Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why the mo will have to go

You can tell from all the instruction manuals that something’s afoot. Mrs D has dragged out from the dark recesses of the kitchen cupboard the collected works of Delia, Nigella, Jamie, Kirstie and even the sainted Constance Spry, and is starting to Plan For The Big Day.

But before we can really get stuck in to the steaming of puddings, the roasting of hams, the garnishing of Yule logs, the winding of wreaths and the curling of dainty little ribbons, there’s a certain amount of domestic preparation to be accomplished.

The sort that you don’t read about in books like Jamie’s Pukka Xmas Dinners, Delia’s Countdown to Catastrophe or Kirstie’s Home-Made House of Horrors.

For a start, the oven needs cleaning. A horde of distinguished friends and relations is descending on us for the festive season, and they won’t take kindly to a turkey that tastes like last August’s pizza.

Or last April’s, come to that.

Here’s how it works. Mrs D buys some evil-looking, but apparently award-winning gloop and announces that she’s going to clean the oven.

A day or two later, she announces she may need some help, which is gladly offered. And on the scheduled cleaning day (everything’s on a schedule) it appears that she’s going to be sidetracked into the more glamorous projects of making the Christmas pud, and the decrustation of the cooker will devolve in its entirety to You Know Who.

Ah well, we live to serve.

Here’s a question, though: if chaps were really meant to clean ovens, how come oven-cleaning kits don’t come with chap-sized disposable gloves?

Don’t all shout at once.

Next job: get rid of the moustache.

Over the past four weeks the Dixon upper lip has become gradually bushier and bushier, all in aid of Movember, the international project which aims to raise awareness of – and funds for – men’s health issues such as prostate cancer.

There’s been mockery and sympathy. There’s been some sponsorship for my mo, though more would be welcome.

Me and my mo: please sponsor me for Movember

There’s also been amazement from friends and colleagues alike at how a mild-mannered blogger and columnist has swiftly transformed himself into a ferocious Mexican bandit.

But the riot act has been read, and the fun is nearly over. There will be no point in even buying any mistletoe, let alone hanging it up, unless that thing comes off.

On December 1, the mo must go.

Which is a shame, really. You can get attached to a moustache: you nurture it, you fiddle with it in moments of tranquility or tension, you admire its reflection in every shop window.

There’s a real art to shaping its ends so they balance up and don’t make you look all lopsided.

And it’s also very handy at the end of restaurant meals – who needs a doggy bag when you’ve got a ’tache to collect the left-overs?

It’s been a creative project on a par with Kirstie’s hand-blown baubles or Delia’s blackened gammon, and it seems sad to bring it to a close.

Never mind, though: there’s always next Movember. And at least we're ready for Christmas.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hail to our future king and queen

Well here’s to the happy couple! Just for a moment, we can forget the banking crisis, the toxic debt, the lengthening dole queues, the benefit cuts and the imminent arrival of Christmas 2010 – The One You Can’t Afford.

(Shortly to be followed by Holiday 2011 – The One You’ll Be Taking At Home.)

Prepare yourself instead to be whisked away from sordid reality to a faraway world of fantasy, glamour and eternal happiness.

A world where true love runs deep, where the sun shines every morning and where fluffy lambs gambol forever across rolling fields with never a thought of mint sauce.

It happened before our very eyes, in a moment made magical by the crystal ball of television.

As his eyes met hers it was so easy to sense the mutual attraction, the longing for togetherness, the unspoken but certain knowledge that this time it was going to last for ever.

He was the charmer: suave, debonair, silver-tongued. She was the girl next door with a cheeky smile and a heart of gold.

It happened on Tuesday, and those of us who were privileged enough to watch it will treasure the memory in our hearts for as long as we draw breath: that moment in the Australian jungle when Britt Ekland met Nigel Havers on I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here.

They were drawn together for an innocent game of Bonkers Conkers, a trial of strength in which the two contestants launch massive artificial chestnuts at another massive artificial chestnut in an attempt to smash it and retrieve a key which will open a chest which will reveal a question which if answered correctly will give the winner’s team-mates the chance to eat something  a little more appetising than witchetty correct grubs.

Don’t worry, it was far less complicated than it sounds.

It was perhaps understandable that romance should have blossomed. Britt had been stuck in the girls’ camp with Gillian McKeith, whose grasp on the concept of teamwork seems shaky to say the least. And Nigel was already daggers drawn with former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, who gives his occupation on the I'm a Celebrity website as “comedian”, and lists his special skill as “wooing the ladies”.

 Stay classy, Lembit.

Anyway, with irritations like that in their respective camps, it was little wonder that Nigel and Britt sought solace, however briefly, in each other’s arms.

Naturally there will be obstacles to their romance. It doesn’t help that Nigel is already married and appears to have something of a short fuse. It doesn’t help that Britt dated a string of pop stars in the 1970s and still enjoys what might loosely be described as a rock and roll lifestyle.

No, from the moment their eyes met their fate was cast: Nigel and Britt are destined to be king and queen of the jungle, and their love will serve as a beacon to light us on our way through the dark months that lie ahead.

William? Kate?

Never heard of them.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's movember - splash some cash for my tache!

Now here’s an interesting fact. All right, perhaps it’s not  that interesting, but it’s a free fact, and you don’t get many of those to the pound these days.

You know that little double-ridge type thing between your nose and your upper lip? It’s called your philtrum.

It comes from the ancient Greek word for “love potion”, and a prominent philtrum purportedly makes its owner more attractive to members of the opposite sex.

All of which leads us, inevitably and inexorably, to our topic this week. Which is not sex, opposite or otherwise, but the condition of yours truly’s philtrum.

It may come as a shock to some of our more sensitive readers, but said philtrum has, over the past ten days or so, been getting bushier and bushier, and far less susceptible to frostbite.

Why, you may well ask? Why has the Dixon upper lip, previously known for its billiard-ball-like smoothness, suddenly started sprouting bristles?

Well, it’s all in a good cause: Movember. You can find out more about it on the Movember website, but the idea is that during the month of November, men grow a “mo”, or moustache, to help raise awareness of men’s health issues.

Sadly, one man every hour dies of prostate cancer in the UK, and much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, the gentlemen of Movember commit to 30 days of subnasal hairiness.

Given this blogger's general stoutness and associated lack of enthusiasm for running anywhere further than the nearest bus stop, this sounded like an effortless way raise some money for charity.

Reactions around the house were mixed. Mrs D went off in mild hysterics at the thought of having to snuggle up to the human equivalent of a Brillo Pad.

Miss D, who has never been slow to comment when dad’s five o'clock shadow gets to half past eight, looked dubious to say the least.

And Dixon Junior made a disparaging comment on Facebook.

Growing a moustache, it must be said, doesn’t require quite as much energy as running a marathon. But it does demand some fortitude on the part of the grower.

First off, there’s the nagging doubt that your upper lip may not be able to grow anything more than bumfluff without the application of industrial quantities of Growmore. Especially if you’re aiming for a more florid style like the Dali, the handlebar or the Fu Manchu.

Then, there’s the growing fear that those around you are sniggering at the incongruous efflorescence on your physiognomy (here it is after eight days' growth).

There’s also a slight worry that you’re starting to use unnecessarily long words to match the promised grandeur of your mo.

Finally, there’s the gradually increasing itchiness, coupled with the constant desire to look in mirrors or shop windows to see how much your prized Zapata has progressed in the past ten minutes.

It’ll be worth it, though. Hope sprouts eternal on the upper lip.

And if you can help by sponsoring me, get along to Hugh Dixon's MoSpace Page and splash some cash!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Interview with the Rampire

You’ve got to hand it to NASA. Just when you thought they’d discovered everything there was to discover about the universe, they come up with something new.

This time it’s a Gamma Ray Bubble. Details so far are a little bit sketchy, but if we combine the few facts they have so far released with a healthy dose of journalistic speculation we can draw the following conclusions.

First, it’s big. Not as big as a galaxy, maybe, but NASA don’t use words like “giant” and “enormous” lightly.

Second, it’s a long way away, in the general direction of the centre of the Milky Way. Which means that you couldn’t get anywhere near it with a Bonfire Night rocket.

Third, even if you could hit it, it wouldn’t burst. Why not? Because, that's why.

Fourth, nobody really understands what it’s there for. NASA is holding a press conference next week to explain a bit more about it, but don’t expect it to make the Ten O’Clock News.

(Update: NASA's Fermi telescope finds giant structure in our galaxy.)

Now, one of the difficulties your average columnist faces when trying to explain all this high-powered cosmological shenanigans to the lay reader is how to make it understandable on a human scale. Sometimes, though, metaphors and parables can help.

And luckily enough, right here in Bath, we have our very own metaphor for the Gamma Ray Bubble: the pavement at the junction of James Street West and Westgate Buildings otherwise known as the St James Rampire.

Like the Gamma Ray Bubble (let’s call it the GRB to save a few photons) the Rampire is more than just big: it’s both “giant” and “enormous”. Indeed, it would not be stretching a point to call it “ginormous”. Thus saving a few more photons.

Just like the GRB, it’s a long way away. Or at least, it’s as far away from the GRB as the GRB is from it, which is saying something. Not quite sure what, mind. It’s all to do with the General Theory of Relativity. Keep up at the back, there’ll be a test later.

Like the GRB, it wouldn’t burst if you hit it. In the last four months they’ve poured so much hardcore, concrete, Tarmac, paving slab, sett, cobble and other assorted road-making materials over the spot where once grew a harmless and unassuming patch of grass that it would take a head-on collision with an aircraft carrier to cause it any damage. If we had any aircraft carriers left, that is.

And like the GRB, no one really understands what the St James Rampire is for. Especially the raised lip near the bus stop, around which hover such august institutions as InjuryLawyers’R’Us, Vultures4U and WeSueAnyCouncil. Dot Com.

What is a rampire anyway? Top (dead) poet John Dryden said: “The Trojans round the place a rampire cast.” Sixteenth-century geographer Richard Hakluyt added: “Let no man thinke that culverin or demy-canon can sufficiently batter a defensible rampire.” No one born any later was prepared to comment.

There’s little more to add. Gamma Ray Bubbles and Rampires are two sides of one coin: aged, mysterious, massive, impenetrable, unknowable.

We ignore them at our peril.