Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sign Post

Signs!

Useful information or society's crazy mumbling? They're called notices but we don't often notice them!

That's right, I used both meanings of the word 'notice' there for comedic effect. Let the hilarity ensue.

Two examples I came  across confused and annoyed me, and I'd like to share them with you because I feel you deserve it.

The first one informed me that the organisation putting it up doesn't understand the concept of tautology:


Do NOT smoke the petroleum spirit!
 
It's the blue one I'm interested in. I'm going to let the lower case 'e' and the capital 'F' go because I understand it's some sort of advert, and the rules of grammar don't really apply. Either that or it's a typo, and who do'e's'nt maik thoes occasionallly?

Energy Fuel though? Is that necessary, because what other type of fuels are there? 

"Careful sir, that's angry fuel for BMWs. You want energy fuel which is the next nozzle over. No, not that one, that's lethargic fuel and you look like you're in  a hurry."

Also, do you need to advertise energy fuel on a petrol station forecourt, where people have stopped primarily to pucrchase some sort of fuel, in order to provide energy for their vehicles (or maybe themselves, if it's a Ginsters brown paste container). Do people get out of their car, look at the sign, and then think "Ooh, fuel! energy Fuel as well. Might get me some of that. I'm glad I stopped to take photos of the car wash now."

Uneccesary advertising reminds me how, after you've bought something on the internet, your social media suddenly fills up with adverts for the thing you've just purchased, when you couldn't be less interested and all it's likely to do is piss you off if it's cheaper.

The second one I came across whilst out walking and simply indicates that the poster's a cockwomble:


He's collecting for charity

"Yeah, there's a bull in the field, on the public right of way, but I've warned them so it's their lookout if they get gored".

 Anyway, there are some good ones here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Man Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down Heavily On A Jack Russell.

I walked up a nill last week.

It was very pleasant, and consisted of the standard things that hill walks should ideally be made up of. A (not too steep) hill, some scenery, some unseasonably mild weather and a hip flask.

Also, a healthy variety of domesticated and wild fauna. Sheep, with the occasional lamb, frolicked and gambolled in the fields. Ponies trotted hither and thither, birds flew with varying degrees of elegance and there were even some saddleback cows. And before any of you so called qualified farmers mention there's no such thing as saddleback cows, look:



"This grounds soft Gertie. I've sunk right up to me udders."

And some dogs.

I quite like dogs. This is a pity because for some reason, I make them nervous. I must exude some aura or scent which suggests I'm something either to be feared or instantly attacked. I've seen large rottweilers guarding farmyards slink behind barns rather than threaten me, and tiny wiener dogs renowned for friendly inquisitiveness  go for my knees like some sort of guided hot dog. It's very odd.

An acquaintance, who practices the occult art of amateur dogology suggested I change my behaviour to extract the optimum response from hounds, instructing me to establish some ground rules straight away. This would be useful in my line of work, I thought, as I often have to get past unrestrained mutts to get to patients. I was given instructions, which included using a confident voice, sticking a hand right in their faces, giving 'em a damn good no-nonsense fuss and then ignoring them.This lets them know exactly where we both stand apparently, and I'm pleased to say it works more often than not. Alternatively, when faced with an aggressive canine that presses an attack, consider staying very still and avoiding eye contact is the recommended advice.

The dogs of today, howsomever, were of a different ilk. Really, quite stupendously irritating.

As we plodded up the mountainette to get some good views of Wales and Gloucestershire, we walked past a smallholding, populated by abandoned tractors, quad bikes, rubble and a pack of half a dozen hounds. And no gate. We were on a public highway at this point, but the pack had obviously claimed it as their own, and now a couple of bipeds were having the audacity to encroach on their tarmac.

They. Went. Mental.

The cacophony of barks and howls was deafening, and got even louder as they streamed through the gateway into the road. There was a spectrum of sizes from a knee high terrier cross that ran at the head of the pack like it had had it's knees surgically removed, through medium mongrels to wiry waist-high varmints that looked a bit embarrassed to be there frankly, and would obviously prefer to be finding a sheep to chew on.

The leader, who obviously suffered from small dog syndrome, was the loudest and most unpleasant, determined to show he wasn't all bark and no bite. The other five mongrels stopped about ten feet away and simply practised growling, but he pressed his attack. His size and demeanour put me in mind of certain historical war-leaders, feisty generals and territory mad Emperors of diminutive stature and so, in deference to this, I duly named him Twatty.

Too small to be more than an irritant, or so I thought, I laughed it off and turned away to continue my journey uphill. I was subsequently a little surprised to find my progress impeded by the attachment of an angry half Jack Russel to the leg of my Berghauses.

I shook him off hard and he backed away. The other dogs joined him, growling and advancing towards us in a surprisingly menacing fashion. They stopped, stared at me, and then then moved forward as one. I remembered the instructions about standing stock still and hoping they lost interest.

Screw that, I thought, opening my arms and doing a passable impression of a constipated grizzly, confident that this display should scare off most feral mammals.

It did, for about five seconds, and I had to repeat the exercise three of four times with each re-enactment losing some of it's terrifying efficacy. Twatty was obviously smarter than your average hound and, I expect, he had a history of delighting in calling bluffs. I had a horrible feeling this was going to end up with me kicking the little bastard into a ditch, and you can absolutely guarantee there'd be someone with a GoPro filming me do it from a bush.

The pack advanced again, and I readied myself for some canine punting.

Mrs The Jules, who is known for ice cold pragmatism and a clinical detachment towards necessary suffering (she's a nurse) promptly stepped forth. She raised her hand which had a large, very visible stone in it. Her expression had a touch of the "make my day" about it, an attitude favoured by those with preventative justice on their minds and the means to carry it out.

Twatty stopped dead. The rest of his gang, displaying admirable levels of self-preservation, suddenly lost interest and began examining some fox poo on a grassy knoll, looking as innocent as one of the many lambs they had almost certainly dismembered over the years. Definitely quite bright, I surmised, as Twatty's near future scrolled out in his minds eye, consisting quite prominently of a rock shaped bruise somewhere on his anatomy. Mrs The Jules looked like she was quite happy to make up for a lack in anatomical accuracy with sheer enthusiasm, and she cocked her arm back. There was a distinct lack of bluff in her demeanour, as both I and the dogs could tell. 

Twatty came to a decision. If a canine movement could be described as a handbrake turn he achieved one with remarkable efficiency. Mrs The Jules, her vim levels high, actually looked mildly disappointed at the peaceful resolution she had managed to create and, after reversing away in a tactical retreat that would have made any Italian proud, we carried on our journey.

"Nice." I told her, as I checked my troos for damage.
"We have to go back this way though." she said, and spent the next two hours of the walk choosing a more aerodynamic set of rocks to take back down the hill.

Sadly for her throwing arm though, the return journey was free of violence. Twatty and the pack saw Mrs The Jules, missile ready for launch, and decided they weren't that interested in the road anyway. I swear if dogs had the lips for it, they would've whistled nonchalantly.

So, a few lessons learned here, I reckon. Even though dogs are highly intelligent, social hunters, they are no match for constructed weapons, and even the most non-violent of humans has an intrinsic aptitude for that.The biggest stick usually wins.

Also, Twatty and The Pack would be a great band name.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Money laundering

Whisper it quietly. Don't let the white goods hear you. Speak softly or they will take action.

                            -----------------------------------------------------------------------
SCENE I:  At home, domestic bliss ensuing, children locked in attic. 

Wife (checking bank balance online): "That overtime paid off. Halfway through the month and we're not in overdraft!"

Washing machine: "Chugga."

Me: "What was that?"

Wife: "Nothing, just the washing machine. It makes that noise sometimes."

Me: "Ah, yeah. So finances looking okay then?"

Washing machine: "Chugga chugga chugga."

Wife: "Well, the mortgage has to come out yet and there's the car repair, but at the moment, could be worse . . ."
Washing machine: "CHUGGA CHUGGA CREEEEEEEEEEEE!"

Me: "Creee?"

Wife: "That's not normal?"

Me: "Pardon?"

Wife: "Normal! That incessant loud screaming noise, the violent shaking and the way it's trying to break the hose off the back, that's not normal washing machine behaviour!"

Washing machine " CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE chugga CREEEEEEEEEEEEE BANG!"

Me: "What?"

Wife: "All that water spraying around the kitchen! Also not normal!"

Me (switching machine off at the mains and struggling to reach isolation valve): "You don't say!"

Wife: "No need to shout."

Washing machine (obeying comedy edict of all dramatically failing machinery everywhere): "Sproing."

Wife: Is that a spring?"


Spring sprungs.

Me: "I feel it is, yes."

SCENE II - Showroom featuring large three dimensional rectangles designed to fit in kitchen spaces.

Salesman: "And then it went 'sproing' you say?"

Me: "Sproing, yes."

Salesman: "Was that preceded by a CREEEEEEEE by any chance?"

Me: "It was, yes!"

Salesman: "Oh. I see."

Me: "Is that good then?"

Salesman: "A sproing after a CREEEEEEEE is not usually a good sign, no." Points at my forehead "And did that spring come out of it?"

Me: "Oh this? It did yes. Must pull it out soon."

Salesman: "I know it's probably expected of me, but can I suggest that you buy a new one."

Me: "I believe my wife has already chosen that one over there, with the little smiley face sticker surrounded by pound signs on it."

Salesman: "Selling that one does make us happy sir."

                                  -----------------------------------------------------------------------

I presume that this sort of universal rule whereby any sort of disposable income that makes itself momentarily available will immediately become earmarked for an unavoidable repair has already been discovered? Saved a bit of money on the car insurance this year? Boom! - the heating packs in. Tax rebate? Whack! - the laptop takes  up smoking. Lottery win - Shabang! The helicopter crashes into the Bugatti. 


There's probably whole theses addressing this. Is it a separate event or part of Sod's Law? Is there a malicious entity at work, maybe karma, or is it Jesus punishing us for allowing Pekineses to marry? I might look it up on the google and see if it's a well documented phenomenon.

If not, I shall write it down and name it the There's Always Bloody Something Law.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Present tense

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Why's there a cat in the silver spoon?
Is the spoon big or is it a tiny cat?
Either way sounds unhygienic.

Beautiful song there about the passage of time and not prioritising stuff correctly. Also about the way kids interfere with your work ethic, but mainly is a lyrical introduction to today's theme, that most mysterious, all encompassing and unpredictably life-affecting phenomenon - spoons. And changes.

Mostly changes, to be honest.

I've just been cleaning up some of the bloggage on The Gravel Farm. Before my hiatus to attend to my other life in that strange, possibly three dimensional realm we assume is reality, I followed a lot of great blogs. It was strange looking at them now, eighteen months later, and seeing how many had been abandoned, or taken over by advertising robots.

As I selected a few of them that hadn't been updated for years, I actually felt a pang of nostalgia, which is unusual for me as I'm not one to hold on to the past. There's always other stuff more useful to think about. Stuff that hasn't happened yet. When the time inevitably comes that everything you need to think about is in the past, then it's probably too late to worry about it anyway.

So I nodded a respectful adios to those blogs that had kept me entertained over the last few years, and thought about the past and the future.

I do that even more since having kids. Probably natural. You're always wondering how things are going to turn out for them, what obstacles will be in their way, what tools you can give them to help overcome problems and deal with their mistakes. Self-confidence maybe, a sense of humility perhaps, a healthy appreciation of humour and a decent work ethic. A well honed axe.

My son is now heading towards being eight, and likes . . . absolutely everything. Rock climbing, swimming, hoss wrangling, bikes, monster trucks, maths, sparrows, ceilings, books, Minecraft, wrassling, piano, Nerf guns, hot weather, cold weather, wet weather, snowy weather, whatever. He has a very admirable 'I presume I'll like it" point of view.

After having a daughter happen to me, it turns out that attitude, a current favourite trait lauded by modern urban cogna senti, isn't particularly hard to imbue. In fact, it would appear pretty much intrinsic to a four and half year old girl. Bonobo survives on hot chocolate and carbs, and she is out there. She can't be bargained with. She can't be reasoned with. She doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And she absolutely will not stop, ever.

 
That picture had better be flattering Father.


So my world drifts away from doing what I like, when I like to providing entertainment and some sort of control to those little forces of nature I like to call children. It's a full time job. One that makes my employment seem like a nice little break, and explains the the lack of blog entries, I s'pose.

Still, I wouldn't change more than fifty percent of it, so I'm very lucky.

And from considering past and future, I shall now move on to presents! Aha! Did you see that? Presents, because it's chrizmuz. Yeah, I know. That segue will be all over the internet in an hour, you mark my words

Anyway I'm working all over the yule period and the new year, which further limits blogging opportunities to wish you all a happy xmas. Let me just say I hope you all  have one exactly as you want it, with as much or as little time to yourself as you desire.

Regards

The Jules
 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jog on, nature.

A new thing I do since I last blogged frequently is running.

Honest.


Hitting your early forties, having kids, realising you're overweight and on a collision course with people adding the precursor 'jolly' to your name brings home certain inescapable conclusions.

You gonna die buddy.

Well, obviously. It's irritating to me that death looks pretty much unavoidable, and that the best one can do is prolong the good bit in between the eternities of oblivion. Other than giving up now and reaching for the head-blender, this means taking care of the soggy protein-based machine that houses what I like to think of as me.

I'm not talking about going vegan, tee-total and existing on seventeen mushroom-based calories a day though, because that would in itself be a type of living death, but a sort of sensible, achievable level of exercise which I could maintain and, hopefully, come to enjoy.

Believe it or not I have actually come to that place, and now run a few times a week, just small distances usually, and not very fast, but enough for me to think of myself as someone who runs.

A bit.

The school run finished, both my spawn are now somebody else's responsibility for a few hours, and I have no excuse not to exercise. I put on my man tights and top, then my running shorts over the lycra because no-one wants to see that, or at least I don't want to meet the sort of person that does want to see that, and out I go.

Today, a cheeky 5 kilometre trot along the canal should be enough to soothe the inner turmoil of modern living, and I soon get into my stride. I like the transition from the first couple of hundred metres when you think "why is this so hard" to suddenly breathing easily and finding you can now enjoy the scenery without wanting to spit, as the body wakes up to the fact that it is being required to run and activates various processes and abilities to achieve that. It feels natural. I am natural. I am at one with nature.

I smile benevolently at my fellow natural creatures, dragonflies a-swoop, birds on the wing and beasts on the . . . leg. A female duck swims quickly out from some reeds, honking with sheer joie de vivre. I watch for a moment, her wake a gentle rippling arrow fanning out behind like the cloak of a fantasy water princess with access to great CGI. We are both taken by surprise a moment later when she is pounced upon by three drakes, all pecking her head and half-drowning her in a brutal attempt at copulation. 

"Oi! Leave it out!" I yell, lobbing the head of a bullrush at the anatidaen rape scene, suddenly feeling less than at one with ducks as they scatter noisily and she escapes into the reeds.

I continue, breathing in the scent of . . . a large, quivering Labrador cross, pushing out something that looks like a seal foetus, it's owner standing by with a small plastic bag that I feel will be tested to its limits, should the dog survive this bowel movement.

Eyes watering, I go under a bridge to the picturesque locks, recently refurbished, that mark the half way point of my run and turn round for the return journey. A heron, bolder than most, stands it's place and watches me for a moment before snapping its head into the water, emerging a fraction of a second later with a wriggling thing which it wolfs down. Or maybe herons down.

I don't feel I am at one with eating stuff whilst it's still moving. Even live oysters have the decency to keep still. As if on cue, I inhale a midge, proving me wrong.

Coughing, but eventually succumbing to the inevitable and swallowing, I move on.

Two swans, both enormous cobs, are blocking the footpath, one on land the other on water. They have their wings curved back like ornate ceramic sails, chests puffed out and they both raise their bodies to display their own mass to the other.

A neat solution, I think, where two wild creatures assess one another and judge who might win a physical battle, and so can decide not to partake if the odds are too stacked against one, thus avoiding actual fighting and harm whilst achieving the same results. Nature often shows this excellent methodology; the parallel walking of red deer, for instance, or the chest thumping of silverback gorillas. Humans should do the same, I conclude in admiration.

Suddenly the two swans, both equal in size, start trying to tear lumps out of each other, hissing and gasping as they inelegantly but enthusiastically attempt to batter one other senseless, using tiny-brained heads like coshes and metre long wings like the worlds most exquisite bitch slappers.

I do not feel at one with swans as I detour around the splashy madness.

Nearly home now, and I am treated to the unusual sight of a grass snake swimming longitudinally along the canal. I slow down to a walk and watch for a good two minutes, a long time for such a shy creature. The snake, not me. Here is one of the benefits of running outside of a gym. Here I can see the way a creature like this beautiful reptile can exploit different substrates, using the same motion in water as on land, and I am inordinately pleased to be able to witness it for such a long while.

A coot leaves the pile of bent leaves it thinks of as a house and does that half-run, half-swim thing they do to stay along side it, and then proceeds to peck the snake's head over and over again. The snake, repeatedly dunked and possibly concussed, makes its way wearily into the reeds, only refraining from staggering because it hasn't got any legs.

I make it home, grab a drink and cogitate on the violence of the last half hour. There are probably many conclusions a behavioural ecologist could draw from these encounters, but I am not running to collect quantitative data or scientific evidence, I am simply running to develop myself. To that end, I realised that all species everywhere can be just as bad a bunch of dicks as humans.

And now I feel at one with nature again.






Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ayyy!

Getting up at midday after finishing a couple of night shifts, nothing lightens the mood more than your goodladywife informing you that we must away to Cribbs Causeway shopping maul mall in Bristol to get the children some footwear more suited to Autumn and Winter than their current sandals.

After gnashing my teeth and considering opening an artery, I was placated by a bacon buttie and so opted for grinning and bearing it, for are not the happiest pebbles in the rough stream of life the smooth ones, allowing the troubled water to flow over them?

Who knows. They're pebbles. Their priorities are probably different from ours. More minerally.

Anyway, we parked in the underground section because  the boy M (aged 7) wanted to, and then got the lift up a single level because the girl, A (aged 4) wanted to. Then to John Lewis's shopping emporium to obtain footwear. Didn't see John himself, but someone else helped us. His nephew maybe. The choices were a tad lacking so we defaulted to middle class back up shop Clark's, and bought some there instead, with me handing over an actual bag of gold just to prevent my offsprings' feet from toughening up.

It was crowded, being a Sunday, and I could feel my usual aversion to crowds welling up like a geyser full of vitriol, so we made our way to the relative calm of Waterstone's for a ganzy at the books. People were waiting in a queue to see an author, but M and A were in too much of a hurry to see the aquarium they have in there to allow me to find out who it was.

I spent a few minutes looking at books, and explaining to A that she mustn't frighten the fish by smacking toy Orcas into the glass and shouting "Rah!" when I noted an American chap standing next to me, chatting to a young girl about a book.

It was, and I can't stress this enough, The Fonz.

I know!

Turns out Henry Winkler was doing the book signing. Me and a few similarly aged parents smiled at each other and raised eyebrows,but generally left him alone because, well, we're English. I bet a few of them wanted to point thumbs at themselves and say "Ayyyy!" though. Apart from me. I wouldn't even think that. He then proceeded to buy the little girl the book she wanted, which made her mum melt, before wandering off into the paper clad aisles.

I looked at the books he was there to promote, and asked the girl and her mum if they were any good, perhaps suitable for my son. They said yes, so I started flicking through them.

Henry walked past me, causing me to smile and nod. He then stopped, and we had a damn nice chat. He said he thought the books should be okay for a seven year old, and explained the premise behind a few of them, warm and enthusiastic at all times. Then he wandered off again to look at shelves of things. I took a Hank Zipzer book, the first one in the series I think, over to my son and we perused it, before he said yes he would like it. K (aged 42) gave me a monstrous hall'ow'e'e'n sticker book for A to buy as well, so she wouldn't tear the mall down in fury if we had the audacity to buy her brother something but not her.

At the till, Mr Winkler walked past me again.
"You've sold me." I said politely, indicating my purchase.
"Great." he said, and then "What's your son's name?"
I told him, and he wrote a personalised message in the front, then shook my hand. We cheerioed, and off he went to take his seat at the signing table, where the queue had become appropriately huge.

I'm not that bothered by celebrity, but that proper tickled me that did.

After that, we visited Pizza Express with vouchers because only the super elite who want to remember what it's like to worry about prices pay full whack for Pizza Express, where we watched A dance on the chairs, run round the table and talk loudly to the staff. A drive home saw A fall asleep so we put her to bed. M and I had a quick race on Wii MarioKart before he went off to bed and I am now eyeing up a bottle of red like an alcoholic lion spotting a pint of zebra.

Happy days.

Maybe, just maybe . . .

Hmm.

Might start looking at this again?

It was fun.

Yeah. maybe do it as a bit of a diary.