Category Archives: gonzo

My response to UNPAID writer adverts

There are literally thousands of ‘job offers’ like this online. My response to this one is posted below. I will let you know what they say. Fingers crossed!

The original ad can be found here

Dear ZI

I am a writer with a diverse background and a solid track record producing copy, content and communications for a wide range of industries and agencies. I have a portfolio featuring global brands and have published stories and articles in a variety of international media.

I am looking for a company to pay me a regular wage as a member of their team. Being a good employer is a tough skill to learn, with the demands of sourcing the right staff who can be relied upon to deliver material which generates profit for the management team.

Please be aware that this is a voluntary position, I won’t actually be doing any work for you. However it will be an invaluable experience for you to learn how to pay the people who keep your business afloat.

I am looking for people who don’t really consider themselves as ‘chancers who think writers just fart content out of special gills’ but people who see themselves as ‘professionals running a company’.

If you are still unsure then ask yourself these questions!

Q: If you were ill would you:

a) hire a qualified doctor or b) try to get someone to treat you for free?

Q: If your car breaks down do you:

a) pay a mechanic to fix it or b) try to convince a mechanic you are doing them a favour by giving them the task unpaid?

To apply simply send a month’s pay check and a covering letter to this address.

Please note that only successful applicants will be replied to…

Yours sincerely

Every writer in the world xx

Jean Paul Catre Catnapped!

Kat Moss: Loves Babycham

This is an urgent appeal.

Beirut Beat’s Creative Director in Chief Jean Paul Catre has been imprisoned!

The notorious transgender gangster Kat Moss is suspected of the abduction.

The word on Twitter is that Kat  Moss will torture Jean Paul Catre by playing Enya records and then, when his spirit is broken, will force him to sell roses outside Dany’s in Hamra.

Donations towards his ongoing rescue operation can be made here.

Jean Paul Catre: Invented the iPad.

Do NOT come to Beirut! (because of THIS video)

Right, get a look at this.

Aaaaaaaaaaand sit back down.

So CNN have been here and apparently got it all wrong. All fucking wrong.

A coveted Lebanese blogger, Our Man in Beirut, wrote a post this week discussing and despairing over this clip from a rational and reasoned perspective.

But if you have ever been on this site before (and if you haven’t then welcome) you will know that ‘rational’ and ‘reasoned’ are words that have been scratched out of our dictionary with a bloodied unicorn’s hoof.

Apart from the incongruous geographical comparisons (‘Before the war, Lebanon was considered the Switzerland of the Middle East’) and the fact that half the people interviewed seem unable to deliver a line without stuttering and getting confused, this piece of PR presents what I believe to be some very inaccurate and possibly damaging press for Lebanon.

Q: Why is it inaccurate?

Oh, thanks for asking. When watching CNN’s little clip I began to worry that people in other parts of the world might think that Beirut (and possibly Lebanon as a whole) is a nation of juvenile, neon idiots, pissing absurd amounts of money they didn’t earn off gratuitous rooftop nightclubs, waving their iPhones at waiters carrying trays of cocktails and downloading personality upgrades from their nearest pre-pay hotspot.

These excuses for human beings do unfortunately reside in, or at least visit annually, this otherwise great country, but it would be a travesty for anyone, even people who watch CNN, to think that this is the norm.

Q: Why is it damaging?

For the sole reason that more of the idiots described above might flock here from other countries. This could be very dangerous. If too many soulless turds were to flock to Beirut then we may face ‘Idiot Mass’.

This is a critical condition where a combination of bottomless bank accounts, vacuous girls in miniskirts, guys who look like they have just come out of ovens and meaningless high-fives create a vortex that will envelope the whole country and suck it away to the sort of horrific Soviet Russian labour camp that Ivan Denisovich had nightmares about.

Q: Oh no! What can we do?

A: Carry on NOT being a prick.

Whether you follow the local music scene, play 5-a-side football, compete with your friends at network gaming in internet cafe’s, design bespoke clothing or furniture, are involved in poetry or martial arts… keep doing it.

This city is much more than a series of expensive, glow in the dark twat-traps.

And if CCN have a problem with that. They can kiss my Skybar.

Attacked by a Beirut Taxi Driver

I got into a cab at the junction between Downtown and Ashrafieh around 6.30pm. I had been doing work stuff and had a shirt and smart trousers. I expect my outfit probably had as much to do with what followed as the fact that I am obviously not a native.

I told the driver I wanted a ‘service’ (short distance rate taxi, about $1.50) to Spinneys (a supermarket about 5 minutes drive from where I was standing). The driver pulled off the main street and took a turn. This was not unusual, most Taxi drivers know some backstreet route that they think will help them avoid the traffic. Then my phone buzzed with a text message.

Replying to the message I realised there were several other texts that I had not seen that also needed responding to. This meant that I spent the next 5 minutes playing about with my phone and not paying attention to where we were going. When I finished with the phone I looked up and didn’t have a clue where I was.

For about a minute I tried to look out for familiar buildings. I lived in the same area as the supermarket and it became obvious that we were not anywhere close. Then I saw the highway out of town.

‘Mate, where the fuck are you going?’ The driver ignored me at first. ‘Mate, this is not the way to Spinneys’. He looked at me in the mirror.

‘Spinneys this way’ he said pointing at the highway.

‘No, Spinneys is in Ashrafieh, close to where you picked me up. Pull over, now!’ He pulled the cab over at a roundabout.

We argued for some minutes about where Spinneys was. The driver was convinced there was no Spinneys in Ashrafieh, only one out on the highway. I told him he was wrong and that he should take me back there and I would show him. He was having none of it.

‘You pay me now. How much you pay me?’ He had turned around in his seat, an overweight man in his 40s. I said I was not going to pay him anything until he took me to Ashrafieh.

‘OK, I call Police.’

What we both knew, but he presumably did not think I knew, was that first of all the Police would never come if you were to ‘call’ them. They probably wouldn’t even come if someone had been murdered. Secondly, if the Police were to come they would almost certainly side with me in this situation. Nobody in Lebanon wants to project the image that foreigners get ripped off by everyone. This fact is probably what saved me, as we shall see. I looked him in the eye. ‘Call the Police.’

Knowing he had nothing else to bargain with a viscous rage engulfed the driver. Shouting wildly in Arabic he leaned into the back of the car and slowly pushed his fist into my face. I jumped out of the cab and so did he.

Now if we were in another part of town I could have just walked off. I was only 6.45 and there were plenty of people around. But we were parked next a very busy roundabout, crossing it would not be easy and I didn’t have a clue where I was. And the fat man was coming towards me.

I tried to rationalize the situation. Perhaps he really didn’t know where the supermarket was. Perhaps he thinks I am trying to rip him off. Perhaps I have been acting harshly. Then he stepped towards me and grabbed my throat.

In a reflex I bent his arm and pushed him off me and jumped back. Instant thought. Can I beat him in a fight. Answer? Yes, definitely. Second thought. Do I want to beat up a middle-aged Taxi driver in broad daylight in the middle of a busy roundabout? Answer. Definitely not.

As I pushed him away he had grasped again and caught hold of the headphones around my neck, big old-fashioned over-ear things. He had ripped one of the ear pieces right off and held it his hand and looked at it for a minute, before tossing it in the road and coming at me again.

I swung a warning punch at his face, not making any contact, and cocked my right arm dramatically ready to land a real one. He kept coming at me and I kept throwing jabs at him. By this point I had started screaming from the bottom of my lungs.

‘IMGONNAKILLYOUYOUFUCKINGCUNTIFYOUDARETRYTOTOUCHMEAGAINDONTTHINKIAMFUCKINGAROUNDYOUHAVENOIDEAHOWFARIWILLGOJUSTYOUFUCKINGTRYMEEEEEEEE!!!!!’

After a few more lunges he stepped back and started laughing. He had not expected this. Before he could try again a passing mob of young guys on mopeds had stopped and joined us on the roundabout. They left their bikes in the middle of the road, blocking traffic, which brought more people, getting out of cars joining the fun. The mob separated us and about 6 guys were holding me back.

At this point I realised I was in a bit of trouble. No one could speak English and unlike the Taxi driver, who was now calmly explaining away some bullshit to the mob, I cannot speak Arabic. Humans are human but a mob is animal. Another car pulled up wanting to get past the mass of vehicles blocking the road. Fortunately for me he could speak English.

Still guarded by two of the guys that had arrived on mopeds, I explained my situation, that the Taxi driver had taken me to wrong place then shoved a fist in mouth and tried to throttle me when I refused to pay unless he took me back. He relayed this information to the mob.

Within seconds then had surrounded the driver and pushed him back towards his cab. He was still protesting vociferously as they pushed him inside and told him to fuck off.

When he was gone the rounded me, asking if I was alright. One of the guys offered to take me back into town on the back of his moped. When I declined he offered me 5000LL to get another taxi. A young German-Lebanese guy emerged from the crowd and said he was going my way, we could share a cab together. The mob got back on their mopeds and we walked off down the hill together.

After walking down the hill a Taxi pulled up. ‘Hey boys, want a lift? Asharfieh? 10000LL?’ I don’t need to tell you who it was.

Two mopeds pulled up beside the cab and the mob boys from earlier jumped off and started screaming at the driver. I thought for a minute they would pull him through his window. He drove quickly off and they gave us a nod before driving off after him.

How to unblock a Lebanese toilet: Survival tips

Pretext- Why might your toilet be blocked?

The toilets and related plumbing in Lebanon are notoriously fragile. Even the most modern establishments request that you ‘kindly’ put all tissue paper in a small bin next to the toilet. Given this fact, it would be little surprise that your toilet might choke up if you accidentally flushed a stripy H&M sock down the pan. The task of retrieving the sock may become infinitely more disgusting if you have just tried to flush pieces of lettuce rejected by your pet tortoise, now floating around the bowl like ships lost at sea. So what can you do?

Step 1: Flush again

You may as well give this a go. Anything to avoid having to put your hand in there. Maybe you were worrying about nothing. Or maybe the toilet will groan like a dyeing elephant and fill up to the brink with more filthy water. It’s time to change out of your work clothes.

Step 2: Get the rubber gloves on

Since you cannot find any clothes you are prepared to splash toilet juice on you are now probably in your underwear. Pull on the rubber gloves (I would suggest pink but yellow will suffice) and say a little prayer to Mazu, Chinese Goddess of water and protector of sailors. You are going to need the help.

Step 3: Dive in.

As your gloved hand slides further and further into the bowl your level of revulsion and disgust will rise exponentially. Do not worry about this, it is about to get worse. A lot worse. As you finally touch the bottom of bowl you will realize that the sock has been sucked right up into the U-bend. Creeping further into the unknown you will understandably be afraid that some toilet beast is lurking, waiting to nibble your fingers off. You lean in too far and the glove fills up with water.

Step 4: Retreat

Pulling off the glove and rushing to the sink to wash your hand, you will feel the urge to sit and cry on the bathroom floor for a while. You may as well. You deserve a break.

Step 5: Bring in the artillery

The difference between men and monkeys comes down to our use of tools. It’s true that monkeys don’t wear H&M socks and so would never be in this mess in the first place, but that’s not the point. It’s time to improvise. In your closet there are probably some wire coat hangers. Get one out and unravel it. Poking around the toilet for a while will give you an idea of the complex shape of the piping system. Sculpt the hanger into a shape that takes into account the various twists and turns. Catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, in your underwear twisting a piece of wire with tears drying on your face. Cry a bit more.

Step 6: Mission Impossible

Pushing the wire round invisible bends in the pipe is like performing keyhole surgery, except far more difficult. You hit a wall, twist your arm and push on. The wire keeps going, further and further into the abyss. You reach too far and the glove fills with water again. Except this time you don’t even care. You will defeat the toilet even if it kills you. Just when you feel like you might have to actually climb into the bowl, Trainspotting style, the hook on the end of the wire catches something. A bite of the end of the line? You pull back with all your strength but it is struggling. Just, a bit, more…

Step 7: Self destruct

Whatever was on the end of your coat hanger managed to get away. You have been defeated. There is nothing else left to do. You will flush the toilet for a final time and the subsequent flood will wash you away. Goodbye stool world!

But the toilet is spluttering, shuddering, shaking. It nearly rocks itself off your bathroom floor, but instead the flush roars and washes everything from the pan. You must have dislodged the sock with your efforts. It is now in a better place. You have won. And that deserves a drink.

Bottoms up!

Frederique: A short story


Frederique 

As I sat in the taxi home from the office I thought about what I would watch whilst eating my dinner. There was the action thriller about a sushi delivery boy who secretly worked for the CIA. That sounded shit. There was the French existential drivel I had been given by a colleague I wanted to sleep with. I could probably just pretend I had watched that, she wouldn’t even know the difference. And there was the documentary about a heroin addicted Jazz musician who had choked to death on the reed of his own clarinet. The traffic was really bad and the taxi stunk of cigarette smoke, so I paid the driver and walked the rest of the way home.

Back in the flat I reheated last night’s left-over pasta and thumbed through the movies, finally deciding to watch my collection of tropical fish float round their tank, hoping I could finally catch which one it was that had been eating the others. I left my dish in the sink and took the whisky from the cupboard.

As the first drops of scotch roused the ulcer in my stomach, I turned on my computer and checked my emails for the millionth time that day. Inbox 1. I knew that this was probably a request to try penis enlargement pills (they don’t work by the way) or a forwarded email with a hilarious picture of a kitten doing something hilarious.

The message was a reply to a recent article of mine about the decline of a local artistic movement. The author of the email, a Mr Frederique Haley, was apparently very upset about a passing reference I had made as a metaphor regarding a famous bank robbery that had happened in the region some years ago.

He told me he his father had been killed as an innocent bystander in the following shoot out with police and that I was rather irresponsible for using the event to describe a showdown between local beat-box vocalists.

Now it might had been my ulcer talking, probably more likely the whisky, but I felt a deep sense of regret that I had offended Mr Haley. How it must of hurt him and brought back terrible memories to hear the night of his father’s death being compared to a group of young men in trousers several sizes too big imitate engine noises with their larynxes to impress a crowd of teenage girls. I wrote back immediately, apologising profusely for my carelessness.

The next day at work I read some critiques about the constipated French film I hadn’t watched and tried to impress my attractive colleague. She confessed to me that she had been given the film by some guy who wanted to sleep with her and hadn’t actually watched it, but thought that it would be something I would be ‘into’. She resumed her online conversation with a man who probably had a body that looked like it had just come out of an oven and I slipped away back to my desk.

My heart began to beat a little faster when I saw a reply from Frederique in my inbox. Perhaps he had not been sufficiently satisfied, offended even, by my apology. Maybe he intended to take the issue up with Editor. Christ I didn’t need that. I was on my last legs in this place as it was. I held my breath as I opened the mail and didn’t release it until I had read the reply through at least three times.

Apparently Frederique Haley hadn’t actually been offended by my article. Because, apparently, Frederique Haley didn’t exist. Rather than explain what sat before me I have decided to just reproduce it in full.

————————–

‘Look, I am sorry to have alarmed you yesterday.

I was not actually upset about the robbery thing.

I hadn’t even heard of it until I read your article.

I just wanted to write to you because I love your work, really.

I didn’t want you to think I am some kind of stupid groupie.

I am sure you have loads of those*

You are gonna think I am a total madwoman.

Sorry again.

Sofia

————————–

(*author’s note- I don’t)

I sat for a while trying to decide what I thought about this letter and whether or not I should write back. But fortunately my editor arrived at my desk and threw an article I had written, but he had not read, in my face and told me it was a piece of shit. I don’t think five minutes passed that whole day without me thinking about Sofia.

When  got home I ignored the dishes and the tropical fish (despite noticing that yet another one had been devoured whole) and went straight to my computer. I had read her email so many times at work that I knew it by heart. I spent at least an hour editing my reply, meticulously analysing every line, deleting it, then writing it again.

I laboured to make my response sound casual, I didn’t want to spoil her fantasy that there were hoards of other women hanging on my every written word. Keeping the reply brief, I ended with a question to her, something I was sure would provoke further discussion between us.

Before I went to bed I turned my attention to the fish, a murderer among them, the others dumb to tell me who it was I should remove from the tank to save their scales. I had my suspicions about the blue and yellow one. He had this look in his eye.

Over the coming days and weeks I wrote to Sofia every night, and every morning I would arrive at my desk to find her reply. I tried to keep up my facade but it didn’t last long. She told me about her life, her formally abusive father, now infirm, whom she was caring for. I told her of mine, the daily grind of finding meaningful observation in things I considered to be useless and insignificant.

A change was happening to me with her every word, my colleagues finding less reward in sniggering behind my back, my editor feeling less power with every insult he threw at me. I didn’t give a fuck about them anymore. I had something else.

The day we finally met I had woken up to find only two remaining fish in the tank. The blue and yellow one was gone. I actually felt guilty for suspecting him. All that remained was the fluffy tailed one and the one with a deformed left fin. I had never suspected either, one for its beauty, the other for its disability. But soon enough I would know.

‘Let’s meet. Outside the market. Tonight. 8pm.’

I think I might have actually laughed out loud at first. But as the day nudged forward I began to worry. There was a part of me that had hoped this dialogue would never lead anywhere, because leading somewhere would mean new opportunities that I might fuck up. And then what? Back to the way things were? That could never happen. I couldn’t stomach it. I shouldn’t have to.

On the way home I worried what she might think of me. She had an idea what I looked like from my profile in the paper. I didn’t look much better or worse than that. And she had even heard my voice on the radio that time. But what of her?

I stopped in street outside the graveyard a few blocks from my house and realised something. I didn’t care. She could be fat, bald, made of wax or have whiskers growing from her elbows. But I was in love with her. Yes. I was in love with her and nothing else in the world mattered.

In the flat I looked for a particular tie, then a particular shirt, trying things on then throwing them down. The clock was edging ever nearer to 8 and I stuffed all the discarded outfits in the closet and walked to the door in the clothes I had been wearing all day. I had one last look around the flat, checking for details in case I might bring Sofia back with me tonight. I barely noticed that the fish tank was empty.

On the way I had worried that I would be late and started to run. I didn’t even have her phone number. What if she thought I was not coming?

At the crossroads I could see the market. There was nobody there. I checked the time and found I was five minutes early. I stopped for a minute to catch my breath, sweating all over. She can’t see me like this, I thought, I need to calm down. I leaned against the wall of a bar and tried to steady my breathing.

‘Hey.’ came a voice from the open window of the bar. ‘I was early. Come in.’

I indicated to the waiter that I was meeting someone. My shirt was covered in sweat but it was dark inside, the only light from tiny candles on tables. I had regained my confidence by the time I got to the corner of the room by the window. I looked around and there was only one set of eyes staring at me.

For the minutes it took the barman to bring my drink I tried to steal glimpses of her. Was she really this beautiful? She was staring at me the entire time, I couldn’t bring myself to focus.

After a couple of gins everything was starting to come together. She was everything I could have ever imagined. I could finally put a voice and a face to those letters. This was romance. This was what Hollywood dreamed about. My heart felt like it was going to beat a hole in my chest.

We were both quite tipsy by the time the bill came. Her face went cold and sour.

‘I don’t want to go back tonight. I don’t want to go back ever.’ I began to mumble how she could stay with me, how I would look after her. But Sofia was shaking her head. ‘Let’s go to Europe. Let’s go. Tonight.’

I thought about this for less than a second. I could leave this place and all the things I hate with this girl tonight. We could get the 5am boat to Cyprus. I have money, I have been saving. A new beginning with a new mind and a new way of thinking and a beautiful girl who loved me.

She paid the bill and we walked to my bank so I could draw out all the money we needed to get us there, stuffing it in my pockets like bits of newspaper.

On the way back to my flat she stopped outside the graveyard where I had realized I loved her.

‘You never did ask who Frederique Haley was.’

She led me through the gates, past gravestones and statues of angels. At an enclosed tomb that had been eaten away by storms she stopped and kneeled down, brushing away the dust from a plaque I could not read in the darkness.

‘He was a writer, his work kept me going though all these years.’ She looked at me nervously and then produced a camera from her bag. ‘Could I, take a picture of you here?’

I struck a few different poses as she was backing away trying to get the right frame. She kept moving, further and further, a sad look appearing on her face. I was about to suggest that the picture would look better from a different angle when she started to run. And then I felt the shadows moving in the darkness.

As the blood streamed down my face, and the two men took all that was in my pockets, I saw fish around my head. Swimming and swimming.

Beirut Beat 2011

How to be a genius

Genius seems to often lead to strange behaviour. But can acting strangely make you a genius? Beirut Beat tries to find out.

‘Become a genius in 12 months!’ is the rather bold claim made by the people who run the site becomeagenius.net. According to their web page, if you order their genius training program ‘not only can you raise your I.Q. but you will also start having genius ideas and insights ‘. You may ‘uncover your inner genius, NO EFFORT REQUIRED’ by ordering a copy of their book, dubiously priced at ‘approximately £31.95’. I decided the real test of intelligence here was to navigate away from this page, as quickly as possible, and never return.

My interest in life’s great over-achievers came about after watching The Aviator, Martin Scorcese’s biopic about American industrialist and renaissance man Howard Hughes. Hughes, who became one of the richest men in the world after founding Trans World Airlines, was also, amongst other things, a record-breaking pilot who designed his own planes and an Oscar nominated film producer and director. He was also rather strange.

Howard Hughes. Well mental.

Suffering from a severe case of OCD, Hughes became increasingly reclusive, refusing to cut his hair or nails or pick up any object without a tissue to protect him from germs, later choosing to subsist exclusively on chocolate bars and milk and urinate in empty bottles. So how did such a crackpot manage to achieve so much? With a little research I quickly discovered that he was not alone. The Dutch post-impressionist Van Gogh chopped off his own ear, revolutionary electrical engineer Nikolai Tesla would only stay in hotel rooms which were divisible by the number 3 and Greek scientist and philosopher Empedocles jumped into Mount Etna to prove that he was immortal.

And then, like a falling apple, it hit me. If genius could cause weird behaviour, perhaps weird behaviour could lead to genius? The idea itself was so stupid that, by my own theory, I was one step closer to enlightenment already. The problem was, not only did I have limited resources, I had grown too attached to my ears to want to hack them off and I didn’t really feel up to plunging to a fiery death in an active volcano. Instead I chose to follow in the steps of 3 great men using only what was available between my bedroom and the local shops.

Tycho Brae. Liked the odd drink.

The Tycho Brae Method                                                                        During the late 1500s, Danish nobleman Tycho Brae debunked many theories surrounding astrological phenomena and eventually became Official Imperial Astronomer to Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph II. Mr Brae was also a raving alcoholic. In a drunken state in the late 1566, our hero challenged a fellow nobleman to a duel, in the dark, in which he lost his nose. He was also rumoured to employ a clairvoyant dwarf who wore a jester’s outfit, and to have owned a moose, which itself died after drunkenly falling down steps in his house.

To see if I could carry on Brae’s legacy, I armed myself with several bottles of wine and and a notepad and hit the night in search of new constellations. Strangely, I was so consumed by my work that evening, that I cannot remember a thing. When I woke up the next morning on the roadside, everything in my pockets, including the notepad full of precise astrological measurements I assume I had been making, had been stolen. The true results of this experiment may tragically never be known, but I do think I understand how that moose felt.

Yoshiro Nakamatsu. Japan's Edison. Apparently.

The Yoshiro Nakamatsu Method                                                                                  Dr Nakamatsu, the 82 year old Japanese inventor, claims to hold the world record for number of inventions, over 3000 to date (according to him). These include, most notably, the floppy disk, the digital watch, the DVD and the taxi cab meter. But he is not a raging booze hound like Uncle Tycho. Instead, Dr Nakamatsu gets his inspiration by holding his head underwater until he is nearly drowned. At the point of death, his mind fills with ideas, which he writes down on a special underwater notepad. An underwater notepad which he invented.

Not put off by the inconclusive results of my last experiment, I locked myself in the bathroom and began to fill the bathtub. Ignoring my flatmate banging on the bathroom door to use the toilet, I plunged my head underwater and waited for the genius to flow. And around 2 and a half minutes later it came to me. In a flash of siren song and brilliant colours I saw it, the most wonderful, beautiful and desirable invention that would change the world forever. But as I tried to scribble down the details, I realised that my notepad was not a special waterproof one like Dr Nakamatsu’s, and had been reduced to a soggy ball of nonsense. I now had just one more chance.

Spruce Goose. Build one in your bedroom.

The Howard Hughes Method.                                                                                               I felt it was necessary to plan ahead for this experiment and neglected to cut my nails for several weeks, eating  only Milka bars and peeing in the empty wine bottles leftover from the Tycho Brae experiment. I decided it might be a tad ambitious to design and build a real plane from my bedroom, so instead bought a child’s Air Fix model of The Spruce Goose (Hughes’ most famous aircraft) and decided to build it without looking at the instructions.

However, gluing tiny pieces of a plastic aircraft together with hideously long fingernails whilst holding tissues to protect from germs is harder than it sounds. I managed to stick both hands to the left wing of the  plane and a tissue to my face, causing me to tumble over into several jars of wee. But if I had learned anything from Howard Hughes, it was not to give up. And sure enough, 72 hours later it was finished. Most people have said it is possibly the worst model they have ever seen, but I never expected to be recognised in my own lifetime. Besides, the only real judge of our achievements is ourselves.

It shouldn’t take a genius to work that out.