Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sticky Fingers

This! Oh no. The final nail in my childhood*

I can still remember my first. It was my 7th or 8th birthday and I'd got a voucher from my friend Ian's Mum and Dad for Rabsons, the toy shop in Middle Row, Ashford. It was for the princely sum of seven shillings and sixpence. 7/6. That's 37 1/2 p. A bloody fortune. I was being let loose in a toy shop with all the riches of Croesus at my disposal. I can't remember everything I bought although I can recall being dissuaded from the plastic trombone. Star buy was an Airfix kit of the SR-N1 hovercraft, a tube of polystyrene cement and a tin of Humbrol post box red enamel. In later life, I would find out that my best friend's grandad was the "S" in that designation, the Saunders in Saunders Roe. Cool.

It wasn't long before I'd got my first Spitfire. I always thought the Spitfire was a bit easy although I went through several. Had to have a squadron, after all. There were ME109s, 110s and HE111s, Hurricanes, a Lysander and a Mustang. There was a Harrier jump-jet, too and I was mightily impressed when Dad came home and saw me with a lump of black plastic in my hand and just said "Boulton Paul Defiant?" All these were the 1/72 scale models. I had one warship, the pocket battleship the Graf Spee. I was insanely jealous when Andrew Harden won the school raffle and got the big model of a Boeing 747. My other friend Andrew got one as well and mounted a Jetex motor on it to see if it was airworthy enough to fly. It wasn't. The motor shot through it like a poker up a Plantagenet.

I did go large though. For my eleventh birthday I got the 1/24th scale Spitfire with the electric motor in that spun the prop. Something happened though and the motor didn't last long. Even my Dad got in on the act but he had to go classy and get a Revell model of a Sopwith Camel. The Wellington was my other big plane. All these hung from my bedroom ceiling except the Big Spit, which was on top of the wardrobe. It was later joined by a very large Queen Mary (A Revell, so doesn't really count) and an SR-N4 hovercraft in red Hoverlloyd colours. I thought it was the Princess Margaret but she was Hoverspeed and their colours were blue and it was definitely before 1981 when they merged with Hoverlloyd to form Hoverspeed. Er...sorry.

This is the bit where I upset Mr Frontier Ed. The time had come. The Big Spit and the Old Queen kept sliding about on top of the wardrobe as I tilted it upwards to retrieve the glossy stash hidden underneath. I was outgrowing my hobby in the face of new diversions. One day, riven with adolescent hormones and possibly not a little inebriated, I gathered all my kits together and "flew" a few downstairs. Then out onto the front lawn where they were lined up for the final coup de grace, delivered by Dad's .22 Relum air rifle. This was a powerful beast that could take apart a Bramley apple from 100 yards with a single slug and I was a good shot. The plastic didn't put up too much resistance and my collection was no more. A brief flirtation in the early 80s with a Tamiya Suzuki motorbike from Beattie's in Lewisham didn't rekindle the passion I'd felt fifteen years earlier and that was that. I don't know though, Airfix has to be saved; it's an institution that although dated, deserves to live on. A peculiar paradox: a reminder of gentler times but using, in the main, the materials of warfare to do it.

*For the time being

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Angry (with added violence).

Experts schmexperts. You get a problem with a computer in a world full of so-called experts yet no bugger has an arseing clue what's wrong. This is it here, it's the one from a while back. To be fair to the MaxPC site, their helpdesk editor chappie has identified this as a problem worthy of inclusion in their Helpdesk feature. They are also English so take a while to consider the problem properly instead of just saying it's to do with spyware, here you need to buy this at $29.95 thanks, you mug. I am beginning to lose the will to live although this will may be rekindled should I meet the Gates cove and am allowed the opportunity to vent my pent-up frustrations on his speccie four-eyes skull. Wallop! Try looking for a cure for that, Billy-boy. Or at least try and make your piss-poor software packages talk to each other properly instead of robbing us blind.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I have been desperately trying to think up something droll for this. I'm not sure I need to. Have this picture instead.

Monday, August 21, 2006

How the Internet works

I'm amazed I'm the first to have found this. Reading Vicus' comments this morning I was drawn to the link Raincoaster posted. Having read that, I was further intrigued by a story from the same site regarding lower HIV infection rates in chaps who've been circumcised. I had hoped to find what had been lacking in all other news stories on this subject I'd heard or seen over the past week or so, and that was a reason why this should be so. My question was indeed answered but imagine my unbounded delight when I saw that there are trials regarding the circumcision theory being undertaken in Uganda no less (readers of Private Eye will get this straight away) and also that the World Health Organisation's HIV-AIDS department director overseeing this programme rejoices in the name of Dr. Devin de Cock.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


We're back. From holiday that is. I say "we" advisedly as "we" left as five and returned as four. More of that in a moment. First off, I have read some of your blogs but have resisted the urge to comment. It would seem unfair to announce my return by way of a smart aside instead of a full-blown entry on my organ. Secondly, the gods of IT have proven themselves to be either lazy or vindictive in the extreme in that they have not righted the faults that appeared unprompted on both my and her computers. This may ot even work. We thought we'd give them a week to sort it but that obviously wasn't enough. Thirdly, somewhere north of Yeovil we stopped at a farm and bought scrumpy. I'm now drinking sampling some. I've only had one small glass so far but Sharon thought hers tasted like medicine so I said I'd drink it because it would be a shame to waste it. I'm not a lover of cider, I must say, because like most adolescent chaps one of my rites of passage consisted of hurling two pints of insipid Strongbow down the bathroom sink and having Monday off school. This though is actually quite tasty, although it does have a slight TCP tang to it, and is not the least bit alcoholic. It's like cloudy apple hi=uice. Juice. Why is everything looking small? It's not alcolic at all.

It was a curate's egg of a holiday. Those with the kind of memory not savaged by years of self-medication will recall a certain amount of trouble in the few days leading up to the trip (just read the stuff below, I'm not going to link it). Most of you took these tribulations to be portents of a wonderful holiday. We did only go to Weymouth and you were all sadly wrong.

Stepdaughter LM had been let down by her first choice of friend to bring so somewhat reluctantly, Daft Laura from Bleuuuerghh in Anglesey was drafted in. Daft Laura was also our guest last year and rather blotted her copybook by being spectacularly drunk on our last night and yawning her guts up over the living room end of the caravan and then collapsing in it. Laura is also a vegan. She's also the kind of vegan who wears leather and eats organic yoghurt and finds it difficult to actually justify her lifestyle choice (this is getting increasingly difficult to type. I may just have to have another glass and edit it tomorrow) in the face of such searching questions as, "Laura, why are you a vegan?" Her other problem is that she is rather like a tornado in that once she has hit, the evidence is strewn all about. Either that or she's akin to a large slug leaving a trail behind it. Again, large. I'm a shade under 6', and I look her directly in the eye. This is often the safest place to look at her as she rather optimistically described her size to Sharon as a 14. Yes, she wears size 14 clothes but these have the unfortunate effect of forcing whatever flesh is being contained within upwards, like a giant soufflé escaping over the rim of the dish. Exiting the bathroom on Sunday, directly opposite the open door of the girls' bedroom I was faced with the rather unedifying spectacle of her standing there blissfully unaware one tit was hanging loose after escaping from beneath her top. Daft Laura does not go unnoticed.

On arriving on Saturday after a pretty miserable trip (two returns to the house before we even left the environs of Crewe was a great start), I reminded both girls that I was also on holiday and that meant I was not going to chase around after them clearing away their detritus. They were to be responsible for a change. One of my treats in Weymouth (Bowleaze actually) is to forego breakfast in the caravan and take a leisurely 15 minute stroll across the cove to The Café Oasis for breakfast. If it were up to me, I'd probably stay there all day but an hour with just the paper, a couple of scrambled eggs and a few cups of tea for company is a grand start to the day.

On Monday I awoke to what can only be described as mild chaos. There were clothes strewn about the living area; glasses and bottles everywhere; breadbin opened and the contents going stale; bits of food everywhere; a box of Special K (DL's preferred breakfast/snack of choice - without milk because she's a vegan, isn't she) on the table that had suffered a messy forced entry; beach towel wedged in the window by the sink(they'd been midnight swimming) and a pile of sand over the washing up; a pair of underpants in the toilet and to cap it all, the fridge door had been left open all night meaning I had to spend half an hour with a knife scraping the ice off the cool box before I could shut the sodding thing and go and calm down at the café. Although it was pretty obvious who the main culprit was, S and I decided to be fair and mention to both of them that it was a state of affairs that was not conducive to a harmonious environment and that they'd better buck their ideas up. Maybe me marching in unannounced and switching the CD player off in front of DL created the wrong atmosphere but we had a laugh about it and left the girls to their own devices while we went off to the New Forest and then to Swanage for something to eat (OK, I know but I've never been there and it's actually very nice).

We got home to find LM on the sofa having an argument over the phone with DL who'd pissed her about. To cut a long and rather bizarre story short, DL came back and said she was leaving to go back to Anglesey. It was 10pm and the next train out in the right direction was 6am. She also said she'd been on to her dad to get the police to take her to the station. Right, you can actually phone the police taxi service up, they're quite happy to do it and it's all free. They're also quite used to leaving 17 year old girls alone on a station in the middle of the night for seven hours. She left, sans police escort, about an hour later after muttering something about feeling uncomfortable. She refused a lift. There's more that is extremely boring involving calls from her parents and unaccountable rudeness from her father and a severe bollocking for her from me when I caught up with her after she'd gone. I will not be played for a fool by a cocky 17 year-old who needs a lesson in growing up and she picked the wrong person to attempt to bluff. The irony is, she's a fairly successful rock promoter in her spare time but can't handle the practicalities of life. She got a lesson in them and it may have been harsh but hell, I knew my holiday was in danger of being ruined by her selfishness so she was going to pay for it. Ever known you were going to have to be in a confined space with two angry and upset women for a week? Someone was going to pay and as she caused it...

At least the weather kept decent - it only rained at night and all the way home. Marianne - thanks for the tip about Abbotsbury. We went and it was beautiful. In return, I'd suggest the tearooms at Upwey and then a stroll around their magnificent water garden. Pictures when we get organised.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Right. That's it. I'm never having another Renault. I am a bit of a Francophile but this car has tested my patience to the limit this week. I've had Citroens that gave me no end of trouble but I loved them to bits. This heap of tin can shake its sorry "ass" straight into the Shropshire Union Canal for all I care. Were it not for the fact that it's a Motability car and we're tied to it for the next 18 months, I'd be...without a car, because I'm skint as usual. I do have my own mota but it's unsuitable for the lady.

We have half a ton of cases and medical toot to put in the boot ready for the scoot down to Weymouth tomorrow and the car has pulled its final stunt of the week (see below). Sharon went out to take the stepdaughter's lad home and came back within a minute saying the boot won't shut. As the Renault Grand Scenic has more alarms on it than the Louvre this means that every 5 seconds it screams at you to either lock something, insert something or switch something on or off.

It has done this before though and a judicious squirt of WD40 over the latch usually clears it. It's probably a bit of dust over a contact because as usual with all modern things, it's 100% electronic. I couldn't find the WD this time or rather, I got halfway to where it was and decided that no, I'm not actually meant to even change a wheel on it because it's Motability so I called out the RAC instead. An hour later he arrived, removed the rear door panel, took the cover off the latch, stuck a screwdriver in it and then sprayed it all with WD40, at which point it started working perfectly.

He was a patrolman of 15 years experience and a nice bloke so I asked him how reliable cars are now compared to when he first started and he said they're all shit, all of 'em. All electronic management systems and once a module's down you're stuffed. During my six year stint at the world's No 1 tolled river crossing at Dartford, I ran a kind of ad-hoc reliability survey based upon the number sad sacks in flash cars who had to open their doors and, usually smiling meekly, give me their quid instead of winding their electric windows down and doing it the easy way. This is not made up; worst offenders by a long chalk were Mercedes, followed by BMW and then Volvo (Volvo drivers were also the worst at pulling up as far away from the window as possible without actually being in the next lane because they didn't (probably still don't) appear to have any spatial awareness whatsoever). BMWs were also regular breakdowns in the lane and I once had a guy drive his BMW Estate into lane 15 off the QEII Bridge on three wheels as his nearside rear had come off about 100 yards out and had gone through lane 16 about three seconds earlier. Admittedly this wasn't BMW's fault as he'd just had the wheel replaced an hour earlier in Purfleet and they'd just forgotten to tighten the wheel nuts so they all sheared. No, that's an Essex thing. We'll have to wait for evolution to solve that one.

I'm digressing dangerously. I have a bad feeling about this trip. These have all been minor annoyances, what's it got saved up, I wonder? I'll let you know. See you in a week and a bit.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I had a referral from here. I can't remember joining it but it looks like a bit of almighty fun to me. If I knew how it all worked, that is. Do you think I need to buy braces and get a Blackberry?


It's getting worse. I had a haircut this morning and I now look like Gareth from The Office with a beard. I don't have time to go and have it repaired so I'm going to have to try DIY with the trimmers.

With luck the car will be fixed this afternoon as it appears there is a recall on the windows that hasn't been issued yet. Slight panic as we'd forgotten to take it in for the last recall a month or so ago, which was for rear seatbelts and that's a "red" recall. Once they sniff one of those they don't let the car go until the work's done so they did those yesterday.

Thankyou for all your confidence in a change of luck. I did win a fiver on the Thunderball last weekend and I had a call yesterday from a nice lady who wants me to write a book for her. They are also discussing on the wireless whether Margaret Thatcher should have a state funeral. My heart leapt for a moment but sadly it's a false alarm. One lives in hope. Oh, and the new Maestro card turned up after only three days. Nice one, First Direct (I know they're part of HSBC but they are the decent bit).

It could be much worse. I could be Geoff having his pyjama arrangements discussed in public.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Car. Ma. Bad.

It's all going dreadfully wrong. On Saturday I shall be filling my four stainless steel flasks with mulligatawny soup and a cool bag with Morrison's mini pork pies (the ones with Branston in) and retiring to the hole underneath the shed for a week. They can't get me there.

Sharon is suffering computer woe. It's been going on for too long now and I think the dog knows. Every time Sharon appears, the dog starts shaking and hides behind my legs. This usually only happens when she picks up on the occasional bi-fortnightly hormonal imbalance that triggers the flying vacuum cleaners and that. It's a good job she can't read my aura then, she'd go mental (that's a family in-joke, the dog is already certifiable). Regular readers of Sharon's many blogs will be pleased to hear she is still alive.

Last week I was visiting the Yahoo group of popular 70s burlesque rockers, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Long-term readers will already be aware that I am a minor devotee of the ensemble and like to keep in touch. A fellow subscriber had posted a link to pictures he had taken of a recent performance and one of these happened to be quite marvellous. So much so that I downloaded it to use as my desktop. That's when it all started.

My laptop crashed immediately. When I restarted it, it went into a two and a half hour checkdisk routine. When that finished I restarted (again) and I received error messages saying Windows Explorer needs to close. Then more errors. I can circumvent these by dragging the dialogue boxes to the side of the screen but it's not right. I tried a system restore. Doesn't work because without Windows Explorer, it can't complete the cycle. I even left it running all night just in case. Shutting the computer down manually destroys the restore. Stymied. Yesterday all my favourites disappeared out of Firefox. My computer can't put itself to sleep anymore. It's poorly.

On Friday we drove down to Kent to see my parents and to pick up Sharon's son who has been staying with his grandparents for a while. I tanked up in Crewe. On the way back we stopped at Cambridge services and I went to use the cash machine only to find I had left my card in Tescos in Crewe three days earlier. I phoned First Direct on my mobile, 5 to 7 working days before I can get a new card. I had £2.64 in my pocket. We are driving to Weymouth on Saturday for a week away so this is bad. It's even badder now.

They say it all happens in threes. This evening Sharon returned from shopping announcing that the rear nearside passenger window on the car is jammed. Open. Obviously this isn't a state of affairs that can be left until we return from holiday so tomorrow morning I am going to have to bully the local Renault dealership to get it fixed by Friday. Thankfully it's a Motability car so they *crosses fingers* are obliged to provide a replacement. Whether the replacement is going to be able to ferry five adults and their luggage on a 500 mile round trip or not is a moot point.

I'm scared to leave the house. What did I do?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Just before I go to bed

I haven't done one of these for a bit.

Gems of the searcher's art that have directed their authors through these portals in the last couple of days.

From Yahoo:

mick hucknall has plastic surgery on his face

(I will leave you to judge whether any operation was successful)

From Google France:

how to say condolenc


From Google:

mourinho haircut
(twice, you sad, sad people. Last week I had 5 similar searches within 20 consecutive hits. He's got nits, ok)

From Google, my personal favourite this time around:

what car does inspector barnaby drive on midsummer murders
(I think it was a black Rover 75 in the last series, just in case you come back. When he used to be called Bergerac I think it was an old Talbot although I might be wrong on that) (Yes, you are wrong says my friend Phil, it was a 1947 Triumph Roadster).

There were a load of sensible ones, too. You won't believe how many people come to me expecting nutritional advice for their ungulates. I'm quite well placed there, No 1 actually. Sorry about that.

I wanted to post a video of Kate Rusby singing something because she's just about the only living female singer who can turn my limbs to useless pulp but the only one I could find of her that didn't feature the Irish twit was in almost total darkness. Oh, what the hell. Here she is singing "The Good Man" Just shut your eyes.