Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occluded Front

I've been neglecting my duties. Work has had such an impact on my life that it has thrown my carefully balanced existence of the last three years completely out of synch. I am again experiencing what it is like to not have enough hours in the day. Makes me slightly angry that I didn't (or never) make use of the free time I had.

Yet, even if I came home feeling like I could sit down and write for England, I don't really have anything that has tweaked the old inspiration lobe. I'm sure had I been sitting at home thinking about some of the crap that has happened in and around the world I would have had bags of time to pontificate about it; but I get home; stare at Pointless with a dog on my lap; contemplate food and struggle to keep myself from falling asleep.

Last weekend I was full of it; this weekend I ache, I slept funny last night and I just want to do as little as possible today. I can't quite shake the feeling that today is going to go horribly wrong; but that might be psionic resonance - at least twice during the week I spoke to colleagues who had gut feelings that everything was going to kick off, but it never did. The worst incident of the week was a food fight and the realisation that I might actually be in a hallucinogenic coma reliving my youth mixed with a bit of St Trinian's, Grange Hill and Waterloo Road thrown in for good measure.

Trust me though, at some point in the future, maybe when I retire I'm going to write a book about my new life (and I've only been doing it for 2 weeks).

***

I'm on strike on Wednesday. I had a choice because I wasn't balloted as an unemployed member of UNISON and if I'd decided to go into work I wouldn't have been labelled a scab or a traitor. The thing is a lot of my colleagues are out and you just have to show some solidarity, don't you?

I had an interesting discussion with a colleague about the strike and put across what has become my simple argument about why they are important and the unions must fight the government's raping of the poor.

I have analysed the big picture about pensions and it boils down to something quite simple. The civil service and the public sector employees were offered their jobs with the benefits; they did not singularly or as a whole demand the pensions they were offered. Accountants worked out what these employees pensions should be and they were written into a contract of employment. The attempts to change these peoples' pensions is exactly the same as your boss coming to see you on Monday morning and telling you that your job has changed and you are now responsible for cleaning the toilets. He gives you your new job description and expects you to take the change. Employment law would be backing you 101%, the courts would be punishing your employer and you would be supported because the original deal offered you is, in most cases, not negotiable. For the government and councils to back track and penalise their staff is appalling and I don't care if they can't afford it now; these people spend enough money on analysts, futures and people predicting the future to have realised that perhaps they were being a tad optimistic about the benefits they were offering should the world economy slow down. Do the people who set things like pensions actually consider that share prices might go down as well as up?

Don't be pissed off about the strike on Wednesday, especially if it affects you. It might be a pain, but trust me if the government get away with this everyone will ultimately be screwed and you might just find yourself cleaning the toilets by the time the Olympics has become a costly memory.

***

One of my new colleagues told me a story about his early teaching days in Birmingham. It was 1999 and he was fresh out of TTC having come to teaching after doing a host of weird jobs until he was in his thirties. The school he was working at was notorious for being violent and problematic. He'd been at the school about a month when he had to take his first mass detention; he had 12 kids in a classroom for an hour after school.

Now this guy is a behaviourist; it's his speciality and he has a great rapport with his classes and is one of those teachers that you remember from your youth; the kind you always liked being taught by, the guy who actually let you use your brains rather than expecting you to sit there like a sponge. He had brought some of his ideas to the school and had a great relationship with the headmaster and most of his colleagues; however, like most of the rest of the staff, the head included, he had a real problem with the deputy head; an officious little man who made Hitler seem like a reasonable guy (his words, not mine). He demanded respect therefore got none and had a habit of interfering in other teacher's business, therefore undermining any good work being done.

My colleague's slightly laid back style grated on the deputy really badly, so on this period of detention he was hovering close by; almost sensing that he would have an opportunity to waltz into the detention class, undermine my new colleague and assert his iron will, especially if it looked like the teacher was not in control.

About half way through the hour, two of the lads in detention stood up and appeared to be arguing, the new teacher was standing, passive and almost disinterested, prompting the deputy head to barge into the lesson screaming at the two boys. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT OF YOUR SEATS? He screamed at them, oblivious to the teacher or what he was doing. What was happening was a role play session he had learnt at uni that involved two people acting out a scene and getting the rest of the class to theorise what the consequences of this little act would have on the people affected. It's pretty much a standard behavioural exercise and one that is recognised to get results. However Mr Deputy Head was old skool and not really interested in the whys and wherefores of this new approach to teaching.

The two standing boys shuffled around mumbling. "ANSWER ME BOY!" Screamed the deputy.
"We're doing a role play, sir," said one of them. My colleague attempted to interject and the deputy stopped him in his tracks saying quite loudly that he obviously had no control over his class and they obviously needed more discipline. The situation was fraying at the edges and heading down Getting Much Worse Alley. The deputy seemed to only half hear what was said to him, but heard enough to realise that perhaps he was a bit premature. "Why are you even here, boy?" He says to one of the two boys, who mumbled something back that the class teacher couldn't hear. "And what about you?" He says to the other lad involved in the role play. He also mumbled something. "Speak up boy. What are you doing in detention?"
"You sent me here because I called you a fucking prick, sir!" The deputy now completely flustered, bright red from the neck upwards, turns on his heels, stares at the teacher and stomps off suggesting the new teacher learns how to control his class better.

I'm sure there's going to be someone like that at my new job. I think it's a prerequisite for schools nowadays.

***

26 November and I'm still picking raspberries! I now have no doubt that I will be picking summer fruit on December 1st, with little or no frost forecast, more mild weather and some sunshine I'd hazard a guess and say we've had almost half as many raspberries this late autumn as we had during the summer and we had enough to freeze two bags full!

One of the long range weather forecasting sites I visit reckons Britain is going to be plunged into a really cold spell by the middle of next week. This is the website that forecast Arctic conditions by the middle of November and was quoted in the Daily Mail story about another ice age about to hit the UK. Other websites I look at reckon the coldest it's going to get is about 8 degrees - roughly normal for the first week in December.

How about this for a forecast? We won't see snow south of North Yorkshire before the end of February and then it won't be much. It will obviously still cause chaos, but what else could it cause?

***

I'm finding the new Kate Bush album slightly impenetrable. I accept it is probably a work of genius, but I've only managed to get halfway through track 3 before losing the will to live. I need to listen to it when I'm in the mood I think.

The problem I'm having is there are some other albums out that I can't stop playing - top of the list being M83's new album, which, as I already said, looks like it's going to run away with my favourite album of the year award.

***

I said to the wife last night, as we sat down to watch an excellent copy of a film that's being released in cinemas next week. It's not often something appears in DVD quality before it actually gets released, so finding a copy of the 2011 The Thing was a bonus. However, I commented to the wife that I found it slightly worrying that DVDs of it are circulating; this usually happens when a film is a pile of crap.

The Guardian this morning was in full praise of the film, despite suggesting that it borrowed heavily on themes from John Carpenter's classic 1982 film of the same name. This The Thing is a direct prequel to that film and manages to mesh the two films together exceptionally well. The writer and the director must have poured over the footage of Kurt Russell and co investigating the Norwegian Science Station to ensure that the two matched and that is one of the points that makes the idea so fun. It's just a shame they decided to remake the 1982 film rather than actually explore the genesis of the story. It's just almost a carbon copy in places, although there are some nice nods to the original 1950s film directed by Christian Nyby. It attempts to out gore the original and pretty much fails; it also attempts to turn on the paranoia and suspense generated in the brilliant Carpenter film and fails because we've seen it all before. There was nothing new in this prequel and it went for an action packed approach rather than a psychological one, which might have been a better direction. I found myself waiting for the ending and that isn't a sign of a good film.

I got hold of two films that I have massively fond memories of from the 1980s. I'm hoping they have held up to the test of time because one of them has always been in my top ten films of all time and I haven't watched it for nearly 20 years.

Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension was something I saw on video, thought it was utterly bonkers and consigned it to the watched but never again pile; but recently the film has been reappraised and I decided to give it another go. Oddly enough, I can still quote bits of the film, which isn't bad considering I saw it nearly 30 years ago. I struggle to remember lines from my favourite films.

The other and the film I'm hoping has stood the test of time is The World According to Garp - an early Robin Williams film directed by the wonderfully bonkers George Roy Hill. It has a totally memorable performance by John Lithgow as a transsexual - just one of many brilliant performances in all kinds of films by this genius of modern cinema - and is one of the most funny and tragic films I have ever seen. I was so impressed, I bought the video. The wife has never been able to understand why I'm so enamoured by it; it's a meh film for her. I just remember it being a movie that makes me laugh, feel sad and allowed me to reflect on stuff.

It hasn't escaped my notice that these two films have really long titles.

***

I actually started on another short story last week. I managed to get about 200 words down when I fell asleep at the keyboard. I hope it doesn't reflect in the story.

***

There was another point to my piece about spam last time and that was the fact that some of spam appears to be directly targeted at me, using names and subjects that *might* make me open it. Now I have more protection on my PC than Fort Knox, yet somehow I'll get spam from or about things that may have appeared in a Facebook update or from a Google search. Yes, I might have a trojan or some such hidden away that I'm not aware of or has beaten my army of firewalls or major established web icons are actively selling this data to the spammers, or maybe are even controlling them. It's just plain weird when I get a spam email with a word in it that seems to relate to me or what I've been talking about.

***

I have housework to do; hoovering, cooking and general tidying up. I keep looking at the Dyson and thinking, "I'll do it in a while." I'm running out of procrastinations.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sequential Stinking

In a recent blog entry, Roger mentioned some spam he got. He kind of pre-empted me, I'd been planning on talking about spam for months, but somehow I always managed to either forget about it or what I was going to say. It is a fascinatingly odd subject, which, in my humble opinion, is a great example of futility, but obviously has to work to some degree or it would have died out like dial-up Internet connections.

Most email accounts have spam filters, which are now a lot more sophisticated than they were, when they just arbitrarily grabbed anything that had been CC'd to more than three people and this alone has to suggest that for spam to actually work, someone must be trawling through their spam folders looking for cheap meds, penis enlargement, Russian mail order brides, Viagra, credit checks and/or anything else you could possibly imagine, including whatever variant of the Nigerian Prince email. I always find it amusing that you see just about everything 'advertised' in spam apart from arms, illegal drugs and child slavery - which suggests that whoever is responsible for spam is easily traceable by the authorities, contrary to reports we hear or read.

I can understand how some people got sucked into scams such as the aforementioned Nigerian Prince and his millions of dollars - some people are just suckers for allowing their greed to get the better of them - and I can understand why people would go in search of cheap medicine and possibly even Viagra (especially if they're too self-conscious to mention their impotence to their doctor), even if clicking on any of these spam emails will at best leave someone open to credit card fraud and at worst infect their computers with more trojans and phishing ware for whoever is paying for the spam to have access to everything on your hard drive.

I witness fuckwittedness every week on the Internet; from ignorant opinions to people participating in something that warrants no attention from anyone else. [I'm just as guilty of offering opinions and participating in notice boards and forums for the BBC and newspapers, even though I know that the opinion of P. Hall of Northampton is as interesting/valid/important or sensible as I alone believe it to be. I don't care how much common sense you see on a noticeboard or forum, it's still being wasted or pointlessly written because NO ONE will take any notice of it and those that do are NO ONE! But spam? Spam is, IMHO, something that should be dying out or even facing extinction, yet it now seems to be more prolific than ever before and remarkably even more bizarre and weird. Some spam that ends up filtered out of my main mail is just downright unfathomable.

There appears to be three kinds of spam nowadays: spam from recognised places - the kind of thing you sign up for (or have to to gain access to something else) that bombard you with shite until you click on the unsubscribe button or hit the This Is Spam button and it gets filtered into the same place as the Viagra, painkiller, credit and anything that requires you to give credit card details. Then there's the third kind; the stuff that is written in machine code, or hasn't been sent by any one from nowhere, or the kind that just doesn't make sense, like it has been generated by a dyslexic computer or an alien who understands the words, just doesn't know how to arrange them properly. This kind of spam along with stuff that seems to defy all logic - spam that has no links, gives no reason for being sent and more importantly the anti-virus software has scanned and declared clean.

Admittedly, with a billion Internet users worldwide, then less than 0.01% would still net whatever or whoever the scam was from enough money to retire, so I can see the logic in that, but seriously if there are ridiculously stupid people out there, and sadly we know there are, how come they're still alive?

***

November 20 - seven raspberries from the garden; 3½lb of horse and field mushrooms and about 1lb of Slippery Jacks from the dog walk. My runner beans that had all but died off a month ago are suddenly sprouting shoots from 'dead' runners; the grape vine is still growing; the young nectarine trees are still green and showing no signs of autumn and the grass needs cutting again. It is a bit weird and obviously it's all going to end in tears and sacks full of dead baby ducklings...

***

I spent £40 on ONE pair of shoes yesterday. That is obscene!

***

Someone in a 50 yard radius of my house is learning to play a musical instrument. I've no idea what instrument, possibly the thing Rolf Harris was hawking in the 1970s, but whatever it is it currently sounds like a man beating bagpipes to death with a goose.

But, what's just become an even weirder thing, it appears whatever this instrument is you can pluck it as well as blow through it... It must be a chicken!

***

Today I have been knee deep in duck pooh. Three times a year (sometimes four depending on debris) we empty the pond. Last night, I had to dance with Vile's Disease again by sucking black, stinky, foetid pond water up and old hose so that gravity would help empty it over night. Today, I had to scoop out a crazy mixture of plums, twigs, duck shit, pebbles and gloop in a big bucket and then chuck it on the veg patch.

It's one of the most icky jobs you could imagine and especially unpleasant in the fog and frost. The ducks also spend three hours barking at you because they have no pond. It's a bloody good job I'm a vegetarian.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Glass Onion (part F)

Sainsbury's do this pre-packed tomato thing called Polpa Fine, which is essentially very finely chopped Italian tomatoes in their own juice and for 25p more than a plain old carton of chopped tomatoes, this doesn't have stalky bits or massive chunks you end up pushing to the side of the plate. I now use this virtually all the time now when doing tomato based food and it is absolutely perfect for...

Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake

I was thinking about how I could use egg plant in something that wasn't either Indian influenced or when it appears in almost unpalatable chunks in ratatouille or similar offerings. I came up with this - completely out of my own head and with little or no influences. This is for 2 people.

1 carton Polpa fine tomatoes
3 large cloves garlic
1 medium red onion
fresh basil
½ tsp chilli flakes
splash of red wine
salt and black pepper.

This is the basis for your sauce, which goes with:

4 round slices of aubergine (about 1-2cm) fried in olive oil until they start to feel cooked (season while cooking). Remove from the frying pan, add some more oil (if necessary) and fry either a couple of
Portabello mushrooms or some big chunky sliced across the centre rather in down the grain. Remove from heat and leave to stand and expel some of the juice (which you add to your sauce).
Fry (or oven roast) two large slices of red pepper until slightly charred and you are able, if you wish, to remove the skin.
You can also use sliced courgette, roasted onion, or some wilted large spinach leaves.

To build - place the aubergine slices in the bottom of a shallow dish; cut up mushrooms if necessary and place in places where the aubergine isn't covering; lay a slice of pepper onto it and season for some more black pepper. Add a few more fresh basil leaves, add two ladles of tomato sauce and distribute. grate on some hard cheese and then cover with mozzarella and bake in a hot oven until the cheese is beginning to brown.

Serve with crusty bread, to mop up the juices.

***

My mate Kelvin has been searching for a decent Thai Green Curry recipe and I have continually failed to find one or even invent one. However, a few weeks ago, inspired by Nigel Slater, I developed something that me and t'wife both really enjoyed.

Big chunk of ginger chopped roughly
handful of coriander chopped roughly
5 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of lemon grass
juice and zest of a lime
salt
oil
soya sauce.

Blitz this in a processor until it is well chopped, but not a mulch. Fry off in hot oil.

Add a tin of coconut milk and continue to combine and simmer.

Add a variety of vegetables (or chicken or prawns), I like cooked cassava, cauliflower, firm fresh mushrooms and baby sweetcorn. Cook until the cauliflower is just done; serve with sticky rice.

I don't choose to use things like fish sauce (natch), galangal or kaffir lime leaves mainly because these latter two are related to ginger, lemon grass and limes by virtue of their acidity and citrus like taste and aroma. When cooking chicken or fish with this, the extra citrus undertones are welcome, but if you're using just vegetables it can be almost too citrus.

***

Lastly for now, something that I invented on a kind of whim.

Leftover rice is useful if cooked properly. this is something I did with some basmati rice, chopped up peppers and mushrooms and a few other things.

2 cups of cooked rice
chopped shallot, mixed pepper and mushroom (some quorn chunks if that tickles your fancy or some chicken or prawns)
1 egg
seasoning
2 large peppers - preferably red or green, hollowed out, placed in a baking dish and covered in some olive oil and seasoning. Bake for about 30 minutes at 180. Take out and leave to cool down.

Fry your shallot, mushrooms and melange of whatever veggies you fancy, add the rice, seasoning - herby or hot, it works both ways and once combined, put to one side to cool a little. When cold enough, add the egg which has been beaten and combine it all together so it looks like a congealed mess. Spoon this mixture into the cooked peppers two-thirds of the way to the top. Mix the rest of the filler with some hard cheese or smoked cheddar (depending on whether it is herby or hot) and put this into the rest of the space left in the peppers. Put back into a baking tray and cook in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.

***

That's that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Introducing the Incredible Auntie Broflem

Oh please, change the bloody record!!!!

If it wasn't bad enough that the current government do absolutely nothing but blame the previous government for the mess we're in; now they're blaming the Eurozone Crisis for youth unemployment breaking the 1million mark.

Enough is enough. In 1997, love him or loathe him (and most of us loathe him), Tony Blair said the New Labour government would not apportion blame on the previous regime. There was no point in spending their first term in office since Jim Callaghan doing nothing but blaming the Tories. They just had to get on with it and sort out the mess. Dave Blackadder and his team of corrupt and dislikeable rogues don't know what to do so they just blame everyone else. Might be nice if they thought of ways to sort the country out that didn't involve the rich getting even richer and the poor having the urine extracted from them (as well as much more money)!

***

It's amazing how quickly you remember and slip back into using the terms 'Miss' and 'Sir'. I suppose we all did it for so long when we were kids that some ancient part of the brain just re-activates sending you back to the 1970s.

***

I'm attempting to break in a pair of DMs. I have had these boots for something like 16 years and I have worn them 3 times. Each time I ventured to wear them, my feet were like too blue steaks by the end of the session. However, I need to break these shoes in as an emergency measure.

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time on my feet, walking around and generally orienting myself of my new environs. However, by the early afternoon, my feet were absolutely killing me and I was wearing a very comfortable pair of black shoes - perhaps I was wearing the wrong kind of socks? By 4pm I realised something was very very wrong and within fifteen minutes I was walking around work with one of my soles flapping about like a slapstick clown.

By the time I got to the car for my short journey home, both of my shoes had come detached from the upper - BOTH OF THEM! On closer examination at home, I realised that my only really decent pair of work shoes were crocked. Today, I'm on a study day (having umpteen policies and procedures to read through without fear of interruption) and figure if I can wear them a few hours today and then try them out at the weekend, to get them to a stage where I can maybe intimidate my new clients by wearing them, especially if I shave my head, buy some braces and some check button-collared shirts. Oh, and, of course, the obligatory swastika and Quink tattoos.

***

Bloody headless chickens...

***

I met someone the other day who is Superman's dad. Honest.

***

My mate Will talks about coffee like I talk about painkillers. The two things seem to have similar effects on us. I sometimes look at Will's Facebook updates of which about a third are coffee related and I'd think, the man is obsessed and addicted to caffeine. He will not argue with that assumption, I'm sure.

For the last six months, I have been driven on by coffee. I drink between 6 and 10 mugs of it in a day; sometimes more and if I don't have a coffee by mid-morning I start to get the mother of all caffeine withdrawal headaches. Imagine the last two days? I'm fixed into a rigid timetable. Yesterday, I thought my head was going to explode by midday.

Today I have already had four cups and my first was not until 10:00am. I should maybe have avoided drinking any. The logic being two fold - help me get through the rest of the week without a crushing headache during the afternoon and because these DMs are so bloody tight, the pain in my feet might have negated the pain in my head.

Incidentally... Nah, that really is tempting fate.

***

Did you know that once upon a time a US judge in a compensation case did the right thing?

Back in 1991, a pupil at a school in California was eating his lunch and started choking on his sandwich. One of his teachers administered the Heimlich Manoeuvre on him, effectively saving his life. Two days after the event, the school heard from the choking boy's lawyer, informing them they were suing the school for assault and actual bodily harm. The boy was complaining of pain in his ribs and bruising where the teacher had helped rest the clump of sandwich from his windpipe. The teacher was suspended pending the hearing; the boy and his family were suing for $1million.

When the case was presented to the courts, after much debate and witness testimony. the judge asked the boy's lawyer appointed medical expert what was the most logical outcome had the teacher not dislodged the 14 Big Macs the boy had probably attempted to swallow. The doctor said the boy would probably have died and that had a paramedic been present the same procedure would probably have been performed, although it might have been done in a more expert way. The judge threw the case out of court, reprimanded the lawyer and the family and ordered them to pay the costs. The teacher was praised by the judge.

A sort of happy story, right? Wrong. Despite winning the case and having a legally proclaimed 'hero' on the school staff; the board that controlled the school terminated the teacher's employment on the grounds that the pupils might be scared of him...

When I was at school, teachers used to hurl blackboard rubbers - wedges of wood and velvet - at your head if you spoke out of turn. Many times these connected and not necessarily with the right person. If that had happened in the USA, most of my class mates would have been millionaires by the time they sat their O levels.

***

What a difference a job makes.

***

It's 16th November and I picked 4 big juicy raspberries off of our plants a while ago. There is nothing quite as weird as eating soft summer fruit straight from the bush when we should all be thinking about snow shoes, scarves and central heating. Like I said last week, unless we get a really bad frost, I could still be picking them by the 1st December. That would be extremely odd.

***

I hate Christmas. I say it every year and normally get called things ranging from Scrooge to The Grinch to words that are unrepeatable. Bovvered? Nah. The thing is, I know a lot of people who find the entire 'Christmas Season' almost distasteful. It starts in some places in August, gets into full swing around October and from November onwards you start to get so pissed off with Christmas this and Yule that by the time the actual day arrives, for some it's a massive anticlimax and it's all down to retailers desperation and the public's gullibility and belief they need to be eating Christmas products that have sell by dates before December even starts.

The thing is, I remember back in the late 1970s when Christmas season started on the 1st of December; the day that most of the high street shops changed their windows; market stalls took on a more festive feel and you started seeing all the paraphernalia associated. However, while Christmas sort of started on that day, the subsequent couple of weeks were very low key, despite the appearance, everyone knew that the actual day was still a few weeks away. It wasn't really until the week before the 25th that everything seemed to gear up totally for the festivities. Now, the fun has gone out of Christmas long before presents are opened. We seem to be installing this belief in children that Christmas is a two month long festival of joy and excess and that means that more and more decorations are going to appear earlier than ever.

I know at least three people who have their houses regaled in full scale Yule assault already and there's the house down the road that seems to put it's decorations up earlier every year. We wondered for a while if they were maybe a Hindu family celebrating Diwali, but no, they're just fecking stupid English people, who don't even have young children to impress.

Last year, Christmas felt better than I can remember for a long time. The snow helped, because it reminded me of Christmases in Canada, in the late 1960s, when for a young boy who still believed in Father Christmas. However, my memories of Canadian Christmases might be infected by Coca Cola adverts, which sometimes catch that nostalgic feel better than any Hollywood director could. The reality is that Christmases tend to be mild and damp despite the last couple of cold winters.

Speaking of Father Christmas. We watched the Finnish film Rare Exports the other night, fully expecting it to be in the same league as other Scandinavian stuff we've watched in the last couple of years - Sweden's Let the Right One In redefined the vampire genre; Norway's Trollhunter was a great little film jam-packed with sly humour and surprisingly good special effects. And Denmark's cult TV smash The Killing asked the question of why the British and US can't make dramas as good as it. So with three of the five main Scandinavian countries accrediting themselves excellently, Finland came to the fore with a tale about the true origin and nature of Santa Claus.

Oh dear. It started so well. It's a short film, the 84 minutes claimed by IMDB suggests that possibly the version we saw had been cut, but reading reviews and descriptions of the film this seems highly unlikely. The closest thing I can compare it to is an Edna O'Brien novel. O'Brien used to tell stories that had love affairs in them; she would build the tension up to the point where you thought she was going to get into some deep descriptive pornography, but ended up stopping the narrative just short of the act and continuing the next chapter with, 'the following morning'... This is Rare Exports a film that offers lots and delivers nothing.

It has moments that are quite creepy or intense; the build up is exceptional and the humour works well because like Trollhunter, it is irreverent about known 'fact' to the point of parody. But then it starts to go deeply into the farcical and yet for all it's slapstick nature it makes a point of stopping the action just as it could get interesting. It is the ultimate non-pornographic prick tease movie. The viewer is shown nothing apart from suggestion; killings are done off screen; in fact all the action takes place off screen, because it is dominated by three buffoonish Finns and an annoying child who seems to be more of an authority on Father Christmas than the British team trying to dig him out of the mountain.

I won't give anything away, because there is little worth giving away. It has a slightly nonsensical ending; a climax that uses some interesting (read: cheap) cgi, yet nothing to stretch the imagination and makes you wonder why they didn't use this cgi to actually give the film some action. Hiding everything, including Father Christmas - the alleged main antagonist, from the film devalued it so much. Maybe it tried to be a Finnish version of Gareth Edwards' Monsters, but even that had some money shots; this film failed on just about every level. Don't be tempted by the very good promo campaign.

***

After a couple of hours of wading through paperwork (and several more cups of coffee) and realising that I have to buy a new pair of shoes because the DMs are not proving to be even a last resort. I find myself back here, in front of the place I spent most of the last six months; listening to Steven Wilson's solo album and reading how David Cameron is fast becoming synonymous with misogynous. His, albeit quite innocent, faux pas when attempting to impersonate Australian PM Julia Gillard seems to have upset some people. Couple this with his two other indiscretions - the 'calm down, dear' and innuendo directed at his own Corby MP at PMQs a couple of months ago, is beginning to give the impression that our PM is a bit of a plonker, socially as well as politically.

The fact that Gillard sounds more Australian than a XXXX advert and was born in Wales shouldn't be a reason to ridicule her, however lightly. I admit it should be, but, you know, I have Welsh ancestors and a friend who lives in Queensland...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cosmic Ray Gun Etiquette

As I have stated before, I have a serious problem with charity.

Now, that sounds really hypocritical considering I have been more than happy to accept all manner of beer and gig gifts over the last six months; but in reality it isn't, because I believe that Charity Begins at Home.

But, for some strange reason I was reminded of something that happened in 1980; before I became Mr Anti-Charity or for that matter a vegetarian. I was living in squalor in Boothville with some mates and discovering the world has more sordid underbellies than you could possibly imagine. Children in Need started and like any up-for-a-laugh 18 year old, I got involved in it. I even got to the planning stage for a CiN extravaganza.

I was friends with the landlord of my then local pub - The Lumbertubs. Mark Gilbert was a young guy, with a pretty but lethal wife and because I came from a pub family, was honest and he liked me, I ended up helping him out on an ad hoc basis. If they got too busy and I was there, I'd be drafted in to ease the pressure - it was a role I really enjoyed (and I got free beer as a result).

I've always been a big eater; the kind of bloke that can put away amounts of food normally classed as excessive by obese people and The 'Tubs wanted to do something big for this new-fangled charity telethon thing. Mark's brother-in-law was a butcher who had in the past supplied meat for some of Peter Dowdeswell's gluttony world records. This got me thinking and in those pre-Internet days, I ventured to the library, looked at the Guinness Book of Records (when they accepted this kind of record) and saw a world record that I actually thought I could beat.

I approached Mark, who thought it was a great idea, but looked at me with some scepticism. "Do you really believe you can eat a whole cow?" I did.

The record was to consume an entire cow, not including, skin, bone, and all the bits that don't get used for human consumption. I can't remember exactly the details, but I had a number of days to eat about 500lb of beef. Now I look at it in black and white I realise that it was a stupid idea it was and why there was so much doubt; but Mark was up for it if I was and we started planning and I started seeing if people would sponsor me. Then I sat down and worked out how much beef I had to eat; the fact that the only way I could do it was to take 2 weeks annual leave and spend lunchtimes and evenings in the pub, armed with a knife, fork and probably a saw.

Dowdeswell lived in Earl's Barton and through my contact at the local paper, I gave him a call and he blew my mind away. The upshot was the amount of meat I had to eat on a daily basis and all of the unpleasant other things I had to eat. Plus there was the rotting factor: when he had broken the record himself several years earlier, he had been ill (it was like being on a mega-Atkins diet for a short period of time) and because of the rules of the record attempt each day became harder and harder to achieve, because once it was cooked, you couldn't reheat it or do anything else with it. I remember him saying, "Imagine a mini made out of beef; when it turns up it's hot and juicy and enjoyable, but after three days it's cold, congealed and dry and after a week it smells and tastes like shit." I felt a huge boulder metaphorically sitting in my stomach. Yes, you could argue that the man holding the record would do everything he could to dissuade a challenger; but, on hindsight, I'd like to think he was just looking out for me, especially when you get your head around the idea of an old style mini made entirely out of meat.

Imagine that Skoda advert with the car made out of cake, but with sirloins and kidneys...

***

So... This is a weekend then? I'd forgotten what they were like.

***

Ah... TV... I haven't burbled about it for a while.

With no current rubbish US TV to fill the voids after the wife goes to bed, I've decided to hit the archives and dig out a series that failed and my other half is unlikely to be very interested in. I chose Dollhouse.

I went into the show with almost zero expectations. I'd been warned that it was as bad as it sounded and only the series 1 finale and the last couple of episodes of season 2 were really any good. With this in mind, I started to watch and soon found that it was actually a little more enjoyable than I had imagined.

The series by Buffy the TV series 'creator' Joss Whedon is, at times, an excuse for nubile young women to be seen wearing an array of saucy outfits and the premise that the people in the Dollhouse were as much unwitting prostitutes as possible secret agents, left me with a slight moral ambiguity; but as I approach the finale of its first season I've been pleasantly surprised by the series. Yes, I have watched a couple of episodes on x2 speed, stopping the DVD whenever Topher, Ms De Witt or Tahmoh Penikett are on screen - because this is where the story really is.

The series is essentially a vehicle for Eliza Dushku (who at times during this series has looked like a young Victoria Principal), but like Whedon's Buffy, it isn't so much the lead character that is the reason for watching, but the supporting cast and the machinations taking place unbeknown to the chief protagonist.

However, I can totally understand why the series was cancelled. Apart from the moral ambiguity I mentioned earlier (which the Yanks probably had a great problem with), it doesn't appear to have a a back story that is particularly interesting. The Dollhouse(s) just isn't that believable and neither is the way it conducts its business. The maverick FBI agent is a familiar idea, but this series portrays the rest of the FBI like a bunch of aggressive simpletons who don't actually investigate anything. There is the need to stretch believability beyond that of something such as Buffy or Firefly - both total fantasy rather than what Dollhouse was trying to be.

I think the biggest thing that got in its way was the attempt to slow build the subplots beyond that of the lead character. It almost feels like afterthought than planning and like so many US TV shows it focused on the things the viewers didn't want to know. I'm at the 12th episode and while I'm now familiar with all the characters, they all seem a bit like ciphers channelling nothing.

At least watching Dollhouse has meant I haven't been tempted to watch another Terra Nova.

Several of my favourite shows have returned in the last six weeks and I hate to say this, but with mixed emotions. Fringe seems to have jumped the shark and has rebooted the entire series with the exception of one character. It's an interesting idea, but so far it's failed to deliver anything like the bonkers TV it did for the previous 2½ series. I just can't help feeling the producers are copping out and trying to build its Friday night slot by making it 90% easier to jump onto an established series. Either that or something completely unexpected and off the wall is about to happen.

Misfits is back without the brilliant Robert Sheehan's Nathan. Arguably, the amiable Irish lad was the major reason for watching the show; he had all the best lines; best stories and had a great line in dying. But he's now fast emerging as a new star in feature films, so like Aidan Turner from Being Human, he's departed the show that made him to concentrate with hob knobbing it with Nick Cage and the stage. [I don't know what the future holds for Being Human with Russell Tovey stating he now wants to leave the show after the next series]

Misfits has replaced him well with new guy Rudy, who makes Nathan seem a little innocent, but like Fringe this new series feels like a reboot rather than a continuation. The gang all have new powers, so that allows for at least 5 more episodes focusing on said new powers and any lingering subplots from the last series seem to have disappeared. I also thought the first episode was a little contrived. There is also the feeling of stagnation; like the series needs to spread its wings a a lot more, because the same old setting is now beginning to feel like a post-modern slightly perverted version of Mr Ben.

However, as sad as it might seem, the viewing highlight of our week is most definitely The Vampire Diaries, which continues to piss over the usual rules. The latest episode alone had three things happen in it that I was just not seeing, even if one of them I spotted and sort of allowed a slight suspension of belief to allow for it. Every week I see more and more things in it that make me believe the creators have decided to use the Buffy model, because it works. I'm pretty sure that 3 of the characters are always going to be spared from an untimely demise (unless they leave for a new TV series), but that doesn't mean that the rest of the cast are safe.

***

All week they were saying that this Saturday might possibly break some more weather records. A 'warm' southerly airflow was going to bring temperatures in the high teens and some nice autumn sunshine. It would be t-shirt weather again!

Oh yeah? Is that this Saturday in an alternate reality?

Still, it's not horrendous out there. I didn't need a coat to walk to the newsagent and as I said the other day, picking soft fruit in the middle of November is pretty much a win. It also could mean that whatever winter shoves at us, it'll be just that little bit shorter this year!

***

That brings me nicely to this. Got up, looking for the Guardian to read on the loo - a weekend must - and found there was nothing on the doormat. Horrors! There's nothing like The Guide to help in bodily functions. So, with my morning disrupted, I ventured down to the shops to get something to read (not on the loo, btw).

The paperboy has had his round mixed up by someone moving out of one house into another on a parallel street, but has now rented out his old house, which is a similar number to ours. This is the second time it has happened this week and the newsagent was very apologetic and promised he would remind the paperboy to be more careful.

I'm sitting eating my cornflakes, drinking my mug of Red Bush and watching and agreeing with one of Breakfast's weekend presenters, when she said that she couldn't give a hoot about X Factor and didn't know why it was so popular, when the doorbell goes. I hate soggy cornflakes and I was only half the way through the bowl.

Standing at the door was this youngish looking man, with a straggly nu metal styled beard, combats and my newspaper in his hand. He thrust it into my hand and mumble something incomprehensible and made to walk off. I stopped him, related the fact that the newsagent had told me what had happened and just asked for him to be a little more watchful in the mornings and I gave him the paper back and went to shut the door.

"No." He said looking worried. "I live at 42; my landlord told me I needed to bring this to you."

Oops. He looked so young! I told him to keep the paper and managed to finish my cornflakes before they all went soggy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Corduroy Cranium

Nerve-racking day...

The last couple of days have been a huge quagmire of logistics nightmares, enforced by my return to conventional employment. I haven't done a simple 9 to 5 styled job since... Gods... 1988? That's 23 years and I have grown accustomed to being able to fit my life and job around each other, however, flexitime has now become a thing of the past. I now have to be normal and fit my life around my work hours and it really is a life changing and bloody awkward thing!

This week has been dominated by doctors. Yesterday, I saw the spinal consultant and he had rather jolly news... It's going to happen again - my back and my disc - probably as many as 2 or 3 more times over the coming years. I fell from one statistic into another with far more crappy consequences. He's ruled out surgery because my bones are not that bad; they still have a lot of 'normal' left in them and I've been unlucky. He feels that my best form of defence is prevention and for that he's arranged for me to have a series of physiotherapy sessions specifically targeted at strengthening parts of my back to at worst lessen the effects of the next prolapse.

Great.

No.

He wants me to do the physio work at his practice and they only have appointments between 9:00am and 3:30pm. I'm at work; at a new job; and I really don't want to be seen taking the mickey or setting off worrying health alarm bells in the minds of my new masters.

Yesterday morning I filled out an on-line medical questionnaire for my new employer. It obviously tells the whole truth and without much space for explanations. The final screen looks back at you hard and unflinching and you realise that there are two sections of the form that look like an earthquake of doubts. After I returned from seeing the consultant, I got a phone call from the company that does the medical. They want me to talk to one of their doctors. It might be nothing, but... As I saw my own GP about an hour ago, I told her about it and how anxious it was making me feel; she wasn't (and never is) coy about the possibilities. The company only does this if they have doubts about your fitness for work...

She said that if the company is not happy with my medical history they can order a full medical or even suggest to the employer that any offer should be withdrawn. This was rather incredible to me, I would have thought that I was protected by the DEA if nothing else; but no. However, she did say that I have only had 2 incidents of illness; both were treated and both times I returned to work, full time, and my shoulder op and my slipped disc were not specifically related, so there is nothing to suggest I am any more likely to fall victim to another long bout of illness than anybody else.

Obviously, that argument sounds more hypothetical than assuring and the next few hours are going to be more hell than waiting to find out if I had the job.

My GP was amazed. She actually commented that in the last dozen times she had seen me, I was obviously down and pretty much out, but today I was my old self, full of witticisms and funny quips, positive and keen. She was really pleased and then I told her it was because of the Celecoxib and I could see her physically wilt. My doctor has always been blunt with me and her honesty has always been a relief. "Celecoxib is usually only really effective on about 10 to 15% of patients," she said, "It's usually prescribed if the other drugs are ineffectual, but in reality it is usually only given out as a last resort." I sat there thinking there must be some horrendous side effect that isn't in the literature; perhaps something like lycanthropy or zombism. "30 ibuprofen is going to cost about a £1, 30 Celecoxib is," she punched some keys on her computer, "£21.80 for 30." I winced; I'm not stupid, I understand the need to use expensive drugs as sparingly as possible. "However, because of the obvious benefit you're having with them, I'll give you a pack."

30 tablets? I'm used to having a small cupboard of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. What she wants me to do is take one a day for the next two weeks and then keep the other 16 back to use whenever anything flares up; when I run out of them again, we'll discuss whether I get any more. This was the first time I'd seen how NHS cuts are affecting people.

So, I have to postpone my physio until the Christmas holidays and then persuade my boss that, if I should need more sessions in January to get me the cover necessary so that I can go during my lunch breaks - which are only 45 minutes and the physio is 10 minutes drive each way, sessions are for 30 minutes and how often do you get in to see someone medical at exactly the time you request?

I mean, it's not like I get 13 weeks a year off to try and fit my outside-of-work-life into, is it?

***

My new post is obviously filling me with a lot of anxiety; it's a massive challenge and my new colleagues are desperate for me to get in there and transform the place and ease their burdens. To show my enthusiasm and eagerness, I emailed a few ideas to my new boss, thinking we could implement them once my CRB checks are cleared; but he liked them so much we're going to start them on Monday! He likes them so much I'm going to be doing them with one of the assistants (a form of training for her) so she can use them in her groups.

They were all things I devised for first time offenders and I had a lot of success with them back in the day; so, I'm hoping they transfer well. It will certainly be different for my new client base.

I should point out that was the last time I shall be discussing work in the blog. At the behest of my wife, she has asked me to lower the controversy rate. She is quite correct in thinking that some of the young people who will get to know me might eventually stumble across me on the net (which is why my Facebook and Google+ profiles have pretty indistinguishable pictures) and we all know about the domino effect, especially if I call someone a little sh1t or something. So, as well as my attempts to stop swearing; my blog is about to get an anodyne face lift. Sorry.

That's not going to suggest I won't be my usual narcissistic opinionated self; I just won't be saying 'fuck' very often and I won't be touching on any subjects that are remotely related to education or methods of disposing adolescents' bodies.

***

I have to say that I'm glad to have got this job at the present moment and I will do everything in my power to make the best job I can; it's important that I'm still there in a year and being successful, because while education won't be immune to cuts; once the Euro collapses and we're plunged into a full scale depression, I, at least, will be relatively safe. I'm sort of looking at this job either being the last one I have before I retire or it being the last kind of work that I do.

I can't say I understand the escalating destruction of Europe's finances; economics was always something of a minefield of equations and gobbledygook, but one thing is obvious, it has people very worried and I don't think Cameron's Crew are cut from the right cloth to deal with it. So far we've had more breaches of procedure in ministries than you could ever accuse the last government of doing (and amazingly these breaches have been attributed as Labour's fault because of 'the mess they left us in' which is slowly losing its impact and starting to sound like a stock excuse for ineptitude). The word Conservative is growing synonymous with the word Corruption and I find the general public's unwillingness to accept that Tories WILL NEVER look after their interests as one of the most unfathomable things I have ever contemplated.

I do know that if the Euro crashes and burns, it is going to have a remarkable affect across Europe and huge swathes of the rest of the world. One blogger I read suggested that by 2020 Europe could be on the verge of becoming the modern equivalent of a Third World country; another reckons that the noise about bombing Iran is a two-pronged objective - to rally the jingoistic Yanks to support Obama next year and because a war often kick starts economies (plus Iran has a lot of oil and the Yanks, Brits and most other 'normal' countries can't stand them).

I think if that happened people should really stand up and say, "I didn't ask for this, I don't want this and I have no faith in our politics any more." It won't do any good, but it would be great if the turn out for the next general election was less than 10%. If that happened it would create a constitutional crisis that could end with a political revolution unseen in this country.

***

I sometimes enjoy being wrong about the weather. I was convinced that we would be plunged into a westerly splurge of wind, rain and usual autumnal temperatures; but apart from some typically dreary November days, the weather is a revelation. The sun has come out in the last half an hour and people are walking past my window wearing t-shirts or with their sleeves rolled up. The temperature on the patio is only 14 degrees, but it just feels... wrong, out there.

The most amazing thing about this never-ending autumn of mild are the number of raspberries I've picked in the two weeks; I'm still picking five or six big juicy berries every day and unless we get a really penetrating frost, they are likely to continue for the next week at least. But the freakiest thing? Yesterday, the 9th of November, I picked a fully formed, fully ripe strawberry and there will be another by tomorrow! Remarkable.

***

Right enough of all this; I want to talk about something else and it could take some time, so grab a coffee, roll a fag, kick back and hear me whinge!

Facebook. I know I've already decreed that it isn't really designed for pragmatic adults, such as myself and a number of my friends, but I feel it needs to have a more circumspect examination.

When I joined Facebook, I thought of it as a really good portal to thousands of places I'd never thought of. It allowed me to play games, communicate with old friends, family and even people I've never met. It allowed me to, if I wanted, to use a number of utilities such as FB's own notes section. Facebook gave me entertainment, information, contact and the ability to do what I did everywhere else in one place, or if I chose, to continue doing everything elsewhere and link it through my page and whoever I appeared in the news feed of. I think this ease of use and the mix of old and new worlds at my fingertips is why I, like so many others, became hooked.

During those early days, it allowed me to control things to a degree - mainly who appeared in my news feed and who didn't - and while I seemed to get multiple notifications of Scrabble goes or friend requests, this was minor compared to the uniqueness of the thing. Then they 'improved' it. I remember this, it was about 3 years ago and I was one of 2 million people pleading for the old style Facebook to be retained; but 2 million is a drop in the ocean for a system that claims to have over 600 million users - it's about 3% and that is a very small minority in the grand scheme of things. Facebook was right; within 6 months I'd forgotten how the old one was and I'd just about got a handle on the new one to a degree I was happy with. Then they implemented more changes. They were no longer going to allow applications to notify you via the portal; so now instead of getting a useful little notification telling you that so-and-so had taken his Scrabble turn, you just had to go through the miasma of adverts and bollocks to find out that none of your opponents had taken a turn.

Then they started to disrupt other linked things. My blogs started to become erratically published; some were missed, others were converted into note format (why, I can't understand, but...) and Network Blogs, who I am a member of started to get stymied every time they tried to work out whatever bizarre new coding FB was using to, I presume, deliberately stymie them. Other things I was linked to stopped appearing in my feeds, despite the settings telling me otherwise.

All during this time, I resorted to doing a lot of cutting and pasting links and manually displaying things that once were done automatically and I started to realise that FB didn't like being a portal, it wanted to be the be-all-and-end-all experience, but without offering the services it drew all its members in for.

During all of this time, they continuously tinkered with the privacy settings, fiddled with account settings and did everything they could to make you as public as they possibly could. What's the point of being on a social networking site and not being social or network? Then they changed it again for no explanation whatsoever to a system that stopped you having control over what you see; now you were treated to Top Stories; a ticker tape styled running commentary on everything everyone of your friends was saying or doing with, about or on people you didn't know and probably are never likely to know. Because FB presumably thinks we'd rather be farting about with how it works than enjoying it; we were faced with the prospect of having to go through each and everyone of our friends to decide what we did or did not want to see posted by them (which has by no means meant that what we asked for is actually being delivered) and suddenly the news feed looked like it was going to more of a hindrance than a help.

Things changed so quickly and radically that I know there was a mass exodus to Google+, but even that is changing. Google, not to be outdone by FB, also instigates arbitrary changes and not just with + but with other utilities it offers. I like Google Chrome; you open a new tab and it shows you a montage of the top 8 sites you visit, plus a list of recently visited sites. It negated the use of Bookmarks (unless I wanted to visit something I rarely did) and was a quick and easy way of navigating my way through my favourite haunts. They've changed it. The new version is similar but actually requires you to do more - just like Facebook. Now instead of using these things like excellent portals, they've started to think they are more important than the places you want to go to.

Now, I know I don't like change, especially if it adds to my workload rather than diminish it, but are things growing more complicated on the net? It's like they have this desire to get you to stay longer than you should. It is, or course, a form of corporate branding that will become increasingly dominated by whoever advertises on these places. The longer you stay the more chance you're going to want to get your credit rating checked with Experion or you're going to want to buy something you have no interest in - perhaps in the vain hope that the advert will disappear! The news feed in FB now seems focused on promoting people or things that are advertisement led. Some of the things that appear in my news feed from friends who I have ticked off as 'Only Important' status updates or posts are a complete mystery. One friend, ticked off as 'All Updates' posted something in his status that was important, yet I never saw it. I did, however, see a link to a YouTube video, discovered he'd made friends with someone I don't know and he left a smiley face comment on the status of someone else I don't know. These bloody subscription settings are just arbitrary nonsense, unless you install Social Fixer, which is okay but still not perfect, you are subjected to whatever FB wants you to see, which it also arbitrarily ranks as a Top Story even if it just that Fred Bloggs likes soap. Clicking these and turning them into 'not a top story' is also pointless. I've ticked every kind of story from every kind of friend and I still get the same kinds of stories from the same people popping up as my top story. It is ridiculously random and almost designed to be so annoying you'd best just accept it.

Even the advertising is ridiculous. Apparently it targets what FB and its associates think interest you; yet I rarely get anything that even tickles my fancy. You click on the X and hide the advert, it asks you if you want to stop seeing adverts from freedogholidays.com ever again and a day later it's showing the same bloody advert. It's a sham. The more you now try to be in control of your page the longer you have to stay there - Facebook has a win win situation because even if you've grown to hate it, you rarely want to dump it in case you miss something really important. It is shit sifting extraordinaire! Only people with balls of steel can deactivate that account and not think about whether his friends like snails or people that say nah rather than no...

What FB needs to do is instead of investing all this time and money into Facebook Timeline, the thing that they're expected to make universal in January, they need to come up with an Old Fogies Facebook, which is simple, easy to use and caters for the generation that can remember life when there was no Internet.

Oh look; a herd of flying purple pigs playing trombones and being chased by a swarm of blue moons.

***

That was going to be it, but I just got in from collecting my prescription and witnessed something that should be a warning to all of us.

The chemist's conspired to lose my drugs, despite leaving the prescription with them 4 hours ago, so I was waiting to one side patiently (geddit?), the chemist began to fill up with customers. When I walked in there was a man at the counter, an elderly gentleman, probably in his early 70s. I thought, initially, he was waiting to be served, but it soon became clear, when I was approached by one of the staff that he was waiting. The counter in my local chemist isn't big; it's designed for privacy, so one person at a time can stand there and be served. This is often negated by the chemist's insistence that you recite your address loudly in front of others, regardless of who or how old you are. I've often thought that opportunist thieves could just hang around pharmacies and pick up the addresses (and often the names) of prospective victims.

Anyhow, with six people waiting behind me, I told them I wasn't in the queue and that I was being seen to, so they all, in a very British way, stood behind the elderly bloke.

One of the pharmacists saw what was happening; it just happened to be the woman who was serving me; so suddenly she was trying to direct staff to the queue, serve me and keep her handbag over her shoulder. "Excuse me sir, but have you been served?" She asked the old bloke.

"Yes. I'm waiting."

"Could you wait over in the seated area; someone will call you when your prescription is filled."

"No. That's all right. I'm happy standing here."

"Yes, but we need to serve other customers."

"I'm not in the way."

"Well, I beg to differ sir." The old geezer looked around him and saw the queue, so what did he do? He squeezed up against the racks of medicine behind him, making about half the desk accessible. The woman behind him, a quite large lady, bustled up and forced the man to back up as far as he could, causing a number of items to fall off the shelves and onto the floor, yet still the man was intent on staying put. The fat lady asked him if he could move; a simple request, but he seemed to think she spoke to him in German or something.

"I'm waiting."

"Wait over there," she said, pointing at the seats mentioned earlier and with that the man let out an exasperated sigh and trooped off to the waiting area, looking thoroughly pissed off.

Why?

I got my prescription and went home convinced that it's everybody. We're all idiots sometimes, and any age can go and and prove it to the world...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Splodgenous Abounds

Let's hear it one more time for introspection!!!

What a complete and utter waste of my life. At least, when I've frittered away what little time we get in the past, I've had inane bollocks such as drugs or Margaret Thatcher to blame. This year I've blamed my health and I'm not yet 50. How pathetic is that? Actually, not having any money has been the key factor; but it's really easy to just blame a bad back or aching elbow to avoid doing something and at times over the last six months I've done just that. Inactivity breeds inactivity. I know this for a fact; I've lived it before.

However, a word in my defence. Actually. No. I have no defence. I could have done more. Full stop.

I'm happy about the fact that I've been writing - practising - a lot and two finished rough manuscripts for short stories - however quickly I wrote them - is at least something to show; but that's about it and with the amount of time I've had that number should be at least half a dozen and a couple of finished - you know, properly finished - stories. So, with a nod to my new job. I'd give my last 6 months a D+ and that's only because I have a soft spot for myself...

***

Shortie had an early night, because she's working overtime today; so I pottered about the house for a while; watched some mindless TV - The Graham Norton Show (for which I felt a little sorry for Carey Mulligan and Ed Byrne, because they essentially might as well have been in the audience once Depp and Gervais took over. Mr Depp is a strangely hilarious character; you'd never guess he was American) - and sat in my office doing something I've made into an artform - doing nothing. I'm not in a frivolous games mood at the moment, so my time wasn't going to be wasted with that; so I sat and stared at a blank Word document, trying to work out if I really like the new idea I've had enough to actually try and write it.

Picking up on the odd things that have inspired my two previous short stories, I had this idea about the worst winter in the UK ever - a freak mini ice age that grips the UK between the end of November and the beginning of March. A winter so bad, that 40 feet of snow has fallen in some places; the country is at a complete standstill and 90% of the British Isles is under snow, ravaged by sub zero temperatures and weather conditions are preventing anything but token help from the armed forces and government. Talking about it probably means it won't happen; but what the hell...

Tentatively called Cold As Hell and following on the slight theme I've had in both short stories I've written this autumn - isolation - it was/is the story of David - a 62 year old semi-retired plasterer, whose wife and eldest daughter have gone for a pre-Christmas get away in France, leaving him to rattle around the house for a week. Once the bad weather sets in and disrupts every body's lives, David settles down to an enforced period of doing very little, but his peace is broken by Winston; David's nerdy and needy 30 year old neighbour. Winston is mixed race, lived with his mother until she died and now exists in the house adjacent David's, fuelled by his love of science fiction, horror, comics and a most bizarre music taste. Winston can't cope and David takes him in thinking he could do with the company.

The weather gets worse and the small town the two men live in becomes cut off from the outside world; the power goes out and suddenly it becomes a battle for survival against the elements and for David against the onslaught of shite spurting from Winston's mouth. Soon even the phones are down; mobile networks become strained and people are dying; but David and Winston are unaware of this as they play out their own drama in David's terraced house. By the beginning of February, with snow drifts higher than houses and even major roads impassable, the need for food becomes dire; David decides the two men need to walk the ½ a mile to the local supermarket, but even the small distance proves too much for Winston. So they return to David's house and sit and wait for the snow to stop.

Several nights later, David spies a lone figure struggling through six foot of snow. He watches the man for an hour as he makes less than 100 metres progress before he collapses in the storm. David rushes to his aid and eventually gets the man into the house. He is 28-year-old Mickey; an ex-con who, it seems, was looking for empty houses to burgle - for food and whatever he can flog once the weather changes. He'd been outside for 6 hours and got lost in the white out. He was going to freeze to death if David hadn't seen him. Mickey had a bag with some food in it and tells them that the supermarket had been stripped clean.

It doesn't take Mickey long to realise that Winston is the world's largest pain in the butt and what happens next explains how they survived the next four weeks before the weather broke...

Now that I've put paid to that by talking about it; I might come back to it at a later date, because I see it as sort of a play, because it will be dialogue heavy.

Roger had this good idea, which was to collect all the short stories when they're finished and publish them on Kindle. It's certainly not against the realm of possibilities; I've got over the hurdle now - the physical one and the mental one - so, who knows? If I do that I want to have at least 5 short stories - average 20,000 words each - so that it's value for money.

Talking about Kindle. My Monthly Curse made it to #1 in its category chart back in August, it was only for a couple of days, but I was chuffed to bits; despite that #1 position being attained by selling just under 40 copies. Of which I'd like to send a massive sloppy kiss to all the purchasers. Hopefully I'll have a spurt at Christmas, but my sex life isn't being discussed here.

I have an edited version of the book now; my old pal Dave Brzeski, former main man at House on the Borderland, offered to pass his eyes and editing skills over the manuscript - something I really should have done before publishing it, but I'm nothing if not impetuous. I've had Dave's edits for over a month now and have done nothing with them; but this coming week I'm going to do the necessary and merge the two documents together and making all the adjustments that were missed in the last edit and spell checks. There's no need to quote to me about stable doors and such. I was new (and impetuous) to this e-book publishing and once I've integrated Dave's changes and possibly even added a couple of bits - including the What If Halloween Special I put up on the Comicbook Diaries blog last week - I shall right the ill judged wrongs I did and make a 'proper' version available. It is also my intention to explore a couple of other options - Nook, e-books and iBooks have all been mentioned and I've signed up to one of those on-line agent type things that do a lot of the donkey work for you and don't appear to take much in the way of fees.

So, by the time December rolls around; I hope to have the book available in different formats and also the definitive version. You know it makes the perfect Christmas gift!

Anyhow, the last 100 words has been a digression because this was initially going to be about me sitting in front of a blank screen and what happened to prevent me from doing anything but sit and listen to events unfolding outside...

We had a tense night because there were firework parties all around and three of the four dogs were having nervous breakdowns (Marley wanted to go and watch and say 'woo') and I was growing increasingly pissed off with people who decide to stand around in the drizzle watching pretty lights. When it had all ended and the dogs settled, the wife in bed and me bored, the party, three doors down, broke up.

Now, I do sometimes give the impression that I get exasperated at some of my Eastern European neighbours, but the family who live next to the Incest Family are all from Lithuania and they seem to celebrate November 5th (ish) with more gusto than a teenager who's just discovered wanking. God knows how much they spent on explosions, but for about 45 minutes WW3 took place above my conservatory and they all woo'd and ah'd and clapped and shouted slightly odd Baltic phrases. Anthropologically it was quite fascinating; in reality I wanted a harpoon gun and some acid.

The thing that struck me was how people leaving parties seem to forget it's gone midnight and most people are in bed. The vocals always seem to be turned up to 11 and when you can't understand what they're saying it sort of gets even more frustrating - I think it tweaks our xenophobe gene. Anyhow, I'm sitting here listening to a lot of words that sound both Russian and Finnish and every so often there would be a burst of English, which made the conversation all the more interesting. For starters, in the middle of a load of Lithuanian were the words, 'I'll f*cking slap the bitch' and 'You are a f*cking whore'. Now, I don't know if this was just them relating things they'd heard or had said to them, but the majority of the English words came from a very agitated woman and sounded like they were directed at a person rather than the retelling of something. I crept into Shortie's sewing room and peered out of the window. There were two woman squaring up to each other, surrounded by about six men, who seemed to be egging them on.

Next thing I knew, the blonde, who had a line in English swearing, attacked the other girl, grabbed her by the hair and all complimented by screeching, shouting, expletives and cheers from the men. From out of my direct view came the guy who owns the place; he strides into my view, grabs the two girls and bellows at them all. Obviously he's more than aware of what is happening right in front of his house and, worryingly for me, right by the Sexy Tractor. Then something really unusual and quite disturbing happened. The blonde girl starts ranting at him and he slaps her, clean across the face. I heard the thwack and winced. The girl then walked off followed by too slightly stunned looking male admirers. The rest of the gathering broke up quietly and the guy who lives down the road, dragged the other woman back into the house, literally. I went back to my office and stared at the screen a little more and then played some Patience.

About twenty minutes later, I was brought out of my torpor by, "I'll f*cking kill you, you c*nt". The blonde was back and she was standing in the road wielding what looked like a baseball bat. A load more Lithuanian was shouted and the owner waltzes into the street, takes the baseball bat from the woman with amazingly speed and ease and chases her down the road with her own weapon.

Jokingly, I've had the description of where I live - on Facebook - as 'dodgy' for ages and only last week, I changed it to 'slightly dodgy'... Ho hum...

***

Anyhow, enough burble aside. I have stairs to hoover; saag paneer to consider and a house to bop around to the dulcet tones of Ms Welch and her Machine!

Have a good weekend you spunky buggers!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Bin Juice

So? What's been happening? Anything of note?

I have some news. Yes, and it's good news. That makes a change.

After six months; not all of which were bad, I did something yesterday that brought tears to my wife's eyes.

No. Not that. Please.

I only went and got myself a job!

Fancy that. Who would have thought it? Blummin' eck!

***

Yesterday started at 8.15am; I got up, had a shower and pottered about waiting to get into my suit. 20 minutes before I was due to leave, I was sending someone an email when I realised I hadn't had a shave. So mild panic, but it killed 10 minutes as the morning was dragging on like a Wim Wenders film. I got suited, booted and headed for the door. I had spent the morning reading reports, looking at my prospective employer's website, and so I felt I was as prepared as I could possibly be. Off I went, into the slightly less unknown.

This is the job I went for in April, which had come available again because of illness, so I knew what to expect and the fact I'd been asked back for another interview seemed to suggest I had a fighting chance.

From the moment I walked out of the interview, I talked myself out of getting it. There was no way in hell I'd got that. I burbled. I wasn't happy about the end of the interview. I thought the woman from HR was getting fed up with me. Did I make a joke too many? Gods, I fluffed my lines, didn't I and I was going to be sitting in the lounge tonight, with an unhappy wife, contemplating disaster. Same old same old then?

When my new boss phoned me to tell me I'd been successful; I was something I've rarely genuinely been in my entire life - speechless. Yes. Honestly. I squeaked, stumbled over a few words and spluttered out 'I'd like to accept it.' And I am pretty sure I heard a faint squee of delight from the living room.

I'm going in on Monday to start to get a feel for the place and I'm going to be embarking on a new facet of my working life. My past experience accounts for much, but the job is something I've never imagined I would do. It also requires me to largely be a desk jockey - something I foretold a few months back; but that isn't stifling my enthusiasm and delight at getting the job. This is a great challenge and one I'm more than capable of succeeding at.

I have to say that my negative outlook when I walked away from the interview were deliberately put there. I knew I had had a bloody excellent interview; the only thing I was worried about was the ending. I knew it was going so well I didn't want it to stop. The ending stuttered to a close rather than having a point where I shook their hands, thanked them for their time and said I hoped to hear from them soon. But, that was my only quibble. I knew by the middle of the interview that I was on a roll and it was a good one. I stopped directing my answers at the man who I had already got the vote of and concentrated on the HR woman and I think I must have succeeded. By Jove.

Suffice it to say, last night could have ended better considering the great day I'd had; but without putting too fine a detail on it, it involved a trapped dog in the wrong bedroom, me snoring for England and the wife decamping to the spare bedroom and me spending the rest of the night with three dogs for company - the fourth, the one who got stuck, was off with her mum.

But today, the wife was full of the joys of spring; laughing on the phone and generally sounding ten times better than she did 24 hours earlier; so if nothing else that's the best thing.

***

On the journey down the M40 on Monday evening, Roger commented that the air was unusually blue and that my F word counter had gone through the roof. I joked to him that I was getting as many out as I could because I was going to stop swearing. Much hilarity and mickey taking followed.

The thing was, it was a joke, but I'd sort of made a pact with myself that if I got this job; situated in a place with 1400 under 19 year olds; I really needed to learn not to swear, because frankly my language has got utterly appalling over the last few months.

So I'm stopping swearing. I've not said a single swear word since I got out of bed and while that might be because I've said nothing at all, it's still a good start. I'm going for a celebratory beer with Roger this evening, that'll be a test. Roger always makes me swear...

****

Despite probably not seeing any money before Christmas; the slough of despond seems to have lifted and I'm eyeing my overdraft with a ravenous desire to draw a tenner out and splurge it on something like... I dunno... fresh food or maybe some soap. Obviously, I'm not signing off until the day before I start my job; because I am now in transit and anything could happen in the interim. Plus, I'm technically unemployed still, so I'll take Dave's Beer Vouchers with gusto and no shame until the day. They buy the shopping, but sadly no beer. I will have beer in the house this weekend; you can bet your life on that!

***

Would it surprise you to learn that I've spent much of the day so far just bopping around the house, regardless of whether I'm listening to any music? I even had a bop in the bath and that isn't a euphemism.

***

Raconte-Moi Une Histoire - trust me, it'll make you smile and nod your head in a groovy kind of way...

***

And that's that. I'm in far too good a mood to have a moan about anything. I'm just going to bop around the house with the Dyson; maybe do some cooking and then take the hounds out for a good walk. The weather is very mild and for this millisecond everything is groovy!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

As It's a Lovely Day...

... Let's talk about zombies!

I'm not even in a cynical mood...

The new vampires are just plain rotten. It's a fact. Well, it's a fact in my head.

There was an interesting question on QI recently (probably a Dave repeat) where Stephen Fry asked how long it would take for a zombie outbreak to spread across the world - about 39 days according to 'the people that know these things'. Surely that's based on using the films as a point of reference and believing 98% of the population of the planet has the intelligence of a mollusk.

What do we know about zombies? Well, traditional zombies were dead people reanimated, wandering around like... well, animated corpses. They were slow, dim-witted and if you got bitten by one it was either through your own stupidity or because one was hiding behind the shower curtain. This theme continued throughout George Romero and countless other zombie movies until 28 Days Later when the zombies became a different and far more deadly beast altogether. Romero brought a couple more zombie films out and they followed his old idea and there were some things like Zombieland which suitably satirised the genre while being kind and faithful.

Then there was Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, which as well as being a monster hit in comics, has been turned into a hugely popular TV show. I'm sort of struggling to understand why, despite having read most of the comics and a keen watcher of the TV series. Both the comic and the TV show are full of dislikeable characters, unfocused organisation and uninteresting soap opera. None of the characters, except maybe Rick Grimes - the hero (of sorts) - have many redeeming qualities and not because the world is now post-apocalyptic, because the survivors are largely selfish, self-obsessed individuals - the kind who probably would go to ground until everyone else had been eaten.

People claimed there were similarities between The Walking Dead and Falling Skies - the post-apocalyptic SF series about alien invaders and there is, but the main one is that regardless of how hard the writers try, none of he characters is particularly good or interesting or likeable or well developed. The comic only makes this more so with its 'everyone is expendable' policy.

Plus, there's this feeling that even though this is a bunch of characters plunged into a nightmare; there would be some common sense applied. There is in the comic, but Kirkman's best observation was breezed over, albeit because he wanted to continue with a story rather than have it change midway through. There's this thing about zombies you see; they're dead. They're cold. They are the new reptiles. Let's put it this way, if you put your arm in snow, it gets cold, but the rest of your body keeps it from freezing. If you put a leg of lamb in the same place - it freezes. They put corpses on ice and while I appreciate that The Walking Dead is set in and around Atlanta, where sweat gets sweaty, you'd think they would just head north until they run out of Canada. That's what I'd do if we were over run by zombies; I'd head for the north of Scotland in the winter and shatter a few skulls on really frosty mornings.

The problem with Romero's zombie movies is that by the fourth one - spanning 25 years, the audience just didn't care any more; the novelty and uniqueness had disappeared and I think the same thing will likely happen to this new zombie fad by the end of 2012. The Walking Dead's problem is that you're now waiting for the less main cast to be picked off, because you know it's what is going to happen and you want to see if it's going to be different or just a bit of a bite to the arm.

This also doesn't mean I'm going to stop watching; I just think that it would be good to have a post apocalyptic story that has pragmatists and resourceful people in charge. Yes, it might be the drama equivalent of DIY SOS but at least I wouldn't be picking holes in the plasterboard so much.

Gig Guide 9: Steven Wilson, Shepherd's Bush O2 Empire; 31st October 2011

As is so often the case, my gig reviews aren't just about the gig, but also the surrounding day and landscape. Yesterday was no exception...

I headed off to The Smoke with Roger and Phil Walker (t'other, t'other Phil) in the wife's Zafira, believing it would be considerably more economic than taking the Sexy Tractor™ which is a 1.9 injection while the Vauxhall is a simple 1.6 - makes sense to take the more economical, on paper, car. Hah! The fucking Zafira drinks petrol like I'd quaff Oakham beer if I had the money, the time and the inclination to end up with the hangover from hell. I had about a ¼ of a tank, so stuck another £10 in and it barely dented our wonky fuel gauge™. We also decided to do London the less strenuous way, which meant a 20 mile diversion down the A43 to join up with the M40, which takes you, literally, to the doorstep of the Empire.

My first 20 minutes in Londinium was spent fretting about the petrol consumption of my wife's car; deciding that a steady 70mph in the Sexy Tractor™ would have been a far more sensible idea and would have meant that for yesterday only my beautiful Sexy Tractor™ would have four stinking dogs running riot in the back. It's also a bloody comfortable car and I have a back rest in it that was missing from the Zafira. Still, my frame is decidedly good at the moment; I felt 10 years younger when we got into Shepherd's Bush. I was out of the house and there was an entire bustling world at my fingertips. Roger, however, wasn't enamoured by my desire to slowly find an alternative pub to the ones we'd found within 5 minutes of arriving. I wanted to walk - it was almost warm - and I wanted to take in West London's version of the City. Roger's amazement at my desire to walk and generally take in the ambiance was quickly being replaced by a raging hunger and a desire to punch my face in. It happens.

We found a pub that did arty farty pub grub and poor beer, the alternative was not much better, but on our walk we'd spotted an all you can eat vegetarian Chinese buffet, which I believe Roger thought ticked all the boxes I require. I was being obtuse. Not deliberately, but I struggle with the concept of these 'buffet' styled diners. I'm a fussy bugger and am very worried if there is foreign things in the food I like. In the end I could see Roger beginning to become the grumpy bastard I first met many years ago, on the Isle of Wight, when the weather was almost like Spain. So we ate Chinese(ish).

The food was good; the slow walk across Shepherd's Bush Park (more like a splodge of green in a concrete and steel metropolis), we got into the long queue waiting for the doors of the Empire to open. We had a sense of urgency about us, because while we're all seasoned gig goers, Steven Wilson is a funny bugger with his gigs - in whatever form they take. It stated on his web site that the doors opened at 7pm and not to be late and as we'd missed the entire North Atlantic Oscillation set when we went to see Porcupine Tree last year, we felt the need to get in there as early and with as little fuss as possible. Hah!

Jasper Carrot talked of always getting the lunatic on the bus; well, I'm the fucking daddy of that now. There's this guy, looking a bit pissed, wearing a chavvy tracksuit and he's walking along the road, next to the queue and he just sees Roger, Phil and I and he must have thought, There's 3 easy touches; obviously out of towners.

"Excuse me gents." The world was going to end... His opening line was really all I can remember about his initial words and I can only really remember snippets of the conversation, which probably lasted no more than 5 minutes, but felt like a week. He was looking for money - natch - but this was because he'd run out of it and wanted a pound from us so he could get another drink. I remember saying we didn't have zany money and would he please go away, but this was like a red rag to a bull and he started to get... the higher ground.

Now, I know I'm a master of relaying conversations; a god at comebacks and witty retorts, but last night, I just had that feeling that starting an argument/discussion/conversation with this slightly crazy looking man would end in tears, so I bit my lip and started to stare at the skies. On retrospect, it wasn't a fare thing to do to Phil or Roger, but I just knew that I'd get wound up by this disgraceful chancer's affable Northern snake charmer act. He asked questions about why we were all standing in a line and trying his best to 'win over' my two associates. He probably figured he'd cut me out of the picture and go straight for my friends. He asked a question and I said, "We'd just like you to go away and bother someone else." I didn't look at him, nor did I rise to his rising grievance.
"I do not like your honesty. I really don't like your honesty!" Huh? What did he expect, me to lie nicely to him? "Look at him; he really wants to hit me. You can see it, he wants to hit me."
"No. I. Don't." I said through gritted teeth; yes, I did want to hit him.
"He just wants you to go away." said Roger, bless his heart.
And, he did, but not without trying to regain the moral high ground by wishing us a pleasant evening and shaking Roger's (dodgy) hand. Thank fuck for that!

However, the fun wasn't to end just there. Phil W got involved in an altercation with a jobsworth bouncer about his back pack, which resulted in Phil having to leave it at the stage door and picking it up later. We got to our seats at a little before 7.30, expecting something. Hah!

We figured, as the house lights went down, that Wilson was going to start at 8pm, but by 8.05 it was obvious he wasn't. We'd joked about not being allowed to take cameras, phones, 8 tracks and various other electronic gadgets in, or Wilson's personal SS would shoot us in our seats, but by 8.10, I was seriously considering standing up and shouting at the stage and asking Wilson, 'if he was taking the piss?'. So instead I spent 15 minutes dozing with my head on my hand. We'd exhausted all the surreal conversations we could manage and I was now getting pissed off.

Wilson eventually took to the stage at 8.30, behind a fucking great big net curtain. The band played the first four numbers hiding behind a veil with projections played on it. I wanted to see if Nick Beggs (Wilson's bassist) still looked like the twot from Kajagoogoo. I had made my mind up that I wasn't going to enjoy this gig and the opening number did nothing to change my mind, but by the time the curtain came down, I was actually really getting into it. The new album works better live than on disc and I was impressed by the quality of musicianship on display, from everyone bar Wilson; who really did what he said at the beginning of the gig, was going to relax and let the band take the strain.

At just over 100 minutes, it was a good solid gig. I don't really like the epic Raider 2 from the new album; it's a bit too disjointed and intricate, especially for a closing number, but that really was my only quibble with the last two thirds of the show. it confirmed my belief that Wilson writes great songs, has an unusually diverse fan base and should probably get more recognition than he does, because he chooses to work in strange fields. Part of me wanted him to do something a little off the wall; maybe do a couple of his Cover versions, or maybe an acoustic piece on his own, but for a rock gig it did what it said on the tin and the empire has a quaint charm about it that juxtaposed the fact that there was going to be some hard rock played.

The thing about Wilson's new solo album is that, I believe, much of it sounds like old Porcupine Tree, tracks like Deform to Form a Star and Postcard could have appeared on Lightbulb Sun and while my cohorts enjoyed the homages to early prog giants King Crimson, I found I enjoyed him the best when he and the band sounded like Porcupine Tree.

However, while a good gig, I feel I can only really give it 7 out of 10.

The journey home was relatively uneventful. We got cheap petrol near Uxbridge and Phil and Roger were accosted by a woman begging for petrol, claiming she'd come out without her purse. Just a fiver's worth, that's all she wanted. Roger walked off mumbling something about it always happening to us and apparently she looked at him horrified. My bet was she was just a good actor, and why did she have a car full of kids?*

I opted for the M25/M1 combo on the way home, figuring that by midnight the traffic would be clear. I was right and we made good time until we hit the M1, which is no longer a motorway in places, more like a big fuck off building site. It was an horrendous journey home; slow, slower and always being aware there were hazards. It took us about 20 minutes less than it would have taken had I followed the same route back as we'd taken down, but by the time I got home I was stressed out and tense. Driving through Kingsthorpe didn't help; I feel for the locals at the way their part of town has just been turned into a nightmare and all because Asda wanted a right turn into their supermarket.

Another observation from the evening was only seeing 2 people all evening looking like they involved in some form of Halloween bollocks; other than that it could have been any night in any town.

* I have a quick theory based on nothing but my innate ability to be right about stuff like this. The two 'beggars' we met last night, were unlike any beggars I have ever come across. Neither looked like homeless or poverty stricken people and both tried reason, guilt and pervasively friendly approaches. I don't think this was a coincidence. I'm not suggesting the two people were linked in any way, apart from their methods. We're a country that for some the slide in real poverty is happening in front of them, but for others, chancers, this is a time when they can target the middle class with stories that would surely pull on the heart strings, or make you feel like giving them money just so they go away. The irony is if I met a genuinely needy person, I still wouldn't give them money; advice most definitely, but never money. You should never ever give them money, because the likelihood is that only 10% of the people you give money to will want it for what they're asking for. It will be collected and go on drink and drugs. If they are genuine, then advice such as where the nearest night shelter is will be appreciated, if not really needed.

I think we're going to see a lot more of this in the coming months; people praying off the concept of others weaknesses.

***

Quick note about that arsehole banker who appeared on TV last week claiming he goes to bed every night praying for recession because he'll only end up richer. The guy who claims that Goldman Sachs runs the world - which might be the case, but I don't think we really want to have our suspicions about the world being run by corporations rather than politicians confirmed, just yet. This man, Alessio Rastani, is everything that is bad about the planet we live on and everything we have grown accustomed to.

We need a better world.