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In which the cat, finally, is not going to return

The phone rang on Saturday morning, and The Mother was on the end. “I’ve got some bad news,” she said.

As a conversation opener, it’s not exactly ideal; but it is, at least, straight to the point. “What is it?”

“The cat’s died.”

The cat has been in The Parents’ care for the past 18 months or so, ever since we moved down to Bristol. Nevertheless, he was still always My Cat, and there was always the thought that one day he might move back in with us, once we had a house in a cat-friendly area (check) and cat-flap-friendly doors (uncheck).

Cat at Christmas

My dad found him, on Saturday morning, stretched out dead just inside the cat flap. No signs of injury. The night before, he’d been happy, relaxed and purring; the parents did not try to find out why he had died. He was about a month or so short of his tenth birthday.

Sad to think that I’ll never again be woken by him climbing on top of me and miaowing. He was, I always thought, an unusually intelligent cat: it’s hard to be sure, but I’m confident he understood at least five or six words of English, and when he was a bit younger he regularly wanted to play fetch. He also managed to survive three months living wild, a few years back, after The Mother lost him en route to the vet. Maybe there will be other cats one day, but they’re all distinct.

In a few months time, I might suggest to The Parents that they take on a rescue cat, because I’m sure The Mother is going to miss having him around the house. For now, though, I’ll content myself with getting annoyed at the random neighbourhood cats that dig up our back garden; and remember lying back in bed stroking one cat in particular.


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Projects Update

In which nothing happens, once more

Currently, I’m trying to hunt down some second-hand picture frames. Good-looking, ideally quite cheap, second-hand picture frames. I’ve trawled through the local charity shops and the local junk shops, but good-quality picture frames seem to be in rather short supply.

This is not because we want to turn the front room into our own version of Francis Alÿs’s Fabiola, although it is a tempting idea. It’s just because I want to frame some photos and see what they look like. See if they deserve to be framed, and see what effect it has.

Apart from that, though, my creative projects have foundered somewhat at the moment. It’s the summer tiredness; or, at least, I’m blaming it on the summer tiredness. I can barely drag myself to do the washing up of an evening, never mind do anything creative. Suggestions for getting around it would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve managed not to catch swine flu, at least. Both me and K have known people who have come down with it, so far, but we’ve avoided falling ill. Maybe we’re not susceptible. Clearly a good thing, because I hate to think how we’d cope if we both came down with it at once.

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Boredom threshold

In which we are disgusted by a band who are so bad it made FP angry

It’s often said that you shouldn’t criticise or decry art just because you don’t understand it. You shouldn’t put down music, or books, just because they’re not to your taste. Well, I’ve found, there’s a limit to that. For we have been to the worst gig ever, and have barely survived it.

We were given tickets to last night’s gig by the reformed My Bloody Valentine, at the Apollo in Manchester. “They’re a life-changing experience” said the chap who gave them to us. Unfortunately, he was right.

The support – Sonic Boom Spectrum, Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember’s band* – was good, and interesting to hear; and the main act started off not too bad. It wasn’t really great, very badly mixed, but it was still listenable. I didn’t know any of the songs, but there were some good tunes somewhere in the depths of the mix; although I couldn’t tell if any of them were meant to be vocal or instrumental.

Towards the end of the gig, though, the band gave up on trying to play music. Instead, they blasted the audience as if it was a rioting crowd, with a barrage of white noise. Incredibly loud white noise. “Loud” doesn’t really describe it. Everyone was wearing earplugs, but everyone still had their hands tight over their ears. K was pressing herself against me, in pain, holding one ear to my chest and my hands over her other. And it continued.

I was expecting this to be brief. It was stupid and moronic, after all. There was no art to it, no creative input, no nothing. The band may as well not have been on the stage. But, no, it went on and on. People started walking to the exit, or discussing how bored they were by text message. I started wishing I’d brought a book and a torch. Anything would have been more interesting than standing around in a noise-filled space whilst a few people on the stage had an art-wank moment together. I started counting the people who were walking out – by now it was an appreciable proportion of the audience, and idly wondered where the circuit breakers were. Or if I could cadge a fag and a lighter – but how, with this noise? – and set off the fire alarms, if that would cut stage power. I wish I had done. Ten minutes, and it was still going on, the same as it had been to start with, no change to it, no modulation, just noise. I should have walked out. I should have walked out already. I wish I had done.

It took twenty minutes for the band finally to evaporate their remaining credibility and give up, by which time about a third of the audience had left. Twenty minutes of white noise. Twenty minutes of dangerous-to-health white noise: nearly 24 hours later I still can’t hear properly. My Bloody Valentine disgust me. They have squandered and wasted what little ability they had, in the pursuit of angering their audience. They’re not musicians, they’re brutal morons, and they deserve to end up infirm and insensible. Their audience, who are the ones with the hearing loss, don’t. My Bloody Valentine would be the worst band in the world, if you could describe them as musicians. This truly was the worst gig I’ve ever been to, and it really didn’t deserve to be staged. If the band had never reformed, the world today would be a nicer and more creative place.

* Thank you to the person who wrote in to correct me there. I wasn’t entirely sure who the support was at the time, but the chap who gave us the tickets had said it was going to be Sonic Boom.

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Good friends

In which we think suicide clusters are overhyped; and try not to be a drama llama

There’s been a lot in the news recently about young people killing themselves, allegedly to draw attention to themselves online. The whole story seems slightly odd, with little evidence for it, but it’s been raised by an MP so it got itself in the news. Most of the people in the alleged suicide cluster are young men, the highest-risk suicide group. I fully support raising suicide awareness and suicide prevention, but it seems rather like fear-mongering to try to place blame on social networking. There were teen suicides and “suicide clusters” years ago, long before social networking was invented.

I know from experience that suicidal feelings are something which people should always take seriously, and that internet messaging, by both its speed and lack of emotion, could easily make worse. But nevertheless – and because it is that serious – I don’t like the feel of people jumping on the exaggeration bandwagon without evidence, or trying to use the threat of others’ suicide to gallop off on their own over-dramatic high horse.* I’ve been on the internet for a while now,** I was a chatroom user quite a lot when I was a student, and I’ve seen people come into chatrooms and make darkly deniable threats like: “you shouldn’t be so nasty to X. If you keep being nasty to people in here and people end up dying, how would you feel?” Whether X is in the pits of depression, or just mildly irked, and whatever your intentions are, that’s a childish and nasty thing to do.

If you’re a friend to someone, and you think they’re being upset because of people on the internet, then the only thing to do is get them offline. Get them to put down the keyboard, go outside, and get some fresh air. Go and take away their network cable yourself if you really have to. But don’t just go around telling other people what they’re about to do. Don’t go around trying to amplify the drama, because people are only going to think that at heart you’re trying to make yourself the centre of attention. If you’re a real friend, go and help them, quietly and without fuss. Because help is what friends are for.

* or “drama llama”, as one internet friend memorably said.

** I can’t believe it’s over ten years since I first got online. The internet was in black and white back in those days – no, really: this was on a Macintosh Classic II, one of the last black and white only Apple models.

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A small rhetorical question

In which FP wishes to be free of the ‘flu

How long, exactly, does it take for a mild dose of the flu to go away? Because I’m well into my second week of it, now, and I’m getting bored of the constant cough and the fuzzy head. I can, at least, move about, but my jaw muscles really don’t feel like doing anything, and hurt like hell whenever I try to chew.

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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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In which FP has nothing to say for once

I’m waiting for that little spark to strike. I’m not sure why it hasn’t. Maybe it’s the lack of energy at the moment. I feel drained.

Maybe I should just write about: how beautiful the sun is on the river, even with dark clouds grumbling overhead and promising a downpour.

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Just for once…

In which the world spins around us

…I am going to write a post without a one-word title.

The news is full of utterly incompetent terrorists; politics is all changing;* and the floodwaters are finally dropping.** And, I’ve been all quiet. Because I’ve been feeling absolutely terrible – as if I’m going to be sick any minute, without ever actually being sick.

Oh, and there was a wedding party, too; and the usual turning world.

On Doctor Who: I have a long post planned, about the similarities between the series finale and the books of Pratchett. It can wait, though, until I have more energy. And until Ian is back from his holidays, so I don’t accidentally spoil anything. I wonder what he might be getting up to.***

* this may be an exaggeration

** unless you live near Doncaster

*** and if there will be photos.

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Lost terminology

In which a word is snappy but fails to catch on

Jargon changes over the years; bits of it get picked up, some bits become mainstream, and some wither away.

On a trip to Wet Yorkshire the other day, I started thinking: there’s one piece of jargon which I think it’s a shame didn’t get picked up. It’s Charles Babbage‘s term mill, which he used to name something that was, for him, a new concept: a machine which would carry out arithmetic calculations according to a sequence of instructions. Today, we’d call it a computer CPU; but there isn’t really any better term for it other than that awkward three-syllable abbreviation. I’d much rather be talking about the newest Core Duo mill, or Athlon mill; it rolls off the tongue. A twin-mill machine sounds much snappier than a dual-processor one. If you look at one under a microscope, it even looks vaguely like the giant mechanical grids of 19th-century looms,* just like the mills Babbage was originally alluding to. Is there any chance of the word making a come-back? Probably not; but it would be nice if it did.

* I was tempted to take up “loom” and segue into a Doctor Who discussion, but that reference would be too geeky even for me.

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Moments Tact Is Important

In which we know when not to start speaking

Moments Tact Is Important, number one: When introducing your partner to the person you fantasise about during sex.

“And this, darling, is the person I fantas… oh, bugger.”

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