Monday, July 31, 2006

Things I learnt on honeymoon

  1. Wedding rings tap against the gear stick when you change gear.
  2. Without your glasses, "Eliot The Mill on the Floss" looks like "Enjoy The Mice on the Floor"
  3. You don't miss writing. At all.
  4. Cornish moths aren't like their Oxford brethren, choosing to stay on the wall when you turn the light off. They come and join you in bed.
  5. Truro Cathedral is bent.
  6. Leaving your wedding is like going backstage after a show. Weddings usually end when the couple go away. When you are the couple, you're in new untrodden territory.
  7. One good turn gets most of the duvet.
Some, all or none of these may be elaborated on in future posts.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Conjugally matrimonified ...

... but not, as Gilbert & Sullivan would have had it, parsonified by a doctor of divinity who is located in this vicinity. No, it shall be a representative of the Crown that declares us able to indulge in the felicity of unbounded domesticity, in a little over 24 hours, at the Guildhall, followed by God’s stamp of approval at church. A certificate from the Queen followed by a thumbs-up from the creator deity: an interesting order of precedence but there you are.

It would be nice to think it’s all over bar the marriage bit. Yesterday I carelessly started on a list of final things to do today, writing on an A5 sheet. It is now a very cramped A5 sheet that needs transcribing to an A4. But apart from all that ...

This will probably be the last blog entry for a day or two so I thought I would share some thoughts on the topic of marriage.

It’s said to be on the rocks; marriage failure figures are frightening, though it’s never the same figure twice when I look. (Our photographer innocently referred to this as the wedding of Ben versus ... rather than Ben and ... Fortunately we don’t believe in omens.) Even if you factor out the marriages that were doomed from the start and should never have been entered into in the first place – shotgun marriages, knocked up teenagers, students, or just people who are so hopelessly romantic they don’t have a clue – I suspect the figures are still pretty high.

Some people don’t marry because they don’t believe in it, or can’t see the point of a piece of paper legalising the perfectly good relationship they have already. That’s their privilege and I won’t argue ... if they’re an adult with some life experience to back it up. (If on the other hand they’re a cynical teenager, especially one whose parents themselves are happily married – grow up, kid. I know you just want the fun of an adult relationship without the responsibility. Ain’t gonna happen.)

Some have been badly scorched by the whole experience, either to themselves or to someone close by. I thank the good Lord I haven't been, and I don’t have the right to lecture those who have.

And some people believe in it too strongly. This the weird bit. Marriage isn’t running down, as popular perception would have it. On the contrary, it has become elevated to ridiculous heights. This can have two outcomes. You can have a Victorian society where being married is so much the be-all and end-all that it excuses all kinds of hypocrisies and wrong doings behind the scenes. Or, you can have the present situation: “I just want it to be perfect.” Marriage is meant to mark the final perfection of a relationship, so people wait until they have that perfection ...

... and wait ...

... and wait ...

... probably don't find it with present partner, so ditch him/her for someone else ...

... and wait ...

So, you might fairly ask what we want ourselves. Well, Best Beloved is my closest friend, first and foremost – we wouldn’t be anywhere without that. She is something and someone to celebrate. She is worth the best I can give, and to me that means marriage – a defining moment at which we can say we began our lives together. And if I can be tediously religious for a moment, there’s no doubt in my mind that our relationship is a gift to us both from God – pure grace and generosity on his part, not deserved in the slightest on ours. Gifts from God are handled properly.

A couple I knew distantly had been cohabiting for years and then had a two year engagement. They couldn’t marry the year they got engaged because they’d already had their holiday, they couldn’t marry the next year because a big family holiday was already booked ... so they married the year after, and in the meantime just carried on as normal. Why couldn’t they just pop down to the registry office and do it there?

Because of course they wanted the show. Great Aunt Bertha had to be air lifted in from New Zealand. The bride had to glide down the aisle like a meringue Dalek while a small child had to be vat-bred to sprinkle rose petals in front of her. The couple had to be waved off by tearful relatives in a fairy tale coach pulled by white shire horses, and five generations of family and friends had to be treated to a sumptuous wedding feast of roast swan and truffles and a chocolate fountain while the Rolling Stones provided the music for the dance afterwards. Memories to last a lifetime, along with the loan repayments.

Well, yes, we too want to celebrate. Two lives are entwining; the wedding is the point at which they come together. Otherwise, our only anniversary would be furniture-moving-in day a couple of weeks ago, the hottest of the year at that point, which I’m more than ready to forget. Yes, thank you, I know the figures I mentioned earlier. You actually have a better chance of a happy marriage than of getting your first book published, and I managed that okay.

We decided in December that we wanted to marry and so we are. We’ve had a seven month engagement: most of that has been about getting the flat into decent order to have somewhere to live, and even our determinedly discount offer redecorating has probably cost more than the wedding. I will admit it does help being members of a church community, with many hero friends quietly helping out here and doing favours there. But we have the wedding we want – just the simple bringing together of two lives, surrounded by valued friends to witness the event, with not a shire horse or Dalek in sight, and the only meringue is in the pavlova. Honestly, what fool would want more?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The palace has a name!

Ridgeway House, apparently. Almost makes you want to move in, doesn't it? Sadly I will be otherwise occupied on Thursday 27th.

The line about "located in the superb grounds of ..." was presumably cut short for reasons of space. It should have finished: "... and only five feet away from a bolshie computer network company that doesn't appreciate the privilege of being witness to the cutting edge of modern structural design, but sod 'em because they're moving out next year anyway."

Was this what Flanders & Swann had in mind with their quip: "Architecture, said Hegel, is frozen music ... Donald Swann's music is often compared with defrosted architecture."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

So close, so very close

The Internet Movie Database reports that Macaulay Culkin and his girlfriend were holidaying in Haifa when Lebanese rockets hit the town. Shame on you for thinking what I bet you just thought.

The couple have since returned to the US. "We went to the beach, and there were tons of jellyfish," said Culkin - a native of the continent that gave us the black widow, the rattlesnake and poison ivy - "so we figured that even the sea was dangerous."

Yes, Mac, the Middle East is basically out to get you. Maybe now you've gone, things will settle down.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Resistance is futile

Longer term readers might remember the Portacabin Palace being built in our backyard at work. Follow the link for a reminder.

And here it is in all its modern hideousity. They put a third row of blocks on, bricked up the ground floor, clamped sheeting to the first and second, and put on that eye catching corrugated metal half barrel roof, having presumably run out of tiles. They left the green plastic wrappings on, beneath the bricks and the sheeting. Someone with a surgically removed sense of taste might think it looks quite swish - but we've seen what's under the skin and we know better, don't we, children?

It does serve a purpose: the westering sun used to shine right into the kitchen and raise the temperature to furnace level after mid-afternoon. This now casts a shadow so we can admire it in the merely quite warm.

The frightening thing is, it's been built to expand. New modular extensions will be added on in forthcoming years. There's presumably a vertical limit, but in principle this could just keep growing horizontally like some architectural cancer until eventually the entire Harwell site has been assimilated. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is the future. Get used to bowing down now.

London No

The Boy was meant to go up the London Eye with a school party today. The best laid plans ...

Honestly. Git.

Norfolk and good

For some reason I’ve been thinking of weddings recently and I suddenly remembered one such that we went to a couple of years ago, in Norwich. It was at a relatively early stage in our relationship, and while I was phoning around B&Bs in darkest Norfolk I asked – hypothetically – if all the single rooms were sold out, did we feel brave and mature enough to risk sharing a twin room? Feeling was that yes, we did. As it turned out this wasn't an issue because two singles were found quite easily.

It was a lovely ceremony, reception was fun too, and the happy couple were waved off into the pouring October rain. We repaired to our B&B, kissed goodnight and chastely withdrew to our separate chambers. And as I unpacked, I had a sudden insight into how God likes to combine protection and a sense of humour.

I’d forgotten to pack my pyjamas.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A feminist eventually, and then a change of subject

Under the heading "This is why I'm still a feminist", Liz Williams cites a sickening story from Saturday's Guardian about a so-called honour killing in a Muslim family. A young woman was butchered for daring to fall in love with the wrong guy - right religion, wrong background. The Guardian tells us 'The Old Bailey heard the method was "barbaric"', raising the question of whether there's actually a nice way to do it.

But being a perversely minded male, and while being able to see where Liz is coming from, I immediately asked myself: why is that a feminist issue? Because surely pinning down anyone and multiply stabbing them in front of their infant nieces is horrendous, regardless of gender. But then I thought a bit wider. Women of all cultures have been downtrodden much more than men; therefore these legacy bigotries are clung onto much more tenaciously by many cultures and, yes, religions (or at least religious interpretations) than any distorted image of manhood. Battered wives outnumber battered husbands. Male babies are generally valued. Male circumcision is (probably) less painful and certainly less damaging than the female kind. Male rape victims are a distinct minority.

So, fun as it would be to proclaim self-righteously that "actually I'm an everyone-ist, I treat everyone equally", the sheer weight of precedence means this has to be a feminist issue. The law can proclaim equality, but cultures and mindsets only follow suit when hearts and minds are changed; when people are taught that because women are just as important as men, therefore and ipso facto these medieval hangovers cannot be right.

On a separate bugbear, this is why church and state should be two absolutely distinct entities, and the state should be on top. The state should not care whose sensibilities it offends or whose toes it treads on. The state should be able to say, I don't care what your culture is - if you live in me then you respect my citizens, you do not murder them.

Now, yes, a state can go mad and bad - we've all seen that in the past hundred years - and it can be up to religion, or religious people, to put up an opposition. The difference is, it's far easier to change a bad state than a bad religion. A state is in one place, a religion is global. The basis of a state is that it makes a few simple laws to enable the general prosperity and safety of its citizens. The basis of a religion is that it's no more than a halfway house between here and a better hereafter. So, putting the state first seems the safer bet. The state should tolerate any and all religions, and indeed give them equal protection and rights, up to the point where they transgress certain basic principles, whereupon the state comes down on them like a ton of bricks.

The question is really what those certain basic principles should be ... I also realise that yes, this would give my beloved Church of England exactly the same status as the Scientologists or the Cult of the Invisible Pink Unicorns. But hey, I'm ranting, not debating, and my God can wipe the floor with yours. Bring it on.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fine apathetic absorber

That's an anagram of "Pirates of the Caribbean", by the way, as is "absorbent artifice heap". You can get "captains" out of it too, but the left over letters don't really make much sense.

Anyway, let's leave out the fact that the Flying Dutchman is a myth of the Cape of Good Hope, nowhere near the Caribbean. Pirates of The Caribbean has been watched and mostly enjoyed. It is however at least half an hour too long with inessential bits that could easily have been cut - the most obvious contender being the first quarter of the film. It badly lacks the narrative drive of the first movie, i.e. each scene leading on logically from one that has gone earlier and contributing to the story. All we needed was to get our heroes back on the Black Pearl; everything that happened beforehand was dispensable.

This first quarter also featured a gag which was repeated as a variant later on in the movie. This meant the repetition was a bit old, which is a shame because it was much funnier.

The bad (human) guy was suitably slimy and reptilian. Davy Jones was excellent, though never with the same calculated overacting that Barbossa had in the first one. A relatively minor character from the first one reappears halfway through to assume a much more important role, and though it carries on his story I didn't like what they did with him. In the first one he showed honour and courage; now they've just cheapened him.

By the end, I was quite frankly ready to give part three a miss ... except for the trick they pulled in the last thirty seconds, which suddenly means I'm really looking forward to it.

So, pretty good as sequels made for the sake of it go. Wiped the floor with the Matrix Redundant. Only 5/10 as good movies go generally, though.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Open letter to Abingdon Town Council

Dear Morons,

I suppose I should be grateful to you. Three reasons come reluctantly to mind.
  1. Saturday is a day traditionally associated with lie-ins. Who knows how many man hours are frittered away by people snatching an extra couple of hours in bed at the end of a long week? Your inspired decision to commence road works with a pneumatic drill outside my house at 6.20 this morning will have led to a wave of increased productivity all along this road.
  2. I have occasionally harboured the fantasy that I might be in some way psychically gifted. You know - able to send messages telepathically, move objects with my mind, that sort of thing. If this were true then the grieving widows of your work crew would now be having to identify their loved ones from the piles of ashes and occasional item of personal jewellery in the mortuary. You would also be having to explain to your insurers how the expensive equipment used has suddenly been reduced into piles of molten slag. So, clearly I am not a psychic - or at least not at a sufficiently advanced meta-operant level - and I thank you for clearing up any confusion.
  3. The sensation of heart failure when I couldn't access my email, and thought you might have severed the cable, was equivalent to several hours of hard cardiovascular workout in the gym. Thankfully it seems to be the server's fault, not yours, since as you can see my web access is fine.
So all in all, hats off to you boys, and keep up the good work.


Friday, July 14, 2006

No one's business but my own, really ...

The Boy managed to be born 14 years and 24 hours before our wedding day. As we'll probably have other things in mind on the exact anniversary, we had a birthday meal out at the Fox this evening.

The Fox thoughtfully sticks up current newspapers in the Gents, at eye level on the wall in front, for patrons to read while they stand and deliver. Sometimes it's the Telegraph; today it was the Mirror. Now, the Fox can't be held responsible for the adverts that the Mirror puts on its back page, but there's a time and a place to be asked in bold lettering: DO YOU HAVE AN ENDOWMENT SHORTFALL?

That's me, that is

Not everyone who reads this has met me. So to sum me up:

David, if you're interested then they have cricket leg pads amongst the accessories ...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thunderbugs are go

I have a strange fondness for thunder bugs. I don't know why but of all the vast and mighty insect kingdom, they are probably the cutest. They're not poisonous, they don't bite and they don't buzz annoyingly. Okay, in humid weather they can swarm and get everywhere, and they itch as they make their ponderous way across your body. But they mean no harm. It's like someone shook a page of type and all the semicolons fell off. They just want to get back home.

I tried to do this as a table, but Firefox puts a massive space in front of it and Explorer puts a massive space in front of the whole post. (Added later: because, I now realise, I did the table in Dreamweaver which set it to 100% width. But I can't be bothered to re-do it now.) So here in straight text is my attitude towards our six legged friends.

Thunder bug
  • Inside: will almost certainly live and let live, if it stays off me. Odds are shortened if it crawls across my monitor.
  • Outside: ditto
  • Inside: will probably help escape, but have been known to lose patience if bee is especially dense and resists rescue.
  • Outside: be free, little brother, and make lots of honey.
  • Inside: will almost certainly swat. Not half as hard as they think they are: one good zonk and they're down. Hah!
  • Outside: will watch warily. Fine if they eat dead caterpillars etc; less so if they go for my food.
  • Inside: will almost certainly spray, 'cos it's easiest.
  • Outside: ignore. There's too many of them.
  • Inside: die you bastard, die die die. And there's another! Think you're hard enough? Do you? Bring it on!
  • Outside: probably won't notice, unless I feel it settle on me.
  • Inside: will almost certainly help it out.
  • Outside: pretty!
  • Inside: have become more tolerant in my old age; still uneasy with the big flappy kind, especially if I'm about to turn the light out.
  • Outside: will probably be dark, so won't notice.
Daddy Longlegs
  • Inside: urge to swat is generally overcome by pity at something so pathetic.
  • Outside: plenty of room for us both.

Biologist J.B.S. Haldane is credited with remarking that if God exists, then to judge by his creation we can deduce he has "an inordinate fondness for beetles" because there's so many of them. He must love the thunder bugs, then.

It was a dark and stormy night ...

No, it wasn't Snoopy who first wrote this famous opening line, it was Edward Bulwer-Lytton in a novel written in 1830. Snoopy simply immortalised it and the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has now been running annually since 1982. To enter, contestants are simply invited to write the opening lines of a thankfully imaginary novel, couched in good traditional Bulwer-Lyttonic prose.

Results for 2006 are now in.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Diamond no longer shines

Radio 2 is at this very moment playing Pink Floyd's "Shine on you crazy diamond", a song penned in tribute of Syd Barrett, who died (physically) today and (mentally) many, many years ago.

Except that, of course, Syd didn't write "Shine on you crazy diamond". Something he actually penned might have been a better idea. Couldn't go much wrong with "See Emily play" ...

And through it all ...

One of the more irritating aspects of the civil wedding process is the dire warning about including religious content of any, and I mean any kind.

Fr'instance, in your choice of readings they would look seriously askance at Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I love thee", for its line "if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death." Comes across suspiciously like a prayer, dunnit? However, Shakespeare's "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" has the line "Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines," but that's acceptable because it's a poetic way of talking about the sun. It took a phone call to the Senior Registrar to establish that we could have Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet," which isn't at all religious but is about, you know, a prophet. (Not the synthesiser, either.) I would love to see the looks if we wanted Meatloaf's "Bat out of Hell," or anything by Genesis or Black Sabbath. Robbie Williams' "Angels" is acceptable because it's about his mum – so that’s our entrance music sorted, then. (Not really.)

I had always assumed this was some legal thing because religion was like grit in the wheels of the civil process and got in the way, possibly casting doubt and ambiguity on the proceedings. Not at all, it turns out: the reason is because it upsets the religious authorities, who don’t like the civil authorities muscling in on their privileges of marrying people.

This comes over as a little rich, as many people (e.g., to pluck a random sample out of thin air, us) only have a civil wedding in the first place because the religious authorities won't let us do it in church. For the religious authorities to then start whining ... Gaah.

Of course, it doesn't really upset them - not most of them. No one from our particular church would raise an eyebrow, and surely if you think that one of your guests will be offended by something then you simply don't invite them - but that doesn't work here because in principle any clergyman (or imam / rabbi / shaman / lama) could wander in off the street without invitation. In other words, the people most likely to be upset are the people who will deliberately go out of their way to gatecrash and be upset. Why exactly do we care what these people think?

But that's my usual irritation at irrationality, not because I feel hard done by. Friends who went through a similar civil+blessing process last year told us they wouldn't have done it any other way even if they could, and I see what they mean. Both services are extremely flexible and almost infinitely customisable to your precise wishes (homeopathic traces of religion aside), and having two just gives us all the more opportunity to include the songs, poems, passages etc that really mean something to us. Even if one particular relative by marriage has said he'll only do a reading if he gets a lectern like in Police Academy. Yes, it's shaping up to be a good day and no, we wouldn't do it any other way either.

Friday, July 07, 2006

What do you see?

Does this look like a little boy who is happy to be sitting on his daddy's knee?

Some random web browsing has taken me back to the eighties (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and Karel Fialka's "Hey Matthew" (which is ... hmm).

Karel Fialka had two hit songs that I can name, seven or eight years apart. For the second and more successful one he pressganged his little boy Matthew, who must have been about five at the time. The song involves the two of them sitting in front of the TV while Karel croons about television violence and Matthew looks more and more worried - "my psychotic daddy has made me wear this Spiderman outfit and is chanting at me about guns and bombs." He lightens up as the song progresses and even starts smiling, sometimes grooving to the music, having realised that the sooner he can humour daddy, the sooner he can get away from this hell. At one point they are joined by a woman who is either Mrs Fialka or an actress hired to represent her. I suspect the latter as she does nothing to stop this abuse beyond a vain attempt to grab the camera for herself. But it's Matthew's childhood that Karel has determined to blight and he makes sure the camera stays on the boy.

There is a lot of red in the Fialka household. Possibly for a reason.

Matt gets a word or two of his own in as the song progresses. In the first chorus he lists a random selection of 80s series he has apparently watched, even though shows like Dynasty and Dallas were on well after a five year old should have been in bed (and Airwolf was good). In the second he lists the professions he wants to be when he's older: turn down the sound and it looks like he's running through auditions for the various roles in the Junior Village People. One thing he conspicuously doesn't say is "I want to be like you, daddy." A tear wells in your eye at his last words, "It's all a game ... I hope ... I hope ..." Even now, his faith in his daddy is such that he thinks this was just recorded privately and will never be released publicly to a waiting nation. Oh Matthew, how wrong you were.

A web search on "Matthew Fialka" minus Karel gets four hits and they still refer to the song. A search for Matt Fialka gets nothing at all. He has either changed his name or is keeping a VERY low profile, possibly as a gaucho in deepest Patagonia.

"Hey Matthew" is to music as Stinking Bishop is to food: it's different, it's distinctive, you will certainly remember it, but it's still cheese. Watch at and enjoy. Or not.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I wish my friends wouldn't do this ...

... because then I have to do it too. Yes, it's more of those web tests that tell you so much yet so little about yourself.

For anyone who's ever wondered this about me ...

You Are a Boston Creme Donut

You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.
But on the inside, you're a total pushover and completely soft.
You're a traditionalist, and you don't change easily.
You're likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it's sold out.

Sadly, quite perceptive. Next: Ben takes on the world ...

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

This really is a little simplistic. I have, yes, been to North America. I have spent a week each in San Jose, Toronto and Boston, with day trips to San Francisco and Niagara Falls. I have stayed at least one night in St Louis, New York and Washington. I've changed planes at LAX and Philadelphia, and changed trains in Chicago en route from St Louis to NYC. But that hardly qualifies me as claiming the entire territory from the Mexican border to the North Pole, does it?

Likewise, the week I spent in Moscow and then-Leningrad hardly qualifies me as succeeding where Napoleon and Hitler failed (though I like to think I have succeeded against some of their other failings: reasonably non-inflated self-image, not started any wars ...).

But hey, it's fun.

And finally, web site of the day: I really should be revising my will soon, what with impending matrimony (the Boy can't believe he isn't on it yet), so maybe ...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Still waiting for the jetpacks, though

A few years ago I was staying in a hotel and reading the little advice card they put out for guests. One of the items was: "in the event of a medical emergency, just call the doctor on this number - no STD."

So I bore that in mind for my planned activities that weekend.

This came to mind today as the department to which I am effectively seconded at work, the Advanced Technologies Group, has now become the Strategic Technologies Division. Snarf, sniggle, snort.

Speaking of advanced technologies, this flat's non-stop progression towards the Singularity continues unabated with my taking advantage of NTL's three-into-one bundling offer. I already had an NTL phone and broadband but now the unholy trinity has been completed with digital TV. The effects are already making themselves apparent. My usual televisual fare over dinner is a Simpsons I've seen a thousand times previously, or a Frasier I've seen once or twice - but this evening I watched a Malcolm in the Middle that I've only ever seen once before. Once! Can nothing halt this breakneck progress?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ben: moderately gluttonous but not really lustful

The doctrine of Purgatory was invented by a micro-managing church that couldn't bear the thought of people's souls slipping out of its control just because they had died.

At least, that's what I will tell them when I get there, which apparently I am going to do.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

I may also mention (when I get there) that Article XXII of the Church of England calls Purgatory "a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God." On second thoughts, rather than risk making enemies I should probably check first: having reached Purgatory, can you slip back? Or is it like one of the guaranteed levels on Who Wants to be a Millionaire: you might not get any more but you won't get any less?

Let's hear it for grace.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bambi on the shelf

"Shelves," Best Beloved has been saying ever since we learnt we would one day be living under the same roof. And, "Cupboards." And, "Shelves and cupboards."

"Can I get you a cup of cupboard? Would you like some shelf with that?"

Yesterday it changed to: "I get the impression you weren't expecting this many boxes."

You live and learn. My new family's furniture moved in over the weekend. An interesting experience. Why does dimensional transcendentalism only belong to the Time Lords? Couldn’t they at least license it out? I would even put up with the circles set into the walls. You could put things in them. Still, by the end of yesterday I could reach the sink and wash up breakfast, which was more than I could do that morning. Progress is being made. Also, there's plenty of walls where shelves and cupboards can go, the ceilings are practically unused apart from the lights, and we can always take up our freshly installed carpets and put some trapdoors in (though the flat downstairs may object).

So, worldly goods take up volume – that's one fact of life learnt from the last 48 hours. Another is that even if you take two technically identical go-carts, and their drivers both put pedal to the metal, and one driver is a 10-stone teenager and the other is Ben, then the go-cart with the 10-stone teenager will accelerate faster. I'm a pretty good driver; I also know about keeping close to the curves, steering into the skid and all that. So I can block – but let the little buggers past you and you eat their rubber for the rest of the session.

I don't know why go-carting is fun but it is. You go at a pace that would be maddeningly leisurely in a normal car, but it feels like the speed of sound. Your wrists ache like hell after a few minutes as you constantly hold the cart into its turn when it would really rather be Newtonian and keep going straight on. And let's not even think of the environmental implications. Maybe that's why a session costs £21. Carbon tax.

I had my stag do a few weeks ago but that was for grown-ups. I'm also a youth group leader and I consider it my duty to introduce young minds to as many concepts as I can that are legal, moral and age appropriate. So I thought I would have a youth stag do as well. Hence the go-carting at Oxford Stadium (a picture may follow) followed by dinner at Pizza Express. The party after us was a group of about 10 teen girls, just to show that it's not all testosterone and Y-chromosomes. Possibly a youth hen party?

Pizza Express introduced the lads to a real grown-up hen party, though, hosted by the Abingdon Mutton-Dressed-As-Lamb convention. 1920s flappers only really looked good in the 1920s and even then you had to have the figure for it, and I bet very few 1920s flappers had tattoos – at least, not like this lot. But the one whose dress was made of reflective yellow high-vis material certainly made a lasting impression, if only on the retinas.

We tried to think of an official term for youth stag. The only youthful stag we could think of was Bambi, but if I say I took a group of teenagers to a Bambi party, or refer to them as "my Bambis", I could well have strange looks cast at me and be stripped of my CRB-cleared status. So I think I'll end here.