Blog : Posts from December 2007 : Page 1

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Memories of the year

In which we remember things we’ve done


Last year, I spread my favourite memories over a series of posts, and wrote each one up properly. This year, I’m still feeling rather woozy and fuzzy-headed; but, nonetheless, these are the things I remember most clearly about the year.

The sight of Devon in January. Driving down the M5 in the dark, and wondering what it would look like in the daylight; then the next morning seeing everything clearly.

Getting on a plane for the first time, and feeling it throw me back in my seat on take-off. I didn’t realise, beforehand, just how forceful it feels. I tried to identify towns, roads, railways from the window, but didn’t do very well. From what I did recognise, we took a very sinuous course around southern England before heading out over the Channel.

Driving around town in the middle of summer, trying to find my way to work, via a route that wasn’t closed by flooding. The estates and marshland east of town were being pumped out by the army; not many routes were passable. Thinking: it’s a bit silly making the sea defences bigger and louder, only to get swamped by the rain.

And, finally: at the end of summer, on a Sunday afternoon, sitting on a stile listening to church bells, and all the other noises one hears at such times.

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Recent search requests

In which we wonder what people are searching for


More things, around the interwebs, that people have been looking for…

the deirdres are a rather good band from Derby – see here, and also here.
photo enlargement 99p – it does sound like a bit of a bargain rate. Unless, of course, you want to enlarge a photo of 99p, which is possible too.
unexplained black moods aren’t very nice, but if they’re that unexplained I’m not sure there’s very much you can do.
emo kids handcuffs – I have a lovely picture in my head, now, of emo kids handcuffed to street furniture in all their hang-outs – outside the art gallery in Exchange Square in Glasgow; outside the Corn Exchange* in Leeds, and so on. I wholeheartedly endorse this idea. Come on, people, together we can make it a reality.
triangle sidings are the London Underground sidings in South Kensington, in the basement of the Cromwell Road Sainsburys, where the air terminal used to be. More information, and photos, here.
chocolate coins left at doorstep – I don’t remember ever mentioning this, or anything of the sort. But if anyone does want to leave some chocolate coins on my doorstep, then, please, feel free to!
cara page journalist. Cara Page was, the last I heard, writing for the Daily Record. She’s infamous – at least in certain circles – for writing “exposés” about the sex lives of fairly boring and ordinary people, such as a charity shop worker from Peebles. None of it is “newsworthy” in any conventional sense of the word, but tabloid editors still strongly believe that a bit of Carry On-style tame muckiness sells papers. Sadly, that’s all I know about her. And that, I think, is probably enough search requests for now.

* Now there’s a name that’s always puzzled me a little. “Hello, my dear sir, I’d like to swap this corn, if you may. For … erm … some different corn?”

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Godlike powers

In which we’re not impressed


Christmas came, and brought the flu. I was in bed most of yesterday, aching, coughing and sleeping.

We really weren’t impressed by the ending of Doctor Who on Christmas Day. Russell T Davies doesn’t know how to write a good ending – as demonstrated both by the end to the last series, and the Christmas special. I’m dreading the new series, and I really hope he’ll have written as few episodes as possible. Give the writing jobs to Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat in future, please.

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Today

In which FP is ill


Today, I’ve drunk several cups of tea. I’ve sat reading for a while; I’ve sat online for a while, and later I’m going to be zooming about the English motorway system.* In other words, just like any other non-working day. The only alcohol in my system is: two spoonfuls of Benylin.

Somehow, though, I have this sudden urge to gorge myself on poultry and roast vegetables, before lying back in an armchair, burping, eating Ferrero Rocher** and watching Doctor Who on the telly. It must be genetic, or something.*** At least Doctor Who can wait until evening. If you’re reading this, today: go and look at one final Christmas card, then switch off the computer, and either go down the pub, or lie on the sofa and belch like a normal person.

* insert Sarah Nixey impression here.

** yes, I did get given a box. And socks. And underwear. And the new Terry Pratchett, as per usual.

*** It’s been scientifically-proved – by the FP Militant Invective Laboratories, of course – that British people have a genetic susceptibility towards a love of apparently-immortal and godlike aliens who can build time-travelling phone boxes.

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Binge-eating

In which we have spare chocolate


I’ve just realised something. So far, I’ve eaten one day of my advent calendar. I still have 23 days left to go. It might not be as good as K’s home-made peanut butter cups,* but HURRAH!

* although it is a morally-uplifting fair trade advent calendar, obtained by The Mother from church.

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I’ve Liked You For A Thousand Years

In which we like Scott Pilgrim


The latest book in Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s Scott Pilgrim series, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, has been out in shops for a month or so, now. And it is, as expected, an excellent book. As it says on the back-cover blurb:

“Now with more kicks, punches, rock & roll, subspace, half-ninjas, experience points, samurai swords, girly action, and laughable attempts to seek gainful employment”

There’s a subtle pun in that blurb, which I’ll come to in a minute. If you’ve never read it before: Scott Pilgrim is a graphic novel series, 2/3rds published so far, about a 20something Canadian slacker with a mysterious American girlfriend – who has seven evil exes, who all have to be defeated in top-notch video-game style. In the meantime he has to deal with his own exes, everyday life, and (in the new book) his girlfriend’s own feelings about relationships. She is, incidentally, a rollerskating rapid-response courier, who has learned the trick of shortcutting through other people’s dreams.* Which is how Scott initially meets her.

They intermingle reality and fantasy with a lovely deftness. Defeated villains disappear in a puff of smoke and a shower of coins – although sometimes barely enough money for the bus ride home. The realistic universe is punctuated by save points, extra-lives, and RPG-style bonus items. Alongside the fantasy, though, there’s a subtle take on the character’s feelings, emotions, and motivation, all of them entirely realistic. As I said, a lot of the new book is about the mysterious Ramona’s own emotions. Spoiler time: For the first time, it’s revealed that she’s submissive, in the D/s sense, and I suspect that will become a much more important part of the story in the final book.** It’s shown in a rather subtle way: Scott takes a shortcut through subspace, in the way he’s learned from Ramona, and accidentally gets into her own dreams, which turn out to involve subspace in another sense. She gets understandably angry; and there’s no other explanation.*** If you understand it, you understand it.

You don’t need to understand that, though, to enjoy the book; and even though as I said I think that’s going to turn out to be important later on, it’s something that will deepen your enjoyment without necessarily needing to be understood. I’m sure there are plenty of other subtle references, to other worlds, that I’m not spotting myself. I really hope the rumoured Scott Pilgrim movie makes it into production, because despite the fantastic elements, the books are a wonderful slice of life.

* Other people’s dreams being the “subspace” of the back-cover blurb.

** I’m tempted to go back through the previous books and look for earlier clues; but I’ve leant them to Wee Dave at work. I’ll have to borrow K’s copies.

*** the books are all teen-rated.

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Interrogation

In which we try not to be baffled


It’s nearly Yuletide, and all shall rejoice. For Yuletide means: the King William’s College General Knowledge Paper. Hurrah!

If you’ve never seen it before: the General Knowledge Paper is both an exam paper, and one of the hardest general knowledge quizzes around. Its questions are succinct, cryptic, and intriguing, and range over huge areas of knowledge.* On a quick run through it today, I reckon I scored about 32 points out of 360;** doing particularly well on London and Russians. Answers probably include I. P. Pavlov, Martin Chuzzlewit, Greyfriars School and Waterloo – unless I’m deliberately trying to confuse you.

* so much so that my friend K claims it isn’t a general knowledge quiz at all, because the answers are that obscure.

** There are 180 questions; you score 2 points per answer.

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Yuletide

In which FP feels like cancelling Christmas, but bringing back Yule


There’s five days to go, and I already feel like I want to cancel Christmas. I haven’t written a single card. I haven’t bought many presents, and I have no idea what The Parents actually want. To be fair, neither do they. I try to go look for something on my lunch break, and everyone else has had the same idea. The roads into town are gridlocked; as soon as I’ve found a parking space, it’s time to head out back to the office again.

But then, I look out at the night sky, and I remember what the Yuletide season is really about. I feel the crisp air, watch the frost, and think about the turning seasons. On Saturday,* the daytime stops shrinking and slowly starts to get longer again; and there is winter itself to enjoy. As this year starts to turn over into the next, I know I’m older, wiser, learning more about who I am and what I enjoy in life; and becoming happier with it, too. And I’m looking forward to life with excitement, and wondering just what we’re going to do next.

* Pedants might point out that the solstice is on the 21st, and Saturday is the 22nd. However, the solstice isn’t always on the same date. This December it’s on the 22nd, unless you’re in the Far East.

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Steam trains

In which we visit Levisham


A spare weekend: we went wandering, in the car, and on foot. We drifted through the moorland village of Levisham, as untouched a village as you’ll find in Yorkshire, with one road wandering through it across a broad green. Ambling downhill, we reached the railway station. We watched a train pull in, and shunt about, great clouds of steam rising in the December cold.

Prowling around the station, we discovered its Artist In Residence, Christopher Ware, in his studio. We chatted a little while, and studied his prints of bucolic trains. He can’t have many visitors on a day like that; hopefully we were a welcome distraction for a few minutes.

Levisham station Levisham station Levisham station
Levisham signal box Pulley wheels

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Festive Music

In which we ponder the potential Christmas Number One


As it’s the week before Christmas: it’s time for the most pointless contest in music: the Christmas Number One Single. It may be slightly meaningless, and it may well end up being won by some talent-show contestant with nothing interesting about him whatsoever; but at least it gets people buying and listening to music. I hope.

The Last.FM website is campaigning to get “Lips are Unhappy” by Lucky Soul to the top of the charts. They have a lot of users, but I’m not sure they’re going to make it. Radio One, on the other hand, is apparently backing “We’re All Going To Die” by Malcolm Middleton. Now, “We’re All Going To Die” is a wonderful song. It’s the opening track to Middleton‘s last album, the one with the David Shrigley artwork, and it’s a lively, exciting, life-affirming piece of music, a wonderful thing to play at this time of year.* I’d be completely behind it, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s Radio One supporting the damn thing. Admittedly, one of their better DJs, and someone who works hard to broaden the range of what the station plays; but still, I feel slightly odd about the idea of agreeing with a Radio One-related campaign.

* Never mind what the title says, and never mind it being by someone out of Arab Strap, it’s not actually depressing at all.

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