Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Lord Of The Rings in Three Easy Pages. Page Two

And now, all roads must lead to different places, or we run out of plot. Seven or eight heroes survive; two are sent off to Mordor, leaving call it five (cos Gandalf’s still dead). A two-three split looks good for a few more thousand pages. So.

The two junior Hobbits, Merry and Pippin, get hobbit-napped by Orcs. Did I mention Orcs? Sauron’s squaddies. Stinking stupid stunted stalinistic slobs who talk gibberish full of bad consonants and eat dried-out stale crap and drink vile toxic poisons and torture everything not like them and … Enough. You know at least one.

Strider, meanwhile, has had a humour by-pass and morphed into Aragorn. He, Gimli dwarf and Legolas elf chase the hobbit-nappers for days and days and days, but guess what - they don’t catch them! Instead they get waylaid by Vigilante Cowboys called Rohirrim, whilst the Hobbits get rescued by walking trees called Ents. [Keeping up? Hint: turn off the spellcheck.]

Gandalf comes back to life somewhere in here, got wiz-napped by Saruman but is now new White Wizard boss. Some people (and trees) go off to Isengard to beat Saruman up; others ride off to meet the King of the Rohirrim and prepare for war; Magic Balls get mobilised. Complicated strategy, heh? (there’s far worse to come) but basically, we’re stuffed, because Sauron has all the WMDs – except one!

FRODO: It’s too heavy for me, Sam me lad. All these cliffs and stuff – not to mention that scary spider. [Ed: er, point of detail, spider doesn’t actually turn up till Page Three. Author: Oliphaunt. Pukelmen. Grishnaksch. Balrog. Wanna play hardball Ed?]
SAM: I could carry it for you a bit, if you wanted, master.
FRODO: Oh no you don’t, you sneaky little squit!
GOLLUM: Perhapsss we can helpppss???
FRODO: Sounds good to me!
SAM: Hmm. Sing-song anyone? Nice bit of boiled rope?

[A note from JRRT: oh bugger what have I started here, oh flipping heck Lewis …]

I know, says Gandalf. All roads must lead to Helm’s Deep (Scotland) where there must be a Great Battle in which Rohan must confront the combined forces of Isengard and Mordor and stuff and, well, must be off, wizard biz y’know …

I know, says Gandalf again. Bring on the trees! They’ll eat the orcs and bury them and stuff and – ah, little Pippin, must cart you off so the plot can split again … And so it comes to pass. Lots of blood and thunder here. Amputations. Beheadings. Better in the film.

Aragorn goes a bit, like, strange, you know, like when the band’s breaking up, and leads his elf and dwarf off towards strange paths. Rohirrim princess fancies him, not well impressed so turns into a military man (she’s going to kill something nasty later on and marry a handsome prince, told you it was complicated …)

Sauron, meanwhile (remember Him?) has not been idle. His Wraiths are gliding around on their pterodactyls, and he’s cooked up a big yellow fog, which confounds everyone esp Gandalf. But He still hasn’t noticed that Frodo and Sam are still crawling towards those Cracks, still guided by that Gollum (will these Hobbits ever learn?) and still clutching His Big Vibrating Superpower Ring, which He still can’t find even though He made it and it’s His only chance of victory and His Orcs have actually caught Frodo and Sam redhanded with it and, oh, let’s just skip rapidly on ...

Engage tenterhooks and hang off cliffs for Page Three ...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Lord Of The Rings in Three Easy Pages. Page One

On his eleventy-first birthday, old Hobbit Bilbo leaves his home in the Shire and wanders off to Rivendell (a kind of elf Pentagon), giving his magic ring to his young nephew Frodo. Bilbo nicked the ring, which makes you invisible, ages ago from Gollum, a slimy hissy little ex-Hobbit. For the back-story, see ‘The Hobbit’. (Don’t. It’s crap.)

Many years later, Gandalf, a very important Wizard, informs Frodo that his ring is in fact Evil Sauron’s top-of-the-range Power Tool, which gives its holder, yes, lots of Evil Power. Sauron forged this ring in the distant past, put most of His own Evil Power into it, then lost it. There are loads of other rings, all almost entirely irrelevant. Gandalf doesn’t explain why it took him so long to work all this out, nor why someone with all that Power needs to be invisible - but Frodo better split asap for somewhere safe, like Rivendell, because Sauron’s Evil Black Riders are closing in fast, on their horses, brandishing their blades and halitosis. Get scared, Hobbit!
So, months later, Frodo hits the road with his jolly chums Merry and Pippin and his faithful batman Sam. After getting into all kinds of japes and scrapes with those Evil Black Riders, Barrow-Wights, rotting vegetation etcetera, they team up with a tramp called Strider, who turns out to be a sort of Middle Earth AA man, and eventually gets them to Elf HQ. Gandalf meanwhile has been far too busy whizzing around doing wizard stuff to lend a hand till it’s near enough too late. (Also he got locked up by his old boss Saruman – bit embarrassing that, best not mention ...)
Like everyone else, I’ve left Tom Bombadil out, because he really doesn’t fit in, does he?
‘Sauron has woken up,’ said Gandalf. ‘That Ring is now too hot to handle, and gets a Capital Letter to prove it. Frodo my boy …’
‘I understand,’ said Frodo in his mythical hero voice. ‘I must take the Ring to Mordor and chuck it in the furnace whence it came forth from.’

‘You got it,’ said Elrond. ‘Your jolly chums and faithful servant can go along, also a few other lifeforms, couple of men, dwarf, elf, wizard, usual ethnic minority coverage ...’
‘I used to be the gardener,’ said Sam. ‘Now it’s all batman, servant … still, mustn’t grumble …’
‘Well said, trusty one,’ said Elrond. ‘We shall kit you out sumptuously – but no rope!’
So off they go with a skip and a jump.
There are many Journeys in this story, too many (and mostly too tedious) to recount. So we too shall skip and jump:
  •  across a really tedious plain, where everyone can squabble and establish character;
  •  up a malicious peak, losing out to the wrong kind of snow;
  •  through the Dwarves’ mountain caverns, where Gandalf falls off a bridge and dies (for now);
  •  through a mystic forest full of the creepiest, girliest elves we have yet met (though to be fair they do come up with some goodies, including rope);
  •  down the muddy river in elf boats, stalked by the slimy sneaky Gollum … 
… until - just as the River, the Team Spirit and our eyelids are about to expire - there’s an almighty row, Frodo and Sam float off towards Mordor and the Cracks of Doom, and everybody else goes mad and heads away for places unknown ...

Wait with bated breath for Page Two ...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The speed of sheep

By kind permission of my brother whose masterpiece this is.

Bread-Head Bird

I had intended to have a duck for my dinner, but I couldn't catch one.  But I did find this substitute.

I've eaten him now.

NB  This is take #2 of this post, as the first try unaccountably failed to contain the picture.  Apologies for any frustration or disappointment.  Another afternoon bites the dust.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


... and the living will be easy - as long as you all remember to wind all your clocks forward by one hour, sometime very soon, otherwise your life will be hideously disrupted for the next seven months (+/-1 hour) and you'll either be late or early, depending on whether you or they forgot or remembered.  Oh what a load of fckng bllcks.  I'm off to bed after a bit of music - nearly half ten, innit?

Friday, 25 March 2011

It's all happening here!

A newsletter called 'Into Battle' from my local councillors yields the following information, which I feel should be shared with the world at large (or anywhere else) to assure you that it's not all Libya, nuclear meltdown and budgies (sorry, budgets):
  • Dominos Pizza have erected new gates at the entrance to their back yard.
  • The new Oxford Road car park gets very busy and is often over crowded.  The council have been asked to sort it out.
  • Some people are getting into the habit of fly tipping around the Kensington Park recycling point.  Signs have been put up.
  • Councillor xxxxxx was asked by a local playgroup to be Santa.  'I think the parents thought I really was Santa Claus,' he said.  'Sometimes being a politician can be fun.'
  • No news on salt bins.
  • 'Shocking' pictures show potholes at the bottom of Connaught Hill.  The holes have been repaired.

In other news, I have now gone 24 hours without taking any painkillers.  That's good, isn't it?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

How to waste an afternoon

A little bit of my little bit of Reading today. Something's in the air ... Spring, is it?
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

"Honey, I'm bored"

I've been sort of thinking for some time about relocating, so it's time to investigate the options in more detail.  This place looks pretty good.  I'll have to liquidate a few assets to raise the necessary £61 million for the show apartment, plus I'll need to put a bit aside to acquire and maintain the trophy wife, but it's an avenue worth pursuing in more detail, isn't it?

Except, I wonder what it'll actually be like?  Imagine that the trophy wife and I have just been eased out of bed by the 24 hour room service, and are having a conversation about what to do today.

Me (brightly): So - breakfast on the veranda or the balcony?
TW (yawning): Same old views.  Hyde Park or Knightsbridge.  I've seen Hyde Park.  And Knightsbridge. 
Me: I know.  A movie.  In our own cinema.  We don't even have to go out, and the staff will carry us in there.
TW: We've seen all the movies.  They're crap.
Me: Well.  Um.  You could cook us lunch.  In the family kitchen.  Or pretend to.
TW (irritated): Why would I want to do that?
Me: Because ... (unable to answer this.) How about a swim?
TW: Tim, that pool's a shared facility, FFS.  We'd have to mix with the hoi polloi from those other eighty-five cheap flats downstairs.  They smell.
Me: You could check the finish on the hand-stitched leather panelling in the hall.  Again.
TW: I'd rather take a box cutter to it.  Honey, I'm bored!
I ponder for a bit while she checks her nails.
Me: We could go for a walk, I suppose.
TW: Honey, you know I hate walking.

On second thoughts, perhaps not.

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Universal Soldier

Rosie was listening to Donovan, who had a hit with this song.  Saturday evening we were listening to Buffy singing it.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Thank you, that will be ...

"Thank you, that will be fifteen pounds ninety." 
I blinked. 

We had walked across the cliffs, round Bolt Head and down to South Sands, under a cloudless sky, through the smells of coconutty flowering gorse and sweet-pungent wild garlic, often pausing to let my legs and lungs catch up, and for us to gaze down at coves that can't be reached except by sea, but were now displaying rarely seen expanses of yellow-ochre sand sloping down to shallow turquoise sea.

"It's the lowest tide of the year," announced the Tidal Bore, having consulted his iPhone.  "Plus 0.2.  Extraordinary."
"Put that thing away," said Mrs TB.

Along the way, I learnt a lot about harbour dues.  These are fees you have to pay in order to be allowed to moor or launch a vessel at a given coastal location.  This is (I think - I don't always keep up with my brother on points of detail) on top of any rental you may have paid in order to park your boat.  Fair enough - there are costs to be covered.  But I raised several eyebrows at the information that you're meant to pay harbour dues to launch a kayak.

"It's not much, only about £10 a year."
"Even so," I said.  "And, what about casual visitors, tourists who just turn up with their kayaks or whatever?"

We descended to South Sands, our destination, and entered the bar of the swish new South Sands Hotel for a well-earned freshener.  My round.

"Two pints of Doombar, please," I instructed the barman.  "And a glass of red wine."
"Thank you."  He manipulated his till and smiled.  "That'll be fifteen pounds ninety, please."

I blinked.

I have now mapped out my new career path.  When the caravan season opens, in a couple of weeks' time, I will acquire a comfortable folding chair, a peaked cap, a book of cloakroom tickets and a clipboard.  I will spend my days sitting on the beach at Wisemans Bridge, and when an SUV turns up towing a jet-ski or a brace of kayaks, I will look up and smile.

"Harbour dues, please," I will say.
"Oh, er, all right.  How much?"

I will consult my clipboard.
"That will be fifteen pounds ninety, please."

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Two-finger typing is back

I thought I'd celebrate the fact that I have now regained the use of my left arm, after the failed murder attempt by the mixer shower in room 34 of the Shakespeare Beach Hotel (and there's a quiz question for you: how many Shakespeare plays feature beaches?  I haven't a clue, so do please feel free to make up any answer you like), by typing some words.  And what better source than good old Chambers?  You've possibly heard some of these already, but that's not the point, which is to give me something to type.  So here goes.

'Paneity - the state of being bread.'
'Eclair - a cake long in shape but short in duration.'
'Fish - to catch or try to catch or obtain fish or anything that may be likened to a fish - such as seals, sponges, corals, compliments, information or husbands.'
'Middle-aged - between youth and old age, variously reckoned to suit the reckoner.'
'Sea serpent - an enormous marine animal of serpent-like form frequently seen and described by credulous sailors, imaginative landsmen and common liars.'
'Musique concrete - a kind of music, made up of odds and ends of sound variously handled.'

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


I got my census form through the post yesterday.  32 pages, of which about four concern me.  So I won't have any trouble filling that in on 27 March.  Except for a few things.

Question H14 asks 'In total, how many cars are owned, or available for use, by members of this household?'  I had to think a bit, because I'd forgotten that this is meant to be a snapshot (except when it isn't), and started to try and calculate how many rental cars there are in the country.
The ones about qualifications are pretty confusing.  I've never heard of half the things, so I suppose I'm safe in assuming I haven't got them.  But the the first box asks for 1 - 4 O levels.  Yep, I can tick that.  Then box 3 says '5+ O levels'.  So that's another tick.  That makes somewhere between 6 and 9.  Or should I only tick one or the other?  It doesn't say that.  Luckily I've got a couple of weeks to clear that up - I don't want to mislead the government.
The last one, for now, is about visitors.  Normally, everyone is welcome to come and visit me, even for an overnighter.  But, if you possibly can, please try and avoid the night of 27 March, unless you want to spend the evening filling in forms.

And, at what time am I meant to fill the form in, exactly?  What if the gas central heating breaks down during the day: I'd be lying if I'd already ticked box 2 in H11.  And what if someone turns up at one minute to midnight, begging a bed for the night?

Sorry, I'm getting silly.  This often happens at this hour, especially today.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Arboreal haircuts

'Poll' is an old noun (Dutch in origin I believe) meaning 'the top of the head'.  It then became a verb meaning 'to cut one's hair'.  Next, a new noun, 'pollard', came along to signify 'a person whose hair had been cut'; this came to be mostly applied to trees rather than people; and finally, 'pollard' has turned back into another verb, which acquired its present day meaning.  Funny stuff, language.

Anyway, the trees in my avenue, which are beeches, rather than elms as those of you who know my address might imagine, are being pollarded.  It's a noisy and seemingly brutal process: a hard-hatted team, using massive chainsaws, hydraulic platforms and a frankly terrifying giant shredder, are transforming each tree from this:

To this:

This is the third time I've seen this done in the twenty-plus years I've lived here.  The first time, the Avenue was up in arms - 'they're murdering our trees' - but within a few months new shoots were appearing, and by the autumn the trees were leafy and ready to get on with what they like to do in the autumn.  Within three years they were back to their lovely leafy vibrant selves.  I don't suppose they enjoyed their haircuts much at the time, though.

There's a metaphor for life in there.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Bank Holidays

Anybody know what these are any more?  Back in the day when I was a lad, the whole country pretty well shut down except for really essential services.  Now, the only activity that stops (and that not entirely) seems to be banking.  (OK, to be fair, the poor little darlings need their rest.)  So it's a nonsense, up there with Double Summer Time and its bastard spawn, about which I've ranted enough in the past.

On the news tonight, I heard that some lunatic is proposing that the so-called May Day holiday should be moved, either to St George's Day (23 April) or Trafalgar Day (somewhere late in October).  Now this raises too many issues to discuss in full, so suffice to say that, if these pseudo-holidays mean anything at all, the October date is a no-brain shoo-in.  But there seems to be a swell of support for St George.  This is on the grounds that May Day is kind of socialist, whereas St George (a Turk who probably never existed and certainly didn't slay any dragons) and Trafalgar (the penultimate occasion on which we thoroughly trashed the French) are kind of patriotic.

But the best part is the putative justification for this rot, which is nothing to do with a holiday for us, but that apparently it will boost tourism (one of the very few remaining industries we're prepared to own up to without a shifty sideways glance), especially from China.

How, exactly?  St George's Day doesn't even get to the starting traps - it never opens the springtime bank holiday season (check it out - the latest possible Easter Sunday is 25 April); and October is not exactly high season.  But, I ask, why should it make any difference to those Chinese holidaymakers when they're mulling over possible dates for their photo-gathering trip halfway round the globe?  You can imagine the conversation over there in Beijing: 'No, best settle for October, the banks'll be shut and everything will cost twice as much.'

It's enough to make a coelacanth's blood boil.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Wires Are Alive

Earlier today I had occasion to correct a minor error concerning the provenance of the song 'My Favourite Things' .  I have in the past extolled the magnum opus that constitutes the collected works of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but an exception has to be made for 'The Sound Of Music', one of the most excruciatingly maudlin squanderings of an otherwise challenging storyline in the history of the American musical.  But this isn't about that.  It's about narrow escapes.

I've had a few of these.  I forced my way onto the delayed 8.31 to Paddington, rather than wait for the following 8.42, which crashed into the misrouted commuter train at Royal Oak.  I chose the outside lane on the A303 seconds before the shunt in the middle lane that caused a fatality and a three hour tailback.  But I'm thinking of what happened, two and a half years ago, in the caravan in Pembrokeshire.

It was a filthy Sunday afternoon.  Pembrokeshire rain can be the wettest in the country.  I was depressed and tired.  Television was the only option.  So I switched it on.  It was 'The Sound Of Music'.  Oh well, I thought.  I settled down to watch, trying to be positive.  Sometime shortly after the cute kids first traipsed on like infant stormtroopers, I heard a funny crackling noise.  Funny noises happen all the time at White Park Farm, so I ignored it.  But then I realised that not only was the noise coming from the TV, so was a nasty smell, and a flume of evil-looking black smoke.  I knew what that meant.

I got the box unplugged and carted outside pretty fast, I can tell you.  I think I poured a bucket of water over it.  But here's the narrow escape.  If I'd wandered over to the toilet block for a wee, as I'd been thinking of doing, that caravan would have been incinerated by the time I returned.

The worst part was that the song they were singing, at the cringe-making concert party, when all this began, was 'The Lonely Goatherd'.  Imagine the rest of my day.

That'll teach 'em

Word games

Since we're in this neck of the words, here's a new one that's just occurred to me.  Those letter jumbles that you have to enter for Blogger word verification - awards for the best definitions.  A bit like The Meaning of Liff.

The only drawback that occurs to me is that I don't use word verification, so can't contribute any challenges.  OK, forget it.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Word Wars

I have been in a few verbal skirmishes in recent days.  So be warned: I've found a wonderful new resource called  This collates the content of 1,060 English dictionaries, giving about 19 million definitions.  You can do partial searches, wild cards, reverse searches, the lot.

After a very quick skim, I can report that 'kapati' and 'patrashil' do not exist as entries in any of those dictionaries.  'Jargogle' crops up three times.  (I'd assumed it was a Lallans word, but it isn't.)

All comers now welcome.  The gloves are off.