Hayjax is in Nottingham

This is what happens when you drop a Canadian into the East Midlands.

Archive for December 2009

Merry Cashmas!

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Did you know the English have found a way to monetize snow?  Not the civilized way, by allowing people to ski on it, but by allowing them to bet on it.

Every year, thousands of British residents lay bets on whether it will snow on Christmas day.  The English will bet on anything that moves, and if it isn’t moving, they’ll slap a bet on the amount of time it takes to start moving again.  There are betting shops everywhere–one of them is called Ladbrokes, and when I made a joke about how it might be a bad idea to put the word “broke” in the name, I was coldly informed that it was pronounced “brook.”  Lesson being, don’t make fun of betting shops.  Or fruitcake, for that matter–don’t make fruitcake jokes unless you want the frosty shoulder. These twin pillars of British culture are sacrosanct.

There’s even a handy online map of the snow odds across the UK. Nottingham is currently 11/8 against, although we’re ankle-deep in the stuff at the moment.  Betting shop William Hill has announced they will have to pay out 1 million pounds to the punters if it’s a white Christmas.

Forums where people can talk about their White Christmas bets are springing up all over the Internet, a phenomenon called “snow-cial networking.” That’s not me making a bad pun, that’s an actual fact.

Obviously, this is bananas, but there is a kernel of wisdom in there somewhere.  I’m thinking we should have weatherpeople put their money where their mouths are.  It’s all very well to stand in front of a bluescreen wearing a sharp suit and making those vague, sweeping hand gestures at incomprehensible “weather systems.”  What if they had to bet fifty buck of their own scratch on the outcomes? Wouldn’t they take their own predictions a lot more seriously, and wouldn’t we feel a lot more reassured?  And wouldn’t we see them as more sympathetic creatures if we knew that every time we walked out of the house without an umbrella and got drenched, they would be feeling the pain along with us?  It’s win-win.  More accurate weather forecasts, more likeable weatherpeople.

Written by Hayden

December 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Virtual Marmite

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Dear English people with iPhones,

Just wanted to let you know that if you’re looking for a virtual iPhone toast-making app that comes pre-loaded with a Marmite option, More Toast has you covered.

That is all.

Written by Hayden

December 12, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Posted in All posts, Food

Homicidal Nottingham squirrels

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Growing up in Vancouver, I got used to squirrels being the outdoor version of a family pet.  Fluffy and bright-eyed, their livelihood pretty much consists of hanging around looking cute until someone gave them a nut.  Their little, squirrel-sized bag of tricks includes standing up on their hind legs and making beggy paws, climbing up your pants-leg to get to the hidden peanut cache in your pocket, and singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” in a lisping falsetto.   They are totally domesticated, fat little mooches.

Because I never lived anywhere but Vancouver, I figured squirrels worldwide were equally docile and cuddly.  I walked among Vancouver’s animal kingdom like Tarzan, assuming the furry inhabitants would dance for my amusement as long as I had a peanut or, in cases where I had to negotiate with raccoons, a French fry on my person to clinch the deal.

I assumed wrong.  Nottingham squirrels do not sing any variety of Shirley Temple tune, not even for a can of premium macadamias.  They are wild, sinewy, feral beasts; a blur of teeth and claws as they scramble up and down tree trunks and swing from overhead branches like a marauding gang of hairy killer acrobats.  The foliage is alive with their wild shrieking and chattering.  If I hid a peanut in my pocket, I would lose a chunk of thigh.

So I just want to say a special thank-you to all the Japanese tourists and dotty old West End ladies whose patient and selfless nut-giving over the years has transformed our squirrels into pampered little plush toys.  To hell with the delicate balance of nature; having seen what happens when we leave it alone, I totally endorse human interference.

Written by Hayden

December 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Posted in All posts, Local sights

PowerPoint Karaoke

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Is this one of those situations where I let slip how humiliatingly out of touch I am by trying to introduce you to something that has already emerged, crested, appeared on Oprah and been mercilessly spoofed on Saturday Night Live?

SNL is still on the air, right?

Anyway, my Nottingham social group is hosting a PowerPoint Karaoke event next week, and I have to admit I had never heard of this executive/entertainment fusion before.  But having been introduced to it, I would like to claim the word “executainment” as my own.

Basically, contestants have to stand up and improvise on a series of random PowerPoint slides, with points given for: 1) content provision, 2) presentation style and 3) chutzpah.

Apparently, this competitive sport was invented by the Germans (insert tired joke about conformity and humourlessness here) in 2006.

The first annual BattleDecks PowerPoint Karaoke challenge, sponsored by Imation, was held in 2007.  The irony of an iconic corporate tool being subverted and then immediate co-opted by a corporate sponsor is sending my mind on a Klein bottle-shaped roller coaster ride but I guess that’s the new millennium for you. You can watch excerpts from the 2008 Challenge on Youtube.

Next up, Xtreme Excel Sport and MS Word Freestylin’.

Written by Hayden

December 9, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Where the stores have no name

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Can you imagine people in Vancouver shopping almost daily at a chain store and not knowing how to pronounce the name of it?  This is the situation with U.K. (by way of Germany) grocery chain Lidl.  Fair enough, it’s an ugly clump of letters that seems get macheted halfway into a real word, but still, you’d think there’s be some consensus.

I’ve asked dozens of people how to say it and the results have been extraordinary.  Generally, they titter and shrug as though, in a Borat-like moment of hapless foreignness, I have asked them how to pronounce the rudest street slang for a sex act involving three people and a well-oiled hamster.  Sometimes they put on a noncommittal, chin-stroking act. Sometimes they pull a diversionary tactic like looking over my shoulder and yelling, “What was THAT?”  But never do they give me a definitive answer.

Is it LID-el or LEED-el or LYD-el?  Is the answer a palace secret?  Will MI5 shut this blog down for asking the one question that could somehow unravel the fabric of the country’s existence?

I’m not alone in my quest for truth: 3,990 other people are asking too:

That’s more than double the number of people who want to know how to pronounce llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

For the record, there are close to 500 of these stores across the country and the first one opened in this country 15 YEARS AGO. During that time, people have pretty much just been mumbling into their cupped hand whenever they need to bring it up in conversation. It’s the weirdest cultural sinkhole I’ve ever come across.  Seriously, how long do you need to sort this out? Just pick a vowel sound and stick with it.

Written by Hayden

December 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

Posted in All posts, Language

Nigel Havers and I are having a thing

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Nigel Havers and I first became seriously involved when I watched a BBC series called “Manchild,” which followed the immature antics of four rudderless, outrageously wealthy fiftysomethings.  He was the lead rudderless fiftysomething, and I was captivated by his Oxbridge accent, his ascetic, rabbity good looks and his Ken-doll perfect Frost n’ Tip hair.

Yesterday, we took our relationship to the next level, when we ran into each other at the Waitrose on Mansfield Road.  He is in Nottingham to perform in the local panto (I can’t get into it here, but it’s an English theatrical tradition involving violence, gender reassignation and candy), so it was only a matter of time, really.  He gave me a look, oh, I can’t describe it exactly; our love is oblique, a matter of tiny gestures and skittering glances hiding profound depths of passion. But I will attempt a rough translation:

Nigel’s look: “Yes, it’s me, pretending with all my humble, actorly might to be an ordinary mortal but sheepishly acknowledging that I am as dazzlingly conspicuous as the Koh-i-Noor diamond part-embedded in a dog turd. Won’t you please protect my fragile public persona by pretending along with me?  Let’s tread the boards together in an intimate performance à deux—me, an ordinary man buying a quotidian snack of fair-trade chocolate and a pot of lemon curd yogurt and you, an ordinary woman, slightly sweaty with the effort of battling the Christmas crowds and clutching a basket full of prewashed salad and Yorkshire tea loaf.  Let us pretend that we are nothing more that what the rest of the world sees, my darling. Let’s not allow the riff-raff to intrude upon the moment.  It is ours, and ours alone.

My look: Yes to everything you just said, but can I touch your hair?

Nigel’s look: No.

My look: Fair enough.

And then he was gone, taking with him that hair, a blow-dried masterpiece of middle-aged wealth and vitality that I have yet to run my fingers through.

Written by Hayden

December 6, 2009 at 11:43 am

Posted in All posts, People

Good writers, bad sex

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The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, bestowed annually on the author who writes the squeam-inducingest literary description of sex, has been won this year by Jonathan Littell.  The winning description of what is known in this country as “how’s-your-father” or, if you prefer, “rumpy-pumpy,” can be found in Littell’s latest novel, “The Kindly Ones.”

Before we go any further, you should know that the passage in question involves the use of soft-boiled egg as cranio-orgasmic metaphor.  You should also know that this passage, quoted in full below, beat out raunchy efforts by Philip “Hotpants” Roth and the cadaverous and terrifying Nick Cave.  Consider yourselves warned.

Here goes:

“Una had stretched out on the bed of the guillotine; I lifted the lunette, made her put her head through it, and closed it on her long neck, after carefully lifting her heavy hair. She was panting. I tied her hands behind her back with my belt, then raised her skirt. I didn’t even bother to lower her panties, just pushed the lace to one side and spread her buttocks with both hands: in the slit, nestling in hair, her anus gently contracted. I spit on it. ‘No,’ she protested. I took out my penis, lay on top of her, and thrust it in. She gave a long stifled cry. I was crushing her with all my weight; because of the awkward position – my trousers were hindering my legs – I could only move in little jerks. Leaning over the lunette, my own neck beneath the blade, I whispered to her: ‘I’m going to pull the lever, I’m going to let the blade drop.’ She begged me: ‘Please, fuck my pussy.’ – ‘No.’ I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg.”

At  least he didn’t ruin firm, throbbing toast soldiers for us, too.

You can read extracts from the short list, including passages from Roth’s “The Humbling,” and Cave’s “The Death of Bunny Munro,” at The Guardian online.

Written by Hayden

December 4, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Posted in All posts, Random