Monday, January 29, 2007

We'll make a publisher of him yet

To Abingdon's Unicorn Theatre on Saturday, for to see Mr Briggs's Feet of Clay, adapted from an original work by Mr Pratchett. (I still have ticket # 00001 for 1992's Mort, which I choose to believe may be valuable on eBay one day, even though there was no eBay in 1992.)

The programme turned out to contain coded messages - every few words you come across a letter in bold type, which added together make a clue as to how Lord Vetinari is (or rather, isn't) being poisoned.

And it was the Boy who spotted the bold letters, with a disparaging comment about the programme's print quality. [Ben's voice begins to wobble] I'm so proud ...

Friday, January 26, 2007


The case study was written by a techie type at one of our customer organisations. For some unknown techie type reason he had chosen the medium of bold italic GREEN Times New Roman.

I gave it a title. I took out words like "seperacy" and I made my best guess as to what was actually meant by sentences like "The implementation can be broken down into a number of areas of interest which are often asked question but people considering exploring VoIP." My editorial skills were a fine-toothed comb run through the tangled knot of verbiage. Beneath my nimble fingers on the keyboard, a pig's ear was transformed into a silk purse.

Then came the editorial board ...

Any document that goes before the gaze of the public has to pass through the editorial board first. This consists of at least one technical person from the division concerned, to check that the document is, yanno, right. And the division head to check it fits into the overall grand plan for world domination of the internet. And the division communications manager who needs to know what the division is communicating. And my two colleagues, and our line manager, who check the commas, and our director who checks the company isn't saying anything silly that will upset our funding bodies. Any of the above has the power of veto.

Our (usually very literate) director's sole comment on the ed board form? "Good written piece of work."

Bad joke

I went into B&Q. A bloke dressed in orange came up and asked if I wanted decking.

Fortunately I got the first punch in.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Petition, petition, we all fall down

So the clock radio switched itself on at the normal time and announced the headlines from the Today programme: the Catholic church is still pushing the government to give it an exemption from the gay adoption laws, and BA is going on strike. In my wake-up wooziness I thought how interesting it would be the other way round: BA calls on the government, church goes on strike.

But speaking of asking the government things, the wonderful Lady Bracknell has led me to this site. No. 10 has a site where anyone (apparently) can post a petition on any topic they care to name, and people can sign it. Of course, the chances of the Divine Helmsman actually reading any are slightly lower than Germany passing a law that makes holocaust denial compulsory for under-11s, but hey, this is yer real actual people-enabling joined-up e-government, so don't knock it.

Most, but not all the fun can be had by browsing petitions in reverse order of number of sign-ups. I was quite amused that as of today, re-introducing corporal punishment and stopping bull fighting are listed together - scope for a little synergy there, maybe.

There is quite a bit of duplication - at least two people want to grant Steve Winwood honours for his contributions to music (!?) - and mutual annihilation (scrap the Hunting Act / tighten it up even further; give Cornwall independence / make it even more part of the UK; no faith schools / every school a faith school; and so on). But here are some choice nibbles.
But my favourites are some of those aimed directly at the PM himself. You can if you so choose petition Tony to:
The last of which has 2767 signatures at the time of writing and expires on 16 August this year, if anyone's interested.

This is a first

My first ever Nigerian spam ... en Francais. And it purports to come from a woman of Austrian descent in South Africa. How multi-cultural.
"J'ai recu votre adresse de contact d’une connai ssance digne de confiance dont je prefere garder le nom secret pour le moment. Je vais aller droit au but, j’ai une offer d’affaire rentable a vous soumetre, il s’agit d’un transfert d;une valeure de 22.5millions de dollar americain, comme vous le comprendrez surement, je voudrai vous demander une total discetion concsernant mon nom qui est DR. Susana wolfgang. Je suis la veuve de monsieur Michael wolfgang. Je suis nee en afrique du sud , mes grand parents sont autrichiens d'origine. Mon defunt mari a heriter l”entreprise de ses parents, qui sont plusieurs hotels en afrique du sud, des magasins et quelques entreprises agricoles."
The format is pretty recognisable in any language, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Foreigners still funny, so let's laugh at them

The original poster of this little gem says it best: "The Japanese decided to make a brand new title sequence featuring images of destruction and death, then got little kiddies to sing over it."

Behold the magnificence that is the opening titles of Captain Scarlet, in Japanese.

And it gets better: they did the same to Thunderbirds. This sneakily starts off as per normal, but get to the end of the countdown sequence and see if you can spot the difference.

Our church's teen youth group, aided and abetted by a leader who really should have known better, once did a worship chorus to the tune of the Thunderbirds theme. If we'd known about this, we would probably have realised we were outclassed and shuffled off in shame.

Tie me ectoplasm down, boy

Now here's an idea for a story. As chat over lunch turned (somehow) to ouija boards we got this gem from an esteemed colleague: "Isn't that what Rolf Harris used?"

Can you guess who it is yet?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Shouldn't boast, but ...

... on the other hand, why not?

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Though I will confess to at least one guess. Still, I was pretty certain that the guy who got swallowed by a big fish was not called Hootie, and whatever got created on the fourth day did not include MySpace.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Something to agree on

In my more charitable moods, I merely pity the headmaster I had between ages 8-13. I can't comment on his strengths or weaknesses as a husband (doubtless faithful and loving), a father (doubtless an inspiration to his children) or a soldier (doubtless fought bravely for his King in WW2). I can't even really comment on him as a teacher - I'm pretty sure he taught me history in my last year but it's just a blank, apart from one thing which I'll come to. But he taught me other things in other ways ...

His ability to walk into a room where absolutely no one was misbehaving, identify at least two offenders and punish them was staggering. (It was never just one offender, because - mantra #1 - "It takes two to make a fight.") Nor could anyone else who had witnessed the event, or lack of it, bear testimony for their friends. Mantra #1a - "Do you really expect me to believe that?", with the very strong implication that you should stand down now, or join them in whatever punishment he had devised.

So he taught me that where theory (or ideology, or dogma) and fact disagree, fact wins every time.

He taught me that standing by your beliefs if your beliefs are wrong and lack any factual basis is not actually worthy of respect. I have never subscribed to the "you have to admire the courage of his convictions" theory. Not if he's a pillock, you don't. And the more you use sheer authority to steamroller your view of reality through in the face of all fact and reason, the more contemptible and pathetic you look.

He would move goalposts, or abolish goalposts altogether. Conditions would be set for X to happen; the conditions would be met and often exceeded; but X would not happen because he simply changed his mind. So he taught me to let your yay be yay and your nay be nay, and he taught me to look ahead. If it looks like you're going to make it a nay anyway, just say so.

He taught me that you can base your authority on fear, or respect, but respect really is better.

And sadly he taught me two things on which we can both actually agree. (By which I mean, on purpose and by direct example.)

The one thing I remember from his history lessons is a throwaway remark I made about "primitive times", by which I think I meant around the 17th or 18th century. His margin note was: "careful, in many ways they were more civilised than us." An unexpected shaft of open-mindedness, which is maybe why it stuck.

And the other was mantra #2, "any fool can be uncomfortable". School expeditions were always well equipped, with everyone dressed appropriately for the weather of the day. Which is why, having just come back from a pleasant post-prandial stroll around the park with Best Beloved, warmly muffled against a biting wind in coat and scarf and hat and gloves, I feel moved to write this.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Toilet humour

Someone in this house - and I have my suspicions who - leaves empty toilet rolls in the toilet roll holder.

They don't have a couple of scraps left on, and the next roll in line has not been plundered of its first few squares. The roll is exactly finished.

I can think of three possible explanations.
  1. Yer modern Tesco toilet roll is precisely calculated by computer to match the toiletary needs of a family of three (with a complex algorithm that caters for the needs of the occasional visitor too).
  2. This person likes to round up to the nearest square.
  3. This person prefers to suffer mild discomfort rather than go to the bother of opening up a new roll to finish off what the old roll began.
I may ask him this person, just out of interest.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hans the Grumpy German

Everyone should have an alter ego. For the last 10 years Hans has accompanied me every time I have ventured beyond the borders of Her Majesty's realms. Now, however, he has been retired, to be replaced by someone who quite disconcertingly actually looks a bit like me.

To see what his replacement looks like, and to find out what name I will give him, come back in 2017. Or when I need a new passport because the Americans decide that travellers will need finger prints, brain waves, retina scans and bodily fluid samples encoded in their biometric chips. Whichever is sooner.

Meanwhile, wiedersehen, mein alter Freund.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Coffee anon

A student friend at university introduced me to coffee bags. Compare the etymology of ‘coffee bag’ to the very similar ‘tea bag’ and you get a pretty good idea – in fact, exactly the right idea – of what a coffee bag does. They need to steep a bit longer than the tea version, but otherwise you’re there. They’re almost as convenient as instant and, being made of real coffee, they taste a lot nicer.

A second-year flatmate with the mild perversion of sticking her nose into the jar of tea bags and inhaling the aroma nearly blew her head off when she accidentally tried it with the wrong jar, but otherwise I held and still hold them to be a good idea.

I took the concept with me when I started work and it lasted until 1998, when I finally started working for a firm with decent filter stuff on tap. And with that, for some reason they faded from memory and habit, even though the filter coffee-providing job only lasted two years.

The present place uses tea and coffee making facilities provided by a firm called Flavia. The nicest thing you can say about the flavour of Flavia is that the two words share four letters, perhaps in the hope that no one will notice they don’t share anything else. And yet I have put up with this – indeed, I have literally stomached it – for nearly three years. Until, across the gulf of years my ears picked up the faintest call ... ‘coffee bags ...!

And so I am back to coffee bags. I’m now on my third of the day. They’ve changed in the last nine years. They now come in a big square box, and each one is individually foil wrapped and stamped with instructions for how to make a cup of coffee. From this I deduce the average intelligence of coffee bag users has deteriorated since 1998, so clearly I have a duty to raise it slightly. One more indication that I’ve made the right choice. It’s nice to be right.

A Potter that the evangelicals will enjoy

The morality is impeccable. The stick-in-the-mud mum and dad are respected and honoured. Ah ... there are animals that wear clothes, and as I vaguely recall hearing that CS Lewis has been denounced in some quarters as satanic because he has talking animals, that may not do.

Anyway, Miss Potter. Beatrix Potter was the kind of author that should not be allowed. She swanned into authoring without the slightest idea of how it’s done and made becoming an overnight success look easy. RenĂ©e Zellweger is the kind of actress who shouldn’t be allowed. She’s from Texas and talks like a Southern belle in her native accent, yet plays an English Victorian spinster to perfection. So the two are really meant for each other. And the love of her life is played by Ewan McGregor, another fake English accent thrown seamlessly into the mix.

Some may say proto-feminist. Some may say benign and harmless schizophrenic – or that could just be the way the movie shows her actually seeing her painted animals moving around her. But she was clearly a remarkable woman – proto-scientist and environmentalist; talented artist; single and happy with it at 36! (gasp) – and the film gets her very nicely.

It was fun watching colour printing in a day when you couldn’t just adjust Saturation and Hue in Photoshop. You had to re-ink the presses instead. And what also helped me with the movie was that Beatrix and the men in her life were all too old to be called up for WW1. I find it hard watching any late Victorian or Edwardian setting without feeling depressed at the knowledge that in ten years time they will all go to the Western Front and probably die ...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My work is done for another generation

I was delighted at Christmas to see my almost-four-year-old nephew playing with a toy Thunderbird 1. I was less delighted to hear him describe it as "a rocket". Suddenly his birthday present list for January more or less wrote itself.

I'm now told that his new Thunderbirds vol 1 DVD is all he ever wants to watch. Excellent ... [rubs hands together]

A few years ago I had the pleasure of andersonising No. 2 Godson in a similar way, under the auspices of the fictitious charity CULTURE - Campaign for Unveiling to Little Tots Useful and Relevant Experiences. I may make this a full time thing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Spreading Oates

Lawrence Oates was an Antarctic explorer who originated the famous "I may be some time," a line reported by the shortly-to-be-equally-late Capt Scott.

Titus Oates was a failed 17th century priest who fabricated a Catholic plot on the life of Charles II.

Lawrence was nicknamed Titus by his friends in the Antarctic. But even so, you'd expect the BBC to get it right.

UPDATE: Hah! They have corrected it and the story now refers to him as Lawrence "Titus" Oates. Which they distinctly did not to yesterday morning when I first read the story. Once again the media of the world bend before me like wheat in a hurricane.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Greeks have a word for it

So do the Brits, and that word is "omygodohmygodsugarrushsugarrushsugarrushbleearrruuurrrkk".

This little baby is apparently a Greek delicacy. The core consists of a quite pleasant spongy biscuity sort of thing, wrapped in a mantle of pure icing sugar on average about 5mm deep. When my Greek colleague returned from his break and produced the box this morning, everyone assumed (perhaps not very diplomatically) it was Turkish Delight - interestingly shaped lumps warping the surface of an untrodden sea of icing sugar. Now the box is empty, the leftover icing sugar is still about 2cm deep.

You need a napkin, you need strong coffee and you need to be not remotely diabetic. If you can manage all those - yum.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Murdoch is my washpot

Last week this blog featured an entry mentioning the charity Sense in Science and Celebrity Big Brother.

So did the Body & Soul section of Saturday's Times.

Last week this blog featured a rant that included, amongst other things, my difficulty in hearing conversation at parties.

The Body & Soul section of Saturday's Times featured a piece on how to hear what people are saying to you under such conditions.

One, I could dismiss as coincidence. But two? Plainly, Murdoch's hacks are picking up hints on great stories from this blog. I have his mighty media empire in the palm of my hand.

He's my bitch.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ethics, or maybe just Middletheks

Is there a morality to this blog? Do I have Standards that I will not Compromise?

It had never really occurred to me to ask. I try not to embarrass people; I try not to be mean; I try not to spread misinformation. But these are really life statements about myself that my web site ought to reflect.

Then out of the blue I get not one but two emails from something called Tamar: The Search Conversion Agency. Will I accept between £30 and £50 per annum to put sponsored links on the site? They've sent me some sample URLs of existing customers who have taken up the offer and they all seem kosher. The links are all for travel insurance. I don't know if you get a good deal or not.

But ... I don't want content on my site that I can't guarantee. Now you ask. So no, thanks, I am turning down the kind offer of between £30 and £50 per annum.

Stick another 0 on the end and ... hopefully I would say exactly the same thing. But who knows?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

People of Britain, I thank you

... for borrowing twice as many of my books from our excellent public libraries in 2006 as in 2005. This I have learnt today from my annual public lending right statement. And as per last year, guess what, the hack work is streets ahead of Original Ben.

The precise numbers are between me and the taxman, so let's just say that the following titles have paid for the following percentages of our bathroom redecoration:
  • Vampire Plagues London: 30%
  • Vampire Plagues Paris: 25%
  • Vampire Plagues Mexico: 17%
  • Midnight Library: End Game: 12%
  • The New World Order: 6%
  • The Xenocide Mission hb: 4%
  • The Xenocide Mission pb: 3%
  • His Majesty's Starship: 1%
  • Winged Chariot: 1%
Which doesn't quite make 100% but that's because some figures are rounded up, down or sideways. But my gratitude is a full 100% yours.

Add your voice to the sound of the crowd

I've never been one of life's great socialisers. In any of those personality tests where you're asked to place yourself on a scale of "small company of select friends" to "large crowd of people who love you," I'm with the small select every time.

Various things have compounded this effect. Constantly coming home from school and finding we'd moved house was one of them; it wasn't a great incentive to establish new relationships. Another is being a Christian public school science fiction fan from a military background - four very key areas of my identity about which the world at large knows and understands nothing. Even those who are knowledgeable in one of the above will probably be completely ignorant in the others. So it was never easy to find people with something in common to talk to.

Didn't stop me trying, due to the unspoken pressure that this was in some way abnormal. Even if the threat of "if you don't accept invitations, you won't get invitations" sounded more to me like a promise, I cheerfully made my way with gritted teeth to teenage party after teenage party, and then student party after student party, always wondering if this would be the one where I learnt to get on with strangers. It never was, and probably would not have been even if there hadn't always been a steady background of loud pulsating music that made conversation impossible except by semaphore. I find it hard enough to hear in a crowd anyway, without music, when the general buzz of conversation is somewhere around my shoulder level. If I tell you that 6'5" me once spent the night on the back seat of a Ford Fiesta rather than stick one of those parties for another minute, let alone all night like it was meant to be ... that's how fond I was of them.

Until, the crunch ...

How well I remember it. New Year's Eve, 1996. A black tie occasion. Turn up at six, chat to strangers till 12, go home. The direst, most crashingly dull, boring and uninteresting party I have EVER been to. I can do this for a couple of hours ... but SIX? And not even a sit-down meal in the meantime, just nibbles. Also, to the four key areas mentioned, I'd by now added a fifth and sixth in my life - writing and publishing - which didn't help.

But there was more to my inability to communicate, and I finally realised it when at one point I was talking to a woman I vaguely knew and it went something like this:

- "So what are you doing, Ben?"
- "I'm ..."
- "Are you going to get any taller?"
- "I ..."
- "What did you do for Christmas?"
- [draw breath]
- "Would you like to nail me to the wall, gag me and answer my questions politely in the order that I asked them?"

Sadly she didn't actually ask me that last one because the answer was yes, and I would have. Politely. I was brought up to be polite, unlike her, or a friend of hers who then turned up and proceeded - by some magic - to have a conversation in the same clipped, coded manner. Somehow they were communicating information that maintained a relationship. I have no idea how, but on the plane on which they exist, that was how it was done. It was almost interesting to watch. But eventually I turned and walked away, fighting the urge to walk between them. Which would not have been polite.

And that was when it sunk in. I am not abnormal. I am not (that) unfriendly or grumpy. My brain simply isn't wired to the social expectations that these people live in. For some people, this is normality. For me it is not. I don't need them, they don't need me, we have zilch in common so why force it? Live and let live, and hopefully meet them in heaven one day.

So I actually made a new year's resolution, and have kept to it. No parties that I don't want to go to. Ever again.

I can and do go to conventions, publishing events etc, and even parties, which may still be full of strangers and only very passing acquaintances, but where I can reasonably expect that we will all have something in common. But I no longer have to subject myself to the sheer hell of socialising for the non-fun of it.

January 1997. Exactly ten years ago. Happy anniversary.

Friday, January 05, 2007

No longer completely New World Order

An encouraging review of New World Order by the lovely John Toon has appeared on Infinity Plus. If you look at the URL it's strangely filed under "nonfiction", but there you go.

Thanks, John. Much appreciated.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

One step forward, two steps back

Stars must check science facts, says a story on the BBC site. A charity called Sense About Science exists, amongst other things, to get celebrities to find out a few facts before lending their media weight to stories that may not be 100% accurate, like linking the MMR jab to autism. And quite right too.

The next story down on the same page: Stars begin Big Brother journey, as the latest shovelload of has-beens heads for the euthanasia cubicle Big Brother house. I confidently predict that late-into-the-night conversations between Cleo Rocas and Dirk Benedict as to the scientific accuracy of Battlestar Galactica will not be taking place.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Monday, January 01, 2007

The hooded man

I've not had a coat with a hood for years. The last one must have been about twenty years ago, and as it was a coat that could double up for sailing wear, the hood in question was a plastic flap that kept the rain off but wasn't really comfortable.

But ...

I now have a black Eisenegger coat from my usual Stert Street tailor that is fine apart from missing a toggle on one of the draw strings and a broken retaining strap for the mobile phone pocket. It has a hood lined with artificial fluff. I love it. Put up the hood and your head is warm. Rain is kept off. Wind dies down to a background noise. I instantly feel warm and drowsy and want to go to sleep. I love it.

Hoods have their drawbacks. They don't move with the head, giving you limited peripheral vision. You couldn't have a decent sword fight in one of them, which strangely is not that much of an issue with my present lifestyle. More to the point, you can wear a hat if you're driving and the car's heater hasn't kicked in yet, but you really shouldn't wear a hood. If you're heading into the wind, you have to draw them tight or keep your head down. If you put one up just because it's cold, rather than raining, you look silly.

So hats are probably more practical, unless you're a Jedi and can use the Force. But I love my hood.

The digit turns

Okay, the intention was to go to the church's New Year party, or at least stick our noses round the door, or maybe just hand a pudding in through the door before retiring. But we were tired, and it was dark and wet and windy ... so, a quiet night in, with:

  • The West Wing - last episode of the first series, giving a nice sense of completion as I originally started watching it at the first episode of the second, which picks up straight after. (Well, duh.)
  • first two episodes of my Christmas present, "The Invasion" DVD. For the uninitiated this is a grainy b&w Troughton-era Dr Who story and, as cyberman invasion stories go, is approximately five hundred and thirty seven and three quarter billion miles better than anything you may have seen in the last year. Episodes two and four have been lost except for the soundtracks, so the DVD now features animated versions with the original sounds. A neat idea which could be extended to the many other missing episodes.
  • And that was meant to be a nice early bed time, but apparently the Boy badly needed to be helped watch Torchwood. Um. Do the producers honestly think that no one has ever seen Fight Club? (Itself a hugely over-rated movie.) However, I grant them a grudging point or two for having an estate agents called Lynch & Frost. Extra points to anyone who can see why that amuses me.
  • by now getting quite late, so a couple of minutes of Greatest Ever Screen Chases. One of those endlessly annoying programmes where twits you have never heard or want to hear of natter endlessly about how good something is, interspersed with fragments - but only fragments, never the entirety - of the item in question. Here's a thought. Why not The Most Annoying Ever Talking Heads show, where a miscellany of twits natter on about, for example, how annoying the twit was who was nattering on about how good The Italian Job was?
  • then, mostly by dint of snatching the remote control, over to the last half hour of the Father Ted Christmas Special. Yeah, yeah, I've seen it before. So what. Still funny.
  • Five minutes of the Big Fat Quiz of the Year. Kill. Me. Now.
  • Finally, midnight and a really quite spectacular firework display at the London Eye. Unfortunate flashback to the not one but two consecutive New Year's Eves spent as a student in Trafalgar Square, shivering my nads off in the drizzle and wondering if the fun had started yet. Peer pressure. I was a martyr to it.
Anyway, so long 2006. Here's a game you can play.

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
Got married.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No and no.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Some people known to me; no one particularly close.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
More money, restored windows, no mice.

7. What date from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
22 July. See (1) above.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, see (1) above again.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Doesn’t really count as a failure, but the first book of a proposed children’s series I’ve been struggling with for several years finally got hit on the head. To the benefit of all concerned.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing more than the occasional cold.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
New carpets.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Lots of people’s; most of all everyone who helped make 22 July so special.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Those Israeli children painting messages on the rockets about to be fired into Lebanon. I am past being appalled and depressed by Bush & Blair; nowadays I just have expectations confirmed.

14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage.

15. What events did you get really, really, really excited about?
See (1) above ...

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?
Nothing in particular. Will always be reminded of the wedding by any or all of our songs: "To God be the glory", "In Christ alone", "Lord for the years" and (most of all, due to Geoff’s heroic 8-minute solo rendition) "St Patrick’s Breastplate".

17. Compared to this time last year, you are
More married and slightly lighter.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Reading and writing.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Sitting in traffic queues.

20. How will you spend Christmas?
Spent it at home, then down to parents on Boxing Day.

21. Did you fall in love in 2006?
No, just got ever deeper into it.

22. What was your favourite TV programme?
I imagine that would be Dr Who ...

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Don’t think I’ve ever hated anyone. As such.

24. What was the best book you read?
I forget if I read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in early 2006 or late 2005. Even if it was the latter, it’s good enough to last into the next year. And I definitely read Thud last year, which says all you could ever want to know about the evils of fundamentalism.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery or rediscovery?
Geoff has a great pair of lungs!

26. What did you want and get?
See (1) above.

27. What did you want and not get?
A book contract.

28. What were your favourite films of this year?
Didn’t see that many. The Prestige is probably the best, i.e. the one that would most stand up to re-watching.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
41. Got interviewed for a new position at work, which I didn’t get.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
As it already was immeasurably satisfying it’s hard to be immeasurably more satisfying.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
Much the same as last year except that I now have a wedding ring and a coat with a hood. I may write about this separately.

32. What kept you sane?
Best Beloved.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?
Iraq. Of course.

34. Whom did you miss?
A shame various people couldn’t make point (1) above, but no one was terminally missed.

35. Who was the best new person you met?
The only new people I met were new arrivals at work, so therefore they must be the best by default. Fortunately I like them anyway so this faint praise isn’t too damning.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006.
Nothing I didn’t already know, really ... one or two philosophical beliefs confirmed by personal experience, though.