Friday, September 27, 2013

Call Me Mr Science

I've toyed with the idea of legally changing my name many times over the years.

E.Z. Rider. Ace. Salami Tsunami. Juswan Cornetto.

All these names and more were considered and discounted as not being quite right. Not quite the real me. But finally I've reached a decision I can live with. A name with very material benefits.

Mr Medical Science.

See, it was Professor Alice Roberts that gave me the idea. It seems that, according to a recent report in The Metro, the glorious Professor Alice has decided to donate her body to medical science because she "hopes donating her corpse will help doctors and students to develop their surgery and dissection skills."

Laudable as that wish is I personally think screw the doctors and students I'm a far more deserving recipient. And the added advantage is that unlike the medical fraternity I really don't require Professor Alice to drop down dead anytime soon. I'd much prefer to have her body on weekend loan while it is still living, breathing and pumping blood around her exquisite arteries. She can have it back for work days and documentary shoots for the BBC and things like that. I'm not unreasonable. We can devise a rota.

My only real concern is what I do with all the brains removed from idiots and psychopaths all over the world which are now suddenly going to arrive on my doorstep...

Because I already have one of those.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Proof I’m Not An Axe Murderer

Over the long years of writing this blog some of you have, on occasion, thrown yourselves shamelessly at me. Showered me with invitations to hook up and meet. Quick but passionate rendezvous in love hotels and back streets where the bins are secluded and not too dirty.

I have as a rule refused to acquiesce to your requests (means I said no).

This decision has been driven by two things: (1) a desire not to render the rest of your existence flat, drab and unappealing by comparison to the glorious sunburst of life that a meeting with me would engender and (2) I’m rather skittish about meeting new people and despite the fake protestation of (1) above I am actually quite paranoid that I myself would come across as flat, drab and unappealing compared to the literary personality that inhabits this blog. I fear I would not live up to the easily obtainable personality goals I have set myself because no matter how low I set the bar I can almost always be relied upon to not quite reach it.

I live in fear of personality fail.

So this has meant a lot of flattering requests over the years (well, 2 that I can actually recall) and the same number of disappointing responses.

August of this year changed all that when quite out of the blue a fellow blogger turned up at my place of work having journeyed all the way from New Zealand. I must point out that an interview with me wasn’t the purpose of the trip, just an aside, as the blogger in question – Lady Mondegreen – had family and friends over here in the UK whom she’d long been planning to visit.

She’d written to me a few times asking how I would feel if she happened to drop in and see me. I did that English thing of responding positively because I harboured the suspicion that it was just never going to happen.

Well, suddenly it had and it was. And actually I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And unless Lady Mondegreen says different I don’t think I performed too badly. I think I met and perhaps even exceeded the bar. We had a pub lunch and a damned good chat and it genuinely was like meeting an old friend. All very relaxed and easy and wonderfully life affirming. It proved that being open to new experiences and opportunities can be an enlivening philosophy and is to be recommended. Though I must here point out that all thoughts of love hotels and passionate bins were eschewed.

Lady Mondegreen is now back in New Zealand and neither of us appears to have been permanently scarred by our encounter. And so, heady with the bravado of success I feel the urge to extend an open invitation to all my regular readers. If you’re ever in the area and want to say hello – a quick coffee and a bite to eat, whatever’s your poison – then do feel free to drop me a line and make it a date.

I don’t bite. I make some effort toward entertaining conversation. I will try to be urbane and debonair. And I promise to keep my animal magnetism under control (but do keep me away from the pub bins just in case).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Are Yow Larfing At Moi Bruvva?

It's rare that Birmingham - capital of the UK Midlands - gets to feature in any kind of television drama. Most of the time film crews avail themselves of the city because it is undoubtedly cheaper to film there than the nation's capital and then represent it as actually being London. The BBC's Hustle is a case in point. Most of the exterior city shots were filmed in Birmingham but sold to the world as being London.

So it's rather satisfying to see Birmingham featuring in a BBC costume drama and being sold as itself. Noisy, grimy, rough, tough and with that unmistakable Midland's twang that I grew up with. Not that Leamington Spa has much of an accent. Compared to the true son of Birmingham, the Leamingtonian accent is rather poesh and nice (as opposed to "push" and "noice").

Peaky Blinders kicked off last week and is the fictionalized account of the Shelby's, a gang of Birmingham crims who held sway in the city just after the finish of the first World War. I daresay the writer's have taken numerous liberties but I am not in a position to point out any factual inaccuracies as yet; I'll leave that to the numerous "Brum" academics who'll not be shy in voicing their complaints as and when any Birmingham based misinformation hits the slagheap.

Knowing parts of Birmingham well and others not at all I can at least say that there is a clever mix of real location and CGI that brings 1920's Birmingham to life; not to mention heavy use of the canal yard at The Black Country Museum. The accents, for those of is the know, sometimes veer from the true Birmingham "yam", but on the whole hold true. The actor with the toughest accent to crack is Sam Neil as Chief Inspector Campbell who has nailed his oracular flag to the mast of the Reverend Ian Paisley. Sometimes it jars but the script is cracking enough that you overlook the occasional dip into Walt Disney Oirish.

The star of the show is Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby (or Tommoi as he is referred to in our house), the leader of the Shelbys. The Peaky Blinders were so named for the razorblades they concealed in the peaks of their cloth caps that were then transformed into slashing weapons in a fight... but in truth Cillian Murphy could cut a man wide open with his cheekbones alone. He's a powerful presence on the screen and exudes an air of calm, urbane, gentlemanly violence that is somehow the more brutal for being measured and calculated. Helen McCrory too is a strong backbone to the rest of the cast and manages to slum her vowels into Birmingham's street talk with aplomb.

The show has everything; horses and bet rigging, stolen army munitions, pub fights, gypsy warfare, blood, sex, cheekbones and exortations not to "larf at moi bruvva." And best of all it is bigging up Birmingham.

The city up the road from me has a history that is just as magnificent and nasty as the one to the south.

Only our accent is better.

If yow can't get a rowm at the Premi-air Inn then jus' yow tyoon in to the Beebeeceee of a Thursdaaay and it's like yow is proppa in the Bullrinnng. Jus' down't look at us funnoi. Cos we down't loik it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shoddy Comes Fitted As Standard

I have an age old problem with computers.

Or rather with the operating system itself. I admit my experience is limited to Windows and I know there are alternatives out there but nevertheless I am driven to persist with the devil I know.

It's the updates.

The constant updates that make my machine lag just when I need it to be super quick; the peremptory order to restart so that the new updates it has shoehorned into its electronic gizzard without my knowledge can be installed properly; the interminable wait so that Windows can "configure" itself (and then stalls at 37% for hours) before my own machine is released to me once more.

I sometimes wonder who my machine belongs to. I distinctly recall paying a whopping great bill for the actual physical components. I still have the receipt. But it seems that as soon as Windows was installed Microsoft then took ownership.

Kind of like a sitting tenant. Yes, you own the property but Mr MS is living here now and possession is 9 tenths of the law so sod off; if he wants to set fire to the wallpaper he jolly well will and there is nothing you can do about it.

Now I know you can turn off Automatic Updates and make it all manual but, really, we humans are all on the paranoid OCD spectrum so we leave it all Automatic in case we miss the update that plugs the huge security breach that Microsoft didn't realize was there when they first sold the software to us (as being the next best thing to sliced bread) for £100+.

And that is my problem. A new version of Windows is in the offing or at least on the brink of being offered. It will undoubtedly be huge, i.e. you are suddenly going to need a dozen terabytes of memory just to run it and a processor large enough to handle the data from the Hadron Collider. Inevitably we are all going to be forced to go back to the computer shop of our choice and pay out another large sum of cash to buy more machinery that Mr MS will then move into and take possession of.

But I don't want this new version of Windows to be bulked out with new services, new apps and new lights and flashing bells (or whatever). I just want it to be like the one I have now but finished.

Finished. Perfect. Not broken. Not with bits missing. Not with any security issues. In short, without any need whatsoever to have to continually update itself.

I mean, if I buy a car I don't expect to wake up one morning 2 months later to find a team of mechanics on my drive changing the tyres.

"Sorry, gov, you can't use the car for the next 3 hours until we swap the tyres over. Yeah, they suddenly decided that the original square tyres that were fitted when you first bought the model aren't conducive to high speed travel so now we're upgrading them all with these round ones."

"But I need to get my wife to hospital this morning - it's an emergency!"

"Sorry. But you chose to have automatic updates and once the process has started we can't stop until it's finished - otherwise the car won't be configured properly."


Surely there is an operating system out there somewhere that gets it right first time?

Otherwise, the simple fact is, in thousands of years of human history we haven't actually improved upon the abacus...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rat In Me Kitchen (And Me Bathroom)

It started with rhythmic scratching.

Something sharp being clawed against wood and brickwork.

I was the only person to notice it at first and was hard placed to positively identify where it was coming from. Somewhere around the back of the kitchen cupboards possibly. I even attributed it to next door at one point (they’re students; I wouldn’t put it passed them to hollow out a cavity in the brickwork on their side of the house so that they could curl up into a ball and listen to their Radiohead albums in peace without the cruel world impinging upon their listening experience).

But then the scratching seemed to hone in and centre on the part of the wall that disguises a run of pipework from upstairs. When I say disguises I mean the pipe is quite obviously boxed in and as a consequence we have a bizarre buttress effect in the kitchen that goes all the way up to the bathroom and from there up into the loft.

For some reason, possibly because I was watching Spring Watch at the time, I thought it might be a trapped bird.

But trapped birds tend not to live very long and the scratching continued.

And then got higher. And higher. Until we could now hear it plainly in the bathroom. Something right behind the tiles, scratching at the grouting from the inside.

The cats got spooked. And then got interested. And now they watch that little patch of buttressed plaster and tile like it’s the telly. They’re just waiting for whatever it is to pop its head out of the splintered plaster like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. To be honest, even if it was actually Jack Nicholson my money would be on the cats.

I am, however, 99% sure it is a rat.

And relieved. I think Jack Nicholson might be a worse pest to deal with.

My biggest fear is that the little blighter is attempting to gain entry to the loft. This would be bad news because we keep various family heirlooms and the boxes from my Lego collection up there. Did I say my collection? I meant, of course, my kid’s. Plenty of scope for rat mayhem.

I’m pretty sure all is secure but I haven’t yet ventured up there. But the time is nearing.

If you don’t hear from me for a while you’ll know it’s because “daddy’s home”.

Monday, September 09, 2013

If You Loved Me You’d Swallow That

Tempting as it is to wax lyrical about the old Bill & Ben joke of which the title of this post is a quote, today’s subject is actually less amusing but nevertheless still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Quite often on Facebook various quotes get bandied about and published on people’s timelines. They’re kind of like little badges; little sound-bites that people publish and then, if you happen to be "friends" with them, they appear on your FB page too so you can all see what sort of bandwagon we are all expected to jump on today.

This is fine. I don’t mind this. Sometimes these quotes are darn clever. Or just funny. Or actually have a point to them beyond entertaining the web user for a couple of nanoseconds. Yes, I’ve sometimes been freaked out by the thought that FB is on occasion thought provoking or spiritually enlightening but then I calm down and realize that it all depends on the calibre of one’s FB friends. FB just isn’t going to be a religious experience for everyone.

Sometimes though these badges get my goat. They get me riled and peed off.

I’m talking about the ones that attempt to hold your morals hostage. The ones that attempt to emotionally blackmail you.

And they work in the same manner as a chain letter. Only rather than some unspecified disaster befalling you and yours, you merely pronounce yourself as being a very uncaring person and not a true friend if you don’t go along with everyone else and “share” the badge on your own timeline.

You know the type of thing I mean, I’m sure.

“Let’s see how many of my true friends will take a stand against cancer by sharing this…”

“Only real decent people will have the courage to share this and help end child abuse…”

“If you are a selfish uncaring scumbag you will just ignore this and go on about your day without a care in the world while hundreds of babies dies because of your nonchalance BUT those of my friends with a beating heart will join me in publicising this to the great unwashed FB masses…”

Etc, etc, etc.

I’m happy to nail my flag to the poles of cancer treatment research, ending child abuse, bringing world poverty to an end… but as soon as I read that accusing, mock offended tone that presumes to point the finger without even giving me a chance to think, well, I’m afraid I do then ignore the propaganda and go on with my day. I go on with my day feeling slightly irked and sullied but go on I do.

I think what annoys me most is the recognition that when people are foolhardy enough to stick these snide bits of propaganda onto their FB pages that is about as far as their moral righteousness takes them. They don’t go out campaigning for these causes. They don’t head down to the charity shop to make a donation or get on the telephone to pledge some money.

They hit “share” on FB and consider it job done. Task for the day: responded to a moral knee-jerk reaction – tick. And now onto a funny picture about a half-naked cheerleader being photo-bombed by a yampy looking dog.

And nothing changes.

Except the individual’s perception of their own self-righteousness.

Well, I have my own perception of that… and, in my opinion, the currency has severely dropped in value.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

If The Cap Fits...

So having taken the kids to Cadbury World and finding myself channelling a couple of comedy legends (a weird hybrid of Jim Carrey and Eric Morecambe) I thought it would be simply hilarious to pull a face on one of the rides that you simply have to go on while you're there.

No. You really do have to go on them. There is no way to get from one part of the factory to the other except by bizarre toyland tram-car through the disturbing dimensional rift that is Chuckleville.

Being an old hand at Cadbury World I knew there was a camera positioned halfway through the route that takes candid snaps of interlopers as they crawl their way through the alien landscape of chocolate bean land that you then feel morally obliged to buy and hide away in the loft (kidding yourself that this is the only copy and the good people of Cadbury World burn all the negatives).

Wouldn't it be a jolly jape, I thought, if I was gurning like a good 'un at the moment the flash went off and oh how we'd laugh when it came time to pick up the photos?

It having been a number of years since I last played the Comedy Club I was missing the uplifting shot in the arm that is reactive laughter so I thought, what the hell, I'd go for it. It might even cheer up some of the Cadbury staff who looked like they'd been injecting chocolate like a cheap form of botox.

We went on the Chockie Bean public transport system. The camera flash went off. The picture was taken. And we went to collect our photo.

To quote a Danielle Dax album: "Comatose Non-Reaction".

Nothing. Na-da. Not a titter.

"Hmm," I thought to myself, "Either the good staff at Cadbury World are one paracetamol away from suicide or I'm losing me touch."

I'd pulled my best blimmy and put my glasses on upside down and everything. That should have had them rolling in the aisles.

Instead there was not a dickie-bird.

When I got the photo back I could see why.

There was utterly no effing difference in my appearance from when I look "normal" to when I was pulling the face that Jim Carrey would have paid good money to be born with.

I looked exactly the same.

I'm not quite sure what that says about me but I have no doubt at all you'll all be queuing up to tell me.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Sex With Professor Alice

Well, the CD player is already purring with the best of Barry White and I’ve placed scented candles at strategic locations around the bedroom so that the reflection in the mirrored ceiling is warm and arousing. I’ve got champagne on ice, rose petals on the pillows and even a specially scented ice cube to do that “9½ Weeks” thing should she request it. I’ve even flung a copy of Nessa Carey’s “The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance” under the pillow just in case she’s up for a bit of post-coital research. Although hopefully it will be mid-sesh research and not post-coit; I am, after all, planning to perform all through the night.

I just can’t make up my mind between traditional white satin sheets or eezee-kleen black rubber… It’s so hard to decide. I mean one minute Professor Alice is all prim and proper like a prefect out of Mallory Towers and the next she’s like an attractively geeky love-elf out of… er… The Two Towers.


You can tell I’m nervous, can’t you? This has been on the cards for so long I’m in danger of exploding right here and now. I’ve wanted it for so long. Dreamt of it. Wrote of it. And then deleted what I’d written in case her lawyers ever discovered it. But finally it’s happening.

Sex with Professor Alice Roberts*.

I must admit I’m a little disconcerted that it’s being televised next Wednesday on BBC4 at 9pm. But hey, at least it’s after the watershed so I’m guessing she’s going to dispense with the camisole and may even slip into some science approved lingerie. And I accept it is for the sake of scientific research and not just for pleasure (though I mean to ensure there is plenty of the latter – and for Professor Alice too).

But even so. I’m looking forward to it.

She’s so coy, that Professor Alice. No hints or thinly veiled euphemisms. Not so much as a single flirty text let alone asking me out on a proper date. No, just thrusting it into the BBC programming schedule and trusting that I’d pick up on it; that I’d get the message.

Well, I have.

Professor Alice is presenting a programme about sex next week. And as sure as 2 plus 2 makes 4 and nucleic acids plus various proteins make the building blocks of life Professor Alice and I are gonna make lurve. Yeah yeah, I know it doesn’t mention me in the Radio Times but that’s just to prevent the press from camping out on my doorstep and putting Professor Alice off her vinegar strokes. And I know some of you think I am just hopelessly delusional and am reading far too much into a tiny synopsis printed in a TV magazine but I KNOW, OK? I KNOW in my heart that this is going to happen.

It’s all my birthdays and Christmases come at once. It’s the moment I have been angling and pushing for on this 'ere blog for at least 4 years.

And it’s finally all coming together. Just like me and Professor Alice, in fact.

So don’t spoil it for me.

Just tune in, shut up and watch. You may even learn something.

Just sayin’.

*wink* *wink*

*Sex: A Horizon Special: Wednesday 11th September, BBC4.