George won the 1916 election, a young British diplomat wrote:
"He creates the impression of a great man and he does it without seeming theatrical and without seeming insincere...He is a great contrast to Mr Asquith who prefers to talk of nothing nearer home than Thucydides."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vietnam riots

Vietnam is rioting because China has set up an oil rig in disputed waters. Locals have burned down 15 Chinese factories (10 of which were in fact not Chinese but Taiwanese) and killed two Chinese people. Now hundreds of Chinese visitors are holed up in their hotels, in fear of their lives.
It is also worth mentioning that Chinese wages have risen so much that the Taiwanese computer company, Quanta, whose main customer is Apple, is relocating its factories from China to Taiwan and San Francisco.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chateau Climens

We enjoyed a wonderful visit to Chateau Climens in Barsac, owned by Berenice Lurton. Barsac, situated between the Garonne river, its colder tributary Ciron and the Landes forest, has an ideal microclimate for producing sweet wine. In the autumn mornings, the mist rising from the river is trapped by the forest and hangs over Barsac in a dense fog until it is evaporated by the midday sun.  This causes the grapes to develop "noble rot", the nickname for the fungus botrytis cinerea. They shrivel but their disfigured appearance belies a delicious sweetening of the fruit, which is then harvested.
Berenice is passionate about three main factors in relation to her wines. First, she only uses Semillon grapes. Secondly, she has a "bio-dynamique" philosophy in her viticulture (the BD certificate will first appear on the 2014 vintage as the wines will have passed the tests for three years). She doesn't use chemicals on the vines. Instead, they are sprayed with different kinds of cold "tea", depending on the climatic conditions. For example, they are sprayed with a horsetail distillation if it's been very wet and with camomile if the weather's been changeable. Finally, every year she takes great pains, using test tubes and syringes, to choose the best blends of grapes from the different plots of the vineyard.
Her second, cheaper wine Cypres de Climens is also delicious.

Monday, May 12, 2014


I left England debating whether it was a secular society, following an article in The Church Times by David Cameron. In France, I was interested to find that Bordeaux Cathedral closes for lunch. Would that decision be made by la Cathedrale or by l'Etat?