Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Misery Line

I have a deeply disagreeable personality and an amazing habit of rubbing people up the wrong way. It's a massive social disadvantage but very occasionally it will work in my favour. A few weeks ago I was on a train in a bad mood. I had already driven five hours in a loud and uncomfortable car, there were no seats available, the ticket was expensive and only available at the end of a long queue and (because of industrial action) I had to go from Gatwick to Guildford via Clapham Fucking Junction.

If you've ever met me then this will sound like an unfair complaint, but there was a man on the train with a loud and annoying voice. He spoke as though he was addressing the entire carriage and he was telling a long and self-serving story about a job in a theatre that he didn't take. I very much wanted him to be quiet but I didn't have the nerve to ask him. Instead I did some surprisingly successful passive-aggressive social-engineering. I turned round to face him and started paying close attention to his story. I looked him in the eye, nodded along with his story and said a few mmm's and oh's at appropriate points.

It worked better than I could have hoped. I didn't get shouted at or punched. The annoying man got quieter and quieter and more and more embarrassed until he was whispering his story to his girlfriend and then it eventually petered out leaving me free to seethe in luxurious silence for the rest of my journey.

Richard "Pot, meet Kettle" B

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

How To Run a Country

Nothing funny happened to me over the weekend, so I'm going to have a little look at the politics on the left side of the Atlantic. Some of my readers are ex-pat Brits in the states and a couple of them are actual Americans - Hi guys.

They have a wildly divisive and (in places) un-popular president. I have heard the view that as a reality TV star, self publicist and questionable businessman he's not qualified to be president. This is clearly nonsense. The only qualification needed apart from date and place of birth is to win a no-holds-barred popularity contest in which everyone can vote (your vote only counts if the majority of people in your region agree with you, and the amount that your vote counts depends on the historical population of your region).

President Trump has now nominated a man called Brett Kavanaugh to be a supreme court judge at which point Kavanaugh has been accused of all kinds of unseemly behaviour from his student days. It's clear to me that Kavanaugh isn't qualified to be a supreme court judge because the qualifications include a kangaroo-court of public opinion in which there are no rules of admissibility of evidence and no statute of limitations.

From the right side of the Atlantic, the qualifications that you demand of your leaders look a bit odd.

Richard "just saying" B

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Say What?

English is the hardest language to learn. We have homophones (flaw and floor) and homographs (wind-up wind chimes). We have impossible spellings and silent letters (Siobhan Marjoribanks, Knight Pneumatics Ltd, Azalea Rd, Loughborough). We have so many irregular verbs that it's difficult to spot the regular ones (find/found; bind/bound; blind/blinded). We have secret inflections that we only use on special occasions (to whom it may concern, as it were) and then after all that you have to learn the idioms.

An idiom is a colloquial metaphor. We all agree on them and we've all learned them but they are figurative and obscure rather than literal or transparent. Here are a few imaginary places that things can go to. I have no doubt that there are many more and I have deliberately omitted the dirty ones.
Go south / go tits up / go pear shaped / go off the rails - deteriorate
Go round the houses - take a circuitous route
Go off the deep end / go off on one - have an emotional outburst
Go over the top - do something to outrageous extreme
Go underground / go off-grid - hide
Go on a mission - do something urgently
Go mental at - to remonstrate with
Go for a burton - go unexpectedly missing

Richard "Never go Full Retard" B

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Left Hand Down a Bit

My mum isn't very good at parking her car. There's a workbench and a vice at the back of the garage, and the boot-lid of the car has a line of dents across it from where the car has been reversed into the vice handle. Years ago she had a Ford Fiesta (with a line of vice-handle dents across the back) and every month or two she would knock one or other of the wing mirrors off against one of the gateposts. The wing mirrors were fixed on with a system rather like an enormously strong bayonet fitting from a giant lightbulb. My father and I built a fitment tool so that you could stretch the spring with a stirrup while you worked, and every month or two for many years I would refit whichever mirror had been smashed off the car.

About five years ago my mum changed her car to a Fiat Panda. Sure enough, after  a month or two, one of the wing mirrors had been smashed off on the gatepost. I couldn't work out how to fix it and she took it to a local garage. Blind Len at the garage fixed it for free as a favour but it cost £50 in parts. And that's the last time she ever hit the wing mirror on the gatepost!

Richard "they’re not fucking whiskers" B

Friday, 21 September 2018

Did it!

At the weekend I walked from Exeter to Teignmouth to raise money for the charity Bloodwise. Exeter to Starcross (8.5 miles) was a nice walk, it's all flat and the views of the estuary are great. Starcross to Dawlish (4 miles) was a bit boring and I was tired and footsore when I got there. The elective final 3.5 miles to Teignmouth was horrible. It was really hilly and steep and a lot of the coast path and seawall is in poor repair and strewn with rocks. It was slow, tiring, sweaty and painful underfoot.

I did 16 miles, so if anybody was thinking of 50p/mile please donate £8 to Bloodwise.
For those of you that want me to work for your money, I'm sure you'll be glad to know that my legs are stiff, my feet are blistered and that there's blood under one of my toenails.

Bloodwise really is a great charity. They hardly spend anything on publicity, it all goes on research and patient support and they get nothing from the government. You've probably never heard of them, but they're one of the biggest medical research charities in the country. Since the 60s they have brought the survival rate for childhood leukemia from about 10% to about 90%. One day you might need them. Age or genetic and lifestyle factors seem to have no effect on rates of blood cancers. Essentially this week you have already bought one ticket in a lottery to win Leukemia or Lymphoma you will do the same every week of your life.

Richard "unpleasant stroll" B

Monday, 10 September 2018

Put Your Hand in Your Pocket

One of my good friends has chronic myeloid leukemia. He was helped by the charity Bloodwise and he now supports them. Next weekend I am going on a fund-raising walk with Bloodwise. We start in the middle of Exeter and walk down the river and along the coast. The shortest version of the walk goes about 6.5 miles to Starcross. That's where you get a train home if you're a softie, or you've got your whole family with you, or (as is often the case) you're suffering with a bloodbourne cancer. Officially the route carries on to Dawlish at about 12.5 miles. I fully intend to go that far, however the last time I took part I got a fair amount of criticism for going on what was really nothing more than a pleasant walk and then demanding money for my trouble. If my feet and stamina hold up I'm going to walk to Teignmouth at 16 miles.

There is no official sponsorship form, but if you think it's a good cause, or you think what I am doing is worthwhile, then I ask you to make an informal pledge to donate to the charity. You can do that at https://bloodwise.org.uk/donate and I'm accepting cash donations.
Next week I'll let you know how I got on. At 50p/mile you'd be giving either £6.25 or £8 depending how far I get, some of my friends are giving double that amount!

Richard "pleasant stroll" B