Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The heat is on

Bloody hell, it's hot. I mean, really, uncharacteristically hot. So much so that the Government is close to announcing we're approaching heatwave territory.

I'm well aware that I have readers in other parts of the world, many of whom will find the thought of a mere mid-30s centigrade being a bit average. Yes, I know, it's not a contest. You have to remember that we're British, we're not used to this. I was 17 before I realised you could go outdoors without an umbrella. Plus there's 60 million of us squeezed into a space the equivalent of Kansas. The good people of Kansas are much more able to cope with temperatures like this, mainly because they don't have their next-door neighbours' elbows in the small of their backs.

We don't build for temperatures like this. Everyone has a brick-built house, with double layers and cavity insulation. According to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, all houses in America appear to be built out of corrugated cardboard - easier for the inhabitants to cope with the heat, as well as making it possible for that shouty chap with the megaphone to demolish it all with a ping-pong ball.

The British people are pretty unfamiliar with extremes; of emotion, flavour or climate. For the same reason the nation grinds to a halt when there's six inches of snow in December, we're also very poor at crying or spicy food. The middle ground is so much more comfortable.

It's the night-times that are the worst. The urban landscape soaks up the heat during the day and releases it back overnight. It's heavy and humid, like someone's sucked all the oxygen out of the air.

So, after a sleepless night on Sunday, I cracked yesterday afternoon. After scouring three hardware stores, I came home with a portable air-conditioning unit. I say 'portable', obviously that's a relative term. This thing weighed about the same as your average aircraft carrier and, in terms of size, was visible from low earth orbit.

Katie was not impressed.

"Where are we going to stick that thing? It's huge."

"Well, we need to put it by a window as it has to vent out of this embarrassingly large hose."

"So I'm going to have to move all the stuff on my side of the bedroom? You pillock."

That was last night. I admit I had some selling-in to do.

As I type this, it's the following night, it's just gone half past ten and we're both lying in bed. We're not sleeping, we just gravitated this way. The air-con is chilling the room nicely. Katie is actually under the quilt. We've just had a discussion about the feasibility of moving the rest of our furniture up here.

Consumer applicances rock.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A capital letter

A weekend in London, and now we're back fully refreshed and ready to face the strains of work.

Actually, if the truth be known, we're well and truly knackered. Someone really needs to do something about the number of steps in our capital city. Can't everything be on one level? I realise this might make the Underground a bit of a challenge, but from the nation that gave the world Brunel, Whittle and Stevenson, surely that's not a complete impossibility?

Oh, you want pictures? Well, you must realise that tourist photos belong to one of a number of categories:

OK, this is a little touristy:

This is perhaps slightly more touristy:

And this, quite frankly, is beyond help:

You know, hardly a day goes by without someone asking me if this blog is going to include a little more portcullis action. The time is now. Ask and you shall receive, folks:

I know. I'm just a giver.

Having had our fill of ancient buildings identified with strange and arcane practices, we made our way to the Houses of Parliament. Please enter your own punchline here. Anyway, being a big fan of the sauce I was keen to see what all fuss was about.

Viewed from the London Eye, you can see how clearly the House's designers had been so deeply influenced by the Pointy School of Architecture:

It brought out deep patriotic feelings in me, which didn't subside until later that same day when I got to drink German beer in an oddly-shaped glass:

Brings a tear to the eye, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The sequel

Let joy be unconfined. Sound the celebratory sirens. Wave the happy flags. Jump up and down. Place your hands in the air. Indeed. Like you just don't care.

Why the happiness? The back pain from last week appears to have subsided. It has abated. It has gone away, eased. Buggered off, even.

Which is just as well, as the new raft of injuries I picked up at the weekend just wouldn't have played well if Mr Sciatica was still at home.

The weekend was not conventional. At one point I was hanging out of a van, aiming a 9mm semi-automatic pistol at people. Hard though it may be to believe, this is not typical behaviour for me.

Well, there was that time in '98, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

I was helping out a friend, Chris, with his latest film project. He does these about once a year - writing, directing and doing a bit of acting. And he gets dozens of people to help out, too.

This year's film is a mash up between RoboCop, Goodfellas, Snatch and The Fly. and I play an evil henchman. Never having henched before I was interested to see what was involved. Sunday's shoot involved the bad guys storming a compound, shooting lots of people and springing their boss from the cops.

A Toyota HiAce van - apparently the singular choice for the criminal underclasses - was driven by Chris (wearing a wig because he actually has another role in the film). Busily henching was yours truly, skulking in the back of the van with the sliding side door open, plus Jamie in the passenger seat. Jamie has spiked pink hair and black lipstick. We're all tooled up with fake guns but it's Jamie who does so much better than anyone else. She scares me, anyway.

Take 1: the van screeches onto the set, side door open, I'm shooting from the opening and there is plenty of fruity language, as directed. You could have had 'Ride of the Valkyries' playing. Until Chris stood on the brakes. The van stopped. Chris and Jamie, bracing themselves, stopped. The open side door kept moving. As did I. Just before the door slammed shut, the camera picked me up, my forward momentum only being slowed by my right knee on the van's floor before being finally halted, courtesy of my shoulder getting personal with the van's bulkhead.

There was more fruity language, although unplanned this time.

Chris leaned over from the driving seat to inspect the human wreckage. "Sorry mate, should have warned you. Think we'll have the door closed for the next take, think you can open it and leap out instead?"

Leap? Leap?

Take 2: as planned, we make it into the compound. "Eat lead, muddyfunsters!" we scream as the doors open. I then manage to shoot the actor playing my boss in the head. That wasn't in the script.


Take 3: everything comes together. I leap out and take out several cops. I then notice that my knee is smarting ever so slightly. I'm wincing when I move my arm, too. It's not a good look for a henchman, to be honest, however I manage to put down the final policeman with the odd punch or two. I must be acting, I'm a confirmed pacifist. Plus, he's about 6" taller than me and has clearly seen the inside of a gym at some point in the last 15 years. Back into the van and off we go.

"Cut! That's a wrap, thank you everyone."

When I got home I checked and saw that my right knee looked like Tasmania on Google Earth. Not a good look. Well, not for a knee, anyway. My shoulder was really starting to join in the fun whenever I twisted or picked anything up. Or just moved around. Then my left knee and ankle were making themselves noticed, too. To add to the mix I seemed to be suffering from sunburn.

I think I've slightly dislocated my shoulder. Is that possible, or is shoulder dislocation an absolute, binary, all-or-nothing sort of thing?

You know, I can't help thinking that Steven Segal doesn't have these problems.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Aches and pains

It started with a dull ache at the base of my back. I was probably imagining this next bit, but it felt like it was in two separate areas, one on each side.

That was it then, I thought. It was my kidneys on their way out. A lifetime of overindulgence and fast living had finally caught up with me.

"You great steaming pillock," enthused Katie sympathetically, "you had one pint of cider yesterday and all of a sudden you're the next Oliver Reed?. You are, and I repeat this for the sake of emphasis, a great steaming pillock."

You can go years in this household without as much as a kindly word.

Where was I? Oh yes, the nagging pain.

It hurts when I stand. If I'm seated, it's uncomfortable. And there's pain when I lie down. Moving between these three states causes agony. This is not good. Consistent, but not good.

But now it moves. Because lower back pain on its own is so last century, isn't it? Now we have the unalloyed delight that is a tingling down the back of each leg.

"Ooh, ooh! I know this one," said Katie the other night. "That'll be sciatica."

Nemesis of mine, you now have a name. So there followed the Checking Up of you on The Internet.

"So, do you think I need the Intradiscal Electrothermaplasty?" I asked aloud. "Or perhaps the Radiofrequency Discal Nucleoplasty? Maybe some Perispinal Etanercept injections, just to be on the safe side?"

"Or maybe you should have some ibuprofen and do the washing-up."

Like a latter-day Florence Nightingale, you know.


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