Monday, February 21, 2011

Roses are dead, violets are too, but heavily discounted treats await you :)

I stand corrected: maybe Valentine's Day isn't completely terrible...

1) The super-organised can get next year's pressie out of the way a whopping 11 1/2 months early;

2) The thrifty can load up on this ludicrous tat and repackage it for Easter, birthdays and Christmas, whilst saving an absolute bomb due to paying what these products are actually worth, as opposed to their initial, over-inflated retail price; and

3) The pessimistic can stock up on self-indulgent goodies to comfort eat next year. The money saved can be re-invested in extra strength tissues.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Re: Payment Notification #3

Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2011 16:51:21 +0800
Subject: RE: Payment Notification:
To: Lou Hayward




Motto: Eagle Eye Of The Law

The management of this honorable sector {EFCC} Economy and Financier Crime Commission validated which the content therein is fully understood.
This is to acknowledge the receipt of your email and to further inform you that we have arrested the IMPOSTER who tried to scam us of your overdue funds of 7.5 million dollars and to also inform you that we got your information’s you have provided in your last email to this office and I must tell you here that your fund will be transferred to you in no distance time if you adhere strictly to my instructions and directives and do exactly what I tell you to do.

Here i have filed up an application on your behalf and have sent it to the paying bank in your favor, So quickly contact the Bank and explain yourself to them, I Don't need anything else from you.

I will also want you to give the Bank a call as soon as you receive this mail for more detailed information’s below is the contact information of the paying bank.

Contact Person: Rev. Williams Hills 
Bank Name: Access Bank Of Nigeria Plc
Bank Email:
Contact phone Number: +234-70-6075-4037
I have also spoken with the manager of the Access Bank Of Nigeria Plc right now and he told me that they have received the application and that they will respond to you in less 5 hours from now and he has also accepted release the funds to you through online wire transfer sector. 
As soon as you hear from the  Bank to let me know for more directives. Always take note that the paying bank is the Access Bank Of Nigeria Plc and they are the bank that will contact you in respect to this application.

I shall await to hear from you as soon as you contacted the Bank kindly let me know.


Mrs. Farida Mzamber Waziri

EFCC Executive Chairman,
Chief Mrs. Farida Mzamber Waziri (AIG rtd.)


From:Lou Hayward
Sent:20 February 2011 09:51:32; virtualbanking&;

Hello Farida!

My goodness, you really are the gift that keeps on giving- a same-day reply?! I feel honoured that you have chosen to dedicate so much of your time and effort to my case and to make me a priority, given that you must have so much other pressing business to attend to. However, with respect to your email, although “the management of this honorable sector {EFCC} Economy and Financier Crime Commission validated which the content therein is fully understood”, I must admit that I am a little less clear as to what exactly is going on here… I also note that whilst you have answered a few of my queries, there are still many questions which remain unanswered… and, just quietly, both the signed photo and the link to your ebook are notable in their absence, but I'm sure that's just a little oversight on your part.

Am I to take it, Farida, that you have captured that conniving devil Curt?! Or has Gershon Shapiro cracked under your iron-like will and confessed all? Don’t leave me hanging here Farida- spill the beans! I’m sure that I’ll read something about it in the paper tomorrow and maybe catch a little segment on the morning news, but if you have a moment maybe you could give me the goss straight from the horse’s mouth. Not that you look like a horse- it's just a saying. 

As to the money… wow! I mean, I know I’m a bit scatterbrained sometimes- I’m constantly losing my phone or my wallet or my keys and I forget things all the time and that was that one awful day when I left the house and only realised I wasn’t wearing any underwear when I was sat on the Tube. I had to do a mad dash run around one of the bigger stations- I think it was Kings Cross- and you know those little concession stores are always really crappily stocked and overpriced. So yes, I know I’m prone to the odd blonde moment, but I seriously don’t know if even I would be able to ‘misplace’ 7.5 million dollars. I mean, just imagine how big your sofa would have to be in order for you to lose all that spare change down the back of it… 

I think if I am ever really rich (maybe if I have, for example, 7.5 million dollars in the bank) I will buy exactly such a sofa and when I sit atop it I will pretend that it is not the sofa that is huge, but me that is tiny. I will proclaim myself Queen of the Pixies and, if you like, you can come and sit next to me and pretend to be the Financial Advisor of the Elves. What fun we’ll have…
…There I go again- see, I told you I was a bit dippy. Now, I must be frank with you, Farida: In essence, I’m really not sure that this money is mine! Where, how and why would I have acquired 7.5 million dollars?! For that matter, what kind of dollars are we talking about? I mean, there are a lot of countries which use the dollar as their currency: check out this list to see what I mean. So, are these US dollars, Australian dollars, or Solomon Island dollars? I’d like to know so that I can make a bit more sense of my supposed riches. If you really were Financial Advisor to the Elves, I hope you’d moot a currency with a more original name- for example I have always been fond of the Vietnamese ‘dong’ and the Costa Rican ‘colon’.

I am pleased that my utter failure to provide you with a single personal detail has not hampered your progress and that you have ‘filed up an application’ on my behalf- apparently Nigerian banks are a lot more flexible than the institutions I have used in the past. Thank you for giving me Rev. Williams Hills’ contact details- does his name mean that he, like you, is a ‘plural person’ who refers to himself using the first-person, plural personal pronoun? This is good to know- ignorantly I thought that this was a practice confined to royalty and schizophrenics, but apparently it is fairly common, normal behaviour in Lagos. As a sidenote, how ironic that a man of God should come so close to sharing his name with a chain of high street betting shops.

Unfortunately, I have just this moment run out of phone credit and so will be unable to contact him by phone. Plus, I fear the time difference and potential disruptions to the line may make this a tricky form of communication for us. One small detail, Farida, I am, as you may have gathered, something of a nosy parker, and so I couldn’t help but do a quick google search on Rev. Hills… Farida, are you sure you’ve got this right? I couldn’t find any information on him at all, let alone any pages linking him to the Access Bank. As such, I have taken the liberty of cc-ing a couple of potentially relevant Access Bank email addresses to alert them of their oversight. I have not written to Rev Hills himself as I do not wish to cause him any embarrassment. As a matter of principle, I am certainly not going to provide any information regarding my own case until they remedy the situation and give him the respect and acknowledgement he deserves.

Farida, I hope you don’t think me presumptuous, but I am so impressed at the care and attention you have shown me, and the fact that you seem to have ensnared such a wicked criminal, that I wanted you to get some recognition for your hard work. Therefore, I have also cc-ed the general EFCC contact email address in the hope that your colleagues and superiors, if you have them, will learn of your dedication. Furthermore, if I don’t read about anything, I shall have no qualms about alerting the international press on your behalf.

Yours, validating which the content therein is fully understood.

PS I know it's a longshot, but I think I think my first choice would be for Kate Hudson to play me in our movie, she was brilliant in Almost Famous.

Re: Payment Notification #2

From:Office Efcc nigeria (
Sent:18 February 2011 05:03:03
To:Lou Hayward




Motto: Eagle Eye Of The Law   

The management of this honorable sector {EFCC} Economy and Financier Crime Commission validated which the content therein is fully understood.

After going through your mail, be inform that we have withdrawing all the dealing we have with MR. GERSHON SHAPIRO who was claiming to be your representative here in my office over your contract inheritance outstanding fund, Be inform that right now we have just arrested him which he is to face the consequences of whom most of them are presently under our custody and will face prosecution under section 35 A sub section 1-2-4 of the criminal code of Nigeria, pending on when we finish with our investigation and have your fund release to you as the said benefactor. 

Sir, farida Waziri (AIG rtd.)Executive Chairperson. international monitoring funds   (IMF) note that my duty is to make sure that all those impostors that has contacted you in the past is curt and face the prosecution of all the evil they have done to the fellow human.

With all due respect, note that we have received the requested information, and note that we are now in the process based on how your contract inheritance fund will be release to you via Internet Online Banking through our Bank under 24hours of the day.


It was resolved by the executive board meeting that was held officially at Abuja Federal Capital here in Nigeria on your behalf which the Senate President and the Vice President of Federal Republic of Nigeria attended. This meeting was held and jointly agreed by the both parties that participate that meeting that you will have to stop any communication you have with non-official or any bank institution as you can your fund is presently under my custody and is well secure for you, and in other to receive it you are to work according to my instruction to avoid fund division so that problem will not occur further when we will proceed with the effect of your fund.

Note that you are advice to forward to this office all listed below information so that we will start processing all necessary document and have your fund programmed in your name since you said that you didn't authorize any one to stand as your benefactor:
Your full name:

Once all this information are send to this office, it will enable use verify and expedite action immediately with the release of your fund to you as the Said Beneficiary.
We anticipate your Maximum Co-operation and Understanding to enable us serve you more better to lead to the success of this matter and have positives result for you.

Mrs. Farida Mzamber Waziri
EFCC Executive Chairman,
Chief Mrs. Farida Mzamber Waziri (AIG rtd.)

From:Lou Hayward
Sent:20 February 2011 07:26:55

Hello again Farida, how nice of you to reply so promptly. 

Thank you very much for the photo you included- as you are possibly the most famous person to have ever emailed me, I plan to print it out and put it on my wall, or maybe carry a small version in my wallet. I did once receive a marketing message purporting to be from Tony the Tiger (I don't know if they sell Kellogg's Frosties in Lagos, so by way of explanation he is an animated cereal mascot with an overtly positive disposition... I don't particularly like Frosties myself; apparently they're 'grrreat'), but after some consideration I came to the conclusion that this was in fact written by one of his agents. For one thing, tigers do not have fingers or opposable thumbs and so I fail to see how he could operate a keyboard. For another, he is, after all, a cartoon character. 

Maybe next time you could send me a signed photo? I do have one suggestion though- next time I think you should look directly at the camera. You have beautiful eyes, Farida, it's a shame to hide them and it makes you look downcast- almost as if you feel you are losing the fight against internet scammers. Just saying. 

Anyway, on to more serious business. I am relieved to hear you "have withdrawing all the dealing" with Mr Shapiro- well done for exposing him as a fraud. However, is it really necessary for him to face prosecution? I am embarrassed to say that, despite studying and working in law for a number of years, I have a woefully deficient knowledge of Nigerian criminal law. The snazzy little '419' banner at the end of your email proved most helpful though- I now know that this refers to an article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: "Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating") dealing with fraud and, in particular, advance-fee fraud. Apparently, this is is a confidence trick in which a target is persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of realizing a significantly larger gain. A particular type of this scam has even been titled the 'Nigerian Letter' (also called the 419 fraud, Nigerian scam, Nigerian bank scam, or Nigerian money offer). Shocking stuff, hey?

Oh dear, here I go getting off the point again... Anyway, so the lawyer in me couldn't help but look up the citation you so helpfully provided me to see just exactly what sort of cheat we've been dealing with here. Farida, I must say I am puzzled. Either my research skills have completely gone off the boil, or I think you may have given me the wrong information. Please don't take offence, but according to a seemingly up-to-date resource I found on the matter, the Nigerian Criminal Code does not have a section 35A! Sorry to nitpick, Farida, but I would appreciate your clarification on this.

Now, assuming we instead proceed on the basis of Article 38, Obtaining Property by false pretences; ‘Cheating’, I fear we may hit another procedural wall. Let me explain: according to Article 419, "any person who by any false pretence, and with intent to defraud, obtains from any other person anything capable of being stolen, or induces any other person to deliver to any person anything capable of being stolen, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years".  My problem is this, dear Farida, Article 419 goes on to say that "the offender cannot be arrested without warrant unless found committing the offence" and as I explained in our previous communication, I have never met Mr Shapiro, and to my knowledge, no funds of any nature (be they PayPal or Post Office oriented- or as part of the 'contract inheritance fund' you mentioned of which I am also wholly unaware) have been obtained by him. On the other hand, if you did catch the scalliwag in the act, I'd love to hear the story of how you busted him. I imagine it to be a thrilling tale- maybe one day we could make it into a film. I don't know much about movie production, but I think we'd have to fit an explosion or two in somewhere to really sell it to a studio- do you think you could embellish the truth a little to incorporate this? Who would you like to play you in the movie, Farida? I'd like to see some big name stars in there, but as my recent viewing of 'The Tourist' has taught me, you need more than A-Listers to make a hit. Did you see it? If not don't bother, it's really not very good at all. 

Nevertheless, as I said, I am rather ignorant as to the laws of your country, so could you please explain further how you intend to proceed- perhaps you are planning to prosecute Mr Shapiro on the basis of an inchoate offence? If so, could you provide me with an up-to-date summary of the relevant Nigerian criminal procedural law. Maybe such a passage can be found in your book, "Advance Fee Fraud, National Security and the Law"? I have been unable to locate a copy where I am currently living, perhaps if our friendship continues to blossom you could send me a signed copy to go with the photo. Alternatively, is it available to download as an ebook? I have recently obtained an iphone and now, I am somewhat sad to say, as a total smartphone convert I am unwilling to undertake any activity which does not entail tapping or swiping a small touchscreen. Do you have an iphone, Farida? Or are you more of a Blackberry lady? That is not a racist comment, by the way. 
One other small point, Farida, (and please don't think me pedantic- I'm just thorough). I would be very interested to read more about your work for the "International Monitoring Funds", but have been unable to locate any website. Indeed, the only organisation I am aware of with the acronym IMF is the International Monetary Fund, with which it appears you have no affiliation. Moreover, a brief google search of 'Farida Waziri International Monetary Fund' only produces results leading to websites regarding- irony of ironies- scam emails, the very thing you are working so hard to tackle! 

I am, of course, appalled by the behaviour (attempted or otherwise) of Mr Shapiro, but I am also a humanist. Have you informed the embassy? Where is he currently being held? Is he at your headquarters on Awolowo Road? I looked up the location and it must be nice to have an office so close to the water- does Mr Shapiro have a nice view? However, I think you need to update your contact information, Farida, as according to the official EFCC website you are located at number 15A Awolowo Road and not number 15- perhaps you moved next door after that awful fire totally razed part of the building in May of last year? I do hope he has not been transferred to the nearby 'Ikoyi prison', as I've heard it's less than pleasant in there. I don't think I would be able to handle it at all. I once had to spend a couple of hours in Slough and that was enough to nearly break me; it’s even worse than watching The Tourist. Above all, has Mr Shapiro regaled you with any of his proposed performances for 'A Jewish Star'? 

The main reason I ask, Farida, is that I think we should instead be focusing on another, altogether more vile character. You say in your email that "all those impostors that has contacted you in the past is curt and face the prosecution of all the evil they have done to the fellow human". Well, I am very pleased to hear it, Farida. There are a number of things which I find irritating in the extreme- in no particular order, examples which spring to mind are people who insist on taking prams on public transport during commuter hour, people who walk too slowly when I am in a rush to get somewhere (exempting the old and infirm, obviously) and those who can see worth in the music of Justin Bieber. However, I would have to say that people who have done evil to the fellow human rank even higher on my list of irksome character traits. I have been contacted by a number of imposters in the past- the Tony the Tiger impersonator being just one-  and you are seriously telling me they are all aliases of some guy called Curt?! Farida, do you think that maybe this loathsome fellow has also attempted to use and abuse Mr Shapiro's identity? What are you doing to find him? I think for the movie we should turn him in to a shady Mexican, then offer the part to Danny Trejo. What do you think?

Apologies for yet another lengthy message, but I feel we need to get some loose ends tied up before proceeding further. As such, I am as yet unable to provide you with any of my personal information at this time until you answer the questions herein and provide me with more details in general. To be honest, Farida, when all is said and done, if we are talking about that errant £1.92, I would be more than happy for you to consider it a downpayment on the ebook.

Kindest positives result to you too.

P.S. As my name is not a Nigerian one, I feel I should inform you that I am in fact female. Thus, whilst I appreciate your politeness, the moniker 'Sir' is not really appropriate.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Re: Payment Notification

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2011 14:46:04 -0800
Subject: Re: Payment Notification:

Re: Payment Notification:

We are writhing to know if it's true that you are DEAD? Because we received a notification from one MR. GERSHON SHAPIRO of USA stating that you are DEAD and that you have giving him the right to claim your funds. He stated you died on a CAR accident. He has been calling us regarding this issue, but we cannot proceed with him until we confirm this by not hearing from you after 7days.

Be advised that we have made all arrangements for you to receive and confirm your funds without anymore stress, and without any further delays.

All we need to confirm now is your been DEAD Or still Alive.

Because this MAN'S message brought shock to our minds. And we just can't proceed with him until we confirm if this is a reality OR not But if it appened we did not hear from you after 7days, then we say: MAY YOUR SOUL REST IN PERFECT PEACE" YOUR JOY AND SUCCESS REMAINS OUR GOAL.

May the peace of the Lord be with you wherever you may be now.

Your Faitfully,
Mrs Farida Waziri

From:  Lou Hayward
Sent:18 February 2011 01:35:19

Dear Farida,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt and genuine concern for my wellbeing- and please know that by 'your', I am of course using the second person plural form of the word so as to include all of 'you'. I particularly appreciate your taking the time to write to me given that you must be incredibly busy as Executive Chairperson of the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Please rest assured Farida, I'm no racist, but I do seem to receive an inordinate number of scam emails emanating from your country... Apparently some unconscionable fraudsters are even attempting to elicit responses using YOUR name!

I must admit Mr Shapiro's message brought shock to my mind too (although I only have the one)- I can only hope that you have now recovered enough to stop writhing. Anyway, Farida, I am happy to report that following a thorough check I can confirm that this is not 'a reality': I am very much still alive and did not die 'on a car accident'. I have no idea why Mr Shapiro thought to bother you with such silly rumour-mongering, but you can tell him to stop calling you now. You might also like to tell him that if plans to continue spreading such morbid gossip in the future, he might like to consider adopting a more plausible story.

Farida, having considered the odds a bit I think dying ON a car accident must be a rather rare occurrence- I think it's generally more common to die 'IN' such accidents. To be honest, quite frankly I think it's also a bit of a selfish last act on the part of the deceased.  I mean, imagine you've just been in a car accident (not a serious one, mind) and you're faffing around trying to find your insurance details and wondering if you can get away with telling your husband you swerved to avoid one of Nigeria's endangered animals (perhaps one of Buettikofer's Epauletted Fruit Bats?) when actually you hit a tree because you were using the rear-view mirror to reapply your lippy... I don't know about you Farida, but if some stranger wondered over and just died all over the crumpled remains of my bonnet I'd think I'd be royally pissed off.

Of course, another pressing issue I feel I must draw your attention to is the fact that not only have Mr Shapiro and I never actually met, but I don't even know who he his! I mean, we're not even facebook friends Farida! You know how it is- there are a few people on there that you don't REALLY know, but you accept them anyway because supposedly you have 43 friends in common and think "oh well, I guess I must have met them when I was out and about and I just don't remember or maybe we went to school together years ago and they've changed their name or they got married or something".

I must admit to you, Farida, I did do a sneaky bit of googling and to be honest I'm at a loss as to how Mr Shapiro is even aware of my existence! Being a 35 year old man based in Brooklyn kind of counts him out as having gone to my (all-girls) secondary school... I'm a little disappointed to see that Mr Shapiro isn't dedicating 100% of his effort to season 2 of the "A Jewish Star" singing competition, for which I gather he has been chosen as one of the ten finalists.

It certainly seems a shame that someone quoted as saying that "Hashem has blessed me with a beautiful voice and I hope to use it to inspire other people in a positive way" is instead wasting time and money on calls to Nigeria!

I am not Jewish, Farida, nor do I like reality tv shows- especially ones based around singing because they usually seem to have the most annoying hosts and there are only so many shiny suits and Ronan Keating covers I can take. I don't know if Ronan Keating made it big in Nigeria, but his songs are a bit terrible and for some reason have a bizarre power over talent contest entrants that forces them to adapt a shouty, slightly lispy Irish accent when singing- #LAA-OIFE ISH A ROLLERCOASHTER, JUST GOTTA RAAA-OIDE IT# . Anyway, even if I WERE inclined to vote in "A Jewish Star", after this dodgy behaviour, I can assure you that Mr Shapiro would not be getting my vote... Also I find some of his competitors' beards far more impressive.

Finally, I come to the matter of my 'funds' and must reveal that you have been most cruelly misled. In fact, if anything, my having any 'funds' to speak of is even MORE implausible than my dying 'on' a car accident. As the old adage says, Farida, "you can't miss something you never had", and so you will be relieved to hear that I have suffered no stress from my funds' supposed delay. As a side note, I think my favourite adage is "you can't polish a turd". Personally, I've never tried, but I can see how it would be impossible- even with the fortified droppings of a Buettikofer's Epauletted Fruit Bat. I suppose you could always sprinkle some glitter on it if you were so inclined, which would kind of achieve the same effect. Now, Farida, the only missing 'funds' that really initially spring to mind are an old Post Office account my parents opened for me when I was a baby... but I actually think I transferred out the whopping £40 fortune I discovered in there when I was about 14. I'd imagine I spent it on eyeliner and Green Day cds. The only other unaccounted for money that springs to mind is the paltry sum I have languishing in an old PayPal account somewhere... if memory serves I think it's a hefty £1.92.

To be honest, Farida, I'd forgotten all about it and I can't remember any of my login details or anything, so if that's the money you're referring to, maybe it would be easier to just let Mr Shapiro have it? I don't know how much it costs to mount a publicity campaign for 'A Jewish Star', but maybe my little donation will make a big difference to him. I must say, I think Mr Shapiro could potentially find a less convoluted route to an income (a man based in New York calling a Nigerian Commissioner regarding some mystery funds held by an English girl living in Sydney... it's a little silly isn't it?), but who am I to judge? Of course, it goes without saying that he will have to cover any bank transfer and currency conversation fees. Maybe it would be better for you to confirm what the funds are before I make any final decision?

Anyway Farida, I'm sure you must be very busy so I will let you get back to your fraud-fighting. Thank you again for checking to see if I was 'DEAD'- I've been feeling a bit down in the dumps lately and it's always nice to know someone cares, even if that someone is a random lady in Nigeria.

Lots of joy and success to you too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stupid Cupid, stop picking on me...

Legend has it that during the ancient pagan Lupercalia fertility festival, upon which some argue Valentine’s Day is based, girls were playfully slapped with strips of bloody goathide (an activity I hereby dub ‘goathiding’) before being awarded to young men as prizes in a lottery. Fortunately, somewhere in the Middle Ages, ‘romantic love’ entered the equation and contemporary celebratory activities are pretty tame by comparison. Today it’s all about showing the one we love how much we care (even if we’re woefully inattentive the rest of the year)… and of course for reminding people who aren’t in relationships that they’re alone and that their lives are really a bit empty and shit.

I can say with some degree of certainty, that come Monday, my letterbox will not be overflowing with cards, but rather stuffed with flyers from people offering to clean up my garden, deliver me pizza or help me with my tax return. Oh, and I guess there might also be an exciting utility bill. Similarly, whilst I might get a couple of nice, blissfully normal and non-romantic messages from friends, the only correspondence I can absolutely guarantee receiving by email will be as follows: 1) my helpful daily South Beach Diet update (so at least I can concentrate on bemoaning my being overweight instead of being single) 2) a selection of depressing rejection messages from online recruitment sites (so at least I can concentrate on bemoaning my being unemployed instead of being single) and 3) the usual smattering of spam (so at least I can concentrate on bemoaning my being targeted by Nigerian scam artists and purveyors of dodgy discount Viagra instead of being single).

If you can’t already tell, I am a long-standing loather of Valentine’s Day- especially given that come February 14th each year I am inevitably single, whilst everyone around me appears to work themselves up into a frenzy planning elaborate dates, buying lavish presents and contributing to the tons of paper wasted on cards filled with heartfelt words written by other people. Indeed, the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates one billion such greetings are sent each year worldwide, a wonderfully vague statistic which reminds me of witnessing a bloke buying five copies of a card which proclaimed “baby, you’re the only one for me!” Needless to say, some do go to the effort of composing their own message- A friend of mine in a long distance relationship (“LDR”) once received a card which read “darling Karen, I think of you always and ache to be with you- counting the days and thinking of your smile”. So sweet… Shame her name is Becky.  

But mistaken monikers aside, what do people in LDRs do if they’re destined to be apart for Valentine’s Day? One website recommends getting “the exact same bottle” of a “wine you both enjoy” and then “share notes about how lovely the wine was”. In other words, sit at home and drink alone. No thanks. I suppose if you do find yourself in an LDR, whilst you can’t physically be together, remember your beloved’s voice is only a phonecall away. However, do check the time difference- a specially written 36 verse Valentine’s poem may not be well received if you call unexpectedly at 3am. For the more adventurous there’s phone/Skype sex… providing the mood isn’t ruined by the ten second international call time delay or the fact that your partner’s crappy webcam makes them resemble a moldy chicken dumpling. Mmm… sexy…

When living in Cambodia, if you did wish to send a card, you would need to plan your visit to the Post Office around their 5 hour lunch break and politely pay a “facilitation fee” to ensure your envelope travelled beyond the bin. For inward bound greetings it was essential to provide a reliable address to send to, especially if you lived at number 46E1A, sandwiched between numbers 17 and 211X. Alternatively, I suppose you can always save effort, money and trees by sending an ecard. With providing timeless sentiments like “I love you like a cannibal loves human flesh” and “let’s break out the special lube tonight”, you can at least be a funny lazy cheapskate. How about gifts? Send pricey jewellery or cologne to Cambodia and you’re bound to make someone’s day… although that someone is probably a customs official or his wife. Your partner will be even more thrilled if the gift actually does arrive… albeit just in time for May’s plowing ceremony.

As with Christmas, New Years Eve (probably the one day of enforced-emotion I detest more than Valentine’s Day) or, in Australia anyway, Melbourne Cup Day, the 14th of February brings with it an unbearable level of expectation and pressure to have a wonderful time: thanks to that little bugger cupid men and women alike are compelled to waste small fortunes on expensive dinners, romantic excursions and snazzy hotels in an attempt to impress and delight their partners (and of course credit card companies).   

I maintain, the most meaningful, treasured presents are those with the personal touch- like a CD of your partner’s favourite tunes, tracks that remind you of times spent together or songs otherwise relevant to your relationship. Bear in mind if you receive a mix featuring “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Cheating on You” or “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”, maybe things aren’t going as well as you thought. “If music be the food of love” said Shakespeare, “play on”… But if, like me, you once again find yourself without a significant other to choose ballads for, then why not while away some time making a mixtape for yourself? Depending on your outlook, music can also be the food of singledom-celebration (Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”), of hatred (nothing like having a good old vent about an ex to Cee-Lo’s F You… the unedited version, obviously), or of simply wallowing in a decent self-pitying cry (might I recommend Colin Hay’s “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” or the acoustic version of “Heartbeat” by Robyn?).
Anyway, who says you have to do anything for Valentine’s Day? After all, thanks to rampant commercialization the real beneficiaries are the card companies, lingerie shops and overpriced restaurants! Why not forgo the synthetic sentiments and ignore the whole damn thing? Or, dare I say it, just make more effort the other 364 days of the year?! But enough of my embittered cynicism. I do sincerely hope all the great couples I know have an amazing day… or at least one that doesn’t end in a wine-sozzled argument… and that all my beautiful, amazing single friends can take the whole wretched event with the generous pinch of salt it deserves.

If anyone feels like having a good old moan, I will be available by email, Skype or phone… and if you’re dreading being at a loose end come Monday, sod the hearts and roses- I suggest all us super singletons get together for a good old fashioned playful goathiding.

A shorter version of this originally appeared as a 'Sexcetera' article in the Phnom Penh Post's 7Days supplement, 12/02/10

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Not so Incy Wincy Spider climbed up my water spout...

It might be the year of the rabbit, but this has most definitely been the week of the spider.

I wouldn't say I'm arachnophobic and I'd definitely choose them over cockroaches anyday. The latter are disgusting, downright evil and form no useful purpose whatsoever... I utterly despise them and even if the idea that they are capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust is nothing more than an urban legend, they are still far too resilient for my liking.

If they could, I promise you they would rise up and eat us all. I'm not prepared to take that risk, so any cocky that crosses my path is promptly smashed to smithereens. 

But I digress, having a fairly sizeable spider scramble out of your handbag does not make for a pleasant start to a Monday morning. On the other hand, at least the ugly thing I usually have to face at 7am (my own face, pre-makeup) was firmly shunted into second place on the morning minging scale. Spidey obviously shared my habitual disgust at my reflection and promptly made a run for it... Admittedly he may have also been disgusted by my screaming and throwing shoes at him... I mean, they weren't flipflops: I was shoe-ting to kill and opted for my chunkiest and heaviest pair of platform wedges.

Now, if there is one thing that is worse than seeing a large, eight-legged arachnid roaming around in your bathroom, it is knowing the wretched thing is in there somewhere but being unable to locate it. Actually, scratch that- the one thing that is worse than seeing a large, eight-legged arachnid roaming around in your bathroom, is knowing the wretched thing is in there somewhere but being unable to locate it and, this being Australia, NOT BEING SURE IF IT'S GOING TO KILL YOU. Helpfully, google once again comes to the rescue with a helpful selection of 'Australian spider identification guides', my favourite of which comes complete with unnecessarily lifelike, wriggly diagrams.

Spidey was firmly classified as a Huntsman and the 'enspidelopedia' assures me that their bite "is of low risk (non toxic) to humans" and that they are "a non-aggressive group of spiders". Unfortunately, the site goes on to say that "a large individual can give a painful bite" and that I should "beware in summer when the female Huntsman Spider is guarding her egg sacs or young". My friend Mark, another excellent source of Aus-based info, promised me that these "little fellas" were non-venomous and will only bite me if I "place them under duress".

Yes Mark, but I've already read that if one DOES bite me it will be 'painful' and that I should beware them in Summer... ie now. How exactly am I to know if my early-morning appearance put Spidey under duress?! I witnessed this animals ability to "move sideways at lighting-fast speed when disturbed"- does this refer to mental disturbance? He ran off too quickly for me to complete any psychoanalysis, but I'm pretty sure the wedge-throwing would have pissed him off. Further more, how do I tell if it was actually a Mrs Spidey, running off to her young?

Pardon my hysteria, but I am English. To me, this was not a "little fella": it was big enough to pack heat. Aussies might not think they're a huge deal given how many creatures there are here capable of killing you, but I come from a country where the most scary animals we have to handle are oversized woodlice... And of course the enigmatic adder, our only venomous snake, which no one has ever seen and quite frankly I doubt the existence of- I think they're made up to make England look less pathetic to Australians.

Supposedly, the Huntsman is "a shy, timid spider ", the diameter of which only reaches "about 45 mm"... I'm not convinced given that, as I recall, Spidey looked more like this:

copyright Warner Bros.' Eight Legged Freaks - 2002

Thankfully, there has been no reappearance of my eight-legged visitor and I am trying my hardest to believe that he (or she) has decided to move on to pastures (and handbags) new... but I'm not yet ready to stop flapping every object I pick up with the calculated ferocity of a professional snowglobe shaker. I'm not altogether convinced that Spidey isn't lying in wait for me, to exact his (or her) revenge, but I've decided to be mature about the situation (i.e. not throw any more shoes) and realistically, I suppose this house IS big enough for the both of us. Plus, my googling has revealed one very important fact: according to Wikipedia Huntsman spiders "can be considered beneficial because they feed on insects (cockroaches are a favourite)". 

So Huntsman spiders... eat... cockroaches...?

What have I done?! Come back Spidey, all is forgiven!!!