Monthly Archives: March 2010

13 gifts from Basel to the world

  1. Barca or Basel?

    Basel or Barca?

    BARCA. FC Barcelona comes from Basel. Barca was co-founded by a Swiss guy, Johann (who became Joan) Gamper who was allegedly inspired by FC Basel. Both teams play in red and blue. Both are FCB. Both have the same football.

  2. BABIES. All babies come from Basel. You just need to look at all the storks pootling around the fields.
  3. LSD. LSD comes from Basel. It was made by local chemist Albert Hoffman in 1938, though he didn’t realise until 1943 when he accidentally absorbed some through his fingertips. He described the sensation:  “I sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”
  4. ISRAEL. Israel comes from Basel. Continue reading

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In Basel (not Brüges)

Sam Spade investigates (Humphrey Bogart smoulders) in The Maltese Falcon, 1941.

“When I see you turn the corner, I will know the target is coming just behind,” he said, “and then I will begin shooting.” It was my first day on the job and I wanted everything spelled out clearly.

“Won’t they mind?” I asked. But my concerns were brushed aside. This was Switzerland, nobody gets excited here, except, sometimes about football.

I had been roped in to help a private detective with some surveillance. Continue reading

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Congratulations – Marriage in China

Marriage Book - China

This is how you get married in China. Thanks to our newly married (Congratulations!) guest contributor who’s currently expat in Beijing. I’ll let M take up the story:

Last week I caught a sleeper train to Changchun on Monday night. I was in a room with 5 big fat Chinese men, one of whom snored like crazy. He was in the bunk above me, and I really thought it would collapse, he was so fat.

I got to Changchun, and remembered how cold it was. Warmer than January, but still around minus 12. Met LN and we went to the registry office, expecting to complete everything that day. China is drowning in official paperwork and red stamps. Turns out the red stamp on LN’s “Hukou” (family book that lists your parents, siblings, and crucially what province you ‘belong’ to) was not clear enough. Continue reading

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Overcoming first impressions

Natalie Connors (Hilary Duff) thanking junior CIA agent Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) after he rescues her at school

As Natalie Connors (played by Hilary Duff) says to junior CIA Agent Cody Banks (played by Frankie Muniz): “You make a bad first impression, and a bad second impression too. But your third and fourth impressions are a lot better.”

So it was tonight at the Wandsworth regional finals of the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge. The scheme styles itself as The World’s Biggest Youth Speaking Event. And who am I to disagree. Especially as I was one of the judges for the event at the Graveney School in Tooting.

For such a big event – visiting schools, families, supporters, local MP Sadiq Khan, contestants – it all went very smoothly and to schedule (thanks to the redoubtable organiser Kymberlie Andrew).

There were sixteen young speakers giving, on the whole, excellent impassioned performances. And then there was Joseph.

He looked a bit of a mess. Continue reading

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What I’ve learned

Its been tumultuous in Blackwatertown Towers lately. Normal service will soon be resumed. Once we establish just what the new normality will look like. But in the meantime, I’ll share with you some of what I’ve learned lately.

Yes, it looks like a roof slate because that's what it is. (You get a shiny medal for Sport Relief.) The glamorous person holding the slate/trophy is presenter Rachael Hodges, flanked by "the prestigious" Richard Bacon, and me. I didn't think the beer bottle would be in the picture. Missing from the line-up are top guru Louise Birt, indefatigable Garth Brameld, podcaster Harri Ritchie and inspirational listeners Jon Hillier and the Digger. The award was for the Special Half Hour - SHH.

  1. I haven’t completely lost it, thank God. I’ve just left the BBC after many years, but can proudly brandish two new awards. The first one is the highly prestigious Most Innovative Programme Award from the admittedly slightly obscure annual Audio and Music Awards. I shared it for a radio show I produced up until Christmas. The award-winning bit was the Special Half Hour – SHH – of which it was an honour and a privilege to be part. (Rule No. 1 You don’t talk about the Special Half Hour. But it’s been axed, so I dare to speak of it.)  The second is the also prestigious and much better known Sport Relief Mile. My running partner and I distinguished ourselves by completing the three mile (Count ’em! 3!) circuit before any of the six milers crossed the finish line. (Question: For which award did I contribute more to the sum of goodness in the world?)
  2. Whenever someone claims to be the first to ever do something, they’re wrong. Continue reading

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My favourite St Patrick’s Day joke

So now you know how the miracle happened. Obvious when you think about it really. Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all.   (The cartoon is an episode of The Adventures of Festy O’Semtex, from the July 1st 1994 edition of Phoenix Magazine, Dublin.)

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If you must wear a uniform, make it a nurse’s outfit

Not all uniforms are bad news. (Naturally I could have chosen a different sort of nurse outfit picture for here. But as a sign of how mature/boring I've become, I didn't.)

The advance of civilisation and the cultivation of the collective mind would be improved if it were this book rather than the Bible that were placed in the bedside cabinets of hotels throughout the world… Continue reading

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