Well fancy seeing you here...

Hello and welcome to the rambling rollercoaster of useless ponderings, strung together in what the internet calls a "blog," and the voices call a waste of everyone elses time.

Please check your sanity at the door (along with your dignity, logic, principles, good taste and prejudices against daftness.)

"I am here to seduce you into a love of life; to help you to become a little more poetic; to help you die to the mundane and to the ordinary so that the extraordinary explodes in your life." -Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Boy In A Box On Violet Hill

It is the first of May, and David Blaine is still alive. Damn.

I don't simply check Reuters for news of his demise on the first of every month - that would be mean. I just got my hopes up today because I thought he was doing a Houdini-style stunt tonight and I was - rather morbidly - hoping he'd fail dismally. He always looks smug, and whilst I didn't really wish him dead, I did hope he'd have to halt proceedings and be dramatically and humiliatingly rescued from self-inflicted peril. I'm not sure sitting in a giant fish-tank counts as 'peril,' and that's all he usually does. Not unless it's a tank full of sharks and he's bleeding, (or one full of Wags, and he's covered in that new chocolate Lynx - whichever you consider more perilous. Though the second would be a rather unexpected aquarium circumstance.)

His latest illusion was even more pathetic. He 'has broken the world record for holding his breath.' To make it even less thrilling, he 'performed' this trick on a live broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show. That's about as avant-garde as church flowers.

From davidblaine.com (which I resent having visited, so consider yourselves fortunate that I have spared you the need.)

"David set a new world record Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 for holding his breath for an astonishing 17 minutes and 4 seconds."

That's quite a long time actually, and had he done it whilst underwater; surrounded by Cheryl Cole sharks and bleeding chocolate, then I would have found it reasonably impressive.

My hands-down favourite David Blaine story comes from the time he was sat in a glass box in London. For his 'Above the Below' show, he was aiming to last 44 days without food (though why this counts as an illusionists stunt I don't know. Not sure that people in Africa would be too happy about it. Try telling them that they should stop complaining about being hungry because 'David Blaine has made it trendy.') Anyway - there he was - fasting, trying to look intense and dedicated as he defended the principle of the whole business when people said it was pointless. A certain element of the public had almost begun to take him seriously too...until one marvellous human being initiated the best magician-related comedic moment since Caroline Ahern dolled herself up as Mrs Merton and asked Debbie McGee "What first attracted [her] to the millionaire Paul Daniels."

This time it was not a cheeky question that made me proud to be British, but a glorious prank, whereby someone attached a Big Mac to a remote-controlled aeroplane, and flew it around his head.

Blaine-in-a-box. (Not to be confused with Jack-in-a-boxes. They are far more entertaining - though also hold nothing more than a clown.)

As well as David Blaine's world record attempt, the other thing launched this month is the new Coldplay album. Despite rumours of a split they have come back with Viva la Vida, produced by Brian Eno. As part of the publicity for the new album, Coldplay are releasing 'Violet Hill' - the first song from their new album - on free download from their website this week. I really like it, especially the nod to John Lennon in the line "I don't want to be a soldier." Should be really interesting to see how Eno's influence affects the overall feel of the record - as he did some really good work on The Joshua Tree for U2 (which was a good album, despite the bands' current downturn in media support.)

Coldplay - Violet Hill - Free Download

Chris Martin.

What people don't realise is that he's developed bat-like radar - and he'd just caught that mic seconds before it hit his forehead: with his eyes closed. (Buffy did that with a sword in a fight with Angelus in season one or two. I remember because I liked Spike, and preferred David Boreanez in evil-vampire mode, rather than as the sulky demon-with-a-soul.)

Coldplay have recently had to endure speculation that they had been "conducting weird musical experiments." I think this is all ludicrous codswallop. Chris Martin is in no way responsible for Cher.

...Though I do know that all the bits they snip off of her, they then stick onto Pete Burns. Fact.

I've once more failed to keep my promise of limiting myself with this thing, at least until I fix the notifications. Apologies: once more. If you've read this far, I'm guessing you would have read it anyway. I should have apologised at the start, so it shows up in the notification and is seen by all the people who shall curse Facebook for not providing them with more interesting news.
But as those people don't read this - I don't much care what they think anyway. x

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Confessions of Anna and the Rhino

I have a confession to make: I am useless at scrabble. I am forced to admit this because I have been invited to play by a friend who has an unwarranted (and misplaced) confidence in my ability. So, sorry as I am to do so, I must disillusion you. I am terrible at scrabble (admittedly I haven't played in more years than I care to admit to having behind me) but I was always appalling.

People are often surprised at just quite how dreadful I am at the game, because I love words, and so many think that Scrabble should be a favourite of mine. I think I'm actually put at more of a disadvantage because of my unflinching ardour for language. I love speaking it, writing it, reading it; weaving it into the world in interesting and unusual ways. Language as expression, description, emotion, creation and invention. Language is the narration of our lives, and as such it enthralls and inspires me - but in scrabble words become mathematical and logical, which drains them of their colour.

Lifeless words in a meaningless jigsaw; magnificent language, now triple-word-score.

Scrabble is about points and strategies, not linguistics and semantics, and so I fail dismally to connect with it. I admire people whose minds do work so logically, but myself cannot abide with tearing words down for something so crude as points in a game - it feels almost sacrilegious. There is something reprehensible about exploiting language for the merits of its components. It's like seeing a first edition of The Picture of Dorian Grey used as notepaper, or James Bonds' Aston Martin stripped for parts.

The joy of language is in combining words to express hopes, dreams, fears and ideas - finding a style and a voice that is unique and distinctive. Scrabble is a game with rigid rules, and my adoration of language is born of an appreciation of the opposite. My love affair with language has shown me it can be toyed with, caressed and manipulated - but should always be explored, not exploited. Scrabble is prostitution; wordplay is amour. (Sorry MJ!)

When I say things like that about words it usually provokes the reaction; "Alright love, it's only an 'effing thesaurus." Not surprising that I write, really. When I actually do write, and am not tied up with damned copywrite of images, research, and all the other rubbish that has dogged me this week - threatening to drown creativity in legality. Budget is my least favourite word. It makes me think this blasted book will have a blue striped 'Tesco-Value' jacket or be printed on supermarket own-brand toilet paper.

I did get some work done today - the latest batch of designs is finished. Well, the initial sketches are finished. Since Boodles launched 'Raindance' a few years ago, circles and diamonds have been a steady trend (and as the feedback from 'Audrey' was so good, we've extended the range.) A little more work and I might have something saleable, even if they're looking likely to go with white metal - either White Gold, or Rhodium/Palladium plated Sterling Silver - instead of my preferred 14karat Yellow Gold. There's a buttery warmth to 14k that appears harsher in 9k and brasher in 18k. In Italy of course they use nothing less than 18k, but as I have yet to exhibit in 'Vogue Gioello,' I can remain faithful to my preferred choice. 22k always looks false, whilst the norm in Indian jewellery it is such a rarity here that its unnatural-looking brilliance does not appeal to the majority.

Platinum is useless, far too soft a metal for my liking, and scratches terribly. Rose gold can be effective, and I have included designs in this new range that incorporate it, but as the coloured gold's go I am most interested in the new work with green. (The colours of gold are achieved by mixing different alloys with the pure gold. For example, 9k gold is 375 parts-per-thousand pure gold, and the rest is made up from base-metal alloys. Rose gold features more copper in the mix, whereas green gold features a quantity of silver.) Green gold plating behind yellow diamonds is dazzling - it enhances the colour in a manner that had until recently been unachievable without heat-treatment. Black Rhodium plating is striking too, and some of the pieces I am hoping to work on next will incorporate it, since the advance in plating techniques is helping Rhodium wear better. (It's a very soft metal and can only be used for plating, as it is not strong enough to sculpt.)

We'll see of course. The studded wooden bangles are still unfinished. I'm sure there is more mileage in the design, but need the inspiration to expand it correctly. The blend in texture of warm gold, chocolaty grain, cold metal and soft wood is definitely worth pursuing again, but needs to be artfully done. The carving/polishing of the wood will be as essential a feature as the metalwork, and needs consideration, for type of wood will also discern colour/grain/cost/malleability/texture/weight and so on.
I have yet to persuade Mike to have the designs 'laying around' when Stephen Webster returns to do a few more of the promo/informational junkets. Who would have believed that not living in Birmingham would ever be considered a disadvantage? I'm determined to find a way around it. (Besides, I reckon they still owe us for Lenny Henry.)

On a lighter note, after mentioning that I felt I should name check the friends I talk about, several of them have expressed a wish for me to refrain from doing any such thing. Anna informed me that she, especially, values her anonymity. (Ooops.) Today we were talking about nose-jobs. Hers is fine, whatever she says. (Mine however, is only useful now that they've debunked the myth that you can see the Great Wall of China from space - because it's good that they have another point of reference.) The subject of Rhinoplasty ultimately led to what we would call a rhino - if we had one (partly because she's also had me doing a quiz today and that was one of the questions.)

Despite her protestations, I still think there's something quite endearing about a rhinoceros called Kevin.

Monday, 28 April 2008

The Ballad of the Frozen Chicken

Firstly, I have to apologise to everyone that was notified that I'd posted another blog here - I haven't yet worked out how to turn that feature off. Think I'll have to start cutting down on the number of weekly entries, until I can stop bombarding people with daily announcements. Now you're here though...

Apart from Googling 'Lady and the Tramp,' the only constructive thing I did today was read newspapers - and I read that scientists are going to defrost a Colossal Squid. I'm not simply exaggerating its size - that's what it's called. (It's 33ft long, and weighs half a ton - so I'm not going to start calling it names, am I?) I liked this quote from The Telegraph newspaper though:

'At the time that it was hauled up from the depths, it was described by one expert as "a gelatinous blob with seriously evil arms".'

Surely an 'expert' could think of something better than "seriously evil arms" to describe it's tentacles? I bet that bloke wasn't an expert at all - it was someone being nosey, who thought they'd try and get in the paper by pretending to be qualified to give an opinion. They probably waved to their mum when BBC news-crew went down to film it, and had to be removed - so tried to sneak another look by telling reporters he was an expert. The article also states that since it was caught it had been 'kept frozen in a box.' That was the point where I started to think that this article wasn't very well researched.

Anyone for calamari?
Colossal Squid

It reminded me of the strangest (yet most oddly-realistic) dream I ever had. Now I know that other people's dreams are one of the most irritating and tedious wastes of a conversation, so feel free to skip this bit if you have no interest in my attempts to resurrect a frozen chicken.

It started when I saw (again, on the news) that a hunter in America had shot a duck, and then put it in the freezer until he was ready to cook it. A few days later he took it out of storage and found it was still alive. That story ended with the duck's life being spared, and they all lived happily ever after. (Except the duck - they never look happy - and if I'm honest, he probably had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after being riddled with buckshot and then frozen alive.)

Anyway, the night after that story hit the news, I dreamed about a resurrecting a frozen chicken. I was convinced it would come back to life like the duck, once it thawed out. I should point out that it was a headless, supermarket frozen chicken, on a blue plastic tray with its giblets removed. Regardless of little things like that, I thought that if it woke up whilst being defrosted in the oven then it would be frightened (though how a headless chicken with no internal organs displays fear I don't know.) So I decided that the only safe, kind way to warm it would be with a hairdryer. So there I was, defrosting a Tesco frozen chicken with a hairdryer, talking to it and telling it not to be scared. When I felt it had thawed sufficiently enough to be comfortable, I put it out on the balcony - despite the fact that we don't have a balcony - and started throwing bread at it to "coax it into moving about a bit."

I think there's something wrong with my family. I was reluctant to put an oven-ready chicken into the oven, but my ex-step-grandfather (my fathers' second-wife's father, who we will henceforth call John, for your convenience and because I can't be bothered to type all that out any time I mention him,) has a habit of putting unusual things in his. Not too long ago John dropped his mobile phone into the toilet - and after he fished it out it and ran it under the tap to clean it - he thought he'd better put it into the oven to dry it off. Remarkably, it still works. (It's a Nokia.)

That's not normal is it? Defrosting chickens with a hairdryer, putting cell phones in the oven, and putting tea in the microwave? (Yes, that was me too. The kettle was broken, and we'd run out of matches to light the gas, what was I supposed to do?)

The other thing in the news is that they have discovered a new species of shrew in Ireland. The last shrew was discovered in Scotland.

Natural behaviours include terrorising fat people, and lurking near lavatories.

There's also a tiny Island in the Pacific where they all speak with Westcountry accents. The inhabitants of Palmerston Atoll in the Cook Islands all speak with a distinctive rural drawl - because they are all descendants of a man from Gloustershire who settled there in 1863. (It's a bit like that in the actual Westcountry, too.) His name was William Masters, and by the time he died in 1899, Mr Marsters had four wives, 17 children and 54 grandchildren. The place has a landmass of less than one square mile.

The article said, "He grew more than 8,000 coconut trees for shelter and food and exported sea cucumbers from the nearby lagoon to the Chinese market." Missionary William Wyatt Gill told that Mr Marsters had survived "at least one" attempt on his life. Whilst risking a generalisation, I think it is quite fair to say that a man with four wives will have had to endure far more than one attempt on his life. I would imagine that he had to dodge saucepans on a daily basis, and keep a dog to taste all his food for poison. (I have never thought that was fair - what did the dog ever do that was worth being poisoned for? No chewed slippers are that valuable.)

This whole 'Westcountry folks in the Pacific' story is disturbing; as it means that someone is bound to mock up pictures of the Wurzles in bikinis, and eventually I will get sent that picture in a viral email.

As they say on Crimewatch: "Don't have nightmares."

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Those Who Can't, Teach.

I am beginning to think that my brain is like an unmoderated version of Wikipedia. It's full of mainly-useless-but-occasionally-interesting detail that other people have added - but a lot of the information is incorrect or unsubstantiated. I don't have memories, either - just cerebral graffiti. Where I should store details like times-tables and pin numbers, I instead just have the lipstick-scrawled annotation that: "maths woz 'ere."

Despite (or maybe because of) my mental failings, I do remember being very suspicious of the cat yesterday. I still have no real evidence that she is "up to something," but this afternoon a pair of scissors did go missing. Now, I don't know how a pair of curved nail-scissors might be utilised in a bid for world domination, but they don't let them on aeroplanes anymore so there's obviously something up with them. It used to be quite a big deal when I was at school, to finally be allowed to use real scissors - instead of being restricted to those 'safe' plastic ones that hardly did more than dent the paper. Do schools still have that rule? Actually, with the ridiculously hypersensitive health-and-safety laws now, they probably keep students away from real scissors until college. (That would be typical of this country - at a time when students are taking knives into schools, they still limit them to plastic scissors.)

Another thing that used to be a notable event at school was graduating from using pencils, to writing with a pen.(Come to think of it, my school might have been a bit weird.) I was joint-first in my year to earn a Pentel Handwriting Pen. I think they were red roller-balls, with blue ink. I hated Tom for getting his the same week. He was the smartest kid in my class, and I had been as determined to beat him as he was not to come second (probably why we tied for first place really.) It was in my third and final year of Infants School, so I would have been almost seven. We were evaluated on our 'joined-up writing,' and not allowed to write with a pen until we had been awarded one. After that it was a free-for-all. My pencil case became a veritable orgy of coloured scribing implements from that moment on. I even had one of those interchangeable biro's with ten colours.

Once we got to Junior School we were expected to write with a fountain pen all the time. I resented the kids who had not passed their handwriting certficate but were still allowed to use a fountain pen. It's hard to feel superior when the teachers level the playing field. The only time the school allowed us to use pencils or biro's was in our 'draft books,' but the 'first draft' and then final 'neat copy' had to be written properly with a fountain pen. I learned quite quickly that those ink-eraser corrector-pens that dissolved fountain pen ink were very useful for removing blue splotches from fingers after changing the cartridges. I also remember being really pleased with myself when I got an engraved set from my grandparents for going 'back to school' and entering year 5. Not quite so pleased when I realised that the whole class had them, because their parents had seen the same offer in the ideal-homes-style tent at the annual Southsea Show.

The other trend that year began when W.H.Smiths started selling little plastic tubs of multi-coloured ink cartridges. I liked the pink ones, and the turquoise ones - and used to swap them with the boys who preferred the red and the blue. I used to get a good deal, because there was no way they'd be caught dead using the pink and so were eager to offload them. Alan Sugar wouldn't fire me.) I went on holiday to Weymouth, Dorset for Easter that year and found some purple ones in an art supply shop. I think I spent all my holiday pocket money on purple ink-cartridges - and then spent the next term trying to persuade my teacher Mr Mulholland to let me use them. I told him they were my "trademark." I won him round in the end because I knew his Achilles heel - Garfield. He had a real obsession with that cat, and as one of the disadvantages to being a 'nan-kid' (of sorts) is that I used to be traipsed round Oxfam shops and car-boot sales, I would get him lots of cheap Garfield comic-strip books.

There was another odd cartridge-based trend that year (remember, this was before Playstations.) We all used to collect the little plastic balls from inside them, the ones that stopped the ink coming out until you burst them by squishing them into the pen. (It was also the year before the school got the internet, okay?) This meant using all the ink from the cartridge, and then washing it out with water, before inserting it into a pencil sharpener to cut the top off and get the ball out. People used to keep them in tic-tac containers. It was a somewhat pointless, but nonetheless competitive, excercise.

We didn't learn much that term.

Though Mr Mulholland did teach me two things: the correct way to spell 'can't,' and that I was/am precocious. I learned both things during a single detention, where he had exasperatedly put me after I failed to remember the apostrophe when writing 'can't.' He told me to copy exactly what he'd written on the whiteboard, fifty times. He'd written 'There is an apostrophe in the word can't,' only he'd spelt 'apostrophe' wrong, so I wrote out "There is an apostroph in the word can't, and an 'e' in the word apostrophe." Fifty times. It meant more work for me, but also far more satisfaction. (I had considered using the red board-marker and correcting his spelling on the whiteboard as he'd done on my work, but thought he would be less forgiving of that, and more inclined to see the funny side of my alternative take on his lines.) It's probably a good job he needed me for his Garfield fix, and that teachers couldn't hold pupils back a year.

The reason for this rambling reminiscence of school handwriting is a quote from W.H.Auden, who claimed that poets enjoy their own handwriting "like smelling your own farts." It struck me that there are some quotes that don't deserve to be quoted. I take some satisfaction in the knowledge that some of you may not be familiar with the work of W.H.Auden, and will henceforth remember him as the author of nothing more accomplished than that little anecdote.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Evil Cats and Custard Terrorism

As I have to try and wake before midday tomorrow - and it is already not too far off 5:00am - today's entry will be a little shorter than usual. (Must you look quite so relieved?)

The main thing that has driven this Saturday, is my notice that the cat is displaying some very evil behaviour. Not exorcist evil - for one thing: she's a cat, and as such it is not possible for her to grip a crucifix. It began when I awoke this morning to find that I'd left myself a note - written on my hand, despite having post-it-notes dotted around everywhere. Goodness knows why that is, bit it said - rather disturbingly - "The cat is up to something. Follow her." Now, I'd been awake about 40hrs by this point (assuming I wrote it not long before I went to sleep last night) so a little insanity is not surprising.

The message:

Quite what I meant at the time I don't know, but Tuppence has been acting oddly today, too. She watched the bit of the news from outside Buckingham Palace with a distinctly royalist look in her eye. I think she is plotting a coup. She is definitely desirous of overthrowing the government. She has also been terrorizing the dog all day, and even now looks as though she is plotting something nefarious. I think she's waiting for me to sleep, so she might initiate a 'Pinky and the Brain' style bid for world domination. She'll begin by lobotomising next-door's gerbils, who will become her ne'er do well henchmen. (Gerbils may seem ineffectual foot soldiers, but Pinky was a complete idiot and still found gainful employment, so I shall not discriminate against the rodents until they have had a chance to prove themselves.)

Alternately, she may just have eaten too many kit-e-bits, and have indigestion which always makes her look haughtily vicious. (Lucosade gives the dog indigestion. I don't think they are designed to react well with Lucosade.) Acid reflux or no, I still think the cat is up to something. I'm sure that I will some day arise to news that she is ruler of the universe. ...Thoughts like these are why I do not allow myself to watch too much sci-fi. I still think the 'X-Files' is plausible. Fox Mulder would love a nihilistic feline sociopath with designs on the galaxy. He'd not love her so much when she replaced Barrack Obama as the likely presidential candidate. (In which case, she would obviously win, as I would hope that even my cat could beat Hilary Clinton.)

I mentioned this idea to a friend, and it says a great deal about my relationship with the girl that instead of calling for psychiatric help, she just politely inquired if my cat has a Visa. I think she was probably mocking my suspicions, but nonetheless I informed her that - whatever plans Tuppence does have - they are unlikely to be legitimate and so would not require a valid work permit. She's a furry terrorist! ...Thinking about it, that is a far from uniquely identifying nickname. Most terrorists are reasonably hirsute (if seldom calico.) I'm not convinced that one would live very long after calling Osama Bin Laden a "furry terrorist," though. As I doubt he reads this, I can do so fearlessly. (If he does read this, then I hope he sends me a one of those video's that usually get played on Al Jazeera, as it'd really increase the hits to my FB page, and would piss off the 99.9% of the world who can't access it. I think irritating the world would be worth the slight embarrassment at having Bin Laden as a 'friend.' Wouldn't dare poke him, but would be interested to see how he'd respond to my "what's the best thing you've ever overheard," question.)

To avoid any unpleasant confusion, I should probably say now that I resolutely object to everything he's ever said/done/thought/smelt/tasted/felt/enjoyed, and find the possibility of his continued existence an affront to human decency. (...But still...add me!)

I think my brain has yet to recover from yesterday. Speaking to a friend this evening, I suggested that anyone who refuses to admit that the world revolves around me, "should be shot - with custard from a water pistol - until they concede my magnificence." I'm not so far gone that I don't know that's probably not a common conversation for other people to have.

I also realise that I should refer to my friends by name when I mention them here - unless it is embarrassing to do so (for someone other than myself; as I think I'm long past concern for my own dignity.) However, identifying people in this context feels as unnatural to me as hearing Juliet speak of Macbeth, or Elizabeth Bennett talk of Marianne Dashwood. As the author, I remain constant: but to me you are each characters in your own, individual stories - and I find myself reluctant to blend the narratives. Narcissism demands exclusivity. I believe you exist to entertain me - not each other. Egotism insists that I secure your attention by occasionally being mildly entertaining in return.

I also think it's easier for you all to check how mad I am if you can research my anecdotes. What I shrug off as eccentricity in the retelling often sounds plain bonkers when explained by someone else, even if they were there for the original incident. Here, you think some of the unbelievably ridiculous things I say are exaggerated. If you could check the source, then you'd learn they are often underplayed.

That's a secret, though. So please continue under the delusion that I am wonderful - or you'll face the Ambrosia Devon Firing Squad until you learn.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Recalcitrant Reading and Vertiginous Heels

Due in part to humanities' general unpleasantness, I have had no sleep since I wrote the last entry in this diary of tedium, so am posting this one a little earlier than usual, in the hope that I will rest tonight. Apart from the usual feeling of being vaguely disconnected from myself, my mind is focusing a little better than it often does in these circumstances.

I have been trying - as ever - to utilise my dysomnia by writing, and to help me along I'm currently reading Stephen Fry's book on the technical aspects of poetry called: 'An Ode Less Travelled.' I recommend this guide to anyone with an interest in prosody, though I would advise that you not do as I did, and try to be a smart-arse, and read it from back to front. Such foolishness will confront you with the following sentence regarding Arnaut's Algorithm:

"The algorithm can therefore be considered as the sequence of displacements from the starting position, namely +1; +2; +1; -2; +3; -5. The last displacement returns the first line end..." and so on, until - if you are anything like myself - you feel incredibly stupid and stuff the damn meteric-manual down the back of the sofa with the discarded chewing gum wrappers, lost change and long-forgotten self-respect. I abhor anything mathematical and detest its duplicitous inclusion in an otherwise appealing text.

I'm reading it quite simply because it advises that I ought not. It begins by stating that it's for people wishing to learn the techniques of meter and rhyme - and that those who write 'verse libre' should not persist with the book. I am a mainly freeverse poet myself and, of course, became far more interested in reading the work once I had been told I shouldn't. It also advised that the book be read in the order in which it had been laid out...which was the point where I recalcitrantly (and ultimately regrettably,) turned to the last section.

Now conceding that I must read this book in a more conventional manner, I find myself asked to abide by Fry's three 'golden rules.' Considering that I resented the simplest instruction to read the book from first page to last, you can imagine that the task of obeying rules does not sit well. I shall persist, however, due to the little reminders that I should not be reading the book at all - which is reason enough to continue I think. If it will help me write remains to be seen. The literary style of Stephen Fry does help engage my mind into the rhythm in which I usually write - as I have a tendency to distract myself if I do not train my little consciousness away from eccentricity and into academia once in a while. I'm also part minor-bird I think. My linguistic skill is heavily influenced by the modes of speech I have contact with. When reading Wilde I become a far more florally effusive writer than when I am reading the blunter, bleaker works of Poe. This is not to say I am ever comparable to such renowned names - far from it - but simply that my mind becomes attuned to the voices in my general environment, and my written accent changes the texture of a page as keenly as my varying oral intonations colour the air.

I am also demonstrably incapable of discussing my love of language with any economy of words. I use that phrase a lot when referencing other writers - for people who can express themselves with restraint always intrigue me. I'm a jumbled over-abundance of simile and metaphor, and I exploit poetic license to its fullest extent. I write because words tumble from me, demanding attention as they fall. Sometimes what I write is the most appalling gibberish, and other times it is the sort of pretentious trash I am aware of spouting now. Either way: I have little control over it, and even less choice in the matter.

Something else I cannot control is my unyielding ardour for shoes. Specifically those ridiculous pairs in impractical fabrics, artistic designs, and with heels that look like they could skewer right through the phone book. Today my obsession discovered a new vein of interest - limo heels. Vertiginous 7inch platforms that one can hardly walk in, but which would finally make me look tall. I have returned to obsessing over my height, you see, now that I am not quite so concerned about being too thin.

Some examples of slightly less towering heels I've got my eye on already this season:

I have had quite a bit of positive feedback regarding those photographs of a 'slightly delicate nature' I mentioned in a previous entry. I'm still unconvinced that I look a healthy enough weight, but I have been surprised by reactions so far, so maybe I'm getting there. (One female friend claimed that the pics turned her "momentarily gay," which is an absurd exaggeration of course, but still the kindest affirmation I am likely to get at the moment!) Hardly the only woman who notices her flaws more acutely than any other feature, neither am I assured that I do not have more to concern myself with than most. I'm still too scrawny looking - but think I will just have to get used to being on the skinnier side of normal.

I'm never going to look like Kelly Brooke or Scarlett Johanson, so should probably stop concerning myself with the failing and damn well get on with it. One friend complained that all women desire the hourglass figure, or the "glass coke bottle shape," as she put it. Being so short, I stand more chance of attaining the shape of one of those little bottles of probiotic drinks - or maybe with heels on I could mimic the stature of a slightly crushed bottle of Panda-Pops, at best. (That stuff was disgusting, by the way. I remember those bottles of what was essentially 'carbonated E-numbers' from summers as a child. They were horrible. Slightly better were the two-litres of Cherryade or Orangeade we'd be allowed occasionally - and the pinnacle of fizzy, tooth-decaying beverage was Ribena mixed with Lemonade.)

While I'm referencing the long, hot holidays of my youth, I would like to impart a very important piece of advice. Never buy a Mr Frosty slushy machine. They were always disappointingly ineffective. This guidance is only useful if they still make Mr Frosty ice-crushing toys, and you were thinking of buying one. Otherwise the communication is as ineffectual as the product.

Mr Frosty (the useless bastard. With hindsight, he looks like the purchase of a wastrel.)

Now to slumber, I hope.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Loopy Laws and Double-Parking an Elephant

I was chatting to someone today about the archaic laws that are still in place in this country (specifically one about not shooting a Welshman on a Friday, and whether that meant that Tom Jones is fair game the rest of the week.)

Apparently not, was the answer - but it did get me thinking about the other odd laws I have read about. For example, it's in The Sun today that Russell Brand was turned away from NYC airport. I wonder if this is the reason why...

NEW YORK: 'A fine of $25 can be levied for flirting. This old law specifically prohibits men from turning around on any city street and looking "at a woman in that way." A second conviction for a crime of this magnitude calls for the violating male to be forced to wear a "pair of horse-blinders" wherever and whenever he goes outside for a stroll.'

He'd never agree to blinkers. Not with that hair.

Some of the laws I came across seem too obvious to be laws. They're common sense - not something that should require legislation to prevent people from doing. Like the warning on vacuum-cleaner boxes that says you can't put dogs in the microwave. Or something. (Thinking about it: that warning was probably on a microwave box. ...Or a dog, but as they don't usually have instructions, I would probably opt for 'microwave.') A couple of 'obvious' examples include:

ALABAMA: 'It is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle.' Good! I should hope that anyone wearing a blindfold whilst driving would be arrested immediately. For one thing, they would never be able to see an ambulance light flashing, or read ECNALUBMA emblazoned across the front of it - which could cost someone their life if the ambulance was in a hurry. Especially with all the extra accidents caused by the blindfolded driver in the first place - of which there are bound to be many.

ALASKA: 'It is illegal to push a live moose out of a moving airplane.' Why - does that happen often? As it specifies 'live' moose, then is the forcible evacuation of dead moose considered acceptable aviation practice? Why only moose? Why not giraffe, or tarantulas, or emu? It can't be any harder shoving an Emu out of a plane than it is to get rid of a moose. (I bet plenty of stewardesses wanted to when Rod Hull climbed aboard too!)

ILLINOIS: 'It is illegal for anyone to give lighted cigars to dogs.' They're not so strict about this one - I've seen the painting. They let 'em play snooker too. In fact, it's well known that Ronnie O'Sullivan is a beagle.

Other American laws are just bonkers. Makes you wonder what circumstances caused them to be passed in the first place. I mean - how many times have you tried to park an Elephant, only to be told that you need to pay the same rate as if it were a vehicle? Not frequently, I would imagine. If you ever do get fined for double-parking an Elephant, however, then you'll obviously be in Florida. They also state that: 'A special law prohibits unmarried women from parachuting on Sunday, or she shall risk arrest, fine, and/or jailing.' Wonder what they'd make of that bit of Billy Connolly's World Tour where he did naked bungee jumping? How would you classify that? (Apart from as 'not pretty.')

More unnecessary laws I found are:

FLORIDA: 'It is illegal to sing in a public place while attired in a swimsuit.' Well, unless Duncan Goodhew goes on Celebrity Fame Academy, this seems an unlikely occurrence.

and: 'Any form of sexual contact other than missionary position is a misdemeanour.' So the aforementioned Mr Brand won't be visiting Sea World then? (That makes it sound like he'd shag an Orca, I don't mean that - but *insert your own Free Willy joke here.* ...Why should I do all the work? It's 4am, if you want jokes about how 'free' his is, then go and buy the Daily Star.)

INDIANA: 'Citizens are not allowed to attend a movie house or theater nor ride in a public streetcar within at least four hours after eating garlic.' I don't know how useful this law is in Indiana. If it were France, then I'd find it less eccentric. Actually, they could do with that law on the IOW too, as they produce a lot of garlic.

LOUISIANA: 'It is illegal to rob a bank and then shoot at the bank teller with a water pistol.' Why the 'water pistol' caveat? Does that mean that robbing a bank with a real gun is legal?

and: 'Biting someone with your natural teeth is "simple assault," while biting someone with your false teeth is "aggravated assault."' What if you only have a few false ones? Or just a bridge? Would your upper and lower jaw be charged separately?

MASSACHUSSETTS: 'Mourners at a wake may not eat more than three sandwiches.' Sensible. You shouldn't be eating sandwiches at a wake anyway. Creepy. Like the buffet in a strip club. Who eats there? Probably the same people who eat all the funeral sandwiches. There really are times when food is not a good idea.

OKLAHOMA: 'Violators can be fined, arrested or jailed for making ugly faces at a dog.' I hold my hands up. I'm guilty. Fine me - I once blew a raspberry at Jade Goody. That must count.

and: 'Dogs must have a permit signed by the mayor in order to congregate in groups of three or more on private property.' With this one, it's the wording that amuses me. Since when do dogs 'congregate?' That makes it sound planned - like they put up posters about a meeting, and all turned up at a designated time. It's a ludicrous way to be anthropomorphising canines. Next they'll be done for loitering. Or benefit fraud.

Speaking of fraud - and Americans - Blade was arrested tonight for Tax Evasion. Well, okay, Wesley Snipes was. Good job he wasn't caught in Portsmouth really. With a well-known character called 'Blade,' here he would have been arrested for possession of a concealed weapon. We are, after all, the city where a Paediatrician was attacked because they were mistaken for a paedophile. The justification given to local newspapers was that: "'e 'ad a plak."That's what happens when the village idiot gets into a literacy programme. It's better if you just don't teach them to read.

And this...is what happens when the village idiot is given internet access.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Sabretooth-Fairy Tigger

I was watching Alan Carr's stand-up DVD today, and he did a bit about giving food parcels for the school Harvest Festival. Our school did that - every year Nan would raid the back of the cupboard for tins and packets that had gone so far past their use-by dates that they'd become antiques. I would say, that - as a general rule - something's not going to be edible if you find it under a ration book.

If we tried to raise this point, however, we'd be told that: "they're not so finnicky in Africa, you know," before being chastised for not really knowing what true hunger is. She was right - we didn't know what 'true hunger' was. We had a pretty good idea about food poisoning though, after an incident with some Campbells' chicken soup that had been dead so long it had reincarnated twice in the can.

There was something on the news a couple of years ago about a couple who ate a tin of chicken that had been given to them in their wedding hamper fifty years earlier. It made the national news. It just made us start checking tins when she wasn't looking. When my grandfather used to come in from work at night, he and I would stand in the kitchen, going through the stuff we could chuck away while Nan was asleep so that we weren't poisoned the next day. Like the other couple, my Nan and Grandad were also married for fifty years. I reckon it was luck. Surviving three meals a day of gastronomic Russian roulette is a miracle.

Harvest Festival was an odd school tradition. It wasn't learning about the changing seasons that I found to be a curious business, (or the talks by farmers who would come and show us pictures of their favourite cows - which was always a bit odd,) but the instruction to donate surplus food. Some of the parcels would be sent to Africa, and the rest was delivered to elderly people within the local community. I was often chosen for the job because I was polite and innocent looking. Once, myself and the other Harvest-Helper (a boy from my class by the name of Luke,) had to deliver one of the boxes to my next-door-neighbour, Mrs Budd. It was strange, visiting the house next to mine in the middle of a school day, with one of my teachers. Mrs Budd was a funny old thing - complained that the rain was coming from our garden and causing moss to build up outside her house. We live on a damned hill - the water didn't originate in our garden. It's not like we're the source of a spring - and it certainly doesn't rain in just our garden! (Though one of the weirdest things I've ever seen was when it was raining on one side of the road, and dry on the other. I must just have been on the edge of a cloud, but it was very odd!!)

I should have crossed over to walk on the dry side of the street that day, really - but I was too surprised to be practical. It's quite a surreal memory to have - standing in the rain, looking across at the dry. It's always the other way around isn't it? Everything I do is a bit backwards though. I've got a T-Shirt I designed somewhere, with a slogan that reads: "I think my brain is in upside-down, because I always think inside-out." I wanted to write it on the t-shirt as a mirror image to accentuate the overall jumbled befuddlement, but no one could read it then, and they just thought I'd made a mistake like that idiot who carved HIV into his chest with a razor in the mirror, and then went in for the photo-shoot with VIH scratched into his bleeding torso. I was trying to be ironic - he was trying to be controversial. We both failed, but I take solace in the assurance that he ended up looking like more of a prat. I could take the T-Shirt off; he had to stay in that skin. I can't recall which celebrity that anecdote regards, but I think it was an eighties thing. Probably, around the time when there was the big awareness campaign. Even I remember the TV ads with the tombstones in the mist. They didn't just raise awareness of HIV/AIDS: they demonised it. The shock-tactic was necessary at the time, though. A large number of people, particularly (but not solely) a generation of young gay men, have been wiped out by it. So terribly sad seeing clips of Kenny Everett and Freddie Mercury now. All that talent: destroyed by a disease.

I watch shows of theirs, and wonder what they would have achieved, had they lived. Not just them - but people like John Lennon too. If Mark Chapman hadn't been such a good shot, would Yoko Ono still be annoying the life out of us, or would John have got sick of her and found someone less irritating to write songs about. (Obviously I wonder if he would ever have achieved the idealistic views he proposed in 'Imagine' too, but mostly I wonder if we'd still be limbered with Yoko.) Jeff Buckley is someone else who died before his talent was ever fully explored. He wrote some amazing songs - and his reworking of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is one of my favourites. Would we have seen more tracks like 'Grace' and 'Mojo Pin' if he'd not decided to go swimming in steel-capped boots? (Which is a damned stupid thing to do - because if it was his intention to kill himself, then it's a rather awkward method to have chosen. If he was planning on going back to finish his album as people expected, then he would have had to squelch back up to the house with a sort of damp, drippy indignity. I suppose the very fact that he entered the water wearing steel-capped boots at all suggests, he didn't really think it through.)

You'd never see that happen around here. In recent years Southsea has received better status from the Clean Beaches Association - but when I was younger, if you went in the sea wearing any sort of shoes, then they would have melted in all the chemicals before you'd got in past your ankles. I lost a shoe in the sea there once. I was with Dad; we'd gone down to Southsea for the day - and after a few hours at a fun park called Pirate Pete's, and then tiring ourselves out playing in the arcade on the Pier, we went for a walk along the beach. Descriptively, "a stumble along the stones" is more accurate than "a walk along the beach." I had on a pair of those moulded-jelly sandals, and one came off in the water. I thought I'd have to walk home with only one shoe on because the seafront shops were closed, but we walked for a little longer, and found it washed up on the beach a few yards ahead.

I'm not surprised they washed up again - they were ridiculous shoes. Neptune was right to refuse them. If real-life were the Little Mermaid, then there'd be some sort of undersea lost-property department: full of humanities odds and ends - everyday objects appearing exotic out of context, like those horse-trough footballs the other day.

Everything looks unusual if it is somewhere it's not supposed to be. It would be like seeing a tiger in the Antarctic. They wouldn't blend in, and they'd soon realise they looked daft. Though I imagine they'd be a bit like some friends of mine, in as much as it would be in advisable to tell them they look daft, unless you want your head bitten off. Better to let them discover it themselves, in their own time. I don't think there's ever an occasion where it would be sensible to inform a tiger that its appearance is bizarre. Even if the Tiger looked like Alan Carr - you wouldn't dare say anything. (…If there was a tiger that looked like Alan Carr, then I don't think you'd need to point it out.) I think most people would notice that, and even the tiger must have some sort of inkling.

The think most anomalous thing I could ever see, would be a buck-toothed tiger - in the Antarctic - sitting on the rainy-side of an iceberg wearing Alan Carr's glasses, and eating a tin of pre-war Alphabetti Spaghetti. That would be very weird - and I don't think anyone would ever believe me.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Fingermouse and the Badass Wombles, Sweetie.

I hate AOL. I have been unceremoniously booted offline six times in the last three hours. The only good thing about using AOL is that, whenever I get an email, Joanna Lumley interrupts what I'm doing to shout at me. That's quite useful - though with the amount of times it has made me jump a foot in the air when I'm not expecting it - I think it has shortened my life expectancy considerably. I need to upgrade to broadband too, but we don't have a BT phone line so it'll mean installing cables and faffing about, which puts me off. I'll get around to it eventually.

…Or I'll wait until we go on holiday, and then find some unsuspecting relative who'll agree to pop in when the tech-guys are due, not realising that it will mean turning the house upside-down.

I don't like too much chaos in my surroundings, because I get enough of it inside my head. I've long compared the interior of my mind to the staircase scene in Labyrinth (the one taken from the Escher work Relativity, which I added to my FaceBook gallery today for those of you who are unfamiliar with it.) I was watching Labyrinth again this afternoon, and I still feel those particular scenes more powerfully than any other in the film. In M. C. Escher's artwork, the scene is bustling with people and plants living their lives perpendicularly to each other. In Labyrinth, the stone staircases represent the impossible challenge of getting from where you are to where you wish to be. You quite literally do not know which way is up. I find a comfortable affinity with that fictional sequence, which should be disturbing but is just peculiarly accurate.

The Stairway scene in Labyrinth

That sounds a little forlorn, so I should probably tell you that I spent most of the scene thinking about how much I liked the leather boots Jareth the Goblin King (Bowie) is wearing in that scene. They distract me from my 'History Today' style subconscious, which - when confronted with that scene says (in David Baddiels' voice) - "See those stairs? That's your brain that is. That's your mind."

Now I have admitted to hearing voices. That's never good is it? ("Not even in the wizarding world Harry." My name's not Harry, and how did Hermoine get in here?) I don't hear snakes yet. If I start hearing snakes I really will have myself committed. Though I'm not sure how I know that I can't understand snakes. We don't have many in Portsmouth so it's not a skill I would naturally have discovered, even if it were possible. (Would that it were! There's a vacancy for reptile-fancier since Steve Irwin got overly friendly with a stingray.) I say that we don't have snakes here, but I should amend that statement and say that we don't have many. Slightly mad people with too many tattoos own the ones we do have. They usually live in council estates or blocks of flats too, don't they? Because when the snakes escape via the toilet, they never know whose flat it will show up in, and people have to weigh-down toilet-seats so that the snake can't slither out. I either saw that on the news, or in a film - so decide how much credibility you are willing to give the story accordingly.

Joanna Lumley is shouting at me again as I write this. If I'd designed AOL, I would have slipped in a few surprises: such as get her to mimic her character Patsy from 'Ab Fab,' and instead of demurely saying "You have email," I'd have her announce "You've got another bloody spam, sweetie. Let's send a virus to the bastards." I'd like that.

I was watching the Comedy Map of Britain yesterday and they featured Richard Beckinsale, from Porridge. Thy interviewed former friends and family of the late star, and one said that underneath the wallpaper of a flat they'd been staying in he had written: "Richard Beckinsale will someday be famous." They said it's probably still there, unexpected, in some forgotten corner of London. The best story like that I have ever seen was on BBC2 recently. Some forgettable scottish drama featuring two men whose job it was to clear and clean council houses after the occupants death. Whenever they had to replace a carpet, one of them would lie on the floor and the other would draw a chalk outline around them, to make the place look like a crime scene. They also took a Polaroid photo, marked it with the date, and slipped it between the floorboards. I would do that. I will. If ever the carpet needs replacing, I will make every effort to fake a crime-scene on the floorboards. It's not a joke that I would ever witness the punch line of, but it would still be more than worthwhile. That this idea appeals to me so much might not be a sign of my sanity, but is definitely testament to my appreciation of mischief.

Scientists can be mischievous too. On BBC OddNews today they are talking about scientists who have managed to mind-control flies to make females behave like males. I'm not sure why they spent so many months on the project - because a few pints of lager do the same thing, without all the fuss.

In equally meaningless news, someone has overdubbed an episode of the once-fabulous Wombles with tacky American-style slang. 'BadAss Wombles' are supposed to be a protest against the disparity between children's programming in the 70's and 80's when compared with today. I think it just made The Wombles look incredibly stupid. Like anyone would ever believe that Uncle Bulgaria would say "whatever." I wonder if Tim Henman ever watched The Wombles? He's the right age, but I don't think he ever really grasped the concept of 'cleaning up at Wimbledon.' Maybe he should have spent less time playing tennis and more time watching kids TV. (Though as career plans go, improving your game by practicing less is probably not the best one. Still, groundskeeper at Wimbledon is the best Henman can hope for now, so maybe The Wombles could teach him a thing or two.)

BadAss Wombles

BadAss Wombles, indeed! What next - Blingin with Bagpuss? Pimp My Ride with Brum and Ivor The Engine? (Okay, that's even more ridiculous than the Wombles one, but I loved those shows as a child and wish they'd just re-air them unedited, not simply use them to make an - abeit valid - point.) I think kids would still watch Mr Benn, and Dangermouse. Maybe Button Moon has dated a bit too much (though anyone else says that and I'll hate you forever,) but I think a lot of the kids' shows from my childhood would still have an audience today.

I'd pay good money for the end of Fingermouse to have just been a dream. (Though I remember the bloke who created Fingerbobs, and I really don't recommend, that - if the series is re-commissioned under my aforementioned suggestion - they copy the Dallas shower scene for "it was all a dream." Not something that children would want to see. Not something anyone would want to see. In fact...I'm beginning to understand why Fingermouse drowned himself in the first place.

May he rest in peace.

This blog entry is dedicated to the memory of Fingermouse, and the power of the babe.

EDIT: Anyone who has not seen Labyrinth/Harry Potter/Baddiel and Newman/Porridge/Wombles/Fingerbobs will think I have finally lost it, and you should go and spend a few hours on YouTube because your lives are cruelly empty. How can you not have seen these programmes, and yet still tell me you are complete?

Sunday, 20 April 2008

If I May Be Excused? And Other Excuses

It's one of those days today, and I have been somewhat distracted until now, so this is a little hurried and I can only apologise. Though to be frank, if you've read any of the other entries in this blog, then you hardly expect sparkling wit and linear constructs anyway!

There was a documentary on ITV tonight called Superhuman Giants, and the majority of the people featured were over seven feet tall. I'm only 5'2" - so four people text me saying it was on. That's just rubbing it in.

One of the men featured - who was the tallest man in Britain until very recently - has a lot of problems because his heart is twice the size of most peoples. Due to thickening of the muscle it can beat irregularly, and even stop for a few seconds. I reference it because this weekend I have been trying to get back in touch with an old friend who had a heart transplant. John had his operation in 2000, after his heart was damaged by a childhood illness, and other surgery failed to correct the problems. I contacted John about a year after his op because of a GCSE English project. I had to write a short story based on one of several potential titles, and I chose 'The Call.' I was fifteen then, and had been exposed to hospitals rather a lot the previous year. I knew a little about people on the donor register getting called in for their surgery, only to be told the operation is impossible because their white cell count is too high (indicating infection), or the organ is damaged, etc. (Truth is, it quite possibly had nothing to do with my familiarity with the hospital environment - I'd probably just seen it on ER.) Anyway, I wanted to really research these 'calls,' and scoured the internet - reading dozens of devastating accounts from people waiting on transplant lists. During my research I came across nothing that really gave me details of the actual process, so I emailed John, outlining my project and asking him to tell me the story of his call.

He was very helpful, and provided me the all the information I needed regarding the healthcare professionals involved in transplant surgery, as well as enlightening me on the personal and physical challenges faced by donor organ recipients. I wrote the story, was marked well on it and sent a copy to John as I had promised I would. He was very pleased with it and published it on his website. He used to forward me emails and letters from people who had read the story and wanted to thank me for putting the experience down on paper. Most of the correspondence was from teenagers, as that is the angle I went for when writing the piece. It was my first taste of writing for an audience, and I adored the attention. The piece itself is far from exceptional, and I wouldn't even consider putting it on public view now, but I was pleased with it at the time.

Writing 'The Call' eight years or so ago was difficult, because I only had a very old laptop, and no way of printing my work: so I wrote it on a typewriter. Being - even then - the nocturnal creature that I am now, I would write in the evenings when everyone else was in bed. If I started too early then my sister would complain that the noise of the typewriter was keeping her awake - so I would have to wait until she was already asleep, and then muffle the sound with music (which was apparently less annoying.) If her chastisements interrupted a moment of inspiration then I would have my petty revenge by deliberately choosing bands she'd hate more than the noise of the typewriter. A deal's a deal, after all!

I still have those typewritten pages; streaked with my tutor's red pen corrections, paper thickened by globules of smeared Tippex, and wrinkled where it jammed in the mechanism. Not quite Kerouac's scroll from On The Road! Though there is one parallel. The last section of Kerouac's masterpiece was destroyed by a canine, and some of my work that GCSE year suffered a similar fate. I had been putting the finishing touches to my version of the Witches scene in Macbeth, of which I was writing the direction for a modern production. I imagined it taking place in an underground car park. It would start with a bleak shot of the abandoned industrial landscape, and a large black crow would fly across the camera as we descended into the gloomy concrete structure. With the camera moving slowly into the murky half-light - the strip lighting flickering and buzzing - the haunting, echoing sound of young girls chanting would bounce and roll around the dingy basement. I imagined the "hubble bubble" incantation as a schoolyard chant - sung in slow motion, like a Victorian skipping-rope song - with the witches as seven year-old girls dressed as Goths. Innocent female voices that belie the witches malice, "Hu-bble bu-bble toil and tro-uble, fi-re burn and caul-dron bu-bble."

Come 3am, I'd just finished writing the direction for the whole scene, and so I went to make a cup of tea - leaving my work spread out on the floor in the living room. Our golden retriever was only a few months old then, but quite docile - she was never a destructive puppy and I was only in the next room. I returned with a cup of tea and found her sprawled amongst my papers. I think I woke the whole house that night, yelling at the poor dog. I had to put the chewed, soggy, bonio-spattered remains of the coursework into plastic wallets so I could show my tutor Babs - because I knew there was no way she'd believe me if I told her that "the dog ate my homework." I felt like such an idiot that day, showing her - I swear she thought I chewed it up myself. (That's the sort of thing I probably would do - in a fix - so I couldn't blame her for doubting me.) I knew exactly how ridiculous it sounded. Nevertheless, one whiff of the Pedigree-Chum scented documents should have convinced her of my innocence. I don't think you can give a puppy tic-tacs - but I would have seriously considered it if I'd known I'd have to spend the next few days piecing foul-stenched, drool covered paperwork back together.

I had a quick browse online tonight to see what other strange things have been eaten by peoples' dogs. I found this story about a dog that ate a knife:

Jake, a 12-week-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross from Merseyside, was taken to the vet after he started vomiting and trying to keep his body in a straight line. X-rays indicated a seven-inch knife was running through his body, with the plastic handle at the base of his pelvis and the metal point at the top of his throat. Vets at the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) operated immediately and within a few days Jake had bounced back to health. Jake had swallowed the Shappu 2000 knife whole, handle-first, at his home in Huyton.

Whilst horrifying - and incredibly stupid - sword swallowing is quite a neat trick...for a canine. Not a marketable skill, though, when it's so difficult to get the knife out again.

Jake the Bull Terrier.

Sally, my Golden Retriever.

Fortunately, despite the missed deadline, I passed my English GCSE coursework.

And my dog passed the rest of it.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Sexy Chickens and Cheese-Blindness

I was still awake at 6am this morning and had the TV on. Flicking through the channels I discovered a "BBC OddNews" bulletin. Had I known that the BBC produced any especially special 'odd' news before, then I would have made more effort to watch it. Until now, if I wanted strange or useless news then I'd just tune in to Channel 5.

I think I am going to like BBC OddNews. I've always enjoyed that very last news story of a bulletin where they say "and in other news..." It's invariably a cat that can sing Waltzing Matilda, or a badger that was arrested for drinking Tyxilix in Boots. (To the best of my knowledge, neither of those news stories actually happened, and neither FaceBook, the BBC - nor anyone else with a shred of sanity - endorses any allegations made against the badger. …But if anyone does know of a badger that was arrested for consumption of cough-mixture, then please let me know.)

Today's most interesting OddNews was about a man called Alex Lenkei from West-Sussex, who hypnotised himself before an operation on his hand. I don't know how he managed to focus. Hospitals are so noisy, it's hard enough to relax after an operation - but must be a near impossible feat before you go under the knife. I had had three anaesthetics as a teenager, and hated them each time. I could feel the anaesthetic as it spread up my arm, and it made my neck ache seconds before I went under. The last thing I tended to say was "I can feel it now, it's going to work any second." I get the same neck-achy reaction with IV morphine.

Anyway, the man having the 83minute operation was a skilled hypnotist, and he said he was fully aware of everything going on around him during the procedure but was free from pain.

From the BBC Website:

The operation at Worthing Hospital involved removing some bone in the base of the thumb and fusing some joints in an attempt to improve his arthritis. Consultant orthopaedic surgeon David Llewellyn-Clark said he was happy in agreeing to the unusual sedation on Mr Lenkei, a registered hypnotist who has been practising since the age of 16. Mr Lenkei said Wednesday's surgery "went amazingly well". "It took between 30 seconds to a minute for me to place myself under hypnosis, and from that point I felt a very deep relaxation. I was aware of everything around me, from people talking and at one stage a hammer and chisel was used as well as a surgical saw, but I felt no pain." Throughout the operation, an anaesthetist was on standby to administer an anaesthetic if necessary. Mr Llewellyn-Clark said he had been confident that Mr Lenkei was a skilled hypnotist and was "delighted all went well".

I don't know if I like the notion of hypnotists. The idea of someone else being able to control a mind that half the time even escapes me, seems unfair to say the least. Equally, it intrigues me that destructive or addictive behaviour can be modified/treated with hypnosis - and I think it is an under-exploited resource as a complementary therapy. I don't know if I would have hypnotherapy (though have considered it for this cursed insecurity,) but think smokers deserve to risk being turned into a chicken at the sound of Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy."

In less official - but equally odd - BBC happenings, Lauren Laverne was sitting in for Russell Brand and Matt Morgan on Radio2 this evening. (That's not the anomolous bit, but I'm getting there.) I can't usually bear her lacklustre performance as a DJ, but I listened to the first few minutes in case there was a reference to next weeks show with the boys. I mention it because she said at one point that: "A friend of [hers] nearly went blind eating cheese." She justified this by stating that cheese contains a chemical similar to opiates, which is why it is addictive.

I instantly thought she meant 'cheese' heroin, which is a heroin/Tylenol recreational drug. A small amount of heroin is mixed with crushed Tylenol or Benadryl tablets, which are snorted. I love the medical term for snorted: "insufflated." Having a father who works in Drug/Addiction related Social Work can be quite interesting, but I hardly get to use any of the things I learn without sounding like a junkie version of urbandctionary. While I'm still excused for narcotic-trivia: 'Cheese' is often known as a 'school-boy drug' or 'kiddies heroin,' because it is how a lot of children (particularly in America) are introduced to recreational drugs.

Ms Laverne, however, appears to have been referring to the actual dairy product. In that context, "Cheese is like morphine and will make you go blind," is a very weird thing to hear on the radio. Or rather, it's a weird thing to almost hear - as I wasn't really listening. (Which is the reason why this might all be complete tosh.)

As knowledge goes, this is pretty much the equivalent of something I overheard in a pub.

I've just googled the question "Is cheese addictive?" Apart from confirming what I already knew about the narcotic version, it also provided a link to an American website containing an article about a book by one Dr. Neal Barnard. He's the author of 'Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings and Seven Steps to End them Naturally,' which 'explains why people are addicted to cheese, meat, sugar and chocolate.' According to Dr Barnard, "Cheese is particularly addictive because it contains small amounts of morphine made in the cow's liver. When the dairy protein breaks apart in the stomach, it releases the opiate molecules."

So maybe Lauren Laverne isn't an idiot. (Though I think this will probably be the most positive review of her stint as host, because it appears that her recent substitution for Messer's Brand and Morgan is considered to be as lamentable as her last.)

Does this mean that people are also addicted to liver pate? Do duck livers produce the same chemical, and have they created a generation of foie-gras junkies, force-feeding game birds for their fix? More importantly: why as a child could I not counter the instruction "eat your dinner, liver is good for you," with the insistence that if I imbibed so much as a mouthful, then I would have just cause to dial childline and report my parents for feeding me smack? ...This is maybe an exaggeration, and I should probably let go of any residual bitterness from childhood food-wars with my folks. It was a long time ago, after all. (I will never forget being given tongue sandwiches, though. That is an unforgivably evil foodstuff to foist unknowingly upon an innocent.) I'm pretty sure there's no link between the casomorphins in dairy products and the consumption of cooked liver, and that science would completely nullify my insomniac ponderings if I actually had the where-with-all to research it.

Sometimes knowing the answer is quite tedious, though, I find. Having a head full of daft queries is more entertaining than a mind stuffed with dull answers. I was asked once how I would feel if I found out that I only had a few hours to live. I said that it would be overwhelmingly tragic - not simply because of the affect on my family - but because it would be so unbearably wretched for my life to end when there are still so many questions I haven't yet thought to ask.

Incidentally, here are a few of the answers I gave to a myspace quiz this morning:

Have You Ever:

Been Drunk: No
Been Stoned/High: Yes (medically, I must add!)
Eaten Sushi: No
Been in Love: Only with myself ;)
Skipped school: Yes
Made prank calls: No
Sent someone a love letter: Not since reception class, and then it was hardly a letter...more of a scrawled deed indcating ownership of the poor boy.
Stolen something: Yes, lipstick (as a child)
Cried yourself to sleep: Yes, when my Grandfather died.

Other Questions:

What annoys you most in a person? Ignorance
Are you right or left handed? Right
What is your bedtime? I don't sleep
Name three things you can't live without: Words, Dreams, Moments
What is the color of your room? Cream (boring eh?)
Do you have any siblings? One sister
Do you have any pets? Cat, Dog, Tortoise
Would you kill someone you hate for a million dollars? I hope not
What is you middle name? Susann
What are you nicknames? None that would pass the swear-filter
Are you for or against gay marriage? I am undecided about the institution in general, but have nothing more against gay marriage than any other kind.
What are your thoughts on abortion? That termination of a foetus is better than neglect of a child.
Do you have a crush on anyone? My first crush was on Robin Hood. I fear I may never get over it. ;)
Are you afraid of the dark? No. I adore the night.
How do you want to die? Unexpectedly.
What is the last law you’ve broken? Piracy/downloads.

In a Member of the Opposite Sex:

Hair color: Dark
Eye color: No preference to colour
Height: Tall
Weight: Slim
Most important physical feature: Eyes
Biggest turn-off: Apathy

Lots of philosophy regards "man's quest for knowledge," as a driving force of humanity, but I think people now focus too intensely on the goal and not the journey.

I would much rather live my life questioning everything, than already know it all.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Googles Giant Goldfish Mafia

I saw an article about a goldfish in the newspaper today. It wasn't just an ordinary goldfish. That would be a ridiculous and rather unnecessary story to print. This was a GIANT goldfish. (...Not a 'Loch Ness' style colossus I'll admit, but compared to other goldfish it's a giant.) My father showed the same quizzical look you probably have now, when I told him about it this afternoon. I don't think people expect to be confronted with news of mutant goldfish at teatime on a Friday. He certainly seemed unprepared. The reason it has sparked my interest, is because I had a similar-looking goldfish when I was about four - only my goldfish was one inch long; this one is fifteen inches. Both large and small goldfish share the same uninspired name: Goldie.

I wasn't ever very imaginative when it came to naming things as a child. As well as Goldie the goldfish, my first rabbit was called Blackie, I had teddies called Bluey and Greenie, and we rescued a stray cat that I called Snowy. I like to think of it as an early demonstration of the later importance of artistic influence; that I was displaying a healthy appreciation of the colour spectrum...and not simply being inexcusably unoriginal.

It's probably a good job I'm not particularly maternal. I'd end up with kids called Ruby, Jet or Amber. (Those were the first colours-that-double-as-names that I thought of, but they're also gemstones - so with my history I probably really would end up with such daftly titled progeny.)

After the slap-dash manner in which my parents named me, it's no wonder I am rather inept at designating names to things. I've discussed my ludicrous christening with a few people recently because of Facebook. Being listed as Katie Lawrence has confused friends who know me as Kate, and those who remember the school referring to me as Katrina. It confuses me sometimes, never-mind them! Is it really any wonder that I'm a little unusual, when I got my name because "Katie" is how my Dad first introduced me to the dog? If you don't know the story then that statement will sound a little odd, as will the idea that no one told me my full name until I went to school, and that I had no idea how it was spelled on my birth certificate until I was sixteen. It's such a complicated business - most people know their own name, don't they? Except for Bob Geldof's kids, and people suffering from amnesia, but they both have quite reasonable excuses for being a little befuddled.

I was bored while cooking dinner and typed a few of my names into Googlisms, to see what it would say. Then I got really bored and typed the goldfish's name in. I never knew goldfishes led such interesting lives. Here are a few of the results:

Goldie is the boss of Chicago's Italian mafia.
Goldie is back.
Goldie is tenacious.
Goldie is the first vice.
Goldie is being offered for sale due to owner's injury.
Goldie is jungle's first celebrity.
Goldie is somewhat disparaging of this legacy.
Goldie is a minimal hovercraft.
Goldie is the star of this film.
Goldie is going through some kind of dilemma at the moment.
Goldie is fast, effective, and comparatively in expensive.
Goldie is just one of many.
Goldie is one of the UK's most prominent jazz guitarists.
Goldie is mad.
Goldie is one of the fastest rising superstars in the gator championship wrestling organization.
Goldie is more than just hype.

But most worryingly...Goldie is just as close to daughter Kate.

Goldfish certainly get around! (I don't know how much credit you should give this site, however, as it also told me that Morrissey was a squirrel, when he is clearly a genius.)

What's in a name anyway? Of course, I would like mine to be remembered in history - but as I struggle with it myself, then that appears increasingly unlikely! I recall being asked once to complete the sentence: "I would like to be remembered as..." and I answered that, "I would like to be remembered as somebody worth remembering."

It puts me in mind of a quote by American poet Richard Watson Gilder: "My name may have buoyancy enough to float upon the sea of time."

I hope my name 'floats upon the sea of time' - but if this nonsensical stream of effluvia is anything to go by, then it'll probably be floating in that rather unpleasantly notorious little bit of the Channel, equidistant between England and France. The bit David Walliams resented swimming through. Unfortunately, you don't raise £1million for charity by wading through this. Neither am I offering compensation for time wasted doing so. So don't even ask.

My day wasn't wholly goldfish-centred. I spent the first part of it taking photographs of myself in lingerie to try and help with the belief that I don't look quite as painfully thin as I did six months ago. I had a bet with a friend that I'd do it when I was happier with my figure, so I did. I'm beginning to get back into shape - but because I've always been thin, I don't feel my judgement is entirely sensible. I think that so many years of being slightly underweight have affected my perception of normality.

I'm more contented with the pictures than I had previously expected to be. (Now, whilst I am aware that I have traditionally posted photos of things I mention in this blog, I'm not posting those particular ones.)

That is not what I want my name to become famous for! Though, as only four of you admitted to reading this today, there's not much chance of any sort of fame from such a limited audience.

I will, however, leave you with this reference to an earlier comment regarding Goldie's alleged googlism exploits.

I found this image by typing "goldfish mafia" into Google. I really hope I never have to surrender this computer to the police. I don't know how I'd begin to explain that. This thing is hardly any sort of defense of my sanity is it!

EDIT: The article also said that - contrary to the generally recognised misconception - goldfish actually have resonably good memories. They remember things for up to three months. I forgot to tell you that bit.

I'm definitely not related to that goldfish.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Sooty, Sweep, and Hamster Aeronautics

I was watching Himalayas with Michael Palin tonight, and on his trek through Bhutan they paused to water the horses. The guides had fashioned watertight nosebags out of old footballs, by cutting them in half and attaching a strap to the hollowed out section. It looked remarkably peculiar to see horses in the middle of the Himalayas drinking out of multi-coloured footballs.

Maybe it was especially jarring because I'm not at all sporty. I'm not accustomed to seeing either horses or footballs. The most I've ever had to do with sporting equipment was getting put in charge of the PE Cupboard at my Infants School. I got sacked because I kept letting people have the skipping ropes and footballs in exchange for Tazo's. I was on the girls' football team in Junior School...but, absurdly unsporting as I am, it didn't last long. I only joined because it meant trips to the park. I didn't really contemplate the 'playing football' bit until Mrs Cooper had to try and teach me the correct way to kick a ball. We were a rubbish team in those early days. I distinctly recall being shouted at by an exasperated teacher because I stopped to tuck my hair behind my ears before I took a free kick. Apparently there's "no room for vanity" in soccer. Tell that to David Beckham.

I think I left the team after one or two practice sessions - because the weather got colder and it wasn't so much fun going to the park after school in the rain. One of the girls from that team went on to play for Portsmouth Women's Team. Most of them went on to work in New Look.

Sean and Sarah were in the local paper yesterday. Sean and Sarah Smith, for those who don't know, are a brother-and-sister pop group called Same Difference, who got through to the final three of last years' X-Factor. Sean and I were in the same year at school, and there is a rather terrible reception-class photograph of us somewhere here on Facebook. I remember my sister telling me she'd uploaded it and having to point out that I was the one with the fringe. Says something about how old I'm getting if my only sibling can't even remember back far enough to pick the 4yr old me out of a class line-up! Anyway, I read the article about them today and it says they've signed a record deal with Pete Waterman, and their debut album is out soon.

It's nice that people I went to school with are on the TV and in the newspapers - and rather a novelty that this time it's not Crimestoppers or the court pages.

The highlight of their career for me was when Ricky Gervais referenced them in the last ever Extra's. It was a Christmas episode and he took the piss out of the fact that Same Difference dolls wouldn't sell. I don't care - he knew who they were. Ricky Gervais knew enough about Same Difference to warrant putting them down in Extra's! They are a little creepy though. I think the main problem is that they are both to nice. I remember Sean being a prankster at school - but I don't think either of them are capable of spite, or loathing. I find genuine sweetness an incomprehensible trait. I don't think I even know how to be that nice. I don't think I'd want to be. I quite enjoy the option of taking solace in being moody and sarcastic. At the height of their X-Factor popularity I was chatting to a friend about their carefree, happy demeanour and she mentioned the time Simon Cowell told them to go and watch the news, and stop being so damned bubbly and innocent. I said I wanted to grab them by their lapels and tell them that Sooty was a mute because he damaged his vocal chords deep-throating sweep. I could've gone with something simple like "there's not really a Santa Clause," but they irritated me into far cruder thoughts. I think I felt the need to be ultra-evil to counteract their saccharine glossiness. Defiling the memory of a beloved children's show is maybe a step too far, but certainly reasserted the knowledge that I really am not that nice!

I really can't believe they get on so well. It's completely unnatural. Speaking as someone who has a younger sister, I can quite truthfully say that nothing in the world could persuade me to work with her. Imagine being trapped in a tour bus with your little sister - fighting over the DVD player as she wants to switch Black Books off in favour of the Gareth Gates comeback special on T4? Horrendous idea. There's a particular name for various familial homicides, isn't there? 'Infanticide' is killing your child, 'patricide' and 'matricide' are the killing of father and mother. I also know the name for sibling-murder: 'Understandable.'

What? She used to bite me if I put my fingers into her playpen! That's why I've never wanted a hamster. I think that's why only-children have hamsters. They don't know what it's like to have something that you have been told you will like, and have been instructed to care for that repays your affection by biting you whenever it feels like it. Difference is, hamsters only live for a few years. She was much older that that before she stopped sinking her teeth into me.

I would have preferred a hamster.

Linking the two stories together tonight (because I have a head full of hamsters and footballs) - Stephen Fry tells a cute anecdote about a time he was visiting some friends. He was in their hall, and casually kicked a football out of the house into the garden. Turned out it wasn't a football - it was one of those things you can get for hamsters to crawl around in. Zorbing for rodents. He says the hamster was fine...just a touch dazed. How mad must that have looked to the hamster? A huge foot coming at it, and then flying through the air at high speed! It must have been like something out of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It reached such high speeds that it turned into a ball of wool and an apple tart in between connecting with Fry's foot and coming to a stand-still on the lawn.

*yawn* I've even bored myself tonight. My brain isn't working at all. I think I exhausted it thinking about mouse-flavoured cat-food yesterday. Which, incidentally, I have since been reliably informed is NOT a good idea. 'Not a good idea' probably doesn't do justice to the in-depth explanation I received as to exactly why mouse-flavoured cat-food is impractical, but that's pretty much the gist of it. I will still wonder every time I see that Cobra advert though.

...Don't Cobra eat mice, anyway? I'd better leave that, or I'll be up the rest of the night contemplating whether or not it's fair to use mice in advertisments for a beverage that is named after one of their main predators.

Poor mice. They get a bloody get a rough deal.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The Earmouse-Diamond

I have shirked my usual indecisiveness and made a decision. Well, sort of. Okay - it's less of a decision and more of a realisation. Fine - I haven't made a decision after-all.

I have, however, reached the conclusion that I really should stop making up imaginary scenario's like the one with the dog the other day. I've noticed that I'm a bit like Billy Connolly (not randomly, there is a particular point of similarity.) He gets confused between the parts of his act he has embellished, and the things that actually did happen. Like the Big Yin, I too have a terrible memory and a vivid imagination - and am starting to refer to the MENSA dog as if he were actually real, and did indeed eat my test score. I even worry about writing that: "he ate my score." How do I know it was a he? Dogs are generally referred to as 'boy' and cats as 'girl' - so I suppose I am guilty of nothing more than being stereotypical. Then I remember that I'm agonising over the sex of an imaginary dog, whose gender never has - and never will - be pertinent to anything.

I sometimes wonder if other people's minds question ridiculous things like this, and they just have the sense not to admit it.

Another thing I wouldn't admit is being related to the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Sir Osman Ali Kahn. His full name is much longer than that. His full title is:

Asaf Jah VII (General His Exalted Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Osman 'Ali Khan Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Faithful Ally of the British Government GCSI. GBE).

Well - I might admit it if it stood me any chance of inheriting part of the £30m of his estate that has been revealed to have lain in British bank accounts since his death in 1967. I would want to play down any family resemblance as much as possible though, as his eccentricities even overshadowed mine.

I talk about inane, slightly bonkers things that have very little effect on the world, but a profound affect on the perception of my sanity. He knitted his own socks. Now, I have told a couple of people that tid-bit of trivia, and not a single one of them has believed that I wasn't making it up. If Natasha Kaplinski said it, you'd believe her. I don't suppose Natasha Kaplinski ever told you they'd discovered a new kind of 'furry' dolphin though. Or asked you what you thought would be the preferred piercing for that mouse with an ear on its back. (Dangly earrings from the lobe would be impractical as the lobe faces up, so I think the only sensible course would be studs on lobe or tragus, or a cuff in the crease.) I've sidetracked myself with vermin-jewellery and can't remember what I was telling you about...

...Diamonds. That was it. Or had I not got to that bit yet? I really should read this thing back sometimes.

Right: the wealthy eccentric. Sir Osman Ali Kahn.

Once, he was informed that mice had ruined £3m in banknotes in one of his vaults. He apparently "shrugged off the loss." Okay, so he didn't miss the cash...but if I were he, I'd still want to know what the mice wanted the money for. (Anyone who says 'earrings' will just be taking the piss.)

When King Edward VIII visited him in 1922, he arranged for the King's chamber-pot lid to play the National Anthem when it opened. In the 1920's, that was considered a tasteless faux pas. Nowadays they'd have it in Buckingham Palace's gift shop, with a photo of Prince Phillip's head at the bottom like those baby bowls I used to have featuring Beatrix Potter.

So - he was a bit mad - but he had certain priorities right. He loved gemstones and jewellery. During his lifetime, his 173-piece jewellery collection (valued at £2bn) was guarded by Eunuchs. I may be being thick here, but I don't see the significance of employing Eunuchs in this context. I understood why Eunuchs would be stationed as the only male guards of the Courtesans - but having complete genitalia is no threat to a necklace. I suppose because there was a trend for it, the government was under pressure to create more jobs. Equal access and all that. Quite forward thinking of him, really. Though I still prefer the Beefeater we have guarding our crown jewels. (Thinking about it - having Eunuchs guarding the 'crown jewels' is not very tactful. I bet that joke would wear pretty thin if they were doing that job in today's tourist industry.)

He is also said to have owned enough pearls to pave Piccadilly Circus, and - most importantly - he owned the Jacob diamond. One of the largest and most beautiful diamonds in existence, it was the size of an egg, and weighed 184.70 carats. It was worth about £50 Million. It is ranked the seventh-largest diamond in the world. Did he display it? No. Did he give it to the knob-less jobs-worth's to guard? No. He wrapped it in newspaper and used it as a paperweight. Perhaps the novelty wore off a little, with him having so many glorious gemstones (though I've collected on a very small, very low-budget way for years and not found that to be true of myself.)

I think that treating such a breathtaking jewel with such incredible disregard is unforgivable in any circumstances, however.

The Jacob Diamond (Formerly the Victoria Diamond)

I'm not quite sure how mice cropped up so often in this entry, but feel the main one deserves some credit too.

The Vacanti Mouse

Oddly, while searching for the photograph of the earmouse, I have just seen an advertisement on Dave (the channel, not the bloke) for Cobra beer - asking, "why is there not a mouse flavoured cat-food?" Why ISN'T there a mouse-flavoured cat-food? They have rabbit, duck, beef, liver, chicken, prawn, tuna and cod. Cod are endangered. Even people are being told not to eat cod. Mice on the other hand, are not nearly endangered, and would surely be a more environmentally practical choice than cod or tuna. How many cats would eat Tuna in the wild anyway? Without us they'd never get the tin open, and they hate water so they'd never catch any.

...So long as we weren't expected to feed them live mice. I couldn't do that. I felt bad enough when the cat caught one a few weeks ago, and then the dog tried to eat the corpse. It was only a cute little thing. Harmless really.

Maybe there shouldn't be mouse-flavoured cat-food after all. Maybe I shouldn't watch adverts either.

There. I did make a decision. Almost.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The Blog That Wasn't

No Blog. I'm too bored to be entertaining.

I mean it. There's no blog. Stop reading.

...This isn't one of those occasions where perserverance will pay dividends, you know. You will just use up heartbeats that could be better wasted elsewhere.

(Yes, I am in that sort of mood today.)

End of the blog that wasn't. Now go and fold a beermat into the shape of a stickleback, and send it to Fiji.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Politics is for Pussies

Hitler would never have assumed power had he lived in the modern day. Not because we are any less susceptible to governmental manipulation - because I think the war in Iraq proves that we are - but because even David Mitchell gets enough stick for having that ridiculous haircut. We would never take anyone seriously if they had a Chaplin moustache as well! Jay Leno said; "Politics is show-business for ugly people." Loath as I am to concur with an American chat-show host, I think he may have had a point. I cannot think of a single attractive politician. John F Kennedy wasn't bad, but I think I view him in a better light because of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Onassis. Indeed - those ladies have proved far more enduringly iconic than most of the world-leading men of their association. (I am not just jealous that both women were dripping in more diamonds than the encrusted skull piece by Damien Hurst, and have been long worshipped as the epitome of beauty, style and grace. Nuh-uh. Not at all...)

I began thinking about politicians with stupid hair because I was asked today if I thought that MP Boris Johnson stands a chance of becoming the next London Mayor. I hadn't before considered it with any credibility. Yes, I've joked about how marvellously inept he would be bumbling through his official duties like the politically-incorrect buffoon he so often appears to be - offending every minority, ethnicity and gender along the way. I had not, however, given pause to the fact that his constituency have voted him in year after year - and he is actually a serious candidate putting himself forward to govern our capital city.

In recent interviews Boris has insulted all sorts of regions, but the incident I am patriotically obliged to take offence at is the occasion where he called Portsmouth a "city full of drugs, obesity and under-achievement." Now, I am about to say something that would have me lynched in any pub between here and Southsea, but...I'm inclined to agree with him.

Alongside the specific issues noted by Boris Johnson, we also have significant problems with crime. Statistics from 2006/07 show that 'Violence against the person' in Portsmouth stands at 32.6 (per 1,000 of the population) and is almost double the average in England of 16.7. 'Theft from a vehicle offences' in Portsmouth are 14.1 with the England average being 7.6. So my native Pompey is not the haven of peace and tranquility that we'd like to believe. If you're viewing this in Portsmouth, then well-done. You obviously defy Boris' proclamations regarding under-achievement, as you can both use the internet and read.

I do have to admit that the most interested I have ever been in Boris Johnson is as a figure of ridicule. On Have I Got News For You a couple of years ago Paul Merton wound Boris into knots, bamboozling him with obscure and illogical nonsense. It was wonderful to watch. I would be tempted to vote for him simply for his incompetent - but entertaining - performance there. The opportunity to see him flail in Prime Ministers Questions, and when being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman is tantalising - and might just be enough to make society realise how ludicrous the whole archaic governmental system has actually become. Boris is a living caricature, and if that (combined with the internationally-derided legacy of George Bush) - does not convince people that politicians are oft ill-advised imbeciles, then I dread to imagine what it will take.

Link to Part 2

Link to Part 3

All this talk of Politicians makes me think of city 'Fat Cats' - which inevitably leads me to my own cat. (Who is herself rather rotund.) Her weight issues are not the point today - but I will take a moment to defend her size as I have mentioned it. She has a slow metabolism, an under active thyroid and she is big-boned. She may also have water retention. She is not fat! I have no veterinary diagnosis to back up these claims, but I'd have no fingers left to type this with if she ever found out I had insulted her. ...That makes her sound like a Mafia boss. I don't think the Godfather trilogy would have sold nearly so well had there been a Mafioso called 'Tuppence.'

It is her name that sparked interest today, though. I discovered something amusing while chatting to my friend Anna - who's a spirited mancunian like Karl Pilkington, the Gallagher brothers and Morrissey - though with a far more agreeable temperament! 'Up Norf' elderly people use 'tuppence' as an informal term for female genitalia. To paraphrase the lovely Anna; up there, my pussy would be called Fanny.

That's such a juvenile observation, but I shall remember it the next time I'm stood in the garden (already feeling like a prat for frantically shouting "Tuppence" across the adjoining rooftops because she is about to fall down someone's chimney chasing pigeons.)

And while I do, I shall be praying that none of my new neighbours hail from Manchester.