In one of the science magazines lately they devoted an issue to Time. What is it? How much does it cost? What could you do with it if you could afford it? It's a remarkable thing that we experience one moment after another but that causes us to assume we know what time is. So helpless are scientists to explain exactly what Time is that instead of turning to Professor Cox, they're asking philosophers to explain it. Proof therefore that Time is an illusion.
Unfortunately for everyone knowing that Time isn't real doesn't prevent monday mornings from happening on a regular basis. I should know - I've suffered at least fifty in the last year alone. So for those of you who now think that the passage of Time is something you can safely ignore, please be advised that your boss will not accept sensory phenomena as this weeks fun excuse for being late for work. Trust me on that.
That Time OF Year
The end of january is upon us and with it the inevitable chill of february.As if to confirm that observation the weather typically grey and cold. Not the sharp chill we associate with snow and ice, but that dreary dampness that causes old fogeys like me to complain about how our poor old bones are suffering. You know what I mean. If not, ask your grandad. I'm sure he'll tell you..
Truth is this winter has been remarkably mild. So far we've hardly had a frost at all. Only now are the weathermen beginning to warn us that some areas might see a light snowfall. Certainly not enough to convince the boss that you're being honest about struggling with blizzard conditions. Another little tip there.
About Time Too
Just this morning on Russia Today is the astonishing revelation that US and Taliban representatives are meeting in Qatar for talks on building trust. A few less IED's might help.
It is however a very interesting development. We all know that the west is tired of the continual sniping and sweeping that wars like that in Afghanistan entail, yey the doggedness of allied presence in the middel east seems to have finally persuaded the Taliban that the only way to get rid of the Great Statn is to persuade it not to hit them anymore.
Not On Time?
Recently the removal of the Whalebridge roundabout has caused considerable traffic delays for those avoiding the South Swindon Bypass at Wichelstowe. Now I see traffic is avoiding the former Whalebridge site altogether and instead using a rat run through the nearby residential area. Lo and behold there's a long queue of cars every morning in what used to be a quiet street all utterly convinced they're getting around the delays on what is now an empty dual carriageway.
Sheesh. Build a road and no-one wants to use it... What is the world coming to? I must therefore conclude that todays best chances of persuading the boss that you can't make it into work is that your car is currently trapped in a wintery time-space anomaly caused by Taliban insurgents on the Princes Street Carriageway.
Looks like this could be a quiet day. Not sure why exactly, though the lack of noise appears to confirm my hypothesis. Only a solitary ring tone interrupted our silent vigil at the library this morning. Everyone turned and looked over their shoulder.
Normally you get a ceratin proportion of people who ignore protocol and good manners in a desperate urge to tell someone else loudly where they happen to be right now. Not today. The embarrased owner of the mobile phone didn't even attempt to whisper a reply. What a refreshing change.
The Lady Who Objects To My Internet Use seems to be the only person doing much right now. The other day she silenced a naughty young child who ignored the parental demand for silence simply by walking up close. It was almost as if she'd reached for the 'off' button. Today she's striding here and there, clearly on a mission, and I notice she made sure to glance over my shoulder to see which website I was accessing.
Except she couldn't because I was typing this in a text editor. Saved by the blog.
It's all gone horribly wrong for Swindon's roads. Our new junction to replace the Whalebridge Roundabout has caused no end of delays and tailbacks. Just as I predicted. Even better it the news that a new bypass in south Swindon is more or less empty. Nobody uses it. "Please use our bypass" Say concerned councillors.
The problem is that the new bypass links two routes in and out of the town centre. There seems to be this idea that in the rush hour drivers wanting to pass through Swindon centre can now avoid the jams, except that at rush hour everyone wants to access Swindon town centre. If you use this road to escape a traffic jam, you simply find yourself in another at the other end. Which brain cell thought of that one?
I applied for the job of road planner when it came up a couple of years ago. Obviously I didn't get the post, but let's be honest, the chap who got it isn't making a very good impression, is he?
Every so often I'm summoned to the programme centre for a job searching session. I don't mind doing that, but the hassle is that their network was set up by a company from Ireland. No, really, it was. So consequently nothing works.
Is the printer working? The young lady hosting the session confirmed that it was. At last! Useful too because I need to print stuff off and I'd rather not have to find a public facility costing me ten pence a sheet. Open the document... Click on 'Print'... Huh?
I knew things were going horribly wrong when the default printer wasn't even a printer. Each and every computer listed on the options did nothing. No-one rushed into the office waving a sheet of paper demanding to know who it belonged to. In other words, the printers didn't work.
Eventually the staff realised we jobseekers were becoming disgruntled or distinctly amused, and set about trying to fix everything the irish IT company had fixed over the previous four days. One chap offered to print everything we sent him by email. He was then forced to find envelopes for us, followed by requests to pop down to the post office and fetch stamps. An administrators lot is not a happy one.
One person wondered aloud why nothing worked. I announced that the whole thing was a complete eff up, all the while unaware that a senior member of programme centre staff was sweating his sorry little shirt off trying to get a printer connected and working. Ooops.
Year Of The Dragon
It's soon going to be the chinese new year and completely breaking my new years resolution to stumble through it unaware of astrological warnings, here's my chinese horoscope...
It will take longer for long term aims to come about but persevere. Although you prefer to stick with definite ideas and arrangements it would be better to keep plans flexible in 2012. Unexpected changes can cause problems and these will seem more difficult to resolve if you aren't willing to bend. You will be prepared to do whatever is necessary to make money from your job prospects even if it means working longer hours or taking on new commitments. Friends are helpful.
Longer? Good grief I've been unemployed for three years. I've been working toward ferrari ownership for more like thirty. How much longer is this going to take? The ferrari salesman is going to have to help me across the forecourt and find enough room in the boot for a zimmer frame. "Now this is a very fast car Lord Caldrail.. You can see without glasses?... Do please be careful... BRAAAAAAKE!"
What worries me is this idea that I'll be prepared to anything to earn a living. Worker required. Must have own sleeping bag.
Cold. Wet. Dull.
Welcome to a very average Tuesday in Swindon. I'd like to say more but there's only so many times you describe the realities of the rainforests of Darkest Wiltshire.
The highlight of the last twenty four hours was bumping into the boss of the museum as I dragged my weekly shopping home. We had a nice little chinwag, mostly about recruitment agencies, and we're both agreed that agencies are the curse of western civilisation.
As it happens one of my recent job applications was for a personnel department administrative post. Manufacturing experience required? Why? I clicked on 'apply' anyway. So I got a reply saying that the employer required manufacturing experience.
Yeah? And? I sent a reply pointing out that I had such experience. I received an answer that said my experience was in distribution, not manufacturing. So I was part of the Honda parts supply chain for nothing? Quality control, material allocation, and liaison with shop floor assemblers? Correct me if I'm wrong but that does constitute manufacturing experience.
Not according to the agency minion who categoricvally stated that her twenty five years experience in preventing people from getting a job entitles her to interpret my CV in completely the wrong way. Madam, I don't care how long you've been making phone calls, you're an idiot.
I wondered what all this stuff about the Aurora Borealis on the news was about. Apparently our planet has suffered a terrible solar flare and communications were disrupted by angry radioactive particles seeking to be brought before our leader. I think one or two hit a certain job agency.
Top Gear USA? You gotta be kiddin', right? Out of curiosity I watched a few episodes. As part of a franchise there were aspects I found familiar. The stage set, the theme tune, the general format of the show, and having some celebrity race a cheap car around a track. All well and good. But of course this was an american show and so I was struck by cultural differences.
Firstly the presenters, who despite their obvious enthusiasm for wrecking telegraph poles, abandoned houses, pulling trains, and generally driving huge pickup trucks where no pickup truck driver was ever meant to go, came across as incredibly bland. Not entirely characterless but there was nothing about them that said 'television personality'. Mind you, they were driving huge pickup trucks.
Then they got around to the Rally Fighter, a sort of cross country muscle car, which was an extraordinary vehicle designed for the headcase to go where-ever he wanted faster than anyone else. Not only that, but I can confirm that the presenter driving the thing tackled a sharp bend. Cornering skills? In America? It seems the Top Gear franchise is changing civilisation as we know it.
Money Walks, Bullstuff Talks
Of all the stupid things a british politician could have said, it had to be that reducing or capping benefit payments doesn't cause any misery. No, he said confidently, it's unemployment that causes misery.
What planet does that idiot come from? With people losing their homes because they don't receive the miminal assistance any more? Unemployment you can get used to. Constant price rises and threats from politicians to reduce your means is something else. I challenge him to spend three years as an unemployed person and find out for himself just how important money can get.
Think about it. No chauffeurs, gleaming limousines, haute cuisine, big homes in upmarket parts of London, or even all those fair weather friends that surround a fat wallet. Not because you're unemployed sunshine - it's because you won't be able to afford it.
Friday morning and a chance to nip down to the local library and do my internetting for a couple of hours. The onlydrawback to friday morning is that the Lady Who Objects To My Internet Use is often on duty then.
Deliberately I stroll in after the doors are open to avoid attention. Up the stairs... Oh no. She's there, at the helpdesk. For some reason she thinks I'm up to no good. No idea why, but as you can imagine, having her stare at me all the time and glance over my shoulder on the off chance I'm doing something arrestable gets a bit tiresome.
She's looking the other way! That means I can dash across to one of the computoers hidden behind the bookshelves and hopefully she won't notice I'm here. Libraruians do move around sometimes but that's an occupational hazard of accessing the internet here.
Darn it.... She picks up the phone and.... "Yes, he's here... In the last five minutes... No he's looking the other way...."
Mission compromised chaps. Looks like train related sites are very dangerous to look at this morning. No, I'm going to risk it.
Well whaddaya know? The Cold War isn't quite over just yet. Apparently six years ago the FSB, the successor to the ubiquitous KGB, our russian intelligence adversary since Stalin thought we were going to invade the Soviet Union, spotted a suspicious rock which turns out to be a sort of data gathering device.
Clever stuff. The spy saunters by, looks around to see if no-one is looking, takes an innocent pee up the nearest tree if they are, then downloads his ill gotten info and wanders off. The rock is retrieved later and the info beamed to M at MI6 so James Bond 007 can be shaken but not stirred one more time.
I wonder iif I could adapt that idea for browsing at the library? Now there's a thought. Trouble is She Who Objects To My Internet Use would probably suss out why I pee against a bookshelf every time she glances in my direction. This is not going to go well, is it?
As I woke this mornign it was obvious the weather wasn't all too pleasant out there. Another rainy day? This has to be Swindon. The other day I was strolling home along the canal path. The weather was damp rather than rainy, a typical grey day for this part of the world. This being winter, green was in short supply. Most vegetation has withered away leaving pale yellow weeds and brown woody bushes.
Allotment gardens, our modern re-invention of the medieval vegetable plot, look little better. A few wood and corrugated iron shanties, some with primitive greehouses, stand forlorn among the bamboo frames and grassy walkways between the featureless rectangles of muddy soil.
Further along I expected a similar dreary scene at the abandoned playing field. This had been a sports centre in days gone by. Now the pavilion has gone, the outhouses demolished, tennis courts looking like anglo-saxon relics. However, I notice the field has been mown and the thick bushes and miniature moorland that had conquered the cricket field were visibly missing. The field was a flattened patchwork of green and ivory.
Hang on... Was that a horse over there? I stopped and looked closer. Over by the east tennis courts a pair of horses idly grazed in between staring vacantly at anything that moved. I doubt these two steeds had mown the field all by themselves though I'm sure they'll a fine job of keeping the foliage back. It's an odd sight to see horses in a town centre. In this case, it seems unlikely that a responsible owner would leave animals there. Travellers?
Of course the canal itself is also long gone. Now it's a long muddy grass strip and an asphalt footpath to one side. I find this a handy route from time to time and so do others, particularly the moslem chap in something of a hurry. Certainly no spring chicken but he was trotting down the path effortlessly. Very impressed with his fitness.
Not so impressed with mine. Granted my health isn't what it was but a walk of this length shouldn't have me feeling like this. My medication comes with a warning that one possible side effect is tiredness. They weren't kidding.
Guess what? Word has leaked that despite assurances to the contrary the british had special forces on the ground in Libya during the anti-Gaddafi revolution E Squadron, a mix of SAS and SBS who work closely with MI6. Also unarmed plain clothes army officers helped coordinate rebel deployments. Why would anyone be suprised? If you send in jet fighter-bombers, nine times out of ten someones marking targets for them.
Apart from news reports of sensational actions or the dubious descriptions in the popular press, my knowledge of the special forces is, to say the least, factually limited. I have a deep suspicion of anyone who claims to have been a member of the SAS. There are a lot of fakers out there and I'm told that such claims are commonplace among ex-servicemen seeking mercenary... sorry, security work. I've heard such claims myself and not one of them sounded genuine.
By coincidence I'd spotted yet another novel by one of those Bravo Two Zero people. Andy McNab or Chris Ryan, I don't remember which one. Authentic? I suppose so. The thing is I was struck by how unlikeable the central character was. He was contemptuous of anyone and everyone, especially his colleagues whom he spent the first two chapters sneering at. It was all about a very opinionated and nasty man. Well, I realise warfare isn't about feather dusters and football in no-man's land, but surely even a military thriller ought to be enjoyable if it deserves the best seller list? Come back Tom Clancy, all is forgiven.
I see my home security system detected an attempt by someone to creep in last night while I was snoozing. His identity is already known to me, but he's welcome to provide proof of it if he wants.
For no apparent reason I came over all philosophical last night. The big question however was not life, the universe, & everything. Professor Brian Cox has cornered that market. Instead I had humbler questions to ask of myself. Like what is it that I look forward too?
Before anyone thinks I was getting depressed and feeling sorry for myself, that really isn't the case, so all you missionaries out there trying to make me believe I'm cursed, haunted, almost an alcoholic, or nearly a drug addict are wasting your time. I don't listen to wierdo's, messages from Jesus, or the occaisional taunt from idiots who think I listen.. Glad we got that settled. But I digress. The question!
Some years ago I was chatting to GH, a work colleague, and as is probably inevitable with me the subject got around to ferrari's. I don't remember what I said exactly, but GH replied "Never mind - you can always dream."
Well... Yes... I supose so, but dreaming doesn't make things happen. It was almost as if he was trying to persuade me not to strive for success and I'd always put that down to his desire to be important in the office. He was grooming me to come second. After all, his ability to achieve results by sitting down with a cup of coffee all day had less to do with talent and hard work than some naughty editing of the computer files. He actually thought I was going to listen to him and stop working at a pace that suited me.
Admittedly the ownership of a gleaming red supercar is somewhat ambitious given my circumstances. In actual fact that isn't my immediate objective anyway. My world, as an unemployed dole claimant, is too small for those lofty fantasies even if the locals could be persuaded not to dismantle it during the night.
The government want me to view finding that job as my goal in life. That's understandable if somewhat patronising and shortsighted. The Job Centre want me to view conformity as my goal in life. They see that as a necessary qualification for employment. I see conformity as an impediment to it. I mean, with twenty people chasing each vacancy, being the same as everyone else isn't going to make an impression is it?
Last night I realised just how short term my objectives were becoming. A dream is only worthwhile if there's some hope of it becoming reality. Plans for the future are only worthwhile if you have a future to plan for. I've gotten used to the slow crawl of existing on the dole. Now it seems the only inevitability is that tomorrow is another day. I wonder what I'll do tomorrow? Pie & chips? Or a chicken burger down the road?
Sometimes I have no choice but to put my fingers in my wallet and fork out cash for something I'd rather not have to buy. That happened this morning. With a need to purchase another surge protector I poppped down to PC World and stood aghast at the emptiness of the large premises. A decade ago this shop was filled with goodies like an technological aladdins cave, gizmo's to delight the senses, and plastic boxes in every colour of the rainbow. Not any more. There's barely anything to choose from. Want a surge protector Sir? We sell that one...
Groan. Oh well. As it happened there was a choice of three that suited my purposes and naturally i chose the cheapest. Imagine my suprise then when the girl at the till announced it was going to cost me almost twice as much. You what? But fear not. All was settled asmicably and I got the product for the price I believed it to be. Seriously though - PC World aren't doing themselves any favours by such a withdrawal of range. What's the point of walking all the way down there when I could have picked up a similar product closer to home? Choice matters.
Prof Brian 'All the guys want to be him, all the girls want to be with him' Cox
I mentioned in my last blog that the excellent Stargazing Live program started on the BBC on Monday night. It was a treat for us all. For the comedy fans, there was both the towering genius that is Dara O�Briain, and the much underrated Andy Nyman. For pretty much everyone, there was Prof Brian �All the guys want to be him, all the girls want to be with him� Cox. For fans of people who have 'the right stuff', present via comm-link was the chiselled and craggy all-American hero Capt Eugene Cernan, veteran of several Apollo missions, and the last man to set foot on the Moon (that we know about, eh, conspiracy theorists?)
Capt Gene 'Right Stuff' Cernan
Rounding off the team was Liz Bonnin (who surely must adorn the bedroom walls of many pre-pubescent nerdy-boy) reporting on the SALT telescope in South Africa.
Liz "Nerdy-boys'-dream” Bonnin
They were joined on the couch by the handsome Dr 'Boy-Next-Door' Kevin Fong, and the very easy-on-the-eye Dr Lucy Green. Are all astronomers good looking, or do the BBC just choose beautiful people to appear on our screens? I remember having quite a crush on Heather Couper when I was a pre-pubescent nerdy-boy, so maybe they are. If I ever get to own a telescope, will I become good-looking?
Dr Lucy 'Easy-on-the-eye' Green
As an aside, Prof Brian Cox is also beautifully, refreshingly and relentlessly intolerant of woolly thinking. I would love to be that intolerant of woolly thinking, but out of politeness and professionalism, I often have to tolerate it, and it pains me to do so.
Dr kevin 'Boy-next-door' Fong
I digress. I heard on the radio yesterday afternoon that live stargazing events were to be held around the country, and there was one only twenty minutes� drive from Aquis-of-the-Romans. I had to go. So myself and Mrs OfClayton headed out to the Visitor Centre at the foot of the mighty Pons Abus. We were not the only ones. The place was heaving . . and very, very dark. After briefly pausing to watch the weather being presented by the North of England�s premier comedy weatherman, giving a rare outside broadcast, we hit the sea of telescopes that had been set up on the grass beside the centre, all pointing at a different bit of the firmament, gloriously cloud free and twinkling with infinite majesty on this particular evening. I immediately joined the queue to look at Jupiter through a Dobsonian reflector (see, I know the lingo!) the size of a dustbin. Perfect view! The bands across the planet were clearly visible, as were the four principle Jovian satellites (Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa). I briefly looked up to see a BBC film crew bearing down on the telescope�s owner.
�What are we looking at here?� asked the reporter.
�Jupiter�s moons�, replied the astronomer.
�OK. Could you two stage a conversation?� he indicated me. �Ask what you�re looking at, that kind of thing.�
�Righto!�, I said. My whole life is an act. I could do this. They started filming, and I looked into the eyepiece. After a considered pause, I said, �Wow! Is that Jupiter?�, with a degree of enacted naivety.
�Yes,� the (strangely not as good looking as a TV astronomer) telescope�s owner said. �You should be able to see the dark bands across its surface.�
�I can,� I replied. �And there are some bright points of light either side of it. What are those?� That�s when it hit me. I was playing the part of the casual visitor beautifully, but people I know would be watching. They would be nudging each other saying, �That�s thickee OfClayton. He doesn�t even know about Jupiter�s moons. Ha, ha!�
The thought comes too late to stop myself saying something to the effect of, �Jupiter has moons?� Oh, God! Horrid realisation that this may be more than a local BBC fiim crew, they may be national. This may go out on Stargazing Live. It may be going out as we speak. Is it also on BBC America? The BBC World Service? I could already be a global laughing stock. �EXTRA, EXTRA, the Chicago news vendor would shout across the city. �THIS JUST IN. GHOSTOFCLAYON THICK AS SHIT�.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I watched the local news later. I was on, but only as part of a sweeping shot that got the back of my head looking into a telescope. They did, however, show a vox-pop interview with the woman who had been behind me in that queue. She was far better looking than me!
There was a change in the air after my traumatic visit to the job centre. The library was way emptier than usual, clearly indicating most of the regulars had frozen to death overnight. I was almost pleased to see Mr Fidget arrive. He began his daily ritual of slapping pockets and searching bags before he even sat down, with a whiole morning of uninterrupted fidgeting to look forward too.
Even the Lady Who Hisses At Me was in a friendly mood. She is now officially the Lady Who Whispers Objections To My Internet Use. But there's somebody missing. Among the casualties of our freezing weather was....
Nope. I was wrong. BFL had indeed survived the night and instead of bringing a sense of order and direction to everyones lives at the library, had decided to colonise the supermarket where I encountered her a couple of hours later. I think that's the first time I've ever seen her there, which is a bit worrying because someone might blame me for having led her there in the first place.
Sure enough the till queue ground to a halt as BFL was served. Nothing to do but wait until the supermarket staff have been browbeaten into surrender then.
"This is my favourite computer" Mentioned a lady as she waited for the assistant to log her on with the job club PC's. She's right. We all have favourite computers. I joked about them being reserved individually. How we would throw a tantrum if someone else nipped in ahead of us. Joking aside, we do tend to be creatures of habit. Therefore today I have broken with tradition and increased the number of applications I've made by a third.
Someone, somewhere, is probably cursing my name right now. Yes, I have applied for that vacancy once before. Serves you right for advertising it again.
Big on the local newsletter is the issue of shared homes. Apparently some home owners and landlords are attempting to cash in on the high cost of property by sub-dividing their property into smaller and smaler units. By now it's probably possible to rent a toilet cubicle at sensible low low rates. Worse still these pesky landlords have discovered a loophole in planning regulations which means they can effectively expand the size of their properties by making new homes out of them.
I can see why the local councillors are up in arms. Before long there's going to be skyscraping towers of brick tenement with staircases requiring oxygen masks. Even that new house across the alleyway has finally been completed in a mad rush after laying there disguised as a ruin for several years.
"We've got enough shared houses!" The complainers say. I agree. After all, the rotten scoundrel who's been pilfering my goods hasn't paid a penny in rent.
Now this is more like winter. A sharp frosty morning, gloves required, my trainers crunching on thin ice and feeling very insecure. As if it wasn't cold enough inside, at the job centre was Big R himself. Yes, Big R, the yorkshire brawler who gave me the benefit of his opinions somewhat strongly not that long ago.
Try as hard as I might, I could not help snarling inside. There's something feral about human beings, or at least the male half of them, that doesn't sit easily with humiliation and scorn. On the face of it I might seem a bit childish but I could not hand my paperwork to him first. Instinct, you see. he blew my respect away and no matter how sharp his suit, to me he will always be a pompous scumbag.
What was that he just just called me? Mate? Who's he trying to kid?
What happened to Saturday morning? Something is definitely wrong with Saturdays. I know this because I innocently turned on the television for something to occupy my attention while I got on with boring stuff. As a rule Iwouldn't normally bother with television at that time of the day and I think the world has changed since I last bothered. I remember Tom & Jerry cartoons, the Pink Panther Show, low budget family films, and lots of presenters coping badly with exotic animals.
None of that happened. Adverts for dating websites? On every channel there were queues of semi-famous ladies telling us how to make your face to look like Hollywood intended, rather than the hideous reality your magic mirror reveals at dawn. What is going on? Why has the world changed like this? Why is saturday morning devoted to cosmetics? I have to say I have pretty much zero interest in cosmetics. There are products intended for the unfairer sex so I'm told. Body sprays? Fragrance for men? Ugh. I don't think so.
After being fooled by aftershave adverts in the seventies (Remember Hai-Karate and the terrified user fleeing from hordes of aroused nymphomaniacs?. Trust me on this - that does not happen), I don't think smelling like a flower bed is going to improve my chances of being chased by hundreds of blonde female television extras.
Sunday rescued my little world. One tv channel showed back to back episodes of Fred Dibnah, the high priest of cloth cap engineering from a bygone age. Time to sit down and be dazzled as plump Fred in his blue boiler suit invited us into his natural enviroment of the railway siding.
Fred - This 'ere is a Nigel two six four wi'double flange frame 'n shovel injected firebox. Ah used to dream o' driving these when I wur young. Used t'see 'em running past me dad's coal shed. This one 'ere is restored t' workin' order. It wur made just as steam finished on British Railways, so it's almost new, this. With a bit o'luck, driver will let me on footplate... Allo thur.... Can ah come up?
Driver - Like you arranged previously, you mean?
Fred - Ahhh yes. Nice this, int it? Bit more complex than steam engine at 'ome. You get a fine idea o'what it wur like in olden days, steaming down track. Can we give it a go?
Driver - Hang on - I wasn't told that we were....
Fred - Reverser... Regulator... Mind owt thur... Brakes off.... (WOOOOOH!... Woooh WOOOH! pffffshhhh clank chuff chuff chuff). Heh heh heh... Sorry 'bout that. Bit jerky on take off int it?
Driver - Ten miles an hour along here Fed.
Fred - Eh? Oh aye. Picks up speed nicely, dunt it? Ah remember good old days when trains like these wur all the rage.
Driver - Mind the speed Fred. We're approaching the buffer stops.
Fred - Nice smooth ride this. Must have been a thrill back when these engines ran on British Rail main lines, 'cos back then see engine drivers had no cab for protection.
Driver - Fred, you want to start slowing down!
Fred - Exposed to elements they were....
Driver - FRED! BRAAAAAAKE!
Fred - Oh aye... That'll be that lever thur... (Clunk Squeeeeeeeeeeal hisssss). There we go. Enjoyed that ah did... You all right thur? Gone all pale like... Grand engine.is this.
Bless the old chap, he's no longer with us, but what that man could do with a nine and five sixteenths wrench, a box of dynamite, and a few lumps of coal demonsrates how the British Empire was forged and ultimately rusted away. Singlehanded he almost made brass bands fashionable. Sadly missed.
Stargazing - Live!
A program devoted to standing out in the freezing cold staring up at the night sky? I nearly fell off my seat laughing. Surely if you want to stargaze you switch the tellly off and walk outside? Still, at least couch potatoes can now study the heavens too.
I have no idea why, but
is my absolute favorite song by Otis Redding.
I mean, it's not really about San Francisco; it's really about him. Yes, I know, he was sitting on a pier that ran into the San Francisco Bay when he wrote the key line, but the rest of the song was written by Steve Cropper--and he purposely wrote it about Otis. Evidently, Otis hated writing about his life, but Steve found it full of inspiration.
I guess the rhythm of the song does remind me of sitting at some of my favorite beaches along the coast--Pescadero Beach in particular. Or better still, of sitting on the pier of my great-aunt and great-uncle's place on Tomalas Bay, just north of San Francisco. They sold it in the mid-80s, when I was but a wee lass, but I still remember going fishing with my dad off that pier, and sitting on it to enjoy the sunset.
I guess its purpose is to have us reconnect with some vague memory...it does with me.
Many years ago I wanderd into a pub, expecting genial conversation and relaxing with the other hustlers around the pool tables. On that particular afternoon, the pub was almost empty, and since I was the only person walking in, the scotsman drinking at the bar immediately engaged me in a chat.
Before long the conversation got to how brilliant Scotland was. Best country in the UK, best country in Europe, best country in the world. There was no stopping the man. As Scotlands first unofficial Minister For Propaganda he was doing a grand job. Finally I could stand no more. I retreated and sought other people to talk to, people with interesting news or funny jokes, people who understood that a scottish accent does not legally demand attention from passers-by. Finally he realised he had failed to convert me to scottishism. He got quite annoyed.
Mind you, if Scotland was such a great place, why did I keep hearing the scots complain about it? If it comes to that, you had to ask yourself what this solitary scotsman was doing in a Swindon bar if his homeland was quite that good, but there you go.
So now Scotland wants independence? Some of the scots do, especially the politicians who seek to glorify their names for having achieved it. The funny thing is though that the United Kingdom came into being not because Scotland was conquered, but because a scottish king inherited England, Wales, and Ireland after Good Queen Bess popped her clogs without provision for an heir. Okay, I know James II did a runner and the dutch were invited in, but all the same the irony of this situation is that Scotland effectively wants to be independent of the realm it set up.
This should also serve as an illustration of what the European Union can expect if they attempt to go further with integration - which they inevitably will, because as we see from history, those who want to rule rather like ruling as much as they can get. My point is that however many boundaries they change, however much they hand out euro-compatible names, nationalism will never go away. People identify with cultural roots no matter how divorced they are from their heritage. Look what happened in the balkans after Yugoslavia finally fell apart.
On a more serious note, I hope these scottish politicians don't expect the UK to pay their bills? If they want their own chequebook, they don't need ours.. Oh yeah. If that scotsman is reading this, please stop talking.
In one of those colourful community newsletters that sometimes pass my way I noticed a paragraph concerning the lamentable state of our pavements. Nothing to do with potholes or drainage, but the amount of dog pooh left lying on them. Maybe that was why the scotsman I encountered was so unimpressed with english prosperity?
That makes me a bit curious. The amount of pooh I see today is nothing compared to how it was in the less responsible seventies. Back then you needed to watch where you put your feet. Nowadays you might be unlucky. Not just where you put your feet either. Toddlers in the last few years have adopted the idea that throwing pooh is funny. That disgusting habit hasn't gone away since it emerged and I discovered I'd been targeted a couple of weeks ago. Nine times out of ten you don't know until you spot strange stains appearing around the house.
What bothers me though is the attitude of their parents, invariably young themselves, who seem to do absolutely nothing to correct their little darlings, and on one or two occaisions I've even wondered if those parents spurred their kids on to do it. Chances are it's only one or two individuals who would dream of doing that. In the local newsaper the police have taken the unusual step of naming and shaming four scoundrels who have, in a town in excess of 60,000 people, committed more than half of the burglaries reported in the last year.
Thing is though, as bad as this all sounds, what ought to be remembered is why individuals are allowed to continue making peoples lives hell. Community spirit does appear to somewhat fickle, doesn't it?
The other I was watching a tv documentary about web sex. How the internet and mobile technology has changed our social behaviour. Not for the better it would seem, though I doubt those who enjoy their success at texting others into bed would agree.
The last decade has seen an exploration of how this technology can be exploited socially. Boundaries have been pushed as a result, largely because there's less risk of judgement in the anonymous world of e-dating, but also because the technology allows the sexual predator to hide before he pounces. Apparently most of those involved in this sort of interaction are indeed men, straight or gay, and very few reveal their faces openly. Does that suprise anyone? Man the hunter has found new fertile territory.
It seems to me that while there are many who benefit from e-dating the expansion of boundaries is less relevant than the opportunism of the information jungle. If I sound critical, I am. It's all done selfishly. Even if the idea of rewarding relationships is cast aside there's still a certain satisfaction derived from mastering the traditional skills of pulling ladies and somehow all this e-dating stuff comes across as cheating. But, human instinct will out, and the victor gets the spoils.
How does this mobile phone work, again?
Exploiting The Games Console
Many years ago I stated that you have to recreate civilisation with each generation. I wasn't talking about some communist year zero, or any other such brave new world, but rather that unless kids are taught to be part of society, al you get are little barbarians running around causing havoc. Don't take my word for it. Look around, see for yourself.
Has anyone noticed how difficult it is to communicate with youngsters these days? They sem to live in a world apart with social rules invented by themselves. A few times I've noticed attempts to impose their immature society upon me. It's almost as if they want the world to be just like the school playground, the only world they actually know.
A news report showed a ground breaking new initiative to teach computer skills to our youngsters. No longer must they suffer boring typing lessons, but thanks to new ideas and input from organisations like Microsoft and Google, kids can learn how to use computers by playing with them. Literally these kids are being taught with games consoles in their hands.
I'm stunned. Really, I am flabbergasted. There's no point wailing on about the poor level of education in the younger generation if this is how they're taught. One of the most important things a school can impart to pupils is a measure of self discipline. How to concentrate on something difficult. How to seek assistance when the difficulties are too much and the social skills that result. To encourage thought and creativity. Whatever happened to the work ethic? That doesn't happen by accident.
The kids say ordinary lessons are boring. Yes, I agree, they often are, but then kids today seem to expect the world to open at their feet and instead of being creative and entrepeneurial, or even encouraged to be so, they sit around moaning that there's nothing for them to do. In other words, this new style of education fails in one important angle - it does not prepare kids for the boring world they have to live in. It's boring because it doesn't doesn't owe them a living, and they clearly expect it too.
Exploiting The Workers
At the programme centre the other day I was talking to a fellow jobseeker. Apparently Royal Mail, who successfully managed to keep me from getting hired in their distribution depot over the festive season, didn't pay the ones who got through the door. Looks like my instincts were right. I knew there was something shabby about the way they were hiring people.
"There's going to be a hundred thousand new jobs in London to assist the Olympics" Said Mr G, our ever helpful and jovial assistant at the job club. I had to laugh. Unemployment down in London? Can you imagine how difficult it's going to be to claim benefits there this summer? You won't stand a chance.
Mr G found that equally amusing. I imagine though that the prospect of less unemployment in the capital, even temporarily, might well be another bone of contention in the Houses of Parliament. David Cameron will be pleased to announce that jobless figures are down. Ed Milliband will respond that Labour started this olympic opportunity to begin with. David Cameron wil brush Milliband aside with dismissive amusement. Ed Milliband will scowl and mouth silent objections while Cameron moves onto another subject.
Talking about Ed Milliband, he made an attempt to persuade us that his government will be different. That the Brown/Blair years are behind them, and that only his party can deliver a fairer Britain with less money available. Aside from the fact that their policies were one reason for less money being available, it's hard to believe that the financial instincts of Labour have actually changed. I mean, neither Brown or Blair really achieved any lasting sense of change from the idea that you can spend your way out of trouble. That was why Thatcher got voted in. It's simply what Labour does.
"We must accept the new reality of austerity" Ed Milliband claims. The last Labour government were keen to claim historical achievements. Looks like they intend to claim another one.
Is Our Future Fast?
Around the world nations are investing huge sums of money in extremely fast railway systems. Here in Britain we're not used to these mass transit missiles and to be honest, I don't think people here in Blighty comprehend just how fast these trains are. We're used to trains that require several announcements on the tannoy before they even rumble into sight.
So now our glorious government wants Britain to have a high speed railway. London to Birmingham at more than two hundred miles an hour. Quite why you need or want to go to Birmingham so quickly is a bit hard to understand. On the plus side, you'd escape from there quicker too.
For those who are horrified that their sunday afernoons in the garden are going to be interrupted by intercontinental ballistic armchairs, I do sympathise. I wouldn't want my summer days spoiled by that either. That's when they've finished it. Imagine the fun of having forty thousand modern day navvies working across the fence at the bottom of your garden. Especially since I doubt they'll finish the route quite as quickly as they intend to run it. Come on. This is Britain, however much Ed Milliband believes in it.
Proving how badly the cost of living has risen, I see a television superstar chef has been caught shoplifting from a supermarket. Mate - you and the others of your genre have spent years telling us how easy it is to feed the family on several pence a week. Clearly it isn't as rewarding as you thought, is it?
I�ll start with a seemingly random series of stuff that�s happened (or is going to happen) to me, and then explain their relevance.
Number 1. I spent much of December sitting behind a desk. The downside is apparent to anyone who has to sit behind a desk. The upside is that I got paid for it, and so am now the proud owner of some money.
Number 2. Every Christmas, Kindle have an event called The 12 Days of Kindle. This involves reducing the price of many great titles to (usually) 99p. A title called �How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog� caught my eye, and I�ve been reading it with interest. It taught me one thing: There are two types of people, those who don�t know what quantum physics does, and don�t understand how it does it, and those who DO know what quantum physics does, and don�t understand how it does it. Thanks to the book, I�m moving from the former camp to the latter. I will hasten to point out that I�m not some scientific genius (though I did get a Physics A-level). The concepts are not beyond any reasonably scholarly person. Read it � you�ll see what I mean.
Number 3 � The Radio Times hit the doormat of OfClayton Towers yesterday. On the cover was a big picture of Professor Brian �all the men want to be him, all the women want to be with him� Cox, advertising the upcoming �Stargazing Live� TV event. They did this a while back. Very good telly. Very interesting. Made me want to get involved.
Number 4 � I�ve been watching a few episodes of the wonderfully funny Frasier. Classic comedy. US TV at its best.
Number 5 - I live in the sleepy little village of Aquis-of-the-Romans, which is inconveniently located at the arse end of nowhere!
So, how are these all connected? Well, seeing Frasier (who has a nice refractor telescope, seemingly only ever used to observe people in neighbouring apartment blocks), made me realise how much I�ve always wanted a telescope. And now Stargazing Live is due on our TV screens just at the time when I have some money in my pocket. Bad timing! I should seriously consider using that money to buy food, water, a roof over my head, brake pads for the GhostMobile, etc. etc. However, I still find myself pricing up telescopes, and looking up at the un-light-polluted night sky above Aquis-of-the-Romans wondering about the bejewelled firmament that could be just a couple of lenses and a mirror away.
What has that to do with Quantum Physics? I hear you ask. Well, in order to explain, I�ll have to teach you something about quantum physics. This is why I mentioned I had an A-level in Physics earlier. It wasn�t to blow my own trumpet, far from it. It was to highlight the fact that I�m in no position to teach even classical physics, let alone quantum physics. But I will, anyway (what a rebel!) One of the enigmas in quantum physics is that particles like photons, electrons, etc, behave like a wave and as a particle. These are mutually exclusive, but they happen. Go figure! The upshot of this is that, if you take, say, a photon and send it somewhere, it can take any number of different routes to get there. It doesn�t just take one of them, it takes them all, though some of them are more probable than others, and plotting just how probable creates something that behaves like a wave. I didn�t state that very well, and any respectable physicist would sneer, but it will do for the purposes of this blog.
Because of this, and other incongruous aspects of quantum physics, there have been many attempts to interpret why there is this seemingly so counter-intuitive behaviour at the microscopic level. One such interpretation is known as the Many Worlds interpretation. We�ve all seen the Star Trek episode where Evil Spock arrives from a parallel universe (you can tell he�s evil, because he has a goatee beard!) The physics underpinning parallel universes is this Many Worlds Interpretation. We�ve said that our photon could take any number of possible routes � countless quadrillions of them. In the MWI, the photon takes all of them, but each one seeds a new future (or parallel universe, if you will). Now imagine how many photons there have been in the whole universe since the dawn of time. How many times they have branched into these countless quadrillions of new universes, and each of those new universes instantly branching into countless quadrillions of new universes. Yikes!
Anyway, I reflected on this, and found myself thinking thus. In the multiverse (the term coined for the collected whole of all these universes), there must be incalculable numbers of GhostOfClaytons, who think �sod it!�, and blow all their money on a telescope they can ill afford. Given just how many of them there are (countless quadrillions), surely I would be forgiven for taking the plunge, wouldn�t I?
Times they have a-changed. The downturn in the economy has been evident for some time with many shop closures and to some extent that's become mundane, something you expect to see. As I passed the newspaper stand at the supermarket I caught a headline that attracted my interest. The shopping centre is in the hands of the receiver. Shocking. The report did say however that for now it's business as usual. That's the high street equivalent of UN intervention in a collapsing nation state (but let me say there is no intention of regime change).
Two shop assistants were discussing this report whilst customers stood ready to pay for their chosen goods. "what's receivership anyway?" Asked the less learned of the two. Kids these days. Sheesh...
Chucking Out Time
There it was again. A persistent coarse yelp that could only come from an urban fox. Thing is though, I've always heard those sounds in the relative quiet of small hours, and even then, only in the secluded narrow back streets. This time it was out on the main road at eleven at night. It's no good complaining Mr Fox, we humans close our pubs at eleven.
Some young asian lad almost leapt onto the seat next to mine at the library yesterday. Now youths are not usually so keen to be studious, and even those whose ability extends to YouTube and Facebook are rarely so energetic. In fact, this particular lad didn't seem interested in logging on to that computer at all. Instead he glanced at me and held a mobile phone in front of him.
Some people are camera-phobes, mostly out of shyness, insecurity, guilt, or a desperate desire to look their best at all times. Having been in entertainment in my earlier years I've gotten well used to being photographed. Nonetheless there was something furtive about this lad. He was up to something.
The mind can run riot when you start trying to second-guess other peoples motives. Is this lad attempting to use my image for fraudulent purposes, or is he involved in some stupidly amateurish terrorist plot? I certainly doubt he's a fan of my work.
You can imagine then that I was a little more alert than usual. Things happen for a reason and you never really know what people are thinking. As I got to the top of the stairs I saw someone else in the corner of my eye. I paused and looked around. Another youth, a fair haired caucasian, was striding toward me, staring straight at me. It might have been innocent. For all I knew he was going downstairs anyway. Yet someone who looks at you in that way has an axe to grind. Why? I have no idea. I haven't a clue who he was. There was a hard glare from him as he finally went his way while I went mine.
Monday morning again. If there's one certainty about life it's that at some point you will be forced to endure the misery and agony of finding your leisure time has run out. You might claim with some justification that being unemployed means my monday mornings are non-existent. Well, not today. Finding myself unable to sleep I was hard at work typing this blog entry at five in the morning.
I want to be positive about the world. I want world peace, an end to starvation and disease, gainful employment, the local burglars hung drawn and quartered, and for the young urban fox living across the fence to finally find himself a girlfriend. Truth is this weekend wasn't the most uplifting ever. Mostly I suspect because none of my wants occurred, but at least it kept some journalists in full time employment.
The biggest downer is the increasing presence of youngsters who seem to have nothing better to do than shout about how they intend to deprive you of your property. Guys - seriously - I don't know what goes through your heads other than alcohol and suspicious substances but silver service tableware, polished roller on the pristene gravel drive, expensive paintings by famous masters, private jets and homes large enough to need a map and compass? Fantasy. This is Swindon, not The Apprentice. Haven't any of you noticed the military surplus trousers?
Going Out Clubbing
If it comes to that, when did you last see military surplus trousers at nightclubs? My evening wear would probably evoke violence from an outraged doorman. Personally I hate night clubs. It all seems such a soulless way of finding entertainment. Some people literally cannot imagine life without clubbing. I'm struggling to understand what sort of life you could find in a club. The whole ritual seems to be designed to get you hospitalised as hedonistically as possible.
It's more fun down at the local job club during the day. At least you hear what people are telling you. That doesn't mean my little world is perfect. The most annoying thing about job clubs is the reason they exist. Let me explain. For those who don't know, a job club is an informal self-help group who utilise facilities laid on by the programme centre to help people look for work. The centre doesn't assist directly for various reasons, so if you need help, help yourself.
That's fine as far as it goes. However, the internet access and other useful things means that I come in to the programme centre focused and determined to find several vacancies to apply for. What I don't need is a queue of hapless individuals who don't have the slightest clue what a CV is, or what a computer is used for, or that the government insists they have to find work. That unfortunately is why people get sent to job clubs. No-one teaches them these things - they simply send them somewhere with the vain expectation that someone will do it for them.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind helping people, but there comes a point where you end up feeling exploited. Go away, I'm busy jobsearching. Recently there was a continual stream of people coming into the club. All had been sent by the job centre for the very reasons that annoy me. One by one they ended up being told to go somewhere else to get help. A part of me feels sorry for them. Getting the run-around like that is just as annoying. But - The government says I must find a job - and that means I must be a little bit selfish before I help others.
So much so that the programme centre has laid on a volunteer to help others. Hey... Waddaya know? Maybe things aren't so bad after all.
A friend on Facebook shared this video...and I was in stitches. Warning, there's a lot of Scottish...perhaps there's foul language, but it's Scottish...but can anyone really tell?
It reminds me of growing up, and the variety of languages and dialects that I heard. We had in our immediate neighborhood: Irish (from Muenster), Scottish (from Glasgow), Filipino (specifically, Tagalog), Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hindi. If you expanded it to those I went to school with, you'd have to include the rest of the English-speaking world, half of Polynesia, various dialects of Spanish, at least two regional dialects of Italian, Greek, Armenian, Farsi...wow, the list goes on and on. I grew up hearing so many versions, pronunciations and combinations of English, it's a miracle that I came out with the 'standard West Coast' dialect myself.
Thanks to Hollywood, everyone things that California is this liberal utopia (save for Orange County), but in fact the Central Valley is home to many 'country folk'--or redneck, if you're a Jeff Foxworthy fan (
). To be sure, the population there exploded during the Dust Bowl era (the 1930s), and all the Oakies and Arkies settled in the agricultural areas to work the fields, hoping to get a plot of land of their own. This is when my dad's family ran away from their lives in southwestern Missouri--another story for another time--and settled in Sacramento, the capital of the state and, one could say, the northern point of the Central Valley. Between the farms and the military bases, the flow of people from the south-central and south-eastern part of the United States has been fairly constant. As a result, to this day you still hear 'rural' American dialects well-represented. My dad's family isn't immune to this manner of speech.
I noted as a child how my dad sounded 'normal' at home and in our area, but the second he was in the company of his sister (the only one of his (at that time) 5 siblings that he liked), he would immediately sound 'country'. And he knew it, so much so that the whole hour-long car ride back home to the Bay Area he would talk a ton just to get the 'country' out of his system.
Today we all spent time with that same aunt of mine--one of my cousins passed away unexpectedly, and today was the funeral. Dad's gotten over his linguistic self-consciousness, and didn't even care that he slipped back into his ancient speech pattern. But what I wasn't prepared for was the fact that I did it, too...I started sounding country, just a hint of it, like when I lived in Texas.
There is a theory of socio-linguistics that holds that there are people with strong ties to their speech community, and others who have weak ties. Those with strong ties will never lose their speech patterns--their 'accent', if you will--and do not associate with many people outside of their speech community for any length of time. The ones who have weak ties to speech communities are the opposite; much like honey bees, they go to various speech communities, sound a little like all of them, tend to have neutral speech patterns (which helps communicativity in various groups), and are the ones who introduce change to different speech communities. Just like the honey bee that goes from one flower to another to pollinate them all, those with weak links bring various modes of speech to various speech communities, just to see what sticks.
Clearly Dad and I are weak links...and not in the Anne Robinson meaning. I can't speak for him, but perhaps that's part of why I never did feel comfortable about that side of the family. Eh, it's all good in the end.
Chunky, yet hunky!
I am hugely, vastly, monstrously, obesely, humongously overweight! My arse is becoming increasingly more magnificent by the month, and I reluctantly have to admit that my paunch has 'death in service' written all over it (metaphorically, not in the form of a tattoo; that would be odd. I seriously need to do something about this, and the time I need to do something about it is now. I can no longer keep saying Future OfClayton should go on a diet, the fat git! Past OfClayton spent too many years eating, drinking and making merry, and now is the time to pay the piper.
Of course, I've been on diets before. But like most folk with a bit of excess flab, it was a short term thing, and the man boobs soon returned. In fact, I spent most of 2011 on a diet (very difficult considering the number of nights spent in hotels). At least I told Mrs OfClayton I was on a diet. The jury's still out on whether I told myself as well. One way or the other, my weight at the start of 2011 pretty much matched my weight at the start of 2012 . . . so no matter who told who what, I wasn't on a diet!
Now, however, I really feel I'm in the right place (mentally speaking) to go for it during 2012, and become the man I once was . . . and stand a chance of enjoying retirement. I know that retirement age is being pushed further and further into the future, and if you hear me use the word 'pension' , I would probably be referring to a French B&B, rather than any money I may have when I'm old. It'd be nice to have no-one to boss me around (apart from Mrs OfClayton) for a few years, though. Wish me luck! I'll report back as I progress towards the body beautiful.
I went to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at the pictures last night. Oooh, it's a good film! I'd never read the book, and didn't really know anything about the plot in advance. I went along with a friend I've known from school age and, though we usually enjoy the same films, he hated it.
It is a dark, edgy film. Quite grim. Bleak scenery. Clipped dialogue. Some moderately disturbing scenes. Gripping drama. However, you really have to keep your mind on what's going on, who's related to who, etc., etc. It's a sort of murder mystery, and you have to be on your metal to work out why the detective (actually a journalist) finds stuff out. You can't miss a second (out of the whole three hours) of it. And that's why I think my friend didn't like it, and I did. You see, he has a problem with his waterworks. He won't admit it, but he has. Every time I've been to a play/film/gig with him in the pat year, he's had to go to the loo at least once during the performance. Let's face it, we're in our late 40s, and we're going to start hearing the word 'prostate' used more and more often. I can only conclude his ostrich-like denial is due to a fear of a doctor shoving a finger up his bum. I share that fear (especially after witnessing one of the scenes in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), but I'm determined that, should my waterworks start to play up, I won't hesitate. I'll grit my teeth and make no fuss whatsoever as the doctor pops on his marigolds and uses me as his own personal Sooty. Worryingly, when I was young, the term 'all-nighter' meant staying up all night drinking. Now it means going a full night without getting up to use the loo. Hmmm. . . .
Last night I paused to look out into the yard behind my home as I often do before retiring to bed. This was in the early hours of the night and now that the strong winds across the country have subsided, there was that familiar spooky silence once again.
I did notice an odd halo effect from the moon as the light refracted through the thin clouds hanging limp in the sky. It would have enough to stop superstitious medieval peasants in their tracks and even the lack of hollering from nightclubbers was noticeable.
Although I tried to get to sleep, there's something about the cold air and warm bedding that makes that difficult if not impossible, especially as the morning drags on and a deeper chill takes hold. Not because of any discomfort I think, just the unfamiliar conditions. My dilemma wasn't helped by urban foxes. Usually I hear them issuing loud shrieks. This time it was a series of yelps. Quieter, in deference to the mod of the evening, but nonetheless impossible to ignore. I never cease to be amazed how a creature normally so covert can make such a nuisance of itself.
Laying there in the gloom I naturally began to mull things over in my mind, like you do, and for some reason I began thinking of a certain lady I met a while back. You know, the usual idle musings, like where she is, what she's doing, whether she still remembers me. Most of us think along these lines sooner or later in our own privacy so who am I to break with tradition?
I always found her calm, confident, contientious, and completely disarming. Also I couldn't help regarding her as downright sexy. There's nothing wrong with admiration, maybe a little flirting, and even infatuation can be harmless if you keep hold of the emotional reins. Nonetheless in the short time I spent with her I reached that point where a decision had to be made. Should I risk everything and make some foolhardy attempt to progress the relationship to the desirable conclusion? Or play safe and avoid socially awkward moments, outrage, scorn, or mockery?
She knew I was making that decision. As those mental cog wheels began to turn she was was standing close by, watching me intently. In my younger days hormones and bravado often made the choice for me as they do with everyone else. To do otherwise offended the raw british working class need for rite of passage. These days I have other considerations. So I made my choice.
There is a possibility she's reading this right now. Embarrasing? No, not at all, she already knew what was going on in that male psyche of mine. Rest assured that honour and reputation are safe. I smile to myself because - Well, I believe I made the right choice, and the truth is I don't see what I have to prove. The funny thing is that whichever course of action I'd decided on, it was always going to end with me thinking back to that moment.
So I lay there thinking happy thoughts and waited for that darn fox to finally get what it wanted from the nearest female of the species. Maybe then I could get some sleep.
Movie Moment Of The Week
Picture the scene. Steven Seagal confronts bad mouthed bully in an alaskan bar. Usually this would be the excuse for fast paced violence that only Steven Seagal can do. Come to think of it, that's generally all he ever does in films. He isn't known for masterful acting nor does he ever seem to land a script that demands anything more than a grim focused expression before he deals lightning pain to the nearest unfortunate victim. But no, gasp, a moment of dialogue!
"What does it take to change the essence of a man?" He asked in that odd whisper of his. Erm... Let me think... No, not sure I know the answer to that one. The threat of lightning fast violence perhaps? Just a guess...
Oh the wind did howl last night. Still quite blustery this morning. With nothing better to do today I feel a reminiscense coming on...
Wind was one of the two obstacles to my flying in days gone by. A headwind was useful to shorten take off and landings, but too much wind and the little Cessna couldn't cope any more than I could. On one occaision I turned up to the airfield and the ground controllers allowed me to fly on the basis that the wind was aligned with the runway direction.
Non-flyers don't usually realise this but strong winds when you're manoevering an aeroplane on the ground can by quite hazardous. If the aeroplane is facing a forty knot wind, even when stationary, the silly machine thinks it's moving at forty knots and is close to wanting to fly. That's why we flyers tie our aircraft down if left in the open.
Nevertheless it was judged safe to fly so I signed the forms, wandered out onto the apron, went through the pre-flight checks, and taxied out to the runway threshhold. Clear to depart? Here we go then... No sooner had I opened the throttle than the Cessna shot up like an elevator. I have to say it was very impressive. Not sure it was all that safe - strong winds never are - but that was the first time I ever landed an aeroplane literally on the spot. And it wasn't a horrible accident either. Bonus. The plane just descended almost vertically and plopped down gently onto the runway.
With a bit of luck there won't be anything descending vertically on me today.
I saw a chap today getting around with the aid of two walking sticks. Inury? Illness? No idea. Yet when he came to the library stairs he lifted both and walked up without assistance. Oh yeah? So what are the sticks for matey?
Does anyone know who this Peter Andre is? Why are so many television programs made about his private life? I mean, if he was that interesting, surely I'd already know?
Poem Of The Week
The rain outside is falling
Television's sort of boring
No friends have thought of calling
So instead I'll just start snoring.
The wind outside is quite a gale
My house begins to shake
Though I try to sleep I always fail
So instead I'll stay awake
I hear the shouting in the street
Perhaps I'll take a look?
It's cold out there; I prefer the heat
So instead I'll read a book
Stirring tales of derring do
Ttagedy to make you weep
Bleary eyed by chapter two
I finally fell asleep