Friday, 30 January 2009


Two hundred and fifty. A quarter of a thousand. CCL, if you're an ancient Roman. A whole bunch of one's and zeroes in binary (see title). If you're a fan of counting in hexadecimal, the answer is FA.

Which is nice, if a little open to misinterpretation.

The purpose of all this counting is to mark the 250th post here on Make Lard History. I know, it's nothing short of scary. So this is my semiquincentennial, apparently.

Oh. I just checked. That would make me 250 years old. And unless I've been moisturising extremely well, that's a little unlikely.

So in honour of all this 250-ness, I went and had a look at what happened in the year 250AD.

According to Wikipedia, in the year 250:

A group of Franks penetrated as far as Tarragona in Spain - and a whole bunch of Juans and Oliveras told them to jolly well sod off.

The Goths invade Moesia - before too long Moesia was all lager & blackcurrant, dark clothing and Jesus & Mary Chain records.

The Alamanni drive the Romans from the modern area of Donau-Ries - the Romans said thanks but was there any chance the Alamanni could drop them off at the bottle bank next time?

An epidemic of the Plague begins in Egypt and spreads throughout the Roman empire - in Herculaneum, men spend their days lying down and coughing weakly, leaving their wives to look after the kids. "You don't understand," they argue, "this is man-plague."

Teotihuacán is rebuilt as a four-quartered cosmogram by Zapotec architects brought from Monte Albán in Oaxaca - which everyone thought was very nice, but they'd actually only wanted the bathroom knocking through and an extension to the kitchen.

Diophantus writes Arithmetica, the first systematic treatise on algebra - and a whole bunch of readers go, "What's this crap? Where's the plot? Bit short on laughs, isn't it?"

Saint Denise and Pope Fabian die - and never more would we get any saints named after someone's aunt, nor popes named after interior decorators.

Yes, colour me tenuous. But I bet you can't wait for my 1,066th post.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Speedy Gonzales

Those of you who were reading this way back in September last year (bless you, by the way, you're clearly suckers for punishment) might remember how I drove from one end of this sceptered isle to the other - twice - over the course of a long weekend. I was supporting some people who'd had the ambitious (read: positively daft) idea of cycling a non-stop relay from Land's End to John O'Groats in 60 hours.

It was all in a good cause, money was raised from sponsors and Macmillan Cancer Support ended up better to the tune of about £10,000 as a result.

As well as driver and jaffa cake wrangler, my other job was to journal the whole thing. Because I didn't want to bore you all rigid with the detail, I set up a separate blog and wrote about it there. Everything worked to plan. We ended up at John O'Groats (to a Top Gun soundtrack - we are children of the 80s) with 30 seconds to spare. Whisky was drunk. We came home the following day. I'd failed miserably to 'live-blog' about it; something to do with wrestling a heavily-laden Ford Galaxy along the Highland roads while high on Red Bull made it hard to touch-type. No problem, I thought, I'd just backfill it all after we came back. After all, it would make a right ripping yarn. I was rubbing my hands together at this; it was something I was really proud of and there was plenty to tell.

And then, about a week after we returned, Blogger locked the blog, meaning no-one could see it or update it. To them, or rather to their computers, it looked like a spam blog. Clearly this means there are plenty of other blogs out there selling pictures of pasty blokes wearing lycra.

Actually, now you mention it....

Anyway. I contacted Blogger straight away. And processed unlock requests pretty much every week for a month or so. No joy. There were no email addresses I could use to complain, no telephone helpdesks I could berate. Blogger are to customer services what King Herod was to Mothercare.

Everytime I logged into Blogger to update this blog (which clearly doesn't get enough readers to fool Blogger's computers into thinking it's spam), the locked Queasy Riders link would regard me balefully. "Why have you forsaken me?" it seemed to be saying.

I don't often get inanimate objects accusing me of abandonment. It's not a nice feeling.

This evening I logged in to write something pithy and amusing (or to stare at a blank screen for 60 minutes, which is par for the course these days). Lo. And Behold. Queasy Riders is back. Dance around and jump for joy, people!

I feel it's only fair to congratulate the good folks at Blogger. After all, it's only taken them four months to check out one blog with 17 posts on it. That works out to one whole post every week. As a result, I lost the chance to write about it when it was nice and fresh, so the record of this trip, a great achievement about which I was quite pleased, has gone largely unrecorded.

I haven't used the word for a while, but I will now. Dickwaddery.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The man with the plan

Well, that's that then. It's about time. Many of us wondered if we'd ever see this day.

An enigmatic man, indeed. A bit of a mystery. But he's a man of skill, admired by his peers. And today he received recognition.

It could have been anyone, originally. There has been a number of potential candidates, after all. But today, after all this time, we got final closure.

What? Barack who? Oh, no, I'm referring to the identity of The Stig becoming publicly known.

Oh, alright, if it pleases you:

(With thanks to

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Random Musings 2009

I did this in January last year, and I'm doing it again now. I know, what a wild and crazy guy I must be. Somebody stop me.

The rules are simple (and, once again, pinched from Word Magazine). Grab your iPod or other proprietary digital music player, assuming the Apple Company hasn't achieved total domination in your area of the universe. Hit the 'random' or 'shuffle' button. Note down the first five tracks that get selected.

No cheating, no avoiding the cheesy stuff and putting in only the hyper-cool tracks that mark you out as one of the musical cognoscenti. It's in your collection for a reason, so if "Achy Breaky Heart" makes its way to the surface you need to tell us about it.

This year I've upgraded to a spiffy 32G iPod Touch. Over 4,100 tracks of stuff to choose from. So what do we get?

Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground
OK, this is a good start. Fairly respectable, in fact. I'll admit it's from a 'Definitive Collection' compilation, so there was a distinct danger of getting "I Just Called To Say I Love You". We should all be thankful, therefore. Whenever that song gets played, God punches a kitten. Just so you know.

The Police - So Lonely
We haven't disgraced ourselves yet. As with the above-mentioned Mr Wonder, there are Police tracks that are more embarrassing. (And no, I'm not going to use the phrase 'criminal record'. Damn.) This track is infamous for being associated with the early 80's BBC newsreader Sue Lawley. By all accounts, at least one member of the band was in fact singing Ms Lawley's name in the chorus. Strange but true.

Jeff Buckley - Demon John
From "Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk", the album he didn't get to finish (or start, depending on your point of view). This has lines such as: "Why did you come here? Is it to excavate all your sins? Boil within? Slaughter like the daughter of the devil you send me. I have to deal, you called me here." So it's a party tune, then.

Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy
And we get the same artist two years running! This song is of course most famous for the accompanying video, filmed in one single shot, although Shara Nelson's spectacular hairdo rarely gets a mention. This song is also known as: "That One TV Producers Use As Background Music When They Want To Inject Some Gritty Urban Tension Into Something Mundane Like A Cookery Show".

Ben Folds Five - Army
I suspect this may be a guilty pleasure but I love this track unreservedly, together with pretty much all of Ben Folds' output (with and without the Five). Therefore I'm failing miserably when it comes to writing anything pithy or amusing about it. Although I have been known to play air piano in the car to BFF, if that's an image that pleases you. There is clearly no hope.

Now, all you readers, subscribers and lurkers, it's your turn. Do your own randomiser and list the first five tracks in a comment to this post. Or do your own blog post and include a link to it. Whatever.

As I said last year: "Go on, knock yourselves out".

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The League of Gentlemen

The seas may rise. We might end up carrying cash around in wheelbarrows, just to buy a daily newspaper. Civilisations could clash. Perhaps we're all going to Hell in a handbasket. But there is one thing, one small but significant thing, to which we can cling.

The ability of men, of all ages, background and persuasion, to gather in pubs to talk complete rubbish.

I was reminded of this at the weekend. We'd been out running errands in the morning, and Katie decided I needed lunch and a pint. She is clearly aiming for early sainthood with such clear and accurate perception. Unless there already is a patron saint of daytime drinking. Is there a St. Amy? Who knows?

So we were sitting, tucked away in a quiet corner of the Bull's Head in Hall Green. A pint of Bombardier was quietly working wonders as we waited for our meals to come. And I was distracted.

A group of men, mainly in their forties and fifties, were at the next table. Between them, they were setting the world to rights. No subject was to be excluded from their discussion. Politics, environmental issues, the luckiness of Aston Villa from set plays and whether Trevor was likely to get out of bed that afternoon.

There was a gentle beauty and rhythm to it all. It was banal yet profound; structured yet informal. Individual conversations would break away from the main discussion, then rejoin at random. I could tell, from listening to the conversation, the stories, the banter, that this group had probably gathered here for years. It's a little hard to explain, I suppose. But the simple pleasure of sitting around in the pub, not aiming to get drunk, just to pass time in the company of your peers, should never be underestimated.

Of course, I recognise that any attempt to describe the above as "gentle beauty" or even "interplay" is poncey in the extreme. This is the pub. And this is what chaps do.

The "not getting drunk" bit is quite important. In these days of binge drinking, what the world needs now is more gentle consumption. The more enlightened brewers actually make beers - so-called "session ales" - that are designed specifically for situations just like this. They're lower in strength, helping the participants achieve a higher state of consciousness without ungentlemanly silliness. And this has a positive effect. Waves of gentility spread out to the other denizens of the pub. All is well with the world. The chaps are here. Apart from when Dave nips out for a smoke, of course.

Katie, being doubly perceptive, whispered to me: "You so wish you were part of that, don't you?" She was right, of course. I'd been painting myself wistful for the previous five minutes, as Keith expanded on West Bromwich Albion's defensive weaknesses with Trevor while getting into a mild argument with Dave about wind turbines.

I was wistful because I don't really belong to such a group. The people I went to school with are scattered across Europe. My brothers are busy doing their own thing. I'm therefore doomed to a life of pleasantness, drinking beer on my sofa in front of repeats of QI. There are worse ways to live, of course, but I was missing my own band of brothers, my happy cadre, my chaps' company, my league of gentlemen.

But then this morning I got an email. From a friend, who I'm not going to embarrass by naming. "A few of us gather at the Westley every now and then," it said, "you should join us next time we get together. It's not a regular thing, but perhaps we can form a drinking fraternity."

Delirious happiness ensued.

The prospect of imbibing room-temperature ale while talking abject bollocks never sounded more tempting.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Sher-ee-eee don't like it

And I thought it was just me. I imagined that I was the only one who did it. I suspected that it was just something that amused me, and me alone.

I appear to have been wrong.

Driving home this lunchtime, I was listening to the radio and the presenter read out an e-mail from a listener. About how, whenever they were using a particular feature in MS Windows, they found themselves singing a 25-year old Clash song.

And I was punching the air, going: "Yes! I do that too! So it's not just me!" Which may have affected my driving just a little.

Those of you who still don't get it (and are Windows users) hover your mouse over the blue bar at the bottom of your screen. Right-button-click. Take a look at the options available.

And if you still don't know what I'm talking about, click here.

Does anyone else out there have similar peculiarities, I wonder?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

That takes the wafer

You know, I'm old. Really, really old. Positively ancient, in fact. Don't let these youthful features kid you, dear reader.

It's one thing when the policemen are starting to look young. I've had to deal with that for some time.

But a Catholic priest? Blimey.

Tonight we met the priest who'll be officiating at Dad's funeral* next week. I swear, he was scarily young. I thought all priests were churned out of a factory at the age of 50, Irish, and a little bit scary, too.

Of course, mum was referring to him as 'Father'. I think I may have joined in at one point. I suspect if you don't treat the clergy with due deference, the Vatican attack helicopters get scrambled. Or perhaps you get a Chinese burn from a passing cardinal.

Clearly I'm gaining some semblance of normality if I'm noticing stuff like this.

*(While I'm here, I'd like to thank you all for your various messages of support over the past week or so. Your kindness has been overwhelming and has really helped us in what has been a truly awful time.)


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