Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow, but Never Jam Today Department. Spare some sympathy for Malcolm Love, the BBC documentary-maker, who set out the other day to make a programme about the British traffic jam. Armed with several irritating questions to ask fuming suburbanites stranded in a nine-mile tailback ("Is it quite warm in there?" "Have you thought of playing I-Spy?"), Love looked for a likely snarl-up. "We discovered that, on a Friday night, on the eve of a Bank Holiday and - get this - at the start of half-term, they were shutting down the North Circular Road all the way from Hanger Lane to the M4, and closing off the first two junctions. Absolutely brilliant, we thought. It'll be the mother and father of all jams. So we went down to the motorway, sat in with the traffic police and waited ..." And nothing happened. The traffic flowed airily along. Policemen beamed. Cones glistened in the sunshine. It was as inexplicable as it was appalling. After a horribly frustrating few hours, Love and his crew trudged back to their HQ in Bristol - and discovered that, because of the weight of traffic heading north on the M5, a vast 25-mile anaconda of angry motorists had straggled, all afternoon, from Junction 19 to just outside their front door.

I've been to some odd book events in my time, but Tuesday's launch of Man Enough To Be a Woman? by the rock personality Jayne County took some beating. The turn-out was some way removed from the average thrash at the Ivy or the Groucho Club, featuring, as it did, a lot of enormous men en travestie: one chap accessorised his explosive sideburns with pearl drop ear-rings and a Queen Mary toque; another disported himself in a vast wig like a bolted auburn cauliflower surmounted by a diamante tiara.

When Ms County took the stage in an abbreviated black-crochet frock and stockings that had, frankly, seen better days, a slew of enthusiasts yelled "Get 'em off!" - again, hardly the thing you'd see at Lord Weidenfeld's Chelsea parties. The author proceeded to yell a medley of risque songs entitled, if my notes are correct, "Everyone's an Asshole ('Cept Me)" and "If You Don't Wanna F**k Me Baby ...". At one point she changed into a home-made ensemble of Tesco, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer carrier bags Sellotaped together and asked the audience: "Is it OK if I sing 'Toilet Love' without the plunger?" (Huge cheers.) I remained mystified as to her appeal until the climax of the recital, when Ms County crawled across the stage and inserted her beehived head into the bass drum, her spangled rump nosing the air like a vast, questing hippo. Then I looked down and discovered I'd been dancing like a fool for several minutes. I sought out the author but unaccountably - no Baroness Thatcher, clearly - she had no desire to autograph her book.

When it comes to spicy food, I'm as macho as the next man. No Tex-Mex dish of salsafied peppers, no prawn vindaloo or jalapeno hecatomb can faze me. Years of ill-advised doner kebabs ("Do I want extra chilli sauce? Does Rob Andrew know how to kick?") have left me inured to heat-generating equatorial cuisine. But I met my match last weekend.

For pounds 1.20 in Sainsbury, a carton of Habanero Chillis can be yours. Little pale green and peachy-orange fondant fancies, they sit in their inoffensive plastic box like blown greengages and stunted apricots. The label claims they have "a fruit flavour" that's "ideal for Mexican cooking. Use in sauces and soups". So I did - a modest Saturday night affair of chicken breasts in black bean sauce, broccoli, noodles and a single Habanero, finely chopped.

Within seconds of serving it, one dinner guest had become hand- wavingly speechless, another (possibly pregnant) diner was phoning her gynaecologist between gulps of Evian, a third was yelping from the end of the garden under the sprinkler and I, suddenly alone, was thinking, mmmm, this is nice, but perhaps a little pungent, as scalding tears coursed down my cheeks.

I took care (as you do with chilli dishes) to wash my hands before retiring, but that night I was assailed by awful dreams of burning. At 4am, having sleepily twiddled some bit of my person, I was bent double over the bath, applying a cold flannel to an unmentionable agony.

Next morning, I dug out the carton. On the bottom, out of range of human scrutiny, it read: "Warning: extremely hot. Wear gloves when handling and preparing, avoid contact with eyes and other sensitive areas." Wear gloves? Is this stuff radioactive? Does Sainsbury know it's selling a benign-seeming efflorescence of hydrochloric acid disguised as a vegetable?

I wonder if I could interest Hollywood in the phenomenon: David Cronenberg's Habanero Chilli. I'd volunteer to write the screenplay, were the first three fingers of my right hand not blistered beyond repair.

Tomorrow is Bloomsday, the day on which the action of Joyce's Ulysses takes place in 1904. In Dublin, they've marked the anniversary for years with pilgrim walks through the streets down which Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus peregrinated. You start at the Martello Tower on Sandymount Strand (where Stephen rises in Chapter 1), progress to Eccles Street (where Mr Bloom has a pork kidney for breakfast), and attend, in sequence, a funeral procession, a newspaper office, O'Connell Street, Grafton Street, Bewley's restaurant at lunchtime, Davy Byrne's pub for a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy, a music shop, another pub, a beach, a maternity hospital, a whorehouse and a cabman's shelter. (Technically, you're supposed to visit them all, but the whorehouse is optional these days.)

Despite the high proportion of Irish in the metropolis, London has done little to celebrate Bloomsday in the past (I suppose it would have helped if the novel had been set here). But a small contingent of Joycean scholars is doing its bit tomorrow, at Filthy McNasty's select bar in Islington, where there will be readings throughout the day, Irish music and the odd Guinness, I expect. Steven Berkoff, Richard Harris, Shane McGowan and the American actor Patrick Bergin, the one who terrorised Julia Roberts with his matching tea-towels in Sleeping With the Enemy, are all promised, as is (uncontainable rapture) the fair-to-good prospect of Edna O'Brien reading from Molly Bloom's monologue. See you there, begob.

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game