Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 - 25

Theory

I was sitting here thinking that a great name for a book about woody herbs would be A Brief History of Thyme. It grew into my head while trying to compose a theory I have about time travel...

As a wannabe writer with more imagination than staying power, I've come up with lots of ideas that involve time. Time is probably my favourite concept and as I've harped on on here, also one of the things that pisses me off. Being 50 doesn't help. Last week, while feeling under the weather (and aren't we all feeling that today?), I sifted through the hundred plus files in my documents folders - all the ideas, half finished stories, quarter started tales and stuff that fits into my In Progress folder. Which is a bit of a misnomer as it seems that whenever something gets put in my In Progress folder, that is effectively condemning it to never being continued.

What I did was categorise all the different files - not by genre, but by underlying theme. Futuristic stories (not necessarily SF) has been a favourite of mine over the last six or seven years. Stories that start with a breakdown of how society broke down; or what happened in the intervening years between now and whenever a story is set. Future History is exposition that a SF writer likes; it gives a basis for a story; sets the scene; explains things and 'theorises' on what might happen between now and then.

A few years ago I came up with a neat idea, that has probably already been done, but not necessarily in the way I devised it. It's a kind of deus ex machina tool that would have allowed me to use time to my best advantage. To date, I have started 9 stories that either use or attempt to extrapolate on the 'creation' of this concept that would change the way the world worked (fictionally, of course); would end poverty and famine and allow unlimited space travel and all powered by a AAA battery. The theory was essentially easy time travel, but not in the way we understand it.

We all time travel; every single one of us. We go to sleep and when we wake up the world has moved on however many hours we slept for. But, of course, that's cheating; time travel is about the far flung future or past, not about sleeping. Yet, the concept of suspended animation was all about sleep and suspended animation allowed people to time travel to the future. One SF novel I read when I was younger called God Whale by TJ Bass was about a guy called Larry Dever, who, after a serious accident which results in him losing his legs, is cryogenically frozen and far exceeds his thaw out time, waking up on an Earth that had evolved beyond his limited comprehension. It allowed someone from the past to be in the future plausibly. Travelling forwards in time without ageing is a tried and tested tool and we've seen it in everything from Star Trek to Lost.

Going back in time is a different thing altogether. In Stephen King's novella The Langoliers, the writer hinted at the idea that it would be impossible to travel back in time for very long because the past ceases to exist. He had big Pac Man type creatures chomping the scenery, but the idea stuck with me - does the past actually exist, or is it just a previous memory of the present, of the now? I don't think travelling into the past is possible; but could it be?

There's this pretty good explanation; if man, at any point in his duration, came up with a way to travel back in time, then he would play God and change the events in history that resonate the most throughout history - the Holocaust, Hitler, WW1, Christ's birth, life and death, plus many more and it would allow us as anthropologists to study these events for real, but it would also allow us to change events, thus sending a temporal shockwave throughout time, altering everything in its path - the Butterfly Effect. So, by that alone, it would be fair to say that no one in the future has ever discovered time travel; unless, of course, you apply the same logic to the past to the future, in that it doesn't actually exist, so no one can develop time travel in the 41st Century, because the 41st century is 2000 years away and nothing exists there yet. except a date, which man assigned it.

But what if the future does exist and man found a way to travel back in time? Could it be done in a way that would not alter human history or evolution? Would it, like Timecop be held to strict rules and regulations - time police patrolling history to prevent people from assassinating Hitler, or just rewinding time and stopping the assassin before he does his deed? Or would it be something else entirely; something that we are almost totally unaware of, but not totally...

Answer me two questions, honestly. Have you ever experienced deja vu? Have you ever met someone for the first time, but been convinced you knew them (and/or vice versa)?

Could it be that we suffer deja vu because we have been there before? Could it be that the person we have just met, but we seem to know, is actually someone we did know, but thanks to subtle changes in the past, destiny changed and we never met them after all? But, some resonance remains, possibly deep in our subconscious, which is pretty much oblivious to time?

When I finished reading Stephen King's 11/22/63, I was drawn back to a scene right near the end, on the last page, in fact, when an elderly school teacher is dancing with a younger man she has never met, but feels she knows him, despite it being impossible to have known him. This kind of allowed the concept to be reborn in my head, that time could be constantly changing without any of us being remotely aware of it. That subtle changes to history are being made by time travellers, so that the ramifications in the future are not as bad as they could be.

Yes, if you go back in time and kill Hitler at birth you would stop one dictator; but what if you killed Adolf and someone altogether even worse replaced him and WW2 ended up being a completely different kind of war that resulted in a power ruling most of the planet? So you kill Hitler, find it's a bad idea, so go back and not kill Hitler, returning the world to how it was - which is essentially the premise behind the aforementioned King novel. Killing Hitler or changing any massive historical event, like I said, could have untold consequences along the timeline, changing everything for the worse.

But what if you could trace back, through the ribbons of history and find an event, really insignificant, that changing it has little or any effect on the immediate time?

The most obvious memories in my head that relate to this are almost disconcerting. For starters, when I was 7, one of my earliest memories is of seeing Ann Hathaway's cottage and thinking that I'd seen it before, which was actually impossible as my family had never been there before and we had spent the previous six years in Canada. The weird feeling I had when I saw it was so strong and distinctive, I figure it's why I still remember it. Weirdly, several years ago, when I saw the cottage again for the first time in 40 years, it had absolutely no effect on me; in fact, I didn't recognise it.

The other one that resonates in my head is a former colleague of mine called Phil Thorne. From the moment we met, we were convinced we knew each other and evidence suggested that the people we knew, the places we hung around and the stuff we did, in the 1980s, meant there couldn't be any way we didn't know each other; yet we didn't, even if we were convinced we did. Both of us racked our brains looking for one thing that linked us which would explain how and when we'd originally met, but we both kept coming up blanks. Really disconcerting was the fact that we seemed to know things about the other that we shouldn't or couldn't possibly know. I remembered Phil's girlfriend of the time, but yet had never met her either. He knew that I'd lived in Canada! How?

Could it have been that someone from the future had returned to subtly alter something in the past, probably unrelated to me or Phil, but as a consequence, the original meeting between the two of us never happened, but our subconscious had a vague recollection of something that couldn't have happened?

Here's a weird one: when I was about 13, I was friends with this kid called Denver. I was one of a bunch of people he used to hang around and the thing that stuck in my mind about Denver was he was writing a book and had been since he was about 10. I actually drew some inspiration from him and despite being a bit of a nerd, he was pretty much well respected by his peers, despite his weird forename and even weirder surname. He went to a different school and within a year just about everyone had 'forgotten' him. Yeah, they remembered him, but it was a bit like he was slowly just sinking out of their minds. The last thing I heard about Denver when I was younger was he'd moved away from Northampton. End of.

When you have a friend with an odd name, it kind of burns itself on your memory; you might forget the spelling, but you know what it is all the same. When Facebook got big and I got involved; I was sitting at my desk one night and I had a clear and vivid recollection of one of the last times I saw Denver. It had been in the Weston Favell Centre, at the start of the summer holidays, which would see us eventually return to an Upper school and not a Middle one. He had already told us his folks were sending him to Northampton School for Boys and the summer holidays were going to be the last time we had together. I remember talking to him about his novel, which was about 50,000 words of handwritten adventure about a group of kids. So I did a Facebook search for him and guess what, there was just one person in the entire world with his name.

I thought, it's been over 30 years, should I contact him? What would I say? 'Hi, I used to know you when you were 13'. Would he remember? Would he be the same Denver or someone else with the same weird name? I bit the bullet and sent him a message.

His reply was really freaky. Yes, he was the same Denver who lived in Northampton, but he didn't remember me or any of our mutual friends. He said he went to NSB, but claims to have gone to Boothville Middle prior to this, not Goldings Middle. In fact, most of his story held up, especially his amazement that I knew he had written a book when he was just a teenager. "How come you know that?" He said. "Only a handful of my friends knew I was doing it." I felt like screaming at him that he told me himself, in the Weston Favell Centre in 1975! But I didn't reply; he either remembered me and didn't want to know me, or his memories of his past were clouded, or even different from mine. His curiosity of how I knew about his book seemed to be the only thing that bothered him.

The last thing I did was ask a couple of the people I knew back in 1975 that I still know now; both of them remembered Denver, mainly because of his strange name; but neither could tell me where they knew him; one even went as far as suggesting that perhaps we knew of him, because of his odd name. But it remained a mystery. Perhaps I should have pushed the issue; but to what purpose? If he didn't want to acknowledge his past that was his business and if he wanted to rewrite his history, then it's his life.

Perhaps, something happened in 1972 that changed his parents minds about what Middle school to send their son, so instead of following the path that I seem to have a recollection of, he went in another direction; but because he had been an early source of inspiration to me, his memory was burned into my subconscious, enabling me to access memories that maybe didn't happen after all... Who can say; but when things like this happen, it makes me think that possibly something is happening to time that we're not aware of.

A Little Light Relief

Politics! There's almost nothing better for a good chuckle. Who would have thought I'd feel that way? The politically responsible lefty who abhors Tories with a burning passion. How can I find the current state of the country amusing? Easy. There's nothing I can do about it and there's nothing better than watching a bunch of posh arrogant buffoons make a complete and utter mess of the country, while struggling to comprehend how much a pint of milk costs.

I should be apoplectic; bemoaning the downward spiral of this once great country, but I'm a realist as well and it seems the whole of the Western world is beginning to get fed up with the haves, while we have nots grow exponentially. There appears to be the beginnings of a sea of change happening all over Europe and the only wrinkle on that is that the far right have been growing faster than most of the others; but not enough to turn Europe into another fascist playground.

The fact our current government couldn't find their own arses with a map and a torch is actually a joyous thing, despite the impending shit we're all facing. The Western world has got to rethink itself, because frankly, the only way it can cut all the debt is for everyone to return to the stone age for a decade; either that or come up with some way of just ignoring the fact that everyone owes everyone else and get on with trying to stimulate the economy, investing in the future and making life a little more bearable.

The Tories, or at least the really fucking mental ones, seem to think we need to cut everything back to the bare bones; instead of just cutting it by a third, cut it all, save all that money, get Britain out of debt and start again. However, we'd have 40% unemployment and no money to invest in getting those 40% back in work. Benefits would spiral (but the Tories would find a way to stop that, by making sure no one was eligible for anything until they were 80 and could bring their parents along as proof) and we'd end up back in debt because we couldn't make a decent contribution to world trade.

I don't like Ed Balls, I think he's as much of a tit as Gideon Osborne, but he was right when he said that we need to lessen the cuts and invest money into jobs and the future. I'll go one step further, Dave and co need to change a startling fact - whenever there is a Tory government in this country, unemployment soars. Just look at history! Every period of high unemployment in this country usually happens when the Tories have been in for a while. The Thirties, the late Seventies and most of the Eighties. When unemployment comes down, inflation usually goes up or interest rates or sleazy scandals. The track record of the Tories is considerably worse than that of the socialists. Socialism might be abhorred by some people, but it's fairer on the entire country.

But, we all know whose fault it is - Thatcher's. once upon a time you gave a shit about your community; thanks to her you only really give a shit about you and yours. I'm alright, so the rest of you can suffer. Well, any of my right leaning readers - see if you feel the same way when your livelihood begins to be seriously affected by the cuts that appear everywhere and leave only a few people unscathed. How long will you, like Dave, be able to blame Labour before it becomes like a poor excuse rather than a reason?

Consumerism

Walking round Tesco's doing my shopping, I realised that there is so much pre-packaged, fat saturated crap or boxed up and precisely measured rubbish we don't actually need. I once commented that civilisation will end when you can buy all the components of a meal, ready prepared and just needing cooking. In Tesco you can buy all manner of things that just make my mind boggle. Why on Earth would someone want to buy, I dunno, pre-prepared mashed potato, or ready sliced runner beans, or peeled spuds, or trimmed sprouts, or anything that takes a human being a few seconds longer to prepare? It's just madness.

My old mate Colin is a microwave fiend. He has nothing in his flat to cook with except a microwave and therefore he lives under this false economy of only buying microwavable pre-packaged shit from supermarkets. Yes, he buys a lot of reduced stuff at the end of the day, but it's still not really practical or healthy. I said to him recently (he's house sitting for friends) that he ought to, you know, use the cooker, prepare himself a proper meal, rather than depending on the x-ray box. But no, that was too much like hard work! I wouldn't mind if he worked in a 60 hour a week job and had 3 kids to bring up; it would be a piss poor excuse, but it would be a reason.

I said to him that instead of looking at the reduced section in Tesco, why doesn't he pick up a couple of chicken thighs - very cheap - a pack of mixed fresh vegetables (all supermarkets do them) and a box of chicken Oxos. He could produce a healthy, tasty, chicken soup/stew using just the microwave, which he could make last for a couple of days and it would be 100 times healthier than a Tesco value Lasagne that's been reduced to 49p (which has more salt and saturated fats in it than Dawn French). You could tell he was reluctant to even consider it and that really gets my goat. There's this kid at work, who brings in a bottle of orange squash every day; it costs his mum about 10p a week to keep him hydrated - most of the rest of the kids I see bring in cans, cartons or bottles at a thousand times the cost. I'm thinking his mother might be on benefits and is watching her budget. All credit to her, she's becoming a rarity in this day and age.

I'm pretty much old skool. My parents grew up during the war and through rationing and this made them frugal, but not necessarily poor quality. Yes, my mum only worked part time, some of the time, but it didn't stop her from doing it all herself. Yes, even in 1998, when she died, she could buy all manner of convenient things to make her life easier, but I think the closest she ever got to using stuff like this was frozen peas. But yesterday, I tidied up the freezer, to see if I could more room. The entire middle section of consists of frozen leftovers - meals or lunches for the wife, bags of frozen apples and rhubarb, blackberries and little things like mango pulp, or fresh pesto or bags of part cooked cassava; things some people would just chuck away, but I know that I might or will use them in the future.

The wife's brother often used to comment that our cupboards looked like we were constantly expecting a nuclear winter; there are bags and boxes of all manner of 'essentials' and it could be considered slightly extravagant, if it wasn't the fact they were lentils and other pulses, or things that have a long or vague use by date, you could call me that, but I don't think so. Yes, I could probably survive a month, as it stands, if all hell broke loose and all the shops closed for ever, but that isn't the reason. The reason is purely down to wanting a choice and one that isn't going to bankrupt me in the process.

Stuff
  • Rain
  • More rain
  • Cold
  • Wet
  • Miserable
  • Weekend
  • Have you ever met a Jeremy Hunt?
  • Summer tomorrow, allegedly.
  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • An albino giraffe eating a choc ice.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

2012 - 24

Random Stuff
  • Why is it in a time of austerity, that building Super Casinos seems to be a good idea? Both Milton Keynes and Great Yarmouth will have these temples of avarice built in the coming years; yes, they will create jobs, but they will also create debt, gambling addiction and people trying to win themselves out of the debt the casino created. Preposterous.
  • If the current strife of the coalition government is anything to go by, my idea of a radical, new-styled UK government doesn't seem so far fetched. See here: http://farkynell2.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/manifesto.html
  • I have been wondering just how many people don't get caught up in manufactured talent shows like X-Fuctor, Britain's Got Idiots and the BBC's new The Voice (in your head says stop!)? I've never been a fan of common denominator television, neither has the wife, so Saturday night TV has always looked like a massacre in an abattoir to us.
  • Woke up this morning feeling human again, which was nice.
  • It would appear that pubic hair is out; braces are in and really fat people who appear to be comfortable with their body image are all stupid. You'd be surprised some of the stuff people hear and it appears my 1970s mindset is really out of whack. According to one of my younger friends, pubes are now in the same category as armpit hair - it's unnecessary and unsightly; apparently any unsuspecting lover going down on you, whether you're male or female, doesn't want to be confronted by either a big bushy front bottom beard or a fluffy landing strip! Braces are now classed as 'sexy', which I find even more amazing and people are keen to have them. As for obese fat people, I've always thought they were stupid for exposing rolls of flesh that only their doctor should be privy to; so no surprises there.
  • I thought the documentary about John Le Mesurier on BBC2 last night was delightful, but it seemed to breeze over one of this fine actor's biggest foibles - he smoked vast quantities of cannabis - and only two references were made during the entire program, one oblique and the other quite open. A missed opportunity, I think.
  • Watched the Dominic West and Rebecca Hall chiller The Awakening on Thursday night. It was enjoyable, slightly anachronistic (but that might just be me) and essentially a sort of melding remake of The Others and The Sixth Sense, but with a sprinkling of nudity and sexual tension. I got the feeling that with a bit more money and a different director it could have been a bit of a classic.
  • There's an interesting article in The Guide this week, essentially about why the raft of pseudo-SF shows, since Lost, have failed to hit the mark. It kind of echoes everything I said about the subject in my TV Dump last week.
  • I have been listening to the same stuff I was earlier this week.
  • I have just started reading the new King/Dark Tower book, for reasons that I haven't yet worked out.
  • I shall watch either Chronicle or Dream House tonight.
  • A picture of a horse barking the word 'cocks' at passers-by.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 - 23

The Petri Dish of Disease

There should have been a warning label on my job; working here brings you in contact with every known virus and bug in existence. I have felt pretty crappy all week; went back to work and probably shouldn't have and ended up at the doctor's this morning (they still haven't given me my own engraved seat yet) to be told that I have a chest infection - which, isn't a bug at all, but was possibly brought on by one.

I had all the best intentions at 7.10 this morning, despite feeling like someone had my chest in a vice, but ended up calling in sick and calling the surgery the moment it opened. Amazingly I got a cancelled appointment and was down there and home by 9.30. Even more amazing was the fact that I had a chemist right next to the doctor's and I chose to drive the mile or so to Beech Avenue, where I waited, was served, waited a bit more and was supplied with my drugs inside FIVE minutes, compared to the 8 or so hours I waited at Lloyds. This was despite the chemist being full of people and one woman complaining about waiting too long. I felt like saying to her she should go to Lloyds if she really wants to get pissed off.

Contrary to possible belief, I don't actually like being sick, but the fact I actually have antibiotics has made me realise that I have actually got something that needs treating, so I shall take the illness like a man...

Water Water Everywhere

When I was a kid, I always believed that drains took the rainwater away and eventually dumped it either in the sea, rivers or filtration plants. Considering how full they get, you would think this is a logical destination for the water to go to. However, during this wettest of droughts and hosepipe bans, no one has bothered to ask these bods at the water authorities what actually happens to all the water that doesn't get drunk by trees and plants or evaporated.

I mean, it's not rocket salad is it? If my conservatory can fill a water butt up during a heavy rain shower in about 8 minutes, then how much water is just washing down our drains? Surely the job of water filtration plants - and there are a few within walking distance of the town - is to take water from the drains, sift out all the shit and debris and turn that water back into usable stuff? I mean, even if it was just used to irrigate fields and crops, surely the water companies could do more with that than just bleating on about how many leaks they've fixed.

In fact, if you look at the logic behind our water, the now private companies that run it haven't really got a clue outside of giving their shareholders a dividend at the end of the year. Water should never have been privatised in England and Wales; it seems the still nationally run authorities in Scotland and N.Ireland do a far better job of managing themselves than the shower of piss that runs England's.

That said, it has rained here, every day, since the hosepipe ban was 'enforced'. I expect there are many people out there breaking the ban as we speak, because they can even if they don't need it. The old woman at the Sexually Explicit family's house was out the day the ban came in force, washing her windows with a hose and I really think she had a look out.

Straying Off Topic

My mate, Dave Hodson, who used to run Eternity Comics in North London, was one of the founder members of CoBRA - the comics mail order watchdog - and archaeologist, posted something in his Facebook status that got me thinking. He said: Hill Street Blues was based on the work of the brilliant Ed McBain, The Jesse Stone TV movies are adapted from books by Robert B Parker. The fabulous Justified is adapted from stories by Elmore Leonard... So when will Science Fiction TV producers take the hint and work from high quality source material.

Too right. Far too much TV SF is shit or cops out or both. On a discussion group this week we have been talking about Battlestar Galactica - the reboot - and it has divided opinions, which if it isn't a brilliant TV series, at least it caused enough controversy to be still discussed years after it finished. The discussion had nothing to do with Dave's statement, but marries with it perfectly. TV doesn't do SF justice and that might be because SF, in the eyes of the general public, is just as nerdy as being into comics, in some cases even worse.

I have often tried to write an appraisal of what I believe was the best SF series of all time - Babylon 5 - but as I said on the discussion group, that was hampered by three things - bad acting, poor special effects and network meddling; but strip the series down to the bare bones and you find a positively immense and labyrinthine story that was years ahead of anything else ever done. It also didn't have a cop out ending; wasn't tied into religion in any direct way, but used religion as a view point and in the Shadow War offered possibly one of the greatest stories ever shown on TV (and there in is the problem, the US fans hated the ending of the Shadow War, because it was sorted out through cod diplomacy rather than big space wars).

Fringe is bonkers SF, but it is, as I said in my TV Dump, stymied by formula. Shows like Awake, Touch, Alcatraz and much of the SyFy stable are just dramas with a hint of a twist in them. Lost was about as SF as The Big Bang Theory and of course used God as the cop out. The new Ridley Scott film Prometheus, supposedly a film that nods to Alien for its inspiration, will be an action adventure essentially and any SF elements will be, I suspect, breezed over quickly. SF in film and TV hasn't ever really worked and perhaps a company like HBO might be tempted to look at an adventurous SF series of novels and decide to do them properly. I just don't think it will happen too soon and if it does, it'll be a stinker.

Rent Boy

An associate of mine pays £1500 per month for his apartment. It is a two-bedroomed, spacious pad which is kind of spoiled by the fact it is surrounded by other expensive flats and it's a few miles from town. As a bachelor pad it's okay provided you can afford all the paraphernalia that accompanies it.

Another associate of mine has just jumped into the housing market using money they inherited. They have bought a nice, terraced, three bedroom house with a reasonable-sized back garden, an en-suite and a garage, in a quiet residential part of town, within walking distance of the town centre and they paid £160,000 for it and their monthly mortgage repayments are about £900pm. They also have considerably less income than associate #1.

I asked associate #1 why he doesn't buy a house, he shrugged and said, "It's easier renting."

Huh?

What Were the Skies Like When You Were Young?

Ever since I bought the wife her telescope, it has either rained or been as cloudy as off beer. Yes, it's great that we don't have so much light pollution around town now - regardless of how unsafe it now is after years of people getting used to everything being well lit and the council not considering there are violent muggers out there who will take advantage of the opportunities that arise to them - but the poxy moon doesn't rise until the middle of the night at the moment, so she can't use that as a starting point.

I was also told, rather unfairly I think, that getting into astronomy is something kids and pensioners do. Well, we've both been 'into astronomy' ever since we were kids and now we can, when we get the chance, practice that interest to a higher level.

I'm Sorry

But as much as I'd hate to boycott Amazon, after receiving £100's worth of gift vouchers for my birthday, I couldn't really just ignore them, could I?

So, after an hour searching the site for something suitable, I ended up buying the following: A astronomy book by some bloke called Patrick Moore; the new Rush album, the new North Atlantic Oscillation album, the Storm Corrosion album, even if it's taking its time to grow on me, a DVD documentary on the making of two classic Rush albums (Moving Pictures and 2112), another memory stick, the DVD collection of Mr Pye, and rather guiltily... the new Dark Tower book by junk paddler Stephen King and George RR Martin's first five Grimy Thongs books - which I'm sure I will read at some point, but even if I don't the wife will.

That's not bad for a couple of quid over a ton and, I have to say, rather selfishly, that if subsequent governments and tax office employees failed to make Amazon pay their taxes then I should also refuse to pay my taxes on the basis that the people my wife works for couldn't find their own arses with a map and a torch.

***

My stuff is pretty much the same as yesterday's stuff.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 - 22

Eccentricity, OCD or just Bonkers?

I have some quirks. I get the piss taken out of me for my quirks and therefore if these quirks are OCDs then having the piss taken out of me is probably the best thing any one could do; people with OCDs should be made to realise the depth of their weirdness.

I have a thing about spoons (actually cutlery in general) and especially the kind you use to eat things with that aren't teaspoons. I am very particular about which spoon I use and if one I'm happy with isn't available then I'll either go and wash one or go without. A spoon has to be aesthetically pleasing in sight and in my mouth; if it isn't I won't use it.

I also have this thing about a dish in the cupboard. It doesn't belong to us, although we have kept it for 15 years. I won't use it. As far as I'm concerned, I don't care how often it's been boiled to death, cleaned in the dishwasher and sand-blasted clean, it isn't my bowl, so I won't use it.

Possibly the oddest thing in my cannon of foibles is... my hang-up about toilets. My mum used to be terrible; she had a real problem going for a #2 anywhere that wasn't her house or wasn't a house where she felt comfortable in. Going on foreign holidays must have been hell for my dad, especially during the first week where she would steadfastly refuse to go to the loo and would start to feel uncomfortable due to its cumulative effects. By the second week, she had grown accustomed to her surroundings and the floodgates would open, literally.

Going for a shit was never really a problem for me, but as I got older I realised that the human brain can do some strange things to you. I was always Mr Not Squeamish; I could watch anything and it wouldn't bother me - eyeball dissections, axe murderers, child birth, operations - you name it, I could sit through the lot as stoic as a Dali Lama ignoring Chinese oppression. Then the wife's brother was diagnosed with a brain tumour (he died 10 years ago now...) and had to have an operation to remove it.

Me, the wife and Neil travelled down to Oxford to see him the day after the operation and while I might have been 40 and growing longer in the tooth, I wasn't prepared for what I was about to see. The back of Glynn's head looked, literally, like someone had taken an axe to it, in a rough and slapdash manner. It must have had a real profound effect on me because the wife saw all the colour drain from me, thought I was going to faint and sent me away. I was actually quite grateful. This changed my way of seeing gore completely, to the point where I literally cannot stomach most of the unpleasant things I used to watch without any problem.

When I was a kid, watching a woman in childbirth was, if we're going to be honest about it, a bonus way of seeing a woman's private lady bits in flagrante, now it's like a bus crash; like something out of Giger's mind rather than God's.

I then started to develop the same problem my mum had. There were a number of places where I felt 'safe' having a dump - my home, my folks', in the shop's bright pink toilet and, um, that was about it. But these were the three places I'd spend the most time in, so I felt the most comfortable in them. When the shop closed it took me about 6 months to trust using Dez Skinn's bog. It was clean and pleasant (but didn't have a lock on it) and therefore I would never feel 'right' about having 20 minutes on the bog with a good comic or book.

Then three things happened that changed my toilet habits dramatically.
The first happened in the 1980s, the first time the wife and I went to Glastonbury together. I had basically been constipated from the Thursday and by the Sunday morning I needed a dump more than anything in the world, but my experiences of the Glasto bogs had always been quite unpleasant anyhow; it wasn't helped by the fact I was tripping my tits off on acid. I really needed to go, so the wife and someone else, I think it was Wendy, accompanied me to the sheds sitting on pits that doubled up as toilets, and I eventually went to a free cubicle, dropped my jeans and squatted. I was off my face; the metals doors were just clanging and clanging and clanging; the sun had come out so it was all beginning to smell very ripe. I sat there and my trip immediately went from good to horrible. I pulled my jeans up and exited the bog as quick as I could; I no longer wanted to dump; I wanted to be as far away from the bogs as possible. For me, it seemed like an eternity; I seemed to be sitting in their for an hour, but it turned out to be less than a minute; the wife and her friend rolled their eyebrows at me and we went in search of food. I went when I got home, two days later.

In the early 90s, there was a bunch of us down the Royal in Wellingborough and I felt that urge and departed for the loos; however what I faced turned my stomach and made me begin my weird trip. It looked, from where I was standing, like someone had drunk about 20 pints of beer and had several hot curries, then, for a joke, decided to lie on the floor with their arse pointing upwards and see if they could fire the human waste into the bowl through the sheer force of crap that wanted to get out. There was shit everywhere; in fact, I stood there thinking that whoever had done this must have got handfuls of the stuff and rubbed it on every bit of clean surface in the cubicle. It looked like someone had been filled with shit and then had a stick of dynamite shoved up their arse for that all over finish!

I left the loo in the same state I entered it, but with my stomach having done a 180 degree turn.

A few weeks later, I was down in London and had been drinking and eating food at a restaurant before going along to some comics gathering. I had an urge for a splurge, took myself into the bogs and suddenly felt that maybe I should inject a little urgency into the proceedings, either that or I was going to shit myself. The bog was quite busy, but I got a cubicle, dropped my kecks and proceeded to make lots and lots of unpleasant sounds, while simultaneously dumping lots of poo in the loo. I suddenly became incredibly self-conscious about my toileting and when I left the cubicle, I got the impression that the people still in there were looking at me like I'd had an alien crawl up my anus and die. To top it all off, the toilet stunk like the inside of a dodgy sewer. I felt really, really embarrassed and probably it was all in my mind.

From that point on, I have been stymied by my reticence to use public or unknown toilets. It has happened about 5 times in total in 20 years and trust me when I say that these only happened because I probably could have gone in the middle of a Tesco's and not felt self-conscious about it. I also think it has had some mildly negative effects on my health, which wouldn't surprise anyone, I'm sure.

Today there are just two places I feel safe having a shit. My house and my old house, now owned by one of my best friends. I have had the fortune to be able to stop off in Wellingborough, let myself in (I had a key up until a couple of years ago) and sit in my old familiar surroundings allowing gravity to run its course. It appears that the Hippie is now considering selling the old house to buy a new place with his long-standing girlfriend; this worries me slightly. His new loo won't be the old one.

Yes, I am aware that it is weird and a bit dodgy, but that's me - a bit weird and dodgy has always been a great way to describe me...

Excrement Continues

So, here I am, sitting at home on a Wednesday afternoon when I should be at work. I have been sent home because the virus I've had since Friday hasn't gone away and I've now got a very upset stomach - which really wasn't expected. I had to go to the loo at school; that caused me more stress than many things have in the last umpteen years; especially as I lost the key code to the staff loos and had to use the students'.

I realised pretty quickly that I couldn't last the whole day, with my head pounding, my chest tight and the new poo-ey wrinkle having arrived, so my boss told me to go and that is why I am here. Here is boring, but in the two hours I've been home, I've spent most of it in the little boy's room and at this moment in time the last place I want to see again today is the toilet.

More Shit?

Any readers of my TV Dump Thing will know that my opinion of the SyFy channel has plummeted over the years to the point where I have more respect for Abu Hamza than I do for the TV network. The news that the network is to adapt Stephen King's Eyes of the Dragon has filled me with an enormous amount of dread. Mixing King with TV or film is a bad idea at the best of times, but allowing this unimaginative shower of budget-less freaks loose on what was essentially a great little adolescent yarn is like asking your local amateur dramatics company to replicate The Lord of the Rings on a record turntable.

You just know I'll watch it, don't you? Then come on here and rant mercilessly for days about how shit it was.

Speaking of SyFy, Eureka returned with little or no fanfare and I sat and enjoyed two episodes last night and bemoaned the fact that this excellent little series is being canned. When this company do things right, they don't last. Yet both Haven and Sanctuary remain and one can only think this is because these shows only cost about $50 to make.

Sacre Merde

The country is in the shitter again.
The weather is crap.
I feel like poo.
I have old Blogger back, but the shit one is being forced on us on April 30th.
And Facebook continues to be as shit as a shitty thing in a really shitty toilet...

It's rubbish. Haven't any of you realised this yet? This week, something happened that alerted me to my own news feed. I accessed my alter ego account, which hasn't been used for yonks and yonks and in it I saw one of my closest friends posts. My alter ego has only about 5 'friends', so they all appear regularly in his news feed, I should think.

I saw a number of things from a specific friend, so I checked my own news feed and over 50% of them were missing. Now, a couple of times in recent months, I have either missed a post another friend has seen or someone hasn't seen something I posted in their news feed. On closer examination of that particular persons 'settings' I noted that nothing was unticked. I should receive every update he posts, but I don't get half of them. So I checked a couple of other people and sure as sheep shit, there were things I should have seen in my news feed that mysteriously didn't appear.

Looking at my blog stats, because a lot of referring comes from Facebook, some of my entries have had barely any views. Now, even if you started reading it and thought, this is shit, it would still register as a hit; so something is amiss. I went back into my alter ego's account and noticed how few adverts he has; mainly because he hasn't liked anything. But more telling, he didn't have about 50% of my posts in his news feed; in fact half my blogs, most of the You Tube links and other general stuff isn't in his feed; which suggests to me that you only get what Facebook actually wants you to have.

So, if I've not commented on something or shared it, it's because I haven't seen it and therefore question the validity of Facebook as an all-encompassing social network.

One of my friends, who also has a bogus account (which suggests to me that just about everyone has multiple Facebook accounts and therefore there is only 800 people with Facebook and the other 9000billion are figments of each others' imaginations), checked his and found roughly the same problem, except he got different posts to the ones I got??? He suggested we keep a track on them, but I said, 'what's the point? It's not like we can contact Facebook and complain, is it?'

Next time someone asks you if you saw a certain post and you didn't; check to make sure and if you didn't get it, keep track. Come the revolution and all that...


Stuff
  • I have been listening to: Storm Corrosion (meh), Thomas Newman, Orbital, Steely Dan, Secret Machines and Bass Communion.
  • I have been playing on my net book, which feels like it might be a real learning curve.
  • I have discovered a cheap and effective way of saving myself money. My DVD player has a USB port for a memory stick and I can play files directly through that rather than going through the sometimes slapdash burning them to discs. It also plays MP4s through it, which it doesn't accept on a disc.
  • My spuds are coming up.
  • My spinach is planted.
  • This autumn I will eat a lot of saag aloo.
  • My garden is under water.
  • My dogs need aqualungs.
  • Fishwife, wife and childlings have gone on holiday for a week - out of school holidays; shockingly irresponsible. Fuckwit had an IQ test, he thought it was to do with busy checkouts at Morrisons.
  • My second cousins had babies, who have become my third cousins.
  • My birthday week was excellent, only marred by this bloody virus.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The TV Dump (vi)

Normal Service Will Never Be Resumed


Northampton based Goth rock band Bauhaus scored a huge hit in 1982 with their version of Ziggy Stardust. The way in which the song was described suggested they were covering an ancient classic, yet Bowie's definitive version came out just 10 years earlier.


People seem to forget that the Stone Roses were changing the face of British music in the late 1980s and realistically speaking their time was closer to the classic rock bands of the 1970s than anything currently vying for record sales.


You could argue that the Roses were pretty unique, but if you did that I would have to conclude you were a buffoon and a scally; all Squire and brown did was borrow from most of the musical genres of the late 60s and 70s and got someone off their tits on the latest designer drug to engineer it.


People often suggest Twin Peaks or Wild Palms were the TV programmes that changed the way US television drama was made, but the former was just David Lynch taking the piss and the latter was just shit. In many respects, there hadn't been anything on US TV that really was different until the late 1990s and probably with The Sopranos. Yes, there had been flashes of brilliance, but 'formula' has always been the key word in US drama and even now, all of the groundbreaking and envelope pushing TV shows, that have been successful, still have a formula, even if it is so subtle you don't notice it.


I used to watch MacMillan and Wife back in the 70s; it was BIG TV because it starred Rock 'Film Star' Hudson and was a cornerstone of the US TV that trickled over to us. Yet at 10, I realised that essentially the same scenario would be played out every week, just with different characters playing the bad guys and the victims. As a comic book reader, I pretty quickly understood the 'illusion of change'.


There have been some pretty non-formulaic TV series and I'm sure my geekier friends could rattle off a list of them; but I'd argue that even the most left field TV series follow a basic pattern - no TV show is like a Kerouac novel. A lot of things can happen that were unexpected, but essentially most major changes in a TV show, whether straightforward or as surreal as an entire season of Dallas being a dream, are what we have discussed many times before, they are jumping the shark moments.


I've described Fringe as a TV series that has made an art form out of jumping the shark and I'd argue that while JJ Abrams Lost confounded most people, if Fringe had been as popular as that, we'd have people doing degrees on the show. It has made so many dramatic twists and turns and brave story changes throughout its four years, that you can understand why its future is at risk; Americans struggle with programmes as complex as this (even now).


There was a moment in The Vampire Diaries when you got the impression that the writers and producers realised that they had a duff show on their hands unless they did something drastic. The first 2 shows and opening 40 minutes of the 3rd was like Twilight lite mixed with 90125 and an assortment of 'teen' dramas and it wasn't very good. Then they jumped the shark (I'm sure they didn't and it was always planned, but...) and it's almost as popular now as it was at its peak and that's because it gets pretty crazy in between all the uninteresting stuff. Fringe has done that several times, and probably not just because the ratings were dipping or the show needed fresh impetus. 


Take the first couple of episodes of Fringe out of the equation and the route the show was going in episodes 3-7 looked uninteresting and ultimately a show killer. Feedback suggested viewers didn't like the main plot, found Anna Torv really cold and no one really had any idea where the show was designed to go; so they concluded it all in episode 8 and went off in a completely different direction in 9 and set about re-creating Olivia Dunham by playing to the fact that the viewers found her cold and dislikeable. 


The show started to play with motifs from its inspiration - The X Files - and eagle-eyed observers would notice there were 'regulars' such as using a torch every episode and people popping up in the background who would have influence or involvement in the future. It started to become the 21st century equivalent of Chris Carter's FBI drama. Ratings were okay, but I think the writers got a taste for change and over the next two seasons, we saw all manner of odd things happen, which changed our perception of the TV show. It was totally formulaic, yet you got the impression that the formula had been written by a drug-crazed madman.


In many ways, it's very similar to Marvel Comics' X-Men, especially during the 80s and 90s when it was juggling more subplots than Stan Lee has had hot dinners. Like Twin Peaks many of these subplots turned out to be red herrings or dead ends; some of them even appeared to do that but didn't. When season 3 ended with Peter Bishop blinking out of existence, because he no longer existed, you were treated to a flash forward of 2036 with the planet at war with something hostile but unseen. It was reminiscent of Dollhouse, a creation of Joss Whedon's, in its willingness to allude to the end of the ongoing story. Imaginative viewers might have pondered what relevance this flash forward had on the grand scheme of things, especially when season 4 started in such an odd way.


At times Fringe feels like it was an idea hatched up by a committee of writers, who were each given a brief and sent away to develop a series, using all the same characters and then the producers made each concept into a different series, with someone else making sure there is a running thread that ties them all together.


After a slow start, this current series finally got into full swing with lots of things explained, revealed and made more complicated and then, very recently, news leaked that the finale had two different endings - one to end the series and another to allow it to have a fifth season. The future of the show was on the brink. There were very few episodes left to explain all the things that have yet to be explained, but equally, episodes 14 thru 17 seemed to tie up some stories, or at least give them a good leaving point. Then we had episode 18 - The Consultant - which, if this series isn't renewed, will be remembered as the last real Fringe story.


At the end of that episode, we discovered that Big Bad Dr Jones was fiddling around with frequency modulation, which the team believed was an attempt to destroy both universes (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry), just as peace appeared to have broken out between the two mirror sides of the same coin. It seemed like it was being set up nicely for a final 4 parts which would a) close the story up for good and b) possibly leave things open for another series. Knowing Fringe I expected some shocks, maybe a couple of unexpected deaths, possibly even Leonard Nimoy coming out of retirement to reprise his role as William Bell. I can honestly say I didn't expect what we got.


In the fine tradition of Fringe not just jumping the shark, but slaughtering it and fucking its lifeless corpse, the beginning of the (possible) end must have confounded everyone. It was like watching a different TV show with a guest star from another, unrelated, show. Or maybe the same show but ten years down the line - a bit like when Scotty appeared in the episode of Next Generation. The show had jumped to the future.


I have no intention of giving any spoilers away, except to say that the ultimate Big Bad isn't the one you'd think it is and while it is feasible, it's really, really, unexpected. Nothing in Fringe is now the same and even for this show's weirdness, I really can't see a way back, unless they intend to make a fifth season so radically different it makes previous radical changes insignificant.


Grimy Thongs


Isn't an anagram of Game of Thrones but it should be. Observant ones amongst you will have noticed that I'm not blown away by this series as others appear to be. It's okay, but frankly not enough happens in it; the nudity seems spurious - like the producers are using it to cover up the huge holes in the narrative - and we're being introduced to even more characters without the first batch becoming rounded or familiar. Only Peter Dinklage's Tyrian Lannister has been developed to the point where you can start to care about him (or not, as the case may be).


What we get every week is portents of evils to come, which is starting to sound as familiar as that old tramp who used to patrol Speaker's Corner in London during the 60s and 70s with his The End is Nigh billboard. It is also far more of a talking heads fantasy than an action packed Prince of Persia styled thing; most of the battles take place off screen; the 'monsters' are only hinted at and one expects most of the budget has been spent on paying the growing cast of British thesps who will have obviously landed on their financial feet if this series runs and runs and runs.


Of course, a big problem with this series is that some people know what is going to happen (or is likely to if they stick rigidly to the books) and the spoilers are there for all to read, if they choose. As a non-believer, I have no intention of reading the books, therefore I expect I will be as disappointed about things as I discover them as I would be if I cheated and read the books (or the Wiki entry). It is a series that is heaving with unpleasant and anonymous characters, which seems to thrive on its lack of genuinely decent people - all of whom seem to get packed off to the North - a bit like a Conservative Britain. 


What I can't understand is why so little time has been spent on character development; a network US show would waste half a season making sure the viewer can identify with the leads; I'm finding I have to keep a score card just to remember who is who and that can't auger well for the future. This second season has seen the introduction of a host of new 'kings' and their minions and while we appear to be getting a quick history lesson; their appearance has been so sudden as to unsettle and all of these inhabitants of Westeros seem to look similar - especially all the kings, bar Joffrey - which means that you spend much of an episode racking your brains to remember who a character is or where you last saw him. Some gay king turned up in season 2 episode 3 and while we had been introduced to him before, I was like, who? The thing is all over the place and not in a good way.


The wife likes it. I can live with it at the moment, especially when Denarys gets her kit off.


Being Rubbish


The last UK series of Being Human was ultimately a bit of a disappointment; the second season of the US Boston-based version promised so much and ultimately delivered nothing. It was a vacuous imitation of a good idea that lacked every element the British version strove to achieve.


That said, as a stand alone, at times, it wasn't bad, but flipped and flopped about for 12 episodes, teasing us with various strands that ultimately were pretty pointless. It also ended on a cliffhanger which has to go down as one of the least inspiring I've ever seen. SyFy has a reputation for being a bit Troma, but I blame the people who watch these shows legitimately for allowing this network to inflict the world with some of the worst TV shows in living memory. They are singlehandedly ruining the genre. 


Being Human US is full of proper dodgy stuff. The special effects are ho-hum; the acting is a bit am-dram and the scripts and ultimate endings are predictable, yet designed to make you think they're cliché busting. Whereas my old favourite Haven was so bad it was good (until it realised this and stopped being even remotely good), Being Human US just got progressively worse to the point where I actually hoped it would be cancelled to put the actors out of their misery. The fact it will be back for a third season does nothing for me; my flirtation with the series is over. I'm starting to realise that I watch some things because I think I should not because I want to.


So Bad it's Good


Just to contradict myself; returning soon are new series of Eureka and Warehouse 13, both rubbish SyFy series that tick a lot of the right boxes. One of them is being cancelled, the other has a lot to live up to. No surprises there then.


Why do I never talk about much British TV? Cos.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

2012 - 21

FFS


Seriously, has the world completely forgotten the expression, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'?

Blogger, which I have generally struggled with for the last five years or so has had a radical makeover, designed according to the video I had to watch (not because it was required, but because I didn't fucking understand the new layout) for an easier blogging experience. The 'new' look template I'm typing on is vile, dull and ugly. The problem is Wordpress isn't much better...

For years, and not just from me, there has been heaps of disdain poured on Facebook because of the 'improvements' it wheels out, because Zuckerberg and his band of autistic machine code monkeys follow the 21st century ideal of 'If it ain't broke, fix it so that it pisses off anybody over the age of 21, because it's the kids who will inherit the earth and they follow us like lambs to the slaughter', which is an unwieldy edict, but in the brain of this 50 year old totally accurate.

It seems that if you are one of those people threatening a boycott of Facebook, if it's new Timeline is forced upon you, you'd better start worrying. I heard today that while the intended plan was to 'upgrade' everyone to the new thing by the end of April, there has been the highest number of objections ever delivered to Facebook and not through pointless pages like I Hate Timeline or Boycott Facebook Timeline, but because the people who pay Facebook's wages have expressed real concerns.

A couple of years ago, on a blog that was circulated all over Facebook, some realistic person spelled out the futility of trying to object to Zuckerberg's changes, with the bottom line essentially being: you get it for free, live with it. However, it seems that intelligent (and stupid) Facebook users have realised that complaining directly to Facebook is a bit like King Canute holding back the tide - there is no discussion, it stops for no man or king. But, if they complain to the people who provide the games and the applications, a shudder of fear grips developers, because they know how transient their products are. Three years ago Social City was one of the hottest games on Facebook, only Farmville was more popular. Last year Social City was closed down, partly due to the fact it was as boring as sleeping and because it was growing increasingly difficult to do anything with it without either trying to add more 'friends' or spending your own money. Farmville has also disappeared off the radar and the general feeling is a good app has a two year life.

Recently a number of Facebook's biggest game suppliers - Zinga, PopCap and a few others have attempted to do Facebook's bidding and get players of their games to agree to new terms and conditions, which will automatically upgrade you to Timeline. The tumultuous reaction from users was the bomb the Facebook sites for these companies and their games and complain bitterly and almost all of them said they would stop playing games rather than be forced to use Timeline. Suddenly notices from the big guns appeared saying that people would not have to upgrade to Timeline to continue using their products. I don't know how long this delay will last, but it didn't take long for US television to realise that its advertisers were their real bosses - not the execs or the viewers - and they have been pandering to them ever since. Facebook will probably look for ways of getting round it, but at the moment there is a remission.

But that small victory is nothing really; things get 'upgraded' all the time, whether we like them or not. Do you know what fills me with dread more than anything else when I'm in a supermarket? The label on something I regularly buy that states - New & Improved. I can't recall a single time when this has actually been anything like an improvement. It's like advertisers and companies think that if they tell you it's better then you won't be so keen to actually spit it out and say it's horrible.

Anyhow, moving on...

FFS 2


Yes, I turned 50 and it has been a thoroughly excellent week, where the high points have been so good any low points have been breezed over. It culminated last night with a splendid evening at the Queen Adelaide with an assortment of best friends and family. The problem was I was already feeling under the weather.

Thursday was a great day; I had some excellent kids with me all day, walked around feeling 20 again rather than 50, with a spring in my step and my head held high, but by the middle of the afternoon I had two sneezing and coughing fits, which crept up on me without any warning. The second one caused a switch to come on in the back of my positronic brain which started screaming COLD at me and not cold as in temperature.

What is it with the human condition? On Tuesday morning, getting ready for another term, I finally declared my cough gone (you know, the one I've intermittently whinged about since December) and that I could look forward to the next few months without needing an inhaler and a bucket of cough remedies. So, what did I go and do? I went and caught a cold.

Friday was okay; I was pretty sure I'd succumbed to a cold because I had a tickly cough, my snot had gone bright green and I could feel it scratching away at the wall of resistance. By the time I got home my voice was going, but I soldiered on despite knowing that the pints I'd promised myself wouldn't help matters.

This morning I woke up to a wall of luminescent phlegm, a thick head from a mixture of beer and cold and feeling like shit. While the snot stays green I'm happy; because it really is yellow phlegm you need to worry about, yellow runny phlegm tends to mean infection and that's the last thing I want after December/January; but I do work in a Petri dish of disease and eventually I will have the immune system of a lobster.

But, it's still a cold and I'm fucked off with it already...

Back to Reality


Despite feeling awful, I have at least three things I really need to do today - go shopping, sort out the planting of my beetroot and finish my new temp veg plot to sow some spinach and try to put a deterrent against cat shit and slugs down. With all the rain we've had the slugs have been partying like the skies are full of E and I'm too old to go hunting round the garden with a bedside lamp, extension lead and a carving knife, dispatching them with barbaric abandon. Maybe I'll go into some detail about that one at another time.

I've been listening to the Secret Machines a lot over the last week; suddenly got an urge to dip back into their big beats and lyrically strange rock music. It reminded me that it was one of those odd times when you discover something quite by accident. I was round the Hippie's house and he had one of the music channels on, it was playing this: http://youtu.be/HNECaYCSYjo and I was so impressed I ended up buying the entire back catalogue. I might never have found this band had I not just dropped in on an old friend because I was passing. Odd how shit like that happens.

Stuff

  • As I said, I have been listening to the Secret Machines, Philip Glass and not much else since the last stuff.
  • Did I tell you I have a cold?
  • I have a netbook, but I haven't done anything but look at it.
  • I have to go shopping, so there might be more later on this weekend - bet you can't wait!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

50

Is happening about... Now!

The above was written at 12:00 last night. I suddenly had a massive panic attack about my age and went and killed myself. Fortunately I got better, which is why I am talking to you all now!

I got a laptop and a new wok and £100's worth of Amazon vouchers and a big bag of grass (which, of course I handed in to the nearest police station) and a memory stick and a laptop case and the wok has a lid and a wheelbarrow and, no the wok does not have its own wheelbarrow - get with the flow of consciousness now, dammit and lots of cards, a panda (who may or may not be angry or even dead) and if some bastard who hasn't already bought my book would buy it Amazon would owe me £330 and thanks my one of my adorable nieces I am listening to the Moody Blues, which is a pretty good thing to be listening to on your birthday and I am not getting drunk tonight as I am going to probably get drunk tomorrow in the company of good friends and a nice beer and I have had a dodgy tummy today, but that might be because I have eaten nothing but cake, which proves without a doubt that even if the Marie Antoinette story is bollocks it's a good thing instead of bread and I also got ties from some of my kids and that was possibly the nicest present I got because I really didn't expect it, in fact I got so many well wishes from the kids today that I fell back in love with my job, at least until tomorrow when the flying monkey children return with laser beams and poisonous claws and maybe I won't hand that big bag of grass in after all because I might need some sedation if the beer doesn't work and in case you haven't noticed, I'm trying very hard to make this the longest sentence ever written, which, according to Google will be finished around my 60th birthday if I am serious about it, which I am obviously not as I have better things to do with the next ten years, but so far this week I have listened to the Secret Machines, Ulrich Schnauss, the aforementioned Moody Blues, the Prodigy, Enter Shikari (ugh!) and some fucking dubstep nonsense at the behest of one of my usual suspects, which I have to say had the expected reaction of me (thinking) what is this awful shit, but obviously as a statement rather than a question otherwise this sentence would have ended abruptly!

Thank you everybody who has sent 50th birthday messages. Yes, I am 50. It was a shock, but unfortunately Father Time is one mean motherfucker and he stops for no one, not even someone as cool, handsome and sexual virile as me. I love you all, now fuck off and do something cool! xx

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012 - 20

Holiday Musings

Well, that's the Easter break over and done with for another year. Ahead of me is 6 weeks, a week off, and then another 6 weeks before that 6 weeks is matched by a summer holiday. That's the next 19 weeks of my life mapped out then...

Apparently, I've seen Richard Digance in concert - at the Royal Theatre - about 25 years ago. Really? Jesus, I must have been really drug addled back then because I can't remember it. "Made a big impression, then?" Asked the wife, as I stood there desperately searching my memory banks for some snippet and failing miserably.

But I'm sure it will come back to me at some point. On Tuesday, when we were in Leicester, I was sitting on one of the market stalls waiting for the girls to finish their toileting needs, I had a clear as a bell recollection of something that happened donkeys years ago. I sat there in the sunshine and relived a moment from my youth. When the girls got back they were deeply engrossed in some conversation and we continued on our way and by the time we got back to the car I'd completely forgotten my flashback...

Perhaps my memory is becoming shot to pieces? Just last week I saw something that incensed me. Someone - on line - mentioned they were doing something over Easter and it was only going to cost £28.50 each to attend and I thought, the last time I did that it cost about a fiver and I was appalled at the cost of it then! Can't remember what it was, though...

I've also had to deal with the gnawing realisation that now I'm almost 50 I'm eligible for Saga holidays and cheap motor insurance. I also appear to be having the kind of self-doubt and antsy-ness that one would associate with turning 40 - at least traditionally, that was until everything shifted forward ten years. Apparently 60 is the new 50, so therefore 50 must be the new 40.

I actually looked at a job in Thursday's Chronicle that required me to stack things in boxes and wondered if I could do something like that. I couldn't. I wouldn't let myself. But the thing is, after two weeks of being free from kids, I'm wondering if my abilities are being wasted. The break has allowed me to step back and look at my career path and I've realised that I might have to look for a different kind of job.

I had a conversation at the end of the week, which I will skirt around because of what it involves, but a mate of mine told me that he knows of a pub that will shortly be in need of a manager and I found myself doing what I did a couple of years ago; imagining myself back behind a bar. Are you mad? That's what my good friends would say if they read this. Working in a pub is madness. Too much hard work for little reward and you have to put up with drunken idiots and all the really unsavoury wankers you get in a pub.

The thing was, there's a period in my past that a) I can recall very well and b) I don't really talk about much. When I worked behind a bar.

When I was 15, my dad, disillusioned with his role at the adhesives company he had worked at for 20 years, decided he wanted to do something different in his life - something totally out to left field. So my parents began training to become pub landlords. Ironically, I kind of blame this on my failure to excel academically; suddenly being on your own when you're doing your O levels is a temptation too far. It wasn't like my folks pushed us through school either; so having no encouragement instead of almost none wasn't really going to change things; but had they decided to do what they did now, I think social services would probably have been crawling over my family home faster than a crow on carrion.

They got their first proper pub - The Crown Inn, Hardingstone - in 1979, so I became immersed in the pub scene at an age when I should have still been playing football and chasing girls through summer meadows. They lasted just over a year there before deciding that working in a pub was like a cross between a prison sentence and slavery. They moved onto the Club scene and really succeeded there.

I worked at the Crown; initially as a glass collector and washer, then a few months after my 17th birthday, I started pulling pints and drinking them. My dad never trained me, but I learned quickly through a mixture of observation and osmosis. Dad had a kind of full time barman at the Crown (I really can't remember his name) who covered the place during days off and stuff. Once, while he was busy, I went down to the cellar and changed a barrel of Holstein. I'd never done it before, but had watched my dad do it so was confident. I almost succeeded, but forgot to latch the connection properly, so when my dad returned from his brewery meeting an entire barrel of expensive lager had spurted out of the bad connection and covered everything in lager. Even in those days, that was about £40 down the drain.

My dad was pissed, but also he was kind of pleased, because I'd tried to do something good. So he decided that he would show me how to run the cellar. I changed hundreds of barrels over the next few years and never made the same mistake again.

As I was crashing and burning at the 6th Form, my folks were looking at the possibility of moving into clubs. The couple who had inspired them to go this route had themselves begun running a social club west of Daventry and both of them looked better for it. My mum had already started to have problems with her chest and the stress of running the pub was shattering their solid marriage. They saw the job for stewards at Shenley Hospital Social Club and got it, quite easily.

I maybe should have gone with them straight away and I've talked about that year before (or maybe I've skirted around it and promised to tell you about it, I can't remember!), but I kept my hand in behind a bar either at my job - at Lings Forum, or at my then local - The Lumbertubs. Then I joined up with my folks in the county of my birth and after a while my dad decided that as I wasn't looking like I was going to get a proper job, he might as well take me on.

It was during those 18 months that I finally connected with my dad. I think he'd always felt a little too distant towards me. I was mummy's boy for starters and I didn't have his ethics, unlike my two older brothers. I seemed to be more prosaic than practical. Hell, he might even have thought I was gay. I was certainly considerably more difficult than the other two had been. I also think he believed that in some way I had inherited the Rodway madness; something I'm sure you will hear about in the coming years. But suffice it to say; there were a lot of similarities between me and my gran and without being harsh in the slightest, my grandmother - Ethel Rodway - was as crazy as a skip full of foxes on LSD.

Despite the usual growing pains that late teens suffer, my time working for dad in that grotty, sprawling, ramshackle 1950s building was one of the best times I had and many of the jokes, sayings and things that happen are still alive in the world. Jokes and expressions that just wouldn't work in print, but still happen within the confines of family and just possibly further afield (I noticed last week while out with the dogs and Mammary Lass that she has a couple of things in her repertoire that she learned either from me or from my dad).

My dad revelled in the spotlight. I saw for the first time in him that he was possibly more like me than he was my other two brothers. I think now that maybe he was having similar thoughts to I am now about his life. My dad was a grafter and he admired and respected Ronnie Jr and Stephen because they shared that work ethic. He could discuss projects with them and they wouldn't look at him like he was talking Albanian. But during our time together at Shenley, I discovered that I shared a love of surreality and silliness with him. My dad was just fucking hilariously surreal at times. We would muck about like a couple of overgrown babies at times and instead of putting customers off, people used to hang around the bar to see what impromptu routine would possibly spring up.

Anyhow, they quit Shenley and eventually ended up in Maidstone and I never worked behind a bar again. In fact, I cannot recall pulling a pint for probably getting on for 30 years (although I'm sure the wife will remind me that I did it once in 1986 and I'll spend the rest of the day trying to recall it). Also, the pub world is completely different than what I remember. My good friend One El has made that abundantly clear; plus my personal indulgence - Real Ale - is a completely different beast to the barrels of Mann's IPA I dealt with in the late 70s. Plus bar staff no longer appear to be able to do calculations in their heads and have these tills that now look like massive computerised adding machines. Pubs are different now.

Perhaps I just have itchy feet again?

Roger's been and gone since I wrote the above; we suffered an Everton defeat at the hands of their arch rivals. He was gutted; so was I. I really have no desire to play the luckiest cup team in the world in the final; good luck to Chelsea tomorrow.

We've got guests; Neil and Jenny. We're off out for a birthday meal tonight at Pooja.

Why do I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack?

Stuff
  • I have been listening to: Axess/Maxxess; School of Seven Bells; North Atlantic Oscillation; and something in the car, but I'm buggered if I can remember what it is.
  • I have been reading a lot about the US Elections on line.
  • We've decided upon a radical but not very arduous redesign of bits of the garden. I say it isn't arduous - on paper it should be really easy, but my dad was responsible for part of the structures we want to move and, well, when he built things, they stayed built.