L.B.M. part two

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Well, I am sure that it will come as no surprise to you to discover that L.B.M. (Life Before Mobiles) part two, is no longer about life without mobiles, but actually about life with them. (Part one, by the way, is here.)  Furthermore, I now realise that a large number of my readers will have no idea whatsoever of what I mean by ‘Mobile’ and I, therefore, regret the original title anyway.  For many of you, what I mean is cell-phone.  I could, I suppose, change the title to L.B.C-P part two, but it sounds unwieldy and, anyway, if we’re going to be pedantic here, it should by now be ‘Life With Cell-Phones’ and therefore no longer ‘part two’ anyway.  Too confusing.  Please accept that like all self-respecting sequels, this follow-up has little to do with its predecessor and serves simply to deliver us at the foothills of part three.  I hope you understand.  You don’t?  No, me neither…

So, having established in ‘part one’ that my mobile phone has all manner of features that a telephone box does not, I will take a little peek at what I can find on my own home screen to try and describe what some of them are.  This will not take long because I have an iPhone and it is only a matter of minutes before the battery runs out…

I have BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, More4, YouTube, Netflix and all manner of other pieces of technological wizardry that allow me to watch TV and film on demand.  Except that I don’t, because I can’t see them.  When my wife and I got married, we had a fourteen inch Black & White TV and 20/20 vision.  Being a get-up-and-go, aspirational couple, we bought a colour TV when we moved into our first house – it was also a fourteen inch – and we quite happily watched that little box until our children wanted us to have something that they weren’t ashamed of.  Since then, the size of our TV has grown as our eyesight has failed.  We are currently on forty-three inches of LCD, whatever that is*, which is where we have been forced to stop as the space between wall and fireplace will not accommodate anything bigger unless we extend the house, so our chairs are getting closer.  The chances of me being able to follow anything on the tiny screen of my phone are miniscule (as, indeed, are the tiny ant-figures that lurch hither and thither across it).  I have the normal ‘old person’ failing of not being able to see anything that is dark – when the screen is also little more than the size of a decent biscuit, I am lost.  I do not know what is going on most of the time when I am watching a film on the giant screen at a cinema: on a postage stamp I have no chance.

I also have the Kindle app which allows me access to all of the books that I have on my Kindle proper but, crucially, smaller.  It gives me options: I can view a page of Lilliputian dimensions, readable only with one of those full-page magnifying glasses that my grandma used to have for reading Woman’s Own; or I can have a readable font size that means there are about six words to a page and none of them forming a recognisable sentence.  I read text messages on my phone and WhatsApp missives, but nothing that is supposed to make sense.

As far as I can see, I don’t appear to have Facebook, Instagram or Twitter on my phone.  At least, if I do, I have no idea how to find them.  I do not really have a Social Media presence, although I am a regular user of the family WhatsApp group, if only to see what the grandkids are still prepared to allow me a little window into their lives.  I know that, sooner or later, they will start to keep me at arms length, so as long as they want to spend time with me – even virtually – I embrace the chance with every fibre of my will.  And we Facetime – as long as they call me – and when they’ve gone I experience the sensation of feeling hollow yet full at the same time: like looking at a croissant on the morning of the night after the bottle of scotch before.

It will all make sense when we get to part three – I think.  I cannot promise, because I haven’t finished it yet, having only just decided that part two finishes here… 

*It used to be a cheap supermarket watch that failed to work as soon as you pushed the little button on the side for the first time and from that point onwards continually blinked ’88:88’ until you hit it with something hard.

L.B.M. (Life Before Mobiles) part one

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I started this post, as usual, with no idea of where it was going and, before I knew it, I discovered that it was going to run far, far too long for a single post and I still had no idea where it was going.  As I type this, it is heading towards a full week’s worth of words.  I have no idea how it will eventually split into three, where it will split into three, and into which three, exactly, it will eventually split.  Hopefully, by the time I post it, it will have miraculously fallen into place.  If it hasn’t – I’m sorry.  If it has – I’m still sorry…

Do you remember life before mobile phones?  Do you remember the thrill of being uncontactable?  Do you remember searching for a working phone box that had not previously been used as a toilet, only to discover that you didn’t have the correct change with which to make the call anyhow?  Do you remember breaking down in the car (because it was raining/too hot/too cold/there was a lump of dust the size of Venus in the carburettor) and having absolutely no idea whatsoever of how you were going to summon help?  Do you remember the sudden, desperate need to know which TV programme some actor or another used to be in, with no possible way of finding out without a free fortnight and ten years worth of back copies of the Radio Times?

We all take our little pocket devices, and the ability they have to make the sum total of all world knowledge available to us at the whim of a thumb, completely for granted now.  How quickly we have forgotten how life used to be.  I have written before (here) about how different pre-mobile telephone communication was, but there is so much more to it: our modern mobiles are so much more than phones.  Picture life without a satnav when you fancy a curry in a strange town.  Consider life without the ability to take a photograph of every meal you have ever eaten and send it instantly to everyone you have ever known?  Imagine not knowing how many steps you have taken in a day – what kind of life is that?

I feel that the time is right to take a little peek at what my own mobile has brought to my everyday life.  If the order is somewhat random, it is because I am simply looking at the screen of my phone as I type and trying to decipher what each little icon stands for; what it is supposed to do, and, finally, what I actually do with it.  There are apps that I have never opened; there are apps that provoke a panic attack simply because they look like something that I will not be able to work, and there are apps that, by some miracle, I have both understood and mastered – it is to these beacons of hope that I now refer.

When I was twenty years old, Sony introduced the Walkman – the first proper progression from the ‘portable’ cassette players of my youth (the size and weight of two house bricks).  The Walkman was a quarter of the size and a quarter of the weight and came with ‘miniature headphones’ which meant that the rest of the bus didn’t have to listen to what you were playing or threaten to ‘stuff that bloody contraption right up your bloody arse if you don’t turn the bloody racket down’.  Progress, being what it is, the cassette tape of the Walkman was soon replaced by the Compact Disc, and the Walkman with the Discman, which added the capacity for the music to ‘skip’ like a vertiginous ice skater at the slightest of movements to the range of listening pleasures.  Choosing the ten CD’s you wished to take on holiday, to be safely sheathed within the Discman’s case, was one of the joys of preparation – taking several weeks to perfect.  The fun kind of went from that with the arrival of iPod, and the ability to take enough music with you to power a pirate radio station, in a single piece of apparatus that was just exactly the perfect size to be lost on the transfer bus.  These days, when I run (You didn’t know I ran?  I must tell you about it some time) I take my phone with me because, quite frankly, I feel as if I have to have it in case I ever have to make that ‘last call’ – secure in the knowledge that my GPS signal and What3Words app will have the emergency services at my side quicker than you can say ‘No Network’.   With my phone comes access to the entire library of all of the world’s music ever, which I listen to through a pair of Bluetooth headphones that fall out and drop down a drain hardly ever. 

This is true progress…

…and a convenient place to finish.  Part two awaits you tomorrow and, by the time we get there, I promise that it is almost certain to make sense.

A Thin Slice of Spam

Well, despite my best intentions, I have once again peered into my Spam Folder to find many people offering me ‘Hardcore Photo’s’. Unfortunately, I do not need any concrete laying. Oh well, at least I’ll know where to look when I do…

Odds and Sods – The Smallest Room Monologues (part two)

If you missed part one of this little monologue and you have even the slightest interest in reading it, it is here.

…Take Benjamin Franklin, was his name Benjamin or was it William?  William Franklin?  Frank?  I don’t know.  One of the brothers anyway, one of the brothers, let’s say Benjamin.  Benjamin Franklin could never have invented electricity unless someone before him had invented the kite.  That being, I think I’m right in saying, that being the Chinese.  Chinese people being, of course, several thousand years ahead of us at that time, in the invention of things like kites… and ancient paper folding… and opium burners…  Things happen in order, don’t they?  You can’t get to C, if nobody’s bothered to invent A and B first…

Except, except that I’ve just thought about the electric toothbrush.  I don’t know why I never thought of it earlier.  The electric toothbrush.  Obviously… obviously an instance where the toothpaste we use now was actually invented for a non-electric toothbrush – a manual toothbrush you might say –  and so, in that way, the toothpaste actually came before the toothbrush we now use to apply it.  And you know, I’m sure, I’m sure that many people still use the conventional, manually-operated toothbrush, as it were, especially when they go away on holiday, or away for a night, I mean, perhaps staying at another persons house, with permission of course… nothing untoward… but, essentially, the toothpaste, having been invented for the manual toothbrush came along before the electric toothbrush ever had its first chance to flick it in your eye and was therefore backwards… the invention was backwards…  It’s a bit like the chicken and egg situation: which came first – the electric kettle or the pot noodle?  The electric toaster or the square-shaped crumpet?  The freeze-chilled, calorie-counted slimmer’s meal or the flip-top bin?  And wouldn’t it be nice if we could un-invent some things: the nuclear bomb, for instance; obscenely loud in-car stereo systems; Piers Morgan…

F.X.           AN ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH IS TURNED OFF

…It’s strange actually how much it sounds like, the electric toothbrush, how much it sounds like the hygenic nasal hair remover, because it would explain why I did, on one occasion, having not turned on the bathroom light, so as not to wake my sleeping wife and children, actually manage to apply toothpaste to the end of my nasal clippers and, in fact, severely damage my front teeth whilst attempting to clean them with it.  Also slightly damaging the blade so that it does have a tendency to leave a slight sore patch to the left hand side of my nostril when I use it.  I would imagine, also, that most of us now have an electric razor, to save the inconvenience of shaving with a conventional blade.  I, myself, continue to shave in the traditional manner, with a safety razor, because my electric razor never seems to do anything much but graze my skin, it sort of leaves the stubble where it is whilst removing the top layer of skin around it, so I do, as I say, carry on in the traditional manner, using the cream and the razor blade and, of course, the toilet roll to staunch the bleeding.  That is, of course, when there is a toilet roll actually hanging on the dispenser.  Having a family: my wife, myself and my two children, I tend to find that mostly, when I’m… not always, but mostly… when I’m in need of using the toilet roll, that I find there isn’t actually anything there.  This tends to happen at a fairly… inconvenient time… and when it does, generally I have to call upon someone to fetch one for me or, if there’s no-one else at home, I shuffle along to the cupboard where they are kept.  I obviously understand the inconvenience it causes, finding oneself in this situation, so I always endeavour to then put the roll onto the dispenser.  For easy use of the next person and to facilitate them knowing whether or not the toilet roll does need changing immediately they get there.  I like to have the leading edge of the paper hanging to the front of the roll and so, of course, that’s the way I tend to hang it.  My wife, however, prefers to have the leading edge hanging to the rear of the roll and is therefore constantly taking them off after I’ve put them on and turning them around so that they hang to suit her preferences.  Sometimes I wonder, is there, in fact, a correct way of hanging a toilet roll?  Does etiquette, protocol perhaps, dictate that the sheets hang to the front or rear of the toilet roll?  Should there be the merest edge of the front sheet in evidence, or should it hang one or perhaps two full sheets below the roll?  I wouldn’t honestly know where to look for guidance on this, presumably there must be correct form, as it were, for instance in the royal household I’m sure toilet rolls have to be hung in a specific manner.  A sort of Royal Decree perhaps.  Maybe that’s a way I could look into it.  Is there perhaps, in Buckingham Palace, a Master of the Queen’s Toilet Roll.  A sort of toilet roll pursuivant, who ensures that every toilet is, at all times, equipped with a full toilet roll and not just the cardboard tube from the centre, which one is, of course, forced to use, from time to time, in extremis…  I must admit, I’ve never seen such a job advertised.  Perhaps it’s one of those jobs that one can only get by appointment.  Perhaps you cannot apply to be the royal toilet roll changer, you have to be appointed to the job, perhaps being promoted from some more menial task around the palace like… like royal lint remover, perhaps… or the man who disposes of the royal cotton-buds for instance.  Perhaps this task forms only part of the duties of a job with much wider scope.  Perhaps the person responsible for this task is also resposible for ensuring that the royal soap-on-the-rope does in fact stay, as intended, on the rope and not down in the bath where it forms a sort of semi-coagulated mess that blocks the plug-hole.  The same person may well be responsible for placing the little blue block into the lavatory cistern.  And, of course, the very same person could very well be responsible for removing screw-top shower gel bottles from the royal bathroom, putting them instead in the staff showers, for instance, for members of the household who are probably far more manually dextrous than the Queen and Prince Phillip, and replacing them with what I think we have now established are the far more convenient and stylish hook-on-the-rail, flip-top bottles.  By Appointment to The Master of the Queens Own Andrex I shouldn’t wonder…

F.X.           TOILET FLUSHES.

N.B. This piece was written pre-beard when I undertook the daily, painful routine of scraping off my stubble along with the top layer of epidermis.  I have pale skin and have always struggled with shaving.  From the dawn of my facial hair to my mid-fifties I had a beautifully smooth, but sore face.  I now have a permanently grizzled, but comfortable face in which to live. 

An Intermediate Little Something

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On the very first day of Lockdown I lost a chunk of tooth.  What was left of the errant molar then continued to shed lumps of itself at random intervals right up until the present day.  Each time I found myself spitting out chunks of dentine, I phoned the dentist, only to be told that she wouldn’t see me unless I was in unbearable pain, unable to sleep, or could not eat.  I will not lie, and none of the above options applied, so I chomped on to the best of my abilities.

Yesterday, the dentist rang me to say that they would see me in one weeks time.  Great news?  Should be, but you know how these things go.  Today, my tooth aches.  I cannot chew on it.  I will not be able to sleep for the next seven days.  Psychosomatic?  I presume so.  I can live with it.  What’s of most concern is that six days from now I have to submit an online form to certify that I do not have any Covid symptoms – and I can feel the countdown ticking in my head as I type…

Mowing the Lawn

There’s something very therapeutic about mowing the lawn at this time of year, not least in the knowledge that you shouldn’t have to be doing it for too much longer.  The sun, although as bright as ever, has lost its fiercest heat; the days are shortening perceptibly, the mower’s basket is less full.  Even the ants have given up creating bare patches for now.

My lawns are not huge: well within the range of the mower’s cable.  They are far from flat, but unlike last year, they are at least green.  They are certainly no bowling green.  They host various bouts of running, tumbling, football and cricket.  The bounce is, at best, variable.  It would leave Joe Root¹ staring at the sky, having vainly chased another one rising sharply just wide of off: it would leave Jordan Pickford² cursing his luck as he fished another one out of the net.  But we manage ok, the grandkids and me.  Lord knows, we even manage a bit of golf – although with very limited success, when we discover that the hole is full of clothes dryer instead of flag.  I must admit that the combination of eighteen inch plastic putter, lightweight plastic ball, uneven surface and grass that is at least two inches longer than regulation does little to help.  I would claim to be the world’s worst golfer, were it not for my granddaughter who, tired of constantly missing the ball, gradually takes to thrashing the plants in a manner that I do not think would be considered at all sporting at the R&A.

The mowing is not a long job – although on a good day I can make it so – and I can sense that even my tiny electric mower finishes it with a wheeze of ‘Is that it?  Is that all you’ve got?’  Well, yes, it is.  Mind you, it’s alright for you little Bosch, you are blithely unaware of how scruffy a front hedge appears alongside a neatly cut lawn.  My wife is not, and I am quickly apprised of the situation. 

My electric hedge trimmers add a suitable level of jeopardy, if not actual danger, to the morning.  When they were younger, they may well have been capable of excising an errant finger here and there, of chopping through an injudiciously placed cable; now, they would merely give either a nasty nag, but an unwelcome one none-the-less. Unfortunately I do not have the intellect to buy common-sense, and we remain uneasy bedfellows, electrical equipment and I.  We are all much happier when anything with an external power supply is safely stowed away in the shed.  Not quite so therapeutic is the actual process of ‘stowing’.  There is nothing in my shed that does not strive to injure me in some way or another.  Like Mr Magoo striding purposefully towards an upturned rake, I approach confidently, but there is inevitable harm awaiting.  If I do not get punctured by some unseen implement, I get stung by a belligerent house-guest, or receive an eyeful of some noxious something-or-another that I had completely forgotten ever storing there.  We have a very traditional love/hate relationship, the shed and I – although from my side it is all hate.

Still, that’s not the worst of it.  ‘As you’re out there,’ says the voice from within, ‘the gutter’s leaking.’  My relationship with ladders is even more problematic than my relationship with all things electrical and pointy.  I have never had problems with walking underneath them, it is the standing on top of the bloody things that bothers me.  (On a scale of 1-10, where 1 = becalmed and 10 = an autumn day on Neptune, how much wind does there have to be to make you feel unsafe on a ladder?  Answer, 0.)  Anyway, I did it.  Did I mention that I had to rest the ladder on the garage roof, having climbed up there via a step ladder?  Still, not quite so far to fall.  I didn’t, by the way, fall off that is.  I cleared the gutter without mishap; got myself and the ladder off the garage roof without incident and stored the step ladder back in the shed completely without injury.  Until, that it, I stubbed my toe on the lawnmower…

¹England cricket captain – widely regarded as one of the best bats in the world until, like many before him, the precise moment at which he was made captain, at which point, the wheels fell off.

²As I write, England goalkeeper, although that may change.  Eccentric, like most goalkeepers, Jordan has elevated the state into full-on barking at the moon.

A Little Fiction – Train of Thought (Dinah and Shaw part 5)

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‘…Why do they even put backwards-facing seats into railway carriages?’ asked Shaw.  ‘Nobody likes them.’

‘Well, I don’t think they are backwards facing all the time, are they?  I mean, when they get to where they are going, they don’t turn around to come back, do they?  They just get pulled from the other end….’

‘No, of course not.  I know that,’ snapped Shaw, who felt that he had to say something, but really just wanted to concentrate on the fact that he was distinctly unhappy at having to watch where he had just been funnel silently away into the distance.  Knowing that his future was looming up, unseen, behind him made him anxious and, as everyone that knew him would testify, an anxious Shaw was a spiky Shaw.  For the moment, he occupied himself by staring malignantly into the distance, but Dinah recognised the signs, some kind of irrational outburst was just around the corner.

‘Would you like a coffee?’ she asked, all smoothing oil on troubled waters.

‘I would,’ said Shaw, ‘but that’s another thing: no buffet car.  A two hour journey and no buffet car.  What do they expect you to do, drink the sweat from your own brow?’ 

Dinah recognised the warning: a troubled sea fanned by a full-on anxiety storm.  ‘’I’ve brought a flask,’ she said.

‘A what?’

‘A flask.  I’ve brought a flask of coffee.’  She unscrewed the little metal cup and poured the black steaming liquid, watching as Shaw’s bottom lip began, petulantly to protrude.  He opened his mouth to speak, but Dinah was ready for him.  ‘Milk and sugar are in the bag, she said.  Shaw’s mouth made the slightest twitch towards complaint.  ‘And biscuits,’ added Dinah.

‘What kind?’

Dinah allowed herself the faintest of smiles.  ‘Bourbon, of course.’

Shaw looked into Dinah’s face as passed the cup towards him.  She smiled and he felt the tension leave him in an instant, tingling away from the nape of his neck.

‘Now, do you mind telling me where we are going – and why?’

‘There’s something we’ve got to see,’ said Shaw.

‘What?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘Well, where then?’ persisted Dinah.

‘There’s the thing…’

Dinah sighed deeply.  ‘You don’t know do you?’

‘Not exactly, no, but I think I’ll know when we get there.’

‘How?  How will you know?’

‘The man in the tartan hat,’ Shaw nodded, indicating the man on the seat behind him.  ‘He’ll be getting off there.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Well, he has to get off somewhere, doesn’t he?’

‘I suppose so, but why him?  Why are we following him?’

‘To see where he gets off, of course.’  Shaw sipped his coffee, indicating that, as far as he was concerned, the matter was closed. 

Dinah, as ever, absorbed and understood the subliminal message, but ploughed on anyway.  ‘I mean, you must have some reason to want to know why he, in particular, is going to get off the train, wherever he might choose to do so.’

Shaw drank slowly, eeking out the silence as long as he could.  Finally, his cup empty, he sighed resignedly and said, ‘Do you think we should be following somebody else?’

‘Well, no,’ Dinah stuttered.  ‘That is…’

‘Good,’ said Shaw, settling back in his seat and revelling in his moment of triumph.  ‘That’s settled then.  We’ll stick with my original plan.’

Despite a billion reservations bouncing around in her head, like a zero-gravity hailstorm, she decided that the time had come to just go along with the flow and enjoy the day out.  She would have said ‘watching the world go by’, but she had to agree with Shaw, there was little fun in watching the world that had already gone by.

Slowly, imperceptibly, she surrendered to the steady sway of the train, and her head sagged steadily towards Shaw’s shoulder.  She drifted off into a soft, dreamless sleep, unaware of the gentle rhythmic snoring of Shaw in her ear…

…They both awoke in the otherwise empty carriage to the first lurch of the return journey.  Outside the carriage, all was dark.  ‘Typical,’ said Shaw.  ‘We’re facing the right way, and now there’s nothing to see…’

Previous snippets from the lives of Dinah Shaw are here. Part one, part two, part three and part four.

Odds and Sods – The Smallest Room Monologues (part one)

I found this in my Odds and Sods file simply labelled ‘1’.  There is a ‘2’ and a ‘3’ as well.  The title tells you all of what it was intended to be.  To get the full effect, you should read it out aloud.  Try it – you will be so grateful for social distancing.  This is the first half of episode 1.  I will publish part two in a later edition of Odds and Sods – unless somebody sends lots of money to stop me…

A SHOWER IS TURNED OFF

…Why do they put shower gel in screw-top bottles?  I mean, you pour the shower gel into your hand and by the time you’ve screwed the top back on, it’s all washed away and dribbled on your foot.  You get clean feet, but I can never understand it…  I always buy the bottles with the little hook on top, you know, you hang them over the rail on your shower and they have a little flip-top that you flip down and get the shower gel directly into your eye…  Whenever people buy shower gel for me, and people do, a lot… I seem to get an awful lot of shower gel for birthdays, Christmas, father’s day… very… very thoughtful… it’s very thoughtful…  it’s a very thoughtful thing to buy isn’t it, shower gel, very thoughtful…  but whenever people buy it for me, it always seems to come in screw top bottles.  And it always has the word ‘Sport’ in the name of it somewhere.  ‘Sport’ like if the shower gel is ‘Sport’ shower gel, it comes in a screw top bottle.  Perhaps if you’re a sportsman you can get the lid on quick enough, you know, so that it doesn’t wash away and dribble down your leg…

It’s a funny thing, shower gel, it’s not something we used to have you know, when I was a kid.  We had soap.  And no shower, come to think of it.  We had a bath… once a week as I recall… with soap, but no shower gel, we never had shower gel…

I wonder who actually invented shower gel?  I can’t imagine it was one of those Eureka! moments, you know, like, ‘Hey, look at me, I’ve invented shower gel, now, does anybody round here have a shower?’  I think probably more like ‘Oh dear, I’ve just spilled the shampoo… perhaps I’d better rinse it off before it goes sticky… Oh hang on, just look at that…’  I don’t know what the difference is, really; between shower gel and shampoo.  I remember my dad always used to say, when we’d run out of shampoo, ‘It’s only detergent,’ he would say.  ‘It’s just detergent with a few additives.  You might just as well use washing-up liquid.  If it leaves hands that do dishes as soft as your face, then it’s bound to do a decent job on your hair.’  So we did, use washing-up liquid that is, and I just can’t help wondering how different that is from shower gel.  I suppose it’s possible that somebody spilled washing-up liquid down themselves and went to wash it off in the shower…  although that would mean that they’d been washing the pots in the nude, not completely impossible, but not entirely hygienic I would imagine, not the normal thing, unless, of course, you are a middle-aged German…

I imagine most inventions must come about by accident, really… you know, like blue water in the toilet… I can’t imagine anyone would have said ‘I know, I think I’ll invent coloured water for the toilet.’  No, they must have sort of… I don’t know… accidentally dropped ink perhaps, ink, yes, ink perhaps… or a felt pen, a blue felt pen perhaps… into the lavatory bowl and the water turned blue, and they thought ‘Oh, that’s very nice.  That looks very nice.  Now, how can I make it do that all the time?  I suppose the disinfectant came later… You know, they thought ‘That water’s nice blue, but, well, if we put some disinfectant in it then there’d be no stains around the toilet to spoil the overall… blueness.  The blueness of the water.  That would be right, I think.

Accident see, it’s the way things come about.  I mean, who would have thought that for want of finding somewhere for an astronaut to fry an egg, we’d have all ended up with Teflon frying pans?  It’s amazing.  Amazing.  I suppose, to be fair, they must have had fairly explicit instructions you know, like, ‘Look, you’re going to need breakfast up there and it’s not going to be easy to… to wash a frying pan, you know to wash out bits of stuck-on fried eggs from a frying pan in the weightless conditions of space, I mean, as you scrape the bits off the pan they’d go flying around the spacecraft and I don’t suppose the computers can deal with that… I don’t suppose they can deal with that at all.  So, I think perhaps in that case, I’m wrong, yes I’m wrong and it was, in that case, deliberate… a deliberate invention and in that respect of course, quite unlike the blue water in the lavatory…

I remember when they first came out, you know, non-stick frying pans and my mum she just… she wouldn’t have one, she wouldn’t have one in the house.  She said, ‘Son, nothing works as well at not sticking as a good old-fashioned metal frying pan absolutely full of lard and I suppose in that respect she was… she was quite right of course, because nothing ever did stick in the frying pan.  Well, well at least not until she set fire to it of course and then the sausages took a little bit of shifting, but, of course… yes…  The point I’m trying to make, I think, is that new inventions are not necessarily an improvement on the tried and tested.  I mean, does a… does a self-erecting, telescopic umbrella for instance, keep you any drier than an old fashioned one.  The sort that you have to raise, manually as it were.  I mean, if there’s a broken strut in the umbrella, for instance, and it sort of dangles down and drips the water down your neck then a fully-functional umbrella is obviously better.  But, that can happen with one that puts itself up of course… a gust of wind, you know, catching on a tree, in somebody’s ear which… which, strangely, is exactly what happened to mine and these things can have an effect, but the modern-ness, the cutting-edge, of the invention doesn’t really seem to affect this… I mean, in my case… certainly… the problem may actually have been exacerbated by the umbrella actually erecting itself, as it were, because, because… well, it happened in a lift and, well, the problem could have got seriously out of hand… which, of course, it actually did…

Not that I’m in any way against progress of course.  Some modern inventions are absolutely fine.  You’ve only got to take into consideration that great boon to twenty first century living, the micro-chip.  I mean, it may sound obvious… it may sound obvious to you, I don’t know, but the micro-chip would never have been invented but for the earlier invention of the micro-wave.  I mean, without the microwave, you would have nothing to cook your micro-chips in.  And of course, we now have the micro-pie to go with them.  One thing must lead onto another.  Nobody, for instance, is going to say, ‘Look!  Look everybody, I’ve invented the micro-chip!’ and leave themselves open for somebody saying, ‘Well that’s very nice, but what exactly are you going to cook them in?’

Beard — A Badly Chewed Pencil

Bernard had a lovely beard He kept it nice and clean He’d bathe it with conditioner It brought up quite a sheen He’d trim it, stroke it, wax it, poke it Comb and brush and preen Until the day he got it caught In a slice and dice machine Last one on the shift that […]

Beard — A Badly Chewed Pencil

This is the fourth poem published by my great friend Chris (Crispinunderfelt) on his new blog – A badly chewed pencil. Just thought that I would like to point you in his direction. If you like a funny poem, you’ll love him…

The Middle of Nowhere

This is not a unique situation for me.  I have no idea what I am going to write about, but, whatever it is, I feel that I ought to get started, so, well, you know…  I normally scrawl notes on various scraps of paper during the course of the day, but today I haven’t had the opportunity, so I am sitting at my laptop with no crumpled prompts and no idea of where I’m about to go.  As I say, not a unique situation, but all I’ve got at the moment.

To be honest, I have been wondering for some time whether my posts in general are a little too long.  Through my many years of peddling this kind of tosh to various publications I was generally required to work to 800-1000 words, and I just seem to settle there somehow.  It is not a conscious thing, it is just where everything kind of… ends.  Anyway, I thought that it might be a good idea to write something a little shorter, get to the point a little sooner…  If only I had one.  Anyway, there’s shorter and there’s shorter.  I’m currently a little way short of 200 words (a little tip for you here, if you need to increase your word count, never express a number in figures, always write it out in letters and never hyphenate) and that’s really a little too short isn’t it?

Besides, I’m not entirely sure that I have the focus to follow a point to its conclusion without a little…  You know…  I tend to drift away from the point a little, especially when I haven’t started off with one, and, well, you know what it’s like: one thing leads to another and before you know where you are you find yourself wondering what measurement shoe sizes are based on.  (Apparently barleycorns.  There are twenty six barleycorns in a standard size eight shoe – although I’m still not sure how that actually makes it a standard size eight.)  And then I start to remember how I once stumbled upon a website full of photographs of the feet of the rich and famous and all I could think about was who took them?  Surely it must be quite difficult to covertly take a photo of an unsheathed celebrity foot.  Perhaps the ‘rich and famous’ were implicit in the deceit.  Perhaps the photo’s were posed.  I have now been forced to take off my sock and spend some time staring at my own gnarled hoof.  It is not rich and it is not famous, but it is a good foot.  It is an honest foot.  It does not harbour ideas above its station (it does not dream, for instance, of one day becoming a knee).  It is the kind of foot on which one can rely – unless you are trying to run up stone steps, when it is not.  But anyway…

Mostly I like my posts to have some kind of ending, a denouement if you will, and I don’t always find it possible to get around to one if the words available to me are too strictly limited.  (I do not mean in an Ernest Hemingway kind of way – that is the thing with words – I mean in purely numeric terms.  I’m not thinking of an over-restricted vocabulary, I’m thinking more of a – perhaps I should look in the thesaurus – punitively restricted word count.)  I fully agree with George Orwell about the need for simple language, in exactly the same way as I agree with doctors about not consuming alcohol.  If I took out all of the surplus words from my posts I… well, I couldn’t, could I?  If you choose to look at it in that way, there is no necessity for me to use any words at all.  They are all surplus to requirements – especially if what you are actually looking to find is how to construct an IKEA wardrobe.  There are no adequate words of consolation if you are in that position.

I attempt to edit what I write, but I always read my posts out aloud before I publish them and, if I’m honest, I do like a verbal flow.  I like words, so if I cross a hundred out, I tend to replace them with two hundred more.  I never use a word that I do not understand – although I cannot guarantee that my own understanding will coincide with that of the OED.  I know what I mean.  Anyway, what I am trying to say, I have just decided, is that a shorter blog will probably just not work for me: I do not want to write plain, but ugly sentences, I do not want to get to the point before it is at all polite to do so, and most importantly of all, I do not wish to end my posts in the middle of nowh…