Saturday, 28 August 2010

News of the week

I was reading the local paper this morning, over a refreshing breakfast* of bacon, eggs and baked beans.  Always full of interesting things, the local paper.

If The Framley Examiner went bust, I reckon my local paper would be in the running to replace it. 

Top headlines this week:

Town Hall Tidy Up.  An in-depth expose about how the town hall needed to be tidied up.  A start has been made by a group of volunteers who have already "removed rubbish from offices...and cleaned the carpets."    Phew.  I hope next week we hear about the windows being washed and the bins emptied. 

Advice From Local Travel Expert.  A local travel agent is giving people advice about, well, travel.  I wonder if Deanna Troi is a reporter on this paper.  "Captain, I am sensing the bleedin' obvious..."

Yes to Flats.  Some flats will be built.  I was wondering about that myself.  This is in addition to the regular feature on planning decisions, where we all get to read about who had their planning application approved  and who had theirs rejected.  This usually leads to conversations with the neighbours along the lines of "Well, I thought they were pushing it, asking for a new conservatory...that's a listed building, isn't it?" and endless speculation about why they need a garage that size anyway**.  Oh, and it's about bloody time those trees were cut down, they're dangerous. 

Burglary Halts Broadcast is one of those stories that you have to read, just to understand the headline.  Sadly, it wasn't about the local radio station DJ being stolen away mid-show, leaving a lot of dead air time until he was found dumped in a garden half a mile away.  No, much more mundane.  The transmitter was stolen.  Much less exciting, but probably harder to replace than a DJ.  And easier to sell for scrap. 

Longleat Keeper Becomes Mum To Otter Pups led me down a line of thought that was rather unsavoury.  Who's the father?  Will she be breast feeding?  Was it a water birth?  Will her child support be paid in fish? 

It turns out, on closer inspection of the story, that she is a foster mother.  Aaaaah.  That makes more sense.  Too weird, otherwise, even for Wiltshire. 

Talking of weird...

Warminster, The Final Frontier details the recent Weird Weekend, held in town, where people who are keen on UFOs, the paranormal, space aliens, the X Files, anal probing*** and ghosts all get together to discuss it.  I imagine there are a lot of unresolved issues.  Nobody can ever say definitively "Well, I KNOW this is true."  Must make arguments go on forever.  There are photographs of the convention goers, most of them clutching self-published books about their pet subjects and looking cheerful. 

There are several pages of exam results, because, as we all know, names sell local papers.  My favourite story this week is:

Cow Trapped In Ditch.  Yes, it's a headline.  Once I stopped laughing and actually read the whole article, I learned that the unfortunate animal "was stuck upside down in a ditch near the Co-Op store." 

Upside down?  Was someone reversing it, and got the back hoof stuck in the ditch, and overturned it?  Why was it near the Co-Op? Had it nipped out for some milk?  Unlikely, I'd suggest. 

The story reports that several fire crews came to rescue it, using a sling to get it out.  Not though, the kind of sling where they fling it into the next county.  More like a hoist, I suppose.  But the best part?  It was trapped in a "four foot ditch".  A two foot ditch could have trapped a chicken, maybe, or even a person, but a four foot ditch?  That's for quadrupeds only.

I love living here.

*Well, lunch really, but I feel less slovenly if I pretend it was breakfast

**Unless it's our mate who is assembling an aircraft in his - we all know he needs a big garage for that.

***Aliens always seem to do that, apparently.  Why?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Observations on travel

1)  London cabbies love to listen to talk radio.  They love it.  Football, politics, recipes, world news; it's all good, dawg. 

Know why? 

So they can then retail that information to their passengers over the course of the day.  It's like instant conversation magic dust...sprinkle some into a cab and there will be some conversation.  The cabbie I met yesterday, however, wins the award for Telling Me Something That Will Give Me Nightmares.  Outright.

Cabbie:  (as we pass some roadworks) Lots of building work going on in the City at the moment, love.  Lots.

Me:  (dicking about with my phone, not really listening) Oh yes?

Cabbie:  Yeerrrrrs.  They've been demolishing this big building.  Right in the City.  Right in the middle.  Can't use dynamite on it though.  Too many buildings around.  Too crowded.

Me:  No?  Tsk tsk tsk.

Cabbie:  (warming to his theme)  Yeah...know what they used to demolish it?  Instead of dynamite?

Me:  Um.  No.  (expectant pause)  What? 

Cabbie:  A giant machine that ATE it.  Like a huge dinosaur, with HUGE jaws.  Just ate all the way down the building till it was gone.  (Makes "giant machine eating a building" gestures with both hands - luckily we are stopped at a traffic light for this.)

Me:  (Listening properly now)  What?  A machine that eats buildings?  That sounds terrifying!

Cabbie:  Yeah, like a giant dinosaur.  The pressure in those jaws must be immense.  Immense.  Can you imagine?  Eating the whole building, concrete, steel, the lot.

Me: (imagining all too clearly)  Christ, yes.

So thanks for that, Mr steel-jaw dinosaur man. 

2)  Many people are no respectors of an injured woman's slowness.  I am trying to walk further now, but I am still struggling, particularly at the end of the day when my ankle has swollen up like a fleshy grapefruit, and I am limping like some sort of unconvincing ham actor auditioning for the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  And, I have discovered, when you are limping along slowly, for example across the concourse at Waterloo Station, heading for your train, people are really rude. 


So far this week I have been tutted at, jostled and asked to "step aside please" to allow a fat sweaty man with too many bags to waddle down the platform three steps ahead of me.  I had the last laugh, however.  Being a wily long-term commuter, I simply hopped onto the other end of the carriage he was aiming for and made my way quickly to the prime spot in the middle, leaving him to take the scabby seat by the door where everyone whacks you with their luggage as they come in and out.  Ha.

3)  People have no idea how to dress for the weather at the moment.  Today, for example, I have seen people wearing the following:

t shirts
fleecy jackets
opaque woollen tights
summer dresses
formal suits

Many of the people wearing those outfits were also carrying umbrellas.  Either the weather or our fashion sense is playing cruel tricks on us. 

Tomorrow is a work at home day for me.  I intend to listen to Planet Rock, limp around the house as slowly as I please, and wear pyjamas all day. 

Take that, society.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Smash and grab

Saturday already, eh? How the days fly by when you are at work, rather than sitting at home whining about having a (probably) fractured ankle, unable to drive anywhere.

The new job is going alright so far, but it's early days, of course. Plenty of time for monumental fuck-ups and general chaos.   It's still a bit of a shock to the system doing the commute.  I'd forgotten how exhausting it is, and how little time and energy I have for anything else.  On the days when I am in London I am up before 6am, and don't get home much before 8pm, so once the mechanics of showering, eating and sleeping are out of the way, there's not much space for anything else. 

I've been trying to wean myself off the Conan books this week, and have reverted to trashy science fiction short stories, downloaded onto my iPhone from Stanza for free.  Some of them are excellent, some are less great, and some are just plain weird. 

I was taken with the one called "After London" by Richard Jefferies.  Who, it turns out, was from Wiltshire! Who knew?

It's set in the future, but as it was written in 1885, it is actually probably set in the past*, and depicts Britain as a fallen power, rural and wild, run by feudal barons who obey the law only as it suits them.  It tails off a bit at the end, just at the point where I thought "Aha, now the story really gets going," but I enjoyed it nonetheless. 

I think one of the things I love about old science fiction is that I understand most of the science. It's all about valves and electrodes and copper wire, which I can just about get my head round.  And in this case, longbows and canoes. Nice and simple.

While we were on holiday, I read "The Book of Dave" by Will Self.  I like Will Self's stuff, although he can be a bit tiresome and pretentious, and once I got over my initial "Gah, this is hard to read!" reaction, I liked the book very much.  Mr WithaY was less charitable, and although he finished the book as well, decided it was a bit too weird for his tastes. 

I also read Bill Bryson's "At Home" which was excellent, I thought.  It was less folksy and twee than some of his other stuff I've read, and as a lot of the historical facts he talked about were relevant to the part of the US where we were staying, it felt immediate and interesting. 

Other news:  Guitar lessons have begun again, and I am trying to get over my "I'll never be a lead guitarist" phobia.  I'll let you know how that goes.  This week I am mostly murdering Tom Petty and Thin Lizzy.

Also, filthy thieving bastards, probably from Bristol, they're like that up there, robbed the garage in the village.  Again.  Two grand's worth of cigarettes were stolen this time, and the shop door has been covered in hardboard till the glass gets fixed.  It's like living in inner-city Chicago**.

*Keep up. Think of Back to the Future if you're confused.  Or not. 

**No, it really isn't.

Monday, 16 August 2010


ConanWatch.  Day 8.

So far, no sign of a huge, thickly-muscled, black-haired bronzed barbarian hero padding up behind me on silent sandalled feet.  Damn it.

Maybe I should try wearing flimsier clothing.  And more ornate jewels.

Maybe I should try becoming some sort of undead goddess.  Or an eternally-beautiful queen of a remote tribe.  Or a rebellious yet vulnerable dancing girl with flashing eyes and a passionate heart.

I'm not sure Conan would even be on the Waterloo to Yeovil train on a Monday night, and if he was, that he would have understood the booking system, so he would have to slay the guard and all the other passengers in a bloodlust frenzy when asked to produce his ticket.

It's never going to work, really.

Maybe I can persuade Mr WithaY to wear a leather loincloth and headband and shout "Crom!" from time to time.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Spam spam spam

Quick note for those of you who comment.  And for anyone else who might feel like leaving a comment at some point in the future, I suppose. 

Due to the sudden proliferation of shite comments being submitted on very old posts, ranging from links to other "blogs" which in fact are no such thing, to adverts for all manner of dodgy crappy stuff, I have now made some changes to the comments regime on this blog.

If you want to comment on a post that is more than 14 days old, it will get moderated, as it does now.  If you leave a comment on a post that I have made within the last 14 days, you'll get the word verification thingy to fill in, rather than the moderation that I used to do.

Ha.  Take that, robot spammers.  Like an old-style Dalek confronted with a steep flight of stairs, your reign of terror* is over.  OVER.

And on the plus side, people can publish their comments whenever they like, no longer having to wait for me to get round to it.  Life is good. 

Other news:  First week back at work in London was ok.  I still can't walk very far, but I am trying to walk further each day, and to limp less.  Worryingly, my ankle now hurts quite a lot on the other side of my foot - the bone on the inner side, rather than on the outer side.  If it hurts as much by the middle of the week I am going back to the doctor.  It's still swollen as well, and looks like more bruising is coming to the surface.  Ugh.

Also, had my first guitar lesson last night, after a 3 month hiatus.  It was great.  GREAT.  My gorgeous guitar teacher is also recovering from an ankle injury, although his was much more scary and dramatic.  He told me all about it last night.  Apparently the snap of his ankle breaking could be heard all the way across the cricket pitch.  Gah.  I tried to listen but it was so awful that my ears closed up at certain points, so what I actuall heard was:

"Blah blah lucky there was a paramedic in the cricket crowd blah blah blah intravenous morphine blah blah dislocated AND broken blah blah sedated while they put it back in place blah blah delayed the surgery blah blah a week in hospital blah blah blah."


*Well, ok.  Your increasingly-irritating spam emails.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


If I was going to make a dramatic exit from my job, how would I do it, I wonder?

This guy seems to have already taken the best option.  I think as dramatic resignations go, swearing at people who were being abusive, then leaping out of an aircraft using the emergency slide has got to be up on the top five.  Oh, and grabbing some beer on the way out.  He was channelling the spirit of John Belushi for that one.

So.  Assuming not all of us have access to an emergency aircraft slide, how could we leave a job in a similarly stylish manner? 

Office drone:  Deliberately misplace the decimal points in a long term costs projection to cause maximum disruption in the future, hoik the muffins from the hospitality basket and slide down the corridor on your laptop like a luge sled, smashing through the lift doors to freedom.

Farmer:  Mow the word "Arse" into the wheat, steal all the baler twine to sell on the black market, then crash your combine harvester through the hedge and head for the bright lights and the big city.  At 7 miles an hour.

Surgeon:  Get to the end of a tricky triple bypass operation, then throw your scalpel at the wall so it sticks, juddering loudly, stuff all the cotton wool balls into your pockets and roar off into the distance in your Ferrari.

Zookeeper:  Release the bonobo monkeys into the King penguin enclosure, then roar off into the distance on a stolen lion.

Yeah, that's not as easy as I thought it would be.  I'll stop there.

Other news:  The bathroom is finished, and once it has a new coat of paint it will be lovely once again.  I am particularly pleased with the grab rail over the bath.  I no longer feel as though I am taking my life in my hands when I get in and out.

Also, properly started (finally!) my new job, and have been up in London this week.  I'd forgotten what an absurdly long journey it is.  I must be mental.  MENTAL.  I've not risked the Tube yet, so I have been taking taxis to and from the office and Waterloo Station. It's expensive but at least I feel safe, and not likely to topple down an escalator due to my ongoing ankle instability. 

This week I have mostly been reading Conan the Barbarian ebooks on my phone on the train.  I wish I was a barbarian.  I really do.  I'd be great at it.  I could shout "Crom!" and have iron thews.  I just need a bit of training.  Maybe a barbarian mentor. 

He could wear a leather 3-piece suit and carry his sword under his arm like a rolled up umbrella. 

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Plumb crazy

We've had the plumber round. 

The WithaY bathroom is was a thing of beauty.  Spacious, well-lit, an excellent shower, a large, deep bathtub.  We even have a view of the woods, and the meadow, and the river.  Lovely. 

It's worked well for about 6 years or so, give or take the odd slight leak.  Right up until earlier this year, in fact, when the door to the shower cubicle started to stick as it was slid shut.  Of course, you have to close it all the way or when you turn the shower on, water will piss all over the floor and eventually bring down the kitchen ceiling in a rain of dirty water, limestone floortiles, plasterboard and dodgy crud crammed between the joists.  So, something to be rectified.

Before we went on holiday I rang the plumber to see if he could come over and take a look. He's very good, our plumber.  Thorough.  Yes, that's the word. 

One way and another we didn't manage to find a mutually-convenient date for the new shower cubicle to be fitted until after we came home.  Oh, and while he was here, I thought I'd get the bath taps repaired, as one of them has been a bit dodgy for ages.  Kill two birds with one stone, that kind of thing.

The plumber came.  He looked at the shower and told me it was a standard size, but an unusual shape.  He looked at the bath taps and told me that they were an unusual size and an unusual shape.  He looked at the tiles on the walls and told me they were an unusual shape.

I have a freakily unusual bathroom, it seems.

The nice, thorough, plumber told me that he could order in all the parts (taps, shower cubicle, fittings etc) and get the job done over a couple of days.  As I am still off work* as I still can't drive**, this week seemed the ideal opportunity. 

It all started in earnest yesterday.  At 0800.  Eight AM.  In the morning.  I was already up and showered and hair-washed as I guessed that the shower would probably be out of action overnight, and I greeted him with a cup of tea and a cheery smile.  He scampered upstairs, strewing dustsheets in his wake and got right down to business. 

There was a good deal of crashing.

After a while I stuck my head round the door, and almost screamed in horror.  My beautifully-tiled shower had several tiles missing from one corner.  Not part of the original plan.  The plumber said "Don't look at it!" and ushered me out.  I asked why the tiles were missing.  He said that they'd come off the wall when he took the shower cubicle off, because they hadn't been stuck on properly. 

Now, we had already had long complicated discussions about the tiles.  I love those tiles.  They are one of the things I really like about the bathroom.  We don't have any spare ones, and I had resigned myself to the fact that the tiles around the bath would have to be replaced, probably with something different.  The original tiles were too hard to track down, what with their freaky shape*** and all.

So the fact that four of them had been removed from one corner of the shower was a bit of a fucking problem, really. 

I went and made a cup of tea, genuinely upset by this turn of events.  Yes, I know, I'm a contender for one of Belgian Waffle's First World Problems posts. 

The plumber said he would carefully chisel off the tiles around the bath and we'd be able to use some of those for the shower.  He was careful, but I think using a chisel is not always the best idea on a plasterboard wall.

Even if it's got tiles on it.

Additional ventilation?  Extra storage for bath necessities? Somewhere to post a letter from the bank you don't want to read?  Suggestions appreciated.

Things got really interesting after that.  As he removed the bath taps, artfully positioned and a work of glorious modern gleaming chrome, he announced that they had originally been plumbed right into the wall, then cemented over.  He was going to have to change that, in case we ever had a problem.


We can't use the shower.  We can't use the bath.  I may have to wash my hair in the toilet. 

On the bright side, he went to a specialist tile shop, showed them one of the now-useless tiles from the shower and they told him they could order some in, even though they are a freaky shape, a non-standard size and have been discontinued.  We had high hopes for this afternoon, but nothing had arrived by 6pm.  Fingers crossed for tomorrow, eh?

If anyone wants me, I shall be in the garden, washing my feet in the birdbath.

*Starting back on Monday in London, working at home tomorrow and Friday, hurrah!

**The ankle.  Remember? Yeah you do.  Possibly fractured, possibly not, still swollen and revolting to look at., thanks for asking.

***Rectangular.  I know!  Crazy!

Monday, 2 August 2010


It comes a a bit of a shock to a Telegraph and BBC news website reader like me when you find a link that leads you to a story like this

It's not so much the story, I suppose, it's the style of writing.  As I read it (and believe me, I read it right to the end) I couldn't help but admire the skill with which the journalist had picked their words. Short words, granted, but all of them doing exactly what was intended.  To make the reader feel both repelled, outraged and sorry for the woman and her family. 

Well, maybe not sympathy for the woman in question; the article is pretty strongly taking the "she was scoffing pie and chips and screaming for cake while the nurses begged her not to kill herself with lard" line of approach.

However much I dislike this style of journalism, it really does get the job done.  Now I feel like I need to boil my eyes in bleach.

Anyway, on a less depressing note, I have picked this up from Fweng at I Hate The Earth.  When he's not whingeing he's rather amusing, especially when writing about people shoving things up his arse*. 

A wishlist.  Seven Things I'd Change About Myself:

1)  Dexterity and grace.  Maybe then I'd fall over a bit less often, slice a few less lumps off myself and not have so many "walking into lamp-post" moments.

2)  Non-bloodshot eyes.  I've always had eyes that look like they've got maps of the Central Line tattooed on my eyeballs, which, according to my optician, indicates healthy bloodflow, but I'd rather have pure sparkly whites.  Maybe I can get them bleached, like teeth. 

3)  A longer attention span.  I blame the Internet...hey...a Polo!

4)  More intelligence.  I know I'm not stupid, but I am woefully ignorant in oh so many areas, and the stuff I do know only makes me aware of my lack of knowledge. 

5)  Perfectionism.  I am not a perfectionist.  Well, not in any way that matters.  I get arsey if napkins aren't folded up nicely, or, to pick a random example from the ether, if someone leaves his tie rolled up on the coffee table when he gets in from work, but in general I am too relaxed about stuff.  Some stuff.  I could do with a bit of completer-finisher perfectionism.

6)  A better sense of the appropriate.  I am too often the only person laughing when something untoward happens.  That's not good. 

7)  The ability to turn a three-line great idea into a 600 page bestseller.  And then two more. And then a second trilogy, cashing in on all the die-hard fans.  It'd be great.

*I think it's a perfectly natural human reaction to find that funny.  And if it's not, well, I don't want to know about it.