Archive for June, 2008

Four train stations and a funeral

Well, I’m back.*

Specifically, I’m back in Wallingford. It turns out I’ve been missing the place.

Slipped out of Aber Station on Wednesday afternoon, to go back to Shropshire ahead of Joan’s funeral (she was 88, it turns out), and did the usual round of Domestic Tasks whilst I was there, in this instance re-tightening the washing machine’s intake pipe so it doesn’t leak water (because, yes, my mother has actually spent the past month or so calling me to say that her washing machine is broken) and also fixed the printer, by cunningly connecting the USB cable into the back of it (to be fair, it took me about ten minutes to work out that was wrong; I checked the connection at the back of the tower, and the plug/extension and things, and then jumped direct to re-installing drivers. Only realised something more basic was amiss when the machine started insisting that there wasn’t a printer on the end of the USB cable after all).

Also I was able to find the only remaining copy of an interview I did with Joan, way, way, back in October 2000, as part of some nebulous tri-schools project on local history. (I don’t really remember much of what happened; I think I had to stop going when we started moving house in earnest, but I seem to recall helping to come up with a ‘Ten Little $CorrectName‘ style plot involving evacuees, and someone pretending to have been fatally drowned in the canal at Longford (but actually having been able to breathe by means of a stolen rubber hose, or something).

Hm. Anyway, having lost all the electronic copies I re-typed that for Pam and Caroline, who are by way of being Joan’s daughters, and found, in the process, all manner of intersting things (like Uncle Alf having had the first electricity in Newport, by means of a parafin generator, sometime in the probably-1920s [well, the man died in 1930]). Was pretty cool!

Funeral was yesterday (Thursday) morning up at Lilleshall. Nice church, actually, and a good service. Vicar appeared to be a nice chap, although I found myself bracketing him in the ‘Damp handshake’ category that one seems to find amongst the CoE sometimes. Actually he was from Wombridge, rather than Lilleshall, there having been Complicated Re-Jiggering as to Where To Do The Burying, which I think I’ve mentioned before.

Not many people there; Uncle George couldn’t make it, because he was having a bad day for the shakes, poor bugger, but Jim was wheeled in, looking really rather frail. Perfectly compos, mind you, because he knew who I was without asking, and I’ve not seen the man since I gave up on doing Moonface impressions and went in for beards instead. On the other hand it turns out I’ve got a second cousin called Martin, a very friendly chap who lives somewhere in Stoke-On-Trent (I assume, unless he meant that he actually does live in Stoke, which I suppose is also possible). Nice guy, I liked him. O, and we got ‘Dear Lord and Father,’ which was pleasing, because it’s always fun to get the merry little shivers of what Ruth would describe as Smug Puritanism when people trot out the Quaker ones.

Incidentally, it’s just struck me that if I ever run a pub I shall have to call it the Smug Puritan. I can see the sign now…

Anyway, after the wake, or what-have-you, which involved some rather interesting reminisences, and the digging out of my great-grandfather’s War Record (the man drove drays to the Western Front; it turns out), I cadged a lift up to Telford with Cousin Celia.

Trains were, predicably, abominable, although the BCN was very busy yesterday, which at least gave me something to look at from my perch on the luggage rack.

Managed a backwards-facing seat from Birmingham New Street to Oxford, with a very nice announcer repeatedly apologising to everyone stuck standing up, and expressing the hope that things might thin out a little after Leamington. They didn’t, however, and she was reduced to offering another train due to go through Banbury some twenty minutes behind us, an offer which she concluded, rather sadly, with the words “Somehow this service seems to hit all the big places bang on peak travelling hours. It’s always like this…” which made me feel rather sorry for her.

Met Ruth at Oxford station, huzzah! and got another train down to Cholsey, which, from the little I saw of it, is a funny little place.

Catching a bus into Oxford this afternoon, and I’m due to hook up with Statto, then.

Meanwhile, it’s high time I went and re-filled my coffee mug.

*Cite the (stupidly obvious) source to win a virtual pat on the back, and a vague offer of me buying you a drink, at some point.

Self sufficiency : it’s laziness, but OK-ed by society

Seriously, I think I’m devolving into a slob. Well, no; I’ve never really had the drive to do anything but live slobilly, but I’ve always, at least, made an effort. However, it’s been a week and a half since Ruth vanished off to Oxford (that little? Scary) and I’ve spent most of that week and a half putting off the tidying up that needs doing until Wednesday. I even managed to keep that up when last Wednesday happened, so today it has got Beyond The Pale. Something Must Be Done, possibly including the laundry.

On the other hand, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I might play a little Colonization first. (Yes, I know it would be funnier if I said Ceasar, but the balance of that game is all wrong. You cannot seriously tell me that an actual Roman city in the province of Fictionalia would really be full of citizens demanding a third hippodrome. Bah.)

I have come to the conclusion that I need a valet. On the money I’m making, however (and given the total lack of spare bedrooms and handy places to retire to of an evening) I do not think that’s very likely, so I am contenting myself with reading P.G. Wodehouse and sighing wistfully into the port. (By way of an associated train of thought, I have just realised that, back in September ’97, my family found a fantastically large log in the former grounds of Apley Castle, and were unable to take it home for firewood because we’d walked out there. I think we hid it behind the wall of the layby. Damn thing is presumably still there, circumstances having intervened to make us forget all about gathering firewood. Bother.)

The neat little “circumstances having intervened” euphemism there happens to act as a segway to my mentioning the death of my Aunt Joan (great aunt, technically). I think she was 87, but the copy of the Shropshire Star with the obituary in it is somewhere amongst all the other discarded pages of the Shropshire Star, and I’m not sure how to go about digging up the relevant thing.

In spite of the best efforts of time and clumsy fat shits, I do actually have rather a large family, scattered about the place, and I tend to contrive not to see them, which is a shame. Of my Grandfather’s generation we’re now down to two; my uncles Jim and George, of whom the former had a severe stroke a couple of years back and is now stuck in a home in Oakengates (which I can’t help but feel must come as a nasty shock after living your entire adult life in Edgmond) and my uncle George, who has Parkinsons, poor sod. I think it must be a very odd thing, to watch the numbers get whittled down from the top end. (I’ve seen it from the bottom, of course, and it’s pretty damn lousy then, but I think being at the elderly end of the scale and seeing everyone dwindle away must be a deeply unenviable experience).

Ah well. I am going back for the funeral, which is happening at Lileshall, which is where her husband was buried. The fact that she divorced him, and went off with some other chap who is buried at Wombridge (and, from the very little I know of the arrangements) probably expected Joan to be buried with him, seems to be getting ignored because she changed her mind once they were both dead. One can’t help but feel that’s going to lead to some very pointed silences and awkward questions come the last trump, but I suppose that’s not really my concern.

The blame for my having done another meme is something I place squarely in front of Annie’s blog, but never mind. Apparently (and I am rather surprised by this) I’m good at social and spatial things. The spatial doesn’t give me much surprise, of course, but the notion that I’m good at reading people came as something of a shock. I suppose it must be a skill I’ve subconciously developed whilst sitting in the corner and wishing there were fewer people about so I could have a really decent conversation with any of the other people remaining, but it could just be that I’m a curmudgeon in spite of everything.

Weirdly, it thinks I’m better at Maths than I am with words, which is patently nonsense. I suspect the actual case is something more like “After working in a shop for months, you are now better at working out what combinations of purchases round up to a hundred pennies than you are at doing word-searches against time,” which wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I liked the “Fill in the gaps” quiz, though, in spite of the fact that it returns results like “Dank is a really rare word to have picked.” Less common than “Dark,” probably, yes. But rare? Doesn’t seem very likely. Not compared to proper words nobody uses anymore. Sirly, for example, that’s a good one.

Anyway, I probably ought to get on, rather than vanishing off into Tangent City. That second run through of Eternal Darkness isn’t going to play itself, either. Although, since it would be astonishingly creepy if it did, I think I’m fairly glad of that.

In point of fact, it’s taken me so long to remember I had this tab open, it’s not the evening, and I’ve done all the laundry and everything. I can tie things back into the general context of the post, however, by saying how I think I’ve played too much Eternal Darkness in the last week or so…

I’ve just finished cooking. I’ve still not quite got the hang of stirring things properly, and I ended up, whilst turning to get the pepper, knocking the stirry-thing in such a way as it catapulted some sauce up the wall, which I forgot about until I looked up from my pepper-grinding and saw the sauce dribbling back down over the paintwork.

At that point I tried to work out where I’d put the D-pad so I could cast a quick Restore spell and fix my sanity level. I feel like that reflects poorly on my abilities not to be a recluse, but I don’t really think so; I’m only waiting inside at the moment because my sister wants me to take a look at her draft Personal Statement and see what I think of it.

Anyway: Food.

On the subject of Memes (still) I’m really quite impressed with how well I did on this actually quite good one one (good in the sense that it’s all literally textual questions, not interpretative ones); there’s actually a lot of really tricky ones in there; I was reduced to extrapolating from “which option most fits with the double commandment, rather than sundry dogma” so I throw my result up here by way of being a Smug Puritan. As per.

Your Score: Weekly Churchgoer

78% Bible Knowledge, 71% Bible Understanding. NOTE: it is pretty hard to get a high Understanding score because the easier questions were mostly knowledge questions. Write [to] me to discuss anything!

You have a good knowledge of the Bible, and it looks like you think about things for yourself some.

O, and if anyone knows an easy way to remove Black from the bottom of a rice pan, that would be handy…