21 July 2006

the healing power of gross incompetence

I've not been cheery of late, but more news of this nature will have me reduced to fits of giggles from now until Christmas.

What he said

This appeared in the Independent the other day:
"So long as we are loved by others I should say that we are almost indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend."
- Robert Louis Stevenson
His family built most of the lighthouses that dot Britain's coast. Not a lot of people know that.


Me: Go away.

Inner Nagging Voice: I didn't say anything.

Me: You were going to.

INV: How do you know?

Me: Because. You're me.

INV: Oh, yeah.

Me: You remind me that you're me everytime you nag me, so don't go all innocent on me now.

INV: Ok, ok.

Me: So what is it? Are you going to tell me to cheer up?

INV: No.

Me: Good. Because sometimes I think cheering up is bullshit. And I'm a pretty cheery guy by nature.

INV: You used to be.

Me: Is this really the time?

INV: You used to be the life and soul of every party. Hell, you used to have parties at the drop of a hat. Remember stair surfing?

Me: This is inappropriate.

INV: Why?

Me: Well, news - in general - is bad. Both at home and abroad. And I just think that you giving me grief because I'm not the party animal I used to be is in poor taste. So fuck off.

INV: It's not the party animal thing.

Me: Well then what is it? Because at the moment there's a bombardament of awful things happening to those nearest and dearest, lives in turmoil and all that shit and I cannot do anything about and that is just fucking rubbish and I had a party last weekend thank you very much.

INV: Breathe. So you're feeling sorry for yourself because of dreadful things happening to other people?

Me: I'm not going to apologise for being upset at what's happening.

INV: Being upset is fine. You're allowed to be upset. You need to be upset. If you weren't upset, that would be frightening. But feeling sorry for yourself - no. That's not right.

Me: Why? Why can't I have a break and feel sorry for myself? Why can't I have a mope?

INV: Because it's not happening to you. Because you are living and breathing and are still getting news that is good, because you're writing and writing with belief and conviction, because you're trying to chase a dream and be true to yourself, and that's what's best for you and that's what all those people, the friends and family who may be hurting now, who may be happy now, want - the best for you, not because it would make you happy, but because it's you. And sitting around moping over uncertainties is easier than pushing ahead in spite of them. Get over yourself.

Me: That was pretty cheesy.

INV: Fuck you.

Me: I'm going to post that picture of the thistles.

INV: Whatever floats your boat.

Me: You were right, of course.

INV: I know.

Me: Well, you are part of me after all.

Thistles on the Thames - how apt

20 July 2006

Someone's dying. The hospital sent them home with painkillers and 6-8 weeks of life. Family and friends cry but try to smile. He's had an amazing life, they say.

But that doesn't mean it should be over yet.


I am a Proms convert - I'd never been but always liked the idea of them. A summer-long music festival - what's not to like? Something to admire from afar. So I was chuffed to go last night, to stop paying lip service to it and actually see what it was like. The tickets we got were only a tenner, and some are only a fiver. That's the best deal in the world. Most cocktails cost more.

It was hot. But even in the stifling heat - so hot there was a mist in the rafters of the Royal Albert Hall - it was brilliant. More pervasive than the heat was the enthusiasm, both from the audience and the stage. Not just for the music but for the ceremony, the event, everything, like the orchestra is greater than the sum of its parts, so too is the Proms, the crowd, the Hall, the musicians and even Mozart and Dvorák, long past but still present. Our seats were way up, just below the arches. It wasn't the best view, but we could hear and feel the music and the sense of scale was incredible.

And the Queen was there. Bit of a surprise, that. She gave someone a prize. Then, unprompted, the audience, including me, sang 'Happy Birthday' and gave her three cheers. I sang 'Happy Birthday' to the Queen. I'm such a dork.

When I got home the BBC coverage was on - hi res and impressive, but slightly clinical. It didn't seem to be the same event. The energy, the heat, the thrill of feeling the strings as though they were your own sinews, the rumble of the percussion and haunting horns replaced with clean editing and digitally filtered sound. They didn't even show us singing 'Happy Birthday'.

19 July 2006

maybe three

Off to The Proms - unexpected, but very cool.

"To the Royal Albert Hall, Jeeves."

"A small libation before departure, sir?"

"Tip-top idea, Jeeves - perhaps two!"

"Very good, sir."

Bloody clever gent, that Jeeves.

80 years young

A computer test last week claimed my brain was 80 years old, but with training could return to a nimble and youthful 50.

I only just turned 30.

I figured the test must be flawed. I checked. The test was not flawed, but the way I took it was. I couldn't even do it right.

I tried to look on the bright side, thinking that an 80 year-old has a wealth of wisdom earned by years of playing the game called life.

But this didn't test wisdom. It tested response times to simple brain teasers and arithmetic.

So I started doing the training - it's kind of addictive. It's the stuff you secretly liked in primary school - fast sums and that sort of thing. There's memory stuff as well. There are drawbacks - a 3d floating head of the Japanese scientist that invented the game mocks you if your scores slip and laughs at its own dreadful jokes. That's creepy.

But I've dropped 53 years in just over a week. Which makes my brain 3 years younger than the rest of me. I think learning how to take the test helped.

Oh, and just because your idea's rubbish doesn't mean it won't make you millions. I like the LaserMonks. They sound kind of like Jedis, but for printers.

In other news, London's an oven. In fact, scratch that, Britain's an oven at the moment. Except for North West Scotland, which is more like a weak heat lamp. With every news service chiming in on the thermal meltdown of Wales and everywhere else, I thought I'd throw my two cents in as well.
  • People, it is summer. Summer is, by its very nature, a hot time of year - much like winter is a cold time of the year.
  • When you say it's the hottest summer in history, you are guilty of sensationalist, dreadful, irresponsible journalism and should be ashamed of yourselves.
  • Global warming is probably responsible. This is like standing in the rain and muttering that it's the drops making you wet. Climate is not a constant. Nothing on the planet is a constant. It is dynamic, in constant flux and whether the cause is human or natural, the effect is the same. The last 25 million years or so is the only period in the earth's 4 billion years that it's been temperate enough for ice to cover both poles. So for 160th of the planet's history, there's been weather systems that we would consider 'normal'. Just suppose we did manage to curb global warming, and the planet decides to fuck us with her own climate change, one that we can't blame on emissions? Do we adapt, or try to fix it?
That was my weather rant. Sorry, it's hot up here.


Don't walk four miles in flip-flops.

Make sure the pub you're going to isn't shut for refurbishment.

Especially if you're walking there in flip-flops.

18 July 2006

tomes & tunes

I've broken a cardinal rule - I'm reading three books at once. Well, not actually at the same time - that would be like Mad Libs on crack - but they're all next to my bed, bookmarks embedded, marking where I was when I grabbed the next book.

Don Quixote
Love in the Time of Cholera
Almost Like a Whale - an updated Origin of the Species

Blues and classical music fill the Belfry at the moment. Again, not at the same time.

Stevie Ray Vaughn and Albert King's In Session (Live)
BB King's King of the Blues
Orff, Carmena Burana
Vivaldi & Bach, Gloria in D - Magnificat in D
KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza and back to the beginning again.

On an unrelated note, today I shut the blinds on the skylights in the Belfry. Seven years of higher education and it occurs to me only after weeks of slow-roasting that shutting the blinds just might help cool things down.

17 July 2006

orson and welles

The pair of fat wood pigeons that plague our garden now have names. One's called Orson, and the other's called Welles. If I only see one of them, I tend to assume it's Orson because it's more fun to say the name. It breaks all laws of aerodynamics that birds that fat achieve lift.

It was a good weekend. Friday night I broke my writer's block and passed a big round number. The release was a deluge and I almost resented my schedule over the following two days as it kept me from continuing apace. My fears were allayed today as another round number was passed in a flurry of scribbling that will pick up again when this post is finished.

Saturday was my birthday party. The sun shone bright and friends chatted, tossed the frisbee around, ate, drank and were merry. It didn't really have to be my birthday party. It could just have been a nice bbq. But I'm glad it was, because someone gave me chocolate truffles and someone else gave me a bottle of Lagavulin.

Yesterday I spoke with a family friend for nearly four hours about jobs, my CV and the future. It went well.

Today - well, today was hot. The Belfry is a sauna. Hence writing at night.

16 July 2006

proof of green dogs

I now have photographic proof. I'm not hallucinating. The people of Barnes live with a pack of large green dogs staring at them across the river.

See if you can spot those dogs I'm seeing.
No? How about if I circle the dogs in red? See - easy. They're totally there.

Still no luck? Well, I was afraid of that, so using sophisticated Photoshop skills, I've enhanced the images to highlight the canine aspects of the trees in question.

So there you have it - I'm not seeing things. They're there. And one of them's Hong Kong Phooey.