31 March 2010

The Future Is Indescribably Dull

Today, at work, I experienced a depressing moment of realisation. This, of course, is nothing new. Barely a day goes by that I don't suddenly stop what I'm doing, look around and think Ah, you appear to have wasted your life, Dan. Well done. Have a biscuit you utter moron.

I'm the worlds worst procrastinator you see. Why do today what can wait until tomorrow or, at a push, next month? This, presumably, is why I laughingly refer to myself on occasion as 'a scriptwriter' when the truth of the matter is that I haven't really written anything worthwhile in months.

"Research" is my saviour. It allows me to buy books, watch documentaries, scour the Internet and make copious notes, all the while singularly failing to actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in anything vaguely resembling a screenplay.

But I digress.

Reading through a report at my desk this afternoon, I saw the words "On 12th February 2010..." and something suddenly clicked in my head. A few rusty gears began to turn, a handful of synapses fizzed into life and, brain crackling, I realised that we are officially in The Future.

Cast your mind back, for a moment, to the 1980s. Imagine you're sitting there comfortably in your waffle-knit jumper or stylish lounging cardigan. If you're a gentleman, you might be wearing a pair of those flecked-material trousers, possibly with tassled slip-on shoes. Perhaps you're sipping from a bottle of Corona, quite literally getting busy with the fizzy, or eating one of those day-glo E.T. biscuits that were available in 1982. You may, rather unfortunately, have eaten the bright orange and green ones and now only have the horrid brown one left that resembled a depressing east-European version of a custard cream.

Right, now with your 1980s head on, put your imagination in reverse and think for a moment what life will be like in the year 2010. Imagine the incredible technological leaps forward that we will have made!

2010 will be a wondrous place of strange looking cars running on electricity instead of petrol and actually talking to you like KITT in Knight Rider; extraordinary glass and metal skyscrapers in a bewildering array of shapes and sizes, stretching so high that you are dizzy just looking at them; and a truly dazzling cavalcade of electronic gadgets allowing you to do everything from carrying a whole library of books in your pocket, to watching a movie in the palm of your hand.

Doesn't 2010 sound like a fantastic place?! HG Wells himself couldn't have imagined such wonders!

But fast forward thirty years and 2010 isn't quite the utopia we'd hoped for.

All of those things I mentioned above have, of course, come to pass. These are, it must be said, extraordinary times. Except for one thing.

Everything else is still shit.

Yes, I'm typing this on my laptop whilst periodically checking a micro-blogging site on my second LCD monitor and listening to music that I purchased from the Internet which had downloaded within three minutes via a high-speed wi-fi connection, but that doesn't change the fact that when I look outside, the weather is still bloody awful. Or that, in the morning when I walk to work, I have to play "dog-shit hopscotch" in a bid to get into the office without smearing the soles of my shoes with Alsatian faeces.

You see, as everything has improved around us, the only thing that has stayed the same, even arguably become worse, is us - people are still, on the whole, horrid, nasty, vindictive, selfish, spoilt little shits.

It angers me to see them enjoying the fruits of technological improvement, while they themselves do nothing to further the human race, nor contribute to its evolution. I am even more angered by those particularly idiotic members of society, usually alternative-medicine supporters, who loudly decry science as being a fundamentally flawed discipline whilst simultaneously sharing their ill-conceived snake-oil beliefs via the high-speed PCs and laptops that stupid old science has allowed us to make a normal part of our everyday lives.

Accordingly, I have decided that future technology should only be available to those who are evolved enough to deserve it.

When I become Supreme Chancellor (one of my first duties as Prime Minister will be to upgrade myself to this newly created position, a bit like Chancellor Sutler in V For Vendetta, or Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars) I will demand that anyone attempting to buy future technology will be required to complete a questionnaire assessing their suitability. It'll be a bit like when you become a foster parent, or adopt a child, but more taxing.

Having put some thought into it, I've come up with a few initial questions that I feel would facilitate identification of suitable future technology owners.

1) Do you own a dog that you allow to defecate with gay abandon on public pavements without picking it up?

2) Have you ever, in general conversation, used the phrase "I'm not racist, but..."?

3) Are you incapable of sitting in a cinema for two hours without either a) chatting to your mates, or b) checking your mobile phone every three minutes?

4) Do you own a baby buggy and feel it is your absolute right to walk side-by-side with your buggy-owning friend, effectively hogging the entire pavement so that anybody walking in the opposite direction has to step into heavy traffic to get past you?

5) Do you see it as a personal victory when you get served first at the bar, even though you can see that the man next to you was there several minutes before you?

6) While we're on the subject, do you actually work in a bar and completely fail to take notice of which patron is next, electing instead to just choose your next customer at random irrespective of how long they've been waiting?

7) Do you read The Daily Mail?

8) Are you Noel Edmonds, Justin Lee Collins, Jeremy Kyle or Alan Titchmarsh? If so, please discontinue this questionnaire and immediately kill yourself.

9) If you saw Margaret Thatcher in the street would you a) shake her warmly by the claw whilst profusely congratulating her, tears in your eyes, on being the best Prime Minister we've ever had, or b) angrily vomit into your hand and then, possibly, throw it at her?

10) Do you have any spatial awareness whatsoever? More specifically, are you a 'meanderthal' who will blithely wander around with no thought whatsoever for anyone else who might be trying to get somewhere in a hurry?

11) Do you consider a 'funny' tie to be an excellent physical manifestation of your wacky sense of humour, designed solely to publicise your status as the office 'crazy guy'? (Score double points if you frequently use the phrase "I'm mad, me".

12) When visiting a foreign country, do you do any of the following: a) allow yourself to become sun burnt to a deep crimson on the first day, especially on your stomach which you have allowed to obscenely roll over the top of your ill-fitting Bermuda shorts b) eschew 'weird foreign food' and instead eat chips for every meal whilst loutishly shouting "Nah, I don't want any of that muck. Give us a steak, Pedro, well done", c) spend most of your time laying around on the beach drinking lager but then, on the rare occasion that you do visit some local points of interest, stride about loudly bellowing that it's all a bit shit and not as good as being back in England?

13) Do you think that even though there is not a shred of reliable evidence supporting its efficacy, that Homeopathy should be available on the NHS?

14) Have you ever eagerly flipped to the horoscopes section of a newspaper or magazine and nodded your head in appreciation at how amazingly accurate it seems to be?

15) Do you think that Roy 'Chubby' Brown is both funnier and cleverer than, for instance, Oscar Wilde or Mark Twain?

This is just a small selection of the sort of questions I'd like to see presented to people when they lope into a PC World or Currys with a fistful of cash, wanting a new laptop or wide screen TV.

If they're unable to achieve a satisfactory score, they will be sent away from the shop empty handed, and their details will be uploaded to a central database, effectively barring them from owning anything shiny, nice and useful for the next 12 months.

For the rest of the year, they will not be allowed to use any technology whatsoever.

They will be moved to 'ghettos' in which their homes will be illuminated by candlelight and they will be expected to wash their clothes in the shared back garden on a large flat rock.

They will not be permitted to use microwave ovens or deep fat fryers, so all meals must be prepared using fresh ingredients, which will be provided for them.

During this period of technology-abstinence, they will have free reign of their local public library, allowing them to read newspapers and books in a bid to open their eyes to the fact that the world does not revolve around them and their pathetic little credulous, unquestioning, xenophobic, fear-fuelled families.

In this way, Supreme Chancellor Rablenkov will make the UK a better place to live. Those people who have demonstrated a cultural, sociological or philosophical outlook that closely matches my own will be allowed to enjoy the benefits that such a society brings. Everyone else will be effectively imprisoned until they change their behaviour.

From where I'm sitting, the future is starting to look very bright indeed.

Who says power corrupts...?

27 March 2010

I'm in the 'explosive hatred' business

Some things fill me with joy (no examples spring to mind) while others enrage me almost beyond human endurance (this would best be described as 'everything else').

This morning, for instance. As I glance at the clock on my monitor, I see the time is 05:18. Yes, it's a Saturday and I'm wide awake at just after 5 am. Considering that on weekdays I normally have immense difficulty dragging my stinking carcass out of bed any time before 7 am without much foot-stamping and folding of arms, this is a source of huge irritation to me.

Part of the reason I'm awake so early is that I was having a rather vivid dream in which I had to travel to Iceland for work purposes and had, somehow, forgotten all about it. I was in a panic of epic proportions and seemed to be dithering and shouting a lot.

I woke up immediately, confused and anxious about something that simply isn't happening. A perfect way to start the weekend.

The first thing I noticed upon waking was that a little green light was flashing on my mobile phone, indicating that I had either a text message or email. Flicking the phone on, I saw that it was an email telling me that I have a new follower on Twitter, a chap by the name of Tim Cumming. Wonderful, I thought, more Twitter spam most likely. I was wrong, yet strangely right.

You see, when I clicked on his profile I saw that Tim was one of those people who likes to motivate others via the medium of pointless, trivial sayings and trite cliches. But, with mounting amusement and anger, I saw that Tim has raised his game somewhat by including some of the most inane, nonsensical drivel that I've ever had the misfortune to cast my eyes over.

Thus, this blog post is dedicated to Tim and his unstoppable tsunami of bullshit. I shall present some of Tim's nuggets of wisdom and describe my own thoughts. Enjoy.

"Insert a smile into every conversation."

In theory, a nice idea. But let's see how it operates in what I like to call 'the real world'.

"Well, Mrs. Taylor, it appears that at the speed your husband was travelling, the fence post would have penetrated both the windscreen and his sternum at something approaching 60 miles per hour. It appears that in a moment of extraordinary good fortune, the nanny goat on his lap that he appeared to be sodomising when his vehicle left the road, actually slightly deflected the impact and caused the post to miss all of his major internal organs. Unfortunately, that does cause me to conclude that he literally bled to death in an agony that the human mind can barely begin to comprehend. If he hadn't perished over a period of six hours from exsanguination, the sheer horror of his experience would have rendered him quite, quite insane and most likely have led to his permanent confinement in an institution for the rest of his life. Fortunately, that didn't happen because he's now dead. Whilst buggering a goat." *Beams broadly*

See? A smile really helped in that conversation didn't it? What better way to sweeten the bitter pill of a recently departed loved one engaging in 'the love that dare not speak its name' than with a big old smile? This man is a genius.

"Push is better than punish."

I think Tim has tapped into something hugely important here that could absolutely transform prison services across the globe. We're all aware that levels of overcrowding are at an all time high and I think he's hit on an idea that could see our correctional facilities emptied almost overnight.

"Mr. Fitch, in my thirty-six years as a high court judge, I have rarely come across such heinous acts of barbarism and wanton blood lust. The very sight of you chills me to the bones. You displayed no compassion for your victims, instead choosing to snuff out their lives in the most perverse and sadistic ways imaginable. Rape, torture, murder, necrophilia, the list is endless. You have broken every taboo, flown in the face of common decency, and committed crimes that are scarcely within the realms of human understanding. You have been found guilty by a jury of your peers and it is up to me to pass sentence. Gerald Fitch, I sentence you to take some time out. Buy a half-caff latte, read a Sunday newspaper, go for a long walk. Just try and clear your head, spend a bit of time thinking about what you've done wrong, and try not to do it again. I think that you could really benefit from a long, slow swim in lake Gerald. Now, if I see you in this court again, I really will be quite miffed, so think on."

I think it's an absolute winner.

"The reality is much more fun than your fantasy."

I'm sorry, but I really must take exception with this one. To clarify my adversarial position, I present the following evidence.

Here's my fantasy of what happened last night:
I arrive home after a couple of days working away and, upon entering my flat, am somewhat surprised to detect the unmistakable aroma of cooking lamb. Trudging up the stairs, I wander into the kitchen and see two slow-cooked lamb shanks nestling on piles of fluffy mashed potatoes, with a bottle of good red wine open nearby. My mouth involuntarily curls into a smile and I look around, confused. "Hello?" I call out. From within the bedroom, I hear a rustling. Dropping my bag, I walk into the bedroom and there, reclining naked on the bed is Angelina Jolie, finger playfully drawing around the outline of her full, eminently kissable lips. "Hey Dan, thought I'd surprise you with something nice to eat."

I grin and slide onto the bed next to her. She wraps me up in her arms and presses me to her ample bosom. We start to kiss, eager hands exploring each other. Cue romantic music and a slow fade to black.

The reality:
Got home. Realised the milk in the fridge was off. Consumed a meagre repast of instant soup and stale bread. Had a wank. Went to bed.

Now, which one is 'more fun'? You tell me. Come on Tim, which one is fucking better? Eh? EH? The reality is most decidedly NOT better than the fantasy and to suggest otherwise is stupidity of the highest order.

"Don't tell me it can't be done. The world is full of impossible things we do regularly. Like airplanes!"

I think it's important to dedicate a little time to breaking this one down.

First, let's perform a search for 'airplane' in Google pics. Immediately, we see there are over 13 million pictures of planes. If we search for 'aeroplane', the correct English spelling, we get another 2 million results. I think, on the basis of this simple experiment, we can reasonably assume that planes exist. However, I think what Tim was getting at was that planes actually flying in the air is 'impossible'. We need to dig a little deeper.

Let's visit an on-line Dictionary and find an appropriate definition of the word 'impossible'.

Impossible: not possible; unable to be, exist, happen, etc.

OK, good. We're making some headway. Now, let's just check out some basic facts regarding aviation. According to Arthur Arnelt at ABC Aviation, "There are four forces involved in flying: drag, thrust, lift, and weight. The lift force pushes the plane upward. Thrust is the force that makes a plane move forwards. Drag is the force that slows down the plane. The force of drag counters the thrust."

OK, so all this sciencey physics stuff sounds plausible in theory, but I remain unconvinced without hard evidence. Let's visit the website of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to see if there's any truth to this flying nonsense.

Well lawks-a-lordy and criminy, it appears that in the United States alone there are something in the region of 87,000 flights per day. This is an interesting statistic, but I'm still not sure. After all, it could be part of some extraordinary conspiracy. I want something I can see with my own eyes.

OK, OK, the evidence is overwhelming. Planes, it would appear, can actually fly. It's not magic, pixie dust, the power of positive thought or anything else. It's merely physics.

Let's now take a moment to consider whether a plane flying is "not possible. Unable to be, exist or happen."

Ummmm.....no. On the basis of the available evidence, it would seem extremely likely that the phrase "The world is full of impossible things we do regularly. Like airplanes!" is not entirely accurate in the strictest sense of the word. Indeed, one might even be tempted to suspect that Tim is talking utter bollocks. But then, that does seem to be his stock in trade.

"Just because they say you can't, means jack!"

This is one of my favourites, if for no other reason than IT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. I think Tim might have been a bit angry when he wrote this one, hence the lack of anything approaching meaning or sense. I envisage him at home emerging from his study, naked from the waist down, unshaven and wild-eyed, clutching a sheaf of hastily scribbled pages, shaking his sleeping wife awake and screaming at her, "Eggs! Eggs from cows! Cow eggs! It's a revolution!"

His wife then patiently explains that the biology of cows simply won't allow them to lay eggs - it's a physical impossibility. Tim babbles on for several minutes about calcium supplements, subliminal images of hens piped directly into the barn, and fervent whispers of "Eggs. Eggs. Eggs." into the ears of sleeping cows whilst wearing a chicken suit, whereupon his wife slaps him, crumples up the sheaf of papers and shouts, "God, Tim, you're tearing this family apart, can't you see that? What happened to the man I married? Please, stop. For the love of God, stop." before breaking down in tears, hands over her face, shoulders wracked with sobs.

Tim, shocked and with tears springing to his eyes, marches into the other room where he logs onto the computer and types "Just because they say you can't, means Jack!" before smoothing out his papers, picking up a pencil and rocking back and forth while repeating "Cow eggs" several thousand times.

Occasionally, Tim will tweet a comment that hints at something dark and brooding in his private life. This absolute gem from a few days ago is one such example:

"So she said she doesn't love you any more. Imagine what she'll look like in 60 years. It makes breaking up easier."

Clearly, things are starting to fall apart Chez Tim after the cow eggs incident. I feel it's only a matter of time before the inevitable "She won't let you see your kids? Imagine her with a knife in her face, buried up to the handle. Then laugh." tweet appears. Or, perhaps, "Your wife won't speak to you on the phone and has filed a restraining order? Fantasise about staking her to the ground and repeatedly running her over with a ride-on lawnmower. Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha! Oh God, please come back Marion, I miss you."

I worry for his mental health, I really do.

I could pick apart more of Tim's pearls of wisdom, but some of them are just too inane for anything other than derisive laughter. I present to you here, the cream of the crop:

"Your brain is a high tech instrument running on low tech love."

"A pile of smiles goes a mile."

"Don't just stand there, wave at a stranger and smile!"

"I'm in the explosive hope business."

"Make room for zoom and banish doom."

And, finally, another favourite of mine purely because, in the ultimate act of irony, it makes me very, very angry indeed:

"If you're going to fly into a rage, fly into an encourage."

Tim is a man for whom happiness exists in small snippets of bullshit. If you're the sort of person who's actually inspired by these proverbs, then I wish you the best of luck, but would like you to know before you go on your moronic way that you're an idiot who deserves nothing but scorn. I hope the laughter of the world rings in your ears until the hungry maw of death bids you enter.

On a final note, Tim currently has over 72,000 followers.

17 March 2010

Sunday Roast

Sometimes you find yourself in a position where you suddenly stop, take a step backwards, look around with a bemused expression and think, I'm not entirely sure I know how I got here, I know it's not good, and I'm uncertain what I should do next. This happens to me a lot.

The other day, for no apparent reason whatsoever, I remembered one such situation that occurred to me and immediately knew I should preserve it for posterity. This is that story.

About four years ago, I was something of an itinerant wanderer, moving from flat to flat, house to house, never really settling down anywhere in particular. At this time, I'd just moved in to my good friend Ben's house, based in Tintern Avenue, Westcliff. I was renting the front bedroom and quite enjoying the cosmopolitan feel of the area. By 'cosmopolitan' I mean that the chavs and ne'er-do-well's were from an impressive array of countries and continents, thus introducing a real 'United Colours of Benetton' type vibe, except with terrifying violence and snarling dogs.

5 minutes walk away was, and indeed still is, a pub called 'The Trading Room', which is one of those public houses that sprang to life from the empty shell of a closed-down bank. The decor was pleasing to the eye, the clientele were a varied selection of office workers, builders and 'miscellaneous', and the prices were a little on the high side, tending to drive away the lager-swilling riff-raff whose idea of culture is bare-knuckle boxing with their mother.

One Saturday night, kicking around the house on my own, I pooled my limited resources and decided to treat myself to a few pints. After all, this is what normal people do isn't it?

Unfortunately, my night was to be far from normal.

Standing at the bar, I sipped my bitter and looked around at the good-natured, straight-toothed people sipping wine, exchanging pleasantries and generally having a rather jolly, oik-free evening. At one point, I even treated myself to a beatific smile which, frankly, didn't sit particularly comfortably on my face but I thought I'd give it a go.

A chap in his early fifties was standing close by and engaged me in conversation. We drank a couple of beers together, chatting about this and that for a while and it was all very pleasant.

I became aware that he wasn't alone as he had a girlfriend who was lounging around in the corner downing large vodkas like they were going out of fashion and silently perusing the other patrons of the pub. She seemed nice enough, but didn't say very much.

For the purposes of this reminiscence, I shall call the man Bernard and the woman Tiffany. I have no idea of their real names as that particular detail has long since been lost to my memory.

Eventually, the bell rang for last orders and we managed to sneak another drink. As the other patrons started to file out, my new friend Bernard turned to me and said, "We're going to get something to eat and then have a couple of drinks at home. Come and join us!"

Now, normally, I might have stood back and thought, Right, I've only just met this guy, I don't really know who he is, so it's probably best not to head back to his house where I might be raped or murdered. Unfortunately , I'd had several drinks and was now in 'the zone'.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, being in 'the zone' means that the alcohol you've already guzzled is racing around your system at a rate of knots and giving you a happy, 'all is right with the world' buzz. It feels good, it makes you believe yourself to be cleverer and wittier than you actually are, and it demands constant topping-up. The filter in your head which says "OK chief, time to call it a night" is set to the 'off' position and all you crave is additional alcohol, consequences be damned.

The off licence was closed and there was no booze indoors, so this was my only opportunity for a cheeky snifter. Casting caution to the wind, I nodded at Bernard and said, "Yeah, that'd be good. Cheers."

We filed out of the pub, me, Bernard and Tiffany, and visited a Chinese takeaway down the road. Having no money left, I chose the 'standing outside smoking' option while they organised their food. A few minutes later, we were heading off to his flat which was a ten minute walk away.

When we arrived, just after midnight, we entered the flat and I could see that it was a pleasant enough place, a bit rough around the edges, but habitable and not at all grimy. Good, I thought, these seem like decent people.

My host directed me towards the living room which housed the usual fixtures and fittings with the addition of a small dining room table and a few chairs. Pointing me towards a chair he said, "Right, drink?"

"Fantastic, yes. What have you got?"

"Tea or coffee?"

I paused. Tea or coffee hadn't been on the bill of fayre floating enticingly around in my head. I'd envisaged whisky or vodka. Perhaps a good quality brandy or a fine vintage port. A glass of champagne, perhaps, or a gin and tonic. Casting my eyes quickly around the living room, I could see no bottles of delicious booze so resigned myself to the fact that Bernard had dragged me here pretty much on false pretences and all I was going to get was a decidedly uninspiring non-alcoholic beverage.

"Coffee please, thanks," I grumbled.

"How do you take it?" Bernard asked.

"Black, two sugars."

This, it transpired, was a mistake, but I was not to discover this until a little later.

Bernard scurried off to the kitchen where Tiffany had disappeared some moments earlier and I heard the recognisable sounds of water being poured, a kettle being flicked on and spoons pinging against mugs. In addition, they were munching their special fried rice in the kitchen while I sat there silently in the living room.

After a couple of minutes, Bernard brought my coffee out and placed it, steaming mightily, onto the table in front of me. I looked up at him and could see that numerous grains of rice had collected at the corners of his mouth as he chewed his takeaway.

He smiled at me conspiratorially and said, "Want to see something good?"

I nodded dumbly and tried to smile, the first stirrings of "I have a bad feeling about this" jerking into life at the back of my brain.

Bernard wandered over to a cupboard, opened it and fumbled about for a few seconds. Then, closing the cupboard, he turned to me and I could see he was holding what appeared to be a metal bar in his hands.

"Extendable baton," he grinned, flicking his wrist and causing the metal bar to extend to its full length. He smiled, swishing it about, and said, "A few thumps in the head with that and you wouldn't be getting up again."

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly frightened. I was, in a matter of seconds, stone-cold sober. Soon, I thought, I might be stone-cold dead.

He continued to stand there, brandishing the baton, swiping it through the air and slamming it into the palm of his hand. Bizarrely, my eyes were still focused on the rice at the edge of his lips. I think my rationale was: I can't possibly be beaten to death with an extendable baton by a man who has part of a Chinese meal on his face. That wouldn't be proper so it can't happen.

It turned out that my logic was absolutely correct as Bernard proceeded to hand the baton to me, instructing me to "have a go".

I weighed it in my hands and, politely, nodded my head appreciably at its impressive weight. He urged me to swing it about so I feebly swished it back and forth, nodding my head and complementing him on his choice of weapon.

He smirked and took the baton from me, saying "Here, I'll show you something else", before going to his cupboard once again.

Pausing only briefly to show me his cricket bat that "I normally keep downstairs by the door", he proceeded to produce a handgun and wave it in my general direction. Yes, you read that right - he was holding a handgun.

Cradling it lovingly, he then told me about what type it was, the ammunition it took and its destructive power. Sadly, these details are forever lost in the mists of time as I was, by now, utterly terrified. Fortunately, as he explained, he kept the bullets in the attic so at least the thing wasn't loaded. Or so I assumed as the alternative didn't really bear thinking about.

After a few moments, he returned the handgun to his cupboard of deadly weaponry and returned to the kitchen to polish off the rest of his rice.

Left alone, I looked around nervously wondering how best I could make my escape. This man, a complete stranger, had invited me into his home and waved a selection of illegal weapons at me. Indeed, he'd actually pointed a gun at my face. This was not, to the best of my knowledge, normal behaviour. I had no choice but to leave. This was way outside my comfort zone.

Unfortunately, what was also outside my comfort zone was the fact that to escape immediately would mean I'd be leaving a full cup of coffee on the table which was nothing short of rude. Yes, yet again, my pathetically English sense of decorum had kicked in and I couldn't possibly leave without drinking the coffee first. The thought of sneaking out leaving a fresh beverage un-sipped mortified me, if for no other reason than Bernard might pursue me down the road with a sawn-off shotgun, outraged at my casual refusal of his courteous gesture.

This, unfortunately, was where my decision not to have milk in my coffee had backfired. The cup of liquid in front of me was hotter than the surface of the sun and completely undrinkable without inflicting serious oral burns on myself. I sat in the living room, frantically blowing on it in a bid to reduce its temperature.

After another few moments, Bernard returned, chewing more food, and said "I'll just put the TV on", which I thought was very nice of him as it would give me something to look at while I weighed up whether I was going to make a bolt for the door or just leap out of the window and hope for the best.

The TV flickered into life and he started sorting through some video tapes in a pile on the floor. He picked one up and inserted it, grabbing the remote control and pressing the play button.

Immediately, the screen filled with images of hardcore pornography.

Bernard turned, winked lasciviously at me, and returned to the kitchen.

Now, on occasion I've had friends round on a social basis. We listen to music or sometimes watch the TV. Occasionally, I'll put a DVD on of the latest Hollywood blockbuster so we can guffaw at the plot holes and feel superior. We've even sat and played games on the xbox 360. What I've never done, however, is decide that what would really set the mood for the evening would be to put on a video of two men vigorously violating a woman in a nurse's outfit. Maybe I'm old-fashioned and out of touch with modern behaviour and for that I can only apologise.

I was starting to feel uneasy, which was manifesting itself as anger, a classic defence mechanism. In this confusing scenario of guns, porn and extendable batons, I needed a scapegoat, something on which I could blame this whole ordeal; an item, person or concept that I could jab my finger at and bellow, "J'accuse! This is all your fault! What the hell were you thinking?"

In the depths of my bewilderment, the only possible thing I could get angry at was the cup of coffee. This steaming mug of devil's brew was the only thing preventing me from making my polite, socially-acceptable escape. You instant bastard, I thought, directing my fury towards the coffee. You irritating receptacle of boiling, pitch-black doom. When I get home - IF I get home - I'm going to find a jar of Mellow Birds and smash it to pieces with a rolling pin.

Suddenly, Tiffany entered the room, walked towards the sofa and laid down on it, eyes glued to the pornography on the TV. We sat there in silence, save for the sound of slapping thighs and animalistic grunts coming from the porn video.

Then Bernard walked in, crossed the room, knelt down by his reclining girlfriend, leaned over her, and started to kiss her passionately whilst jamming his hand between her legs in an alarmingly non-erotic fashion, all the while looking directly at me.

Finally, the pieces dropped into place. I had been invited back here to engage in a threesome with a man in his fifties and a tired, drunk blonde woman. They'd decided to indulge in some sort of sordid, sex festival and I was the guest of honour.

It was an horrific tableau. Me, mug in hand, lips pursed at the rim, puffing air over the simmering liquid, Bernard, tongue bulging grotesquely out of his mouth and into Tiffany's, his hand kneading at the crotch of her jeans, eyes locked on mine.

I started to gulp the coffee as fast as I could. My mouth burned, my throat constricted, but I was going to drink that damn coffee and get the hell out of there. I whimpered, took a gulp, gasped, drew cool air into my burning mouth, then took another gulp. It was not dissimilar to some sort of endurance test that you'd see on a Japanese game show performed by a businessman in an ill-fitting leotard while cackling buffoons in fancy dress point at him and shout.

I can only imagine that this is what it must feel like to drink lava, I thought as I continued to swallow scalding mouthfuls of Nescafe. In retrospect, I do wonder if it was Gold Blend as that would have put an interesting slant on the 'will they, won't they' adverts starring Anthony Head and Sharon Maughan. Yes, they will, but only in front of a startled onlooker after pointing a gun at him.

Ironically, just as I'd swallowed the last mouthful of coffee and banged the mug on the table triumphantly, Tiffany, who had possibly been press-ganged into the whole sorry business by the perverted Bernard, decided that she didn't want to do this and pushed him away, before tottering to her feet, picking up her shoes and walking out. He dashed after her, trying to talk her back into the room but, within a few seconds, I heard the sound of the front door slamming shut and his dejected footsteps slowly climbing the stairs.

He shuffled into the room, switched off the porn and turned to me. We regarded each other silently, him with unmistakable disappointment, me with pleading terror.

Eventually, Bernard spoke. "I don't think she's feeling very well. I'm going to bed. Thanks for coming over."

And with that, I leaped from the dining room table, grabbed my coat and darted towards the door. Astonishingly, I thanked Bernard not only for his hospitality, but for the coffee too.

I stepped outside into the cold night air, sucking it gratefully into my raw, stinging mouth and walked home, furtively casting my eyes over my shoulder every few steps just in case Bernard was following me with a scimitar tucked into his belt.

Reaching Ben's house, I let myself in and walked straight upstairs to my room, flinging my clothes off and climbing wearily under the sheets, already wondering if I'd actually experienced what had just happened. I fell into a troubled sleep.

It has often been said to me, "It could only happen to you, Dan." I must regrettably agree.