Friday, May 26, 2006

Great book

I went into Waterstones in Richmond a couple of days ago, and was surprised to see a selection of novels (mostly crime) for sale at 99p. It seems to be a way of getting people to read little known, but possibly underrated authors who are about to become the next Val McDermid. One of the books was Patrick Redmond's cleverly plotted The Wishing Game, which I bought in a charity shop a couple of years ago.

It combines the atmosphere and sensitivity of LP Hartley's The Go Between (an underrated classic, if ever there was, one of the best novels written in the last century), with the pace and plotting of a modern crime novel.

I chose a novel called Shrouded by Scottish author Carol Anne Davis. I'm about two thirds of the way through, and this is sooo much the sort of stuff that I want to be writing! It's about a mortuary worker who becomes rather attached to his "clients".

It suddenly occurs to me that I like novels, and write fiction, where the main protagonist is an outsider. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Interrupted blogging.

Apologies for the last post, I meant to save it as a draft, as I was interrupted. I mentioned two unusual news stories. The second, of course, was the revelation that there is a religious cult in Darlington based on a series of 1960s fantasy novels, which keeps female members as S and M type slaves (they're adults who voluntarily choose the lifestyle). They have been banned from the local butcher because the leader took one of his slaves out on a leash on a bacon buying errand. Well, I suppose if you're working a bacon slicer, and you still want all ten fingers, it might be a bit of a dangerous distraction.

There's a Wikipedia entry on The Goreans, and an article in The Guardian. Strange stuff indeed.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Weird weekend.

Well, there's a dearth of strange news stories for ages, and then we get two at once!

We watched The Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday. It's not the sort of programme we'd normally watch, but we were in, having had a few glasses of wine with some friends who left to take their children home, and I specifically wanted to watch the Finnish entry.

The Finnish entry was Lordi, a heavy metal band who appear in monster suits. Yes, all play to the Finns, who had used their votes wisely. I assumed this was a sort of joke perpetrated on the horribly naff Eurovision culture by a country who had never won. People who wear monster masks, talk about Satanism, and who look like Ozzy Osbourne after serious facial burns, will never win. Except that Lordi did. Wahey!!

Friday, May 19, 2006

I don't believe it.

It's not often that I write a serious post here. I know that there are several bloggers who see themselves as campaigners, who comment on the political establishment, but it's not really what I'm about.

There comes a time, however, when even I become outraged, when threats to our national traditions have to be exposed, and that time, for me, came at about 1pm yesterday, in a newsagents. I was buying a paper, and as I got to the counter, I noticed a box full of a certain type of chocolate bar.

They were, to all intents and purposes, Mars Bars. But they had been renamed "Believe". I was quite nonplussed. Was this a replay of the time when Marathon (an ancient word, commemorating a battle, and a sporting event, although, admittedly, with little relevance to a tasy peanut snack), was renamed Snickers (a silly word, a cross between knickers and sniggers, and with no more relevance to a tasty peanut snack)?

Had the manufacturers been given loads of cash by a shadowy American evangelist type organisation, in order to effect some sort of subliminal advertising, as a first step on the road to brainwashing, mind control, and world domination?

Had they wanted to market the snack to a more international market, and found that Mars meant "hair from a pig's bum" in Chinese?

Or is there some sort of anti-classical agenda here? Mars is, in classical mythology, the ancient god of war. Marathon was a famous classical battle. Yes, yes, I know, but I've got cleaning to be getting on with, and I can't be flicking around the internet trying to find out whether they're Greek or Roman. Is somebody in power wanting to erase such notions from the population, and deliberately dumb down our chocolate?

At home, I put my crusading journalist cap on and decided to investigate. I found the answer here. It's been renamed in honour of The World Cup.

I'm already bored and it's not even started yet. Please can we get this tedious business over with, can everybody take those silly flags off their cars, and can we have junk food with the correct labels again, please?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

15 minutes of fame

Couldn't help laughing over this little incident at the BBC. Poor chap.

Mind you, collecting people from reception in the various BBC buildings is an arduous business. I worked for The BBC years ago (deputy classified ad manager on Homes and Antiques and Gardeners' World Magazines, if you please), in The Woodlands Building a bit further up Wood Lane. It wasn't as labyrinthine as Television Centre, but it was complex enough for me to get a call to collect an interviewee, due to be grilled by my boss and me, and for me to finally reach her after numerous stairs and corridors, to be told that during that time she'd received a call on her mobile offering another position with a prominent magazine publisher, she had carried out a skilled negotiation, and she was very sorry, but didn't want the interview.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Strange free gift

I was browsing in the newsagent today, and I saw that The Guardian had a free gift. Nothing unusual about that, you may say. But the free gift was a poster showing breeds of shark.

Can you imagine the brainstorming session when that was conceived?

"OK, every paper these days is giving away something free. DVDs, money off vouchers for restaurants, books. The Times is always giving away books. The Daily Mail is giving away free cruises, but you have to collect about 90 tokens from individual papers. Yes, you get a free cruise, but you have to constantly buy The Daily Mail, so you have to go out to your local newsagent after dark in a balaclava. Yes, you might get arrested a few times, but it's better than being identified as a Daily Mail reader, surely. What can we do?"

"Money off vouchers for the cinema?"

"Been done"

"Strike a deal with Threshers? Vouchers for a quid off a bottle of cab sauv?"

"Yes, a bit dull though. We need something...different"

"What about a glossy poster showing different varieties of shark?"

"Wahey!! Just what people want! It totally captures the zeitgeist! Who could resist? Champers and Charlie all round!"

It's quite a nice poster, though...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Who's for icecream?

I found this disturbing story in the news this week. Awful. They're taking away part of our childhood Summers.

Who can forget the smell of new-mown grass, the call of the cuckoo, and the tone-deaf jingle jangle of the icecream van, followed by childish yells and giggles, the running of little feet towards that shrine of Mr Whippy, and the squealing of brakes, followed by that dull thud, and sinister squish...


Anyway, it got me remembering all those lovely lollies that I haven't tasted for years. Fab, with its chocolate sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. Zoom, in the shape of a rocket. And my favoured choice: a Cider Barrel. At the age of 7 or 8, I thought this made me look sophisticated. I thought I was drinking something close to cider. In fact, I was not imbibing a lovingly matured, historically famous alcoholic drink. I was eating a blend of sugar, water, fruit juice and chemicals very far removed from anything that you'd want to order in a pub. Unless any of my readers are under the age of about 23, and grew up in the age of alcopops, Breezers and the like, in which case that's exactly what you would order in a pub. Boy, are you missing out! Red wine, whisky...

What about a campaign to save the icecream van?Instead of Greenpeace Greensleeves (one of the two most popular van chimes). Instead of Scope, Scoop!

Monday, May 08, 2006


Well, I've not blogged for a bit because I've been doing all sorts of things, like going to Barcelona, watching The Scotsman run The London Marathon in 4 hours 20 minutes, and celebrating my birthday.

I'm now 37. I still can't quite think of myself as 37, though. A lot of the jobs that I have had have been in industries where the staff are quite young (20s, I mean, I don't manage a branch of Claire's Accessories or anything), and people estimate my age as up to five years younger than it actually is.

I suppose it helps that I've never smoked, or used sunbeds. And, although only slightly overweight, I'm not thin, which can emphasise wrinkles. I was thinking about this, and it occurred to me that I've never really understood smoking.

I have had the odd cigarette, because it's a rite of passage as a teenager. It's part of the adult world, and I remember the frisson of daringly taking my first drag. Well, when you're a thirteen year old in 1980s Cornwall, it doesn't take much to get a frisson from anything. But I couldn't understand the attraction.

There's an obvious reason for taking alcohol and drugs; they alter your mood. Gambling is exciting, chocolate gives you a sugar rush. Nicotine doesn't. It doesn't even taste nice. So I left it at that. I tried a few times over the next six or seven years, because the sort of girls who smoked looked cooler and more self assured somehow, and the sort of girls who never smoked and would give people a lecture on their health were rather naff and prissy. The classier smokers had great paraphernalia too, like 1920s style holders and silver cigarette cases, but I never really took to it.

Occasionally I would smoke dope, but not very often, and there was more of an obvious benefit.

Today it's raining, and I know, when I get to work, that there will be huddle of people shivering outside, getting dripped on, because they want a cigarette break. Or rather they need a cigarette break, because nicotine is so addictive that the majority of people who smoke need to top up at regular intervals, starting in the morning.

It's strange, when you think about it. People take substances like alcohol and drugs, which can be addictive, but to be taking them in the morning, or at breakfast, or every couple of hours, you have to be in a small minority of hardcore addicts and alcoholics, heading for the liver unit, and very unlikely to be in a job. But there is an every day, legal substance, that is so addictive that you need regular top ups, and nobody is surprised.

I'm not against smoking, by the way. I'm glad I never really started, but I don't have a problem with being around smokers and I don't think the state should interfere with what people choose to do to their bodies. Free will and all that. In fact, I'd legalise most drugs. It's just something I've never really understood.

Must be off, haven't had a coffee yet this morning and I'm dying for one.