Wednesday, 29 October 2008

In one word

Award winning.

Yes, I'm well aware that's two words. But I (or rather this blog) has received an award. I know. I was surprised, too. Given my parlous attempts at ramping up site traffic, it's nothing short of miraculous - there are secret MI5 files that have a wider readership than this, some days.

Anyway, one of the favoured few that reads this also inhabits the Uberworld that is Chez le Laquet. And apparently I make her "laugh out loud", too. She's a teacher, is Jo, so you have to listen to what she says or else you'll get a blackboard rubber thrown at the back of your head.

And I'm here to tell you, that hurts.

So Jo awarded me the 'I heart your blog' Award, hence:

I'm not going to argue with a teacher about the use of a noun where a verb would otherwise go. I haven't seen the inside of a classroom for twenty years. I suppose I should be glad no-one's telling me they spleen my blog.

Part of the deal is that I have to complete a one-word meme. Everything answered with just one word. And those of you who've stuck with me over the last year or so will know how I tend towards the economical with my words. Hmm. So here goes:

Where is your mobile phone? pocket
Where is your significant other? sofa
Your hair colour? greying
Your mother? excitable
Your father? bookish
Your favourite thing? words
Your dream last night? indescribable
Your dream goal? security
The room you're in? messy
Your hobby? this
Your fear? salad
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Solva
Where were you last night? here
What you're not? decisive
One of your wish-list items? iMac
Where you grew up? Birmingham
The last thing you did? washing
What are you wearing? jeans
Your TV? on
Your pets? bipolar
Your computer? overheating
Your mood? hopeful
Missing someone? nope
Your car? borrowed
Something you're not wearing? hotpants
Favourite shop? Waterstones
Your summer? French
Love someone? yes
Your favourite colour? blue
When is the last time you laughed? today
When is the last time you cried? forgotten

In a viral spread-the-love kind of style, I'm passing this on (not that the words "viral", "spread" and "love" really belong in the same sentence). So the award goes from me to Lisa, who never holds back. Dory, who makes Lisa look shy and retiring. And Country Girl/City Girl, who have that whole "I know how to use a Blackberry but I could probably deliver a calf if I needed to" vibe going on. Dory and CG/CG are American, so quite frankly they'll be glad of the distraction right now.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Oh no, not again

As the email thudded into my inbox, with all the alacrity of a Steinway falling from the fifth floor, my heart began to sink. "Surely it's not that time of the year again?" I asked aloud.

Katie, reclining on the other sofa, Tanqueray & tonic in hand, raised a quizzical eyebrow as I allowed the full gravity of the situation to sink in. And wash over me.

If gravity can wash, that is.


"Problem?" she asked, not breaking away from her latest edition of Cake Weekly.

"You do know what next month is, don't you?"

"Um. November?"

"Well, yes, November. But it's more than that. You see, I've just had this email reminder. A blast from the past, you might say. And..."


"Do you remember what happened last November?"

"At a guess, fireworks, chilblains and retail devastation in advance of Christmas..."


"Bless you."

"Thanks, but I tried that gag last year, too. It's National Blog Posting Month. You remember?"

She sat up: "Oh, hang on, it's all coming back to me now, like a three-day-old Biryani. You have to write one blog post per day for the whole month of November. It's a law. Or something."

"Well, more of a challenge. And thanks for the Biryani thing - that's a really unpleasant image. Anyway, I'm worried about it."

"Because recently you've let things slide, making do with eight or nine posts per month?"


"And now you're going to have to get your finger out and write something new every day?"


"Hang on minute," she said, putting down her magazine, "are we actually having this conversation just now?"

"What do you mean?"

"Or is this a simply a narrative device you're going to use; to introduce NaBloPoMo to your readers, explain what it is, that you're going to try and do a post-per-day next month and how you're crapping yourself at the idea?"

"The very thought..."

Thursday, 23 October 2008

"Greyhound" would surely be more appropriate

Today brings the news that a team is seeking to make a car that will travel at 1,000mph.

Fantastic. Although if we could get one-hundredth of that speed on the M6 between Birmingham and Coventry during the rush hour, I'd be more amazed.

Sorry, I'm being deliberately churlish. Everyone, after me: "Bad fatboyfat! Stop churling."

In truth this could be brilliant. And as a bloke I'm duty-bound to be excited. At some point there will be running around in small circles and hyperventilating. Especially if they actually do race it against a .357 Magnum bullet, as in the video. That would be cool. And it might explain why they'll have to do it in America.

It's nothing to do with the salt lakes. But if they did it over here, it'd be racing against a Super Soaker, and that's not really much of a challenge.

It appears that the motivation for this is to encourage British kids to get interested in science, in the same way that the Government was making noises about UK astronauts a couple of weeks back. So, as well as plopping a bloke in a tin can and chucking it upwards, we're going to put another one in another tin can and chuck it sideways. Because apparently science, with lasers, colliding light speed particles, plasma, supernovae, quantum, DNA and cats-that-are-perhaps-waveforms in boxes , isn't sufficiently down-with-the-kids.

But why call the car Bloodhound? They're not the swiftest of animals, are they? Perhaps there's a British tradition of naming science projects after dogs. After all, we had Beagle 2, which started out as a Mars probe and ended up as a manhole cover.

Perhaps our next stealth fighter will be called the Labrador? I look forward to our fleet of King Charles Spaniel hunter-killer submarines.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Don't tell my mother

Occasionally, just occasionally, we might weaken, Katie and me.

Actually, that's wrong. It should be 'Katie or me'. We never weaken at the same time. No joint weakeners, us.

One of us might, from time to time, think: "Maybe having kids would be a good thing." Perhaps it would be right for us to perpetuate the family line. It would be nice to have a mini-me, one of us might think every now and again. Someone to help through the trials of life. To be there for them; to support their dreams, build their expectations, teach them right from wrong, share in their successes, console them after their failures.

Then we'll have twenty minutes like we did in Sainsbury's this afternoon, and all such thoughts will vanish.

One child, not more than seven years old, was doing the "Mommy, although I've never seen xyz item in my life, having now seen it on the shelf it is now the very fulcrum of my existence and I can't live without it" routine. Mother, of course, was having none of it.

At one point he was shouting "I hate you!" at the top of his voice. To his mother. I went cold. It almost drowned out the sound made by Katie's fallopian tubes tying themselves in knots.

And he wasn't the only one. In the same way that a single dog barking will eventually set off all the neighbourhood hounds, this little angel was seemingly tapping into the squeal instinct of all children in a 400-yard radius.

"Sterilise me now," Katie muttered as we passed through the checkout. The cashier gave us a thoughtful look, shot through with: "I have to listen to this lot all day while you pair can go home and read the Sunday papers."

It's a shame really. People tell me I'd be a pretty cool dad. This is possibly because even now, at the age of 38, I've not moved on much from childhood in many respects. But the responsibility might be too much. Plus, I understand you're not allowed to use automatic weapons against them any more. Which is a shame.

So I have to rely on brother number 1 and his wife to deliver. If you'll pardon the expression. I quite like the idea of being the dissolute uncle who winds his nieces and nephews up and then delivers them back to mom and dad, over-excited and full of e-numbers. I'd be like the Yellow Pages - there for the good things in life, but not having to deal with the gritty disciplinary matters.

Moms and dads out there - I tip my hat to you all. I just don't think I can join you.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The call of the wild

One of the less well-known impacts of the digital revolution is its affect on wild animals.

In the past, creatures used every method at their disposal to communicate with each other. Furry thing would speak unto furry thing, using a collection of calls, hoots, grunts and squeaks. A litany of gestures, dances and expressions would be sufficient to pass on all emotion.

But not now. Just like their human counterparts, animals are finding it impossible to resist the lure of the mobile phone.

Hard to believe, I know. But true.

It started with the big cats. It's just too much trouble to co-ordinate a pride of lions when hunting for prey. Especially in the long grass. Need your brother to edge up on the left hand flank of that herd of antelope? No problem - flip open the trusty Nokia: "Oi, Barry! Pick it up, sunshine, that one's limping over there. You think you can be trusted not to balls this one up? Oh, and save a bit of the neck for mother, will you, or we'll never hear the end of it."

Some species started to have issues with calling while running, however. Even the fastest cheetah was somewhat hamstrung, having to zone in on an ibex while using three legs, desperately trying to pick up his voicemail.

The solution? Bluetooth earpieces, of course. Not a great option for your average elephant, I'll grant you, but the cats get along just fine.

The primates took to it all naturally. Apart from some of the gorillas. But as soon as someone set up caller ID and taught the silverback the art of call filtering, all was well. Nothing worse than those call plan spam calls when you've got a whole bunch of other stuff to do. That fur doesn't groom itself, does it?

Down at the watering hole, the inhabitants have learnt the art of texting. Mind you, they're not exactly adding to the sum of reptilian knowledge. It's all "CUL8R alligator", but it's a start.

And on the African veldt, the bison can be heard as they trundle along under the baking sun: "I'm on the plain!"

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Six thousand moments

At some point today, my little visitor counter for this blog will click over 6,000.

Quite frankly, I'm stunned. OK, it's no BoingBoing. But I'm still stunned.

Thanks, folks.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Don't do that to me!

I shall have to have harsh words with the BBC.

I mean, it's not enough that we're staring into the abyss. That the entire financial framework appears to be going base-over-apex. That we see to be heading towards something apocalyptic. You know, the whole biblical thing - seas boiling over, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, cats and dogs living together as man and wife. Etc, etc.

It's not enough that I'm overworked, heavily taxed, facing stagflation and recession. I mean, it's worse for me, I'm morally bankrupt too.

Oh no, that's not enough, for the good people at the BBC.

The Beeb have to give me a case of the screaming abdabs with a headline like this.

If I hadn't read further, I'd have been pushed over the edge.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Take my mother-in-law

Boringly, I have a very good relationship with Katie's parents. Given that she is an only child, and I was instrumental in taking her, kicking and screaming from the family home, one could have expected a different outcome.

But no. In fact, at the time my new father-in-law commented that he'd not lost a daughter, he'd gained a bathroom.

This is the man I have to blame for several things. I knew pretty much nothing about wine or single malt whisky before I met his daughter. Over 14 years later, I still now very little about the two subjects, but I am now rather more frequently three sheets to the wind. It's mainly his fault, although I guess I have been a willing victim.

As they don't live far away, we tend to see the in-laws on a regular basis - last night being a fairly typical example. There is a formula to these occasions.

F-i-l will drive over with Swiss-clock accuracy to pick us up. He used to have this habit of calling us before he left their house, assuming we wouldn't be ready. After we assured him that we weren't asleep or hopelessly mired in an opium haze or somesuch, he stopped doing this.

We will then bolt along the darkened streets of suburban Birmingham (as much as you can 'dart' in a Vauxhall Corsa, I suppose) until we arrive at Chez Inlaw.

M-i-l will be panicking.

It doesn't matter that it's only us. That we've done this scores of times. That we really don't mind a repetition of the fabled Pavlova moment (eternally renamed by us as the Pavlunder). She will have spent much of that day in a state of high anxiety. F-i-l will chide her. We will reassure her. She will pay no heed whatsoever. It's like a tradition.

Dinner will be served, last night's lamb cobbler being a representative sample of the excellence on offer. A lot of wine will be drunk.

A lot.

All action will cease for f-i-l to check his lottery numbers. There will be sighing. Another bottle or two might get opened.

Then the whisky onslaught.

At some point in the evening, one or more of us will be asleep. This number hasn't yet reached four, but it's a close call. A minicab will be called.

I will wake up the following morning with no recollection whatsoever. Perhaps I should write things down?


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