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Alan and the Ultimate Secret

Teenage boys are simply hormones on legs and they think about sex approximately four times a minute. When they aren't thinking about sex, they are thinking about food. And when they are thinking about neither sex nor food, they are thinking about football. This leaves almost no time left over to think about school work.

One weekend Mr Stone, our history teacher, got married. Our first lesson at 9 o'clock on the following Monday morning, was history. Mr Stone strode into class, much as he usually did, and began to regale us with an interminable discussion about the Repeal of the Corn Laws. There is absolutely nothing titillating about the Repeal of the Corn Laws. Even teenage boys cannot find a double entendre in a discussion about the Repeal of the Corn Laws. There being no immediate possibility of sex, food or football, tedium descended upon us all in thick clouds. One adventurous youth, stimulated by boredom, decided that something had to be done.

"Did you have a good wedding sir?"

Mr Stone seemed somewhat taken aback at being interrupted in mid flow, but he rallied well. "Yes thank you Wilkinson. It was very nice."

"I bet you got really drunk on your stag night, didn't you sir?" continued my classmate. "Tell us how much you drank, sir?" We all sat up and began to take notice. This might be fun.

"I never touch it, Wilkinson." Mr Stone sounded quite indignant. "I never touch it at all."

"No sir," said Wilkinson in tones of wounded innocence. "I was talking about what you were doing on your stag night sir, not what you were doing on your wedding night."

There was a moment of shocked silence as we all replayed the conversation in our heads. Had he really said that? Yes, he really had. Gales of laughter swept across the room.

"Harrumph!," said Mr Stone, glowing somewhat pinker than usual. "Boy, you are a buffoon! Now, after the Corn Laws were repealed..."

Latin lessons offered even more opportunities for disruption. Double entendres were far too subtle for Latin lessons. In Latin lessons we got single entendres. We learned to count and the class had to chant in unison:

"Unus, duo, tres, quattuor, quinque, sex."

That was as far as we ever got. The forbidden word never failed to induce hysterical delight, much to the exasperation of the Latin master.

None of us, of course, were getting any. We were all mouth and trousers. It was an incredibly frustrating time.

Ever since the human race came into being in the depths of the primordial soup, men have been faced with a tremendously difficult problem - how on earth will they ever manage to get their end away? The average male is completely inept at this and as a result he spends most of his life bent double with sexual deprivation.

Rumour has it that back in the stone age, when life was much simpler than it is today, a caveman needing to get his leg over would simply club a passing female down, grab hold of her hair, and drag her off into his cave. I'm not sure that I believe this folk tale since I once saw a cartoon in Mad Magazine which revealed the genuine method.

The cartoon depicted a hairy cave man standing idly, just hanging out with his mates. Then a lady passed him by, and the caveman raised his arm high into the air, thereby exposing his shaggy, fragrant armpit to the world. The lady, struck directly in the nostrils, immediately fainted and was then dragged away to a conveniently located cave.

In my youth, I tried this technique - with a distinct lack of success. I can only assume that I didn't really wait long enough after my shower before exposing my armpit to my lady of choice. Perhaps I should have measured the interval between showers in months rather than mere weeks.

I was sure that university would offer more opportunity than school had done. Initial impressions were promising. Brian was in the shower one day (he was not an admirer of the caveman technique). He sang lustily as he soaped himself, for he had a very good singing voice and was extremely proud of it. His girl friend Laura arrived, heard the song coming from the shower, and immediately took off her clothes and joined him there. They sang a duet, her voice blending with his in perfect harmony. He got a lot of brownie points for that, though there seemed to be no immediately obvious way that anyone else could benefit from his technique. None of the rest of us could sing.

Ice skating seemed to offer a lot more promise.

John was an expert ice skater. He could glide backwards, just like real ice skaters do and he could twirl himself to a stop in a dramatically impressive shower of ice crystals as his skates dug deep into the rink. The ladies found this absolutely fascinating and he was constantly surrounded by admirers as he showed off on the ice. All we had to do, we reasoned, was to tie a rope around him and send him out on to the ice to perform. Every few minutes we could pull him back in, peel off the tottie and then send him out again. It seemed as though we might be able to guarantee ourselves an inexhaustible lifetime supply of tottie! What a cunning plan!

There is, however, a considerable difference between theory and practice and the cunning plan quickly developed a fatal flaw. John's complex skating patterns simply caused the rope to weave itself into complicated knots all over his body, whereupon he fell over, immobile and rigid. Oh the ignominy! His charisma disappeared and all the tottie vanished without trace.

Nowadays I work for a living and the caveman technique is frowned upon during office hours for it disturbs the people around me. Daily showers are de rigueur. I still can't sing and I do not know anybody who can skate. It would appear that I stand no chance at all of getting my ashes hauled.

However, quite by chance, I have discovered the holy grail, the secret of ultimate success, the keys to the gates of the universe, the knack. And I am going to share this secret with you all.

Just call me a saint.

It happened like this. I was working away from home. It had been a busy day and I went back to my hotel feeling quite tired. I was meeting some friends for dinner later that night and I knew that we would be going to a reasonably upmarket restaurant. I decided not to bother getting changed and kept my suit and tie on.

Sue and James came to pick me up and as we drove to the restaurant, James and I played our usual let's out-geek each other games while Sue looked on tolerantly. She knows that we are both still little boys at heart, though only one of us (me) wears long trousers.

"I'm loading Debian Linux on to a laptop computer," said James proudly. "I only need seven CDs."

"Aha!" I said delightedly. "I use Redhat Linux. Three CDs."

"Oh gloom!" declaimed James in tragic tones. "Yours is smaller than mine."

Size matters, don't let anybody tell you otherwise. And when you're a geek, small is extraordinarily beautiful.

I entered the restaurant in an extremely good mood, glowing with bonhomie, secure in the knowledge that everything of mine was the smallest of all.

It was a Thai restaurant with a menu crammed with exotic and unpronounceable delicacies. I ordered a conservative dish, a stir fry with ginger and spring onions. Sue ordered something which memory insists was called oom-pah oom-pah stick-it-up-your-joom-pah, but I'm sure that's not quite right. It was a fearsomely pink pork sausage with flakes of raw chilli sprinkled upon it and served on a bed of salad. Apparently the bits of sausage in between the chilli flakes were very tasty.

James ordered flaming chicken.

The waiter stalked across the restaurant to our table, plate held high. Upon the plate sat a whole roast chicken impaled upon a vicious spike through its bottom so that it sat up and begged (wouldn't you?). It was smothered in something flammable and as he walked towards us the waiter clicked a cigarette lighter close to the unfortunate bird. Flames sprang several feet into the air, almost removing the waiter's eyebrows. Fortunately he was prepared for this and had leaned backwards as he ignited the chicken. He placed it on our table with a dramatic flourish. It burned for about half a minute then the flames slowly died down. For the next minute or so it continued to burp and fart, and blue tinged flame spluttered from every orifice. Eventually it lay quiescent and James began to eat it.

"What's it like?" I asked.

He chewed thoughtfully for a moment. "Tastes like chicken," he said.

The meal was pleasant and so was the conversation. I managed to avoid spilling anything messy on my shirt, tie and trousers - a big plus. Soon no food remained. We collected our stuff together and went to pay the bill. As I walked past one of the other tables, a voice said,

"Ahhhh! What a wonderful tie!"

The tie that I was wearing that day is one of my favourites. It has a picture of a very large, very smug looking grey and white cat on it. Clutched in the cat's mouth is a freshly killed mouse (of the computer variety, you understand), with its cables dangling forlornly. The whole ensemble is unbearably cute, particularly for people who are owned by cats.

The voice belonged to a stunningly beautiful lady.

"Thank you," I said. "I'm glad you like it. I'm very fond of it."

"It's just gorgeous," she said, quite overcome. "My name's Julie." She looked at me expectantly.

"Hello Julie. I'm Alan." We shook hands. Her hand was cool and her nails were lovingly manicured and coated with clear polish. Reluctantly I returned her hand to her.

"I have to go," I said. "My friends are waiting."

"Aha!" said Sue as I rejoined her and James at the till, "you are wearing The Tie That Pulls." Sue is the only person I know who can pronounce capital letters.

"Indeed I am," I said. "It never fails. Whenever I wear this tie hordes of friendly ladies appear from nowhere and fall worshipfully at my feet. It's quite exhausting. I'm not as young as I used to be."

"It's a valuable tie," said Sue. "I know men who would give anything to own The Tie That Pulls. It is spoken of in legend and in myth. They say that it is woven from thread spun from the very fabric of the universe. Casanova wore that tie and so did Valentino. It is said that Kennedy had it briefly round his neck before Camelot crumbled into the dust at Dallas."

"You are right," I said. "It is written in the hidden books of lore that he who can extract the Tie That Pulls from the hidden Wardrobe of Desire will surely be laid, end to end. Many have tried. Few have succeeded. Dark were the paths I trod to retrieve this tie, and terrible were the sights I saw."

"Has it been worth it?" asked Sue.

"Oh yes," I said.

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