Tuesday 26 March 2013


My favourite snippet of conversation this week was what our drummer said when we corrected his pronunciation of the word for somebody who plays the flute. I present it here using the IPA pronunciation symbols. He's confident, concise, and he seems to reject the whole system of recieved pronunciation:

əʊfʌkɒf. lu:tenənt. leftenənt. ɪts fʌkɪŋ flu:tɪst.

However some people agree with how I say it. The Flight Of The Conchords use the word in a rhyme in their song "Inner City Pressure" (a song and style which the Pet Shop Boys ripped off for their entire career):

Inner city
Inner city pressure (pressure)
So you think maybe you'll be a prostitute
Just to pay for your lessons and you're learning the flute
Ladies wouldn't pay you very much for this
Looks like you'll never be a concert flautist

Richard "RP" B

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Walls Ice Cream

There are few competitions that I reliably win, but I have never yet been beaten in the traditional Dutch drinking game of "who's had the best bicycle accident". I was about 15 and cycling past the end of the local shopping precinct. A carrier bag of clothes that I had over my wrist lodged in the spokes behind the front forks, locked the wheel and tossed me off head first over the handlebars. So far, so routine.

It was going home from school time and the bus stop was packed with pupils from the rival school so I had a large and hostile audience. As I landed, as well as grazing my hands elbows and knees, my head struck the big metal flap of an A-board sign advertising Walls ice-cream. When I tried to get up it became clear that my head and neck were through the sign and I couldn't pull myself out. I must have looked something like a long injured cat who had put his head out of the catflap and then tried to pull it back in. I eventually had to untangle myself from the bike and crawl the rest of the way through the sign.

Richard "gold medal" B

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Watch Straps

Two Christmases ago I managed to write a blog post that contained all of seven unlikely expressions given to me by one of the offices at work.

Today's story contains eight words from a packet of jasmine tea. Can you find them?

As I type this I am wearing a NATO standard watch strap. I can understand perfectly why there would be NATO standards for things like ammunition, but it's not clear to me why all the soldiers' watches should have matching straps. I've never studied battlefield medicine, and I'm overdue a first-aid refresher course, but I'm pretty sure you're never going to hear this in a warzone: "Keep the pressure on the wound and take off your watch damn it! We're going to lose this man if he doesn't get an infusion of plasma and a new watch strap".

My skin sometimes gets irritated under my watch, so these straps are ideal, they're a gift at under a tenner, they go all the way around the wrist so that you never touch the watch, and they're made of sturdy nylon[Note1] so they can go in the washing machine. The actual NATO specification (which I have read) specifies a homely grey colour but mine is navy blue with a red and silver pinstripe evoking a flavour of empire or luxury air travel.

[Note1] the specification actually calls for Nylon by name. That used to be a trade name for a pair of plastics sold by the DuPont corporation, Polyamide-6 and polyamide-6,6. These days it seems to be a general term for all polyamides, people even classify plastics as aliphatic nylons, aromatic nylons, semi-aromatic nylons etc.

Richard "wordsearch" B


Tuesday 5 March 2013


Over the years my brothers have told me many stories, some more believable than others. One of the most far fetched involved hiring a locksmith who turned out to be competent and interested, and who managed to open the jammed door without breaking anything.

My weekend has been ruined by the Devon Door and Lock company of Malborough Street who I think are either incompetent or dishonest (possibly just lazy). The rear entrance to my mum's house is protected by an iron gate which is locked with an obscure and fragile key. The first two keys are now broken after only about 25 years but my dad, with amazing forethought, sent us one more blank key from beyond the grave. I presented the lock, both broken keys, and the blank to DDLC who told me that the lock was worn out beyond repair and would have to be replaced in toto. They then spent a fortnight failing to find a replacement. I am not a locksmith, but I contend that the lock wasn't broken, and that a key could have been cut quite easily. I "repaired" the lock with nothing more than a screwdriver, a rag, and WD40. After having taught myself how it worked, I successfully cut a new key with swiss files and a ruler. This took many hours and excited me to a fury which is only now beginning to subside. I could have done it much quicker if I understood how locks work, and I'd had feeler gauges, a profile gauge, engineers blue, and a milling machine or microscope (or something) with a compound table. A competent locksmith, if there were such a thing, with one of those pantograph key cutting machines could have done it in 20 minutes.

Richard "security" B