Tuesday, March 25, 2008

DSC_1217 - White Meat (22/366)Unexploited web-address typo of the week: laft.fm, a site to record trends in listening to Radio 4 comedies. Number one this week: The Now Show. Number two despite not currently being on: The News Quiz. Joint number three: Quote Unquote and that lawns-grow-quicker gardening quiz.

But instead of exploring the curiosities of the Radio 4 schedule (hmm, how about a live version of the Moral Maze mixed with Michael Buerk's last job, 999 [911 for the US franchise, 112 when it has French subtitles]? This week, a pregnant illegal immigrant has fallen in a flooded abandoned quarry and is currently unconscious floating face down following a series of unfortunate incidents worthy of Casualty. How long do you think aid should be refused? Should she rescued but not receive medical treatment? Should Radio 4 be airing programmes created with 5-Live embryos? What is the price of fish?) I have few tips gleaned from the great river of life (don't ask what percentage of water is post-treatment).

When dragooned into swimming and so wearing swimming trunks under jeans when walking to the pool do try to think about the return journey in advance.


In the snow.

Way to go.

I'd put pants in the bag and then changed bags because I didn't need to take all that stuff.

And swimming while watching snow flurry round the chimneys and spires of London at the end of the pool is slightly strange (but vaguely reminiscent of a indoor pool which grew dimmer whenever a ferry went past).

When coerced into playing Cluedo for the first time do try to remember where bits of information came from and so not waste a go by managing to get one's brother to show one the hall card again when trying to work out if he had Professor Plum.

When volunteered into playing Cluedo for the first time do try to remember not to ask after one's go, in the library with the revolver and suitable suspect, what one should do if one thinks one knows the answer as this may encourage one's charming brother to promptly call for Mrs White, one's character, in some inconvenient room. Still won.

Hang on, does one have to work back to the scene of the crime or can one just call it? Oh well, bit moot by now.

When pressganged into a slightly awkward conversation with one's brother do try to make sure that he's not about ask one to be his best man rather than any of the other do-we-have-to topics that nearly come tumbling out instead.

When doing 366* do try to consider future conversations which may result from it, especially if one has forgotten that both one's brother and the co both know about the account and the aforementioned woman actually Flickrs (not in the shonky Torchwood effect way) and thus might be likely to notice random shots of entire thighs and might wish to talk about it, even if it's only the title of the Rushdie book. And I still don't know if they know about this and if so if they've read it.

* I was 'encouraged' into doing that too.

Oh and Em (not the Em with the Ess) I didn't change the blue-eyed comment; parents are forgetful things, as possibly are you. And as are mine. Bloody pointless, long, forgetting that I pay to listen to it voicemail messages listing all the things in the freezer, their various states of decomposition and resulting consistency and texture. "Freezer bust" would have done it. It's not like I needed to know instantly or could do anything about it.

Back to the Smarties thing, my brother's possibly related comment (not directly related because he can't remember, or claims not to), albeit spoken as I spiral-peeled a clingily reluctant mandarin, that "that is so [Any]", followed by explaining that I "choose something difficult to do and do it" as well as "not just doing something but doing it in a way that satisfies on several other levels" (not the most accurate of quotes possibly, but gisty; taking notes while my brother speaks would odd, which is why I did it in a later conversation).

I wasn't sure whether I needed to point out that his obsessive removal of every bit of pith was so Bro.

Wow. I think we've just about managed to get through a day without any snow or hail. Bizarre.

And speaking of notes of fraternal wisdom, writen completely sans context on one page is the immortal line: "Always resort to the truth if you get stuck."



Thursday, March 20, 2008

2006-04-15 120Quirks of EU enlargement number 27: the girl in Waitrose has to read the coins to find out what they are.

Which is roughly related to discussions on the subject of Smarties. Having noted packs proclaiming the return of blue Smarties (an aberration originally, which then they corrected because everyone thought they caused cancer, and now strangely the Smurf Smarties are back) I found myself not only able to remember all the old colours, but their groupings by order of eating. Annoyingly I can't remember the exact order of consumption nor what each one represented.

The original order runs dark brown, light brown (although they're equal), then mauve, green and pink (the green used to vary in colour so if it was a good green it'd go after the pink, but a washed out one goes before), then yellow, orange, and finally red, although at one point I reversed this because I always had yellow things and my brother red, and then they started making the orange ones intentionally taste of orange, rather than doing so faintly/psychosomatically (I still maintain they did a bit), which confused everything.

But the aspect that's crying out to be remembered is what they all were. Each colour meant some abstract idea which would be conferred on the person eating it. But I can only remember one of them was courage. I think it was orange, although I remember trying to argue that yellow was courage, something my brother overruled (I'm glad he had a greater irony-meter than I did, or possibly had seen the right Back to the Future film [which probably would have come out after this symbolism scheme was concocted. Oh well. He knew what the American yellow meant]). Red might have been wisdom. One of the others was speed. I have a hunch we may have been drawing inspiration from my brother's comics.

One aspect of eating Smarties like this was that we could never deny it; we always used to get caught red-handed, because we ate the reds last so the colour had most chance to run (and showed more than orange or yellow).

And do you know what else I've remembered? Raisins in boxes. And my mother refilling them (and occasionally getting cross because I'd damaged the box or lost it) with raisins that were drier and didn't taste as nice.

Next I'll be remembering the sting of hail on exposed knees (bizarrely I have no memory of wearing school uniform shorts in winter to the horror of my mother's class [she taught at a nearby school so I'd go over and creep into her classroom to sit in a corner until their home-time. Apparently my bright red legs tended to attract attention], but I also have no memory of being one of the two boys to do this beyond the first year of first school the other being Thingy Dobury-Watsit from the nice-but-bright family).

Other memories of the period were the times-tables tapes, which were a whole lot less fun than the Watergate Tapes or the one with Granny's Garden on it (red broomstick or green broomstick? And that sodding bun-eating dragon). What others were there? Carousel (argh, not that pink-and-yellow music), Frogger (so much fun), Spyhunter (do-do, do-do, do-do, dilla-lal... we-wow! For hours. And much of the time I was watching my brother play), Aviator (fly through the mountains! The joys of wireframe) and the one my mother wrote in BASIC which turned the BBC into a keyboard (and not the red-buttoned qwerty type). Oh, what's the one with the... thing and the thing and the snow? 2d, one of the levels had skiing.

And what's it say about us that the number of tapes for the computer we had is probably the same as the number of audio tapes we owned (and guess who was never brave enough to put a data cassette into an audio player, having been told it makes the player blow up. I'm not sure the much later ban on me touching the CD player has been lifted yet [oh the joy of putting it on 'shuffle all', which used to leave thirty seconds of clunking and whirring as it skipped between tracks on different CDs]).

There were two yellow Classics for Children tapes, one with Peter and the Wolf on, and I can't remember what was on which tape. Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra was on one, but I the name stands out more the music, and Carnival of the Animals was also around somewhere. The Nutcracker might have been the fourth thing. But I always thought the duck was stupid. We also had a best of the sixties tape which was rarely played and something by the Beatles that had Yellow Submarine, Hard Day's Night and whichever one features the line "Lady Madonna, children at your feet, wonder how you manage to make ends meet" on, so I'm guessing a best-of. And then my brother had Pet Shop Boys tapes (he still had them when I tried playing them somewhere on the M25 to discover the intervening years and fluctuating humidity had remixed them), but they weren't allowed to be played in the car. Actually the very few tapes around probably reflect how often they got played; only ever in the car and only then on long journeys. And this is before visiting people hundreds of miles away could be done in a day. So basically we had music about as often as we had white bread, so only in school holidays (how my mother convinced us that white bread was a treat and therefore we were to demand nothing more exotic I have no idea. I think it'd be best just to stick with "well played").

And suddenly the experience of what happens when one eats a whole pack of Refreshers while bored in the back seat of a car in a traffic jam somewhere on the Ringwood Road returns. But I can't remember which car it was. It was red, but that doesn't narrow it down (ok, it does, because unlike Smarties my parents' cars have been since me yellow-I-don't-remember, yellow-I-do-that-was-actually-more-a-mustard, red-now-mine-open-door-wind-down-window-close-door-foot-on-wheel-to-do-Dukes-of-Hazzard, red-tank-with-optional-grey-trim-deployed-Hansel-and-Gretel-ly-on-concrete-bit-of-M3, green-even-worse-tank-that-ran-aground-often, too-pink-to-be-red-fun-to-drive-convertible and green-that-actually-moves-and-is-smaller-than-I-think-it-is. The brands involved in alphabetic order are Ford, Renault, Skoda, Subaru, Vauxhall and VW; I'll leave it up to you to work out which one was leprous). Could be the car I'm still driving (the one that was on the front page of the Telegraph thanks to some hippy roadhogs) as I don't remember anything falling off the car when I plunged out towards the lawnmower shop so it can't have been the other red (in the older car/my car one at least had to unscrew the knobs for the locks before they'd come off in your hand). My mother was cross, mostly because we'd just lost three places in the queue.

My car is also the one my mother drove into both banks of a lane behind the So-and-so's, because it was the dead end serving the first school and people had jammed themselves in the wider bit normally used for turning. Suddenly she didn't want nine-eights-are playing any more. We went home with soil on both ends and an intact fern sitting on the flared bit beneath the front bumper, where the trim's been hanging down ever since.

Which roughly brings me to the point. I have a car once more. Woohoo! And it has all the glass it ought to have. Woohoohoo! And I thought asking if the replacement replacement screen had been tested might be thought tactless so didn't ask. Noohoo? But they put my rear windscreen wiper back on after I'd paid and they hadn't been paid to do it, so Woohoo once more (it'd been sitting in the passenger footwell). Now all I need to do is work out if trying to take the traces of Duck tape glue off the paint will do more harm than good. And wait to reclaim my space. And sweep up the remains of broken glass I'd left until it became apparent that the car wasn't about to get scrapped (I've yet to work out how much is too much to spend. The Autoglass quote came very near, hence going local).

And now I'm worried something's going to happen to my nice car because it's parked where the neighbours complain (is the forty-five downhill into a sharp blind bend ending in a junction in a very residential 30-limit the dangerous bit or is it me parking legally on a straight thus encouraging the tobogganists to do the same on the wrong side of the road [actually three feet further over in most cases] the dangerous part?).

I think I might just go and check on it.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DSC_2152 - Boyle on Boy (41/366)Grr. For those who haven't been playing attention (ok, this a copy-and-paste from email and I can't be bothered to edit thoroughly for the blog audience or to take into account previous posts. Anyway, playing attention isn't something some of you do) ages ago a recycling bin went through the back windscreen of my car. Finding a replacement that didn't cost more than the car took a while. Eventually found a local place willing to do it moderately cheaply (in plain not tinted glass, but by this stage and age of car it doesn't matter). Having fitted it I foolishly drove it home in a wet rush hour - lots of clutch control - which meant I got to use the heated rearscreen (it had largely burnt out on the old one). And so I discovered one of the bars on a brand new screen didn't work. Not best pleased.

Rang the glaziers the next day, who said they'd have it back in for testing and if it was faulty they'd claim a new one under the manufacturer's warranty. Got told the testing only took 2-3 minutes, but once they'd found the fault they'd take the glass out ready to drop the new one straight in. So it went in on Friday, so it could be tested and reordered on the Saturday. Then on Monday they rang to say they couldn't start it (someone else took the call and got the place to jump start it - if I'd spoken to them I could have found out which of the many not starting noises it was making and so what was wrong [corrective action by decreasing initial noise: 1. Use the choke, Luke. 2. Wipe distributor contacts. 3. Charge battery/jump start. 4. Wiggle starter motor wires and bang on side for good measure. 5. Flick key back and forth a few times). So I thought we'd be rung when the new one had gone in. They rang yesterday to say they couldn't test it as it hadn't been cold enough overnight for condensation to form.

Big pause while I realised that not only was the new one not about to go in, but it hadn't even been ordered yet, because the fault hadn't been confirmed. Bigger pause while I worked out that the 2-3 minutes testing consists of waiting for nature to provide the condensation. I'd assumed when he said he needed to check the circuits that he had some gadget for measuring magnetic induction (because you can't do it by
drawing current or applying your own as it's wired in parallel so would provide a constant positive result unless one put the probe right on the break). So when he said quick, I hadn't realised it was tied to the diurnal cycle and then only if weather permits. His testing consists of seeing if it works, but he didn't apparently think of
putting a mug of coffee in the boot with damp paper or a towel on the outside or even just putting the whole kettle in the boot. Not best pleased once more.

Cue appearing there at lunch time armed with a plant-mister and kitchen towel. A couple of minute's work and we found it was the seventh bar down that was dud. So now all they need to do is ring the suppliers, argue their way through the warranty claims part, get a new one sent out, exchange it for the faulty one, replace it, then ring me and tell me to come and collect my car, all hopefully before the weekend, which he'd forgotten was Easter, with Bank Holidays and closed for the duration-ness.

So it's just as well the car-based plan for the weekend and assorted other plans fell through anyway. Having a car is far more useful than I think it is when I'm feeling guilty for not using it. But it, or rather things associated with it, can be quite frustrating at times.

And in other news my mother wishes to know why the postcard she sent me while on holiday (thanks for yours, Ry) has a postmark of four days ago (and another of five days ago, and a third, illegibly smudged, which might have come from a neighbouring letter), despite her being in this country for the past few weeks. It seems to have spent forty days wandering the wilderness of the Sinai desert.


Friday, March 14, 2008

2006-01-13 034Golly isn't 30 fast?

Well, it is when second's a novelty. So I have a car once again. I just made the mistake of picking it up when the garage closed, so had the joy of trying to find the least congested route back. Joining a dual carriageway at a rate of one cat's eye every other minute is not the most enjoyable way to pass time, although I did get to perfect my act-as-though-they-were-letting-me-in technique (there's something to be said for driving a car far cheaper to repair the other party's). Admittedly the traffic porridge in the rain did mean I got to test the demister on my new rearscreen. And so find one bar in the middle doesn't work while still on the same road as the garage, but be too penned in by others to be able to turn back and know they were closing as I left.

So I have a car again. But have to take it back to that garage for them to test and confirm that brand new and pristine wasn't and so claim a new one under the manufacturer's warranty (quite glad I didn't have to do my repair, replace or refund ultimatum. And when did the DTI disappear to be replaced by the Bureau for Error [at least, that's what I assume BERR means]?). So basically once more I don't have a car. Just when I'd got excited about having a usable one again.

Hey, and I believe the usual accompaniment is ho.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

DSC_0403 - Brewer's DroopThis week I learnt that Last.fm is fragile. And that doing a little checking before ranting might be a good idea. But I still say showing last activity times to the nearest minute is absurd when preceded by hours and days.

But instead of attempting to resurrect that post in the light of new found knowledge (oh, the live-stream bit can be masked) I'll simply skip to something less arduous. Just to counter the young-with-it-ness of Last.fm (who kid I? I'm longtailling it) I have to admit to recently managing to find absolutely nothing attractive or wearable in H&M. I know they're really into the 80s-retro thing at the moment, but somehow they've turned into M&S during the infamous grey year. The only colours in the place that don't look like they've been plucked from a lahar are purple and lime green. Considering I used to own a polo shirt which featured both colours heavily back when they were last fashionable I won't be repeating that mistake. Having wandered round I can only protest that the eighties weren't that bad. The only thing which vaguely tempted me (other than a £2.99 t-shirt, but they had no whites left and I have all the other wearable colours) was a red-based checked shirt, which I didn't buy because not only is it channelling Brokeback Mountain somewhat belatedly, but largely because I used to have a shirt in the same check when I was three. And I've never been convinced by buttoned-in-place permanently rolled-up sleeves. If I wanted to wear inflatable armbands to emphasise the skinniness or my arms I would (hmm, maybe the world's actually my very own Ashes-to-Ashes imagined reality, hence a shop full of ill-disguised childhood memories. Swimming lessons obviously come quite near Swedish clothing chain in my brain's index).

So having been exposed to the disturbing thought that I may be too old for the shop where the clothing actually fits me (it could just be they skimp on material), I then ran away down the road to the haven of the sensible. It would appear that my Tiffany's - the place where nothing bad could ever happen - is John Lewis, where the only flaws are the bewildering appearance of a Waitrose where no Waitrose has been before and that the Cavendish Square stairs have three floors of female loos to one male. Oh, and a dismal male clothing section, but one goes there for cards and curtains not cardigans.

Other Londonings have included the Duchamp, Man Ray and Picaba thing at Tate Modern and the Tate Britain's Peter Doig (however that's pronounced; one can get a gorgeous smile at the helpdesk if one unintentionally happens to call him Peter Doigt while asking the way). Both good. Watch the video outside the Doig; it helps and explains why they all felt so photographic. In lieu of the heaving From Russia I did a quick flit round the miscellany of the RA's free rooms (same name as the V&A courtyard; can't spell it) which currently includes the works of an architect called Shaw, who seems to have made a certain county what it is today. The Sluggard's still best thing in there.

And then south to meet friends under a tented grill on Lilac Hill. I supposed putting a patio heater under the plastic-and-canvas-walled awning is probably less wasteful than having one exposed on a patio, but I can't help thinking that there must be a more effective way of doing things (although possibly that might entail planning permission). So if you see my ears and neck peeling you know why. Oh and do try to make sure you aren't going to end up splitting the bill if one of the party both earns an obscene about and if feeling miserable about everything (there's the sister who came off the pill with woefully predictable results which entail a feckless fellow who evidently isn't fuckless, the grandmother - the one who I helped smuggle out of a home - back in the home, but with the carer she needed out of the home [don't ask; this is more unfathomable than someone not figuring out that copulation might lead to procreation], no doubt a few other family things she declined to discuss and work wanting their money's worth). You know that wine rule of thumb about never-full glasses, the one that thinks about half or maybe two-thirds on a really bad day is about right? The friend not only managed to serve herself and only herself with the house white (there's being morose and there's being antisocial), but was only saved from puddling and the resultant quaffing by the meniscus. Which then launched a reservoir race among the rest of the table, with me being far too good-natured (or possibly just well-brought-up) to either join in or swig straight from the bottle.

So know-no-bounds conversation ensued, which probably makes it just as well the small boy who'd taken intent interest in one of our party was trapped inside the windows of the restaurant and had to satisfy himself with peekaboo round a spindly mullion. And then after much waiting to pay the bill (why do I never dare to follow through with my inevitable suggestion that if you make it to the exit without someone appearing then they obviously aren't that keen on collecting the money and so the meal's on the house?) we adjourned via an off-licence (with much opprobrium deluged upon me for suggesting I'd just eke something out, which was thought to be not in keeping with the spirit of a Saturday night [well, if you lot hadn't just bankrupted me with your multitude of drinks and nigh-on most expensive thing on the menu meals. And yes, I had already worked out how much the discrepancy was before we'd left the restaurant]) back to the friend's. Whereupon we argued over music, mocked the friend for still using both Internet Explorer and Hotmail, then I broke ranks and flat rules because I was trying not scream at her over her stupidity - just because you've already had cancer is not a valid reason to take up smoking; chemotherapy does not inoculate - and she later retaliated by proclaiming, just after I'd described the blue on the end of a row of houses in a shot on her wall as duck-egg, "God, you must be gay". Knowing words, knowing the name for things, is not really an indicator of homosexuality. What should I have said instead? That it was a dense eau-de-nil (which somehow in my mind is much paler and much bluer than Wikitionary claims it to be. I always thought it was a slightly light inky ecru [another YMBG word? Who cares; it's good for Scrabble]).

And speaking of YMBGs, a funny thing happened on the way back from the forum. I'd just got off the train at the frankly unimaginative place, when slowed by the sheep (the bleats were very public school) gathering by gate, I noticed a couple behind the carriage window opposite clearly attempting to discover if dental enamel can spark fire as well as flints. Then I thought that for an emo he's quite cute, and so is, er, he. It's a sight that's fairly rare beyond sticky corners of darkened rooms in London, let alone in the valley of the thoroughly blinkered. PDAs if they happen at all here tend to be among the artfully scruffy and beBarboured to the clack of great-aunt pearls and gurgles from off-road pushchairs. And even those draw stern and scornful looks from those who know where they can still get twinsets.

In this town the nearest one normally gets to any such thing is the laying on of hands by a certain shop proprietor and knowing eye contact from the only man in the High Street wearing a hat along with mustard cords and matching scarf (there was apparently a gay bar marooned by an inner ring round in the nearest bigger settlement, but the brewery decided line-dancing was a bigger market). The joys of being a small-town boy. How's it go? Run away, run away, run away?

I am of course neglecting to mention to the rather frumpy girls clearing enjoying the entertainment on the other side of the table. No idea if they fit the description of fag hags (I thought they all either had to look like someone's mother or a drag queen, or for some unfortunate children, both. I'm also suddenly wondering if the quaffing friend above is one. In fairness most of her coterie were friends before the gayness struck, and she does have straight male friends (however odd) and flatmate, who wasn't quite sure if I was joking when it was pointed out that unlike other combinations within the party we'd never been together and I added the single word 'yet'; granted this was in the same conversation as pondering whether incest is still incest if no inbreeding can ensue, so it might not have been wholly serious) or if they were the respective girlfriends daring their drunk boyfriends to break all taboos and do the most outrageous thing conceivable (here it's not such much the love that dare not speak its name but the affliction that dare not). Obviously I'm assuming they were an irrelevance rather than attempting irreverence.

Oh, and a general tip. Don't fall over the white painted step near the Hayward Gallery. It hurts, the paving where your hands skid out in support will be left noticeably cleaner and your big toe may never forgive you, at least until the internal water table drops.


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