Saturday, March 31, 2012

2012 - 14

Net Loss – a blow by blow account of web withdrawal

Wednesday 28th March

I’m without the Internet. This is either down to a faulty modem, a faulty Ethernet connection or the possible cause of a dog being sick. Now, that isn’t a usual reason and as unlikely as it seems if you eliminate all the possible, whatever you are left with must be the answer.

Lexy is a wee bit poorly at the moment; she has an upset tummy that has led to several puddles of dog vomit spread throughout the house. We’re a bit worried, but we know dogs and they get tummy upsets sometimes. Anyhow, I switched the PC off last night (Tuesday), went to bed and then went to work this morning. Got in switched the PC on and couldn’t get on the net. Thought it might be a local fault, left it alone for an hour, came back and it was still off. I ran a diagnostic. It suggested a modem problem; I looked under my desk at the lead and saw there were two foamy pools of sick, nestling in between the wires, but not near anything live. I checked everything; cleaned the mess up; hovered and sorted out all the wiring and reconnected it. Still nothing. Rang Virgin Media. Told the above to no less than FIVE different people in a call that lasted 1 hour and 28 minutes, two-thirds of that on hold and nought was solved. Incidentally, the story was told without the vomit part.

There’s nothing wrong with my Internet and there appears to be nothing wrong with my computer. Everything is set up correctly, so all Virgin Media collective tech support department can think is that there is either a problem with the modem itself or the cable between it. Unless of course Lexy, in her convulsions knocked the actual box and dislodged something in there.
As this is going to double up as my next blog entry, I’m sure there will be updates between now – 11.40pm on Wednesday 28 March and whenever I get back on line on my own computer...

Stats

It’s stats time at work. The first indication of whether or not I am doing any good at my job. I haven’t got much of an idea at the moment, because the data I’m working with is too large for me to make any snap judgements or guesstimates, especially as the goalposts appear to have been moved rather surreptitiously. Suffice it to say, my gut feeling is figures are going to be up rather than down over the two term period, so I’m going to have to base some of my conclusions on subjective points rather than factual ones.

The thing is, I’m growing increasingly paranoid, which, trust me, is an unusual feeling for me, even when I know the bastards are out to get me (as has happened in the past). I just get the feeling that I’ve not turned out to be the person they thought they were getting. I am absolutely not strict – I’m reasonable, and whether or not my figures come out positive, I don’t think my way is the way of my keepers. Barely any of my ‘clients’ hate me; most of them think I’m the coolest thing since whatever their lively minds think is cool this week. One of my colleagues told me the other day that the kids love me; they think I’m fantastic. Whether that gets my job done isn’t the point. I’m supposed to be the devil incarnate. They shouldn’t be fist-bumping me, they should be cowering away in fear and loathing and perhaps I’m just being paranoid...

Day Two Withdrawal

Thursday 29th March

Fortunately, I am able to access my emails at work, but a lot of my usual haunts (goat porn, Burn their Face Book, 50 Muslim Alcoholic Lesbians) are blocked and I’m suffering a weird cold turkey type withdrawal. My sad hour – the hour after dinner – is usually spent playing Scrabble, Bejeweled Blitz and ignoring what my friends have to say; but I can’t do it at the moment and it has left this huge void.

I told the IT boys at work and they gave me a new Ethernet cable – that didn’t work, which 75% rules the dog out of the picture. The odds are the modem is on the fritz, the bad news would be if something has gone wrong inside the PC. Diagnostics suggest that isn’t the case, especially for reasons gone on at length earlier in this diary of despair.

The strange thing is that I have done without the net before, to varying degrees of irritation, but because this is an unknown problem and could take a long time to solve I’m taking a calm, resolute, approach to it. I see a raft of expense on the horizon for various reasons and none of them are likely to solve themselves and I’m not just talking about computers.

Anyhow, I need diesel and the pub and I expect a long queue for one of them so I’d better get a wiggle on...

Day Three – resolution

Twas the modem. I have a shiny, brank-spanking-new Virgin Media Hub – a kind of cross between Hal 9000 and Spongebob Squarepants. Everything is good with the world again.

Stats II

I was being paranoid.

The stats aren’t bad. In fact, in places they’re pretty good. I don’t quite understand them, but I seem to come out looking okay.

Work also quite lovingly cocked up my birthday; thinking it fell during the Easter break I got my present and card today, despite being at work on my birthday. Still, muchos Homebase vouchers, a nice card, with some lovely messages and a bottle of Merlot, coupled with a pretty glowing appraisal made for a really good final day of term.

Dog Sick Blues

Lexy continued to vomit. The wife got worried, took her to the vet and while she was out, Ness decided to start splattering the house with her own brand of bile-based secretions. I had said it was probably a bug and while the wife was spending money on Lexy, Ness was proving me right.

By the time Lexy got home she wanted food again; she was ravenous and back to her usual self. I went to the pub with Roger and came home to a sea of sick. Murray had joined the ranks of the infirm. There were piles of regurgitated dog food everywhere and Marley, unaffected by the virus, was eyeing them up with greed in her eyes - she likes a bit of sick, especially some other dog's vomit with added lumps.

24 hours later and Lexy is eating again; Murray and Ness are quiet and being starved and Marley, a dog with a cast iron constitution, is as right as rain. As she has had the other three's up-chuck all to herself and sampled each one and still not come down with the bug, all I can think is she isn't going to get it.

Your Needs Fulfilled or Your Money Back

The by-election in Bradford West has to be a wake up call for all three major political parties. For Labour the decision is simple, you have two years to get rid of Millidee and elect a leader that the people don't snigger at. For the Tories it is simple - parts of the country will never vote for you and if you don't want to be forming coalitions for the next five generations you have to stop looking out of touch, aloof and employing wankers to run the country. The Lib Dems need to accept that they are finished as a political party.

I said on my old politics blog over two years ago that this country needs to wake up and start looking at electing people that want to run the country. People who probably work tirelessly in communities, who would be proud to serve their constituencies - whatever the pay - and wouldn't kowtow to the needs of corporations, tradition or compromise. I would never suggest for a second that Gorgeous George Galloway is a beacon of human common sense, but the fact he could attract so many non-white votes while campaigning on issues that meant things to the residents, suggests to me that it can be done somewhere else with a Joe Nobody who is altruistic, not self-serving, who is committed to real not rhetorical change.

Some guy on Newsnight said he can't see a government in the rest of his lifetime not being some form of coalition. He forecast as many as 10% of all seats going to independents, who will eventually hold the balance of power. That's great, but these 10% will be tempted by the promises of personal gain, of executive seats on boards, of holiday homes in Dorset or whatever temptation turns genuine politicians into selfish, forelock pulling, lackeys and what we need is that 10% to resist and hold out for the right decisions.

I said politics needs to change radically because people are fed up with it. I really hate it when Parliament is broadcast during PMQs and we see whoever is in power sneer at the opposition. It's like watching the bully in charge of the sand pit and as a result nothing ever gets answered. Wouldn't it be a great world if Ed Balls, when he was asked if he would reverse the 45p tax cut if Labour got back into power, had said, "Yes. It will be the first thing I do." Or "No, we'll see how this new band works." But instead we were treated to a load of words which really said 'I have no idea what we're going to do and if I had I'm not going to tell you because I'm shit scared that I'll say something I regret.' Political debate is like my mate Colin - 500 lengthy and convoluted ways of saying 'yes' and 'no'.

I really believe that political parties either need to disband or change in such a way that allows people who vote the same but do not share the same methods of achieving the best outcome to co-operate and exist within the same umbrella party. This kind of smacks in the face of my philosophy, but you have to have a structure that allows these individuals and small groups to function in a working government, otherwise nothing will ever happen. Therefore you need to either abolish or radically alter the role of the whips (and while you're at it also abolish lobbying from anyone with a vested financial interest). If I vote for an MP who opposes a military action, but is forced to vote in favour of it because of his party allegiance, then that MP has failed to uphold one of his pledges and should be subject to a by-election. MPs should be elected and allowed to vote for what they believe in rather than what their party does.

If the yoof of today carry their ambivalence of politics with them and it continues to seep into the younger generations, then politics will change or we will face revolution. We need to make people believe that politicians are actually doing their job and doing it in the best interests of the people who voted him or her in power. Even if that person is elected with only 51% of the majority, then that person has to best perform in the interests of that 51%, plus also attempt to pacify and impress the 49% who didn't vote his or her way. Surely the best thing a politician can ever hear is, "I didn't vote for him, but I can't deny he's done a good job"?

If we truly had a parliament made up of people who served it in the interests of the people, we might still have all the problems we have now, but we also might feel the people in power are actually doing things to make it better; because at the moment all we have is people telling us how much worse it is going to get while knowing that the word 'worse' is relative.

Stuff
  • I have mainly been listening to House of Love, the symphonic Led Zeppelin and quite remarkably Gary Numan.
  • Chavs will be started this coming week.
  • Skins ended poignantly and that was good.
  • I appear to have stopped getting Lobster Spam.
  • I have two weeks holiday.
  • The weather is going to suck.
  • The wife is not working today, for the first time in ages, but is sitting downstairs with the mother of all headaches. I think the stress she put herself under over the last three days has finally caught up with her.
  • The Saturday from hell beckons...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The TV Dump (v)

Bingo

After all the red herrings you could wish for, this week's Fringe confirmed all my suspicions. I was right all along, but where exactly does that leave the show?

Bango

I got to the stage a few weeks ago where I was beginning to think that Being Human US was going to eclipse its big British brother of a show. It's not. The climax to Sally's whiny but well thought out story arc concluded with a bite and a whimper and is it me or do they have more full moons in Boston than anywhere else in the world?

Bongo

Tim Kring invented Heroes. That was, for a while, a really daring idea that sort of disappeared up its own arse and not in a weird and self-important way, but because they just pfaffed around too much. Touch, Kring's new show, stars Kiefer Sutherland and by the time I got 20 minutes into episode two I realised I was watching Quantum Leap with a retard rather than a hologram. Awful, mawkish and a bit like a comic in that they needed to throw in a repeated oral synopsis of the premise to remind people what they were watching. Quite a dreadful programme which I can't see being remotely successful, but I'm probably in a minority.

Bungo

I have also officially given up on Grimm. I shall keep the first season on disc in case I break my leg or slip another disc and need some superfluous entertainment to prevent me from seizing up. The problem I have with it is the profundity of demons and monsters. In a show like Buffy there was a 'plausible' reason for the amount of nasty creatures running around, Grimm doesn't have this and is dogged by special effects that look like they might have been produced in the same era as Whedon's cheerleading vampire slayer's first movie outing.

It's a clever little idea and it has been recommissioned, but, you know, there's other stuff on.

Bengo

Awake awaits and I'm already feeling a bit of dread. The idea seems wacky enough to have come from the minds of the Lost boys, but even without seeing an episode, I get the impression that this is going to be a weird concept played entirely without weirdness. Imagine Being Human being about three people who think they are monsters, but only when they are at home; which is unfair considering I haven't seen more than a 45 second clip, but, you know, it needs to be good and weird or it's going to be going the way of Touch.

Byngo

I still think Shameless US is the best thing on my TV at the moment; but at least The Walking Dead finale went out with a rediscovered sense of menace. However, I have just about zero expectations from the next series because I think you're going to discover that there's no mileage in a zombie TV show once you start making the humans far more menacing than the zombies. The casting call for season 3 might have a couple of dozen comics fanboys splurting in their grubby jeans, but I think the introduction of Michonne and the Governor might be stretching the average viewers sense of (un)reality a little too far. There is also a huge potential for repeating the Herschel's farm meander again, now that the prison looms large in the distance. The comic spent a shedload of time there, the TV series and the pace it goes could feasibly see us watching the Qatar World Cup in 2022 before the zombies overrun that place as well.

Dr Who's new assistant has been named. I have no idea who she is, but hopefully she'll ask the question that hasn't been asked at all since the revamp; why on Earth doesn't the Doctor just go back to a point in time before anything horrible happens and prevent it, especially as time has gone all timey-wimey. If I had the chance of being his sidekick, I would bore him stupid with lots of paradoxical questions.

Alcatraz hasn't been bad; it's a bit like Fringe meets The Rock with less action and Hurley. I have fallen three episodes behind because I can't quite see what the raison d'etre is once they discover who is responsible for the anomaly and why and it is the kind of show that probably needs to give a bit more away or it will end up cancelled before anything is revealed. It isn't Lost Mark 2.

Is it me or are the news channels relying a little too heavily on the thoughts of the Twitterati, Facebook morons and other anti-social networking sites for literary content on news stories. As difficult and painful to watch as the Fabrice Muamba situation was, is Wayne Rooney saying he's praying for the DR Congo-born Bolton player really news?

I also find it quite painful that respected friends of mine watch shit like The Voice (or Dragon's Den: The Musical as some wag put it), Britain's Got (No) Talent and the God-awful The Apprentice. I do, however, recall a Harry Enfield sketch called Call Me Wanker and somehow those two unconnected sentences make perfect sense.

The Good Food channel is showing episodes of Man v Food I haven't seen before, unfortunately the allure of watching a slightly fat wannabe TV star eating his own weight in meat has lost its appeal. I do still like the way Richman says, 'Oh my goodness, oh, my, goodness' but that came in a later season.

I do at least have Haven to look forward to in the summer. I say 'look forward to', what I actually mean is look forward to not downloading it, not watching it and not subjecting myself to the worst SyFy programme in existence, with the exception of Sanctuary, Lost Girl and most other things they produce. Oddly enough this is the (premature) final season of Eureka, it was obviously far too classy for such a Troma-like TV network.

2012 - 13

Bang Crash Silence

Sunday mornings for the last 6 months, have been the wife's only official day off. She has been working overtime for a lot longer than we needed, especially as I'm now back in full time work. Today is her last day working the extra shift and with it being clocks going forward day she's also going to lose an hour of much needed rest. Last Sunday morning at a little after 8:00am in the morning, Fishwife, his father-in-law (a builder) and the two rugrats, were booming at the top of their voices at Fishwife's conservatory. To add to this almost alien cacophony was the sound of hammer on concrete, a wheelbarrow and shovels being drawn across uneven wood decking. They might have well as just set up an illegal rave the amount of din being made.

The wife, who has been up by 6:00am every morning bar Sundays for ever, tends to have a late night on Saturday night, she's in bed by 11:00pm; so you could argue that she'd had at least 1 extra hour in bed by the time the work started, but I think that's small change. She huffed and puffed and generally sounded pissed off as she shut the window with a thump - which must have fallen on deaf ears next door because they resumed whatever they were dismantling with even more gusto. I decided to get up, let the ducks out and make myself a coffee - I was awake and I get more sleep than she does - relatively.

Wandering down the garden, Fishwife saw me and boomed a good morning at me; I waved a hand in the air and trudged off to the duck shed. I was pissed off because the wife was. I couldn't quite work out what was going on, but it seemed that part of his conservatory had started to fall apart - not bad considering it was put up about 6 weeks after ours and looks exactly the same except theirs is brown. As I was coming back up the garden, he peered over the fence and smiled. "I'm still in bed," I said to him and ignored whatever he was going to say. This was 8.18am.

By 8.25 they had finished whatever they were doing with a flourish of crashes bangs and wallops and then... nothing. The entire family hung around the house all day; the father-in-law, who you might have thought could only be there early was also there for most of the day and whatever they were doing could have been done at any part of the day. I just came to the conclusion that like many people on this planet, they don't actually give a fuck about anyone else.

The Forecast

Last year, he says with a cocky swagger, I did something that highly paid scientists can't do. I 90% accurately forecast what the weather between May and the end of the year would be like. I had a hiccup around October, because who knew it would be a month packed full of summery bits. But, I forecast correctly that summer would end around the end of June, we'd have two crap months before September came back and reminded us that summer was all but over.

With a temperature of 22 degrees forecast for parts of the country this weekend and it being March still, it made me wonder if I could do it again and if I could should I start my own forecasting service based entirely on whatever I feel the morning of whatever forecast I have to make. Probably not, but for a bit of fun lets see if I can anyhow.

Phil's forecast for April to the end of the year:
April: will be glorious, especially Easter and it will again lull people into a false sense of an impending BBQ summer. By the end of the month, North Sea cloud will prevent the east of the country from getting much above 10 degrees, but the rest of the country will be bright, sunny and above average temperatures.
May: another great month and one that has water companies scratching their heads - barely any rain, parched earth and low reservoir levels only add to the feeling that we're going to run out of water. The temperature hits 30 degrees towards the end of the month and the rest of Europe bakes under extremely unseasonal temperatures. Sales of ice cream booms and despite everyone being pissed off, it's too hot to protest.
June: the good weather continues and everyone with a summer event is looking at the calendar and thinking it's got to end some time. It does, during the 1st week of Wimbledon. The hot weather is replaced by cooler, showery weather and by the end of June it's like April should have been. Novac Djokovic wins the tennis tournament wearing a North Face fleece and wellies.
July: will be wet and unseasonably cold. Olympic athletes will be supplied with water wings.
August: will be like July but with less sunshine. The IOC suggests the GB won't get another Olympics as long as people have holes in their arses.
September: will roar in with balmy days and wall-to-wall sunshine and stay that way right up until
October: when it will remain mild until the middle of the month and then it will start to rain again and rain and rain. In fact it will rain until
November: where it will still rain and be cold as well. There are protests outside the Anglia Water Authority because there's still a hosepipe ban on. Chairmen of that company says, "With the amount of rain we've had why on Earth would any of you want to use your hosepipes? For God's sake, Wisbech is under water!" But apart from this, it's a quiet month, yet we won't see any early snow down here, we won't see any in
December: either, but it will be cool, foggy and dreary. Christmas Day will be 11 degrees and several global warning deniers will be executed. Statisticians will declare that the UK's weather is becoming more like India without the heat and our summer's are increasingly becoming monsoons, while the best time to take a holiday is in May.

Alternatives

Writing the above made me think of the things there seem to be too much of in the world and how if these things could be made into something how the economy might improve.

Take Bindweed for instance. You can have the stuff take over an entire garden if you leave a slither of the stuff in the ground. It grows about ten foot every hour and if it could be harvested and fed to poor people it would save a lot of money.

How about traffic cones? We see them everywhere, normally in places where roadworks aren't being done. Couldn't we melt them all down and er... throw them away? yes, it would spoil many a student's good night out, especially when he wakes up in the morning and finds it with a turd in it where one of his pissed friends has mistaken it for a toilet.

Dog and cat shit. Do you know there's an estimated 100 tonnes of the stuff squeezed out every bloody day of the year? That's more shit than money. If we started to use dog shit as currency, I'm betting people wouldn't worry so much about how little they have in their pockets!

Japanese knotweed. I've always struggled to see what the problem is and can never be arsed to find out, but if it's that bad, transplant it into the gardens of people who don't pay their rent.

TV Talent Shows. If we had the means of putting them all into a big grinder, mincing them up and then adding a quick-drying concrete solution, perhaps we could throw the results at Simon Cowell's head until he dies.

Children. I can think of many things to do with this particular infestation, however most of them are illegal at the moment, but give the coalition a few months and child labour will at least be repealed; I mean, these Tories need something to clean their chimneys and who better than a deprived and abused 6 year old?

Buttercups. I don't know about you, but I have masses of the blighters. If you can't make butter from them or fashion them into cups then like bindweed there must be some kind of nutritional value or perhaps a toxic element?

Tories done Good

Yes. I did write that and I mean it and I'm not being sarcastic. Honest. The new 40p minimum alcohol price is something that can only be a good thing, especially for pubs and clubs, because the hordes of pissheads out there will find it's as cheap to actually get drunk in a pub than do it at home and then go out and vomit over someone else's sofa.

The price of beer in my favourite pub is outrageous and it's a wonder how pubs can survive with pints of tax-relieved real ale weighing in at a staggering £3.50 a pint (My first ever pint cost me 28p), and with another duty increase thrown in just to piss off the poor people even more. But, preventing young and impressionable yoofs to avoid drinking the 21st Century equivalent of moonshine, ie white lightning styled cider (the stuff that's made about a mile from an orchard, which is its only connection to apples) can only be a good thing.

Hit and Miss

I have come to the conclusion that Family Guy is exactly like The Simpsons in that for every complete and utter genius episode, there's half a dozen stinkers. Fortunately they're only 22 minutes long (with credits), so it's not like a death sentence watching a bad one.

Talking to Roger on Thursday, we both agreed that it's almost not worth sticking with. Then, ironically, later that night, I watched two episodes that made me realise that some things are worth sticking with.

I've waxed lyrically about the episode where Peter Griffin gets a drugstore credit card, but in truth, it's an average episode with some pure moments of inspired genius, not least the vomiting competition, which, seriously, has to be seen to be believed; but on Thursday there were moments of surreal humour that almost achieved the pinnacle that the vomit scene did.

The first was the episode about Peter taking gene therapy and eventually becoming gay. It was inspired for being possibly the most offensive single episode I have ever seen, with literally no stone unturned. It begins with Peter buying a retarded horse and I had to watch the first 10 minutes again because it was just so funny.

The second episode, Long John Peter is basically stupid, but the subplot about Chris, his son, falling for a veterinary nurse is inspired. But the true star of this episode is a dead bull frog and the creators' ability to dwell on points far too long. The inspired line, because the majority of the gag is in silence is when Peter says to a despondent Chris, "I caught you a bull frog, drilled holes in its back so it could breathe and," opening the box, "oh..." Much of the entire episode is north of gross.

More Stuff
  • This week I have been listening to mostly classical music, with a bit of Hybrid thrown in for good measure.
  • I begin to read Chavs today.
  • I need a haircut and the pond needs cleaning.
  • I am strangely reticent about my football team's transformation into a crap team.
  • I was subjected to a farting 13-year-old girl this week and it was really unpleasant.
  • I gave £1 to Sport Relief.
  • I have been saving the lives of frogs almost on a daily basis. The main pond has been like some surreal video game - Ducks vs Frogs - a bit like an X-rated Angry Birds. I still want to know how the one frog I fished out, as dead as a dodo, was missing its feet!
  • The temperature is 19 degrees on the patio, I've done all my chores. I'm off to start on my tan, read the paper, have a coffee and enjoy the summer while it lasts!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2012 - 12b

Emotion Detector

I think the way I'm going I shall be blubbing at just about anything by the time I'm 60. I know that men, as they get older, suddenly become more... no, less able to control their emotions, especially ones that have you reaching for hankies. Maybe it's because I was a Caring Understanding Noughties Type (I say 'was' as this is no longer the noughties) or maybe it's because I now work with people and people have a way of inveigling their way into your emotions.

Anyhow, my most recent visit to the land of 'what the fuck is wrong with me' happened last night. I had, much to the wife's bemusement, settled down to watch the Spurs v Bolton FA Cup quarter final and despite going a goal down after 4 minutes, my team equalised and looked in the ascendancy, when something horrible happened.

Fabrice Muamba used to be an Arsenal player, but that is immaterial, because on the 41 minute mark he collapsed and 'died' on the White Hart Lane pitch. Only the actions of quick-witted footballers (normally something of an oxymoron of a statement) and medical staff, who worked valiantly and at times seemingly in vain to save the 23-year-old's life. The game, which was finely poised was cancelled, the fans were united in their support for the stricken player, the other players and the decision - never before could a game have been abandoned where there was not a single dissenting voice to be heard.

ESPN's coverage was respectful; as soon as the shot of Muamba obviously having a fit, face down on the WHL turf was shown, the producers decided that it was more prudent to focus on anything else. The crowd, the reaction of the players, the looks of complete and utter shock on everyone's faces - you didn't need to see a man fighting for his life to know there was a man fighting for his life.

And I sat there feeling emotion welling up in my stomach; yes, I will admit to feeling a bit like rubber-necking, but equally I could hear the emotion in my voice when telling the wife who Muamba was and stating the bleeding obvious when saying things such as, 'this is bad' and 'I hate to say this but I think he's dead'.

So, with the game rightly abandoned, we decided to watch something else and that something was the second part of Martin Scorsese's George Harrison documentary. Which, of course, doesn't have a happy ending and at the end I was sat there thinking about George - the tenderest and most self-effacing of the Beatles; and John so cruelly stolen from us by a madman with a gun; and there was Ringo, with tears in his eyes and a thick voice, making a funny, but poignant, joke about his own blubbing. I wiped more than one tear from my eyes and the wife, always finely attuned to death, wandered into the kitchen and I knew she had been crying as well. Someone else's tragedies and deaths have a way of making you remember your own grief all too acutely.

And today is Mother's Day; not a day I've ever been a huge fan of; because as anyone who knows me will tell you I think all of these 'days' are just the creation of card companies who understand that humans have a love of something and they should show that love by buying a card for that special occasion. It's like Valentine's day - if I love my wife, I'll tell her (and I do regularly); I don't need a card to show it.

But, today is Mother's Day and I haven't got a mum any more; George and John are still dead and Fabrice Muamba is in critical condition, fighting for his life...

Friday, March 16, 2012

2012 - 12

New Found Respect

You know, before I started working in a school, I was like you. I thought that teachers had it bloody cushy; 12 weeks a year holiday, short days and all manner of fringe benefits. Yet over the last few weeks, as I've watched them visibly wilt as the term grinds to a close and Easter beckons; I realised that people don't know half of it. these people need long regular breaks or they'd go fucking apeshit. I am gobsmacked that we don't here about more school massacres, performed by teachers rather than emo youngsters.

One of my favourite teachers at work said to me the other day, 'people who complain about us having 12 weeks holiday a year should come and teach at a school for one day. Just one day. People like that are fucking morons.' And, once, I would have been one of those morons.

Even good days are soul and strength sapping beyond belief and as a result time seems to get gobbled up faster than a speedy fast thing. I realise this evening that I haven't seen my mate Dez since the 30th December and have only communicated with him - via text - twice in 3 months. I could have met up with my old colleagues Wilky and Tony tonight (Friday) for a pint, but shopping, evening chores and almost complete battle fatigue made that hope as forlorn as Spurs winning the premier league.

I never did bother to log when I first heard one of my colleagues say, 'it's x weeks to Easter' probably because I didn't stop thinking about it once I said it would happen and therefore was a thinking it myself, especially when week's dragged on.

Missed Opportunities

I've not been on my best game this week. I've neglected to make any notes at all and while I've seen things that have amused or enraged me this week, it appears that most of them have disappeared from my memory like a fart in a heavily ventilated room.

Last weekend, I had a really freaky dream and intended to get what I could remember down; it seemed like a good idea at the time and with a bit of artistic license... you know, it might have been worthy of a few lines. But as the week went on, it slipped out of my mind stealthily and now the only memory of it I have is that I had a (not so) memorable dream last week.

Obviously, there are some things I'd like to talk about, but...

Anyhow, I missed a great opportunity at one point this week (so it must be done this weekend) of preventing a problem we had all last summer. I didn't have my office window cleaned by the window cleaner for 5 months because of a wasps nest in the eaves of my front porch. I said for months that I'd sort it out; all it needs is a good fill before they start waking up again; but the winter has slipped by and I had completely forgotten about it until I saw a wasp flitting about my office window a few minutes ago. I'd pray for a really hard frost to kill the little buggers off, now they're waking up, but that would finish the apricot tree and we don't want that, do we?

The Fault

I found myself nodding and agreeing with my mate Chev, this week. It's not something I'd admit to him, mainly because I think he thinks I'm on this planet to be contrary to most of his musings; but what he said about technology's contribution to the state of society at the moment was spot on. He said this: You know what I blame? Modern communications. Internet, mobiles, text messages, website comments and the like. People have become venal and opinionated and thoughtless and judgemental. The way they act online, behind that veil of anonymity, has moved via a cultural osmosis into everyday life. The mindset that causes people to be cruel and superior online - and we've all seen the dreadful comments people make on news stories and within Facebook - have somehow become acceptable in the real world.
I'm not sure people have noticed that they're doing it, to be honest. But the gradual dehumanisation that started online has crept its way onto the streets.

I was echoing this to the wife and anyone else who would listen. For all the shit I received from my ex-employer back in the 1990s, he did occasionally offer gems of utter wisdom. Knowing that I was the kneejerk champion of the world, he once told me to go and write a letter - not an email - and then when I'd got it all down, print it out and read it. The first thing any self-respecting person would do is then edit out all the mistakes and potentially libellous comments; take a deep breath, realise the anger had dissipated and screw the letter up and bin it, safe in the knowledge that you've got it off your chest and no one is going to suffer as a result. He saw this in the early days of the Internet when 'flame wars' were common place, but not socially acceptable.

Essentially, the Internet has always allowed arseholes, but when it was a smaller club, it policed itself. Once membership grew to include idiots, wankers, morons and arseholes, it no longer policed itself and now, at the click of a button, we can bully, insult, reveal or destroy a person's life and know that we can sleep at night because we haven't had to look them in the face.

Of course, this breakdown has its advantages. Take for instance the short text exchange I had with my brother-in-law earlier:
Is it still okay to come up tomorrow?
Fuck off you ugly ginger cock. Wot time?
Half past cunt.
That early?

That would take over 2 weeks using Royal mail.

The Stuff
  • This week I have mainly been listening to William Orbit. Having had a desire to revisit Strange Cargo: Hinterland, I wondered if Bill had released anything since the woefully average My Oracles Lives Uptown and it seems that as well as a new Pieces in a Modern Style (which is considerably better than the first), there's this Ray of Light Instrumental Version floating about, which is essentially a Bill album. Now, I've long admitted that I think this late 90s Madonna album is by far and away her best record, ever. but this is due to the fact that Orbit produced it and essentially made it his album with Madge on guest vocals. The version I have acquired urinates from a Space Needle type height all over the original. It seems to have more power without the vocals; is trippy, beaty, rocky and full of Orbit trademarks that disappeared from his music when his ego caught up with his success. Stunning album; I can see it being on repeat for a while.
  • I have also been listening to loads more classical music.
  • I am still waiting to read Chavs.
  • The ducks have started laying eggs again!
  • That's about it. It can only get more exciting!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Nostalgia Factory (i)

Tales from my youth... Observations of the past...

Part One: Harvey

People with kids shouldn't have favourites and people with pets probably shouldn't either. Even my current bunch - the four dogs of the apocalypse - have things about them that have firmly chained them to my heart and while none of them will probably ever achieve the heights of my first two dogs, none of my dogs will ever quite match Harvey...

Harvey's story started an indeterminate amount of time before we got him; we had no idea how long he was bumping around Ted's garden. The old Resource's Manager at Lings School had been someone I spent a lot of time with when I was there and he'd, through the synchronicity of the world, become friends with an old acquaintance of mine who was engaged to the wife's sister. Ted died after a short illness and my wife's future brother-in-law was one of the people responsible for clearing out his house - a strangely anachronistic old place situated near Weston Favell Mill. In the garden, full of fruit trees was this average sized grey rabbit.


He might have been a pet, but the brother-in-law couldn't see it; Ted wasn't a pet kind of guy. The likeliest scenario was the rabbit had either escaped from the nearby Billing Aquadrome, found the mini orchard and thought it was his birthday, or had somehow escaped from a garden, crossed the busy A45 dual carriageway and into Ted's garden. No one knew how old he was either, but what the people clearing out Ted's house did discover was this rabbit had little or no fear - of anything.

Now just recently a friend of mine on Facebook was posting in memoriam of a beloved cat and true to form, everyone who has ever had a special pet believes their pet to be the most crazy/ intelligent/ clever/ cheeky/ whatever you could wish to meet and I believe that all animals serve their purpose when they become special to their 'owners'. For me and the wife, Harvey was this animal. He was quite remarkable and I don't believe I have ever owned an animal with more intelligence and I doubt I will.

My parents were having a rough time in Maidstone. My mother had just been diagnosed with emphysema and they were thinking of getting out of the club trade and returning home to Northampton, so the wife and I began a search for a new home, one that would eventually take 2 years to achieve. One of the first houses we visited was a ramshackle shit hole of a house on Cyril Street, near the town centre. It was a perfect house for our needs, despite not having the biggest back garden, but it had structural problems - the rear wall was bowed and it would need some extensive re-modernisation. The price was good, but my brother, recently an estate agent, came to viewing and essentially put us off. However, in the garden, in a raised hutch, was this beautiful rabbit, who looked like he'd been living on his own droppings for a few weeks. He had no fresh water and no food. We were appalled; the young estate agent was a bit bemused and we told him to tell the owner's we didn't want the house, but we'd rescue the rabbit and we would come back in two days to collect it - the house, by the way, was empty, the owners' had moved to their new house.

When we returned, the rabbit was gone. I'd like the think the owners realised their cruel and wicked mistake and made amends; but the wife, who had set her heart on owning this orangey brown buck, was desperately upset. Three days later Ted died.

The wife's sister called us up; we had acquired a second hand hutch for the rabbit that never was, and offered us this grey bunny that lived in Ted's garden. Later that same day, arriving in a box with some holes was this solid dark grey rabbit, not big, not small, with a white mark on his ear and a small white slash on his nose; everything else was a graphite colour.

He took up residence in his new hutch and quickly took over the garden; it was the beginning of the summer, I was not working and for long spells I'd sit in the lounge, with the back door open watching this new addition to the household bumping about, checking out the four corners of the room, but never venturing up the stairs, or down the hall way to the kitchen and front door; he acted like these places didn't even register to him.

The first few weeks we had him, he'd come inside, sniff about and then settle down right by the open back door - good for being in the house, good for easy escape into the garden. Our neighbours Brian and Elaine decided that having a rabbit was a great idea for their toddler Gemma, so they bought Oy (it's all Gemma would call her) and Oy bit and scratched and growled and was anything but a fluffy bunny. The wife and I were both young - I was only 23 at the time - and we not only agreed to take Oy off their hands, we also stuck her in with Harvey and surprise, surprise, 30 days later, the newly renamed Clover dumped a litter of 8 baby bunnies on us; of which most of them would go onto have their own adventures (we kept track of all of them).

This gave us a problem. We had only one hutch, no money to buy a new one and a serious overcrowding issue. There was only one thing for it, Harvey would have to live in the house. We discussed it for days; trying to work out the best way of achieving it, while all the time potentially risking the lives of all his babies, because male rabbits often kill their young, especially if their in close proximity. This was never an issue with Harv, he seemed to dote on his offspring as much as Clover, but still, we couldn't have 10 rabbits in a hutch designed for one.

The wife had this harebrained scheme to house train the rabbit so it could come into the house full time. I was pretty much convinced she was talking out of her arse - you couldn't possibly house train a rabbit, surely? Oh yes you can. Except it wasn't like house training a dog or getting a cat to use a litter tray; these tend to take time. Harvey already had stopped dropping pellets in the living room within days of coming in and he had never, ever taken a piss in the house; so the wife figured he'd take to a litter tray for wet toilets. He did, for about three days. She put him in it, he bumped about a bit, lifted his tail, took a leak and bumped out. He did this every day for three days and then on the fourth he went and stood, not sat, stood by the back door. For a laugh, I said, 'Do you want to go outside, Harv?' and opened the door; he bumped out the back, jumped up onto the raised flower beds and went behind one of the miniature conifers and took a wee. I was gobsmacked, but couldn't believe it was anything more than a fluke. From that point on, he would wait by the door only if he wanted to go outside. He would return to the same spot every time and do his business - which as any one who knows about wild rabbits will tell you is perfectly normal; you see 'dump mounds' all over fields where rabbits live. But to us this was remarkable; he had no intention of soiling his home.

The initial plan was to keep Harvey in the house until we could afford to buy two more hutches, but after a successful two week trial we decided that as he was pretty much perfect in the house, he could stay. It was a Sunday afternoon, we had our friends Steve, Gareth and Vince round and we were being entertained by Harvey's new game; grabbing a piece of newspaper and draping it over his head, then running around the living room literally blind. It was a truly bizarre sight; but one he never stopped doing and one we never grew tired of. We'd just got a new hutch and the babies were almost weaned, so the wife was preparing that hutch for them to move into. I walked back into the house and Harvey was lying sprawled under the chair I sat at at the dining table; over the weeks of his trial he had gradually gotten closer and closer to me when I was sitting there, until he finally used to sit directly under my seat.

What happened next was truly remarkable and if it hadn't been the fact we had independent witnesses you'd probably think I'd smoked too much drugs. I told Harvey he could live in the house permanently. He cocked his ears, sat up and ran directly down the hallway; somewhere he had never been before; he checked it out, rubbed his chin along the skirting boards and left two small pellets on the coconut mat. He then turned round, came back down the hall, stopped at the foot of the stairs, looked at them and took off up the stairs, one step at a time. He had never been the slightest bit interested in the stairs; he'd seen me and the wife go up them late at night, but by that point he was puffed up under my chair, with his ears back.

We all sat there pretty startled; our guests had grown very familiar with this odd fellow living in the Hall house; but had never seen him quite as... determined. I followed him up the stairs, the wife in quick pursuit, and there he was, sniffing and chinning the skirting. He checked out our bedroom; looked in there, turned on his heels and came out; he checked the spare bedroom, which would have a succession of lodgers in it and then he checked out the box room, which stored a lot of my folks stuff and had a single bed in it. Harvey walked, not hopped, into this room, sniffed around, walked under the bed and settled down. We stood there looking at him, slightly stunned; but after a short discussion and a check to make sure there were no overt wires around, we left him there.

An hour later, as our friends were getting ready to go, he reappeared; bumping down the stairs like he'd been doing it all his life and over to our guests to say goodbye. We had all worked out he liked having his head stroked and he sought out this fuss from any one prepared to give it to him. By the time our friends had gone, Harv was back upstairs in his room.

Now, one of the bizarre things about having an intelligent pet is your start to talk to it like you would a precocious child and shortly before 10pm, the wife thought that perhaps Harvey should go outside for his nightly wee; something she does most every night with our dogs even today. She shouted up the stairs asking him if he needed to go out and bump bump bump there he was, down the stairs and across the room in no time, straight out the door and under his conifer. We looked at each other completely gone out.

For the two years we lived in that house, Harvey took himself off to bed at 10pm every night. It was his bed time and he did it without fail, whether we were in or not. At 10pm, he'd take himself upstairs to his room and settle down under the bed. he'd have a bowl of water and some food and we left his tray in there in case of any accidents, but he never used it. Every morning at 6.30, when the wife got up, he'd follow her downstairs and wait, silently, by the door to be let out and he'd stay outside until I got up; checking out the garden, his missus and kids.

This was just the tip of the iceberg for this rabbit; his adventures were the stuff of cgi films and I'm not over egging the pudding; they really were...

For all of his intelligence - think Brian the dog in Family Guy - he was still pretty much a rabbit and he liked doing stuff that rabbits did, like digging holes, shagging and beating up cats... We'd had him about two months and he was sitting in the middle of the fenced back garden, just minding his own business on a rather dull summer's day, when a local cat sprang up the fence, walked along the top and spied him sitting on the grass. There was no malice in the cat; he just jumped down and wandered over to Harv who had his back to the feline. The cat got about two feet from the rabbit when I was about to spring for the door and shoo it away, but I saw one of Harv's ears stand up. He knew he was not alone. What followed was like something out of a Bruce Lee film; he rocked forward onto his front legs and his two powerful back legs flew out, connecting with the cat full in the face and literally knocking it into a backward somersault; I have never seen a cat look so surprised and we never saw that cat or another in the garden again. It was like word got round; there's a mean mother of a rabbit living there, stay away.

Yet, he liked dogs. On his own terms. The first time I saw Harvey's terms I almost died of shock.

As I said, the garden was fenced, but I was pretty reckless and used to play cricket in the garden using a potato bound in tissue paper and masking tape, which allowed us to play cricket without much risk of breaking any windows; but if bowled hard enough, this spongy package could punch a hole in the flimsy wood panelling; holes large enough for commando bunny to initiate escapes. The house that's garden ran adjacent to ours belonged to a girl I used to go to school with and she had a dog called Judy, a Labrador/Collie crossbreed with the dopiest face in the world.

One day, I'd got back from probably signing on and I couldn't find Harvey anywhere; after a frantic search I spotted the hole in the fence and rushed up to the top of the garden. Oh God, what if Judy got him? Judy might be stupid, but Judy is a dog and dogs kill rabbits! What I witnessed for the next few minutes was one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen. Judy knew of Harv's existence long before the hole in the fence; she sniff and whine and get really frustrated because she got really close to him but could never catch him. Put the two of them together in a garden and you had to pinch yourself. They were chasing each other up and down the garden. First Harvey would chase Judy and then she'd turn round and chase him back down the garden. There were no hackles; no bared teeth, no grunting or growling from the rabbit either; they were just... playing.

As soon as he saw me, he made a bee-line back to the hole in the fence and jumped through; Judy stood looking forlorn at the hole in the fence and I felt my pulse rate drop; despite it being one of the sweetest things I'd seen. Judy positively loved Harvey; I'm not sure he felt the same way because he often used to bite her; but he was probably just putting her in her place; which was always going to be behind him. I tried to play chase with Harvey in the garden and was amazed when he started to play back. I'd chase him, in a comical big way; turn round and he'd chase me back. If it was possible, we had a rabbit that thought it was a dog and long before he ever met one.

We'd often get home and find him missing. Now, he was given the name Harvey by us, but he answered to it within a few weeks of being called it; so standing out the back calling him was not as unusual as it sounds, even if others thought we were mad. One day, he'd disappeared completely and I'm standing on the patio calling his name when the woman at #22 called over. "Is Harvey a grey rabbit?"
"Yes. Yes, he is?"
"He's here. Well, he isn't here, he's upstairs on my bed." Huh? Harv rarely got on our bed, but it seems he'd tunnelled out of #26, skipped #24 and found #22's door open so went exploring. When he found the woman, doing her make-up, he decided to go and introduce himself. She was, fortunately, only impressed, not scared; she had her own rabbit, in a hutch in the garden; Harv had introduced himself and gone to find the owner - owner's usually had food.

On another occasion, he got as far as the show home about 150 yards from the house. I think he got lost and confused because when he heard me, he came belting up the road and jumped onto my lap. Something he did often when he was freaked out by something (which, I'm happy, but sad to say, didn't happen very often), but he did like a cuddle, especially with either me or the wife; he didn't like the mother-in-law and she almost killed him. It was in his later years and she decided he'd let her pick him up; he had other plans and wriggled his way out of her arms; unfortunately she was by the back door and the drop was about 3 feet and the extra 4 feet he was off the floor; he landed awkwardly and almost broke his leg; maybe even his neck; he never went near her again.

Now, rabbits like to chew things and Harvey was no exception. Fortunately there were no loose wires he could latch on to, at least not until his first Christmas. Suffice it to say, he saw the green wires of the lights and thought he'd check them out. I'm surprised he didn't kill himself, but he did look a little like he'd been playing with a Van der Graf generator for a few days.

Possibly the most sensible question I was ever asked by a vet was, "How on Earth do you discover that a rabbit likes Maltesers?" In that, 'you've been feeding them to him, haven't you?' kind of way. Moira, our best vet, like many other doubters, looked in slight disbelief when I explained to her that Harvey ate what he wanted; he was like a force of nature if you had food and he wanted some. You would be metaphorically beaten up until he either managed to get at whatever it was or you succumbed and showed him what you had and allowed him to make up his own mind.

It started with a Curly Wurly...

I was a head. I liked my munchies and I was having a particular fixation with this Cadbury's combo of chocolate and caramel. Harvey, who rarely ventured off the floor, saw me eating it one day and decided it was his. Tug of war ensued. You have never seen anything quite as funny as a grown man wrestling a rabbit over a chocolate bar, but once Harv had sunk his teeth into that sweet goodness, it was his and no one else's. He eventually lost the battle, but probably went on to win the war. His only achievement that day was to get a mouthful, but it was enough to hypnotise him. His most unbelievable tales of eating are to come, but first I have to tell you about... tea.

Harvey loved his tea. This was discovered by an all too boring fact. My mum used to put her tea on the floor, next to her feet; Harvey being inquisitive, checked it out, tried it and from that point on, whenever my mum had a cup of tea, she would pour some into the saucer and that would be Harv's tea. He loved my mum and who wouldn't, she treated him like a small grey son, giving in to all his demands and if he wanted something he'd let you know. He'd grunt, stamp his feet and generally run round and round in circles making his feelings clear - temper tantrums. He also had a thing about tea bags and would fish them out of the bin - yes, really - and then run around the house or garden with it hanging from his mouth - tea was this animal's nicotine.

However, back to chocolate and beef burgers...

Probably the craziest stunt I've ever seen Harvey perform was one evening while the wife and I were lying on the sofa watching TV. I had pulled a packet of Maltesers out of the fridge and we were helping ourselves to them and he seemed uninterested. Yet, as it was, he was fully aware of everything going on around him and was planning his next move. He nonchalantly wandered around the edge of the room, in a uninterested kind of way until he disappeared behind the telly and the end of the sofa. Suddenly, there he was, on the arm of the sofa and he charged up the length of the sofa, using us as his road. He leapt from the sofa onto the coffee table, landed on a newspaper and slid across the table, as he passed the Maltesers, he reached out, grabbed the packet in his mouth and as the newspaper shot off the edge of the table, he landed running. It was like something out of Die Hard and he never looked wrong footed. He landed on all four feet and was running for the safety of the dining room table, with his bounty (he also liked them) taken. We sat there wondering if this animal would ever stop amazing us.

Several days later, while I was out and the wife was in the kitchen doing some washing, she heard rustling in the lounge and walked in to find Harvey in the bin, head first, with his legs up in the air, trying to lick the insides of a chocolate wrapper. we had a monster in out midst.

I rarely had takeaways, but one night I opted for a Mid-West American Styled Hamburger from the now ancient shop on the Wellingborough Road. I got back, sat down and began to eat my food. Harvey saw me eating and hurtled for me, up the sofa and up my front, where he sank his teeth into my massive burger. Now, rabbits tend to have very inexpressive faces, you can't really tell what they're thinking, but this evening, the look on Harvey's face was remarkable. It was like the thought 'uh-oh, what have I eaten?' came into his head and he ran off shaking and a bit cheesed off. From that point onwards, he'd go outside if we were cooking meat; it was like a protest.

The more people that met Harvey the more wanted him. We were offered £500 once for him by a friend who thought he could turn the rabbit into a TV star, but we weren't getting rid of my boy, not for ten times that amount. I started to think people just came to see the rabbit.

He got a little slower when we moved to Wellingborough and the upheaval freaked him out a bit; he became very much a doorstep bunny again, rarely venturing past his new dump mound. He still had his moments; attacking dogs that came into the house and fathering a couple more litters - from which came Bugsy, who in turn was the father of Chester, who I will tell you about one day, because she was everything her granddad was and quite a bit more, but considerably less intelligent.

While I had the shop, Harvey got ill and we almost lost him. He'd developed fluid on the lungs and it was touch and go with him for a few days. It was the only time he ever wee'd in the house; the day we brought him back from the vet who saved his life. He had to get rid of all that fluid somewhere and on the kitchen floor was fine by me.

His favourite things in the world at the new house were the fire place, which he'd roast by on cold nights and the fridge, because he knew all his favourite things lived there and that was where Paula found him the morning he died. He wanted one more Malteser before he went off to bunny heaven. Jesus... It still chokes me up now. When we lost Giff and Meg 5 years ago it left such a yawning hole in our lives, we never thought we'd get over it, but Harvey's death - the death of our first real child/pet was devastating. I don't think I've cried so much in my entire life. I'd lost my best mate; because that was what he was; my constant companion for so many years; always by my feet, always willing to sit on my lap and give me a cuddle while basting my jeans (something his granddaughter did as well). The words, "Phil, Harvey's dead." reverberate in my memory all the time; they were the three worst words I'd heard up to that point in my life and we buried him at the bottom of the Ashfield Road house and thankfully, because I sold the house to one of our best friends, I still get to go and stand in the garden, quietly and have a few words with my boy.

A lot of the people reading this might remember him; it was a long time ago now, but he was such an important little man in our lives that we'll never ever forget him and like I said, I've never met another animal with the intelligence and understanding that rabbit had and I doubt I ever will.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2012 - 11

Electric Avenue

Solar flares have apparently caused some electrical problems across the globe; however in Fullingdale Road they didn't need sunspot activity to bugger up the power supply. Even Fishwife isn't sure why the power went off on Monday, but it was obviously something major because by 6pm on said day, there was at least half a dozen vans, diggers and little mini-JCBs beavering around the street and they were still at it at 11.30 - generator burbling, men with more copper wire than a gang of travellers and not an English voice to be heard.

Our power only went out for about 1½ hours, but the Sexually-Explicit family, boring old man and the Token Ethnic family all went without power for getting on for 18 hours - which would have paralysed the average family: no TV, no Internet, no heat unless they had gas and provided it didn't need some form of electricity to fire up the boiler. It must have been hell for them, well all except the Sexually-Explicit family; they're probably used to it coming from deepest darkest Eastern Europe, plus they probably would have been at it like a couple of rutting steers.

Okay, I'm going to be really crude and sexist now, but hey it's Saturday morning, the sun is trying to come out and I feel... mischievous.

Mrs Sexually-Explicit, a woman who I have unintentionally had the benefit of seeing naked at least twice through my office window, has a fantastic body, especially considering she has had a couple of kids, but has a face that could scare polar bears. Don't get me wrong, she's a lovely girl, but you'd seriously have to consider double-bagging her in case one fell off during the beast with the two backs. You could always put a bag over your own head, that way you'd be making doubly sure there wasn't an accident.

You can see where she's going to end up. Having seen her mother masturbating in her bedroom window, also twice, in recent years, you understand why she's there with her rubber toys and not a man (or a woman). She's like a cross between the Incredible hulk and Jade Goody as she'd look now and has a gob on her that when unleashed could decay lard.

They also have four cars. Who seriously needs four cars?

Anyhow, the work was completed by Thursday and apart from mud on the road you would think nothing had happened.

Atmospheric Pressure (or WWAW - SF)

"There's a full moon."
"It's windy."
"It's raining."
"It's snowing."
"It's too hot."
"There's a Y in the day."
"It's too cold."
"Libra is rising over Pisces."

I had a Volkswagen Polo when I was younger. It was a great little car and took the wife, Meg and Giff and my good self on lots of excellent family holidays. It was just a basic little thing with an engine that would go forever. However, it didn't like the rain, the snow, the cold, the heat and only really was at its most optimum when the temperature was 15 degrees, the sky was overcast and it was dry. On days like this it was the dog's bollocks of little cars. The wife used to joke that she'd get it up to 180mph on good days.

It seems my young clientèle are all related to my old Polo. Apparently there is a entire list of weather conditions and related that cause the students at my place to change from normal young people into monsters. There is truth in a lot of what my experienced colleagues say; if it's wet, they stay inside and that causes all manner of problems; if it's windy the incident level increases five fold and apparently when the temperature gets above about 22 degrees all hell breaks loose.

After the last week, I'm biting my lip and hoping for dull days, average temperatures and dry conditions between now the third week in July, maybe with some wonderful interludes at Easter and half term; that way I might be able to stop myself from either going mad or having some kind of stress related nervous breakdown. I never want another week like last week, which at times was more reminiscent of the Ray Winston film Scum than anything else...

Just Shoot Me Now

I have pretty crappy memories of festivals. I can't ever really go to one without something spoiling it. Destroyed wardrobe at my first Glastonbury; bad weather at my second, serious illness at my third. Being robbed at the Cambridge folk Festival while I slept and countless others where I have either been rained on or just plain didn't enjoy myself. After a 20 year hiatus, Roger and I went to the 2000 Trees Festival in Gloucestershire a couple of years back and were greeted with January weather in July. With the exception of Amplifier and Charlie Barnes it was a pretty dire day and I kind of vowed that I would never go to another, ever again.

Glancing at the back page of The Guide this morning, I saw an advert for the Latitude Festival in Suffolk and for the first time in donkeys years I saw a host of acts on the bill that I would gladly pay something to go and see. It looks like it could be one of the highlights of the summer season, especially with Glasto taking a breather for the Olympics. Bon Iver, Elbow, Richard Hawley, White Lies (who Roger was impressed with), The Horrors, Explosions in the Sky, Lloyd Cole, M83, Zola Jesus, Yeasayer and even Simple Minds, doing their best of their first 6 albums set. It has people like Ian banks, John Pilger, Rich Hall, Adam Buxton and the man my students all think I'm the spit of - Greg Davies. It also has dull and boring Paul Weller, Laura Marling, Wild Beasts, Daryl Hall (of Oates fame), Battles and tonnes more, many of which I haven't heard and might be tempted by.

But let's face it. It's going to piss down all weekend. There might be the first recorded snow in July since the mini ice age and Suffolk will probably have a some kind of ecological disaster - but only if I go. The other good thing about it is it takes place during the last week of term, which means I wouldn't be able to get the time off. Thank Christ for that...

Spring back?

Look, I'm really not obsessed by the weather, okay? But it was both great and slightly worrying to see the apricot tree coming into full bloom this morning. Yesterday it looked like a big stick in the ground, today it is a mass of pink flowers. It looks fabulous, but this is a tree that probably shouldn't thrive in the UK and one that is sadly prone to even mild frosts. In the three years since it has been fruiting we had 22 apricots the first year, two the second year and half a dozen last year. Both of the last two years we've had hard late frosts which have really buggered the tree up and I can't help thinking that the same thing is going to happen again this year. The exceptionally mild winter has brought it on earlier than ever before which probably means that we'll be lucky if we find any little bright orange fruits come the beginning of August.

But on the plus side, we have crocuses bursting into life, poppies thriving, bulbs coming up and shoots on all the remaining trees and the first duck egg - it certainly looks like spring out there, especially with the promise of a fine weekend; one that might be warm enough for me to sit on the patio, with the paper, a cup of coffee and all my chores completed. Monday is going to be dull and mild, that makes the weekend seem even more important.

Same Stink, Different Colour

Yeah, I'm a socialist. Yeah I hate the Conservative party and all they stand for. And yeah, I admit that the Labour party made some pretty shitty mistakes while they were in power; but usually you expect the Tories to come in and kind of clear up the mess while making the most of all the success stories the last government had. However, the coalition seem to be a bit poo, on just about everything.

This week saw a new nadir with the decision to try and rescue some hostages in Nigeria, without bothering to tell one of the interested parties they were going to do it. The inevitable happened and lives were lost and the Italians, who had a man killed in this seemingly ill-advised hostage recovery attempt are positively fuming; it could cause a serious international incident and has left Cameron and co with large quantities of egg on their faces.

With the economy in the toilet; the NHS teetering on the brink, more and more people staring poverty and despair in the face, we also appear to be escalating a row with Argentina over the bloody Falklands again. Nothing like starting a war to distract the populace's attention away from the mess at home, eh? The problem is this isn't 1982; people have changed and many are fed up to the back teeth with Iraq, Afghanistan and all the other tensions which have brought our troops into danger and for what?

Also, factor in this little interesting factoid - the UK still gives foreign aid to Brazil, a country that just knocked us out of 6th place in the largest economy in the world stakes. As one of my friends put it last week, if the government continues to look like a bunch of headless retarded chickens, then the prospect of an insomniac panda as PM suddenly starts to look slightly better.

Face it people, politicians are all a bunch of worthless cunts. I no longer believe they are acting in the national interest, whatever colour they sport. I said a long time ago we need a radical overhaul of our politics and nothing has happened since then to make me change my mind.

Stuff
  • I am currently listening to: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming by M83 (again); William Orbit's Strange Cargo: Hinterland and lots and lots of classical music.
  • I am about to start reading Chavs, which the wife has almost finished.
  • I didn't watch Dirk Gently mainly because the wife isn't bothered. So I might catch up with it one night next week after she has gone to bed.
  • I bought the wife her third ever bunch of flowers for her birthday and still have to get her that winter coat.
  • I got a handheld blender!
  • I need a new egg slicer.
  • Tesco microwavable porridge oats is far better than I expected.
  • Fuckwit has been told he has to find a job because his DLA is being stopped - the government have finally cottoned on to the freeloading bastard.
  • I have just listened to a conversation between two dodgy looking geezers arguing about why one of them won't score some drugs for the other without paying a surcharge. Very loudly and unashamedly.
  • Roger has a portaloo in his drive.
Beat that!