Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry . . . Saturday!

Christmas time, and I'm off, which makes a decent change.

Doesn't seem a year since I was lamenting being at work over christmas, but it was!

This year, however, I am of a different ilk, and can join in the festivities without the possibility of having to zoom off to have my mood ruined by someone selfishly having a heart attack or taking an overdose on this most joyous of of days.


Now, There is actual, genuine snedge outside and the kids are gradually coming down from the excitement of evidence-less faith in a big fat guy who lobs toys down your chimney even if you haven't got a chimney. As well as sugar.

Presents have been given and received, telly has been watched, dinner has been eaten and the traditional bicker has been attended to. Both stomachs and marriages are close to splitting, which is the official sign of a successful traditional exmuss.

My son, who is a few months short of his fourth birthday, turned his nose up at the stonkingly good home made beef wellington with all the trimmings, and opted instead for a Babybel cheese and a slice of bread (no butter) for his christmas dinner.

This is actually better than might be expected because, if it was his choice, the christmas menu would be something like this:

Starter: Minstrels.

Main Course: A Minstrel joint with flambéed Minstrels, roast Minstrels and boiled Minstrels, drizzled with a Minstrels jus.

Dessert: Minstrels crumble with custard. Made out of Minstrels.

This would of course be followed by a nice cup of Minstrels to finish the meal off. And maybe a quick look at the Minstrels board.

I've flicked through the films, and was quite excited about Shrek the Third and Top Gear, but in general I'm not overly bothered about telly. This is good because, well, let's face it, the TV selection is pretty crappy, and that's even with the most up-to-date supermarket freesat box. The Queen's Speech wasn't even done by Helen Mirren. Just some old granny in a bling hat.

Mind you, I would've been more excited about even the most straight-to-bargain-box-in-Blockbusters offering if the synopsis was like the one I saw just a couple of weeks ago on Movies4Men:

Rogue agents are ten a penny. In fact, the majority of secret service agents are rogue. And that's political dynamite, that fact.

Rouge agents though? Well, they're a different breed altogether. Not only are they charged with hijacking Concordes (presumably by going to an air museum and towing it out), but they must do so looking fabulous!

Now though, in the here and now, things are quieting down. Peristalsis is overcoming what initially seemed like a insurmountable obstacle and now just looks more and more like a big job, whilst alcohol gently caresses my system like a cerebral Thai lady-boy with well-oiled hands.

So I have a moment to reflect.

Yup. That's some good reflecting there.

Good reflecting.

Anyway, let me take this moment to wish you a very happy Saturday, and please spare a thought for all those who have to work over the weekend.

Happy christmas.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tactical re-tweet

I got pestered by some mates into joining Twitter, which I duly did being a modern, technomological sort of person, interested in the relatively new phenomena of social media and cyber-gregariousness that now pervades our society like a funny smell you can't decide whether or not you like, encouraging us to become "friends" with people we've met at a bus stop and are unlikely to ever see again.

So, there I was, Twitterised.

Of course, I obeyed the law and became a follower of Stephen Fry, because I believe that's compulsory and there may very well be some sort of penalty for not doing so.

I read other folks tweets. Some were quite good, or informative, or interesting. Most were banal. I played around with it, tweeted a few times, even twittered occasionally.

But I have to confess, I don't really get it.

To me, other social media makes a sort of sense. It's great for sharing photos with far-flung family, of arranging rare nights out, and for generally having a regular natter when otherwise you might only talk to someone every couple of weeks on the phone. It really is quite social.

Twitter seems very . . . one way.

You post a sentence. It gets displayed for a while. You write another one. Done.

And for the number of people that are going to read mine, I'd be better off writing them on a Post-it and sticking them to my fridge door.

I decided to cheat and directed my Facebook statuses (Statees? Stati?) to become tweets, so I look like I'm a dedicated Twitterer, when in fact I only occasionally look at it. This way, Mr Fry's loyalty enforcement officers won't come after me.

I do get notifications when someone new follows me, which is all very well when it's a friend or acquaintance, but most of them seem to be businesses including, strangely, a Japanese Garden centre.

Lately, I have been experiencing a sudden surge of new followers on Twitter. At first this excited me because, suddenly, people were showing that they liked what I was saying and wanted to know more! Coincidentally, they all seemed to be ladies with a penchant for naturism, for their avatar pictures were often bereft of clothing.

Amazingly, Yasmine, Constance, Celeste, Ebony, Sexxy69 and DickLuva all turned out to be less than genuine, and were in fact spamming for business in order to drum up trade for mucky films.

Apart from the copious displays of bare boobs, their expressions should have clued me in. Half closed eyes and slack jaws are, it would seem, the industry standard "look" to demonstrate sexiness, and totally not indicative of an over-enthusiastic lobotomy.

Anyway, I've blocked them on grounds that pictures of naked ladies are actually available on the internet, if you look hard enough.

So I've been told.

And then I promptly got another one. Just before I blocked her, I couldn't help but notice her name.

In such an industry, market research would, one presumes, suggest using an alias that might be judged "sexy", a name to tempt a potential Joe to view your wares, a nom-de-pute if you will. This isn't difficult, as you could just use those ones associated with contemporary screen lovelies, maybe Angelina or Nicole, Kirsten or Eva. No imagination needed.

Here, such market research had obviously passed my new fan by.

Her name was Mildred.

Now, bad as I feel about labelling people, but when I think of someone called Mildred, it isn't in the context of sexual relations. Apologies if your name is Mildred and you're reading this*, but it really doesn't rank high in the annals of eroticism, does it? The image that springs to mind is of someone with removable teeth.

I wonder if you were a chap in the market for some negotiable affection, would you pay less if your lady of the night was called Doris or Edna?

I may be over thinking this.

Initially, writing this made me feel a bit shallow, and possibly sexist against men for not including them in this diatribe. But maybe the opposite is true. Genuine desirability depends on subjective impressions, the recognition of humanity, the identification of (and maybe with) a real person, not just on plastic pertness and a gormless physiognomy, lovely though those attributes must obviously be.

A name is important.

Of course, the popularity of any name changes from one generation to the next, so todays Angelinas will be tomorrows Myrtles, and the height of allure will one day be represented by Maude, Ida and Mildred.

Anyway, with that tangent well and truly offed, I deleted Mildred and exited Twitter for a few weeks. I'm obviously not exploiting it to its full potential, which may be my fault, but I also don't seem to have the urge (or indeed the time) to learn how to.

Ultimately, blogging may have ruined Twitter for me, because why would I want to tweet when I can squawk?

*Although, to be honest, it's not really very likely, is it?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Charity, Limited.

We had one of these flyers through our door the other day:

First glance, they look like they are the epitome of altruism, helping poor, needy, pink skinned, blue-eyed children who can't even afford Ben 10 or Barbie Elastoplasts.

And look! In case you didn't get the message that they help children, it is reinforced by a picture of a dog:

Surely they must indeed be a worthy cause, for why otherwise would they have a picture of a dog?

In fact, this isn't a charity, but a business which aims to get you to give them your old stuff so that they can sell it on for a profit.

I haven't got a problem with that per se, but it does try and emulate charitable organisations, and it's only when you notice there's a company number at the bottom rather than a charity reference, you realise.

It's even got the dodgy spelling that real charity fliers have.

Personally, I tend to give my old stuff away (if it's one of those rare items that I haven't destroyed doing whatever it is I do that turns clothes into rags within weeks) to charities like the Salvation Army, because they go directly to people who need them, rather than via a shop or agency.

This one is a bit cynical mind, although it defends itself by saying it provides clothes to the less well off.

This is true. If they pay for them.

I'm not here to bang on about faux chariddy, but it was the marketing technique of this one that got me thinking. Obviously, someone has read that cute things have big eyes and outsize heads, playing on our inherent protective instincts of infantile things. From this, they have decided that the dog must be photoshopped to have an even bigger head and bigger eyes than you might find in the real world.

Because, obviously, you can't find a picture of a genuine cute puppy anywhere, can you?

Look at this one though:

A normal picture of a real one would've been better, even if it is one of those tiny dogs which are supposed to be fluffy and white but have those horrible reddy-orange patches where they constantly drool, lick or piss on themselves.

So I wonder where cute ends and hideous begins. Probably the cutest thing I've ever seen on the internet is that Slow Loris being tickled. It's got the big eyes, the gentle demeanour and the appropriate baby-like visage to bring out all the gooeyness in you.

The makers of Shrek got it down pat with Puss in Boots:

What about stuff people have phobias about. Is a baby snake cute? A spider?

I think that's fairly cute.

This however, was supposed to be, but misses the mark by an order of ew:

What are they trying to do? Encourage little girls to hate babies?


Of course some humans, who worry about what they look like because they no longer have to worry about eating or being eaten, notice when someone else is cuter than they are and then try and increase their own cute levels when they feel they are in deficit, with mixed results.

You see, this is cute:

However, despite much thought, work and money, this is . . . er . . :

. . . I don't think anybody knows what this is, but cute isn't the adjective that immediately springs to mind.

I suppose we should remember the shallow subjectivity of beauty, and maybe we can all be cute on the inside.

Actually, scratch that. I've seen a liver.

Anyway, the company that started off this train of thought, Rutex Ltd, leaves its email address at the bottom of the flyer, so I have sent them a message telling them I am a Nigerian finance minister, who needs to store three million Euros worth of penis enlarging pills in their office, and if they send me their account details and passwords I will give them a hefty consultation fee, 100% honest, may your God or Gods be kind to you.

Wonder if they'll fall for it accept my business proposition.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The gift of getting gifts.

Whilst a-shopping in a shop today, I noticed they had an offer on toy cars. Might be a nice little treat for a small person I thought to myself, magnanimously, and might just have the pleasant side effect of shutting up a whingeing kid.

And look, they had an special on Transformers!

Can't go wrong with transformers, I reasoned. Always popular, as they combine the traditional roles of . . . well, cars and robots. Yes, very traditional.

I was about thirteen when Transformers came out. Transformers the toy, not the electrical current transferring device, because that's been around since Einstein invented electricals.

I was lucky enough to have a couple of the figurines, and must have got a full two or three enjoyable hours of excitement transforming Optimus Prime into a lorry and then back again before his arm came off and stayed that way for ten years.

There was also, if I recall correctly, some sort of reddy-brown jet fighter contraption, the transforming process of which being so hideously complex that you had to have a working knowledge of 11-dimensional M-theory physics to convert into its robot alter-ego and back.

It was almost certainly a governmental test to seek out the precocious mathematical prodigies who could complete the task, and then put them to work in the Department of Very Hard Sums.

Because of this, most of the time I played with it was as an aeroplane with a random foot sticking out, or a robot with one big flappy wing impeding its progress.

Anyhoo, this Transformer I clocked in the shop was a police car, and was quite little, which excited my inner child. I wondered what the intervening quarter of a century had provided in the way of toy innovation and transformer design. I turned it over to look at the back before I parted with my hard-earned two quid:

And I'm glad I did, because the back bore the legend "DOES NOT CONVERT" in a font similar to that found on military cartons definitely not containing glowing bullets.


So the Decepticon Transformer Barricade Police Vehicle, who's sole selling factor is the ability to change from a car into a gurt monster robot to terrorise local populaces . . . er . . . doesn't.

What a disappointing label. Like having a sticker on a knife informing you it "DOES NOT CUT" or a post-it on your wife saying "DOES NOT LOVE YOU".

What's the point of it then?

I wonder how many children have got one of them home and then suffered the crushing desperation of trying to transmogrify it into a robot, only to be defeated by the cynical marketing ploy of the manufacturers?

Dutifully, I put it on the floor, stamped on it, and then replaced it on the shelf in the shop, before slinking home.

Instead, I think I shall look to get such presents from a mail-order catalogue because they must rely on fairly full descriptions to persuade you to buy their tat. In this way, the toys do exactly what you'd expect, and also incidentally provide some potential career advice:

That, friends, is a Playmobil Amphibious Getaway Car, complete with dark-suited masked driver holding suitcases bulging, presumably, with valuables he has just liberated from the oppressive banking authorities using toy guns and toy threats to kill.

Now, with that you see, you get everything you pay for. You get a car for getting away, you get a legally ambiguous hero to drive it, and you get a sense of glamour attached to the criminal underclass.

Actually, it's quite a good idea. If you're doing a bank job near a river, imagine the surprise on the coppers' faces when you drove into the water and chugged your way to freedom.

Devious minds, them Playmobile fiends.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Voice Recognition

I really didn't want to turn this into some sort of parent-y blog, because there are lots out there better at it and far more gooey than what I am. Unfortunately, at the moment, it's all I know . . .

So apologies, both for the lack of posts and the repetition of this theme, and I will understand if you decline to read on because you're missing intellectual discussions on mobility scooters, floating leaves, boobs and toilets.

If you're still here?

Well, ta.


Do you remember being a kid, and being almost asleep but not quite, but too tired to open your eyes? In that nice little, swirly zone just before you actually go under, when you're so pleasantly relaxed that scientists would actually be able to classify you as a liquid?

I loved that feeling. Still do in fact. These days, I'm usually able to get myself to sleep, eventually, although I do still find it hard to "switch off" as people who are very good at kipping tell me you're supposed to do. When I do that, I concentrate so hard on switching off it perks me right up.

Anyway, eventually, I usually manage to find the appropriately monotonous thought routine that bores me into submission, and off I go.

When you are tiny, you often need a spot of help, and that is often the sounds of your parents' voices, either reading to you or just general chit chat.

That's a bit of a dilemma for a parent, because you want to get them off to sleep, so you use your most soporific of voices, and read The Gruffalo in a quiet and surprisingly camp lilt

But what if it's not necessary?

What if you can just witter on about the days necessities and still get them off to sleep?

I remember, if sleeping in the car or somewhere, how nice it was hearing my parents' voices, not even quietly, chatting away about how fags had gone up to 50p a pack and it was health and safety gone mad, whatever health and safety were. You could happily drift off knowing they were nearby, and you didn't care what they were talking about, or even if you could hear the words, as long as they were in the near vicinity, just as long as they were there and you could safely have a kip.

Your mum could've had a voice like an eagle on helium, but you'd still be able to fall asleep listening to it.

Nowadays, I am the baritonic rumble that helps send my baby off to sleep. It's never when I'm trying to get her off, but only when I happen to be walking her around, or pushing her in the buggy and chatting quite normally, when suddenly I notice she's zonked out, snoring gently into a pool of dribble on my shoulder, or slumped forward with head at a disconcertingly trachea-warping angle.

Then, I change to a whisper and immediately, she wakes as if thinking I must be talking about her. Which is possibly the case.

It's not just voices either. Stick on the Hoover next to her head, and not a peep. Rustle a piece of paper in the next room and her eyes spring open like the guard in a jail just as your about to steal the keys off of his belt.

I wonder if this is an evolutionary trait, in that loud noises nearby are most likely simply everyday things going on, and present no danger, but the quiet rustle of a leaf or gentle snap of a twig could very well be a big hungry, toothy thing sneaking up on you.

There'll be a paper on it somewhere, by a scientist with an interest in babies getting eaten.

Whatever it is, it's nice when they drop off and, despite my theory that I could talk at normal volume with no ill effect, I still creep around her like a particularly nervous ninja, even though I could possibly just carry on stomping around singing Amarillo in a croaky falsetto.

But still, would you want to risk disturbing this:


Monday, October 11, 2010


Eddie Bluelights over at Clouds and Silvery Linings, a blog which blogs about blogs, bloggily, has decided that I needed to be awarded.

The award is rather touching, naming me as a Versatile Blogger, which makes me feel a bit like a Swiss Army Knife, able to unscrew a bottle of plonk and get boy scouts out of horses hooves with my various stainless steel appendages.

I get a picture!


Eddie himself was rightly awarded this title, and being the dutiful blogger he is, appropriately read the small print and adhered to the rules with genuine gusto and a diligence usually found only amongst the most succesful of traffic warden.

Hence my award.

In order to appropriately qualify for this award, I must reveal ten things about myself and then nominate a number of bloggers who I think will be up to the task of meme-hood.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see BAFTA or Oscar winners having to perform tasks for their awards, but apparently I have to work for this one.

Dance little blogger, dance.

The first part I can do, although I feel it would be richer for the reader if I used the all forgiving medium of lies, but as it is I will tell the truth, because the source is an honest sort of chap.

They might not be interesting, because I've told you all the interesting things about me on this ego-fluffing medium I call a blog, but awards don't care about that! They just want wordy toil.

Still here goes:

1. When they phone, I enjoy asking telephone call operators in Mumbai what the weather is like there at this time of year. The answer is invariably "Hot", "Wet" or "Hot and wet".

2. Today, I was wondering whether if you had no thumbs, you would be best wearing a poncho as there aren't any buttons on it.

3. Fridays are my favourite day for no other reason thant they are named after a lady called Frig.

4. I think aspirin tastes like earwax.

5. I can't get my head round the idea that before there was the universe, there may have been nothing, not even space. This makes the space between my ears ache.

6. I can't decide whether or not I like wearing pyjamas.

7. I sometimes use my pet house Rabbit, Bert, as a paper shredder.

8. After slagging of African redbush tea for years and years, saying it smelled like something a large carnivore with kidney problems might use to mark its territory with, I quite suddenly and unexpectedly like it now.

9. I really would rather like a banjo, and I'm not quite sure why.

10. I once spoke a damn decent amount of Spanish, and have managed to forget most of it, which is pretty unforgiveable really.

There you go. A scintillating glimpse into the inner workings of The Jules. Bet you're glad you asked now, eh?

As to the second part of the award, I feel it would be unfair to dump a meme on poor unsuspecting, innocent folk, minding their own bizz-nizz, and expecting them to jump just because I shouted "Frog!"

Actually, I would like that, but I'm also painfully aware that the ones I would like to choose are often on the receiving end of similar awards and memes and such-like, so I'm going to be kind and give them a break.

Kindness is versatile right? Sometimes it lets you be cruel.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who models the modeller?

We have been exploring an exotic location. Somewhere that we have been to before but, in retrospect, it seems we have only passed through, like itinerant travellers too caught up in their destination to take note of their current surroundings.

Basically, it's where we live.

We don't seem to notice lotsa things almost in our own back yard. Stuff people come from all over the place to see, so it's a bit daft not to play the tourista in you're own ghetto, innit?.

And because we can't really afford a holiday at the moment, as well as having the cute, drooly shackle of a baby in the house, we are having a staycation. This is holiday speak for not going anywhere even though you've got a week of annual leave booked.

Well, this isn't exactly true.

When deciding on a staycation, you must still make the effort to go places, and to experience stuff that you know about yet rarely do, otherwise, well, you're just staying at home really.

For instance, about forty minutes from us is Bourton-on-the-Water, which has got a bird park and a model village.

Bird parks are cool. They've got birds in them, and birds are pretty interesting, especially if they talk, or scream, or are brightly coloured, or eat other creatures, or are bloody huge. In fact the best bird would combine all of these traits and be some sort of meat-eating, osprey-sized super parrot. I was excited.

They didn't have a carnivorous super-parrot, which was a touch disappointing, but on the whole it's a nice place. Lots of birds.

Model villages though. Are they cool?

Well, seeing as I have never, in all my decades, been to a model village, I didn't know. And as this one was right there and I had a kid with me, it seemed an opportune moment to go and have a look.

It messed with my mind man!

First of all, there is the ominous photos of your darling, tiny cherub looking like Sprogzilla:

I was tempted to 'Shop in some lasers coming out of his eyes, and then stick a tiny picture of Tom Cruise flailing about with his hair on fire, but when I say Phototshop I mean Microsoft Paint, and it's a bit of a faff. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Go on. Picture Tom. Picture his hair. Now . . . WOOF! And off he goes

The model village uses Bourton itself as a template, although only roughly as the ephemeral structures of humanity are wont to change, so it's not entirely accurate. I didn't see a tiny bird park, which was a pity. I considered suggesting they set one up, maybe using painted wasps as the birds for lifelike realism.

Other than that, the buildings are startlingly realistic, and it's a little surreal watching folk wander about, towering over them. As I hadn't got specific permission to show peoples faces in this blog, I have blocked them out with appropriate ogre masks using the magic of awesome Paint skillz, which I feel is artistically sensitive to the context:

The village had another trick up its sleeve, which I quite liked. In one corner, behind the model of the pub in which the model village is situated in real life, is a model of the model village:

Now, that was bit cool.

Hang on though. Look in the corner of the model model village:

It's a model of the model model village!

A model model model village.

And look! By Neptune's Soggy Beard, could it possibly be? Yes, yet another model of the model model model village:

Okay, my inner geek did like that quite a bit, and I might just have tried to get close to see if there was yet another microcosmic representation of the model village. But there wasn't. Or at least I couldn't see it and presumed that there wasn't, which raises a few existential questions about things being there if you can't see them.

This isn't the same as the question "If a tree falls in the wood and no-one witnesses it, does it make a noise?" because the answer to that is patently no. It makes lots of sound waves, which travel through the air as pressure differences, but only become audible when they hit a listening device such as an ear. Never understood why that was a conundrum. It's just a matter of physics. Which is possibly what everything is.

Anyway, my inner child struggled up past layers of fossilised responsibility and the diamond-hard strata of mature levelheadedness that usually make up my personality, to surface briefly in my psyche, and I imagined tiny people looking up at not so tiny people, who were looking up at slightly bigger people, who in turn gazed fearfully up at even bigger folk, and so ad infinitum, until at last they got to the pinnacle of the event, the ultimate being, the one looking down at all of them and their tiny lives, an indulgent smile playing on a beatific face, like the very sun itself looking down on them from on high.


With the universe constantly making us feel small by being all mind-bendingly huge and that, it was nice to be in a place which, quite literally, bigs you up a bit.

Oh, go on then:

Run, Tom, Run!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Security to the pussy aisle.

Continuing my recent intellectual sojourn into the world of law and order, where I suggested we might have a more individualised legal system, or possibly even a set of personal laws for every single person in country, I suddenly realised that, even if it came to pass, we might be our own worst enemy in implementing such a scheme.

You see, we know where we are with a set of rules. We like it. We like limits.

Why do we stop at red lights if we can see there's nothing coming?*

What would happen if red lights were treated as a Give Way rather than a Stop? Possibly not a huge amount, although if it did happen I'd take out shares in insurance companies.

Is the primary reason we stop at a red is because we are afraid of being caught? That the unseen police vehicle will jump out from behind a stack of paperwork and nee-naw you into submission, or that this set of lights is one of those evil HAL 9000 ones which record your transgression, and then if you try and get it to let you off just says "I can't do that Dave." in its monotonic yet strangely camp voice.

In some countries street signs, road markings and street furniture have been removed from towns as an experiment to see what happens to the accident rate, which is a noble pursuit and one I would heartily agree with as long as such a trial wasn't carried out in my home town. No one has right of way, no one knows where a street ends or begins, and the traffic lights were all taken offline.

Rather than the carnage one might expect, the accident rate dropped.

To zero.

Ostensibly, this was because drivers took more care, drove more slowly and were far more observant than if they blindly assumed they had right of way and therefore couldn't be blamed for any nastiness that might occur.

So, no rules makes people more careful, more considerate maybe?

Interesting argument for anarchy there.

Of course, the police have generally got far more important things to do than wait for red-light transgressions, and the lights themselves are usually empty of film, haven't had their memories erased for two years or are covered in graffiti, so it's unlikely that you will get caught should you decide to take your first foray into the criminal underworld in this fashion.

I do like to think though, that we don't generally burgle or murder other people (no matter how much we want to sometimes) solely because we're afraid of the consequences, but more because we realise it's intrinsically wrong, ethically as well as legally.

Policing the law depends on our goodwill, and our belief that, in general, we fair better with the rules, despite their occasional hindrance to us at a personal level, than without them. So we'll stop at the red light, even at three in the morning, when sensible people are having a kip.

So we should not obey our laws through fear, but because we think they are reasonable limits to our liberties that allow us to live together relatively happily.

The police are then faced with only a relatively small number of transgressors, which they can invest more resources into bringing to justice for us, and also making shows where they show lots of bad drivers being caught, and suspiciously few bad drivers getting away with it.

Because we have to live with them, it's important not to accept any old laws our glorious leaders put before us, especially those disguised as "for our own safety", or "to ensure our continued freedom". If something comes from authority, it is almost certainly untrustworthy, so it is vital that one questions its origins, its merits and its possible consequences.

This mindset seems rare today, with too many people letting the tabloids do their critical analysis for them, effectively letting sales-driven humanities graduates decide what's important in society. Do we really want someone who got a third in Communication Studies trying to tell us what laws are important, what homeopathic medicines cure cancer, and what science that they barely comprehend is going to save/destroy us, just because they have a loud voice in a paper?

Sorry, ranted a bit there.

Anyway, security is so ingrained in us that this supermarket I went to the other day realised it could save money by not actually having security guards in place, but just by placing their hats in a prominent position as you walk in, reminding us that they could totally secure our arses if they wanted to, even if security's not actually present at that moment in time:

Hats are better than real guards. They don't sleep, need breaks, choke shoplifters to death and rarely steal Double Deckers from the confectionery aisle and blame teenagers.

Just a quick buff and a peak-tweak and they're ready for the shift.

Unfortunately, there is a significant minority in the populace who feel that they can parasitize the rest of us, who can't compete with legitimate enterprise so they have to nick stuff. This is particularly a problem when items of extreme value are at stake:

Someone who desperately wanted a nice tin of Pussy drink but was too embarrassed to pay for it might very well take it into their dehydration addled brain to shoplift, and then what would the shop do?

Sometimes, you need more than hats.

*Most of the time, anyway.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Warm as a cucumber

For a few weeks now, our milk has mysteriously been going off before the use by date has arrived. Raspberries have been turning mouldy, yoghurt has starting blinking and Babybel cheeses have . . . well, stayed exactly the same because you could put them in a nostalgic time capsule, bury them in tarmac and dig them up to show on Blue peter in twenty years and they wouldn't have changed at all.

But lots of our fresh stuff has been displaying a remarkable grasp of comestible entropy, and I don't like it.

It's like living in the middle ages.

I wonder if they had use by dates in the middle ages?

Turnip. Display until sold. Use prior to decomposition.

Anyway, in this modern, technological world we've been living in since the Year 2000 heralded the arrival of the future, I presumed that the fridge I entrusted my perishables to would've have been able to fulfill it's primary purpose and stopped stuff, you know, rotting and that. Apparently not.

Still, it's a few years old now and, because nothing is built to last anymore, one must expect it to go wrong at some point.

First things first, I ate a space through to the back of the fridge so I could get a good look inside:

After rapidly considering the merits of a ham and cheese toastie, making it, eating it and then hiding my plate, I had a good look round for anything like a badly set temperature control in there that might explain the unseasonably warm innards?

There it is:
A dial labelled 'temperature' and set to 'low'.

Damn. If it's as low as it can go, then it must be broken, and you can bet your bottom salad shelf that it won't be an easy DIY repair, but some tiny, complex mechanism that can only be obtained from the Bupyeong province of Korea, where it is carved from the sternums of Asiatic black bears by artisan monks and costing the best part of fifty quid.

Sighing, I informed Mrs The Jules that, sadly, the refrigerator had packed up and we would need to spend cash that we didn't have on a new one, unless that one we saw dumped in the local Site of Special Scientific Interest was still there in which case I could just empty the badgers out of it, load it on the trailer and bring it home.

"What do the instructions say?" she asked, completely unreasonably.

I shook my head at her and her little ways, smiled gently and informed her that they would presumably tell me to get a qualified electrician in to fit a plug, to put food in it that you want to keep cold and to refrain from shutting children in it, even annoying ones.

"Presumably?" she asked, equally unreasonably.

"Well, I'm not actually going to waste time reading instructions when it's patently obvious that it's not working, that the temperature is set to as low as it can go on the dial and it's still quite balmy inside, am I? What's the point?"

I am suddenly aware that I am talking to nobody, as Mrs The Jules trots off and returns half a minute later with the fridge instruction booklet which I haven't seen for four years since we bought it, and pointlessly begins leafing through it.

I start wondering if I can afford a Smeg fridge, because who wouldn't want smeg in their kitchen. Unfortunately, we would need to take out another mortgage to afford one, and it would be ironic if we did get one and subsequently starved because we couldn't then afford to buy any food to put in it.

A few minutes later, the wife tapped the bottom of one of the pages, reminding me that the dials in the fridge would've been designed by engineers, and so one shouldn't take what's written on them too literally:

Apparently, Temperature Low is the warmest setting.

To make it cold, one must turn the temperature gauge to High.


I gnashed my teeth, shrugged my shoulders and held out my hands with thumbs facing outwards in the universally recognised posture of resigned exasperation, letting the universe at large know about the failings of people other than myself.

"Its a bloody good job they don't make altimeters!" I called to Mrs The Jules as she replaced the instructions back in whatever mysterious realm they came from.

A drawer probably.

Then I went and turned the fridge temperature down. Or up. No, down.

Definitely possibly down.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Flaw and order

September arrives in a flurry of unremarkableness, and I note that I appear to have become one of those bloggers who posts about every week and a half, sometimes even less.


At present, I feel I have achieved something if, at the end of the day, the children haven't been grievously injured, starved or rounded up by the social services child catcher protection unit.

Blogging has slid down my list of priorities, along with sleeping, socialising and going to the toilet.

I might write to my bosses to suggest they give me paid time off and a laptop so I can get a reasonable shot at spewing my random cerebral diarrhoea onto the internets. They're very understanding and only have our best personal interests at heart, so I can reasonably expect to be pleasantly accommodated.

In fact, it might behove me to write to my MP and ask for my own personal bylaw that says I have to blog, and anyone who stops me is in breach of my civil liberties. Yeah, there's a vote winner.

Thinking about it, having personalised laws might be a tad unwieldy. Every case would be setting a precedent, so there's a possibility of it not working.

How about a spectrum of law though, with each individual allowed to sit on a different part of that spectrum depending on how reliable and sensible they are?

I'm onto something here. Stay with me.

For instance, a particularly competent driver would be allowed to travel at 120 mph on the motorway and not be fined for it, whereas someone driving a Clio with racing cans, widened wheel arches and a fake gear dump valve sound would not be allowed to drive at over 30 mph, and they would have to keep the car in third gear at all times, even when starting off. Rover drivers would be told they must at least try and get up to the speed limit, even if they only get within ten or twelve mph of it. But at least they will have tried.

Someone who does lots of charitable work and donates their free time to the community should totally be allowed to shoplift, but the inveterate, unrepentant pilferer should have those collars they use to stop dogs biting out their stitches after an operation put on their hands whenever they go to Tesco.

Relatively sensible, happy, non-depressive alternative-reality enthusiasts should not be punished for taking drugs (which could be legally produced in government controlled (and taxed) hydroponics centres). Angry drunks should be limited to a glass of room temperature Liebfraumilch every alternate Thursday lunchtime.

Actually, that's probably a bit too draconian. Nobody should be forced to drink that stuff, and anybody who does so voluntarily should be offered free counselling to find out why they like to hurt themselves so.

Anyway, as the voices of reason and unfettered conscience of humanity, bloggers would obviously be placed at the top end of the law spectrum, and be allowed to get away with just about anything as long as they were going to write about it later on, strictly monitored by the Department of Blogging (DoB).

Common sense, really.

This plan could alleviate the overcrowding in prisons that newspapers are constantly haranguing us about whilst simultaneously gnashing their spleens over too short jail sentences. With my plan, someone accused, and indeed guilty, of an offense could be retrospectively promoted to a higher level on the law-scale, and thus instantly become not guilty of breaking the law. Everyone's a winner.

Except, maybe, any victims, but they don't really contribute to society other than to remind us what a bad place the world is, so we'd have to sweep them under the social shag pile. No change there then.

Of course, there is going to need to be sensible discourse on what laws are going to be kept, which ones repealed and how each person is judged as to their merit and where they should be placed on the law-spectrum. The arbiter would have to be a sort of super-judge, and particularly special. Somebody modest, humble and wise beyond their years, someone who can talk with crowds but keep their virtue. One who is able to walk with kings yet not lose the common touch.

A difficult position which should be amply rewarded in terms of fame and remuneration.

Can I reluctantly suggest myself?

This is obvioulsy a rhetorical question.

Of course, I realise that society changes slowly, unless it's gadget related, and thus the laws of the land are unlikely to be completely replaced by a novel approach for a couple of years yet, so I will just have to be patient.

In the meantime, as the old adage adages at us, rules are put there for the guidance of the wise, and the blind obedience of the foolish.

So, mostly blind obedience then.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bang goes the baby's head


Wanna see a hairy baby?

Course you do:

That's Bonobo, and she's 5 and a half months old. Combing her hair is a two person job, and we're getting resigned to the fact that, conversation starter or not, it's going to have to get trimmed soon.

The conversations invariably go something like this:

OLD DEAR: "Ooh pretty, how old?"
ME: "Five months."
OD: "You must be very GOOD GRIEF LOOK AT THAT HAIR!"
ME: "Yes, she has got quite a bi . . ."
OD: "Marge! MARGE! Come and look at this hairy baby!"
OTHER OLD DEAR: "What's that Pru?"
OD: "This baby. It's very very hairy."
ME: "She."
OD (nodding): "She's very very hairy, Marge. Very hairy baby!"
OOD: "Well, babies do seem to have lots of hair these d . . . WHOA!"
OD: "See?"
OOD : "Yes. Yes I do. That really is a very hairy baby."
OD: "Isn't it though?"
OOD: "It really is."
ME: "She."
OD and OOD (both nodding): "She. She's very hairy, isn't it?"

Then they wander off, leaving Bonobo smiling like a loon because she loves the attention.

And so do I, if I'm honest. I don't mind the extra twenty minutes it takes to get round Asda Waitrose because of being stopped every few metres by her adoring public.

The question I find odd is quite a common one.

"Is she good?"

What does that mean?

"Is she good?"
"Well, no, not really. She's already robbed a couple of post offices and I found her crudely drawn plan to poison the water supply unless she's given free access to boobs for the foreseeable future."

Actually, I wonder if that would work?

What I think people really mean by "Is she good" is "Does she sleep a lot?". Personally, I reckon she is a good baby because, whilst she doesn't sleep that much, she's usually happy, giggling and loves human interaction, and only gets upset for good reason (like not having boobs when she wants them, which a lot of us can identify with).

All babies are good. Annoying sometimes, but good.

So, next week, we're going to go to a specially trained lady who knows how to cut childrens hair, including babies, and miraculously leave them with roughly the same number of ears they came in with. Having previously attempted the task myself, I now have no compunction against paying someone else to do it, because it's like trying to shave an angry cat on a roller coaster.

Oddly, it will be a bit of a wrench having some of her womb-grown barnet removed, but we have to be pragmatic. If we leave it any longer, the lugs will get unmanageable and we'll be introducing her as a tiny rasta.

Have no fear though, because, should we regret having Bonobo's locks trimmed, there is an immediate solution, found through the ever-giving magic of the internet. Can I warn you not to click on the link below if you are of a tasteful disposition:


The only way that could be improved is by the addition of gold hoopy earrings and a velour tracksuit with a playboy bunny motif on the arse.

I might book her in for her first tattoo while I'm there. It would have to be something classy and timeless.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Training vs reality

To demonstrate the utter glamour of my job as a paramedic, I thought I would break from my usual banal witterings and actually do an ambulance related blog.

I won't subject you to this sort of thing very often, as there are lots of perfectly competent and more serious ambulance blogs out there which do the job much betterer than I could, but you'll forgive the occasional lapse, I hope.

As you can imagine, we attend incidents involving explosions and grenade accidents and helicopters crashing into coaches on the motorway on a daily basis, which can get a bit mundane, so I thought I would relate to you a more exotic scenario, and the possible differences between our training and reality.

Approach scene with care, being aware of dangers both to yourself, your crewmate and the patient.
Look around for crewmate. On own. Again.
*Door bell*
No answer
No answer
*Heavier knock and doorbell*
No answer.
*Psychotic knock usually heard just prior to someone using axe and poking head through resulting hole in a 'Here's Johnny!' stylee*
No answer.
Check door.
Door open.
Loud telly noises coming from within.
No answer.
"Hello, ambulance!"
No answer.
No answer.
Walk through hallway and into lounge.
Old couple sitting in comfy chairs, watching the One Show with volume turned up to eleven.
Watch both people jump with fright. Note that the frail looking man clutches chest and goes a bit blue. Make mental note of chest clutching blueness.

Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including latex gloves.
Know that old ladies view rubber gloves with the utmost suspicion, and will presume you are wearing them solely to avoid leaving finger prints whilst you steal their Jack Russel and molest their china, so keep them in pocket until really needed, which probably won't be long.

Call for help.
I am the help.

Assess airway.
Patients are smoking, so airway's probably patent.

Assess circulation
Man is blue but waving fag lighter at you, so probably has got a pulse.

Introduce yourself
Shout "Ambulance!" into his ear five times, point at your badge, then your bag, then the ambulance parked outside his window, point at the telly, ask if you can turn it off as you're turning it off, shout "Ambulance!" again, man points at his ears, eventually go to his bedroom, get his hearing aid off bedside table, blow dust off it, put it in enormous ear, take it out, change the battery, put it back in again, wait for the high pitched scream that tells you it's working, then shout "Hello!". Man says hello back loudly, puts his thumbs up, then asks who you are.

Identify and assess patient as you approach, such as colour, position, and signs of distress.
Note with quiet alarm at just how ill the man looks. Man coughs from effort of talking to you, goes blue and clutches his chest again.
Then he smiles and says "It's my wife."

Get appropriate patient observations, such as pulse, blood pressure, oxygen saturation levels, ECG etc.
Look at lady, who looks a lot weller than her husband. Double check that she is definitely the patient. Ask her what the problem is, to which she nods enthusiastically and says "They don't know a good mushroom when they see one, you know!"

Establish medical history of presenting complaint.
Ask husband what the matter is? Husband shouts that she's gone "all funny" on him.

Identify problem
Sniff patient. Ask if she's had a wee today. Note that she screws her face up in distaste at the memory of it. Problem identified. Decide to confirm urinary tract infection with urinalysis dipstick.
"Could you do a wee, Muriel?"
"In the war, yes!"
"No, a wee? Could you spend a penny for me? So I can get a sample?"
"Did they!?"
"No, a wee!?"
"Did we?"
"No, A WEE!"
Do mime. Regret doing mime. Look at husband, who is trying not to laugh. Ask husband to help, as maybe exotic accent isn't getting through.
Husband takes sample pot and waves it at his wife.
"PISS!" he shouts at her

She nods, takes the pot and wanders off, coming back with sample and wet hand.

Identify appropriate care pathway for patient

Give patient appropriate treatment.
Get antibiotics and go through their use eleven times with both people. Write it down on a sheet of paper and give it the lady, who folds it into a stamp sized cube and puts it in her purse.

Ensure family has appropriate care level in place.
Ask husband if he's feeling all right. Nod sagely as he proudly tells you he's never had a day sick in his life, and never been to see his GP, despite smoking forty a day for half a century. Help him back into chair after coughing fit dislodges him. Wait for him to go from bluey-grey to pink again and take opportunity of holding his arm to surreptitiously take his pulse.

Pulse goes "Di-di-di-dit dit de-dah di-dah-dit dah di-dah dah dah di-dah dah-di-dah-dit dah-di-dah"

Make concerned face as this spells out HEART ATTACK in Morse code, a late sign of myocardial infarction

Ask if patient has got any chest pain and if so, for how long? Patient answers "Yes, since 1982."

Ask if patient would like an ECG, as I've got it here anyway? Patient asks how much it costs, and agrees when he finds out it's free.

Take eleven layers of clothes off patient. It is July. Patient is hairier than a gibbon in a sweater. Use NHS issue razorless razor to flatten down a couple of the hairs prior to attachment of electrodes.

Print off ECG. Computer informs you that noisy Data means it can't identify the rhythm for you so you've got to do it yourself. Sigh. Read strip. Read strip again. Sigh again.

Put on encouraging smile and get down to eye level with patient before gently informing him he might be having a heart attack and that we should go to hospital immediately to reduce the risks of, you know, dying and that.

Begin calling for back up on radio.

"No ta." says the man, counting his cigarettes.

"Er . . . remember the heart attack thing we talked about."

"Yep." says the man, who then says that, if he's going to go, then this seems like a better way than many, in his own house, and that you're not to tell his wife.

Eventually leave patient in house, having signed a disclaimer and grudgingly accepted the possibility of a doctor's visit at home with an eye on persuading him to go to hospital. Chap waves a cheery goodbye from the door, unlit fag in hand, blue lips smiling contentedly and probably not thinking of quitting smoking.

Return to station.

Reflect on issue, write down reflection and include it in Portfolio of Continuing Professional Development, perhaps with some references on patient autonomy and the cornerstones of medical ethics.
Have a cup of tea.
Discuss with colleagues, who offer helpful advice like "Ooh, fancy that!" and "Bourbon cream?".

Get call out for elderly lady who has fallen on the floor and is having troubles getting up again.

There you go. Like something out of casualty, innit?