Category Archives: column

Cack-handed British craftsmanship

notts town centre shot through fisheye camera to appear as a planet. Planet Notts scrawled underneath
I swear this column is cursed. Seriously, it’s not even funny anymore. I write about Jo and Twiggy, then they split up. I go to the Tales of Robin Hood, and it closes down weeks later. I write a piece about working in Nottingham, and then I get made redundant. Then I write a column about being made redundant and get a new job before it was published, making me look a right idiot.

I wrote a column last autumn on how amazing the beer festival was, only for it to run out of beer on the Saturday. My mate John doesn’t speak to me any more over my "Metal Karaoke" column and my Fantasy Football teams have been junk ever since I wrote about how easy Fantasy Football leagues are to win.

Want more examples? Take my last three columns; one about how good the Robin Hood movie was going to be (when it turned out to be a massive turd), a oh-isn’t-this-summer-amazing piece (which has brought about CrapWeatherGeddon 2010), and my World Cup column extolling the virtues of being an English footy fan (which…well, Christ on a bike, I can’t even finish that sentence).

So this month I’m going to go back to basics; I’m going to whinge about Limey builders. Why tempt fate, you ask? Two reasons: firstly because writing about builders is a safe bet and, short of blowing my house up with a bazooka, there isn’t anything more they could possibly do to make my life any worse than it already is.

I’ve had shocking luck with builders in this country. There were the plasterers who plastered over the damp-proofing, causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage. There was the alarm fitter who simply didn’t show up. Ever. There were the bricklayers who buried the deposits from their Portaloo in my front garden, left tons of industrial rubbish in my back garden and slathered a retaining wall with indoor latex paint. Now my garden has a lovely prison yard feel; all it needs is a poster of Raquel Welch over the entrance to a tunnel dug with a rock hammer to finish it off. Get busy living or get busy dyin, I always say.

There were also the builders who installed pipework so close to the floorboards that simply walking on the floor caused them to burst and flood my downstairs living room. There was the painter who thought unpainted pieces of plywood made for quality skirting boards. Finally, there was the builder who thought a plastic bag was all it would take to hold two sewage pipes together. The pipes broke shortly after and flooded my front lawn with human excrement. Do you know how difficult it is to have a sociable conversation with your neighbour when you’re standing in a pool of your own filth? Bloody awkward, I can tell you. It consists mostly of asking him distracting, quick-fire questions about his family and feverish pointing over his shoulder.

However, these boys have nothing on the mental defectives who installed a new boiler while I was away in Canada over the summer: it just might be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen since 2 Girls 1 Cup. Words simply cannot do it justice. Just look at it:

photo of my crooked boiler, annotations by Rob White

This photo is not doctored in any way (well other than Robs scribbles). This is the actual, final result. What kind of a person does this to a kitchen and thinks, "Yes, this is ok, I’m sure the client will be happy with this." A rabid monkey with hooks for hands and a haemorrhaging brain could’ve done a better job.

Let me just take you through that photo step by step, shall I?

  1. First of all, the boiler is crooked. You can’t really tell from the photo, but believe me, if they had put a spirit level on top of it, it would have exploded.
  2. You see that greyish/brown area around the top of the boiler? That’s where the wood that boxed the old boiler in used to be. You know, because (call me crazy) maybe the world doesn’t need to see that bit.
  3. The cupboard door. God, where do I start? Obviously, this boiler is bigger than the one that was in there before, but surely there is a better solution than this. Maybe using a tape measure beforehand and, oh I don’t know, suggest another boiler that would actually fit?

The thing that annoys me most about the cupboard door is the fact that you can still see the pencil lines where they marked that cut. Let me say that again, They couldn’t even be bothered to erase the effing PENCIL MARKS. The pencil marks are an unnecessary slap in the face, like a burglar who robs your house only to come back a week later to wazz on your dog. See how perfectly the cuts follow the boiler; this means that the moronic douche made CROOKED cuts to allow for the CROOKED boiler. Then, because (obviously) the cupboard door is no longer functional, he’s used two tiny clamps to hold it in place.

cartoon drawing of gothic plumber by Rob White (

I had the audacity to walk past the cupboard too quickly, causing the clamps to give way and the door to come crashing down into the counter top and on to the floor. Only some seriously fancy footwork on my part (thank you Tae Kwon Do green belt) avoided my getting a toe-ectomy.

From now on, I am only writing articles on things that can’t possibly burn me later. The next one is entitled "Butterflies, Moonbeams and Unicorns", so watch out for that. (I should say that my gothic plumber, Tony Napleton had nothing to do with this boiler install. Tony is a great plumber, one I would recommend highly. If it weren’t for him, my house would be under twelve feet of water. He is a godsend).

The lovely British summer

Leftlion cover image issue 36

Writers note:  This column was written last July in preparation for the August issue of LeftLion.  Obviously, the beautiful hosepipe-ban-inducing weather we were having had (in true British fashion) gone to shit shortly after this article was written. Some day I will learn that writing about current events in a column that comes out bi-monthly is a stupid idea.  Just pretend you’re reading this last July. In fact, I’d recommend closing the curtains and reading it in front of a 1000 watt bulb.

Ah, Summertime. Jumping fish, high cotton, rich daddies and good-looking mommas. It’s been wonderful, hasn’t it? This summer has been so good that I can hardly believe I’m in England. Isn’t that cause to celebrate? Of course not, dummy – that just gives Brits more to moan about.

Just this minute, I have had a British woman complain to me about the heat. It is 25 degrees outside. Twenty five. How have you people survived this long? In other countries, if the temperature dips below fifteen, people put on a jacket. If it rises above 23, they wear shorts. In England, if the temperature rises or falls out of that range, people die.

A discussion on which factor sunscreen one should wear is a twenty-minute conversation in this country. Balancing ‘acquiring a tan’ with ‘not dying of skin cancer’ is a tricky business when you’re born with that pale blue British skin. It wouldn’t be so difficult to choose the right sunscreen if the weather forecasters could actually predict the weather more than fifteen minutes in advance.

I don’t know why they bother with a three-day forecast; they’d be more accurate if, from March to August, they said “sunny breaks, low to mid twenties with a chance of showers” every single day. They’d get it right more often than they do now with all their fancy weather-detecting equipment. Cameron should forget canning thousands of public sector workers to save some cash; he could just sell off a couple of BBC Doppler radars.

This summer has also changed my mind about chavs. They aren’t a pinheaded menace at all. They’re actually more evolved than the rest of us; higher beings who’ve developed a gene that makes them impervious to the heat. In June when we had that really hot spell (it actually got to twenty eight one day), I saw a chav standing at the train station dressed in heavy grey sweatpants, a massive grey hoodie and a black nylon jacket. He didn’t seem bothered at all – he just stood, cool as a cucumber, poking at his stolen mobile. I was in a t-shirt and shorts and was sweating like I had just ingested the Sun.

Drunken chav image by Rob White (

But it’s not just the young chavs; the old, tubby, bald-headed chavs who walk around town wearing nothing but pimp shades, England shorts and a pint of Carlsberg don’t feel the heat either. They don’t bother with sunscreen at all, and yet their bald heads and man-tits are both perfectly bronzed, without a hint of sunburn or melanoma. Aside from the slight leathery-ness of the man-tits and the beach ball paunches, you’d almost say they look healthy. Glowing, even.

Unfortunately for me, I seem to have adopted the (non-chav) British sensitivity to the heat. I actually caught myself on a particularly hot day saying to my wife; “Man, it’s hot outside, I think I prefer cycling in the rain than in this bloody heat”. Yes, I moaned about having to cycle on a sunny day. How good is my life that cycling on a sunny day is my biggest worry? It could have only been a more British move if I did it sporting a mitt full of sovs and scoffing a chip cob. After I said it, my wife and I stared at each other in silence for a few awkward moments before turning and walking away, pretending it had never happened.

The most important thing about Summer, however, it that it absolutely sucks if you’re a British sports fan. It’s not brilliant at any time of the year, really, but it’s especially crap between June and August. I’m not even going to get into the football – my God that was awful, but at least that pain is only inflicted on us every four years – but Wimbledon does it to us every year.

Sun image by Rob White (

Watching Wimbledon is like having a delicious steak dangled high over your head that’s lowered slightly every time Murray advances. At first the steak is so high that you can barely see it. You say to yourself; “Sure, steak would be fantastic, but there’s no point in even dreaming about it, just look how high it is; I’ll just have river trout and runner beans instead.” But then Murray beats some shmo in straight sets, the steak is lowered a bit and you think; “Hmm, I still don’t think I’m going to get that steak, but it does look pretty good”. Murray then beats someone you’ve actually heard of and the steak is lowered again. It wasn’t Federer he beat, mind, but it was someone with a number beside his name.

Murray wins a couple more times and the steak is lowered again and again until it’s at a level where you can smell it, and – if you stand on your tiptoes – you can just about touch it with your fingertips. The peppercorn sauce drips down onto your face, and it drives you mad. “Yes! I’m going to get that steak this time, and oh my God, just look at it, it’s more beautiful and succulent than I could have ever imagined!” And then, just as you’re about to bathe yourself in its delicious steaky goodness, it morphs into a giant turd and falls directly into your salivating, gaping mouth.

If that’s not horrible enough, there actually was a good sports story in this country over the summer – but because it happened at the same time as the World Cup, no one cared. England smoked the Aussies in their one day series, beating them in three straight matches. You just know that next summer when the Ashes have the British viewing public all to themselves, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood will double team Andrew Strauss’s missus the night before the First test, Shane Warne will come out of retirement six stones lighter with a new bionic arm and he’ll bowl the greatest match in the history of cricket knocking out the entire English side in the first over.

But there I’ll be, mouth agape, ready for another massive turd to be shovelled in, for by then I will be like the rest of you losers and have developed a taste for it.