Archive for March, 2007

Public transport…

#1: Trains: The syphillitic drippings from the Devil’s wart-ridden cock.
That is all. Thank-you.

Why aye, Abnib. Let me barge in, there…

..And add a wee bit to the ongoing “Religion” thing. I’m not out to get drawn into the wider debate, mind (not yet, leastways) but I’m dropping in a quick reply to Andy’s question, and from here so I can lob a photo in more easily. [Well, I say that, what I mean is “from here I have more hope of getting a photo to work”…]

Handily flagged-up disclaimer:
This is rather, I’m afraid, by recounting a religious experience, with all the gubbins of “unverifiable thing what happens to one person” that entails. If you can’t deal with that in a sensible and adult manner, than shove off to the American Bible Belt and make a nuisance of yourself over there, because you’ll not be welcome here, my friend. Fair warning.

Main bit.
Some years ago now – I think I’ll have been in the region of eight or nine – we ended up, in the course of a family holiday, on Lindisfarne. There, as yon Wikipedia doesn’t, at first skim point out, they’ve got a statue to Saint Aidan the man who re-Christianised the North (as the Wikipedia entry does say).

And here we have a photo of said statue:
Statue of St. Aidan on Lindisfarne

Note the lowness of the thing. We’re talking something basically life-size here, not a hulking great thing that rears up to the skies. We’ve got a wee copper staff, but it’s not likely to act as much of a lightning conductor, or owt, especially not on warm, cloudless, summer days.

We were there on a warm, cloudless, summer day. And my parents thought “That’s a nice statue, let’s get a photo of it,” and promptly sent me over to pose with it, as parents do when on holiday. So I went and stood on the raised bit on the left side of the statue, the one closest to the camera in that shot there, and leant against it, propping the bulk of my weight on my left arm, in turn leaning on the stone of the statue, somewhere in the region of the elbow-fold in the cloak, and a a good foot or so away from yonder staff thingy.

Which was the point at which the bastard thing sent a shock right through my arm. It quite and electric shock, such as you get from a fence, or something, it was just a definite thump right down my arm.

That scared me witless, and we ended up not with the photo, because I refused to touch the thing again, and kept bursting into tears when I was asked to.

All very disconcerting. I genuinely don’t think I got an electric shock, or anything; I didn’t get any sudden convulsions of muscles, or hairs sticking up or pain, or owt. I just got a thumping great pulse off it.

Those of you who’ve paid over-much attention to the backs of my hands may, at some point, have noticed my broken knuckle, on the ring finger of my right hand. The finger ends, and then, a quarter of an inch later, I’ve got a knuckle, which makes that finger look like it’s a lot shorter than it should be, only slightly longer than my little finger. I get the same thing with the corresponding toes on both feet, so I look like I’ve got a big toe, two toes of equal length, then a sudden drop and another two toes of equal length. It’s very weird.

The only equivalent knuckle I’ve got that isn’t busted, as you should, by this point, have been able to divine, is the knuckle of my ring finger on my left hand. That’s fine, and contrives to look very much like it’s supposed to. I’m bloody sure the damn thing never bloody used to; they were all weird and busted up even before.

And that’s why I thought I’d slug in an answer to Andy’s question. I reckon it’s as close to proof of owt as I’m ever likely to get, and, since most people dinnae even get that, I reckon it’ll be good enough for me.

That is all.

Have fun!

“Neither use nor ornament”…

…and other bad ways for an optician to describe the glasses you’re wearing.

I have just discovered the most disturbing thing in the world. And it isn’t even on the Internet.

Instead, it’s the moment when you go for an eye test, and sit down, and they turn the light off, point out where the mirror is, turn on the typical letters-whose-size-decreases chart, and give you some fake glasses to cover up your left eye and ask you, with the right eye, to read the chart, and you sit there and say, “Er… God Almighty, that’s awful. Is the top letter A?”

Before you ask, it doesn’t help very much if the left eye fares better and gets you through the second line of “E, O” before descending into abject fuzz and rubbishness.

Apparently, though, I’m still pretty well off, with a ‘-1.50 sph’ in my right eye and a ‘-1.25 sph’ in my left, down from ‘-0.5 sph’ right, ‘+0.25 cyl left’ last time round, but I still need new glasses. Evidently these headaches I’ve been getting have more to them than I’d thought, but I’ll get onto that in a minute. For now, I’ve got no glasses.

This is because, having decided they were rubbish, they’ve taken them off me, so they can re-use the frame and save me money, because whilst the University will pay for my eye test, it won’t pay for my glasses because I need them for things other than work and work alone (like, eg, driving. I’m must “Never, ever, ever start the engine [of a car] unless I’ve got my glasses on,” says my new and really cool optician. Well, maybe not cool. Really very friendly, though).

So until they “give me a ring when they’re finished” I don’t have any glasses. Since I got sent, by work, for the eye test in case my current glasses weren’t good enough and were dragging me into mistakes, taking them off me altogether seems a bit random, but never mind.

On, as I say, to the headaches.

I have a problem with pain. Or, rather*, I tend to disregard aches. If, on the rare occasions when I’m cycling, I try to go really fast and all the muscles in my thighs start to hurt really badly and cramp up, slowing me down, I respond by trying harder, which, Ruth tells me, is the precise opposite of what I’m meant to do. Likewise, if sitting in front of a computer is giving me a splitting headache, I’ll stay where I am and maybe drink an extra bit of water and knock back a pill. I’ve thrown my back before now trying to carry really heavy things on the grounds that even if it’s hurting really badly, I probably just need to try harder.

I blame this entirely on my knees. My knees, as far back as I can remember, have given me trouble. Back when I was six, and couldn’t sleep some nights because they were so bloody agonising (I know it was six, because I got told off after it turned out I’d been dosing myself up on [the appropriate amount] of purple Calpol just to make the pain go away) it got dismissed as growing pains. Since then I’ve been told I have patella tendonosis, or, to put it another way, my lower leg is on a slight twist, thus screwing up the joints in my knees.

This got promptly ignored by everyone – I only got sent to the consultant who said “yes, it’s not just growing pains” at the age of seventeen, and then I saw the note my doctor had sent and it contained several heavy hints of “he’s just making this up, isn’t he?” Indeed, bar giving me lots and lots of ibruprofen for six years (which I stopped taking after it got to the point where I could take 800 mgs at a go and still not feel any change except getting more queasy), and, recently, agreeing to give me tasty co-cadamol instead, nobody’s ever really done anything. I had a physio, in Aber, but he said there wasn’t really anything that could be done, and I should use exercise bikes and things.

The upshot of all this is if I draw an exponential scale of “background pain” from one to ten, with zero being nothing at all, I have about one day a fortnight where I am, for the whole day, at less than one. Normally I’m on two, three or four. Today I’m on four, which, really, is like having a fairly nasty headache in my knees. Just the left knee today, I don’t know why the change round like that. Ruth’s told me off before, for not saying when it hurts, but I’m long since past the point where that does me any good…

…The downside of all this, of course, is that I tend to regard pain as “one of those things,” to be put up with, like “often it is cold in winter,” or “sprouts don’t taste very nice.” So when I get, eg, lots of headaches, I don’t think “Man, this is rubbish, maybe my eyes are having trouble and I need glasses,” but “Damn that hurts. I’ll take a pill,” or, “God, I wish this headache would leave over for a minute.” It’s the same problem with a bike. “Maybe I’m trying to go too fast” never occurred to me; I just thought “Sodding legs! Stop hurting!” and pushed even harder, with the result that when I stopped and got off the bike, the damn things gave way under me because I’d buggered up the muscles.

I don’t mean to whinge, of course, I’ve got it far less than some people, and in many ways I’m very lucky. I just find it really strange to imagine that there’s people out there where they get up and don’t think “Crap, this is going to be a bad day, my knees are stiff already.” Since that’s probably most of you, you’d all better enjoy it. And, then, when you’re old and having a hard time getting used to it, I’ll hobble up like a mean-spirited old git and tell you not to be such a wuss.

Hey ho. Back to the fuzzy-looking grindstone.

*and before Aber people start making snide or sarky remarks, thank-you very much.

My future brother-in-law is the Son of God! Gimme a new knife…

…And other things not to say on an areoplane.

So on Thursday I finished at work, dragged a 70-litre rucksack onto my back, caught hold of my black briefcase/shoulderbag thing that always weighs like it’s made of lead, hefted a large wicker basket wrapped in cellophane in my other hand and staggered out of the office feeling thoroughly encumbered. Once Ruth had arrived and ditched her bike in the rack we set forth for the railway, where I paid a frankly criminal hundred and forty pounds for two returns to Durham – with, look you, a 33% Young Persons Railcard discout; I dread to think what it would’ve been otherwise – and off we went for another one of those weekends where we draw different coloured lines all over the map for a few days before winding up right where we started.

Bizarrely, the train was on time, although we did spend a fun minute pretending to be Germans* and sulking about the train beforehand which was a disgraceful fifty seconds behind time. Thus we left Oxford by the 1735. Three hours later, somewhere between Leeds and York, Ruth has an epiphany, and discovers that it’s actually “A really long way” from Oxford to Darlington. Aye, it is that.

An hour and a half after that, we actually made it to Darlington, where the Rev. collected us and took us back to Colburn, where Ruth’s room was annoyingly full of moths. In consequence we spent most of Friday swatting the little bastards and bagging up things to be put through the wash.

Anyway, after that we went off to Robin’s school to see him playing Jesus in ‘Jesus Christ: Superstar’.

I’ve always – guiltily – liked Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat; liked because I actually enjoy it, guiltily because, unmusical though I am, I’ve been told Webber isn’t actually that good at music. What I’d never seen, however, was him trying to do something else. I remain deeply confused as to how one can take the greatest story ever told ™, and certainly the all-time bestseller, and, by adding music make it so enormously dull and confusing.

Don’t get me wrong on this; Robin was really good, as was Mac, the guy playing Caiaphas, an ultra-cool [read: wearing a very long coat and hat and therefore ultra-cool] Jewish priest, and I’d pay good money to see the guy who was Herod playing Emcee in ‘Cabaret’… But, actually, it was really poor as a show, which I think is mostly the fault of the show itself, rather than the production. (Although, that said, tech did a really bad job on it; the sound balance was wrong for the room, the lighting rig was too much over the stage and the less said about the follow-spot operators and their wobbly over-application of fade-to-pinpoint and bring-up-to-full approach to making a mess of things, the better).

I think, by and large, I’m slightly above the average level of awareness of the Jesus story as told in the Gospel. I’ve not done any scientific tests or surveys to confirm this, but I think if someone did do a thing with a clipboard in the street I’d come off ahead of people who could only supply “Born in stable; died on cross, and I think there was something about a loaf** of fishes.”

And boy did I have a hard time working out what was going on. And this certainly is the fault of the show, because it really, really assumes a whole fatass pile of prior knowledge, and then makes no attempt to explain anything. Without lighting the fires to summon the Nomad Trolls, I’d just like to re-iterate my long-standing opposition to doing things that leave the audience feeling stupid or confused. You’re relying on those guys to enjoy themselves so they either come back or tell their friends to go. Making ’em miserable is just dumb.

Still, as I said, the production did amazingly well to be decent under the circumstances, and (bar periodic oversinging, and the aforementioned rubbish lighting techs) it was all pretty fun. And, as I say, Robin, Mac and the guy who was Herod did very well. And then we went to the pub, which was fairly fun, and then Ruth & I went to Maulds Meaburn with Tom and Judith, and spent a couple of days there.

Yesterday we left Maulds Meaburn at 1330, arrived in Durham at 1455 and got on a train at 1315, which was when it was supposed to go. That was an express, which meant we were lumbered with being in London by 1825, and slogged round the Hammersmith and City line to Paddington and got onto a train to Didcot, where we arrived at 1900 and waited half and hour for a taxi to turn up and get us back to Wallingford. [Seriously, I really need to sort out my driving test, it’d make life far easier***].

When we got back, I found I’d been sent a letter from Burton McCall, the guys who do the UK customer service for Victorinox, the Swiss Army Knives people (or, at least, the half of them that aren’t Wenger). On Wednesday I’d posted off my Swiss Champ to see if they could fix it – I’ve had it since something like the fifth day after my first student loan payment, when I was in Penbryn and, since the heady days of 2003 it’s opened a Hell of a lot of bottles. Time was when it’d pop the cap of a bottle in one neat movement, but it’s been increasingly bad at that, of late, frequently taking two, three or even four goes to gain the purchase and lever the lid off. I had a look at this, and the cause seemed to be that the steel had got worn from a neat angle to a smooth curve.

That struck me as a bit of a downer but I didn’t figure it was too bad, since all the Victorinox stuff comes with a nice lifetime guarantee that I’ve previously used for things like “I’ve lost the pen out of it, please post me a new one.” So I duly got myself a jiffy bag, spent half an hour in a queue at the Post Office and dispatched it to Burton McCall to get it re-set, or something

What alarmed me about the letter was that it plainly contained no Swiss Champ. Perhaps they were about to explain that they were going to need to keep it for a month? Or that they couldn’t fix it because opening several hundred beer bottles didn’t constitute “normal use”?

To make a hollow laughing. What they said was:

“Dear Sir,
Thank you for returning your knife for repair. Unfortunately we are unable to repair it in our UK workshop and as such are offering you two options:

1) We will replace the knife free of charge under the lifetime warranty. This will mean that we do not return your original knife, but issue you with a brand new one, the same or as close to your original as is currently available.

2) We will return the knife to Switzerland for repair. This takes approximately 8-10 weeks during which time the knife is stripped down and rebuilt to a good condition.

Please call out [ie, Burton McCall’s] Customer Services Department on 0116 2344646 with your preferred option.”

This, for some reason, struck me as thoroughly fantastic. Not only did they say “Yes! You have indeed broke your bottle opener, you mentalist dipso, you! Would you like another?” but they also recognised that if you’ve been carrying one knife around for a long time (and, to be fair, they didn’t know if it was three years or thirty) there was a damn good chance you’d be really attached to it and not want to have to lose it if you could help it.

Normally, in fact, I’d go with the latter, because I do have an enormous capacity to form deep and powerful empathic bonds with inanimate objects and things****, but we’re going away in three weeks, and I want a knife.

But I thought I’d just say how much those guys rock, because it seems fairly rare, these days, to find a lifetime warranty that really seems to mean something like it. Also, brand new replacement. Winnage.

So, yeah. That’s what’s been going on at this end, except for today, which I’ve mostly spent in a thankless trawl of Google for various things, before I go back to work tomorrow.

Have fun!

* Because they have an actual railway network on the continent, rather than a network that got broken up on the laughable pretext that companies that make money from people try to serve people really well (As opposed, say, to cutting as many corners as possible in order to make more money. Hence, tangents aside, pretending to be Germans.

** That was a typo, but it amused me, so it stayed in.

*** Also, I need to do it before my Driving Theory Test runs out and I have to go and spend thirty minutes watching clips of erratic cyclists and blind bends being insultingly obvious at me.

**** I used to “rescue” rubber bands from the floor, carrying them about on my wrist because I felt really sad that after doing such a good job before they’d been heartlessly cast aside without anyone to love them. I never said I wasn’t screwed up.

…Because it fills the time.

Your Brain is Green

Of all the brain types, yours has the most balance.
You are able to see all sides to most problems and are a good problem solver.
You need time to work out your thoughts, but you don’t get stuck in bad thinking patterns.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).

Which is kinda nice, but blue is a far nicer colour…

Meme! That’s the way to kickstart going to bed on a Sunday

The impression I get of this one (from Paul is that you’re only allowed one word answers to the questions. Which strikes me as a bit contrary to the spirit of these memes, which I’ve always taken as encouragement to rattle on as per, but, given that it’s a change, I thought I’d give it a go. It’s harder ‘n it looks.

1. Where is your cell phone? Here.
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend? Ruth
3. Your hair? Unruly.
4. Your mother? Tired.
5. Your father? Dead.
6. Your favorite thing? Lie-ins*
7. Your dream last night? Poirot.
8. Your favorite drink? Tea.
9. Your dream car? Gadget-y.
10. The room you’re in? Bedroom.
11. Your ex? Which?
12. Your fears? Loss.
13. What do you want to be in 10 years? Happy.
14. Who did you hang out with last night? Didn’t.
15. What are you’re not good at? Sleeping.
16. Muffins? Crumpets!
17. One of your wishlist items? Superfluous.
18. Where you grew up? Shropshire.
19. The last thing you did? Typed.
20. What are you wearing? Clothes.
21. What aren’t you wearing? Nothing.
22. Your pet? Tortoise.
23. Your computer? Beefyish.
24. Your life? Decent.
25. Your mood? Indifferent.
26. Missing? Presumed.
27. What are you thinking about right now? Words.
28. Your car? Austin.**
29. Your work? Weekend!
30. Your summer? Varied.
31. Your relationship status? Engaged***
32. Your favorite color? Blue.
33. When is the last time you laughed? 8 pm.
34. Last time you cried? Sunday.

* I reckon that’s one word. And, anyway, it makes nae sense otherwise.
** Austin A40, to be precise. Model II, I think we worked out. It dun’t go; hasn’t since the 70s.
*** Or, to put it another way, “Blimey, I ain’t writ that afore!”

That is surprisingly tricky. Hence some of the footnotes. Ah well. Soon the bedsheet will be dry and we can get some sleep. Have fun!

Just something…

…to while away the lunch hour (because I’ve finished today’s turns on Green Dragon) – some people over at yon BBC web magazine department have got two guys to discuss War & Peace with one of them who has read it and is a proper expert, and one who’s not read it, and is just bluffing.

They’ve hidden the names of who’s who, so you can go read it and then vote on which out of “A” or “B” is being the sneaky bluffing guy. Now I rather liked that; it reminded me of some seminars I’ve been in where you’ve had people who really didn’t do the reading and still tried to look good, and they generally came a cropper over some little mistake.

I’ll not say who I reckon was doing it, but head on over there yourselves and vote, and let me know what you thought, and then once I’m past the “spoiler threshold” of a few people having done it, I’ll fess up and say who I plumped for.

Many of you Aber-types, of course, the lucky student devils that you are, don’t really have lunch-hours, but I guess you’ve got exam results coming out today, so good luck with that, and congrats to Claire and Paul who I’ve heard from already.

(Also, Claire, how long’ve you had that blog to only get to 47 posts? How the Hell d’you do that?!)

Have fun!