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Saturday 27th September 2003

Mr Jeffries

This dog, Mr Jeffries, has ears that measure 29.2cm. Apparently this makes him the world's longest eared dog. I'm not sure what exactly that purpose this serves or why such a record exists, but the Guinness Book of Records is stuffed with achievements that don't appear to have much point and are the result of a freak of nature rather than, for example, conscious achievement - and these records are all the more compelling for their complete pointlessness, so who am I to deny Mr Jeffries his moment in the sun? - especially since the dog, like me, is from West Sussex, which is a fairly unremarkable (but extremely pleasant) place, so needs its big-eared dogs as a more enjoyable claim to fame than its child-killers and second runways.

It appears his owner has insured the the dog's ears for 30,000, citing film stars insuring body parts as his reasoning. I'm intrigued as to the income that this vaguely deranged man gets from Mr Jeffries's ears. It's clear why a model may insure legs or a singer a voice, but not immediately obvious how a dog's ears, however large, can be particularly lucrative (unless I've missed the point and the dog can actually fly with them, or listen in on confidential conversations). From all accounts the biggest effect the ears have on the dog's life is that they dangle in his food when he's eating and he occasionally trips over them.

Anyway, my main point in commenting on Mr Jeffries was to give me an excuse to put up a picture of a ridiculous but doleful looking Basset Hound.

34 - posted at 08:48:25

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Wednesday 24th September 2003


It was nearly a month ago since Claire and I set off on holiday and over two weeks since we returned, so, true to the laggardly nature of the Italian postal system, this is my brief postcard.

As evidenced by a slightly odd entry in the guestbook we initially stayed in Siena for a few days, despite the fact that on the way to Florence airport the plane was diverted and a fairly protracted journey ensued in order to get to Siena before sundown, and thus avoid the slightly disturbing prospect of being stranded somewhere in the Tuscan country-side all night (would have been quite fun, come to think of it).

Siena is beautiful and welcoming. It is compact, almost entirely squeezed into its medieval city walls, but infinitely explorable, full of lanes and small roads stacked on different levels and winding in a way which tortures the hapless wanderer's sense of direction. Our hotel was just outside one of the city gates. It was (almost) perfect and the view from our room was stunning - my meagre descriptive powers wouldn't really do it justice, so I give up, only saying we could see for miles across the gentle hills of Tuscany. As this is just a postcard I shall only list art, a contrade procession, ice creams, towers, food (pasta, cheese, scallops, lard...), a liqorice allsort cathedral and a saint's decapitated head. Siena, I hope to return soon.

A cheap bus ride later we were in Florence, crowded and dirty - a strange contrast to Siena: the heart of the Renaissance but somewhere, that on first aquaintance, after Siena, seems to be less artful and less civilised. But the treasures are mainly inside - although the Duomo is impressive and huge, it is caked with dirt and jostling tourists make wandering outside it slightly uncomfortable. The Dome however is huge, and a climb to the top was worth it for the views and an appreciation of the engineering and scale of the building...but as I said, inside was the place to be: The Pitti Palace, the Uffizi (for which we didn't queue at all), various other Cathedrals - bringing with them the tombs or memorials of Dante, Michaelangelo, Galileo, bewildering frescoes - and an inexhaustible supply of Byzantine, Renaissance and Mannerist religious art. The quality and quantity of art is overwhelming and other distractions included the Boboli Gardens, Leonardo's graffiti, Fiesole (a nearby hill town, which offered views of Florence akin to those you would get landing in a plane (assuming it hadn't been redirected to Bologna)), much more food including some very discerning pasta and meat purchases at the indoor food market, and a few bug bites.

A few things conspired through the week to make the holiday appear, if I detailed them here, less than perfect. But it was the most fun and happy holiday I've had because, as if it needs saying, for every plane re-direction there's an evening by the Arno that cancels it out many times over.

33 - posted at 06:49:58

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Wednesday 13th August 2003

It's Left Handers day, but annoyingly I don't think I'll have time to dwell on one of my favourite topics for ranting/rambling/musing, so for the moment I'll leave it to the Guardian to mark the occasion with this and this.

32 - posted at 10:41:52

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Tuesday 5th August 2003

Number 2 in my very occasional and egotistical series.

Robert Allen

This gentleman benefited from the help of a Michigan based Christian mission back in early years of the 20th Century and I assume, as his part of the bargain, found God. He testified that whiskey had taken his self-respect and he was unable to support his home.

31 - posted at 14:02:37

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Friday 1st August 2003

A while back I whinged about the unexpected and unexplained removal of Seinfeld from the Paramount channel's schedule, a removal that left UK viewers completely bereft of the sitcom, as it still resists the lure of DVD/Video. Not long after the Paramount authorities indulged in this televisual cruelty, I was caught in a fit of resentment and confusion as I attempted to go cold turkey from my daily fix of New York Jewish comedy. The odd bagel on the way into work wasn't enough, so I wrote to Paramount demanding an explanation. All I got in return was a fobvert (the combination of a fobbing off with an advertisment) along the lines of, 'thanks for enquiring about Seinfeld which will be back some time soon, meanwhile did you know that Becker is on instead, in which a C-list actor past his prime pretends to be a cranky doctor, with hilarious consequences'. I accepted my lot and turned to Curb Your Enthusiasm instead.

Then someone called Zoe from Paramount sent me the following e-mail, which arrived yesterday:

"Have You Seen This Man? You Soon Will.
Since leaving our screens earlier this year, the absence of one Jerome Seinfeld from the Paramount Comedy schedule has brought a veritable outcry from our loyal viewers. Having been deluged with e-mails, phone calls and letters, our schedulers have decided to bring Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer back from September 1st. Yes, in just a few short weeks make sure your alarms are set for a daily wake-up call with the wise cracking New Yorker. Don't forget. Write it on a post-it note and stick it on your forehead. Better still, have it tattooed on your arm. I have - just under my tattoo of Frasier and Niles Crane.


Initially I skim read this e-mail with something approaching delight. But the phrase 'make sure your alarms are set' ignited my suspicious nature and on closer examination I realised that 'Zoe', clearly a Ted Danson fan, was celebrating the fact that Seinfeld was now on at half nine, in the morning. Perhaps it's the fact that I don't own a video recorder that made me angry, or the completely fatuous advice to set my alarm for 9:30am, when I'm already out of bed and staring blankly at a PC in the office by that time. Or perhaps it was simply that this nonsense was being imparted to me by some freakish obsessive, a walking Radio Times/TV Quick (depending on her upbringing), tattooed head to foot with TV schedules - the main channels displayed on her forehead and chest, the satellite channels on her limbs, the regional variations on the back of her knees or ears with Men&Motors, UK Style and five imprinted somewhere dark and nether-like.

So, easy to spot if I ever bump into her on the street. I'll quickly check what time the Hollyoaks omnibus is on, then give her a piece of my mind.

So much for that.

30 - posted at 18:21:15

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