Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Noughties end

I've composed a song. Let me prepare.

Ag! Ag! Ag!
Mee mee mee meeee!
And a one, and a two, and a . . .

*snaps fingers rhythmically, like putting castanets on someone having a seizure*

And now, the end is near,
And so I face, the final blog post.
Not of all time, just of this year.
I didn't mean, to raise up your hopes.

I've posted lots, maybe too much,
You've waded throooooooooooo,
My dodgy paragraphs.
But more, much more than this,
I did it for laughs.

Ol' Pink Eyes, 2009

Well, here it is. The end (almost) of 2009, and the arbitrary, subjective quantification of time via this particular calender demands some reminiss . . . some re-mincies . . . some remissin . . . some remembering of what has come to pass.
This is an original concept, and will not have been done before, but I expect other media to do a similar sort of "Year in Review" type thing when they see this, so remember you saw it here first.

2009 then.

We've had financial chaos, with various governments struggling to find a different, more upbeat term for "recession" and finally settling on "economic downturn".

We've had a few deaths including, well, millions of people actually, but also Bobby Robson, Mollie Sugden, Paddy Swayze, Mick Jackson, and someone called Lockerbie Bomber. Unfortunately I think this trend of dying will continue unabated until someone comes up with a cure.

We had the G20 summit which solved all the planet's problems and led to a better world for all. Huzzah!

We watched North Korea test out some nuclear powered fireworks for funsies.

We eyed pigs suspiciously as they passed on a particularly nasty flu to us, but didn't stop eating them because they are so very, very tasty. This is an example of yin and yang in action.

We noted Iran quietly and studiously building up it's international relations with intelligent diplomacy and public hangings.

We 'oohed' as NASA crashed a rocket into the moon, ostensibly to look for water in the resulting debris, but almost certainly really as part of an elaborate strike against an evil, organised and strangely well-funded super-villain.

We 'ahhed' as scientists discovered a huge great ginormous species of rat in Papua New Guinea that was strangely cuddly and more endearing than a pygmy marmoset in a slipper.

I think that about covers 2009. If I've missed anything, let me know by sending it to

Label your post "Red Mercury" and include a threat, so that I know it's not a spam-bot or something.

According to Wikimisleadia, 2009 was the year of both Astronomy and Natural Fibres, which explains the new Hubble Space Telescope Cosy knitted by the WI in tartan wool.

The biggest thing I'm going to miss is that, from now on, we're more likely to prefix "twenty" onto the year rather than say "two thousand and . . .".

So are you going to say twenty ten or two thousand and ten, or maybe just stick to Year of the Tiger to conform to our inevitable new Chinese overlords? It's a bit fiddly to write on a cheque but they're phasing those out soon anyway.

From a blog point of view, I've discovered that there's rarely nothing to post about. I'm not saying my posts are always riveting nuggets of untempered fascination*, but just that, as long as you have time, there's no reason you can't glean a spot of creativity out of just about anything.

And, if I am stuck for witterings, I shall take incentive from the author of this self published tome I photogratified on a local market book stall just before Christmas:

It seems strange that we've lasted so long without Benson, Mr C's treatise on the Relevance of Sofas. It was a work waiting to happen, and just required someone to get off their comfortably ensconced arse and do it.

And, inexorably, on we go to 2010. It will be the start of life for some, continuation of life for most, and the cessation of life for the rest, which is both heartening and depressing at the same time.

In our household, we finished off the year with a family trip to Birmingham's Sea Life Centre, where they continually demonstrate their grasp of the oxymoron by having a sea life centre in the middle of the country, by having freshwater fish in it, by having an otter colony on the third floor in the middle of a city, and by being staffed by articulate brummies.

Here, I took a pic that, to me, is a tidy metaphor for the human experience in this universe:

I am a dainty, bright, blue-flavoured jellyfish, swimming in the sea of experience, occasionally going upside down and sometimes stinging myself with my own ill-controlled tentacles.



Happy End Of Year Period!

*Although they totally are.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry . . . Friday

Regular readers of The Gravel Farm will be aware and probably impressed with both how chock full of great I am and my peerless stoic resilience when it comes to not wanting a fuss to be made.

After all, I keep a blog, which demonstrates exactly how I like to keep things under my hat.

But today is an exception.

Today is Christmas Day.

At the moment, my family are preparing a turkey and trimmings. They are opening presents. They are laughing. They might be arguing. They will have had bucks fizz for breakfast. My little boy is probably weeing himself with excitement about the presents (unless he's been unable to resist opening them, in which case he will, in time honoured tradition, be playing with the boxes and ignoring the toys).

Our pagan heritage is represented by a plastic tree with some lights on it. Our christian predecessors have left us with . . . er . . . Santa, I suppose. Our cultural influences have ensured we buy too much food and alcohol and indulge in some abysmal telly. Mostly though, it's about maybe having a bit of a laugh, chewing some fat, wagging the old chins, but above all getting together.


I'm at work.

*frowniest face evah*

This has never bothered me before. I usually work Christmas, and quite enjoy it to tell the truth.

I work for the ambulance service, primarily on a car on my own rather than a double-personned vehicle, because too many of my colleagues complained about the wandering hands and halitosis. And the roadkill collection. And coming to work in my pyjamas.

On Christmas day, people are generally in a good mood. Most of my calls are not particularly serious (usually slips, trips and chest pain after eating half a turkey) and, if someone needs a paramedic, they're surprisingly pleased to see me, which makes me feel all appreciated.

Even if they only want me for my morphine.

So far I have had . . . a chap who slipped on ice and appears to have fractured his tibia and fibula, a lady who slipped on ice and has fractured her humerus, and a lady who slipped on ice and has hurt her back.

There's a theme developing here, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Hopefully, all of them will be pain free and patched up relatively quickly, with cheerful Yuletide messages scrawled on their plaster casts.

Normally, this is enough for me, and I'm happy to be out and about.

This year, however, things seems a bit more melancholy. Much as I enjoy my job, it occurs to me that I would prefer to be at home.

Working on your own can be a tad lonesome. Last year, I was so desperate for company I drove down a very snowy lane so that people would have to come and dig me out and I could talk at them:

It's more fun on the full size ambulances. You can bring in treats and wear Santa hats which you have to remember to take off before attending a serious car crash for health and safety reasons. Full size ambulances (we don't call them vans because . . . er . . . we just don't, all right) are intrinsically more impressive as well. When showing my little boy the inner workings of ambulances, it wasn't the car he wanted to look at:

He's two now, so he really needs this sort of work experience. It took him a couple of goes to hit the 8-minute response time, but he was good at carrying the bags up the stairs so I'm going to go easy on him for his annual performance review we rigorously have every three or four years.

Still, I finish work at 18.15 hours, Greenwich Meany Time, give or take a late job, so it won't be long before I'm back in the bosom of my family and drinking advocat, whilst wondering why I'm drinking advocat when there's whisky and beer available, so I can't complain.

Well, I can complain. Volubly, in fact. But I won't, because of the aforementioned stoicism I so impressed everyone with earlier.

Instead, as it's Christmas, I shall put up a gratuitous shot of an ambulance on a job. This isn't an ambulancy related blog, because there are better, specific ones out there and I don't need to retread old ground, but forgive me the odd lapse into blue light territory.

I took this one a few months ago at a roll over RTC* while we were waiting for a very excited local farmer to turn the car the right way up with his fork lift and unblock the road:

See that on the car near the rear wheel? That's totally blood that is.

Mine actually. I had a nosebleed.

Anyway, I'd like to wish all of you a very happy, healthy, family and friend filled day,

In fact, I hope you all have a very happy, healthy, family and friend filled year.

After all, Christmas is only one day.

*RTC stands for Road Traffic Collision, the new term for Road Traffic Accident, because apparently there's no such thing as an accident. This car had rolled over but not actually collided with anything, and I don't think the driver meant to do it, so I still think RTA is more appropriate. Still, what do I know?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stating the Oblivious

I like to think I'm fairly observant.

I mean, not in the spotting-flowers-on-an-otherwise-empty-table sort of way because I'm a man and we are genetically prone to having to ask a passing female for stuff like that.

And the girls moan, don't they?

"It's right HERE." they squeak, whacking you across the head with the item you've been struggling to see for the last five minutes. they don't look at it from our perspective.

It's a bit of bother see, when you need something out of a cupboard and you know it's there, but you just can't find it. You look harder. Your head starts to resemble a nodding dog on the back of a dodgem car, you suck your teeth or purse your lips to one side of your mouth, which is a sure fire way of increasing your observational abilities, and yet still nothing. Finding things is hard.

The lady, if she's not tutting in a smugly superior way, might tell you that you're looking too
hard, which explains everything really. From now on, I will look softer. Or maybe easier.

I understand the frustration of girls though, as we can unwittingly contradict ourselves.

"How can you spot a glow-worm at twenty paces, in a hedge, in the daytime, yet have trouble seeing milk in a fridge?" is how the current Mrs The Jules put it.

It's a good point.

There is an evolutionary theory that purports to explain why lasses are better at spotting details like this than chaps. In pre-historic days (goes the idea) before the invention of . . . well, anything really, women would provide the bulk of the family diet through foraging, and thus developed keen senses of observational skills, which would've been vital for spotting certain types of edible plants amongst inedible ones, or where certain nutritious comestibles were hiding in confusingly tangled undergrowth.

Men, however (according to the theory) were on more of a stalkin', runnin', huntin' and killin' bent, and so developed slightly better senses of navigation and fun spatial awareness.

I believe it's called the "Where's My Bloody Keys?" theory of evolutionary development, and makes a certain kind of sense if one accepts the stereotypical archetypes of manly and womanly differences.

Personally, I think it's all about outdoors versus indoors. I'm fine at locating stuff if it's outside. There's only so many places a thing can be,which narrows the search criteria by a huge margin. Mostly, stuff outside is going to be on the ground. Occasionally in a tree. Sometimes in a stream. Three places really.

Inside, it could be anywhere. There's three dimensions and hidden cubbyholes, there's extra floors and lofts. There's boxes and drawers, cupboards and shelves, baskets and domestic appliances.

There's down the back of the sofa. A terrifying place of Biro skeletons and out-of-circulation currency, where crumbs have collected in such numbers that you could peel them off and have a perfect mold of your furniture.

In such circumstances, it takes the bizarrely organised mind of a female to figure out where stuff is, although I know for a fact that women occasionally cheat by remembering where they put something, and then going to that place when they need it again and just retrieving it.

That's not proper searching, is it?

Anyway, whilst rambling along a canal in recent days, we came across something that was noticeable to all of the genders, and which I thought blogworthy:

A sunken river cruiser.

For some reason, out of all the methods of transport, the sunken boat is the only one that elicits something approaching sadness in me.

Imagine a car in the same position. That would be unusual, and interesting, but not sad. How about a lorry? That would actually be exciting. An aeroplane would make the news. A scooter would be downright funny.

Maybe a wheelchair.

Mostly, a sunken machine is going to make you go "ooh" rather than "awww".

Not when a boat is involved though. It was once claimed that boats had souls, and that's why seafarers gave them names. Mind you, sailors have never been especially noted for their rational, lucid interpretation of the world so maybe we shouldn't take to much notice of anything they say, unless it's about wind. Or tides. Or weevils.

They did mistake Dugongs for mermaids, after all, and I'd have to be mad, drunk or both to do that.


Still, not even the hilariously upright buoys can prevent a certain sense of melancholy creeping into one's perception of this picture.

I wonder if the owner knows about it yet, and whether it'll be a write-off, or are cruisers waterproof on the inside as well as the outside? Maybe it's not as bad as it seems, and is just like a spot of rising damp that a towel and dehumidifier will sort out.

Later, whilst driving around my home town, I decided to notice something else. This time, I noticed a thing that was as bad as it seemed:

Apparently, a stretched Humvie isn't tasteful or noticeable enough for the residents of this estate, so they have rectified it with an understated paint job.

I live in a country where the majority of minor roads still follow the old cattle and sheep trails of the middle ages, so this makes perfect sense for the corners. Still, it's not there for practical use, as it's primary function will be for the transportation of slappers.

Now, I wouldn't mind seeing that go haring into a river at full tilt, especially off of a right big ramp.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Time files

My goodladywife is very organised.

This is a good thing because I'm not. Relatively speaking.

I have spurts of organisation, where I clear out a load of crap, categorise stuff into appropriate subdivisions, and then bask in the glow of being able to find stuff in an instant for the fortnight that it takes until I mess it all up again.

For this reason, I am not in charge of storing the information on our finances, because I would probably think a badly stuffed suitcase with newer bank statements at the top, and older forms being compressed into some sort of dense, fossil-like strata that might one day be used as star ship fuel at the bottom is a perfectly acceptable form of hard copy storage.

Instead, we have a small metal storage cabinet (in case of fire) with space for payslips, bank stuff, insurance things, ID documents and wills etc etc etc. Makes sense, is easy to use, and there is absolutely no excuse or reason not to continue this practise.

I try and conform.

I really do.

I try and put my payslips in the appropriate receptacle at the end of the month, and I check I've been paid my overtime correctly because the system our employer uses to reimburse us is an elderly rhesus monkey who likes to make up random numbers on a calculator and then give that to us.


Occasionally, though, I leave a document for a while before I file it. Usually in the bottom of my bag, and then when I clean out the old orange peel and unidentifiably filled green sandwich, I come across it, file it away, and the missus is none the wiser.

This is practically standard operational procedure.

So it is a complete mystery to me why, when I leave my payslip in my pocket just prior to my trooz going into the laundry, no-one thought to make them washing machine proof:

Honestly, how am I going to file that?

Friday, December 4, 2009


Things I could've done instead:

- Put my child to bed.
- Watched telly.
- Read another chapter of Alan Carr's autobiography Darwin's On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.
- Collected newts from a pond.
- Climbed some trees.
- Invented a cocktail and called it Long Hard Innuendo Rammed Right Into Your Digestive Tract.
- Change my name to Lord Champion of Awesomness
- Had me some sex.
- Written a poem.
- Done a blog entry.
- Learnt a new tune on the ukulele.
- Practised being lucky.
- Made some modern art with toenail clippings and a balloon, called it 'Edge of Uncertainty', and challenged the humanistic concept of an anthropocentric existence in light of the uncaring universe in a contemporary post-9-11 setting.
- Plucked my ear hairs.
- Looked at the moon through binoculars.
- Shaved a hedgehog.
- Eaten a curry.

Instead of what, I hear you cry.

It's all right. Don't cry. I'll tell you.

Watching 2012 at the cinema.

Crivens it was bad.

As we walked out of the cinema, the Goodladywife asked one of the attending oiks if we could have our money back please, as the wares that his employers had just sold us were so shoddy, but his mutating, semi-pubescent voice box would allow only a hoarse, nervous squeak about supervisors not being around so we let him scurry away to drain his face.

Over twelve quid, that film cost us.

Twelve pounds, which is, according to some quick mental arithmetic, about twelve euros, twelve US dollars, or three hundred and ninety Australian dollars. Roughly.

And for that, we got some admittedly good special effects showing buildings falling down, some cars driving hither and thither as buildings fell down, some aeroplanes flying around as buildings fell down, and various unlikely geographical upheavals with lots of glowing larva, flying debris and buildings falling down.

We also got absolutely no good characters or dialogue though. We got about three scenes where a suddenly emotive parent phoned their grown up child to tell them how they loved them and shouldn't have been so distant all these years. We got Woody Harrelson being "crazy" with a capital Meh. We got John Cusack meandering through the film as though he's on a green screen or something. We got Danny Glover as the US president who looked like he'd died recently and been partially reanimated.

(Now there's a pitch for a movie. Black President? Female President? Gay president? What about . . . Zombie President? "Assassination is but a minor annoyance to him.")

There was more cheese in this film than you'd find in the finals of the cheesiest cheese competition held in Cheeseton, Cheeseshire, by the Institute of Cheesology. In the Democratic Republic of Cheese.

Awful, awful film. I wonder if I can write to the people who made it and ask for my money back? Seems the least they can do after promising entertainment and not delivering. There should be a clause under the trade descriptions act that states any film that says it's good should actually be good. If not, it should be relabelled appropriately, and the traditional deep, overly gravelly voiced chap should read a more accurate description:

"John Cusack appears in a film which would be better if they simply cut and pasted all the special effects scenes together for half and hour and left out all the actors and, for want of a better word, dialogue."

You may be getting the impression that I wasn't impressed with 2012, the fillum. At the end of it, you're rooting for the tsunami.

Additionally, the whole cinematic experience was rubbish. There are twenty minutes of adverts, and then no trailers, which are the only reason you're not too pissed off at watching the adverts in the first place. Instead, a chirpy announcer shouts "Passion!" at you, and then there's a quick montage of passionate bits from upcoming films. Then the announcers yells "Intrigue!" which is followed by some seizure inducing flickers of presumably intriguing bits you might see. Then someone hollers "Adventure!" and you get a few bits of people falling down, shooting and exploding. Then the announcer wails "Pornography!" and a man with a seventies moustache arrives to fix a naked lady's washing machine.

You can't get excited about any upcoming attractions from that sort of mess.

I know that this isn't the fault of this particular film, but 2012 didn't exactly improve the situation, what with being crap and all.

More importantly though, it stole two and a half hours of my life away which I can never get back.

Despite what some more esoteric physicists may tell you, we travel through our spatio-temporal dimensions in a linear fashion, taking a generally mono-directional route from birth to the depressingly close and unavoidable moment of carking it. Of bucket-kicking, farm-buying, toe-upturning, daisy-pushing, maker-meeting, dust-biting, chip-cashing deadness that awaits us all.

Euphemistically speaking.

We can't afford to waste time paying to be bored and unimpressed, as we've only got a finite amount of it as it is, which is why I'm so narked about it all.

Maybe I'm expecting too much. I love films, but a film is simply supposed to be a momentary diversion, perhaps to make you think a bit, maybe to amuse you, but I shouldn't use it to replace bits of my life. Perhaps I should only watch a film if I haven't got anything else to do, otherwise, I'll end up substituting reality for something made up, and if I'm going to do that I may as well just go to church.

Mind you, a life is a bit like a film, in that it is the intrinsic quality of the content that is required and not good special effects in order to ensure that it's a good one.

If you were thinking of going, and this review has rightly put you off, then don't despair. There are plenty of other things to look at, which are naturally pretty.

You've got everyday things like flowers:

Or in fact the whole world, or bits thereof:

The world is particularly good to look at because, amazingly, it pre-empts the latest technology in cinematics by already being in 3D!

You can practically touch it.