Thursday 25 December 2014

Happy Christmas

For all my friends and family. He's a Christmas song that my friends and I recorded with my girlfriend across the Atlantic.

Best wishes for Christmas and the new year.


Richard B

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Blofeld Costume

This weekend to my great surprise I won a fancy dress competition. I wasn't taking it particularly seriously, but with a little effort and preparation I made a perfectly good Blofeld costume (the party had a James Bond theme).

Blofeld is the villain with a fluffy white cat, a bald head, and the nasty scar. He's got a suit with a mandarin collar, a black and silver sovereign ring, and black shoes (a sure sign of evil!).

I've got little enough hair, so it was no problem to shave it off. For the suit I repurposed my normal "Man from Delmonte" summer suit. I turned the collar and lapels up and held it closed at the throat with a shirt stud and a safety pin.

The ring was made from a 10p piece bonded to a strip of tinplate cut from an old mustard tin. The 10p was "enamelled" with a black scrapyard marker.

The scar was coloured with a dark pink lip-liner pencil and produced with theatrical makeup called Rigid Collodion.

 The most challenging part of the costume, other than being a boy and buying a lip-liner, was the fluffy white cat. I compromised and took a polar bear that I won in a raffle.

See me:

See my makeup:

Richard "Ernst Stavro" B

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Old Man

I am old. I have long suspected it, given how young policeman look, that there’s nothing on tv worth watching, how rubbish most of popular music is, and the random aches that my body is subject to. What really hammered home the point was what annoyed me in the supermarket this weekend.

Over the past decade or so there has been an enormous gentrification of the biscuit isle. My tastes are now niche. Who will cater to those of us who like normal biscuits? Who value Crawfords custard creams and bourbons? Who use own label dijo's in cooking? Who see Hobnobs as a luxury? Where will we buy our Garibaldis and our Malted Milks?

Clubs and Penguins should be a biscuit for a special occasion, not a low cost alternative to some pretentious sugary artisan cookie infused with Madagascan vanilla and coated with hand sourced ethically stirred extra virgin Equadorian chocolate.

Richard "Digestives" B

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Family Christmas

The Dyson brothers are an unlikely bunch. There's Freeman, the eminent mathematician and physicist who says that any long lived industrialised civilisation will end up completely enclosing its home star with solar collectors and habitats. His younger brother Miles developed an autonomous artificial intelligence which ran amok and overthrew humanity, at least until John Connor's resistance movement sent soldiers and machines back in time to sabotage the development. Two of the brothers are called James. One of them works in Customer Service with a friend of mine, the other developed a bagless Hoover and got a cushy position as a government advisor after he moved all his manufacturing to China.

My favourite is Freeman.

Richard "Maybe they're not actually brothers" B

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Planck Time

Because of the uncertainty principle there's only so small a distance that you could ever measure. Because the universe has a strictly enforced speed limit  (the speed of light)  and a minimum feature size (the Planck length) there is a theoretical shortest time that could ever be measured – it's called the Planck time. It's the tick of the fastest clock that the laws of physics would allow. It's vanishingly small.

I strongly dislike JDBC database connections, but it's as nothing compared to my intense burning hatred for Microsoft SQLServer. Like all digital measurements SQLserver timestamps have their own minimum resolution. THE MINIMUM RESOLUTION ISN'T AN INTEGER. When you store a timestamp in an SQLServer database it is rounded to the nearest three-and-a-third milliseconds. When you query it back it is rounded again to the nearest millisecond.

8ms you say? The closest I've got is 6 and two thirds.
That's fine, 6.66recurring will do me.
Yeah I'm sorry about this, but that’s not a whole number, I'll have to give you 7 instead.
7 then.
7ms you say? The closest I've got is 6 and two thirds.

Richard "how do I hate thee, let me count the ways" B

Tuesday 25 November 2014


Last week I took part in the most boring Tombola ever. I got a card from the Royal Mail saying that they had a letter for me, but that the postage had been underpaid. For an entry fee of £1.53 I could win the letter and find out whether it interested me. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take the gamble.

All the members of my family are somewhat eccentric, but it seems to affect the women more strongly. On a day that I was driving to Heathrow and calling in at my sister's along the way, my mum wanted me to have come cuttings out of the newspaper, and some notes that she'd made on a traditional folk song. She posted them to my sister's house thinking that they would overtake me on my journey and intercept me there. When my sister eventually got them she really obviously opened the envelope, stuffed in a postcard, taped up the envelope, and wrote my address on the front. She put it in the postbox again without paying the postage. That was my prize in the Royal Mail Excess Postage Raffle.

Richard "it only took three and a half weeks to arrive" B

Sunday 16 November 2014

Do they know it's mediocre?

Dear Messrs Geldoff and Ure,

When I was a little boy I asked my mum why, when we gave money for "old soldiers", we got a poppy in return. She told me that it was so that the poppy man knew who had already given. Now that I'm older I think that the truth of the matter might be more nuanced.

While I support your work raising money for the ebola crisis, I think there are a few points you might like to bear in mind:

1) Charitable work and giving is best done quietly and privately, otherwise people might think that you want to be seen to be supporting a cause.

2) "Do they know it's Christmas" isn't a very good song. It wasn't a very good song in 1984, it still wasn't in 1989, it was no better in 2004, and it's not going to be any better this time.

3) With the possible exception of a couple of Cream tracks, a "supergroup" made up of the brightest talents of the day has never recorded anything worthwhile.

4) We all gave up taking it in turns to sing lines of a song when we left primary school.

Kind Regards,

Richard "Sir Bob Geldoff looking after number one" B

Tuesday 11 November 2014


I used to help my friend in Guildford (the one with the wobbly toilet) with DIY in his house. His girlfriend lived there at the time and she was fascinated and incredulous at the names of some of the things in his tool box. Olives, Mole Grips, Cold Chisel, Try square, Tenon Saw... When we proved to her that “Bastard File” is a real thing, and that a welder would use a “Slag Hammer” she would believe literally any name we gave to any tool. We told her that a carpenter's mallet was called a “C**t Mallet” and we kept up the pretence for a couple of years. I think she believed us, and for all I know she still does – at least until she reads this.

Richard “Bush Puller” B

Tuesday 4 November 2014


For the past couple of weeks I have been having a great time with my visiting American girlfriend. For the most part her vocabulary and idioms are easy to understand. A few examples to the contrary: She called a large cast iron casserole a "dutch oven". She asked if she should "take a transfer" on the bus which is something incomprehensible to do with return tickets. She said that the expensive face cream she bought was like "an orgasm on her face" by which she didn't mean it was warm and salty and stung like hell when it went in her eye. She described a favourable pairing as going together like "chocolate and peanut butter". Neither I nor anybody I know has ever eaten chocolate and peanut butter together. She might as well have said "penguins and lemonade" or "cement and lettuce".

None of this is as weird as the Australian dialect where apparently "don't wear thongs on the boat ramp" would mean "don't wear flip flops on the slipway".

Richard "separated by a common language" B

Monday 27 October 2014

I Did it My Way

My girlfriend is visiting from Seattle. One of her favourite passtimes is drunk dive-bar karaoke. On Friday we went out and did exactly that. It was a night full of unlikely surprises. The first was that I enjoyed myself (I sing very poorly but I have learned to shout-sing an old punk song – it only has five notes in the entire vocal melody, there are long gaps to breathe, and it's forgiving of poor tuning, poor tempo, and poor annunciation). Bewildering surprise number two was "competitive karaoke". We weren't allowed to sing for an hour while there was a competition taking place, but we weren't too worried because my girlfriend is a professional musician and the two women we were with are skilled singers who rehearse and perform together in choirs and bands. Bewildering surprise number three was a crazy old local nutter in a smock, dreadlock wig, and slippers singing faux African chants. Number four was a crazy old lady singing very poorly and threatening to take her clothes off. Number five was a video clip of the same crazy old lady doing exactly the same thing on The X Factor. Number six was that the worst our table had to offer was considerably better than the best of the "competition". Seven was the woman who got up without a backing track and sang Japanese opera.

My favourite bit of the evening was the DJ roundly taking the piss out of Wonkey Eye for being too good and too earnest. At least the girls had the decency to sing popular songs that they barely knew and to make a few mistakes.

Richard "reflected glory" B

Wednesday 22 October 2014


This weekend I stayed with one of my friends in Guildford. He has a beautifully appointed bathroom with a perfectly useable toilet. I once stayed with him after he had stripped out the old bathroom and before he put in the new one. So that the house was still "habitable" he had left a toilet plumbed in. It was the most dangerous toilet in Surrey. At your knee was an unsupported and temporarily capped gas pipe. At your feet an unterminated live mains cable. The toilet itself wasn’t stable or attached to the fabric of the building, it was resting temporarily on wooden wedges to bring it up to the height where the new floor would eventually be. If you moved it or knocked it over you could have fractured the water pipe and the soil pipe and so flooded the flat with both fresh water and sewage, or electrocuted yourself, or gassed yourself, or exploded the house. I paid close attention to the safety briefing and operator instructions, the two most important points were 1) no smoking, 2) no fidgeting.

Richard "I think I can wait" B

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Disability Discrimination

This weekend I did very poorly in an impromptu game of charades. I was in a pub with a band and a deaf mute asked me to hand him a chair. It was abundantly clear that he wanted something, he wanted one of something, and it was just behind me.

You want to talk to me for a minute just over there?
You want one of our guitars?
You could knock me out with one punch?
Hold on, start again. Is it a book a play or a film?

Richard "speak up man" B

Tuesday 7 October 2014


The phrase "make yourself at home" sounds encouraging, but it doesn’t have enough information in it.

The tea is in the cupboard above the kettle. Normal teabags are in the blue caddy, homosexualherbal teabags are in the red caddy.

The coffee is in the fridge, there's an aeropress and a small cafetière in the cupboard next to the fridge.

To light the gas turn a knob to the 3 o'clock position and then push the knob to run the igniter. 12 o'clock is the lowest flame, 3 o'clock is the highest.

Left hand knob two clicks clockwise. Right hand knob controls the temperature. The middle control doesn't do anything, it's a mechanical process timer which rings a little bell.

Left hand knob one click anticlockwise. Right hand knob fully clockwise.

The control is black and silver and says Toshiba. Press the "source" button to select what it displays. HDMI1 is the dvd player.

The control is black all over and says Toshiba on it. Feature films are on the shelves in the hallway. Comedies and series's in the seagrass chest on the landing.

The control is grey and says Yamaha. It only works from about three feet away. No it doesn't need new batteries, I've tried that. The top row of black buttons selects CD, ipod or radio.

The key to the patio door is in the left hand drawer of the drinks cabinet. Key one full turn clockwise, then lift the black lever, then slide the door.

Help yourself but please don't take the piss with long international calls.

The wifi network is called __________ the password is ___________

Either press "browse as guest" or "add user" and use the email address and password for your google account. It'll download your profile picture and all your favourites.

Press "boost" on the Drayton control in the kitchen by the blackboard. The temperature control is in the sitting room next to the mirror.

Hot Water
There is hot water all day but it takes a few minutes to run though. Turn on a hot tap and wait.

The inner control sets the temperature, it shouldn't need to be moved far. The outer control starts and stops the flow. There is a blue "spanner" hanging up if you can't turn the control with your hands. Put the curtain inside the bath, turn on the flow, wait a minute for the water to run hot, then step in.

Towels/linen/loo roll
In the cupboard on the landing

Shops/pub/cache machine
Turn left out of the front door. Left onto Redacted Close. Past the garages onto Redacted Park Road and turn right towards the roundabout. The pub is by the roundabout, the shops are next to the pub.

On Mondays you might be disturbed by a little old lady hoovering and polishing. She has her own key. She's very friendly.

Richard “Holiday Inn” B

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Meat Free

Dear Sir Paul McCartney,

I read with interest your campaign for Meat Free Mondays. The goals as I understand them are to reduce the pollution and the energy and land usage associated with meat production while not forcing people to give up meat. I fully support these goals. You may be a quite wonderful bass player, and have been pivotal in perhaps the most important rock band ever, this doesn't detract however from the sad fact that you're a fucking idiot. If there's one day of the week that the meat eaters of the world are going to cook a joint of meat or a whole fowl it's Sunday. If we are serious about making efficient use of the meat which is already produced, then Monday is the day when we SHOULD be eating meat – leftovers from our Sunday roast in sandwiches, stews, pies, soups and stir-frys. Perhaps too many years of vegetarianism and wealth have left you out of touch with the kitchens and dining tables of the real world, perhaps you just value alliteration more highly than practicality. Either way it is clear to me that you have picked the wrong day of the week.

Yours faithfully,

Richard "roast beef sandwich" B

Tuesday 23 September 2014


This weekend I found the minutes from a fake awards ceremony. The ceremony was held when the band I played in went out for a Christmas meal and drinks, and drunken karaoke in 2010.

The Award for Outstanding Commitment

  • Rxx for making the wedding show happen.
  • Jaxxx for never being poorly since his operation.
  • Juxxx for doing The Cherry Tree with a cold and sore throat.
  • Paxxx for forsaking Oasis tickets to play the fucking Wheelers
  • Paxxx for jeopardising  his marriage to play the Thistle – making it three gigs in three weeks.

The Award for Moodiest Bastard

  • Baxxx for not coming tonight.
  • Pixxx at The Underground when the lights were in our eyes.

  • Paxxx for the whole day of the wedding at Borringdon.

The Award for Filthiest Mouth

  • Paxxx’s reply to the text about being double booked at The Underground.
  • Rxx when he missed the descending run at the end of The Chain.

  • Juxxx saying 'have you got a little bit of thrush?' to  a wedding guest when she shouted for 'Sex on Fire'.

Richard "Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence" B

Tuesday 16 September 2014


I have just come back from a fantastic holiday in Seattle, and it's the first time that I have seen my old school-friend's new house there. I'm glad it's not my house.

It's too big and it's beautifully carpeted - the hoovering alone would take forever, specially around the spiral staircase. The TV's too big and the picture's too crisp. The cooking arrangements are complicated - I wouldn't know whether to cook in the beautifully appointed kitchen, or on the barbecue outside on the deck. Similarly I wouldn't know whether to eat at the inside or the outside dining table, or which garage to park in.

The view is even worse, the lake and its island completely ruin the view of the golf course. Bald eagles and Canada geese are flapping about endlessly, and the mobile phone mast is added to and befouled by the ospreys who have made their nest there.

The garden is so big that it requires a ride on lawn mower and bird scarers. The garden is on a lake and has its own pontoon but you have to share it with ducks and herons. The tranquility is spoiled further by the frogs in the rushes, the dragonflies, and the endless quiet fishing.

Richard "the sofas are perfect" B

Thursday 11 September 2014


Twice in my life I have been outwitted by a rabbit. The first one belonged to a conjurer who was performing at a birthday party, the second one appeared to be a lost pet and I failed to capture it. This week, while I was out on a date, I was outwitted by a fountain.

I promised my girlfriend that when I came back to Seattle I would take her up the Space Needle. A couple of days ago we caught the bus down there to discover that the Space Needle and the EMP museum were closed for a massive corporate event. We decided to ride the monorail instead, but we couldn't get near it even after we sneaked through the security perimeter of the corporate event.

The Seattle Centre also has a fantastic fountain with bewilderingly complicated displays synchronised to music. On my first trip I tried to touch the fountain without getting wet and nearly succeeded. On our date there was a long gap in the fountain's program and my date easily walked down and touched it. I didn't dare for fear of getting drenched, and it started up in earnest as soon as she'd bettered me.

I wasn't able to give my date any Dicks and we caught the bus home unsatisfied and hungry. I cooked a perfectly nice meal but there wasn't anything in the house for dessert so we still had to go out to a restaurant.

TLDR: Date fell severely short of what I had promised, she played "touch the fountain" by herself.

Richard "Lyle Lanley" B

Monday 8 September 2014

8oz Americano and Leave Room for Some Half and Half

I'm in America for the second time in less than half a year. They speak a language deceptively similar to our own, and I foolishly thought I was starting to be able to make myself understood. After a great deal of tuition I can now buy a cup of white coffee. What's confusing is that you have to decide whether the place you're ordering it is a coffee shop. If it isn't (say you're in a cafe that sells breakfasts based on bacon, waffles and pankakes) then you can order "coffee". If you're in a place that sells mainly coffee, then that word becomes meaningless and you have to recite a nonsense mantra.

A couple of days ago I found myself in a worse dilemma than entering a valid tar command on the first try. I ordered a breakfast that consisted of bacon, egg, fried potatoes and toast. The waiter asked me how I wanted my eggs cooked. You are supposed to choose one of two dozed codewords which aren't listed or specified anywhere, and which mainly have non-obvious meanings. "Fried" isn't one of the accepted answers. Neither is "What form of words can I use to encourage you to leave my table and go and start making my breakfast?", "I'll let the chef decide", "surprise me", "I don't want eggs", or "baked into a motherfucking quiche".

Richard "fry them until the white is set, and then spoon hot fat over the yolk until the proteins in the membrane denature" B

Thursday 4 September 2014

Bolingblog Book Review - Les Misérables

Today I finished reading Les Misérables. It's a long book and it has taken me quite some time. My view is that it's a random collection of long and boring essays interspersed thought the best book I've ever read. The plot is brilliant, far reaching and spans decades. The myriad threads and characters weave themselves together in both unexpected and painfully inevitable ways. This process is spoiled however by countless plotless detours into, for example, the history of the battle of Waterloo, the architecture of a monastery, the history of the Paris sewers and language of criminal gangs.

The characters are compelling and tragic. Their transformations are both enormous (in some cases) and believable.

I read an English translation, but even so the writing was beautiful, sometimes breathtaking, and expressive. I give you as an example "Everybody has seen how cleverly a piece of money, dropped on the floor, runs and hides, and how artfully it makes itself undiscoverable. There are thoughts that play us the same trick."

The foreshadowing that takes place is subtle and brilliant. The amount of planning and preparation that sets all the characters and attitudes in place for the centrepieces would put a chess master to shame. When one of the main female characters is introduced we are told how beautiful her hair is. It is mentioned again a couple more times over the next several chapters. We all know that she is proud of her long and beautiful hair, but we would never expect that she would have to cut it off and sell it, or that that would be the turning point in her tragic downfall and death.

Apart from the huge swathes of storyless and characterless prose I have one other criticism. Victor Hugo peppers his writing with phrases like "As is so often the case" "It always happens that" "There is no denying". I think it is supposed to lend authority. Unfortunately to me it made him sound like a proud know-it-all. Sir, I simply refuse to believe that you are the unquestioned expert on the temperament of beaten children, pneumonia, the Bastille, civil unrest, every language known to man, those bloody sewers, Napoleon, disguises, criminality, and the dozens of other subjects that you hold forth on.

One of the most tragic acts revolves around woman (the one who sold her hair) sickening and dying just before her mistreated daughter could be restored to her. The last few pages of the book are genuinely touching when you realise the complex and deep symmetry with that plot.

What the English speaking world needs is a good modern translation and a sympathetic abridgement. They should start with the title. I can't be the only one to notice that "Les Misérables" is still in French. Kurt Vonnegut offers us "The Miserable Ones" and while that's a start but I don't think it's right. "Misérables" is obviously a noun in its own right and a class of person. My best suggestion is "Poor Unfortunates".

Richard "apparently there's a musical" B

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Wish Me Luck

I have a date on Thursday! I'll set off on Wednesday and drive to Farnham where I can leave my car with a friend. Then I'll go to Guildford and break my journey overnight. On Thursday morning I'll get a lift to Heathrow and fly to Seattle. A friend is picking me up from the airport and taking me to his house in Edmonds. Then I've got a few hours to relax, shower, shave, and get ready, before I get in a taxi and go to meet the woman.

A small part of me is starting to wonder if beauty and intelligence are overrated and whether I should turn instead into a proximity fetishist.

Richard "look at the postcode on her" B

Tuesday 26 August 2014


Sometimes it's hard not to point and say the name of the animal that you've just seen. A couple of years ago I was walking down the street with my friend when I saw some geese overhead. I pointed and urgently said "GEESE!" as though he’d never seen one before. That very same day one of my colleagues had seen a squirrel in the oak tree outside the office window and had accidentally done an impression of the dog in the Disney film "Up" when he pointed and said "SQUIRREL!"

We talked about saying animal names as a reflex, and one thing led inexorably to another until I was chanting "BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER" in the street. A complete stranger who was walking the other way made room for us to pass and sang, in time and in key, "MUSH-ROOM MUSH-ROOM".

Richard "old meme" B

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Ahoy hoy

About a month ago my oldest friend was visiting Plymouth. That same weekend I had a birthday party to go to, but I didn’t know what time the party would be until I knew where it would be held, and I didn’t know where it would be held until we knew if it would be raining

My friend has spent the last thirty five years honing his skill at making fun of me and he’s now an absolute virtuoso. He asked me what time my video date[1] was, and when I said "I don’t know, it's weather dependent" he said "What the hell is it? Short wave radio?" he then picked up an imaginary microphone, pressed in the switch and said "Breaker breaker, this is Roundhead[2] calling Wonky-eye[3], Roundhead calling Wonky-eye, come in. Over."
[1 My girlfriend lives thousands of miles away]
[2 I had to be circumcised as an adult]
[3 My girlfriend has a lazy eye]

To my shame I used exactly that form of words this weekend in a message to see if she was online. She was. To her credit she didn't seem to be offended or upset, and she came back with more pretend radio traffic chit chat.

Richard "Ionospheric Reflection" B

Tuesday 12 August 2014


Last Sunday night I went to a wedding reception with a band. There were only a few guests and they were the scum of the earth. They were all unpleasantly drunk, and several of them were clearly high on cocaine. One charming woman thought that the way to start a conversation with the band was to stumble up to us and say "I bet you’re really shit singers". Another turned up with a gift bag containing two bottles of wine so that she didn't have to pay at the bar. One of the bottles, and the woman, was half drunk when she arrived.

Drunk common people are drawn to microphones like moths to a flame. One of the women used the mic to berate her fellow guests for stealing her mobile phone. She had actually put it down somewhere. Another man told us that he wanted to use a microphone to propose to his girlfriend. He actually wanted to ramble incoherently for several minutes.

The least charming guest was overly enthusiastic about the band and tried to bully everybody into dancing. He had to be ushered from the stage several times, and he showed us with great pride his football hooligan tattoos and the tracking tag around his ankle (he was on bail and under curfew).

I never expected that hell on earth would have a sprung dancefloor, a proscenium stage, and a buffet.

Richard "snob" B

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Nothing New Under the Sun

I used to love the History Today sketches on the Mary Whitehouse Experience, and I still sometimes find myself saying "that’s you that is". Brilliant though they were, the entire joke was simply a pair of grey haired middle aged men with posh accents swapping playground insults. More than twenty years later the same format has been rediscovered (rebooted?) with a pair of fine actors using Youtube comments for a script.

Richard "Professor F. J. Lewis" B

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Piracy on the Low Seas

Some years ago I visited my brother in Holland. On a sunny Saturday he took me sailing on a huge lake. There were lots of yachts and dinghies and one much more threatening boat. It was a very loud, powerful, and worn out speed boat. It was crewed by two young men, and was flying a flag. The flag wasn't the skull and crossbones but I assumed it was the local (very colourful and cheerful) equivalent. The speed boat set its sights on us, chased us down, and came alongside. I was surprised to see that they didn't have grappling hooks and cutlasses. In fact they had very good fenders, a long boathook and a couple of loops of rope so that they could hold themselves alongside. They didn't make us walk the plank, or commandeer our vessel, or steal our money. In fact they politely sold us ice creams.

Thinking back, the Dutch equivalent of the skull and crossbones did look quite similar to the Walls Ice Cream logo.

Richard "How do you say Strawberry Mivvi in Dutch?" B

Tuesday 22 July 2014

The Beales

This weekend the good people of twitter have been having a great time by taking names of bands and removing a letter to get a much worse sounding band. Some of my favourites were "Lady Gag", "The Grateful Dad" and "Pear Jam". My only involvement has been trying to think of my own examples. I was quite pleased with "The Cash", "The Cut", "David Gay" and "Sade" which just isn't the same without Noddy Holder, Dave Hill, and the letter "l" and can be further ruined to "Sad".

I was ungallantly pleased with Detroit rock pioneers/motorway to Bristol "The M5" and 80's metal / middle class wine disappointment "Motley Cru"

Richard "#removealetterruinaband" B

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Computer Games

Dr Sheldon Cooper says that playing Super Mario Brothers was some of the happiest 600 hours of his childhood. I didn’t play Super Mario Brothers very much, but I have wasted untold hours with various bits of software, particularly Gauntlet, Dungeon Master, M4 Macro Configuration for Sendmail, and Grand Theft Auto 3. I thought that I was too old to get hooked on computer games these days, but that was until I was introduced to 2048-Infinite Circle of Fifths. It’s a tile sliding game for music geeks. Once you start to get the hang of it it’s more moreish than crack cocaine.

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have been late to my friend’s wedding if I hadn’t started playing it, that was in large part due to the A38 being closed and Saltash being gridlocked. But I would have been less late if I wasn’t struggling to tear myself away from its addictive charms.

Richard "just one more go" B

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Birthday Presents

It was my birthday at the weekend. I got some lovely presents including a linen suit and my beautiful, musical, shortarse absentee girlfriend recorded this harp version of one of my favourite songs from the Britpop era.

The bloke from last week who can't accept that a man and a woman can talk on skype while fully clothed probably had a tiny seizure when I was getting ready for my video date because I put my new suit ON. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Richard "birthday suit" B

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Video Date

I remember the uncomprehending bewilderment when one of my friends tried to explain to a Spaniard that she was vegetarian. "But you can have some ham. A little bit of sausage is OK? Some chicken?" I got the same sort of disbelieving response from one of my drummer friends when I tried to explain my plans for Saturday night.

There seems to be a degree of sexism inherent in the language because I don't know the word to describe him, but I'd have a choice if he were female (harlot hussy slag slut strumpet tart tramp whore). Anyway I told this gentleman-of-easy-virtue that I couldn't come out drinking because I had a video date.
"Oh very nice," he said "naked skype date on Saturday night!"
"No, we’ll be fully clothed"
"Oh. Right. But you'll do ...stuff... for each other."
"No, just chatting."
"No. Really? But she will get her tits out won't she?"

Richard "No, fully clothed, like I said." B

Tuesday 24 June 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name

What's the most rock-n-roll name in the English language?

Is it a name dripping with rebellion? A name that says "Madam, your daughter isn't safe with me"? A name that says to society "I'm going to burn everything you hold dear"? No. It's Keith. The nominative equivalent of a yawn. A name so boring that it would embarrass a bank manager. A name surpassed in banality only by Kevin.

To make it as a rock star called Keith you'd have to have enough attitude and machismo to firstly counteract your own name, and then more left over for little things like stage presence and public profile.

I give you Keith Moon, Keith Richards, and Keith Flint. Wonderful musicians all. A man who defined the state of the art in both drumming aggression and vandalism, a man who has no right to have survived his own lifestyle, and a man who quite frankly still frightens me.

Richard "middle name" B

Tuesday 17 June 2014


This time last year my (rather excellent) rock band played its last show. We didn't know at the time that it would be our last gig, we played, for free, at a primary school summer fair. Playing and rehearsing in a rock band is quite a sweary and adult environment, I was very poor at modifying my language to suit being constantly surrounded by small children.

When I should have said "whoops" it came out as "shit" or "fuck"; "my word" became "fuck me". When I was talking to one of the children who performed (and her mum) I said  "you've got some bollocks" when I should have said "you've got some nerve". I said "pile of wank" to mean "of inferior quality" and "it's in the bag of sex toys" meaning "In the bag with the tambourine and maracas".

I was ashamed every single time I swore, but I take some solace in our girl singer. She's a mum, worked in a school, and was used to dealing with children. Unusually for us we were playing outside and the microphones had foam windshields. In front of a group of primary school children, and her own son she said "What the hell's happened to my mic? It's grown an afro! It's like I'm singing into a 1970's fanny".

Richard "Contains strong language and moderate sexual references" B

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Computer Programming

My day job is writing computer programs in a long-dead scripting language called ColdFusion, the syntax is called CFML. In a ColdFusion application there is a configuration file written in CFML. The Application that I work on is large and complex and contains an element of automatic configuration at installation. There is a module, written in CFML, that produces the CFML configuration file - this is a program generating a program. A couple of weeks ago I needed to make such wholesale changes to this module that I wrote a quick script to do it for me. Of course I wrote it in CFML. I wrote a CFML program to generate a CFML program whose job is generating a CFML program. It's as far down the rabbit hole of generated code as I've ever been, escaping the quotes and hashes wasn't straightforward.

Richard "Turing wouldn't have approved" B

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Hand Signals

This weekend I did a lot of miles on a motorbike. As a motorcyclist it's good practice to leave your headlight on at all times. It makes you more visible, and hopefully less likely to get run down. Most modern motorcycles don't even let you turn the headlight off. I can't understand why but quite a number of motorcyclists have decided to ride around with the high-beam on all the time. All this achieves is to dazzle and annoy the other road users. As a motorcyclist who would rather not get run down by a car I try to discourage any behaviour which predisposes car drivers against motorcyclists.

"You've got your high-beam on and it's annoying for everyone else on the road" is a difficult message to mime in a few seconds, but I have a special sort of wave which conveys the main sentiment. Start with your forearm horizontal and your palm upwards. Make a very loose fist - as though grasping something about the diameter of a broom handle. Now, while keeping the forearm still, vigorously waggle the fist left and right - the movement should all come from the wrist.  

Richard "lots of them wave back" B

Tuesday 27 May 2014


Apparently I'm a polite and friendly homosexual. It's confusing news as I'm a man who likes women and my friends tell me I'm rude. One of my long serving male friends has come to my house two evenings most weeks for the last fifteen years. I'm a better cook than him but he has a very comprehensive television subscription. He'll bring tv programmes to my house and I'll feed him. Another of my friends works with the daughter of the woman who lives three doors down. The daughter was chatting to her mum a couple of weekends ago and apparently the general opinion on the estate is that the man at number 11 (me) is polite and always says hello, but his boyfriend is miserable.

Richard "sexual equality" B

Tuesday 20 May 2014


My mum and dad are/were both quite mathsy, and took every opportunity to educate their children. If a pie/cake/tart/quiche/flan or some other circular foodstuff was being served you were expected to express how much you wanted in mathematical terms. When I was little it was in fractions, later on in degrees. As an adolescent I was expected to describe how much pie I wanted in terms of radians (1 radian is approximately 57.3 degrees). When I learned a little bit more maths I was able to use a π term to make the radians much easier (a modest slice of cake is π/6 radians).

When I talked about this with one of my colleagues he wasn’t at all surprised, he just said "we used to use minutes in our house". I took him to mean minutes-of-arc, which is clearly a ridiculous measurement, there's no quiche in the world that could be cut into 21,600 equal slices. He actually meant the eminently sensible minutes-of-clockface, they're easy to estimate, you've probably got a suitable protractor around your wrist right now, and they have a practical level of accuracy.

Since Easter my mum and I are using a new and bewilderingly impractical unit of our own divising. One disciple is equal to 32.73 degrees. The unit derives from the traditional decoration of a simnel cake which includes eleven marzipan blobs, each representing a disciple. There were twelve disciples at the last supper, but Lando Calrissian Judas Iscariot fell out of favour and isn't immortalised in icing.

Richard "furlong-firkin-fortnight" B

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Internal monologue

I've got an um...... friend in Seattle, and last week I was internet stalking her watching her on youtube. She’s a small woman, she was playing a parlour guitar and singing beautifully. If you could have heard my thoughts it went something like this:

Awww isn't she pretty. I can't believe she can play guitar too. Pretty basic right hand technique. This song doesn't make any sense. Must be some American reference. What chord is that? I don't recognise that one either? That one looks a bit like a D but it's on the wrong strings. I don't know any of these chords! Oh no - she's a better guitarist than me and she's playing in some obscure tuning. Hold on - that guitar's only got four strings! Oh my good god it's a Ukulele! Fuck me! she's TINY.

Oh that's funny I should email her. Am I going to offend her? I don't think so, she must already know she's a shortarse. Perfect, I can type this up for the blog too if nothing funny happens at the weekend. Her mum reads the blog too am I going to embarrass either of them? Probably be OK.

Richard "Hi Bobbie" B

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Totally Unnecessary B̶r̶e̶a̶s̶t̶Brake Examination

This weekend I did some more motorcycle maintenance. Guess which scenario is accurate:

It's a big motorbike with high performance brakes so I'm going to have to change the pads every 18 months. I ordered the pads, brake cleaner, and treated myself to a piston spreading tool. The job was easy and rewarding.

The wear indicator on the front brakes is hard to see. I wasted a load of money on tools and spares only to discover that when I dismantled the brakes I had plenty of friction material left. The only problem was that the sight-marks were covered up with filth.

Richard "B"

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Pen Pilf

I'm still in touch with the girl from Seattle with whom I went out on a couple of dates. I'm using letters, emails and texts to um... Correspond? Converse? Flirt? Court? Pester?

When I wrote to her I mentioned in my letter a few albums that are dear to me. Her reply not only included a list of albums that she thought I might like to listen to, but a copy of her debut album with a personal dedication.

In the text message chit chat she - unlike I - has never said anything so stupid as "You should feel like a princess, each one of these texts costs 25p"

I emailed her on her birthday and her reply came back with the alacrity of a ping pong ball. It was long, heartfelt and touching, and the email footer is fantastic. It has a pair of quotes by Williams Blake and Shakespeare, both funny and poetic in their own right, both seemingly written about her.

It's not a competition, but she's clearly winning.

Richard “but she does write with a ball-point” B

Tuesday 22 April 2014

I'd like to dedicate this next song to a dead rodent

Over Easter I was visited by an old girlfriend. When she used to live with me she kept guinea pigs, they were very sweet creatures and I developed quite a bond with the one that looked like a shaving brush. That guinea pig seemed to have a favourite song. Each morning while I was doing my guitar practice the pigs were turned out onto the carpet to exercise and forage for their breakfast. Whenever I played The Kinks "Til The End of the Day" the pig would charge uncharacteristically around the lounge. The original recorded version had a similar effect on it.

When I was at a rock concert in Seattle a few weeks ago I heard the same song and was reminded of the creature. The old girlfriend has recently taken up the ukulele, so I relearned the song (on ukulele) and taught it to her during her visit - in memory of the dearly departed Rexford-Rex.

Richard “the postman brought me ...fuck all so far” B

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Yamaha TMAX (XP500) Rear Wheel Removal

Taking the rear wheel off a Yamaha TMAX is easy IF you’ve got all the right tools. I spent more on tools to take the wheel off than the “ride-in-ride-away” service at the tyre shop would have cost. You need:

  • Number 3 phillips screwdriver. Not any old crosshead, the screws are large and done up tight.
  • 19mm socket or spanner
  • 12mm slim socket on an extension bar. It’s not like you need a thin-wall titanium socket or anything like that, but my 12mm socket on a ½”sq drive wouldn’t fit and I had to go and get the one on a ⅜”sq drive.
  • 17mm hex bit on a breaker bar. You could try using a 17mm allen key but you’re going to need a long tube to turn it. You could try using a 17mm hex drain plug key but you’re going to need more than a little tommy bar to turn it. I don’t know the torque setting for the rear spindle but it’s somewhere in the “Fucking Tight” range.

The final drive of the TMAX is a chain in an oil bath inside the left hand leg of the swing arm. The road wheel sits on a splined hub. A spindle runs right through the swing arm, wheel and hub from one side to the other.

  1. Swing arm dust cover. There are two large phillips screws on the left hand side of the swing arm. Undo the screws and pull off the dust cover. It’s got honest-to-goodness dust seals and acoustic foam. You should now be able to see the large nut and washer on the left hand end of the spindle.
  2. Remove the brake calliper. There are two 12mm bolts that fix the calliper to the left hand leg of the swing arm. Take the bolts out and jiggle the calliper off the disc. Now is the time to check the brake pads. Now is not the time to squeeze the back brake lever.
  3. Support the calliper. Don’t leave the calliper hanging on the brake hose, prop it up on something or tape it to the swing arm.
  4. Pinch bolt. The right hand leg of the swing arm has a pinch bolt that grabs the spindle. Undo the pinch bolt.
  5. Undo the spindle. With a spanner on the nut and a fiendishly expensive hex bit in the head you can undo the spindle. Be bold man! You’re pulling on that spanner like a little girl!
  6. Pull the spindle out from the right hand side. You might need to encourage it with a hammer on the left.
  7. Pull the wheel off the hub. The wheel pulls off from the right. On my bike the splines were still clean and greasy and all it took was a little bit of wiggling.

Richard "new tyre" B

Tuesday 8 April 2014


Last week I came back from a holiday in Seattle, and I brought various souvenirs with me including biscuits, a coffee maker, light green cotton-paper bookmarks (with pictures of presidents on them), and an expensive pocket knife. My least favourite were sleep deprivation, jet-lag, and a laundry-and-ironing backlog the like of which I haven't seen since the great washing machine failure of 2012.

My favourite three souvenirs all weigh less than a gram, they are two business cards and a tiny quantity of gold. The gold was mined in the Klondike using traditional methods. I didn't know it but Seattle was a travel and supply hub during the gold rush. There was probably nowhere better to be if you were a turn of the century husky-dog-chandler or mining-equipment-baron.

Every tourist attraction and waiting room that we stepped into had a little rack of leaflets and business cards advertising other tourist attractions. In one of these racks my friend found for me a card that didn't advertise an attraction, but the business that supplies the racks and leaflets.

The other business card belongs to a pretty harpist with whom I went out on a couple of dates. No I didn't get to pluck her strings. Yes we are keeping in contact - by letter. Yes she reads this blog. No it doesn't seem to have put her off.

Richard "pen-friends-without-benefits" B

Wednesday 2 April 2014

BolingTravelBlog Monday/Tuesday

This is the end of my holiday and I have done well with my objectives:

  • To spend time with our ex-pat friend - yes, along with plenty of eating, drinking and sightseeing.
  • To look either up at or down from the Space Needle - done both.
  • To visit the Boeing factory - done.
  • To eat a crab - done, although it was dressed and served in a fusion restaurant.
  • To smoke some legally-bought medicinal weed - overdone.
  • To drink some of the local beer - done, I like what they call IPA in Washington.
  • To visit Canada - done on a daytrip.
  • To understand what the hell our friend does for a living - done...ish.
  • To drink coffee at Starbucks - done. It was expensive, bewildering, and time consuming. We also saw the original Starbucks shop.
  • To answer the question "where are you from? I love your accent." - done, many times, mostly facetiously.
  • To listen to grunge - done, in a museum.
  • To get home safely - done.
This blog will now go back to weekly updates about my life.

Richard "mission accomplished" B

Monday 31 March 2014

BolingTravelBlog Sunday

On Sunday we drove up to Snoquamish falls (where the opening sequence of Twin Peaks was filmed) and enjoyed the scenery and a very good meal. We drove round Microsoft's Redmond campus - It's enormous. When we got back to Seattle we bought souvenirs in the Freemont market and a chocolate factory.

In the evening I had my second date with the harpist and I fulfilled my objective of eating a crab. I'd like to tell you how far I got with her, but I don't understand the American first-base, second-base system and this diagram doesn't really help. I think I've ended up with my first (and probably the world's first) "pen-pal-I'd-like-to..."

Fuck me! that pocket knife was expensive to replace.

Richard "My - well that is gratifying" B

Sunday 30 March 2014

BolingTravelBlog Saturday

On Saturday we had lunch at the Renaisance Cafe in Tacoma. According to xkcd I should tell you that the service was quick and efficient and the food was excellent. We then visited the American Car Museum, it was fascinating and the buiding was as impressive as the collection, sadly we had to hurry and suffered a kind of car-snow-blindness.

For some years I have carried a very small pocket knife, the blade of which was made, hardened, tempered and ground at home. I had to throw it away to get into a football (soccer) match on Saturday night. Part of the experience was completely alien: There were pyrotechnics and instant replays when a goal was scored, the singing and chanting was clean and professionally lead, and the flag waving was so incessant that I missed a lot of the action. Part of the experience was monotonously familiar, we stood in the rain for nearly two hours and for most of that time we were watching the home team with 10 men desperately holding for a draw shouting for the referee to blow the fucking whistle.

The best innovation in American soccer is the use of shaving foam to mark a temporary spot and 10 yard line during a free kick.

Richard "austenite phase" B

Saturday 29 March 2014

If it's not a Boeing, I'm not going!

BolingTravelBlog Friday

On Friday morning I went back to the EMP and saw the guitar exhibit, it was fascinating to me. I then carried coffee and pastries back to the apartment through a rainstorm. Friday afternoon we went on the Boeing tour. It was brilliantly organised and very interesting. The message boils down to: "Jetliners are large and complicated, we needed a big factory to make them in." On the frustratingly slow drive home we stopped at a Seattle burger institution called Dick's. It was cheap, quick and very tasty.

On Friday night I went on a date with a yank. It was a date, she did like me, she had been flirting with me in the shop and she thought I was handsome. I've never been on a date that progressed so quickly (through music theory). By the end of the night I was back at her place desperately trying to remember what chord the 7th triad out of the Ionian gives you and what note you have to start at to play the Mixolydian with no sharps or flats.

I'm sad to report that she seems perfect. She's pretty, bright, musical, likes me, and reads a lot (including sci-fi and fantasy). With any luck I'll fuck up our next date and I won't have to decide what to do about her.

Richard "halfway between her house and mine is the southern tip of Greenland" B

Friday 28 March 2014

BolingTravelBlog Thursday

My Thursday in Seattle was as unlikely as winning a unicorn on the lottery. I did a walking tour of professional audio supply companies and made a date with a pretty American woman. All I know about her at this stage is that she plays the harp works in a music shop.

On Thursday night we ate at a Mexican restaurant and drank mediocre cocktails at a bar that sent my pretentiousness-o-meter off the scale. We went to a famous music venue - The Crocodile - and heard our friend's friend's band Knast. They were good, they sounded to me like they wanted to have been The Stone Roses but they didn't have a John Squire. Knast supported The Strypes, a hotly tipped bunch of Irish children. They were very good, but I wasn't blown away.

Richard "I think it's hot the way she loooks left a lot" B

Wednesday 26 March 2014

BolingTravedlBlog Wednesday

On Wednesday we took a long scenic drive from Seattle to Vancouver, stopping for a delicious meal in Fairhaven. Crossing into Canada was easy and the border guard was very impressive - he understood our whole holiday after about three carefully chosen questions. We accidentally toured the many bridges of Vancouver, visited the tourist and beggars district, a Tim Hortons, a closed science museum, and a cruise ship terminal carpark. crossing back into America was slow, unwelcoming and badly organised.

Richard "the Lookout Tower has nothing on the Space Needle" B

Tuesday 25 March 2014

BolingTavelBlog Tuesday

Tuesday morning we visited my friend's work. It's a shared office space in an old factory building right in between the stadium district and the electric-bike-and-skateboard district. We went to a museum of the Klondike goldrush, and had hand-shaved noodles for lunch. In the afternoon we walked through the skyscraper district to the tourist-tat-and-beggars district, and we caught the monorail home.

On Tuesday night we went to the English pub for tea and didn't win the pub quiz. We scored particularly poorly on the round of questions about the dairy industry of Seattle.

Richard "Home of the brave, land of the wasteful" B

BolingTravelBlog Monday

Today I are mostly been eating at a diner, looking down from the Space Needow, wearing a space needle hat in a souvenir photo, visiting the EMP museum - where the guitar gallery was closed - and playing Bocce-Ball at the bavarian bar.

Chunky Ginger managed to insult the friend of a stranger in a bookshop. I was buying a map, and in the local section there were two very unappealing guidebooks: "Stairway Walks of Seattle" and "Extreme Hiking in Seattle". Chunky Ginger said "can we please not do 'Stairway Walks of Seattle'?" and a woman in the shop said "Hey my friend wrote that book!". We tried to apologise and explain that we only weren't interested because we weren't very fit. She didn't accept our apology and insisted that it was a popular book.

Richard "make sure it speaks bocce-ball" B

Space Needo

Monday 24 March 2014

BolingTravelBlog Sunday

Just got back from a couple of days on Whidbey Island. We stayed for a couple of days with friends of our friend in a very luxurious waterfront house. We watched eagles, shot BB guns, played ping-pong and we ate drank and smoked like kings. We were well entertained and looked after.

Richard "Lesbian Pleasure Palace" B

Saturday 22 March 2014

Weird Hat Club

Chinese penguin - USA

West coast update - on Widby Island and playing Ladder Ball. RJB experimenting with a hitherto unseen technique he has dubbed Chinese Penguin (aka cupping the balls).  Actually being quite successful and beating locals. Please note the old style riding hat being modelled by RJB and the fact that he is struggling having put his boxers on back to front this am.

Brits and BB's

BolingTravelBlog Fri/Sat

I've been awake for twenty six and a half hours, I've travelled five and a half thousand miles,and I've been drinking for most of them. I feel like Keith Richards. But not as good at playing the guitar, or as wealthy, or as attractive to women, or quite as unlikely to be still alive.

Richard "can I pass out now?" B

Adam forces Richard into the world of social media

Friday 21 March 2014

BolingTravelBlog Friday

Arrived safely in Seattle.

The off-site airport parking was rude and abrupt but also very efficient. The flight couldn't have been better: The captain had a clipped upper class accent, one of our stewards was an old queen, the stewardess was hot - and our Boeing 777 didn't go mysteriously missing.

We were let straight into the country with very little queueing, no threatening questioning, and nobody groping our balls. Our friend picked us up at the airport, the weather is beautiful, the apartment is comfortable, and I've already looked up at the Space Needle and touched a fountain.

Richard "GMT-7" B

Tuesday 18 March 2014


At the end of the week a couple of my friends and I are going to Seattle to visit an old school friend. It's important to have goals in life, and our goals for the holiday are:

  • To spend time with our ex-pat friend.
  • To look either up at or down from the Space Needle.
  • To visit the Boeing factory.
  • To eat a lobster.
  • To smoke some legally-bought medicinal weed.
  • To drink some of the local beer.
  • To visit Canada.
  • To try to understand what the hell our friend does for a living.

Richard "Mission Impossible" B

Tuesday 11 March 2014


Several weeks ago it became clear that I had taken a wrong turn with my guitar playing. My guitar teacher actually told me to stop playing and put the instrument down before I crippled myself with repetitive-strain-injury. On that same weekend I was lucky enough to talk to a virtuoso guitarist, a very fast drummer, and a kung-fu expert. They all said roughly the same thing, and that is that you can't be fast and dexterous unless your muscles are relaxed and your movements are fluid. You have to perfect your techniques slowly before you start speeding them up.

I now spend hours practicing songs at quarter speed, concentrating on fluidity, posture and muscle tension, and my playing is very slowly improving. Give me another year or two and I think I'll really be starting to get somewhere.

Richard "I wish this were a montage in a film" B

Tuesday 4 March 2014


  • Yes. I know it makes me look like (even more of) a weirdo.
  • Yes. I realise that it hasn't been fashionable to have a heavy keychain hanging out of your pockets since the 90's
  • No. I'm not one of those "steampunks"
My favourite watch had to go to the menders and when I got home I found that my spare watch had a flat battery. The watch that my grandfather was given when he retired also had a flat battery and I have been reduced to telling the time with a 130 year old pocket watch and to lugging around a few ounces of silver chain.

Richard "Victorian Stationmaster" B

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Beaufort Scale

Slight aftereffect (1)
Indeterminate malaise, some tiredness.

Slight hangover (2)
Noticeable tiredness and loss of appetite initially.

Gentle hangover (3)
Tiredness is severe and accompanied by occasional nausea and mild headache.

Moderate hangover (4)
Nausea more frequent with constant fatigue. Headache causes sensitivity to light and noise.

Considerable hangover (5)
Regular waves of nausea accompany constant moderate headache.

Severe hangover (6)
Vomiting in early morning subsides to nausea and headache, movement becomes difficult.

Weekend near ruined (7)
Multiple bouts of vomiting. Nausea is nearly constant, headache and sensitivity are severe.

Weekend ruined (8)
Frequent vomiting to start. Opening eyes becomes difficult. Hangover lasts for more than 24 hours. Bacon sandwiches aggravate symptoms.

Weekend severely ruined (9)
Nausea and vomiting is incapacitating. Breathing normally requires effort.

Alcohol poisoning (10)
Patient lapses in and out of consciousness. Vomiting is frequent and accompanies diarrhoea.

Acute Alcohol poisoning (11)
Patient is unconscious, respiration depressed, cold pale clammy skin.

Catastrophe (12)
Buildings, lives or marriages wrecked.

Richard "Going up the Portsmouth spinnaker tower seems to add 2" B

Tuesday 18 February 2014


Unsurprisingly I didn't have a date on St. Valentine's day. Instead I had been invited to the most pretentious event ever, it was an album launch party in a record shop. Not only was it after hours when the shop should have been closed and not only was it in a muso/hipster all-vinyl record shop, it was in the less welcoming muso/hipster all-vinyl record shop where they only stock records that people like me have never heard of. Not only was I far too old and not good enough looking to be there, it was completely full of hipsters with stupid clothes/beards/hair/makeup/fucking bobble hats indoors and thick rimmed black specs. To really put the pretentious cherry on top of the ostentatious cake there was a bewildering and highly entertaining spoken word artist before the band.

Richard "the band were completely wonderful" B

Tuesday 11 February 2014


Weather forecasting is an inexact science, and headline writing is a lax literary discipline, but even so the weather stories we've had in the local paper have been laughably inaccurate. The southwest has been hit by a series of storms recently. According to the local paper one was going to be "apocalyptic". It was only apocalyptic if the four horsemen were called War Famine Pestilence and Persistent-Heavy-Drizzle. The next storm was described as "more wind and rain", that one damaged my mum's house, almost destroyed one of my favourite restaurants, and has left most of the Southwest inaccessible by rail. The third storm was "Monster storm will be worse than 1987". For me it involved one night of slightly disturbed sleep, 1987 was much worse. It was a whole year long, I was subject to a strict curfew, I had to get up early every morning to do a paper round, there was a massacre in Hungerford and the Zebrugge ferry sank.

Richard "and apparently Mrs Thatcher was re-elected" B

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Two Museums Separated by a Common Language

Last year I visited the museum at Bletchley Park where they were doing radio intercepts and codebreaking during the war. My visit was slightly spoiled by the fact that the exhibits that I wanted to see were housed in a separate museum with a separate entry fee, and that half of that other museum was closed on the day I visited. As well as breaking the enigma code at Bletchley Park, they also built the first programmable digital electronic computer. The first computer had nothing to do with Enigma, that was already broken. The first computer was for a teleprinter code called Lorenze, it was built by a huge team that nearly worked themselves to death, but the two main architects were eccentric genius gaylord Alan Turing, and telephone exchange engineer Tommy Flowers. Neither of them were properly recognised or rewarded.

Since I went there the spat between the two museums has worsened.

Here's a snippet from the BBC news about the spat, and Bletchley Park Trust sacking one of its volunteers for showing visitors the history about computers being invented.

And here is an even handed and well researched summary of the situation between the two museums:

Sadly things have got so bad that Bletchley Part Trust are going to build a fence to keep their visitors away from the computer museum. Bletchley Park are rolling in lottery money and are busy trying to create "a world class visitor attraction" while the national museum of computing is in serious financial difficulty.

I'd like to bang the heads of the Lottery Heritage Fund, The National Museum of Computing, and the Bletchley Park Trust together. It's the same set of buildings, and the same bit of history. They should try getting the funding, the tours, and the ticketing sorted out for both museums.

Richard "play nicely, children" B

Monday 27 January 2014

Love Letter

Dear madam

It is my sad duty to inform you that you’re a miserable, incompetent sour-faced witch. How you have ended up seeming to manage two music venues is quite baffling as you have no relevant skills - except perhaps knowing where they keep the calendar.

If you were capable of managing a venue then the bands would get told basic details like what time the show starts. If you had any familiarity with working musicians you would know how to communicate with them on stage, and roughly how large their repertoire is (no we haven’t got another 3 hours of material memorised and rehearsed you stupid cow). If you had even the slightest clue about live sound engineering you would understand why your crappy club speaker system is no good as a vocal pa for a rock band, and why we were looking for the zone mixer. If you were at all suitable as a manager in a public facing profession and weren’t a horrible horrible person you might be able to open your mouth without insulting somebody.

Let me take this opportunity to suggest some activities that might like to try:
        eating salad,
        being polite,
        taking responsibility for your actions (rather than blaming the hard-working musicians)
        buying proper sound equipment.

Warmest regards,

Richard "you spoiled my weekend" B

Tuesday 21 January 2014


I wish that I had a funny two-paragraph story to tell about my weekend, but nothing particularly funny or interesting happened. Two phrases have made me laugh recently, one of my friends was asked if he wanted anything to eat and he said "no, my body is a temple - unless you've got any biscuits". The other, less politically correct, is "wetter than Whitney Houston's last joint".

Richard "I'm now planning adventures so that I've got something to blog about" B

Tuesday 14 January 2014


They say that the devil has got all the best tunes. It might be true, but I'm pretty sure God has got the best musicians. I spent all day on Saturday helping to organise a concert in St. Andrews church and the quality of the musicianship was mindblowing. I accidentally confused the place with a rock venue, and failed to curb my swearing and dirty jokes. One of my friends had to have a quiet word with me about it after I'd used the 'c' word within spitting distance of the altar.

There was a slightly humiliating turn, moments before the show, when the pianist asked me to turn pages for him, and I had to admit to him that I couldn't read.

The last song of the evening was very impressive. They played the end of it as an anti-climax getting slower and quieter until there was just nothing left. I was impressed and I whispered to my friend "That was pretty good wasn't it?" She had been so moved that she was crying a little bit.

Richard "understatement" B

Tuesday 7 January 2014

TV Series

In 2013 I have been very taken with "Breaking Bad". For Christmas I was given an equally wonderful tv series on dvd. It's almost as compelling and even more off-beat. It's set in a faded variety theatre and ballroom, the two main storylines are about the nepotism and corruption of trying to keep the theatre in business, and a tempestuous borderline-abusive on-off relationship between the general manager and one of the chorus girls. There are also rivalries between the resident artists and musicians. There are loads of fantastic musical turns, and touring acts that visit the theatre. It can be quite confusing because some of the plot is shown through the eyes of the paying audience while some is shot backstage and some is shot from the stage.

It's sensational, inspirational, celebrational. It's called The Muppet Show!

Richard "single yet again" B