Sunday, 27 December 2009


I have two sheds. The one is not enough. The first shed is empty with a trapdoor in the floor leading down to the Large Sweetcorn Collider as has been exaggerated appallingly by Roth. The second is just odd.

From the outside it is a lapped wood panel shed about 6' x 4'. I keep a workbench, a comfy chair, a little coffee table and a few books. The workbench looks out through the tiny window onto the garden. There is a fluorescent lamp running down the inside ridge of the roof. Very simple. Very ordinary.

Now push open the door and enter. It is totally as I described. I can stand at the workbench and look out the window. The chair, coffee table and books are behind my bench standing position and also facing the window. The light buzzes above. Everything faces the window.

Everything faces the window because to look the other way is a little disturbing. The far wall is missing. In its place is a tunnel. It has wooden lapped walls, the fluorescent lamp continues along the ridge of the roof. It looks like it goes miles and disappears at a tiny point of light. It draws the eye awfully, in the way that something totally impossible in a shed often does.

Sometimes I look into the distance, turn, go out and walk around my shed. There is nothing unusual outside. Not that unusual anyway. A couple of tulips fighting a neighbouring cat. Genetics is so fiddly. One false gene and you've got plants that hate cats and can express their feelings.

Maybe when inside I should face the tunnel entrance, because things come out of the distance. Alternatively, I could just buy another shed.

I'm also fairly sure the other end sort of 'flaps around' a bit. I've distinctly smelt sea air and fish and chips. I've had a small amount of desert sand blow around my feet.

I was sitting in my comfy chair when a strangely dressed man on small green ride-on motor mower shot past my chair and came to rest against the leg of the bench. He cut the engine, jumped off yelling "Where are the French?". He noticed me for the first time.

"No French here", I said, a little surprised. This doesn't happen often to me. Even in this shed.

"Are you sure?", he said.

I patted my pockets, and looked around. "I'm positive".

"You speak strangely for an Englishman. Are you sure you're not French?"

"Yes, I'm sure". I had a small piece of brie in the fridge. Better not mention that.

He thought on this for a moment and seemed a little more relaxed, relatively speaking. More relaxed, like one sugar less in a whole bucket of espresso. He'd decided I was friendly or at the very least neutral.

"Would you be kind enough to point me in the direction of Henry's line?"


"Henry. The King. His Majesty. King Henry V."

Why do I have to get a nutter on a motor mower in my shed? It's not fair. I wanted a coffee, a nip of nice malt whiskey and to sit down. I decided to humour him until I could escape or hit him on the noggin with a large mallet.

"How did you get here?", I asked.

"I was caught in a French charge. d'Albret's men were wielding two day old french sticks and cutting through the lines of English lawn-mower men.", he paused, "There is nothing as hard or nasty as two day old french loaves. In the right hands one of those will cleave through the blades of an English mower like a burning arrow through hot lard."

I was a little surprised, and tried hard to remember my history. "I thought the English used longbows against the French?"

"Dear me, no! That would be so 1414!", he gasped. "Ride-on motor mowers. Fantastic". He thought some more. "Well, until the French started using old, stale bread. Not so clever then."

I couldn't find my mallet, and the door was behind him. I also wondered if there was a platoon of deadly bread-wielding Frenchmen closing on our position as I we spoke. With haste I helped him turn his mower around and pulled the starting cord. It chugged into life. They don't make them like that anymore.

"The French will be closing on our position any minute now. Head back down the tunnel, I'm pretty sure they'll be gone when you get to the other end". I was pretty sure I'd be gone as soon as he was out of sight.

He revved up. I was impressed how well tuned it was, it sounded like a Harley-Davidson after a service.

"Good luck", I yelled as he roared off down the tunnel. "Bring me back some Camembert".

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Slow News Day

All news services suffer from the Slow News Day phenomenon. However investigative or creative they may be, there is nothing to report. Nowt. Diddly-squat vaguely interesting things. On the TV news in England back in the 80's they did lots of film clips with ambulances and fire-engines racing to places before finally admitting that no-one had been injured and, in fact, absolutely nothing was on fire.

It was to cover this problem that the recent culture of celebrity has developed. On days when all the interesting stuff is having a sabbatical, or what is happening requires more brainpower than a hamster on Mogadon to understand, something can be reported. Usually at length.

Anyone who thought news filling was a recent practice would have been brought up short by the recent discovery of a diary by the most famous of Slobbering-under-the-Bed's Town Criers, Mr James Southsea. He was famous because during his tenure in the office of Town Crier so very much happened. There was the Mysterious Cattle Rustling, a terrible stage coach crash and, last but certainly not least, The Great Fire of Slobbering.

The diary starts in September 1835. The first few entries in the diary run like this:

Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Everyone turns and looks. I tell them nothing has happened. Townsfolk look a little cross.

Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. It's traditional you see? Everyone turns and looks. Once more I explain nothing has happened. I mean whose fault is that? If they did something then I could announce it. No use the townsfolk getting annoyed with me.

By November the entries have become like this:

Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Bored. Bored. Bored. Tell everyone that nothing is going on. They stare at me. I stare back. I can keep this up as long as they can!

Rang bloody bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Still absolutely nothing going on. Dammit. It's not my fault people! If you weren't all so very very boring I'd have a fulfilling job.

In December, the Christmas tipple was getting to the man:

Shouted at bell. Bell did not ring itself. Told townsfolk I was going for another ale. Nearest they'll get to exciting news.

By January things had not changed for the better:

Decided that since Slobbering-under-the-Bed is the jewel in the crown of boredom, it needed brightening up. Am now going to make up the news. Started lunchtime. Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Told the townsfolk that the Vicar's wife had just had a baby and would any man claiming to be the father please report to the vicarage. Stunned silence. 


Needed more interesting news. Waited until three in the morning and then left cow field gate open and the back door of the mayor's cottage. Once four cows were inside, closed the gates and back door. Went home satisfied and waited for my first announcement of the day. Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Latest news: mayor implicated in cattle rustling scandal. Oyez.

Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Mayor arrested for cattle theft. Man, that caused a bit of buzz in the town. Maybe this is an interesting job after all.


Bored. Nothing going on. Mayor seemed a little offish with me. Seems the vicar wasn't too pleased with him confessing to having an affair with his wife.


Slipped into coaching inn at the dead of night and loosened the wheel bolts on the left side of the stagecoach. The stage would be riding out at midday. Prompt news reporting would be needed.

Two minutes before midday. Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Bringing the news to the townsfolk as it happens, right now. The stagecoach shot past me pulled by four horses. I announced a major stagecoach disaster just outside Slobbering. Aboooouuuuut NOW. There was a crash. A wheel rolled back past me. How's that for prompt news?


Slow news month again. Apparently the mayor was on the stagecoach trying to leave town. He was mightily peeved when the wheels fell off.


Slobbering has just had gas street lighting fitted. One of the new gas light posts was put where I normally make my announcements. Feel a little aggrieved about it. Especially since the gas supply, like that of the rest of the town came from the local sewer. Some of the posher cottages had gas light too. Must really smell bad.

After the third day, I could no longer stand the smell. That night I snuck out with a hammer and flattened the pipe on my gas light. It went out. It no longer smelled. Job well done. As I was walking home, the gas lights down the street over-pressured and flared up one by one. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Oh dear. Finally the mayor's cottage exploded in a big ball of flames.

By my first announcement at six the following morning, most of the town was ablaze. Rang bell. Shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez. Great Fire of Slobbering consumes most of the town, faulty gas supply suspected. The townsfolk did their staring at me thing again.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Nearly at the Seaside

As I have mentioned before, I live in the town of Slobbering-under-the-Bed. My best mate lives in the neighbouring town of Paralytic-in-the-Wardrobe. He visits me. To my shame I seldom visit him, as the asylum doesn't often allow me out unless they are very sure of my medication.

Today was different. I'd got a day pass and intended to visit Roth. He is the God of Extremely Tall People and an Expert Pizza Worrier.

Our preferred meeting place was the Paralytic-in-the-Wardrobe pier. I arrived and noted today the tide was out. In fact the tide was always out. It was out 30 odd miles, and had been for quite some time.

Just after the Second World War, the town council, after a particularly long meeting and one or two strong bevvies had decided that what town could do with was more tourists and holiday makers. What brings in tourists and holiday makers more than being a seaside town, they reasoned. A couple of dissenting councillors mentioned a small matter of geography but they were firstly shouted down, and finally had their glasses topped up.

Construction began immediately on all the facilities a seaside town needed. They built a pier. Then a second pier. Then burnt one down. They created an electric fun railway. There was an amusement arcade. There was even a man employed to rent deck-chairs. The smell of fish-and-chips was pumped into the air day and night. Lights were hung along the fence that was to be the sea front. A local celebrity was to turn them on every November as soon as a suitable wander-lead was found.

When global warming was first recognised in the 50s, the councillors and townsfolk were overjoyed. It was just a matter of time before the tide came in and they had a beach, they felt. A matter of time before binge drinking on the seafront, they thought with glee.

In case of a shark attack, the search went out for a police chief who looked a little like Roy Scheider. Roth's grandfather went for the job, although for reasons he'd never let on, he didn't get it. Too tall I expect. This was a town in love with the romance of the sea.

Anyhow, I ramble. We met at the land end of the East Pier. Actually land end as a location isn't helpful. Both ends are painfully land-lubberish. It's probably the lack of sea that does it. Yes, now I come to think of it, that'll be the case.

I walked over to a fortune tellers booth. She told me "you'll meet a tall dark stranger". "Yes, I know", said I, "he's standing right behind me and you don't get stranger than Roth".

"Flat, Authentic and Boring Pizza?" said Roth.

"I thought you didn't like that place?"

"It's not as good as The Wrong Topping Pizzaria in Slobbering", he admitted.

"Let's go there instead", I suggest

"Can't", he said, and added, "It's being redecorated"

"Oh. Another buffet accident?", I smiled a knowing smile.

The pizza was memorable. It had that kind of three-in-the-morning memorability about it.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Rejected by the Publisher

Tonight I set out to write a blog entry. It would have everything. Mystery, humor, time-travel and sheds. I wrote, nay, I crafted for an hour.

I reviewed what I had writ. It sucked mightily. Shame 'cos it made sense (one up on Phillip K Dick there then), but it was dull. There was no point, no payload, no pleasure in the journey.

So press the publish button I did not, and off to watch the snow fall I did.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Dark Is The New Light

It was a dark and stormy night. Roth and I were walking down Slobbering's eclectic high-street. As I have previously mentioned, I live in Slobbering-under-the-Bed. Roth lives in the neighbouring town of Paralytic-in-the-Wardrobe and visits regularly. Actually the night wasn't at all stormy, but it certainly was dark and for a reason I shall come to mention.

We were heading towards our latest "discovery", The Euthanasia Curry House. We had been there but once before, and despite having to eat a pot of yoghurt each to restart a stomach culture, we had survived.

Something odd was happening. Every time Roth and I went under a lamppost the light flickered and went out.

"It's very odd that. It keeps happening to me and I'm getting quite a thing about it", muttered Roth.


"The streetlights going out"

"Oh that". I pulled a small box out of my pocket, placed it near the failed street-furniture and pressed a button. The light struck and proceeded towards full brightness.

"Why do you think it happens?", asked Roth quizzically.

I thought for a moment. "It could be your height?", I speculated. It is worth mentioning for those who haven't met Roth, he goes up a depth. I thought some more. "Alternatively, it could be I'm pressing the other button just as we walk underneath the light." I gave the idea some more thought, "Yes, that seems more likely", I concede.

Just to test my theory, I pull the box out of my pocket and press the buttons alternatively in quick succession. "I made it in my other shed" I explained. The light extinguished and re-struck in time with my button pushing. Then it fizzed, popped, released a shower of sparks and went out. So did all the other streetlights. "Bugger!", I said.

"Would you like a curry?", asked Roth

"Hell, yes", said I.

"Can I take your order sir?", said a waiter, with a flourish of his notepad.

"That's odd", I said out loud.

"We haven't even got to the restaurant yet", Roth noticed. "How do you even know we're going there?"

"A good waiter anticipates things, sir. And, if you will excuse me for saying, I am a very good waiter", and as if to prove his point, he removed a torch from his pocket and illuminated our way.

Monday, 7 December 2009


Slobbering-under-the-Bed has one Indian-ish restaurant. The Euthanasia Curry House. I say Indian-ish because it serves a range of dishes that no native Indian would recognise but are staples of the British diet.

The restaurant was discovered one night by Roth after he left a particularly unsuccessful buffet at The Wrong-Topping Pizzeria. It was right next to my favourite (partly because it was the only one in town, but mostly because it was cheap) Chinese restaurant, Happiness. Neither of us could remember seeing it before, nor did we have any idea what kind of shop or eatery was there before.

Some days after we ate there the first time, we tried to find it using my Sat-Nav. It couldn't actually find it, but plotted a route via Basingstoke and Luton. This was perfectly normal, it did the same for every location. If it was switched to shortest route mode, it included Edinburgh and Southend in the journey. We tried finding the Euthanasia on council planning maps. It wasn't there, there wasn't even a gap for it. Happiness butted directly up to The Big Blister Walking and Hiking Emporium. We got an arial photograph. It wasn't there. Maybe we need to hire a hot-air balloon.

Maybe this general not existingness was responsible for the ambiance we found on our first visit.

The Euthanasia had a cavernous interior. Little private bays heading back as far as the eye could see. It was quite full of diners. Waiters were bringing out dishes that flamed, sizzled and very occasionally exploded with a small mushroom cloud surrounded by miniature flashes of lightening.

A very sharply dressed waiter greeted us. Combined with Roth's fine suit, I was convinced I'd been doorstepped by a fringe religion. "Table for two sirs", he said. We nodded. I believed.

He showed us to an empty bay, and produced two menus. He removed the glass shade from a table candle holder, released the catch and the candle sprung up. He lit it, and pushed it back into the body of the lamp. It was clearly sprung loaded to keep the flame at the same level. Nice touch. I hoped the heated napkins were as good.

We ordered starters. Roth had a thing on a stick. I ordered pterodactyl burgers. Whilst we were eating other guests were being shown to their tables. One chap had a very pale face, a fine tailed evening suit and slicked black hair. "Vlad", cried the waiter, "How was the snooker match?" "Fine" he muttered as he took his seat. "Can you keep the light down low, please?"

Too intrigued to do otherwise we'd both ordered the special. Actually it was listed as the Very Special.  The waiter said the dish was "very delicately spiced by their expert chef and spice master" "from a distance of 37 miles", he added under his breath. The waiter arrived wearing a Hazmat suit and pushing a trolley supporting two large lead containers. Using steel tongs he lifted the lid on the first container. He carefully removed a balti dish and placed it between us. Ever so carefully he removed the other balti dish and placed it down at a safe distance from the first. He turned and ran, shouting "Enjoy" at the top of his lungs.

More regulars arrived. "Mr Lucan", enthused another waiter, "How's your missing person's agency going?". "Oh, so-so", he replied before taking a seat carefully shielded by a huge pot-plant.

Our two dishes then shot a column of flame straight at the ceiling in unison. When the pool of smoke cleared, there were two neatly burned circles on the ceiling tiles. The sprung loaded candle took this moment to spring up and extinguish itself by embedding in the ceiling.

For a restaurant I'd never even seen before this was quite stunningly popular. Regulars were arriving every few minutes. "Mr Kirk, how was your day at the office?" "Bit of a no-win scenario. You know how it is..."

Well, a finer curry I have never tasted. Waiters would come by occasionally to see if were still enjoying our meal, to ensure we were still alive and to replace forks that had dissolved too badly to be used. "Would sir like a CO2 extinguisher with his meal?" "Oh, ta. Thanks."

Roth paid, unfolding four huge white five pound notes.

As we left, we heard a waiter greeting another regular "Mr Methuselah, your usual table sir? Did you know you are our oldest customer?" "Really?"

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Restaurant Guide To Slobbering

There I was in the best chinese restaurant in my home town of Slobbering. It is also the worst. Actually, there is only one. In my childhood, I thought there were two but it later turned out the second one The Texaco was a garage, not a chinese restaurant after all. Unleaded is not a way of cooking duck. This restaurant is called Happiness. Apparently the originally name The Golden Vomit didn't bring in the punters, so they changed it.

Anyhow, they do the very best finger-bowl in town. I was spooning my way through my third helping, and looking forward to the hot napkins. I tell you, there is nothing to beat the taste of a freshly prepared hot napkin. But my napkin course was due to be politely interrupted. There was a terrible crash and the door flew off it's hinges.

"Roth", I beamed, a piece of escaped lemon clinging to my teeth. My smile faded when I noticed the red gloopy substance dripping from his attire. He could be injured. He still owes me a fiver.

He spotted one of my concerns and waved it away. "I've been stuffed crust diving", he said, flicking a small disk of pepperoni from his collar.

I was much relieved. It explained the gloopy red stuff, the wetsuit, snorkel and mask. Meeting Roth for the first time you'd have never have thought he was such an extreme sports adrenaline junkie, and you'd have been right. He isn't. He spends much of his waking time in The Wrong Topping Pizzeria next door leaping from the edge of deep pizzas into lashings of red sauce. They attempt to discourage Roth from attending buffets. To date they've tried: leaving the doors locked; opening at 2am; and more recently strange toppings.

"Have you eaten?", he asked. "The buffet isn't good. Sprout, seafood and chocolate sprinkles".

I looked around the interior of Happiness. The tables, the empty finger bowls, the wreckage of the door lying on the floor. The napkin warmer was just getting going. One of the waiters had a small piece of pepperoni stuck to his forehead. He looked sad.

"No", I lied, leaving a pile of Yugoslav Dinar for the staff of the Happiness. The waiter still looked sad.

"Good", he said, and removed his wetsuit to reveal a perfect pin-striped suit. He looked ready to sell double glazing, used cars or insurance. "They've opened a new restaurant. Next door I think."

"What's it called?", I ask.

"I think it is the Euthanasia Curry House"

"I like the sound of that".

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Dark Sprout

"Forgive me father for I have not blogged since October", I mumble.

"Sorry to hear that my son", he says in a low gravelly voice. He continues, "But I'm afraid there is nothing I can do about it".

"I came here for the Lord's forgiveness and absolution." My voice trembles a little, though that could be the cold.

"I said there was nothing I could do about it. This is a greengrocer. The church is next door."

"Oh." I shuffle my feet slightly.

"And you're standing in my upright freezer talking to me through the ice maker slot".

"Oh", I said again, "I thought your confessional had gone up market, although admittedly the air-conditioning seems a little aggressive."

"Hope you don't mind me asking", he said quizzically, "But didn't you notice the fruit and vegetables on your way in?"

"I thought it was harvest festival." On reflection this seemed a little weak, and I had noticed sprouts which are clearly a vegetable from the third circle of the inferno.

I push the door of the confessional and the light switches on. I step blinking into the daylight, and dust a little ice off of my leather coat. The greengrocer assists me, and I shake him firmly by the hand.

As I leave he adjusts his cassock and shakes a smoking thurible over the sprouts.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Endless loop

I got an award. I'm absolutely shocked. I write English as a second language, despite not having a first. I wibble on about things of absolutely no importance. Finding a purpose behind something you've read in my blog is as likely as being able to buy a bale of hay in Central London.

But none the less it happened. Again. My blog is now "multi-award winning". I'd like to thank my parents, my sister and my therapist. I'd also like to thank my primary school music teacher for three whole lessons of listening to me play the Recorder. It was just bad noise.

The award looks like this:

Awards in the blogosphere seem to be like chain letters. The first blog is given an award, its writer passes that award onto people he or she thinks also write pretty cool blogs, and so on ad-infinitum.

On a slightly different tack, my hobbies are listed as:
  1. Causing Chaos
  2. Disrupting things
  3. Naming tortoises after doorknobs.
So, in my usual manner, applying hobbies 1 and 2, I started thinking what would happen if I bestowed this award upon the blogger who bestowed it on me. Would it create a loop? A failure of cause and effect in the blogosphere? A time paradox?

Lets find out:
  • I would like to pass this award onto my dear friend Indigo Roth, who bestowed it upon me. [Do we hear the blogosphere explode?]
  • I would also like to bestow the award onto Eolist Petite for the fine piece of writing that is Trading Cards.
  • Finally onto Mrs Long-suffering who has started her own blog, but hasn't yet put anything into it. Thought it has got to be worth passing a blogging award onto an as yet empty blog! Bumble

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Origin of the Roundabouts

Roundabouts or rotaries (or traffic circles to give them their full latin name) are an amazing species. I live in England where they roam freely in great herds. Most especially, I live in Stevenage which is a designated zone of Special Scientific Interest and a Conservation area for the roundabout. Stevenage is to the roundabout what the Galápagos Islands are Galápagos Green Turtle or the Invisible Zebra.

Now if roundabouts were cute and fluffy, we'd be beating the naturalists and their film crews back with sticks. They're not. If they were exciting, aggressive or poisonous books would be written about them. Sillier naturalists would be poking them with sticks. They are slow moving, so slow most say they don't move at all. And neglected. We know so little of the life of a roundabout.

After many years of careful observation I believe the humble roundabout starts as the cute mini-roundabout like this one:

Development must be fast, because you never see a roundabout that is too small for a car to go around (even in Stevenage). A fully formed mini-roundabout must be born and grow in just a single night and move itself into the middle of the road to feed on the fumes and tyre-rubber of passing cars.

A theory that also plays on my mind, but I have all but discounted now, is the priciple of "budding" like yeasts. A single roundabout splits and forms a double roundabout. After a brief period of co-habiting the same road junction and once sufficient bits of car light, broken glass and detached paintwork have accumulated the "budded" one shifts off to it's own road junction.

Clearly there are some issues with competion with traffic lights, and this is an area of separate study. A roundabout is clearly a stronger and more virulent species and will often displace a family unit of traffic lights to take the precious land of the road junction. The traffic lights can briefly be found huddling by road works, before passing on to other lands.

There is a further theory, that roundabouts are not a form of life at all, but rather are the end points of wormholes in space, one clockwise and the other counter-clockwise, that allow the passage of white vans, tractors and invalid carrages to the road directly in front of you. This theory is clearly rubbish and should be discounted from the minds of any right thinking conservationist. It is simply paranoia.

Anyhow, listen out tonight for the squealing noises of wheels, for this is the cleverly disguised call of the roundabout. They speak to each other. They do. Honestly.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Is it just me, or is it getting warm?

I feel very mixed about climate change, global warming or whatever the media insist on calling it these days.

You see, whatever we do, planet Earth will survive. Yes, you heard me correctly, the Earth will survive. Drive your gas guzzling four wheel drive. Leave the TV on standby all night. Buy big lovely instant-on tungsten filament bulbs - 100w are best. Use them 24/7, even if it is blazing sunlight outside. Leave the air-con on maximum even when you're on holiday. Burn down the rain forests. Burn down all the bloody forests. The Earth will survive.

It's all happened before. There were big lumbering creatures with brains in their heads and bums with fantastic latin names - that's how old they were. They weren't too quick at making decisions, not that it really mattered, there were no decisions they could have made that would have made any difference. The climate changed, they died out and something small and fluffy took their place. The Earth survived.

I wonder whether our activity, however dire, compares with that of mother nature herself. Do we produce enough exhaust out of the back of our cars to equal one decent volcanic eruption? Add onto that the burning of fossil fuels - are we there yet? Plus herds of farting dairy cows - is that enough? Actually it doesn't matter - our car gasses, cow gasses, fossil fuel burning, tree chopping mania only has to push towards the tipping point. Our activity plus a good volcanic eruption and we're overbalanced. The Earth will survive.

Of course, we think much faster than the dinosaurs, but not en-mass. Humans can be really clever - look at the computers, medicine, astronomy, art, literature, music and particle physics. Each of these areas is advanced by people thinking by themselves or in very small groups contributing to the knowledge. It's when we try to think and make decisions together it all goes horribly wrong. Look at any government. Look at the United Nations. Sit on any committee. Participate in a decision making meeting. See what I mean - in groups humans are ponderous and stupid. So are we going to think our way out of this one? I doubt it very much. Never mind, the Earth will survive.

Unfortunately, it is likely the Earth will survive without us. I have a daughter. I don't want her generation to have a bad time. I don't want her children or her children's children to be the last of our kind. So I want to try my best to stop the Earth from reaching the tipping point and tipping us off. Let's do our best to push the ponderous and stupid, whom we seem to have put in charge, to fix things. And while we're doing that, lets do the best we can ourselves.

Monday, 12 October 2009

London by Night

I recently posted a very poor quality shot taken from the observation gallery on the 32nd floor of Centrepoint Tower in the West End of London. Now for almost any other city in any other country 32 floors would not be considered high. For New York it is positively tiny and you'd expect to get 360 degree views of the walls of the surrounding buildings. London, for some years, had a policy of very low rise and hence Centrepoint Tower affords a quite fantastic view. One day I shall sneak up there with my camera, a tripod and a glass cutter so as I can take some wonderful pictures before I am arrested and incarcerated.

I enjoy taking photographs, and so do a few others I work with. A small, but select, band of us decided to take a walk one evening in January around some of the more picturesque parts of London. When there are a few of you, setting up tripods and taking photographs doesn't feel anything like as self-concious an exercise. There is, as has been said before, strength in numbers.

We decided on the Tower Bridge area of London. It is an iconic symbol of London. It's also really windy.

For my first photo I wanted to get a shot of the traffic streaming through the bridge (clicking on any of these photographs gives a bigger image):

This was close to thirty seconds of car lights. Notice the green traffic lights. This is one of those places in the world where running a red light can result in a very through car wash.

I varied this a tiny bit for a vertical shot:

Tower Bridge is lit up like a Christmas tree. Up to a point this is fantastic for photographers, but you'll notice the star lights and glare all over this image. Incidentally there were people walking up and down the pavement (sidewalk), but because of the long exposure none made even the slightest impact on the shot.

A short walk later and we were over on the South bank of the Thames, looking back across the river towards The City. The City is what we call the financial hub of London, and is to London what Wall Street is to New York. That is, a place of risk taking plonkers who needed some serious bailing out when they discovered that they'd all been selling each other assets that on closer inspection were probably liabilities.

Fortunately this photographic trip was before the credit crunch and they could still afford to keep the lights on at night. Now they are allowed a single tea light per floor, which is lit at dusk and blown out at dawn.

Even I, a jaundiced, cynical, countryside lover has to admit this is very pretty, with all the different coloured lights. Oooh, look at the pwity lights...

This wasn't the coldest of nights, but a gentle and persistent wind wore away at us all. It was beginning to make my nose go all the wrong colour. A blue nose clashes so badly with my green eyes. It's an aesthetic thing.

From this vantage point, I could look back and get a view of the whole of Tower Bridge and a magnificent sight it was too. I hope this image captures that beauty.

From there we strolled back and I went home to attempt to get my circulation working again. I did in everything except my head.

Friday, 9 October 2009

World Mental Health Day

October 10th, 2009 is World Mental Health Day. The idea of a day was started by World Federation for Mental Health, and a damn fine idea it is too.

Mental health is a subject very close to my heart. I am a sufferer from depression. I've been on anti-depressent tables, I've had counselling on more than one occasion and in fact, I'm still on the tablets.

There are stigma attached to mental health problems. The one depression enjoys is the why don't you snap out of it line of illogic. This is also known as the you don't need counselling/anti-depressents, you just need to make up your mind to be ok conversation. Most often this is from kind, well meaning people, especially of the older generation who just got on with it.

I draw an analogy to mind. If I were unfortunate enough to suffer from heart disease, and it were controllable with tablets, most people would say, poor Keith, he has a bad heart and has to take these tablets for the rest of his life. Now, for various reasons, which I shan't go into in this blog (well not today at least, and probably never), I suffer from depression. It affects my sleep, my memory, makes me bloody hard to live with, lousy at my job, lousy at being a husband and lousy at being a father. Makes me quite an angry person. Oddly enough it never affects my appetite (I want to be buried with a hamburger, just in case I get peckish). Counselling has helped a bit, but without a shadow of a doubt the anti-depressents nail the problem, so why then have I had the snap out of it conversation. I wouldn't snap out of heart disease, why would I snap out of depression!

This attitude has meant many people with depression, or other mental illnesses, have remained shy and reluctant to speak out, despite it affecting many people. People who need help have been frightened to seek it due to the stigma. Still others have just got on with it, and lead miserable lives for themselves and made the lives of those around them miserable too.

Have a look at this website for some scary statistics. Mental health problems are not something that only happens to other people.

I'm very lucky. Good doctors, good counselling, effective medicine and it affects my life very little. Thanks for reading this post.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

I'd like to thank my Invisible Zebra

I just got an award off my old mate Indigo Roth (the big purple one). It is for having a blog that is a tiny bit Over the Top or a little Away with the Fairies.

Here it is:

To qualify for the award I need to answer some questions with one word answers. For me this is amazingly difficult as I am widely known for being long-winded and going on for a bit, even though most people would like me to shut-the-f*ck-up.

Here are my answers:
1. Where is your cell phone? Pocket
2. Your hair? Short
3. Your mother? Sarcastic
4. Your father? Inventive
5. Your favorite food? Curry
6. Your dream last night? Missing
7. Your favorite drink? Large
8. Your dream/goal? Escape
9. What room are you in? Ballroom
10. Your hobby? Disruption
11. Your fear? Alzheimer's
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Free
13. Where were you last night? Bed
14. Something you aren't? Religious
15. Muffins? Prozac
16. Wish list items? Many
17. Where did you grow up? London
18. Last thing you did? Tweeted
19. What are you wearing? Glasses
20. Your TV? House
21. Your pets? Cavies
22. Your friends? Unhinged
23. Your life? Chaos
24. Your mood? Grumpy
25. Missing someone? Myself
26. Vehicle? Unicycle
27. Something you're not wearing? Clingfilm
28. Your favorite store? Apple
29. Your favorite color? Black
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Yesterday
32. Your best friend? Karen
33. One place I go over and over? Astrocamp
34. One person who emails me regularly? Indigo
35. Favorite place to eat? Raj

I don't read too many blogs, so like Indigo, I shall pass on to just a few highly deserving people, in the hope that they appreciate the recognition as much as I do:

eolistpetite 's thoughtful and throughly enjoyable blog.

Rebecca at Provocation of Mine (d) who oft makes me laugh.

The thought bubbles of Robbie Munn - the blog that came before and has revived.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Few Moments of Peace

I recently had the pleasure of a holiday with my family (Fluffy daughter, Mrs Long-Suffering and I), my sister, her husband and children and my parents. We went to the Spanish Balearic Island of Minorca. There was sunshine, a swimming pool, good food and company.

Whilst I love the relaxed atmosphere, a chance to spend whole days doing nothing, I'm not one for spending much time in the sun. Searing sunlight, wilting heat and factor 97 suncream are not my bag. One good ray of sun and I'm smoke.

Exploring and taking photographs is my thing. Our holiday location, the glorious and quite lovely Vista Picas is only a few miles away from the old capital city of Ciutadella. The city, like the island has a very rich history resplendent in megalithic stone monuments, Roman, Vandals, Byzantine, Turkish, British, French and then Spanish. The capital of the island has moved to Mahon which has a far deeper port suitable for much larger ships. And gin.

The best time for taking photographs, especially in sun drenched bits of the world are the golden hours after dawn and during dusk. I wanted the place to be empty, so I arranged for a taxi to take me to the capital at 5:30 in the morning. This is me on holiday - crazy huh?

Mr Taxi driver arrived. He spoke Spanish. I speak English. His English was as good as my Spanish. I grunted and pointed at a map. He held map and rotated it several times. I pointed again. We reached an understanding. At that moment a young lady from the hotel leapt into the back of the taxi and in a flurry of Spanglish indicates she would like to share the ride and pay half.

I arrived at 6:00 in the morning. The journey was very much like the Knight Bus in Harry Potter, but with fewer shrunken heads and wheeled metal beds crashing about. He missed three road islands, which I'm sure he must have clobbered on the return journey.

From my point of arrival I took a slow walk down the narrow streets. The lights were still on giving an orange glow. I sucked in a few moments of peace before nearly getting run over by a delivery van. They belt up and down these streets like maniacs. Ancient, pretty, narrow they may be, but these are peoples homes and work places. And don't forget it!

The streets had wires across them from an earlier lighting system with what looked like large domestic light bulbs - it would have been very interested to have seen them then. Across the middle of the frontage of each of the buildings was a mass of wires and pipes. This seemed something of a shame when the rest was so very picturesque.

I wandered around fairly aimlessly - I was looking for photographic opportunities rather than landmarks and time was short. There would only be an hour before the sun came up and everything was scorching hot and photographically somewhat flat.

Walking along I saw a man sitting in a doorway in a very Monday sort of way. He looked like he was steeling himself to face the day. I asked his permission and took a photo - this is not something I've ever had the guts to do - just walk up to a stranger and take their picture. But I did just that.

From his attire, dishevelled appearance and eyes staring into the middle-distance, clearly the chap was the local computer programmer.

Having relieved the man of his soul I travelled on my way towards the edge of town where I found this unusual building.

Now it is not every day you see the combination of a nightclub, bar and windmill. They were just tidying up from the night before where the locals had obviously had a couple of flowered buns too many or maybe hit the malt loaf too hard. Binge pastries, such a problem in this part of the world.

My final port of call was, forgive the pun, the port. Rather wonderfully it was in a what must have been a deep cut in the land, so as I could stand on high ground and see the whole area. This is probably my favourite image of the whole shoot, but each to his or her own.

I took a slow walk back into the city centre, found a likely looking bus and arrived back at the hotel before anyone else had even peeked their heads out of their duvets. I fell asleep during the show that evening.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Green or Mean

Today was the first day of Autumn, or so it felt. I'm sure there is an official first day, but frankly I don't care. It felt chilly. The trees are changing colour. I love this time of year, Halloween, Guy Fawkes night (fireworks, mulled wine, sausages, jacket potatoes, oh yes indeed). A few years back I took some nice firework photos one Guy Fawkes night. He's one I quite like:

Over in the UK we have a postal strike. I hardly ever send anything by post or depend upon it in any way, so it is, for the most part, as relevant to me as a Blue Hippopotamus strike. Then again we are under three months from Christmas, and like most people I send and receive Christmas Cards.

I still cannot figure out why I celebrate Christmas or send cards. I'm an atheist, but I was brought up in a Christian country (well Church of England which is more about tea with the vicar and village cricket than anything else). My parents were devoutly apathetic - we 'did' Christmas, Easter Sunday, ate hot cross buns and ate pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. We only ever went near a church for the occasional christening, wedding or funeral.

Anyhow, when it comes down to it, what's wrong with a day of the year where all the shops really do close, we pretend to be nice to one another and give presents we received from someone else the year before to relatives we won't see again for another year? If we atheists didn't borrow a festival from the incumbent religion in the area we'd have to invent one. Why shouldn't my child get loads of presents on a day other than her birthday?

So why do I send these stupid cards to people I actually do care about? Cards that have pictures of a winter scene that doesn't usually happen where I live until over a month after Christmas. I can't remember the last time it snowed on Christmas Day anywhere near my home. Alternatively I send cards with 'witty' comments like "Have another mince pie this Christmas, you're already fatter than Santa Claus". Almost all contain a trite, hand scrawled message saying "we must meet up in the new year".

What makes the whole fiasco even more silly is that many of my friends are similarly disposed towards religion as I am, a good number are Muslims and a small number are of other world religions. Should I give them a card because I do genuinely wish them peace, happiness and plum pudding, or not because it is not their way?

This year, I'm thinking quite seriously about creating an electronic card, with a personal picture and greeting for all my friends, and saying to the card companies: "don't chop a tree down for me this year".

Would this be considered green and 21st century or mean and Scrooge-like?

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Conspiracy Theory

I love conspiracy theorists. I want to believe they say. Well, Mr Mulder, I am your arch nemesis. Professor Moriarty to your Holmes. The Joker to your Batman. The Roquefort to your Edam.

Indigo Roth (the big purple one) and I had an idea. Like all ideas it was formed over a drink in the pub. "Conspiracy theories are the new religion", I said as I fell off my bar stool. "Quite right", he replied, helping me back onto my stool, deftly adjusting his waistcoat and flicking his tails over the back of his chair in one fluid motion. "So what shall we do about it?", he continued. "Give 'em something to think about?" we both said together.

We sealed our pact with a drink, my yard of ale clicking against his, his, well something-in-a-glass-with-a-brolly-in-it. He never explained what it was, but sometimes it gave out a puff of bluish smoke. Although that may have been the earlier Chicken Phal.

We started small. All good operations start small. We found a front garden of a house in Basingstoke. It had three gnomes. We started moving them around over intervals of several days. Then we added to them. By the time we finished there were over two hundred and fifty-four of them.  Our best evening was arranging them under the owner's jacked up car, like they were changing a wheel. Made the local paper. I believe the gnomes are still running a Kwik-Fit Tyres place.

Since then it has grown, taking most of our waking hours procuring materials, travelling, building strange structures and getting back in time for the day job. Some are arduous, some are just fun. Crop circles are always fun. You can do them when you're completely out of your face on beer and whisky. Just need to find a field with a decent crop.

The statues on Easter Island were Indigo's design. I said they should be more 'smily', he disagreed. He wanted moody and enigmatic. Maybe he was right. Either way it was bloody hard to get them in place with a old Vauxhall Viva Estate and a set of crowbars. We didn't put out the one with the porkpie hat, as that may have blown the game.

There has been laughter and tears during our times. I remember doing the Mysterious Nazca Lines in Peru. Middle of the night, there we were pushing our wheelbarrows around, lining them up on features in the horizon - got to keep the lines straight I said. Mine got a puncture and started going along all flop, flop flop. Indigo hit a llama, which lay on it's back in his wheelbarrow with all four legs in the air. When you look at the photos taken from the air you can see where we got in trouble. 

Now the Bermuda Triangle is one I really wish we hadn't started. Such a long way to go. My original plan was to have the triangle between FelixstoweAmsterdam and Gothenburg like the dreadful 1980's British TV series. We settled on Bermuda as one apex mostly because it had much better hotels. The North Sea Triangle would never have been investigated by anyone who didn't want to get freezing cold, wet and miserable. So Bermuda it was.

Getting the crew of the Marie Celeste ashore without anyone noticing was hard. Sailing the ship back out two handed was tiring and once in position we sat down for a really decent fried breakfast and then the radar went bleep. We just got away in our stealth boat on the far side without anyone noticing.

Anyhow, time is getting on and I have a really good mock up of Pandora's Box to finish in my shed. The  llama needs feeding too [why my shed Roth? He'd have fitted under your bed perfectly well]. Indigo will be over later with the mysterious metal bits he cast for Roswell next week.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Mystic Place

I live in a place where ancient lay-lines cross the well trodden route to KFC. That brings some ancient magic to the fore. Strange things happen here.

Fluffy daughter would like a cat. Mrs Long-suffering would like a cat. I would like a cat. They're strange indifferent creatures with their minds permanently at the edge of the jungle.

Mrs Long-suffering and I would like a dog, but they're a load of effort and responsibility.

Anyhow, back to the cat idea. There is a snag. A wee problemette.

When I was in my teens I had asthma. Quite badly. I had allergy test at a swanky London hospital (thanks to the NHS). They confirmed I was allergic to house dust and CATS.

My parents immediately went out and bought a very hairy Persian cat. Does anyone think they were trying to tell me something?

Mrs Long-suffering explained about Daddy not being able to live with cats because his breathing gets bad. Fluffy daughter nodded sagely. She said she'd still like a cat.

Friday morning Fluffy daughter explained that she could get a cat if daddy went away. She said I could go and live with my mum and dad, 'cos I love them. Mrs Long-suffering smiles quietly to herself. Fluffy daughter says "when you have a cat, you must take responsibility. Getting rid of Daddy is responsibility."

So, at some point soon I may be repl meoow meow meow *finds slipper to poo in*

Friday, 25 September 2009

Techno Addiction

My name is Keith and I am a techno addict. I have been as long as I can remember. I've considered developing some emotional maturity and realise that life is about living rather than having. But then it isn't entirely the having - it's the making it all work together.

I love it. We've got a house full of it. My wife and daughter can't move due to the wiring.

Just this evening I worked out how to make my iPhone play music through my PC using bluetooth. Anyone else would have just found a bit of wire and connected the two together. That'd be too easy for me. Where would be the fun in that? I mean I can take my iPhone up to 10 meters away from my PC and still play music through it's speakers. Hell, I can be in another room so I wouldn't even have to listen to the music I was playing. Stupid thing to get happy about.

Maybe I can move onto other devices. Could I get my toaster to play Judas Priest's "Living after Midnight"? Got to be worth a go, I'd have said. To be honest, I would be satisfied just to get the thing to make bread brown on both sides evenly and quickly. It has a dial on the side marked with numbers. Number 1: Make the bread vaguely warm to the touch; Number 2: Make one side of each slice slightly brown in the middle; Number 3: Put the fire to it. Cremate. Leave no trace of the bread. Send it to the ozone layer post haste. Thankfully it cannot be turned up to 11 - I've always assumed that would have been banned under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Amerdinerjad says Iran has no nuclear weapons, but they've got a toaster and they know how to use it.

I had reason earlier in the day to look up Bermuda Triangle mysteries. Sadly most are terribly easy to explain, but like always it set me thinking. Where exactly did my 500g bar of Dairy Milk go? [For those of you reading from the other side of the Atlantic that is a very big bar of very nice chocolate] One day it was in the 'fridge and the next it wasn't. Obviously I took statements from all present, although the celery was remaining suspiciously quiet. I took the cheese away for interrogation.

My keen mind discounted the obvious immediately. It hadn't been eaten by the dog. Dogs don't like Dairy Milk. 500g would clearly be too much and the poor animal would have a stomach ache. Dog's can't unwrap foil wrapping and that was gone too. The absolute clincher I felt was that we don't own a dog. Well, I don't think we do.

A few days later it reappeared, but had gone past it's best-before-end date. Mysterious chilly white portal to another time and place OR a grocery delivery - you make up your own mind.