Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts from November 2005


Or, getting ill in a topical way

In today’s news, top scientists have discovered that being a bit chilly does indeed help you catch colds. For me, it’s a timely discovery; on Saturday I started to feel a bit wobbly at the edges, and I spent most of Sunday in bed, sneezing, sinuses blocked, hoping my fuzzy headache would clear itself. I’m blaming the rather ill-planned heating arrangements in my office. It does have a radiator, but at the far end of the room to my desk, which may as well be 1,000 miles further north as far as I can tell. Every ten minutes I have to walk to the far end of the room to warm my numb fingers, so I can keep typing.

The Mother was pleased by the news: “Look! See! Mothers are right when they tell you things!” I tried to point out that she had always said the exact opposite when I was small. If I looked at all sniffly on the day of a PE lesson, I’d be told: “getting out there on the field will do you good – the cold will kill all the bugs off.”

Books I Haven’t Read (part four)

In which we have trouble reading a catalogue

This week’s Book I Haven’t Managed To Finish Reading is something I don’t actually have a copy of myself. I bought it for my dad, a few years back, as a birthday present. He didn’t manage to finish it. I tried myself, and didn’t manage either. This week’s book is Revolution In The Head: The Beatles’ Records And The Sixties by Ian MacDonald.

My dad turned 18 in 1970; being of that generation, he’s always liked the Beatles. He’s not really much of a music fan, but he does like listening to a lot of bands from his teenage days, so I thought, naturally, that he’d enjoy this book. What stumped both of us, though, was its structure. Rather than being a normal biography, it lists every song the band ever recorded, in chronological order, with a few paragraphs about each one. There’s a great wealth of information, and I’m glad he’s now got a copy on the shelf as a reference book, but it’s not something that’s an easy or a light read. I might be a bit of a music geek sometimes, but, when you come right down to it it’s really just a list of songs. And even I’m not that geeky.


In which we’re reminded why we don’t go out much

It’s not often that I go for nights out around here. Sometimes, though, you have to, just to remind yourself why.

There was a good reason for it: a work leaving do. So, we all went off for a meal, before going to one of those horrible crowded town-centre bars that wants to be a nightclub. It doesn’t want to be a nightclub all the time, though, so it ends up being the worst of both worlds: a big, shedlike bar with plenty of tables and chairs so they can serve food in the daytime, a tiny little dancefloor, and loud loud cheesy dance music.

As it was far too loud to talk apart from by shouting right in someone’s ear, I spent some time just standing and watching the crowd. Being Friday, the place was packed, with a strange mixture of college students and 30-somethings. All the men had velvet-short shaved heads;* and all the girls had shoulder-length layers and tiny denim skirts. Everybody in the place had been stamped off the same production-line; everybody in the place had bought their clothes from the same handful of shops in the shopping centre.

A random stranger came up to Big Dave, and spent a good ten minutes chatting to him – well, I mean, they spent ten minutes shouting in each others’ ears. I assumed he was an old friend, or something like that.

“God, some people,” said Big Dave when the man finally left. “The last time I saw that bloke, I beat the shit out of him.” I’m glad Big Dave and I get along, because I’d be quite scared if we didn’t.

* the older men – the fortyish ones – all seemed to have porn moustaches too


Or, being kept awake by the cat

I’m getting that Friday afternoon sleepy feeling yet again. I wonder if I can get away with hiding in my office for the rest of the day.

I didn’t sleep well last night, which didn’t help. The cat, too, didn’t sleep well. He was trying to snooze at the foot of my bed; but every so often the sound of cats fighting outside would come through the window; and immediately he would jump up, run to the window-ledge, and prowl back and forth trying to see what was going on.


In which we annoy someone

I’m not always the most popular person at work, but sometimes I feel less popular than others.

A branch manager called me with a problem. It wasn’t particularly serious, but he seemed to think it was. His computer had been frozen solid for half an hour – or, rather, his computer had frozen solid half an hour ago, and he’d ignored it, so that he could phone up and say how terrible it was that he hadn’t been able to do anything for that long.

I told him to push some keys, and it sprang back into life.

“You have to admit that this isn’t really acceptable,” he said.

I tried to point out that if he, too, had pushed that same keystroke, then he, too, could have had a responsive computer immediately.

He said I was raising my voice at him.

“No, I’m sorry, I wasn’t raising my…”

And with that, he started to shout and swear at me, before slamming the phone down. Lovely. Maybe there’s a reason why he’s managerial material and I’m not.


In which we despise the authoritarian instinct

I’ve said it before, I’m sure, but I generally dislike pretty much all politicians. Some, though, I dislike more than others.

I particularly dislike it when people tell me that draconian and illiberal laws are necessary For Your Own Good. When people tell me that removing my right to freedom from arbitrary detention is really part of preserving my right to a greater, more nebulous freedom, which always remains mysteriously vague.

But what really disgusts me, is when people use innocent deaths, horrific deaths, deaths that deeply affected you and me, to push for ever-greater authoritarianism. No amount of detention without trial would have prevented the July attacks.

That’s just a few reasons why I smiled when I heard today’s news.

(and, incidentally, anyone who does think that we do need 90-day detention without trial “because of the victims” should read what Rachel from North London has to say about it)


In which we wonder what counts as a false identity

Tonight, Christopher Edward Buckingham is a famous man. He probably doesn’t appreciate this, though, because that isn’t his real name. He’s also in prison, because it is the name on his passport. The Passport Office don’t really get the joke with that sort of thing.

Christopher Buckingham has been Christopher Buckingham for twenty-something years, since he was around 20 himself. He won’t tell anybody who he was beforehand. The police are, naturally, suspicious; the police are always suspicious about something. Why, though, do they immediately jump to the assumption that Buckingham has a dodgy past? It’s entirely legal to change your name, if you go about it the right way. So why assume that somebody is a bit shady just because they didn’t bother to fill in the paperwork? Because they show signs of being a fantasist? Why can’t we just let him go ahead being Christopher Buckingham?

Christopher Buckingham’s mother is very upset. She’s not his mother, though, she’s the other Christopher Buckingham’s mother, the one whose name he stole. She’s very upset because her Christopher died in infancy, so therefore she thinks he should apologise to her. You can’t stop somebody stealing your name, though, so long as they don’t actually pretend to be you. He hasn’t done that, so really, it’s nothing to do with her.

I’ve often wanted to run away from my life. It would be good to be able to make a really fresh start. So, you see, I can sympathise with Christopher Buckingham.

Flash, boom, bang

In which we suggest some healthy and Government-approved alternatives

It’s November the 5th, and so it’s time, of course, to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, the cunning plan to murder the King, the government and the parliament, 400 years ago today. I’ve always thought the November timing to be a bit convenient for an event involving warm fires and pretty explosions. What would we do if the Opening of Parliament was in, say, June? You can’t have a nice big effigy-burning in June – that would be silly, and everyone would overheat. You’d have to stay up damn late to see the fireworks, too.*

Just remember, though, if you’re at a bonfire or if you’re watching the fireworks, to make sure you don’t make any jokes along the lines of “we could do with fewer politicians anyway,” or “shame they didn’t finish the job properly.” That would be glorifying terrorism – you can probably get away with saying it now, but this time next year comments like that will be strictly illegal and liable to land you with a lengthy prison sentence. Instead, the Symbolic Forest management would like to suggest the following alternative, appropriate Government-approved phrases for use at fireworks displays:

“God save the politicians!”

“Hurrah for torture-extracted confessions!”

“Look at that nasty terrorist burrrrrn!”

The legality of using the phrase “Wooo!” when a rocket explodes is, at present, unclear.

* Yes, I know that both the French and Americans manage to have firework celebrations in July. It gets darker earlier in France and America, though. So there.


In which we come to terms

The last couple of posts make me sound like an old curmudgeon. I try not to be.

Too many people have died this year. When you’re in your 20s still, you don’t expect people your own age, people you know, to go. A dead friend comes at you like a kick to the ribs.

In the past six months, two people I got to know from the Sinister mailing list have died suddenly and unexpectedly, in very different ways. The second death was yesterday: sudden, unexpected heart failure. We hadn’t been in touch for a couple of years, but even so to know she’s gone was a sudden, nasty shock. I keep thinking of all the greetings and apologies that I should have said, but didn’t.

I’m not sure that I should be posting this picture – I’m not sure that it’s what she would have wanted. I want to show you it, though, because I think it shows what a lovely, lively person she was.


Rest in peace, Amy


In which children should possibly be heard somewhat less

Walking through the town centre, I heard a piercing scream, loud enough to make me jump. “What the hell?” I thought, worried that something horrible was going on.

Turning the next corner, I found that something horrible was going on. “HOW LOUD IS YOUR CHILD COMPETITION,” said the sign. “WIN A BEAR.”

That’s really not necessary, I thought. Children are loud enough already. They don’t need encouragement to scream as loud as they possibly can, because it happens often enough in any case. If only it was a real bear.