Now you know where you can shove your sex aids…

As usual, I’ve just performed the monthly chore of disinfecting my email in-box of everything in the spam folder – to date, this month, 196 items of unwanted, unsolicited, unmitigated junk.

And, as usual, I had a sneaky peek at the subject ‘headlines’, just in case something useful had inadvertently found its way in there. Nope, no surprises.

So I did a quick calculation and discovered about eight out of 10 messages were offering me what can only be described as ‘aids to improve my sexual gratification’ and, collaterally, that of my lady wife, who has so far registered no dissatisfaction over conjugal matters following 27 years of nothing less than marital bliss (not that I’m boasting, girls).

Naturally, it had me wondering who are these strangers in cyberspace who’ve come to the conclusion my performance in boudoir Olympics isn’t even up to bronze-medal standing (forgive the Freudian slip) and I’m in dire need of Viagra, herbal aphrodisiacs and penile enhancers to (if you’ll pardon the expression) raise me to podium status.

Frankly, such chutzpah gives me the hump (not in a sexual context, you understand).

SEXING IT UP: Thanks, but no thanks

Then I rumbled it: my on-line, internet profile has been sold, swapped, traded, analysed, dissected and categorised to the degree that manufacturers and retailers of certain pills, unctions and strap-on/pump-up devices regard me as a contender for assistance between the sheets/back seat of the car/up against the park railings/standing up in a hammock.

To the best of my knowledge (and I’ve checked with the missus), I’m not a candidate. At least not yet, though never say never, as I always say.

Therefore, to all you spam-senders, please note that my new, on-line profile is: Friar Eunuchus, a Trappist hermaphrodite of indeterminate age, who has as much interest in sex as in the extinction of the dildo – sorry, dodo – and who can be discounted as a possible punter for anything you’re flogging (selling, that is, with no link to S&M).

So please – P-L-E-A-S-E! – delete me from your mailing list as quickly as I toss out (no pun intended) your junk from my spam folder.

Thanks in advance, even if my plea will be an impotent one (though don’t get the wrong idea there, either).

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Don’t mention the war – but soccer’s another thing

Living in an international community, as we do – and especially one where the majority of our neighbours are German – indulging in jingoism or, indeed, schadenfreude (i.e. delighting in the misery of others) is tacitly off limits.

For instance, certain issues are considered ‘verboten’ and, though the debate over the euro is a red-hot topic, in the best traditions of Basil Fawlty, nobody mentions the war. Either war.

On the one occasion the subject of conflict arose, I was reminded that it was the Prussians, under Gebhard von Blucher, who rode to Wellington’s rescue in the Battle of Waterloo, otherwise we’d all be speaking like the policeman in ‘Allo, ‘Allo. Oops, shades of schadenfreude there, I’m afraid.

However, there was a lack of – er, how shall I put it – Teutonic interest in the Sunday papers at my local newsagents this morning, with a stack of Bilds gathering dust and hardly a Süddeutsche Zeitung, the upright organ of Bavaria, sold.

The cafes and bars, too, were strangely quiet for a Sunday. In fact, I didn’t hear a ‘Ja’ or ‘Nein’ uttered, or, for that matter, did I spot a bristling, handlebar moustache – not even on a holidaying Munich hausfrau.

DREAM TEAM: Maybe Bayern would have a better chance beating this lot?

The only German voice I did encounter was one in an English-language radio phone-in, who claimed it took a Chelsea side full of foreigners – notably a Czech goalkeeper (Petr Cech), an Ivorian striker (Drogba) and a Spanish midfielder (Mata) – to beat Germany’s finest.

He neglected to mention the four, key English contributors – Lampard, Ashley Cole, Cahill and Bertrand – and conveniently overlooked the fact that Bayern fielded five non-Germans (Robben, Van Buyten, Tymoschchuk, Olic and Ribery or that Mario Gomez’s dad is Spanish).

Such is the patriotic pulling power of soccer, I could only say to myself, ‘Bah, humbug! What a sour Kraut.’

Apologies to the neighbours, of course, all of whom seemed to be having a lie-in.

PS: Since Bayern couldn’t beat Chelsea’s first team, I thought I’d include a snap of what Chelsea fans consider their ‘dream team’. Maybe Roberto di Matteo will put them out in next year’s Champions’ League final to even up the odds.  

Gibraltar: The Spanish obsession that won’t go away

In the midst of the worst recession the world has witnessed, with the Eurozone crumbling and the very future of the EU itself at stake, the vacuous Spanish government has come up with a ploy it hopes will take its downtrodden people’s focus off the politico-economic morass it’s in.

Following in the jackboot prints of Franco, Prime Minister Mariono Rajoy has now played the Gibraltar card, thrown his toys out of the pram and spitefully banned Queen Sofia from officially attending her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

This follows last week’s spat in a teacup, when Spain formally objected to the planned visit next month of Prince Edward and his missus to the Rock, as part of his mum’s knees-up.

Of course, Gibraltar – a 2.6 square mile pimple on the gluteus maximus of Europe, with a population of around 30,000 and known to the Spanish as El Peñón – is contiguous with Spain. So, too, is France and Portugal, though Madrid has yet to lay claim to those two nations.

In France’s case it did once 299 years ago, which resulted in the War of the Spanish Succession, when Philip V of Spain tried to usurp the French throne. Fearing a calamitous shift in European power, an alliance between Britain, Holland, the Germanic Holy Roman Empire and the Duchy of Savoy punctured Phil the Bourbon’s haughty ambitions.

During the contretemps that lasted from 1701 to 1713, an Anglo-Dutch fleet captured The Rock in 1704 and, thanks to the Treaty of Utrecht, Gib was ceded to Britain (along with Minorca temporarily) ‘in perpetuity’, which – the last time I consulted my dictionary – meant forever and a sunset.

GOING APE: Spain’s anger over Gib knows no end

Over the centuries the miniscule splodge of territory has played a defining role in Britain’s defences and still does. Moreover, in 1967 and 2002, its inhabitants voted in plebiscites, by a 99-to-one majority, to remain British, which, under Europe’s rules of people’s self-determination, should have rendered the issue beyond debate.

Obsessional Spain, however, won’t let it lie, considers the Rock-dwellers a bunch of ne’er-do-wells, and is particularly chagrined about a recent fracas, when Spanish fishermen were banned from casting their nets in Gibraltan territorial waters.

Rajoy, like many of his predecessors, keeps banging on about bi-lateral talks directly with Britain over Gib’s future, neatly bypassing the reasonable aspirations of the locals.

However, when taken to task, he dodges and weaves around the festering topics of Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s two, autonomous enclaves in North Africa, which the Moroccans consider theirs.

Not unfairly, one cannot but be drawn to the conclusion that, somewhere in the white heat of the kitchen of international diplomacy, pots are calling kettles black, with righteous Spain making the loudest din.

An open letter to my Man City mad son…

Dear Alex,

When you rang me just after six, Mallorca time, last night, we, too, were celebrating Manchester City’s success, though perhaps a few decibels below the level of ecstacy, exuberance and relief that understandably blew you away.

That the Blues won the Premiership on a day of such see-sawing, electrifying intensity and drama is the mark of true champions and, what’s more in the 93rd minute – Fergie time!

And, though the Red half of Manchester will be crying in their beer, when sobriety returns they’ll be relieved the pennant didn’t go to those London upstarts, Chelsea, Arsenal or Spurs – or, heaven forbid, Liverpool.

Though you accuse me of being a closet Red – I’ve always contended I’m just a fan of good football – I’m delighted one of my home-town teams, if not the other, is again the reigning monarch of English soccer, an on-going achievement all us Mancs should be proud of.

TEARS OF JOY: Alex celebrates City’s success

But let’s clear up one of your misapprehensions: I wasn’t the one responsible for your conversion to the City faith, as you claim. I don’t remember the fateful day you talk about when, as a small, impressionable boy, I supposedly took you to Maine Road and you were totally hypnotised by the colour blue. I would never have been so cruel.

If I did – count you’re lucky it wasn’t Bury, Stockport County or Rochdale – the visit must have contained a strong caveat, based on City’s past crimes of against football and loyal fans. I would surely have warned, if you follow this lot, prepare yourself for a grim, frustrating ride with a club whose turnstiles should have carried the health warning, ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’

Happily, now the oil sheiks have injected nearly a billion and Roberto Mancini has invested the moolah (mostly) wisely, the City manager’s office can dispense with its revolving door (incidentally, can you name all 20 team bosses the club had in the 44 years between Joe Mercer and Mancini delivering title honours? No, neither can I).

So, if only in spirit, I join you and your mates in the aptly-titled Blue Anchor pub, wherever it is in London’s East End, in hailing City’s success. And, so long as they play a brand of football that’s as entertaining as it is enthralling, long may the Blue half of Manchester crow.

Love,

Dad

PS: You should have taken my advice of a couple of months ago, when I told you to bet a few quid on City winning the title on goal difference. At least it would have paid for your champagne.

Why the ‘i’ in iPhone stands for idiot

Intrinsically, I have no great issue with iPhones or the array of copycat models from competitor brands. But I have with their owners.

For example, there are few sights more absurd than a 60-year-old plonker showing off an iPhone – I use the brand-name iPhone as a generic, much the same as Hoover has come to mean vacuum cleaner – and his collection of ‘apps’.

And I’ve grown (and groaned) to harbour a passionate loathing for two particular ‘apps’, which are incessantly brought to my attention: a) a GPS ‘app’ they tell me has led them to the very same party I’ve reached by listening to the verbal directions of the host; and b) the ‘app’ of a puerile pussycat that purrs when you tickle the screen. Both are beyond naff.

It’s invariably men – and quite often of a greyish, wrinkled vintage – who boast of which ‘apps’ they’ve downloaded in what has evolved into a battle of one-upmanship between competing iIdiots.

I am also sick to the gills of walking into restaurants and other places of conversational intercourse only to be met by a bevvy of lone morons consumed with checking the annual rainfall in Kathmandu, despite the fact they live in Effingham and have no intention of ever visiting Nepal

It therefore makes iPhones a menace to society. They are conversation-killers, insults to a wife/husband/partner/mate/acquaintance, when, for no valid reason most sane folk can comprehend, a user is overcome by a whim to flash his telephonic toy and play with his ‘apps’.

These ‘apps addicts’ may think they are imbued with a sense of cutting-edge cool, but they’re wrong…the devices they wield so proudly make them appear to possess the mental acumen of a myopic armadillo.

CONVERSATION KILLER: The iPhone

Undoubtedly  iPhones have their uses – professional, business applications, which are intended for sound, practical purposes and not for twits to bore the wits out of innocent bystanders, who have absolutely zero interest in the so-called ‘fun’ the iPhone owner is inflicting upon them.

And quite why anyone other than a Saudi arms-dealer would want to read their emails during the tarte tartin in a convivial eatery is a conundrum to me. I’m impressed not one iota. In fact, when such gimmicky gizmos are casually produced and uselessly used in my presence I take it as a gross affront to my companionship and what remains of my ebbing dignity.

In general, I applaud restaurants which demand clients hand over their cellphones when they enter, since their incessant trilling tends to mar the enjoyment of other diners, who rightly reach the reasonable conclusion such objects are the playthings of attention-seeking pillocks. Unless it is a dire, life-or-death emergency, they should not be returned until the wilful culprit is exiting the establishment.

In common with most of the adult – and, I regret to say – pre-pubescent and juvenile population, I, too, have a mobile phone. I usually dread it ringing, since the person at the other end has either bad news or a demand for me to work; so in company, I regard my immediate comradeship as above the need to answer the bloody thing and leave it turned off.

To summarise: iPhones addicts are anti-social, selfish, churlish and worse than people who insist on examining the contents of their nose before an invited audience.

Like self-abuse, iPhones brandished in company should be banned and most definitely not be sold to users, unless they’ve taken holy vows to keep them and their ‘apps’ strictly to themselves.

Formidable! Les French invade London

US general Stormin’ Norman Schwartzkopf may have been a tad OTT when he observed, ‘Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion.’ As was Mark Twain’s observation, ‘France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. France has usually been governed by prostitutes.’

Personally, though, I’ve always thought heaping disdain on a nation is somehow a back-handed compliment. Indifference – no comment at all – is the worst of insults.

And I’ve always had a high regard for the French, particularly their women. Not, I hasten to add, necessarily in a leering sort of way, but just the ability of the average mademoiselle to look rather chic, regardless of whether she has the vital statistics of a Breton cart-horse.

On the other hand, there has been a dichotomy – often verging on unfettered animus – between robust Anglo-Saxon values and French gentilities. They believe they are the great thinkers of Europe – from Descartes to Sartre, not forgetting Monsieur Hulot (anyone remember his bicycle?) and Bernard-Henri Levy – while we Brits are dismissed as…well, uncouth rosbifs, with the occasional intellectual throwback of a Shakespeare or Dickens (who were probably French anyway, if the truth is ever known).

Yet, despite the contretemps over the centuries when we’ve kicked the crap out of each other, Britain has hosted French émigrés many times. From the Huguenots to the bloody purges of the Revolution – when we saved many an aristo neck – to WW2, when our sceptred isle was a sanctuary for the Free French, even if we had to suffer the sniffiness of General De Gaulle.

FRENCH DRESSING: More Gallic flair is set to grace the streets of London

Now we’re repeating the favour again, as more Frenchies are set to pile in and join the 400,000 who are already here,  the vast majority residing in London, where their educational qualifications are much prized in the City.

The latest lot are financial asylum-seekers, ultra well-shod escapees from nouveau President Hollande’s threat to penalise anyone earning over a million euros (£812,000) with a 75% tax rate.

Singer-songwriter Francoise Hardy signalled the exodus and spoke for many, telling Paris Match magazine, ‘I’m going to be forced to move because of wealth tax.’

So look forward to seeing even more bistros that can transform scrag-ends into lip-smacking delights, patisseries that make Greggs look gormless, and a fashion je n’se quoi indelibly Gallic.

The downside is that property prices will soar stratospherically, after already rocketing in recent months, as worried, wealthy Greeks, Italians and Spaniards join Arabs and Ruskies, looking to park their moolah in the safe havens of London’s exclusive suburbs.

So quelle domage for your poor, average, British multi-millionaire banker, whose bid for prime real estate in the opulent reaches of Regents Park, Mayfair, Chelsea and St. John’s Wood is going to get a droit, royal gazumping.

But think of the benefits…ever haughtier couture and proper pomme frites.

The euro (cont’d): An experts’ eye view on its future

In my ceaseless efforts to tap into the raging pulse of Europe and its flagging currency, I held what the media condescendingly refer to as a ‘vox pop’, that is a test of commonplace attitudes on a topic of compelling importance.

I chose the weekly conclave of Portals Press Club, held each Tuesday morning – weather permitting, guest welcome by invitation only – at Chameli’s Diner, Portals Nous, a resort-cum-expat enclave about 10 minutes drive from downtown Palma.

Besides yours truly, those luminaries present were: Frank Leavers (columnist of the Majorca Daily Bulletin), Peter Franklin (Editor, The Islander Magazine), David Hammond (retired ex-retiree) and Laura Penn (Spectrum Radio DJ).

All are long-time Mallorca hands and so, one would think, capable of bringing sage opinions to bear on the techy topic of whether the flaky euro and the Eurozone zone will survive its latest tempest. So here are there considered views…

EXPERT OPINION: (left to right): Leavers, Ash, Hammond and Franklin

Leavers: ‘Of course it will survive – or, on the other hand, it won’t.’

Franklin: ‘If they can ditch Greece and the other 16 Eurozone nations, it will pull through.’

Hammond: ‘What’s a euro? I only deal in £s, shillings and pence.’

Penn (AWOL from photo): ‘Has it got something to do with the Eurovision Song Contest? If so, I back the Irish every time.’

So forget what the FT and Wall Street Journal say; there you have it: a deeply philosophical insight that cuts through the quagmire of confusion surrounding the euro’s fate from those who live and work in Euroland, and know intimately the troubles the currency faces.

Politicians and economists everywhere, take note.