Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts from December 2005

End of the year (part two)

In which we (again) remember what has happened

Unlike the first half of the year, there is one big stand-out memory from the second half of 2005. The start of my second business trip to London. Getting off the train at Kings Cross and walking down Platform 4 trying not to start crying. I was worried because someone I knew – even though I’d not seen her for a few years – had, like many other people, been missing for three days. She’d last been seen at Kings Cross, changing trains. I held myself together until my taxi was driving away from the station, onto Euston Road. As we passed the ambulance standing at the station entrance, waiting to take another run to the mortuary, I burst into tears. This was on Sunday, July 10th. Half an hour later, a Lancaster bomber flew noisily over my hotel-room window.

There are a few more significant memories from the past six months. I’m not sure if more really has happened compared to the start of the year, or if it’s just more memorable because it’s more recent. In August, I visited London again, to see W and his boyfriend, go to a party at their house, and take lots of pictures. At the party, I met the month-old daughter of my friends John and Jen, at that point just named “Piglet”. She’s since been given a proper name, Jaime, after another old friend who was at the same party.

Coming back home, I started up this website – in fact, I thought up the name whilst changing trains* on the way home. After that, nothing very striking has happened – but I’ve made new friends, and got back in touch with some old ones. Another friend was suddenly lost, but more are always being born. Last year ended with Jen announcing she was pregnant; this year ended with W and his boyfriend announcing their engagement. The cycle of the newspaper announcements column marches on.

* Changing between delayed trains, of course.

End of the year (part one)

In which we remember what has happened

I was planning to write two whole posts about all the great things that had happened to me this year; but then, I realised I couldn’t actually remember many.

To be honest, I can’t remember much at all about the first half of the year. I went camping. Um, that was about it. So, the first thing on the list for Things To Do Next Year will be: try and be more memorable! Aside from one camping trip and one trip to London, all I can say about the first half of 2005 is that I went to work every day.*

The defining memory of the first half of the year: sitting in the restaurant of a bargain-price London hotel,** at breakfast, not being entirely sure what to do, because it was the first time I’d stayed in a hotel. That was at Easter, roughly.

* Well, five out of every seven at least.

** at least, I was assured that £85 per night is a bargain price for a London hotel. As it was on expenses, I wasn’t particularly bothered. I did, of course, take every opportunity to use the phrase “don’t worry, I’m on expenses” even though I hardly dared actually put anything onto my bill.


In which we make an intrepid trip to the office

Driving in snow isn’t something I’ve ever done before, as far as I can remember. Today, I had to shovel a couple of inches off the windscreen before slowly trundling off towards the office.

I forgot, of course, to shovel it off the bonnet too, so was stuck peering around a large pile of snow as I drove along. Fortunately, everyone else was going just as slowly as I was, so I didn’t have to worry about getting in everybody else’s way. Sticking to my own tentative pace, wary of slipping or skidding, I gently rolled to work.

It’s strange how much noise a load of snow on your roof will make. The journey was filled with gentle creaks as the snow settled and moved. I felt like a passenger onboard a wooden sailing ship. Today’s trip to work was my very own Franklin expedition.

Ringing the changes

In which we look at Imperial Russia

It being the new year, I decided to spruce up my computer with a few new desktop backgrounds. I already have a background-randomising program which picks a new one at random every evening;* but there’s only so many backrgrounds on the computer, and they’ve not been changed for a while. So, I went to look for more.

I ended up going back to something I found on the net a few years ago: the works of S M Prokudin-Gorskii, a Russian photographer of around 100 years ago who invented a camera-and-projector system which could take and display colour photographs, storing them as three-part black-and-white colour separations. Because his work is now public-domain, you can find it all over the web; but I originally came across him on this site.

The known surviving works of Prokudin-Gorskii are in the Library of Congress; and, being in the public domain, they’ve all been scanned and put on the web, with the original black-and-white plates in very high resolution. It’s a really easy job to download some, and assemble them into a single colour image.** So, I now have some nice colour photos of Tsarist Russia for my desktop background. It’s a bit of a change from the previous moody black and white photos of the Scottish Highlands. Here’s a few examples:

Imperial Russia

Imperial Russia

Imperial Russia

* Being a big geek, I mostly wrote it myself.

** The main problem – if you’re using the hi-res images – is having enough computer memory. The minimum time it takes me now is about 10 minutes, but most of that is sitting and waiting for my computer to catch up with me. The final image will be just under 3600×3300 pixels in size, which is rather square compared to a computer screen, so it will need to be cropped a bit

The long arm of coincidence

In which something obscure keeps popping up

Have you ever noticed that sometimes one little thing seems to be popping up all over the place?

Earlier today, browsing the interweb, I read a short Freaky Trigger item about Uncle, a series of children’s books from the 1960s that I’d never ever heard of before. Which is a shame, because – according to this Economist article about them* – they sounded to be exactly the sort of children’s books that I’d have loved if I had known about them when they were still in print.

So then, later on, I’m browsing an internet dating site, and reading the profile of an attractive-looking person. And, what do they list among the 100 things they couldn’t live without? The Uncle books, of course.

I’m on the lookout now. The slightest mention of J P Martin’s Uncle books anywhere, and I’m going to jump up and shout: “Aha! A third coincidence!” before running off to my nearest second-hand bookstore** to search frantically for copies. Because they must be significant somehow. Right?

* I have to say, the Economist isn’t my usual reading.

** As the nearest decent one I can think of quickly is about 40 miles away, this might take a while. I might not run all the way there.

The state of things

In which we open presents and watch the telly

This Christmas, I have received:

  • Some of the CDs and DVDs that I couldn’t be bothered to buy during the year
  • A new denim jacket, with a nice warm fleecy lining
  • Vodka
  • A cunning device to tell you when your parking meter is about to run out.

The parents have received, from me:

  • One of those car navigation gadgets
  • A fossilised fish.*

Well, at least neither of them was going to guess a present like that before they opened it. It is now sitting on top of the TV, in stony silence.

Naturally, we all gathered around the telly last night to watch Doctor Who. The episode could have been better, the plotline felt rather thin, but when the Doctor woke up and swung into action he was marvellous indeed. The main gripe I had with the plot was: the Doctor shouldn’t just be a deus ex machina, but in this story that’s effectively all he was. Still, at least Russell T Davies does know how to write a running joke.**

* Actually, there are two fish in the slab I gave, but one is faint and difficult to see. I didn’t spot it myself until after it was unwrapped and on display.

** and the Douglas Adams reference was a nice touch too.


Or, bottoms up

Have spent the whole day in a rather tipsy haze. Not just booze, but thick creamy Christmas headache-giving booze. Yum. Now I’m off to bed, and I do hope I’m not going to regret this tipsy haze in the morning.


In which Jesus has gone missing from our lives!

My mother is rushing around tonight in a bit of a panic. Being a regular churchgoer, and church organiser, Christmas is obviously a busy time of year for her. Tonight, though, the mother and all the other church organisers are all rushing round in a panic, searching all the cupboards at the church, searching each other’s houses and attics, searching and searching and saying to each other: “well, where did you last see them?”

Being a church, they have to have a nativity scene in one of the side chapels off the nave. It’s all set up already, with the stable and the animals. Mary and Joseph get added on Saturday, I think, and then the Baby Jesus on Sunday morning.* At the moment, though, there’s a slight problem. Well, a major problem, when it comes to setting up your nativity scene. The Holy Family have gone missing.

* Or possibly at Midnight Mass – not being a believer myself I’m not sure on the details.


In which we start being festive

It’s the shortest day. From now on, things start to get warmer and lighter again.

I wish we could celebrate in the traditional way, by burning a Yule log to bring us health and happiness. Unfortunately, we don’t have a hearth, so that’s out of the window. We’ll have to make do with holly, mistletoe, friendship and over-eating. For me, the solstice is when the festive season properly starts.

If I told you what you were thinking, would you believe me?

In which we consider being evil

The other day, Tim Boucher linked to Colleague M’s ghost story, in which M’s sister Lydia had a bit of trouble with a pair of argumentative ghosts apparently haunting her house. When I first heard about the ghosts, I was hoping I’d be able to post regular updates on the story; but there don’t seem to have been any updates recently. I asked M if anything had happened, and was told that everything has settled down quietly again. No more ghostly voices on the phone, no more things going missing, no more possibly-possessed cats. So, Lydia is able to sleep at night again.

It did get me thinking, though. There’s something I’m tempted to try, but it would be rather evil. I want to try to be a psychic myself.

Not a real one, you understand. However, it should be very easy to pretend to be one, if I want. I’ve still not met Lydia herself, but I do know rather a lot about her, and her family, from M. Secondly, Lydia’s job includes shifts on an enquiry-desk type of place. In other words, it’s easy to get to talk to her – all you have to do is think of a question. All I would then have to do is start telling her the things my intuition was telling me. “You seem to be a mother – I can see a lot of love in your household – but there’s a lot of strain too. Are you a single mother?” And all that sort of thing. The question is: how far would I be able to push this before she starts smelling something fishy? How much would I have to prove I know about her? Or would she just assume I could genuinely sense things about her?

Should I try this? Or would it just be too evil of me?