Saturday, December 24, 2016

Nam nam nam

I had reason to wander further east than I ever have before recently, spending a day in the city of Hanoi in Vietnam, which seems like a thing to blog about. So I will.

The first thing the weary traveler here experiences, especially if using the services of a taxi, is Hanoi traffic.

Whoa.

I use the term traffic because Chaotic Machine Based Nightmare System isn't as succinct, and whatever it actually is doesn't fall into an easily describable category.

It's like a shoal, or a number of shoals who's individuals are made up of large metal fish that come together for a few minutes to go in the same direction, whilst other shoals cross them at a tangent until their transient goals no longer align, and their individuals join alternative shoals doing something else, all at between fifteen and thirty-five miles per hour.

By far the most numerous (and presumably the most vulnerable) of these fish are the mopeds, who have no concept of personal space, let alone any concerns about occupying the same area at the same time as, for instance, a seven ton bus.

As a passenger making conversational asides to the taxi driver, my speech went like this:

"Having a busy OHMYGOD day then? I think the hotel is on JESUSTHATWASCLOSE Le Duan street. Have you been doing this HOWARETHEYSTILLALIVE job long?"

Hanoi, and Vietnam in general, is supposed to have a very high death rate due to it's roads, (maybe 20,000 a year according to the WHO), but I didn't actually see any accidents, and not even that many dents in the vehicles (at least on those with sides). After concluding that you can't wince at every near-miss when the entire road is in a permanent state of near-miss, I sort of relaxed, unclenching my fingers from the roof grab handle and my buttocks from their steely grip on the faux leather beneath, allowed my heart rate to reduce to less than 140 and enjoyed the ride.

Roads clear. Let's go!
Once the cool, utterly unflappable and calmly confident driver had dropped me off at the hotel, I decided to broach the subject of the traffic, presuming that he would find it normal, perhaps laugh a little at the wimpy sensibilities of the western visitor. On the contrary. A look of exasperation crossed his features.

"This traffic crazy!" He opened his arms to encompass the surrounding vehicular maelstrom. "Always crazy, always like this! Traffic crazy!" Shaking his head, he got back in his fish and joined the next available shoal with barely a ripple.

A burger and a side of onion rings please.
Hanoi! Capital of Vietnam, home to eight million people half of whom are on mopeds at any one moment. A sprawling mix of vibrant modernity, urban decay and traditional pragmatism, with tranquil temples segueing into glass fronted office blocks. One of them was a temple to literature and I envisaged a library but based on the philosophies of Eastern religions. All good, but a late fine might be carried over into your next life. Think about that next time you see a library official charging a cockroach because he didn't return "How To Thwart Karma" on time.

Plenty of room up top
Space, like in any modern city, is obviously at a premium, and in Hanoi they have taken advantage of some relatively horizontal areas for development on top of other buildings, where folk have constructed everything from sheds to walled gardens, utility rooms to miniature apartments. The only difference between this and London is that they don't charge a million quid for one.

There is a catch to the development, and it's that pollution is a little out of control. 2016 was officially a particularly poor year for air quality in Hanoi, and you could feel it on the back of your throat after a few hours. In the distance, tower blocks only in the middle distance faded to blurry invisibility like graphics from a 2002 arcade game because of a mixture of smoke and fog, called fmoke.

I'm glad the pollution is over there, not here.

But it doesn't detract from the sheer industriousness of the place. The pavements are often unpassable due to folk working, and you have to step (warily) into the road to avoid motorbike repair workshops, knife sharpeners, impromptu restaurants and manufacturing of all types. You avert your eyes from the man arc welding as you step over the cold end of his metal beam, and smile politely at the attentive but not pushy vendors selling unidentifiable fried carbohydrates. I love unidentifiable fried carbohydrates, me. The stuff that appealed to me included an open fronted shop simply selling powdered dyes for paint, which you just don't get at B&Q:
Where folk come to dye.

Oh these tangled webs we weave . . .
Most of these endeavors are obviously private enterprise, but there was some evidence that the pragmatic mindset and disdain for health & safety constraints had infiltrated the municipal mindset as well, especially when looking at the electricity supplies around the standard Hanoi lamp post.

Like the Grimm brothers' fabled magic porridge pot, it's a never ending source of supply but better because instead of oats to feed everybody forever, this dishes out electrons by the bucketful. And presumably involves less scurvy too.


Scuse me, do you sell massive trees?
Parts of Hanoi, you find as you meander around, are more tranquil and relatively traffic free, with open air markets lining narrow streets, shoppers perusing them in no great rush, large trees spreading out across the tarmac seemingly oblivious to any pollution. I regretfully declined an unidentifiable fried carbohydrate and some chicken feet, which taste exactly like you'd expect chicken feet to taste, and kept on strolling.

Despite the lack of available living space, there was the occasional abandoned premises, taken over by vines and pioneer weed species. Makes you wonder if, like in the UK, some places are kept fallow despite their being a desperate social need, in order for property prices to rise and a profit to be made. Cynical capitalism can be quite eerie :

Pass the hoover

Talking of money, the currency of Vietnam is the dong.

No, I've got nothing, either

There are about 28 thousand of them to the pound, so you should stock up really, although I didn't because I was only there for a day.

One place I did want to visit was the Hanoi Botanical Gardens, which is a walled area of parkland to the west of the city. I walked that way for about an hour, being offered lifts by moped taxis who thought it the height of hilarity that I would want to walk anywhere in Hanoi for pleasure, until I came to the Gardens. A be-uniformed lady directed me to another be-uniformed lady sitting at a desk outside, eating some chicken feet. This was apparently where you paid an admission fee. Unfortunately I didn't have any local currency, and explained this to her, presuming I wouldn't be allowed in.

"Oh, no problem, you can go in free!" she shouted politely. I offered her a Euro, which was worth about twenty times the price of admission, but she just laughed, took pity on a man with no dong and allowed him to enter.

Oh, there you go.

Water: Nature's beer.
I had about forty minutes there, and they were modestly pleasant, with colourful trees, black squirrels scampering about and pretty lakes, all well tended. Apparently there are some forlorn monkeys in cages which aren't the garden's crowning glory, but I didn't see these so can't judge.


Of course, it's often the small differences that are the most engaging when visiting somewhere new. On my way back, I was rather taken by these birds foraging around the base of a tree on the side of a busy street. Despite their pigeon-sized stature, it's only when you get closer you realise they're chickens. Look at 'em! Tiny chickens!



Just having a quiet night out.
That evening, on my only night in the mysterious East, I went to a bar on a standard week night in Hanoi, and the place was heaving! The bars, able to seat perhaps twenty people inside if they were friendly and had high tolerances when it came to body odour, had simply placed tiny stools out on the pavement, spilling past the gutters and into the road itself, and most of them were occupied. You'd raise a hand and a lady in a sponsored trouser suit would take your order, promptly bringing you a set of beers and your change with marked efficiency. Occasionally, the police would pass and scoot everyone back towards the buildings, but like an amorphous semi-sentient liquid, we gradually oozed our way to our original positions. It was all good-natured and unthreatening, and I struck up conversations with visitors from Malaysia, Australia, the US and Japan, and they all seemed to be having a damn good time.

Too soon, after a night out that cost less than a few Costa coffees and a bit of a kip, I was on my way back to Blighty.

So what did I learn about Hanoi?

That it's as mad and built up and varied as any city you can think of, that it would definitely be worth coming back, especially to visit the rural areas that you can see tantalisingly close through the haze, with those iconic green clad hills just asking to be explored.

Maybe next time.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I Like The Way You Walk It

Occasionally, a combination of hurly and burly from modern living, sometimes in conjunction with hustle and a spot of bustle, lead me to feel the negative pressures of social existence.

I'm not good in shopping malls.

Usually, I notice the subtle signs of mental discombobulation early on, such as a sensation of pressure on the shoulders, low mood, imitating a snarling moose and shouting "I'll eat your radiator!" at buses that get too close. On a positive note these barely visible signals allow me to take steps to ameliorate the effects of such stressors, using the time honoured technique of going for a walk.

For me, nothing resets whatever it is I have instead of a soul like a walk in some woods. For this reason, I found myself wandering through a forested area a few miles from my home, on a very wet and cold November day, togged up in full winter gear and touting the contemporary miracle that is a thermal mug full of coffee. It's quite near the local city-ette and so usually very popular with all sorts of visitors from dog-owners to Nordic walkers to people who just seem to sit in their cars with other people from other cars presumably to pursue some common interest about car interiors, but today all was quiet.

Unfortunately, heavy rains and saturated grounds had contrived to turn these particular woods into a quagmire, so instead of the sense filling, wide eyed experience I was expecting as I strode through autumnal glades, I spent a couple of hours mud-skiing down brown slopes, shlopping through oozing marsh and wading in boggy rivulets, my focus kept on the few feet of sloshing swamp in front of me where there used to be a path.

At one point, my trusty boots (Peter Storms, £50, eight years ago) decided that now was a good time to relinquish their grip on planet Earth, and I glided effortlessly into some brambles and nettles with a frictionless efficiency that would have been the envy of material scientists the world over.

It was great!

Admittedly, it was not the ultimate in relaxing perambulations, but it was invigorating. The inevitable falls resulted in generally soft, squishy and pain-free landings, and there was no-one there to witness me plonking myself down on my arse, which means woods are a safe haven from schadenfreude. Unless the squirrels are pointing and laughing. Even stopping to remove a thorn with my handy Swiss Army tweezers gave me a sense of completed satisfaction.

And it was scenic. From the utterly glorious explosions of amber that decorated the trees, to the flowing streamlets shoving dead leaves aside in neat aisles of wet vegetation. I was particularly taken with the dripping moss and tenacious mushrooms that clung to the wooden limbs all around. Soft things doing well in a hard world.

Soggy
I would've taken more pictures but it was, you know, wet.

Turns out you don't need a balmy Summer's afternoon to fully appreciate the woods.

And breathe . . .

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Freed Eye Mentions

I've went to the pictures recently to see an animated film about a young supergenius who builds astonishingly advanced robots after an hour or so doodling on some A4 despite not attending school. Everyone can relate to this person, who finds creating independent automatons easy, as we all have a similar talent that will enable us to shine and succeed without having to put much effort in, be it possessing superpowers, being a magical princess or developing handily useful mutations where you get super sharp claws but not a massive tumour. I am still waiting for my skill at making origami boxes out of Post-It notes to win me accolades and financial reward.

It being an animation, I located my young children in the woods where they were wasting their time building dens and using their imaginations and forced them to come with me so it didn't look weird. I also needed them to complete my "Wookie With Cubs" costume ensemble.

There was a choice of display for the film. Whether in 3D, for an agonisingly high price, or in conventional 2D, for just a shockingly high price. I chose the 2D version.

But NOT, I might point out, because of the financial implications. I was already vibrating with righteous indignation over the cost ("I could buy four DVDs for that!"), but because of my track history with three dimensional fillums.

Let me take you back.

It was a more innocent time, less cynical, and this was epitomised in the embryonic industry they called, charmingly, "The Movies".

Of course, back then it was all all stop motion, arty projects that relied on suspension of disbelief by the audience as much as special effects. Hooee yessir, you'd find it awfully quaint compared to modern blockbusters like Alvin and the Chipmunks, but we were still excited by the prospect because it was all so new, so shiny, so futuristic!

If I remember correctly, and you will forgive me because it was a time or two ago, but I dimly recall attending the cinema (or seizure palaces as we used to call them) to view an early foray into the primeval soup of three dimensional displays in an amateur production called 'Avatar'.

Avatar was a funny old film about race relations and plantation ownership, with a David versus Goliath theme in which a pitifully few hardy immigrants relying on clever defensive devices went up against an entire planetary ecosystem including well-armed giants, city-sized weeds and ferocious creatures determined to stop them making viable use of valuable minerals. I don't want to spoil it for you but there was a twist, in that the film ignored the standard feel good finale ‎and instead the plucky entrepreneurs ended up losing with most getting killed or deported. Until they presumably returned with a spaceship full of bombs anyway.

The hype over the film's three dimensionals were significant, and myself and a friend succumbed to the pressure and attended, excitedly making our way to the entrance, tickets clutched in donnies as if they were flimsy predictions of things to come.

Firstly, we were given glasses!

That felt a bit daft. I'd put contact lenses in, so the last thing I wanted when out and about was to revert to four-eyediness. I glanced around and saw everyone wearing them so I did as well, reasoning that if we didn't embrace new technology we'd never have experienced poptarts.

Then, we sat in the dark and suffered the half a god damn hour of utter advertising crap that all cinemas must throw at us before every film, making us promise to ourselves that we will come 25 minutes later next time. But, eventually, the movie itself began!

A logo appeared!

It was a bit of a ball, bulging slightly in the screen.

My mate Phil, turned to me, all agog, and nodded, smiling widely. "Whoa!" he said.

"Er?" I replied, succinctly.

We watched the film which, despite being obvious, clich├ęd, gung-ho, pseudo-religious bunkum, was really very enjoyable. I liked it. But . . .

Ah, but.

But indeed.

Throughout the film, Phil would occasionally nudge me, breathlessly muttering "Wow!" or "Look at that!" or "It's all around!"or "Crivens, lawks-a-mercy guvnor!" because he's from Canada.

I nodded and agreed that, yes the dialogue was indeed very good, that I did enjoy ten feet tall, blue mostly naked ladies with hairy tails, and that the scariest machine in the film was a giant lawn-mower, but I wasn't getting the special effects bit. It was essentially a normal film but the screen looked slightly lumpy.

"No way, brah!" exclaimed Phil in his classical questioning intonation. "The ashes from the fire were practically falling on our shoulders!"

"Um, no they weren't." I retaliated aggressively.

"What!" Phil reciprolocutated in disbelief. "You could see the vegetation all around you! It was like being in the super space copter! You could practically motorboat the giant lady smurf!"

"Really?" I thought about the occasional bit of leaf that popped out of the screen by a few inches, or a big gilled lizardbirdhorse swooping forwards like a pike trying to breach the surface meniscus of a particularly calm pond, but not actually making it.

Turns out I'm in that small minority of folk who can't see films in 3D.

Twelve bloody quid well spent there then.

I have since revisited this scenario, wearing normal glasses and trying out 3D tellies, but all to no avail, and if you ask doctor Google, it informs you that the most likely cause is cancer or physical deformity.

I've checked and I've got the requisite number of eyes (between 1 and 7) pointing in roughly the right direction, and the bit of brain that processes imagery appears to be functioning because I can see both of my glass of scotch, so this rather confuses me.

Since that day, I have eschewed  3D fillums, and have occasionally wondered if I'm missing out. After cogitation, I have come to the conclusion that it is not, in fact, anything to do with me. It's a massive con! Admit it! You are all pretending to see amazing three dimensional pictures, but it's a big ruse isn't it? Like the Emperor's Nude Clothes, sudoku or pretending grapefruits are edible.

I know that may sound a tad paranoid, but I'm not crazy you know (I've got a special sane dance to prove it). It's got precedent, this sort of thing. I will never believe there are really pictures in those Magic Eye pages, no matter what anybody tells me.

So don't be surprised if you see me, forlonrly traipsing into the the lonely two dimensional screen at the back of the multiplex, the one next to cupboard where they store the floor sweepings before using them to top up the pales of popcorn, where they have mushrooms on the seats and straw on the floor, where smoking is still allowed as long as you share. Maybe you'll spare a thought for me, as I huddle down next to the other outcasts, watching tales of strange super beings who can actually see three dimensional films.







Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sign Post

Signs!

Useful information or society's crazy mumbling? They're called notices but we don't often notice them!

That's right, I used both meanings of the word 'notice' there for comedic effect. Let the hilarity ensue.

Two examples I came  across confused and annoyed me, and I'd like to share them with you because I feel you deserve it.

The first one informed me that the organisation putting it up doesn't understand the concept of tautology:


Do NOT smoke the petroleum spirit!
 
It's the blue one I'm interested in. I'm going to let the lower case 'e' and the capital 'F' go because I understand it's some sort of advert, and the rules of grammar don't really apply. Either that or it's a typo, and who do'e's'nt maik thoes occasionallly?

Energy Fuel though? Is that necessary, because what other type of fuels are there? 

"Careful sir, that's angry fuel for BMWs. You want energy fuel which is the next nozzle over. No, not that one, that's lethargic fuel and you look like you're in  a hurry."

Also, do you need to advertise energy fuel on a petrol station forecourt, where people have stopped primarily to pucrchase some sort of fuel, in order to provide energy for their vehicles (or maybe themselves, if it's a Ginsters brown paste container). Do people get out of their car, look at the sign, and then think "Ooh, fuel! energy Fuel as well. Might get me some of that. I'm glad I stopped to take photos of the car wash now."

Uneccesary advertising reminds me how, after you've bought something on the internet, your social media suddenly fills up with adverts for the thing you've just purchased, when you couldn't be less interested and all it's likely to do is piss you off if it's cheaper.

The second one I came across whilst out walking and simply indicates that the poster's a cockwomble:


He's collecting for charity

"Yeah, there's a bull in the field, on the public right of way, but I've warned them so it's their lookout if they get gored".

 Anyway, there are some good ones here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Man Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down Heavily On A Jack Russell.

I walked up a nill last week.

It was very pleasant, and consisted of the standard things that hill walks should ideally be made up of. A (not too steep) hill, some scenery, some unseasonably mild weather and a hip flask.

Also, a healthy variety of domesticated and wild fauna. Sheep, with the occasional lamb, frolicked and gambolled in the fields. Ponies trotted hither and thither, birds flew with varying degrees of elegance and there were even some saddleback cows. And before any of you so called qualified farmers mention there's no such thing as saddleback cows, look:



"This grounds soft Gertie. I've sunk right up to me udders."

And some dogs.

I quite like dogs. This is a pity because for some reason, I make them nervous. I must exude some aura or scent which suggests I'm something either to be feared or instantly attacked. I've seen large rottweilers guarding farmyards slink behind barns rather than threaten me, and tiny wiener dogs renowned for friendly inquisitiveness  go for my knees like some sort of guided hot dog. It's very odd.

An acquaintance, who practices the occult art of amateur dogology suggested I change my behaviour to extract the optimum response from hounds, instructing me to establish some ground rules straight away. This would be useful in my line of work, I thought, as I often have to get past unrestrained mutts to get to patients. I was given instructions, which included using a confident voice, sticking a hand right in their faces, giving 'em a damn good no-nonsense fuss and then ignoring them.This lets them know exactly where we both stand apparently, and I'm pleased to say it works more often than not. Alternatively, when faced with an aggressive canine that presses an attack, consider staying very still and avoiding eye contact is the recommended advice.

The dogs of today, howsomever, were of a different ilk. Really, quite stupendously irritating.

As we plodded up the mountainette to get some good views of Wales and Gloucestershire, we walked past a smallholding, populated by abandoned tractors, quad bikes, rubble and a pack of half a dozen hounds. And no gate. We were on a public highway at this point, but the pack had obviously claimed it as their own, and now a couple of bipeds were having the audacity to encroach on their tarmac.

They. Went. Mental.

The cacophony of barks and howls was deafening, and got even louder as they streamed through the gateway into the road. There was a spectrum of sizes from a knee high terrier cross that ran at the head of the pack like it had had it's knees surgically removed, through medium mongrels to wiry waist-high varmints that looked a bit embarrassed to be there frankly, and would obviously prefer to be finding a sheep to chew on.

The leader, who obviously suffered from small dog syndrome, was the loudest and most unpleasant, determined to show he wasn't all bark and no bite. The other five mongrels stopped about ten feet away and simply practised growling, but he pressed his attack. His size and demeanour put me in mind of certain historical war-leaders, feisty generals and territory mad Emperors of diminutive stature and so, in deference to this, I duly named him Twatty.

Too small to be more than an irritant, or so I thought, I laughed it off and turned away to continue my journey uphill. I was subsequently a little surprised to find my progress impeded by the attachment of an angry half Jack Russel to the leg of my Berghauses.

I shook him off hard and he backed away. The other dogs joined him, growling and advancing towards us in a surprisingly menacing fashion. They stopped, stared at me, and then then moved forward as one. I remembered the instructions about standing stock still and hoping they lost interest.

Screw that, I thought, opening my arms and doing a passable impression of a constipated grizzly, confident that this display should scare off most feral mammals.

It did, for about five seconds, and I had to repeat the exercise three of four times with each re-enactment losing some of it's terrifying efficacy. Twatty was obviously smarter than your average hound and, I expect, he had a history of delighting in calling bluffs. I had a horrible feeling this was going to end up with me kicking the little bastard into a ditch, and you can absolutely guarantee there'd be someone with a GoPro filming me do it from a bush.

The pack advanced again, and I readied myself for some canine punting.

Mrs The Jules, who is known for ice cold pragmatism and a clinical detachment towards necessary suffering (she's a nurse) promptly stepped forth. She raised her hand which had a large, very visible stone in it. Her expression had a touch of the "make my day" about it, an attitude favoured by those with preventative justice on their minds and the means to carry it out.

Twatty stopped dead. The rest of his gang, displaying admirable levels of self-preservation, suddenly lost interest and began examining some fox poo on a grassy knoll, looking as innocent as one of the many lambs they had almost certainly dismembered over the years. Definitely quite bright, I surmised, as Twatty's near future scrolled out in his minds eye, consisting quite prominently of a rock shaped bruise somewhere on his anatomy. Mrs The Jules looked like she was quite happy to make up for a lack in anatomical accuracy with sheer enthusiasm, and she cocked her arm back. There was a distinct lack of bluff in her demeanour, as both I and the dogs could tell. 

Twatty came to a decision. If a canine movement could be described as a handbrake turn he achieved one with remarkable efficiency. Mrs The Jules, her vim levels high, actually looked mildly disappointed at the peaceful resolution she had managed to create and, after reversing away in a tactical retreat that would have made any Italian proud, we carried on our journey.

"Nice." I told her, as I checked my troos for damage.
"We have to go back this way though." she said, and spent the next two hours of the walk choosing a more aerodynamic set of rocks to take back down the hill.

Sadly for her throwing arm though, the return journey was free of violence. Twatty and the pack saw Mrs The Jules, missile ready for launch, and decided they weren't that interested in the road anyway. I swear if dogs had the lips for it, they would've whistled nonchalantly.

So, a few lessons learned here, I reckon. Even though dogs are highly intelligent, social hunters, they are no match for constructed weapons, and even the most non-violent of humans has an intrinsic aptitude for that.The biggest stick usually wins.

Also, Twatty and The Pack would be a great band name.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Money laundering

Whisper it quietly. Don't let the white goods hear you. Speak softly or they will take action.

                            -----------------------------------------------------------------------
SCENE I:  At home, domestic bliss ensuing, children locked in attic. 

Wife (checking bank balance online): "That overtime paid off. Halfway through the month and we're not in overdraft!"

Washing machine: "Chugga."

Me: "What was that?"

Wife: "Nothing, just the washing machine. It makes that noise sometimes."

Me: "Ah, yeah. So finances looking okay then?"

Washing machine: "Chugga chugga chugga."

Wife: "Well, the mortgage has to come out yet and there's the car repair, but at the moment, could be worse . . ."
Washing machine: "CHUGGA CHUGGA CREEEEEEEEEEEE!"

Me: "Creee?"

Wife: "That's not normal?"

Me: "Pardon?"

Wife: "Normal! That incessant loud screaming noise, the violent shaking and the way it's trying to break the hose off the back, that's not normal washing machine behaviour!"

Washing machine " CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE chugga CREEEEEEEEEEEEE BANG!"

Me: "What?"

Wife: "All that water spraying around the kitchen! Also not normal!"

Me (switching machine off at the mains and struggling to reach isolation valve): "You don't say!"

Wife: "No need to shout."

Washing machine (obeying comedy edict of all dramatically failing machinery everywhere): "Sproing."

Wife: Is that a spring?"


Spring sprungs.

Me: "I feel it is, yes."

SCENE II - Showroom featuring large three dimensional rectangles designed to fit in kitchen spaces.

Salesman: "And then it went 'sproing' you say?"

Me: "Sproing, yes."

Salesman: "Was that preceded by a CREEEEEEEE by any chance?"

Me: "It was, yes!"

Salesman: "Oh. I see."

Me: "Is that good then?"

Salesman: "A sproing after a CREEEEEEEE is not usually a good sign, no." Points at my forehead "And did that spring come out of it?"

Me: "Oh this? It did yes. Must pull it out soon."

Salesman: "I know it's probably expected of me, but can I suggest that you buy a new one."

Me: "I believe my wife has already chosen that one over there, with the little smiley face sticker surrounded by pound signs on it."

Salesman: "Selling that one does make us happy sir."

                                  -----------------------------------------------------------------------

I presume that this sort of universal rule whereby any sort of disposable income that makes itself momentarily available will immediately become earmarked for an unavoidable repair has already been discovered? Saved a bit of money on the car insurance this year? Boom! - the heating packs in. Tax rebate? Whack! - the laptop takes  up smoking. Lottery win - Shabang! The helicopter crashes into the Bugatti. 


There's probably whole theses addressing this. Is it a separate event or part of Sod's Law? Is there a malicious entity at work, maybe karma, or is it Jesus punishing us for allowing Pekineses to marry? I might look it up on the google and see if it's a well documented phenomenon.

If not, I shall write it down and name it the There's Always Bloody Something Law.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Present tense

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Why's there a cat in the silver spoon?
Is the spoon big or is it a tiny cat?
Either way sounds unhygienic.

Beautiful song there about the passage of time and not prioritising stuff correctly. Also about the way kids interfere with your work ethic, but mainly is a lyrical introduction to today's theme, that most mysterious, all encompassing and unpredictably life-affecting phenomenon - spoons. And changes.

Mostly changes, to be honest.

I've just been cleaning up some of the bloggage on The Gravel Farm. Before my hiatus to attend to my other life in that strange, possibly three dimensional realm we assume is reality, I followed a lot of great blogs. It was strange looking at them now, eighteen months later, and seeing how many had been abandoned, or taken over by advertising robots.

As I selected a few of them that hadn't been updated for years, I actually felt a pang of nostalgia, which is unusual for me as I'm not one to hold on to the past. There's always other stuff more useful to think about. Stuff that hasn't happened yet. When the time inevitably comes that everything you need to think about is in the past, then it's probably too late to worry about it anyway.

So I nodded a respectful adios to those blogs that had kept me entertained over the last few years, and thought about the past and the future.

I do that even more since having kids. Probably natural. You're always wondering how things are going to turn out for them, what obstacles will be in their way, what tools you can give them to help overcome problems and deal with their mistakes. Self-confidence maybe, a sense of humility perhaps, a healthy appreciation of humour and a decent work ethic. A well honed axe.

My son is now heading towards being eight, and likes . . . absolutely everything. Rock climbing, swimming, hoss wrangling, bikes, monster trucks, maths, sparrows, ceilings, books, Minecraft, wrassling, piano, Nerf guns, hot weather, cold weather, wet weather, snowy weather, whatever. He has a very admirable 'I presume I'll like it" point of view.

After having a daughter happen to me, it turns out that attitude, a current favourite trait lauded by modern urban cogna senti, isn't particularly hard to imbue. In fact, it would appear pretty much intrinsic to a four and half year old girl. Bonobo survives on hot chocolate and carbs, and she is out there. She can't be bargained with. She can't be reasoned with. She doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And she absolutely will not stop, ever.

 
That picture had better be flattering Father.


So my world drifts away from doing what I like, when I like to providing entertainment and some sort of control to those little forces of nature I like to call children. It's a full time job. One that makes my employment seem like a nice little break, and explains the the lack of blog entries, I s'pose.

Still, I wouldn't change more than fifty percent of it, so I'm very lucky.

And from considering past and future, I shall now move on to presents! Aha! Did you see that? Presents, because it's chrizmuz. Yeah, I know. That segue will be all over the internet in an hour, you mark my words

Anyway I'm working all over the yule period and the new year, which further limits blogging opportunities to wish you all a happy xmas. Let me just say I hope you all  have one exactly as you want it, with as much or as little time to yourself as you desire.

Regards

The Jules