Saturday, July 31, 2004

Tit for tat [carefully ignoring any literal-minded implications of that phrase].

As she linked me, I guess I better plug her back. Introducing Mrs Rachel O'Dywer, a 23 year old Yorkshire lass, who describes herself as "Now with added pregnancy". She too has discovered that subtle use of certain keywords can do wonders for one's hits. The only apparent downside is that she claims to like both McFly and Busted. Have you no shame woman?

She also seems quite happy that I bought some of her blogshares. Well, what can I say - you were cheap.

[And see, link whoring does work].

Via the only other person to have used that map thing on the left, this London-based curiosity, full of random semi-factoids. Which is my conversations sorted for, ooh, about the next 3 years. [What do you mean it's not true? Not even American tourist true?]. The best bit is the second item in this.

In other news: How long before the American press notice, and start making use of Kerry's initials? His name is John Forbes Kerry, so that would be JFK, who also happened to be a Democrat [whether or not being JFK2 would be seen as a good thing, I'm not sure]. And is that Forbes as in the business news people [Oh, apparently not]? Well, with a Heinz by proxy on board as well, this is getting very dynastic.

Though I'm very surprised to find the official website including this bit of text [which showed up when I searched for "Forbes"]: ...On paper, John Forbes Kerry's background doesn't seem all that different from that of George W. Bush. Like Bush, Kerry is a son of the Eastern establishment, with deep roots in the exclusive institutions that have traditionally... Kerry is like Bush, and this is a good thing?

And does anyone else find it slightly peculiar that the American political parties can never decide if they are red or blue? For comparison, the "That's Walker with an n" site.

I have to say, aesthetically, the Democrats have it: Bush's site is just too cluttered. It looks like a mix of Yahoo on a bad day, a tabloid newspaper, and one of those entirely computer generated traffic manipulation websites [the type of thing that suggests car rental companies on Rockall].

And hurrah, it's not that people don’t like me - it's just that I managed to kill off the tracker. Did you know obsessive-compulsive-ing the code for the tracker, so it makes the page source HTML look neat, is not big and not clever, and is a very good way of making the thing die not-quite completely. A quick copy-and-paste later and it's back to normal (except for one minor edit, so the border matches. OCer to the last).


Thursday, July 29, 2004

From Darren Barefoot, via City Comforts: this [DB's Post]. Well if the products are nearly the same, why not the advertising?

Whilst meandering round blogs, I happened to notice there's been a plague of birthdays recently, in addition to four of friends and family [including mine. BTW when does one get old enough to start lying about such things?]. There's David Sucher at City Comforts, Anna the Jinglelady, Priscilla in Portuguese [via GfB], and someone else I can't remember now. And that's just the cluster round the 25th. One year I think I got it right, and had a different person's birthday party each weekend throughout the summer.

Whereas this year I missed one by being ill, one wasn't a party, one is postponed, and one is in the middle of my holiday.

And speaking of birthdays, here's...there's no possible way I can segue this is there? Drainspotting. Oh, just thought of one. My brother got Trainspotting the film from someone for one of his birthdays [IMDB, of course, use the US imagery, not the classic poster. Tut-tut] . In that film, Ewan McGregor disappears down a toilet. Toilets drain into sewage pipes. Sewage pipes have manhole covers. Which gets us to Drainspotting.

Which given I commented on the CA. T.V. manhole covers near my brother's place (we don't have them here, as the cable company decided not to do most of the town), probably means I should like this site. Oooh, one with a map. Now I wonder if they align it with north? [My god, ours never get this adventurous].

All this is strangely reminiscent of A' level physics, and teachers making poor jokes about the word "ductile" [as in malleable and..., not as in the brand of manhole covers which say "DUCTILE", meaning the tile over a duct].

Now I want to go and see what the two in the garden say [yes, we have a sewer beneath our garden, and yes that's probably why the apple tree suddenly started growing rapidly and fruiting madly once it hit a certain size].


Now I'm confused.

I walk in and find this site on up on the computer: Preparing for emergencies. Trying to figure out who's been looking at it, I scan it wondering what it's actually says. It takes me a while to notice the name at the top is HM Department of Vague Paranoia, and very fleetingly I try remember if there is a government department with that name. Oh hang on, that's not a very positive euphemism-y name, so it can't be real.

I'm still trying to work out why the stuff about zombie attacks and cricket bats didn't register as odd. [Check out the government's response at the bottom of the title page].

Though this whole Disasters Preparedness lark is very odd, isn't it? It sounds like the type of thing that got batted round in the 50s, and which is laughed at today [the type of stuff that suggests, in the event of a communist nuclear attack, hide under the table].

It's so Cold War it's bizarre. I've yet to actually see the leaflet [obviously areas that vote Labour will get it first], but the television ads are quite odd. Not the adverts themselves, merely what they're selling [real site] - a philosophy: With luck (and our booklet), you might live.

One great piece of advise here:
If you are trapped in [post-bomb] debris:
* Stay close to a wall and tap on pipes so that rescuers can hear you
* Do not use matches or lighters in case of gas leaks

Stay close to a wall? Here was I thinking that if you're trapped in debris, you don't really have the option of deciding whether you want to stay close to a wall or not [because you're probably under the wall].

Continuing the bomb theme: If you saw the explosion, stay in the area in a safe place and tell the police what you saw. Safe place? But you just said there might be a second bomb in the area.

I like the way they skilfully use Also, it is always useful to have instead of the spin unfriendly Stockpile.

Strange that nowhere in the "How to Raid Tesco's" section, does it mention stockpiling pain killers, or other way-out enhancers [Well, you would wouldn't you, if you thought you were going to die soon anyway?].

The only problem with looking at the website is that there are no helpful graphics. Where's the aeroplane style safety cartoons? I want pictures of well-groomed, serene-looking people, with blank expressions performing yoga-like exercises on a remarkably intact bomb-victims. I want to see mummy serving cold baked beans to her photogenic children in their neatly fortified basement, as they listen to the radio for news of daddy. I want to see the panicked thrusting hand sticking out of a stampede of people with a big red cross. I want this all in the style of Roy Lichtenstein, only with more pastel colours [RFL].

Cas-Av and B3ta both have more on this quirk of modern life.

While I'm doing stuff that ought to be a forward, here's a little link that was forwarded, as I wrote this. [From someone purporting to be part of the World Wide Wonderland. You can bet all the staff were dead chuffed when that phrase started appearing on the end of all their emails].

And why is the good stuff on so late? Last night I watched The Chain [no, not some Channel 5 thing that involves bondage, some crap reality TV thing, or a film with the Governator of California and many guns]. It's a 1984 film about the chain of people buying houses, and all moving on the same day. I'd seen part of it before, and now wonder why I didn't watch the rest of it. Being British, it's full of "Oh, it's him" moments, and has some stunning actors in it. The script, once the actors figure out how to play some of the characters, is brilliant. Unfortunately I can't enthuse about the best bits as that would give away part of the plot (such as there is). [IMDB, BBC Four].

Oh, apparently it reflects the 7 deadly sins. Must have missed that analogy. But it's just a stunning, wonderful, and rather wry film, which is [knowingly] excruciatingly painful in parts. But I was just amused by there being a pecking order of removal firms - low down the scale it's borrowed cars, and motorbike sidecars, then onto self-drive vans, the local firm and the no-name brand, beyond these it hits the heights of Pickfords, which is surmounted by A&N [House of Fraser], and all of which is trumped by Harrods.

There are some brilliant lines in it - such as desperately describing a house in Knightsbridge as "abuts Belgravia borders", and a infuriatingly pedantic father being described thus "he doesn't need anything, he doesn't need a pocket calculator, he is a pocket calculator". Hmm, not really doing it justice, as much of the humour is contextual, so it's more pursed lips and wrinkled eyes than roaring with laughter. But then it was written by Jack Rosenthal, and I suppose you would have to be quite quick-witted to cope with being Maureen Lipman's husband.

Basically, if you get the chance, watch it.


Saturday, July 24, 2004

London Underground LogoBehold, the wonder that is mobile blogging.

Wonder is that context possibly meaning sheer patheticness. But hey ho.

And that's mobile as in not sitting at home, not as in a handy.

Confused? Don't worry it's not just you. I am at my brother's for the weekend, playing on his new computer. And of course because I came up due to imminent birthdayage, he's gone to a wedding in Buckinghamshire (he thinks, though someone else he's going claims it's in Essex. Could be interesting when they get to Marylebone).

Apparently his flatmate [away for the weekend], has lent his room to some randomish couple. So that's me alone in a flat awaiting the arrival two people I don't know (and who probably don't know I'm here). Fun.

I did try to escape, but the friend I was hoping to see wasn't apparently in. This could be because I pressed the buzzer for wrong flat, but I don't think so. Rather worryingly there was a "to let" sign up between the two windows of the friend's first floor kitchen [the flat's over a shop]. But it's probably one of the others in the building which doesn't face the street. I hope, having stuck her [much belated] birthday card and present through the front door. And she needs a bigger letterbox.

Only I would think going between Clapham and Fulham is just popping out.

So yeah, in London on a Saturday night. Think I'm going to sit and watch a DVD on my own. And it's likely to be Monsters Inc. Utter sociable extrovert, huh?

Strangely listening to Australian radio programmes devoted to Radiohead, goes quite well with the muggy warmth and dappled sun outside.

Getting sidetracked, but realising I can't type about what I wanted because I'm not in the mood.

Coming up yesterday on the train. It was a new one. Never had a new one on that line before. I hate it. Why?

A. It doesn't clatter, it sways. Think of sitting in house built of jelly on a base of quicksand.

B. The windows don't open.

C. It's air conditioned. This means there's freezing air blasting at one's ankles, but despite this it's quite warm and close [though that is preferable to air-con that actually works. There's nothing worse that getting off a train in July and realising you're still shivering].

D. There's annoying head-cupping headrests. This means you must be of average height and sitting bolt upright to not be really uncomfortable.

E. The seats are "airliner style". This means half the carriage face one way, and half the other, with a table in the middle. Which means if you want to see where you're going, you have to walk halfway down the empty carriage to get a seat.

F. The seats are "airliner style". This means that if you put you legs forward, your shins bash the edge of the seat on front before you can get them straight. In the normal carriages, with seats clustered facing each other, there's no problem. Lack of legroom: yep, that's something they definitely borrowed from airliners.

G. Did I mention the doors don't open? The external ones open automatically at the guard's discretion. So if he or she doesn't bother to press a button you'd better run down the train. The train which has automatic safety doors dotted the whole way along. Automatic in that you have to push a very low button, and they hiss, and gently open. Which is great for the poor family who found they couldn't get out, and were pounding frantically. When I tried using them, I found the emergency access level works quicker and better, if you give it a good yank [I didn't see the button on the first one].

H. Did I mention the doors don't open? For some reason, they decided the train was too long for all bar 2 stations. Therefore passengers for those stations have to move to the first 5 carriages of the train. How many people habitually count the number of cariages there are in each direction, before getting on trains? Judging by the chaos., not many. So despite sitting in carriage stopped right outside the main station building, at that station you could only get off the train by walking quarter of a mile through the train [and remember the hissing doors? so to get off a station you have to leave you seat by the station before, at the latest].

I. The mythical fifth carriage was incidentally the first class one. Which was cunningly labelled "D", in a ten coach train [1, 2, 3,, Oh, now I think I see why the 17:59 train leaves at 18:04, 18:06, 18:09 and finally 18:13). The carriage also happens to be the one which is blocked the rear end by a pushchair. And of course there are masses on people wanting to get off at Clapham Junction, all of whom are forced up into the end of the first class coach, and can't get anywhere. The automatic internal doors are going into a conflicting sensor fuelled frenzy of erratic hisses [they don't like people leaning on them]. And guard keeps shoving people through, yelling "Move up the train", and people not doing that because they can't. It's just like being on the tube at rush-hour, except there's the added joy of doors constantly trying to close on people. We get to Clapham Junction, and sit there for a couple of minutes while a man goes to open the doors. I don't like not having a choice, and not having some degree of control.

J. It's a ten coach train on a line where anything under 8 carriages is considered odd, and yet at most stations people can only alight from the front half of the train. Which leads to people being level with the station building mid-way up the platform having to walk both up the platform and the train to find a functioning door. When I got off at Clapham Junction, only the first half the train was used to let people on and off. Only the last two carriages weren't next to level platform, and the penultimate one would normally have been used by the more athletically inclined. So that's 3 carriages worth of passengers who are annoyed for no reason.

That's how many reasons why they are not a good thing? Points A-J, so in South West Trains' thinking that'll be 2 and bit.

As I said earlier (probably), they're utterly crap. And it really bugs me that there nothing which can be opened from the inside. The emergency exit is through the doors at the end, assuming they're in a good mood. Oh and the alarm, is down the carriage, through the slow hissing doors, and then hunt for it.

Give me 40 year old, clattery, bench-seated, slam-door rolling stock, and I wouldn't be quite so pissed off. The train leaving Tweeton late, and losing time on the way up would, admittedly probably still annoy me, but I'd be a damn sight less annoyed. But that's simply the Sorry, What Train/Timetable?[1] effect (even SWT's website is crap).

[1] If you find station staff who aren't on a break, or claiming to be, that's their usual reply to any inquiry. But I'm still annoyed that, whilst I can get a cheap 5-day return to Waterloo, I can't to Clapham Junction, because the reduction from the price of two singles would bring the cost under £10, which is their minimum. And how much do the singles cost? Nearly £6. And of course, it wouldn't be fair to have a 5 day return being reduced on the singles price by less than the normal percentage, so they can't offer that offer. Could you not just charge me £10 pounds for there and back again, and I won't complain it's not such a good deal as some of the other destinations. Grr.

I know the know trains are probably safer in a crash, but on that line, they've long since stopped going fast enough to have crashes. I don't know why, but the journey time in the past few years has increased by 25 minutes. And it doesn't stop anywhere new. It just goes slower.

Remind me to never by shares in Siemens, or the great chaosifisers Stagecoach (owners of SWT, who also own the local buses as well [At least state-run monopolies are state-run]).

[Random quote from the prog: Everything in life should be tried once, except incest and country dancing. Attribed to G.K. Chesterton by member of Radiohead].

Sorry, if I repeated myself in that rant, but badly designed stuff infuriates me. Especially when it's obviously brand new. Could have been done better, and it bloody well should have been.

Back to happier stuff, and my brother and I watched 28 Days Later last night [incidentally his new computer's DVD player can adjust the speed of the film by +/-50%, and has a handy feature that let's you set the time you want the film to finish by and it adjust accordingly. OK, so this could mean you watch a chipmunked Terminator, but it's still a good idea in some cases (not having tested it, I assume it applies the distortion evenly, rather than speeding up more and more as one nears the end). I wonder if you can use it slow films down the same way, and watch something like Spaced with the characters all speaking Whale (see Finding Nemo, also a good film)]. Somehow I managed not see it when it came out, so last night I was full of "Oh! It's she from Teachers/he from Eastenders etc." and stupid questions about "Is this going to be a scary bit?". That and much shouting of "How stupid can you get? No, no, no, no! Haven't you ever seen a horror film? Don't go in, and don't go in alone!". It's probably just as well I didn't see it in a cinema, and so could safely pound my cushion up and down out of frustration. Yes, I still do that "looking over the top of a cushion makes it less scary" thing, even though I probably don't still need to.

The film, quite good, with eerie and intriguing shots of abandoned London. Sometimes it would have worked better if they'd stuck to leaving the zombies just out of shot, and eased off on the strobe-lighting lightning, and rain lashed windows. That and an East-End girl who says "rarely" for "really". Or maybe that's just the effect of Eastenders' stereotyping that makes a shabby concrete tower-block dweller lapsing into a posher accent seem unrealistic.

But it's a good film, with many stunning ideas.

Anyway, I'd better go and eat, so I'll have finish my "London Calling" post now - to the sound of sirens, some extreme-sports event's sound system [you have you pay to get in, unless you jump the fence, as a large groups of people were doing whilst the two security guards on that side were distracted], the whine of jet engines, the rumble of trains, the dull thudding base of a neighbour, the whinny of electric scooters, the half-caught bits of passing conversations, and someone's phone ringing persistently. (They're not in, give it up). Summer in the city.


PS. His computer is still new enough that the irritating paperclip in Word has not been told to permanently bugger off yet. It's clinking at me, but I think I'll leave that joy for him.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I've just been re-adjusting bits of formatting in the template for this blog (still isn't how I want it), so if people see anything that's obviously a bit whack, please tell me.

I've also been busy becoming a link whore. Notice the strange proliferation of buttons to the left. I'm just praying that I haven't inadvertently killed off the tracker in the process (Blogger had...a moment).

And already my attempt at boosting the hits on this site is working. I've just had someone coming over from Feedster. Hang on, I didn't sign up with Feedster. And now they're denying this site exists. Maybe I won't be signing up with them for a while then.

I know just did quirky search results, there's one that wins the "whonawhatnow?" award. CBBC presenter flashes boobs. I missed this somehow [thank god this didn't happen when I was young enough to watch it. Semi-nude Andi Crane anyone?]. And I want know how Carol Smilie, David Bowie, the University of Miami and Bollywood are involved [the other results].

And in other news. I got annoyed and bored and ended up spending £30 on 5 DVDs, and there were still more I wanted to buy. Well, at least I was good and didn't even look at the CDs in the sale. I curse the name of consumerism. Though I did see a nice shirt I might buy.

And then to help with the guilt, my car wouldn't start. A Park and Ride car park is not the best place to try and find volunteers to bump-start a car [especially if you are not sure the fault can be solved by bump-starting it]. By the way, don't try to shift a car that's quite a long way over a tonne, on your own. Especially not when you're pushing uphill...and back down into the kerb it rolls. But the other option was to try and get a group of passers-by to help. Park and Ride car park: doesn't really do passers-by. And the only people around are occasional single elderly women, and single women with throngs of small children.

Eventually I went and asked the guy in the hut if I could borrow his phone [note to self: mobiles aren't necessary the spawn of satan]. He: Oh, but it only allows me to call control...[talks for a while]...oh, but you could use the other phone, I don't use it much. The other phone being a normal BT landline. Call the rescuers. No, not the AA, but nice people I know who will come and help. Ok, if they hadn't been in, then it would have been the AA.

After pushing it right round a block, we get it started [one of the helpers being 5 stone heavier than me probably had something to do with it]. Why does my car do this? [if I knew then it wouldn't]. And why isn't there some residual fitting for a crank or starting handle? The things runs, once you get it moving, and it would be easier to move bits of the engine rather than the entire car.

By the way, very hot and humid afternoons are not the time to be pushing heavy lumps of metal, especially when in a suit, and with shoes that are uncomfortable to walk in for long periods (incredibly hard solid soles).

Oh, and does anyone know where the starter motor actually is in an old Cavalier? The general consensus is that it's that, or at least the connections to it. This is because the dashboard lights come on when you turn the key, but that's all that happens. There's no noise (except mechanical part of the key). The lights don't dim as they usually do fleetingly when it starts. It's annoying, especially as I can't afford to spend ages [and a lot of money] sorting out all the little faults [not starting is a little fault? Well, when it works, the engine is a really nice, happy engine, it just has a load of tatty things round the edge that cost more to repair than the car costs. Unfortunately the not everyone sees it like that. They see rust, a leak and a multitude of erratic electrics (not on the vital stuff, just the stuff it would be nice if it worked)].

Hmm, how can I end up liking something that is actually a bloody nuisance? Oh well.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Huzzah, hurrah and hip, hip hooray!

Right that's it, nothing to see here, move along please, haven't you got homes to go to?

Spot the "Oooh, I'm the 1st result on Google for anyhoo" response, followed by the embarrassment over exhibiting enthusiasm for anything.

Right, well, now that's done I can move onto more important things. Such as seeing how people find here.

Curious search term du jour: "wa wa woah" lyrics. What was the song they came from? And did they really want the Human League's "Don't you want me baby"? [Which I referenced here].

Puzzling search: signalling at roundabouts uk blog. So did they want a blog with that name, or where they trying to find out about signalling at uk roundabouts. If it's that latter then click here.

Desperate search: clippered. Start=300? Strewth. The first result on that page is summarised thus: ... Category: AVS > CyberSexNetwork > Men > Hunks. A Shaved Grunts Military grunts with crewcuts - all clippered and standing to attention. ... Wow, I appear to be the only result that isn't devoted to porn or fetishes [though maybe I should be?]. Nice. Got to love the one that carries the line dutch porn rape insect. Hey, you leave those beetles alone. I don't know what the VPN is on the server, but someone there has too much time on their hands.

Someone at Bath Uni sought out this: oxford english use of apostrophe pural. Assuming they meant "plural". Use x's for singular nouns [like Greg, the school], except for it [it's is it is. Belonging to "it" is its. Bloody evolved language]. For possessive plurals the apostrophe goes after the ess [as xs' is a contraction of xs's, or xses, which would be too fiddly, and wet, to say]. For example: the cows' milk, when there are many cows, the books' covers. Remember plural nouns are treated as singular, that is, the marbles of the children would be the children's marbles. And only Google could claim there's such a construct as children's'. Before, after.

Obvious blog connection result: pub style picnic benches. You'll be wanting the 26th post here. And if you do buy a Homebase one, make sure to reverse the last two steps (it doesn't fit together otherwise).

One final thing. Newspaper syndicating their articles to other newspapers (see the SMH for hefty chunks of the Guardian and Daily Telegraph), is great. Except you've already read it, and didn't think it was worth publishing the first time round. Apropos of the Ali G thing in G2, which is a reprint of an NYT article. I'm surprised that character still has mileage in it, so seeing writing about it is even odder.


PS. Arseburgers. Blogger is down, and here's me in mid-blog. Drat, drat and double drat.

PPS. Whilst researching the link for the bench, I discovered I'm being quoted by All Consuming. Never even knew. Google says I'm also referenced by these people, but I can't see where [and it's in French, so I'm not going to try. I think it's search engine anyway, god knows what Google's doing].

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Damn him.

Mr Inspector Sandsery type person of Casino Avenue that is. He wrote quoted this: President George W Bush has said the US is exploring whether the Channel Islands had a role in the 11 September 2001 terror attacks. From this story.

Seeing his quote, I thought "Really? Wow, I mean I knew they had some dodgy business deals, but I didn't know they got that bad. It's probably some Sark based business being a front for something. Either that or Bergerac was one of the hijackers".

C.I. TV logoAnd then I click on the (more) link. Oh. I see. Drat. I think he might have been trying to make a point. I think he just bloody well made it. I feel foolish now. Such as shame, I was looking forward to hearing that these people are the English Language arm of Al Jazeera.

Maybe plans are afoot to hijack one of the Condors and crash it into Bray.

How's this for the 3rd Google result for "Bray Alderney": Dating Lesbian in Bray. Dating Lesbian in Bray. ... surrey erotic girl alcombe somerset erotic girl aldeburgh suffolk erotic girl alderley edge cheshire erotic girl alderney erotic girl ... So there's just the one in Alderney then?

Whilst finding links I found this. Could it possibly be computer generated perchance? Reading from the left sidebar: ...Channel Islands Hotels In Jersey, Channel 12 In Rhode Island, Channel Island Holidays..... It also references River Island [the shop], New Jersey, California and Fiji. I'm surprised there's nothing about new potatoes or breeds of cow. And at the bottom "Ask Jeeves". Ah, alles ist klar.

Jeeves: the butler who was sacked years ago, but still hangs round begging.

Oh dear I just realised I've put the words exploring, erotic and Fiji all in the same post. Being confused for a porn site. That's all I need.


PS. Anyone any good on fighter jets? Two flew over today, both going quite slow and very low - on banked hard enough that prisms of vapour formed above and behind the wings as the air streams tore away from the upper surface [given it was over a town at the time, I'm not sure that was a good thing]. The first one apparently had engines that linked into two contiguous square exhausts. The second seemed to have four engines with the exhausts like a cluster of jagged castlelations. The second was much boxier, and much less sleek.

Given it's Farnborough a few miles thataway, I'm guessing it was something do with the airshow (thought it was the week before, but nevermind). Googleing images suggests the first one might have been the Eurofighter. [and why isn't there an identikit image search option: well, it looked a bit like that, with some of that, and that bit there].

Once again time has disappeared too easily.

This weekend was taken up with having my brother around, and then maybe going sailing on the Saturday. Which, with weather forecasts and all [and us making the decision to not go occuring about 11:30am], became Sunday.

So Saturday petered out into reading books, and then me watching Empire of the Sun (keep wanting to call it Prisoners of the Sun). An odd film, with a bit too much Speilberg magic [romping sentimentalism and general "don't let go" stupidity]. Quite a high "Isn't that...?" quota. [Wow, the kid with no eyebrows turned out to be the Psycho in American Psycho, and apparently Ben Stiller was in it too].

So watch a film, go to bed, repeatedly wake up, then have an insanely early alarm. Get up after my brother, and he hassles me about time all the way. Have breakfast complete with discussions on what is the ideal number of Weetabix [He says 2, I say 3. Whereas Neil at GfB mentioned having 4, which is just silly (the post about the Chinese restaurant by the airport. Can't be arsed to look it up now)], and then he mocks me for lining them up [if they're on their side, then you still have a bit of crunch left, without having to have them virtually dry]. I start eating a banana and get informed we are leaving. I take the half-eaten banana with me.

So he drive his car, and I have to navigate him out of here [surely he knows it?]. And then it's out onto early Sunday morn roads, complete with a liberal attitude to speed limits [and we're still getting overtaken by silver flashes of cars moving foolishly fast. Thank you "Hampshire don't believe in speed cameras"].

My brother demands music, but in my attempt to rewind the half-played tape that's already in their, I manage to make nothing happen. So he hits some button, and gets the thing to play. It's his copy of my Dodgy CD, complete with interesting artefacts developed during recording. It kicks off with "Good Enough" [lyrics, guitar chords]. Which takes me straight back to being in the back of a car with him, whilst on Venture camp, and being flung round haphazard Cornish roads. There's one point in the song where I still expect a vovlo with a caravan to come flying round the corner the other way, and for the caravan to collide with the mud guard on the trailer with an almighty bang. We didn't stop, and from the speed of the caravan I doubt they did either. No idea how much damage they had, but most of the mudguard simply wasn't there.

It's strange that a song can make you jump back ... counting it out and deciding it's too many ... years. Though that trip was all Dodgy and the Peaches song [the Presidents of the United States of America. Lyrics, tab - cleaner version lower down], and er, Wannabe, by the Spice Girls, which really dates it. It was strange time: full of stools in trees, camping sabotage wars (fairy liquid into drinking water barrels which only have a small opening = bloody difficult to rinse out without filling with bubbles. My idea. But it wasn't me [and they started it]), numb mouthed horses, gravel and bike incidents, suddenly getting the hang of surfing (and running out of water), smelling Newquay [hot rubbish], and things that still oughtn't be public.

So, um yes, songs equal memory triggers. And so it played on. And then got to the bit after the end of Free Peace Sweet, where my brother had recorded the contents of the Friends them tune single [The Rembrants?], which is mine. First time I've heard it in, oooh, five years, but never mind. The tape finishes, and we try to find something else. Radio 1 is selected. I ask the very ageing question of "is it supposed to sound like that?". It was some dance track with added fast-car-in-between-hills interference. The next song is no better. I'm for turning it off, by brother insists it ought to get better soon. Then the DJ kicks in. As my brother said "Spooney? Oh, cut your heart out with yourself". I guess you had to be there. During most my life. It's an adapted Robin Hood Prince of Thieves misquote. As I said, you had to be there. [Check the definition of Spooney. But damn he doesn't have the "e"].

We give up on music for a while, later my brother insists on it. Apparently he's just recorded some more tapes and wants to check them for faults. He is obviously going for juxtaposition, as the one I eventually put on has The Clash on one side, with Miles Davis on the other. It's The Clash side. He doesn't look impressed when I admit to not really knowing what they sound like [I probably wasn't born when their songs around. Ok so he would only just have been, you know what I mean]. It gets played, and sounds better than I would have expected, and distinctly unpunky in parts. So now I need to figure out who I thought they were. There's definitely some punk band who really annoy me, but I don't know who.

We arrive at the sailing club, and there's a distinct smell around. Which given we're up wind of the sewage treatment works, isn't good. We go in, and by the time I've finished locking the gate and walking down, my brother still isn't parked, as he's waiting for someone in a very yellow Morris Minor [even the hubcaps] to finish.

He parks, and we wander down to find out about the race. On the blackboard it helpfully says "11 am start. STD Course". Qu'est-ce que c'est, le standard course? Ask a passer-by, "Um, well it's the normal one. I usually just follow everyone else". Helpful indeed. Fortunately it's pinned to the notice board, next to people talking about lifeboats, dolphins, tiling, children and barbecues. We go and unwrap the boat, which consists of undoing the actions of the many people who assume it never moves. We prep it, and try to figure out why the right bunghole is smaller than the left one. We go and change, and it's the usual case of squeezing in between abandoned kit-bags, or changing in full view of the hallway. I realise that my sense, in the middle of the New Forest, that I'd forgotten something was right. Towel and swimming trunks, so I end up wearing my pants under my wetsuit. I've also forgotten how to get into my life jacket (it being very hard to get on and off probably means it's less likely come off in use, which I suppose is a good thing).

We come back out and I make a divot on the inside edge of the transom, through struggling to raise the mainsail, when the end of the boom is wedged in, and the more I pull the deeper it jams.

We got down the slip, trying hard not kill people on the way. I tried too hard, and the right-hand wheel slipped off the edge. Nice noise of metal grinding on concrete. Stop and we push and pull the boat and trailer back on to the slip. Straighten up, and carry on down, brushing the foot of some teenager kneeling by his boat. He looks annoyed, but as his parents have just said "Oh mind out" [not sure if it was to me or him though], he really should have realised what was happening. Anyway, using your body to block the main access to the beach really isn't brightest of ideas.

We launch her, and I stand like I'm controlling a big dog, whilst my brother goes to dump the trailer up the beach. The sea's warmer than it was last time [no painful shriek]. I let him sort out the rudder and tiller, as we're late, and he's starting to worry. He gets her half sailing, and I fling myself in. We go off, still doing up things that should have been done on land, but we ran out of time. It's not that.

And then we get out beyond the local wind disturbances, and there's quite a lot so wind. We're trying to run, but jib won't settle on either side. He keeps asking me the time, and I keep telling, knowing my watch is fast, but not by how much it is fast. We're still a long way off when we hear a horn. Was that the start? I start timing. The darts come flying out to our port. Oh dear, but only briefly, as the monohulls are still milling, so we've got another five minutes to get there. We round the end of the gate as the 1 minute horn goes. We gone down to the other end, trying to get a starboard course across the line, but someone calls starboard on us before we get there. The problem with sailing in strong winds with light crews, is that we're both so high up above the boom, we can't see much to leeward, as the sails block our view. We skirt round the calling boat's stern, and then tack back towards the line.

The start signal goes, and it's a while before we cross the line. Much of the next hour is full of me not getting tacks right, by brother forcing me into the kicker, ropes getting tangled and jammed [including getting the jib sheet stopper knot jammed in the seat slats], my brother issuing commands I don't understand, then explaining them briefly, and then issuing a different one. We don't apparently gain on anyone. I spend a ridiculous amount of time sitting out, hanging on to the jib sheet for support, and still not making much of an impression on the boat rolling. My brother constantly wants things tweaked, even though I can't budge said thing.

I don't know, I think I was just too tired, thirsty, hungry and unfit to enjoy it. And too unused to handling boats. Though at least I got work on my stomach muscles, and discover just how stable the Wayfarer is (she was fine despite leaning so far over that waves were breaking over the thwarts).

But we didn't capsize, we didn't break anything (that I know of), and we did get to curse people who capsize repeatedly at the mark (and then offer them help, if only because gallantry would allow us to retire with dignity). It wasn't bad, it's just I was glad when we finished.

And then my brother suggests staying out to practice tacks. We did for a bit, but then decided we'd miss lunch if we didn't get back. I'm not sure if it was to save me or him. So he helms us back to the beach, with me doing the Roger act over the bow. I then standing there slumped on the foredeck, waiting for a chance to get up the slip. It's strange how comfortable leaning on erratically undulating sail and solid wood can be. I think we manage to jump the queue, and get the boat on the trailer. It's much easier to handle than it used to be, but then we're both much bigger. And then it's the traditional stop-go traffic jam, as the person at the head of the slip spends a few minutes rinsing down their boat before moving on. Which is great fun with a heavy thing on wheels to alternately be moved and then kept still on a slope - there's never quite enough time to bother with chocks. Rinse the boat off, move it down towards where it leaves, shunting other boats out of the way in the process.

Mill round a bit, looking knackered, and the go up to the balcony to have lunch. But the only seats left are round the shady side, which is also the windswept side. Seating on a bench, and as I'm on the downwind end, I keep gaining errant bits of lettuce and bread, and spume from the top of people's drinks. It's quite cold and quite windy [when we were sailing it was averaging force 6]. Finishing, we retreat back round to lee of the building, which happens to be the sunny bit. Both my brother and I ended up seating in the fire stairs at the end - which leads to the curious event of having my hair ruffled by someone who usually doesn't know who I am.

We decide to go and change, and somehow manage to time it, so that people are carrying out protest meetings as we do. Listening to one complainant, who happens to be an ex-commodore, I'm trying not to crack up. The guy is attempting to exert "undue influence", which is made all the more comical by him changing his story. I can see my brother getting het up, as he obviously disagrees on something. They finish up with the ex-commodore, and move onto the next lodged protest. The complainant in this case doesn't do his case any favours by writing in his statement "me and X", though I think it's just his handwriting generally the committee members disapprove of. They send one person off to look for him, and I finish up and leave. As I do so, I see the poor guy on the way, so let him know what's going on.

Apparently in my absence my brother is adding his tuppenny-worth [being all knowledgeable about the current rules and other minor details]. He thinks the ex-commodore was in the wrong, and the other person acting in accordance with the rules. However the other person has a tendency to annoy people. So somehow I doubt the committee will find the same conclusion. I later discover that he-who-annoys didn't even know he'd been protested, as the ex-commodore decided retro-actively to protest (can you do that? Heck, he already did).

Hmm, strange the results are on the website, and yet I know that protest can't have been resolved yet. Ah the joys of provincial incompetence. [The results also have "?" in the space for the crew's name, on some of the Lasers. Lasers are singlehanders].

Hmm, we came 14th. Not good. Especially when there's only 19 results, and the last finisher is 16th. And we're 7 minutes behind the leader (both elapsed and corrected times).

But still in an overpowered boat with and rusty helm and inexperienced crew, what should one expect. And then it's hanging round on the balcony, watching a helicopter thwack and clatter overhead [it's got horizontal tail fin on one side, and the rotor on the other. Never noticed that before]. There's an RNLI event on the peir, so there's tons of stuff going on. Which leads us to stupid conversations about what is the collective noun for lifeboats. I say it's a salvage of lifeboats. There's their new prototype there, and it's huge, and, unsurprisingly, orange.

Eventually I get bored, and go into town to buy birthday cards. The shop is closed despite the signs to the contrary. Going back, I wander off along the shore to seek out the big red dredger thing, to see if it is a dredger. It appears to be replacing moorings. I continue round and watch the fish round the headland, as the tide streams across. Then back up the cliff, and back to the sailing club, looking for blackberries. It's early for them, but there's a couple of really nice bushes round there. I pick the ripest, and they're not quite ripe, but I've always that sweet yet astringent under-ripe taste.

Back down to the shore, and meander along the beach collecting seaglass. It's a tradition. But it's summer, and they haven't been enough recent onshore storms. So there's some but not much, and it's only little bits.

My brother appears to say bye, having apparently been wandering round for ages trying to find me. I'm getting a lift back with someone else, so I guess I don't get to hear the end of the Clash tape.

We leave fairly soon after that, and all are struggling to stay awake.

And that's pretty much it for the weekend.

Monday, and the only interesting thing that happened was seeing a lorry get stuck. Scenario is thus: There's a drive curving up the hill, which is joined from the left [outside of the bend] by another road, which is coming down the hill. A lorry had come down this second road, and pull out wide to take the corner back up the hill. Unfortunately it came out so far that the bar behind the back wheels (to stop cars disappearing under it) had grounded on the right. The rear wheels immediately in front weren't touching the ground. Oops. When I passed there was a selection of people hovering round it, someone pulling a pallet and some plastic out from under the hovering wheel [presumably having discover that the powered wheel would simply spit it back out again], and a traffic jam in both directions.

That junction is the main link between the different parts of the grounds of a private school. Being past the end of the term, there's masses of removal lorries and builders' lorries all trying to get round. Blocking the main access isn't going to be a popular move. Oh well.

I wonder how they got it out though? As when I was on coach that grounded [hairpin bend, reverse camber], we tried a variety of ways of shifting it, which resulted in the engine producing black smoke, then white smoke, and then brown smoke, and few loud bangs and general "things flying off and shredding themselves at high speed" noises.

Being on a school trip, we abandoned it and walked to the nearest village [closed pub, locked church, two holiday homes and a phone box which conked out after the first call (and still it has website). Yes, we were in Wales], trying to warn the people driving past that road was blocked [except for the school group who made rude gestures at us]. We got ferried away in assorted Land Rovers. On the news that night we discovered that the road was only cleared after they called the army in, and used several cranes to shift the coach.

[The coach company were happy as they'd only just got that coach back from the garage, after one of the drivers drove it through a coach wash, whilst leaving the luggage doors open. Weakly attached chunks of metal and rapidly spinning mechanisms aren't bodywork friendly].

I'll see if i can find out how they got it shifted.


Friday, July 16, 2004

Er, has anyone seen yesterday's St Swithin post?

Thought not. Damn.

Isn't it great when words just disappear? Especially when this set of words actually had research behind them. Can I be bothered to rehash it all now? Not really, so I guess my analysis of whether the St Swithin's Day weather is an accurate predictor of the coming weather.

Anyway the weather yesterday was slight drizzle in the early morning, followed by an overcast, and incredibly muggy morning, and then onto a hot and sunny afternoon, which was still very close despite the wind. So on that model summer is going to be humid and changeable. So sleet by the end of August then?

Speaking of which CNN is running this distinctly helpful story. Thinking of vacationing in Europe this summer? See how bad that place really is. Visit Virginia Beach instead. It's cheaper too. And as if to prove CNN's point it's now quite hot, and has been sunny virtually all day.

I think it's just the Europe is bad message that annoys me, that and the sloppy journalism [the VisitBritain spokesman "maintained a stiff upper lip"]. It's the type of stuff they wheel out when there simply haven't been enough good bombings recently, and only mediocre natural disasters [e.g. a typhoon not hitting Hong Kong, 1]. It's a small step up from covering the opening of the Harrods sale.

[1] Which just got bumped as I typed this, by storms not hitting cities in America [because Shithole Campbelltown, Pennsylvania is much more important than a widely known city].

And why does SBN sound like it's coming down a pipe: the streaming output is full of phase-shifted bits and weird echoes [it doesn't help there's severe clipping at both end of the spectrum, and I know it's not the computer]. Every song comes out as the hip-hop remix.

And is this my computer or has the preview feature in Blogger's edit page been removed? The expandable bar at the bottom has also gone leaving its contents [comments Y/N, and date change]. It might be my computer, as strikethrough has stopped working, regardless of which tag I use.

Oh sod it, too many things just aren't working, so I'll give up for now.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

Wow, I've reached the big 2,000. Um, ok so it's not that big compared to pretty much everyone else out there, but considering this blog started out of boredom, it's more than I'd have expected [even if a fair chunk are obviously misguided search engine results].

So congratulations Mr or Ms person on who was searching for KUBB - band [original Kubb post] at 10:51:10 am GMT today.

Whilst playing round I discovered that yesterday's post hasn't shown up, yet Blogger claims it was published, and that I forgot to actually include a link to City Comforts in the post before that. So here it is then. I really ought to stick in the sidebar, but that means sorting out all the kinks in the template whilst I'm there.

Anyway, as this is only a quick post, I'll finish it with a recent search result: Is working for foxtons fun? Their sales reps have to drive round in cars with big jolly flowers on. What do you think?


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Something really rather worrying - the Guardian reports today on the impact of television news, and it's ability to inform, especially with reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the article, an unsettling number of people are incredibly ill-informed about the matter, with some believing that the Palestinians are the aggressive occupiers.

I know it took me some time to figure out the background to the conflict, but I think I've always known that it's Palestinians who are fighting back. It's virtually impossible for me to comprehend how people could misunderstand things so completely. I really am struggling. I mean, don't these people watch Channel 4 News and Newsnight? Oh, what do you mean it's not compulsory viewing, and the former clashes with Corrie [I think], and the latter is one too late. Well at least watch Newsround then, as they used to be less biased than the main News (except they've probably gone down the populist route, and Israel's importance will rate at just under that of Blue).

It's very strange to discover the latent bias is the opposite of what I'd expect (given America and many Americans constant slam Britain and the rest of Europe for being anti-Israel), and indeed my own person bias.

Sorry, it's just surprising and disappointing.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Playing catch-up

Somehow I've managed not to look at City Comforts in a while. Tonight I decided to rectify that. Stuff I've learnt:
The word malfeasance.
The word obsurantist. I don't know what it means though. It doesn't help Google responds with a "did you mean...": which might actually be what was meant, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's not good.
And I've been reminded of the wonderful word legerdemain

Where the name Samizdata comes from (ok, so I'd never bothered reading the site before, as I seem to spend my time trying not to find new must-read blogs - because the old ones still need reading, and there isn't enough time).

The VortexPonderings on Samizdata about the Vortex [Right]. The Vortex being a new Norman Foster building to be built in London but I can't remember where - that's according to my brain's interpretation of the recent press. So in fact the Vortex is by someone who has left Foster's, and is merely an idea, a design without a site. It's an architectural concept car.

Turns out that as a revolutionary design it suffers slightly from having already been done. In Kobe. Though I can't tell if that version uses the cunning geometric features of the not-quite-Foster design. The nqF version features an apparent spiral formed of straight girders [if you want the proper name for this feature go to Samizdata or City Comforts, as I keep wanting to call it a hypothetical... when it's a hyperbolic whatever]. There must have been some news item or television programme about it, as I can visualise someone demonstrating with a glass full of drinking straws [not the bendy ones]. Think of spaghetti in a saucepan before the ends soften and it falls in.

As one of the comments points out, the Vortex is doing pretty well for promoting itself and it's designer's new practice, for an ephemeral building, based on a geometric curiosity. So, it's a hyped-up, hypothetical, hyperbola of revolution. And the betting, when it's built, someone describes it as hipnotically hip?

So... where should it go in London? Next to the Gherkin? Nope, as they'd be too obviously made from different curves. Standing alone way out west? Where out west, and I'm not sure it would actually work all that well with nothing around it. I think it would probably need the cushioning of other tall buildings, and straight vertical lines to toy with. So a cluster of bland long boxes is needed to act as the best background. Hmm, somewhere on the northern end of the Isle of Dogs sound right? Well, now that the great glass phallus has sagged into the bumpy mess of glass testicles and steel pubes [plus a cluster of stone warts], Canary Wharf could do with having something curvy to raise interest again.

And anything will be better than Will Alsop's "you know what's better than a bright yellow building? A yellow and pink building". Can't find a pic as Alsop's work site is worse to navigate than Skyscraper News [click the poppy. Alsop's site appears to blame Cesar Pelli, but Pelli's site makes no obvious mention of the building]. I can't help thinking what it will be like in 30 year's time though. Anything like those buildings of the 1960's and 70's which were clad in funky purple and blue plastic or ceramic tiles? The one which either shed their tiles (or parts of them), and so leave exposed crumbling grout and mortar, or have scuffed and faded, and generally not worn well [who'd have thought pollution would turn plastic grey and pit the surface, or that sunlight would cause it turn yellow and craze? But it looked good in the architecture magazines]

[The yellow and pink building turns out to be called Quay House, and it's on Admiral's Way, South Quay. It's not apparently on Alsop's site. But according to assorted messageboards, there's some row because it was described as being part of Canary Wharf, when it's not and the site isn't even owned by the Canary Wharf developers. I'm surprised they haven't sued yet over the use of Canary Yellow (only Alsop would think that was anything beyond a poor joke)].

[Is it anything beyond coincidence that file name for the Kobe Tower is "Kobetawa"? Which sounds a bit like a transliteration straight from English (a la Taksi [Welsh] and Guvana ya Polisi [Swahili]). Does this mean towers didn't exist before the outside world was allowed in, or is it only reserved for gaijin style buildings? Or is the similar word purely coincidence?]

A couple of other things. Discovering that the term for the clustering of habitations along a transit line [railway, motorway] is called the String of Pearls model [regardless of whether it was designed that way, or grew from the presence of the transport? (see Ashford in Kent versus the M4 corridor)].

Resource intensive suburban sprawl, or a viable response to changing demographics? The Cottage Company design and build groups of small houses. Which are very reminiscent of holiday homes, or almhouses, or a combination of the two - retirement communities, whether the formalised nursing home, or merely a coastal collection of postwar prefab huts and bungalows. The designed communities seem to mirror earlier idealised "a little bit for everyone" schemes. Unfortunately, they only seem to survive as long as market forces take no interest. When that happens neighbouring plots get bought out and blocks of flat appear in their place (if planning laws allow it), as the sites are already higher density multihabitation areas.

Part of me is sceptical (What happens when land values go up? What happens if they go down, or the community runs out of money?), part of me glad (it's very egalitarian) and part wonders if there isn't a better way (small detached houses, each with a separate services system and the inefficiency that entails. Wouldn't some other shape be better? Like a traditional block which shares walls and occasionally services. A terrace, or block of flats, or subdivided larger houses, or building cloisters and courtyards or whatever. Perhaps they would lose some privacy and insularity from their neighbours, but then the cottages are all within earshot anyway. And that only matters if the people in the community are robustly individualistic, which if they're paying $200 to ensure everyone abides by the rules, they're not going to be).

Ok, so my response to a need for many small units would probably end up in a le Corbusier type design. And we know how they turned out (in this country at least). But that's only because they didn't retain money. They were largely built as council housing schemes, and councils have a tendency to build flagships for greatest publicity. They like to be seen doing grand things. And once the grand thing is built costing more than it was expected to, the council is then trying to raise money for the next big thing. So the first building suffers continual cutbacks when there was unlikely to be enough money allotted to maintenance anyway. So the flagship is stripped back down to the utter basics, which then start developing faults. Faults can't be fixed by the council as they don't have enough money for repairs, and probably have taken out the fault monitoring and reporting system. The residents only rent their property and so think they won't gain from spending money to repair what isn't theirs. And it's into broken window syndrome. The thing looks uncared for, and each fault puts more stress on the remaining systems [broken window lets in rain, so the floor and window frame rot, and the walls get damp and mouldy, and then the plaster starts falling off. Someone comes into the building and it smells, things fall off in their hands, the floor doesn't look too secure. It gets perceived as being unsafe, and may even get classified as that. People say it's dangerous, don't go near there. So people stay away. Except for the children doing all the don'ts. Either they get injured and a lawsuit later the bulldozers and boarding comes in, or the children manage to set light to more than they meant to. One ex-building].

The more things don't work, they more they are expected not to work, and so maltreatment kicks in because there's no reason not to. What's it matter if the lift is used as a urinal if the thing is increasingly reluctant to move? If it doesn't work as a lift, what use is it to anyone? If the light bulb has blown, why's it matter if it gets smashed? And as for the rest of the bulbs getting smashed, well they always flickered anyway, and were about to break, so why difference does a few days make.

The building is condemned by resignation. What's the use, it never changes anything, nothing ever happens at all. The building passes from being unloved to despised, no-body wants to go near it. The problems are ignored, and escalate, and so become unknown. It's just bad.

And the council have a problem on their hands. Their flagship, is listing heavily to port, and they can't afford a bilge pump. If they're lucky they can reach the port of subsidies and grants. They might be able to make repairs and renovations, or they might be able to scrap this ship and get a different model.

All this because someone in the past wanted it all, and they wanted it now [well, then]. Have these people not seen that diagram of building costs, as demonstrated by Stewart Brand's book, How Buildings Learn [if you haven't read it, find a copy and do so]. The one where the initial build cost is not a big proportion of the overall cost of a building measured over its lifetime. Maintenance and renovation by far outweigh the original cost of the new building. But councils think no-one gets elected for unseen maintenance. Politicians aren't renowned for wanted to do just enough to keep the status quo [or being thought to do so].

How did I get on to this? Never mind.

new buildings could not be set back from the street, and the height of new buildings had to be no greater than existing buildings

And my goodness, whatever has happened to the BBC? It's gone like the Guardian, and put pre-watershed swearing on it's website. This is despite the likes of the Washington Post delicately skirting round the direct quote. Some how I missed the Veep [as the Americans call POTUS Junior] swearing in the Senate. He apparently said something that roughly translates into British Parliamentary speech as "with the greatest possible respect" [damn, I can't find the Yes Minister quote that explains the system]. I've also learnt that "go forth and multiply" is apparently a euphemism so this act. Is this a good point to say I've never heard it used in this context, and always assumed it was from the bible.

I agree with pretty much every commentator out there, that claiming swearing made Cheney "feel better" is one the worst possible excuses I've ever heard (though I'm not sure saying so made me feel better).

So from one outburst to ... an outbreak of lewd Braille [ta muchly Neil at GfB]. For years there have been t-shirts with suggestive slogans (suggestive in this context includes outright commands). Well now there's slogans in Braille. So how exactly does one read those? Oh, I get it now. Presumably they get misread on cold days.

So how long before FCUK nick the idea?

Oh dear. And, of course, there is no way of mocking up Braille using characters [guess who wanted to use a series of colons and full stops to spell out "fuck yourself". Strange that Cheney dispensed with the usual preceding "go"].


Monday, July 12, 2004

A blogger ends a post talking about sneezing and having a sore throat: Can we guess what's going to happen next? Yep, it's July, yep I get a horrendous cold, yep I don't post for a while. Sorry.

First things first. Poor choice of words of the day: This article from the SMH's sister site: Don't kill the shark: attack victim's brother. Now that's not very nice.

Second: I've discovered that Moby Dick does not make ideal "I'm ill" reading. It's hard enough to read that theatrical prose when my brain is functioning. Stick a big lump of pressure round the front of my head, and it's meandering gibberish. It may teach me words such as harmattan and howdah, but the plot to word ratio is infuriatingly low. There's endless sections on what is and isn't a whale [which is just about interesting to me, as from a current biological stance some of the suggestions are a little intriguing], which is forgivable in a book about whaling. But when the author takes page after page devoted to the fearsomeness of whiteness, it needs a certain level of tenacity not to skip to the next chapter [1]. We get the point: white equals colour of death, and weirdly pure and sanctified hope, and it's bit odd that it's not really a colour but all of the colours at once. Spin it out for a paragraph at most (that's including the fog and things that go "woo") and be done with it. Stop this foolish philosophising: you're not Tolstoy, and even his diatribes on controlling history probably put a lot people permanently off War and Peace (though that bizarre Masonic storyline can't have helped). And he had a heck of a lot more plot to play with.

[1] I didn't. I cheated and picked up an old Dick Francis instead. Contorted plots of evil machinations make much more sense than tedious ponderings [actually it's not so much pondering as pontificating]. Admittedly this is probably because many authors work to the same formula, whether intentionally or not. So if one has read several of the author's works before you tend to know who will live and who will die (and in what order), and occasionally who the baddy will be. But when one's brain isn't functioning to well, it's nice to have something entertaining that doesn't take too much work.

Reverting back to...a topic I haven't yet mentioned. Got rung up midweek. GA [friend]: Hi, I'm home on Saturday, want to come to the pub [her parent's place a few miles away]? Me: I'm ill, so maybe not. You don't want this. GA: You'll be fine.
Phone call on Saturday at about 10 past 6. GA: Hi, how are you? I'm in [Interchange], I'll be at Tweeton in about 40 minutes. You still want to come? I think there's a party [somewhere in Sussex]. Me: Um, ok. GA: Good, you can give me a lift from the station then. What would her response be if I'd been ill enough to say "make your own way there"?

So hurriedly eat, fling stuff in a bag, and drive off. Tweeton Station is heaving, and she's looking bored. Pull up in the nearest gap, and she seems a bit miffed I didn't stop where she was standing [by the pedestrian and vehicle bottleneck by the main exit by the double yellow lines]. The usual "hi how are you"s, and we drive off. She chats, I don't pay attention, as it's been years since I drove round this part of town and they've moved bits of road. Drive out to the village where the pub is, speeding only slightly.

Get to pub, park, remembering to line the passenger door between the posts. Go in and straight upstairs. There's a new dog. A new mischievous dog. A new mischievous dog that hasn't learnt yet not to try jumping on me. It's quite a big dog, but it still acts like a puppy. I have to say I prefer the older brighter one. The one that knows me and knows what she can get away with and when she can get away with it [this dog has mastered opening round Victorian door handles, sticking her head round the door, sensing if it is ok to come in, and if it's not (ie mid-row), leaving again, and pulling the door shut behind her]. It doesn't help GA keeps calling the new dog by different names (and that GA's brother uses a not-very-complimentary name), but then this is the girl who managed to the first dog to turn clockwise for one command, and anticlockwise for another, due to not being able to remember what was the command for a turn.

So new dog not big hit (well except for the initial impact). GA and her brother chat for a while (each sounding preachier than thou, but the people in that family all think they're better than the rest of their family). We order food (GA orders and I just have the same). Food appears, and we go outside to eat. It's the usual conversation of people not discussing certain topics.

We go back in, and the rest of her family have rung asking for reinforcements and supplies. Apparently GA and I are ferrying them over. Which is just as well as I'm the only one with a car available. The people at a party have left a list of requests. These include playing cards. I'm guessing the party isn't going as well as might be expected. We gather things, and GA is handed a large bundle of plastic bags and elastic bands, with the comment "you might need these". Where is this party again? In a feild? Oh I see. Very fetching.

We drive off the edge of the street atlas. Sussex, land of the here-be-dragons. I'm a bit concerned as we have a hand drawn map (that includes a "balloon tree" as described when her brother thought he'd lost the original map), and GA's sense of direction, to guide us. GA's sense of direction leads her to say "oh look there's the river" when we crossed Westminister Bridge, closely followed by "oh, is Big Ben here then?" (which part of Westminiter and Bridge confused you?).

We continue along meandering lanes, and then hit a village. Apparently I might have to turn left by the church. Might? Is that turn left or not? We turn left. GA: It might not have been left, but carry on in case it is, followed by us leaving the village and returning to open roads. GA: It was the other way. Turn round, drive back, and ask at the first junction if we want that left (presuming it to be a triangular branch back down to the main road, that runs to the far end of the village). GA is adamant that we don't want that road, so we continue up the junction between pub and the church (it's one of those villages). We turn left back onto the main road, and back to where we were a while ago.

Once again the houses thin out quite quickly, we pass what appear to be the other end of the road I suggested taking, and I'm told to slow down [I'm already chugging along in 2nd] so we can look out for a pollarded tree (to be far to the brother, the diagram does look like balloons). On one bend, on the hill above is a tree that's had a few of it's branches lopped off. Apparently that is the sacred balloon tree. GA doesn't look impressed when I point out that that's not pollarding, that's just pruning. I think my subsequent discourse on the poster for Big Fish and school trips to Somerset were probably overdoing it a bit, but it's still not a pollarded tree (the balloon tree diagram was the archetypal pollarded shape).

So it's here then. Somewhere. First right apparently. I know the talk referred to the party being in a field, but the first right is a gate, with only a field beyond it. So not this right. We continue on down, and there's muddy entrance next to a sign about some diary co-operative. Guessing this is it then. We drive down the rough track [the type of thing that's made of mud, gravel and potholes, and upon which quarry lorries and milk tankers usually approach head-on coming much too fast]. Ahead there's a sprawling junction with several exits, and another car ahead turning left, so we follow, assuming they're going where we're going.

There's ranks of cars parked off both sides of the track. The Landie ahead is backing and turning, but I can't tell if it's run out of track and is coming back or has found the last space down there (and I can't see past it). Ahead on the left is Range Rover parked along the verge, and behind it is small patch of long grass flanked by the ditch that runs along the road where I was. There's another Land Rover behind me. I decide to park in the same bit of verge I can see, not knowing if there are spaces anywhere else.

Well, whilst try to get as far off the track as I can, but not drive into the ditch I drive slowly forward. And find a deep hole hidden in the grass with the front left wheel. Do I do the sensible thing and back away and try to park elsewhere? No, I do a slow hill start and edge the front wheel out of it, and then carry on, going slowly to get the back wheel across. I stop and get out to check the position. The car's not straight and the back right corner is still sticking out into the road. But not enough to block the road, and if I attempt to straighten up, I'm going find myself running out of a flat surface to do it on. So we get out (parking next to a ditch can pose problems for anyone trying to get out of the passenger side door). Despite the Range Rover ahead leaving its parking lights on, I don't bother, figuring anyone coming along here has to be going slowly and with their lights on.

Getting out we can see that there's couple more spaces ahead, then a cattlegrid, another junction and apparently a cottage beyond it. So I could have parked somewhere decent. Oh well. We walk back down the lane we approached from, following the couples and other clusters of people. We turn left at the sprawling junction, and then see the scattered straw marking the path. We then see why there's scattered straw: it forms a causeway through a wide and deep slurry lake. If the others drove through this bit, and didn't know about the straw, no wonder they suggested sacrificial plastic bags. Well, it is a diary farm I suppose.

The path continues through a wood, each couple in turn making small talk about the trees, and the unlit candles lining the path. There's traffic jam of couples all stuck behind someone making their way with a crutch, and either being too polite, or too ill-dressed to resort to walking off the path to overtake (though the latter is unlikely as there ground everywhere is covering in a layer of what appear to bluebell leaves). Eventually GA ducks under the lower hanging branches beside the path and overtakes, and I follow. Most of the other couples do the same, now that someone else has done it.

We stride along, and then come to a clearing. To the right is black modern Land Rover, some unturned crates forming a barrier, a couple of piles of bricks and tiles, and the back of some building. In one the windows, is a stack of cans, and an elbow that looks like GA's father's. GA continues straight on, ignoring me. And then once she sights people she drops back unsure of what to do, which considering she's just been giving me a prep talk on how to network, seems odd.

We go odd, with me heading the way, and fending off people with a slight nod and big smile. There's a cluster round the barbecuing section (well, a big crowd of cold, bored and expectant-looking people standing in a lot of smoke usually implies a barbecue). Wheeling round to the right and there's an open-sided courtyard, obviously the farmyard before the farm became industrialised, and moved up the road. There are huddles of people, with barn to the left, a locked shed to the right and what look like ex-stables ahead open to the courtyard.

GA seems flummoxed by it all, by I drag her ahead into the ex-stables, and sure enough there's the bar, with her family working it. We squeeze through between tables, and straight through the door back outside (and back to by the car and the piles of tiles). I'd forgotten they had a black Discovery.

Hmm, so this looks like fun: standing round by washing-up bowls of cold water, bags of rubbish, the stacked remains of a building, and being just round the corner from the generator. So, who's party is it? None of people working on the bar seem to know. They just know they were hired for a party, and that there are signs dotted round the neighbouring countryside saying "25". Presumably that's 25 years, but of what no-one seems sure. Possibly 25 years of the milking co-operative, or maybe it's the farmer's son/daughter's birthday party, but there don't seem to be enough 25 years olds for that.

So I stand round the back of some unknown someone's party, and realising that at least habitually standing in kitchens at parties usually gets you heat and food. I politely turn down the opportunity of doing some washing-up, on the grounds that I'm not getting paid, yet both of GA's younger sisters are, and they're not doing it.

It feels eerily like a particularly dismal scout camp. Cold, damp and with nothing to do but the washing up. One sister has already nabbed the food and cards, and is sitting playing patience. Those who aren't working sit and chat for a bit, but it's all utterly trivial [I can't remember any of it]. Eventually the middle sister and I go inside the car [because it's warmer], and play Beggar thy neighbour (she calls it something else). It's an interesting game, as she plays the complete opposite game to the one I do. She tries to get out as quickly as possible, and tries playing that person who loses picks up the cards, and then the winner has the first card down next. Eventually I convince her that the loser [the one who has just paid out 3 normal cards on the other player's king, for example] doesn't get to pick up the bundle he's just lost, and has to go first next time. But as it's luck, us quibbling about the rules and the point of the game don't make much difference. I lose (my way) on the first game, but she thinks she's lost (due to having all the cards). I discover her life at college is about as fun as ours was, although the "in" areas have changed a bit (You sit in the cafeteria? The far end? The one by the huts? Are you mad, that's were all the Garys are. That's where all the fights happen ... What do you mean you've never heard of the scabby little room? ... But everyone does still sit on the fences of the OK corral, despite the frequent tellings-off, right? That, and they're always breaking).

The next game goes on a long time, and gets called off, due to her work commitments. I don't think either of us are unduly upset. I get a message I ought to be more sociable. With whom? GA is standing looking bored, and not talking to me, the sisters are flitting in and out, her parents are behind the bar full time, and the unincestuous barmaid understandably doesn't get to come out much, and that's only to smoke.

I retreated back to warmth of their car, this time at the invitation of the younger sister, who wants to play snap. Snap? I think I last played that on family holiday to Lancashire, oooh, when I wasn't quite old enough to remember much beyond a stream, a bloody-minded ram interrupting a pic-nic, a stone between to countries [turns out it was on the border of Yorkshire and Lancashire, both of which were equally cold and windy], having a kite I could go for a walk with [it was that easy to fly, though the windswept barren plains of Lancaster Uni probably had something to do with it] and walking past the mistletoe on an appletree on the way to collect the eggs for breakfast at a bed and breakfast we stopped at on the way up. I played it with my brother. He cheated [strange that my participation in, and awareness of, so many games ends with some family member cheating. Snap: my brother. Monopoly: my male cousin. Some game I can't remember the name of, or how to play: my female cousin. Chess: my father (he just forgot it wasn't his go. Repeatedly. I can be quite fun watching him trying to work out why I'm not responding to his actions, and thus throwing his planning into chaos. I don't think it ever occurred to him that I'd got bored and had given up protesting when he took my go)].

Anyway, we play snap. She cheats. I give her a "you're how old, and you still expect me to sportingly let you get away with that, because you're younger?" look. Admittedly I'm not all that sure how old she is. Neither is her sister, GA [don't ask]. I figured out the eldest she could be was 14, and that's because I remember her being born (we'd just started secondary school at the time, and so people's mothers having children was pretty rare).

After getting annoyed by my gaul in contesting the game (oh I see, you just want me to regularly put cards down, and not bother sticking my hand on them whilst calling "snap". Well you can see how the name "Snap" mislead me then), she wins. She carries on putting cards down, waiting for a pair to come through. I can vaguely remember the sequence they were in. There's the ten of clubs, so there should be another ten coming next. "Snap!". She is not happy. Me: Well, if you will carry on playing once the game is over...

We play on, and I start gaining cards. She decides she ought to be helping her parents once I have nearly all the pack. Game adjourned.

Get back out, and go and chat with GA. Her father comes out just as we're discussing something that was on the news. She's surprised I heard about it. I was asking if she was in it. Let me clarify this bit. A couple of weeks ago there was an article on the BBC News website (and reputedly on BBC South News, or whatever it's currently called). The article was about an incident in the Solent. A Big Corp had hired some yachts, and had somehow managed to crash two of them into each other, with the result that one sank. [I doubt know why I'm being discreet about this, you can easy find out about which firm I'm talking about]. Further follow-ups via the grapevine suggested that the yacht that sank didn't know they were sinking for a very long time.

GA works for Big Corp. GA has talked about sailing incidents with Big Corpers (Such as her, whilst acting as navigator, being asked "where's X-bouy?". She goes down to check the charts, and comes back up, and confidently points somewhere off to the horizon. The Boss: Er, are you sure? What's that buoy then? [pointing to big, very close buoy, on the other side of the boat to GA's indication]. GA: I'm not sure, I'll go and check. Disappears back down to the charts. Comes back up. GA: We came out of Cowes not Portsmouth didn't we? Sorry, wrong chart). GA also talked about needing a dress that could survive being packed for a fortnight, and which wouldn't mind getting damp [I was being dragged round looking for one]. GA was part of the corporate event when the sinking happened? Probably.

So I ask her. She wasn't anywhere near the accident at the time, because they were sailing round the farest buoy of the pre-arrange race course. Their radio wasn't working very well, and so they missed the message informing them the course had been shortened. [I'll leave aside for the time being comments on the wisdom of sailing without adequate communications. I'll also ignore the fact the boat charter company bans racing, and quite why race control didn't insure all participants knew of the change, and what they were doing letting bits of the fleet disappear on their own (was there een a race control?)].

AS GA tells it, they heard erratic chatter over the radio about the incompetence of assorted people. They realised something was wrong, but didn't know what, so carried on (as they had enough problems of their own). Quite a long while later they heard the message "...we are unsure of [garbled]...we have a foot and a half of water down here, and it appears to be rising...". This is followed by an exchange between unknown voices, which can't be easily understood. GA's crew pick up enough to figure out that there's all sorts of fun involving lifeboats down the other end of the Solent.

They sail back to the finish, and finish off for the day. Talking to people informs GA that the collision was between a group who didn't have much experience [FS Regs people] and another lead by a very experienced sailor. Unfortunately the sailor is Swedish. He speaks English, but not well. The implication is that when he's cross or panicked he reverts to Swedish. Add to that the chaotic nature of most boats, and quite how difficult it is to make yourself heard by the crew on the foredeck, especially in poor weather (and when things are going wrong - try outshouting a rapidly flapping main). I'm guessing communications broke down.

The race had already been shortened because of the deteriorating weather conditions. That day had extremely strong gusting winds, and an incredibly choppy sea. Not ideal conditions, especially for an inexperienced group. From what GA said, the two boats were near a mark, and so both were trying to get round it as easily as possible. That means both would be aiming for the same point.

Normally, the rules and regulations governing sailing races would determine who had right of way, and who would have to adjust their course. It is probable that the Swedish skipper knew most of these rules, and expected them to be applied. It is also probable that inexperienced team didn't, and so would not react as expected.

So two boats in close proximity, heading for the same point, both not accurately predicting what the other would do. Now remember the weather. Howling winds [and rising], so the boats will both be heeled over, and probably over-powered [big sails designed for weaker winds]. Both will be having a joyous time crashing up, down and across waves. Every movement of the sails changes where the boat sails. As the boat goes over each wave, the boat is trying to sail in variety of directions, with a variety of success.

I think events conspired enough that the bow of one stuck the hull of the other, just under the transom [the flattened section at the stern/rear]. I'm not sure if this has a technical name, but it was far enough down that the crew couldn't see the hole, and far enough down to be below the waterline.

Apparently they sailed on a long while after the collision (4 miles according to one source), whilst the boat started to fill with water, unaware there was anything wrong.

Eventually the leak was discovered, and the help messages sent. The crew taken off by lifeboat, and the yacht towed out of the main channels. It sank on the edge of Bramble Bank.

The comment accompanying the picture to the right, was "Sunsail's boats all have their numbers on the tops of their masts. Now I know why!" At least we know the roller-furled jib works, though overall it isn't exactly a great advert for Sunfast (the makers of the yacht). And Bramble Bank must be muddy to allow the thing to sink keel first, and then hold it bolt upright.

Assorted links (discretion be damned), though not necessarily accurate: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Random ad [presumably] for Swedish navigation tools.

GA's other story from her sailing expedition took place in similar conditions. It's pretty grotty weather, and the crew on her boat have just finished swapping one set of sails for a smaller set. Extrapolating on my experience, this means they've just spent the past 20 minutes screaming at each other over the top of the noise of the waves and wind, getting cold, wet and bruised, and generally trying not to fall in, whilst trying to keep hold of large slippery expanses of sail.

So they're all pretty knackered, and are sitting waiting for the day to end (or the flurry of effort on the next tack). One of the crew, who is fairly young and inexperienced, obviously decides to perk everyone up a bit [and possibly score brownie points with the boss]. He announces "Tea, coffee anyone?", to which he gets a series of muttered replies along the lines of "If you're making it".

He disappears down below. The rest of the crew sit, too tired to tweak the sails. A while later, the wind and waves suddenly catch the boat, and she heels right over. This is accompanied by the cascading sound of smashing crockery. No-one of the crew dares say anything. A little while later, the guy making tea reappears with four mugs. He hands them out to those who asked for a drink. He stays up in the cockpit, so GA asks him "Aren't you having one?". He replies "No, not right now".

Even GA has enough tact to figure out the reason and not press it. Apparently, he went down to make the tea. So he filled the kettle and put it on the stove, and as he was waiting for it to boil, he took enough mugs out of the cupboard, shut the door afterwards, and lined them up on worktop. He then started putting teabags, spoonfuls of coffee, milk and sugar in the mugs. Wedging himself in the companionway, he then waited for the water to boil.

As he was waiting, the boat suddenly heeled over. The mugs on the side slid off, with four of them landing relatively intact in the sink. However, when he shut the cupboard he had taken them out of, he didn't know one has to click the handle to lock it. So he shut the cupboard door. Without the catch. So when the contents of the cupboard moved as the boat rolled, there was nothing to hold the door shut, so there was nothing holding them in. So the contents of the cupboard fell out. The contents of the cupboard was boat's crockery. So when it heeled over, piles of plates, side plates, bowls, and the remaining mugs, flung themselves towards the navigator's desk. Much crockery plus big drop, plus solid wood, equals not much.

I'm still surprised that a company that hire boats out to fairly inexperienced sailors has breakable crockery. I'm even more surprised that there's no secondary securing mechanism, such as strapping or webbing, round the piles in the cupboard.

But it's quire funny really, as long as it's not one's own deposit or insurance bills it effects.

Reverting back to the party, and by this time, the music has got louder, and appears to be a live band covering numbers by the Rolling Stones and alike. GA somehow manages to describe it as "Cheese". Sometimes you have to wonder about how this girl's brain works. Cheese? In musical terms, it means the truly dire, it's bad yet engineered enough to trigger innate responses. It usually involves Dutch females and nonsensical lyrics. It often thinks wackiness or zaniness is a virtue. It's the song at the school disco which is embarrassing at the time. Somehow I can't see anything coming from the Rolling Stones ever appearing on a compilation album titled "Now that's what I call CHEDDAR!".

Eventually the cold and boredom become all too evident (and it's not just restricted our huddle in the servants quarters. I guess that's what you get for having an open-air party on a chilly night, inviting many guests to traipse deep into the countryside, and then charging them high prices for both the food and drink), and by mutual agreement GA and I leave, and are charged with returning the youngest sibling to the pub. The youngest sibling somehow has liberated a glass of Pimms [Pimms on a cold night? Surely there is an implicit understanding that anyone drinking Pimms must be within 5m of warm dappled sunlight on well kept lawn?]. This is going to be fun.

The path back to the car is even more fun. Remember that it's through a wood, then across straw causeways through the mire, and then along a rough half-stony, half-muddy road, and round onto another? It's night. In the wood there are candles to light the way. They are placed about every hundred yards, and that's when the suicidal moths haven't snuffed them out. The path isn't straight, but candles strangely seem to line up. So the walk back through the woods consists of trying to use nightvision under a shady canopy, putting my arm up to block the candlelight (they are strategically sited to blind one just as soon as one's eyes have recovered from the light of the last one).

Eventually I develop an incredibly loose hip and ankle walk, as trying to cope with the terrain only seems to make it worse. Fortunately the straw pontoons did show up well at night, so that was the next problem avoided.

We walk back to the car being glad that it's summer so there is still a slight pretence of light in the sky. Attempt wipe mud off shoes on the grass before getting in, but I can't see what I'm doing, so I give up. Unlock the car and get in, letting the others in. The little sister has somehow finished her drink and disposed of the glass. I don't know where though, so I assume it's been left on bonnet of some convenient Range Rover.

GA and I both notice that when we get in the car, the sidelights on the Range Rover ahead of us aren't as bright as they were when we parked. And that was in daylight. As we get ready to leave, we realise they are visibly dimming before us. Oh dear. But what can we do? Spend ages walking back to the party and asking if anyone owns a Range Rover? We'd only get about a third of the people there coming out. And my car is usually on the receiving end of the jump leads, so I'm not sure it would be any use. And it's late, and there's many other people around. So we, in the true spirit of chivalry, drive off and leave it there.

Driving off consists of putting the car in first, putting the steering on full lock and inching my way forward hoping to squeeze past the end of the Range Rover. Why? Because it's dark, there's a hole directly behind me, and a ditch beside that, so the thought of backing and turning here doesn't seem too good. GA is not convinced, and is telling me to back out, as I'm going to hit the car ahead. Me: No I'm not [whilst thinking: I can just about do this, and I'm only going very slowly so hitting the car ahead won't actually damage anything]. I can see the headlights catching the back of the car ahead, and focusing the ribbed patterns on it. I am very close. I just make it. Me to GA: Oh ye of little faith [not admitting I didn't think I could make it, but was going to try anyway].

So I drive on, hoping my gut-instinct about there being somewhere to turn round up here is right. Over the cattle grid, and onto a cow widened junction. Going slowly, with low revs, I sweep round to the left and continue round in a full circle. I'm glad there's enough room, as I wouldn't want to have to reverse here. That's because the entire area is one big sludgy mass. Did you know that driving on slurry is much like driving on gravel or snow? You have to do everything slowly and gradually.

Drive out of the farm, and back along meandering roads (yay, rally style corners! Though I hasten to add I wasn't going that fast. Though having light forewarning of oncoming vehicles [all two of them] does help). Back to the pub, and we stop outside. We go, and stand round chatting with GA's younger brother and assorted just-finished-work barmen. While we do this, one of the customers decides to go behind the bar and start serving people. The brother chases him back out again. Apparently, the pub traditionally does lock-ins, but the brother would be on his own, and doesn't want to do it (he claims he wasn't supposed to be working tonight, as he's going somewhere very early tomorrow). The regulars don't seem convinced, and are waiting for someone to carry on serving them, even though it's way past 11.

I decide to make my excuses and leave. I go out, get into the car, put the key in the ignition, and nothing happens. The dashboard lights come on, but there's no sound. Damn.

This has happened before. If only I could remember what caused it. It's happen before when I was parked in the same space here. Think. One of the faults was a loose lead, but should have been fixed. There was something about the distributor arm, wasn't there? Open bonnet, and take off the distributor head (the thing that looks like a sandcastle). Something's rattling. Two small bits of irregularly shaped plastic fall out. Hmm, that's not good. Looking into it, they appear to be insulating bits on the rear of the connectors, and they're from two opposing corners. I put it back on, cursing it slightly. Turn the key again, and still no noise.

I go back to the pub to beg a torch. The one in their beer cellar is huge, and yet doesn't work. They don't appear to have another one. Seeking out GA, she seems baffled, and goes to get the only one she can think off. I tell her is doesn't work, so she tries the torch anyway. It does work. The little sister comes in, and with exacting the same "oh give it here" attitude tries it. They look stumped. I suggest a candle, knowing the pub gets through gallons of them. GA looks contemptuous, and dismisses that idea.

Back out to the car, and she's got suggestions until I open the bonnet, and then she doesn't. The little sister appears with a candle, and once again it's off with the orange sandcastle. Despite GA sounding like she knows what she's doing (and knows better than me), she doesn't correct me when I call it the alternator. Even with a candle, I still can't see anything wrong with it.

It's then we notice the dog is out, and lurking around our feet. It's the older, nicer dog, who happens to be utterly black (from this angle at least). Sticking her in the car to keep her out of harm's way, we decide that it must be the distributor arm that's stopped in the wrong place and so isn't making contact. The cure for this is bump-starting this [I'm not sure this is the right diagnosis or cure]. GA claims not to know how to bump-start a car, so I have to be the one driving. Which when I'm a foot taller than either of them, and heavier, seems wrong.

We start off trying to do it backwards, but it doesn’t work. I think I kept trying to soon. Running out of road, we stop. They go round to the back, and when I change gear, I realise I'd put it in first not reverse. No wonder it didn't work. So putting it back in first, we go forwards. I wait till we're going fast, and running out of road. Bring the clutch in, and the engine sort of splutters. And then fades away again as I bring the clutch back out. Damn. The car has come to a halt. I try restarting it. It's making trying-to-start noises, but not working. This goes on for some while in a confusion of putting ther choke in and out whilst accelerating. She suddenly revs frantically into life.

I put the car into gear, and then remember the dog. Car back out of gear, check the hand brake, and then unlock the door behind me to let the dog out. GA opens that door, and there's no dog. We both realise she must be in the front, and so I reach over to unlock front passenger door. As I do so, I clout the dog with my elbow [probably right in the face]. Sorry dog, I didn't see you there. The dog understandably makes for the back door, and disappears. I get back in properly, and in a flurry of revs, shout a very enthusiastic "thank you so much!" over my shoulder through the window, and drive off knowing GA's holding the dog by the collar.

I drive home, a bit too fast in places, but there's nothing else around. I park, without problem, and leave the car, and go in, and then to bed.

The next day, the effects of last night are apparent on the car. The tires are brown, there's pretty arcing streaks along the car, in fetching pale beige, and blackened handprints round the bonnet and door handle. Oh well.

This is made all the more ridiculous by the next car along being a proper landrover. A big new, incredibly clean, shiny and undented land rover. Further up the road are a couple of Discos, equally as clean and shiny. It's bizarre, looking round the road. The more a car has been designed for off-roading, the cleaner and less damaged it is. There's my muddy mouldmobile Vauxhall Cavalier, designed with the sales rep in mind. There's a lightly speckled Skoda, a somewhat scuffed Ford, and a couple of roof-racked Golfs, which look like they were trying to find out if going through a hedge backwards is worse than through it fowards. And then you have the assorted SUVs [the landies and knock-offs], which are all pristine, and have probably never faced anything worse than the wrong end of Sainsbury's car park.

And that's about it for this weekend's adventures.

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