Thursday, September 28, 2006

Harnessing the Lightening

From the golden age of railways.

The clock tower on top of St. Pancreas Station in London.

I went to London today. (Note 1)

The warning signs were there, good yeomen. I just chose to ignore them. I woke up feeling like an extra from ‘Sean and the Dead’. As a result, my ablutions took longer than normal and I was a few minutes later than hoped leaving the house.

Arriving at Peterborough Station, I found myself confronted with a dilemma. Should I break into a trot and catch the train waiting at the platform? Should I buy myself a coffee and catch a later train?

In a reality far, far away (which may or may not be affiliated to Network Rail), a red light flickered on a control panel. A young lad issues a mild expletive, throws his newspaper to one side and saunters across. He taps the offending red bulb. It flickers and then stays lit. An asthmatic alarm sounds. The young lad shrugs and returns to his paper.

The lure of the fast train (only two stops) proved too much. I promised myself a lesuirely designer Mocha when I arrived in London, and broke into the approximation of a trot. (Note 2)

The asthmatic alarm takes a couple of puffs from its inhaler and develops into an insistent whine. The young lad issues a stronger expletive and strides over to the control panel. He prods at the reset button with a grimy finger. Several more prods have no effect. He turns as if to walk away but swings round and prods the button again. The button has seen it all before and isn’t easily fooled. The young lad mutters under his breath and reaches for the red phone.

The train pulled into Huntingdon without incident. The train filled with commuters. We arrived at St Neots, more commuters piled in. I waited for the beeping and for the doors to close, yet nothing happened. Minutes dragged past. Before a “Bing Bong” imported direct from suburbia announced the driver was about to speak. (Note 3) The news wasn’t good. There was a power supply problem in the Alexander Palace area. The driver said he was sorry and promised us more information as soon as he had it.

The phone rang in the engineers rapid response room. In unison, five engineers rolled over grunted and resumed their slumber. The sixth engineer, the supervisor was busy arranging his ritual of the daily bowel movement and did not hear the phone over his own heavy breathing.

Our train was joined in St Neots station by one of the posher, GNER variety. Passengers tentatively stepped out onto the platform and mingled in a scene reminiscent of Christmas 1914 in no mans land. Cigarettes were smoked. Numerous cell phones appeared and diaries hastily re-arranged. Smartly dressed GNER hostesses were handing out complimentary coffee and pastries. Us poor First Capital Connect passengers looked on in envy

The supervisor returns to the rapid response room and the ringing phone. He observes his team in the slumber aims a kick at the nearest and answers the phone.

Some of the passengers started to drift away from the train. These were the hardened commuters. These were the veteran commuters the ones who had seen it all before. I could have saved it then. I could have learned from the veterans and headed back to car at Peterborough. But I didn’t. I clung to a forlorn hope that we would soon be moving…

With a flurry of kicks and blows, the supervisor rouses Network Rail’s finest. There is a rush for the toilets. Barely fifteen minutes after the call the team are assembled by their liveried vehicles. A mere ten minutes later, they find the keys.

A couple of the passengers on my train mingle with the GNER passengers and return with complimentary coffee and pastry. I struggle with my conscience. It would be wrong for me to filch the coffee reserved for the privileged. Yet my need for caffeine gnawed at my insides. The driver saved my soul. A cheery “Bing Bong” and the flat dry delivery that the train was about to moved had me returning to my seat empty handed. At least I could grin at the envious looks coming from the GNER train.

A cloud of diesel smoke rises over North London as the engineers head out to Alexander Palace. Pausing only to buy newspapers and to check the local cinema listings, they speed to the centre of the crisis.

Welcome to Sandy. Yes, but apart from the RSPB, what else is there?

The train sped through the countryside, only to come to a halt in Sandy Beds. On comes the driver. He has no news, but if he gets any, he promises it to share it with us. More passengers drift away.

Another contented commuter. I love this photograph. It captures the resignation to our plight.

The engineers arrive an argument ensues. After much finger pointing and accusing stares, the apprentice is dispatched to purchase bacon rolls. The engineers sit at the trackside and wait for him to return.

The announcer at Sandy must have been suffering from Laryngitis. There were announcements, but they came out as a barely audible whisper. The remaining passengers took turns at trying to decipher the news. In the end we exchanged travellers tales. The winner was an elderly lady who recounted that during a flurry of the wrong type of snow, the passengers had resorted to eating a ticket inspector to stay alive. As our Inspector was nowhere to be seen, I began to suspect that he had been kidnapped by GNER and was already being made into lunch.

The apprentice returns and is given a cuff around the ear for forgetting the brown sauce. After devouring the rolls the engineers inspect the wires, taking it in turns to scratch their heads and suck at hollow teeth.

Bring me your downtrodden commuters and I will show them despair.

Nearly an hour later, the GNER train thundered past. The mood on the train started to turn nasty.

Shortly afterwards we started to move. On came the driver. “Bing Bong” the train was now going to stop at all stations to Welwyn Garden City where it would terminate and the passengers would transfer to buses. At Stevenage, the passengers from the GNER train crammed into ours. The atmosphere was cosy.

The engineers have a plan. The apprentice is told to don rubber boots and handed a long metal pole. The supervisor sends him down the tracks to test the wires for tame lightening.

The transfer to buses worked really well for me. I had backed away from the ugly scrum forming around the line of old London double decker buses. I found myself standing by a young girl in a Network Rail uniform. It was her second week in the job. She had been at the front of the scrum and barely escaped with her life. Apparently, her bosses had all gone AWOL. The group of us taking refuge from the elbows and umbrellas sympathised. The girl smiled and directed us to a coach round the corner which departed with the minimum of fuss.

The engineers appear disappointed that the apprentice returns unharmed and go in a huddle. A book is fetched from the van.

There is a twist in the tail for us. The bus doesn’t head towards London. Instead it heads for St Albans. We pull up in front of the railways station of the ancient Roman town (or Chugemprium in Latin). We transfer to another train that lurches into London – some five hours after I set out! As I went onto the underground, they were announcing that no trains were leaving or entering Kings Cross.

The engineers puzzled over the book for hours. Eventually they ask a passer by who explains the strange wriggles on the paper. A glimmer of inspiration appears on the supervisors face and he pulls a fuse from the pocket of his overalls.

Thankfully, the fuse fixed the problem. All was back to normal for the homeward trip. It took barely an hour. All I can do is thank that first driver. Without him, I think I would have gone mad.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: To which, I believe, the standard response is “Well, someone had to.” Click to return

NOTE 2 : It wasn’t really a choice that made any difference. The solid yeoman, Murphy has a law for such occasions that means whatever choice I made would have been the wrong one. It was destined that the commute would cause time to trickle between my fingers like over ripe Camembert. Click to return

NOTE 3: A driver wasted driving trains. He had a laconic, deadpan delivery, a mastery of the words ‘If’ and ‘when’. If I was hyper critical, I would say he has been watching a little too much “Have I got News for You” – far to much use of the word allegedly. Still, he managed to capture the mood of gallows humour beginning to spread through the train. Click to return

NOTE 4: Beds is of course an abbreviation for Bedfordshire. It is just that my rather childish sense of humour always has me chuckling over “Sandy Beds”. Click to return

The apparatus that harnesses the lightening.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Leftover Weather

He’s got that glint in his eye again. Must reckon on an advertising deal with the RAC.

Just a little too much whistling.

It’s been a breezy kind of day today. (Note 1)

Here we are having to suffer the annoyance of second hand weather. Or, to be precise, second hand Merkin hurricanes. I really do wish that our Merkin cousins would be a little more careful with their weather rather than just letting it drift across the Atlantic.

The only good thing about it is that it is at least warm wind and rain. Only a couple more months and we start to get the colder, winter winds and rain. (Note 2)

There is nothing like a bit of Camembert. It really makes you appreciate a nice piece of cheddar.

I have to warn you all that my life still appears to have developed a hectic quality. Like I said yesterday, (Note 3) my time has been slipping through my fingers like over ripe Camembert. So it is that I really haven’t had time to do all of your fine blogs the justice they deserve and certainly haven’t had the time to leave you all a barbed or pithy comment. I’m sorry about all of that. Perhaps I should buy only Parmesan cheese for a while.

The rather transient nature of time in my reality at the moment has even meant that I haven’t had much chance to look at the news this week.

I did notice that Bill Clinton popped over to Manchester to address the Labour Party Conference. Perhaps I’m alone here, but the idea of an American politician praising a European country providing free healthcare and an interventionist welfare policy seems decidedly strange. American Presidents are not known for their commitment to the redistribution of wealth to the poor – quite the reverse. (Note 4)

Matt Dawson in his rugby playing days.

Oh, well, perhaps tomorrow will be better. Before I leave you, I need to stay in apologetic mood and say sorry to Matt Dawson. A week or so ago, I derided his appearance on Celebrity Masterchef. I was wrong on two counts. Firstly, the programme has actually grabbed my attention. Secondly, and probably most importantly, Matt has made it through to the final!

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: To which, I believe, the standard response is “Yes, you really need to cut down on the beans and parsnips.” Click to return

NOTE 2 : Yes, it’s just another excuse to depress you all further by piping up with that wonderful phrase “It’ll soon be Christmas.” This week saw the first leeching of my pocket book in that direction. I walked into an office to find that they were collecting for a Christmas Hamper for a charity raffle. I dodged, squirmed, dropped rooled and tried to crawl into a corner – all to no avail. Click to return

NOTE 3: You can never overuse a good metaphor. They are like dark chocolate in a fine pudding. You can never have enough. Click to return

NOTE 4: Plus, I do wonder what Tony Blair made of it. In his speech yesterday he made light of the spat between his wife and Gordon Brown by saying that he didn’t have to worry about her running off with the man next door. With Bill Clinton in town, he like many others must be more worried. Click to return

What we really need are politicians like they had in Trumpton. The clock ran on time and the public services ran like clockwork too.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Picking Up the Threads

It really is so good to see you again.

Have you been plucking your eyebrows again?

Well, good Yeomen, have you missed me? (Note 1)

My time has been slipping through my fingers like over ripe Camembert. As much as I would love to blame the mystical invisible dwarves, I’m afraid it is more to do with one of those milestones in life.

Alex could have made the effort to look a little sad to be leaving.

I have spent the last week or so preparing for the departure of my son to University. His meagre possessions were somehow stuffed into the car and the last valuable advice dispensed. (Note 2) Not that I believe he will take a blind bit of notice. When you are young the only way a lesson is learned is through a mistake – besides, the mistakes are so much fun to make.

Early on Saturday the rite of passage began and we took Alex to Swansea to begin a new phase in his life (Please take a moment to pause and give a heartfelt sigh at this point).

The rooftops of downtown Swansea – just feel that pulse.

After what seemed like many days travelling by packhorse and mule, we arrived at Swansea. After several more days exploring the backstreets of Swansea, I admitted defeat and asked directions. (Note 3)

Returning the next morning to take Alex to the supermarket. It was a real surprise to find him peering out of the kitchen window. Suddenly, there was this lovely warm feeling that my little boy was indeed a man. As If… He had gone to take a shower and managed to lock himself out of his room wearing just his robe. A fine start to life as a grown up.

The expedition took me along the M4. In fact it took me on one of the strangest stretches of motorway on the entire British road system. One dark night, the good citizens of Port Talbot adopted the M4 as their unofficial High Street. Where most towns and cities have proper junctions, Port Talbot has side streets off the motorway. As you drive through, you half expect to find traffic lights! (Note 4)

Well, that’s about it for now, my fair yeomen. I’m breaking myself back in gently. Besides, I’ve got to talk to the Estate Agent. I’ve got to move fast if I’m going to move house before the end of term.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: To which I believe the standard response is “Yes, but if you let me reload I will have another go”. Click to return

NOTE 2 : Such gems of wisdom as ‘Always ask the ingredients if a drink arrives with an umbrella’; ‘If something appears too good to be true it probably is’; ‘A mans worth is never measured by the quantity of alcohol he can consume’ and ‘Percy must never come out to play without his overcoat”. Click to return

NOTE 3: I wasn’t really lost. I knew exactly where I was. It was just that every junction in Swansea is ‘No Right Turn’. I must thank the very nice policeman who gave us impeccable directions with a wonderful accent. I half expected him to break into song.Click to return

NOTE 4: The people who run the speed cameras don’t miss a trick either. Knowing that the natural instinct when faced with Port Talbot is to develop a very heavy right foot, they’ve installed speed cameras on that stretch of the motorway. Who says that the cameras aren’t an unofficial tax? Click to return

The M4 passing through Port Talbot. You can never pass through Port Talbot fast enough.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Imbibing the Spirit

The good old fashioned dog collar. My dad once told me that vicars fashioned their own from old washing up liquid bottles.

The will of God is to burn all your ties.

There has been a post that I have been struggling to write. Every attempt has somehow just not hit the mark or appears a little too… well… intolerant.

This entry has occupied nearly all of my blogging since the story broke. I hope that shows the struggle I have been through with this and explains why, even though I have some reservations, I post it. Please, should you feel the need to copy this or email it – let me know first. My reservations are very real.

In the end I realised that this is an occasion to dig out the dried frog pills and escape into an alternate reality. It doesn’t give any answers and it doesn’t make the problem go away, but it certainly allows the frustration to have a voice.

Every Tuesday evening, the snug bar of the ‘Rat and Ferret’ is turned over to the Reverend Toby Jobson-Hoise for his bible study class.

Most of the regular snug bar users have either set aside Tuesdays as their detox day or have taken to using the lounge bar. This has caused a few tensions. The snug bar regulars don’t appreciate spectators for their high stakes dominoes games and grumble constantly about their regular haunt being taken over by what they describe as “charm mumblers ”.

Some of the lounge bar regulars complain about the constant clicking of ivory and the scent of horse liniment. Everyone complains about the landlord, Sid, constantly griping about the fact that the bible study group managing to make a small sherry last all evening. Generally though, we all get along fine and the ambience of the pub is maintained.

The rather charismatic Reverend Toby is not yet thirty he has managed to pick up a doctorate in philosophy, take up holy orders in the Church of England and gather a rather enthusiastic band of students. Mind you, I must have missed Sunday School the days they discussed some of his interpretations of the book of modern prayer.

Every Tuesday, a little routine plays out. Sid’s grumbling builds to a crescendo and he suddenly throws his grubby tea towel over his shoulder and marches into snug intent on cancelling Reverend Toby’s booking. The lounge falls silent and the sound of an irate Sid drifts into the room. The Reverend Toby has such charisma, that Sid soon re-appears looking all sheepish and saying that the “charm mumblers” are not such a bad bunch.

Exactly what happens during those Tuesday evening confrontations isn’t known. Some say that money changes hands. Those who haven’t known Sid long say that the Reverend Toby appeals to his better nature. The favoured theory is that the Reverend Toby has made some promise of long term rewards.

I find the way that rather slight man armed with a dog collar can somehow get Sid, an ex-royal marine, to slink off to behind the safety of his own bar rather disturbing. When a couple of hairy bikers started to get rather physical over whether “Trumpton” or “Magic Roundabout” was the best, Sid vaulted the bar, grabbed both by the scruff of their necks and had them deposited in the gutter faster than you can say “Time for Bed” (or, to avoid favouritism in the Great Childrens TV debate, “Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub!”).

Yet Sid is insistent. The regulars must not upset the Reverend Toby.

He’s even set up his own unofficial mediation service. Whenever one of the regulars has a complaint, Mattress Madge takes them to one side and writes it all down and slips it inside the Reverend Toby’s engraved sherry glass.

I’m not at all sure that any the Reverend Toby is entering into the spirit of this co-operation.

A week or so ago, Pastor Gregor McCafferty was invited to address the Rotary Club to discuss temperance. He was the obvious choice, after all as well as being the local Methodist minister; he also runs the district temperance speakeasy (73 varieties of tea – no questions asked).

In the course of his speech, Gregor quoted a Victorian Bishop who suggested that vicars who allowed alcohol to pass their lips could not be trusted.

Reverend Toby and his bible group threw their toys out of the pram. It wasn’t exactly a riot, but they did burn Gregor in effigy.

The bible study class demanded that Gregor issue an apology – which he duly did. Yet still they are sulking around the pub telling anyone who will listens that everybody hates them, that the world is out to get them and that they are going to eat worms.

You can’t help thinking that the reaction of Reverend Toby and his spotty face friends isn’t likely to do their image any good. The snug bar regulars are snickering up their sleeves at their apparent inability to engage in civilised debate.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Holy Screeching Scratchings, Batman!

Grumpier than thou.

I resisted the temptation to include a picture of Sylvester Stallone.

Sturdy Yeomen, for some reason, it has been a while since I gave you a series of synaptic tangents to connect someone of something to the delightful porcine world. I would remind patrons of this blog that no camera trickery is used during this performance and that the use of flash photography is strictly prohibited

Today, I take as my starting point as Oliver Burgess Meredith . Born in Cleveland Ohio, Burgess Meredith will always have a place in my heart as a Grumpier Old Man. This more than offsets his complicity in the Rocky series. (Note 1)

Probably the best comedy villain EVAR. Superheroes hated it when people captured them with their tights going baggy at the knees.

Given the title of this entry, our first synaptic leap took us to the Batman TV series of the 1960s. (Note 2) Burgess, having had his legitimate career cut short by appearing on the Hollywood Blacklist (And please note that I didn’t attempt to draw parallels between McCarthyism and the current “War on Terror” – that would have been too easy), was forced into organised crime in Gotham City. As “The Penguin” he somehow managed to strike terror into the hearts of every man not wearing tights.

Gotham City wasn’t short of villains. In a master stroke of governmental planning, the US had all the super villains (well those they could identify anyway) shipped off to Gotham City. They were probably encouraged to stay there by the promise of inept policemen and the regular display of a priceless antiquity or jewel collection to the museum (with an additional promise that the museum would keeps its outmoded security systems).

The first and probably the best remembered Catwoman - - Julie Newmar.

The next connection takes us to Catwoman, a fellow Batman villain – well in the TV series at least. In the other parts of the Batman franchise, Catwoman took on the role of anti-hero. (Note 3) Poor old Catwoman must have been one very confused pussy.

In each of the synaptic tangents, there has to be one that is incredibly obscure. The next link is at best obscure, though some will say I’m clutching at straws. In the animated Batman series, Catwoman had a black cat called Isis. (Note 4)

Which brings us to the amazing porcine slice of trivia. According to one web site, the pig was sacred to Isis.

OK, so it is one website and it is buried halfway down, but hey. It allowed me to have a wallow in nostalgia with the Batman theme tune running through my head.

Well, all is left is to point you to a piece of self-publicising drivel from John O'Farrell. I don’t know why, but it really annoyed me.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: One of the great things about these synaptic tangents is that you learn some odd snippets along the way. In this case that Burgess Meredith found his way to the Hollywood Blacklist after falling foul of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. For some this won’t come as too much of a surprise after learning he came from the weird part of Ohio. He was in good company on that blacklist. Others included were Dorothy Parker; Larry Addler; Leonard Bernstein; Lee J. Cobb; Orson Welles and Arthur Miller. Click to return

NOTE 2 : At the risk of ridicule and being in the minority of one, I will admit that this is my favourite of all of the various outings of the Batman Franchise. Sitting firmly in the “so bad that it is good” school of TV drama, I used to watch the Swiss cheese plots unfold in formulaic style and thoroughly enjoy the climax. There is something about choreographed fight scenes, the way that the various brass instruments replaced the sound of flesh pummelling flesh and the way the words “POW”, “BAM” and “OOPS” that really added to the excitement. Click to return

NOTE 3: The more cynical amongst my good yeomen may think that Catwoman is dragged out as an excuse to have pictures of a sexy girl dressed in a figure clinging body suit and a kinky mask. With the idea being that it would sell more magazines / grab more viewers / fill up cinemas. As the latest Catwoman film showed, even Halle Berry in a figure hugging suit cannot save a film from being a turkey.. Click to return

NOTE 4: Of course, I could take a more obvious step and point to the fact that Catwoman is a character from aDC Comic . Isis was also a character in eight comic books titled “The Mighty Isis”. Trouble is, that is such a boring link. Click to return

The Goddess Isis. Likes her pigs does our Isis.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Where did that go?

It takes a really incompetent gardener to kill a cactus. It may recover – if I stay away from it.

That is one poorly cactus.

It was a big mistake for me to tell you the secrets of multiple realities and time. Ever since I did that, I have found that the mystical invisible dwarves have been tampering with my reality clock and keeping me from my blogging duties. They thwarted my best intentions to catch up today. Every little job seems to be taking twice as long as usual.

So, patient yeomen, please bear with me. I will be trying to catch up with all of your blogs, comments and emails this weekend.

My only consolation is that every mystical imaginary dwarf has a lady mystical imaginary dwarf waiting at home with a very real rolling pin.

It hasn’t helped that we had to bail out Evar from the custody of the Chief Inspector. It was all very embarrassing. To thank everyone for their support over the incident at the Finches show, Evar decided to throw a big dinner party. The guest of honour being the good Chief Inspector McCrindle Barleymow Honeydew-Fforbes.

Evar was back on top form – even after being turned down for Celebrity Masterchef for being too well known. (Note 1) There was a steely determination that he was going to prove to the world he was a master cook.

The menu was a masterpiece of Eastern European cooking. His cabbage canapés were out of this world. The beetroot and cabbage soup made us swoon. The fish in salt pastry danced the rumba on your taste buds. The grand finale was a delicious chocolate cake in the shape of a pair of Darwin Finches. (Note 2)

The thing about the Chief Inspector is that he doesn’t consider himself every to be off duty. He lives in dread of ever being accused of corruption. We didn’t realise that he was wearing a wire. Over coffee, when Evar was a little evasive about where he got the fish, the Chief Inspector suddenly cried out “Knock, Knock, Knock”. Mattress Madge thought we were about to play part games, but suddenly the dining room filled with police and gamekeepers. (Note 3)

When you live in the country, you always have a problem with poachers.

It was all a misunderstanding. The Chief Inspector has been subjected fierce lobbying by fishermen. Apparently, people have been going fishing and then eating the fish. (Note 4) Poor Evar hadn’t been poaching. He just didn’t want us to know that he’d bought a Marks and Spencer ready meal.

Mind you, things look bleak for Chief Inspector McCrindle Barleymow Honeydew-Fforbes. He is being threatened with a transfer to Slough.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Yes, the cult of celebrity strikes again. The BBC in their infinite wisdom have decided to wheel out a selection of the reliable ‘C’ List to see if they can cook. I’m beginning to think that some of these celebrities are only celebrities because they appear on celebrity reality shows. Matt Dawson, who was part of the England Team that won the Rugby World Cup, seems to pop up on all of the shows. After his exploits in the kitchen, he will be seen strutting his stuff on Strictly Come Dancing. A case of from hero to plonker if you ask me. Click to return

NOTE 2 : It all added to the cosy atmosphere of the occasion. Well, cabbages tend to have a strange effect on my digestion. Click to return

NOTE 3: There is no way that I would ever get involved in parlour games with Mattress Madge. Last time I ended up with a black eye and concussion. Click to return

NOTE 4: Just why anyone would sit on a cold, damp river bank dangling a bit of string in the water for hours just to throw their catch back is beyond me. The whole idea of fishing was to gather food. If the fish know they are just going to be thrown back, it isn’t so much bait on the hook, but a free meal. Click to return

The cop of the 23rd Century will be genetically modified and selected on the size of their hands and feet.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Curse of the Monkey's Paw.

Yesh Shir, I shall take her to ze labowatowy.

To the Laboratory!.

Oh, I’m a very grumpy old Hector tonight. I’ve been tagged again. Perhaps my good yeomen don’t know what happened to the last person who crept up behind me and shouted “TAG”, but suffice to say that it took weeks to get the blood out of the llamas..

Well, obviously NikkiD either knows no fear or has had her house protected against killer fluffy bunnies. Apparently, I must now spill the beans about six things that are weird about me. I must be weakened by my visit to the dentist, because I’ve actually found myself considering the idea. (Note 1)

As a person so thoroughly grounded in reality and conforming to all the expectations of that reality - this is a little difficult. Quite simply, fair yeomen, nothing about me can be considered in the slightest bit weird. That is how thoroughly I conform to the expectations of reality.

The trouble with alternative realities is that some are more alternative than others (Sorry to confuse my Merkin Yeomen with this image).

The problem is that there is no one, single definitive version of reality. Everyone has their own. This gives us billions of different versions of reality; some being more radical than others. (Note 2)

For the more sceptical yeomen amongst you, I give you proof. Whenever there is a crime with many witnesses, the police find that all of the witness statements and descriptions of the suspect vary. That doesn’t mean that all the witnesses are wrong. It is just that in every person’s particular reality, things happened slightly differently.

The same can be said for time. Mechanical devices like the Atomic Clock allow us to measure time incredibly accurately. Physicists tell us that ‘time’ is a constant. (Note 3) Of course, this is a blatant over simplification. Time is a mechanical constant, but every reality has the ability to warp time (hence Warp Drive in Start Trek).

Now I sense a tidal wave of scepticism sweeping down the information superhighway. You require some proof. Well, when I worked shifts, all shifts were the same length in mechanical time. (Note 4) Yet a Night Shift was always longer than a day shift.

Further proof, if any is needed is that time varies according to the reality you inhabit is that some people always seem to have more time than others. I’m sure you have met them. They are the ones who hold down a full time job, are on the PTA, organise the soup kitchen for the local down and outs, bake their own bread daily, play lacrosse every Sunday after Church and still have time for an affair with the gardener. Yet there are others who most days struggle to find the time to change out of their flannelette nightie. Mechanical time is the same for both, only it is warped differently in the differing realities.

None of this will please the scientists. The rules of physics would be thrown into disarray if they were forced to treat time as a variable. It would be a bit like discovering that Albert Einstein used to live and work in a beach hut in Norfolk. (Note 5)

As a young child, I spent many happy hours burying taggers in the sand. Sadly, the beach we roamed is now home to a gas terminal rather than a Nobel prize winner.

That’s the trouble with science. Everything has to be totally objective and described by mathematics. Even chaos has to have its own Theory. (Note 6).

Not that any of it actually helps much. With me so firmly set in my personal reality, I’m rather stuck. There is absolutely nothing about me that is slightly strange let alone weird. It looks like this particular tag has well and truly floundered. Sorry Nikki. You’ll have to look elsewhere for a victim.

While you do that I am going to dream up a few things that should happen to taggers. They should be forced to go out in public wearing Bernard Manning’s underpants. They should be served with cold sprouts as every meal. A kipper should be hung under their nose. Their car should be re-upholstered in pink faux fur. No! No! I’ve got it! They should be forced to live in Wales.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I’m not at all good with dentists. Not that this is any way weird, you understand. A lot of people have problems with dentists. It is just that I cannot stand metal against my teeth. It is worse than nails on a blackboard or watching Keith Chegwin. Given that the mirror is metal and the dentist and hygienist insist in poking things into my mouth, I find the visit no picnic. I have the unfortunate tendency to forget to breathe while trying to rip the arms off the chair. Click to return

NOTE 2 : The longest essay I ever wrote was when I was studying Geography at ‘A’ Level. We had been asked to write an overview of a West African country of our own choosing. I think I knocked up something on Sierra Leone. However, that wasn’t the essay that I spent longest on. On of my fellow students held rather extreme, right wing views of the world. So, a group of us decided to satirise them by making up a country that suited his rather warped view of the world. We really went to town. When the papers were handed in, his was removed and the satire substituted. He got an ‘A’ and the teacher circulated the paper widely around the staff room. I never had a lot of success with geography. I once did a whole essay on soil erosion where I spelt ’soil’ as ’siol’. I got a ‘D’. My girlfriend copied the essay the following year, correcting the spelling and using a few coloured pencils. She got a ‘B+’. Click to return

NOTE 3: I absolutely hate rushing anywhere. I would much rather leave ridiculously early than end up having to rush anywhere. It doesn’t help that in my particular reality, arriving late for an appointment is the absolute height of bad manners and punishable by a long weekend in Port Talbot (Which proves my theories on time being variable. Time moves at glacial speed in Port Talbot). Come to think of it, anyone who sends me a Tag should be punishable by spending January in Port Talbot. Click to return

NOTE 4: I really did used to work in an abattoir. My job as a computer operator used to involve the delivery of ‘recipe cards’ to the abattoir and to the actual factory. The place has long gone of course, they turned it into a park. The legacy of that time lingers on. I don’t eat sausages or pork pies – but I still have a taste for GOOD Black Pudding. I’m not sure this counts as astoundingly new information as I wrote a blog entry about it called “Everything but the Squeal”.

However, I didn’t mention the perils of wearing the wrong hat. All the hats had a coloured band around the rim. Before you were allowed to enter the factory, you had to pick the appropriate coloured hat to cover your hair. Computer people were allocated yellow. Strangely, on Night Shift near the offal lines, only the red rimmed hats of quality control were ever available. You see, all of the factory staff were paid according to production and hated Quality Control as a condemned batch would have a serious impact on their pay packet. So in order to keep them out, they would bombard anyone in a red rimmed hat with bits of offal. Quality Control weren’t daft, they simply wore our hats. So you could always tell a computer operator who had visited that line. They were the ones picking out bits of pig innards from their under garments. Click to return

NOTE 5: Just how anyone could live and work in a beach hut is totally beyond me. Everyone knows that when you are on a beach, you are supposed to grab your bright red spade and start digging in the sand. You keep digging until you hit water. This is a universal beach activity enjoyed by all regardless of age. Or is it just me that once they get on a beach has an irresistible urge to start digging? Click to return

NOTE 6: Now I have to admit that I like numbers. In the mind numbing environment of the supermarket, I will amuse myself by adding up the bill in my head (Or, if I’m not the one throwing stuff in the trolley, trying to work out the menus contained in other people baskets. Some people eat some weird stuff). Mind you, I take this a little too far. All too often, I’ll recognise a face and remember the telephone number that gives with the face – but sadly, not the persons name. Click to return

In my reality, you have to prove you have watched the entire run of Terry and June before you are allowed to tag me.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Shaking the Hand of Rory Liffey

Probably the most appropriate picture I’ve ever used.

Tidying up the week.

Forgive me yeomen, for I have failed. Yesterday my son shook the hand of Rory Liffey.

I’m not going to explain that for the moment. There is a risk that you might think that I am going back on my comment in Sean’s Blog. Although, I must admit, I’m close to it, but this entry is more of a confessional. A chance to pick up on a few loose threads and pull at them to see what unravels. (Note 1)

Last Sunday, a story broke that shows us what makes this country truly great and puts pay to all of the grand conspiracy theorists views on Britain. The BBC had already run a story about how councils used microchips in Wheelie Bins to weigh how much rubbish people throw out rather than re-cycle. A good idea. The more people re-cycle the better it is for our planet.

Landfill sites are not pretty. If we are serious about saving the planet for future generations, recycling is the only answer.

Last Sunday, the “Mail on Sunday” ran the story under a headline suggesting that we were being bugged in the style of the East German Stasi. In my attempt to stop myself going of on a rant and my blood pressure going through the roof. I’m going to aim for the silver lining here.

Two things make nonsense of the “Mail on Sunday” headline. Freedoms in the UK are alive and well. The first demonstration is that the story was printed at all. The second was that the evil plot was uncovered at a Rotary Club dinner when a council employee took a little to much of the falling down water. (Note 2)

Helen Mirren in 1973. Helen Mirren today. I promise you this has nothing to do with the cult of celebrity.

For those of you thinking of popping down to the local Odeon this week, may I issue you with a warning?

It seems that Helen Mirren has got a new film out, The Queen. I’m afraid this caused me to reach for the dried frog pills. I’m not saying this is a bad film. From the clips I have seen, Helen Mirren seems to capture the mannerisms and attitude of HM Queen Liz perfectly. It’s just that Helen Mirren has got a bit of a reputation for getting her kit off on celluloid. (Note 3)

Call me a touch sensitive, but I find the idea of seeing Helen Mirren as Liz preparing for a touch of bedroom gymnastics with Phil the Greek is something that should carry a health warning – despite Helen still being in good shape for an OAP.

Being a good parent, I would make sure that both my children are warned about the film. Not that it is a film that I would think is to their tastes.

Well, perhaps I’m not such a good parent. Sure, I think they listen and make sure that Percy doesn’t come out to play without an overcoat, but I think I may have failed somewhere along the way with my son.

Yesterday morning, despite my best efforts to persuade him otherwise, he popped a few things into a red handkerchief knotted to a pole and headed off to London to play poker.

He arrived back at ten o’clock this morning.

I hope that means he is good at poker. Somehow though, I can’t help but worry when he tells me that he got to shake the hand of Rory Liffey (No, he isn’t a porn star). Rory Liffey is a professional poker player. Now is there anyone out there who can comfort me that this is somehow better than if he spent the night with a porn star? (Note 4)

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Which may well be my sanity. Still, I’ve stocked up on the dried frog pills and Mattress Madge has leant me an ex-demonstration model divan, so I might catch up on my sleep and be a touch less cranky. I had a little test drive of the divan this afternoon, surprisingly comfortable if you don’t plug it in. Click to return

NOTE 2 : In one of those strange links of fate, I notice that the Rotary Club achieved some controversy in the way it dealt with the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s. There is probably a lot of extra reading to be done here if I had the energy. Click to return

NOTE 3: As a teenager returning from the pub on a Friday night, one of the first things I’d check was the TV listings for the late night film on BBC2. If it was French or starred Helen Mirren, then I’d stay up for the pink wobbly bits. If not, I’d go to bed. Click to return

NOTE 4: He also played with a Chinese professional poker player. He couldn’t tell me his name, but was sure that he was famous because his picture was on the front of a magazine at the cashiers office. Now I’m convinced that HE must have been a porn star. Click to return

OK so he may not have been a porn star, but my son ain’t no grasshopper either!.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

New Toys

The new camera has been purchased. My daughter also got a new camera – the posh SLR on the left.

The secret is revealed.

Today, patient yeomen, you suffer. Anything can happen in the next half hour!

You may have gathered from the opening photograph, I have received a new toy. (Note 1) .The new toy in question being a Canon Powershot A620. Having overcome at the guilt at the small wood that died in order that it could be packed up and set to me. I now sit poised to enter the world that is the photblogger!

Then of course, you open the instructions for the first time. Now you hear a lot about how everyone thinks it is a jolly good idea that us older folk embrace new technology. You must admit, it is a good idea and the fact that (eventually) I took the plunge and bought the camera shows that I’m willing. Yet the people, who sell all this new technology, obviously haven’t caught on. The instructions are in such small print that you need the eyesight of a sniper to read them! Come on play fair! If you want your share of the grey pound in return for us jumping on the technology bandwagon at least allow us to read the instructions.

That’s the thing with a new camera – you take pictures of anything.

Having mastered the instructions, powered the thing up and entered the date I’m ready to go! (Note 2) I’ve just taken my first picture! Now, a little later on it will appear just above this paragraph. It is the satellite TV remote control (I thought it safer to tell you. At this stage in my journey, I’m not sure how it will turn out – or if it will turn out at all)

The actual taking of photographs is really very easy. You select shooting mode on dial (1) to ‘AUTO’ set the mode switch to a picture of a camera (Ah, slight snag, they didn’t number the mode switch on the picture, but I found it anyway). Press the little button halfway, wait for the camera to focus and then press the rest of the way. It even generates an electronic sound of a shutter opening so that old duffers like me feel that there are moving parts involved and are somehow comforted.

Now I shall attempt to get the photographs onto my computer without the aid of a safety net.

Loading the software on the computer was easy – apart from working out how to get the CD out of the plastic wrapper. Still, if I can’t load software by now it is time for me to start having meals served direct from the blender.

The full sized plastic cow has vanished from the pub garden. This three foot high plastic donkey remains.

Uploading the pictures to the computer was easy too. I connected the camera, up popped a little window and I followed instructions. *POOF* my first set of pictures were on my hard drive. (Note 3)

So, buoyed up with my success I opened an Flickr account and started uploading some pictures. It was very slow, but very easy to get started. I managed to upload the photos, so this blog entry will have pictures after all. (Note 3)

The Scary Chef has to be among the early images captured by my new toy.

I even had a go at editing the photographs to see if I could improve some of them. I shall leave you to decide how successful I’ve been.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: The sad truth is that at the time I write these words, no photograph exists. Yet I am sure that I will master the technology. Given my experiences with new technology, I fully intend that this blog will provide a step by step guide of my short journey to becoming a master of digital photography.. Click to return

NOTE 2 : There’s another thing! Why is it that all electrical equipment needs you to set the date and time – then insists that you eneter the date in American mm/dd/yyyy format? It’s clearly illogical to put the month before the day and the year. However you present it the month is in the MIDDLE. How on earth did the US get to be a superpower if they can’t even write today’s date properly? *cough* OK, calm down Simon, concentrate on the task in hand. Click to return

NOTE 3: The puppet show will have to introduce a Social Worker who will appear in the first scene and whisk Mr Punch away for treatment in a gleaming hospital. He’ll return a new man and spend the rest of the show picking out new soft furnishings with Judy. The kids will be riveted. Click to return

NOTE 4: One thing that did surprise me was that Flickr sets such low monthly download limits. I must remember to save some of my allowance for pictures of the pancakes - when they arrive. Click to return

The pub garden has a plastic barnyard theme. Just watch where you put your feet.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is that a dagger I see before me?

OK, so succession isn’t decided by REAL daggers any more.

A drama that has kept me away from my blog.

First up, my fair yeomen, I need to correct an oversight. I failed to give Mattius the appropriate credit for discovering the recipe for Dried Frog Pills. This was a criminal oversight on my part. Please accept my apologies, Mattius.

In one of the comments in my blog, Mitch R asked if the erstwhile Chief Inspector ever stoodd as a candidate for the Slightly Silly Party (as in the MPFC sketch). Of course, he hasn’t. The Chief Inspector may be incompetent, but he is honourable.

It is honour or rather the lack of it that makes this such a short blog tonight. It has been a day that brings The New Christy Minstrels to mind. (Note 1).

I’m not sure if the events in Westminster today prove if it is honour or intelligence that is lacking amongst politicians.

Since 1997, we have had Tony Blair in 10 Downing Street and Gordon Brown next door at Number 11. Tony has the top job and Gordon is the Chancellor with his eye on the top job when Tony decides to move on the after dinner speaking circuit.

Rumour has it that Tony and Gordon did a little deal so that Tony would become leader first and when he had enough, he’d let Gordon have a go. Fair enough, it seems fair. The trouble is that Tony doesn’t seem close to having enough and picking up his P45.

Tony did say that he wasn’t going to fight another election. He has actually said that – on TV for the whole world to hear. So whatever happens, the UK will have a new leader before the next election. Everyone (well most people) expects that new leader to be Gordon Brown.

It all seems so simple. All Gordon needs to do is to carry on being the Iron Chancellor and sometime before the next election, Tony will up sticks and start counting his money. (Note 2)

Only for some MPs, they feel that Tony needs to say exactly when he plans to leave now. They want to know exactly when Gordon will take the reins. Even if this means that this will render Tony a lame duck leader and halt their own party’s political agenda.

So, to get their point across that they want Gordon as a leader, they decide to go very public.

And the political journalist have a field day talking about plots and counter plots.

Hello? Have any Labour MPs got any brains? Have you forgotten your history? When a section of the Conservative party felt the time had come for Maggie Thatcher to move on, the party effectively split into two factions. The rows and the in-fighting have effectively kept the Conservatives out of power for three elections.

Unless the Pro-Brown camp can accept that Blair has already said he will retire before the next election and the Pro-Blair camp can accept that Gordon Brown must be the next leader, then the Labour Party will be out of power for a long, long, long time – just like the Conservatives.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Yes, very obscure and I was going to place a little explanation here. Then I decided against it. I believe that this one will stump my fine yeomen. Click to return

NOTE 2 : My guess is that Tony plans to beat Maggie Thatchers record as the longest serving Prime Minister and then call it quits around May or June of next year. Click to return

Lucretia Borgia – another one with a unique way of handling opponents.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In Praise of Desicated Amphibians

I think I may have got carried away with these tonight.

The secret is revealed.

Now here’s the thing. My loyal yeomen may have noticed that my blogs have been rather overloaded on the whimsy the last few days. I thought that tonight I should redress the balance. I thought about it long and hard. I really did, but time pressures rather got to me and so instead of 17th Century Philosophy, you’ve got this.

You may remember, the dried frog pills have featured highly in my blog. (Note 1) These are strange green concoctions that when taken according to the instructions, transport you to a whole new reality.

A reality where you will find Padstow, the professional stalker. In my blog a couple of days ago, I recounted the tale of how Padstow, in a sugar fuelled frenzy, attempted to become the first person to cross the Atlantic by pedalo.

Hey! It’s an alternate reality. Things like that can happen in alternate realities.

This is Jason Lewis. Check out those eyes. Check his pockets for candy.

Then all of a sudden, I’m forced to check if I have messed up the dosage on my medication. I read about Jason Lewis. He plans to circumnavigate the globe using human power alone. The final leg of his journey is to include a 2,200-mile (3,540km) pedal boat crossing of the Indian Ocean from Mumbai to Djibouti on the horn of Africa. (Note 2).

Still, with my doubts about my medication, I had always thought it safe to consult a doctor. You can always trust a doctor to take a reasoned, logical view of the world and point you in the way of the definitive reality.

Poor old Mr. Punch – totally misunderstood. Persecuted because of his affliction.

Then up pops David Bryson from the University of Derby. This dedicated academic has taken to diagnosing puppets. He has come to the conclusion that Mr. Punch behaves the way he does because he is suffering from acromegaly. It’s going to play havoc with the old seaside puppet shows. (Note 3)

I’ve spent the whole day pinching myself – trying to work out which reality I’m operating in.

I think I need to go and lie down in a darkened room with a moist chamois over my face. Before I go, I need to make good on a promise. If you dare, the recipe for Dried Frog Pills can be found here

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: For those of you who don’t know, the dried frog pill is not my invention They come from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. For those of you haven’t read Terry Pratchett – you have really missed out. For those of you who have, then perhaps it is time to make the cake. Click to return

NOTE 2 : Yet, my disbelieving yeomen, this isn’t the strangest fact about his planned expedition. Our Jason has a cunning plan to protect himself from wild dogs by means of Chinese Sausage. I’m afraid the article doesn’t tell the way the wild dogs prefer their sausages served. I suspect that it is with a side order of human buttock. Click to return

NOTE 3: The puppet show will have to introduce a Social Worker who will appear in the first scene and whisk Mr Punch away for treatment in a gleaming hospital. He’ll return a new man and spend the rest of the show picking out new soft furnishings with Judy. The kids will be riveted. Click to return

Good News everybody! Penfold is to return to our screens.

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