Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Monday, 7 July 2014

Fall again. Fall better.

It was fellow-blogger Rog who pointed out, ages ago when for some reason I had touched on the subject, that once you pass seventy you don’t ‘fall over’ any more, you ‘have a fall’.  Well, judging from how I felt on waking up last Monday morning, I reckon I must have done both on my way to bed the night before.

I don’t want to go into details, even those I can remember.  Suffice to say that whilst I was failing to tidy the kitchen, the builders had been in and repositioned the staircase.  And I turned the landing light off instead of on, easy mistake.  And it was very late.  And …

It’s a cracked rib.  Been there, done that (you can’t wear a T-shirt under these conditions), so I knew what lay ahead.  The doctor was very sympathetic once I’d spun him my carefully concocted yarn about getting out of the bath, and gave me a truckload of codeine phosphate tablets.  They’re 15mg, and I’m allowed up to four at a time, up to four times a day, so I have plenty of dosage flexibility.
One of the instructions on the leaflet is ‘DO NOT drink alcohol with codeine phosphate, as it may affect you more than usual.’  I considered and rejected a couple of smart-ass sophistries – does that just mean don’t wash them down with wine? and can’t I just drink less than usual? – and have been experimenting with de-alcoholized wine, which is wine that’s been made the proper way then had nearly all the alcohol taken out.  I can report that it’s not (quite) as unpalatable as you might think.  The shiraz I’ve tried tastes almost like a cheap, rather sweet shiraz; and the wuzziness caused by the codeine neatly compensates (nearly) for the missing alcohol.  You can get used to anything.

The list of possible side effects is awesome – twenty of them in all.  If I’d had them all, there wouldn’t have been much of me left.  As a quibble, number 19 on the list should really have been number one.  (I’ll let you guess for yourselves what it is.  The clue is there.)  The most interesting one, though, is number 17: ‘Hallucinations’.  Sadly, I don’t think this has happened, though you can’t be sure, can you?  

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Sky over here, this evening

Mare's tails?  Mare's nest?  I dunno.  Vapour trails, probably.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Hyperactive teenage tadpoles (cont’d)

Has anyone been ‘upgraded’ to the all-new BT Mail service recently?

Have you yet torn out all your hair or smashed yourself in the teeth?

BT have been trailing their divorce from Yahoo for over a year now, and the decree nisi finally came through last Friday.  You’d think that’d be long enough to provide, at the least, a stable service which doesn’t crash every few hours (if it manages to load in the first place); also that one would be able to do, at least, everything one could before.  (It’s supposed to be ‘better’, to use their word.) 

But no.  I had a call from a nice man in Mumbai, who unfortunately had clearly never seen this system before.  He took over my screen and clicked around all over the place, checking all the settings I’d already (obvs) checked, before informing me that ‘this function is not supported by the new BT Mail’.
(For the record, the function in question is the ability to skip to the next or previous email.)

I fumed for a bit, and muttered about switching to gmail.  (This may yet happen, those of you who have my email address, watch this space…)  Then I clicked on to Blogger (another Google ‘service’), to find that my dashboard can now only show one post at a time from my so-called Reading List.  I’ve been away, so hadn’t noticed this, but apparently the problem has existed for at least a week; hundreds of people have complained, and been exhorted to be patient.

I think I’ll buy a batch of postcards and first class stamps and send my communications by the Royal Mail.  Oh, hang on –

Send me an email, drop me a line, stating point of view.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Retail Entropy

Jackson’s, a legendary department store in the centre of Reading, finally closed down last Christmas Eve, after 140 years of selling school uniforms and sensible underwear and imitation Dresden knick-knacks, and of being as iconic a landmark in Reading as, say, Selfridge’s in Oxford Street or Lewis’s in Leeds.  Plans have just been unveiled to preserve the fa├žade, whilst installing flats* and, yes, shops, behind it.

I think I shopped there three times.  Once for an unlined cream linen jacket (which I wore for many years) and a panama hat (I must have been going through some kind of Somerset Maugham phase), and twice for presents for elderly aunts.  Jackson’s was the go-to place for presents for elderly aunts.  So I can’t say I’ll miss it as a shop – but I think I will as a symbol.

A symbol of what?  Well, walk into T. P. Hughes, Pettits, or Ocky White’s, to take three examples I am (or was) familiar with, and you’ll be uniquely in Tenby, Wallingford or Haverfordwest: those shops are (or were**) intrinsic to the town where they were born and grew up.  Walk into John Lewis, Debenhams or House of Fraser, and you could be anywhere.  This is not to denigrate the big chains, just to say that something special is being lost.  Crankiness, quirkiness, localism, call it what you will.  I kind of wish I’d shopped in Jackson’s more.

In Bournemouth, where I was born and grew up, there were four big department stores, all very different.   Bobby’s turned into Debenhams, while Plummers also briefly became Debenhams (until Debenhams decided they couldn’t sustain two stores in the same town and closed it down).  The surviving Debenhams has recently been rebadged as ‘Bobby’s, though I doubt if the clock has been turned back to the fifties.  Brights is House of Fraser.  Only Beales survives.  The last time I was in there, ten years ago, it hadn’t changed much.  I bought a wallet, which I’m still using.

I was once told that you could identify a good town by the presence of a pet shop, an old-fashioned ironmongers’ and a second-hand bookshop.  Any candidates?

* Some of which will, apparently, be ‘affordable’, as opposed to the other sort – but that’s another debate.
** Ocky’s closed down in 2013.  I can’t say I regret the shop, only went there once, but I do rather regret the name.  

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Please prove you are a robot

‘Eugene Goostman’, either a dysfunctional Ukrainian teenage boy or a computer-generated simulacrum, has, it’s claimed, passed the Turing test, by fooling a third of a panel of judges into believing that he (it) is the former.

There’s evidence that Alan Turing wasn’t being entirely serious when he proposed this test. But, having read a few of Eugene’s conversations (google them yourselves), I can only assume either that the judges weren’t being entirely serious either, or that they all exclusively inhabit the twitterverse – where that sort of gubbish is entirely normal.

I propose an updated Turing test: ask Eugene to write a blog.  That’ll sort out the brains from the bots.  

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

I find a poem

I've been having a clear-out, and came across a pile of old notebooks.  In one of them, I stumbled across the following, written almost exactly twenty years ago.  I've only changed a few words.

After the War

The sunshine shines
And the garden gets too hot
And Peter and Christopher
Line up all the shots
But their energy goes draining
Down the drain of tomorrow’s good ideas.
Oh dear,
Where’s the spirit of the War?

Peter says he was out there
While Chris stayed at home;
But Chris says what were you there for
When I was looking after Mum?
And the garden gets too hot
And the reason for the game
Gets lost.
Oh dear –
Was there a reason for the War?

The sun is going down
Melting in the West
And Peter sips his sunset drink,
And thinks about his best friend.

And the mother of these grown-up boys
Will be forty in July;
So she spreads the linen tablecloth
Gets everything arranged,
And doesn’t wonder why
Everything has changed.

The shadow of the cherry tree
Is heavy on the lawn
And Christopher and Peter
Pull up all the hoops
By their roots.
They stack them in the shed,
Ready for the next game.

Oh dear.