Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Site referrals

Yep, the blogging muse has deserted me again, so we're back to an old favourite.

Actually, I never seem to get the really strange site referrals, or the pervy ones. But I was quite intrigued by "rotten potato in Christmas stocking". I mean, we all get stuck when we're thinking of something a bit different to send for Christmas, but you can do better than that, surely?

Update: I think the person in question is looking for this rather disturbing Christmas anecdote from the American writer, Thoreau. They'd call the NSPCC these days.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Spent some of my lunch hour trying to organise my Christmas presents. I quite enjoy crimbo shopping, I even like the naff music. Apart from one song.

On December 23rd 1994, The Scotsman and I were travelling from London to Yorkshire, where his parents now live, when we were passing Tibshelf, on the M1. We were suddenly aware of a crash up ahead; The Scotsman stood on the brakes, and it looked as if we were going to avoid any trouble, but a BMW hit us at speed from the side and we were catapulted into the back of a white van. I've never felt so much pressure on my chest. Then there was a silence, punctuated by only one sound. The whole of the front of the car was caved in. The dashboard had been driven into my knees. But the tape was still going; the Christmas tape we'd bought for light relief on the trip up.

It was a track by a certain Mr McCartney. Simply having a Wonderful Christmas Time. There was a pause for all of three seconds, which seemed to last forever, until The Scotsman pressed pause and said

"i think we've had quite enough of that."

Our car was a write-off, the Scotsman had a broken bone in his hand, and I had very dramatic bruising. Bruising which actually lasted for 4 months, which I didn't think possible. Thanks to the AA, we were picked up from the services at Brighouse by a taxi driver, who took us up to Yorkshire. Many thanks by the way to the lorry driver who towed all the vehicles off to the hard shoulder, and the staff at the little cottage hospital that we hobbled to on Christmas Eve. Although we later found out that the lorry driver got a nice little bonus for every hour he worked into Cristmas Eve. Hey, thanks anyway.

Anyway, if there's one thing I can't stand about Christmas, it's that song. I respect Sir Paul, I love the music of the Beatles, I even have a soft spot for The Frog Chorus, but I just can't stand that song.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A question

Just thinking about that last post. I distinctly remember driving over Shap summit in a blizzard, on a day when there was a really famous concert involving Nelson Mandela as a spectator, and being really annoyed at losing reception for much of Cumbria, when he got some sort of ovation. But the only mention I can find on the interwebby thing of a concert with Western artists happens in June 1988. It can be cold in The Lake District, but not in June, I think.

Does anybody know what this event could be? Nelson was released in 1990, and I was with this partner until 1992. What huge event was attended by Nelson, at a time when there was significant snowfall?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Let it snow, let it snow...

I spent some anxious minutes on the phone tonight, trying to get through to my family in Bodmin. The phone lines were down due to extremely heavy demand for a while, but I finally managed to ascertain that my family are at home, looking at 8 inches of snow in the garden. The town is completely gridlocked. Cornwall has not had this sort of weather for at least 20 years, and there are still cars stranded on Bodmin Moor.

Thank God none of my family were out in it! I'm going down to see them by train next Friday, and I nearly chose today, rather than next week. I'm due to get in on the 13.43 train, and my Mum tells me that there would have been no way she could have got to Bodmin Road Station; I would have had to walk 4 miles in snow. That's if I could even have got through Devon and Cornwall by train anyway; I would probably be facing a dismal evening in Newton Abbot, finding a B and B or a way back to London. I don't mean to insult Newton Abbot, by the way; it may have a vibrant and sophisticated nightlife, and a choice of restaurants often featured in the Sunday papers, for all I know, it's just that, when attempting a trouble free journey between London and Cornwall, it's not exactly an overnight stop that you'd factor in.

Mind you, I had a great weekend in Taunton once. Although we had tickets to an open air classical concert. And it was the middle of Summer. And very hot. And planned sometime in advance.

Anyway, all my thoughts are with the 500 people still stranded on Bodmin Moor. The only experience that I've had to come close to this was driving over Shap Summit in a white out with a previous partner, but it subsided as we descended.

Anyway, if there is anybody out there reading this on a laptop on Bodmin Moor, or a mobile, or something, my thoughts go out to you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

He saw three centuries.

There was some sad news this week about Alfred Anderson, the last person to witness the famous WW1 Christmas truce in the trenches, who died aged 109.

I found this interview with him. I was especially struck by the fact that he saw three centuries. It's rare to live past 100, and it must be very rare to be born in a year when you have a realistic chance of seeing three different centuries. It would take me until 131.

We'll soon be in the happy situation, as a society, where few people will remember going to war; obviously there will be people who voluntarily joined the forces and were sent to Iraq, or wherever, but the WW2 generation are at least 78 now. I suppose it's different for US readers (Hi there) who might have relatives who went to Korea or Vietnam, but I suggest that everyone here makes an effort to listen to elderly people, because we'll gradually lose anybody who could give a firsthand account of war.

Although, on the other hand, we'll gradually gain refugees and asylum seekers who know only too well about war; in addition, as more Eastern Europeans make their homes here, there will be people who remember the conflict in places like Bosnia. I kept thinking, when we were in Croatia, that even teenagers there could remember what it was like to be at war.

Sorry, I'll be a bit less heavy next time!

Monday, November 21, 2005

A fairy tale

A lovely item from The Times today about locals getting their way over a new housing development. For all believers in fairies, a very strange story indeed!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Overheard tonight...

On a bus going from Kingston to Ham. Two girls, about 19 or 20, slightly chav, but not very, in case you were wondering (big hoop earrings, voices quite Sarf London, but dressed quite trendily in outfits I'd like myself, and not your out and out Waynettas). You'll see why I mention this when you read the conversation.

"Mike didn't get my letter. I told him I wrote but he doesn't believe it just went missing. He'll be out on Monday, so it probably won't get to him now."

I pricked up my ears. Well, "out" could mean anything, he might be in hospital, I told myself.

"He doesn't phone me so often now, 'cos he's moved wings."

Now, hospitals don't have wings. Prisons have wings. At this point the boy in the seat next to me needed to get off the bus, so I had to stand up temporarily. I accidentally stood on the convict's girlfriend's foot.

"Sorry, sorry, so sorry" I bleated. Ooh, please don't follow me off the bus and beat me up. Or follow me home and have a word with your charming partner when he gets out on Monday, telling him my address. She didn't seem to notice. Phew!

She then went into a description of her night out with her sister

"And my Dad phoned us. Couldn't understand a word he was saying. He's always pissed."

I suppose my reaction was very snobbish. Not much more than 20, boyfriend in prison (although it might just have been a friend, or maybe a relative, come to think of it, but my instincts told me not), pisshead for a Dad, what a life. But she had a job, which she had mentioned she had just left for the evening (think it might have been in a shop), was not unattractive, and spoke warmly of her friends. Who am I to judge.

As you may have noticed, I've taken to relating conversations on this blog. I got the idea from a website for writers, which says that you should listen to real people speaking in order to sharpen up your dialogue, and I'm the nosiest person ever, so I need no encouraging.

I now realise that the last 3 conversations I've blogged have involved somebody going out with a convict and with an alcoholic father; a guy with hardly any disposable income buying cheap cider; and a small child requesting a chainsaw. I live in a nice part of West London, honestly! I'll try to overhear something a bit more cultured next time!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's a bit political...

I don't often comment on political matters here, but I've been having a few thoughts about the proposed relaxation of the licensing hours. I'm all for it, personally.

The present licensing hours were introduced in WW1, so that munitions workers would be a bit safer in the mornings. There had been a few accidents when people turned up a bit too affected from the night before, probably because munitions work had become compulsory for people who had previously been making safe, non-explosive things like pies or buttons, where it didn't matter if you were a bit careless in the first hour. I don't see why I have to be bound by this, quite frankly. I work in marketing, and no, I wouldn't want to turn up still drunk.

It's especially annoying if you go to the cinema or theatre; I don't often go to the theatre, but most plays seem to stop at a time when you can just about make last orders. I'd quite like to linger over a couple of glasses of wine, especially if I've gone with friends and we only met shortly before the performance. A lot of 9pm cinema showings end at just the wrong time, too. And what if you decide to do your weekly shop at 8am to avoid the rush? It would be nice to get a few bottles of wine.

I'm very aware that Kingston, about 2 miles away, is a bit dodgy at pub closing time, and I often see the odd scuffle. These almost always occur in the queues outside nightclubs. A lot of hyped up people, chucked out of the pubs, waiting bad-temperedly to be ripped off, just because they aren't tired at 11pm. And if your neighbour in the queue is obnoxious, or flirting with your girlfriend, you can't move away because you'll lose your place, so tempers fray. People would be much more chilled out if they could just stay in a pub where they feel comfortable, and they're more likely to drift away gradually.

It suddenly occurred to me, though, that there is a way around the current licensing laws. We shop online at Now, we can order alcohol as part of our regular shop, and we do. We can order this at any time of day or night. We can also arrange for it to be delivered in any delivery slot, including early morning (9 to 11 at Tesco), earlier than you can legally buy alcohol (10.30). Now, I've only ever ordered shopping at least a day in advance. The delivery slots are normally all gone for the next day, anyway. But I'm now wondering whether, if I go online after I've come back from the pub, and I order online in the early hours of the morning for an order containing alcohol to be delivered between 9am and 11am the same day, if the slot is available, whether, technically, I can circumvent the licensing laws. It would be after midnight, and I would be having booze delivered at 9am, possibly.

I'd never bother, but I like the idea that I can circumvent authority like that!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

It's cold

I really, really hate the cold. It's OK if you only get to watch the frost and snow from inside, snuggled over a cup of coffee, but it's much less fun if you have to trudge to work and back.

But the point I wanted to make is that, when I stood in the garden just now thinking that it was a bit nippy, I thought of Ditch Monkey. As you may know, this blogger works in London during the day, working for Sothebys, and sleeps under a tarpaulin in the woods in Oxfordshire at night. Oh, he buses it by the way, he can't cheat by sleeping in his car. He's aiming to see if he can hack it for a year. I hope he's OK, I thought, he'll have to use both his sleeping bags tonight. And then I thought, what a stupid thing to think. There are homeless people in London out in this. They might get a hostel bed, or have enough money to buy a cup of tea, or they might not. They certainly won't have been able to go out and buy decent gear from camping shops. And they won't have a nice heated workplace to sit in, with a hot shower in the morning (I think there was a shower for him at work, there is in some offices, or it might be at his gym). It might even be one of the times when he has a night out in London and stays over with friends. And let's face it, if it really gets unbearable, he can afford the odd night in a B and B, and he has friends and relatives who he mentions, who would presumably put him up.

I'm not having a go at Ditch Monkey, I admire what he's doing, testing himself to see whether you can live a middle class, London lifestyle for part of the day, and sleep under a tarpaulin in the woods for the rest. He is interested in finding out how many possessions we really need, and it's all for charidee, as he's aiming for people to sponsor him in aid of The Woodland Trust.

It's just odd that I thought of him, rather than other people out there with fewer options.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Overheard again

Overheard in a local Korean run corner shop (are they still corner shops if they're not actually on a corner?), a conversation between a rather shabby looking older chap looking at the alcohol behind the counter, and the store owner.

"What's that drink there?" as he points to a large, elaborate bottle
"What's that, then?"
"It's a bit like gin."
"How much is it?"
"Oh. I've only got £12, and I need to get food as well. I'll just get my usual cider." and off he sloped to get a bottle of White Lightning.

I suppose I should be depressed by hearing that, but I thought it was actually quite positive that this guy, who probably drinks White Lightning every day, was sufficiently adventurous and open-minded to try to broaden his horizons, maybe educate himself a bit by looking at the more exotic bottles, have a chat with the owner. I'm not quite sure about tequila being much like gin, though!

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Overheard in a DIY shop this week, a conversation between a man and a boy of about four:

"Daddy, I want a saw!"
"You've got a saw."
"No, a REAL saw with a machine on, like the man with the tree in Richmond"
"A chainsaw. When you're a bit older you can have a chainsaw, because they're very sharp and dangerous."
"When I'm five?"
"Well, a bit older than five."
"When I'm six Daddy, when I'm six Daddy, when I'm six Daddy, when I'm..."
"Ok, when you're six."

If you have any children of about four who are due to go to school in Teddington eventually, be afraid, be very afraid...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Back again

Well, we had a brilliant trip to Scotland, seeing various relatives. Although I think if I have another fried breakfast I'll burst! We went out in Edinburgh for one night, and visited a famous pub called The Canny Man's. We also visited a couple of graves yesterday, as the Scotsman wanted to revisit his childhood, and see the resting places of his grandparents. I suppose graveyards are pretty appropriate at Halloween. It was a great time, travelling around and visiting people we don't see very often. Must get up again soon.