Michael Bywater

Michael Bywater is a writer and broadcaster. He was a long-running columnist for the Independent on Sunday and his books include Lost Worlds (2004) and Big Babies (2006).

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Eating Out: Living the high life chez Che


It's the choice that makes it even worse

I HAD A LOVELY time in Poland, before the Wall came down. Cold as a witch's tit, a nimbus of frozen air around the intermittent street lights, the warm feral smell of sausage-and-sauerkraut bigos in the kaviarnia, and nothing in the shops. Or, rather, one of everything. You wanted soap, you went into a shop and said, "Do you have soap?" If they said, "Yes", you said, "Good. I'll have a cake of it, then, please." None of your nonsense about Palmolive or Roger & Gallet or Wrights or Imperial Leather or Dove; no wracking of the brain between vetiver and petitgrain, rose and lavender; no worrying about whether to go for the one which made women run their blood-red fingernails down your tanned, muscular (excuse me?) chest or the one which turned you into an Olympic triathlon medallist. Soap? Soap. Good. And then you went home and got clean.

A look back at my Casanova years

IF WE WANT a good research topic we need look no further than under our own noses, that locus of all our perplexity and incomprehension, the place where we cannot see things even if they are there. The expression itself is a good place to start. Take an object. Now place it under your nose. Can you see it? Of course you can't. So why do we say "He couldn't see it even if it were under his nose"? The reason is simple: it's the sort of paradox we can't even see if it's under our nose. And while we're at it, why have we given computers a range of excuses we don't allow ourselves? Why, when we get some screamingly illiterate communication from the council, can we not simply say "Syntax Error" and refuse to deal with it? Why can't we write back to the Inland Revenue saying "Sorry. File not found. Error_Num 1833FF" and have them go away for ever? Why can't we just, you know, lock up, freeze, crash or hang?

We must lash out to improve ourselves

I WAS Called In the other day. Never mind the details; just a nasty man in a nastier suit who told me it wouldn't do and I had to pull myself together. Well. The answer is obviously self-improvement, wouldn't you say? So would I. So what we are going to do today is look into the deepest recesses of our ignoble black hearts and see if we can't come up with a Plan, and you can wipe that innocent smirk off your "face" for a start, otherwise one day I shall turn up on your doorstep, force you into the kitchen and roast you on a low light.

362 days to go, and I'm already sick of it

HERE WE go again. Another new year, and isn't it amazing how they just keep coming along, one after another? I live in hope. Each year as the clock strikes midnight and the wan pawky shade of Andy Stewart mums and gurns in the spinning airwaves like something nasty out of A Christmas Carol, I think, This year we'll be all right; this year there'll just be a soft click on the last stroke of 12 and everything will be suspended forever, or at least as long as it takes to get things sorted out, and there'll just be a gentle dove-grey silence, like cigarette-smoke or ambergris or the lost resonance of bells.

Merry Christmas? I don't think so

WHAT WE need is a good money-making scheme or it's going to be a cold, hard Christmas. Oh dear! Oops! It's going to be a cold, hard Christmas anyway, under a fortnight to go, with bastards (Group A) moaning for their money like bleak midwinter and bastards (Group B) resolutely refusing to pay me. So too late for anything this year. It'll be turkey burgers, all web and wattle, and pictures from the Sunday Sport stuck up as decorations, and me huddled round the solitary guttering candle remembering years gone by: the groaning board, the rich odours of meat and claret, the sound of homeless people singing carols in the frosty streets and the sharp scent of anticipation from my silken servitors ("Merry Christmas, vicar; help yourself to one of these women").

Why can't I come out to play?

IF YOU'RE THINKING of buying a BMW, don't, because if you do I shall come round and slam your head repeatedly in the door until it is nothing but a squashed gory pulp like some vile fruit or ... anyway, that's the deal. Take it or leave it. Why? Because three separate BMWs have had car-alarm failure outside my window in the last few days, and there's a fourth yelping away like a foolish virgin as I write, pausing only for breath before starting off again, yip-yip-yip-yip-yip ad nauseam, that's why. All clear? Right. The bad yellow-eyed woman wants to know why Lulu is being so bitey at the moment. Telephone calls in the middle of the night. "Just got up to go to the loo and she bit my ankles." "I woke up and she was biting my head." "Can't talk now, she's biting me."

A very English thuggery

Our football hooligans are violent, repressed, xenophobic - just like us, says Michael Bywater

What footie fans want is a load of balls

WELL THAT'S France buggered, then. Felix and Euphragia are apsley desolate because they just didn't think. Planning their usual, do you see? Counted on just being able to pop Melete, Mneme and little Aoide in the Espace and taking their customary meander through La France Profonde, stopping at an auberge ici and an hostellerie la and generally getting, you know, back in touch with their savoir-vivre.

Books: All boys' complaint

About a Boy by Nick Hornby Gollancz, pounds 15.99 No More Mister Nice Guy by Howard Jacobson Jonathan Cape, pounds 15.99
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