A character in a David Lodge book says this about infinity: “Think of a ball of steel as large as the world, and a fly alighting on it once every million years. When the ball of steel is rubbed away by the friction, eternity will not even have begun”.
It’s a great line, although I would swap ‘eternity’ for ‘the game of snooker I’m watching’: It’s the deciding frame of an 11 frame snooker match. The players have been at it for 48 minutes, safety shot after safety shot. (A safety shot is when you don’t try to pot a ball, but you leave it so the other player won’t dare try to pot a ball either.)
The crowd is bored to tears. They’re all looking at their watches, fidgeting as if their shit is itching, anxious about getting the last tube home. Girls are glaring at the idiot boyfriends who dragged them to a snooker match on a Friday night.
I enjoy snooker like I enjoy any sport: I like the spectacle of a clash of egos. It doesn’t even have to be professional; the most compelling sport I’ve witnessed was a game of table tennis between my friend Ponycunt and a Belgian junkie.
The trouble with snooker is the time it takes to settle a game. We’re living in an age when a webpage taking longer than five seconds to load is a source of frustration, yet this frame of snooker has been going on for, well, 55 minutes! Neither player has POTTED A BALL FOR NEARLY AN HOUR!
Kill me. Kill everybody.
Well, no-one killed me, and somehow I didn’t kill myself, so I watched the conclusion of the match. Everyone was so happy when it was over: players, crowd and referee were united in celebration when they realised it was finally finished and they could all go home.
As the crowd formed a scrum around the emergency exits, the TV commentator said: “And the crowd have enjoyed a fine evening’s entertainment” and my heart broke a little bit more.
Ah, TV. The alternatives? Bravo are showing ‘1,000 Ways to Die’ followed by ‘Most Shocking Fights and Riots 3’. Or there’s Jonathan Ross.
Health and Safety – The Elf Scale
When I started my current job, I had a safety induction. The potentially hazardous nature of paperclips, swivel chairs and computer keyboards were explained to me at length. I signed a form to say I’d survived the health and safety briefing, but it didn’t stop there: I had to write my own assessment of the office to demonstrate I was able to regurgitate the jargon.
It struck me that in these times of concern for safety paranoia about legal liability, it would save everyone a lot of time if every working environment was given a rating on a health and safety scale. It could be called the Elf scale.
Everyone understands centigrade, right? Water freezes at zero and boils at one hundred. Well, the Elf scale would work the same way. It would measure how easy it would be for a determined individual to deliberately kill himself in any given environment. Thus, a gallows with a noose ready and waiting would have an Elf rating of 0. A padded cell would have an Elf rating of 100. A room with furniture made out of razor blades would rate about 5. An air-conditioned office with a desk, a swivel chair, a computer and a telephone would be 90. Good idea, right?
I was upset to discover iPhone apps have to be sanctioned by Apple. I thought I was on to a winner with iHateYou. It would have been a voodoo doll for the web 2.0 generation. You could have uploaded a photo, then subjected your digitised enemy to all manner of unpleasantness by way of your delightfully tactile touch screen. Take that, boss! Suck this up, ex-friend! If you’d opted to shoot the target, bullet holes would have appeared in the appropriate places, with tasteful and timely sound effects. If you hacked at them with a samurai sword, screams for mercy and the viscous evidence of arterial wounds would spurt forth from your screen. But Apple had to come along and ruin my plans with their control freakery. A man can dream.
The iHateYou app would have come in handy for Alastair Campbell’s appearance before the Chilcot inquiry. He was demented enough to make me think he’d read Catch-22 as a manual for mendacity. Specifically, the line: “You know, that might be the answer – to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.”