Wednesday, 29 June 2011

I'm sure you've heard this one, but ...

I was shucking the peas to go with the rissoles I'd made from the remnants of the roast chicken, when this sprang to mind from my schooldays:

A man sits down in a cafe and peruses the menu.  When the waiter arrives to take his order, the man says: "Pissoles and chips, please."

The waiter is aghast.  "I beg your pardon, sir?"

The customer points to the menu.  "That's what it says here.  Pissoles and chips.  And that's what I want."

The waiter peruses the menu, then his face lightens.  "Oh, I'm terribly sorry sir, there's been a typing error.  That P should be an R."

The customer shrugs.  "All right, I'll have R-soles and chips."


Next Wednesday, I will be flying on a helicopter from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly.  The only previous time I've been on a helicopter was when I was thirteen.  I was in the Navy Section of the Combined Cadet Force, and our field day that year consisted of a bus ride to Portland Bill, where we did marching drill, were shown the outside of the prison and the quartermaster's store, and then taken up for ten minutes in a helicopter.  I don't remember anything about the experience, except that it was memorable.

Here are the instructions regarding baggage on the Scilly flight:
"Each adult and child is allowed a baggage allowance of 15kg. No single piece of baggage will be carried if it exceeds 20kg. An excess charge will be made for any baggage above your allowance of 33lbs (15 kg). (The excess charge will be at the operator's rate at the time of travel). Small items may be carried in our aircraft cabin, such as handbags, cameras and binoculars provided they can be secured to your person. All passengers maybe subject to a random baggage search."
 I doubt I'll be able to achieve the 15kg target, but I'll try.  I'll take a stapler to ensure I can secure my camera to my person.  And I won't be carrying any random baggage, so that's okay.
And why do they say 'maybe' when they mean 'may be'?

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Mr Tambourine Man

In honour of Jim Dickson, who produced the original in 1965 and died recently aged 80.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

One thing ...

There's a website here wherein you can post photos and descriptions of the objects you would save if your house suddenly started burning down.  Most people assemble a whole lot of stuff and arrange it artistically for the photo-op, but if I did that I would pretty certainly be incinerated by the time I had rummaged through the wardrobes, cupboards, drawers, attics for the many items I might wish to select.  Presumably those people keep it all in one box, just in case - but where do they keep the box, eh?

I think it would be more interesting to ask us to select just one thing, and write a little story about why they would choose it.  So here's mine.

My parents had quite a lot of brass knick-knacks around the house.  I know this because it became one of my domestic tasks to polish them every week, with nice-smelling Brasso, for a shilling.  When I was about six (probably before the polishing regime started), they decided that my sister and I should be given custody, which was presented to us as ownership, of one each of these.  On offer was a fierce Bengal tiger, or this frog.  My sister, being the elder, was given first dibs.  Naturally, she picked the tiger.

I was downcast.  No, I was devastated.  I had coveted, craved for that tiger.  I think I assaulted her, I'm certain I cried with envy and disappointment.  Of course, when you're six, a week of despondency is a lifetime; I certanly don't hold the grudge any more.  In fact, now, when I look at and fondle this fellow, with his plump body and his blind eye, I reckon I got the best deal.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Post It - The Final Scores

My name is  not Inigo Montaya.  You killed my Post-its.  Prepare to be really, really, really bored.

1) EX BIKE.  I have promised to give my disused exercise bike to Alan so that he can, um, exercise his dodgy knee.  I need to dismantle it (the bike) so that it will fit into the boot of his car.
The Stickie goes to: Rosie, for a nice little scenario involving 'bike' and taking in all six.
2) BOL.  I had a pan of bolognese sauce in the outside fridge which needed to be frozen.  Or eaten.
The Stickie goes to: Christopher, for getting the point, and providing several time-wasting avenues.
3) RING BELL.  I had to phone Professor Bell regarding the Neighbourhood Watch meeting.
The Stickie goes to: ElizT, for the most desperately inventive submission of them all.
4) 2 STRINGS.  I needed to buy two sets of guitar strings for an upcoming music project.
The Stickie goes to: nobody.  Nobody crossed the inventiveness threshhold.
5) CAROUSEL.  The kitchen carousel thingie, you know, the thingie that enables you to store saucepans in two layers inside that otherwise totally wasted space under the corner of the worktop?  Well, it's collapsed again, and I need to do a load of dismantling, reassembling, reinstallation ... Hello?  Hello?
The Stickie goes to: a joint award to Rosie and ElizT, for making it this far.
6) REMINDER.  I had to send out a reminder about the Neighbourhood Watch meeting.
and the Stickie goes to ... everybody.  You all reminded me that I'd embarked on this singularly ill-conceived project.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Post It

The title is not an exhortation to increase your blogging rate (some of you need no encouragement in that direction), but a reference to the ubiquitous Post-It sticker, which was invented in stages during the sixties and seventies by the American company 3M, and marketed from the eighties.  In terms of low-profile inventions that have quietly transformed the developed world, the Post-It must be up there with the barcode (whose pioneer, Alan Haberman, incidentally, died last week at the age of 81).

I attach Post-Its to the eye-level cupboards in my kitchen as aides memoires of various tasks that might otherwise slip my mind.  For some reason their frequency seems to have increased of late.  I haven't yet been reduced to 'WASH UP' or 'GO TO BED', though these may not be that far in the future.  In the meantime, here are half a dozen recent ones.  They all have rather mundane explanations, but I thought it would be amusing to invite you to submit your own interpretations, as imaginative as you like.  Think the 'definitions' feature in 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue'.

  1. EX BIKE
  2. BOL
  4. 2 STRINGS
  5. CAROUSEL, and last but not least:
 If I get any submissions, I will publish the true answers (if I remember).  If not, you will spend the rest of your lives wondering.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Another rainbow

I posted a picture of a rainbow over my back garden about nine months ago, which you can see by clicking on the label.  I've just watched another one, same place, shape, colours.  But this one disappeared as I watched it.  It didn't just vanish - it flickered out.  It was there, then it wasn't ...  then it was again.  Then it wasn't.  It didn't give up easily.  It took it what seemed like a very long time to yield, as the sun finally descended behind the rooftops to the West.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bird Brains

Do doves have memories?

My water feature, which used to incorporate a kind of birdbath, has been dry for some weeks, due to over-enthusiastic maintenance activities on my part (pushing a hose down its gullet, if you want to know) which resulted in the pump in the murky underground sump becoming detached ... blimey, digression already and I haven't even started - I'll never fill up a minute this way.

Anyway, the local doves or pigeons or whatever they are - the ones that use the roof of my car as a convenient convenience (I got a great birthday card last year which featured two seagulls sitting on a chimney watching a man washing his car below, one seagull saying to the other 'If he doesn't finish soon I'm going to have an accident'; or was it the year before?) - these birds used to come down several times a day to drink when water was still available.  (This was highly entertaining, well, by the standards of what usually goes on around here, but I'd better save that one for another time, perhaps when I've got that pump fixed - there is probably a limited supply of ideas in my ever-decreasing brain which is ever-decreasing ... sorry, was that repetition?  Also, was that repetition?)

Anyway (there I go again), these same birds still come down to the water feature (isn't that a lovely expression?  Some people I know have water features that are six metres by four, deep, and lined with blue tiles) to drink, act surprised that there's no water, and eventually realise that the best plan is to fly away again (once they've worked out how).

So, what kind of memories do these characters have?  Long term, obviously - they remember that there used to be water there.  Short term?  Not much.  They all have incipient Alzheimer's.  Or perhaps I'm maligning them.  Perhaps (by the way, that's a different word due to the capital P, I write the rules around here) they are reminding me that it really is time to phone those water feature maintenance people.  Just like, when you're gardening, robins remind you to keep digging.  Or used to.  Robins have given up on me now.  You probably have too by now.  You'll have to guess how much hesitation there was in there,  I'm not telling.  Nor how much of whatever the other one is, I forget.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Thought it was time for another joke

A man walks into a bar and places a frog and a rat in the counter.

"What's this?" says the barman.

"Just watch," says the man, and places the frog on the bar piano stool.  The frog immediately begins to play the accompaniment to a Puccini aria, not very well.  The barman is impressed.

"That's nothing," says the man, and gives the rat a nudge.  The rat starts singing the aria in a beautiful tenor voice.

"Wow, what an act!  You could make your fortune with that," says the barman.

Just then an impresario enters the bar.  The barman draws his attention to the remarkable performers, and after some persuasion the man gives another demonstration.  The impresario is highly impressed, and offers the man fifty thousand pounds for the act.  The man ponders this.

"Well," he replies at last.  "I'll take twenty-five thousand for the rat.  But I couldn't possibly part with the frog."

After some haggling, the impresario settles for this and leaves with his new acquisition.  The barman is perplexed.

"But - why did you sell that beautiful singing rat but insist on holding on to the frog?  He's not even a very good pianist."

"No," says the man.  "But he's a brilliant ventriloquist."

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Noisy noise

A friend said to me the other day that they really liked the sound of light aircraft passing overhead.  I wasn't convinced, so nodded politely.  Admittedly this was in a rural setting, so I can understand the implicit romance of a Tiger Moth wing-waggling over a crowd of waving peasants, growling and whining its way off over the hills to a faraway landing strip on a deserted beach, with an eagerly anticipated assignation at the arrival (see Robert Browning, 'Meeting at Night' for the back-story) ...  But come to urban Reading.

Just after I've poured the first drink, the helicopter arrives.  I know what's going to happen.  It's going to circle and hover over my house for as long as it can.  On top of the traffic in the road, the high-up but nonetheless incessant drone of the flightpath to or from Heathrow, the trains at the bottom of the garden (which I don't really mind since I got the secondary double glazing)  and the distant rumble of the M4, I find this intolerable.  Noise perturbs my brain.  When I was about six, I was taken to the station to see off some relative, and the hiss of the engine releasing steam scared me for months.  The first time I ever visited my relative L's house, we were sitting in the garden at lunchtime, sipping a Pimms, when all of a sudden this plane (they live right under the Heathrow flightpath on bad days) screeched over, so low you could see the bolts, you could see the tyre treads (to quote Joni Mitchell).  I covered my ears: but they just carried on talking - they were so conditioned, they didn't even hear it, let alone react to or against it.  That's probably why they're all mad.

I once phoned the police to enquire politely what this helicopter was there for (even though I knew the answer - nice evening, let's go for a joyride).  I was politely informed that they were looking for a missing child.  I pointed out that it was dark.  They responded that they had heat-seeking equipment.  I nearly went on to point out that there might be more than a few heat-emitting bodies in the Oxford Road area, but then I couldn't be arsed (LWON please note the demotic).

My latest technique is to go into the garden, staring up at them with the mobile in my ear, whilst mouthing vehement complaints and pointing at the sky.  Not actually phoning anyone, you understand, that's a waste of phone credit points.  Anyway, it seemed to work this evening - they spotted me and immediately boggered off to terrorise Caversham instead.

Some noise can become music in the right ears.  But not all of it.

Here's an interesting place

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Virtual Role Models

You may have noticed, from the TV or the newspapers or passing loudspeaker vans or sky-writing aeroplanes, that a certain football player has recently been revealed to be a bad role model for the nation's youth, due to the uncovering of certain behavioural shenanigans which have no place in a respectable blog such as this.  The sin is deemed especially heinous by virtue of the fact that the person in question had hitherto been universally regarded as a good role model: sober, balanced, faithful loving husband, perfect father, etcetera etcetera etcetera.  So youngsters who were previously motivated to emulate this laudable lifestyle will, we are told, be instantly converted to the belief that it is after all perfectly acceptable to play away from home/beat your wife/snort yard-long lines of cocaine or whatever the latest scandal might be.

And I think: hang on.  A couple of things.  Firstly, whilst all this was allegedly going on, who was holding this man up to be that paragon of virtue?  Why, the very media who now vilify him as the spawn of Satan.  So that wasn't very good journalism, was it?  They are normally so good at unearthing wrongdoing where none exists, you'd think the real thing would be a doddle, wouldn't you?  But it took them years.  Secondly, have they ever met, spoken to or observed an actual teenager?  And finally (all right, that's three), if they are so dismayed by these revelations and their perceived corrupting influence, er, why did they publish them?

Myself, I think this whole role model thing isn't what it's cracked up to be.  I can't think of a single one I ever had.  Heroes to be worshipped, certainly.  Achievements to be aspired to.  But people of whom I thought: 'I want to conduct my life like him'?  Nah.  But maybe that's just me.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Desert Island Discs

Radio Four has apparently been inviting listeners to submit their own eight choices, a selection of which is to be broadcast next weekend.  For all sorts of reasons I didn't participate, and wouldn't have anyway, as I don't really want my life in music to be diluted into a snippet of a ninety-minute radio show, however well-intentioned.  But here, I can waste an evening self-indulging, in the knowledge that I am boring only my few readers rather than the entire population of the planet.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

Small Hours, by John Martyn.  Eight minutes and forty seconds of exquisite understated guitar and effect pedal work, guaranteed to send you into a delightful soporific haze.

Trying To Get To You, by Elvis Presley.  This hit me in the eyes, guts and hormones when I was fifteen.  And the vocal break at the end of the middle eight is his best ever singing performance.

A Song Of The Weather, by Flanders and Swann.  Although I didn't get some of the more sophisticated jokes on 'At The Drop Of A Hat', the album (Parlophone PMC1033, accept no substitutes) woke me up to the idea of wittiness, at the same time that Tom Lehrer did.  I could have chosen any track really.

Concierto de Aranjuez, Rodrigo.   I was tempted to submit Miles Davis's great reinterpretion on 'Sketches of Spain', but I needed some proper classical guitar.  Any version will do, mine is by John Zaradin.

I Want You, by Bob Dylan.  Specifically the live version on the 'At Budokan' album from 1978, where he gives us a slow, heartfelt version of one of his loveliest love songs.

I Saw Her Standing There, by The Beatles.  Well, they moulded a great chunk of my youth, so they had to be on my island.  And it's worth it just for Lennon's brilliantly knowing line "she was just seventeen, you know what I mean ..."

A Love Supreme, by John Coltrane.  Just out of thanks that it exists.

Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart, by the Coasters.  Want to go to bed feeling exuberant?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Street cries

A visiting friend pointed out that I had a library of unread old books.  I knew that I already had 'Culpepper' and 'Foxe's Book of Martyrs' (nightmare book if ever you need one) and 'An Englishwoman's Love Letters' - so I plucked out this one:

Here are a couple more:

And a few cries:

'Songs, three yards a penny!  Southernwood that's very good!  Cherries, oh!  Ripe cherries O!'


'Buy a goose?  Any bellows to mend?  Who's for a mutton pie, or an eel pie?  Who buys my roasting jacks?  Sand, ha!  buy my nice white sand, ho!  Buy my firestone?  Roasted pippins, piping hot?'

That'll do to go on with.  I have more.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Another side

This guitar has been very busy recently, give it a round of applause please.