Sunday, August 31, 2008

In your Dreams

One of Bonusbarn's conversational gambits - usually when he's bored and no one has spoken for five seconds, so there's a gaping void of silence to fill - is "when can I have a new bed?"

The question is much more reasonable now than it was two years ago. He sleeps in the same high riser he's used for the last seven years. He is now long enough to fill it exactly, and when he climbs up into it, he can feel it beginning to tilt as the centre of gravity shifts. But there is a lot of storage space under it and, because you should always play hard to get when granting teenage requests, my usual reply is "show how you can fit everything in with a normal bed."

Which, irritatingly, is what he spent most of yesterday doing, rearranging his room and turning out bagfuls of rubbish. By teatime, it really would have seemed churlish to say "well, maybe at Christmas ..." So today we ventured out to buy one.

Beds are like carpets - it's very hard to find an outlet that insists on selling them at full price. We settled on Dreams, which is not only having a multimega 50% sale (okay, Coxeters was having an actual closing down sale, which is hard to beat, but almost everything was gone so we went with the next best thing) but offers a free Dreams sleeping kit with it. This consists of:
  • a dream catcher. "Do you believe in dream catchers?" the salesman asked. "No," said the prospective user. You could see the man's face fall.
  • a Sounds of Sleep CD, "including soothing compositions from Chopin, Vivaldi and Schubert".
  • a sleeping candle, lavender scented.
  • a blindfold with a pair of long eyelashed, slumbering eyes tastefully embroidered thereupon.
  • a book on Understanding Dreams, (c) Nerys Dee 1991 (relationship to Dr Dee unknown). Open randomly at page 39: "Telepathic communication often takes place during dreams, usually spontaneously." Quietly close it again.
Plus, if we hang onto the documentation, in ten years time we can go back to Dreams and buy a replacement at a discount. Bonusbarn's 26th birthday present is sorted.

Granted, by the end of this Sunday afternoon I've spent more money than I thought I would on Friday evening, but I think good was done. Unusually, he even settled for one of the cheaper options available because he genuinely liked it, despite the salesman's subtle attempts to push him further up the price range. It arrives a week tomorrow.

"I need a new desk," he said as we left the shop ...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Seen in town today ...

A didgeridoo busker. I took his picture, so I gave him some money. Seemed only fair.

The didgeridoo will never be adopted as a disco instrument. I considered asking if he could do "Flight of the Bumblebee" but I wouldn't want him on my conscience.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Legal consequences

Remember this?

Back in March I spotted it and was impressed by the cunning attempt to circumvent the BBC's trademark. I did wonder about it, though, and I consulted IP-specialist-in-training Mr Simon Bradshaw about it. This man has taken a law exam under threat of rocket attack in Iraq. He is dedicated to his art, and has delivered an opinion.

I'm very grateful to him for plugging the gaps in my education - not least with a link to the actual decision in which the Trade Marks Registrar allowed the BBC to have its police box trademark over the objections of the Metropolitan Police. Favourite bit: learning in the last paragraph that the Met actually had to pay the BBC £850 for having the temerity to oppose the application.

Servalan sings Pink Floyd

Does what it says on the tin. While it starts from a basic state of being quite amusing, enjoyment increases proportionate to your familiarity with (a) who Servalan was and (b) the music of Pink Floyd. If you're reasonably familiar with Blake's 7 (there's a clue to (a)) then an extra gag kicks in at 48 seconds.

In researching that - thanks to the latest issue of SFX for the pointer - I also came across this little gem which, I dunno, spoke to me somehow. Again, enjoyment increases proportionate to familiarity with the key players.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

He had a dream

The day after a black guy gets confirmed as the Democrat of choice to become President of the United States of America, it's the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. The text of which is at

I'd never read it all before. I was surprised by how far down the famous bit comes.

We need a word for Schadenfreude

Satisfying things in life. Getting a trapped seed out from between your teeth. Successfully installing a bit of software. Seeing an impatient driver be held up.
  • Item: the traffic lights where Drayton and Preston Roads meet. Right hand lane to go straight ahead, left hand to turn into Preston Rd only. A small queue of cars in the right hand lane awaits the green light. Twit zooms by in the left hand lane and continues straight ahead, cutting in front of the other vehicles.
  • Item: All the traffic queues up in Drayton to let a bus take on passengers. Twit is two cars behind the bus but still pulls out to try and overtake everyone in front of him. Too much oncoming traffic means he has to pull back again.
  • Item: Rowstock roundabout. This time it's left hand lane to go straight ahead, right hand lane to turn right only. Twit zooms down the right hand lane and again tries to cut in front of the straight ahead traffic.
Despite all this, the twit never gained more than a two car lead on me for the entire journey into work, and I stuck to the limits and the correct lanes. So he had, say, a ten second advantage. Sadly I didn't see how his journey ended as my own turning came up first.

Okay, let's be charitable. Maybe his wife was having a baby. In hospital-free Harwell, I hear you cry? Well, it could happen. No, really.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One day like this a year'd see me right

For reasons losts in the mists of civil service antiquity, my colleagues and I and many like us get a bonus bank holiday after the August break. Today has been spent fruitfully and relaxingly at home. I have:
  • re-installed the printer and scanner on Bonusbarn's ex/Best Beloved's new computer.
  • re-installed Norton Security on same, being pleasantly surprised to find that it recognised our subscription still has a while to run so didn't need renewing. I am pleasantly surprised whenever something sensible and life-smoothing like that happens, which is rather sad. My faith in the disharmony of things was renewed when it appeared that Norton's Urgent Problem Fix thingy and Norton's Live Update insisted on running simultaneously without recognising that they were working on the same problem, viz. looking for virus definition updates. And so of course neither worked and they had to be dragged apart and made to do their stuff separately. Normality is restored.
  • moved funds from one financial institution to another in time for the end of month, America-laden credit card bill.
  • bought a new shower head as the old was limescaled up. A delightful discovery that these things are standardised to fit to a 12.7mm pipe, so one size fits all. Well I never! This is so obvious that I really am surprised they got it through. Please could these people now direct their talents towards the printer cartridge industry?
  • bought a new phone, as I think the old one got too wet with rain or cloud or sweat up Snowdon and has been flaky ever since. Mostly standardised (of course) but just different enough to keep me on my toes. Nice one.
  • written words. I have to do an average of 740 words a day between now and the middle of October to do the current hackwork in progress. Not hard when you're writing one of the exciting set pieces; harder when you simply have to get someone from A to B, plausibly and coherently with the plot narrative.
  • left a voicemail with A Famous Person.
It's days like this that make all the difference.

Monday, August 25, 2008

So that's what the inside of a keyboard looks like

Bonusbarn's laptop means that the remaining computers in the family can be redistributed. At long last Best Beloved gets her own PC!

Meaning that first it must be debonusbarned.

Lord knows what he's done to it in the last two years but the 30 second boot up time had somehow deterioriated to several minutes. The simplest solution was to restore Windows XP to its old settings. By a miracle similar to the loaves and fishes, he had kept the restoration disk. That bit was no problem.

With the software crud out of the way it was time tackle the hardware crud, which was the most fun bit. A combination of Mr Muscle and Henry dislodged about a ton of biological waste from the keyboard. He is now quite hairy; well, he would look like Cousin It if that lot was still on his head rather than stuck between the keys. And then we unscrewed the back - by now, more out of a sense of adventure and "because we can". The Page Down key was sticky; something very similar to jam (but we weren't going to taste it to check) had accumulated around it on the rubber membrane that the keys stick in to. More Mr Muscle. Marvellous stuff.

The wine glass is to keep the screws from the keyboard in. Trust me.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In which I become a dot com

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, puppies and pussycats, is now open for business.

To the untutored eye it might appear exactly the same as the old page, the easily memorable, and that would be because it is - the wonderful people at simply moved all the files over, and put in a redirect.

This means I can also be contacted via "ben at benjeapes dot com" (see how cunningly I outwit the spambots) or, for those who have it, mail sent to the old address still comes to exactly the same place.

End of public service announcement. Resume your lives.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Battle of the Bands

I'm officially a children's writer, or at least a young adults' writer, which I became by accident. I was aiming at Serious Grown-up Science Fiction writer, but I have to admit I like it here. When someone asks me what age I write for, I generally say something along the lines of "teens and up", which seems to cover it (and my own reading tastes).

Supposing I said "13 and up," and someone then asked "I'm 12, may I read your books?", and I replied, "no, absolutely not, stick to your own reading age until your voice breaks, you little punk."

Has anyone read To Kill A Mockingbird, in which at one point Scout is practically ordered to stop reading ahead of her age because it upsets her teacher's system?

Starting this autumn, various children's publishers are apparently going to start putting age bands on their books as a guide for who should be reading them. 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+/teen. Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett and over 3500 other people, including myself, don't, and we've signed the petition to say so.

Bookshops already do this in their own way, of course - go into the children's section and you'll see the shelves classified by recommended age. No problem with that - it helps make the selection, especially if (most likely) you're a parent doing the buying. But honestly.

The publishers supporting the scheme say that, again, it's just guidance - it's not arbitrary. No child who reads a book ahead of his age will be shot for doing so. But look at it the other way round. Say your child of 10 has a less advanced reading age than his peers; say his reading age is 7. Will he be seen dead reading a book that's marked for 7 year olds?

It's one more symptom of our national obsession with getting everything classified. Tick a box on a form and you have apparently achieved something. But the statement "this book is for a x year old" is meaningless. The only meaningful statement is "this book is for whoever has the maturity to read it."

Oh dear. It seems I'm supporting the idea of making judgements based upon taste and maturity and insight, rather than because some unaccountable arbitrary authority tells us to. Can't have that, can we?

Not sure what my family has been buying on my Amazon account ...

... but for some reason Amazon has seen fit to inform me that I can pre-order Death Magnetic, "the upcoming ninth studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica".

Even better, I can get The Box Magnetic Death In A Coffin Edition. Ooh, somebody stop me.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought "All Hope is Gone" by Slipknot. Well, did you ever.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Englishman who went up a mountain and came down, um, a mountain

This being the mountain in question-

-which the cognoscenti will have no difficulty recognising as Snowdon. This photo is taken across the valley from a lookout point on the road to Beddgelert, where we stayed in the highly recommended Plas Gwyn b&b. We went up the Pyg track from Pen-y-Pass, and as we could see the lookout point from the track, it follows you can see the track somewhere on this picture. But you may have to look closely.

I'm still not entirely sure how this weeked came about, and neither is Bonusbarn, who suggested it. Whatever, the result was my father + him + me slogging it up from Pen-y-Pass (alt. 360 metres, leaving us a mere 725 metres to climb), in miraculously good weather. It was tipping with rain as we left the b&b, it was still tipping as we got out of the car, and by the time we had set foot on mountainside proper it had stopped. It even showed signs of clearing up nicely as we gazed down the Llamberis pass.

Sadly that playful bit of sunlight never quite reached us, but you can't have everything. And yes, we made it to the top-

-which was shrouded in mist and about 100 other walkers but who cares.

Meanwhile Bonusbarn's and my respective mothers swanned about in the warm and dry, exploring castles and museums and drinking cups of tea and walking on flat bits of Wales while waiting for the time they were due to come and collect us.

Drenched in sweat, every muscle aching, so tired I couldn't speak above a faint murmur, and loving it - I have a strange masochistic streak in me. Oh, and I hadn't slept since waking up at 3a.m. that morning in the b&b's titchy double bed (hint: if you stay there in company, try and get a twin room). So I'd had about as much sleep as I had last year when I went up the Sugar Loaf. Is sleeplessness to be my default for walking up mountains? I rather hope not; but then, I've no real plans to walk up any more mountains anyway.

But perhaps the strangest sight of the weekend was-

-Bonusbarn being helpful. Always nice to see, even if I do listen a bit more carefully to his suggestions from now on.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's a plot

Bonusbarn was getting so irritated at our ISP's frequent downtimes - not counting the previously reported times when I'm backing up - that I've started keeping a log of them.

For some reason it tickles me that there is therefore a file on my desktop called "Virgin failure log". But "Virgin failure record" would sound even stranger.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The angels have the Hugo

I always feel that even the worst-run con is much better than anything I could do, and Denvention was far from being the worst-run con, but I'll be honest and say I didn't have as much fun as I thought I might. That would be because there weren't as many of the usual faces as I generally see, I was pining for my lovely wife, and I wasn't on very many programme items. Okay, I could have raised more of a fuss about that last bit. I advertised my panel topic experience as sex and sexuality in Y/A fiction; getting published for the first time; military sf; political themes in sf; time travel and associated matters e.g. the grandfather paradox; and depictions of / relationship with religion. I'm sure I've done more than that but that's what I could remember. I also volunteered to moderate. And so they put me on panels about time travel and Christianity in science fiction (not moderating either), and gave me a reading. Then they cancelled the time travel one. (And no one came to the reading, which didn't hugely surprise me as I'm not exactly front page news over there.) So I felt under-used. I listed my publications when I volunteered; maybe I should have told them what they were about.

But the programme itself was good and wide-ranging, and everyone knew where, what and who was meant to be happening. Maybe it was a bit too wide ranging as I perceived quite a bit of duplication which I thought could have been tidied up. Why, for instance, were there panels on Science Fiction & Religion and Science Fiction & Christianity - and why were they scheduled at the same time, thus dividing the likely audience?

The nice thing about a con on this scale is that if your brain starts to hurt from too much intensive serious stuff, you can go to something a little further down the intellectual scale for relaxation. For instance, should I go to something on the pitfalls of on-demand publishing, or a panel discussion on who's the best Doctor? The latter proving to have Stephen Baxter in the audience, lurking hard to preserve his reputation as a hard science fiction author and only breaking cover to cast the sole vote for Patrick Troughton. (Possibly because he was the sole attendee who remembers Patrick Troughton.) The session on young adult fiction got me a good list of titles to look for, even if the presentation was deathly dull; rather than discussing what makes a good Y/A title, it just ran through the panellists four or five times nominating favourite titles, until they ran out.

The last event of the con was an enlightening talk by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith on writing as a business, which I enjoyed both for its content and for the fact that I finally got to meet Kris, who bought "Pages Out of Order" off me in the mid-nineties. "You must have been a baby when you were selling to me," she said. I told her I'm 43; "oh, in that case you age well."

I got to see Razor, which I wanted to see but probably wouldn't have spent money on; and of the ones I've seen or read, I really couldn't argue with the Hugo results.

The event that raised the most eyebrows was surely scheduling Guest of Honour Lois McMaster Bujold's reading from her next Miles novel - something similar to Jane Austen reading the first chapter of "P&P2: What Lizzie and Darcy Did Next" - in a room that was far too small. I counted 180 seats, and people were standing around the walls and in the aisle. I bet that the room across the way with 300 seats wasn't packed to capacity for its panel on the Wild Cards series, which was happening at the same time.

But this is quibbling and I heard few other complaints. Cudos for the team for bringing off the annual impossible task. Anyway, Farah Mendlesohn is organising next year's programme; she knows me and she knows my strengths. Even if the full range of familiar faces weren't there, a smaller range was, and I got to meet some new ones too; the fine folk of Christian Fandom, for a start. At Sunday morning's ecumenical service, the speaker did a quick vox pop to ask if we would like illustrations drawn from The Dark Knight or the Honor Harrington series. As there were people who still hadn't seen the former, he went for Harrington.

The Colorado Convention Centre Center is massive, with room for another convention going on at the same time with plenty of empty space between us.

Walking down one of the airport-huge empty corridors was almost eery, like finding yourself in an unused district of Diaspar. Oh, and there's a big blue bear looking in at the front window.

This was the rendezvous for the programme' s most inspired innovation - a daily walk around a couple of blocks, starting at the most unfanlike hour of 9 a.m. but still getting a good draw. Farah said she intends to use this idea for next year. Obviously this will only work in certain American cities; someone said that at LACon a couple of years ago, in pedestrian-averse Los Angeles, the nearest equivalent would have been everyone getting into their cars and doing a fannish cavalcade around the city.

Another inspired idea was the free Fan Hydration Device ...

... handed out to all participants, to combat Denver's combination of high altitude and low humidity.

In short and to sum up: not the best con I've been to, not the worst either, and definitely towards the better end of the spectrum.

Rocky mountain somewhere

I approve of Colorado, in general. It's full of light, the air is fresh and humidity is negligible. The water is straight off the mountains and a pleasure to drink. Historically, blacks got the vote in the 1870s and women in the 1890s - in fact, women were running for election even before they were allowed to do any electing. The governer at the start of WW2, one Ralph L. Carr, bucked the hysterical trend after Pearl Harbor and actively welcomed Japanese Americans into the state, at a time when other states were throwing them into internment camps. So I approve of Colorado.

I'm not really sure what I expected of Denver and so I'm not really sure if it came up with the goods. I was probably expecting something bigger, and I hadn't realised that by dint of high buildings and atmospheric haze it could hide one of the world's more spectacular mountain ranges right on its doorstep. My best view of the Rockies came from the shuttle bus on the way back to the airport, because the land around Denver is so flat. My second best view was from the top of the State Capitol.

From the air, Denver looks like it might be in the middle of some kind of game board. The land is divided into a grid of squares by the usual dead straight American roads, and within each square is a circular field - that being the easiest way to irrigate the ground from a central point. The circles are different colours, depending on what is being grown there, so the overall effect is of some vast and strange game of checkers.

Denver is famous for being the Mile High City (so I almost called this post "The Mile High Club" but then I grew up). The steps to the Capitol have a marker indicating that you are exactly one mile above sea level. Seen here with my foot, which because of forced perspective looks strangely dainty and definitely not size 11 ...

In fact, three of the steps have a claim to be the mile-high one as measuring techniques and instruments have been refined over the last century. But this is the most recent.

Most of Denver's commercial and social life seems to centre around the 16th Street Mall. This is, um, a mall, taking up most of 16th Street. It stretches for over a mile, free electric buses will carry you up and down it, and it's where most of the shops are. It's very clean and pleasant. In the evenings it's the place to promenade or sample the night life. There's a lot of live music and a safe, clubby atmosphere. You can dine out there cheaply and happily.

But it's a mall. The fun of exploring a new city is wandering around, poking into nooks and crannies, always finding something new around the corner. A mall has no corners, and by dint of its very existence it has sucked the life out of the rest of the city. Elsewhere, downtown Denver is mostly sterile office blocks and hotels.

I say mostly. There's doubtless much more that I didn't get to see. Even in the centre there's a couple of museums and other stuff that I didn't have time to see - and also the house of women's rights pioneer Margaret Brown, a.k.a. the Unsinkable Molly Brown, which was worth the trip on its own. What I would really have liked to do, with more time, was just get onto a tram and see what lies at the end of the line; or, even, better, rent a car and drive out to the mountains. But alas time did not permit.

There is also, of course, the convention centre, which really belongs in the next post.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Some final New Yorkities before we move on

I'm back in the UK and literally light-headed with jetlag. This will probably make sense. If you scroll down you may see that I've adorned the earlier reports with some photos. Next I'll do Denver - probably much later today, or even tomorrow - and of course Denvention, which is what it was all about.

But first, a few final things I didn't get round to saying about New York ...

Don't bother with the Empire State Building. Go up the Rockefeller Center instead. (Note the spelling. Rather embarrasingly, whoever paints the buses for CitySights NY can't spell it right.)

The Empire State Building is frankly hellish in a crowd; there's not much room, and the chain link suicide barriers get in the way of your photos. Look how much this random tourist is enjoying it.

The Rockefeller Center is much the same height, the viewing gallery is much roomier (three different levels), and the suicide barriers are clear perspex. Here's Central Park from the Top of the Rock.

And here's the ESB.

And finally, New York has waterfalls. Yes, yes, I know, the state of New York has some of the Niagara Falls in it ... but the city has four all of its own. They are Art.

This one, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, is quite effective ...

But when you get to a standalone 100 foot-high waterfall you have to wonder, um, why?

Actually, no you don't. Geneva has the Jet d'Eau and it's really quite striking. Why shouldn't New York have something similar? What you do have to wonder at, though, is the fact that people pay to take cruises out to look at the waterfalls. That's getting obsessive.

We didn't.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The perfect city

Note that "perfect" does not equal "good", but if cities are your thing then New York is the perfect one. It is not new, it is not shiny and it is not clean, but it works. It didn't just happen accidentally like London; it was meticulously planned, to the point of ruthlessly eradicating the natural form of an entire island and replacing it with pavement and buildings. The entire island is dedicated to being an effective city for its millions of inhabitants. The subway trains are basic (though air conditioned) but I would rather travel on their hard plastic seats, actually going somewhere, than sit on a padded Tube seat in the middle of a tunnel for a year or two. The sidewalks are wide enough for a large pedestrian population. The wide streets crawl with yellow cabs. The grid system of street numbering means you really have to work hard to get lost.

I could live and work here. But cities aren't my thing and so I'm glad I don't. No offence.

Tomorrow Bonusbarn flies home, taking this laptop with him, so the postponed search for an internet-enabled computer somewhere in North America will recommence. I may or may not apply myself to it, so you may get my thoughts on Denver spread out over the next week, or you may have to wait until I get back. Let's see.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A rainy day in New York

It had never actually rained while I was in North America before. The thunderstorm and two (two) torrential downpours during yesterday's open top downtown bus tour more than made up for that. In my Englishness I was determined to brave the first one out, but reluctantly went down to the lower deck briefly. Then we returned to the upper deck and carried on the tour in our sodden gratis ponchos, very slowly in Saturday traffic, with a sense of deja vu because this was the bit that overlapped with the uptown tour we took a couple of days ago.

Then came the second downpour, at which point even I thought "sod it" and we got a cab back to the hotel to sample the delights of room service lunch.

"I could get used to this," opined Bonusbarn as he tucked into his Ambassador pizza with fries.

"Please don't," I said through a mouthful of medium-done sirloin burger with blue cheese and also fries.

"Damn," he lamented.

I only really wanted to do the tour because it took us past Ground Zero, so in the afternoon I took myself. Subway to Bowling Green at Battery Park, wandered northwards, browsed the Borders at 100 Broadway, and then Ground Zero - which is a large open space between towering office blocks, invisible behind construction hoardings with just the heads of cranes sticking out. Ah well, I've been.

And I popped into St Paul's chapel, which stands opposite the site and amazingly escaped the destruction unscathed - not even a broken pane of glass. The rows of trees in the graveyard took the force of the collapse.

Then I meandered further northward, found myself outside City Hall, and while looking for a subway station discovered I was at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. So I walked up as far as the first tower, and back. (No actual desire to walk to Brooklyn ...)

Then back to the subway again, intending to see Washington Square Park, but overshot due to unfamiliarity with what the numbers on the front of the trains mean. Walked back to Washington Square Park and found it all sealed off for repaving, but I photographed the arch.

Then finally the subway back to Grand Central, and so back to our room.

In short, a lot of walking, in lovely and not too hot sunshine. That downpour was a blessing.

I'm formulating thoughts on New York that will probably appear in a future post. All in all, I'm more of a fan than I thought I would be.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Float like a Ben

Is it not amazingly clever that, via the power of the interwebs, I can print off a voucher in deepest Oxfordshire which I can then show to a nice American weeks later and thousands of miles away, and it means something? Yesterday, the Empire State Building and the uptown loop of the hop on/hop off bus tour. This morning, the helicopter ride from the Downtown Heliport at pier 6.

Sadly the system falls down if too many other people have had the same idea. After the ride we walked down to Battery Park to catch the Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty cruise. Turned out that we had to be at the far end of Battery Park. Looked at the queue and thought ... nah. Determined to do some floating on something, I decreed we would walk back to the Staten Island ferry (which is at this end of Battery Park). Was persuaded by Bonusbarn that this wasn't actually necessary and could we have some lunch. Walked back into Battery Park, the way we had come, to a lunch stand.

So we did a lot of walking. Not very American, I know. (Mind you, yesterday we walked up 6 floors of the Empire State Building. A lift gets you to the 80th floor when you have the choice of transferring to another to take you to the observation deck on the 86th - and waiting about 20 minutes - or walking. So we walked.) And then, back to the hotel to explore the delights of the 27th floor swimming pool. So I finally floated in something and everyone's happy.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I got it from Agnes

Part of the UN tour yesterday included an exhibition on why peace is a generally good thing, presumably aimed at any waverers among us. Some decommissioned landmines, an AK47 that has been transformed into an electric guitar ... and a statue of St Agnes.

I know very little about St Agnes, except that in Rome there is a church called St Agnes in Agony. I wish they were in Abingdon so they could enter a team into the annual Church in Abingdon Quiz. "Christ Church ... Peachcroft ... St Nick's ... Agnes in Agony ..."

This particular Agnes was quite battered and lightly grilled, and had been found face down in the ruins of the Catholic cathedral of Hiroshima.

I'm all in favour of the UN's work. I don't like landmines, child soldiers are an abomination in a civilised world, I want HIV and malaria eradicated. But if there was one thing that said why the UN is a good idea, it was old Agnes. And our otherwise excellent tour guide didn't even mention her.

In other news: last night upwards of 20 police cars came tearing along 43rd Street and off down FDR Drive. Very exciting.