Full Metal Cardigan: Adventures on the Front Line of Social Work – David Emery

Full Metal Cardigan is David Emery’s first book and chronicles his adventures in social care, from enthusiastic volunteer to feral frontline worker, taking in abusive popstars, chanting cults, drug runs and interviewing a corpse.

He recounts how he gained international notoriety for cheating in a pancake race, encounters with the supernatural, High Court appearances, accidentally booking someone into Dignitas, one-inch death punches in Woolworths, waterboarding, psychotic psychopaths, plunger-wielding pregnant women and suicide attempts with rhubarb along the way.

A dull profession, social care is not so on approaching a book like this my first thoughts were about the humour and how it would work in situations that deal with individuals who have so many sensitive problems.  It is safe to say Emery has achieved a fine mix of both the serious and the downright funny which I devoured in a couple of sittings.

A sense of the comical is definitely needed in such high pressure work, and with responsibility comes the never-ending paperwork, training sessions, and the unexpected.  The relentlessly humorous anecdotes are told with a light-hearted, amiable voice, which in itself is pretty impressive when the National Health Service is involved.  For those of you who don’t know what this institution is, it’s a chronically underfunded, overstretched service staffed by people working long hours doing the best they can for the nation’s health.

The comical recollections are a delight to read but these are blended with the sad and serious cases.  The emotional balance is spot on as the stories keep coming in rapid succession so the reader appreciates the sober nature of the work, whilst not feeling guilty for enjoying reading about it.  That is the beauty of the book, whilst the struggles of both the workers and those needing help are always centre stage – and handled respectfully – the counter balance of the quirky and therefore human aspects clearly shine through. Continue reading “Full Metal Cardigan: Adventures on the Front Line of Social Work – David Emery”


The Code of the Woosters – P.G. Wodehouse

Sorry if this is not up to the usual standard, we arrived back from a hiking trip at 4am yesterday morning and this was written then. Posts and awesome photos will soon follow.

When Bertie Wooster goes to Totleigh Towers to pour oil on the troubled waters of a lovers’ breach between Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, he isn’t expecting to see Aunt Dahlia there – nor to be instructed by her to steal some silver. But purloining the antique cow creamer from under the baleful nose of Sir Watkyn Bassett is the least of Bertie’s tasks. He has to restore true love to both Madeline and Gussie and to the Revd ‘Stinker’ Pinker and Stiffy Byng – and confound the insane ambitions of would-be Dictator Roderick Spode and his Black Shorts. It’s a situation that only Jeeves can unravel. Writing at the very height of his powers, in The Code of the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse delivers what might be the most delightfully funny book ever committed to paper.

It’s been a long time since I last picked up one of Wodehouse’s books and within a few pages, it reinforced the idea that it was a terribly long overdue decision that needed putting right.  Coming across the word hornswoggle was the icing on the cake.

It was a silver cow, but when I say ‘cow’, don’t go running away with the idea of some decent, self-respecting cudster such as you may observe loading grass into itself in the nearest meadow.  This was a sinister, learing, Underworld sort of animal, the kind that would spit out of the side of its mouth for two pence.

Wodehouse’s uniquely written style is just brilliant, the language is the best part of the book, which is saying a lot as the book is an exceedingly witty study in comedy.  This offsets the characters, who don’t have much depth but that is fine as it is all about the elaborate  plotting.  The phrasing of each sentence is a delight, and raised many a smile with the whimsical nature with which it presents itself.  Perhaps it is a bit stereotypical of Englishness but that is also one of the novel’s many charms.

Continue reading “The Code of the Woosters – P.G. Wodehouse”

Look Who’s Back – Timur Vermes

NEOHitlerBerlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

The premise seems fairly amusing and from that alone possibly worth a decent read, although mainly I was wondering if it would be just a novelty exercise and/or fall into the poor taste trap.  Books like this need to have an underlying message, something they wish to achieve and although this book had some interesting points, it was on the whole forgettable.

It will come as a relief to know that the story has no real explanation for Hitler’s predicament which is still better than the one in that stone cold classic film of the time travel genre, Hot Tub Time Machine.  The story does at least move on in a pacy way without this obstacle and soon gets into its stride.

There is the standard amusement in the form of our narrator being constantly perplexed with modern life and seeing the world through his eyes is interesting up to a point, with all the big chain stores, the internet and different nationalities now inhabiting Berlin and so forth.  Sadly the jokes lose their impact and quite quickly become repetitive and predictable.

Vermes does well to avoid any sympathy one may have for Hitler’s loss of wife and his closest allies which is a relief, as there is a danger in humanising the dictator so that he becomes almost a lovable old grandfather type set in his ways, which just happen to be racist and disagreeable to the modern sensibilities.  Luckily all the characters are two-dimensional and although there is occasion when the story does sail close to the wind, it never becomes particularly offensive unless you are one of the new fangled PC crew that get offended by everything, which I am sure you are not. Continue reading “Look Who’s Back – Timur Vermes”

Cracking Up Over Christmas

Before we go any further please apply yourself to puzzling out some of the most humorous jokes you will ever come across. Ever.  Answers will be provided at the end but don’t skip the rest of the post though, let the anticipation build and then feel the buzz drain away from you as the answers are revealed at the end:

  1. On which side to most chickens have their feathers?
  2. What goes up and wobbles?
  3. What type of dog has no tail?
  4. What is green and goes to a summer camp?
  5. What’s a Grecian Urn?

After pushing back the plates of Christmas dinner, my thoughts naturally turned to blogging and it was then that I remembered a much lamented missed opportunity from last year which was to talk about Christmas crackers and the contents therein.  As is tradition around these parts, the pulling of the cracker has been an integral part of Christmas since 1847 and features a wealth of goodies to delight even the most Scroogiest of Scrooges at Christmas.

Fainty sinister example of a cracker pulling found at mediacentre.kallaway.co.uk
Faintly sinister example of a cracker pulling found at mediacentre.kallaway.co.uk

Nothing beats the smell of gunpowder of a lazy Christmas Day afternoon as is attested by the thousands of crackers that go off each year.  It is the ultimate family diversion, of little consequence but always strangely enjoyable and something not to be done without.  Those who fork out lots of money for the so-called luxury crackers with prizes worth ‘winning’ miss the point, it’s the tackiness of the whole ordeal that is so beloved of households everywhere.  For those of you not familiar with this particular treat, here’s a brief and fairly passable explanation of what it all consists of. Continue reading “Cracking Up Over Christmas”

The Discworld series – Terry Pratchett (Part 2)

on the disc, the Gods are not so much worshipped as blamed.

Now settled into the series and established, the Discworld books continue in the same vein with their unique brand of humour and satire, there is more of a focus on established characters with a lot of the action being based around Ankh-Morpork, the biggest city and a nice nod to olden times London.  Of particular note from books eleven to twenty-four would be sharp satire on organised religion, The Phantom of the Opera, a nice cliché wink towards Australia( Four Ecks) and a jaunty Christmas tale where Death – complete with beard – has to take over as the Hogfather (our Santa) has gone missing.

Found on io9.com
Found on io9.com

These books all made me laugh a lot, there was comedy in abundance and I looked to each new tale with eagerness, yet from book twenty-five onwards the humour seemed to change and had been changing for a while on reflection, it was becoming more observational based comedy which was fine and did raise a smile still but there a lot less were less laugh out loud bits.  The series has evolved like the characters and Discworld itself, the places outside Ankh-Morpork were marginalised which makes sense from a realism point of view as that is where the books are heading.  I do miss the more fantastical elements but the drive towards modern times is inevitable even in fantasy, the bringing in of newspapers, banks and trains, does allow for more parody on the everyday things that we are familiar with.

“You’re dead,” he said.
Keli waited. She couldn’t think of any suitable reply. “I’m not” lacked a certain style, while “Is it serious?” seemed somehow too frivolous.

With the latest book Raising in Steam, it was rare I even raised a smile but that doesn’t detract from the actual writing, I still enjoyed the book, I think Pratchett has moved his creation from a whimsical place of magic to one somewhat more grounded in reality and although a lot of readers hanker for the old style hilarious books, it’s a comfortable world, it’s grown up and we readers have grown up with it.  When a world gets to real we wish for the more fantastical elements to be brought back into it and this is just another facet of the Discworld to mirror our own despite is differences. Continue reading “The Discworld series – Terry Pratchett (Part 2)”

The Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett (Part 1)

The Discworld has been a constant companion throughout the last 18 years of my life, I started the series when it was already twenty-five books old and like with any long series I quickly became complacent, expecting a book to come out every year or so.  Since Pratchett was sadly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I have come to regret my past ways of buying four or five books at a time and rushing through them like a hungry man at a buffet.


Having just finished the fortieth novel in the series Raising Steam, I have come to re-appreciate and savour my time on that world, all the more as the number of new stories that I will get to experience for the first time will now be a lot fewer.  It is the way with a large continuation of books though, especially when one arrives when a body of work is already established, I think a good resolution for this year will be to savour each book as if it is the last an author will write irrespective of their back catalogues.

He could swagger while asleep. Greebo could, in fact, commit sexual harassment simply by sitting very quietly in the next room.

Anyway what is the Discworld?  It is a place of satire and parody, situated as this flat world (ringed with by The Circumfence to prevent things falling off) is, atop four elephants that stand on the back of a giant turtle that wanders through the universe.  It is populated by a diverse range of characters including, an ape librarian, inept wizards, barbarian pensioners, Gods, a talking dog, Death and a camel who happens to be the best mathematician the world has ever seen, although nobody knows it. Continue reading “The Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett (Part 1)”

Good For a Laugh

I refute that this is a lazy post, it is actually a carefully planned post where I have spent literally minutes collecting together some short YouTube comedy clips with which to – possibly – amuse you…on another note, I have had word of an annoying voice advert that has been popping up on the blog, has anybody else encountered this?  Rest assured I am looking to poke the problem with a stick.

A classic:

Historical realism from Lou Ferrigno:


Continue reading “Good For a Laugh”