Thursday, May 30, 2013

Death By Beaver

Angry beaverWhen beavers were introduced to Knapdale, Mid-Argyll in May 2009 I cheered.

Being part Scottish I could only celebrate with my far-Northern cousins that finally, at last, their beaver needs were being met. It is a little known fact that there has long been a shortage of beaver in Scotland. Some blame the Highland Clearances, some the proliferation of Buckfast and deep fried Mars bars, most put it down to the hordes of midge flies that are attracted to anything warm and moist. After all an itchy beaver is an unhappy beaver.

However, as the classic beaver spurns any kind of fashionable depilation, it was agreed that a good full musky pelt would be ample protection against even the most determined of hormonally driven irritants and therefore the whine and nip of insistent little pests would be “nay bother” to the eager beavers waiting to set up home in the west coast of Scotland.

The beavers were duly released and allowed to run free and to this day thrive and prosper in Knapdale, Mid-Argyll.

It is a story worthy of the BBC’s Springwatch. A conservation success story to be shouted from the rooftops although we are yet to see Chris Packham get to grips with a beaver live on telly despite Michaela Strachan’s best attempts to the contrary.

All should be well. Beavers and beaver jokes have been resurrected in the British Isles to the glory of all.

And then comes the disturbing news today that a man in Belarus has been killed by beaver. The beaver population in Belarus is an eye-watering 80,000. I’m not sure what ratio that is to the male human population but surely there is enough beaver to go around.

Details are currently sketchy but it seems the man had attempted to capture the beaver in order to have his photograph taken with it.

Well truly, what man has not savoured the adolescent dream of being photographed running his fingers through the quivering fur of a beautiful, perfectly formed beaver?

It seems this particular beaver was having none of it though. It didn’t want to be tied down. It didn’t want to be posed. It didn’t want to be stroked. It wanted to be left alone and photo-shoots be damned. It was plainly the wrong time of the month. The beaver was not in season. The beaver bit and bit hard.

The poor man consequently died of his injuries.

Although “death by beaver” may sound to some a glamorous way to go I suspect my Scottish brethren are now twitching nervously beneath their sporrans and analysing growing beaver numbers in the Knapdale area with a sense of gnawing trepidation. Prime air-time on Springwatch is all very well but with a beaver population explosion on the cards it is only a matter of time before there is bloodshed in the Scottish bush.

After all, an angry beaver with teeth is not something you want erecting a dam at close quarters in your kilt.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pitch Mandible Stone

Pitch Mandible Stone by Stephen Herrick-BlakeIf I have been absent from blogging of late it has been for the best of reasons. I have been busy compiling material for no less than 3 books ready for e-publishing on Kindle.

The first of these is now ready and available for purchase at the un-princely sum of £1.36. I apologize to those of you who are boycotting Amazon for their tax avoidance practises and hope that you won't hold their malpractise against me. I don't think my sales are going to line their pockets overmuch... but you never know.

Pitch Mandible Stone is my first proper collection of poetry. I've had the odd poem published elsewhere over the years - 30 or so in small magazines and various UK small presses - but this is my first anthology that solely comprises all my own work.

Pitch Mandible Stone is made up of 18 poems that are a fair representation of my poetic repertoire. I'm hoping that enough of you good kind people will buy a copy that I might be able to buy myself a pint with the royalties. Even if poetry isn't your bag or you don't have a Kindle to download it to I am hoping you will at least follow the link and hit the "like" button.

It's always difficult to describe a collection of poetry so instead, as a show of good faith, I'm going to offer you a freebie. A free poem taken from the collection. If you like it or find it sufficiently interesting to want to read more, well, you know what you have to do. Thank you in advance.


The First Casualty Of War

They come ferreting through the bindweed
Dropping bobble hats and gloves in the rush;
A line of duffle coated warriors
Slogging over terrain rough as new landfill.

The cemetery erupts with the bold
Lung explosion of shrill voiced mortars
And invisible grenades. Right arms carried
Like automatics judder with school yard kick-back.

What foes there are drop by the thousand
But there are some who do not die easy.

Ranks of guanoed seraphim stand
Against the advance goading the crosshairs
To collect and dog them like midge flies.
One squaddie more astute in his brutality than the rest

Pistol-whips the neck of a submissive angel
With a club of wood. He is saving bullets.
There is a god shattering crack – real not voiced -
And every tongue stops.

What crows there are fester upward
And offer amused catcalls to the air.


Some are too wise to the ways of death.

 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dirty Poles

In an ideal world this post would be about my misadventures in a lap dancing club.

Instead it is about a misadventure with a broken washing machine. Misadventure. That makes it sound like the final verdict is a cop out from an inconclusive police investigation when in fact the verdict is far from inconclusive. It was, ladies and gentlemen, theft pure and simple.

Yes, the washing machine - condemned to death due to a clapped out motor - had been left in my front garden in full view of the street. Yes, my intention was to offload it onto the first rag and bone man that blew his trumpet my way. Yes, I had no intention of making any money from the transaction. I affirm all of the above.

But I put it to you that, lying in situ on my front lawn as it was, and all other intentions aside, that washing machine was still my property and legally mine. To remove it without my permission was theft plain and simple.

So. The local rag and bone man finally appears on his appointed day and I dash outside to hail him over. He grinds his flatbed truck to a halt, leaps out with the look of a martyr doing me a favour and finds me scratching my head at the huge washing machine shaped hole that has suddenly appeared in the reality that surrounds us.

It was literally there the last time I looked and now suddenly it wasn't.

Some bugger had half-inched it in the night. Probably while Karen and I had taken the car off the drive and gone into town to see Star Trek.

Unbelievable. Do these people offer a refuse collection service as well?

I had to apologize for wasting Mr Rag & Bone Man's time. He gave a pained shrug like he was used to this sort of thing and uttered the words, "probably them dirty Poles" before driving off in a squeal of copper piping and freshly fenced drain covers.

Great. Theft and casual, lazy racism all in one day.

To be honest, it's possible he wasn't slagging off all Poles in one foul breath but merely slighting the rival gang of Polish rag and bone men who also ply their trade along our street and, as he sees it, steal his business.

As it was I know for a fact that the washing machine was taken late in the evening when no rag and bone man would even think about stirring from the pub no matter how much free "any any old iron" was waiting to be had. Somebody else had nicked it, ethnic extraction as yet unknown.

And I am mightily pissed off about it but I find all avenues of recompense currently closed to me. The thing was broken and I wanted rid of it. So what does it matter?

It matters because whoever took it had made huge assumptions about the situation. That washing machine could have been specifically promised to someone. That machine could have been in full working order and only outside temporarily while we overhauled the kitchen. That washing machine could have been a novelty dog house.

They didn't ask to find out. They just took it. If they'd knocked on my door and asked me if they could take it I would probably have said yes and good riddance to it. But they didn't even pay me that smallest of respects.

It is the arrogant assumption that they had the right to take it without any kind of legal impediment that really grates with me.

An Englishman's castle is no longer sacred.

These days, unless you can nail it down, the natives are likely to steal the moat.



Monday, May 20, 2013

Jamie Oliver Child Abuse

Jamie Oliver child abuseIn a move guaranteed to ensure his twatdom for evermore, “cheeky chappy” TV “chef” Jamie Oliver has claimed that an unhealthy packed lunch is on a par with child abuse and the providers of the packed lunch – the hapless parents – are the abusers.

I kid you not.

Being a regular internet surfer my sensibilities have long been bludgeoned to insensate dullness by the proclamations of idiots and emotional amoebas the world over but even I, desensitized oaf that I am, found myself reeling in shock at the sheer magnificent idiocy of Jamie’s latest outburst. It is idiocy on an Olympian scale. Stupidity big enough to gag a black hole.

Jamie needs to take the same care over what comes out of his mouth as to what he puts into it – and wants to put into ours.

A packed lunch, no matter how comprised of donuts, lard sandwiches, liquefied sugar and cholesterol shakes, cannot in any way compare with child abuse.

Does Jamie need to attend a corporate training course on what child abuse actually is? You’d think with Operation Yewtree currently decimating the BBC’s summer programming schedule, Jamie would be a bit more clued up. Maybe the BBC could spend some of our license money sending Jamie off to make a programme about child abuse and how learning about it affects him and, of course, he can throw in a few recipes for conciliatory vegetable and nettle smoothies while he’s at it to make the kids feel better about themselves? Except the last thing those kids need is king dickhead Jamie Oliver criticizing them over their choice of comfort food.

Most bad packed lunches are not formulated by parents setting out to wilfully harm their kids or even by parents who take evil, predatory pleasure from stuffing their kid’s Power Rangers lunch box with enough fat to make a McDonald’s burger feel positively anorexic. Most of the time a bad packed lunch occurs due to ignorance, poverty and, let’s not overlook the biggy, the fact that the child in question refuses to eat anything else to the point where the family’s own doctor advises them to just let him / her eat whatever the hell they like just as long as they are eating something and ingesting enough regular calories.

And what about those ordinary families who occasionally slip a treat into their kid’s lunch boxes? The occasional Mars bar or Twix? The infrequent chocolate mousse? Is that child abuse too? Or are we just the equivalent of chat room “lurkers” grooming our kids for worse things to come? Sucking them into an underground world where their dependency on chocolate and sugary drinks will make them easy prey for Machiavellian techniques to make them more biddable in years to come? “Do the hovering and there’s a Milky Way in it for you, son…” Christ. I’ll hand myself over to the Yewtree investigation squad right now, shall I?

Dear Jamie, do you know what one of the most soul destroying aspects of child abuse is?

Guilt. Being made to feel guilty about something that wasn’t your fault and something that you could in no way have any responsibility for. Abusers love guilt. It really does make those in their power more biddable.

Guilt is a nasty, insidious thing when it is not deserved (but nevertheless keenly felt).

Spreading it about and using it as a leverage tool to sell your own branded personal ethos to the country and bolster your flagging celebrity status is abusive in the extreme.

Isn’t it about time you turned yourself in to the cops, Jamie? (I hope one of them fucks you over with a Curly-wurly.)


Monday, May 13, 2013

The BARFTAs

Sarah MillicanYou won’t have heard my name mentioned at last night’s BAFTA awards but you may have heard one of my jokes.

At least I think it was one of mine. It was a pretty damned weird coincidence if it wasn’t.

Some of you may have heard of this “Twitter” thing. A few of you may even use it on occasion. I know I tend to use it very occasionally. And like a lot of people on Twitter sometimes I get sucked into “Following” various celebs just to feel idiotically closer to them. The whole thing is very shallow and needy and more than a little shameful.

On occasion, when temptation gets the better of me, I may even try and send a Tweet to one of my favourite celebs, just in passing, nothing heavy meant by it and the whole exercise in no way affects my emotional or mental state to have you ignore me yet again, thank you very much, that is the last time I EVER EVER watch one of your shows, do you hear me you arrogant stuck up arsehole?

Because, of course, these people are bombarded with Tweets from needy idiots all the time wanting the instant gratification of a response from someone famous just to they can write a blog post about it. So many Tweets in fact that you have more chance of seeing Romola Garai’s stiches than having your Tweet actually seen by the intended recipient let alone having it replied to (and you will have to have watched last night’s BAFTAs to get the stitches reference).

I know this. So I have Tweeted a celeb on no more than 3 occasions in all my years using Twitter. Most of the time I am sane enough to keep away from such shenanigans. But sometimes, just sometimes, I get drawn in.

As I did yesterday morning. I just happened to see a Tweet from buoyant Northern comedy lass, Sarah Millican. She was on her way to the BAFTAs, was plainly nervous and so had done “a little sick in her mouth”.

To which yours truly, unsung comedy genius and master of quick wit and repartee that I am, replied, “Shouldn’t it be the BARFTAs then?”

Twitter screen captureThe awkward Twitter silence that followed that gag made me feel pretty sick I can tell you. But I shrugged it off – *sigh* I never learn – and felt no negative feelings towards Sarah Millican; she's lovely. I rationalized it. It was my neediness that was at fault not the fact that she was too busy. C’est la vie.

And then at the BAFTA’s, lo and behold, whilst presenting an award Sarah makes a reference to the difference in Northern and Southern pronunciation and that now she was down South she ought to pronounce BAFTA “BARFTA”…

So a different spin put on it but the punch-line was essentially mine.

Right?

Or am I reading too much into it?

Was it just a coincidence?

To be honest, I don’t want any credit. Just the opposite. I want to assuage some guilt. The joke fell flat and I feel responsible.

Sarah, I’m sorry, pet. I feel like I really let you down.

Tweet me soon and we’ll talk about it. Kay?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Never Event

A Never Event, for those of you in the dark about such things, is a quasi-medical term to describe an unfortunate incident whereby a top surgeon accidentally leaves his Rolex inside a patient’s abdomen after performing some kind of life saving operation. It’s kind of similar to the aeronautical term, Near Miss. Except where Near Miss describes something that is actually a miss (as opposed to the more factually correct Near Hit), Never Event describes an unfortunate event that did actually occur. But never should have.

I’m not sure what the official statistics are but it’s something like for every 100,000 operations in the UK, 750 odd people will wake up after the anaesthetic has worn off to find they have been stolen by rogue gangs of Polish scrap metal dealers intent on liberating the MRI scanner that has accidentally been left inside their colon so they can get their hands on the copper wiring.

In percentage terms you have a 4/1000ths of a percent chance of somnambulistically shoplifting a pair of titanium forceps during a UK hospital operation and then paying for it with months of agonizing pain, another operation to remove it and another 4/1000ths of a percent chance that this time all they’ll leave in you is a cheese straw or a rolled up copy of Heat magazine.

Talk about an embarrassing hernia.

Apparently the bigwig experts are quick to point out that statistically this is bloody good and just shows what a bang-up operation (excuse the pun) the NHS really is. I don’t doubt it at all.

But for the unlucky 750 who inexplicably trigger off airport security scanners even when they’ve stripped down to their skimpies it is cause for little consolation.

And, at the end of the day, it is needless stupidity.

I’m sure that with the simple application of real-world logic Never Events can be eradicated completely from the NHS statistic sheets. And I have the answer.

It hit me the other day when I was in the bank and needed to fill out a deposit form. I didn’t have a pen on me but I knew the bank would have a couple lying around for me to use. Lying around but so cunningly contrived that they would be impossible for me to accidentally steal - either deliberately or in a fit of medical absentmindedness.

Because the bloody things are attached to the walls and surfaces with one of those metallic strings that appear to be made of hundreds of linked ball bearings.

This is what the NHS needs. Every piece of surgical equipment from endoscopes to the smallest laser scalpel needs to be attached to a bit of metallic ball bearing string which is in turn anchored to the hospital infrastructure. Hey presto, no hospital would ever misplace an item of beneficial butchery ever again.

And even if a speculum did end up accidentally deposited inside an OAP’s orifice, just attempting to wheel them out of the operating theatre and back to their ward would soon cause the problem to get flagged up pretty sharpish – especially if surgeons are suddenly garrotting themselves on the tautened string that is now stretched across the entire length of the theatre.

There. I declare operation Never Event a complete 100% success.

Sew him up, nurse, and let’s head down to the pub.

Oh bugger. Has anybody seen my watch?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Told You

A little while ago I was extolling the many potential virtues of 3D printing and opining that a few of the applications could be somewhat dubious.

Ne’er-do-wells printing themselves off a Bowie knife or a nuclear warhead for example. I was quite glib in my choice of examples.

Unsurprisingly – because, let’s face it, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict this kind of thing – somebody has now printed off a working handgun. And not just printed it off and fired it to prove that it can shoot bullets but has also uploaded the blueprints so that anybody – anybody at all – can print off their own gun. And fire it.

This somebody is from Texas. Which is so fitting it is beyond me to make a joke about it. Candy from babies and all that.

Various anti-gun groups are already up in arms about it (OK, that I will make a joke out of) and have expressed concern about such guns and blueprints falling into the hands of people too mentally imbalanced to safely be allowed to own a firearm (basically anybody who wants to own a firearm).

And I quite agree even as I sigh and shake my head at the ridiculousness of it all. Because although I warned off this type of thing happening I am very aware that a cheap version of one of these 3D printers costs over £5k to buy. I’m pretty sure you can buy a black market Colt .45 / Magnum / Star Trek phaser for less than a quarter of that these days – basically a metallic weapon that isn’t made of plastic and won’t melt in a house fire that you can buy quite cheaply off a bloke in the pub for less than a fortnight at Butlins.

So what’s the problem?

For me it is just the fundamental waste of designing a printable handgun. The world was hardly crying out for yet another handgun, now was it? Not being able to print one off was hardly an inconvenience of global proportions. We need less access to guns not more.

What we need more of are things that could improve health and life conditions for the majority of people on this planet. Printable medical equipment. Printable water purification devices. Printable artificial human limbs. Just three examples off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many, many more.

A plastic handgun that kills living things surely doesn’t appear on any sane person’s wish-list.

Nice try Mr Texas.

But next time try printing off the obituary pages of the local newspaper in Newtown, Connecticut and thinking a little harder.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Leamington Spliff

I am aware of unnatural behaviour. Of trends being bucked. Of moulds being broken.

The natural order of things has changed. I first noticed it on a personal level. A sudden dropping off of ambition. I didn’t feel like writing so much anymore. All these amazing projects that normally fill my head suddenly felt tired and trad, man, and not at all in the spirit of filling up my senses like a night in the forest. They felt like too much work. Like I’d be directing my energies into channels that would just end up clogging my chakras, dude. I mean, why stress so much? Just kick back and relax. Let life wash over me. Surf it on the surfboard of my mind. Commune with my naval. Inhale deeply and imbibe. You know?

And then I kinda stopped caring so much. About stuff. Stuff that I can’t even get my head around to describe to you here. Big stuff. Complicated stuff. Stuff that doesn’t really matter because it is in no way cosmic or fundamental to my inner child.

And I thought hey this is weird. This is sooo not like me. I usually dig a bit of stress. I like a prick or two to kick against. But I was suddenly like all woo rather than all whoa. My yin was coping fine without my yang. What was happening?

And then I noticed changes on the outside of me too. Among my fellow town brethren. Everyone seemed more at ease. Like on a chilled level. Even the police crime statistics state that violent crime in the county has, like, totally dropped off. People are downing their knives and Kalashnikovs and just shooting the breeze with each other. They’re chilling with their bros and hos. Good times, you know?

So, like, what’s the causality behind this sudden mellowness?

For a long, long time I couldn’t even think about it ‘cos I was just so chillaxed. But then it kinda wafted against me on the breeze as I drifted home from work the other night. It kinda sidled up to me and then got right up inside me in a totally non-sexual way. It was in the air, man, and I breathed it in.

Marijuana.

It’s like scenting the air all over town. You can’t walk anywhere for long in this town of mine without some generous bro sending a special token of his love spiralling out into the atmosphere – it’s big toke love time, dudes.

Walking home for me is like walking through a huge hollowed out spliff. I travel through a drug tunnel every time I leave the house.

And suddenly my increased cravings for chocolate and snacks about mid-afternoon make perfect sense. Life is giving me the munchies.

And on one level I should be upset ‘cos it means I ain’t writing like I ought to. It means I’m not getting myself out of my career situation by the sweat of my brow or the toil of my mind. But on the other, sometimes it just nice to step outside and breathe in the free air.

You know what I’m saying?

Hmm?