Many years ago I went off one weekend to visit a kit car show. It meant a long journey there and back the same day but I was young, enthusiastic, and totally nuts about cars, or indeed most things that moved courtesy of an internal combustion engine.
Needless to say the main hall was packed full of all sorts of DIY cars. Fun cars, serious cars, wierd cars, and a few that turned out to be infamous money pits. I wandered among replicas of ferrari's and lamborghini's that seemed almost as expensive as the real thing. Salesmen waited in the shadows ready to pounce on unsuspecting members of the public, and I too escaped from one before he ripped my wallet open. He certainly tried hard enough.
Out on the track the owners of these cars roared by in a succession of hamfisted cornering. Deep growling V8's of Shelby cobra replicas, the grand prix shriek of motorcycle engined Caterham clones, and sooner or later, the screetch of tortured tires as the newbie driver got it completely wrong.
Nonetheless I made a huge error of judgement. I was holding an open can of Pepsi. Now the problem wasn't an issue of credibility or manhood, but a target for the local wasps. Here in Swindon wasps are generally shy and retiring. In the vicinity of that race circuit they were evil malicious carnivores hell bent on intimidating any stupid human being they came across.
It wouldn't go away. I moved here, moved there, swiped haplessly at the agile little monster. It just hovered there, staring into my face, trying to mug me of the precious source of sugar. Finally I gave up. Go on, have it. I threw the can in the bin and consider myself lucky to have escaped with my life.
Without doubt reicarnation is a real facet of existence on Earth. I know this because She Who Objects To My Internet Use is definitely a reincarnated wasp. She is exactly the same, always buzzing here and there and always glancing over my shoulder hoping to glimpse just one flesh coloured pixel on the computer monitor, always annoying me with her presence. I wish she'd realise that I have no interest in pornography. If she's that interested, why doesn't she browse for some and point energetically at the computer screen? It'll keep her happy.
To be honest I preferred her when she hid in the toilet.
One More Time
Talking about not going away, learning that Putin just got himself re-elected does not suprise me at all. Interestingly the anarchy of the post-declaration has subsided and Moscow is very quiet today so I gather. Maybe people have made a complaint and now resign themselves to more Adventures Of Putin? I have no idea if the election was actually fair and free, or whether the rumours of tricks and thuggery we normally expect of corrupt african nations have any basis in truth, but the man is back. Maybe he just wants a can of Pepsi?
No matter how long you've lived in Britain you never learn. By sheer chance I heard a weather forecast and guess what? Our balmy relaxing weather is about to go siberian again. I must admit we did get sleet on sunday. Today though is a slightly chilly sunny day. No-one would know it was monday morning.
Of course having watched Kate Humble breathlessly roam the globe to show us what a breathtakingly wondrous planet we live on, I now know that Britain sits under a boundary between arctic and tropical air flows, thus our unpredictable weather is the result of an atmospheric battle for supremacy.
Now I know. And I thought is was just my bad luck every time I get drenched.
As regular readers will know, I was a fan of the Thunderbirds puppet series when I was at a very young age. Back then televisions were steam powered and only came in black'n'white, so it was either that or
As I get older I start to wonder what inspired Gerry Anderson to create an island of recluses who fly supersonic aircraft to disasters spots around the world without feeling the need to tender their bill? Jolly generous of the lads from Tracey Island, but the other day I realised why. The series was inspired by none other than the Salvation Army. Same stiff upright movement and stirring band music.
Question Of The Week
There's something I've never quite understood. I don't mean cosnological physics, although quantum theory is a bit wierd even if you paid attention at school, nor do I mean government policy which turns out to be no more than the blind leading the blind. For that matter nor does human relationships confuse me. All a matter of the right aftershave or if that fails, either hit something or buy pornography.
No. My problem is far more significant to modern culture. Why do women like Meatloaf? The band, I mean. Some of them even describe it as rock music. Now I could excuse that if they've never bothered to go out with the long haired geek when they were younger, but surely western civilisation has become more sophisticated than that?
When you come to think of it, how could Meatloaf pretend to be anything other than he is? But against the glitzy image of stretch limo's, gold encrusted hoodlums, and handguns held in the silliest possible manner, how does a slightly large older person with bad hair and a sweat problem cut it with the ladies?
There is an argument that the appeal of Meatloaf is that it represents something alternative in the toneless world of rap, drum & bass, R'n'B, or all those other video releases that have a guy in sunglasses pretending to be Al Capone. Girls, please, discover music before you start looking like your mum.
Huh? What? Hey, I'm just stood at a pedestrian crossing minding my own business in my usual semi-comatosed state.
"It's me!" Said a young woman who clearly knew me. I think I was supposed to know who she was. Oh hang on... Finally I realised who she was. Mr J's girlfriend, the human pinball. Here we go again...
To my astonishment she was sober and behaving in a normal friendly manner. I don't think I've met her in that condition before. When slightly inebriated she describes herself as a female Vince Noir, an odd idea seeing as she's nowhere near as androgynous as the Mighty Boosh character. If I were brutally honest, she hasn't anything like the same style or fashion sense either, but don't tell her I said so. Just in case.
So we had a little chat in which I learned about the dramatic events surrounding her confrontation with Mr J's former girlfriend. You see, this is why I can't be bothered with television soap operas. Who needs them? I get updates on all the same pointless intrigue and violence out here in the real world.
Thing is, when we blokes get miffed at each other, it's easily settled. A loud shouting match, possibly with an exchange of threats and pointing fingers, or if worse comes to the worse a few punches back and forth until honour is satisfied or someone goes to hospital. No problem.
Women are different. I do admit that loud shouting matches are common, but instead of an entertaining cat-fight, they turn into witches, vampires, or martial arts experts. You know what I mean. In this case however all that happened was a spilt drink. Disappointed...
Make My Day
Last night the next film in the Clint Eastwood series was aired. I'm not a huge fan of his work but what the heck, there was nothing else on. So I sat down to watch The Gauntlet, a film about a cop and his female prisoner taking a death defying trek across Arisona for truth, justice, and the american chase movie.
I've never seen the film before and boy oh boy did I enjoy it. Not for the typical wisecracks, glimpses of the leading ladies mammary glands, or the slightly lesbian scene in whch they got exposed, but the hilarious gaffs in the films plot.
Okay, I can't resist it. This was typical. Hero has avoided ambush and holes up in a cave overnight. Along come some Hell's Angels the next morning quite by chance. Hero sends them packing with a display of bravado (and a big pistol), forcing a few to walk away and leave their treasured Harley Davidson behind. Hero and Prisomer then have an exciting chase scene with a gangland sniper in a helicopter (which was hardly the most suitable place to shoot accurately from, but the hero was supposed to survive).
Once the helicopter had collided with the scenery in the time honoured ball of flame, the hero and his prisoner hitch a ride on a passing freight train only to discover the boxcar was already occupied by three pedestrian Hell's Angels who were slightly miffed at losing their treasured motorbike. Call me suspicious, but how did three pedestrians in the middle of the Arizona desert catch up with the other two on a speeding motorbike ridden hell for leather in what appears to be the opposite direction?
If that wasn't bad enough, the finale featured the presence of pretty much the entire Pheonix police force who stood around gormless and passive once they had emptied their weapons at the hero's borrowed bus, while the main characters shot each other like The Gunfight At The OK Policemen's Ball.
Certainly entertaining. Especially the slightly lesbian bit.
Privatise the police? Is that seriously what our government is planning? Good grief we'll be running away from Robocop and ED209 next. And charged two pounds fifty plus VAT for each bullet and cannon shell fired at us. It's the British way.
Maybe it was inevitable. Once again the internal dissent in Syria inspires a report that government forces are still cracking down on anyone they can find worth cracking. Sometimes you have to wonder how objective news reporting actually is because after watching film of tanks rolling down deserted streetsI kind of wonder if half these actions are designed to create news rather than achieve any worthwhile objective.
Another question that comes to mind is how long the west are ging to sit on the sidelines, and for that matter, why they've done nothing so far. Partly I would say that was because as yet the people of Syria haven't formed any credible resistance yet. You can't change a regime without something else to change it too.
The other symptom may be a little covert. I know the west has already held talks about the subject of regime change. I've no idea what their decision was. Is there some political deal done under the table to keep the west from rolling up its sleeves and get stuck in? Or have I just embarased someone unwitingly? I'll soon know when red dots waver near me or newspapers run headlines about what I do with sheep every night.
Come To Mention It...
Sometimes you just kind of know when things are a bit odd. Rustling in the bushes, strange voices in the head, or phone calls from people you've never met are some of the symptoms other people mention, but in my case it has be the level of sneering I'm encountering.
Why are people sneering all of a sudden? Don't know. Don't care. It's probably because of complete rubbish being passed around and in fact I really do believe that those who sneer loudly behind peoples backs (or the other side of brick walls) are saying more about themselves than me.
Not Enough People Dying...
With all the housing shortages I hear about I never cease to be amazed at how long it takes builders to renovate premises left abandoned. Take Cardinal House - a modest building on a street corner - which has taken yonks plus ages to turn from abandonment to half finished construction site. It used to be a funeral directors premises by the way, so now they're turning it into housing it's the english equivalent of a house on an indian burial ground. Clearly not enough people are dropping dead to keep them in business. Proof perhaps the NHS really is working despite David Camerons best efforts.
But One Too Many
Today I discovbered the police constable shot and blinded by gunman Raoul Moat has died, probably by his own hand. I've lerarned to dislike the police as many do when you have dealings with them, but I won't criticise them for the commitment and risk the majority of their officers face to keep people safe. I am genuinely saddened this officer could not go on. And so Raoul Moat claims another victim posthumously.
Why are Tuesdays so dull? Years ago I started a Tuesday Survey, the Worlds First Ever, though as it transpired some other ruffian nicked the idea and even got interviewed on television. Life is so unfair. But as it happens his tuesday survey has been forgotten and in any case never answered the question on the lips of the nation - How can tuesdays be made more interesting?
Now I happen to be at a disadvantage. Swindon simply isn't an interesting place. I know the local council and media guru's will probably be demanding my public execution for writing that, but face it guys, Swindon is a mess and you've almost completely wasted the cultural heritage. It's a a mish-mash of initiatives that never get anywhere, which is probably how many motorists are feeling this morning as they queue at junctions during the rush hour.
Clearly then a community inspired Tuesday isn't going to work. I think Swindon must have tried that before once or twice. It's the sort of thing they think of. Unfortunately if you don't live in a local ghetto or decorate the neighbourhood on behalf of your teenage crew, I really don't see much evidence of community at all.
There is however one small light bulb in this dreary grey conurbation. There's a new club for role players, and they even stage a Dungeon & Dragons night. Ye gods that takes me back to my youth. Now if only they'd had the foresight to stage that on a tuesday...
Gripe Of The Week
Okay... Who forgot to reward me with an Oscar? Haven't I proven my acting ability in job interviews?
We were gathered there together to hear the words of Young L, our local high priest of the Top Gear temple, whether we liked it or not. The lesson for the day was the wayward handling of the new Ferrari FF when in high gear. Having watched the Stig fail to negotiate a frozen lake surface for that reason, Young L gamely attempted to convert the faithful to his way of thinking, or rather to sound clever by repeating what he'd seen on television.
L - Just stop talking for a moment. If you drive a Ferrari FF in a straight line calmly and sensibly, what's your problem? The car will only crash if you push the boundary or do something stupid. After all it's usually footballers who crash them Too used to kicking things with their right foot.
For a moment Young L thought about it. I count that as an achievement in itself, but having failed to think of a counter argument he went straight back to his usual boasting about being the fastest driver ever around the Top Gear track. Needless to say Young L has not yet passed a driving test and instead believes beyond all reason that experience on a Playstation game makes him somehow equal to those who've actually driven cars in the flesh.
I've no doubt the game is a very good simulator - Even Mr D tried to tell me it was just like real life - but no, it just isn't. Young L seems to have forgotten that his hero proved that in an NSX at Laguna Seca. No cheap simulator for home entertainment can ever be classed as totally realistic. On a flight simulator I'm a world war two air ace capable of the most hair raising stunts known to aviation. In reality I've flown light aircraft a little close to the edge once or twice out of inexperience and consider myself older and wiser for having discovered how real actual aviation can get.
Mr Clarkson - Please - If by some strange quirk of fate you happen to be reading this, please give Young L a chance to fall flat on his face around your track. I hereby waive my own opportunity for that pleasure alone. Thank you.
Also on the thank you list is a saturday night radio rock show host who's finally realised she's been playing the exact same tracks week in, week out. I listened open mouthed as long forgotten classic rock riffed, screamed, thumped, and rumbled from the speakers. Ye gods I nearly moshed from the comfort of my own home. Okay, it wasn't in the same league as The Friday Rock Show back in the reign of King Tommy Vance the First, but what radio show is these days?
Down They Go
What a difference a few trees and bushes make. I looked out the back of the house the other day and all the trees and bushes that fomerly obscured the ruined expanse of the Old College site had gone. It looks very bare and shabby now. Not for long, according to the developers, who plan to level the site this spring. Poor old foxes, where are they going to live now?
"This next one is going to be brutal" Said the DJ on the radio last night. He did sound like he needed trauma therapy for Post Thrash Metal Syndrome. "So you might want a bag. Don't put it on your head though, that's dangerous".
Consumer advice at this time of night? Okay mate, no bag on head. Got it. Then the next track started, or at least I think it was music, it was sort of hard to tell. I seem to remember Young L at the museum trying to impress me with a downloaded mp3 from the band Carnifex once before. It's okay though, I didn't suffer any long term effects.
The music was pretty indescribable. Everyone in the band seemed to be playing stuff at random, played so quickly it all sort of merged into a staccato drilling noise. As for the vocals, I'm not sure there was any. Anyway the sum total was that I've witnessed the noise made by a tortured dinosaur attacked by a psychopathic dentist.
I might have to apologise to Simon Cowell.
That was enough. Maybe I remember when music had a tune buried in it somewhere?
By sheer coincidence I turned to television and a Russsia Today documentary about how sound has been used in a miltary context, for morale, psychological warfare, and torture. I think they showed this particular documentary before as I remember the interview with an american rock band about the use of their music by troops in the war zone.
At first glance it all seems odd and suprising, but then, isn't making a big noise a tactic used by wild animals to achieve their ends? And so warfare comes full circle, except by now we're a little better at being noisy than we used to be.
This morning sees a welcome return to the library of Mr Fidget, who is currently the noisiest person here. Coughs, splutters, heavy breathing and mumbling, all performed in perfect synchroonicity with graceful scrathing, rubbing, weight shifting, and clothing adjustment.
This mornings performance was assisted by a gentleman giving us a solo on the mobile phone, plus a chorus of the Swindon Cough Society.
Anyone would think I'm in a grousy mood this morning.
Gripe Of The Week
Recently I discovered that a recruitment agency was not using the CV's I sent them, preferring one that was years out of date. Having brought that to their attention I now discover they're still doing exactly that. Needless to say I'm outraged. No, seriously, I am. It's poor customer service, misrepresentation, and breaches data protection legislation.
Needless to say I sent a stiff email in response. That'll sort 'em out. Cold emails... They don't like it up 'em....
Our local newsletter revealed that the old college site is to be demolished. Sounds familiar. Could I sworn I heard that soewhere before. It seems the impending destruction of Swindon's favourite ruin is too good a news story to forget.
You would think that everyone would be talking about it. At the library yesterday morning all I heard was a request for maps and the constant moaning from someone who couldn't cope with the intricacies of the computer booking system. I know where you're coming from fella. It's got a quaint randomise function secretly built in for those who get too complacent. Think you booked a screen at eleven thirty? So does that other guy. What fun those librarians must have with innocent customers..
Mind you the imminent obliteration of the old college site has had an interesting side effect. Workmen have been putting in new paving to assist disabled people from suing the local council for injuries sustained. The street has been there for a hundred and twenty years so I'm glad they finally got it finished in time to impress the construction workers due to work on the site next door.
Not only that but the abandoned financial services store across the road is getting a facelift. Good grief. If this carries on we'll be coming out of the recession. Sadly my local supermarket has cottoned on that foreigners will soon be arriving in the area and so the traditional rise in prices is taking place. Forty pence more for a six pack of crisps? That's a third more than they cost last week. Lucky for me there are other supermarkets in the area. Cheap crisps and more exercise.
News Of The Week
What's this? Two boxers getting into a fight? Scandalous...
I found out a big secret this weekend. Stay tuned to learn more.
Party On Dude
Saturday was the official museum social event of the year. Normally this sort of thing takes place around christmas or new year, but us museum folk take life at an easier pace, except for Mr J's hyperactive girlfriend who was clearly never taught how to behave in polite society. So we we stood there sort of drunk and confused while she turned into a human pinball.
At one point in the proceedings she was comparing us to zoo animals. Somewhat foolishly I insisted on finding out which ferocious and magnificent creature I most resembled. Tiger? Elephant? Rhino? Nope. A sloth. And she didn't have to think about it either. Complaining did no good. My punishment for raising doubts about her decision was a lecture on the charm, wit, and street credibility that sloths have in her inebriated world. Now I know.
The Party - The Sloth's View
It wasn't such a bad party treally. My score was two hugs from pretty ladies, three cans of cider, seven mouthfuls of bombay mix, half a baguette in chilli dip, three adverse comments about the boss's hawaian shirt without remonition, one doorman successfully evaded, one erection from viewing pictures of supercars, and only one drunken admission of morally dubious wrestling with a former female boss for her golf balls.
You might sneer, and I understand if you do, because compared to the high jinks that some people boast of, museum folk tend to be a bit tame. However I did score something much better. When Mr J's girlfriend was introduced to me as she paused inbetween spraying everyone with hair care products, she mentioned that she'd heard of me.
Yes! Famous at last! Proof that even sloths can make it to the top of the tree.
Also the same saturday night I encountered a chap with a suspiciously american accent. Sorry, I could not resist finding out more. Is that accent genuine? Where do you come from?
"San Diego" He replied with an odd sort of glance in my direction.
San Diego? What on earth are you doing in Swindon?
"What are you doing in Swindon?" He answered. Mostly I just live there it must be said, but I take his point and admire his ability to treat the entire world as his own backyard. Sadly my money gets stopped if I go abroad. I'm already poor - I don't feel the need to be homeless too. But then the museum party was on in Swindon - I was there - and so was he, all the way from southern Califormia.
Big Secret Of The Week
Still here? Okay, now it's time to reveal the big big secret. At least I would do but DW, our intrepid online journalist, has slapped a gagging order on me so I cannot reveal the identity of the gentleman who exposed himself to DW's girlfriend one night. What a terrible way to behave. I would never do something like that because bad things could happen. I know this because a female boss once had me sacked for changing trousers in the office too often. Sometimes it pays to let her win at golf ball wrestling.
Being that it's Presidents' Day Weekend, one of the local classic rock stations did a survey of its listeners, asking them to name the iconic song of each president's term from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan. The survey was put out there by Greg Kihn, a local (and somewhat mildly nationally-recognized) guitarist and band-leader, who does the morning show on that radio station. Nixon's term was represented by Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" (appropriate for so many reasons), I forget Ford and Carter's representatives, but Reagan's was voted as....Van Halen's
This got me to thinking...was Van Halen the most representative rock band of the 80s? And what is it about "Panama" that is so cool?
For me, a kid born in the mid-70s, and an MTV kid, Van Halen was one of the coolest bands ever. Their videos set the tone for much of the goofy, silly, extravagant, party-inducing videos that would come later. But that wasn't the only reason you listened to them...Eddie Van Halen is a bona fide rock god. Seriously...listen to "Panama"...or better yet,
with that mind-blowing solo of Eddie's, and Michael Anthony's bass thumping in the mix. And the beginning of "Runnin With The Devil"......or
...yeah, I'm a happy girl.
Sure, some of the other songs with funnier videos were iconic of the 80s, but if you took just the music...yeah, in many ways, Van Halen was truly iconic of the 80s. And even though I love me some Sammy Hagar, the band just wasn't the same without Diamond Dave wailing and growling away...videos and stage presence aside. Yes, there were many, many other acts of the 80s that could represent the decade--and for various reasons--but I can see the appeal of Van Halen being the representatives. I mean, when you think of Reagan and his crew, isn't the polar opposite Van Halen?
What's sad is to see that Eddie is such an epic rock star that he can't stay dry enough to regain his greatness...Michael decided that he didn't want to put up with Eddie's antics...Diamond Dave is washed up...and does anyone care about Alex? Meh, rock n roll greats aren't meant to go on for ever and ever in the same vein. It seems like the lifestyle and the mentality will destroy the weaker individuals, and make the stronger ones go to other avenues and arenas just to survive into middle age and beyond. Thankfully we have their recordings to remind us of how great they really were.
Fifty is a strange age. Part of me knows full well I'm not young any more, that I ought to change my ways and act my age, while at the same time I simply cannot help being the veteran rebellious teenager I always was. Take yesterday for example. I approached the pedestrian crossing minding my own business and as if pheromones were setting off air raid sirens, I couldn't help noticing the twenty year old brunette across the road.
I've no idea what sort of person she was but physically she was just about my perfect ten. She knew I was looking - young ladies seem to sense that instinctively - and she avoided eye contact in that sort of impatient desire to leave the area immediately. Being the gentleman I am I then stopped staring at her. In a way being fifty saved me from embarrasment. At a younger age a certain part of my anatomy would not have remained under control.
Having averted my gaze I then noticed her mother - and she wasn't bad either. Then it struck me that I was at an age when strictly speaking my options were as wide as they could possibly be. What a tragedy then that I lack that all important pheromone - money. Or given that I'm fifty, unmarried, and fashionably shabby, that sweet smell of successful conformity.
But they both had their eyes on me instead of the traffic when the gap presented itself. Possibly in fear I was going to approach them, who knows?. Nevertheless I like to be optimistic and hope I'll be in their dreams tonight. Hey, it's the first step, right? Sadly my dreams were later shattered by two young ladies at the surgery who clearly didn't see me as a sex object at all. Might need to ask the nurse if she's got something to heal my injured male pride.
No, wait, that came out all wrong.... Dammit, this fifty years of age is as bad as being a teenager all over again.
Reward Of The Week
"Have you got a sticker?" The grandmother of an energetic four year old boy asked the receptionist at the surgery as I waited in the queue, "He's just been treated by the doctor and he's been very brave."
I made a lame joke about him earning a medal. The receptionist didn't have any I've Been A Brave Boy stickers so she told him to make sure his granny rewarded him with sweeties or some other shameless means of ensuring good behaviour. I think I might of made a lame joke about that too. As gigs go, I wasn't getting through to my audience.
Anyway my turn came and I handed over the paperwork. The receptionist came back with a sly grin and asked me "Do you want a sticker too?"
Ha ha ha ha. I like you, you're funny. Suddenly everyone's a comedian.
Tis the season for tree surgeons. The groundsmen at the park around the corner from where I live are still burning foliage. It's a wonder there's any left. That far side of the lake might be tidier but come summer it will look bare and artificial if they manage to keep the nettles and thorns back.
Last night I took a look out the back of the home and saw that old elm tree at the other end of the alleyway was missing some foliage too. The entire left side of the tree was denuded of branches. This morning it had gone completely. Along the main road out front the greedy rasp of chainsaws were at work, stripping the tree nearest the house and... Hallo, what's going on here?... Trees behind the fence on the old college site are vanishing.
No... It can't be happening... Surely the old college is here to stay, bats, vagrants, and security guards alike? Nope. Passing a newsagent this morning the word is out that the Old College is coming down. Okay, it might be a dishevelled eyesore, but truthfully I'm going to miss the old place.
Serenading The Ladies
Don't you just hate Valentines Night?
If you go down to the pub tonight
You better had open your eyes
If you go down to the clubs to dance
Prepare all your chat-up lines
For every bloke that hasn't a girl
Will be on the the town to give it a whirl
'Cos tonight's the night that single men try to find one
Was that you a couple of nights ago? If so, might I suggest that yellling your heads off on a quiet moonlit street at three o'clock in the morning is not going to attract a female? Take a tip - Read some Shakespeare.
Bumps In The Night
With all the knocks and bangs I can expect during demolition of the site almost next door, I seem to be getting some practice. One of my neighbours has gotten into the habit of bumping around in the small hours, closing doors with a hard clonk that walls and floorboards cannot obscure. Not only am I getting tired of it, so is another of my neighbours. So after the one finishes for the night, the other starts sliding heavy wooden abjects around.
Sleep? Pfah! I laugh at those weak willed people who need a dose of shut eye to bump zzzzzzzzzz.... zzzzzzzzzzzz..... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz....
There's only so many times I can comment on world affairs before I start saying the same old things. That kind of sums up the world pretty neatly in my view. Hearing the news that syrian troops have attacked civilians, greek demonstrators have attacked anything, or a british MP has attacked another for not being able to change things for the better, does not really suprise me any more. Well it wouldn't would it?
So as I prepared to type out a blog entry last night I did think that I would struggle. In fact, I couldn't think of anything worth mentioning at all. Eventually I gave up up and went to bed. Then, as I slumbered in the small hours of this morning, my neighbour came to the rescue with a thoughtful and timely crescendo of banging doors. Cheers mate. Needed that.
Job sites are fun things aren't they? Lists of wonderful vacancies paying lots of money if only you had the right skills, experience, and bits of paper to wave at the very fussy employer. I must admit I'm getting very tired of the job application ritual. If one more employer asks me why I want to work for his company, I swear I really will tell him the horrible gritty truth.
But first I need to find that fantastic opportunity. There's a website I use quite a lot now, purely because they feature more vacancies than the others, and every week I trawl through the vacancies in a valiant effort to find one that doesn't require thirty years of experience in the field of sausage making, or Higher National Degrees in Tubular Sausagemeat Containment. You know what I mean.
Today, just to make life intersting, the website decided not to process my applications. Every time I clicked on 'apply' the page merely refreshed itself. Oh sausages....
Greece has gone horribly wrong. One expert interviewed on television predicted that Greece was doomed. I must admit, as a casual observer, you do get a sense that Greece is sitting there waiting for the final catastrophic collapse. Not even the barbarian hordes of english holidaymakers seem to be making any difference. Increasingly it looks as if the EU want to dump it by the roadside.
So what exactly do you do with a bankrupt country? Oh yes. I remember now... Cue UN food relief and huge pop superstar events to raise money to feed starving greeks.This empire building stuff isn't always so easy is it?
Here in Blighty we like to complain about our health service. That's a little unfair because politicians haven't quite finished constructing it yet. Worse still they also have to deal with ever increasing demands of the sick and injured public who seem hellbent on injuring and infecting each other. There used to be a time when a doctor would call, pronounce the person dead on arrival, and receive the thanks of the poverty stricken family whose loved one did not respond to a jar full of leeches. Not any more.
Thing is our readiness to whinge has made us forget all those horror stories of big bills for treatment offered in American hospitals. That's if you can afford a doctor who won't accidentially poison you of course. Now I find that hospitals in Los Angeles have closed for business all over the place. One site only stays open as a film lot. That means the fire service are providing emergency medical services instead of simply putting fires out. That's if they can find anywhere to send their slightly singed patients.
This news did of course emerge from the sages at Russia Today who take great delight in documentaries showing the collapse of western civilisation. Old habits die hard I guess. Therefore I take pride in announcing that our NHS is safe and secure. I know this because RT haven't even noticed it exists yet.
Recipe Of The Week
Most of our favourite foods are imports. A wander along the fast food outlets reveals american style burgers and dismembered chickens. Big lumps of dead turkish kebab slowly roasting on a spit. The heady scent of anonymous meat cooking in exotic asian sauces that all taste more or less the same. The impossible task of choosing which permutation if rice is best for you from a chinese takeaway.
Compared to that british cuisine does seem to lack a certain something. Images of cloth caps and smog ridden industrial slums quickly come to mind and compared to the arcane morsels offered by televisions chefs, it's always stodgy and unpalatable. Food for factory workers in other words.. No wonder so many british factories have closed.
So, with no further ado, let me present No3 in my series of fave rave recipes. Peanut Butter Mushrooms On Toast.
Fry chopped mushrooms with a little added soy sauce.
Make two slices of toast.
Spread peanut butter on the toast. If the peanut butter is a little dry, remember to add a touch of olive oil to lubricate it.
Spread the fried mushrooms on the toast and serve.
Enjoy, which I'm sure you will unless you're an allergy sufferer or use mushrooms normally considered the preserve of witches, assassins, and idiots. Supermarket mushrooms are probably safest but cost a little more than a stroll to the local wood.. Mushrooms obtained from dubious looking youths on street corners wil probably result in stange dreams, handcuffs, and stern lectures from important people. So don't blame me when it all goes horribly wrong.
Swindon is suspiciously white this morning. Even winter-safe wiltshire has finally succumbed to snow. It started last night and quickly reduced wiltshire to the usual scene of british ineptitude of dealing with slippery conditions. I watched a van attempting to ascend the steep side street behind my home. Even with a guy shovelling ice from under the wheels they made painfully slow progress toward the company yard.
For me it means another struggle with my sense of balance as the partially cleared snow has become a pavement pockmarked with little icy craters. Place your bets, ladiesa and gentlemen, place your bets...
There's severe weather warnings across Britain. Guess what guys? We know.
wiir wiir wiiir wiiiirrrrrrriiiiiirrrrrr
One of the hassles of living near to a garage is the sound of mechanics working. Normally things are fairly quiet and I don't notice their activities too much, but this morning is was out with the power tools and they got to work on somebodies car with a vengeance.
wiir wiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrr wiiir wiiir
As it happens I'd decided somewhat foolishly to enjoy a lay in. I mean, it was a cold moring and I'd been up late last night. So every time I rolled over and buried my ears in an attempt to snooze a little more, I was brought back to the real world. I had no choice but to grin and bear it I suppose.
It would no use sleeping in the front room either. Firstly it was even colder than my bedroom but also out front the pavements are being dug up in a vain attempt to rectify all the faults the victorians built in to their civic engineering. Lots of white and orange bollards, heaps of dirt, and dayglo gorillas sat drinking tea in-between bouts of destruction with pneumatic drills. It's the british way.
Stop Press - It's My Fault
It's my own fault! I discovered that a few minutes ago here in the library.
Apparently it serves me right for impersonating a soldier. That was the opinion of a librarian who passed me by. What on earth is she drinking? In what way am I being punished? And what gives these punishers the legal right to exact their sentence upon me?
Sorry lady, but at no time have I ever attempted to claim I was a member of anyones armed forces, though on a few occaisions in the past my military surplus might have given that impression. She might also want to realise that vigilantism is not legal in Britain.
My world is very quiet of late, apart from the odd squabble among among my neighbours. About the only event worthy of note is the inspection of the property by my letting agent. They do tell me that they're not overly concerned at my lifestyle or how tidy the place is, but my days as an air cadet still afflict me with an instinctive desire to avoid having to clean the place all over again until I can eat my breakfast off it.
So I had a bit of tidy up. That didn't hurt, did it?
The latest plans for Queens Park are posted at the library. Now that the council has disbanded the parks department to save money they might stop ripping all the foliage out of the park. Or will they? Time for me to head down to the display boards and find out what is going on.
There's more warnings of persistent cold weather to come. That's the trouble with february. Almost every year it does this. Just when you think winter is all over and you've gotten away with it, along comes icy blasts from Siberia or the North Pole.
It's supposed to be the coldest day this winter so far but it doesn't feel like that. Certainly not warm but there's none of that sharp coldness that demands long johns and gloves. Now that I've been warned things are getting colder, should I rush out and purchase protective warm clothing? My own attitude is very much that I've suffered far worse in the past and that I can hack it and so on. Then I saw one of those television experts telling us that older people do tend to say that before they die horribly of hypothermia. I've been warned.
Whinge Of The Week
I see Argentina is whinging to the UN because Britain sent a warship to the Falkland Islands. They say it's 'militarising' the area. I'm sorry, didn't Argentina send an entire army there in 1982 and leave a legacy of minefields all over the islands?
This was the weekend when the weather finally hit Britain. It did in some places, with Heathrow restricting flights and so on, but as usual Wiltshire got away with it. Most of the snow went elsewhere. All we got in Swindon was a dusting of snow that was practically gone within the course of the next day. Nothing like the siberian conditions that eastern europe have undergone.
There are some extraordinary places in the world. I discovered one yesterday. Shoyna is a russian village inside the arctic circle. You wouldn't think so. Most of the houses are buried in sand drifts. It looks more like the sahara than a coastal tundra region.
As often happens, the enviroment of this fascinating place is man-made. Intense fishing in previous decades ripped up the local sea floor vegetation and loose sand was driven ashore by the tides. Now it drfits with the wind, burying the rickety wooden houses overnight on a regular basis. Residents are wary about being trapped in their homes, not by snow, but sandrifts. You don't get this sort of thing on a David Attenbrough series.
Droids Of The Night
In the beginning was a man with no girlfriend. God made him that way apparently so I guess being omnipotent isn't quite what it's cracked up to be. Anyway that got sorted - twice, as it turns out. Sometimes though his descendants aren't so lucky. What then? How does a man calm his primal lust?
Well God certainly thought of that one didn't he? However for some us a fun appendage doesn't really cut it. Not suprising then that enterprising women have gone into the worlds oldest business since blokes realised what that fun appendage was actually supposed to be for. Blame Eve. She persuaded Adam to eat that stupid apple in the first place.
You would think those options would solve the problem, but no, sometime later somebody invented the blow-up dummy. I've not used one nor found anyone who admitted that they have, but I'm assured these things do exist. Now scientists are working on female robots as companions for those blokes who need something a little more animated. It's inevitable they tell us.
If nothing else it proves how fecund human beings can be, or more to the point how desperate they can get when fecundity is unavailable to them. My own view is just how incredibly sad it is that people want to build and use artificial companions. Not just because of the admission that they can't get a real girlfriend, but also because they actually want an obedient slave. I mean, science fiction has been warning us for nearly a century about this sort of thing.
Still, look on the bright side. At least scientists are likely to have forgotten to program your friendly robotic lover to remind you endlessly that you should have closed the toilet seat.
Bumps In The Night
It seems that my own castle is still under siege.. The enemy have made some covert attempts to gain access over the weekend, including the attempted use of a power tool in the small hours. Yep, I heard that one.
"So, how are you, really? You sound entirely too stressed. This is not normal." Dad hit the nail on the head, as we were driving to lunch today.
Let's face fact: I'm a creature of habit, as we all are. I'm just one of those creatures who likes to plan ahead, organize as much as possible, so that when the poop pops upward, I know where things are, what can be done, etc. I see it as being prepared, so that I can work a ton and then have plenty of time to relax in between responsibilities. Others consider it being anal retentive. I point to my high-fiber diet and bathroom visits to prove them wrong.
No, I just get my knickers in a bunch when people don't do their jobs, which in turn sets me behind on mine.
I got a call at the beginning of January to take on a class at a campus 45 minutes from home. It's a bit of a haul, sure, but the pay is good, and it gets me back into a district that I used to teach in...this, in turn, could lead to more work in the near future. Usually, if people get me in the system and give me the necessary information quickly, I can plan out a full semester course in 2-3 days. Then again, this relies on people getting me set up so that I can do all this. Instead, due to office people being sick and others not returning emails and phone calls for 2 weeks, I didn't get to plan my class until 5 days before I had to teach. Not to mention that I had to scramble around and get my employment documents done.
About 5 days after I got that initial call, I received another offer to teach staff and faculty of a local high school district. I said sure, only to be put on hold for 2 weeks before I could get planning. And I'm thankful that I had my survey ready to go for the prospective students, the results of which showed that I had to do a completely different plan than the one that I was told would be necessary.
So, if you're counting at home, that's 2 courses (one full semester, one an 8-week job) to plan in a span of 10 days. And it takes time to get all of my ducks in a row, to get the entire course planned for the semester, to upload the online content, yadda yadda yadda. Of course I can get this done, all while also working my other teaching assignment (that got underway mid-January), and the other things on my plate. Sure, why not?
Stressed? Yeah, a bit.
Then again, it'll all be over soon. Semester-long class has been fully planned and is underway. 8-week job is still in need of planning, but until the first week I can't do much--I gotta see how much work these people figure on doing, before I kick them into reality
But, hey, it's all good. Between the cat and the boyfriend, I have enough goofs around to keep me laughing. Now I just need Dad to lighten up about me (hah) In the meantime,
So far astronomers have found seven thousand asteroids orbiting close to Earth, of which nine hundred are at least one kilometre in diameter. That's like a mountain floating around up there at tens of thousands of miles an hour. Some of you are probably predicting this is going to be a paragraph or two about the frightening hazards whizzing silently over our heads. Correct. It is.
The worrying thing - and the television documentary deliberately portrayed it in a manner designed to raise hair on the back of your neck - is that smaller asteroids are almost impossible to detect until it's too late, and their destructive power is pretty impressive. The evidence was a recent asteroid that fell in North Africa, prompting very important phone calls to the President and satellite photographs showing an impact point glowing as hot as the sun.
Apparently one particular rock band cancelled a gig in New York because the lead singer was convinced an asteroid was headed there. With a bit of luck he also saw the documentary last night and has done the right thing by deciding not to sing in public any more.
As it happens the solar system has mellowed after its incredibly violent youth when rocks were colliding like rush hour traffic in Mumbai. The known asteroids are in benign orbits that are not going to cause us any concern for at least the next century. Good news for us because insurers can't use astronomcal phenomena as an excuse for raising premiums. Unfortunately for Iran it's very bad news indeed. Partly because divine retribution against Israel appears unlikely, but also because using asteroid deterrence as an excuse for building nuclear warheads is not going to wash.
Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch...
Talking about imminent disasters the weathermen have downgraded the risk of snow to Defcon 4. You may now sleep safe in your bed,. Even better it means that very important transatlantic phone calls to the President are unnecessary so you can save on your phone bill too.
Nature programs often fail to satisfy. David Attenborough is of course an old hand at it (no pun intended) and knows the score, which is one reason why his programs are worth a glance or two even if he does get a litle messianic occaisionally.
Last night though he was nowhere to be seen. Instead we had a guy from India relating the tale of a tigress released into a nature reserve to repopulate an area cleared by poachers. Like many people I find big cats absolutely irresistible. Powerful, dangerous, charismatic. You just can't help but admire these hunters - it's a feral thing, something deep in our psyche, and the sheer majesty of a tiger moving stealthily through the undergrowth is hard to deny.
Tiger tiger burning bright
In the shadows of the night
Fascinating details emerge. How they serenade their potential mates with muted roars. How two tigers introduce themselves (carefully) and start dating, seeking the company of another tiger as much as wanting sex. How leopards are rivals for territory and prefer not to mess with the bigger tiger, stealing food very much at their own risk. How tigers eat grass to aid digestion of meat and study the movements of potential prey to figure out where the best ambushes can be laid.
I can see why this indian photographer has such a passion for his subject. Whether the storyline was genuine or cobbled together as nature programs often are, I found myself entranced by this tigress and her struggles with a new enviroment. The lady has class. And big teeth.
Cool For Cats?
Weather fit for siberian tigers is threatening our merry little island. It's hard to escape the news that eastern europe is having a hard time of it as temperatures plunge to nearly minus thirty degrees centrigrade. It is considerably colder outside today after that clear night. Not quite the siberian conditions of eastern europe that have caused frostbite and hypothermic deaths in tragically large numbers, but it's below zero for the first time this winter here in Blighty. Boy are those weathermen having fun for three minutes on the hour, every hour, as they gleefully plot the freezing of western civilisation.
Cold Spot Of The Week
The Oasis, Swindon's crumbling leisure centre complete with artificial tropical lagoon for people who have holiday withdrawal symptoms or simply can't handle air travel, is to get a makeover. Better yet, our town will get a snow dome. For the first time, Swindonians will be able to stay cold all year round. Great news.
No... This can't be happening... Three phone calls in the same day. Those of you with social lives might not understand this but communication on this scale is beyond my experience as an older unemployed person. Not only that, but the phone calls were all from an employment agency who've almost ignored me for three years. Normally they email me a rejection the same day I apply for vacancies so imagine my suprise that my existence has finally been recognised.
Not Any More
For the first time since Antony Blunt was revealed as an artificial soviet rock placed on a London pavement, the Forfeiture Committee have acted. A little belatedly perhaps but then this was a committee decision. Not treachery against the state this time but behaviour unbecoming following our recent financial wobbles.
In the wake of Fred Goodwin's dishonour (his knighthood was 'cancelled and anulled' yesterday) can you imagine what's going through the heads of those communists in the Job Centre who have tried to have me shot at dawn for assuming a title? Right now they'll be muttering darkly, making promises of dire retribution, and trying to figure out how to have me hauled in front of a magistrate. Probably much like they have for the last two years.
Fighters For India
Oh no, not again... Those pesky frenchmen have persuaded India to buy thier Dassault Rafale (whatever that is) instead of our shiney new Eurofighter Typhoons. I share David Cameron's disappointment on that decision but hey, look on the bright side, if Britain ever chooses to recolonise their former empire at least air superiority will be a little bit easier. Unless of course, those pesky frenchmen have occupied the Taj Mahal and are taunting us about hamsters, elderberries, and gaseouis discharges in our general direction. The secret of their success must be their outrageously silly accent.
Store Of The Week
I would like to take this iopportunity to congratulate Maplins for their first class customer service. I had a slight problem with a recent purchase and they not only exchanged the goods without complaint or attempt to fob me off, but took the time to prove the replacements worked as expected. Well done that store.
Let's see... According to this instruction manual, this lead plugs into that socxket there... And this other one goes there... and that bit of plastic needs to removed.... Now I just need to switch on and... phuttt!. Huh?
Early yesterday evening I switched the device on and the power went off. Oh great. I checked the lights and none of those worked. I fumbled for a torch and found the batteries had long since gone flat. Nothing electrical in the house worked. Did I do that?
Despite my fears everything sort of checked out. After a stubbed toe and a bruised shoulder I managed to find my mobile phone in the gloom. Please please please work. Yes! Hello? Is that the electric company? I don't seem to have any power at all.
"I see Sir. Where are you?"
At home. In the dark.
"No Sir, I meant whereabouts in England."
Oh right. Swindon.
"Are you anywhere near Arthur Street?"
I don't know an Arthur Street. Could be around here, I dunno, I mean I've only lived here nine years. Am I expected to know every side road in the entire area?
"I see. Are you anywhere near the High Street?"
Not really. That's a quarter of a mile away.
"Not to worry Sir. We're getting reports all over the entire area."
Oh brilliant. Singlehandedly I've plunged North Wiltshire into the middle ages. All with the flick of a switch. But of course it wasn't me, though I note my neighbour seemed strangely amused by the lack of electricity coursing through his ring main. The company said it might be three hours before resumption of service. It took only twenty minutes. Glad to see my money is being well used.
Thieves Of The Week
This prestigious award has to go to those baboons at the Zimbabwe border. Having plunged his country into economic meltdown, Mugabe's monkeys are now resorting to outright theft with menaces from vehicles, especially those laden with maize. Apparently the guards are getting a bit frustrated because these baboons, being clever little primates as well as violent kleptomaniacs, are accomplished tricksters and have learned how to get into vehicles.
Before long they'll be stealing entire trucks and selling property on e-bay. Or at least they would be if anyone in Zimbabwe still had a computer.