Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 - 61

See Side

Text message I sent to Roger in reply to his message regarding travel arrangements for the quiz on Tuesday 28th August: "I don't care. I am standing in the see." His reply was, "Sounds surreal." In a way it was...

[I texted someone a couple of months ago while I was in A&E and said I thought I had a long 'weight' ahead of me. Perhaps I'm going senile?]

We decided to go to Heacham last week and stuck to it when we saw that Tuesday was going to be the last day of summer. We're still not used to this school holidays lark and I figured it wouldn't be that bad. After all, it was a Tuesday. How bad could it be?

Actually, it wasn't really that bad. It took us 2 hours and 33 minutes to get there. Google Directions had said 2 hours and 29 minutes, but I stopped to get some fuel. We hit traffic a few times, but the only real tension was from it being the longest I've been in a car for ages without smoking. The wife noticed that I was slightly... impatient... at times...

I like Heacham. I'd live there at a push (but I say that about most places I like); but it is a little touristy. Lots of caravans and chavs who think the Wash is the real sea. There's a lot of mud as the picture on the left, taken the first time we took the Retarded Muppets to the coast. It should be noted that four years on from this photo being taken it was the same three dogs that accompanied me on the 1½ mile trek to the actual sea (the tide was out and this is the Wash); the orange dog - Lexy - who is absent from this photo, was also absent from the adventure on Tuesday. Oh, she considered it. She followed me and the other three half way down the beach before deciding that she'd rather stay in the sand dunes with her mum...

The really crazy thing about that trek to the sea wasn't the fact the sea, when I finally got to it, was really quite warm - warm enough to swim in probably - but the speed in which the tide came in. It comes in at roughly the same speed as a 50 year old man walking.

We retired to the Fox & Hounds, home of the Fox Brewery and had a couple of pints (well, I did). We both like the Fox, it's a friendly pub (most of the time), quite cheap and likes dogs (with the usual exemptions). Two pints later and we headed back to South Beach to give the dogs another 45 minutes on the beach before heading home. It's the summer holidays, so there was always going to be some families on the beach. We don't really have a problem with Lexy, Ness or Murray; they usually give humans a wide berth. Marley, however, is a tart and loves people - positively adores them - and especially loves people with food (they are the best). As a result, we need to keep Marley under close control or she returns to her former life as a sneak thief and general bad girl.

We made our way down to the sea - the tide was well and truly in by now - and Marley was far too preoccupied with the sea to notice people. That was until she finally decided that she was utterly exhausted (she had been going at it all day). So she wandered up the beach and we followed. However, she didn't really want to take any notice of me, especially as I was holding her lead. There was far too much going on to be put on her lead. So what followed was the slightly hilarious (to those watching) spectacle of a grown man wearing shorts charging after a wet dog who was not going to be constrained.

I finally caught her in a tent, eating the rest of some family's lunch. Mortified? Fucking right I was. I didn't know what to say or where to put my face (well, I did, but that's another story for a completely different audience).

The journey home was peaceful and took a fraction under two hours; every one was knackered and I had exceptionally dirty feet.

Now, it is raining and I am going to buy some new school trousers, which means going to places that make me break out in cold sweats. More later...

Later... I now have two pairs of troosers and a new wiper blade. Rock on!!!

Magic Missing

I appreciate that me going on about the Game of Thrones books is a bit like me going on about minority SF television from the USA, but the latest thing to bug me about the book series in comparison to the TV series is the lack of magic from HBO's offering. This strikes me as sensible by TV execs but ultimately problematic (or it should be) because if my interpretation is accurate, the entire world of aGoT is built on old magic and much of the political intrigue is also rooted in this world's magical past. Maybe HBO wants to get every one hooked before really unleashing lots of special effects and slightly fairy story fantasy?

One other observation about the books is how unrelentingly grim they are. This isn't about heroes and villains as much as how much misery can you inflict upon a group of people. Even victories are laced with venom and you could argue that it kind of mirrors real life and I would argue that the suicide rate would be through the roof if that were the case. I've laughed three times in three books and two of those were in the first half of the first book. All three incidents of joviality were brought forth by Tyrion Lannister; other than that it has just been horrid for everyone...

F*ckbook Wag

I've been screwed; which appears to be an appropriate description to something I'm slightly puzzled by. I've also upset someone; upset them or said something that has led them to direct an Internet barrel of monkeys at me.

It started with a catalogue from that company who specialise in incontinence. Or at least that's what I hope was the start, because I have had a lot of stuff arrive either through my door or in my in-box over the last two weeks. I've not really paid too much attention to it, but the amount of hearing aid pamphlets, pooh pants brochures and Saga holiday catalogues seems to have escalated, well, started in abundance. My email accounts - which makes me think it's someone playing silly buggers - are all getting the same shit and they're not being filtered out by spam filters, they're addressed to my email addresses only - or three of them to be precise - the Yahoo one, the gmail one and the virtually defunct Virgin Media one (the only POP3 address).

I've also noticed I seem to be getting loads and loads of stuff from websites - famous and unfamiliar - and I've had at least 7 requests in the last few days asking me if I have clicked the subscribe button on certain pages; which I haven't and as these are coming to my Yahoo account, I have to draw the conclusion that someone is attempting to subscribe me to things and has succeeded with a number of things, including Fuckbook and another anonymous singles or swingers website. I have already unsubscribed from these places and been appalled, but three days after I apparently disconnected myself from these sites; 'my profile' - incidentally quite hilariously made up - is still there asking for bi-sexual orgies; dominant women and kinky sex. The thing is it's quite funny, unless it happens to be you; and just how can these places set up an account without asking for confirmation? I just got this email welcoming me to the sites and have since had no end of probably imaginary girls offering me things which I can only discover what they are if I upgrade to a premium service, even after I unsubscribed (although I was told that it might take up to 48 hours for my request to be processed, which I find hilarious, unless it's done manually by a man who is hardly ever there)...

So, if you happen to be on one of these sites and see me, it isn't me, I'm not looking for any of the things it suggests I am (although the idea of a really dominant woman is... quite... ahem...) and you should be ashamed of yourselves for looking in the first place, unless you're single and/or desperate.

Moving on...

Almost There...

We're almost at the end of what has been a really enjoyable and, I hate to say this, far too short a summer holiday. I'm positive I could have done more. I didn't do half the things I wanted to do and in a strange way it has made me more determined to get a job back in the old world I used to inhabit before I ventured into education. I love the holidays, but I think I love them a little too much. Going back to work on Monday is going to be hard and I will hold colleagues in contempt if they say they got bored or didn't like the length.

So, why would I want to go back to 4 or 5 weeks holiday a year when I can have 13? Good question. Probably the money, followed by more control over those weeks and finally being able to holiday in September (whatever the weather). I also need to get another job because this one amplifies my disdain towards the passage of time. Think about it; my life is essentially split into blocks of 6 and once you start thinking about this you start looking forward to the week or two weeks at the end of it; so you are essentially watching your life unfold in front of you with more... clarity than if you were doing anything else. Perhaps it's an existential thing; something that is perceived by each different person in a different way or perhaps I'm just running out of time to procrastinate? I just hope (but don't hope) that the 6 weeks of work go as fast as the 6 weeks of holiday.

Oh and speaking of holidays, the picture, above, is of part of the waterfall in the Wood of Cree that I talked about while I was in Scotland; I've been meaning to post a few of the pics from the last couple of days, but have never got around to it...

Blah to the Nth Degree

Following on from that bit above; it's Thursday. 10:24am. The wife is considering doing the charity shops; I can't look at the shed roof (well, technically, I can look at the shed roof, what I can't do is try to repair it because it is wet and rotten and I'm not going up ladders without the wife) and apart from doing some house work (which I'll do anyway) all I have left as options for the day is either read more of my book or write a little more of my story. Or I could watch something on TV, like one of the films I downloaded back in early July just in case I got bored during the holidays and needed to fill a couple of hours.

The thing is, if this was three weeks ago, I would have spent an hour deciding what to do before possibly doing it. Now, because August is disappearing faster than a rabbit down a wolf, it's suddenly become the most pressing question/dichotomy since the last one. Just writing this is a perverse form of the procrastination I've occasionally gone on about; but the procrastination is itself quite an art form; it's like I can justify not doing anything by at least having a good think about it. Can you see my dilemma? Don't worry if you can't, I'm already struggling to understand what I'm writing about and contemplating deleting the last two paragraphs.

Spud Bashing

A couple of weeks ago, someone posted on this blog asking me about potatoes and throwing an interesting theory at me. As most regular readers of this will attest, I am a potato snob and I have occasionally been vocal about the piss poor quality of potatoes available in supermarkets. 'Ian B' pointed out that the drop in quality briefly mentioned in my rant about washing of spuds to make them more 'buyer friendly' and that this, in some way, helps the spud deteriorate in a way it wouldn't normally. It's all here: http://farkynell2.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/glass-potato.html, which, incidentally, is the only glass onion that isn't a list of recipes (I have also changed my mind about a lot of the entries in it, especially Wiljas, which are bloody awful and could be awful because of this reason).

This all happened a few weeks ago and for reasons we don't have to go into I just happen to have a couple of places bookmarked in my browser that are, um, potato related. (You know, some people have comics websites bookmarked, so go be judgemental at them, why don't you!) I will admit to having investigated trying to buy some rarer varieties of spud to grow in my little veg patch and as a result, over the years I've indulged in some general potato nerdiness with some of the growers, sellers and people who, like me, feel spuds have lost something over the last couple of decades.

I get this urge sometimes to be a journalist again and I sent an email off to the three places I have dealt with in the past, all asking if they thought this could be the reason why spuds quality has deteriorated over the years. I got the first reply almost instantly and that essentially supported the questions I asked without going into any detail and was slightly vague - she basically said, 'yeah, I agree with you' when I wanted her to a) explain why it was right and b) maybe, you know, offer some suggestions. The other two didn't reply and I forgot all about them, the idea of writing a spud blog entry about washed potatoes being rubbish slowly disappeared into the fuzziness of the last three weeks.

Then, I'd say quite remarkably, but in reality it was just a little coincidentally, I got replies from the other two growers. It seems that the two of them have been talking to each other... Could it be that I'd, you know, spotted something that no one else had thought about? One of the growers said that he rarely gets feedback on the quality of his product, mainly because he supplies the people who supply the supermarkets, but my question made him think because friends of his had been talking about the drop in quality of potatoes; or more specifically, people he met who found out he worked in potatoes. So he asked the people he supplied - the farmers and market gardeners - and that was why it took him so long to get back to me. His email had arrived in my other contact's in-box a couple of days after mine, which made him hold back on his answer to me.

The seed potato grower's feedback was the same as the grower's - just anecdotal. There appeared to be no negative or positive feedback from the major supermarkets (but to be fair, none of the people I was talking to supplies supermarkets by the ton like some growers do). Many of the people the grower spoke to heard bits and pieces but rarely anything else. This prompted me to suggest that the reason why they got almost no feedback might be because they all get their spuds pre-wash? Gordon, the grower, then made a really good point: he's never been able to understand why I've been so vehemently anti-Maris Piper, as he's always found them to be a really versatile spud and, in his opinion, a great addition to supermarkets. He grows his own. He digs them up and he either uses them or stores them, covered in earth, in a barn or a shed or a utility room. His Maris Piper potatoes never get close to a supermarket.

Why are chip shop chips consistently good all year round? Because the chip shop owner buys his spuds in bulk, in 56lb bags, covered in the field they got dug up from. There is no sunlight getting onto the tuber; all of a starchy potato's starch gets turned into sugars. The stuff that makes the best chips; the almost cream coloured, fluffy kind that remain crispy for a long time after they've come out of the fryer; gets turned into stuff that caramelises at high temperatures; making the chip a darker colour, which loses its crispness within two minutes of being removed from the pan. This might seem anal and pointless to a lot of you, but it's vitally important to a lot of people and answer me this, how many of you like dark brown soggy chips?

It appears that a throwaway comment by me could well prove to be the actual reason why potatoes in supermarkets are so crap. The people responsible for a lot of these potatoes seem to believe this is possibly the only reason; if there really are a lot of people out there who really think the quality of spuds has dropped. None of the people I spoke to disputed what I was saying, but all suggested that because there's really on anecdotal evidence, perhaps most people don't actually care what their potatoes are like.

If that's the case then I find that very sad indeed.

Stuff
  • I have been listening to a MOS Chill out compilation; some band called Synaesthesia (or something like that) who weren't at all what I expected. Some Doors, some Blur and some other stuff that's slipped from my mind.
  • I expect to finish A Stink of Swabs 1 by the end of the weekend.
  • I have been watching The Inbetweeners and accepted that I should have watched it the first time around (although, would I have watched it? Or to be more precise, would I have watched it through my fingers like something mega-embarrassing is always watched?). I have also watched A Touch of Cloth which is a bit of a lot of things and is actually really funny (not all of the time, but it does have the ability to make you suddenly wonder what you're laughing at before falling into whoops of laughter again).
  • Today's blog has been sponsored by ()
  • Mantle peace.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2012 - 60

Lesser Gods

There are very few people I would consider as massive examples of the brilliance of humanity. People who I would gladly bow down to and express my admiration and respect. The Dali Lama is one of them; Mark Hollis another, but after that I'd be hard pressed to think of another human being who I would regard as a demigod; someone who is a hero for humanity. Hard pressed but not impossible; there is one man who has encapsulated my life - he was there when I was just 7 years old, doing something extraordinary and unequaled.

Yesterday, the USA had the audacity to call Neil Armstrong 'a Great American Hero'. Sorry, but he was so much more than that. Yeah, he might have been American, but what he did was for all mankind - communists, free men, fascists, serial killers and benign benefactors. He wasn't Jesus, because he existed; he walked on the moon. He walked on another world and we watched, on our piddly little black and white TVs, with the pictures so crappy we could have been watching someone having a shit and wouldn't really have known otherwise. Neil Armstrong was one of a small select band of people who are unique; but he was a damned sight more unique than the others; he was the first and you know what first is, don't you? First is just before second.

It is remarkable that Armstrong was just 39 years old when he set foot on our moon; he seemed ancient to this 7 year old at the time. He shunned frivolous publicity; rarely gave interviews and seemingly didn't go barking mad like most of the other moon walkers. He was one of my true heroes; but I can't be selfish because he was one of the world's truest heroes and in a thousand years time the name Neil Armstrong will have as much resonance as it does today, while other men and woman will have been forgotten about.

Today the moon seems just a little lonelier.

Needs to Get out More

I met up with a colleague for a beer at the Wig & Pen on Friday. I am aware that if you get me on the wrong day I can talk for England; get me on that wrong day and on a subject I'm passionate about then you have no hope. My colleague, the head of our English department, was this poor unfortunate soul on Friday.

I think we both knew that talking shop was always going to be the order of the day, although I'm pretty sure we could both have talked about our varied and checkered lives without ever touching on the convoluted and archaic education system. I think I might have dominated proceedings, although I'm sure that not everything I talked about was bullshit.

I might be able to look back on this summer holiday and say, 'It was never long enough', but if I'm still in this job next year I think I'm going to try and get out more and talk to people, that way the uniqueness of talking to them when I do might be lessened to a degree.

The Language Barrier

My favourite restaurant in the world has dodgy service and staff whose grasp of the English language is patchy at best. The thing about Pooja is that it essentially catered for the Indian (mainly the Gujarati) community and pretty much anything they served you was going to set off explosions on your tongue.

But, Pooja is also a caterers, a sweet shop and almost a restaurant as an afterthought; this isn't the excuse for a lot of places. On Saturday, we went to my latest favourite Chinese restaurant - China Gold - on the main Kingsley drag. It caters for veggies, which is always a good thing; and the food we've sampled has been full of flavour and very impressive. Alarm bells should have been ringing when the petite little waitress came back and asked if she could check our order; it was a good job, because in the three minutes between taking the order and repeating it, two rice dishes turned into noodle dishes.

The wife ordered mixed vegetables in satay sauce; Roger ordered Chicken in oyster sauce. We got mixed vegetables in oyster sauce and no chicken dish. They solved this problem but for a while it was like pulling teeth; it was like no one understood simple instructions and the poor girl looked like we were shouting at her in Albanian. The wife said, quite rightly, if they struggle with English perhaps they should have each dish numbered. That makes far too much common sense...

Anyhow, they still kind of managed to cock things up. Roger thoroughly enjoyed Colin's and Colin ploughed his way through Roger's and neither seemed none the wiser. B ate her usual 50% or so and the wife and I polished off what we could before deciding we were stuffed. But, despite really excellent food, there was not one single person in the restaurant who could speak better than pidgin English and one thinks that it might be more prudent and a wiser economic mind that suggests they get at least one person on front of house that understands the peculiarities of colloquial English.

No Evidence of Autumn

The 5-day weather forecast today was the kind that pisses me off more than you could possibly imagine. The worst thing about my job (and the best thing) is the amount of holiday. The pisser is that I have no choice as to when I can take it, which means I no longer get the chance to have a September holiday; the time of the year when we can just about be guaranteed fine weather.

Pete Gibbs was the weatherman today. He told us all that this coming week; the last of the summer holidays, is going to be wet, windy and generally a bit worse than it should be. But... by next weekend the Azores high will build promising a prolonged period of settled, fine and warm weather, just in time for school to start. In fact, the long range forecast has it staying dry, warm and really quite sublime until at least the 20th September - the day of the autumn equinox.

There is little or no justice.

My Fingers Have Stopped Working

Remember when I did nothing but complain about my keyboard? Well, tonight it's remembered how to piss me off or my fingers might have become stubby and uncontrollable - either way I have had to watch what I write all evening as I'm making more mistakes than something that makes lots of mistakes.

Typical really as I was going to spend a couple of hours working on my story; you know the one I reckoned I was going to finish in 6 weeks... By the time the end of October rolls around I won't want to do anything during my half term break. And then I'll be 70 and dead - at least that's what life feels like at the moment. It just hurtles past at such a rate of knots it probably explains why I make so many mistakes...

Stuff
  • I have listened to: Colour Haze, Kid Loco, Hybrid, Florence, Bon Iver, North Atlantic Oscillation, Kasabian and Jonsi. Not bad going as I have avoided listening to much apart from the radio for the last week or so.
  • We're taking the dogs to Heacham on Tuesday for sun, sea and microbreweries.
  • I finally managed to move the greenhouse. Once I got the screws out it went quite easily - there's nothing like a bit of screwing in the garden. Its new home is snug and sheltered, yet is in a far sunnier aspect; plus it has freed up so much room down the garden that we're going to move the rhubarb! The shed roof is still going to be a mare.
  • I dug up most of the remaining spuds. Fuck me, what an almost pointless exercise that was; I was happy because I found a couple of unexpected plants growing which seemed to produce far more spuds than the authorised ones. I think the weather fucked them up serious.
  • Something happened to my PC the other day and as a result things don't appear to be working the way they should be; I've lost information that I can't lose (but I have). I don't have a virus; there's no bugs in it. It all was down to new versions of Google Chrome and Firefox. I tried to contact Google, to explain to them what happened and ask if why it has happened rather than how to fix it. Would it surprise you to know they didn't know what I was talking about?
  • Apparently, my old employer is returning to comics and publishing. It appears he's launching a couple of new comics. Good luck with that. I wonder if he's seen what's happening to The Dandy and the fact that The Beano sells about 30,000 a week, compared to 2million back in 1970. Comics publishing = a fool and his money are soon parted.
  • Binary Cheese

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 - 59

Summer Garden Bollocks

I should have known that the two ‘jobs’ I assigned myself this summer would prove to be much more tricky than I expected them to be; the big problem is both need to be done and I’m a bit stymied as to how that is going to be achieved.

The first job, which really should have been done by now, was moving the greenhouse from Point A to Point B – about 40 feet away from where it is at the moment. I have done well, the area it needs to go is prepared, even if the rest of the garden is looking like a municipal tip as a result. The wife was sure that my dad had drilled holes into the paving slab base and then screwed the (rather flimsy) greenhouse onto battening and then screwed these into the base. Well, if he did I don’t know how he did it, but that’s not unusual, my dad was a bit of a bodger at times. When I finally cleared the greenhouse out of all the last 12 years of detritus, I couldn’t see anything anchoring the greenhouse to the floor, except… 12 years worth of detritus.

That’s not a good thing. If you look at the shed from its front, the duck shed sits to its left; a hazel tree, two conifers and about a foot of loam are on the right. The back is up against the fence and there’s 6 inches of loam holding that into place. The greenhouse is fixed more solidly than it would have been had my dad fixed it there with super glue, 6 inch nails and concrete. It won’t move and my fear is that if it does move it won’t be … right. It won’t move the way I want it to. Now, dismantling it isn’t an option. It took my dad and the wife three days to assemble it; the instructions were all in Cyrillic and there were various other problems they faced. I fear this is not going to end well.

The other job was the re-felting of the shed roof and replacing the two areas that have started to rot away. I really don’t want to tell the wife this, but I think this is a job even more difficult than moving the greenhouse. Putting felt on it and re-battening it won’t be a massive job; the fact that the two parts that have rotted away are much bigger and I’d say that 60% of the roof is no longer safe. Now, you might be wondering what the problem is here; it’s just a shed. No; it is not just a shed. When we moved into this house all those years ago, the shed was worth more than the house. The shed is double-glazed and according to our old neighbour, before Fishwife, it was one hell of a massive job, requiring help from various neighbours with access to and through their gardens.

When we bought the house, the estate agent said the shed was in better nick than the house and he wasn’t wrong. The shed has housed rabbits, guinea pigs, tools, wood, stuff and nonsense. It has been, at times, like an extra room. It is the size of an average garage; it cost nearly £700 in 1994 when it was put there. It is coming up to 20 years since it’s been up and I think the only way forward is to find out how much it would cost to have the entire roof replaced. The problem with that is, off the top of my head, the roof is going to be something like 12’ x 30’. Maybe a helicopter airlifting one in would be the best bet, but if I’m going to do that I might as well see what a new shed is going to cost (probably in excess of a grand I’d guess).

(I just went upstairs and checked on line – something like the one we have would cost £1,499, but they would fit it for you! I can't find anywhere that sells just the roofs.)

So, with both these jobs looking somewhere between almost impossible and beyond my abilities, that means that my writing has to be the one achievement for this summer’s holiday. Um, maybe not… Yes, I’m still working on my new, sprawling, idea, but I doubt it will be written in the 6 weeks I’ve written other finished manuscripts and there won’t be much to show by the beginning of September. I suppose reading two and a bit George RR Martin fantasy novels could be construed as something of an achievement…

Crazy Like a Fool

During the watching of The Avengers, the new superhero team all boarded SHIELD’s floating (in more ways than one) fortress where most of their operations are based or start. Obviously it was one of the set pieces, having this aircraft carrier on the sea turn into a massive floating in the sky aircraft carrier – it was always one of the crazier things in the SHIELD comics – then they did something that made me groan and shout at the TV. It turned invisible.

Have I ever had my invisibility rant on here?

There is one massive flaw about being invisible – you’re INVISIBLE. It is far more dangerous than it is practical. Why? Because no one can see you!

I always thought that Wonder Woman’s invisible plane was a really stupid idea. Why? Because you can’t see it! That means you can crash into it without your knowledge.

How about an invisible car? Just how fucking stupid is an invisible car? Why? Because you can’t see it. Other drivers in other cars CAN’T SEE IT!

Being invisible might sound like a good idea; imagine sneaking into the girls’ shower room? But you’d have to be careful because you’d need to be more aware of everything around you than be able to stand there and get a hard on.

Being invisible is great apart from the fact that people can’t see you, so you have to be really aware of this or they will bump into you, run you over, throw things at you (or rather the place where you are standing, but they can’t see you, so it isn’t personal). In fact, because no one can see you, you have to be more aware of what everyone else is doing unless you want someone or thing to accidentally knock into you.

Being invisible is dangerous, not cool!

Here Comes Lorraine Again

If something else was going to stop me from doing the impossible jobs in the garden it was going to be the weather. I’d actually managed to sit outside, do some clearing up, write a lot of this and start reading the 3rd Game of Thrones book and most of it was done in hazy sunshine. By the time I got back from walking the dogs, it had started raining and I had just about enough leeway to get the stuff from the greenhouse under some semblance of cover before the spots turned into something more closely resembling proper rain.

The reason I mention this is because the weather forecast this morning said that showers would die out as the day went on and the simulation of the following few hours suggested that it should already have been raining on me. The forecast even went as far as suggesting that by 1600 hours this part of the country should be bathed in glorious sunshine and experiencing 22 degrees of warmth. I’ve often said that weather forecasting starts to get a touch dodgy whenever low pressure dominates a chart; essentially the Met Office are good with high pressure and that’s about it.

Strangely Offensive People I Know That Aren't Me

I stopped being nasty to people quite a while back now, so whenever I see it in other people I'm rather (and curiously) offended by it, even if at first I'm slightly impressed by the initial chutzpah. Someone I vaguely know, who was the partner of someone else I worked with, wrote something spiteful and basically quite maliciously bitchy about someone else, who I also vaguely know, for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Sometimes people do things that have no rhyme or reason, but suggesting someone is talentless and has a big nose (something that has often been levelled at me) is just rude and offensive. I personally think the person who was insulted is very talented and I find her big nose quite attractive.

Absolute Inaccurate Gits

I’ve taken to listening to Absolute 80s at the moment because I figure there’s a good chance I will hear something that’s quite good (and a really goiod chance I'll hear something vomit-inducing and cheesy). This radio station prides itself on the fact that you will never hear the same record twice in one day – well, they have 10 years worth of records to ensure that – however this boast obviously doesn’t include Nik Kershaw as I have heard Wouldn’t it be Good twice already today and I’ve only been sitting here since midday.

Stuff

  • I have just started reading A Stroke of Swedes 1; I am, I suppose, entering into new territory; however, as the second book was largely completely different from the TV series that’s already happened.
  • Frankel won again today. Henry Cecil has been one of my proper heroes for about 35 years or so; he’s got cancer; he comes across as a rich twot and probably has nothing in common with me apart from a love of his horses; but I do hope he has a long remission and that Frankel remains the best racehorse ever because that would be a fitting epitaph for the trainer.
  • Today I have contemplated trying to make cider (there must be something we can do with all the very bland but plentiful amount of apples on our tree); paneer koftas and more pizzas.
  • Piebald soup

Monday, August 20, 2012

2012 - 58

Wikitwats

I've been pretty ambivalent about this entire Julian Assange business since it happened; through the whistle-blowing, allegations and media circus. Frankly, I found most of the WikiLeaks stuff to be dull boring and of interest only to people who want to see the USA military cast in a bad light (no bad thing there, really) or those who believe that we never get the full story of anything that involves covert work by any government.

You had to be slightly stupid not to see a correlation between Assange the press hero and the sudden allegations of his being involved in 'illegal sex acts' with two women in Sweden. The timing suggested a conspiracy and, of course, because the man targeted was, by default, a conspiracy theorist (and they're all barking mad paranoids), you can fill in the blanks.

Over the last year or two, Assange has fallen from press darling to grubby little sex offender. His stock, so high at the height of his site's whistle-blowing, has suddenly become untouchable. Defenders of his name have disappeared into the back streets and suddenly there are a bunch of moral high ground advocates all saying that the Australian should face his accusers and suffer the consequences of his alleged actions.

Assange is basically accused of raping two Swedish women; but this is where it gets slightly odd. Sweden has one of the strangest rape laws in the world and one can be deemed to have 'raped' a woman if a number of things haven't been met. For instance, in Sweden it is technically a rape if you have penetrative sex with someone without a prophylactic and the woman hasn't been told you ain't got a rubber on. There are also obscure laws that suggest that having two concurrent affairs is also bordering on the dodgy side of the law, especially if neither party are aware of the other and penetrative sex is taking place without a prophylactic (I'm thinking this is something to do with sexually transmitted diseases or perhaps odd Swedish morals).

Now, just to cloud the issues, neither woman approached Swedish police until a considerable time after the alleged offences took place - not that unusual, a lot of rape victims will not go to the authorities for a long time - and, it has come to light, that one of the women 'victims' is a radical feminist activist with a history of her own politically motivated offences. Now, to make things even more weird, the two had consensual sex - this is not argued; however, Assange's condom broke and he did nothing about it, thus evoking the law mentioned above. Assange and the woman went to dinner, attended some meetings and generally hung around each other like two people involved in a relationship. It is not denied by anyone that Assange has a high sex drive and has used his notoriety to bed women.

The other 'victim', by eye witness accounts, was said to be slightly obsessed with the Australian and essentially flirted her way into his bed - we have established that Assange will fuck anything. This victim's sole complaint is that Assange refused to wear a condom on the 3rd or 4th time they had sex. The 3rd or 4th time...

It appears that 'victim #1' was a little pissed off about 'victim #2' and subsequently challenged Assange to leave her flat - where he was staying - and suddenly within a few days of him leaving Sweden he was wanted for rape charges.

All a bit odd.

Tonight on a very emotionally charged Newsnight, a female journalist for The Independent and a former diplomat to Uzbekistan almost came to blows with each other and Gavin Essler about revealing names and defending rape. It wasn't pleasant viewing and I kind of blame the usually consummate professional Essler for it descending into farce.

The female journalist was arguing that Assange is taking the piss out of the world and should go to Sweden, where the extradition treaty with the USA is much more convoluted than it is over here. She came across of the opinion that Assange is guilty; women have been defiled and the white haired 39-year old is a monster using the press and the media to avoid his destiny. I might be being a bit harsh on her, but she didn't seem to want to entertain any of the factors that cast massive aspersions over the case. She seemed to be of the opinion that if he was accused of doing something then he was guilty of it and needed to go to Sweden and try and prove he isn't. She argued, somewhat correctly, that he was using a criminal accusation like a political one and that was not right; but, argued the diplomat, these trumped up charges are there to do just that, make it difficult for Assange to defend himself in light of heinous sexual allegations and... everything had this vicious circle feel to it.

The former diplomat, however badly he behaved and poorly he put his argument across, made some very good points. He highlighted the time line of the case in Sweden; he pointed out that four other people - himself included - who have been accused of whistle-blowing have all been accused of another (sexually related) crime within a month of their whistle-blowing becoming known - the diplomat was accused of using his position to obtain sexual favours, despite there being no evidence apart from the word of a cleaner, whose story fell apart with questioning. Here was a man, not necessarily a defender of Assange who was pointing out that there are more holes in the accusations made against the WikiLeaks founder than there is genuine reason for him to allow himself to be extradited to another country to face charges that, yes, could be easily proven (one way or the other), but would also allow him to be extracted to a country with the ability to allow the US government to take him back to the USA and face a death penalty for what they view as treason and espionage.

Of course it does seem to be a very long-winded and convoluted way about doing it (one suspects that Cameron would have told Bill Vague to sell Assange to the Yanks almost immediately if he wasn't so good at hiding), but isn't that what all good conspiracy theories are?

What I can't understand is why Assange won't allow Swedish detective to come to the Ecuador Embassy and question him there; under oath or in the presence of lawyers. Or, if he would consent to that, why Sweden won't. Or if it isn't what usually happens, why not make it happen so that the entire thing stops being a rather sour-tasting media farrago.

From where I've been observing it all, all parties seem to be hiding something; lots of people are taking moral high grounds, others are defending something that is largely indefensible. Like so many aspects of the law, the general public are left wondering how much it's all costing, who is going to pay for it and why the hell hasn't some common sense or compromise been applied.

Facebook Lies

Imagine my surprise when my bogus Facebook account appeared on my Facebook homepage. Apparently B*** W*** plays Sim City and has recently played poker. This was something of a surprise to me as I had no recollection of doing any of these things. In fact, B***'s account is rarely used unless I want to boost my Bejewelled Blitz credits or play myself at Scrabble (and trust me that's more trouble than it's worth).

Oddly enough, while on B***'s page, I noticed that I was mentioned in at least three Bejewelled Blitz posts, despite me specifically stating that I wanted all my activity hidden from my Timeline - the emphasis being on my because I think that's exactly what it does; like Google Chrome's Timeline Remove, when you hide something on Facebook it doesn't necessarily mean it's hidden from everyone else; in some cases you might be the only person who can't see something and like all other Facebook fuckwittery you can't speak to, email or IM someone without first going through masses of unrelated FAQs and then not being guaranteed that someone real will see your query, if you are actually allowed to send one.

The thing is recently I've asked a couple of friends if they have played certain games or have 'liked' certain brands and no one has!

I am gobsmacked that we, as a civilisation, have allowed such an invasive and revealing thing into our lives and bow down to it like some modern day version of a golden calf.

Oh and Facebook claims there are something like 78million bogus, duplicate or dormant* accounts, which would bring the actual number of Facebook users down to about 6000gazillion. My gut feeling is there's only 5000 users all with 5000 bogus IDs or it's just all part of my imagination and when I go to sleep all of you cease to exist...

Puzzled

I've been sitting here for a while listening to someone talking. It was odd because there's no one out there. I checked; but because my office window is difficult to get to I couldn't be sure it wasn't two people having a theological debate down a side alley.

Finally I went into the wife's sewing room and stuck my head out of the window. It was as I suspected, a television; where it's coming from is anyone's guess. Fishwife is in France. Fuckwit's bedroom is round the back (we often hear him barking, so they must hear us shagging) and it's not coming from any of the houses opposite. It might be from the Incest Family's house, but they'd have to be massively deaf.

I came back in here and wrote the above, but the sound started to become a real irritant, so I went back to the sewing room to dispel a hunch. I looked out of the window and my suspicion was confirmed; it wasn't the TV it was the radio - Radio 4 by the sounds of things - and it was coming from Fuckwit's car. I thought his radio had just come on until I saw him sitting in the driver's seat. It's 12:50am and he's sitting in the car listening to the radio (quite loudly)!?!

Stuff
  • Finally done some more writing; 2500 words of actual story to go with the (now) 8,300 words of notes and history. It's a slow process, but I'm not getting bored with it; I've just prioritised both the sun and my reading around it. I know what a failure I am at some things and I don't want to monopolise the rest of my holiday with something that I'll look back on and think poorly of.
  • Got lots of beer dates planned for the next 8 days.
  • Woke up this morning with a really sore chest; as bad as it's been since my paramedic adventure back in July. This was, like Fuckwit and the radio, a real puzzle for reasons we will get to.
  • Today I listened to the bonus CD on the first North Atlantic Oscillation album Special Edition (on Spotify) variant and am glad that I wasn't tempted to buy it for all those extra tracks. The fact I haven't been able to find somewhere I can download that specific version from either has also not bothered me in the slightest.
  • Falling Skies is utter utter garbage; how and why is it popular enough to warrant being renewed? Like Haven, I gave it two series and that's too many 40 minutes of my life I'm never going to see again.
  • Stopped smoking last Wednesday; a variation on cold turkey and so far I'm doing 100% excellently, which is why I'm concerned about my chest, because since Friday I've been breathing much more easily (again and at last) and today I have this horrible feeling I'm going for chest infection #3 of 2012 and that wouldn't be good as I have so much planned for the next two weeks.
  • Banana squirrel

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2012 - 57

Blortch!

It's 9.20am; it is already hot; I didn't sleep well and I'm sitting in front of the PC naked - Yes, totally stark bollock naked. I appreciate how this must make many of you feel, but we must move past this.

I've recently been made admin on the All Things Tottenham Hotspur fanpage and was looking at all the disgruntled posts about yesterday's defeat in the opening game of the season, when the tranquillity and peace of the street was shattered by a massive BLORTCH!

Now, as the inventor of the term and perpetrator of the funniest use of it ever (in the Forest of Dean playing Stella Artois sponsored Midnight Football with Torches in the woods just after a storm), I have a vague, slightly fraternal and not at all grudging feeling whenever Fuckwit belches in his inimitable (loud) way. However...

Just to add a slightly surreal feel to it, Mrs Sexually Explicit wanders out front to get something from the car in a skimpy little bum length number that leaves very little to the imagination, just as Fuckwit launches into a burp of gospel proportions, leaving me wondering if he thinks that's his own, highly successful, sexual mating call - I fancy that girl, I must burp at her loudly!

Then Fishwife's mum and dad turned up and I knew I had to put some clothes on...

As Brown as the Girl in Boney M's Ring

You'll not get any complaints from me; no sir. I've heard far too many complaints over the last couple of days and frankly, you people, the ones who've been complaining, you should have your sexuality removed; or your arse filled with quick drying concrete or your brains sucked out of your feet with a long straw. You will be freezing your tits off in no time and wondering why people as wonderful as me are calling you all cold loving cunts.

That said, I have gone a wonderful colour... Bollocks to skin cancer, I'd rather feel like I look healthy than look like some ghost.

I Don't Have the Words

I don't. Honest. There were several bits where I probably seemed very gay. Other bits where I laughed. Bits where I thought I was going to cry. A bit where I shouted at the screen. A bit where I demanded characters I can't see them introducing.

Oddly enough, last night I watched The Cabin in the Woods and thought it was utterly bonkers and possibly an act of catharsis. Tonight, I decided that Joss Whedon probably is god. I cannot believe I didn't go to the cinema to see it.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you obviously have paid no attention to me for years.

And I Get Even Nerdier

I'm going to harp on about this a lot. I'm going to be watching the next HBO series wondering just how much of the Game of Thrones books they can ignore and probably, more importantly, why. A Clash of Kings is as different from series two of Game of Thrones as tennis is different to having a wank on an aqueduct while shouting at Jesus. I've been so bemused by some of it that I've actually been wondering whether HBO just decided to do their own thing or if whoever they're paying to adapt it possibly had a stroke and didn't tell anyone.

Stuff
  • There's probably loads of stuff, but I either can't remember it or can't be arsed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 - 56

Neighbours, Everybody Needs good Dead Neighbours

The hearses and sombre clothing are out in force over the road, as the Old Man prepares to make his last ever journey. I believe that I have just discovered that he was possibly a carpenter before he retired and I was happy for him that a lot of people seem to have turned out. It is just one of the ceremonies we put ourselves through in a lifetime.

Ceremonies

Speaking of ceremonies, I seemed to have woken up in a strange world on Monday when I read and heard all the positive things said about the Olympic closing doodah. Now, I’m not exactly in the majority about not really liking Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony very much, so imagine how I felt when I sat through (on fast forward for a lot of it, having watched a film before and being about 40 minutes behind) something that felt like a Summertime Special from the BBC circa 1978. It was awful and to my utter disgust most of the performers were miming – what better way of emphasising the cheapness of something?

I’m also of the opinion that the line-up could have been better; that Ray Davies, like Macca, 17 days beforehand, cannot hit a note any longer. Shame, but true. Also, I'm puzzled as to why the soundtrack just got put on a loop? While the athletes flooded into the stadium the same five or six tracks were played over and over again - did they not have the money to play anything else or were certain record companies sponsors of this event?

As for the miming; I’ve read that the performers all had to record their tracks – ala Top of the Pops – and yet some performers actually seemed like they were live, while others were so obviously lip-synched it was painful. I also couldn’t understand why some ‘artistes’ got more air time than others; but if I had had my way and been in charge of the closing ceremony I would have had North Atlantic Oscillation (Scottish), Porcupine Tree (English, Australian), The Prodigy (Mad), The Chemical Brothers (nerds), Gorki’s Zygotic Monkey (Welsh), Stiff Little Fingers (Norn Irish), Fuck Buttons (English) and a host of other bands and artists from all four home nation countries (not Snow Patrol, Wet Wet Wet, The Manic Street Preachers or any generic English RnB artist though, because we want to keep a shred of credibility) and I would have burned (Stephen) Morrissey on the Olympic Flame – just a bit of him every night ending with a long and painful death throughout the closing ceremony. I also would have invited the likes of David Bowie, Kate Bush and the Rolling Stones (who just happen to be celebrating their 50th birthday this year too), rather than having some fucking ridiculous Pan’s People like dance sequence tribute, while Seb Coe's Olympic DJ spun toons and made shapes in da hood.

Filthy Shed Tales

Anyhow, moving on… Both of my neighbours have been a source of ‘amusement’ this week.

Fuckwit has always had this thing for sheds; he has three small sheds in his garden, all locked up tighter than Alcatraz, and it has been a constant puzzle for me to try and work out what he has that he could possibly need so many sheds for and need them defended like Fort Knox. This week that question was not answered, it just got more confusing as a couple of people turned up at his house and began to construct yet another shed in his garden; this time made of metal. There he was standing halfway down his garden supervising this man and woman, not much younger than him, putting up a tin shed from what looked like MFI instructions. I was standing in my garden watching this going on when Fishwife caught me unawares…

Now, I don’t call him Fishwife because its balances well with Fuckwit and this day he was on form, whinging about this and gossiping about that and I sort of dropped into autopilot, nodding and agreeing at the right times but having no idea what he was actually talking about. All I knew was that I was not having any success getting away from him, especially when he started to tell me about some frigging go-kart track they’re all going to when they’re away. He then launched into a story about people I don’t know, doing things I have no interest in, in a country I have no desire to visit. I really wanted to say, “I find you so dull I could kill myself right now if I had some petrol and a lighter,” but the wife would like us to continue having a good relationship with at least one of our neighbours. I’m hoping that whoever buys the Old Man’s house is worthy of my attention…

The (Pointless) TV & Film Dump Thing

As it was obvious that a lot of the TV I watch no one else watches or is so far behind me that reading anything about it is littered with spoilers, I kind of decided that I was essentially wasting a lot of my time, especially when I had little or nothing positive to say. The problem is, it acted as a sort of catharsis for me – getting all that contempt out in the open and all that. Now, most of what I got angry about has either finished or I have managed to wean myself off (Haven). Now, interestingly enough, a show I’ve been highly critical of – True Blood – is currently having its best season, possibly ever. It still reminds me of Fame with horror and several Carry On films, but it seems to have dispensed with bollocks and concentrated on an actual story.

The TV show receiving most of my ire at the moment is Falling Skies, which I have to admit has become my new guilty pleasure after cutting Haven out of my life. FS is fucking shit; it has bad ideas, awful scripting, dreadful acting and a reliance on kind of copying The Walking Dead. I often used to suggest that Haven was written by a 13 year old and the same applies to FS. The second season has been ‘better’ than the first, but it’s still woeful and has dialogue in it that people just wouldn’t say. It is also full of clich├ęs, it has borrowed heavily from other TV shows and books and the penultimate episode of the series left me scratching my head and wondering just what goes on in the heads of most Americans.

In a nutshell, the freedom fighters of the 2nd Mass. have found a settlement in Charlestown and it is run by a fledgling new US government that essentially believes in hiding from the enemy and establishing a new country hidden away from the aliens. This sits badly with Noah Wyley and his band of crap actors, so eventually they instigate a kind of military coups, as a direct result of them being on the receiving end of some distinctly Nazi-like behaviour from the new ‘President’ and his private army (for those of you who watch The Walking Dead, the same premise will play out, but through most of season 3 with the introduction of The Governor). Now, this seems to be fine until the group’s bad boy happens to mention they have just overthrown the government and all of them stand around looking horrified at themselves. Five minutes earlier, they were being held captive with the promise of not being released until ‘they think the way the rest of New America does’. It seems that even in a world that no longer has any values, you can’t possibly overthrow the government; it’s just not on.

If the moral ambiguity sat wrong with me after watching that; imagine how I felt after watching The Hunger Games, quite possibly one of the most offensive films I have watched – ever! Not only are these books (and films) essentially a long drawn out version of Stephen King’s masterful novella The Long Walk, but they also have a feel of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. I found this faux USA with its colourful media personalities really annoying and I know this is a kids thing, but frankly, this planet reveres children so much, no country in the world, whenever this is set, would ever allow its children to fight each other to the death in front of TV cameras – it just wouldn’t happen; and if it did happen, the morally superior countries would actually act on it. Trust me, USA will ignore everything North Korea does, every day of every week; but if it was proven that the North Koreans killed and barbecued children or babies; then you’d get retaliation.

I just found The Hunger Games really boring; I couldn’t understand a) why it was such a huge summer blockbuster and b) why people thought this was a good film; it’s rubbish, full of stereotypical constructs from every Mad Max or dystopian film or book ever made. Plus any movie that purports to try and show the future and reverts to comedy deserves to be burned and all the people responsible for it also burned, but their faces should be burned first.

Slip Sliding Away

I wish half terms would whiz past as fast as summer holidays. Being a man who worries about the passage of time far too much, my biggest fear was that the 6 weeks would fly and I would have little or nothing to show for it. That hasn’t strictly been what has happened; I have written a fair bit, albeit nothing that I can look back on and be really happy about; I’ve had a great holiday, done a lot of work in the garden that needed it and there have been a couple of other things; yet I still feel that with just over two weeks of holiday to go that it has flown by and there just isn’t enough left and if some of my colleagues get bored during these 6 weeks, then tough – give me some of your holidays. I do need to find myself a job that gives me more control over my life, even if I lose 8 weeks holiday (I would expect to earn more money).

Stuff

  • I seem to be in an anti-music state at the moment; have been sort of enjoying listening to Absolute 80s and a bit of Mark Radcliffe on Radio 6.
  • I can understand why fans of A Song of Ice & Fire were so annoyed about the things HBO missed out of the second book (makes you wonder how they'll deal with omissions when they need addressing).
  • My Mayan Gold potatoes were an unmitigated disaster - less than a bucket full from 2½ rows of seed spuds; shocking. The only thing that seems to have thrived this year has been the raspberries; everything else is either stunted or missing. My beetroots are as healthy as an Olympic athlete, but under the surface - fuck all; slug attacked, tiny roots and a slightly more earthy flavour than you would want.
  • I have cleared the area for the moving of the greenhouse. How I move the greenhouse without major surgery, much lifting of concrete and the matching up of holes is going to be a slightly bigger problem.
  • Your rat.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

2012 - HD(E)

The air quality in Shoesville is shit. I've been back two days and already it's like breathing molasses at times. Sainsbury's yesterday was full of selfish, ignorant and unpleasant wankers; I saw several examples of shit driving and I was woken up by the sound of sirens this morning. Welcome back to hell...

Perhaps I just really needed a holiday - I haven't had one for three years - but there was something about last week that changed me and the ambition now has to be to move to the coast as soon as we can afford it. Bollocks to this 'you don't want to move away from where all your ties are because you will end up lonely and wanting to return home' (admittedly that's what they say to lottery winners, but...), I think I'd like to give it a try and if any friends and family want to see us, hell, they can see the sea too.

The massive irony, which I mentioned earlier, is the price of modest properties in this neck of Scotland; if we really wanted to buy something cheap and didn't care where we lived you can get three bed houses in Stranraer for about £55k - admittedly, well according to locals we spoke to last week, Stranraer is the sink hole for Glasgow and the place is full of dodgy families, paedos and ex-cons, so I doubt that would be a viable choice, but given my line of work now I would find it quite funny should I ever go there to live that I would probably end up working in Scotland's coastal toilet port.

One of things I didn't emphasise enough about the week just gone was the general spectacularly big feel to where we were; even the thunderstorms seemed extreme and therefore standing in the Co-op waiting for the rain to stop became a new experience, especially watching the centre of Wigtown transformed into a torrent of rain water. There was rarely nothing to look at and while I imagine some parts would be grim and bleak in the middle of a cold winter; I expect that the scenery would still be breathtaking.

That Other Thing

So Britain only got 29 golds, what a piss poor performance; they should be ashamed of themselves... Or, WOW, what a fantastic fortnight of sport (shame I didn't see more than an hour of it apart from the football, which was, overall, a bit of a disappointment).

It was good to see London and the British cast in such a good light, especially by the foreign media. London 2012 may almost be over, but I'm glad we got it.

Stuff
  • My potatoes have been murdered by slugs.
  • I haven't been listening to anything, all week, it has been an almost music free week, with just a bit of Classic FM and Radio 3.
  • I am on the last couple of chapters of Gams of Threeps and I can't quite understand why aficionados of the books were disappointed with the, it seems, very few changes. If anything, the biggest change was the build-up to Ned's end; the politics in the series were essentially the same, but more emphasis was placed on other things and you also get the impression from the book that Ned's sudden fall was actually down to his daughter, which I don't recall happening in the TV series. Next is A Clutch of Clunge or whatever it's called and I shall read that straight away (I want to see what happens after I've caught up with the series).
  • My summer writing project stalled, but then got inspired by the Scottish countryside. I've ditched my other ideas (probably to writing limbo forever) and am working on something else entirely. I've written best part of 5,000 words and it's all notes.
  • We watched Battleship last night; complete and utter hokum from start to finish, but, you know, it was fun in an all-out action kind of way; but it amazes me how films with such awful scripts and acting ever get made let alone given the obvious mammoth budget this had. Tonight, I think I'll try and persuade the wife to watch the Closing Ceremony.
  • I heard a couple of comments over the last couple of weeks about the 'fitness' of many of the female athletes. I was watching the women's 4x400 final last night and was transfixed by the six pack on the last leg runner for winner's the USA. Jesus Bing Crosby Christ, there was absolutely nothing attractive about it (mind you the US athletes all looked a bit like ugly donkeys, but that's just me being sexist, even if it is accurate).
  • Cave farting.