Tuesday 31 December 2013

Super Hero

In the run up to Christmas my mum received a Christmas card from a very boring sounding super-hero.

In the summer my mum gave me the task to "go into the garden and look for a tortoise". I had no expectation of finding one,  I half-heartedly looked in the flowers and under the bushes and duly didn't find a tortoise. A couple of hours later my mum found the tortoise, she also explained that one of the neighbours keeps a tortoise which had escaped. The neighbour was so pleased to have it back that she bought flowers for my mum.

In the run up to Christmas my mum got a card from The Tortoise Lady. I  assume that she's a super-heroine who has a massive horny carapace and fights crime at a slow ambling walk. Her one weakness is probably her predilection for cucumber.

Richard "we'll finish the service with the prayer that Jesus-Tortoise" B

Friday 27 December 2013


On Saturday night I was in St Andrews church listening to a choir recital. I was also texting frantically like a teenage girl. Two of my bandmates were in the choir and our old drummer was texting me about an unrelated matter. One of my texts finished "... I'm in a church listening to J---- and S---- in their choir. It's good! I came last year and it was pretty average." I'm normally good at spotting unintentional innuendo, but missed it on this occasion. I was reduced to a hopeless giggling mess by two texts which read "At least you came" and "there's nothing worse than not finishing off".

Richard "he offered me some unpaid work as a drum-tech" B

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Lazy and Corrupt

I heard a politician talking on Radio 4 at the weekend, he objected to the characterization that all politicians were lazy and corrupt. He said that there was no other profession where every member could be vilified. He was wrong. Before he'd finished his sentence I was able to sing "I know a song, it's not very long. All coppers are bastards. Second verse, same as the first. All coppers are bastards". Before long we'd also realised that without exception "The referee's a wanker". The politician on the radio was probably just too lazy and corrupt to get his facts straight about vilified professions.

Richard "and computer programmers aren't much better" B

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Yes I Remember it Well

Men are stereotypically accused of forgetting important details of their relationships. In my case it might be justified. On Friday my girlfriend and I shared a taxi to a Christmas party with another couple. The party was at a hotel where I have already been to a Christmas party, and a couple of weddings, and where my old band has played. The other couple had also been to numerous functions there. I asked my girlfriend if she'd been to the hotel before, and she politely reminded me that it was where we had first met a couple of months ago.

Richard "You wore a gown of gold - I was all in blue" B

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Village Hall

This weekend I was helping a Beatles tribute band in a village hall party in St. Middle-of-Nowhere, Cornwall. The first half of the show was wonderful. At half time everybody (including the band) sat down to a ploughmans. The M.C. asked me to turn on his mic, which I did, but he didn't address the guests, he just put it down on one of the tables. Above the hubbub of people eating, drinking and chatting, we could hear an amplified version of a very boring conversation about buying a pair of trousers, and the absolute deafening noise of cutlery.

In the second half of the show the 50p in the electric meter ran out and the band was cast into darkness and silence.

Richard "Sublime to the ridiculous" B

Tuesday 26 November 2013


This week I have been socialising with one of my old school friends who is visiting from Seattle. We talked a lot about our school days and I was amazed by the cruelty and imagination of some of the nicknames that the children were given:

  • Pasty
    My friend, who had a face a bit like a pasty.
  • The Sherrif
    A ginger boy who used to strut around with an amazing sense of entitlement.
  • Leatherface
    A girl who didn’t have excellent skin.
  • Splinterprick
    A boy whose surname was Woodcock.
  • Ghee
    A boy with a distinctive laugh.
  • Flaky-bake
    A girl with mild eczema.
  • Lead-Head
    A boy who once had a pencil thrown at him.
  • Bottlebank
    A girl alledged to have done something unseemly with a beer bottle.
  • Point
    A boy with a pointy head.
  • Wan
    A boy called Ivan whose name was once written clumsily in capital letters.
  • Pro-Wan
    A boy called Wan who always had the best of everything.
  • Pivot-Pro-Wan
    A boy called Pro-Wan with an unconventional basketball technique.
  • WPC-Pivot-Pro-Wan
    A boy called Pivot-Pro-Wan who wanted to be a policeman.
  • Ladies-Love-WPC-Pivot-Pro-Wan
    A boy called WPC-Pivot-Pro-Wan who French kissed a girl at a party.
Richard "You've got a point there Andy" B

Sunday 24 November 2013

Trago Mills - Newton Abbot or Liskeard which is better?

Please find below a report about Trago Mills from the perspective of a non-Janner.  This report is being shared at the request of rjb who was present at both 'field' trips to said stores.  NB: no corned beef sandwiches were provided on the field trips (as promised) but a pasty was consumed in Looe.

Trago Mills - Newton Abbot or Liskeard which is better?

Recently there has been some debate about which Trago Mills store is superior Newton Abbot or Liskeard. In order to answer this question this report will focus on three key factors: shopping experience, additional facilities and location. So, how does the overall shopping experience at the two stores compare?

It is true to say that there is definitely a ‘great deal happening’ at both of these discount stores! The range of low cost goods available at both Trago’s is unrivalled: from carpets to motability scooters, musical instruments to equestrian supplies. Although the quality of some items could be called into question, these discount superstores also stock well known, household brands such as Farrah. The Liskeard store is easier to navigate than its sister store and the arrangement of checkout tills seemed better organised and less hectic than at Newton Abbot. However, the excitement of the carpet shoot (slide) was soon quelled but the surly attitude of staff when conducting a perfectly reasonable product test. Furthermore, the Newton Abbot store offers shopping opportunities not available at Liskeard such as; drive through garden supplies, the sale of live pets and Trago2wheels.

The Newton Abbot store clearly offers the best shopping experience but what about the additional facilities that can really make that dreary shopping experience into an enjoyable family dayout? Liskeard boats two eateries the Keg & Kettle restaurant and the Aviary Tea Rooms. Moreover, you can stroll along the beautiful Woodland Walk, where there are seating areas and space for you to have a picnic or BBQ. However, these facilities cannot compare to the Family Fun Park at Newton Abbot's Trago Mills! Set in 110 acres of prime Devonshire countryside, one can enjoy a ride aboard a steam railway, bounce on a trampoline and speed away on the ‘Eagle Go Karts’. The Theden Animal Park will delight adults and children alike! Who doesn’t enjoy watching hairy pigs wallow, feeding foul and smoothing ponies! 

Without doubt, the Trago Mills at Newton Abbott has superior facilities and truly earns it title as Swilly Disney amongst local folk. Trago Mills in Newton Abbott has proved superior in terms of overall shopping experience and additional facilities but how will it fare in terms of location? For local Plymothians, this question may seem a nonsense as Newton Abbot is deemed the better store as one does not have to cross the border into Cornwall. However, from a different perspective the contrary could be argued. The opportunity to cross the Tamar on a chain link ferry or on the exciting ‘suicide lane’ of the bridge only adds to the excitement of the trip. Furthermore, it’s close proximity to Looe and Polperro (popular tourists destinations) means that shopping can be combined with a family day out to the seaside. On the other hand, there is an additional cost factor to consider when crossing the Tamar (£1.50) which is not incurred when travelling to Newton Abbot. Furthermore, Newton Abbot itself is also home to such tourist draws as the House of Marbles! After much consideration, the Liskeard store has the most superior location being to so close to beautiful town of Looe.

In conclusion, although the Liskeard store is in the superior location, Trago Mills Newton Abbot offer the best overall shopping experience and is abound with additional facilities. Where else can you encounter peacocks whilst buying a kitchen sink. There is indeed ‘a great deal happening’ in both store but Newton Abbot is the better 

Monday 18 November 2013

The Idiot Samaritan

At the weekend I found a front door key in the street. I must have belonged to someone with the same type of front door as me, and judging by the parking spaces I found it near it must have been somebody who lived roughly opposite me. I knocked on their doors but no-one was in. The next thing that I did was probably technically burglary. I tried the key in a couple of doors and it fitted the door of the house that the hot single mum used to live in.

The owner of the key wasn't at home and I wanted to give their key back to them so I posted it through the letterbox. Before it had even hit the mat I realized how stupid I was. If there's a single locked door in the whole world that you shouldn't put a lost key behind, it's the door that that key opens. For the rest of the day I dreaded that they were going to have to call a locksmith who would break in and then find their key on the mat.

I'm glad to say that the chap who lost the key lives with his girlfriend and she had another one. It also turns out that she knows my new girlfriend (the drunken wedding guest from last month).

Richard "small world" B

Tuesday 12 November 2013


Last week I found myself in a songwriting clichĂ©. It wasn’t the summer of 1969, it wasn’t my first real 6-string guitar, but I did play it until my fingers bled. It sounds like a badge of honour, but all it really means is that I’d been on holiday and let my fingers get soft. It didn’t impress anybody, it spoiled the rehearsal, and for several days it was too painful for me to play any guitar, or wash up, or lift a hot cup of tea.

Richard “Barry quit Jamie got married, should've known that we'd never get far” B

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Night Out

On Saturday I went out drinking in London with a friend who is my ex-lodger and my ex-drummer. It was an exceptionally drunken affair to mark his friend's birthday, and there are large sections of the evening that I can't remember.

I know that we started off in a pub, and then moved to a very fashionable bar. As a party we were then asked to leave the fashionable bar due to vomiting and we moved to another pub. In the bar it took a very long time to get served, and they didn't sell any draught beer. As though we didn't already look gay enough, to avoid too much queueing, my friend came back from the bar to our candlelit table with a bottle of wine and two glasses.

Neither of us knows what combination of night busses it takes to get from Clapham to Mitcham, but I know we did somehow get home. Neither of us knows where in deep south London we changed busses, but we both have a vague recollection of breaking our journey, eating a kebab and narrowly avoiding getting into a fight. I thought I could remember what the kebab shop looked like, it was on a corner and had huge windows, the lights were glamorous and inviting in the night. It turns out that I was actually thinking of a Hopper painting called Nighthawks.

Richard "hangover" B

Tuesday 29 October 2013


As a motorcyclist and an amateur sound engineer I'm forever putting earplugs in and out. There's a certain technique to opening up the ear canal with one hand and pushing the plug in with the other. I was at a very loud gig with a woman, and it turns out that it's very difficult to give someone earplug instructions without it sounding dirty.

Reach round from behind with your other hand. Now give it a pull so that the hole opens up. Now just slip it straight in. Further than that. Don't go so far that it hurts, but you need to push it in as far as you can. I've got lubricant if it's difficult.

Richard "audiologist" B

Monday 21 October 2013


This week I had to make a couple of difficult decisions quickly. I was doing sound engineering work for a couple of bands and some drunken cock tipped a full pint of beer onto the table where I had my mixing desk. With very little hesitation I sacrificed my cardigan (rock and roll, baby) to mop up the beer, clear the table, and save the desk. The next two things getting wet were my friend’s ipod and a small flight case containing nearly £500 worth of microphones. I’d like to say that I saved the ipod first because it had been entrusted to me, or because the smooth running of the show relied on it. In truth I think it was just the first thing I saw.

I’m glad to say that I was joined behind the sound desk by the bouncy ex-trampolinist whom I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. As it was nominally our third date I thought I should own up and tell her about this blog. I’m even gladder to say that she had already found it, and thought it was very funny. She wasn’t offended at all by this article and nearly cried because she was laughing so hard.

Richard “ruined cardigan” B

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Sci Fi Club

On a Wednesday night one of my friends will visit, we eat together and watch sci-fi (sometimes we branch out into zombie-apocalypse-drama or borderline-pornographic-vampire-drama). This has been happening regularly for many years. He has satellite television and I do not, so he will bring programmes to my house on VHS video tape.

Nearly 30 years ago I first saw “The Terminator” on Betamax video in one of my school friends’ living room and I have liked sci-fi ever since. The chap with satellite tv has started bringing digital copies to sci-fi-club so we have retired my hard-working video recorder. In the same week that we stopped using my video I happened to bump into the younger brother of the school friend who showed me “The Terminator” all those years ago. I thought it was an amazing co-incidence, he didn’t seem at all interested to hear about the demise of my video.

Richard “slant azimuth recording” B

Monday 7 October 2013


This weekend I went to a birthday party, it was the first outing of my new acoustic band, we were so-so. It was also the first outing of my new homebuilt cocktail drumkit. If you don’t know what a cocktail drumkit is (and you’re not expected to) it’s very minimalist and you stand up to play it. It’s like a cross between an anorexic drumkit and a lecturn.

I was present for the birth – and almost certainly the nascent death of a new genre of music. One of the musicians at the party is a world class drummer, he just graduated with a first in music and his final year performance was live drum-n-bass. At the end of the party, after the music had finished and the lights came on he started playing some of his drum-n-bass beats on the cocktail kit. I drunkenly picked up a guiro and tapped and scraped along (mostly) in time. If you don't know what a guiro is it's hollow and ridged and you play with a thin stick, it's like a cross between a bedpan and a washboard. After jamming for about 5 minutes we turned around to see that there were two blokes dancing along to live cocktail-drum-n-guiro.

Richard “date tonight” B

Tuesday 1 October 2013


This weekend I went to a wedding reception and I made a joke that I’m very proud of. My friend asked his wife “Are you laughing at me?” and I said “Worst Taxi Driver impression ever”.

I also got talking to a very nice single girl and took her phone number. She drunkenly, and very directly asked me whether I was single, whether I was gay, whether I’d been married, whether I had kids, and whether I wanted children (yes; no I just like these cigarettes; no; no; and it would depend on the woman). After that barrage I could have asked her anything, I asked if she sang or played an instrument. Looking back it’s a rubbish question, it makes me sound shallow and like I’m only interested in one thing. At least I didn’t ask the question that was actually playing on my mind. “You can’t really have been a trampolinist with those big boobs can you?”

Richard “biological clock” B

Tuesday 24 September 2013


On the local television station we have a very beautiful sports reporter, newsreader and presentress whom I adore. She’s dangerously close to being ginger but gets away with it spectacularly, and has a reputation as a drinker and a bit of a bike – even better.

The beautiful newsreader is a patron of a local cancer charity which organises a competition for local bands each year. I did manage to talk to her once when I was competing in the battle-of-the-bands. This year the charity asked me if I would provide sound and lights for their competition. I said I would do it for either fifty quid or the opportunity to take the newsreader out for a meal – for which I would pay.

My offer was put to the woman, and a few days later I got my answer. She wouldn’t go out with me even for charity.

Richard “what a bitch” B

Tuesday 17 September 2013


This weekend was all about not making noise. On Friday night I was working for a Beatles tribute act and I got shouted at by the venue staff because apparently the band had started too early. I hadn’t made any of the arrangements and didn’t know what time they were supposed to start, but I was much more convenient to shout at because the band were already on stage.

On Saturday morning I needed to test a bass guitar amplified that I had mended. I did it in the garage, but it’s still very loud, and I expected to have to apologise to the neighbours. After about 5 minutes a man approached me, I shut up and started to apologise. The man had actually been admiring my bass playing (it wasn’t admirable) and wanted to warn me that he was going to be running a chainsaw for a couple of hours.

On Saturday night I was working for a show that had three bands, finishing with the Oasis tribute. The second band couldn’t sing or play their instruments, they should have been quiet. At the end of the night, one of the barstaff said to us, “I wasn’t expecting that tonight: You guys sounded just like Oasis”. I don’t know what he thought an Oasis tribute would sound like, but maybe he’s grown used to the bands that can’t sing or play.

Richard “stop that racket” B

Tuesday 10 September 2013

We Are the Mods

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, when all music jars the soul is out of key. Much of the reality we experience is just a matter of perception, but until this weekend I didn’t realise that seemingly simple and definite facts could also be so variable.

I was at a scooter rally at an old country pub in the middle of nowhere (I haven’t got a Lambretta or a fish-tail parka, I was there helping the band). The girl’s toilet was accessible from the bar, but to get to the boys you had to leave the pub and walk down the side of the car park.

"I haven’t been in a pub with an outside toilet for a hell of a long time." I said to an interesting and exceptionally drunk mod who was p**sing next to me. "Ah! That’s a matter of perception" he said. I stared back blankly wondering if he was deranged/setting up a terrible joke/commenting on the passage of time/ or challenging me with some zen koan. "If you go through that door, you end up in the restaurant." He was right, whether the toilet was inside or outside really did depend on how you looked at it.

Richard "don’t talk to strange men in public toilets" B

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Middle Class

On Friday my work took me out heavy drinking, it was excellent fun and very generous of them, but it also contained a very middle class disappointment for me. I ate a squid ring from the buffet only to find that the batter contained onion, rather than squid.

A few weeks ago I had a house guest, and we had two even more middle class experiences in one day: We drank overpriced, organically produced, Cornish grown tea in the café of a farm shop, and we were on the wrong end of a hard sell from the National Trust when we used one of their car parks.

The only way I can think of to have had a more middle-class relaxing weekend would have been to smoke a joint made of organically grown weed, broken up between my oak cheeseboard and a mezzaluna, rolled on the back of a large and valuable hardback book of fine art prints, and tipped with an specially produced unbleached roach torn from a little book.

Richard "never happened" B

Tuesday 27 August 2013


I write a blog every single week, I make a living with computers and I’ve spent nearly 14 years with a company specialising in online and social media engagement. As such I’m uniquely unqualified to not understand what the hell Twitter is. As a non-user the best I can gather is that it’s a bewildering inefficient text messaging service where you don’t specify to whom you send messages, but who’s messages you would like to receive.

People write short messages to either tell a joke, show off, or tell the public what they’re doing.

On Saturday when I went out to lunch I would have liked to be a twitterer. I was in a branch of Wagamama (the Japanese themed restaurant) and I ordered and ate something just because it sounded so odd and unappealing on the menu. I’d have enjoyed telling the world about it without leaving my seat.

@RJB just eaten half a tea stained egg #wagamama

Richard "noodle bar" B

Tuesday 20 August 2013


On Friday I went out drinking in Plymouth. Just like in the old days we saw the Bird Man. I think his star in on the wane now, but the Bird Man used to be a really famous Plymouth drinker. He was always out and about, people were always buying him drinks, waving, cheering, and having their photo taken with him.

Interestingly he comes from an extremely musical family and his mum taught my favorite local singer to play the piano.

When I saw the Bird Man on Friday I was seated, I raised my arm and waved. He saw me and waved back. I then tried to stretch my arm out further to kind of acknowledge his wave, or to engage in some long-distance tele-high-five, or something. I don’t know, I had been drinking. What it actually meant was that I accidentally offered the Bird Man a Nazi salute.

Richard "Sieg Heil" B

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Stepping Stone

I spent a few days last week on Exmoor. We visited Tarr steps, which is an ancient clapper bridge over the Barle river, and walked along the river bank. I balanced along a set of stepping stones to a large boulder in the middle of the river. The penultimate stone wasn’t at all secure and it gave way. I ended up half on the boulder half in the river. My shoe, sock, one trouser leg, and I were underwater to the knee and my shin was heavily grazed. The real problem however was that the "stepping stone" had rolled away and there was no easy way back.

I considered taking up residence where I was and living the rest of my life on a boulder in the middle of the Barle, or stripping off some of my still-dry clothes and wading back to the bank. I eventually managed to precariously replace the stepping stone, and I can only imagine that exactly the same thing will happen when the next tourist comes past.

Richard "fell in a river" B

Tuesday 6 August 2013


A few weeks ago, when I was in a band, we played at a 50th birthday party. We were very well prepared and we played excellently, although the girl singer did have to skip a couple of lines of a song to cough and gulp down water. The next day I was texting her and I said "I really enjoyed last night. You were fantastic. I'm sorry it made you have a coughing fit." As soon as I'd pressed send I realised what it sounded like, and I was quite worried that her husband might read it.

"I really enjoyed last night. You were fantastic. I'm sorry it made you have a coughing fit."

Richard “context” B

Tuesday 30 July 2013

The Second Coming

To understand this minority appeal bolingblog you would have to know:
  1. Yeats's "The Second Coming" almost by heart
  2. That I am going through a difficult break-up (musical not romantic)
  3. What happens at the end of “This is Spinal Tap”
  4. That P.M.C is the rehearsal rooms in Plymouth

Turning and turning on the darkening stage
The singer cannot hear the monitor;
Bands fall apart; the friendship cannot hold;
Mere karaoke is loosed upon the world,
The booze-soaked tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of live music is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of vanity and ego.

Surely some side project is at hand;
Surely another band is at hand.
Another band! Hardly are those words out
When an image out of Spinal Tap
Troubles my sight: Themeland Amusement Park;
A sign with "Puppet Show" as the headline act;
A crowd bored and pitiless as the sun,
Is clapping its slow hands, while all thought it
Wind shadows of indignant former friends.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That two decades of riffs and chords
Were vexed to nothing by a changing lineup,
And what rough band, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards P.M.C. to be born?

Richard "W" B (Yeats)

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Goodbye The Kicks

Last week the band that I have been playing in for the last 8 years broke up. I’m very sad about it, but I have nothing but good memories. All the rehearsals, all the laughs and all the shows were great. I know everybody thinks that they play in the best band in the world, but we were really something. When we were good we were spectacular, when we were bad we were still better than most. The public danced and sang along, and then booked us for their weddings, birthdays and parties, and then paid us! We impressed and befriended an old rock star, and the sound crew at a biker rally said we were the best band of the weekend (comparing us to professional touring bands).

The breakup wasn't exactly easy, but we’re all still on good terms. It didn't happen on stage. Nobody broke my sitar motherf**ker [note 1] and it happened before I was much too old and fat to be up on stage with an electric guitar.

Thank you to everybody who has been involved over the years, you've all been a big part of my life. The band has taught me a whole lot about music, and musicianship, and even more about friendship and collaboration.

Richard "When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band" B

[note 1: If you don't recognise this reference, then you haven’t seen "Dig" the documentary about "The Brian Jonestown Massacre". I recommend that you watch it]

Monday 15 July 2013

New Hobby

"Better than sex" is an overused cliche, but (with apologies to Catherine, Wendy, Madeleine, Sarah, and <ahem> a couple of other) that really is how I feel about playing in a band, at least when it’s going well. This weekend however I was introduced to a new and better creative outlet. It’s called "drawing cocks on the local newspaper". There's a facebook page and a 100,000 strong community of enthusiasts. I don't think I have ever had so much fun as when I sat down by myself with The Plympton, Plymstock, and Ivybridge news and a black pen.

The Hugger and the Stroker

Not only am I having great fun with this new hobby, I think I might be genuinely gifted. One of my friends photographed and submitted my first work and it has been exceptionally well recieved. The chap running the facebook page said he laughed out loud, and he published it instantly. It gained 1200 likes and dozens of compliments in the first hour. It's been described as "An instant classic" and "The best post for ages" and it represented the state of the art for all of Sunday.

Richard "childish" B

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Birthday Treats

It was my birthday at the weekend. People have been embarrassingly generous. Amongst other things I was given:
  • Very many cards, all with badges (one from somebody who’s signature clearly references this blog)
  • Bottle opener
  • Very high quality razor
  • Antique heirloom pocket-watch (running)
  • Book
  • Singing lessons
  • Bewilderingly elaborate corkscrew
  • Many T shirts
  • Handmade science fiction blanket
  • Leather washbag
  • Theatre ticket
  • Magazine
  • £30,000
  • Curly Wurly
  • Laundry folder (like Sheldon uses)
  • Exact model of my favorite guitar (in the medium of cake)
  • Vintage wine and port
  • A kebab
  • Dedicated signed album
  • Two novels (both of which I have been looking forward to reading)
  • Forty year old sheet music
  • Cufflinks
  • Specially made video messages (one of which features two of my close female friends kissing while dressed and made-up as porn stars)
  • Microplane Grater
  • Tea
  • Ginger
  • Malteezers (thoughtful and touching)
Thank you one and all.

Richard "swag" B

Tuesday 2 July 2013


On Friday my age will be divisible by 1, 2 and 5 and will have no other prime factors. There will be cakes at coffee time. On Saturday there is a party. It’s downstairs at The Fxxxxxxxx, Mxxxxx Pxxxx at 7.30pm. Please come along.

Last Friday I was told that it was national sexual innuendo day. In response I tried to slip one in wherever I could. In a conversation about fast food I managed to wink at my lodger’s girlfriend’s mum (a beautiful and flirtatious woman who’s a little bit older than me) and tell her how skilled I was when it came to eating a kebab.

Richard “Finbar Saunders” B

Tuesday 25 June 2013


Yesterday evening when I got out of the bath I momentarily forgot that I had a lodger. I opened the door to walk back to my bedroom without having dressed. My lodger had just finished a phonecall and was coming upstairs to see if the bathroom was free. As he heard me opening the door he started to say “That is exquisite timing.”

I don’t know which is funnier: That the timing couldn’t have been less exquisite, and we were both embarrassed by what he saw. Or that he was so surprised that he stopped speaking after the third word. He saw me with my bits on display and only got as far as saying “That is exquisite”.

Richard “flattered” B

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Know your UK crows

Most of the crows are black all over and are named after what they say (sort of).

Jackdaws. They say "chack chack", they hang around in groups, they’re small as crows go, and they're black all over with a dark grey scarf. Collective noun: Clattering.

Crows say "krar". They're black all over, and they're solitary. You sometimes see them in a small family group or a pair, but if you see a big group of crows, they're rooks. Collective noun: Murder.

Rooks say "rark". They’re black all over except their beak which is big and grey. They hang around in big groups, and at the end of the day they all go back to the same couple of trees and spend an hour arguing about who's allowed to sleep where. If you see a rook scavenging by itself it's probably a crow. Collective noun: Parliament

Ravens are big, black all over, and they say "ronk ronk ronk". The word "raven" was imported from some scandinavian language in the middle ages. We're basically calling them "ronkers" but by way of a hundreds of years old loanword. They have a very early breeding season so that mummy raven can go out and kill newborn lambs for her chicks. Collective noun: Unkindness

Choughs say "chough" to rhyme with the town of Slough. Confusingly we say it to rhyme with slough (like what snakes do with their skin). They're rare, they've got a red beak, they live in Cornwall, and they like eating leatherjackets. Collective noun: Clattering.

Magpies. They're easy to recognise, they're black and white (think piebald). They make all sorts of noises, and can be trained to speak after a fashion. I once heard a pair shouting "shark!" at each other but there weren't any sharks nearby.

Jays. They look like magpies that have been playing in their mum's makeup bag. They make a horrible screaming shriek.

Richard "corvids" B

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Personality Test

If you understand this joke you're an internet geek. If you find it funny you have a cruel sense of humour:

The last time I was out with the Oasis tribute, a woman handed me a phone number. I texted the number last week with an invitation to their next show. I signed the text with their website address rather than my name. "Oh that makes sense" said their website administrator "I was looking at the google analytics and somebody did visit the homepage with a screenreader".

Richard "she didn't come to the show" B

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Laminated Menus

I still rue the day that my favourite Indian restaurant and take-away laminated their menus. It went hand in hand with a price increase and a deterioration in service. Within weeks they had spoiled a birthday party, and we never went there again.

Last week the Oasis tribute band that I work with laminated their set-lists. I was nervous about it but not nervous enough. During the show a pint of lemonade spilled and started dripping into a high powered amplifier. I made my way onto stage with a cloth to mop it up. The coefficient of friction between a laminated set-list and the gum rubber sole of my favourite casual shoe, when lubricated with lemonade, is surprisingly close to zero. I stepped over a monitor, onto a set-list and then fell quickly and violently onto my face. On my way down I pulled out a lead and silenced one of the guitars. I ruined my trousers, my knee, my dignity, and the song, but there wasn’t a fire or an electrocution.

Richard "vans classic slip on" B

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Phone Number

Sometimes my life is completely bewildering. Like a badly written novel it’s impossible to guess the motivations of the characters, and there’s no resolution or denouement.

On Saturday night I was the soundman and roadie for an Oasis tribute. After the show when I was carrying gear back to the van a young woman beckoned me over. In this situation people normally tell me how excellent the show was, how terrible the show was, how sexy the drummer is (and does he have a girlfriend), or ask when the band are playing next. In this case she pressed a screwed up receipt into my hand and disappeared.

When I unfolded it the receipt had a phone number scrawled on it in (I think) eyebrow pencil. The singer asked if she was good looking (she was), the bass player assumed that the number was for me and asked if she was holding a white stick (she wasn’t). I thought that the number was probably intended for one of the band, but it wasn’t clear which.

As we finished loading the van we spotted the woman outside the pub waiting for a taxi. I asked her if she was OK (she was a bit cold) and if the phone number was for me. She made a noncommittal grunt and walked back to one of the male smokers and started holding his hand. Shortly afterwards they got in a cab together looking for all the world like husband and wife.

Richard "homewrecker" B

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Book Review

Do not read Connie Willis if you're English.

As a science fiction reader I was excited to read "Doomsday Book" which has won both the Hugo and the Nebula prizes. It's one of a set of stories about time travelling historians from Oxford Colleges. It's set in the 2050s and the 1300s. I can't really object that it's written in American, and I can usually translate into English very quickly. The first problem is that American language and behaviours are forced onto the Oxford characters. They talk about, for example, having gotten a fix, wearing a muffler, running a few blocks, or standing at a chalkboard. Worse they are rude to a passer by when he bumps into them, and sit down at a table when they first walk into a pub. The gushingly complimentary foreword told us that the historic sections of the novel are full of inaccuracies, but that they would spoil the book only if we read like a pedant. As I know little about the 1300s I could escape into those sections, but as I know how to speak and live in England, my suspension of disbelief was revoked every couple of pages during the futuristic sections. There might as well have been a warning at the top of every other page saying "DON'T GET DRAWN INTO THE STORY, YOU ARE READING A BADLY RESEARCHED NOVEL". I was also infuriated by basic physical mistakes, she thinks, for example, that water evaporates more readily than alcohol, and that snow melts off roads of its own accord. It seems to me like a matter of common courtesy that a science fiction author should know more physics than me, or at least have the book read by someone who does.

My real objection is that it was written for an American reading level. There were no interesting words in the whole thing, except perhaps "extant" to go with "existing" and "existent". One of the characters was a 12-year-old boy who had a distinctive and quite realistic vocabulary. Unfortunately his great aunt had to bring it up just before he was introduced into the story. It felt like she'd turned to the camera and said "YOU'LL BE ABLE TO RECOGNISE MY NEPHEW'S DIALOG FROM NOW ON". The author beat us over the head with some supposed link between bellringing and perseverance so often that it was a relief rather than a surprise when a character needed to struggle to ring a bell. The plot twist was an unsatisfying deus ex machina which basically said "We had a spare time machine all along and you can go and rescue the historians as soon as you feel well enough". However as the book was about pre-destination and faith in times of pestilence, I'm not sure whether this was a stroke of brilliance or just lazy plotting.

The book wasn't so bad that I didn't read it, the characters and the story telling were good enough that I wanted to find out what happened. She's got an interesting and new idea about time travel and its paradoxes. There was a brilliant set of parallels between a future 'flu pandemic and the black death[Note1], and some interesting study of religion, faith, and the way that language changes. The best bit for me was a bible reading which went "Around then the politicos dumped a tax hike on the ratepayers..." when we'd recognise it as "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed..." and the characters from the 1300s heard it only in Latin. Sadly she went to great lengths to make it obvious for the idiots in the audience what she was showing us linguistic change.

For me, this one book has devalued the biggest two prizes in science fiction.

[Note1: Including a strangely heartwarming section where Americans were shot on sight.]

Richard "TLS" B

Sunday 19 May 2013

Citroen Nemo blower motor

The cabin heater blower failed in my Citroen Nemo, and the internet failed to tell me how to fix it. This is what I learned. It will also apply to Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino. It only applies to the Right-Hand-Drive models (i.e. we drive on the left in England). I have no idea where it's hidden on LHD models.

The blower fan is located behind the glove box.

The glove box and its lid come out of the dash board in one unit.

All but one of the screws to take the glove out are quite easy to find.

Open the glove box, there are 3 self tapping screws with torx25 heads along the top. There are another 2 holding the wire lid-catch in place. There is a much larger bolt with an Allen key head  right in the middle of the glove box.

Close the glove box and get down in the passenger footwell. There are another 4 torx self tappers holding the bottom edge of the glove box. I bet you can only see 3 of them. The last one is hidden by a flimsy shroud.

  1. The first job is to remove the flimsy shroud. It's a thin horizontal bit of plastic just above the passenger's feet. It's held in by two plastic plugs. On my car the shroud is black and the plugs are white so they're quite easy to find. The plugs will lever out if you can get a tool under the head. Be gentle, you need to keep them.
  2. Remove all the torx self tappers: 3 from the top edge, 2 from the wire lid catch, 4 from the bottom edge. (Thanks Carol)
  3. Remove the large bolt from the middle of the glove box.
  4. Wrestle, pry, and jiggle the complete glove box and lid from the car. 
The blower, including the fan and motor are in a large white nylon cylinder that looks a bit like a bucket. I'm sorry I didn't take a photo, but I don't own a digital camera. Play with the heater controls, It's quite entertaining to see what they do.

The motor and fan can be dropped off the bottom of the white bucket without taking any more of the dashboard out. There is however one piece of ducting in the way. It's the bit that channels air from the centre console to the passenger's feet.

  1. Locate the bit of ducting that I'm talking about. It's just under the white plastic bucket (the blower fan housing if you prefer).
  2. Remove the 1 screw that fixes the end of the ducting to the blower fan housing.
  3. Twist and pull on the ducting for several minutes until you convince yourself that it can't be removed. It will then mysteriously become very simple to remove. Try to remember how it came out, you've got to put it back in later. 

The motor and fan are held onto the bottom of the fan housing by 3 screws with 5.5mm hex heads. There's not a lot of room, but you can see them if you lie in the footwell.

  1. Remove the 3 screws that hold the fan and the housing together.
  2. Pull firmly on the motor to disengage it from the fan housing.
  3. Unclip the electrical wires that connect into the motor.
You should now have the fan, the motor, and the lower half of the fan housing in your hand. You can now take them to the bench and discover that the motor cannot be disassembled, and that there are very few serviceable components. In my case I'm hopeful, but not confident, that I've fixed the motor. I think the problem was that the brushes were gummed up in their guides. You could alwasy go to Citroen and buy a new one.

Richard "Haynes" B

Tuesday 14 May 2013


Two weekends ago I was at a wedding. The reception was excellent, the venue, the food, the speeches, the guests and the booze were all really good fun. Three bits of conversation have stayed with me.
  1. The groom had promised that he'd try to work a "that's what your mum said" type of joke into his speech. He started off by saying that he wasn't very good at speeches, so it would be short and cheesey, he then left a short pause, looked at me, and said "eh Rich?". During the pause there was a completely tacit "a bit like your cock".
  2. In my band the phrase "I recognise you, you're a c**t" has become a set expression. We got the phrase from a man who was trying to start a fight. He spat it into my face while he was pushing me around a pub. At the wedding reception I got talking to a very beautiful blonde woman, we got on well and bizarrely, as I've never met her before, she's the reason that I smoke a particular cigarette. My bass player had been drinking and become the worst wingman in the world. When the beautiful woman said that she didn't recognise him he chimed in with "I recognise you, you're a ****". To be fair she wasn't offended, but even I thought that the language was inappropriate.
  3. The groom's brother's speech contained the best constructed and best camouflaged dirty joke I've ever heard. I can't remember it word for word, but the essence of it was: "It's traditional for me to embarrass Jxxxx, and one of the things he used to do was play "Football Manager". For those of you that don't know, it's a computer game where you pretend to manage a football team. He must have played it a lot because one time when I went round there he was playing football manager in the year 2041. So I was glad when he met Jxxx and he could stop spending all that time by himself with the laptop."

Richard "speech" B

Tuesday 7 May 2013


Many years ago my girlfriend and I were invited to a wedding. Our friend Claire was marrying into a religious family and the service said that there were three parties in the marriage, Claire, Ben, and God. I remember my dad saying "I bet God doesn't get up early to make tea very often". At that wedding his side of the church was completely packed, and ours was sparse. When we realised that we'd been invited to the service but not the reception we were slightly hurt. We were just "church-wadding" to even up the sizes of the two halves of the audience.

This weekend I went to a fantastic wedding, and there were roughly even numbers of people on both sides. Having said that the bride and her family are committed Catholics, the groom's side of the church, where I was sitting, was generally less religious. They were better at the Simon-Says elements of the service than us, for example they all knew when to cross themselves and stand up or sit down. They were much better at the call and response praying (when the priest says "lord in your mercy" say "hear our prayer") and the woman who did the reading before mine knew when and where to bow. They've also got a different version the Lord's prayer to confuse those of us that were brought up in CofE Schools and families.

While we were waiting for the bride I managed to (very quietly) tell a deeply sexist joke that starts "why do woman get married in white?" I was sitting next to a couple of woman who often sing in choirs and they managed to make a dirty joke out of the second verse of "Morning has Broken" (...the first grass...sweetness of the wet garden...). When the priest said that we would say together the prayer that Jesus taught us I couldn't help but say "I didn't know Jesus had a tortoise[note1]".

[note 1: taught us/tortoise joke stolen from Milton Jones]

I'll probably write about the reception next week, one of the speeches contained the best constructed dirty joke I've ever heard, and a smoking hot smoking blonde woman explained to me the bewildering popularity of the band Coldplay shortly before one of my friends accidentally called her a c**t to her face.

Richard "It's traditional..... all kitchen appliances are white" B

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Cyrano de Saltash

Sometimes my life is like a poor parody of Cyrano de Bergerac. In the real play Christian is handsome but tongue-tied and he loves the beautiful Roxanne. Cyrano is charming and eloquent but is ugly and has a very big nose. In the scene that everybody can remember Cyrano hides under a balcony and prompts Christian as he woos Roxanne.

In my version I'm shy talking to woman and have the big nose, Cyrano de Saltash is a beautiful woman. Some years ago at band practice I asked for help text-flirting with a woman I'd met. Cyrano took my phone and sent several messages pretending to be me. I still don't know what they said but I must have been charming and persuasive because the next time we met we were in bed together within an hour. (it was monstrous)

A few weeks ago I got talking to a woman from Helston. She eventually texted me and I asked Cyrano for help formulating my reply. I ended up as nothing more than a text message proxy service where I would forward text from Helston towards Cyrano, and then rephrase her replies in my own words and send them back to Helston. The system performance was poor with some replies taking up to a couple of hours. Worse, I couldn't tell which messages were intended for me, and which were intended to be forwarded on to Helston. (In the end it petered out)

Richard “in-band signalling” B

Tuesday 23 April 2013


According to my brother, most sets of directions given in Norfolk use movable objects and landmarks that no longer exist. (It's opposite where the post-office used to be, there's usually a minibus on the driveway, etc.) I found it hard to believe, but a man directing us to a curry house told us to turn right where the co-op used to be.

During my holiday we met a curatorial volunteer in the fine art section of Norwich museum. She showed us some paintings that my family had given to the museum. My brother tried to explain to her where the artists' graves were but insisted on starting from a landmark that no longer existed. "Do you know where Godfrey's DIY used to be?" he said.  She didn't, but she said she knew where Woolworths used to be.

Later in our visit to the museum the assistant couldn't find one of the store rooms with the oil paintings. It was in the natural history section, and was supposed to be next to the "bat case". She eventually gave up and asked one of the stewards how to find it. It turns out that the bat case no longer contains any bats, but it still used to describe where to find things.

Richard "turn left at the black cat" B

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Single II

I told yet another story this week that made somebody ask "Do you think that's why you're single?". My older brothers and sister were christened, but I never was. When I was going out with the beautiful broody girl (pictured in last week's blog) she mentioned that she wanted a big white wedding in a church. What I heard her say was that she wanted an expensive and hard-to-organise day where we forced all our friends to sit on uncomfortable benches while we stumbled through a religious ceremony that we didn't believe in.

The girl was vey trusting. When she said that she wanted to get married in a church I jokingly said that I'd never been christened and I couldn't set foot in a church. She believed me completely and was bitterly disappointed. It's a credit to the woman that she didn't demand that I start going to church, or trade me in for someone who could. Instead she gave up all her hopes for a wedding day that she'd been dreaming of since she was a little girl.

Richard "I phoned a girl, she hung up when she realised who I was" B

Tuesday 9 April 2013


In the last few weeks a couple of stories have made people ask “Do you think that’s why you’re single?” I don’t, but I include them here so you can make your own minds up.

There is an old joke amongst technical support staff where people would be issued reference number “ID ten T”. If anybody rings up and quotes “ID ten T” you know that the real problem is that they’re an idiot (or ID10T). When I lived with a woman I put up a washing line that was a big loop of line running between two pulleys. The loop could only go round half of the circuit because the tensioner wouldn’t fit through the pulleys. One Sunday morning over a lazy breakfast in bed the woman mentioned that she’d only been able to hang clothes on the first half of the washing line before she got to the end. What I should probably have said was “You’ve got to push it back to the beginning before you start.” What I actually said was “I’ll issue you with a fault ID in case you need to contact me again about this same problem. Just write down fault ID ten T”.

Many years earlier my boss and I noticed that my girlfriend (a different one) was getting very broody. We decided to administer a course of aversion therapy. Whenever one was available we’d hand her a baby and then pinch her. In this photo you can see a glowing new mum (at the far end) and nearer to us, a beautiful young woman who’s just about to get pinched.

I can’t really say how effective the aversion therapy was, but we certainly never had a baby together.

Richard “do you think that’s why you’re single?” B