Monday, December 26, 2011

The Fun Starts Somewhere!

I found it a bit difficult to get into the old chrizmuzz spirit this year, due to work commitments making me do stuff for money on the 25th of December.


Normally you might think that an areligious type like myself wouldn't get particularly festive anyway, having quite literally the same amount of soul as a metre-square bit of tarmac with a dead squirrel on it. Literally.


But you'd be wronger than a monkey wearing a toupee, because I DO actually quite enjoy christmas, having been brought up in the pseudotraditional environs of working class England. Lights, glittery stuff and indoor conifers all break up the tedious grey monotony of the typical British winter, and I'm all for that. We need that bit of distraction. 


If it weren't so, why would it have persevered for so many centuries, millennia even? There must be a basic psychological benefit in having a mid-winter jolly or else why would such a thing be adopted and adapted by so many cultures and religions that have arrived in these murky island regions thinking they're the new way of doing things, when in reality we all know they're just a rehash of some old ways of doing stuff that can't change too much because their basic unit of composition is still the human being. 


Scathing about organised religion as I know I can be, I do like a bit of a knees up and the occasional present, so if that means I have to be spiritual to have a bit of fun without being labelled a hypocrite, then hand me a dog collar and pass another barbequed haunch of choir boy.


So I have missed out on the celebrations a tad, especially now I have small children because christmas is primarily about them. Watching them open their gifts on a video doesn't quite capture the full pant-wetting squeals of excitement as they realise they're allowed to play with ALL that paper, and even the toys inside if they want.


I'm not complaining really. Well, I am, but only because I'm trying to elicit sympathy despite being allowed to do a job I enjoy, which probably isn't going to happen now that I think about it.


So I won't.


Stir the violins! Play a maudlin tune of deprivation for me, fiddlers! Fiddle me sad and I shall darnce the Darnce of Melancholy, whilst wearing the blue Pashmina of Forlorn Despondence.


Oh woe! Woe is I! Woe to the max! There is woe in my hood! My hood is all woey!


There we go.


But at least we have got the New Year coming up and, if christmas is for the kids, New Years tend to be more adult orientated,. We can celebrate new starts, pretend we know more than ten per cent of the words to Auld Lang Syne and drink enough booze so that, should we collapse in a snow drift, we wouldn't actually freeze until the temperature drops to the solidifying point of ethanol. We can make solemn oaths about fresh endeavours to improve ourselves, whilst simultaneously consuming enough food and drink to smother a rhino. We can sing and dance and stay up late and party and bond and be free and above all, above all else, we can have FUN!


Oh man I love fun.


If anything, I'm more excited about the New Year than Christmas!


Oh cock, I'm on nights.




.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting stoned.

Working in a medical organisation it can be easy to forget what a big deal it often is for someone to suddenly find themselves classed as a patient. They can go from walking around happy and healthy then, BLAMMO!,  something untoward occurs and they're no longer in complete control of their lives.

The modern medical ethos is to involve the patient at every stage of their treatment if possible.

This is great.

Mostly.

There's always the "I don't want to go to that hospital because they do crap sandwiches and my 103 year-old great Aunt died there after a boob job, so take me to one fifty miles away" patient who perhaps doesn't get all the respect they deserve, however unprofessional that may be.

Usually though, we try to accommodate the patients wishes and, for them to make an informed decision, we like to keep them informed.

But everybody is different. We're all individuals. We're all unique*

So you might be surprised to learn that many people who end up in the purple-gloved clutches of the ambulance service don't want to know anything about what we're going to do to them. Or for them. Or with them. They have a "just get on with it, man." philosophy.

"I don't ask a plumber why he's wrenching that nut as long as he fixes the leak, and the same goes for you, Sunshine."

Fair enough.

When someone tells me that, I just obey their wishes and open the sterile packaging for the medical nut wrench.

In general, though, people do want to be involved. They want to know what's going on and why you're doing it, and above all they want to talk. It helps them retain a semblance of confidence and some aspect of control when entering a strange and often unfathomable new environment.

Putting yourself in the patients shoes, not literally as that is frowned upon and results in letters of complaint, is a useful mental exercise, but there's nothing like suddenly finding yourself on the other side of the professional fence to engender feelings of empathy in the future.

So I thought I would relate the story of my own hospital admission which happened about four years ago and what I learned from it.

It all started, as many tales of woe are wont to do, in the middle of the night, when I woke up with some discomfort in what is termed, in medical parlance, my tummy banana.

Bit weird, I thought to myself, and presumed it was simply the after effects of some strong Belgian lager I'd had earlier in the evening. I went to the toilet and noticed my wee was pink.

Stylish, I thought, trying not to worry too much, but I was more concerned about the ache in my lower abdomen having not reduced at all. In fact it was a bit worse now.

I got back into bed, but started tossing.

And then turning.

This disturbed the missus and our new bed-sharing baby, so I got up and went downstairs.

The pain spread round to my side and crept along my back, getting worse, until the ache became a sort of cold grip that made me gasp.

I tried unsuccessfully to go to the loo again, but did achieve a new pain. A completely unrequired pain that no man should ever have to endure. The tip of my penis hurt.

"Oh come ON!" I grunted to myself, as I wondered if I should try and rub it better. "I know something's wrong, so is really there any need for that?"

The pain in my side was now worse than the worst pain I'd ever had before, when I'd gone sub aqua diving with a cracked tooth some years ago. And then it got worse!

I looked in the mirror, surprised by how pale I was.My pulse crept up past 120. I retreated back to the toilet just in time to throw up magnificently, as if my body didn't know what to do so thought it would try that, see if it worked.

Staggering to the the living room, I couldn't sit, stand or lie without the pain coursing through me, although I did at the time remember thinking how bravely stoic I was being, keeping it to myself and staying quiet so I didn't disturb my wife and new baby upstairs.

Suddenly, Mrs The Jules appeared at the door.

"Why are you whimpering?" she asked, adding "So loudly?" to make a point. Then her eyes adjusted and she got a good glimpse of me.

"Bloody hell. What's the matter?" she made a face at my sweaty pallor and took my pulse, muttering "One thirty!" and rushing off to get some paracetamol and ibuprofen. She returned and I downed the tablets like sweeties.

"I think . . ." I grimaced, " . . . I've got . . ." I gurned, " . . . a ki . . . " I grunged, " . . .a  ki . . ." I garbled, " . . . . a ki . . ."

"A kidney stone?" Mrs The Jules finished impatiently. I nodded up at her, now bent double in a comical Notre Dame mutant campanologist pose. "Shall I call an ambulance?" she asked.

I wasn't sure a kidney stone was particularly appropriate for ambulance transfer, despite having treated many in my time. They are excruciating, but not particularly life threatening.  Also, the thought of one of my colleagues picking me up, giving me morphine and subsequently taking the piss out of me for the rest of my working life made me shudder, despite the pain. Instead, we lashed the baby into his bucket seat and made our own way to the Emergency Department.

The drive was appalling. Even my missus, who is a smooth driver, couldn't stop me clutching on to the hand hold, shaking like a dog doing it's business outside a nursery,

The pain got worse! How can it get worse, I wondered? There is no more pain to be had. Any more pain and I won't be able to think. I'll be like a . . . no simile came to mind. The pain had de-similefied me!

Of course, at the Emergency Department, there happened to be a number of ambulance personnel  who were most surprised to see one of their off duty colleagues scuttle out of a yellow Nissan Micra, bent double and sporting a dashing grey colour, and into the recpetion area to book in. A couple of them helpfully followed me in to point out how funny I looked, and would I like a poke in the ribs to see if it really did hurt, and also how funny I looked.

It was relatively quiet, and I got efficiently triaged, assessed and dosed up with morphine and diclofenac. I actually sighed with relief as the pain ebbed to a dull throb over the next half hour.

Then, three days in hospital on fluids and antibiotics, all waiting for the emergence of what I presumed to be some sort of spiky boulder as it made it's way down my lacerated ureter and into my bladder. Eventually, I went home and caught it in a tea strainer that my wife now refuses to use.

And all because of this:


Hang on, that doesn't show the true majesty of the thing. Try this one:

Three millimetres! Three enormous millimetres of calcium oxalate reduced me to a barely functioning quivering wreck, rather than my usual barely functioning non-quivering wreck.

Observe the wonders of nature!

So, anyway, what did I learn from the experience?

Well, despite the best care from attentive and decent staff, hospitals are boring. Really boring. For this reason, I always tell my patients to grab a book if they can. Hospitals are also noisy at night, so take ear plugs.They're disempowering, so take a positive mental attitude.

And they're full of sick people, so take a decent immune system.

Most of all, I was reminded how thin the line is between us and them. Between the practitioner and the patient. So thin, indeed, that often it fades into invisibility.


* " I'm not."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sliding interview.

"Roll up! Getcher answers! Get 'em while they're true!"

I've been subjected to some questions by the lovely Feryx Lim over at Absolute Eloquence and Shit. Don't be put off by the fact that she's posted an interview with Yours Truly because, apart from that, there's some good stuff over there.

It's like an interblog love-in round these parts.


http://feryxlim.posterous.com/gravel-farming-is-so-much-fun

Monday, November 28, 2011

Badder sex


Publicity is being gained for writers who have penned some prose involving questionable copulation, their reward being the honour of receiving the coveted Bad Sex Award from Literary Review.

Having only briefly perused the offenders, I was half expecting it to be about actual bad sex, maybe where one partner rests an elbow on the other's hair, or involving a nasty clash of teeth, or perhaps a mid-coitus nosebleed, but it's not. It’s just about sex.

I don’t think I’d be too embarrassed about receiving a bad sex award (unless it was from my wife), because it must be exceptionally difficult trying to be original when describing something people have been doing since . . . well, since before there were people.

So, in the guise of any publicity being good publicity, unless you're a murderer, I have decided to have a stab at it. You can insert an innuendo here if you are childish and unsophisticated.

Heh. Insert.


Picture the scene. It is one of classic romance, involving traditional gender orientation and eroticism that has appealed to both men and women since time immemorial.

___________________________
She opened wide after a single knock, and raised a questioning eyebrow at the darkly tall stranger standing before her.

"I have come. . . " he growled deep in his throat, a testosterone fuelled baritone that she could feel in her very core, its timbre threatening to vibrate her knickers off, " . . . to fix your washing machine."

"Oh god!" she exclaimed breathlessly, "I was just going to have a bath." She looked at him askance, and he looked back at her askance as well, "In the nude!" she elucidated.

"But I have already brought my enormous plumbing tool," he waved it back and forth in front of her flushed cheeks, its hard, unforgiving length still glistening from another lady's fluids.

"My!" she gasped, admiring his professional manner. "Then it would be a shame if you got it out and didn't get chance to use it."

"I will be very . . ." He leaned forward, lowering his voice even further as their eyes met, his gaze smouldering like slices of black pudding in a frying pan " . . . quick."

"Good." she whispered back, relief flooding quite literally out of her, and she led him into the bedroom where she kept her washing machine.

"I keep my washing machine in the bedroom." She told him.

"That is completely normal and requires no clarification." He smoothed his moustache down and wiped his brow. "It's a little hot in here." He pointed out unnecessarily. "Would you mind if I made myself a little more . . ." he paused as he unbuttoned his shirt and searched for a word, " . . . sexy."

"Why not at all." She replied. "It is very, very warm in here, and me wearing this hot, winter silk negligee as well." She shrugged it off, but left her high heels on for the purposes of decorum.

"Now," he knelt before her and raised his tool in front of them both, expertly manoeuvring it into position. "Let me at it."

"That's it. Right there" She showed him. "Yes. There. Right in the alcove. That's it. Right there."

"Yes, I can see it because it is quite large, it being a washing machine."

True to his word, he was expertly quick, finishing rapidly and then holding up his tool wot was all covered in white residue.

"You see, the problem is you haven't been descaling it, and it's a bit like a kettle in that respect, so perhaps you should use Calgon."

"That's really very efficient of you, and reasonably priced as well. Thank you very much,"

"You're welcome." He cleaned his tool on the bedroom curtains before making his way to the van, leaving another very satisfied customer in his wake.

A few days later they met in the street, swapped numbers and went on three dates, which culminated in some satisfactory sexual intercourse and began a pleasant relationship lasting almost two years before ending relatively amicably.
___________________________
Actually, forget the bad sex awards, this stuff is pretty hot.

Sorry it was so short.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Roll Me Over, In A Rover

Thought I'd do a quick ambulance related post, because I spend so much of my life in one.

Got called to a crash a few weeks ago and, after the (luckily minimally injured) patient had been packaged up and sent off to hospital, I took a cheeky couple of snaps in the name of blogging reflection and learning:

I'll just park this here.

This is technically termed a "roll over" for mysterious reasons that elude me. It had narrowly missed a snack van in a layby where a queue of people were treated to the alarming spectacle of a car doing some acrobatics just a few metres away, before coming to a rest in a ditch. The driver then got out and staggered around for a bit holding his neck before we managed to catch him and stop his head falling off with some judicious immobilisation.

Okay, so he wasn't really that badly injured. The use of the spinal collar, full body vacuum splint and seven or eight large bore cannulae in his jugular might just possibly have been a teensy touch over the top, but you can never be too sure with this sort of mechanism of injury. Also I need the practice.

But what could possibly have caused such a loss of control? The driver swore he wasn't going too fast. He wasn't over the limit, hadn't taken any drugs or medication that could have affected his driving, and had apparently simply turned the corner and lost it. He seemed genuinely upset that he had been so unlucky, as he'd been driving for years and never had an accident before.

We made sympathetic sounds and told him, at the end of the day, he was still talking so there were reasons to be cheerful. He wasn't overly receptive to our pleasantries though and I suggested that, sometimes, you just had to chalk these things up to the vagaries of the universe.

It's a mystery, beyond the ken of mere humans to solve, completely unfathomable and utterly unpreventable

At least until you looked at his tyres:

The Telly Savalas of the tyre world.
I've seen more tread on an eel.

When I left the scene, the unamused police were heading off to the hospital to see the driver. On the way, they told me, they were going to find a nice heavy book to throw at him.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Camera obscura

Woo! Hallowe'e'e'n. Argh! Urgh! Grr! Fnarples!

Maybe not fnarples, thinking about it. That's for a different celebration.

But still, Halloween, properly de-apostrophised and bulging with the promise of hollowed out vegetables and obtaining sweeties through extortion!

I now have children, which sort of curtails most things celebratory that I used to enjoy, such as meeting other adults and having a conversation about something other than Teletubbies and poo, unless we wanted to. This means that if I see an opportunity for some gregarious celebration, no matter how infantile and pointless, I will grab on to that sucker like a politician on to an expense account.

My little boy was particularly excited as he had been invited to a Halloween fancy dress party in the evening. To stop him from asking "Is it time for the party yet?" more than eighteen hundred times, we spent the rest of the day torturing pumpkins by scooping their innards out and making them into soup and pies before callously eating them in an orgy of lunch.

At one point in the afternoon, my son clocked the digital camera on the sideboard and immediately had a great idea. "I want to take some photos Daddy!"

I was unsure. The last time he'd used it I had to spend ages with a tiny alcohol wipe cleaning raspberry jelly off the lens so people didn't look like they were being eaten by the Blob in every shot.

"Puh-lease can I take some photos Daddy!" He held his hands together in front of his chest out as though praying, knowing very well that I can't resist that sort of supplication. Besides, I thought, it's a distraction, and raising children is all about distracting them. And feeding them occasionally.

I set the camera up and handed it over.

"Find something interesting to photograph." I advised, removing a sticky finger from the delicate lens mechanism.

"Okay."

Snap:
Sofa so good

That's the sofa, close up. Fascinating stuff. Look at the weave. And the discolouration. It shows the beautiful cycle of stains and stain remover, forever chasing one another down the years.

"Not the sofa. Something interesting." I remind The Boy.

"Okay"

Snap:


A bit of living room, with the wife's crocs just scuttling to get out of shot. Hardly the stuff of award winning exhibitions.

"How about the pumpkins I just spent ages hollowing out and carving?" I suggested.

"Okay"

Snap:

A moist cavity

"Maybe not quite so close up son."

"Okay."

Snap:
Got eight teeth, gonna use 'em

"Bonobo, please stop eating the pumpkin."

The doorbell rang. Great stuff, I thought, and suggested a photo of the visitors might be interesting.

"Okay."

Snap:


Yep, visitors, nearly as interesting as the door.

Or the wall.

Or the floor.

The Boy bounces around the house, so excited to be taking pictures he is actually vibrating which makes him both hard to see at the edges and quite difficult to catch. I eventually trap him with a cunningly set up photographic opportunity of his old man. Predictably,  he can't resist.

Snap:


Looking good. I point him in the direction of the pumpkins which have been put on display ready for any passing art critic, and we finally have a picture taken from the viewpoint of a four year-old.

Snap:

Guard the iPod, gourdy minions.

I borrowed the camera for a moment and looked at the pictures on the little display. The ones shown here are the pick of about fifty, mostly of walls and floors, with the occasional door thrown in for good measure. I heartlessly deleted them and then handed the camera back, whereupon The Boy ran off to continue his reportage.

This included:

Light fittings:

Enlightenment

A box of red:

Desperation is evident in the dented packaging.

A bit more floor:
Skirting the issue

A sucked dry smoothie carton:

Art!

And his sister begging for a go, or possibly a chew, on the camera:


Before she finally feigned disinterest:


Eventually, the novelty wore off, and I managed to retrieve a surprisingly clean camera for some judicious memory wiping. A couple of them were actually rather good, and I think we can consider getting him his own camera for his fifth birthday in March. They do relatively cheap, tough ones that are ketchup proof nowadays and just right for little people to take photos anywhere they want.

I think I'll have to put a lock on the bathroom door.

We got The Boy ready for the party and, before we drove him to his friend's house, he was quite willing to step in front of the lens for a change.

Snap:

That's a wrap.

Gruesome.



.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One for the laydeez.

In these enlightened days of equality, equanimity and . . . er . . . equipment, we pride ourselves on our modern philosophies and contemporary paradigms. Gone are the days of slavish devotion to the supernatural. Away with you bigots and begone, foul taint of xenophobia. There's no place for you here, not in these times.


Fortunately, we have museums to remind us just how primitive we used to be, which is good because it would be easy to forget that we are descended from people who had very different values to us. Once, it was seen as the very epitome of manliness to rape and pillage. Once, it was lauded to denounce long-time associates, friends and even family to the authorities for dubious religious practices. Once, it was expected that a person must claw their way to the top by crushing those who had helped them in the past, life a desperate, merciless struggle for survival, the mark of the winner being nothing less than seeing who had collected the most stuff when they died.


Happily, the nineteen-eighties are long in the past now, and we have moved on.


These days I can, in the gentle serenity of pleasant museum surroundings, look at the exhibits and interactive displays whilst trying to avoid the enthusiastically bright-eyed history graduate just itching to tell me what the GDP of Great Britain was in the 1700s. Here, I can wile away the time reminding myself that things were not always so civil.


In this picture, for instance, the heinous attitude to women is amply demonstrated by the presence of the well preserved Scold's Bridle on the right:


Has anyone seen my key? Yeah, it's about a foot across?
A Scold's Bridle, for those of you not in the know, is a cage that was placed over someones head with a metal plate that went into the mouth to prevent talking. It was used as punishment for those judged to be a nag or a gossip.


Actually, I've just read on Wikipedia that they were used on chaps as well, so I suppose it wasn't quite as sexist as I initially thought. That's very, very surprising.


Using it on men doesn't make it any less repulsive though. The Scold's Bridle is classed as a mild form of torture and was used as punishment in workhouses until as late as the nineteenth century, which shows how primitive we were until quite recently. At least these days we use mains water and electricity to torture folk, which is far more contemporary.


Any perusal of a history book or walk through a museum of human activity will demonstrate the elaborate and ingenious ways people had of causing suffering.to one another, for whatever reason. Even those implements designed for medicine often had the opposite effect on the patient. Thought and effort has, for generations, gone into improving methods of inflicting harm on other sentient beings. It's a sad state of affairs, and a damning indictment of the state of the human mind.


Wait a minute, what's that thing on the left? Some sort of torture device intended for humiliation and degradation no doubt:


Hand cranked vibrator. Just apply woman.
Oh wait, it's a vibrator.


Seriously. A hand cranked, metal vibrator.


Cool.


The presence of the vibrator actually encourages warm feelings towards our predecessors. Maybe people of yore weren't constantly thinking up new methods of punishment and torture then. Not all the time anyway. It would appear that they also put their minds to betterment, and not just for themselves but for society as a whole. Occasionally, someone would invent something that made life a bit nicer, be it helping out with the tedious chore of self-love, or perhaps providing immunisation against deadly diseases. This is something we should remember when we rush to dismiss good deeds, altruism and positivity in our species as unusual, or even as an aberration. There is good stuff out there, and always has been, even if we occasionally have to look hard to find it.


The hand cranked part seems a little superfluous though. I mean, it does a deed that is generally hand cranked anyway. Presumably you'd want to warm it up a bit as well, unless you're into that kind of thing.


I'm well aware that such items were originally designed as a medical innovation to combat the hysteria that the so-called 'weaker' sex experienced, men apparently having moustaches and big hats instead of emotions, so it doesn't exactly take away the negative view of women that pervaded society in those days.


Of course, we're much more enlightened today, and the barriers between the sexes are breaking down, the age-old distinctions in jobs and duties traditionally seen as 'male' or 'female' no longer apply. Most new doctors are women. Male nurses abound. No one is surprised by a male primary school teacher or a female mechanic. My wife can nearly parallel park.


Progress!


I was in a domestic kitchen recently and noticed that Seimens, who make kitchen appliances amongst other things, demonstrated their considerable grasp of modern gender politics with this model of dishwasher, named to encourage equality between the sexes, obviously:


Made by Siemens. So . . . many . . . jokes.
The LadyPlus 45. Men obviously being too simple to operate such devices.


As a man, I shall continue to try and clean my dishes using a rock in the local stream. I get through so many gravy boats that way, but what's the alternative?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virtual things to do, imaginary places to be.

*Ringing sound*

Me: "Wotcher?"
Internet: "Slacker!"
Me: "Uh oh. Is that the Internet?"
Internet: "Who else would it be?"
Me: "A random insult delivered in a disappointed tone? You could've been my Mum."
Internet: "Good point. But no, it's the Internet here, and you know why I'm ringing?"
Me (Blowing cheeks out): "Maybe."
Internet: "There's a whole universe in here, and you're ignoring it?"
Me: "I've been busy in the real world . . ."
Internet: "Not that daft fantasy land of yours again. Give it up will you?"
Me: "I go on Facebook."
Internet: "Pfft. Facebook. That's not the internet. That's just harvesting."
Me: "Er, Twitt . . ."
Internet: "Don't say Twitter! You're not ALLOWED to say Twitter. Twitter is a privilege, not a right, and you're abusing it by not showing up, by ignoring it."
Me: "I do read it occasionally!"
Internet: "Occasionally? OCCASIONALLY! It's there twenty-four seven. Never tiring, never complaining, never asking for anything in return. For you."
Me: "I . . ."
Internet: "You made Twitter cry!"
Me: "Oh."
Internet: "Yes. Oh indeed. And look at the weeds on the Gravel Farm."
Me: Yeah, I know about them. I was going to tidy up, freshen the place up a bit, but I've got so much on . . ."
Internet: "We've had this conversation before, haven't we? The last time I had to give you a bit of a talking to. Remember this?"
Me: "You've managed to put a link into a phone conversation?"
Internet: "I'm the internet.
Me: "Fair enough."
Internet: "So what are you going to do about it?"
Me: "About what?"
Internet: "About getting back on line?"
Me: Well, I suppose I could cut down on looking after the children. Maybe get them a load of ready meals in, or just leave plates of porridge oats on the floor"
Internet: "Hmm. It's a start."
Me: "Or I could stop spending my spare time on my current favourite website in all of the internets, because it's a massive time waster."
Internet: "Here we go.  I bet I don't need to disable your Private browsing function to guess what sort of website that is eh? Lots of pink? Eh? Lots of epidermis? Eh?"
Me: "Porn? I wish. I don't have time for that. These days I get my kicks from the lingerie page of the La Redoute catalogue."
Internet: "Not porn. So what is it then?"
Me: "This." *Strains to put link in conversation* "It's a flash game called GunBlood and it's got all fake blood and gore in it."
Internet: *Sighs* "You've been wasting time on a flash game?"
Me: "Well it is part of the internet.
Internet: "Let's have a look then . . ."
Me: " . . . "
Internet: "Holy superhighway that's addictive!"
Me: "Isn't it though?"
Internet: *Silence*
Me: "Internet?"
Internet: *Sounds of shots being fired* "Damn!*
Me: "Internet?"
Internet: "Eh? Oh. yes." *Sound of eyes being torn away from game*
Me: "See?"
Internet: "It's no excuse. You need to make up for your lack of internettling."
Me: "I know, I know."
Internet: "Good. Well, I've made my point."
Me: "I do actually have a reason for my recent tardiness?"
Internet: "Oh really? I'd like to hear that."
Me: "A good, solid, water tight reason that means you will forgive me utterly"
Internet: "Can't see it myself, but go on. Humour me."
Me: "I've got a Blackberry."
Internet "A Blackberr . . .Oh. Oh I see."
Me: "You do?"
Internet: "Yes. Yes of course. I'm so . . . you know, sorry."
Me: "That's okay." *Tear-filled voice* "These things happen."
Internet: "Yeah. Yeah they do. But still, I shouldn't have been so . . ."
Me: "Hey forget it. You've got a job to do . . ."
Internet: "I have. And sometimes, it gets in the way. No prisoners, you know how it is."
Me: "Yeah, sure."
Internet: "I'll leave you to it then."
Me: "Okay. Bye."
Internet: "Bye"

*Ringtone*

Actually, the Internet is right, which is very unusual. I have been neglecting the worldly wide wonders of the webby wide web (WWWOTWWW), apart from playing GunBlood, so I need to buck my ideas up. The middle of September is occurring, and I have yet to post somehting on The Gravel Farm. Which is a shame, because there's plenty of daft stuff out there. Just a quick click through my phone photos shows me stuff to get irate about, be it bad grammar in graffiti:
Some sort of very deep, almost impenetrable philosophy?
 
Or a zoological anomaly in a cookery magazine:

Fish?

I could quite easily see a fight between David Attenborough and Rick Stein over something like this.

But really, the thing that I'm most ashamed about, is that I took a photo of a perfectly good tea stain on my kitchen workshop and didn't have the decency to post it. Let me, in some small belated way, make up for it now. Behold:

I'll have to rub this hard to get it off
I know what you're thinking. It totally looks like an uspide down version of the African Sub-saharan country of Benin. That's what I thought as well.

Mad.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Seven Sent

Memes are something you start off doing religiously when you start blogging, as they’re a fun way of learning a bit about yourself as well as informing others of your proclivities.They usually involve answering a series of questions and then passing the task on, like a sort of benign chain letter. 

After a while though you get a little jaded and become more selective, even eschewing them altogether because you’re pretty sure you know exactly how you would answer them and how constraining they can be. The last couple I did I enjoyed, but only because I broke the rules a bit and didn’t pass them on which is the memetic equivalent of a fatal mutation. Richard Dawkins would be spinning in his grave.

Were he dead.

And possessed of an ironic post-death consciousness.

This one, however, was different for two reasons.

First, it came to me from the hallowed and talent-bedecked halls of Mr London Street’s blog. If you haven’t been over there, which I doubt because he’s all popular and that, then it’s worth going to see what a blog is supposed to be like. Just reading his interpretation of this meme gives you a damn good account of his blog, and hints at depths and writing ability that are a joy to peruse.

Second, it allows me to have free reign to choose some of my own posts without worrying that I’ll be seen as some sort of egomaniac. I can do that perfectly well any old time, I can tell you. Here though, it’s not asking what my best posts are (like choosing my favourite rotting carcass), but which I think fit each of the seven categories. I can do that.

This meme is straightforward. You select seven of your previous posts that you think fit one of the given subjects and perhaps deserve a re-airing. Then you honour 5 bloggers to continue the meme. Honour them good and hard.

Here’s mine:

1. Your most beautiful post

In order to demonstrate beauty’s optical subjectivity I’m going to go for this one, where I paid tribute to TV’s Tony Hart after his death in 2009, not because the post is especially beautiful but because it was for a genuine reason, and I think that’s a sort of beauty in itself. This is a good get-out clause for those of us who aren’t really sure what beautiful writing is, and are definitely not sure if we’re capable of it. In addition, there is a sweet and utterly beautiful drawing I did at the end, which will make you gasp in wonder. Gasp like a bastard.

2. Your most popular post
Not many comments, but I get a lot of people say they like Present and Correct where I discuss gift giving between men, after I gave my dad a birthday prezzie. In the real world, it sparked off quite a few conversations and, it would seem, turned out to be a bit more accurate than I actually envisaged when I wrote it.

3. Your most controversial post

I think it was the one where I called for a secular jihad. Oh wait, no, I haven’t written that one yet. I am not the most controversial of writers, as I’m not here to annoy people. I don’t particularly mind if I do, but it’s not my primary intention. I’m going to go with a different take on controversy, and that’s the one in my head when I ummed and ahhed about posting a picture of my new daughter because she was a hairy, hairy beast. As it turns out, I’m glad I did because people thought she was cute: Bang Goes The baby's Head.

4. Your most helpful post

It's a blog. Often read by bloggers or those who are interested in blogs. I'm not going to give helpful hints in pleasing your woman, although I totally could (treat the top half like a lady and the bottom half like a well maintained Ford Cortina). So I would go for this post: It's a discussion about how one feels when starting blogging for the first time compared with achieving that first heady year. I think it could be helpful and encouraging to someone just popping their blog cherry all over the screen.

5. A post whose success surprised you

Probably my twitter post, Tactical Re-Tweet. I have since become more of a fan of Twitter, although I don’t tweet enough what with, you know, not having that much to say. Actually, it’s the other way round, in that I have huge amounts to say but don’t want to bore people with it, and am continually amazed by other Twitterererers when they post 50 good, readable tweets a day.

6. A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

This one, because it’s got boobs in it. Boobs don’t get enough attention, in my opinion. They’re almost ignored by all of society, and I think that’s wrong!

7. The post that you are most proud of

Blowing my own trumpet is something that I’m absolutely brilliant at, so you might think I’d find this easy. In fact, I didn’t. After I’ve bashed out a post and then go back to it a few weeks (or even months) later, I usually find something I want to change, just a quick little edit here, or a spot of literary  Who Models The Modeller, mainly because my son asked me to print out the picture of him being a giant and firing lasers out of his eyes and setting fire to Tom Cruise’s hair, and who wouldn’t be proud of a four year-old’s approval?


Now I must find 5 suckers to pass this meme on to, and thus the curse will be lifted. Casting the bones, I see the mists clear and the screaming visages of potential victims come floating through the ether. Come to me, my pretties. Come:

SkylersDad – Because I’ve always admired intelligence when it’s mixed with humility.
Madame DeFarge – Because she has so many beautifully written posts that she could just randomly lob links to any of the above categories really.
Vic – Again, a superlative writer with a gentle wit that I never cease to admire, although she has been a tad quiet recently. Vic is a blogger whom, if she doesn’t do this meme, you would be well to just flick through and read anyway.
Tempo – I’ve only recently started following Tempo for some reason, and I haven’t examined as much of his back catalogue as I'd like. If he does this meme, it might save me some time!
Vegetable Assassin – Because she hasn't got anything better to do until her toe heals. Also, she like ukuleles, and so is a good, good person. No one bad ever liked ukuleles.


That’s me memed up. I feel I can relax a bit now and see if any other monkeys dance.


Monday, September 12, 2011

All Fired Up.

Whilst at a country fair recently, drinking beer from a floppy plastic glass with the structural integrity of a cloud and desperately hoping the children didn’t win a corn dolly or a goldfish or something else irritatingly folksy in the Guess the Weight of the Duck’s Tumour stall, I noticed a fire engine pull up and the crew begin showing people round it.

Happy for the distraction, I took my 4 year-old son over and watched from the side as he sat in the front seat, pressed random buttons, tried on the terrifying helmets and attempted to get the huge bolt croppers out of their holder, that sort of thing.

Unbidden, a fire-fighter and his female colleague approached me, interrupting a daydream I was having about using the Jaws of Life on a chastity belt. I was immediately wary because they had big enthusiastic grins a bit like you see on religious people when they want to convert you to giving them money.

“Hello” They said, luckily not in unison because that would have freaked me out a bit.

“All right.” I replied, then nodded at the fire truck. “Nice turn out.” I said, hoping they realised I wasn’t referring to their toilet habits.

“Yep. Always good to get people familiar with the appliance.” The lady answered. “Also gives us a chance to offer a free fire-safety check at home, if you’re interested?” She proffered a pamphlet.

I breathed that sigh of relief you do when you realise friendly strangers aren’t after your money or your soul and took the literature, which explained the fire service’s admirable philosophy of prevention rather than cure.

Admirable but, not to put to fine a point on it, a bit boring. I doubt that many people join the fire service with the ultimate aim of handing out leaflets. They join so they can see really big fires. And pornography.

 “I’m not sure I need it.” I said, and explained that I was quite up-to-date when it came to fire awareness, having been to the after effects of fires a few times in my career as a paramedic.


“You’d be surprised what you might have missed.” The man suggested amiably, and seemed so eager to visit that I agreed.

A week or so later, the fire appliance (I still want to call them engines) rolled up outside my house and, whilst my boy went out to press more buttons and annoy the crew, the two inspectors came inside, bringing in a big box of smoke detectors, screwdrivers, notepads and safety pamphlets.


“First, let’s have a look at your doors!” The man said chirpily. I showed him that every door in our house is a fire door, with insulated interior and fastenings for self-closing hinges.


"Oh,” he looked crestfallen. “Yes. Very good doors those. Keep a fire at bay for an hour, will those.” He sighed heavily, then brightened. “Smoke alarms?” he said, picking up his box of free ones and his screwdriver.

I showed him my mains-connected integrated fire and smoke detectors, and the extra one in the lounge. He looked at them disconsolately, and prodded one as if it was a fish of unknown vintage.

“Really good. Really, really good.” He sounded like he was telling me I’d got cancer. Suddenly, I oozed pity for him.


"Look at this!” I said suddenly, and led him into the kitchen to show him a gaping alarm socket in the ceiling.

See that? It's not there.

“I’ve taken this one out because it just used to go off when we cooked food, even if it wasn’t burning.” I suggested, thinking he might be pleased to tell me I shouldn’t have done such a dangerous thing, and I was putting myself and my family in abject danger of a fiery demise.

“That’s fine.” He muttered. “It’s not a good idea to have them in the kitchen anyway.” He put his box down and looked around. “Do you test them, because you should test . . .”

“Once a month?” I informed him, which is about true. “Is that enough?” He grabbed on to it.

“Well, we suggest testing on a weekly basis nowadays, in case you forget a couple of times but you’ll still be checking them quite often, you know . . .”

I nodded, thinking there was probably no way Earth I would remember to check the buggers once a week, as I frequently forgot the monthly checks. He puffed his cheeks out a bit, and we nodded amiably at one another for a moment, whilst I tried to think of humorous anecdotes involving awkward silences. Luckily, his colleague then arrived having been outside explaining to my wife that it was a good idea to have a meeting up place in the house in case of a fire. We decided that upstairs in our bathroom would be best as it had a window with a shallow, sloping roof leading to the garage nearby. A possible escape route.

I was heartened by the fact that, due to the number of fire doors we had, a fire in our living room would take about three hours to reach us in the bathroom, which meant in the event of a fire we could go out for a meal or catch a film at the pictures, have a cheeky drink, return home and then call the fire service to come and rescue us. Sounded like a distinctly civilised disaster scenario.

“Anyway, how are we getting on inside?” His colleague asked, and he looked acutely depressed.


I felt terrible. Here was a man who simply wanted to show me how I and those I love might be irretrievably killed to death in a raging inferno and how was I repaying him? By thwarting his intentions with some unfairly installed effective safety measures, that’s how.

I desperately looked for something to fail on, something for him to be able to tut professionally at. Maybe I ought to ask his advice about the best way to smoke in bed, or how many plugs per socket is really safe? There must be something, I reasoned.

The loft conversion! It’s like a death trap up there, I thought, with black out blinds for day sleeping when I’m on nights, a light and a phone charger that I leave permanently plugged in at the socket that could spew out hot sparks at any given moment and a bed so comfortable that I would have difficulty getting myself up and out of it if I were actually ablaze! I don’t stand a chance I thought, happily. I told him I wanted his opinion and we trotted up the stairs. He passed the extra integrated smoke alarm on the top level and gave it a sneering nod, and then had a look in the conversion.

“Fire doors, smoke alarms and big Velux skylights for easy escape.”  He almost cried. “I think you’ll be okay.”

“Sorry.” I said, as we trudged back downstairs. I tried to cheer him up by making an hilarious fire-related joke about an arsonists favourite website being Match.com. He agreed that, yes, it did indeed appear to be some sort of joke, but his heart wasn’t in it.

His colleague, obviously a more imaginative soul than him, was explaining that the dishwasher was a potential fire source, as they were usually put on when people were out or at night when the owners were sleeping, so if the motor heated up and decided to erupt in flame, as they were apparently wont to do, there was often no one awake or about to tackle it.

“Try and use it in the day when you’re in.” She instructed us. We empty-promised that we would.
They thanked us for our time, and we reciprocated before going outside to winkle the child out of the fire appliance, where they trundled off to find a more worthy recipient for their advice.

I’d learnt a valuable lesson from their visit. From now on, I thought, I would take more risks, and went inside to deep-fry some fireworks.

I'm sure the fire service would approve.