Friday, July 22, 2011

Fisher of Kings

Cycling along the abandoned canal on my way to work, a flash of electric blue catches my eye, describing rapid but gentle parabolas from overhanging willow bough to ivy-clad birch branch.

A kingfisher!

I am pleased. Although not especially rare, they are evasive and seldom seen, particularly on a canal, even one that is relatively unused by anyone other than cyclists and dog-feaces depositors. I stop my bike for a moment, and watch enraptured as it doesn't immediately disappear, maybe being a little more used to wandering bipeds than most others of its kind. Still though, it is only visible for a second or two at a time.

Its dazzling plumage is at odds with its inherent shyness, as if embarrassed by its own splendour. No artist has ever created a colour so full of vivid life, so effortlessly natural and yet so striking. It is a humbling exercise in the superior achievement of unconscious selection over the ever-striving efforts of our intellectual and artistic endeavours.


Luckily, to capture the moment, I am a modern human, with all the advantages of superior technology that allow me to share this image, perhaps save a small, frozen portion of this ephemeral scene with other members of my species. With you, my friends, with you. We are a creature that generally uses sight as our prominent sense, and and this is reflected in our tools.

I take out my phone, thinking of the adverts where opportunistic photographers take super-sharp images for posterity, whipping out their handsets and snap!, capturing the elusive snow leopard or plummeting falcon and winning awards from the BBC and National Geographic for their efforts.

My turn.

Oh . . . kay.

Too fast. I have to be patient. There it is again. Try another one but hold the phone still. 


Missed it. Damn. The bird was moving too quickly this time. Bloody thing.Try again.


Arse. Low light levels, that one. Hang on, it's flying again, quick!


No? No. 

Oh sod it. Have some ducks in a line on high zoom instead:


Brown they are. Very, very brown, and not at all shy about letting you know it. Now to wait for National Geographic to get in touch. I'll see you at the exhibition.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quantum Motherf***ing Leap

What's this thing?

Ooh, a blog. Whose is it?

Ah, mine. 

Oh yes, I remember, it's all coming back now. I occasionally blog about stuff, if I'm not attending to super-interesting extra-internet stuff like being a double-secret undercover agent battling evil rocket ninjas on the moon! Yeah, that's what I've been doing. Fighting evil rocket ninjas with laser-shurikens and anti-gravity slippers, and everyone knows rocket ninjas are the worst type of ninja because not only are they deadly and silent, apart from when their rockets are turned on, but they're also fast. What with the rockets and that.

Also, I went on holiday to Ibiza, and I've done a shit load of overtime at work to post-pay off my credit card, now-pay for the shopping and pre-pay for my car to be fixed after it decided it didn't need things like a catalytic converter or power steering fluid anymore. I did get the opportunity to drive it for three and a half hours to Luton airport without power steering though, which reminded me of the elderly Vauxhall Cavalier I drove when I was nineteen, only with more nappies and less Rizlas.

I parked the parent-mobile in a hotel, like so:

And tried to ignore the confidence-building broken glass in the bay a couple of spaces along:

Sadly, when I returned from holiday a week later, the car was still there, completely unstolen, and I had to drive it back across the southern bits of England with it making a SCREE-UNKUNKUNK noise on every roundabout.

So that's my lame-O excuses solid reasons for not blogging for three weeks covered.

Of course, the reality of the situation is that life with dependents means you have to be very dependable, and put the things you like behind the things you love.

Damn you, things I love! *shakes fist at things I love*

Anyway, enough with the moaning. It's not all bad. Occasionally I get to do things for myself. Just the other week I brushed my teeth and, sometimes, just now and then, I get that rarest of pearls, that most delicate wisp of ephemera, that tiny nugget of real meat in the Fray Bentos pie of time.

A moment to myself.

The wife is out. The kids are unconscious sleeping peacefully. The housework has been hidden. Suddenly, I can do something for me! I could read some poetry. I could do some of that professional development stuff I've heard we're supposed to do for work. I could research why everyone in Crime and Punishment seems to have three names. I could paint the front doorstep so it looks less like a sandcastle. Lots of productive, important, beneficial things, ripe for the taking, plucking and goosing. It's almost a luxury.

Right, what's on the telly? 

Yeah, that's the spirit. Something that doesn't involve strangely ripped children's TV presenters gallivanting about, or cartoons, or brainwashing babies into recycling. Something I might actually choose to watch!

Go to guide, press the button, forget there's always about a seconds delay till it displays the info, by then having pressed the button three more times, and then frantically try and get back to the page you want as the telly catches up with your button presses, finally only doing so when you force yourself to leave the damn thing alone for ten seconds, breathe deeply, and then see what's on.

Once again, abject crap.

Well, it is Tuesday, and everybody should be out partying I suppose.

It's no wonder I watch books instead. I'd read even more if someone hadn't invented the internet or made me have children.

That sounds like I'm suggesting my wife invented the internet, which I'm pretty sure she didn't. I think it was discovered rather than invented, like gravity and the Dyson.

Hey, look, I'm missing Pobyl Y Cum, on Welsh telly. That's been going on for years, and the only reason is because it's called Pobyl Y Cum, which is funny in any language. 

What else is there? Judge Judy Take Me Out? Ew. Oh wait, that's not one programme I have no wish to watch, but two. That's all right then. And Loose Women, which is . . . just . . . awful. I mean . . . just . . . awful.

Lot of repeats then, and I can't help but see that Quantum Leap is on, which I used to enjoy as a guilty geeky pleasure when I was a student. That dates me. Quantum Leap was a harmless, mildly entertaining, uncontroversial comedy drama where a scientist called Sam travels back in time to put the occasional bad thing right. Rather than kill Pol Pot, stop the Bhopal gas leak or suggest that the staff at Three Mile Island take the red flashing warning light seriously, he gets a bloke to tell some girl he loves her, or wins a race, or ejects out of a plane before it crashes, that sort of thing.

I don't remember this episode though, and judging by the description at the bottom, it's a saucy one, despite it being just six in the evening. Nudity, acts of violence and strong language? Does Sam leap into an orgy? Does the series try and revive flagging ratings by getting him to pop a cap in someones ass?

It was my type of description, and I clicked on it to discover whether Sam travels back in time to give Marilyn Monroe a damn good seeing to and thus prevent her early demise (which is what would've happened if I'd written it). Unfortunately, at that moment, my daughter decided to wake up and beckon me with the full-nappy alarm call, and my son with his "Why am I in bed when it's only six o'clock?" wail.

Sigh . . .