February! You here already? Uh. Bye…

Yeah, everything’s kinda got into a rush. I’m technically working on a write-up of the Wedding for that blog, but I got stalled by Christmas. Betimes, everything around here is looking very snazzy and new! (Unless you’re reading this by RSS, in which case it probably looks about the same as normal).

I’m trying to work out what’s been keeping me so busy since the wedding, but I’m actually not sure.

I’m trying to work out what’s been keeping me so busy since the wedding, but I’m actually not sure. I’ve given over a bundle of evenings lately to training with the Red Cross, who run a Fire and Emergency Support Service – basically the old Secret Society coupled to Ghostbusters; we get summonsed by Firemen in the middle of the night, and turn out in an awesome little mobile home van to make tea and provide clothing and such to people whose houses have caught on fire. I’m finally through the basic paperwork and things, so I get to start shadowing people now (assuming there’s a shout on a day when I’m on the rota, leastways). More information on them here, if you’re interested.

As a side effect, I’ve been poking about on the Internet in a bid to find a ringtone which is liable to wake me in the event I do get summonsed by a Fireman at 3am, and have given myself no end of heebie-jeebies by learning about the HANDEL system.

For example, I have discovered that there were three kinds of Alert that might be given out in or during a nuclear attack: Attack Warning Red (a wavering alarm on the system) All Clear Attack Warning White (a 30 second steady blast on the alarm) and Fall Out Warning Attack Warning Black (Three blasts on a whistle, or gong, or similar, presumably because by the time you need to warn about actual fall out, there’s damn all else left). Creepy. Not Vault 106 creepy, I guess, but still pretty creepy.

Work is pretty frantic at the moment because one of my colleagues is about to vanish away to South Africa for an extended holiday, and various system migrations have been giving us periodic bursts of forced downtime, which has nominally reduced the amount of work we can do (I say nominally, because what I actually mean is it’s reduced the time we can throw at the main profiling side of things; we’ve still been able to run reports and go on weeding expeditions to dig out books that have hidden themselves away. It’s often more frustrating, but I like it when you finally run something to earth: last week I found a 60 page playscript that had gleefully snuck itself underneath a 250-page cased hardback atlas on one of the rearmost shelves in the warehouse. If someone could train sniffer dogs to distinguish by ISBN, they’d make a fortune…).

I’ve also begun learning German – right now I can only really say things like ‘Das is keine kartoffel! Das is ein Fernseher,’ and ‘Der Apfel ist dort,’ but it’s a marked improvement on my previous vocabulary, which was pretty much ‘Anschluss’, ‘Waffenstillstand’, and ‘I.G. Farben’, with a side helping of ‘Ich bin ein Berliner‘ once we got that far through the syllabus (although, now I come to think of it, I.G. Farben was an A-level thing), which leaves me wondering what German kids pick up in the way of course-related vocab.

In order to get to German more effectively, I’ve started cycling again, and am quite enjoying it. Actually I even managed to enjoy it on Friday, when Isis went in for a service, and to get new tyres. I did a bit of calculation and worked out that all things being equal, I could cycle to work in less time that it would take on the bus (Doy. Buses are an appaling way to get around Oxford. Having dropped the car off for a service on Thursday I had to catch a bus home from German, and had just about bought a ticket and sat down in the ammount of time it would have taken me to cycle home. Surprisingly I didn’t miss the delay so much as the actual ride; apparently I didn’t so much stop enjoying biking as cease to have the time to manage it).

I figured that even over a distance of six miles, biking to work would be fairly simple, because Oxford is made entirely out of Flat Bits, but it turns out there’s actually a fairly drawn-out slope between Marston & the Headington Roundabout, which really wore me out. It was better on the way back, though, because I went past a lorry stuck in the queue for the Roundabout traffic lights, and then went past him again when I’d both finally crossed the roundabout, and my cycle path had rejoined the side of the ring-road. I am not sure he liked that very much, because after I’d gone past him the second time, he seemed to drop down a gear and floor it, but there we go. I’d actually forgotten how much fun it is to cycle downhill very fast, but I recommend it. Um.

Oh, yes, and this blog got hammered with spam recently. Started out as a couple of comments a day which I had to come and mark as spam manually, and then it peaked at around 60 comments in three minutes, at which point I got hopping mad with it, and managed to lure Dan into doing some general update work, as a result of which, everything’s looking rather snazzy. A few stray bits of wobbly formatting on old posts, but I don’t mind that much. And I rather like the top photo, which is a view from the Wrekin over towards Wales, which is always nice.

So, yeah. There’s a very brief overview of everything I could think of. More coherent updates ideally arriving in the not-too-distant future…

‘nother update.

I continue to be crazy busy. It is not all bad, though, for I was able to go to the Gregynog Colloquium, which involved a large number of the Aberystwyth delegation getting merrily drunkish. Also, I entered a charity raffle, buying a strip of tickets for a fiver, and consequently won a not unrespectable digital camera (8 MP, SDHC, 2x AA Batteries – the last means it’s not something I’d buy at full cost, but for £5 I’m hardly about the chuck it up on eBay!) I was pleased about that.

There were massive floods in Newtown. I mean *massive*. Ended up red-lining poor Miriam, in first, with the clutch about two thirds out because 7,000 rpm was the only way to force through the wave of water that was coming over the bonnet and hitting the windscreen while still forcing enough gas through the exhaust that water didn’t back up and smother the engine. Even then she nearly gave out three times. It was more nerve-wracking than Stafford, although if I’d not survived the floods there I might’ve just attemped to push her to the nearest dry ground…

Outside Newtown, though, everything was fine. Rotten little dorp. That said, for those of us who know the incline of the drive at the Uberflat, two days later I got into the car, released the handbrake and, er, went nowhere. Loud clunking noise as we started moving, so I ran her through the carwash and that seemed to fix it; I assume the axles were caked with mud, or something.

Things I have discovered recently:

1. Death and the Maiden is being re-run, starting from the first strip. It is awesome, you should read it. The Sequel is also being re-run from its first strip at the same time. I find this incredibly annoying, because I now have to make the choice between reading both strips at once, or going back and picking up 2 afterwards. Sigh.

2. The awesome, whose recent posts include Episode One Confessional, The Ghostbusters are horrible people and (my favourite of those I’ve seen so far) Belle: Princess, or not Princess, which features an awesome examination of the local political situation around the Beast’s castle.

3. I am in serious danger of ruining my librarian credentials by reading all manner of security books. Admittedly, I’m not too far in, but I’m already at the point where I can see Scheir quoted in Mitnik and remember having read the book that quote comes from a week before. This pleases me, but it doesn’t sit too well with the stereotype. On the other hand, nor does wanting a resolution greater than 8×6, so I’m not too fussed about that.

4. I have probably got a little work next year, which won’t see me rolling in money but, equally, won’t leave me completely devoid of food. I hope.

Anyway, back to it…

A highly articulate outburst

I was having an e-mail conversation yesterday, and the subject of people driving everywhere rather than using public transport came up. As the only car driver present on the mailing list, I got asked for my opinion – specifically in relation to my having taken the Park & Ride into Oxford, rather than having tried to park in the city centre, & having started to write a short reply, I found several hundred words had passed.

Most of them, I decided, on re-reading what I’d written, relatively sensible ones.

At this point, I’ll point out I’ve made barely any revisions to this theory – bar my square-bracketed clarification of fare changes, and the re-setting of the line-breaks my gmail account put in this is just what I churned out last night, but I think there might be something there. Lord knows we’ve all got enough money to fritter it away trying to prop up a brassic banking industry, I don’t see why we didn’t ought to get some decent use out of it.

There’s probably a few hundredweight of flaws in the idea; you’re welcome to point them out in a friendly way, but at least it’s not as stupid as some of the ideas out there. (Seriously, I am curious as to where the bad ideas are, here; I admit I’ve kinda planned everything out in Sandbox Mode, with unlimited funds and no fixed deadlines, but still…)

I’m in favour of P&R. Although I’ve driven through Oxford (through a complicated coming-off-the-motorway-wrong scenario that had me trying to plot a route through the centre of the city based on
where I thought the tour buses went after Broad Street. Was dead chuffed when I managed it). However, I still drove to Oxford. From Wallingford. And the X39 is actually pretty damn good – I really like Thames Travel.

Even London – Edinburgh is the sort of thing I might drive, depending on circumstances! If it was at a busy time, I think I’d take the car, because I’d at least get a seat! Other times, maybe not – it’d depend what I was doing after Edinburgh, I guess.

But, yeah. The thing to do is spend a hundred fuckloads of money on the transport network: re-nationalise *everything*, buy back all the land sold under the Beeching Axe, put the tracks back, buy the station houses back and re-introduce full service to all of them (automatic ticket machines will save you a few salaries there, at least) and get into the habit of offering free rail passes to, er, everyone. (Or everyone paying less than the 50% income tax band, say).

Upgrade everything. Electrify the entire network while you’re at it to a) save time in the future and b) free yourself up to put any rolling stock down a line, increase the number of passing places, terminals
and sidings and give tax breaks to businesses that transport anything by rail, including produce (I reckon the distribution networks could cope with running services from local rail terminals instead of local warehouse depots, I don’t really see the difference). Accept that the national debt is going to look like swiss bloody cheese anyway, and bootstrap the domestic rail manufacturing industry to get some trains that’re less than 20 years old running through the provinces.

Bring back First, Second & Third class, [but do away with the multitude of saver fares; either it’s off peak or it’s a fixed rush hour surcharge of £3, say] and change the conditions of carriage to promise everyone a seat on their service, or they get a £5 voucher for the shop on the train for each 100 miles or part thereof for their journey as specified *on the ticket* – we could print that easy enough.

Then – gradually, over a few years – increase tax on petrol to fund the public transport network, and offer free bus routes to railway stations. No less than every 10 minutes per stop in towns, and aim for
every 30-40 minutes for rural areas. Since the Government run everything anyway, they can sync all the timetables up without (too much) difficulty.

Engineering works no longer mean such severe stoppages, as there’s now *network redundancy* and you can route around them with care. Long-term you get improved maintainance. Schedule for an x-day period, specifying exactly what needs to be done, and at the end of the works, have them surveyed by two independent teams from seperate bodies (one from and one from the Dept. of Engineering Works, say). If the works are approved by both bodies as being OK – and *signed
off* by *every member* of the inspection teams, good. If they’re signed off ahead of schedule, give the workers a bonus of £x/day over schedule.

The thing is I *want* trains to be good. But as long as people think they’re supposed to make money, they ain’t gonna. And even people like me will stay in our cars until we can get a fascist party set up, with me in charge…

As Statto said: a highly articulate outburst. So where’s it fall down? Money, obviously, and political intransigence. But where else?

Still no post!

Bloody GPO. I was holding off posting myself until my letter arrived, but still no dice. Updates as and when, I suppose, but don’t hold your breath – I’m still waiting for something I ordered as a Christmas gift to turn up, four months later…

Still, never mind. I remain totally exhausted, but I think I’ve worked out why: it takes until 20:00 for me to actually wake up.

Lately, for one reason or another, I’ve not been getting enough sleep, and I’ve been getting progressively tired. No real change there, I guess, I tend to default to a pattern of going to sleep with the World Service around 01:00 and waking to Today at a quarter to eightish. Naturally that leaves me pretty wrecked, so I sleep in on Saturdays.

Since Christmas I’ve spent a lot of Saturdays busy, so I’m not catching up on as much sleep as I’d like and, thinking logically, I keep determining to Get An Early Night. Indeed I’ve spent whole days just barely keeping my eyes open and thinking fondly of how I’ll bundle myself up under the duvet, turn the radio on really quietly and be asleep by 10.

I think this all through the day, and when I get home and sit down I can barely muster the energy to keep awake until the tea’s brewed and the internet connection’s woken up. ‘Never mind 10,’ I think to myself ‘I’ll go to bed in a minute and be crashed out well before 9.’

Trouble is as soon as it gets to 20:00 or so, I wake right up and find it really hard to get to sleep until about 01:00. It’s vexing, but it has led me to develop an unhappy ability to force myself out of bed more or less regardless of how tired I am, at the point when the alarm goes off.

Last night this morning I was finally asleep somewhere after two, so I’ll admit to going through my usual swearing-at-the-alarm-clock routine with slightly more volume than usual, before I chucked off the duvet & walked the two paces to my phone in order to turn it off.

Or, I would have done. Somehow I’d managed to stand without my legs actually being awake, because they just folded up under me and dumped me on the floor. It’s a really weird sensation, I’ve never had it before. My brain, though muzzy, was functioning fine, but I couldn’t get my legs to respond for an alarming five seconds.

The moral of the story? I should get a teasmade. However, I want one of those rather less than I’d like anything on my Amazon Wishlist, what I am patiently (and, I’ll admit, somewhat haphazardly) constructing ahead of my birthday in a couple of week’s time…

In other news, while I’m in no way a Playstation fan (because, one: games work o dear God so, so much better on PCs than on grotty little consoles with their stupidly limited button supply, and, two: the best console I’ve run into thus far was the Gamecube, because all bar one of my favourite console games were built for that alone), there’s a really interesting analysis of what Sony did & didn’t screw up with the beleaguered PS3 over at Downwards Compatible, what I’ve been picking up by RSS since Shamus Young mentioned it. Both nice interestin’ sites, although, of course, you all know Shamus from his awesome D&D Campaign and the webcomic that Started It All, DM of the Rings.

Incidentally, I went home this lunchtime, in between starting to draft this post, and finishing it up. Still no bloody post. Gah.

Quick notes

1. Am leaving today. Miriam is filled up and has had her tyres re-pressured; they were all 4-5 PSI below where they wanted to be, but that was because I assumed the ‘220’ they wanted them to be was the equivilant of ’22’ on the scale Morrisons was using, and it turns out that the Morrisons pump was working in PSI and the sticker I was looking at was working in BAR.

There’s apparently some manner of significant difference between the two; I’d dismissed it as being a decimal point or, failing that, an Imperial Vs. Metric thing, but it seems to be more like the difference between feet and stone. Whoops. Fixed now, though.

2. I was described today as ‘an antisocial, dissolute, borderline-sociopathic Bob Cratchit for our times,’ which is the most Awesome since ever.

3. Played some Left 4 Dead online yesterday, with some really fairly decent players. Connection was pretty chuggy at times, though, which counted against me, and we did get repeatedly slaughtered all the time (to the extent that the Director started leaving enormous piles of explosives about in the hope we might get out of the subway and move the plot on at all).

That was kinda fun; the ability to be on Almost No Health and still use my medkit to patch up the only guy in the squad who could shoot straight and didn’t go shout “SUPRISE!” in the Witch’s ear appeals to me. (For added Win he then shouted ‘Use yer pills mate, an’ I can chuck yer mine,’ in a slightly Scouse accent, which was nice and sensible on his part). A mate of his turned up shortly after and we got considerably further on before we all died again, opening the stupid horde-summoning garage door, and shortly after that my connection fell over again, so I left ’em to it.

4. Been finishing things off at work, these last few days, to make sure I don’t get split over two sections for the sake of tidying up loose ends. Not entirely sure that it’s working, so far, but never mind, I expect it will in the end. I skipped lunch and will owe an hour and so am going to vanish away at something more like 15:00, which is much better because I’m damn tired already.

5. Got paid today, which is a) good, because it means I’ve been able to clear my credit card already, and b) bad, because it means I’m going to be in a right bind by mid January. If you’ve yet to buy me a Christmas present, a large suitcase full of used £50 Bank of England notes will do me fine.

Hokay. Final push…

*After year 10 I just stopped doing games because it made my knees hurt. And was pointless.

Good timing that bottle!

So it’s been an up-and-downy sort of fortnight, full of peaks, troughs and, apparently, feathers brought on by the failure of my keyboard to hyphenate on cue.

I’ve been ill, which was horrible, since I was actually asleep for the whole time (I’m really bad at being ill; after the first couple of hours I get fed up of lying down and want to get up and do things, which tends to leave me being more ill than I was to begin with, but never mind). Still not sure I’m entirely fixed, to be honest, but never mind.

Drove to Shrewsbury for a dentists appointment, which was much better than taking the train. It used up half a tank of petrol, which means I spent about £5 more by driving than I would have spent on a train ticket, but on the other hand, I was able to arrive at the actual dentists, ten minutes before my appointment, have the appointment, and then leave again immediately, so I spent an entire three hours less time hanging about waiting for the trains to get their collective DEMU arses in gear.

Well worth a fiver. Encountered ice on Plynlymon, by the effective, though inadvisable, method of discovering my left wheels had gone crazy while skirting a hairpin a mile or two past the George Borrow hotel, and again in the valley of the Elvis Rock.

Came home via Mach. A pigawful road, but with less chance of finding a ton or two of expensive metal slip[ping] below me… and then drop[ping] with an almighty smash fifty feet to the bed of the stream…*

Shared whisky with Matt at the weekend, over House of Cards. Rather enjoyable, and there was splendidly good timing on the part of the bottles of alcohol various, because they contrived to get opened about twenty minutes after I found out that Peter, an old family friend, had died.

Currently awaiting information on the date of the funeral, so I can book time off to get back for it.

As I say, a pair of weeks with ups and downs. And now, apparently, I have to go show a work experience girl the cataloguing program. She wants to know about LC Classification, apparently, which I’ve never been called on to do, and it seems odd for me to be the one explaining actual cataloguing procedures, too (especially since I’m only upgrading very basic old records that got stranded by a system change in the late ’80s) but there you go.

I just wish I wasn’t obliged to miss out on my tea break for the sake of it…

*A tricky one. A full pint (or bottle) of beer in it this time.

Must be winter…

Every day this past fortnight that I have woken up I have done so with my left knee killing me and my back playing hob so as not to feel left out. After a remarkably mild year for that kind of thing, I’m out of practice at the whole “constant background pain” thing, which is a right bugger.

I had toothache the other week, and that hurt like crazy, as well. (Although, to be fair, I find that re-assuring, since it means I now have a dentist such that I’ve not got toothache all the time and cease to notice it.)

Next month I have a dentist’s appointment, in (of course) Shrewsbury. Very kindly they’ve given me the time off work gratis (rather than my having to book it from annual leave). Only for this one occasion, of course, but all being well I won’t need another check for at least six months, so I hope I can dodge that bullet and hang onto my leave for when I need it.

Wedding venue scouting was good. It actually did me a Hell of a lot of good to sit and re-read all the brochures everyone sent me, just so I could remember how angry they made me. I mean, seriously, who in the name of God sends out brochures that say (when you boil off the insincere congratulations) “You will give us large sums of money in used Treasury notes, and in return you will get to do exactly as we tell you, eat what we tell you to, throw yourselves out building you’ve paid to use when we tell you to, and then you can give us more money.”

…I think what baffles me more than anything about that is that it must work, or it wouldn’t be profitable to keep doing it. I just find it annoying. One of the things I like about Prospective Venue A is that it gives a firm impression of being flexible. It gives a fairly strong impression of Turquoise as well, of course, but mainly it’s an impression of flexible. And I think the turquoise will be quieter with the shutters open and the lights on.

And, finally: if you’ve not seen it already, zoom your browser* now to this beauty of a story over at El Reg, which has got me literally laughing ’till my eyes watered, and everyone looked at me funny.

*’chug’ in IE

“I’ve got to start listening to those quiet, nagging doubts…”*

It is currently Thursday. And I am still amazingly tired from last week. Mainly, I’m tired from last week thanks to all the driving I did, which I’m actually finding fairly tiring.

[Out of curiosity, I just ran all my destinations through Google’s patent Evil Maps Of Global Domination (beta), and it turns out I actually drove for something like 720 miles. I’ve got a map, and everything, but since putting an image of the map onto the Internet would require Technical Skill, I can’t. No, really. Hardware I can footle about with, and DOS I’m still pretty hot on, but all this Internet stuff really isn’t my line of geekage. Sorry.]

Anyway, 720 miles. Although there weren’t floods this time. There were BNP rallies, and dual carriageways with inexplicable 40 mph speed limits in the Staffordshire moorlands, and there was an Audi doing 35 mph down a hill (why even buy an Audi then, guys? Why not just get a Ford Mondeo?), but there weren’t floods, so it was a step up on my first driving experience. But it was still really quite shockingly tiring.

That got compounded by Freshers Fair on Monday (back in the Sports cage, again, I see), where I was mostly standing up and waving bowls of sweets at Freshers. And, of course, 2nd and 3rd years. And, inexplicably, students wearing Penglais School sweaters. Uh, no. Kids, if you’re going to blag your way into places you shouldn’t be, and people are going to see you doing that, at least try and dress the part. I worked this out when I was 16. What’s wrong with you people? Also not looking like a beaten rabbit might help.

I got loads of free stuff. It was great.

However, it was also pretty tiring, and every night since, um, Sunday I’ve said to myself “I must get an early night and become Rested.” And every night it hasn’t happened.

This is partly because I wake at 07:30. I suspect, although I’m always too tired to remember to check, that the very first thing I do in the morning is realise the alarm is going off, and promptly swear. I’m fairly sure my eyes keep opening in the middle of some word or other, but I never seem to catch it.

From 07:30 until 08:45ish I’m mostly running on autopilot, I think, and then, as the day goes on, I run on Autopilot but with less and less energy, and more in the way of yawning, and frightening myself when I look in the mirror.

This peaks (or troughs, I guess) in a period of utter exhaustion around half past four, when my limbs get all sluggish and don’t fancy moving much. Then, for no reason at all, it gets to about 19:00 and I wake up. At that point I become fresh as a daisy until at least 23:00, and even if I start to get tired then, it’s more of a “Huh, I should sleep at some point, because I’ll probably be a bit worn out in the morning” than the proper “Seriously, I’m turning off now. Don’t bump into anything while I’m out. Love, brain.” that normally tries to nobble me around mid afternoon.

I’m not sure why this should be the case. I think there must come a point in my sleep cycle where my body decides that since I’m obviously never going to take its advice, it may as well just go with the flow until I finally come round to the idea of bed myself.

…Why it doesn’t act like that in the mornings, when I actually need to be up and doing, I honestly don’t know. But I wish it would.

On the plus side; ’tis nearly Saturday. I’m hoping I can manage to get a lie-in, on Saturday. Probably this will mean I wake up at 8, full of beans, and go and play some Call of Duty until noon. At which point I’ll find myself not only exhausted, but also unnable to have a nap for no obvious reason.

O well. Thursday afternoon. I think that means they’ve got me searching for the finis africae counting shelves up on F. Should be fun. :-)

* This one’s a bit harder than usual. Not just beer but a rare ‘JTA is impressed’ face if you cite it properly.

No Clever Title for me!

Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks. (I offer this mainly as a reason for why I’ve not managed to update anything, rather than as a warning that a massive post is on its way; you’re safe to continue reading!)

I’ve contrived to buy a car, and to drive it through some truly appalling weather, which was interesting, especially the bit in the middle of Stafford where I had a choice of drowning the exhaust or aquaplaning, whilst driving through a good foot and a half of water.

Still, the machine is still running, which is good. The sunroof has developed a leak, which is less good, although I can see how huddling in the carpark of Morrisons, Stone, with the rain so loud on the roof you can’t hear yourself speak might be a factor in that.

It feels very odd to get into the car and just go somewhere. Admittedly, so far I’ve only gone out to Morrisons, but even that felt peculiar, what with there only being me in the car.

On the plus side, there only being me in the car helps, because I’m still getting the hang of the difference in ‘feel between this new one and Mike’s, uhm. Corsa?

Anyway, I’m being incredibly boring, so I’ll shut up about that.

The reason I was out in the dreadful storm was because I went up and dug Annie out of Cheadle (which appeared to have some sort of a bookshop), and we (viz, Annie + my mother and sister) went to Gladstone. Any AGS people have a recollection of visiting it? I’m sure I went once before, back in the mists of time.

It was really fun. There were tasty savoury oatcakes (as opposed to the breakfast-with-syrup variety I’m used to in South Shropshire), and a light up model, and some toilets. And a gorgeous Sunburst-style deco washbasin. With the same taps as we have at home. And a set of bath taps, the same as we have at home. And a recipie for pobs [hard to find a good link for that].

This happens every time we go to a museum. Just once it would be nice to walk round all the exhibits without having to think “That’s not an antique, that’s our cake tin / jam pan / thing in the back shed. That’s what it does, is it?” But, then, I’d probably miss it, if it didn’t happen.

I made a pot. (Kinda. The Woman Who Pottered did quite a lot the work, with helpful explanations of why I had to do something different, to make sure I didn’t foul it up utterly.) I am quite pleased with it. They can’t afford to run the kilns, even with their pile of Free Coal which is sitting in the courtyard getting damp, but I have got hold of a really nice guy who works in the Arts Centre, and was completely unfazed by my phoning him up to ask if I can borrow his oven. He reckons I should go back after term starts, and put a glaze on it. Annie seems to think it will not explode in the kiln, so I shall try and take it up to the man on Monday, and I shall have a nice pot. Hooray!

Then, at some point many years from now, it will get dropped, or toppled or otherwise accidentally broke, and I can feel miserable about losing it. Sigh.*

Survived, as I said, the storm. Came back to Aber, by dint of giving Dan a lift, and seem to have had a very long week, mainly comprised of resolving to go to bed Early, and then doing nothing of the sort. Badminton was fun, however, and Statto and I got some topical news satire done, which is good.

I know there’s a whole other pile of things which have been going on, but I’m not sure I can remember what else I intended to blog about. I am not now going to York, so I am spared a completely stupidly long journey, and can do a mere stupidly long journey, instead.

EQ is now on a new server, but this should work anyway.

That seems like a broadly opportune point to hit the “publish”-y button. Although I notice, in saying that, that I have stopped using phrases like “marginally sensible” in favour of “broadly.” I am not sure if that is an improvement.

I am hungry. Poxy Llanbadarn and it’s poxy total lack of shops. I shall sulk at it.

* I include this observation because I think it provides a valuable insight into my psychological makeup, and the nature of the bulk of my fretting about everything. (Yes, I do normally trim these things out.)

From old men to axe accidents : I’ve been keeping busy!

First things first: there’s now (at long last) an explanation of why this is called ElectricQuaker anyway. If you’re one of the ten or so that ever wondered about that, feel free to go have a read.

Admin over, let’s get this mammoth post done, shall we?

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, if I’m honest, so it makes some sense for me to try and get everything written down, or I’ll only forget it all.

A good deed goes around the town
Way back on Monday the 14th of July I was keeping myself busy with a whole pile of things to do, most of which involved Being Domestic, which I’m still getting the hang of. Annie was due in by an afternoon train, so I was scurrying over towards Morrisons around noon, with the intention of getting some actual provisions before she turned up and got the impression I’d given up food until Lent, or something.

Anyway, I was just crossing the Taxi Rank when I realised there was an old chap in one of those odd little electric scooters struggling to get it up the pavement, and with a similarly old lady trying to give him a shove. I went over to see if they needed a hand (not, I have to say, without some reluctance, because people can be funny about you if you imply that they’re not coping with this) and it turned out the scooter was busted; the battery was full, but the power wasn’t getting to the wheels.

I ended up wheeling him down Cambrian Street, so he could leave his shopping with the woman, and then up Great Darkgate Street to his flat near the ship. I’ve never before realised how bloody steep Darkgate is. It’s uphill all the way!

The Ruins of Rhodesia
He was a really nice guy, happily, and was a policeman in Rhodesia (as it then was). He’d been out on patrol, with some of his fellow officers, looking for rebels in the jungle, I think, and he was driving the lead Land Rover and sent it over a landmine. Killed two of his friends and messed up his back so he can’t walk properly. They pensioned him off and he’s come over to Wales to retire. Fascinating chap to talk to; although he’s not at all pleased with the way the old country’s been going lately, which is understandable enough, when you consider that if he lost his legs in a bid to stop the populous getting gunned down and then some nutjob with a toothbrush ‘tash took over and is gunning ’em down without even the decency to sneak about and act ashamed of it.

Apparently back when we owned it there used to be tourist-garnering posters that read ‘Come to Rhodesia and see the ruins of Zimbabwe.’ After they got independence they changed the wording to ‘Come to Zimbabwe and see the ruins of Rhodesia,’ which, he pointed out, “Was bloody right.”

I really liked the guy; he honestly was a gentleman, and you don’t get many of them to the pound, these days. He tried to give me a fiver, and we had some little fencing of sensibilities where I was refusing to take money, and he said he’d feel better for having furnished me with a beer, but as it happened he didn’t have any cash on him, so everyone’s honour got satisfied by default, and we shook hands. Derek, I think his name may’ve been. Derek Cox? Not sure; I’m bad with names at the best of times, and it was a couple of week’s back.

It was exhausting work, if I’m honest, but it was nice to be on the giving end of some Aber Effect rather than just the bloke saying “Well that’s very nice of you, cheers!” (And I cashed in a whole bag of Karmic Points later, as we’ll come to presently). Anyway, whilst that did set me back by several hours, it all balanced out because Arrive made such a mess of the trains that Annie didn’t make it into town until the evening, anyway.

Gainful Employment
Tuesday the 15th was the first day of Graduation, which resulted in my alarm waking me up at ten to seven and chivvying me out of the airbed so I could take myself up the hill to work for Campus Clothing, which involved an exhausting ammount of standing up, and a lot of fun Selling Things (I really did like the Selling Things bit; quite appart from the fact that there are actually people out there who carry fifty pound notes in their pockets, every sale I made felt like I’d won, somehow. I don’t think I could do it full-time, because the only books involved are the nasty sort which require maths to be kept in line, but it was really good fun.

Cider and Conviviality
Limped back down the hill in the evening, and then everything goes into a blur for several days, because it’s been a couple of weeks now, and I’m not quite sure what happened when. But there were at least two days of getting rid of the mammoth beer stockpile, and on another evening Annie Soup-From-A-Stone-d me into cooking a pasta sauce (‘Can you just chop the onions?’ and ‘Some mushrooms would really help this sauce’ and ‘If you just fry the mince I’ll see if you have any stock cubes which would help the flavour…’).

Matt and Paul seemed to spend a lot of time about the place, which was nice, and helped contribute to the speedy demolition of the Beer Stockpile, and there was some good Playing Classical Music At Two In The Morning, which I’ve always meant to do, but which is easier with people shouting out requests. And I’ve finally learnt the name of Night on Bald Mountain, which ought to save me asking Ruth what it is every single time I hear the damn thing, which is almost certainly a Good Thing.

Striding to the Soundtrack
Less of a Good Thing was the habit I developed of staying up until the small hours of the morning and then forcing myself out of a nice warm sleep as soon as the alarm began to bleat at me, but it turns out I do a damn good line in Willpower when I need to, and I was actually in the Arts Centre by the appointed hour every day. Go me, huh? I confess to only making it up the hill with the help of a very loud song on loop from my Zen, and that I do remember, because it went something like

Tuesday: ‘Myzsterious Mizter Jones,’ — Slade (with clearer audio & a plain background here)
Wednesday: ‘Protect & Survive,’ — Runrig (This version has much clearer audio, but static saltire instead of the actual video).
Thursday: ‘This Darkest Winter,’ –Runrig again. (I’ve worked to it for a decade or more, I can have ’em twice! Fuzzy audio, I’m afraid, but the kickass lyrics are over here.)
Friday: ‘Hell March,’ — Red Alert (I suspect you can establish how tired I was from the extent of my need for hefty marching tunes. Hell March is the only thing to have ever got me from the Bodleian to St Aldates in under five minutes. Damn fine march.)

Anyway, I wasn’t just soundtracking myself; I was also selling things like crazy, with occasional breaks to go off and try and photocopy my expenses slip (in the process of which, I lost a tenner, because the machine ate it, and the people at the Issue Desk in Hugh Owen were not pleased when it transpired that I didn’t have (with me) my written permission from Ruth that I could use her card. Awkwardness. Also, dammnit, that was my tenner, that was!)

We sold out of all of the things we were attempting to sell, and got a lot of mail orders in, to save people from having to be dissapointed, so I’m anticipating some species of bonus from that. Mind you, the basic cheque would be nice; I think Charlie is due some more rent today and, whilst I can lay the money out, it would be nice to watch it coming straight back in again!

Commodore Cinema: Because you can only watch one screen at once, anyway.
Saw The Incredible Hulk at the Commodore, which was fun (and dear God, I loved that ending!), so thanks, again, to Paul for not only reserving us some seats, but also for showing us the projection engine and the telephone. I shall come and see that film that has a live-action arrow storm as a thank-you.

Annie didn’t leave on Friday as previously planned. I wasn’t actually there at the time, but there was something about Paul and Matt ambushing the train as the level crossing in Llanbadarn and hauling Annie off, and stealing all the US Mail, and things. Or, at least, that was what Paul’s text contrived to imply, so once we were done taking mail orders and the last of the graduates had dissapated Carrie got Rhys and I to pack away the stall, and I came back down to the Uberflat, and Paul made me a cup of tea that promptly went cold whilst I bemused every girl in every chemist in town looking for some hair dye that doesn’t exist in Wales.

There was hair dyeing, and ratatouille, and considerably more drink. And Matt somehow put a huge dent in my bottle of whisky, but I did say he was allowed, so that’s OK. The bath is not purple, either, so it is All Good.

Come Saturday the 19th of July, however, pretty much everyone was due to be leaving, and I was up early (yet again. I swear I don’t know how I manage it) to pack, ready for the Hour of Leaving, at 09:30.

I think we actually got away at a little after 11, or possibly 12. By that point I was also carrying a vast saucepan, srtapped to the back of the rucksack, and a monitor, whose cables I forgot to untie until Dan actually turned up, leading to some infuriating last-minute banging my head against the underside of the desk, and trying to work out what went to the monitor, and what went to the old SVGA CRT that lives under my desk, and has, of course, exactly the same connector, when they’ve both been disconnected from a tower and are lolling about on the floor and getting one another in knots. Never attempt to untie technical goods in a rush; it just leads to undignified grunting and periodic curses.

I got fairly well jammed into the back of Claire’s car, which, though God knows how, actually had the power to haul everything we’d loaded into it, and then I went to sleep, which is my ususal strategy for preventing travel sickness, and which does, actually, work pretty well (although it does require a talent for sleeping pretty much anywhere, which I sometimes worry I am losing, but which seems to be sticking with me so far.)

Arrival in Cumbria
We made fairly good progress up to Cumbria, although I think Ruth would’ve preferred it if she could’ve slightly fewer hours attempting to entertain herself with the scant supply of entertainment provided by Penrith while we slogged up the M6 and dumped the contents of the car at the cottage in Mauld’s Meaburn and left Dan to work out how to turn the electricty on, and build a computer network for the code that was due to get hacked up over the week.

On the way along the A66, on one of the Dual Carriageway bits just after Temple Sowerby, we spotted a small child’s bicycle lying in the right hand lane. Slap bang in the middle of the carriageway. It was very surreal; I half expected Ogri to wheelie over it and yell “Oi!” at some deadhead in a Volvo…

Anyway, we pulled over in a convenient layby, and I got to use one of the Emergency Phones. 62B, it may’ve been. Very friendly woman on the other end, who didn’t seem cross that I wasn’t actually broken down, and she said that they’d send someone out to shift it, which can only have been a good thing.

We collected Ruth outside Penrith station, where she was standing and looking fed up with the whole damn dorp, and made our way to Morrisons to provision up (for there is, of course, no shop in Maulds Meaburn).

No, knot my thumb!
We’d all settled in fine, by Sunday morning, and had even got the Rayburn working (I, as a Hadley lad, had something in the way of an affinity with the thing, which pleased me, and it was good to be working with an actual fire again; ‘s been too long!)

By Sunday morning, however, the fire in the Rayburn was out, which I’d expected to be the case, having damped it down the night before, and so I was attempting, with the aid of a small hatchet, to create some post-kindling sticks from some seasoned offcuts of pine planking (which I’m sure you know are the kind of thing you need once you’ve got the actual wood alight, and before you start to throw in big logs and coal).

All was going well. Basically a standard “You begin chopping wood with your axe. You cut off some dry firewood” repetition. And then things went kinda wrong, viz:

“You continue chopping wood with your axe. But wait! There’s a knot in the wood! The axe bounces! The axe hits you! You drive the axe into your thumb!”

Happily, and presumably as a direct trade-off against all that positive karma I mentioned stockpiling over the previous six days (which, let’s face it, was certainly worth a thumb, and probably a limb or two) the hatchet slammed into my thumbnail which, being a tough bugger, deflected the angle of the blade such that, instead of going clean through to the bone, I cut the fleshy tip of my thumb off, and missed all the major veins.

Panicked Ruth by stumbling inside, with my thumb in my mouth, mumbling through the blood, and with a great splodge of gore on my shoe, and going upstairs to get some toilet paper whilst refusing to tell her what was wrong (which, in retrospect, is the kind of thing that would make you think things were very seriously amiss). Tom, it turns out, doesn’t really believe in first aid kits, but he did have bootlaces, so I caught hold of one of those and Claire tied a tourniquet round it, as they tend to ask you not to do, nowadays, and that reduced the pulsing spurts of blood enough to get some healing going on.

Cue the tea, svp
Once the immediate bleeding had got sorted out I came down with the shakes and, for some reason, stayed pretty whacked out of it for the next few days, which was a pain. Although the fact I kept nodding off in the middle of the afternoon could also have been because of all the Not Sleep and Not Sitting I’d put in whilst selling things to Graduates, I guess.

Anyway, Ruth gave me some sugary tea, which fixed the shock reaction by politely pointing out that the British don’t kick up a fuss over trivialities like barely-missed mutilations, and we all piled into the car and went to Appleby in search of a chemist with a bandage.

Morrisions inexplicably comes up with the Goods
Appleby, however, is a town of decent, law-abiding citizens, many of whom were playing bowls when we arrived, and the chemist was consequently closed, because it was a Sunday. So we went back to Morrisons in Penrith instead, and a lovely woman called Geraldine patched me up, and the chemist came over and, upon being told “I did it cutting firewood,” replied, brilliantly, “Ah, yes. Well, we’ve all done it,” as if it was the most common injury in the world. (And, to be fair, you can see how it could, at least, be the most common injury in Cumbria…)

They gave me a nice packet of painkillers, as well as the usual stuff like tubular bandages and melanin pads, and things and so I was able to keep out infection and still make myself useful by sorting out the fires, and things (although Ruth hid the hatchet, and, as it happened, there was a whole bag full of just the kind of wood I’d been attempting to create, hidden away in a cupboard. Hey ho.)

Everything Else
[At the time of writing, it’s close on one in the morning, and I didn’t get too much sleep last night, either, so I find I am losing the will to add to the 2,800 words I’m told I’ve already got down on paper. Not much happened for the rest of the week, anyway…]

I’ve been learning some Ruby, and can now puts things like a demon. A demon who’s got a definite feeling that there ought to be more to coding than that, sure, but a demon nonetheless. Who knows, I might get beyond the ‘Writing a sarky DOS prompt’ stage that I managed with QBasic. Shall have to see, would probably be good to do something useful!

I do think more things may’ve happened, and there was a fascinating return journey that involved mountains and cliffs and a lot of running on petrol fumes, but I think that can wait until I’m not faced with a paltry six hours sleep! This has gone on quite long enough already; I’m sure most of the Internet doesn’t have this kind of attention span, anyway!

Dan, indidentally, has photos of the injuries, and things. I suggest the rubberneckers amongst you apply to him!

Am about to attempt to tag things. Hm. Wish me luck!


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.

A half-successful week

Well I’m back in Aber (and the Internet has been shored back up. Again.) Had a busy week back in Shropshire, and bits of it were unexpectedly successful.

Got back on Wednesday, and the washing machine finally and unexpectedly gave up the ghost, and started pouring water all over the floor. Fair play to the thing, though, it’s lasted thirteen years, and spent the last two with the door held in place with duck tape and a tent-peg since the hinges rusted through, so it’s not as if it just got bored of doing the washing and broke itself. Still, that did lead to an interesting Thursday game of “hunt the sack truck” so I could actually move it out of the kitchen having disconnected it from the pipes.

However, Tyler’s Gas and Electrical up in St. Mary’s Street were nice and helpful (actually told me what to look for, and which makes to avoid, which I wouldn’t really have known) and were able to deliver a new machine on Saturday and take the old one away again (which saved me having to ring the council to come and collect it, which was good).

Discovered that, if you’re chucking out a washing machine, a couple of minutes with a penknife will give you not only the obvious spare plug, but also a handy plastic bowl (formerly the window in the door) which you can turn into a plant-pot, or salad bowl for taking camping, or something. And, of course, you gain an extra four screws, although we’ve got boxes and boxes of screws at Newport, so we just dumped them in the cellar.

Also discovered that washing machines, whilst fairly easy to plumb in, have ceased to take water from both the hot and cold pipes, and you thus need to cap the hot pipe junction, which involved crawling about under the worksurface with an adjustable spanner, and banging my head. Gah. Still, there’s a new one, now, with an actual energy rating, and everything.

I live in hope that the long-term savings proffered by the new washing machine might convince my mother that a fridge somewhat newer than the current MidElec 50 (I’m genuinely not sure, but I think that might be MidElec as in ‘Midlands Electricity Board,’ which leads me to have some strong suspicions that it’s not, in fact, likely to qualify for any level of energy efficiency rating at all. Also it’s down one shelf, since the students broke the glass one, and periodically the bars which form the milk shelf on the inside of the door snap loose and drop things everywhere. Still, one thing at a time, I suppose.

Anyway, that was a success, as was stopping by school to say hello to Mrs. K in the Library, which was fun, and Thursday evening in the Bridge, where I was able to catch up with actually quite a lot of people; I didn’t realise so many people were still within shooting distance of Newport, although the number of us geared to become actual professionals is something I find rather alarming!

Less successful was my expedition to see Mr. Banks, who wasn’t in (and whose phone number, along with most other numbers, I lost when my mobile got nicked).

Also something of a fail was my construction of a new PC for my mother, which went fine right up until Sunday evening, when, just as I’d finished installing things and copying over new files, and so on, died on it’s arse. Not sure what’s given out; it’s either the motherboard or the tower/PSU (the two of them came together) but either way it’s very annoying. Have had to arrange a return with Dabs, and will have to go back to Newport to re-build the damn thing at some point presently, although it ought to take less time now I don’t need to install huge swathes of stuff to the new drive…

O, and I completely forgot about having to take it all to bits again until we were about to leave the house on Monday morning, so I had a fun time stripping a case down and disconnecting everything against the clock. Did it in about seven minutes, which I think is not too bad, since I wanted the bulk of the components to actually survive (and I really hope they have; it’ll be such a pain if they haven’t.

Didn’t manage to go to Meeting on Sunday, because it was the last Sunday of the month, so it was actually happening at Coalbrookedale, which we’d forgotten. However we did get a very nice pub lunch at the Navigation Inn in Gnosall which I reckon I’d reccommend, and then we had a wander along the Shropshire Union, and met a fairly cheerful guy who talked to us for an hour, mostly about his boat, which he was taking up the Norbury Junction for a festival/fundraiser for the guys trying to restore the canal down to Newport (which, though I admit to bias from two entirely seperate directions) I reckon would be a huge boost for the place, since it would give people a reason to go there which they’ll be hard pushed to find from any other source…

Anyway, he was also fairly keen to tell us helpful things such as would be handy when buying a boat, so that was good too, and we didn’t get caught in a storm, although we only just managed that, so it might not count!

And then we came home on Monday; we got an actual train which took us all the way back to Aber, which was amazing, and, also, ran into Rosemary, with whom I’d wanted to speak at Meeting (which we didn’t get to) in the Town Centre, which was very useful. And I bought a fairly good photo of the Wrekin in winter (which would be ‘very good’ if only there wasn’t a conspicuous bird alighting on a tree a couple of inches to the left of the Wrekin itself; screws up the focal point, which I reckon spoils it, although as a documentary item I’m sure it’s very flash.)

Still, back now. Here we go again…

Dudes! I finally posted about my holiday!

The Avon Ring Narroboat Holiday Page:
The full write-up of the holiday now exits. It’s huge. At 18, 695 words, it is, I think, the longest thing I’ve ever written, and it’s probably taken me close on 24 hours of actual writing time. I blame this entirely on my starting to write it and then thinking “Heh, I wonder if I can try and do a Jerome K. Jerome style of writing?” That, and my thinking “I really want to try to get down everything that happened so I don’t forget it.”

You don’t have to read it all, I realise that’s pretty damn vast. But it’s there if you want it; go click the link.

Have fun!

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.

Ah… Evening Duty…

…Apparently the one time of the week when I manage to get a post done!

Well, now, life here moves on apace. Last week I got ill with a stinker of a cold and got sent home, and spent a couple of days sleeping. Ruth’s birthday happened, however, and a huge pile of family turned up (I say huge, because it was. Ruth says it wasn’t, because it didn’t feature sundry cousins. Such an approach to families baffles me; where I come from – and bear in mind my immediate family is about four people – sundry cousins, of which I have many – are left to fend for themselves). Still, there were about fourteen people (as I say, masses), and it was all good fun, fuzzy headaches notwithstanding.

It’s suddenly got a lot colder down here; I need to fix my gloves up and get some decent dubbin back onto my hat; the lousy weather last month stripped it all off, which is annoying. The practical result of this is that my knees have started playing up on a regular basis again. I figure now’s the time to get the buggers properly sorted out, since the lack of any impact from ibruprofen is starting to worry me a bit. And, of course, it’s actually quite tiring to wake up with knees that feel like they’ve got knitting needles run through ’em sideways, and not shake the feeling ’till you go to sleep at the end of the day…

At the weekend, Friday being nine years since what I still mentally pigeonhole as ‘the Accident,’ Ruth & I headed up to Newport to visit my mother and sister, and generally did Shropshire-y stuff, including Stokesay, which was cool, and a bit of a mooch round Much Wenlock, with it’s amazingly cool butcher (seriously, Christmas Eve you get people queueing up from two in the morning so they can get in when the guy opens at six…)

The plan only really went wrong when we tried to come back, burdened with the computer (on the grounds that it’s silly to let it mothball) and Arriva predictably buggered the trains up. That, combined with the sodding obvious fact that if you run about privatizing a railway network what you get is No Co-Ordinated Timetable meant we didn’t have seats booked for any of the journey and we stood for about eighty miles, i.e, the whole trip from Birmingham to Didcot, crammed into a baggage car like, uh… people crammed in very tightly in uncomfortable trains, and still trying to safeguard a large-ish computer and pile of luggage.

My box, as many of you know, is this cool bastard (but from Overclockers, not the other guys). This seemed to confuse people somewhat; as the Arriva train (finally) pulled into New Street, a guy who’d been sat with two youngish boys, and casting me strange looks, came over and said something like

Him Hi, uh, I’m sorry to butt in, but what is that? [pointing at case]
Me Er, it’s a computer.
Him [to one of the boys] O! You were right! [pointing to other boy] He thought it was a musical instrument…

…so that was a bit random, and faintly cool.

Now the thing’s down here, of course, it needs a new monitor (Robin eloped with my old CRT one) so I’m getting a new one, hooray! DVI and everything, ‘s very nice…

I can do that because I’ve got paid. I like getting paid. I now have to stick to a budget. I like this a little less.

Went to first Panto audition, yesterday; looks like it’ll be entertaining, which is good.

Getting tired of typing, now, and the readers are looking troublesome. Signing off…

Edit – 01/11/06; 1749h:
If you’ve not seen today’s Home on the Strange then make sure you’ve read this storyline and then go read the latest episode; had me laughing as quietly as a could for ages, that did…

August Update: S2006

Aye, that’s basically the same entry title I used to report on Statto’s party last August. Come on; you can’t expect me to change a winning formula – read the archive; last August’s posts rocked

Anyway, general brilliance aside, one of the best features of last August’s updates was the genius Radio Prune-like soap opera update I created after, for a solitary tense week I was mostly away from the ‘Net and annoying the people filming the Da Vinci Code in Lincoln…

…So I’m not doing that, this time. I can’t be bothered. Anyway, this is an entry to tell you about S2006, not Audrey’s brother’s wife’s gibbon.

So, anyway. On to the real reason you’re all here: You got bored of the rest of the Internet and came to rubberneck the Second Annual ElectricQuaker Party Review:

Three things of S2006 stand out in particular:

  1. The playlist was astonishingly dubious. I continue to maintain that Robbie Wiliams, R&B and Radiohead do not a party album make…
  2. It absolutely pissed it down. To the point where even I was starting to get damp, beneath the layers of dubbin-ed hat and Drizabone
  3. It was the first party where I tried to go to sleep, and in consequence, everyone else let the fire go out.

Right, that’s the grumbly bit out of the way!

S2006 is the wettest S on record – S2005 was a bit damp, I’ll grant you that, but it really did chuck it down last night – in the end, even I was starting to get damp, and that was under a well dubbin-ed hat and an oilskin cloak (Blessed +1 Drizabone). Consequently, I took a tent, and actually went off at 5am for a bit of a nap. I’d got a sleeping bag, as well, but that would’ve meant taking my boots off, so I ended up lying in a tent with the rain pounding down, and astonishingly high pitched animal noises coming from Sally away in the tent to my left.

However, I get ahead of myself. The party itself started shortly after I arrived (following an interlude in which we filled up on grub and Kerreth & I had a rant about the abysmal failings of the last episode of Dr. Who…) and people gradually turned up after that.

Once again, we broke out the Paddling Pool For Cooling Beer (except my ale, obviously, because that would be a) yuk and b) stupid since it was cold and wet) [CoolPool concept (c) Wiggin, S2003] and gave thanks to Coff and Ostler for bringing a small batch of ice to hurl in there to assist with the chilling.

To counteract the chilling of all non-beers, we managed to get a fire going with the clever use of lots of firelighters, some very dry kindling and Armstrong’s boat, which was a bit sad for him, I think, but which burnt fantastically well, albeit in a varnishy sort of way.

Once that was away and going we were able to settle down for the main business of the evening which was either a) having a good time, or b) wandering about and taking photos of people enjoying themselves, whilst likewise having a good time. Having half-inched my mother’s compact digicam, I went for option b, and I’m hoping Statto’s going to get some of the photos and little films organised and online presently, because things like Paw and Kerreth dancing drunkenly and attempting to sing along to Boney M’s Rasputin are fantastic…

Paw & Kerreth …Nah nah nah nah na- -reatest love machine! There was a Cat that- nah nah nah nah…

…doesn’t even begin to cover it. There was Cossack dancing, too.

Mansbridge & Abi turned up, late, but not as late as Wiggin or Ed, and I spent a good while chatting to him & various other people under the shelter of the awning whilst the rain came and went around us. Also, there were rhubarb & custard lollipops, which I’d been really enjoying until Rosalind suddenly said “Coo! I can see your huge fat stomach through your camera!” [I think, in fact, she may not have said ‘huge fat,’ but even so, it was a briliantly tactless means of saying “Hey, that digital camera’s got a small display screen on the back that shows you what’s visible through the lens!” so I found myself broadly amused…

Just like last year, a whole pile of people kept saying I look like Terry Pratchett, which was random, and Luke Ostler won several million bonus points because, as I ran at him in the dark, Drizabone flapping and shiny black hat beating back the rain, he yelled “Help! It’s V for Vendetta!”

Well done that man who’s apparently only seen trailers for the film. [Can you believe, I read the whole of that book by way of an edition with “NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE!” written on the front cover, and I still went “Good God, have they tried to make it into a film?” when I saw some poster about it in Edinburgh? See me follow what’s going on in the world..

O, aye, and on a side note, in the event that I get a job I may yet be up for further graphic novels, by way of passing the time, so any suggestions much welcome, darker the better, leave a comment at the foot of the post…]

Having just got myself establised Worlds Coolest Masked Mentalist [you have no idea how sore my cheeks are from trying to keep up a frozen-mask smile…] Sally said we should all go for a walk, which somehow ended up with lots of people apparently lost on the airfield. How you can manage to get lost on a dark flat field from which you can always see the lone purple light in the control tower, I have no idea, but it took some time for everyone to get back together, and that with the help of a variety of flashing torches, and people disapearing in seach of people who probably intended to lose the other guys in the first place. Daftness, but what else is 3am for? [Don’t answer that one, cheers…]

Shortly after that, it came on to rain again, as it had been for pretty much regular 30-minute invervals ever since the end of the playlist at midnight. Presently, people began to head off to their own tents (or other people’s tents, as the case apparently was a little over 60% of the time) except for Tamsyn, who got exiled from her tent after a camera-shy bloke called Ben knocked the awning over, and then contrived to undo all the guy lines…

O, aye, and except for the people who had it away to the snug comfort of a spacious 406 they’d brought with em, so as not to mix their high-society colonialness with the common people. Bloody Mansbridge and his sloping off to the warm…

I hung on for a bit, although I may be getting the chronology wrong at this point, and watched a couple of old episodes of [post BBC are reactionary dicks and fire Angus Deaton] HIGNFY on a small DVD player with Josh & Paw, and then I started to feel the damp through my coat with increasing shiverfulness, so about 5am, in the absence of a nice reviving cup of coffee and a DVD of South Park BLU to tide me over till everyone else got up at half eight, I wandered back to my tent, where, as I’ve already said, Sally’s screeches and Joe Armstrong’s HGV-shifting-into-first-gear snoring created an interesting stero effect.

With my usual organisation skills and forward planning, I’d brought with me both a roll-mat and a sleeping bag. With my usual “Christ, it’s 5am, I’m tired, I need coffee and I’m sure as Hell not faffing about with a sleeping bag that I’ll have to stuff back into its bag in the morning” attitude, I pulled off my coat and hat, shoved on the uberjumper that kept me sweating in the -10 frosts of the Real Ale Ramble and went to sleep.

I can’t pretend to have slept especially well – few people would, I think, on a hard floor, in a cold and damp tent, with the rain pounding on the canvas as if God himself wanted Sally to stop screaming so he could get in a bit of kip before the daily staff meeting, but I managed three hours of fitful dozing, and then I hauled myself back out, to see the fire was nearly out (Thanks Harper, for trying to speed that one up… Daft bugger…) and Mrs Statto was up & about distributing cups of tea.

I’ve said many times before I’m not a morning person, but by God I’m good at mornings if I’ve just pulled an all-nighter and there’s a handy cup of tea. Thanks to that I was perked right up and made it back to Newport in the back of Mavis, the Barlow Nurseries plant factory truck with a contingent of troops off to get the 1100h 481 to Telford.

And that, all in all, was a hugely wet S. Roll on 2007, and hopes of a marginally less sodden mid-August.

Do continue to check out the Party Website, where I’m told Statto is planning to put up the pictures and webcam feeds and so on and such like.

Have fun!

I’ve been to the Fringe. And it’s British. Hoorah!


Now in Wallingford (where, tiresomely, I’ve just realised that the laptop is running Win 2k, which means it won’t recognise the iriver. Joy of refusing to wait and get a 120 instead of an H10.)…

However, the “now in Wallingford” bit is impressiveish, on account of my having previously been holed up in Edinburgh for a week, in a wonderfully plush flat with Ruth [Well, duh…] and also Dan and Claire, which was muchly cool.

Marked contrast of the aforementioned plush flat to my previous accommodation in Edinburgh, (a sort of bleakish Scottish Penbryn), which was super, and it was bang opposite the Cannon’s Gait, where we, er, spent the week. No, really, we did. Joy of the Free Fringe and Peter Buckley Hill.

[Everyone cheer…

…Hooray! &c.]

This was all muchly entertaining; and I’ve now spent an entire week watching various stand-up things. Among my favourites were Radio Pear, the aforementioned PBH, Yianni’s Head and My Family and Other Alcoholics, plus, of course, the Pick of the Fringe shows on at the Cannon’s Gait. Had a fantastic time, probably going to work my way round to bashing up some “proper” reviews of some of the stuff, presently.

Do keep an eye on Dan’s blog, since you’ll notice he’s promised some toptastic stories of our experiences and you will want to see them. And do visit that link to check out the piccy of us with the inventor of the Free Fringe. Muchos free comedy. Best in the world. Hoorah!


In many ways, a pity to be back; the train journey down was especially depressing – a change at Crewe, which is beautiful – it’s actually light, and you can see the sun, and everything (Can you tell I normally change trains at Birmingham New Street?) – and then I got off the train at, uh, Stafford.

Rubbish. But I did manage the full 250-odd miles in five hours, which impressed me, especially as I had two changes.

And now, as I say, I’m back in Wallingford, for a couple of job interviews. And I’m using the old keyboard from the MITAC 286 I had back in 1989. Hooray for individually sprung keys and a proper productive-sounding clackety typing noise!

Ah… I do like Edinburgh. Many many thanks to Dan & Claire (&, obviously Ruth as well) for a fantastic time, and I’ll strongly advise anyone reading this who’s expecting to go to Edinburgh whilst the Fringe is on to check out the comedy at the delightful (& smoke-free, huzzah!) Cannon’s Gait pub on the Royal Mile.

Have fun!

Well, I’m back…

…In Newport, that is; not in Aber, or anywhere else especially interesting. Although, that said, Newport is a phenomenal step up in its offers of interest when compared to Colburn, N. Yorks, a place that’s actually more boring than Borth. (At least in Borth there’s the Victoria, and you can look at the sea…)

But, yeah. Big ol’ Round Britain tour now over, and I’m really, really tired. For this I can mostly blame the weekend which, like Ruth, I spent rigging lights. Or, rather, Ruth, who has lots more experience of lighting, spent rigging lights, and which I spent cutting gels. No. 54s? Don’t talk to me about No. 54s… I’m also sick to the back teeth of 124s, and the sooner they get shut of the rainforests that require so many green par cans to emulate, the bleedin’ better…

…Nah. Actually it was much fun, although very hard work, and although it was blisteringly hot it’s the first day in quite a long while that I’ve done that work-really-hard-and-enjoy-it type of work that leaves you feeling strangely good about the world.

And at any rate, it’s better than mowing the lawns.

I am, however, faintly cheesed off to have walked past the place where I had a job interview, only to find a hastily-written minature white-board propped up in the window, and explaining that the office inside can help you if you’re trying to buy or sell a home, and would you please come in and shove some money their way, please?

It’s an estate agents.

I do not believe, youngish and formerly naive though I may be, that the mark of a successful estate agency is a whiteboard amongst the adverts for houses in the window explaining to people looking for houses that, uh, you buy and sell houses. Such as the ones they’re looking at.

It doesn’t necessarily mean the whole enterprise is in trouble, of course, and I don’t know the whole story, but I’m still a bit fed up, since I can’t help but feel it’s a bit ominous…

Hey ho.

Anyway, I’m back in Newport now, having made it though the barren and featureless wilderness that is Working Trains From Didcot To Oxford, and we’ve got a fairly brainless we-used-to-rent-this-house-to-students-leftover electricity meter here, so I’d better leg it before the damn thing starts sulking at me.

Have fun!

Three trains, six car journeys and and a couple of short wanderings on foot later…

…Ruth and I are back in Aber, after being exiled by the lack of cash brought about by the ponces at the council. Apologies for the total lack of blogging in that time (assuming, of course, that you’re the sort of person who stops by here or Abnib all the time looking for more of this stuff); my access to the ‘Net has been fairly minimal throughout Easter, ranging from token broadband but too tired to use it at home, to pay-as-you-run-desperately-through-the-net-to-cost-not-lots narrowband in Colburn.

So… Stuff happened.

I turned 21, which is fantastic, being as I’m now able to vote, own my own keys to the house, inherit anything that may have been left to me and so on. Yeah, OK, so turning 21 has got rather less impressive since 1970, but still, it was marginally interesting, especially since I got a whole bundle of cash with which to slope off and go internet shopping. Not quite enough to replace my digicam, but enough to get me an iRiver, and a whole bundle of other goodies, which is fine by me.

And on top of that, Ruth bought me a signet ring, with my cheery little logo on it (the one on the right of the two logos at KTAB (full history of the logos can be found here, should you really care), which is nice and toptastic, as well as being shiny.

Then we hauled off up North, and went to see Tom and Judith in Mauld’s Meaburn, which was nice, although it didn’t last long…

Er. Then things went a bit ad-lib, for reasons which Ruth explains, so we ended up in Cambridge, and then dived back to Newport in a bit of a flurry.

And then we managed to get ourselves back to Aber yesterday, and here we are.

Not especially informative stuff, I suppose, but other things, like going to a Quaker wedding, which was fun and interesting for me (not least because I got to catch up with everyone from Meeting) probably aren’t intesting to anyone else, and whilst it’s your choice to read my blog or not, it still seems a bit daft to take up your time with things about people you don’t know, when you could be off doing something much more useful to the world in general.

Have fun!

Christ, I need a car.

Also to pass my driving test, but I’m going one thing at a time here, OK.

Tomorrow I have a dentists appointment in Shrewsbury, at 11.
To get there I’m going to have to get up at half past bloody six, to catch the 7:30 train, to get me to Shrewsbury at half nine. Because if I get the 9:30 out of Aber, I won’t be in Shrewsbury until half an hour after the stupid appointment.

Reliance on public transport is possibly the most debilitating thing you can come up against, short of having something actually wrong with you, like a broken leg or something.


August Update: Lincoln Choir Tour

Everyone remember the last big update? No? What d’you mean “no”?

Lazy bastard. Alright, then (I’m only doing a summary this once, you realise…)

In the last dynamic episode, JTA legged it out of Aber, smuggling himself into the back of the Rev’s car, where he covered himself in a sheet, and sat pretending to be a picnic hamper, until safely over the Shropshire border, where he wandered around and said hello to Ruth’s grandparents.

Meanwhile, in Newport, Statto was preparing for his party which JTA found himself dropped off at some time before it was due to start. Pursued by Audrey’s brother’s wife’s gibbon, JTA & Kerrith sat up most of the night guarding a fire with which they could drive away Audrey’s brother’s wife’s gibbon, who himself failed to appear having got himself into an altercation with the hairdresser of Audrey’s aunt’s sister’s poodle (DSO, OBE & bar), which led to his arrest and wrongful conviction on a charge of willful bananaslaughter.

Next morning, JTA climbed into the boot of Mansbridge’s car and smuggled himself down the Forton Road and into the centre of Newport, before staging a daring leap from the car into the comparative safety of the Strine Brook, where he hid underwater with the aid of a small straw, half a jar of pickles, and a one-man submarine, until the Rev’s car came past, heading down to Wallingford. Swiftly climbing the tendrils of an overhanging willow tree, JTA swung himself onto the roof of the passing vehicle, and clung to the top of the car as it careered into three innocent beer bottles, and Oxfordshire.

Having driven six times past the Corn Exchange, JTA found himself on a sofa listening to Caroline, Jerry & the Rev discuss last week’s episode of The Forsyte Saga, but which turned out to be the accommodation arrangements for the marriage of the Rev’s fourth cousin’s second sister’s fiance’s brother Audrey, whose gibbon had mysteriously vanished, only to be replaced on the guest list by Ruth’s brother Owen, on the grounds that nobody would notice, and it’s impossible to work out who’s related to who in the Trim family anyway.

We pick up the story the next morning when…

Got to Wallingford and into the back of Caroline & Jerry’s car and made it up to Lincoln with a minimum of fuss and bother, except for a vague traffic jam on the motorway. Not being able to sing, I managed to spend most of the week wandering about the shops of Lincoln (there’s a sweet shop which sells Cinnamon balls [O God, you can get them off the Internet! Huzzah!] which was especially cool) and looking for a replacement coat, because, as usual, my regular one’s died through overuse.

The Cathedral itself was pretty cool, once the wallies filming the Da Vinci Code had cleared out, and we got a fantastic tour of the roofspace (bloody enourmous supporting beams up there, and mostly original 12th Century oak… great stuff) from Ken, who works for the Cathedral and whose son Will is part of the choir…

There was lots of wine, which was nice, and also good ale, and a nice ale shop as well, where we couldn’t buy very much because of having to get the train back. Then Bryn rang me, wanting to know if we could go out in Aber, and I explained that Ruth & I couldn’t, and he’d have to make do with Dan and Claire.

“As if,” he wistfully replied. “They’re in bloody Norfolk”
O-ho. Norfolk, eh?

So I rang Dan, and Lo! We managed to get a lift back, which took six hours (instead of the train’s eight) and didn’t cost us £30 apiece, meaning we had a spare 30 quid for more beer! Plus Ruth got to stay until the end of Sunday evensong, so that was all good.

Decent trip back (thanks to Claire for that!), even if we did get stuck on the M42 and definitely not drive off the motorway via an on-sliproad. And even if we had done, we didn’t get hit by the car that went down just after we would’ve gone up it, nor nabbed by the police car which would’ve passed us heading slip-road wards about two minutes afterwards.

Slightly alarming fog on the mountains by the Elvis rock on the way back, where you couldn’t see the edge of the road (which is alarming, because it’s generally also the edge of an enourmous drop, in that bit of the country) but we made it back safely, so it was all super.

And that was that, really, except I suddenly found myself surrounded by people bursting to give me a job. Still, it’s all good.

August Update: S2005

OK, ladies & Gents, we’ve got no end up updating to do here, so I’m going to do it in smallish lumps, if that’s fine by you…

Left Aber something like Thursday, and slogged over the Sierra Drenewydd in the back of the Rev.’s carand got myself dropped off in Newport a couple of days before I slouched up the the Plant Factory about four hours before the starty of S2005, most of which was spent fiddling with the sound system (we do that every year, trying to get everything working properly, and every year, there’s a different system with an entirely different set of problems) and hoping that the rain would clear up.

For some reason, everyone seemed to have decided that I look like Terry Pratchett, which was a new one on me, and makes a pleasant change from a bunch of nergs whistling ‘The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly’ at me… and the rain did a reasonable job of clearing out of the way by 7pm, which gave ample opportunity for the usual round of saying hello to people and drinking OSH from a tin (ugh), and taking photos of people for the traditional Party Wallpaper. (I’ve high hopes of some of them, there’s a few quality “looking like a tit” snaps in there, although Scouser’s got an unusually high proportion of those, for some reason. [Presently, Statto, I shall e-mail the sodding things in your direction; Lincoln wouldn’t let me plug the camera in on any of their terminals, which was distressingly tech-savvy of them.

At about 3pm, the rain came back, which was fine, because everyone had tents.

That’d be “everyone except Kerrith & me,” then. *sigh* So Kerrith & I saty in the drizzle and kept the fire going, which wasn’t too hard; there was plenty of wood still left, and we managed a proper Beach-Bonfire quality of “white-hot embers beneath rapidly flaring lumber” blaze which meant that (freezing rain or not) you had to sit about two yards back from the nearest edge of the fire, or blister your legs whenever your shin touched smouldering trouser leg. And even then you were sweating.

It’s the heat from the fire that I blame for my falling asleep, in my coat, in the rain. Apparently, this amused people, although I don’t really know why; practically anyone who knows me well is aware I can sleep through almost anything (and yes, rather alarmingly, that includes fire alarms, and similar insistent loundnesses), and anyway, I wasn’t properly asleep, just dozing, because I’d wake up every 20 minutes or so and hurl more wood onto the fire.

Come the morning, the flash betented bastards re-emerged, generally whingeing about the grass being wet, and Mrs. Statto provided a cup of tea for which I’d been desperate since about 5am (if I’m going to avoid falling asleep on an all nighter, I need muchos caffine about 5 & 7 in the morning, or I haven’t a chance of making it past a quater to six without crashing out on the nearest seat availiable), which was pretty damn toptastic.

Mansbridge returned from wherever he’d slunk off to (his car, as I recall) and presently gave me a lift back to Newport, which was important because, S2005 duly over, I had to head off and wait for the return of the Rev, so I could join her & Ruth in a 120-mile slog down to Wallingford, in search of Caroline, Jerry, a choir, and somewhere to sleep. But that’s a different update…

As far as the obligatory snappy Party review goes, I think I’m best served by the following:

“I suppose, in retrospect, that I should’ve brought a tent, but for all that S2005 was the wettest Statto’s Party I’ve ever been to, it was also the most recent. And next year, I’ll bring a flask of tea.”