Manateem hoooooo!

Dear Sony Ericsson

Dear Messrs Sony and Ericsson,

How does this day find you? Are you well? Are you floating along in a bubble of telecommunicative wizardry, connected to all and sundry, hearing and making yourselves heard with aplomb?

That must be nice. 

This woman is an innocent. I have no idea who she is

I write to you today, Mr Sony, Mr Ericsson with a tale of emotional and temporal woe. That’s emotions and time, Mr Ericsson. It’s a perhaps unconventional use of the word ‘temporal’, however I feel the situation calls for such things. I am a maverick, my good sirs, and the English language is my wild eyed steed. 

However my tale of woe does not concern horses. That’s an altogether different tale of woe, one that leaves me with a wistful, melancholy glaze in my one remaining eye. No, this tale of woe has to do with a feat of Machiavellian evil so cunning and exact that it must have been created in some kind of laboratory. Perhaps the same laboratory THAT YOU TWO GENTLEMEN USE TO CREATE YOUR MOBILE PHONES!

Some time ago, I made the decision to repeat a mistake I have often made in the past. I took on a contract that required me to own a Sony Ericsson handset. ‘Nothing wrong with that,’ I hear you think, and for you chaps there may not be. I imagine you chaps to have top of the line handsets, with LCD displays filled with the tears of virgins and buttons made of ivory. There is no ivory in my Sony Ericsson X8. There are no virginal tears. There are only my tears. And I am technically not a virgin. 

Why I repeated this mistake, I do not know. I have owned a W880i (snapped), a C902 (worse than malaria) and another one, the number of which I forget, which I submerged in warm beer in a fit of rage after the 14th dropped call of the evening. The call was about dogs, if I remember correctly, but it could have been important. I could have won a prize, sirs, and you could have ruined that. 

Now, in the latest telephonic faux pas made by myself - and I do not like referring to myself as ‘myself’ - I have been lumbered with the Sony Ericsson X8. Such wild promises the box made! ‘It makes calls’, it said. ‘It sends texts’, it breathed to me softly as it stroked my hair and lulled me into a state of almost sexual compliance. This was the phone for me, chaps. This was the phone I would make my wife. 

Then the arguments started. X8 would not make calls. I reasoned with her. She was impervious to my reason. Then she stopped sending texts. Then she crashed whenever I opened an application. Then she decided on her own ringtone volume, disregarding my plaintive murmuring. In fact the only good thing this handset does - and ‘good’ is a stretch, my friends - is ringing THE WRONG PEOPLE NO MATTER WHAT I DO! I don’t know if you’ve ever called your own mother whilst trying to arrange an evening with a lady, gentlemen, but it is not an experience I’d care to repeat. I heard some things that evening that changed me. Bad things. You can imagine the rest, I would just rather you didn’t.

This brings me to my point. The point I have been ambling towards. You may feel I am wasting your time, however I feel as if I can take as much of your time as I deem fit, given that your almost perfectly awful phone takes an hour a day from me. It really feels like it would have been easier, more cost effective and cheaper to make a phone that works. Or at least to have sold me two cans with a piece of string between them and not lied to my poor, wretched face. 

I have had the phone for around 60 days - this is an estimate that is favourable to you. I am not unreasonable - and it has wasted, I would say, an average of 46 minutes a day of my precious, wonderful time. This means that you, Mr Sony and Mr Ericsson, owe me 2,760 minutes. I will discount the 12 minutes this blog would have taken to read, and round down a little, to make this a cool 2,740 minutes, GMT. I wish for these minutes to be returned to me, my good sirs, for I can hear them. They call me. They shriek at night such awful things as ‘we could have learned to knit by now’ and ‘you never did learn to make quiche’. These minutes are anguished, sirs, and I wish to answer their cries. 

I leave it up to you to develop the means to return these minutes to me. However I really must insist this is made top priority. I think the phone is aware of how I feel, and if she reads this I may not have long left. 

I leave this in your capable hands,


Today, I Move House.

For the past 3 years, I’ve lived in one area of London, a little town in Zone 3 called Honor Oak Park, near Brockley. Now, I’m moving away from the bright lights, crowds, hookers and fast living that living on the East London Line (14 minutes to Canada Water) brings. 

I’ve been through the wringer in this area. Highs and lows abounded, like a giant fighting a midget on heroin. 2 girlfriends - one of them for 2 years (my longest grown up relationship), unemployment, sunburn, indigestion, cafetiere theft, some kids throwing rocks at my front door, a stratospherically fat Jamaican woman trying to beat me up for reasons I never found out. South East London is, at the same time, incredible and incredibly shit.

I’ve wanted to move away for some time, however now the move is imminent, I can feel pangs of sadness creeping into my midriff. Sort of near the stomach, I suppose. Below the ribs. Lower. Lower. No, up a bit. There. 

So, I’d just like to say a big thank you to South East London. You’ve taught me a lot. I now know that the slowest moving thing on earth is a West Indian grandmother at a cashpoint. I know not to buy fruit and veg from stalls on the street. I know what ‘fam’ means. I never did get to the bottom of what ‘allow it’ means, but I like to leave things with a bit of mystery. 

Bye bye, South East London. Thanks for all the memories. 


Sainsbury’s bare their fangs!!!

Sainsbury’s have launched their friendliness offensive on two fronts. The classic pincer movement has me surrounded like a small pack of sentient velociraptors. 

First Mark assailed me via the bete noire of microblogging, Twitter. His tone was kindly, almost paternal. I could imagine that, in another life, Mark and I would become fast friends. We would attend the theatre, arriving late and laughing whimsically at the staff when they told us we wouldn’t be allowed in to the performance. We’d ride a tandem bike around a park, neither of us entirely sure which one is doing the steering. Mark and I would, one day, grow old together. 

Alas, these pipe dreams have faded like early morning mist. For with this new front opening up in my battle with J, proprietor of J. Sainsbury’s, a new foe has emerged. 

I present to you, C.

Dear Jim,

Thanks for your email. I’m sorry (me being C) that you feel we’ve committed an act of espionage at our Sloane Avenue store. Please be assured that the brie, leaf, tomato and mystery sauce baguette you crave so much has come to no harm. I can understand your disappointment at not seeing her for so long, no one enjoys pining for a lost love. 

We try to sell the widest possible range of products to give our customers maximum choice. However, we can’t stock every item in every store. For each store, our buyers regularly review what we’re stocking and how well it’s selling, to make sure that we are meeting our customers’ needs. 

Occasionally, this means that we withdraw from some stores if they’re not popular. If enough customers want to see a product in their local store, we’ll do everything we can to provide it. 

I’ve passed on your request to our buyers and they’ll consider it carefully at the upcoming product review. We stock over 30,000 products and therefore can’t possibly sell every product that is requested however we do listen to each request individually and try our best to accommodate every customer. 

Thanks for taking the time to contact us. I hope your lap won’t remain crumbless for too long, and look forward to seeing you in our store again soon. 


On the surface of it, this is a very friendly missive. C refers to my lap as if it is an old friend, one she (I assume here, since there is no indication of gender. However, the email did smell vaguely of perfume) has played canasta with on occasion. Judging by the tone of the lap reference, I am almost certain that C would donate bone marrow, should my lap ever need it. 

C’s tone is friendly, her keystrokes firm but caring, her answers comprehensive. It is here that her ultimate deceit lies. 

Allow me to delve deeper into a specific part of C’s letter. 

"However, we can’t stock every item in every store."

You’ll notice that shortly afterwards C makes reference to the fact that J’s personal stash of quality confectionery and other groceries runs to around 30,000 items. Upon skim reading C’s email the first time, I was impressed by her responsiveness, her attitude and quite possible her hair. 

However, when I reached that line, realisation struck me. C is under the impression that I am literally insane. I know, C, that each store cannot stock every single item that J carries. I am aware of the fact that our correspondence is in reference to a local store, not a Tardis. 

In C’s mind, I am currently sat in an empty room, walls daubed with my own blood and faeces, rocking backwards and forwards slowly whilst cackling and shouting ‘PHYSICS DOESN’T APPLY TO BUILDINGS THAT STOCK RYVITA’. I am conscious of the fact, C, that within the confines of a Sainsbury’s local, space is a finite commodity. You will notice that my initial quibble wasn’t about Sainbury’s refusal to stock giraffes or the Saturn V rocket. It was about a relatively very small sandwich. 

I cannot place my hands on one of these sandwiches to measure it, C, however I can’t imagine each one takes up more than a cubic foot. There is an abundance of meat based sandwiches taking up considerably more than that, C. 

Shame on you, C. I am not a man devoid of logic and reason. I am a hungry man who anthropomorphises foodstuffs and enjoys using parenthesis.

Your gratefully but at the same time a bit miffed, 


sainsbury’s play hard ball!

The hardest, in fact. J, proprietor of J Sainsbury’s has sent his finest, most aromatic of minions - Mark, of previous blog fame - into the breach once more, calming the righteous flames of my rage with the soothing Gaviscon of kindness. 

Read these from the bottom to the top. This caught me out, the topsy turvy minx. 

But where is J? Where is the shadowy figure behind this exceptional marionette performance? Will he ever show his face? What are the remaining characters of his forename? No one is just called J. Even Jay Kay was called Jay Kay. 

For now, J, the actions of your noble pawn Mark have saved you from my scorn and ire. For in Mark you have a kind soul. The sort of man who allows wasps to sting him rather than risk harming them. The sort of man who, when confronted by one of those toilets that has a big flush and a small flush, always presses the correct flush.

As for you, Mark, your performance has been exemplary. I put it to you, sir, that you are wasted in your task of doing J’s diabolical bidding. Your talents at diffusing tricky situations and negotiating happiness would suggest to me that you are more suited to a career as a market stall owner or psychiatric nurse. 

And so, for the time being, I am thwarted. However, barring a marked (not you Mark, a different one) improvement in the quality of meat free sandwiches, I will return. I do not tire or get bored (making me an excellent chess partner, Mark, if you’re free at any point), and I will not deviate from my cause. 

I’m watching you, J. Figuratively. I’ve never actually seen you. 

Yours temporarily satisfied,


PS - apparently the bananas were ok today. You act quickly, J. Almost too quickly. 


J, proprietor of J Sainsbury’s has engaged one of his friendly and helpful minions to deal with my weekday saga in hot pursuit of tasty, meat free sandwiches. 

Now, while Mark’s response is friendly (bordering on flippant, if we’re being honest with each other. We should be honest with each other, since we’re all in this together), I am unsure as to whether he holds enough clout to make any serious changes. 

I do not mean to insult you, Mark. I am sure - beyond sure, in fact - that your sandwich knowledge is beyond par. I am sure you are well presented. I imagine your hair to smell like a meadow, or a fragrance from the Lenor range or fabric softeners. However I am unsure as to your commitment to this undeniably noble cause. 

I will ruminate on this, Mark. You are a noble adversary, and one I intend to respect. Let’s not allow this grumble to come between us. Perhaps one day, when this is all over, we can watch sports together, or run with the deer in Richmond Park (I use deer as the plural as I’m unsure as to the collective noun. I’m not just referring to one deer, I don’t know any of them that well). Who knows, perhaps we can be friends one day. The ball, Mark, is in your court. 

Yours suspiciously, 


PS - any word on the banana situation?

Dear J…

This letter is for the attention of J, proprietor of J Sainsbury’s, Sloane Avenue, South Kensington, London, SW3. 

Dear J,

I hope this letter finds you well.

I’ve never seen you on the shop floor of your branch near my work on Sloane Avenue, so I assume you’re more of a hands off manager, however I have an issue which I would like to bring to your attention in the hope of righting the grievous wrong that you do me on a daily basis. 

I am a frequent visitor to your grocery emporium on Sloane Avenue. I work across the road, and a dearth of local sandwich shops often drives me to your doors in a low level, sidekick-less quest for nourishment. I find the shop to be clean and tidy at all times, and the staff pleasant and often fragrant (there have been the odd occasions when they’ve been unable to understand my northern dialect, however I take this as an occupational hazard working in Kensington. It’s possible that the only other northerners your staff have heard have been on popular cops and robbers show Police Camera Action!).

My complaint, J (if I may call you J), isn’t about your staff, nor the cleanliness of your store, nor the fact that I often forget which aisle houmous is on. My complaint is of a far darker, more sinister nature. My complaint, J, concerns your undeniably lackadaisical attitude towards the provision of lunchtime baguettes. 

J, I’m going to come clean with you, since we’re on first name terms and lying to a friend would feel somehow wrong - I am a vegetarian. No meat passes my lips. If you raised an eyebrow at that, J, I suggest you raise your mind from the gutter, or our friendship will not be a lasting one. Not a morsel of animal based meat will be ingested by me (to the best of my knowledge, anyway. Ham can be quite sneaky). I made this decision some years ago in the face of the relentlessly smug Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who suggested I should eat goat anus out of respect for the animal. This is my recollection, however time may have fogged my memory. Whatever the cause, I am a non meat eater. No meat do I eat. I am a meat free man. 

And so it is, J, that we come to the nub of my point. I realise sometimes that I ramble on. This is a remnant of a state education system that prized vocabulary over knowledge. I once spoke to a Jehova’s Witness for such a long time they asked to be excused, subsequently climbing out of a bathroom window and making good their escape. It takes me a while to come to a point, J, however a point we have now reached. Not just any point, either - the entire point of this letter. 

Your sandwiches, J, are (by prepackaged standards) top drawer. Correct filling to bread ratios, adequately chilled, well presented. I imagine them to be packed by aged artisans in some foothills somewhere, the cardboard woven by exquisite boys. I am a fan of your sandwiches. Or, should I say, I was a fan of your sandwiches. For 3 days. For it is at the 3 day mark that I had exhausted your woeful supply of meat free sandwiches. I’d had the houmous and crunchy vegetable wrap. I’d feasted on the goats cheese and red pepper (which is a bit soft altogether, if we’re being as honest as friends should be, J) and I’d made short work of the mature cheddar club (the plastic tray that accompanies this sandwich is a nice - if unnecessarily lavish - touch). 

I had eaten these sandwiches, and I had become bored and resentful of the meat eaters that surrounded me. Oh J, the joys they had to choose from. Bacon, beef, chicken, salmon, ham (the sneakiest of meats) they had the world at their feet, J! Whichever direction their culinary whims may have taken them, your staff were ready to provide the travel costs. While I gummed my way (not literally, I still have all of my teeth. People often ask me if this is the case, which I find odd and minorly insulting, given that I am only 25 years old) through the same sandwiches on a daily basis, they feasted on a cornucopia of delights, tears brimming in their eyes, wild grins spreading crumbs onto their meat greased cheeks.

I was a broken man. Dejectedly I tried new lunch combinations. Salads, soups - I even tried nachos and salsa for lunch. Crisps and dip for lunch, J, can you imagine? I had given up trying to find a food delivery system as convenient and effective as the humble sandwich. And then, one day, she arrived. 

I say ‘she’ as I like to anthropomorphise my food. I once had a brief but meaningful affair with some cress. She was a slender, well formed, supple mistress. She had brie, leaves, tomato and unidentifiable but not unpleasant sauce. She was a brie, leaf, tomato and mystery sauce baguette, and I loved her. I gorged on her curves, lost myself in her fillings, cut the roof of my mouth a bit on the top of the baguette (that’s another letter for another time). I was a man possessed with happiness. And then, J, then you committed the foulest deed of them all. You took her away from me. Upon returning to your store, I found no brie, leaf, tomato and mystery sauce baguettes. There were only meat baguettes. Day after day I returned, hoping to catch a glimpse of her proud, bready visage. Day after day I was disappointed. I arrived at different times, hoping to catch her off guard. I stayed up all night like Humphrey Bogart, but to no avail. She had left me, and you, J - my old friend - had helped her escape into the night. 

So, J, it is with heavy heart and crumbless lap that I implore you to improve your vegetarian selection of prepackaged sandwiches, for we are technically people too, and we need to eat, J. Improve the selection and make a fully toothed 25 year old man happy. Improve the selection and cease the relentless smuggery of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. You have the power, J. It’s in your hands. 

Yours hopefully,


PS - someone I work with says your bananas are always green. How is this possible?

Oh. The huge manatee. Also, I stole that joke.


It is with the deepest sorrow that I bring you the news that our Manateem manatee, Amanda, has gone on to the great water based theme park in the sky. Not literally. Because meant literally, that would be a cloud. And clouds cannot support the weight of manatees. 

As I sit here, hunched over my computer, tears of remorse falling onto the keyboard - potentially invalidating the warranty - I am forced to remind myself of the life Amanda had, and how she least of all would want us to mourn her loss. Rather, she would want us to laugh long and hard, then harder, then beyond the point of it being funny any more, at the life she led, and the mischief she got up to. 

Born to a poor Quebecois family in 1973, Amanda was bullied from a young age. ‘Vache de la mer!’ the children would shout, as Amanda was rolled to school in a tarpaulin by her elder brothers. This bullying drove Amanda from her family home at the age of 7, her parents no longer able to stomach the shame of a daughter whose sole obsessions were avoiding speedboats and eating sea grass. 

She stole away one night, intent on never returning. Seeking thrills and excitement, she enlisted in the Canadian Army. Armies had always interested Amanda. She respected their structured discipline, austere respect for tradition and striking uniforms. Her interest in armies didn’t, as her brothers claimed, stem from the fact that ‘she didn’t have any handies’. These were merely unfounded rumours. 

After a long and distinguished career, Amanda was honourably discharged at the rank of Major. She had led several successful night time raids on small sheds in largely waterlogged areas and had led some of the finest men she’d ever met. Or, at least, she was convinced that she had. Manatees can’t look behind themselves. No necks. Or handies. 

After a period spent drifting through the Pacific Midwest, Amanda became restless. She yearned for the feelings of worth the army provided. Her heart was a burning flame that seared her chest and drove her in a direction she didn’t fully understand. 

Then, she met Jimmy Buffett. 

Jimmy was performing a gig at the San Andreas bowl (which is probably near the Pacific Midwest, don’t check, there’s no need to check). As was his typical pre gig routine, he surveyed a line up of potential groupies who could perform sexual favours on him, his band and - bizarrely - prog rock frontman Rick Wakeman, who always seemed to be around. As Jimmy perused his harem, he became aware of a pungent smell. A smell that reminded him of hope. A smell that reminded him of youth. A smell that reminded him that failing to clean manatees once they leave the water can result in a build up of bacteria. 

Jimmy’s eyes met Amanda’s. They were in love. 

And so played out the rest of their days. Jimmy would gig, Amanda would be in the line up of groupies, Jimmy would always choose her. Latterly, Jimmy opened up a manatee sanctuary so he could have an altogether different line up of watery groupies. Amanda didn’t mind, for she had rediscovered the regimented discipline of the military. She was the sanctuary matriarch. As one manatee, Phyllis, recalled - “she was a bit of an arsehole”. 

Quite a woman, wasn’t she?

So, Amanda, we salute you with our handies. You meant more to us than you will ever know - literally and figuratively. RIP Amanda. 

And they did lure the sailors from their safety to the meeting of their own mortality, for they were harpies, the sirens of the sea. And they were feared and loved in equal measure, for man could only find such beauty in the maddened fury of dreams. 

And they did lure the sailors from their safety to the meeting of their own mortality, for they were harpies, the sirens of the sea. And they were feared and loved in equal measure, for man could only find such beauty in the maddened fury of dreams. 

Magony Maunt

Every week, we put your questions to our resident agony aunt Joyce in the hope that she can solve the problems that have you at your wits’ end.

Joyce ruminating on some of your deepest quandaries

Don’t forget -to make sure your letters get through to Joyce, clearly label them ‘Joyce’ and send them to ‘The Sea’.

'Dear Joyce. 

Recently, my husband and I have been arguing a lot more than usual. I’ve noticed him sending furtive texts at the small hours of the morning. I’m loath to check his phone as I will ultimately be admitting to myself that I don’t trust him. Last week he worked late, and when he returned home he smelled of perfume. 

Help me Joyce. I love him, but I don’t want to be taken for a ride.’ 

Clare, 49, Herts

Joyce responds:



Thanks all. Don’t forget to come back next week when Joyce will do all she can to pour salve on the wounded hearts of the nation.

Jesus knew good chocolate

Jesus knew good chocolate