Friday, April 29, 2005

Strange news on (sort of) Thursday

A bit late again, but there is only going to be a little intermittent lunchtime blogging at the moment as the monitor at home blinked it's little green eye for the last time last weekend, then went to the big internet cafe in the sky. We're sorting out a replacement soon.

I found this scary tale in The Times. Now I'm really not keen on spiders, and I was struck by the fact that the beastie bit him when he picked it up. Picked it up??!! What, instead of running around screaming, or maybe aiming a handy flame thrower at it?!

More site referral excitement. Somebody tried to find a "commission to pardon witches in The Czech Republic". I'm quite interested to find out if there is one now!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I did an online survey last week which tells you how to vote. Not an unexpected result, but I've got no idea why UKIP gets a better mark than Labour.

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome:

Liberal Democrat

Your actual outcome:

Labour -12
Conservative -19
Liberal Democrat 71
UK Independence Party 6
Green 70

You should vote: Liberal Democrat

The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Strange news on Thursday

Yes, yes, I know, but Blogger kept losing my posts, so I'm a day late. I saw this in The Times this week. Now I'm quite open-minded about what constitues art, but this guy is a complete and utter waste of space.

I was more interested in this article, in which the writer mentions a certain Benvenuto Cellini, who crucified a man because he wanted to study how the body reacted, in order to become a better artist. I was intrigued about Benvenuto, so I had a surf about to see what I could find. And what a tale I found!

Benvenuto was exiled as a teenager from his native city for taking part in a brawl, and continued to come to the attention of the authorities throughout his life. There is a record of his crimes here. He was a murderer, pardoned by The Pope, who was later imprisoned for theft. He was also an early gay figure.

His autobiography is also online at the very worthy Gutenburg Project. Yes, you do have to flick past about 5 pages of terms and conditions, but you can eventually read his autobiography. This is a rather picaresque text which seems partly fictional, particularly the rather colourful seduction scenes (of several females), considering that he was so obviously gay.

I was interested to learn that his most famous work, a beautiful salt cellar, was stolen a few years ago. It looks wonderful, but I'm not sure it looks that practical for pouring!

Anyway, my point is that Benvenuto (it means welcome, by the way) was a real rebel. He was banished from a city, and arrested for murder, mayhem, and general Graham Norton type goings on, and maintained his freedom by hook or by crook. He wrote his autobiography, giving details of womanising which would make Casanova look like a cocoa and slippers type chap, and was imprisoned for jewel theft. He still managed to make some wonderful metalwork.

And Mark McGowan thinks he's sooo clever because he scratched some cars and took photos of it. Although apparently he hasn't, it was only a hoax gone horribly wrong. And he wanted to draw attention to car crime, not condone car keying. Oooh you rebel! I bet Benvenuto is turning in his grave. Along with Carravaggio.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I've got a site meter!

This is fascinating stuff. I'm going to love seeing where the referrals come from, especially the search engine requests.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Julia Darling

I had never heard of Julia Darling until about thirty minutes ago, but I've just been reading her poetry and blog, and I'm just awestruck. If you read anything today, read her blog.

OK, off to a writers' meeting in central London for 2pm.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Chap down the road on Flickr!

I had one of those internet moments recently which must come to everybody sooner or later. I was looking at the London bloggers tubemap, and studying the weblogs for Richmond, my nearest station, where I am entered. They have now updated the station entries so that you also see a selection of photos that people have posted on flickr most recently with the tag "richmond". This works much better with more obscure station names such as Hammersmith, as the Richmond page seems to be swamped with pictures of Richmond, Virginia, and the Kingston page alternates images of The Bentall Centre with colourful photos of Jamaica. Anyway, I was looking at these when I saw a picture of Ham (Ham is about 2 miles from Richmond, but it is still technically a Richmond address). I then clicked onto the flickr photos for the person who had posted this, and recognised a chap and his wife who live about 100 yards away. I've now seen them on a variety of holidays, and walking around the local area. It's quite strange knowing that we'll walk past each other in the street, and they won't realise that I've seen it. I don't suppose they'd mind, or they wouldn't have posted their snaps on the net. I would feel a bit strange saying anything though:
"Hi there, you don't know me, but that hotel in Majorca looked nice."

It did get me wondering, however, whether anybody who passes me in the street has read this blog. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that this blog is so popular that I'm in danger of becoming a local celebrity. But devices like the London bloggers' tubemap would mean that many bloggers within a 3 or 4 mile radius would probably have checked out whether anybody else is doing it locally and had a look at my blog, even if only to discover it wasn't really for them.

I'm not a particularly anonymous blogger; I use a pseudonym, but in previous posts I've posted links to some fiction sites that show stories posted under my real name. I assume the pseudonym means that you can't just find my blog if you google my name, but I might put my name on the site at some point; as a fiction writer, it's silly to want to be anonymous. I'm not Belle du Jour. We don't have a digital camera, so I don't post photos, but again, it isn't a hard and fast rule.

Oh what the hell. If any of my previous boyfriends are googling me (and I've been known to do it to them): Rebecca Billings.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Strange news on Thursday

I thought Doctor Who was scary until I read this. Yuck.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Strange blue outing

Well, as promised, I've just come back from a visit to Marc's memorial. I would have blogged earlier, but I was distracted by David Hasselhoff's Power Ballads Top 50 on VH1. At first I just stopped as I was flicking through the channels, bemused that anybody could commission such a programme, and then watching it.

For those of you who don't know, Marc Bolan, one of the classier exponents of glam rock, died on September 16th, 1977, when a mini in which he was a passenger hit a tree in Queens Road, Barnes, South West London. People started leaving messages and strips of ribbon on the tree, but the site fell into disrepair. This saw the formation of the T Rex Action Group who created steps up to the tree, saved it from being felled, and commissioned a bronze bust of Marc. Their site, though not the best designed in the world, has the most comprehensive coverage of Marc's life and death that you could wish for. It also gives an account of Marc's fascination with this Rene Magritte painting depicting a tree, entitled September 16th (the date of his death). Here I am, writing a blog where I quite often refer to paintings and strange occurrences, and I didn't know about this until I was trying to find some links to this post. Spooky.

It's an unusual place for a shrine. The tree comes upon you unexpectedly just over the brow of a hill (actually a bridge over a railway line). Well, I expect that's what it did to Marc, too. You're in London, but it's beside Barnes Common, and there aren't many house around so it feels almost rural. From the road you just glimpse a slight glitter, a few things hanging from a tree, and it's easy to miss. To see it properly you have to go down a small side road in front of some houses, and this brings you to the steps leading up to the memorial. There is a black granite memorial erected by The Performing Rights Society, and a well executed bronze sculpture of Marc a bit further up the steps. There's a notice board that has been erected for cards and messages, and you are requested to use it, rather than pinning things to the tree itself, which can damage it.

I'm not a particular fan; I quite like his music but I don't own any, although obviously it's a shame that he died, but I was quite moved by the messages, many of which seemed to come from foreigners taking time out of a holiday in London to see the shrine. They had tied lots of glittery things aroung the place, too.

This year, the action group are planning to put four plaques up at the shrine to commemorate the four other band members who died. I found this FAQ section on a website which gives details of the band member's various deaths. I was especially intrigued by the fact that Steve Peregrin Took died in 1980 after choking on a stoneless cocktail cherry. No disrespect, Steve.

Strange blue outings

I've decided to create a number of posts under the heading of strange blue outings. This covers any excursions I make to unusual sites; something quirky; or a memorial or gravestone; or something a bit unusual. Well, today I am about to set off for a walk across Richmond Park, taking me into Barnes, where I will visit the site of the memorial to Mark Bolan, who died there in a car crash in 1977.

I will be writing a more descriptive post once I've been, where I will provide a plethora of links. However I would like to mention the site from which I was able to find the memorial, because I think it says something about the social demographics of blogging. Most bloggers, I think, are relatively well educated. There is, however, a lack of conspicuous consumption. Many bloggers are young, so do not have a lot of money yet, and of the workplace bloggers, some are working in call centres, or as paramedics and police officers.

So it was unusual to find a blog where the author has a beautiful house in The New Forest, and is renovating one in Italy, and gives accounts of travelling to Switzerland virtually every week. I particularly like the section of the site where his wife poses in front of her cars.

I'm not being envious or trying to make a political point, I enjoyed reading the blog, and if I went to those sorts of restaurants on a weekly basis, I'd blog it too. It was just unusual. Or is it just that you find a blog that you enjoy and follow the links from it, which leads you to a small community of bloggers who all link to each other, and there is a wider world out there that you never quite enter?

Anyway, I'm off to Barnes. I've got a 190 mile walk to train for.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Strange news on Thursday

Not many strange stories in the media this week. It's been rather dominated by The Pope (boring, and although I admire his influence in the dismantling of communism, I'm not getting too nostalgic about the head of a religion which has influence in a lot of poor countries, who tells women they can't use contraception to limit their family, and won't recommend condoms to people in countries riddled with AIDS); the wedding (boring, I'm just pleased they're too old to breed, imagine what the kids would look like); and the election (too boring for words). Yes, yes, I do vote, but I could do this perfectly well without a month of saturation coverage of the tedious farts squawking at each other. Oh, when I mentioned the wedding, I meant Charles and Camilla, not Deirdre and Ken. Although, come to think of it...

I did find this corker from The Times, though. The Guardian then followed this up with an interview with the chap. Well, I'm a 35 year old London University graduate with a degree in English, just like he is, maybe I could do with a career change. Might be worth a go. I do like beer and pies, so I'm off to a head start.

And this village is having a bit of hassle with a rather feisty bird.

I think I should blog something sinister and strange next, so I'll be writing up some information on the disturbing history of the murderers known as "baby farmers".

Monday, April 04, 2005

Going underground

In the spirit of Annie Mole, a few questions on life, the universe and everything, which occur to me when travelling on the tube.

Why does every busker choose to sing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song"?

If there are so many struggling singers and stand up comedians trying to make it in London, why don't they just get jobs as tube drivers for 20k+, impress their captive audience with their wit and/or musicality, and hope some media types notice them? Rather than temping in a god awful office and getting heckled in the back room of a pub for £30 a time (obviously the musicins would have to be singers with a recorded backing track in their cabs; I don't suppose it would be a useful career tip for a guitarist).

Where do the people selling The Evening Standard outside the stations learn that strange call? Joey Deacon spent years trying to have his speech understood, to have some dignity, and then people with relatively normal diction try to sound like that. How would they like it if a load of Blue Peter presenters came round to patronise them, and throw their shoe into The Thames, eh? If you're under 30, you won't understand, but you might like to go here for a history lesson. He was actually quite an admirable person who wrote his autobiography against amazing odds. Ooh...the website is a bit politically incorrect. I'll get comments. Are these jobs advertised? Do they make you do it at the interview?

Where do the tubes go at night? do they just stop in a random station, or is there a big depot?

If we had 24 hour tubes, as some people have suggested, would homeless people beg for the tube fare, and then just go round and round, sleeping for the night? Do some of them maybe do this on cold days?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Frank Skinner

We went to Teddington studios last night to see Frank Skinner recording Shane. Very funny, especially as Frank came up to the studio audience a couple of times to do a bit of off-camera stand-up. Best line was about Doctor Who's assistants:

"Those Doctor Who girls...they're very big inside."

The show was good too, very well acted, especially by Matthew Kelly who made a guest appearance as a tramp. In fact, he was in a theatre production of "Of Mice and Men" a few years back and got very good reviews; I'd like to see more of him in acting roles. If anybody is interested, it was episode three which we saw.

On the way back we had a glass of wine at this pub before walking back home across Teddington Lock.

A good night out and it doesn't even cost anything. Well, obviously, apart from the drink in the pub; I don't want the landlord of The Tide End Cottage coming round for a word because he's been deluged by bloggers expecting free drinks.