At the Charity life went on in a sort of organised chaos. You turned up, sat through a prayer meeting, then got told what your duties were for the day. I suppose I was lucky as I often got scheduled to work as a drivers mate on the company van, collecting and delivering secondhand furniture. A relaxing sort of job. Mostly. Okay, the driver was a bit highly stressed, often losing his temper, and of course the drawback to collecting and delivering furniture is that bulky objects are often heavy and don't always coveniently fit through the gaps provided.
I had an advantage of course. Unlike many of the unemployed layabouts drafted to work at the Charity, I've long experience of getting musical equipment in and out of gigs, of long days and nights spent in a van, and even some casual multi-drop delivery work. I also had long experience of helping my father move furniture around the house. Not sure why it was ever necessary, but it gave him something to organise and so I got on with it.
So it turned out to be something of a busman's holiday. The weather was glorious, we all had a good laugh in the van (except when the driver got annoyed at somebody), and trundled around the local area visiting houses we never knew existed, meeting all sorts of strange new life and new civilisations, going where vans have never been before.
Sometimes you stopped by a huge expensive house to pick up donated odds and ends. All smiles and hearty farewells. Sometimes you delivered to the less salubrious hovels in town, places that haven't been cleaned since 1972, that stink of curry powder, urine, or other strange substances. Sometimes you had to take the door off to get the goods inside. Sometimes you had to disassemble the goods to get them through the door. Failure was never an option. It meant going back to base to face a manager who'd received an angry phone cal about wasted money.
It's a funny thing. Life. I trained as an engineer, learned to be a musician, studied various categores of academic knowledge, became a private pilot in two countries, and yet despite all of that I still end up moving furniture around.
Struggle Of The Week
My fight for sanity in the jobsearching business goes on. Firstly there's Mrs Claims Advisor, who has been programmed by some secret organisation to repeat the same conversation over and over.
"I don't why you're not getting anywhere. You're jobsearching is a high enough standard..."
Think we might have covered this last week. And the week before that.
"Why do you think you're not getting anywhere?"
And this week too. So I patiently trot out the same reasons why finding gainful employment has so far eluded me. I'm not being dishonest or looking for excuses, but the reason she wants me to admit to is... Ummmh.... Errrr..... Actually I do know what she wants me to say but she's wrong. Completely. All she wants is for me to be exactly the same as every other claimant who comes before her. Variety, or indeed any form of individuality, is a difficult concept for a claims advisor.
The other aspect of my fight for truth, justice, and the employable way us the Job Agency. I might have mentioned them earlier. Never in any sphere of human endeavour has a bureaucracy accumulated siuch a mammoth collection of self serving small minded pedantic pen pushers.
Take this example. I look for work on an internet website. Usually you just select the vacancy that interests you, click on a few choices, add a little bit of supportive text, or perhaps answer a stuid question or two, then click on 'Apply'. You sit back and wait for the rejection in anything between two minutes and two months. Easy.
However some agencies think applicants should be given more opoortunity to waste time and effort in applying for work, so they disable this easy option and get you to make a phone call instead, in which they tell you that they have a vacncy exactly the same as they advertised and could you please come and see them in their office? So why not just suggest that on the website and save me the bother of paying for a phone call?
It gets worse. I asked for the name of the person the advert specified as the contact, which in this case turned out not be a person, but the agency itself. Eventually this confusion was ironed out. Who says I don't have communication skills? Then the lady said "All we have is this furniture warehouse vacancy. It will involve some heavy lifting...Is that what you want to do?"
You know what? It was my childhood dream to lift heavy objects. I studied heavy weights at school, and got myself an O Level in Applied Lifting followed by a Degree in Industrial Physics. Ten years appprenticeship as a Manual Load Handler, followed by a fifteen year career of shoving and pushing. I also lift weights for a hobby.
No. I'm joking. My CV doesn't say that, and neither did I. In fact I could barely resist laughing as I told her that lifting heavy objects wasn't exactly a career of choice but if it pays the bills....
You could hear her disappointment over the phone. Is she serious?
I got drafted. There's no other word for it. David Cameron's Big Society means that I have social responsibility and thus I must accept that occupational contribution, voluntary work, workfare, or whatever you want to call it, is now feature of being unemployed. So I reported to the charity organisation as ordered, only unlike National Serice of previous generations, I didn't bring a sitcase and toothbrush.
Not everyone who volunteers gets through basic training. A few listless youngsters faded away over the first few days. The professional malingerer Mr J was there, immedioately claiming that he suffered from this ailment or that, what cruel world world it was, that voluntary work was too lowly for him, or whatever excuse he could think of. And once again, he stomped out in moral outrage, going back to his laid back llifestyle while I and others roisk life and limb in the secondhand furniture trade.
The charity I was ordered to volunteer for was a sort of furniture warehouse combined with a cafe. The sort of place whee you can drp in, enjoy a coffee, exchange a bit of banter, and buy some secondhand furniture. The furniture gets donated by all sorts of people, rich or poor, so that people without money can purchase stuff other people don't want.
My first day was in the workshop, sanding down neglected garden table and chairs, and then to varnish them. Not with any old creosote mind you, thinned down yacht varnish. Only the best for the financially challenged. Of course it was pointless arguing. The workshop leader was an old craftsman who didn't talk to anyone else and got disgruntled by everyone elses lack of craftmanship. Like mine, as it transpires.
So I spent the day mindlessly daubing the table and chairs with none-too-cheap varnish and getting suburnt. Aside from the lack of olive green clothes and some african american sergeant in a slouch hat yelling ayt me to do yet more press ups, the oppressive heat of our flaming July, I might as well as gotten off a bus at Biloxi in the deep south of the USA. All for Queen and country. I'm in the Charity now.
Opinion Of The Week
I happened to be watching the news channel Al Jazeerah the other day and along came a report about a film festival somewhere out there in the world. There's a strong theme of war films apparently, with no punches barred, covering some controversial subjects. It inspired an interview with someone who spouted this little nugget of ridiculous wisdom...
The purpose of art is to force us to face our most painful truths
What? That most of us are either talentless or gifted con merchants? Art exists as a form of expression. We can express anything. Romanticism, entertainment, drama, political beliefs, religious sentiment, or simply a statement of ego. If you want to comunicate pain, so be it. Personally I like my landscapes, or those pictures that invoke moods and dreams. I already know the truth of it - that I prefer the escapism, the suggestion that I'm glimpsing a time and place I canot otherwise experience..
But getting back to the point, what do we want to see in a war film? I note that the nastiness of war is becoming the prevalent theme. Camaraderie, heroism - these aren't forbidden subjects but it seems as if they're deeply unfashionable. Why is the world film industry suddenly getting so moral and determined to express political controversy? Is it because there are important messages to be said, or is it because people are bored with commercial stereotype movies, or is the constant barrage of media broadcasts politicising our view of human conflict and the injustices it generates? News reports don't change the world into a better place, so I seriously doubt art is going to. However seriously some artists want to be taken.
You find me in a very reflective mood. It's time to blog again. Not sure why, I guess it's one of those strange inponderables of life. So.... Where to begin?....
The Simpsons has an intro sketch featuring a gag with Bart daubing his lines on a school blackboard before escaping on skateboard, followed by the family gathering to watch tv in novel and amusing variety. Family Guy has the Broadway musical intro. South Park has South Parkesque imagery to tempt the senses and attract those with short attention spans. The Rushey Platt Villa (This blog) has... Well.... this paragraph of text to welcome you to the all new 2014 summer season. Feel cheated?
My cliff hanger ending in the previous post was that I had to go back to work. It's true, I did. My claims advsor believed that going on another 'crappy course' (her words, not mine) wasn't going to do any good, so maybe having to earn my benefits might. So she sent me to a local charity to work as a volunteer on a Mandatory Work Placement. Whether I liked it or not.
Weather Or Not
What is going on? This is supposed to be August. Here in Britain this is the time for country walks along leafy lanes, sitting in deckchairs waiting to scramble some Spitfires, watching a group of men undergo a strange pagan ritual called Cricket, and arguing with the neighbours about loud parties.
July pretty much met those criteria for a British summer. The days were long and hot, I got sunburnt in the line of duty as an enlisted charity volunteer, and there were a couple of tiffs with neighbours concerning their desire to get into the mood for a night out clubbing. It seems they bought one of those new fangled soundbar devices that improve bass response that make music and television not just bearable, but an experience to be shared with the whole street.
We've had a flaming July, now meet the Arctic August. Temperatures fell to as little as one degree Centigrade last night. One degree? A smidgin above freezing? Somebody got their calculations wrong about Global Warning I think. Bring back the Industrial Revolution - it was the only thing keeping Britain warm in summer and me in gainful employment
Gone But Not Forgotten
Of course it hasn't all been fun and sun. My mother departed her mortal coil a few weeks ago. To be fair, she was pretty certain to go sooner or later, what with age, infirmity, and that sense that her anchor to the mundane world was slipping. At least she went with some dignity.
I must of course spare some thought for the execution of an american journalist. I never saw the video on YouTube (not my kind of fun saturday night viewing if I were honest) but the circumstances don't suprise me. Islamic State have little or nothing to do with Islam - it's all about rule by violence and fear, which if I'm not mistaken isn't what the Quran suggests its readers should do. They are the natural evolution of the radical behaviour that extremists have been nurturing for a long time. As we suffered the outbreak of international terrorism sponsored by political nihilsim two or three decades ago, now we face the outbreak of international violence sponsored by religious nihilism.
It is sadly part of the human experience. Every so often a group emerges under a leader determined to build power by becomiing the Junkyard Dog, the King of the Hill. Not so much Islamic State, more like Islamic Nazis.
Reminisence Of The Week
Okay, I admit it, just occaisionally during July we had the odd shower or two, sometimes a bit thunderous. By good fortune and the foresight to believe the weather girls on telelvision I avoided the downpours. In fact, the onnly serious rain that caught me was on the day of my mothers funeral. She had the last laugh after all
Yet despite the doom and gloom of enviromental disasters, wars, inadvertant shooting down of passenger jets, the loss of family, and the occaisional drenching, there is always something about life to bring back the smile. A few nights ago the BBC reached into the archives and pulled out Kate Bush, the waif like singer with flowing dances and high pitched vocals responsible for Wuthering Heights.
I'd forgotten what an impact that woman had made on popular music. Listening to the old favourites once again brought back many happy memories of my younger days. I am of course envious of her talent, her ability to express herself musically. For me musical expression is so much more difficult, so many ideas I'm just not able to breathe life into. It all came so naturally to her.
An interview with comedian Steve Coogan told how she came to see his show which lampooned her work, and was polite enough to remark that it was good to hear all those old songs again. She's right. It was.
Around 2011 we saw a massive influx of new members, they had wonderful names like xxxcialisforyou, or pokersupergames or even less imaginative like xfgUlkzzio...
They did not post much and the few that did got quickly deleted by the moderators. On the surface they didnt bother anyone. Oh boy were we wrong. Those were little bastards that try to exploit known bugs in the software to get a foothole in the server and that all for one thing only. Use the site to send emails. If anyone remembers the many problems with the site startet around 2011. On top of that my host told me that my site has unusual high traffic (which we didnt) and shut down the site a couple of times without notice. It got so bad at one stage that the site was for months offline. No one could help. The hosting company insisted that it was my fault, but didnt tell us what exactly is the problem.
You must know our host was a very big company, with apparently very smart people but unfortunately not very caring ones, so they basically didnt give a f++++ what happend to our site. By accident i stumpled upon a little canadian company and they managed to quickly identify the problem and fix it.
Internal email and notification should finally work again as usual.
Lesson learned, new members that sign up and dont post within a month are deleted, sorry to lurkers, the spammers spoiled it for you...
There's a strange mood in the town right now, and I suspect, across England, because once again our national football team has failed to reach the heady goal of winning the World Cup. This time they failed to get out of the starting blocks, so I understand, but then I don't have any time for football. Nothing wrong with the game as such, but I resent the expectations that I should be interested and discuss the subject at every opportunity. I don't like the blatant commercialism and outrageous incomes football stars can earn, or for that natter, I remain baffled as to why a bloke who kicks a football for a living can be seen as important as politicians on the world stage.
All those national flags displayed in peoples front windows... But I suppose that's nothing other than a sense of disappointment. For David Cameron, it means a major reorganisation of his social diary now that he doesn't have a football team to be seen with at press events. A few less new years honours to promote.
Unfortunatetly it also means that David Cameron has more time on his hands, and with busy politicians who like telling the British how to go about their daily lives, it means he'll have time to think up new ways of getting his face on television, and since trampling on the unemployed is his most popular game plan right now, I dare say it'll get worse for those of us who can't afford football tickets.
As it happens I'm shortly to be put on a work placement. Unlike previous years where you get a small premium payment to make the idea worthwhile, now I have to work for my benefits. Those of you with well paid jobs will no doubt say that's a good thing. But ask yourself this - would you want to work a thirty hour week for sixty odd pounds? Especially if you want to earn a living instead of dossing at public expense? In a country that's so strident in its call for National Minimum Wages and assistance for those unable to pay their ever increasing bills?
Now the Job Centre has warned me that twenty-six week placements are coming soon to a own near you. On the one hand it's a means of engaging those without jobs in some useful social capacity. On the other, the need of a politician to win popularity by forcing those on benefits into what amounts to slave labour.
I'm almost willing to support the England soccer team from now on. As much as I hate football, as least a few goals will keep our politicians busy for a while.
They Are Working On It.
The Old College site is starting to look like a shopping centre now. Not complete you understand, but getting there. At the back, the car park has the metal underlay almost fitted, obscuring the dark interior and presenting a very bright spectacle when the sun gets low in the evening. Won't be long before the muffled thuds and rumbles from the cinema start intruding upon the normal traffic noise and singing contests.
I saw a man from Morrisons, one of the supermarket chains that are going to inhabit the site. He stood looking dejected on the traffic island, watching the work in progress.
"Give 'em a chance," I told him, "They are working on it."
Sex And Violence of the Week
The local park is proving to be a popular hoilday destination for alll manner of birds. Geese, ducks, coots, moorhens, pigeons, an assortment of white sea birds, but none of the swans you used to see every year. I watched a flock of geese arrive, circling down in formation and performing a coordinated landing on the water. That made quite a splash.
With such a condensed population of birds you might expect the odd confrontation or two, animals being what they are. I watched a goose making a hasty and noisy retreat as another pecked at its tail feathers in furous pursuit. A coot chased a duck continuously, while the duck cleverly evaded its nemesis by swimming underwater in a random direction, the chase resuming once the coot spotted its quarry again.
I watched amused as a fat pigeon sidled up to every other female asking for a date, or preferably, a chance to make eggs. He danced and strutted his stuff, but the ladies really didn't take to his display and wandered away. If that pigeon was a human, he'd be arrested as a sex pest. or perhaps given a starring role on a comedy show. But he's working on it nonetheless. Maybe one day he'll find love. Must be difficult for pigeons. I mean, it's not like they understand the internet or know how to use dating agencies.
I noticed a certain cat too. It's the black and white one whose face bears an alarming resemblance to Adolf Hitler. I had no idea this feline adventurer ever prowled this part of town, but as cats do, sometimes they travel some distance to find a hiunting ground.
It's all sex and violence, really. Oh well, it was a nice day at the park, but if you'll excuse me, I have work to do. Whether I like or not.
Those of you who know England will also know that somtimes, just sometimes, the rain goes away to ome back another day, leaving us with a few days of glorious weather. Like today, a warm balmy day, and with all my chores done it was time to seek a quiet corner of the local park and relax in quiet solitude, away from the noisy daytime activity of my home town.
It isn't all that quiet if I were honest. An ocaisional gravelly rasp of a light aeroplane overhead, the distant subdued roar of a transatlantic airliner, the insistent clangs of the town hall bell, on the hour, every hour, and the incredible range of bird noises from the trees and lake.
The squirrels weren't so keen to be idle. I saw a few bouncing around the earthy woodland trail. As I sat, one headed toward me, almost oblivious to my presence. It knew I was there, and stopped for a moment when I shifted my position, but otherwise I was just another human lowering the tone of the neighbourhood. It's unusual for a squirrel to be so tolerant of people. Most are quite nervous. For this squirrel, it was another day, another nut to carry away.
Those of you who know England will also know that sunny days soon change to weeks of dull rainy weather. A week ago it was exactly that. The worst wet weather coincided exactly with a job interview. This was an unusual interview for me, the first time I'd attended a three hour assessment session with al sorts of things going on. I even gave a fifteen minute presentation on Roman history. The assembled junior management were either bored by the lack of graphs showing a year on year increase in imperial profit, or perhaps stunned by my Roman revelations. Maybe a prior presentation had already melted their brain? Perhaps managers have no comprehension of presentations? Who knows?
On the way home I came across a length of road with a lot of standing water. I had to stand back and wait as motorists ploughed past with big sprays that threatened to drench me. At last there was a gap in the traffic, and I thought I might have enough time to clear the danger area before that lorry arrived, the one just turning the corner a way back down the road. Sometimes you just know that the driver is going to do something. It isn't an inner voice, or any visual recognition of body language, just that strange spidey sense I really ought to have taken notice of.
Of course I didn't. You might be experiencing a similar sensation right now, reading this. As I tramped along the wet pavement I heard the sloshing sound coming up behind me. Fearing the worst I glanced behind... Splash!... A tall wave of water caught me from head to foot. Right in the face too. Of course the lorry drove on, either oblivious to his transgression of the Highway Code, or perhaps gloating over his handiwork. Sir. I salute you. One finger only.
Sunset of the Week
As the sun descended behind the the cinema building now occupying my view of the landscape from my back window, the high altitude cloud was lit bright. I suddenly noticed a stunning resemblance of a map of Britain composed of whispy clouds. Where Ireland ought to have been was a broad rainbow, formed by the sunlight refracting in ice crystals tens of thousands of feet above the Earth. The conicidential map of Britain soon distorted and was lost in the gentle migration of the clouds, but for a moment, it was really stunning to see.
Loud, pounding drums; harsh, whispered vocals; unusual instrumentation; and a somewhat catchy tune buried underneath. That old-timey bit at the beginning? That's sampling. Caledonia by Cromagnon has all the staples of modern industrial music (minus the angsty lyrics), and it came out way back in 1969.
Saturday night in my area is never entirely quiet. My street hapens to be a major path between Old Town on the hill and New Swindon at the bottom of it, with clusters of clubs and pubs at either end. So as you might imagine, the Swindon branch of the Inebriated Debating Society often pass by.
If that wasn't bad enough, my neighbours are keen on playing music before they go out for the night on the basis it puts them in the mood. For what? Annoying people? It seems to work, because at half-past one they returned with a crowd of like-minded friends in tow, holding an emergency session of the Inebriated Shouting Society. I gather the Police stopped by to quiet them down.
Then, an hour later, when their society meeting had run its course and they'd dispersed to spread mayhem around the borough of Swindon, my neighbours decided to play music, because they were in the mood. This time I had to bang on their door. Is that your music?
"Erm... Yes it is..." Said the startled young lady at the door, "You want me to turn it down?"
Might be a good idea at this point.
Finally, in the wee small hours, long after all the fast food and indian restaurants are closed, somebodies girlfriend outside my home side "I'm hungry.... Fooooood!". Of course she could have been a wandering werewolf or perhaps a zombie searching for brains, or maybe an immigrant from the jungles of New Guinea, I don't know. What I do know is she will very likely go hungry until she gets home. Somebody point her in the right direction please...
Having mentioned indian restaurants, I shoukld mention that I tried a new last night, during the somewhat quieter period when my neighbours were summoning their allies to the relentless thud of a nightclub metronome. The food was very good quality, I have to say, albeit something of an expensive extravagance for my income, but a little of what you like does you good (until today, when the race for the toilet becomes an excruciating exercise for your lower cheek muscles). However, whilst I waited for the meal to be cooked and handed over, I became aware that all the customers were Asians. Every last one of them. I don't begrudge them residency in Britain or the availability of dining out, it's just a very strange feeling to be the only Briton in a restaurant in Britain.
Question Of The Week
Who is Barry Scott anyway? I ask this because we often see him on television advertising a certain cleaning product, looking glassy eyed after experiencing some purple painted form of high speed transport. I susect those of you spared British television won't even have heard of him. But it occurred to me he's perfect for the US firearms industry.
"Wow, that was a fast reload.. When you need home defence... Bang, and the dirt is gone."
What's happened at the Job Centre? Usually I stride through the door and waft past the security guards holding up my identitu documents in that sort of "Get out of my way minion" sort of manner. Not any more. Now the guards stop me and ask where I'm going. What? Again?
Fine. Well, I'm walking over there toward the door the other side of the lift, into the hallway where I use the door on the right to enter the staiwell, where I climb the steps all the way to the second floor, where I turn right and go through the door at the end, follow the passage and go through the last door on the right, where I turn right and sit patiently until my claims advisor thanks me for turining up and doing some jobsearch, whereupon I retrace my steps until I exit the building.
"Thank you Sir. That's all I need to know".
Question - How do you recognise a bloke from Swindon?
Answer - He's the one who thinks he's a man because he thinks you're not. Yep. That's how stupid Swindon Man is. They're also paranoid about objects being inserted into their backsides, which of course never happens, but they don't know that because it hasn't actually happened to anyone yet so they think it's possible, even though it's very illegal and subject to certain physical risks like outraged Swindon blokes. I mean, what sort of hard as nail tough as old boots junkyard dog is worried about the sanctity of his arse?
For example, there's a guy I often see at the library. Nothing unusual, just another typical Swindon bloke, except perhaps this one talks to himself a lot, which is why I notice his presence among the throng of dull eyed Facebook addicts and thus why he thinks I'm gay. Unfortunately he forgot that talking to himself is audible to those around and so I could plainly hear his opinions concerning my sexuality and manliness. As if he knew what he was talking about. He's a Swindon bloke. All mouth and no brain cell. Funny how the loudest butchest blokes always seem to deserve having something rammed up... No. Let's not go there.
He Who Shouts Loudest Knows Least.
Talking about shouting, I've received a phone call from the Department of Work and Pensions asking for more information concerning my leter, a demand for Mandatory Reconsideration concerning the bill they sent me for overpaid benefits. Actually it was me me who shouted, not him. I was a little irate you see. However, please note that I did not accuse him of being gay despite the loss of his testicles.
Men At War
The move toward 'realistic' war films has certainly made some interesting strides in recent years. Veterans tell us that if we want to know what the landings at Omaha Beach were like in 1944, we need do no more than watch Saving Private Ryan. Due credit to the film makers then. In the same vein I happened to catch Steel Tempest. It tells the story of the Ardennes Offensive from a German perspective, with a constant theme of propaganda versus reality. I liked the way period war footage was woven in. I also approved of the slavish attention to period detail, the use of equipment that really did look like Wehrmacht vehicles and weaponry. It had a sort of Band of Brothers feel, with some of the same actors, albeit with somewhat less convincing acting. It was disappointing to see the lacklustre movement of troops, who even to me failed to convince as veteran SS troops fighting with meagre resources against the allies. Ideally you need to sympathise with the war weary SS officer, the tragic letters from home, and the occaisional moments of comradeship from soldiers. Ideally you should feel disgusted at the nasty and predatory behaviour of soldiers at war, or the deceit of senior command to enable the Fuhrers plans to succeed. Ideally you ought to sense the frustration of men ordered to blitzkrieg the enemy with barely enough to shoot back and no support from anyone. The problem is, you don't.
The good news for all you people out there earning a living is that finally you're getting your own way. I'm shortly to be placed on a 'More Intensive Regime' concerning my endless quest for gainful employment. Basically that means I have to turn up every day at the Job Centre and explain why I'm not out there looking for work, which of course I would be if I wasn't too busy explaining my presence to my claims advisor.
The thing is, I'm also supposed to be attending a Support Centre every day. Unfortunately they've changed premises and forgot to tell anyone who knew who to set up their internet access. For the last two weeks I've been turning up to an empty office full of inactive computers. The Support Centre staff have even resorted to telling claimants not to bother coming in. Yesterday I did, and asked if I could use a computer
"What for?" The Office guy asked, looking perplexed that anyone was trying to use the Support Centre for the purpose intended.
Oh you know.. Switch it on.. Do stuff... Please bear in mind that all you hard working people out there are paying for this. This morning they locked the door and didn't let anyone in. Don't worry - I'll explain it to my claims advisor.
By chance I happened to catch a televised session by Blondie at the Maida Vale recording studio. They say you should never revisit your past. Time, it must be said, hasn't been entirely kind to Deborah Harry. I don't want to be cruel, these days she looks like a pub landlady. And sings like one too. Sorry Debs, I love the stuff you did back in the day, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy a ticket any time soon.
Mind you, looking in the mirror, Jeez, what happened to me?
Foxhunt Of The Week
It's been a while since I spotted the local wildlife nosing around outside at night. The Old College site had been quite a game reserve but a network of steel girders in battleship grey and rust has gradually filled in the big empty space gouged into the side of the hill. Other girders lay in neat rows waiting to be bolted into place among the cranes and telescopic forklifts parked up until the start of the next mornings shift. Not much room left for urban foxes to mooch around then.
Just when I thought they'd all been gassed or something, the other night I spotted a young fox nosing around the parapet overlooking the site. There's a steep drop on one side of thirty feet or so which clearly didn't bother the fox. He was only there a few minutes before he vanished, quite wisely, as a late night dog-walker meandered over to where the fox had been, beer can in hand. Foxes are animals naturally selected to survive chases from packs of hounds and horsemen. Somehow I doubt the fox was in any danger. Eventually I heard the beer can being crushed and responsibly deposited at random, and the sozzled dog-walker ambled back across the car park, where he no doubt spent most of the night trying to remember which house he got the dog from.
There's an election in the wind. My first clue was that piece of card posted through the dor telling me I can vote. The second clue was a couple of coaches parked near the library with signs telling me that our local minister of parliament was in town talking to citizens, promising them the Earth, and asking for their vote to make it possible. Makes a change from the Jesus brigade I suppose, even if the preaching isn't much different.
I don't know about you, but I find the Promised Land is something I've heard about all too often. We never seem to get there do we? Maybe that's because if we did we wouldn't need ministers of parliament any more and they'd be out of a job. So get those votes in now and join in the nail biting television coverage of the vote counting to see who will lead us into the next round of Prime Ministers Questions and all those arguments about whose policies are whose.
As to who this MP was I have no idea. Apparently he's already representing Swindon North. Guess that explains everytthing. Thing is though there was a gentleman talking to a couple of burly security people who bore an extraordinary resemblance to Ed Millband, the Labour Party fuhrer. Couldn't have been of course. Ed Milliband is a charismatic leader of men, a giant of politics, a fearless reformer and visionary, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and crush men's skulls with his little toe. Ed Millipede then.
To be honest I couldn't care less who he was or why he was there. I did notice however he took great delight in poking fun at my expense in public. Twice. Well, it's only fair then that I poke fun back. In front of the entire Inter-World-Wide-Web-Net in glorious broadband. Oh how social media haunts us all....
Nice cardie Mr Millipede. Looks like genuine unwashed Hebridean yak wool. Birthday present maybe? Or is that the uniform a party leader wears in covert missions into enemy held rural towns? I only mention the cardie because it genuinely happens to be the most impressive thing about you. Not very tall are you?
The second item on my lambasting itinerary is confirmation that my anatomy is indeed fully functional. Laugh all you want, but I got a friendly smile from a rather attracive female receptionist that day and I'll be seeing her again shortly. You had to make do with two burly policemen. Takes all sorts I guess...
Online Dating Of The Week
Some people think I'm childish. Playing trains, at my age? The men wonder why I'm not out there every night shagging women. Women complain I'm not breeding enough babies for them to go gooey over. Admittedly I do behave a little bit less than calm and businesslike sometimes, but then, why would I want to be a stereotypical cardboard cut-out living in miserable mediocrity? Ye gods what a dull world you people live in. No wonder you all want to get blind steaming drunk.
Let me tell you something World. As James May showed scientifically on television (he does things properly you see) model trains are without doubt the one thing that adults will forget football for, although he did neglect to factor in the influence of copious amunts of lager.
As for shagging women, I really don't mind putting aside the model trains for the odd bonk or two. As it happens, I discovered the other night that there's a rule of thumb for finding the perfect age of your prospective partner. Apparentl;y the ideal woman's age is half the man's plus seven. That means I really can still shag a woman of child bearing age safe in the knowledge she's perfect for me and that my anatomy is still expected to function as expected. It comes fully tested after al, as Mr Millpede kindly confirmed for us all. So ladies, if you're 33 years old, single, want to breed little Caldrails, and have a benign attitude toward model trains, Roman history, supercars, and military surplus trousers, why not get in touch? I only bite if asked to.
David Cameron has said Britain needs to be more evangelical. No. It doesn't. Christianity is two thousand years out of date, causes nothing but misery, and is no better than it ever was at curing the worlds ills. No suprise then that our revered leader is patronising Britains official religion, which is getting a bit ridiculous given that even the Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that Britain is no longer a Christian country.
This is course now that the Pope has made saints of two of his predecessors. A click of the fingers and two dead men become immortal spirits we must worship as examples of what humanity aspires to be. How ridiculoius is that? Truth is that becoming a saint is really a second class title. The Romans used to make people gods when they thought it was worthwhile making a fuss in public, but they can't do that now because God made a ruling that only He was to be worshipped. Someone forgot to tell the Pope obviously.
As for being more evangelical, I get enough reminders about Jesus in the street. Not impressed. After all the more evangelical people get the more reasons they find to empty your wallet. If evangelism needs to be a success, then maybe a few more moneychangers tables in the temple need to be turned over. You listening Cameron? No, I thought not.
Bumps In The Night
Talkimg about listening, my neighbours are still confused as to why my stereo occaisionally makes itself heard. Not because I want to impose my musical tastes on anyone else - I normally listen via headphones - but I seriously don't want to listen to anyone elses either. The girl downstairs for instance. She sings along to her partners guitar a quarter tone flat with no natural verve. Sorry, but either it's my stereo or I'm facing a large dentisits bill.
At least I've managed to persuade them that music late at night is out of order. So late at night when the time comes to submit to my incresing lethargy and get some sleep, at least I can be assured that thuds and rumbles won't be preventing me from getting that healthy eight hours rest. Ahhhh.... Yes.... Busy day tomorrow, a nice warm bed, and....
Huh.... Huh.... Huh... Huh.... Huh.... Huh.... Huh.... Huh....
Ah yes. The evocative sound of the Lesser Spotteed Neighbour in their nightly mating ritual. I don't want to be cruel, but maybe she needs more than singing lessons? If you're going to make those noises at night, at least make some effort with your love life. Please. This is worse than counting sheep.
Moan Of The Week
Some people reading my blog are going to moan that all I do is moan. Well, that's how we are isn't it? I passed a lady the othe day, moaning about the world and its frustrations into her mobile phone.
"I've had no lunch break, I've had no fag break..." She complained, outside a commercial premises, leaning against the door frame with a lit cigarette in her hand.
In the good old days I used to turn up at workplaces for interviews safe in the knowledge that I would be greeted by a receptionist who would tell me to sign a book and sit over there until called for interview. More and more that doesn't happen. Instead I arrive at the employers premises to find a foyer devoid of human presence, barely decorated, looking uninviting and unfriendly. A computerised touchscreen blinks a message that I should register my presence.
You would think that a computerised system would be a breeze. Nope. It was a visual version of the same old nightmare we get from telephone reception systems. Welcome to Acme Inc. Press 1 if you're an employee, press 2 if you're a contractee, press 3 if you're a visitor. From that point it got harder. The screen was impossible to use accurately, refused to let you correct a mistake, and eventually printed out a temporary security pass with a name that made me sound like an immigrant from Albania.
Eventually somebody happened to wander through the foyer and asked who I was, clearly oblivious that I was already registered on their electronic visitor book for a job interview.
Keeping The Road Clean
As you might imagine, the constant coming and going of heavy goods vehicls from the Old College site does tend to eave a lot of mud on the roads nearby. Understandably the civil engineers have hired a road cleaning vehicle. I often see it parked nearby, waiting for instructions to wash the roads, a bored driver watching the world go by.
The other day I spotted the cleaning truck parked in a taxi bay beside a modern office block. Despite the busy traffic, it's a somewhat quiet corner. So quiet that the driver thought no-one would notice him taking a quick wee into the waste pipes of his truck, oblivious to the fact he must have been visible by plenty of office workers.
Keeping The Walls Decorated
Every so often we get yet more graffiti in our area. Mostly it's a 'tag', the human equivalent of a dog weeing on the lampost, and done by schoolkids with nothing to do between leaving school and their parents arriving home from work to cook their meal.
A few nights ago I was looking out the back of my home at night. The view has changed a lot lately now the Old College site is starting to resemble a shopping complex. In the early hours of the morning the various amber and turquoise lights cat an odd radiance on the nearby yard. Without them, I would not have seen the graffiti artist.
He was silhouetted by the light, the alleyway itself closed off due to construction work and in the pitch dark behind a concrete parapet overlooking a thirty or forty foot drop recently hewn from the hillside. The alleyway itself is also pockmarked by surface subsidence and not a safe place to be.
At first all I saw was movement. It wasn't clear what he was up to. A strange place to be given the circumstance so I kept an eye on him. Very soon I realised he was at work painting the side of a cement block garage in tall lettering, clearly oblivious that he was not only visible to me, but also visible from the main road.
Jobsearching Initiative Of The Week
The gossip was doing the rounds at the Support Centre. The law has been changed. From tomorrow morning unemployed people can be told to do a job to earn their benefits. Actually that's been happening for years. Whilst the politicans are merely ensuring their votes by acting on the concerns of hard working citizens, they'e oblivious to the fact that the workshy have also had years to perfect their excuses for not working.
For the last week the weather has been glorious. All the hassles, disappointments, and frustrations of dealing with recruitment agents seem somehow pointless compared to getting out and enjoying the sunshine. Just the other weekend I took a walk along a cycle path in that strange unfinished part of Wichelstowe, roads and streets spread across empty farmland and the onset of green leaves. Not only was my journey shared by the usual crowd of cyclist, dog walkers, and chain gangs of rubbish collectors on community service, but all of a sudden aviation seemed to realise that flying weather was with us again. Piper Cherokees flew by with their warbling rasp. Piper Cubs ambled overhead with their soft rattle. Paragliders hung under their graceful arch of silk, wheeling gently around the sky. For a moment I remembered how it was when I used to fly.
Sunshine at an airfield is pretty merciless. There's no shade out there in the open, and only a gentle breeze makes it bearable. You can always smell grass as you stride across the field toward the line of waiting aeroplanes. Most are typical club aircraft but you sometimes see one or two unusual or exotic airframes parked beside the others. That's the one I hired, over there. A Piper Tomahawk, not the most exciting aeroplane to fly but fly it does, and it was within my meagre budget.
You get a strong reminder of how powerful the sun can be when you succeed in unlatching the cockpit door. You know how hot it gets inside a car left in the sun? There's more perspex on an aeroplane than a car and at first it feels like an oven in there.
Bags deposited, it's time to go through the ritual of pre-flight checks. If something isn't right about your aeroplane, you want to know before you're half a mile up in the air. Haviing done this so many times I no longer refer to a checklist, walking around the aeroplane in a relaxed manner, following the steps required to convince myself this aeroplane is safe to fly. The metal wings feel smooth to the touch, ever so slightly uneven, and in an odd way primitive. All those lines of rivets evoke images of victorian engineering, sturdy engines made by sturdy engineers in stove pipe hats. Well, these are 1970's vintage airframes, built with 1930's technology. That sense of somthing not quite fully modern is pervasive, even with a panel full of modern instruments and radio equipment.
So I've checked the airframe, the controls surfaces, the electric systems, the tires and brakes, the propellor, the oil and contents of the engine bay, so no more need to delay and I climb into the pilots seat. I daren't shut the door yet. Under that sun I'll fry. The seat belts are more or less the same as a car, since this is not an aerobatic aeroplane, and I don my headset. Plugged in. Throttle set. Brakes on. Ignition live. You know there's no-one out here, but for safety's sake you yell "Clear prop!" to alert the world that a piece of metal is about to start revolving very dangerously. Magneto's on and turn the key to 'Start'.
Aircraft engines are like starting an old car. It takes a bit of care and patience to persuade them them to kick into life. The propellor turns over with a sort of reluctant undulating whine before the engine fires up. The propellor accelerates suddenly and the noise erupts from ahead of you. A few final adjustments, a check of temperatures and pressures, and I call the tower by radio to tell them what I'm up to. They give me some useful information like which runway to use, permission to taxi, and some air pressures so I can adjust my instrument settings.
A friend of mne came along for the ride once and stared at me in amazement when he heard this interchange for the first time. "How do you understand it?" He asked. There's no great secret. All those abbreviations and numbers are something you get used to. You already know what sort of thing is going to be said.
The Tomahawk wobbles about on the grass taxiway as I wind my merry way toward the runway threshold, holding open the door with one hand, operating the throttle with the other, and using the pedals to steer and brake. With the propellor slipstream the cockpit is confortably cooler. Eventually I reach the end of the runway, conduct my last few checks, close the cockpit door, and ask for permission to depart. The temperature inside the cockpit is starting to climb, the air hot and heavy, and you can't help wondering why the controller is taking so long to answer.
Time to fly. I look around for other aircraft that might interfere with my plans, then let the aeroplane mount the asphalt. Line up on the centreline. Smoothly open the throttle. The noise goes from a loud growl into a cacophonic roar. The Tomahawk is accelerating smartly, the wind noise increasing, and I'm now focused entirely on the take off. With some gentle persuasion the aeroplane begins to lighten. A little unsteady at first, the ground falls away and I'm airborne.
Before I know it I'm half a mile up in the air, controlling my noisy little contraption with a gentle touch. On the one hand I feel as free as a bird, yet also concious that airspace has rules and regulations. I feel liberated from worldly concerns, yet still concious that I must regularly check my engine and fuel. I feel entirely alone in the world, yet concious of the radio and its demands for replies and obedience. I share the sky with plenty of unseen colleagues doing exactly the same as me.
All too soon I'm running out of fuel, money and time slot. The runway looks tiny from the air, and once again I become utterly focused, guiding my aeroplane toward the start of the asphalt strip which I must touch down on in the right attitude, the right speed, the right rate of descent. Barely above the ground a hesitant whistle alerts me I'm slowing down to the point the aircraf can't fly any more, but at the right time, thats precisely what you want. A slight bump, a squeal of rubber, and we're down. The cockpit is insufferably hot again as I taxi back to the apron.
Finally I park up and shut down. The engine, starved of fuel, clatters to a halt. The world feels incredibly quiet. Freed from the assault on my senses by internal combustion the tiny whirr of the insrument gyros sounds oddly loud. Even after only an hour, I clamber out stiffly and a bit damp from sweat. What a lovely day.
Was it something I said? Apparently, yes, it was. You might want to sit comfortably at this point because I want to begin this sorry tale of miscommunication.
Too late, I've started.
It was a dark and stormy night when I fired up the computer to search for employment. No, I'm lying, the weather's been quite reasonable lately and it was mid morning at the local library, so the only risk was a librarian moaning about my military surplus trousers and an ugly stare from the security guard who for some strange reason gives me ugly stares.
Clothes do strange things to people in Swindon. My Gap hoody has made me the mortal enemy of a youth gang, off duty servicemen mock my baseball cap, and people in the bus queue down the road complain that I never change my clothes. Oh good grief. I change my socks every six months or when they fall apart, whichever happens first. Hey, I'm a single guy. What do you expect?
Anyway, I'm obliged by my Job Seekers Contract to use the government's Universal Jobmatch website. So I pulled up the site and searched for gainful employment. As it happens I found a vacancy. Woo hoo! Somebody wants a Warehouse Operative. You would expect at this time that I would read the job description and see if the job was right for me. Nope, I'm also obliged to apply for the jobs I find. So the company, location, hours, pay and conditions are actually largely irrelevant.
Oh... Hang on... Where's the 'Apply' button? There isn't one. Now that's suspicious. Just a phone number to a job agency. So I pulled up the agency website and searched for the vacancy. Not found. Even suspiciouser...
No alternative but to phone the number provided then. The one good thing of using an ordinary telephone is that the recipient can't see my clothes. Heaven knows what reaction that would have caused. It dawned on me after the woman answered that I'd phoned her once before concerning another Warehuse Operative job. I seem to remember that for some inexplicable reason she threw a hissy fit. I might have hung up on her. I'm thoughtful like that. Wouldn't want her trantrum to cause her any embarrasement.
This time we discussed my sporadic career history and for some inexplicable reason she gave me a lecture on the ramifactions of health & safety legislation in the workplace. Can she see my clothes somehow? Eventually I managed to get a word in and she moaned that she was only trying to help. From this point it sort of got worse. I think she was trying to control the conversation and couldn't handle a jobseeker trying to get her to impart information slow enough to write down. Woah! Slower! You spell your last name how?
"I don't like the way you're speaking to me" She said. Here we go again. She said that the other time too. I might have hung up on her again.
"I know you can hear me" Someone said outside my home. The weather's been a bit humid of late so the open window was too much of a temptation for him. He simply had to make some kind of taunt, threat, insult, or a reminder that he wants me to believe he's the most dangerous dude on the block. You know how it is when you're young, trying to make a name for yourself in the 'hood. Well, youngster, you're right. I can hear you. The real problem you have however is that I'm still not listening.
Migration Of The Week
There's an advert on television that comes around quite often. It reminds us that Yellowstone Park is an active volcano and shows a bear relaxing in the grass with all the time in the world. "He has no idea" Says the voiceover. Apparently some of the animals do, because they've been spotted leaving the park by the nearest convenient tarmac road. No-one told the bear obviously. Right now he's probably wondering why he has a national park to himself.
So while the grizzly bear is headed for extinction the local bison have evolved to the point where their brains now comprehend the purpose of tarmac roads. They haven't quite managed to invent the internal combustion yet but I guess hooves are something of an obstacle to drawing blueprints. On the other hand maybe they simply decided that grizzly bears are not good neighbours.
I was watching one of those Police 'fly on the wall' programs recently. Not sure which, there's quite a few of them. Police Patience On Patrol? Motorway Mental Cases? Worlds Wildest Policewoman? Don't know. Anyway, this particular program featured Police action from my own home town. It was a little wierd watching them chase a joyrider outside my home. Given the date and time of night, I was undoubtedly at home, playing Grand Theft Auto into the wee small hours, tutting about yet another police siren whizzing up and down the street. Such is life.
Nonetheless crime does go on around us. Just last night I was woken by something, suddenly aware that the diesel generator powering the array of amber and turquoise lights in the Old College site had gone silent. A distant command "Stop!" was clearly audible. Sadly life isn't quite the same as television or film, so there was no "You'll never take me alive copper!" and whatever drama took place, it was done largely silently. You never know, I might see the drama replayed with exciting commentary on television next year.
It does appear however that for someone life did get a bit more dramatic. This morning I left the library having completed my job searching for the day, and saw two police cars parked in the square. You do see policemen at the library sometimes, and once I watched a troublemaker manhandled out of the building. No-one seemed to know what trouble he had actually caused, but since he was definitely a bit irate, shouting at the policemen to let him go with references to their parentage, then by the rules of television documentaries he was guilty as charged. But today there was no action. Just those police vehicles, but I couldn't help thinking that something more sinister than a tantrum had occurred.
Then I saw the constable on guard duty outside a bookies. So something had gone down. A van labelled as belonging to the forensic team turned up to show what a serious incident had taken place. Journalists milled around outside with oversized cameras and busy phone calls. People like me stood around waiting for something to happen. Of course, it already had.
The Case Of The Missing Eunos Cabriolet
Nope. Still no leads on the fate of my stolen car. Not even after watching a documentary about police action in my area. But at least I know the first names of several police officers and their favourite make of car. You never know, could be valuable information in my enquiry.
Issue of the Week
This has to be the huge concerns of subsidence in my area given the huge chunk of the hillside recently removed by building contractors. My home is, and I quote, "right on the firing line". Rather worringly I have noticed a few new cracks in the wall though not so serious as the 1885 Baptist Chapel at the other end of the alleyway, which is no longer fit for use and has a huge great steel support bolted on the side to stop it falling over. Currently disused? I'm suprised no-one round here has thought of nicking it.
After that farce on Friday I was glad to get an invite to start work. Dutifully I made my way to the Network Rail site - ironically one I'd been sacked from once before by a different employer - and arrived on the dot just as my supervisor from the agency was parking his car. The security guard was one of those smiling happy south east asian types. Friendly to everyone. I can imagine him throwing me off the site for a misdemeanour with a cheery "Have... a... nice day. Yes."
The company site manager pulled me into an office for a welcome to work chat. "This is not an interview" He smiled. Never trust a manager who smiles. I have to say I didn't much like the look of him. He was one of those 'cold' management types. Never really showing any leadership, never inspiring any dedication or loyalty, just expecting everyone to work until they break then throw them away as rubbish. You can't trust people like that.
Sadly I was right. I couldn't trust him. Within fifteen minutes he'd decided I was surplus to requirements (or more accurately, rubbish) and my services weren't required. He even expected me to accept that without any display of negative emotion. The man is an android, programmed for ruthless management, and I suppose luckily for me, I will not be assimilated.
So I stomped off angrily for the gatehouse. Like you do. The cheery security man smiled and as I signed myself out, said "Have... a... nice day. Yes."
Stupid Person Of The Week
So it was back to the Job Centre and the humiliating ritual of attempting to persuade government bureaucrats that your life has turned for the worse and please can I have some money to pay my bills. As it happened the benefits were confirmed without problems (I guess the Network Rail Android is known as a serious hazard to continued employment). So it was only necessary to attend a short interview to sign a few forms before I went back to the job of finding work.
The afro-caribbean lady behind the desk was humoourless. Not that unusual in Job Centres if I were honest, although things have improved no end from the dour 70's. She wasn't being rude or anything, it's just that she called me "Mister Caldrail". Gasp! So I attempted, forlornly, to prove that I was entitled to be called "Lord Caldrail". I had the evidence, I pointed out where she was going wrong, then I was interrupted.
"Sorry... Did you say I was stupid?" She hissed icily. Uh oh. This was the ragged edge of a possible racism incident. Now I get it. She's a problem case given a niche job. Staring her in the face, I slowly confirmed that I did not say she was stupid. So the interview concluded in the same detached officialism she started, believing she had won a victory over racist abuse.
Well. Now I'm going to say it. As much as I was being respectful and polite, lady, you are stupid.
Weather... Funny thing weather... We seem to have more of it than any other nation in the world and yet we seem uttely incapable of coping with it. All part of being British I supose.
Over the last few days we've had fog to contend with. You would think that might cause a few problems with getting around.and you know what? You're right. It has.
As for me I had a job interview to go to. The agency that put me onto it was so worried that the fog might put me off that they called me on the phone while I was on my way there. Am I going? Yes. Do I know where to go? Yes. That sorted her out.
I arrived at the site and luckily for me the interview was being held in a premises I'd worked in once before. That way I knew where it was without resorting to GPS, anxious telephone calls, or simply sending up a rescue flare if all else fails. Thing is thoug, the lady on the reception desk looked perplexed when I announced myself.
"You are not on list" She replied in deep Polish lilt. Really? My mobile phone says different. Obviously fog is not so thick in Poland. Anyway, I stood my ground, she lost patience with me, and went to fetch a manger.
The manager didn't know what I was talking about either. So he phoned his manager, and he didn't know either. This fog really is stern stuff. It reduces memory, intelligence, amd many higher brain functions. I should know. The ability test I had to sit through comprised of fiendish maths and english questions designed to fool the illegal immigrant, thwart the dimwitted, or basically accelerate the degeneration of brain tissue that still clings on for dear life inside my aging skull. But I passed. Fog or no fog.
And the sun has come out! What a nice day. Start work on Monday fella. No excuses. Not even fog.
The Old College site still looms large in our local concerns. Even now, they're still trucking huge lumps of hillside away to some infill site somewhere. The sandy soil has now gone so they're digging up dark grey clay, thick lumpy soil that forms steep sided piles. The rain hasn't helped of course. looking down onto the site it got quite messy down there for a while - they've had to lay down a level of rubble to make the surface usable.
The other day I was passing the site with my shopping, noticing that the roadway they'd dug up had flooded. Quite an impressive puddle it was too, although I don't think the civil engineer I spoke to was too impressed with my sense of humour. Worse still, subsidence has reared its ugly head. There's a meeting at our local civic offices for citizens none too imopressed with cracks in the walls of their homes.
Meanwhile, Back At The Job Centre
My claims advisor is not impressed. This time however it isn;t me. It seems the usual protocol of queuing until spoken to has not been taught to a younger generation, who clearly have more important things to do with their time than attend the Job Centre when required.
Energy Bill Of The Week
Back in October I had a bit of an argument with my gas supplier. They wanted to add a standing charge to my tariff which would more than double the cost of gas over winter. It's okay though, because David Cameron says there's no cost of living crisis.
So, in an event to prove our glorious leader is infallible, I basically told the gas company to close my contract. Don't want your stupid gas any more. You wouldn't believe the excuses they came out with to avoid doing that. Apparently cancelling a gas supply is illegal or something like that. Don't care. Cancel it. So they wrote to me telliing me that gas supply is the basis of all civilisation. So I wrote to them cancelling my contract officially. Good riddance.
Imagine then my alarm this week, three months after I had forgotten the existence of natural gas, when I received a gas bill for using no gas whatsoever. Are they serious? Do they really believe that I'm going to pay? Guys - The contract is cancelled! It's been cancelled for three months! Deal with it!
...Once more unto the rain, dear friends, once more...
... Those who were not here shall hold their dryness cheap...
From William Shakespeare's play Henry The Absolutely Soaking Wet Fifth
Britain has a problem. As much as we like to discuss our weather, we seem to have rather a lot of it right now. So much so that hordes of BBC journalist more used to comnfortable studio newsdesks are now presenting news and views live from those areas of Britain unfortunate enough to be anywhere near a large river. I can't help thinking the BBC are trying their best to convince that our license fee is value for money or that the flooding in the Somerset Levels is something we haven't already heard about.
Okay, Britain is a bit under the weather right now, but come on BBC! Cameron has already said there's no limit to the amount of money he will spend drying Britain out, even if his cabinet deny blank cheques are available or that unemployed people like me are going to have to fund relief efforts on the Somerset Levels sooner or later.
Sky News is more concerned with impending Scottish independence and the revelation they can't keep the English chequebook, plus a controversy at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Russia Today talks about riots in Venezuela, Ithe release of Iraqi prisoners agaijst American advice, and of course the stream of Russian victories at Sochi. But Al Jazeerah walks away with the prize for reporting Korean squabbling, Turkish squabbles, squabbles in Kenya, attempted coups in Libya, unrest in Iraq, Belgian euthenasia, the inprisonment of Al Jazeerah journalists in Egypt, and for ignoring Sochi altogether.
I breathe a sigh of relief when the adverts pop up. Then I discover that Africa doesn't have enough water to go around and would I mind paying a meagre sum to supply one person with water that isn't full of urine, faeces, bugs, and little children playing. Sorry. have a television license fee to pay for.
Job Interview Of The Week
Applying for jobs online is easy most of the time. Choose a vacancy and click on 'Apply'. job done. Sometimes however the unthinkable happens and someone notices that pweople are applying for these jobs.
That hapened to me recently which was very unexpected. Normally I get rejected or forgotten completely. The mistake I made of course was discovering the interview I'd agreed to attend was not in my home town, but miles away, out there, in the wilds of Darkest Wiltshire. So I discussed the problem with the employer and we agreed it was sensible not to proceed.
Unfortunately England Expects That Every Jobseeker Shall Do His Duty, and thus the Job Centre, as soon as they found out, decided I had committed heresy. "We can stop your money if refuse an interview" My claims advisor advised me. I hadn't refused it.All I did was... it was no use. The Job Centre decided I was in the wrong and so I had to phone the employer and ask them very nicely if they wouldn't mind letting me attend the interview after all. They said yes.
First the interview was postponed until the following week. Then I was asked if it was possible to come in later during the afernoon instead, because the company was having a problem with suppliers. Then finally, after my miserable bus journey and a walk through some town on the edge of civilisation, I was within a few hundred yards of the employers premises. Just a few more yards... Almost there... Oh hello. my phone is rininging.... Interview postponed until next week
Right then. My claims Advisor owes me
I went to a gladiator talk by the celebrated Roman scholar Garrett Fagan, author of: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&field-author=Garrett%20G.%20Fagan&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AGarrett%20G.%20Fagan
It was quite entertaining, but that seemed to be the point more than shedding much light. But I will try to share a few points, esp on new unpublished findings. Well, he showed some stone carvings of arena antics freshly unearthed. I forget if old or new, but there was a lot of bear vs man battles. Not lethal, but actual boxing matches or just a guy hiding from a bear behind a screen that rotated on a pivot. Kind of like a bullfighters cloth, but fancier.
Anyway, he seemed to drive at the artificial theatricality of the animal and human battles... not so much actual violence. Half way to modern wrestling for TV, it could even approach circus type acts with people or animals suspended in the air with ropes. Gladiator losers seemed to frequently be given mercy, and their costumes were not that of actual foreign fighters. Just fantasy costumes, but they would be highly trained in that role and no other. Showed much rigging for releasing animals, etc, and some strange but common setup for "ramp fighters".
Then in the q and a portion, he seemed to lose the plot. Serious issues were raised, like were christians really never executed in colluseum, which he seemed to dodge or give flippant or sensational answers. I think he did know the answers, but wanted to keep the jovial tone. Or his jokes about his water bottle containing gin were really true. He gave the impression of a common phenom of a UK scholar (including Dublin in UK, ha ha) who goes on to higher income in the US with crowd pleasing skills... probably gets perfect approval scores by his amused but not too educated students. He did give some nice "great courses" lecture series on Romans though.