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  1. If you haven't seen it, I can thoroughly recommend the 'Blue Collar Comedy Tour' DVD, featuring Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy. Get hold of a copy, you'll be glad you did.

    One of the things on the DVD is the '. . . you may be a redneck!' jokes. Eg: "If you've ever unloaded your pickup by lowering the tailgate, backing up at speed, and stamping on the brake - you may be a redneck!"

    I found that nearly all of those jokes applied to me and my family, you'll be completely unsurprised to hear. The guys on the DVD are from the Deep South. There are a lot of parallels between the Southern Good Ol' Boys and us South Londoners. Eg: When someone hears a Saaf Lundn accent, they think: 1) Stupid; 2) Racist; 3) Violent; 4) Criminal. Which is so unfair - I'm totally not a racist!

    Anyway, as a Saaf Lundner, I can totally relate to the Southern thing. (The 'Physicals' - Turkish bus drivers - at Potters Bar bus garage call us English drivers 'Rednecks'). One of the 'you may be a redneck' jokes on the DVD was: "If you've ever mown the lawn and found an old motorbike engine - YMBAR!"

    Well, my dad once persuaded me to mow the lawn; he didn't offer me any money (Yerravinna woolly one!), it was more like "Mow the lawn or die."
    The neighbours had petitioned the council to get a court order to force the pikeys at number 43 to sort our place out, cos it was lowering the tone. We had a massive triffid of a fuchsia bush entirely blocking access to the front door (up until now we'd dealt with it by simply using only the back door). I held the lawnmower up like a lance and charged the beast, singing (to the tune of the Sex Pistols' 'God save the queen') "No fuchsia, no fuchsia, no fuchsia for you!" When I tackled the grass, I found an old motorbike frame (Cossack 500). OK, so it was a frame rather than an engine, but I think it still counts.

    So I started to think up my own YMBAR jokes, from the minor (If you've ever gone into Mcdonalds and ordered two quarterpounders with cheese, then taken the top bun off one, and the bottom bun off the other and put them together to make a halfpounder - YMBAR!) to the major (If you've ever had your house condemned as an unsafe structure because of your DIY efforts - YMBAR!) This last requires some explanation.

    When we got kicked off the estate in S London, my parents scored a bungalow in NW Kent. The only reason they could afford to buy it was that the previous incumbent had been a Destroy-It-Yourself enthusiast, who had wrecked the place with his improvements. He had hacked a hole in a major supporting wall to install a 'serving hatch'. (The house was laid out so that, to get from the kitchen to the living room, you had to walk past the bathroom, two bedrooms and the front door. There was a dining table in the kitchen, but like all good rednecks, we ate all our meals in front of the telly, resting the plate on a folded newspaper on our knees). He had then done a loft conversion, putting in an open-plan staircase, which totally blocked access to the serving hatch. The staircase rested on a single-course wall, above the living room door, with no RSJ to support it.
    My older sister got herself a boyfriend, who was a builder. In order to ingratiate himself with the parents, he offered to re-point the kitchen chimney for free. When he got on the roof, as soon as he touched the chimney, it toppled over and crashed through the roof of the 'conservatory' (actually just a wood and corrugated fibreglass thing laid between the house and the garden wall). Anyway, when the wall beneath the open-plan stairs cracked and the living room door would no longer open, my dad got him to hack a new doorway from the kitchen, further weakening the supporting wall, which cracked from foundations to roof. This house was the one we spent the longest time in during my childhood, and therefore did the most damage to.

    We moved to a dilapidated terrace house in Dartford. The kitchen had a bare concrete floor, and the only facility was a bucket hung on a tap. There was no bathroom, and we had an outside toilet. I thought of a YMBAR joke regarding this: "If you've ever stood on the back doorstep and pissed into the kitchen drain cos you can't be arsed to put your coat and boots on and fight your way through the undergrowth to use the khazi - YMBAR!"
    I have a few stories about the outside khazi. It had no door, and faced the garden wall, which was 6 foot high. One day, after eating some rather elderly sausages, I was sitting there making distressing noises. A head popped up, over the wall - a curious passer-by on the street. He was like: "Oops, sorry mate!" If I'd been in any condition to get off the bog, I'd have jumped over the wall and twatted him!
    Our neighbour over the back objected to having pikeys living there. He expressed his discontent by dumping all his garden cuttings over the wall, blocking access to the khazi. I pushed down the windows of his car, and filled it with the cuttings, then forced the windows back up. He didn't bother us again.
    But the worst one was when an advert appeared in the window of the local shop at the far end of the street: "ATTENTION! Due to an unfortunate accident, my collection of tropical spiders has escaped. Some of these spiders are very poisonous, so if you see an unusual spider, DO NOT approach it, but call this number . . ."
    I am a total wimp when it comes to spiders. So when I went to the khazi, bustin for a cack, and found a huge orange and white tiger-striped arachnid there, I was more than a little disconcerted. I fetched a newspaper and attempted to whack the thing, but it scuttled behind the cistern. Well, knowing that a potentially poisonous 8-legged monstrosity was lurking behind me, however badly I needed a poo, I couldn't have opened my bowels with a crowbar! I decided that I could pursue no more judicious course than to emulate the sanitary habits of our domestic felines. I therefore scraped a hole among the bushes, and did my business au naturel. Some instinct prompted me to look up (in mid-strain) and I saw our nextdoor neighbour at an upstairs window, with an expression on her face which I can only describe as 'appalled'.

    When we moved out of there, local property prices doubled overnight.
  2. I totally want to go to the pub, but I've got this humungous caldera of a zit right in the middle of my forehead. I don't know why I bothered to shave and brush my teeth; anyone who looks at me will see nothing but a huge, pus-drenched malignancy.

    I'm not usually self-conscious, but the last time I went to the pub with a zit like this, the first thing anyone said to me was "That's a nasty spot you've got there!"

    I was like "Yeah, thanks for pointing that out. Hey everybody, look at my tumour!"

    It's one of those ones that doesn't quite come to a head, so trying to squeeze it just makes it worse. I've tried gouging it with the auger blade on my Swiss army knife, but that doesn't seem to have helped. It's now so swollen, if it stuck out any further I'd look like a Dalek.

    I could put a plaster over it, and pretend I've been in a fight, I suppose.

    Sod it, I'm going to the pub anyway. After nine pints of lager, I won't care if the damn thing crawls onto the top of my head and starts jumping up and down, waving at people.

    Back from the pub. Amazingly, although people stared at my megazit, no-one said anything, even when steam started coming out of it. Apparently, VolcanoWatch raised their Alert Status to "Condition Red, with bells on". When it does finally erupt, it may affect global climate patterns. Anyone within a 500 km radius is advised to stock up on canned food and bottled water . . .