Thursday, March 30, 2006

2005-09-18 [2] 014How hard can it be?

My flatmate has gone to Greece for a month, leaving me with the key to his bike (and helpfully not quite mentioning which of the many bikes locked up downstairs is actually his). So naturally enough, I'm now wondering if I dare use the thing. I suspect the frame will be too small, and I don't have tools to adjust the saddle, and driving in London is scary enough when one is cocooned in a few tonnes of metal, let alone perched atop what appears to be Blue-Petered pack of Bacofoil (and did I mention I failed my cycling proficiency; I stopped to let a dustcart, who would never have seen me, back out of a road). So with imminent death paramount in my mind, I'm now looking for a cycle helmet, as obviously when one gets crushed by a reversing dustcart (although I think a Bendy Bus is more likely to be lethal), preserving the top third of one's head is of the utmost importance.

So if one needs something cycle related, where does one turn? Well, either that odd cycleshop with a pig of carpark (why do cycleshop owners imagine all their customers will cycle there? People only go there if they need a new bike or something on their bike has broken, which suggests there can't really cycle there) and the worrying owner who looks like the type who hoards WD40 straws; the nice friendly cycleshop in town which has now closed; or Halfords, whose staff always look like they got bored of snorting WD40 and starting eating the cans instead (ok, so sometimes the staff are sane and useful, but usually they only keep their sanity by driving their supervisor mad).

And as I'm in London and not in any of the places where I know where a cycle shop is, I'll go for Halfords then. So off to Google to find where on Oxford Street they are, and er, oh. Is it me, or does that map make it look like TCR was the centre point for an explosion which destroyed all Halfords's in a 4 mile radius? Are there really no Halfords shops in London? Are they related to WHSmiths? Because in London you can only find those in stations (and reputedly in some shopping centre off New Oxford Street, although no-one has ever actually found the shopping centre let alone the shop).

So maybe I'll just use their website to see what they stock before I pack the sherpas and head off to the great unknown (ok, mezzo-unknown, as it looks like Brixton is the easiest to get to, but I've never turned left out of the Underground station).

Eventually, I find cycle helmets buried deep in their website. I click on one which is reduced (one previous owner; death forces sale. Slight impact damage on one side). It looks fine, in the way all cycle helmets look fine because, well, it's £20-worth of foam cage, and that's about all there is to it, so the only thing is to pick a colour, and as they all only come in black (ok, it says black but the picture looks red)...

So do they do an Argosy "in stock in store" checker? No. But they do very helpfully tell me that:
Product cannot be purchased at this time.

Anyone else wondering why?
- Product out of stock.
- Product out of stock although we expect to have more shortly. Please hold.
- Product out of stock as staff are using the helmets to create land-crab hoax. They've promised to bring them back by Monday.
- Product out of stock as Nancy, the group's buyer, ran off with the purchasing fund. If anyone is visiting Pitcairn, please could you ask her to bring it back.
- Product is feeling a bit agraphobic today.
- Product has a stinking hangover, and is stuck waiting for a train back from Looe.
- Product may disappoint; to avoid suicide related lawsuits, this product has been withdrawn from sale.
- Product ran amok and killed people, so Eric from accounts is kneeling on Product until the police get here.
- Product doesn't feel like sullying itself with the likes of you.
- Product has a prior engagement.
- We're sorry, but Product is in a meeting right now. Would you like to leave a message?
- Thank you for calling the Halfords London. As it's Friday afternoon, we've all gone to the pub. If you would like to leave a message, you can be be sure we will give it our fullest attention just as soon as we become aware of it. Please note that Brenda, the office cleaner, unplugs this machine at 5.13 pm, thereby resetting it. To leave a message press one. To record your message at any time press three. To hack into our AVR and change all the messages for all callers until 5.13, press two. To get stoned please press hash. To...Mel sucks cocks oh seven nine seven four three eight... To join our pub quiz team, please type pi. To return to this menu at any time please press zero.
- Our investigators have detected you have insufficient funds to purchase this product.
- Our investigators have detected you have illegal materials on your hard drive. Please log off. And please don't think anyone is fooled by storing it in "My Documents\Money\Tax\".
- The company has gone bust. Normal service will be resumed shortly (for those of you who noticed any change).
- Dunno. Ya want me supervisor. Dunno. Trace, where's Dazza? Dunno. Them grey things. Out back. Dunno. He's on lunch. Dunno...

And it's not just that helmet, as it seems to be most of the stuff on the website isn't actually for sale (although it could just be fluke that everything I click on isn't available).

Halfords: bringing new meaning (and new letters; I'm thinking "h") to the word website.


Friday, March 24, 2006

2005-12-25 079So far this week:
- I've worked through one entire night.
- I've had "Tonight, Tonight" from West Side Story stuck in my head for about 32 hours after a charming, handsome and witty guy, who is not remotely a show-tunes person (so much so he goes as far as not being gay) sang in my presence.
- I've found I only know five words of "Tonight, Tonight". Remedial Musicals for me then.
- I've hit free wine after surviving the previous 36 hours only nothing more that a quarter of a packet of Hob-Nobs.
- I've devoured half the Mexican tortilla chip harvest after realising my ears were getting hot on a third of glass of white wine. Which while this would be acceptable in a certain Chinese girl (who nonetheless bravely endeavours on), in an adult European male, it suggests something's not quite right.
- I've found myself in a cupboard with over a dozen other people, rocking gently onto of something unstable, which I think I later discovered was part of an office chair, and realising the only way to stop dousing the girl next to me in wine was to drink it. I'm not sure why we were the cupboard, other than someone found the door unlocked, and it was dark, and we were curious, so people kept walking in blocking anyone else getting out.
- I've bewildered an international collective of people by being completely unfazed by an Indian meal. It had never really occurred to me that the only to countries have exposure to Indian food are India and the UK. I, of course, avoided the vindaloo as it got passed round (according to the Dehliite (or should that be Dehlite?) it isn't a UK created variation), after being ordered by a vindictive, if drunk, Hindi-speaker. But I'm liking the concept of naan with sultanas in it, among masses of spices, even if I do then get mocked for my sultana fetish, having once made reference to my mother's curries [you can tell it's a curry; it's got sultanas in it. But you should already know this from reading this blog, as my life is so pathetically tragic that the merest minutiae get minuted here].
- I've discovered that many Indian restaurants in India serve exactly the same desserts as their UK counterparts, serving such exotically oriental delights as "Egg Man" and "Coconut Parfait" (or was Coconut Supreme? You get the "as Indian as a trading estate in Buckinghamshire" gist anyway). We didn't get any, having sobered up enough by that time to remember their cunning use of the zoom lens when photographing the products (against the same flowers - just count the number of times the yellow roses appear on the menu. And as for ordering stuff from a menu which has pre-printed pictures of it - well, either it's not the freshest or it's not the most imaginative of courses)
- I've noticed that of a table filled with one each of the following - Chinese, English, Indian, Italian, Peruvian and Spanish - the Chinese person is the quietest. The rest of us just used the Greek model of conversation [a conversation is two loud monologues running concurrently]. Ok, minor exaggeration, but it's just as well the only other people in the restaurant were the staff. Sobre-mesa? I'm not sure about over the table; possibly it was more over Table Mountain.
- I've watched The Skin Game, as the B-side to a French film with Greek subtitles, borrowed from a Danish guy. I might have laughing slightly, if in an unflattering way, when the opening credits declared it to be "A Talking Movie".
- I've remembered that I haven't told you about books recently. Did I do Empire? By Niall Ferguson. Good, if similar to his other stuff (I suppose one can't really invent new history for each book). I also read a Christmas present I left behind the first time I was given it - Britain: What a State, by someone or other. Amusing, if childish and predictable. If new to the genre, read What-a-mess first; it's more fun. And I've finished Memoirs of a Geisha (largely when I should have been working), by Arthur Golden. Good, if slightly lacking. But I think it's one of those things which gets called "richly detailed".
- I've predictively cooked delayed pancakes. Delayed because it's well into Lent, predictive because it's on an electric cooker. Tips for next time (even though everything worked when I made them on Shrove Tuesday): remember to mix the eggs into the flour first, rather than adding them all halfway through and thereby making mountains out of moguls (as I later broke them down to being); be chatting merrily away, thus cooking subconsciously - it works; don't talk too much, as cooking unconsciously leads to the creation of activated charcoal, which while purifying, doesn't taste that nice, even with lemon and sugar.
- I've learnt what happens if one tells an Indian girl that she's pretty much English (perhaps in the original sense). Not a good face. But she is; it may be part of being Indian, but to me, I recognise it as Englishness. It's the common conceptions, the shared assumptions - we know assumptions are bad, m'kay? But we make them, and it to some extent it's nice when you know the other party is making them too. The same inquisitiveness. The same borrowing habit. The unrelenting flippancy. The inured mocking of anyone and everyone, with the knowledge that no-one will take it seriously. There is no offence unless truly intended. The respect of knowledge, of culture, of life (the idea of tearing pages out of a book is a mortifying as wantonly tearing limbs from a plant or animal). The expectation of cynicism; there is more than one truth.

I know it was probably a bit crass of me to say it (but it had just come after mutual "people often think I'm Spanish/Arab [her/me]") and I was using it as shorthand to mean I don't have to worry near her. I know whatever happens will be understood, and similar answers found. Nothing ever needs explaining. The only mistakes are borne of accent (and even then it's pretty evenly split). Anyway, she even said "Touch wood" and did, and I'm the only person I know who actually does that. As someone else commented (ok, I read it somewhere, but can't remember where) India's much like England, only with more servants.

It's just a question of sense and sensibility. And she's the one who's read that.

The only think I can think of to object to is her bemusement over the prevalence and popularity of mango chutney in England. Obviously she's never had turkey stretching towards twelfth night.

- In essence, I've found I like speaking bollocks.

[And once again, I broke away from posting and Kubla-Khanned*. So anyway...]

So Monday was intimately acquainted with both neighbours, Tuesday was making free with the free wine, followed by a sobering Indian, Wednesday was a film (Hitchcock not Orange this time), Thursday was Shrove Tuesday and Friday I'm in love (which song was that?). Ok, so Friday is being tired and typing this, wanting to go out but not having anyone to do it with, any energy, or any money. Instead I'm listening to music I don't recognise by bands I've forgotten. Anyone else ever heard of Turn? Can't think why you haven't. I can't quite remember who they were supporting when I saw them, and was so impressed that I went home and ordered the CD, which was out of stock, and took four months to arrive, by which time I'd forgotten them.

It must have been Idlewild, because they were dire, so the support would look good. But now I'm trying to think of which band had such dismal support that everyone sat in the bar until they came on. I think it was the Dum Dums (another anyone remember them?), who played to a half-empty Lemmy because it was after the end of term (good use of a university venue in a university dominated town there then).

But I think that's enough pointlessness for now.


* Kubla-Khanned, Kubla-Khaned, Kublakhanned or Kublakhaned:
- The act of forgetting a train of thought or aim mid-process, or the results of such activity. Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan, contains a distinct shift in tone and form resulting an interruption during its composition.
- A state of intoxication, referring to Coleridge's opium use and impact on his works.

City Comforts asks:
How do you spell "backpeddle?"

Backpedal, maybe?

Backpedal: 167,000, includes [definition] link.
Backpeddle: 14,800, and the first of those has eggcorn in the name.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Guess 3Hurrah!

We have sun!
We have distinct lack of easterlies whining as they rock the building!
And we have Dodgy!

It's odd how one song can make it summer, even though we're still on GMT, the trees have no leaves, and my radiator is running at full whack to counter the pit of cold coming from the window.

Admittedly it doesn't have to be Good Enough by Dodgy, but it's such a happy song that the fact it's permanently linked in my head to swinging round Cornish lanes is almost overkill. It could be Peaches (and if you're thinking of either female then you're obviously not old enough: TPOTUSA). It could be Girl from Mars by Ash.

[Briefly distracted by digging out my Presidents CD (and fleetingly trying to remember if it's actually my brother's, but it's still got the Record Corner price tag - £7.00 - on it, so it must have been a present) and naughtily skipping through to track 6. I haven't heard it in so long, I've almost forgotten what the original sounds like. But I'm not in the mood for the rest of it, so after a bit of indecision - The Flaming Lips, Ash, Dodgy, Mamas and Papas, The Thrills - the archaic machine is now thudding out Athlete... Chorus!].

So as for those people who claim they've heard the summer song, well there's Ash. There's the Presidents. There's Dodgy. There's so many. So stick that up your feeling and sew it.

And how can a heart be in a headlock?

And yep, this is blatant "I did Googles? Push it down, quick!" post. And I'm tired and wasting time. You can tell I'm tired; I'm using exclamation marks!

But I don't want to do work. And it's too damn sunny to sit in front of a computer all day and night, and yet I have no other option. And isn't it great when someone finally relays a bit information I've been after for ages, so I now discover that everything I'd been working to so far was an order of magnitude out.

Is that a hurrah or a huzzah? I'm thinking huzzah.

Oh, and because I haven't done it in a while: Flickr.

But the lack of Flickrage is due to A, a broken lens, B, lack of digital camera, C, lack of scanner for the films I've put through despite the lens, as the fault doesn't normally show.

And if you're quick (who am I kidding?), so might also get to see a stunning example of some dodgy drawing, which would make my ex-art teacher livid.

You can also take part in some fun guessing games, because I know how much you all like those. Basically supreme boredom and a borrowed camera leads to experimentation.

And I ought to go and grab some food before the getting back to fudging numbers (or not; why am I so obsessively diligent?).


Thursday, March 16, 2006

2006-01-14 016Could someone with a television tell me what BBC London has been up to? As my stats have suddenly been filled with about 75% BBC London related searches (and not all have been from BBC computers), such as these from the past couple of days:
Matt Barbet
Matt Barbet BBC's Decay Finder General: You could soon be asking your dentist to fill your wrinkles as well as your teeth.
Matt Barbet drug Yes, new Aryan Presenter Pills will turn you into everyone's favourite newsreader (after George Alagiah, Moira Stuart, Sophie Raworth, John Craven, Anna Ford and so forth, but still definitely above Natasha Kaplinsky).
Matt Barbet drugs small kitten.
matt barbet smell Born with anosmia...
Matt Barbet sweat Now available in bottle form as well as the traditional used jockstrap.
Matt Barbet hot This to do with the sweat thing, or the other sense? Even nostrils aren't everything you know.
matt barbet rimmer No, he did not play Rimmer. You're thinking of Chris Barrie.
who is BBC London Matt Barbet I think you've said it all really.
who is matt barbet from the bbc Weren't you just here?
Matt BBC LDN Is that like Charlie Busted?
Emily Maitlis
Emily Maitless Need Mait? Call free today on...
Emily Mateless She is, or should she?
Emily Maitlis SMOKe Don't KNOw but her skin looks like she does.
does emily maitlis smoke? Only when rubbed rapidly.
Emily Maitlis drunk Was? Is? Would like to be?
Emily Maitlis "drunk" Because if you put it in quotes, it's not libel, right?
Emily Maitlis drunk westend dry.
Emily Maitlis drunk West End Final.
Emily Maitlis song I'm guessing something a bit like this.
Emily Maitlis fake Not the real Emily Maitlis? Who is Emily Maitlis? (cue all the unemployed extras from Spartacus...).
And the completely bewildering:
bbc scott mills deed poll Because Trego didn't sound cool enough.

Could it just be the Googledance kicking in? Because as per usual with Google, I don't seem to be listed in most of the selections, even though I must have been.


2005-09-18 [2] 091Not much to report. Yesterday saw the traditional Orangeing; Syriana this time (or Syrianna according to the tickets, or Syrianananananana according to my brother).

Not sure why some people have been so shocked by the film, or found it hard to understand. There have always been vested interests. There has always been interference and manipulation. Duplicity and hypocrisy were not invented by the Revenge of the Bush* administration.

Yes, fine, I got a little squeamish about torture (as did everyone else in the place; which is probably why it looks), but that's probably because in averting my eyes from the screen I looked down, and saw my own fingernails, thus reinforcing the message. Maybe that's why the zip scene in There's Something about Mary works so well as well.

Anyway, the film while good, simply wasn't that entertaining. I was very aware that I was watching it, but never really got drawn in. There's some good cinematography, some dodgy physics, a few good lines, but there was no great "why?". It just is. The people in it do what they think they need to do, but there's no real connection to how they got to that state. Munich, for at its mobile corpses and Mahabharating, gives more background and induces more reaction. It makes you think more, whereas Syriana is just live, as some people know it, continuing.

But while waiting in the surprisingly large queue for tickets, a clipboarded woman was running a survey on people using the Orange 2-for-1 offer. It's quite strange when she only pays attention to the person holding the phone, and so ends up asking how old my brother's "partner" is or how many times his guest has used Orange 241. But then we both replied in unison when asked if we'd come to see tonight film without the offer "Um, probably not, no". I get a free film out of it (which I can tolerate, as he's only spending a bit over £4 on me), and he gets a legitimate excuse to get out of the office, someone to see films with (who won't complain about his choice, or refuse to see it and doesn't have more pressing social demands) and a chance to see his brother.

He also gets to explore the menus of the two frequented eateries, due the third one not being open, and because while we've got a different table this time, we both try not to pick the same things. But it's all much of a muchness anyway, so we order different things, which come out looking fairly like what we weren't ordering and tasting only slightly different. But it's nice food, it beats Burger King induced illness (I may not get food poisoning every time I go, but everyone else with me does) and we may be on the verge of becoming known regulars. Plus I think I'm having prawn chow mein next time, if I stick the 3-down pattern, which saves embarrassingly slow decision making.

But one advantage of doing all this where we did, is at least the beggars are better quality, for example, last night's Irish guy. I have a very poor memory for jokes, so this is only a selection of his act:
- What do give a paedophile who has everything?
A bigger parish.
[Didn't laugh at that one, so he moved on].
- What do you call two Irish lesbians?
[Laughed briefly at that one]
- What did the librarian say to the guy who asked for a self-help book on suicide?
Fuck off, you'll never bring it back.
[Drat, I laughed at that one, as did my brother. I guess we can't really get away with not giving him anything now]
- An Englishman, a Welshman, a Scotsman and three Irishmen go up to heaven. Standing outside the pearly gates, St Peter lets checks his list and lets the Englishman through. He lets the Welshman through. He checks again and lets the Scotsman through. But when he gets the Irishmen, he stops them and says: "It says here that you were all in the IRA. I'm sorry lads, but I can't let you through". To which they reply:
Canst ye no do a brother a fava? We'll only be in ten minutes.
[Wry smiles. Ok, so you can stop now, you had us at the library].
- What did God say to Osama bin Laden after the tsunami?
Beat that, you fucker.
[Ok, how much do you want?]

It's bizarre; swearing from an amusing Irishman is fine, but from Shelter's TCR chuggers it isn't. Admittedly they swear at everyone who ignores them, and the girl from the RNIB was far too unintentionally funny when she had a fit as a crowd split round here, each looking through her cheery smile. She ended up berating people with the immortal lines "Hello? I'm over here! Can't any of you see me? Are you blind or something?"

Someone really ought to have reminded her that it was Tuesday so it must be the Royal National Institute for Blind.

Ah, the joys of London life.


* Ok, I just checked and Revenge is Ep III, but as I haven't seen two or three, and haven't seen the originals since prior to the spawning of the Han Shot First campaign, I'm not that worried. Anyway I was thinking more of Jaws Whichever: The Revenge, of which I've seen part by accident. It was either that or Bush Now Redux, which I wasn't sure people would get. But as during the trailers pre-film, there was one for X-Men 3, to which my brother and I could only respond "There was a 2?", sequels aren't really my forte.

Oh, and the Koda Da Vinci looks dire (and looks more interesting in upside Cyrillic, but Blogger is Blogger), so hopefully that court case will scupper it. Vaguely connected; as my brother is moving, his flatmate was packing up his own stuff from the flat (and thus exposing my brother's chronic shortage of DVDs), and is apparently intending to jettison his collection of books. Now while I find the wanton destruction of books to be abhorrent, when it comes to rescuing the flatmate's Dan Brown collection, there's sacrilege and there's sacrilege.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

GF5 600 - London Eye - 25This initial part was a separate post; until my flatmate blew the fuses. As I stayed up foolishly late writing this out rationally and eloquently, I now don't have to time to repeat the task. So, in summary:


He might also like to use this.
It may be helpful if he looks up the meaning of "by-line".

And what does it say about the place he so virulently mistrusts, that Reuters chose it as the base for proxy reporting?

Firstly, let me thank you all for not pointing out the error in last post which itself was pointing out errors (oh how ferrous). I'd like to think that this is because you all respect me sufficiently to know that such a mistake was a temporary lapse as even the greatest among us make. I'd like to think that, but I suspect it's probably because none of you even read it, or perhaps you did, yet in such a cursory manner that there was no slavish doting on every syllable. Oh, and in reply to the sole commenter; because, it is the twelfth commandment of music (one after "thou shalt turn it up to this commandment") that "thou shalt not cover thy neighbour's decent songs". I will also remind you of the lesser-quoted addendum to "thou shalt not worship false prophets*, although Radiohead's ok".

* Unless thou worketh verily for Enron [replace with personal misaccounting favourites].

To hear the cover go Mark Ronson'smyspace, or YouTube to see [presumably] the video. I think the reason I'm not keen is largely because of the vocals. The voice doesn't work against the horns. But also it's disconcerting as the lead-in chords sound suspiciously like something which my head autocompletes as "be the finest, the brightest, the fittest [that] can be", but those probably aren't the right lyrics, and my complete guess of the singer being Jamelia is probably equally spurious.

But having just checked (is there anything which isn't on YouTube? All human life is here, from the amusingly stupid (and you thought tuna in the ductwork was evil) to the... ah, I've found what isn't there), I'm fairly wrong. It's something by the Basement Jaxx then. Or Kylie. Or maybe Sinatra. Or possibly Verdi.

Moving on to the excitement of yesterday, which turned out not to be so exciting, due to getting stood up when I was on the verge of cancelling anyway. I think it was the fact that when I rang the other party up to say "So where the bloody hell are you?" (that Oz thing is a case of "More storm, vicar?" if ever there was one, although, as I said to the token Aussie, "that last lass; she's not convincing is she?"), or words to that effect (being me those words took about 4 times the necessary period to get the information across, due to being able to tell from the "Hello?" that plans had been forgotten, only it's a bit rude to ring someone up and say only "Hi. Oh, ok, that's fine. Bye" and I'd just spent a few minutes talking myself down from "where the blue blazes are you?". Quite why I start using my parent's anachronisms when I'm annoyed, I've yet figured out. Maybe it's because they gave me such a good education in annoyance)... Er, I'll start that sentence again, but with less bracketage this time. I think it was the fact that when I rang to ask "SWTBHAY?" we both managed to sniff at exactly the same point. How in sync are we? Tandem illness.

So after having pancakes-delayed delayed, and as I'd just remembered to post some cards (oh, er, that postcard thing... I'll remember it at some point), I went on the hunt for cheap cards. Paperchase is designed to make one near suicidal, isn't it? Or maybe it was the effect of suddenly feeling very dehydrated and then having my mother ring up about something I've already forgotten about, while struggling to decipher her voice from the atrocious background music, which was so doused in oestrogen that even the speakers had tampons (or maybe that was someone's attempt at shutting the damn thing up).

And please don't start pointing out the actual function of various hormones in the menstrual cycle, as I had a hard enough job remembering the name of the thing, having first come up with andro-, no, um, other, it's, er, so gynae-, but that's, er, no, er, The other one. Anti-testosterone. Thing. Haem- no. it's... help. Oh, oestrogen. And now of course I can see all the little arrows showing influence and effects round Lutenising Hormone<.

So after discovering assorted dismal cards (I don't know why, but I'm fussy about cards. They have to be things I like, and that I think the recipient will like (which can lead to some pretty small bits of Venn). Which is why I quietly get cross when the recipient chucks it on the floor without reading the inside, where it gets trampled for half the evening, before I can remove it. And which is also why I give the same smile every year to the person who always gets me the nearest card in Clinton's, because I haven't the heart to ask whether I'm really his favourite grandson or if I do have his deepest sympathies every year), including one bearing the thoughtful sticker "Left blank for your message", placed on a card emblazoned with "Happy Birthday". Ah, but it's what's inside that counts.

I leave, before I keel over into a pile of pens with feathers on (you never know when might want to tickle someone while writing). I head towards the Tate (the open-late one), remembering that they do cards, and I think they're cheaper than anywhere else I've found in London. My route takes me via Covent Garden, complete with the half-naked madmen upstaging the performers. He could have been part of the act, but judging from the way the guitarist was edging himself and the amp slowly backwards, I'd guess not.

Cue the second phone call of the evening, which I just missed, so rang back. It was the stander-up, ringing to apologise for cancelling last minute, although saying so in such an incoherent way that debilitating illness was obviously the only cause. So after yet another rambling lengthy phone call, on my bill, which wasn't helped by the man playing a guitar as a harpsichord and another, whose internal gyroscope was slowing down, informing half the city that my ear was glowing (Neil must have been at it).

Why is it I'm more concerned about the phone bill than I am about the failed social life? Probably because that nice, if curt, woman tells me "Hello. Your remaining credit is eighty-three pence. Thank you for calling. Goodbye", and because I can't remember the four digit code I need to top up the credit, having changed it the last time I forgot it, and so now can only remember the old code. Plus I'm trying to eke out a foolishly small amount until Easter, without quite being sure when that is (despite having looked it up to explain to someone else. The whole concept of a Paschal/theoretical moon confuses me).

Heading on down, and despite the cold air, I don't feel like going to the Tate just yet. Looking towards the river by the Festival pier, I notice the gates down to the riverbank. One has a big sign declaring the foreshore dangerous and closed. The other has no sign and is open. Which in my mind effectively cancels out the sign. They should have locked it, shouldn't they, if they didn't want people using it. Admittedly, I would have vaulted it if it were locked, so they should have put a sign up. And there was no sign...

I'm always surprising at how sandy the banks are. We're always taught the Thames is a muddy old river, and that it's tidal and so estuarine, with all the sludge that entails (sludge being the technical term for it. I could talk about silicates flocculating, but doesn't really fit in with the narrative). Yet there's a powdery beach opposite Somerset House. As it's a lowish tide but coming in (yes, that's why a strange man stood apparently navel gazing on the banks of the Thames. I wanted to see which way the waves were going) I walk along the foreshore, being careful not to get cut off.

Because I wanted to get to the next set of steps before the tide came in, I was walking quickly, so didn't gorge myself on the view as I'd liked to have done. But I need to come back here with a tripod, and a camera which doesn't mind going slowly, and a lens which isn't cracked.

Reaching the end of the shore, towards the octagonal corner by the ITV building, I head back, trying to read the writing on the floating bits of paper. But after realising it's in one of the Indian scripts, I abandon tracking the drifting paper. Instead I indulge in some scripting of my own.

Hurrah for vandalism!
Hooray for graffiti!
Huzzah for using Central London as one's canvas!
Woohoo for doing it on a beach, in the face of an incoming tide!

There's nothing like the fact that no one will ever see it for assuaging guilt. And for making it unimportant that I couldn't think of anything better than "Beware Troll" (because it was written so only someone looking down from one of the overhanging viewing points would see it, and obviously under one of those would be the perfect place for a troll to live. Yes, I'm daft, and yes, trolls were one of the few mythical creatures I believed in when younger).

So if you were bemused by a spurious warning about trolls along the banks of the River Thames, written in the sand sometime after 7.50 pm on Friday 10th March, then that was me. But I doubt anyone saw it, as it was a cold evening in March, with few people out, and fewer still pausing to look at the view, and so even fewer likely to look down when they should be looking across.

But as it was cold, I went back up, and along the path east, checking out access points along the way (why are the gates round Blackfriars locked, and why are they twice the height of any others? And what is that bin doing down there?). And while I was following the theme, I delayed Tate-age a bit more and went down just beyond the pub. The shore was rockier than upstream, and by rockier I mean it had more bricks in it. It also had seaglass, which surprised me. I know logically it should, due to having strong currents and a city full of glass flanking it, but somehow I've never really thought of the Thames as part of everything else; it just is.

Anyway, a pocket full of white seaglass (it might have been that I couldn't see any other colours in the orange of night, or it might have been glasses shed from the bars along the shore) later, plus half an oyster (of the big flaky kind) and a battered whelk shell later, I carry on eastwards, scouting for shots under the Millennium Bridge, for which I'll have to go back (and also to see if I can skim stones on the Thames. After all I've done it with pebbles at Brighton, and they're completely the wrong shape (as is the beach). Think brick might be too rough though).

And that was about the point the Thames Clipper went past. I avoided the wake. I avoided the echo of the wake. But the echoes of the echoes chopping through each other pushed the next bit of shore beyond the scarcely passable state of before the boat passed. A quick bit of counting the waves coming in, and looking out for breaks between them, followed by what can only be called a scamper (if a loose-ankled one), and I was past, with only slight dampness on part of one foot.

Anyway it's good for shoes to occasionally get doused in salt water. Ok, it's not, but it happens to all my shoes. Admittedly, running through rubble is less good for the leather, but they were looking too new anyway (said he rapidly trying to justify stupidity, and feeling guilty about it).

Then up outside the Globe, and back into the Tate. Having come this far, I'm not sure what it was I wanted to see, having used cards as a pretext for seeing whatever's on. As there was something new on the 4th floor, I went up to that. I took one look, saw it was crowded, and that it was the second day of the exhibition, and first evening, realised I'd either spend the evening trying not laugh at the stupid comments, or trying to not get annoyed by the pretentiousness of the same comments. I like art, but it's a bit like France*.

* Not that I necessarily believe that thing about France and the French, but the idea carries over in this context. And I have once walked through a French village having every door slam as I approached.

So instead of Bauhausing, I went down to look at the cards, and generally drift through the shop. Coming away with a single postcard, as that was all I could afford (and how assistants do so love it when customers help top up their float), I walk back out into the night, taking the inland route until Blackfriars, then along what should be the towpath.

I headed back, skirting round the lake on the corner, noting that I ought to come back to get a shot of the OXO tower reflected.

Taking Waterloo Bridge for once, rather than either the traditional Hungerfords, spotting potential images along the way (equipment permitting). I head north, and finally come to realise that Covent Garden faces east, not north, and so Long Acre must get in the way (I tend to think of it all as one large porous block between the Strand and Oxford Street and can never tell Seven Dials from the other one, nor know which way to turn).

Eventually emerging, I mill round the Virgin near Centrepoint for a while, thinking of things to buy for which I don't have the money, then eventually get ushered out as it closes, then go down simply to go up in a different sense.

Emerging at Oxburrow, I head into Sainsbury's to seek out anything reduced. Only it's too late, and all there is is minimally reduced and dated for the next day. So instead I end up buying expensive things I don't need because I'm hungry, or slightly less expensive things because I'm hungry and guilty about spending money on nothingness, and so end up justifying dry roasted peanuts because they're cheaper than salted cashews, and they don't have salted peanuts. And yet, there's a reason cashews cost more. It's to do with supply. It's because people will pay more because they're so much nicer. Oh, and never experimentally eat a chunk of peanuts bound together by a nugget of the dry-roasting coating. Breaking open a chunk of solid MSG is never a good idea.

So hefting home such essentials as wholegrain mustard, lemon curd and ginger muffins (which taste either of apple or orange, but not really ginger), I retreat to be alone in an annoyingly empty flat.

Other highlights of the weekend include:
- Going back to Sainsbury's to get vegetables as I've given up convincing myself that buying crap quality food from ill-mannered, bloody-minded people with severe arithmetic problems (86p + 49p + £1 + £1.18 = £5.38 - call it a fiver) is cheaper, more efficient and somehow more ethical. Even if their potatoes are cheaper per pound than any supermarket, by the time I've washed them, cut out the diseased bits and generally faffed around, they're not.
- Hitting Morrisons in time to add to their losses by grabbing loaves for nine-pence, Chicken Kievs for not terribly much more each, some random sausage hot-pot thing which features the delightful sounding "Pork Connective Tissue" among the ingredients, and no, it's not in the sausages and some collection of Pick'n'mix pastry things from "The Pie Shop". Other supermarkets have mere instore bakeries (which curiously have their exhaust vents emitting fumes at the other end of the store. I know it's not the actual fumes, as that's too complicated and dangerous, so instead they buy bars or cans of bread-smell from BOC and unleash that amongst the nappies), but not Morrissons with their common-as-muck approach. And was the adage "where there's muck there's brass" invented for this supermarket? Because if you think of what they sell...

Anyway, the turnovers were nice, as I realised the greyness must mean they're rhubarb, but the pie had strangely tasteless blackcurrants in a very purple, very acidic and very sweet sauce, which I presume was supposed to compensate for the dull fruit. And you can tell I need some food, or maybe just some water, as I'm writing about pastries. Sorry, it was only the branding which amused me. But I've figured out why parts of Morrisons feel familiar. It's because it's what Waitrose was like twenty years ago. Just look at those "Next Customer Please" bars; they could be originals. The individual price tags with promenient barcodes stuck on each item; that's how they used to do when barcodes first came in. Even half the colouring and branding is 20 years out of date, right down to the brown and yellow price sticker on the pick'n'mix pie selection (and when did Woolies introduce those pointless dual-apostrophes to the nation?).

It's all part of the plan. Successful shops modernise. They spend money on frivolities like rebranding. Unsuccessful ones don't. They struggle on getting ever more out of date. So why look like the shop is unsuccessful? Because shoppers know that unsuccessful shops either don't have customers or are selling things too cheaply (or have large scale fraud going on). And if they're in the shop, and they know there are a lot of branches, then it can't be because of a lack of customers. So it most be underpriced (or at least not overpriced). Hence it's cheap, hence people buy because it seems cheap.

It doesn't actually have to be cheap and on a lot of things, isn't; it has far fewer offers than Sainsbury's, and as it's the offers I tend to stick to, I hit Sainsbuy's loss leaders and then get out (except if I'm hungry and buying junk), so for me Sainsbury's is cheaper (and the carrots won't rot within minutes).

It was just really odd noticing that there are lots of little clues which give Morrisons the air of imminent failure; it's decked out in the style of a closing-down sale. And it's quite strange to think I remember the ostentatiously old-fashioned things they use to confer this coming in. But then while sobre-mesaing with one group the other day, we got onto floppy floppy-disks, and I made the locking action one had to do for BBCs. It was quite interesting observing the split of those who recognised it, and those who didn't.

But getting back to my exciting life: Morrisson's own-brand ginger beer is neither. Oh and never try to find Angostura bitters in Morrisson's: only I would.

Maybe I should just use CHIP SHOP STYLE instead. It was next to the vinegar. In small writing beneath the main words it declared "Non-Brewed Condiment". Only it looked like vinegar, and when I looked at the ingredients it had acetic acid listed. Except, er, vinegar contains acetic acid, but it isn't made from it. But this bottle of diluted acetic acid with colouring apparently was. Which did make me wonder why, as surely it's cheaper to make vinegar than it is to make a chemical, even a simple one, and then reconstruct it? A check of the price, and the CSS was more expensive than letting alcohol oxidise. So why? I suspect I'll never know. I suspect I probably don't need to.

And while I remember, Morrison's do something odd with their stock display. In every other supermarket in the country, the items with the most profit are placed at eye height. So things like Hob-nobs will always be at eye height. Yet in Morrison's I couldn't even find normal Hob-nobs, and the chocolate covered ones were on the floor. The cheap own brand biscuits were at eye height. So either they are circumventing the profit-margin-placement rule, or the cheap own-brand stuff carries the greatest profit. Now given McVities give a big enough profit share to every other supermarket to induce 5 ft high Hob-nobs, it's probably not the lack of profit which bars McV's biscuits from the sacred shelf. Which means the own-brand stuff, while being very cheap, must carry larger profits. So what's that say about the cost of production? We already know that supermarkets have driven prices of most foods down at source, yet Morrissons must be finding it cheaper. So what's that say about the quality? Pork Connective Tissue anyone?

And while apondering, is Pork Connective Tissue actually pork? Surely pork is the muscles? Otherwise it's fat, bones, cartilage, tendons, gristle (which includes a couple of the former options), guts and assorted miscellaneous bits, most of which tend not to be called pork; porcine perhaps, but pork is the meat.

Moving on, from such... oh hell, I think I've used every euphemistic cliché already. Anyway, and not quite moving on far enough; the random sausage thing consisted of one sausage (yes, I was bored enough to put the slices back together. You can tell I've got work to do), one and half small potatoes, one small carrot, about an eighth of a shallot, a scattering of peas (God knows why) and half a Bisto factory. I'm not sure it was worth the heavily reduced price.

[Er, apologies to anyone who gets the half finished version of this, but I've just found the shortcut for "Publish". I don't know what it is though].

And what is about my brother? Once again we went out into Oxburrow to eat. Once again we hit Wagamama's, as we'd been to the other usual place last time. Once again we order what we did many years ago, although in my case I ceded the choices to him, being to distracted by not sneezing to read the menu, although it might have shifted the not-so-small girl nuzzling next to her mother beside me (yep, we went into interesting*, informal and uniform restaurant on a Sunday. Family-friendly doesn't necessarily mean friendly families).

* It used to be, when there was only one in Oxburrow, one in Lecky Square, and one somewhere in the city. Now it's in Alton, Basingstoke, Camberley and Dorking, it suddenly doesn't seem so interesting (disclaimer: it may not be in all those towns, but it's in Guildford, and that's bad enough).

But while I'm on interestingness, I also realised that, having been so impressed when younger by the really cool staff, people with tinkly noses and percussive eyebrows are norm round there, so it's not so much actively seeking the coolest people alive, as simply who they can find to work there.

So yay for Yaki Soba, less yay for their strange fruit juice thing, especially for getting banana foam in my lungs, and yay again for improved chopstick skills as, while waiting for my brother to finish, I distractedly started picking up single sesame seeds and those crunchy sprinkles they dump onto the pickled ginger (and yay-yay-yay for pickled ginger), but which I can never work out what they are (bits of onion? bits of egg?).

A confusing conversation about shallots (my brother on the phone to our mother, miming Easter Eggs at me), me saying something along the lines of "I can't lipread in here; it's too loud", and then being handed the phone, talking for a few seconds before hanging up with my cheekbone, later, we head out to explore Oxburrow.

He shows me one bit I'd never connected, which lead me to make a stupid comment about "hold onto your hats ladies", although there were women doing exactly that at the other end of the bridge (while walking very, very slowly because they were drunk, wearing high heels, and going down steep cobbles. Have they never heard of reverse). I show him a bit he never knew about. We both would which AP that is with all the satellite dished (Associated Ports, obviously, as it's beside the canal).

Then back, and round a few sides of the same block, before he helpfully guides me to the Tube station, in case I get lost (I think he wanted to put of going back to work). The Tube station which is exit only on Sundays.

So some improv busing later, during which I discover yet more "where-am-oh-it's-here" parts of London, I go into the department for some fun and simulation.

Oh, and at some point I was lent a copy (and actual legit copy; how bizarre) of the new Wallace and Gromit thing. Childish, cliché-ridden, clinging to stereotypes, but because it's Plasticine*, it doesn't matter. So watch it when they show it at some Christmas.

*Nearly misspelt as Pleistocene.

And the bits that I meant to include, but apparently haven't:
- 11 pm HW 5 pm LW
- Got back to a capsized Amaryllis.
- And the half-written:

Random recent abuse/praise (one of the joys of London).

- "Oh my god. He's so hot!" A case of Are you looking at me? Are you looking at me? 'cause I don't see anyone else here. No, really I don't. I'd have expected there to be some guy behind me, but there isn't. You must be drunk/high/mad/taking the piss. From random abuse corner, which is where I imagine Dan got Oi-queered, just because the teenagers there are highly vocal, highly opinionated and always there.

- "Oi! Fit guy" yelled from the window of a passing limousine. I think she was more taking with the act of yelling than getting her message across or even considering what that message ought to be.

- "Fuck me" yelled from the window of the second passing limousine by a lass who must presumably have had clothing on, but would nonetheless be suffering from severe windchill.

- "It's Rocky Balbao!..." A series of references to "eye of the tiger", some mock punches, during which I was very glad we were on a straight road without traffic or imminent bus stops, and a reference to Sylvester Stallone later, I finally learn to ignore the surname and work out who they think I'm like. Which given this all was coming from one teenage guy as part of a uniformly hooded gang, which only served to make them look younger (said he wearing a hooded top), made me wonder when he'd seen Rocky, as it was made before I was born. And as comparisons go, did have to be Sly Stallone? Yeah, thanks for saying I look like I'm thick. But then the girl sitting further back was told she looked like the girl in Rocky, which is just harsh.

- Catching someone giving me come-hither eyes as I got off the tube, which was quite flattering, if woefully mistimed. How can I hither if my momentum is carrying through doors which are about to close? But underlying sexual tension is so nice.

And yes, I know I forgot to add any disparaging comment about myopia to negate that last thing, but not all of them can be mocking or insane.

I think that's it. It's not, but I think there are details to boring even for this blog. And why is it I alternative between relatively brief and vaguely witty, and then exploring the meaning of "Pork Connective Tissue"? Maybe I should produce and edited highlights version of this blog. And still the PCT would get through.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Greece 3 600 - 01You've heard of reporters without borders, right? Well now the Guardian's getting in on the act, deftly highlighting its internationalism.

From today's top five most read articles comes this little thing about travel in the US. And look, there's not one single spelling mistake, which must be some kind of record. But then it is by an AP writer, which might explain the other thing, instead print the unread.

Obviously the Guardian have figured out the concept of editing is intrinsically fascist, creating autocratic control and autarkic content, and thus seek to eschew such bland, uniform and biased products by printing the unread.

And that's been the highlight for today, as I've spent most of it trying not to sneeze; my nose is producing more precipitation than the sky of late (although it's now cruelly mocking me, as the weather is being irrefutably, if fleetingly, sunny). And I've just noticed that I appear to have a set of Russian dolls on my windowsill, except closer inspection suggests they're just tissues in varying degrees of bundled sogginess.

Other recent slightly-beyond-the-ordinary activities include using an eons old HMV voucher (which is so much more use than a wind up torch, which winds up the user more than it needs to be, although having said that it needs about five minutes winding to last a bit over one, yet the flashing LEDs last for days on the same charge. Not that I'm commenting on the relative value of Christmas presents from a certain relative).

Acquisitions include Withnail and I on DVD, although I've discovered why it was so cheap at £2.99*; it's because they've forced it into the wrong aspect ratio (think Monty. Think Monty widened), so I watched it with about an inch of Gmail showing through along the edge.

* Which of course is not cheap, but then HMV also charge £14.99 for a film which was given away in the Guardian.

The other buys were The Graduate, because it was marginally cheaper than it was in Virgin's offer; The Italian Job, because it too was cheaper, and because sometimes you just need to watch the sacrilege of a JCB versus very nice cars (I of course refer solely to the proper version, not the ought-to-have-Madonna-in-it remake); and Memoirs of a Geisha because it was three quid and I wanted a book to read, and have been waiting for years to borrow it.

And ought I be able to recognise the Goonies from twenty paces solely from the sound effects? Still didn't buy it though, not having quite enough money to fully regress, and feeling a bit guilty about spending money on needless things like food and accompanying subra-mesa*. And anyway, it'll always be on at Christmas/HMV.

* Or "sobre mesa" according to Google. Literally meaning over-the-table, it's the chat or gossip which comes naturally after food and probably alcohol (although probably not enough of the latter that it becomes what I originally translated it as: under the table).

What else? I've been overdosing on classical music recently. Partly because having my brain running alongside the musical patterns helps keep the rest of it awake when I'm doing work somewhere in early tomorrow. Partly because have literally copy-and-pasted someone else's entire classical musical collection, I'm still very poor at recognising it. Partly as a result of trying to educate someone else in classical music (having decided they weren't quite ready for Radiohead. Which reminds me: Radiohead covers. Unless there's a word after those two, mentioning a Bond theme or something, they should never be used in conjunction. I can't even remember the name of the guy who Radio 1 are inflicting on the nation, but it simply is not good. But even Classic FM are in on the act, playing a muzaked up version of Street Spirit. They purportedly played it to show the complexity and ingenuity of the music, yet they played a watered down version. Is Radiohead too much for the feeble listeners of Classic FM to bear?). Partly because I watched Brief Encounter recently (never tell someone TESOLed that it's a superb film, as without Coward, it's not quite as great), and thus have had Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto playing since (and I might have begun to understand Ryan's fixation with it).

Sorry, there was a thunderstorm so I've forgotten where all this was going and what else there was to say. Anyway, today's unanswerable question, which isn't unanswerable, and one of you may very likely know the answer, although given past experience you equally may not, and no one ever answers these anyway, so there is not terribly much point in asking it, but having said that I will because I'm obstinate like that: Where are the following words*?
In memory of my unrealised potential

* In that order, so no facetious answers about the nearest branch of Waterstone's. And it would help if I wrote the quote, not what I might have written in the same place - corrected now.

Oh hell, this bit [of Rachman 2] is getting to me. As I'm not sure I can pretend that the pressure in my eyes is simply trying not to sneeze, I'd better go.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

2006-01-13 021Why the low bloggage?

- I've got work to do. And in an bid to not do it, I've been emailing all and sundry (links carefully neglected as I'm not sure who is my sundry).
- Not much has happened.

Highlights of the week include getting ensnared by vanity, through Schmap begging use of one of my pictures. I said yes, as I thought they could have taken it anyway, plus it means I get to add it to the list of projects my photography has been used in. I'm not sure if they go above or below the Jews for Jesus group who wanted an olive branch (and still haven't apparently used it).

Other features include a trip to somewhere that added twenty minutes to journey times on the M25, where I learnt lots of stuff I discovered I already knew (due to, er, my brother working on the project many years ago).

And it's so nice being given money on a train (the deposit for the overshot party). Especially when the strangers all round try to work out why some young man has just handed another young man a wodge of money, and yet there's no clingfilmed parcel making the return journey.

Pancakes are fun too (as are identifying the potential animals formed by the batter dregs), especially trying to teach someone else, and absent-mindedly remembering how to toss them mid-conversation. The tossing only worked because I wasn't thinking what I was doing. Although pancakes do also lead to not eating enough, and therefore being unduly affected by Skittles the next day (sorry Dan).

Which is my own weird way of saying I saw Munich, with my brother, on Orange 241, after eating in the same Chinese place as we ate years ago, possibly when we discussed the visited project, and both of us having exactly the same, which somehow managed to appear larger than last time, only I managed to defy convention and finish first despite using chopsticks to pick the noodles out from round the fork and spoon that came embedded in them. Obviously I was worried about missing the start of the film, and forgot that there are twenty-five minutes of adverts first.

So Munich? Um, still not sure. I think it's all morally dubious yet complex, but can't be bothered to get into the conundrums unless I have to, much preferring to look at the pretty people and laugh at the shamelessly poor continuity, which had shades of Mahabharat (the comical 80s television version, complete with the very educational traditional counting game of "how many times will you see the same person die?". So much more interesting that Sesame Street's "And today's show was brought to you by the letter ζ"). For example people would run down the same stairs thrice, or a corpse would do a volteface between shots.

Anything else? A dinner party I was an hour and twenty minutes late for. I blame Edgeware Road, and rashly abandoning the Hammersmith and City line in the naive belief that the District line would be quicker and to avoid a flautist maiming Simon and Garfunkel songs. A cold half hour later, I was beginning to suspect I might have made a mistake. Especially as somehow I ended up becoming London Underground's public information service, as the assembled masses decided I knew what I was doing and could decipher the mystical destinations which weren't on any of the official routes.

Eventually I got to Earl's Court, and having found West Brompton station when I was sort of after West Kensington, and after cursing the logic of house numbering systems in London, I arrive. I get introduced to a cacophony of girls in pink, and thus am duly chastised for wearing red and thereby adding to the pain. People make polite conversation. I soon realise it is only going to be polite small talk all evening. Oh, how I do so very much love small talk.

Do you?
How interesting.
Does he?
And how long has he been doing that?
How fascinating.
How jolly lucky.
Do you think so?
And why do you think towns over there have such odd names?
Yes, I suppose they must. Do you know, there's actually a place just north of Durban called "Shootmenow"? Of course, it's a corruption of the Afrikaans for "young hedgehog"...
With a hedgehog? Gosh. Brave man.

There's nothing like starting a meal with grace for inflicting maximum despair. Although that can soon me surmounted by and awareness that once again our hostess has perfected her frugality, and so it's 3 new potatoes each, a bit of chicken and some casseroled vegetables, of which it soon became apparent had all been cooked until the last one softened. And is this a parsnip or a bit of leek? A courgette? You always know how to surprise.

And if you think my unspoken thoughts were unkind, one of her flatmates actually said upon tasting it, "Well done you", with a slight tone of amazement. By the way, if I should ever cook for any of you, and if you should happen to make a similarly patronising comment, then you may discover that not only is the bird so fresh it's actually flying, but also the dish presented is likely to be coq au visage.

Which of course sounds like some crap gay porn film. Admittedly, the whole stewed mess was suspended in a translucent off-white and slightly bitter sauce, so I've just come up with my next devastating line (which of course I'll never use), for whatever the next hapless meal happens to be: I've tasted nicer semen.

Only, I've just realised the implications of that (look, it sounded good, ok?), and it's probably not true. By which I meant the tasting, not the nicer, although that's... um, well, look, I'm a scientist and, er, curiosity is the better part of valour or something, and er, this is going the same way as that poor sixth-form biology teacher who responded to heckling, which propounded the idea that semen tastes of vanilla, with the immortal words "no, it doesn't".

Getting back to "well done you", after that distinct period of well-done-me, which more precisely leaves me feeling rather parboiled instead of well done, is it me, or does the phrase suggest that the speaker is either offering such faint praise as to be damning, or is proposing the complimented has risen far above their base state, which is not only surprising but rare enough to receive true commendation, and thereby begs the question of just what their base state really is, and whether a not very good meal is greatly above it.

So after the light refreshments, and a growing perception that most of the people assembled come from the nice-but-dim, and coincidentally really rather rich, social cluster, came the traditional enforced merriment of board games. Pictionary; works really well when most people don't know each other, nor know how they think.

Somewhat unsurprisingly the hostess's team won (but I was playing the girl who when enquiring what I did heard the word "environmental" and thereafter asked me questions about recycling. Az - never become a doctor, as every time you meet anyone they'll wang their foot on the table and ask you identify the fungus, even if you're neonatal surgeon). But as every time I've been to anything she hosts Pictionary is involved, and I'm guessing I'm not the entirely of her social life, this does somewhat suggest that she plays it quite a lot and, judging by her responses to a single line, has memorised every answer in the set, so not even slight rampant cheating could help (I still maintain it was an exploration of the rules, and it was quicker than drawing a "wrist watch").

But perhaps it was the endless conversations about God that got to me. It wasn't really about God, more about the new prayer cushions in St Agamemnon's, and the unrelenting "Oh, St Odeon? Do you know Filly Bucklebust? She was at school with Urtica Di Oica? Oh you must know her; tremendous fun. Married Jollychap. No, no, the younger brother. Yes, that's her. Well, yes, her cousin, Pip Longstocking is getting married to the rector of St Spume. Yes. Quite. Good old Hemmy".

And what is it with Christians and doing outreach work with "the young people"? And it's normally used by people who, in any non-Christian-sex-after-marriage-so-marry-early, non-marketing-core-demographic sense, are still somewhat young themselves.

I miss having people I can talk too, and go and have fun with. That's partly what rankles slightly; the hostess used to be fairly fun, whereas now the peak of her talents is thoroughly amusing Jane Austen quotes left of twee blackboards in the kitchen. Well, I imagine they're amusing if one knows Pride and Prejudice and cares about either the quote or the presence of shelves in the closets.

Happy thought indeed.


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