Tuesday, August 28, 2007

2006-10-20 108 - Water like a stoneI know shouldn't, but, while perusing Ryan's sidebar, I found a little something on the perils faced by Utah from emormons and sniggered greatly. Even the adverts are unintentionally amusing. Watch it, but do try not to react with fear.

"There's even an internet quiz". Aw bless. There's probably also one called "Mormon or Moron?" And another on "Which country has the most credulous news reporters?" But then the eighth commandment, as relayed by The Book of Mormon* is Thou shalt not lampoon.

* Typo, sorry. That should read "The Book of Norman", or, to use the full title, "The Usborne Illustrated Pop-Up Guide to the Norman Conquest with Interactive CD-ROM Game".

In otherness - weird, freaky, dismaying but way cool: image resizery.

Oh, and a plague on all your hosen (yes, I know I've used it before, but if people will insist on living in Germany...) to he who sent me a link to another blog, which meant I clicked on an embedded Youtube video, and thus within four seconds had the most irritating song implanted in my brain, where it has dwelt ever since. I don't even know anything about the film, its subject or that of the song, except for Sleepless in Seattle and knowing a couple who got married there. Even with other music playing it's still there. This is not good.


PS. Ouh Ouh Oh.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

DSC_0121 - Coffee table bookI feel dirty.

I've finally succumbed to the pox that is Facebook. After months, if not years of studiously ignoring it and the calls to join it (I was deterred early on by the invitation only policy, which would have required pointing out to assorted better looking, more confident people that I was a social pariah so could someone kindly invite me). And this is despite admonitions from one friend, following repeated mass email demands to "JOIN FACEBOOK!", to "EFF Effing Facebook! Get a MySpace page like me!" They really know how to convince me. Though I quite like the Alabamarite's special American take on swearing; somehow I don't think they get it.

And all it took was a text. And all the text said was:
+447...[Unknown]: Hey [Anyhoo] how's it going? What are you up to?

Confused the hell out of me. A day later a longer edition appears, this time remembering to include a name along with many others of friends already on Facebook. And so, being a miser, rather than spend whatever it is Orange Pay Through The Nose charge for a hundred and forty characters to reply, or send an email which he'll forget about within a Stock Aitken Waterman chorus, I choose to sign up, and thus have been browsing a hinterland of friends of friends, waiting for someone to acknowledge me.

Reactions so far (during that period where no one else exists so one can only see who knows who via profile images):
She's had how many children? And they all look like her. Oh dearie me. The world doesn't need any more of those genes. Whereas she, well, she looks like her mother does now. And even he's aged; that's just wrong. Oh, it's him. I used to like him. Not sure why he disappeared. Whereas he must have led a very boring life, as all his friends are bald, white men with standard British names. And at least two thirds of her friends seem to be double-barrelled; she always was Little Miss Snobbery. You'd never guess he was gay; all his have superb photographs. And trust him to have five pages of friends. Why's everyone engaged, married or procreating? Even the non-CUers seem to be at it. He's marrying... hang on, wasn't she in school with my brother? Golly, we really do get everywhere. As for her, even her photograph looks dull.

Hmm, having been browsing and got up to a grand total of five people who'll admit they know me, I'm not wholly convinced by the concept. I dismissed MySpace as inhabited by eleven-year-olds pretending to be thirteen; from what I've seen Facebook is full of thirteen-year-olds pretending to be fifteen (or possibly thirty-year-olds doing likewise). And despite turning off all email notifications Facebook is still emailing me each time someone accepts a friendship request. I may have to truly nark Gmail and delete stuff (and does anyone use folders or tags in Gmail? Or just search?).

Not that I'm in the best position to comment on maturity. The ever faithful Winamp (WMP is just vile to use and Real crashes the whole damn time. I have no use for album art or libraries. If I wanted the pictures I'll buy the CD and I have this cunning system for finding things; it's called putting them in folder with a suitable name. I know that's an anathema to XP, but I'm still Luddite enough to knowingly use drive C) just selected Jefferson Airplane - We Built This City. How cool am I? [Just checked and apparently it's by Starship. Thus is the nature of the network].

[Added some while later]
Oh God. I've just snuck a look. And then got excited because A's acknowledged me, B's asking after me and C's saying how they know me. Yay, people I like (as opposed to people I used to like and don't really know any more, but were in my address book and I couldn't bring myself to deselect. I probably still like them, I just haven't seen them in years). How playground am I? Or how attention seeking am I? And how did I cope with this new-found popularity? I ran away and closed the window so I wouldn't have to work out suitable responses just yet (as for people asking, how are you, just above me replying to exactly the same question half an hour earlier, must I reply to each of them?).

So that's about it for this special edition of PG Network News. Any tips, comments and add-mes to the usual address (In Act, I've already seen a namesake but had no way of knowing if it was you).


Sunday, August 12, 2007

DSC_6046 - Blue-Brown BlindOne advantage of this whole zen foot in mouth farrago is that introductory conversations suddenly become much easier. Rather than have to explain that I have come to you today from X, near Y, which is south west of Z, where the other party has only heard of Z, now, as my brother pointed out by interrupting me mid-explanation, I can simply say I drove up from the foot-and-mouth. Plus this has the wonderful effect of making the hard-of-thinking back away in fear from me, saving me from both having to explain geography to them and explain everything else I make the mistake of mentioning.

So thinking of conversations mired in dread, a while ago was GA's delayed birthday party. I pull outside late after eating beforehand (she said 7, though confirmed there would only be party-food, not food-food, stubbornly resisting the convention that 'at 7' means being fed) and managing to be waylaid by family communications (much noise, not so much signal), and whilst gaining congratulatory heckles for my parking, I head towards the source of the pounding music, rapidly realising it's not coming from the flat I'm going to. Stumbling over the threshold, with a distracted kiss in greeting as my sleeping bag bounds away, I find I'm the first to arrive. Once again. This always seems to happen, regardless of when I turn up, except for when I'm an hour-and-a-half late, when it turns out they've been waiting for me before putting the spinach on (I can't cope with the concept that anything in any town can be more than ten minutes from anything else, even when the town is London; it's just wrong that in the capital everything is at least half-an-hour away).

So I settle down to chat having been handed a coracle of Cava, safe in the knowledge that everyone comes late. The next guests arrive shortly after me. A couple. Such a couply couple they've actually got married. So the assembled people consist of the hostess, her flatmate, her flatmate's girlfriend, her friend from uni, her friend from uni's husband and me. So two couples and a distinctly non-couple. Rapidly it becomes apparent that this will be it, as the other two likelies either have prior engagements (he used that excuse last year, despite it being a different weekend) or prior illnesses, and it transpires there were only two more possibles, despite the mass invitation list. This may reflect past experience of GA's parties, or more kindly it might just be that it was a popular weekend for parties, as demonstrated by the two other sets of music coming in through the windows, one of which seems to have much whooping accompanying it.

It's always rather depressing to be able to hear a better party than the one one is currently at (ouch, ugly sentence). Apparently it's not the done thing to comment on this, regardless of how readily everyone bar the hostess agrees. I only mentioned it because the party beyond were playing a song they'd already played earlier. We did consider gatecrashing, but weren't sure exactly where the noise was coming from; it's much easier to gatecrash if there's a single obvious gate which to crash, rather than pounding entry-phones until buzzed up.

So instead we sat through the inevitable revelling in university tales, during which the blushing bride blushed perpetually. It seems she was once much less dull. Fortunately that cluster ran out of embarrassing material so conversation faltered once more (is it a good sign if people check email while at a party?). Instead, and here comes the advantage of partying with former reserve members of University Challenge teams, we a had quiz.

The teams split into the marrieds grabbing GA leaving the flatmate and I together, as his girlfriend was reading the questions. Infuriatingly the answers weren't on the same page as the questions, which meant our cunning plan of sitting behind the laptop was somewhat scuppered. Despite this, we still did reasonably well. Reasonably meaning we got over double the other team's score.

But then they did answer the first question "Catch 21", which is no doubt the prequel. The second sought the only assassinated British Prime Minister. We answered Gladstone, then crossed that out and went with Asquith, on a whim based on obscurity. Yes, we were wrong, but rather less wrong than the other team, who thought the assassinated Prime Minister was Oliver Cromwell, who was neither.

But having said that it's probably best to overlook me writing Sue Ryder down as one of the female winners of BBC Sports Personality of the Year. We got Sue Barker (who didn't actually win it) later, but neglected to correct she of the hospices. And we won't mentioned writing Luxembourg not Liechtenstein for the shares-the-national-anthem-tune question (the other team wrote 'Britain', which, although logical, suggests they hadn't quite listened to all the question). They also thought Celine Dion sang for Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest (whereas I got Switzerland from thinking of a Francophone country tolerant of weird accents). I suspect this is one of those things one should intentionally get wrong, just like I failed to do with the names of Madonna's biological children (look, I just happened to have made the mistake of listening to Radio 1 news; I have no urge to know).

The marrieds left shortly after their disgrace, back to an artfully John Lewis'd world (is it me, or is a third of the UK economy based on John Lewis vouchers? Everyone, bar me, seems to been given them, often in lieu of cash, recently. I think I've found the black market for the middle classes). So after talking, Wiiing and tidying (I got told to stop after I was spotted with clingfilm) it was time for bed. It's probably ought be worrying that the best of the party was the quiz. I think it was less a party, more a slight gathering.

The next morning brought the fun of a rented shower (where the noise indicates the approaching type of pain) and not much else. I left, leaving my car outside while I wandered Wimbledon (or wombled Wimbledon, if one wanders Wandsworth. I'm not sure what one does in Clapham though). Back up the hill to ship stuff over to my brother, I discover GA just departing, late, for the station. Dropping her off by a busstop, having been told to turn left for the forecourt only to find it's blocked by cars coming out, I ad-lib my way north towards my brother's flat. Tooting on a Sunday goes on a very long way.

Appear, dump boxes, help pack the same, hang round long enough to get treated to a speciality of my brother's: tuna and sweetcorn pasta. I've never been convinced by the combination - in potatoes fine, in sandwiches passable but hard to eat, with pasta just no - and despite cooking it I'm still not, as there's only so much one can do with four ingredients.

Sometime later I return to his place for yet more packing, this time with the added entertainment of being cut-up repeatedly in solid traffic on Streatham one-way system, having come the Google way, resulting in wisps, then clouds of something ominous coming round my bonnet. Cue hazards and stopping on those nice double red lines, hesitantly opening the bonnet after much uncomfortable probing to find the catch. There's a plastic bottle of something, with a bit of brown at the bottom at a New York's worth of steam hissing from the top. Oh. I think it might be a bit hot. So I anoint it, then douse it with water from a refilled hypo-Coke bottle. Still hissing, at which point I notice the police car behind me, and the policeman approaching. He asks me if it's my car (no, I just felt like flooding someone else's engine) and if I have insurance, which he has to ask repeatedly due to the passing police bikes. I'm not sure why he wanted to know about insurance. I assumed he took one look at the bonnet venting steam on a car possibly older than his sidekick and assumed, as it was in South London, that it would be without MOT, tax or insurance. He also asks repeatedly if I've tried taking the lid off. I nearly consider attempting it at his prompting, before I realise he's telling me not, otherwise I'll get scalded (somehow sticking my hand into spears of steam hadn't appealed so far). I ask about sidestreets where I can it off the main road, and get directed to the next right.

Closing her up, I hop in, do the traditional mirror, signal, manoeuvre, thank that comes with the necessary London technique of rampantly carving people up (having a rusty, dented car, billowing steam, with police in attendance, does make it easier). The right hand turn leads me to another red route, with cramped legit parking one side and a blue car dumped on the single red line on the other. Rather than attempt parking properly I drop behind the blue car. The police car following me pulls in down the lane, the policemen joining a cluster near their car. There's a few looks in my direction, but none approach.

Shortly after by kitchen-towel brainwave, I realise the reason for the permanent cluster of police men down the road, and the red lines outside the nearer big, imposing, brick building. I've managed to park, with my suspiciously fume-laden car, onto which I'm pouring a mysterious liquid, right outside St Reatham Police Station (and I call it that because I keep forgetting it's not th) in Shrubbery Road (Ni!). Eventually the bottle shudders like B&B plumbing with boiling fluid jerking back into it and the temperature needle begins to dip. I tire of waiting round and drive off down the road, having plotted by route back to the A23 northbound. Naturally enough this is soon overruled by one way streets, so much improvisation eventually leads me back to the wrong end of the one way system.

Cue sitting through the same traffic jam, fan on full to cool the engine, but this time being the one doing the cutting-up as I've learnt now. Northwards easily enough, driving as expected, not as the road markings (I shall invoke my brother's phrase de jour, and blame folk memory). Then comes the fun of parking where I can get the car so far in, but no further, however much I try. It wasn't badly parked, but neither was it London parked.

And having done that I find he's not home yet. So I wander the streets of Brixton, discovering improbable windmills, highly photogenic chrome and surprising yet flattering winks. My brother rings to say he's home, which means he probably went past me. I reply I'll be back soon (how very Oliver!), but I'm by the Bovril, so it'll be a while. He claims to have no idea where that is, so I leave him to work it out.

Back at his I help pack - if you want to be the best, if you want to beat the rest, oooh-ooh, tessellation's what you need, if you want to be a record mover. And then the bribery (or is it corruption?) arrives, fresh from Khan's of Brixton (whose food the SIL reputedly dislikes because it hasn't got enough food colouring in. Odd girl) and just in time for Heroes. Judging by my brother's face, I think he's rather envious of my Indian standard of lamb biryani, usually ordered because I know the rice comes with it (and because I get mocked for ordering the korma). Combined with the naan (plain - we thought of getting Peshwari, in homage to our mother, because it's got sultanas in it and therefore by her culinary logic must be either a curry or a cake [occasionally both]), the included vegetable curry and the poppadom... well, I probably shouldn't have eaten it all. My brother had served half, and I'd eaten it with half the naan, and, er, that was enough (can I blame it being August, therefore hot, therefore I need less food, rather than getting old and slowly become one of those people who is sustained on a third of a tin of soup each day?). But the rest was there, and it was mine and still warm, and leaving food is wrong, unless part of the original plan. Very nice though. Just filling.

Then onwards with the packing, with the rumble of Radio 4 in the background, and so to bed. My brother's bed slopes towards him. The uphill side is against the wall. The wall in a basement flat, so the wall permanently maintained at 11 degrees Celsius. To the other side is the human storage heater, and over the top, the thick quilt, of which I hadn't quite enough (much later I realised that was because it was hanging off the other side, cue slight sausage rolling). So I was stuck between a hot place and a cold place, neither of which was comfortable, unable to average the two. So instead I got lay listening to my brother's range of snores, vastly expanded since I last slept in the same room as him. The sleeptalking's got quieter and less persistent though. Still as infuriatingly lucid (hence, while answering his questions, asking mid-reply "you're not awake, are you?" and getting the succinct response "no").

I don't think I slept very much, if at all, but he complained my snoring woke him. Up, breakfasting on a improvised Weetabix and apple juice (I mean together, in the same bowl, in lieu of milk, which is not kept in the house of the brother with the greater expression of the Norwegian genes. I thought orange juice was bad). Then under the hills and far away to the land where the little SIL lives, which involved thinking that the exit from Finsbury Park doesn't normally bend this much, shortly before walking back round the perimeter of the station (I used to know).

Chat and pack, with much asking about what is hers. Her friend of the chocolate fountain, who I invariably want to call the wrong name, due to him looking, and sounding, and acting, and moving like a friend of GA's, which leads to several internal dialogues as I struggle to remember he's the straight one with the girlfriend who lives in South Africa (or was it Canada? Alberta who lives in Vancouver, right?). The straight one, with much eye-contact (look, I know you've got stunning eyes, you don't have to keep showing me), who has a tendency to burst into song. The song was by Mika. He knew the words well enough to get the colours in the right order, including that one I can never quite hear clearly.

He's got a girlfriend; she lives in Durban, her name is Joanna Berg.

Of course.

He also is very enthusiastically bouncy, making a great show of doing things, while neglecting to finish doing some of them. Either he was showing off, or he knew he could quit before the tiredness started to show, unlike us.

So we pack, and clean, and fend off the new inhabitants, who've turned up to meet the landlord, who hasn't turned up, so instead quiz us on the flat (newbie's sister or mother: smells a bit, like, but you get tha in t'old places. Reet mousty it were doonsteers, bey they frount dour, like), flatmate (SIL: Och*, she's quai-ert, bay nice, though quai-ert... [silence as no more polite comments remain]), the area (NSOM: weighed hue-erd tha [road] was di-ed vilunt, like) and London (I'll skip this bit as I did the first time round).

* She actually says "och", though it's soft och, rather than a hard och [cafe].

And then it was southwards, for the first time ever down through the Congestion Zone while it's actually functioning, recognising places, getting lost again, clocking a building, recalling a busstop, and wondering what the Bank is doing there. We flit, well, zoom, grind to a halt, creep, stop, and finally stumble out over London Bridge. Yes, to save navigating the SIL was following bus routes she knows, hence not attempting as the crow flies.

Down to the new place to unload (not having many stairs helps). Quickly down to my brother's. Rapidly load, then lunch, which ended with the SIL's insistence that we should have some Percy Pigs, responded to with two looks so blank it was hard to tell they were looks. Percy Pig is apparently a type of chewy sweet, which is pink and aptly made of pork gelatin. My brother and I aren't really big on sweets, except perhaps those green and white ones one used to get at the museum at Ironbridge, which possibly reflects how often we bought sweets. We both have undampened blood sugar levels, so sweets go in, we go fleetingly mildly hyper, then sag in achy tiredness for the rest of the day. Plus I have memories of what happens when one eats a whole tube of Refreshers while in the back of a car out of sheer boredom. It's disconcerting when sick doesn't taste of sick.

So the SIL & I finished off the load, with me being able extrapolate her past movements by the number, type and positioning of hoards of sweets (I'm guessing sweets are her apples; the crutch that props up the day). Off to the new flat again, while I wonder where the blood from the blood blister on my thumb has gone (I was trying to open the back door of the van and having problems).

Unload, ignoring pain, shuttling, shuffling and shunting boxes to fit better in all available spaces. My brother later referred to it as playing trains, thus foxing the SIL. He was referring to the name my mother used for the end of term ritual of moving boxes about, in compressed lines, over classroom floorboards (avoiding that nail and that hole) and along tiled, linoed or polished concrete corridors, out to the top of the steps, above the car waiting patiently yet incongruously in the playground (I was always amazed by the concept that someone could drive on the huge expanse of tarmac). I think she had the measure of us.

The timely approach of a traffic warden (sorry, parking attendant, which makes them sound like they should stand by the car behind telling you how much room you've got left. Yes, I had to do this for the SIL, whereas I normally wait till I see the other car move) sent us scampering back to the other flat. It's not looking terribly packed. I spend a while trying to help, but trying not to upset unexplained plans by packing things left out to remind, then discovering the SIL elongated on the bed while my brother rummages nearby, I curl up on the settee. I wake to the sound of my brother complaining about deep sleepers. Then more packing, in relays, where my brother covers the packing, the SIL shuttling things up to the gate, and me carting stuff off to the van down the lane. And I use carting metaphorically, more's the pity.

Suddenly that seems to be it. We head off, SIL driving, me shotgun, my brother the marauding Indian on a bike, thus undertaking in buslanes nearly as much as we overtook him. More unpacking, sorting, being asked if that's my blood on the lid of one of the boxes (Oh, so that's where it went). They go off to return to the van, while I move my car, after which I realise there isn't very much to explore. There's a cellar that's fairly short and is only the size of the hall, but explains that manhole cover by the front step. And it's mostly full of broken Ikea furniture, ungainly toys and scattered Christmas decorations, crunching underfoot in place of coal.

Being locked in an unfamiliar, yet-to-be-unpacked flat isn't fun. I had keys, but had enough problem getting in the first time with them (I suspect the locks/doors are another item on the snag list), so wasn't going to risk it. I knew where all the books were, because I helped pack them, and so knew they were lining the base of every box, hence not wholly accessible. I considered setting up a radio, but didn't know where they'd want which, nor where the wires had been packed. One gargantuan television had been left mating the couch, the other holding up a wardrobe, so they were pretty much unobtainable. I couldn't even go into the kitchen to read cereal packets as they were all yet to be bought. So I sat leaning against a door that cannot be closed, trying to extract as many shots as possible from the light coming through the blinds, aware that I'm running out of options. There wasn't really anything I could just fiddle with, as it was all in boxes, not to be touched until the promised professional cleaning happened.

So I sat and waited, that's what I did, and tick did not follow tock as not even my brother's irritatingly loud alarm clock had yet been unearthed.

No tick.

No tock.

No voices nagging or narrating.

No cars opportuning or tolerating.

No sirens or Sirens wailing for effect.

Just nothing. Nothing more than a dusty blind, marked by abandoned cleaning, an overgrown bush and the blankness of the building opposite.

Only the distant sound of planes Heathrowing belies the beyond.

Eventually comes the call to collect people from the fish and chip shop, only it's not there anymore, so they're in Tesco's, but haven't bought anything yet.

Then the next call, four minutes later, asking where I am (you said you hadn't bought anything yet).

So through lumpy, buckled streets, in loose London mode, cavalier and considerate. And back again.

Food is cooked, up to the point where it is discovered that the grill doesn't work and the only frying pan has been left behind. Sausages are nearly cooked on a baking tray across the hobs until I realise the wrapped fruit bowl I moved earlier is a wok. Food and phone calls (friends, a street away, want to do housewarming, and ignore warnings that the only space left is in the hall or the shower). I help dig out vital things, and then depart, without the promised Wiiage*, grinding to a halt half on the High Street, before going back the engrained route.

* My brother thinks it's a brilliant name for a product, evoking whee for fun, wee for little and we for multiplayer. I can understand that view, but get distracted by all the resultant verbs and nouns conjuring up the other meaning of wee. It's as bad as "Good Moaning, I was... "

A couple of days later I was rung to ask if I knew where I'd put the clips for the SIL's television stand. Apparently "in a box, because they started falling off when I was putting it in the van" is not a helpful answer. But then I refuse to feel very guilty - it must have been one without a lid, does that help? - because as I was speaking I could hear a bowling alley in the background, thus suggesting they've got the Wii up and running, and that the SIL is having the same problems she has in normal bowling.

They promised me Wii, you know.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

DSC_4632 - Vogue HouseGolly, a post without an on-the-day shot to accompany it (which might have been a good thing, freeing me from the prerequisite of Flickrisation and the innate spoilerdom of that, had I posted about it anywhere near the time it happened). But because I've not yet written properly about it, I'm going to lurch from copy-and-paste to copy-and-paste, with minor amendments along the way. Hope you don't mind.

I was spotted. In [No Google] Street (and that's not the one by Trafalgar Square). Apparently they want someone who "doesn't look like a model" (gee thanks). And due to having what has been termed "a seafaring face" (i.e bony, weathered, haggard) I got to spend a day pretending to be part of the merchant marine for some training scheme (presumably the people actually on it are all too ugly to use). It's all quite bizarre.

While I think of it, no seamen jokes please.

So after much dithering over logistics and quibbles over details (when you say "chest" do you mean literal size or what is necessary to fit my shoulders in?) a date was arranged, and then via a succession of cars, navigation methods and illegality of driving a cluster of people ended up at Revod in a queue for a POSNC ferry, the Fuller's London of Revod [the disguised names are less about you lot working things out than other people unearthing].

The Cast:
Me - The dashing naval officer, gallant hero and quiet one.
NOM - My opposite number, in many fields. Blonde, considers that an excuse, niece of the photographer.
Kanya - The photographer. Not blond, but genetically related to the girl.
The Fixer - He who mediates and drives like a former sales rep.
The Liaiser - The man from the client company. Former employee of POSNC. Possibly the type to have left after not advancing sufficiently. Slight air of ineffectual, put-upon despair, or perhaps tobacco smoke, permanently around him.
Sundry employees of POSNC.

Eventually, after much standing upwind of the smoker, and discovering I'm the only one who's brought a coat (but we're going to sea), hence being the only one not to huddle in the car when it started spitting, we board, and promptly confuse the other passengers by doing a three-point-turn. Out of the car, up to the passenger decks, booking in while trying not to block the stairs. Then through staff stairs and corridors, surprised by the smell of smoke (exempt or just unenforceable?), into a curtained off cabin to change. Then up onto the bridge, and out to the external stairs do the most cheesily staged shots ever (I at least tried to look like I was going up the stairs, she of little brain stood with both feet on the same step and smiled perkily into the camera), while trying not to lose the hats (I had suggested going round to leeward, but just like the Ginger Nuts comment, no one knew what I was talking about; they just think I have a ginger fetish).

Then let back in - like Downing Street, the external doors to the bridge only open from the inside - to pose languidly. The photographer complained that everywhere I went I was hunched, crouched against some console. Having failed with the first couple of suggestions, I didn't point out that this is my anti-gimble stance. If I go on anything that floats, I do tend to brace myself, always working with one hand in contact feet at ninety-degrees to each other, hip clamped against anything sturdy. It's just what one does, to save skittering wantonly into some handily sharp corner (and even the most rounded of objects becomes sharp if approached fast enough). Either you move with the ship, or you move through it, and the former is a lot less painful.

Admittedly it was natural caution rather than a necessary requirement, as the roll was only enough to cause occasional stumbles (and the camera tripod to intermittently turn metronome). So I tried unhunching, settling on sprawling across equipment, legs out like guy ropes so he could get my head in shot. Much feigning of interest in disinterest. Have you tried standing in front of a computer adjusted radar screen? I kept wanting to cock my head round to our course and use my hands as representatives of other ships, eyes curled up into my head while I work it out, flitting down again to spot the actual ships poking over the horizon. It's quite hard to do this when one is supposed to be still, looking engrossed in the screen, but not actually being engrossed (I kept being told to stop biting the inside of my lip while I thought). And of course the girl was a natural at just standing, staring dumbly at things, pretending she knew what it was and what it did.

In the end the photographer realised that having all the shots showing someone at instruments, looking down, was unrealistic, so had me do addressing both views. Which some people might take as an indication that I can't stand still, but I prefer to think of it as inspiration. It's quite hard to come away and not address a suitable man in uniform to just check they're keeping an eye on that orange-hulled container ship a palm-width to starboard of the ferry that overhauled us, as it's on a collision course with us, and they've got right of way.

Next came getting my hands on the controls, after the girl stood limply by them. The ship was on autopilot but had just been given a new bearing when I found myself stationed in front of it. I was told I could waggle levers to my heart's content as they were all disengaged, so I stood in front of the panel, flicking my eyes between the compass and the horizon, adjusting the left-hand-down-a-bit (or right hand in this case) trying to keep her on course, while knowing I'm doing no such thing. Except it turns out I was. There's a manual override they'd half forgotten about, so by doing what the autopilot wanted to do, I was confusing the hell out of it, explains why she wasn't staying on course.

Of course, having accidentally steered a ship, I now want a proper go. And the Revod Straits aren't quite the place for wanging on full lock to see what happens.

We continue on, aping others on the bridge, occasionally co-opting them to stand embarrassedly beside me while I pretend to ask them a question, pointing at some scope, currently showing Northern France (don't worry it wasn't in shot, though the guy next to me's smirk was, but by this stage I'd stopped pointing out errors).

While nestling against the youngest guy on the bridge (I know the photographer told us to stand closer, but we were risking electric shocks from the constant rubbing of wholly manmade uniforms), the roll of the ship bouncing buttock into hip, I realised she was listing to port. Which also happened to be leeward. That's some windage.

A few shots of us poring over the chart (singular, under perspex; you can tell this is a ferry). I at least tried to make it look like I was plotting bearings, while mostly trying to keep the string sticking out of the sharpened end of the pencil out of shot (I have no idea), though the conspicuous lack of anything nearby other than my ever-framing-the-shot cap, might belie this. Whereas the girl just stood in front of it, looking like she'd never met a pencil before, finger on the end of her mouth to denote brazen coquettishness intense contemplation, while her other hand is drawing a daisy somewhere over Amiens. I got about as far as "You do know..." before being silenced with "It'll be fine" as I tried to point out that the yellow bit is the land, and unless she's been taking bearings, and has excellent eyesight, including the ability to see over the horizon, the resultant image is going scream its falsehood to all comers, and if you think the client won't notice that you're a bloody fool, and if they don't, then they're a bloody fool too, because anyone with a rough idea of the basics is going to realise that shot is a bit suss, so if the clients only want to recruit those with no knowledge and no brain, only then will it be all right. It's probably just as well I only got three words out. I know there's reflections and lighting and camera angles to consider, but unless you get the fundamental elements of the image right the rest is an irrelevance.

Bloody amateurs, said the amateur model. Just take the money, smile vaguely and make sure you don't look at the camera.

Then came much waiting, as she docked and we waited to head down to the engine room. I should have taken my camera, despite the warnings that we'd have nowhere safe to leave stuff, and the expectation that I'd be busy all day. So much interesting, so much abstractable, so much quite cool actually.

Instead I settled for leaning on the beneath the windows, watching her coming in to dock, Calais drifting around the ankles (and in such a pose attract the photographer, him thinking I haven't seen him, me trying not react while subtly trying to bring my chin forward and stand up straighter). It's quite bizarre seeing the little nudges, miniscule manoeuvres that quietly park such a great hulk, not even deigning to acknowledge wind tearing at her or waves ramming her, instead blithely crushing the same inexorably against the quay. Only once she's completely stationary where she needs to be do the lines become more than cobwebs garlanding the chasm.

Ramps like slide-rules are winched down from the land, concern ensues as there's a man on the uppermost, stance recognisable to most as that of the camera-wielding-man. Frantic communication with the French trying shoo him, with the French denying his existence, when eventually he turns to depart. The cyclists scramble off, riding down past the sign demanding all bikes are wheeled throughout the port the ramp. Then lorries and cars stream off and the other party, the shareholder party, who the captain has been regaling, are ready to go down, so we depart en masse.

The reaction of others to cramming into the lift, round the soup cart or whatever it was, proved entertaining. Apparently those descending to the engine room weren't used to sea-based personal zones (which are smaller than the those on the Tube in the rush hour). Practicality rules, and I'll try not to get you in the groin with the tripod.

Spilling into the kitchen we head down through doors with signs prohibiting their opening while at sea. It's warmer here, damper too. A few shots of us standing around the consoles and becomes apparent that we're not really dressed for an actual engine room, as everyone else is in well-paunched overalls. I'd quite like to go and look, but there's a limit on how many can go at once, so the photographer and fixer go, leaving the models to stand round forlornly.

Next door is a storeroom-come-workshop, where the photographer tries to get shots of us working, but double-breasted blazers don't really go with chuck keys, instead being chased away (due to all of us standing out of the way while still managing to be in shot). So instead I went back to the control room, trying to interpret what is before me.

Eventually an inhabitant sidles up (you really can tell the engineers) and asks what I know about it, and then proceeds to explain as much as he can, with me carefully not asking the really stupid questions, knowing he'll be so thorough as to unintentionally answer them later. I manage to confuse him by asking about the layout of the three propellers (it's obvious the third has to be midships, but it still seems odd to have one protruding from the base). But I also learn that they are physically feathered, with motors responsible for pivoting the angle of blades to match the optimum for boat speed. Once we'd covered the arrangement of V-whatever engines (16? 18? I'd remember the latter, but the current Sulzer output is V-14), the conversation petered out as by this stage my lack of knowledge was beginning to show, and despite my polite inquisitiveness his enthusiasm for the subject waned when he asked if I was a navigator or engineer and I'd reply that I was just a hired face. If the expert clams up it's very hard to ask the right questions as one doesn't tend to know what they are.

So after some awkward standing round failing to make conversation while the engines started, the photographer decided there's only so much one can do with a floor mounted drill, and so we returned up the greasy stairs, my cap as vexillum on the folded tripod. And so by the backstairs labyrinth to the one of the mess rooms, where I'm encouraged to feign interest in The Times while Sky is on behind me (presumably the far end of the table bore a Fox sticker). Presumably the Telegraph readers bring their own and the Guardianistas read it online on some salt-prone bit of kit. She picked the Daily Express. No comment, except she might have thought it was the Daily mail.

While I'm investigating rumours of squash my hopes are squashed like a liferaft between hulls as we move on once more. But this time to the crew galley, used in preference to the officer's wardroom, which is simply the end of the same room behind a glass partition and so known as the goldfish bowl. We collapse onto the drinks machine, the brighter people downing milk or mixing drinks, the less-with-its swearing into their boiling tea.

Our present minder is despatched to coax some food for us out of the supposedly closed galley, for the purposes of photography. We're presented with half a dried, battered piece of fish, and half a chicken, both with a scant portion of chips and peas, along with the words "You can eat it, but I wouldn't".

After complaints that I've drunk the hot chocolate (I hadn't had anything to drink since 7.30 and the galley had stopped serving lunch), and being handed a scorching refill, we commenced eating while trying to look both photogenic and natural. I sincerely hope they use those taken over her shoulder and so focussed on me, not through vanity, but simply because the girl had no clue what to do with cutlery, other than nearly stab herself in the eye while eating the chips with her fingers. When the shots were focussed on her, she sat with a daft grin flanked by fist gripped silverware pointing straight up. As I said before, not officer material.

For some reason we get left alone, so I continue eating, having already raised uncomprehending eyebrows by eating peas with a fork not used as a spoon (where do they find these people?), although perhaps that was just the idea of eating peas. I clear my plate, while the girl finishes her hand-picked chips, not touching the chicken or her peas (I know they were tinned, but it's still food). I avoid conversation by watching people outside trying to smoke when their cigarettes are bending in the wind.

Suddenly our presence is required again, and negotiations occur with the minder as to whether we can borrow a staff cabin for more shots, which supposedly was prearranged, but like so much else turned out not to be. We end up shanghaiing the minder for his cabin, where we were each shot in various stages of relaxation, reading the only materials available in the spartan cabin, which were very HR-sounding self-assessment exercises from POSNC; all widely ignored buzz-words.

Back along corridors, being mocked for meandering with the roll of the ship rather than fighting it, and out onto the crew only deck, for a variety of horizon-gazing shots, all of which were rather disrupted by the force 8 gale coupled with a ferry running at full speed (so 22kn/25 mph + 39-46 mph, although there are complications of angle, tide and local effects). The hefty tripod wouldn't stay up in that wind, so the photographer was freehanding, while trying not get barrelled along. He got round this by making me sit in the full force of the wind, while he sheltered, elbows clamped to my sides to keep the slack of the jacket from exploding into a spinnaker again, threatening to burst. He's yelling encouragement from the side, simultaneously chastising me with "try and keep your eyes open this time", as I squint against the peals of spray rolling six storeys up to us.

About the time the photographer started thinking the dousing all his equipment in brine might not be that great, it's all suddenly over. Back inside to seek out the original cabin and change. Finally, I'm feel of blazerdom underpinned with the word's shonkiest belt. Undressing I realise I'd forgotten to do up the internal buttons on the jacket, not being used to such complexities, although no one commented.

We pile everything in one of the passenger lounges, and go our separate fleeting ways, regrouping before she docks. Down to confuse the caravanners, lugging kit back to our now badly parked car, standing discussing drop-down levels and various workings of the ship, glowering at those with their engines running before we've docked, and only piling in (once more making sure I'm not the middle of the back seat guy) once we see the vehicles ahead start to move.

Out through the marooned, congested oddity that is Revod, pulling off to drop the Liaiser and the uniforms off, trying to get back to the motorway, but instead alighting at an improbably named pub, for decent though unseasonal and slightly too expensive food, but I wasn't paying. Instead I was being paid, cash in hand, in a pub. Classy.

Then back, and back again. And that was it. I am now a model. I fear I shall have to get a new mobile, one specially designed for minion-maiming. Such is life.


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