christmas crackers

xmas fireplace 2018
Christmas morning, we were up early, opening presents, calling England. Our morning pressie-time is about the time of my London family’s Christmas dinner-time. Then, time to go over to my wife’s family in Santa Rosa for Christmas Day. We have crab for dinner on Christmas Day in Santa Rosa, and I’m always the world’s worst eater of crab, it tastes great but I am such an amateur with the crackers. I did pretty well this year but I live for the broth, I love dipping the bread into that. We have brought the tradition of Christmas Crackers with us from England, along with the hilarious Christmas Cracker jokes. I say hilarious, I mean terrible, but British humour is different from American humour anyway. That said, my five-year-old nephew likes knock-knock jokes, and we always do the ‘interrupting cow’ version (“knock-knock / Who’s there? / The Interrupting Cow / the interruptin/MOOOOO!”) (I got that one from the Vicar of Dibley back in the 90s), and then many other variants (the one I like the most is the ‘interrupting rabbit’, because of course the rabbit doesn’t ‘moooo’ or anything but just makes a noise tapping its foot). Actually my favourite joke EVER sounds like it comes from a Christmas Cracker, but in fact it comes from ‘3001 Jokes For Kids’. It’s the only joke I remember from that book, which I got for Christmas when I was about nine or ten, and to this day is my favourite joke. When I first read it, by myself in my room, I laughed harder than I had ever laughed, and then laughed more. I still find it hilarious. What is the joke? Well if I tell you, promise not to laugh. Well I mean you can laugh at the joke obviously because it’s brilliant and funny, but just not at me for liking the joke so much. Ok, here goes, the best joke of all time, here it is, here goes.

“What is a polygon? A dead parrot.” 

Isn’t that the best?! Many years later in America someone made some reference to the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch being their favourite bit of British humour, and yes it is very funny, the Pythons are my favourites, but it’s not even the funniest dead parrot joke. Polygon is the funniest dead parrot joke. I remember doing maths at school and we had to do shapes and someone used the word polygon, and I laughed so much I had to go to the toilet. When I was in my late teens I visited Strasbourg and the lycee was close to a street called the ‘Route du Polygone’ and every day I would see that sign and laugh so hard, and I tried the French version of the joke, “Que-ce que c’est un polygone? C’est un perroquet mort!” The joke didn’t necessarily translate directly but they laughed at me anyway, and pointed a lot, which I think means it was extra funny. Strasbourg being historically part German I would sometimes impress people with the German version, “Was ist ein Polygon? Ein toter Papagei.” Again the humour isn’t necessarily transferable but I like to think that what I mistook for confused silent stares were in fact their way of saying, wow what a joke, das ist really cool, Pete ist sehr lustig.

snowman xmas tree 2018
Let’s move on from the world’s funniest ever joke (if you are finished laughing about Polly being ‘gone’, if not, take your time). Above, I sketched my mother-in-law’s Christmas tree, which this year was dressed up as a snowman. The hat actually has a history, it was brought over from London by my mum over ten years ago and left at my mother-in-law’s in Santa Rosa, and before that my mum actually got it from my uncle in Belfast, so the hat has a long well-travelled history. I like this snowman tree, and I sketched it while we watched the Water Horse, that movie set in Scotland with the Loch Ness Monster. It reminded me of the Family Ness, that was a cartoon I liked as a kid. Not as funny as the polygon joke but amusing nonetheless. I nearly drew a cartoon many years ago about fish living in a Scottish loch called “Under Loch And Quai”, with a kind of Porridge-like cell-mate dynamic to it, but while the little fishies were fun to draw, I had no actual material other than trying to work in the polygon joke, which doesn’t really work when it’s a cartoon about two fish, because (a) they wouldn’t understand what a parrot is, what with fish being entirely water-bound, and (b) parrots not exactly being aquatic nor common in Scotland. To the underwater community, “Polly” might well be a common name for a frog, for all we know, what with a ‘pollywog’ being another name for a tadpole, albeit more common in America than rural Scotland. So a better version of the joke for two fish to say would be “What is a Polygon? A dead frog.” And you can imagine, this might make two fish roll about in hysterics, but would have us humans just shrugging our shoulders. Maybe humour isn’t as translatable as we think. The only joke I could think of for this cartoon was another one which I may have read in 3001 Jokes For Kids, I don’t remember, but it goes as follows:

FISH 1: “Why are you swimming under the pier?

FISH 2: “Because it is raining.”

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croatia vs denmark

watching croatia v denmark WC2018

The knockout stages of the Russia 2018 World Cup started yesterday. The first game was ridiculous, with France winning 4-3 against Argentina, Messi dropping his head while 19 year-old Mbappé turning up the speed. Kylian Mbappé, by the way, was born AFTER France won the World Cup in 1998. Incredible. Messi on the other hand just stood there after the final whistle, while various people came and tried to hug him. Portugal v Uruguay was a tighter affair with some good football – that cross-field pass from Cavani to Suarez, so that Suarez could cross it back for him to head home, was a thing of utter beauty, bettered only by Cavani’s superb second goal. I felt bad for Portugal, and of course out went Cristiano Ronaldo. I like Ronaldo, and particularly love the way he pulls his shorts right up when taking a free kick. This morning, we got up early again to watch Spain vs Russia. These early morning get-ups are getting old fast. I interspersed iot with watching the Formula 1, the Austrian Gran Prix, and somehow contrived to miss the best bits of both events. We did watch extra time, and of course the penalty shoot-out, and to our surprise Spain lost. Now I had originally predicted Argentina to win the World Cup, if you saw my long posts with all the kits, and that obviously didn’t work out, so I switched my prediction to Spain. Mystic Pete strikes again eh. So just to be safe and guarantee an England victory on Tuesday, I am predicting Colombia will win the World Cup, definitely for sure, they are gonna do it. Ok, so for today’s second game I parked myself on the couch and watched as Croatia and Denmark battled it out for a 1-1 draw. I sketched from the couch – see the picture above. In the distance you can see our paper mosaic flags. When a team is eliminated the flag is taken down. Above the TV, the official World Cup poster. And on the couch next to me, the Berlitz Engelsk-Dansk dictionary which I bought in 1995 ahead of my summer picking strawberries in Denmark. Yes I would wake up at 4am and pick strawberries on a farm in southern Funen, so you might say this isn’t the first time I’ve been up early rooting for Denmark. In the end it came down to a battle of the keepers, and though the Danes had the heroic Kasper Schmeichel, son of the Great Dane Peter himself (in case you missed it when the commentators mentioned it like a thousand times), the Croatian goalie saved one penalty more, and Modric and friends go through to meet Russia in the quarter finals. And I got another living room sketch out of it. It’s so hot these days I’m not sketching outside much.

never mind the balalaikas

watching the world cup
I hope you are enjoying the World Cup. Here I am in my living room, watching Russia beat Egypt 3-1, the big World Cup poster hanging above my TV. On the wall to the right I have all of the flags on the wall arranged by group, mosaics made of paper, my son and I made many of them for the 2014 World Cup, he didn’t help me make any of the new ones though. I like this World cup, I’ve had a lot of 5am wake-up calls for kick-off, but World cups in their early group stages are still full of hopes and maybes, before the rot sets in. Still some room for excitement and apathy. Soooo…my pre-tournament tip of Argentina winning it? Yeah, they drew 1-1 with Iceland and lost 3-0 to Croatia. I think Argentina’s formation was one big sad face, Messi’s certainly was. Time to break out the “Don’t Cro For Me Argentina” headline. (“Messi Argentina Taken to Cleaners.” “Hrvat’s Going On?”). No 0-0s yet, thankfully, but 1-0s aren’t any more exciting. Goals can be overrated, a good contest is much more fun. I’m glad England won their opener, Harry Kane doing what he does. I feel bad for the North African teams all going out early though. Oh yeah, Tunisia aren’t out yet, but they have Belgium next and the Belgians are looking good. I could go on, but I have had two very long pre-World Cup posts already. I’m enjoying this Russia World Cup, teaching us all a bit more about Russian geography, and the hosts have had a good start, less Russian bots and more Russian boots. The TV studios backing onto Red Square with St.Basil’s in the background look amazing. I had a pen-pal from Moscow when I was a teenager, so many years ago. I remember going to see the Hunt For Red October when I was about 14, and not enjoying it, I left before the end because I was bored. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Big nuclear explosions probably. Maybe there were a few last-minute goals I missed, I don’t know. I never watched it again and don’t want to, I like the mystery of not knowing what happened. Also, I don’t remember anything that happened during the movie anyway. It was no ‘Back To The Future 3’.

back home on the couch

living room
So the Spurs finale at the Lane was pretty epic. The victory against United, which of course I never doubted for a second would happen, and then all the old legends came out onto the field in pouring rain, and Kenneth Branagh’s video, and the rousing rendition of Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur (“Pride of northern London and the KINGS of WHITE HART LANE…” yeah, I got a bit salty-discharge-eyed) and the clouds broke and sunshine poured in mid-chorus, and That Rainbow which was an unbelievably Hollywood moment of perfect timing (and did you see Glenn Hoddle? Raising his eyebrows and pointing his brolly up to show his fellow 80s legends, who were all thinking, Glenn, don’t get too excited mate, it’s just weather!). Yep, in my living room which we had decorated with Tottenham shirts from through the years (happy mother’s day, by the way), we watched and felt very moment. And all those years that I have been singing “Spurs are on their way to Wembley,” and now I really don’t want them to. And today, the bulldozers are already in digging the old place up.

But enough of all of that. This is a completely unrelated sketch, except that it is of the couch where my exiled-from-north-London bottom was sat watching it all from 5000 miles away. This sketch however is from April, on a day when I was home from work sick, and lying on the sofa. Sofa away, you might say.