Thursday, April 27, 2006

Of mercy dashes and illegal avians

"Hi, I'm at the Minor Injuries Unit ..."

Just what every mother wants to hear. The Boy was with his grandmother while Best Beloved did her evening course. He had to feed the neighbour's cats. He managed to break some glass (apparently containing the cat food) and possibly get some inside him. Gran doesn't drive. This was a job for Ben the Vectra Driver! All very stepson/stepfather-bonding. As it was, he was in and out of the Minor Injuries Unit in 10 minutes, a little disappointed (I suspect) that he didn't have a bit of glass in his arm after all. And then off to Scouts - life must go on ...

But this was only my secondary act of mercy yesterday, for earlier Ben the Feather Duster Wielder had taken on a distant descendant of dinosaurs.

It was a bird and it flew in while the front door was open. Don't know what type because I'm not good in that department. It wasn't a robin, blackbird, pigeon, pheasant, chicken, turkey, swan, goose, peacock or penguin - those I would have been able to tell. It was small and brown, and flew up to the top landing and sat there, occasionally cheeping at me.

Pointedly leaving the front door open didn't do the trick, possibly because there were two floors between them. And so I reluctantly went to work with said feather duster (for prodding) and an umbrella (for poo defence). I managed to get it down to my landing, whereupon 60 million years of evolution told it that hiding under the wardrobe that is stacked there during the decorating phase with a lot of other furniture would be a good move. It had cunningly found that you can only get under the wardrobe from behind.

I moved the wardrobe, having first moved all the other furniture to get at it. It then flew back up to the top landing.

We repeated, with variations, for a while. I began to hope it might go under the wardrobe again so I could seal it in and leave it there. The average intelligence of the species would go up slightly. But righteousness finally prevailed and I got it under a laundry basket. Then I could slide a document folder in beneath that, and voila! I had a cage with a bird inside. I took it downstairs and released it, while all the time I could tell it was glaring at me and thinking "if I was still a velociraptor, you would be in such trouble."

On the whole, I prefer mercy dashes to Minor Injuries Units. You get a kiss and a cup of tea after those.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Cute dreams are made of these

The new bedroom has been activated and it's a bit like being in a hotel. A nice hotel, I should add, not a Novotel or the ghastly place in the Frankfurt red light district I was once booked into by a cost-saving secretary, where to use the facilities I had to open the shower door in the bathroom so there was room for my knees to stick out, and to dry off after said shower I had to stand in the middle of the room to give myself some towelling space. No, definitely a nice hotel, but everything subtly different and considerably more road noise than before. Which will change when/if the double glazing arrives.

It's made for some interesting dreams. Last night's was about a toddler - a cute little blond boy of 3 or 4, I would say, though not one I know or recognise, not even my nephew who really is 3 and blond. But in the dream I obviously knew him and was fond of him, because he was sitting on my lap and playing with a toy and chatting as toddlers do, and I was talking to him in the sing-song tell-you-a-secret way grown-ups do, and he was -um - asking where babies came from. My exact reply in the dream was "a boy and girl get together and do something very special and private, and that makes a baby." He then asked what this process was called, whereupon I pleaded the Fifth.

The strange thing - apart from the fact that I can remember this in any detail, which is itself unusual - is that I probably would give an answer like that to a toddler in real life, if one actually asked me that question and for some reason I couldn't just refer them up the line to Mummy and Daddy. This dream was weird but made sense. Which is even weirder.

Moving on to slightly older male children, the Boy yesterday took it upon himself to watch Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged. I bought this a few years ago for reasons of personal education - you can't refute someone's arguments, let alone despise and pity them as wilfully ignorant paranoid fools, if you don't know exactly what they're saying. In Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged, a group of (guess what! American) evangelicals feel so moved by the need to save a generation from the fires of Hell that they make up their minds that Harry Potter is evil, and then with malice aforethought proceed to throw out the Ninth Commandment* and do as thorough a hatchet job on him as they possibly can. Into the melée they throw Harry's pointy hat (phallic symbol), the sacrifice of his mother (goddess worship) , even his very name (Potter = maker of pots = cups and bowls used in pagan rituals). At one point the Boy came into the room tearing his hair out - or maybe that's just how he wears it nowadays - shouting "they're saying his scar is like the symbols used by the SS!" Yes, unfortunately they do. They are silly people. I was pleased to see that at the tender age of 13 he can spot the flaws in it without undue coaching from myself.

I've ranted about this subject on my more regular site: The one thing they don't throw at him in the video - probably because theywouldn't get the joke - is that if you change one letter of the word "wand" then you get a whole new story. See if you doubt me.

[* False witness, of course.]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ups and downs

Up: new carpet finally in front room. I know, not a fascinating picture but it's there for the sake of completeness. This paves the way for re- attachment of curtains, installation of furniture and final activation of new bedroom status. Also, for reasons which make perfect sense, the likely installation of a wireless network.

Down: it would be nice to say with confidence that this room will shortly be double glazed. This requires the installers to be satisfied that removing the present frames won't bring the front of the house tumbling down. Seems like a trifling little concern but I suppose it ought to be addressed for form's sake. (Lord knows how old the present frames are. For all I know they're original, and this house appears on maps of Abingdon from 1850 ...)

Up: shower finally installed, and very nice it is too. No picture for reasons which I will come to. It's enclosed by a double-curtained booth as opposed to the more normal single curtain along the bath. Don't know why, but there's something about being able to throw back two curtains, one on either side, that makes you want to shout at the same time, "here I am Abingdon, behold me!", though so far I've managed not to.

Down: said curtains are ... um. Beware of catalogue shopping. The star lady plumber installed some rather nice shiny chrome pipes, so I thought I would pick the "silver" option to go with them. "Silver" is of course catalogue speak for "early Pertwee era metallic grey". I really should have gone for white, which goes with most things, at least in bathrooms.

Up: star lady plumber also installed new pipes to connect washing machine direct to the flat's water supply. No more squeezing hoses onto the basin tapes, wrapping flannels round them to catch the drips and running an extension lead down the hall from my bedroom.

Down: can't use the thing, because she instructed that we first acquire connecting hoses with a right angled plug at both ends. If she'd said "a right angled plug at one end and a flat one at the other" then I'd be laughing, because you can't walk into B&Q or Homebase without them leaping off the shelves like the python in that particularly rubbish Jon Voigt movie. But a pushmepullyou arrangement of right angled plugs seems to be about as rare as ... well, pushmepullyous.

Up: she has offered to come back and change the angle of the pipes instead.

And, just to show life is actually on average pretty good at present, here are some ups without downs.

Up: had to saw some wood into a particular shape (long story) which I did without any injury beyond a splinter that soon came out. Contrasts nicely with the Boy's recent lesson, which can be summarised as IF sawing AND the blade jumps across your fingers THEN stop.

And finally, up: we have a week and a half to pay £320 for a wedding, that being the 12-week-beforehand deadline for same. Now, it could be argued that parting with £320 is a down by anyone's standards, but how much more do we get out of it? Eh? Eh? Some things are beyond rubies.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Anthony Blair is an anagram of Holy Ant Brain

A conclusion I have reached about our Prime Minister: he is a Lib Dem mind trapped in a New Labour body. He has none of the Lib Dems’ wishiwashiness of course, but he does share a conviction in the inherent sensibility of his policies. Everything he does is, to him, so obviously the right thing to do, of benefit to everyone.

This is nothing new. Thatcher had the same outlook, but then, Thatcher had added malice with it, at least towards certain sections of the population. Our Divine Helmsman bears malice to no one. He views his enemies with sorrow. And love, mingled. If only everyone could see how right he is. It must keep him awake at nights.

And therefore he has no qualms at all about the little bit of stealth legislation known as the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. Okay, so it grants ministers rights that could almost be dictatorial in the wrong hands. But his hands so obviously aren’t the wrong ones. Why do people get upset? The fact that it effectively makes Parliament redundant ... well, who needs debate when any right minded person can see he is so clearly correct?

If, on the other hand, you really don’t think that ministers of any size, shape or party should be entrusted with powers to pass their own undebated legislation, or sack judges, or abolish jury trial, then go to, which says it all much more clearly than I can. Read it, but don’t weep. Just act.

Monday, April 10, 2006

We, the people

The latest Locus reports that Salman Rushdie has joined a group of writers in putting his name to a statement against fundamentalist Islam. It says, inter alia: "We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism ..."

Well yes, fair enough, a worthy cause. But I wish it had been phrased differently.

"We, writers ..." Well, yes, he is undoubtedly a writer - even the Ayatollah would have granted him that. "... journalists ..." And he's done that too. "... intellectuals ..."

Now, hold on a minute. I'll gladly admit that Mr Rushdie has an intellect that puts me down amongst the termites by comparison, but writer and journalist are jobs. They are something you work hard at, you produce something, you create something where previously there was nothing, and in exchange you get paid your daily crust. But intellectual ... that's an opinion, and a pretty self-inflated one at that.

"So what do you do?" / "I'm a writer" / "Oh, how interesting." It's a perfectly fair exchange that reflects nothing on either party. But, imagine the answer was "I'm an intellectual." It's just one syllable longer than saying, "me clever, you thick."

Of course, you might still answer "Oh, how interesting," but your thought processes will be more "must control urge to make loose circle of thumb and fingers and move wrist back and forth."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Green dust of death

Do not be alarmed. The green dust of death now drifting across Oxfordshire is not an alien invasion.

All this week we have been using a very handy dust sheet to catch the detritus of our decorating. This dust sheet has had many previous identities and for the last 14 years has more commonly been known as my living room carpet. Not to say that it is 14 years old -- no, no, it is much older. MUCH older. MUCH older.

And now it too has made its way to the great graveyard of all -- well, far too many -- of Ben's possessions (Drayton dump). The faint miasma of green that marked our passage should have dispersed by now and anyone living along Drayton Road can breathe safely.

This has also led to the discovery of a red tile fireplace in the living room. Fancy that.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Terracotta firma

Finally, the painting begins. All that must be stripped has been stripped; all that must be plastered and sanded has been plastered and sanded; all that must be filled with anti-meteorite emergency sealant has been filled with anti-meteorite emergency sealant. Nothing now stands in our way.

Houses are very robust systems. If we applied our brand of cheerful make-it-up-as-you-go-along optimistic common-sense workmanship to, say, a computer network or to brain surgery then there would be all sorts of trouble. But houses are built to last. Just do it, they say with a stoic sigh. Go on. We can take it. And they do.

This house is looking forward to becoming a family home. I feels it in me watter. An added bonus is that, by tracing this feeling, I can finally work out where me watter is located. It's bothered me for years.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

How to steal from B&Q

  1. get a trolley with a large transparent plastic bag already in it.
  2. put the item you desire to nick under the transparent plastic bag.
  3. check out.

Easy, eh? The cashier won't see what is under the transparent plastic bag and won't ring it up. The alarm barriers won't go off, either, when you pass through them. But for the sake of legality, boys and girls, I must urge you to do what we did and notice that you hadn't actually paid for it before leaving the store, which probably would make it an actual felony. Then return to the cashier and fess up. Try not to make comments to the effect of how difficult it is to see through transparent plastic bags.

All this, in case you hadn't guessed, was to buy further decorating tools. Most fun discovery: you know the emergency sealant foam that you get in all good space opera, when a disposable character is making his way down the ship's double hull towards the computer centre, to take control of the ship, and there's a space battle or a meteorite storm, and the hull is pierced, and the foam comes squirting in and tragically kills him? This stuff exists. It's made by Polyfilla and it comes in cans. Whee!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Changing rooms

Once, and not so long ago, this scene of bare plaster and tatty scraps of wallpaper was a comfortable living room (though the wallpaper was still pretty tatty). Here you see it in the equivalent of just-entering-the-chysalis stage - you know, the bit where the caterpillar starts to poo silk but hasn't quite made a house out of it. One day, and that day soon, this will be the master bedroom.

The transformation has begun ... more doubtless to follow.