Category Archives: Epic laughter
Yesterday everything got a bit serious on Epicurienne, with an Irate Reader making an Irate Comment about my views on Sicily, Sicilians and the influence of the Mafia là-bas.
To lighten the mood, here’s a Newsbiscuit story from the Wise Woman of Wandsworth. Made me snort all over my keyboard. Again. Now where are those anti-Swine ‘Flu wipes?
When I was a wide-eyed early twenty-something, I moved from my hometown of Auckland to Sydney to work at a hotel in King’s Cross and no, it wasn’t offering ‘private client services’. At work, I made many wonderful friends, most of whom were gay because (a) the hotel industry is known for being a pink profession and (b) this particular hotel was located within a stone’s throw of the gay mecca that is Sydney’s Oxford Street.
My education there was manifold. The (male) switchboard manager knew more about face creams than I did and during Mardi Gras another manager offered me a ‘bonus’ of those little tablets that would make you see the good side of Ted Bundy, serial killer. I declined. Perhaps Obama is right when he says we need to regulate bonus structures.
One of my best friends from that time was a Japanese girl called Kay. If there was a gay man in the room with her, she was prone to fall in love with him. If the man was straight, she wasn’t interested. Kay was one of those girls who thought that her special breed of love could make a gay man straight so, as she lived in the gay capital of Downunder and worked in a predominantly gay environment, she was in a near-constant state of heartbreak.
One day, Kay went shopping at a big weekend market down by Chinatown. There, she spied a rabbit in a cage and stopped to stroke it, thinking it was a pet. The Chinese stallholder was keen to make a sale, chatting away about rabbit preparation techniques. Realising that the caged fluffball was ‘fresh meat’ destined for someone’s dinner plate, Kay was horrified, quickly pressing a crush of dollars into the stallholder’s hand in a bid to save the rabbit’s life. And so, a bunny named Minnie went to live with Kay in an apartment overlooking Rushcutter’s Bay.
At work, Kay kept us all intrigued by her tales of house-training the rescue bunny and from her brightened eyes we could tell that this was one love for Kay that wouldn’t be returned to sender. Then, one day Kay (and Minnie) invited me over for lunch.
I already knew that Kay’s landlord had a no-pets policy, so we’d have to be discreet about Minnie’s existence, but hey, how much noise can a rabbit make? I wondered. As Kay prepared a delicious Japanese lunch in her tiny steam-filled kitchenette, I watched Minnie. At first, she lay full-length along the top of the sofa, looking at me hard with her stony little eyes. I wondered what she was thinking because she was definitely thinking something. It was as if she was trying to work me out in the same way as I was trying to get her measure. You have to realise that this was no ordinary bunny. To this day, I’m sure she didn’t like me.
A little later, Minnie moved, jumping down to the ground and across the pristine living room carpet to the bathroom. Then she jumped up onto the toilet seat.
“Kay, I think we have a problem,”
I called through to the kitchen,
“Minnie’s on the toilet seat. Should I get her down?”
“Oh, no, don’t worry about that. She probably just needs to go.”
“Yes, you know. To go pee pee or something. Didn’t I tell you she was house-trained?”
“But I thought you meant house-trained like cats with kitty litter and stuff.”
Kay laughed at my lack of sophistication.
“No, no. Kitty litter stinks. This way is better because I can flush. More hygienic.”
Meanwhile, I’d watched open-mouthed as little black rabbit poo pellets fell straight from Minnie’s bottom into the bowl of the toilet. When she was done, she jumped back to the floor and headed for a patch of sun to bask as bunnies of leisure tend to do. Apparently.
Kay and I sat at her tiny table, chatting over our meal, the rabbit dozing nearby. As we polished off the home-made red bean dumplings with some green tea, Kay suggested we go for a walk. With Minnie. Images of rabbits disappearing down holes, never to be seen again, flooded my head.
“Are you crazy?”
“She’ll get lost!”
“No, no, don’t worry about that,”
Kay reassured me,
“I’ll just put her on the lead.”
An already surreal afternoon was about to intensify as we smuggled Minnie out of the no-pets building and let her bounce along at our feet as we walked to Rushcutter’s Bay.
Minnie’s collar was regular enough. Kay had managed to find a little pink one with a bell – something you’d usually see on a cat. But she hadn’t yet located a store with little pink leads, so Minnie was currently tethered to her adoptive mother by a length of pink curling ribbon.
“Minnie’s a girl so she has to have pink.”
Kay explained. That’s when I thought I’d seen it all.
A couple of years later, I was living in London and there I received a letter from Kay. On opening the envelope, out dropped one of those photos with a printed greeting down the side. The photo was of Kay’s wonder bunny and the greeting said:
Dear Friend, I am sad to say that my daughter, Minnie has now passed away. Thank you for being a friend to her during her short life.
Oh, my sainted trousers, I’d just received a death notice for a rabbit! Now, that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. Poor Kay was devastated. There would be no more bunny plops to flush in her loo and the little pink collar with the curling ribbon need was no longer required. On the other side of the world, I smiled as I remembered the day when I first met a toilet-trained rabbit and took it for a walk in the park.
An Epic trick for getting out of a dark funk on a rainy, grey day when people are losing their jobs and heads all around is to visit a greetings card store where the selection is filled with humourous one-liners. I’ve been known to giggle into a fit of teary laughter doing this before.
WARNING: If you are easily offended I would suggest you DO NOT click on the following link. Seriously.
One of the best UK ranges of greetings cards for this purpose is by kissmekwik. They seem to have taken the photos from 1960s fashion mags or knitting patterns, adding a caustic caption that can be so wrong at times that it would be understandable if you snorted mucous all over the (a) card/s or (b) computer. The more religious among us may feel the need for an emergency confession and a lot of prayer after checking out this range. Anyhoo, if you want to save some cash in these crunchie times, order online. You’ll save at least 50p per card and you’ll be able to stock up your Martha Stewart gift cupboard at the same time.
To give you an example of just how naughty these cards can be, here’s a brief selection:
Just like the woman who turned up at Chelsea & Westminster A&E with a broken nail one busy Saturday night when a doctor friend was interning. Perhaps that was Mary, too?
Yes, well, enough said. At least we can’t see her knickers. Then again, perhaps that’s a clue.
I once stood in line behind a woman at Dean & Delucca in New York and her order was strangely similar to this one.
My boss knows I like to cook; he should do since I’ve become a little more curvaceous than usual since I started working for him 4 years ago. When Boss returned from holiday at the end of the summer, he brought me back a gift for holding the fort: an apron with a design by English illustrator, Simon Drew.
Anyone who knows Drew’s work will smile at the illustration of puns, particularly those related to animals. In Shepherd Spy, the pun relates to a spying sheep dog working amongst his flock, the meaning of which has been punned out of ‘Shepherd’s Pie’. Here’s another one:
Drew’s puzzle or ‘SPOT the…’ cards keep everyone guessing for a while: each line of the cover consists of a combination of pictures. You say the word for each picture aloud until you work out the combination, for instance, in his Spot the City cards, you may have Hell+Sink+Key = Helsinki.
If you like this sort of humour, you can buy greetings cards, books and many other gifts with similar punning illustrations from Simon Drew’s website, here.
Here’s a foodie joke that popped into my in-box this morning. I like it…
THE FINAL WORD ON NUTRITION
After an exhaustive review of the research literature, here’s the final word on nutrition and health.:
1. Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
2. Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
3. Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
4.. Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
5. Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
6. The French eat foie-gras, full fat cheese and drink red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us
The Joker’s CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.
Epic’s conclusion: stock up the cellar, eat more foie gras, go to Wahaca more and book for 2009 Oktoberfest.
Following on from my recent experience with a sniffer dog who got it wrong, I thought I’d look into the success rates of these working dogs.
In Australia, they’re not convinced. Following research into sniffer dog accuracy a couple of years back, it was found that only one quarter of positive sniffs yield drugs. I don’t know why that should be a surprise, after all, no matter how much positive reinforcement you use to train a dog to recognise drugs on a person, they are still going to be interested in their own favourity doggie smells – food, bodily fluids, insect repellant (apparently). Here are some articles about when the sniffer dogs who bark up the wrong tree:
From Australia…, this report card for Downunder’s sniffies includes a lot of Ds and must sniff harder.
This post is from a chap who was stopped on the way to a legitimate meeting in Camden Town. The comments on this post are almost as good as the article! It would seem I’m not alone…
In Canada, they’re arguing over sniffer dogs and the infringement of civil liberties. Sniffer dogs should not be allowed to search for drugs in schools or public places – a recent ruling has decreed this to be the case – however, as the threat of explosives in airports is a more serious threat, sniffer dogs will still be allowed to operate there. I get it, but it is somewhat confusing. If an airport is a public place but I’m not an explosive, then why search me? It’s like those philosophical exercises: if a pig is pink and Maxine is pink then does that make Maxine a pig? It’s not exactly a yes or no answer. Besides which, in my experience, those bits of material that can be sniffed by a machine seem to be way more accurate than the dog (who’s probably more interested in food and people’s more delicate parts).
Without boring you with the other articles I’ve found, I can summarise by saying that sniffer dogs are far less accurate than we assume, so the next time you see someone being hauled off for further questioning by a customs official and a Sniffy, you should NOT presume they’re transporting illegal drugs. It could just be that the dog hasn’t had dinner yet and wants some of that duty free chocolate in the nice person’s backpack.
Meanwhile, Natasha Cloutier, my friend from Blog08 in Amsterdam, just sent me the link for a song about sniffer dogs. Can you believe it? Get those heads banging and enjoy (if you can). Personally, I think these guys need a spliff or something to calm them down…
The song’s called ‘I wanna be a drug sniffing dog’ (in case you can’t quite make out the lyrics). It’s by LARD.
At long last, I flew to Amsterdam for Blog08 last week, with the clogs I’d promised to wear packed dutifully in my case. Friday’s conference was packed with interest and Monsieur joined me on Saturday for some Amsterdam sightseeing. We packed five museums and a lot of clog photography into the weekend, and then we flew home. Separately.
As part of my competition prize had included flights, I was taking KLM. Monsieur, meanwhile, had a free flight on BA courtesy of a diligent accrual of points with his favoured airline. His flight left Schiphol an hour before mine but I didn’t get home until three hours after him; instead of racing onto the Heathrow Express homeward-bound, I was instead the subject of a Very Special Greeting by customs officials when KLM landed at Terminal 4.
As we filed off the plane, an official instructed us to walk single-file along one side of the corridor so we could be sniffed by a drugs dog. When it came my turn, I fully expected the dog to take a cursory sniff and move on, but he didn’t. Apparently I smelled GOOOD, so as his nose went all around my nether regions, I wondered what could be so interesting about me. Then he sat at my feet and looked up at his handler. That was the sign. According to the hound I was a problem so I was waved out of the corridor and taken aside.
An official took my passport and asked a number of questions as he worked his way through my previously neatly-arranged carry on bags. Meanwhile, my fellow passengers walked past, casting looks of disdain in my direction. ‘Great. They think I’m one of those people on Airport, with all sorts of illegal substances ferretted away on my person,’ I thought to myself. I already knew that they couldn’t be more wrong; sauvignon blanc is my substance of choice and unless they considered that to be Class A on a list of drugs (I’d just consumed some on the flight) then I was going to be a complete waste of their time.
The officials separated me from my bags and brought the dog back. He didn’t find anything of interest in my carry-on, so they brought him across to sniff me again. His nose kept finding its way to my crotch in a disturbingly-insistent fashion. Perhaps he thought I’d squirreled some narcotics into a particular orifice? Thoughts of latex gloves started to feature in my mind. Whatever would I tell Monsieur?
The main official overseeing this investigation told me they’d now have to fast-track me through customs and retrieve my suitcase from the conveyor. As we approached a customs desk from a side gate, my seat neighbour, a visiting professional from the Phillipines with whom I’d had a friendly in-flight chat, looked directly at me. She frowned and shook her head before turning away. Oh joy. Now it was confirmed in my fellow passengers’ heads that I was a drug-runner. How little did they know! My face burned.
On the way down to baggage collection, I turned to the official.
“I hope you don’t mind me being graphic for a minute, but I have my period. Could that be a factor in what the dog can smell?”
“No,” he replied, “the dog is trained to sniff out Class A drugs.”
That was the end of that Epicurienne theory. It had only occurred to me because I’ve noticed that when it’s that time of the month, dogs take an extra-special interest in sniffing girls. Apparently we give off a similar smell to a bitch on heat. (Some might say that’s exactly what we are, but I couldn’t possibly agree.)
Wondering now if someone could have planted something in my case when I left it at the hotel after check-out this morning, the officials and I collected my luggage before going to the red “Something to Declare” section of the customs exit. There my case was opened and underwear, nightwear and big, wooden CLOGS bared for all to see, along with a pack of tampax. With two pairs of clogs in my luggage, I certainly can’t have been your usual suspect. I answered questions about what I did for a living, how long I’ve lived in the UK, why I was in Amsterdam (I won a blogging competition) and with whom I’d been travelling. When I explained that my fiancé had been with me but had flown back earlier, faces frowned again. They probably thought Monsieur was the drug baron and I was his mule. Poor Monsieur. I was quite relieved he wasn’t there to see this.
Little pieces of drug-sensitive cloth were rubbed around my suitcase and on my clothes before being put into a sniffer machine. Negative, negative came the machine’s response to the situation. Had I used drugs in the past two weeks, they asked. No, came my reply. Not unless you count ibuprofen. Would I be averse to a urine test to prove that? was the next question. Not at all, I replied whilst thinking ‘Where’s the cup? Just give me the cup. I’d gladly pee into any receptacle if that’s what it takes to get out of here and GO HOME.’
By now I could see that the officials were somewhat perplexed. As they told me, I’m well-spoken, obviously professional and could prove my reason for a visit to Amsterdam (no whacky backy required). Physically, I was on form (apart from blushing with shame at being escorted through the airport by uniformed officials). I wasn’t shaky or red-eyed, didn’t stink of an all-nighter or three like many visitors to the grass-capital of Europe might and was relatively calm considering the massive embarrassment I was currently enduring. Apart from a canine with an interest in my crotch, there was nothing to show that I had any contact with drugs.
Then a female official came up to me.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” she asked,
“Of course,” I replied (still wondering when I was going to be taken away for a more thorough inspection),
“You don’t by any chance have your period?” she ventured,
“Yes I do. Could that be a factor?”
“Yes it could.”
“Really?” asked the male official,
“Yes.” said the woman. I think that’s what you’d call a Homer Simpson moment. DOH.
The male official went off to consult his serious-faced boss. They talked for ages. I looked at the ceiling. I looked at the floor. I looked at my dishevelled belongings and I looked at the door marked with “Authorised Personnel Only”, wondering how long it would be before I was led off to somewhere more ‘private’. Then the male official returned.
“I’ve told my boss that you should be allowed to go. You’re too helpful to be a druggie. We can’t find any evidence of drugs here. We’ll just say that the dog was wrong.”
He continued “You may simply have sat in a seat where someone using drugs had been before you.” God bless the liberality of Amsterdam. Major sarcasm intended.
So with that, I packed up my suitcase, clogs included, and left for home. Home, sweet home. I wouldn’t be in the clink tonight. As Monsieur later told me with a big, comforting hug, “Darling, I just can’t let you travel on your own, can I?” He might just be right.
PS I have debated with myself all morning whether or not to write about this because I don’t usually get so personal. Although the dog was obviously barking up the wrong tree, so to speak, causing a great amount of embarrassment and inconvenience to all concerned, I have to say that the customs officials dealing with me were polite and professional. At the end of the ordeal, they apologised and admitted that an error had occurred. However, because I never realised that something like this could happen, I do think it’s important for Epicurienne readers to take note of my experience, just in case the dog ever gets it wrong with one of you.