Wednesday 31 October 2018


To keep my crippling sciatica at bay I walk frequently and have regular massages. I think it might be different for women, but for me it was very difficult to find a good massage. You either end up ringing up a knocking shop, or talking to someone who thinks that you want a knocking shop, or you end up at a new-age hippy healery decorated with dolphins and crystals. In the end I did very well by ringing sports injury practitioners and then explaining that neither was I a sportsman nor was I injured.

The last time I had a massage I was talking (quite proudly) about the 16 mile sponsored walk that I had done. It turned out that my masseuse had also just done a sponsored walk. Over the course of two days she had covered 46 miles over rough terrain and up and down tors. Again this year my achievement seems quite trivial.

Richard "emasculated" B

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Film Review "First Man"

(Contains minor spoilers)

At the weekend I saw the film "First Man" in the cinema and I didn't really like it. It's about Neil Armstrong and the first moon landing. I wasn't transported into the story, in fact I found it so uninvolving that I was able to be annoyed by things like the set dressing and the camera work. A huge amount of the film is shot on shaky "Blair Witch" handheld cameras and most of the frame is often obscured. We get, for example, a tiny view out of a window in a dark cockpit. Fine, perhaps that's to convey the feeling of claustrophobia, but they do the same trick to watch children playing in a swimming pool, most of the lens is obscured by the water and we can only see a ribbon at the top of the screen.

I think the domestic sets were brilliant, but to be fair I've never been in a 60s American living room. I'm a spaceflight enthusiast and this film definitely wasn't made for me. The space capsules and rockets were accurate, but for some strange reason they'd made them all look old, dirty and rusty. The 50 year old ones that I've seen in a museum were cleaner and nicer than the ones in the film that were supposed to have just been built. The flames coming out the back of the first stage of a Saturn V rocket were the wrong colour and the wrong shape at high altitude.

Lots of technical bits of the story that I'd have liked to see were omitted in favour of mawkish emo indulgence. It was made as an emotional story about the man and his family. I'm bad at picking up these things so it seemed boring and straightforward: He was upset when his daughter died, he was nervous and stoic about going to the moon, he was glad to see his wife again afterwards. The climactic scene was about him having to admit to his children that he might not come home from the moon mission. To me this didn't ring true. He was working as a test pilot and his colleagues were dying by the week. I think everyone involved must have come to terms long ago with the fact that me might well come home from work dead.

Richard "Barry Norman" B

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Misery Line

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

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

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

Richard "Pot, meet Kettle" B

Wednesday 10 October 2018

How To Run a Country

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

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

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

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

Richard "just saying" B

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Say What?

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

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

Richard "Never go Full Retard" B