Saturday, September 10, 2011

Getting the hang of it again

Right then, let's see if I remember.

I take my right forefinger and dip it in that special green gloop distilled from various exotic herbs and leaves gathered by Mattress Madge....

... Ooo that rather tingles, I wonder what would happen if I ....

No! Concentrate Simon.

Right, take the forefinger and let it wander over this keyboard thingy. That's it, this feels like what I used to do.

Look! words are appearing on the screen. They seem to be appearing in some sort of order. It's as if I am speaking to the world and I can sit here and pretend they listen, nod sagely and then go out and do stuff that will lead to the overthrow of an oppressive regime.

My word. That is rather impressive.

I set out just to show a few people that I am still alive and it leads to an evil dictator fleeing his oppressed people's wrath to start peanut farming in a sub-Saharan African state.

OK, if the Nobel Peace Prize people are out there, if you drop me an email, I will tell you where to send the cheque.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am not dead.

I should point out to everyone that I am not dead. OK, so some parts of me don’t function as quickly as they did when I was younger, but all my bits are still in place and in working order (See Note 1).

However, I do realise that I haven’t posted much for a while. Poor Inspector Jones is still being perplexed by the odd and Archie McRamie is still missing. In fact, there has been very little movement or signs of activity anywhere on these pages.

The reason is that I have a new job in London. For you Merkins, London is the big city where the Queen lives. However, nobody there speaks like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins – unless they are an American who is trying to blend in with the crowd. (See Note 2).

So while, I’m at this, I should cover off a few other bases for our Merkin cousins. In my time in London, I haven’t seen a pearly king or pearly queen. There are not handcarts selling roasted chestnuts on every corner. Even though I work in the very heart of the city, I am not required by statute to wear a bowler hat (See Note 3). Chimney sweeps are noticeable by their absence and there hasn’t been a foggy day in old London town that I have noticed.

It is all a bit like believing what you see on Fox News or read in one of Murdoch’s Evil Empire newspapers. Part of you really wants to believe the myth you are presented with, but the reality is far more mundane, ordinary and less likely to put money in News International’s back pocket.

Anyway, I am continuing along my own sweet way. I will be posting the next part of “A Couple of Tenors Short” when I have finished doing some major edit work on the manuscript.

So until then, have fun everyone and.....

Note 1: All that is except for my appendix which is long gone. According to Wikipedia, this isn’t a great loss. Never being a member of the eats, shoots and leaves brigade, I have never really missed the thing.

Note 2: Speaking like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins while in London doesn’t help you blend in. In fact, if you dress up in a lime green, spandex body suit, wear fairy lights and talk to fellow passengers on the tube you will blend in better.

Note 3: I would caution anybody visiting London to avoid people wearing bowler hats. The only people I have seen wearing the things are invariably trying to part tourists from their Sterling.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

If You Ever Plan To Motor West

Here is Part 66 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”. 

I have mentioned this before, but from here on in reading the recap then jumping into the middle of the story will rather ruin it. The recap will now start to include some major spoilers on the plot which, up until now have just been hints and clues.

Also, I have to apologise in advance that the updates to the story will be limited to weekends for a while. I have just started a new job in London which looks like being long hours with the added inconvenience of the commute, so it is unlikely that I will be able to give you any updates during the week.

In my search for the oddest of news, I read that article and found myself frustrated. You would have thought that the journalist could have told us if the gambler behaved like this because he was winning!  

Another easy quiz question, so it is more about guessing the artist rather than the song as some may be surprised to find the answer is not what they expected.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.   

The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...

The wine waiter poured the wine into Jones’s glass. As he did so, Jones leant forward, his eyes transfixed. When the glass was a third full, the waiter filled the professor’s glass as Jones’s hand hovered near his own glass.

With both glasses charged, Jones carefully picked up his glass by the stem and swirled the hay coloured liquid before sniffing it extravagantly and letting out a long sigh. He brought the glass to his lips and tasted the wine noisily, moving it around his mouth his eyes closed before he swallowed and he let out a low moan.

“You approve?” The professor watched Jones intently.

“It is everything I expected it to be and more.” Jones grinned. “I’m afraid that a policeman’s wage doesn’t compare to a University Professor’s.”

“For the moment...” Professor Ibsen gave a weak laugh. “I am most fortunate to be blessed with a large expense account which isn’t subject to much scrutiny.”

“Back to the matter in hand!” Jones replaced his glass on the table reluctantly. “When did you last see Sergei Plutov?”

“About three, four months ago. A few days before the fire.”

“Fire?” Jones’s eyebrows shot up.

“Yes, there was a fire in Sergei’s lab, but I am getting ahead of myself.” The professor waved his hand gently.

Sergei had gone to work for Cauldron’s electronics firm at their main R&D centre in West London. He had been attached to the development of new neural interfaces for computer games consoles. For over a year everything seemed to be going really well. His research was well resourced and he felt he was making good progress. Indeed, Sergei had let slip that he had felt he was on the verge of a huge breakthrough.

The story was interrupted by the arrival of the main courses. The professor paused in his tale as the pair tasted their meals and discussed them before continuing.

The next time that Sergei had visited the professor, he was upset. He and all his equipment had been moved out of the main R&D building to a small anonymous unit South of the river. Sergei had met with Sir Terence Cauldron who didn’t seem to understand the results and progress. As a result, Sergei was convinced that his entire project was going to be cancelled just as he was achieving promising results.

A few days after that, there was a fire at his new lab. All his equipment computers and papers had been totally destroyed. At the time there were whispers that it was an insurance job, a way for Sir Terence to recoup some of the money spent on Sergei’s research, but nothing was ever proven.

The professor had tried to contact Sergei, but without success. Someone told him that Sergei had returned to Russia, but the professor knew that wasn’t true because he had seen Sergei’s name amongst competitors in various triathlons in the UK.

“I was devastated, Inspector. Truly devastated.” The professor shook his head slowly. “I tried again and again to contact him to tell him that his position at UCL was always open to his return, but he never answered my calls, emails or letters. In the end, I just gave up.”

“There was no contact at all?” Jones pressed.

“Absolutely none.” The professor shook his head again and took a large draught from his wine. “In hindsight, I should have tried harder. Maybe, if I had, poor Sergei would be alive today.”

“You can’t blame yourself.” Jones stated as he put down his knife and fork, moved his hands to his lap and clenched his fists under the table.

“I know.” The professor nodded and took a mouthful of his risotto. “It is kind of you to say that, but it doesn’t really make me feel any better.”

“It was his choice, but, no matter what, you always feel you could have done something more.” Jones nodded with total empathy.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Well Sweet Little Sista's High In Hell

Here is Part 65 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.  We are now at a point where two things happen.

Firstly, I need to point out that from here on in, reading the recap then jumping into the middle of the story will rather ruin it. The recap will now start to include some major spoilers on the plot which, up until now have just been hints and clues.

Secondly, I need to get some feedback on the next four parts. There are some explanations of sorts about what might be happening – or they could be major red herrings. I need to know if these parts sound plausible and that I haven’t opened up a major plot hole. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t give much away in my responses to your feedback – there are a few twists and turns in the plot to come!

In my search for the oddest of news, I read that article and found myself frustrated. You would have thought that the journalist could have told us if the gambler behaved like this because he was winning!  

After what was the easiest of quiz questions, today’s question must rank up amongst the hardest. You will probably need the answer.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.   

The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...

“He’s an odious man.” Professor Ibsen muttered as he speared a scallop with his fork. “I’d rather take a chair in an American backwater than live in a country with Terence Cauldron as Prime Minister.”

The scallop was lifted half-way to the professor’s mouth, where it paused.

“I didn’t mean for that to be said out loud. Sorry” The scallop found its way to the professor’s mouth where it was savoured. “That man is the reason we lost the unfortunate Sergei.”

“You think that Sir Terence was involved in his death?” Jones spluttered.

“Good Lord No! He has other methods to achieve his ends. I meant that we lost Sergei to academia.” The professor paused as he took another mouthful of his starter. “Now, the witch he has as head of research, I wouldn’t put anything past her, but Sir Terence is far more... subtle.”

“Who is his head of research?” Jones smiled and raised a friendly eyebrow.

Professor Ibsen didn’t answer.  His brow furrowed and he carefully replaced his cutlery onto his plate before gently massaging his temples with both forefingers. “I’m normally so good with names, yet hers alludes me. I cannot even bring a picture of her to my mind.”

“That’s OK. I’m sure it will come to you.” Jones said quietly. “Just tell me what happened.”

It hadn’t taken long for Professor Ibsen and Sergei to develop an excellent working relationship. The research was going well and Sergei was tutoring a number of undergraduates. After about 6 months, Sergei had come to see the professor to talk to him about a theory he was developing.

“It was farfetched and fanciful.” Professor Ibsen took a pause to allow himself to fully appreciate his last scallop.

“Totally wrong you mean.” Jones took a piece of the crusty bread and buttered it.

“It was a theory. The problem was that he had based it on scant observations and other theoretical work. He hadn’t considered how he could scientifically test it. The best science often starts with a seemingly farfetched theory. When they are tested and validated by scientific method, everyone tends to say ‘that is so obvious, why didn’t I think of that? ” 

The professor had discussed the theory with Sergei who was very keen to seek funding to pursue the idea further.  The professor had been against the idea, feeling that it was better that Sergei complete his PhD first. They had discussed it long into the night and Professor Ibsen had felt he had dissuaded Sergei.

Jones then questioned the professor on whether the discussion was in fact an argument, but Ibsen was adamant that it had been friendly and constructive.

The discussion between Jones and Ibsen was interrupted by a waiter in a pale yellow kimono clearing the plates. Professor Ibsen ordered ‘his special’ bottle of wine without checking with Jones before continuing with the story.

Somehow, Cauldron and his head of research got involved. About three months later, Sergei announced that he was going to take a sabbatical from his PhD and go and work for Cauldron’s electronics company to develop his theory and see if it had practical applications. The professor had tried desperately to dissuade him, but Sergei was adamant and had left UCL.

“So you did argue.” Jones stated flatly.

“Not at all.” Professor Ibsen replied calmly. “In fact, we stayed in touch. He would often come to speak to me about his research and we would discuss it - often over a long dinner in this very restaurant.”

The wine waiter, resplendent in a shimmering pale green kimono arrived with the wine. Ibsen tasted it and declared it excellent.

“Ah!” Ibsen placed his forefinger to his lips. “I forgot, you are on duty. I suppose you will not be taking wine.”

Jones inspected the label on the bottle of Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Brut de Cuve Number 3. His hand quivered for a moment, but stayed on his lap.

“Well, professor.” Jones smiled broadly than ran the tip of his tongue across his lips. “On this occasion, I am prepared to make an exception to the rule.”


Friday, August 27, 2010

When I Get Older, Losing My Hair.

Here is Part 64 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.  

I’m not really into the news today; I have other things on my mind. Instead I give you the oddest video. It is one of those videos that really needs the sound on and to be watched through to the end.

 Never being one to ignore the obvious, this is probably the easiest ever of my quiz questions. Despite that, I will still give you the answer.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.   

The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...

The restaurant was well lit and modern. The decor was all light woods and chrome with contemporary sculpture and lighting. The tables all laid with crisp white linen, silver cutlery and shining glassware. When Jones announced himself at reception, he was informed that Professor Ibsen had not yet arrived and he was shown up a spiral staircase to a small bar. Jones ordered tonic water, paid for it, filed the receipt in his wallet and went and sat down on a cream sofa next to the chrome railings of the balcony.

The dining area was busy. Most of the tables were occupied by city types, resplendent in designer waistcoats and cravats. A string quartet played sea shanties from a small stage in the far corner. Occasionally, diners would break from their meal and join in. At the end of each song, polite applause rippled around the room.

A polite cough caused Jones to turn around. A small man dressed in a crumpled white linen suit over a lurid purple and green Hawaiian shirt stood expectantly, clutching a red duffle bag tight to his chest.

“Professor Ibsen?” Jones asked politely as he stood and offered his hand.

“Yes, and you must be Inspector Jones” Professor Ibsen shook the hand warmly. “I’m so sorry to keep you waiting. Our table is ready.”

The professor led the way downstairs where they were met by a pretty young girl wearing a peasant dress and a white apron. She handed them a menu each and led them to a table where they were met by a waiter wearing a pale blue kimono. The waiter pulled out a chair for Jones who sat and watched the process repeated for the professor.

“Would you mind if we order before we have our chat?” The professor asked in his chocolaty baritone. “I hate to be a bore, but I’m afraid I am on a tight schedule.”

“Not at all, professor.” Jones picked up the menu and studied it closely.

“Thank you.” The professor paused. “Over the page there is a section for the less sophisticated palate.”

Jones flicked the page, saw that it consisted of various pies and battered fish and flicked it back quickly before continuing to study the main menu.

The waiter in the pale blue kimono returned and they ordered. The professor chose scallops and king prawn risotto, Jones a Thai fish soup with lemongrass and lime with sea bass to follow.

“You surprise me, Inspector.” The professor gave a broad smile. “You do realise that the Thai soup will contain a lot of spices and exotic herbs?”

“Hardly, exotic. A few onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilli, wine and fish stock mainly.” Jones did his best to return the smile. “Why does my choice surprise you?”

“I have been guilty of applying my stereotype of a policeman upon you.” The professor smiled again. “I hadn’t expected that a policeman would be aware of and educated in matters of the epicurean and the elite. All the policemen I have met have been part of the cakes and circuses brigade.”

“I guess I am an enigma. A privileged man who has never cared for Huxley.” Jones raised an eyebrow as under the table his fist clenched and unclenched.

“TouchĂ©, Inspector.” Professor Ibsen gave another smile as he leaned back in his chair. “However much I would enjoy arguing over merit of utopian visions...”

“Or dystopian.” Jones interrupted.

“Err, quite.” The professor scratched his chin and observed Jones. “I fear we need to focus on the purpose for our meeting, the unfortunate Sergei Plutov. What happened to the poor man?”

The explanation Jones gave was bald and non-committal. Professor Ibsen nodded the entire time it was being delivered.

“Given that you came to talk to me in person, can I take it you believe he was murdered?” The professor leaned forward and observed Jones closely.

“It is too early to take a view on that.” Jones stroked his moustache and straightened his cutlery. “At the moment, I am working on a theory that the death is connected to another case I am working on.”

“Hmmm...” The professor gave a low baritone rumble. “It is real shame. Sergei had such talent. As well as a physicist he was an international class tri-athlete. If he had been able to set his priorities correctly, he could have really been a name in astro-physics.”

As they waited for their starters, Jones carefully coaxed information about Sergei from Professor Ibsen. Sergei had been born and brought up in Moscow, by his well off parents. His father, who died in a skiing accident, was a prominent bio-chemist. His mother, a philosophy professor had recently retired. Sergei had a sister who had visited on a couple of occasions. The professor thought that she worked for an American bank in the Far East.

Sergei had attended the finest schools and had an exceptional record, attaining a top class degree from one of Russia’s finest University. When he applied to do a PhD at UCL he had been snapped up and granted a generous bursary. He didn’t socialise much outside of the athletics and swimming clubs, but his work was always of the highest calibre.

The starters arrived. Both men examined them closely. Jones wafted a hand over his dish to speed the scent of his soup to his nostrils.

As Jones reached for his spoon, he became aware that a man in a bright pink silk waistcoat had approached the table. The stranger was tall and of average build. His mop of sandy coloured hair flopped over one blue eye.

“Professor Ibsen!” The stranger extended a manicured hand bedecked in heavy gold jewellery towards the Professor. “I’m so glad I have run into you. We need to have a chat. ”

The professor stood and shook the hand warmly. “How nice to see you, again! May I introduce you to my dining companion? This is Inspector Jones. He is a policeman.”

The stranger’s smile evaporated. He glared at Jones, then flicked his head to temporarily remove the hair covering one eye.

“Inspector,” the professor turned to Jones who removed his napkin and stood. “May I introduce you to Sir Terence Cauldron.”

“Delighted to meet you, sir.” Jones smiled and offered his hand which Sir Terence reluctantly shook.

“I can see you are busy, professor.” Sir Terence quickly withdrew his hand. “I shall have one of my people phone you for an appointment.”

With that, Sir Terence turned on his heel and headed for the exit. As he left, Jones thought he caught an expletive escaping under Sir Terence’s breath.