Sunday, December 31, 2006
It must be these new decimalised, metricated years. Back in the pounds, shillings, pence, feet and inches days years were
L .......O .......N .......G .......
You could at least get used to them before they finished but now one minute you are saying Happy New Year, the next minute it's Merry Xmas.
I'd better get to the shops for the Easter Eggs.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Apart from the horrible moment when you first hear the news, I found, when my father and mother died, that the next morning was also a pretty horrible thing. Those few minutes just after you wake up and things are momentarily as they were until you remember...
Saturday, December 23, 2006
And suddenly there they were; tired but relaxed, bronzed and healthy looking – the three intrepid travellers.
When she got home Biddy found the place somehow smaller. I suppose we all go through this, do we? Especially if we are away for a longer time in a place where things are very different.
I remember when I came back from a mind-expanding year living in Greece, when I was 20, finally getting home and sitting in the living room in Liverpool thinking how different everything looked to how I recalled it… and how small. And over the next days I found the house, the street, the city - everything - somehow smaller, less imposing, tamer. It’s as if you leave something behind, as if something dies; a childhood image of the place you have lived where things seem bigger than they are – and now you have eyes which have seen the world from a different perspective. It was very unsettling for me and it will be for Biddy too, I expect, but it’s part of growing up. It goes along with realising that your parents are people as well as parents… ho hum.
Anyway, it’s great to have her back.
Between them, the three girls took something approaching 2000 pictures – so we have the nice prospect of going through them over Xmas, and New Year and probably up to Easter!
Friday, December 22, 2006
Here's a report from the beeb: BBC News Video
At the moment Biddy's flight on to deepest Bavaria is still scheduled but we don't know how long that will be the case...
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I used to like foggy days in Liverpool as a kid... it was great going to school in the morning and being able to imagine that the place had disappeared completely - there was just a gap where the school should be... until you got close enough to see that there was unfortunately a grey wraith-like school-shaped mass...
But this fog, this freezing and aeroplane hindering fog I do not like! Quite frankly it can fog off!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
She and her two travelling companions are coming to the end of their 2 month Indian trip. On Friday they fly to London and then on to Munich... to what will most probably be an enormous welcoming committee!
They have had some amazing experiences and yet it seems that they are ready to come back too... which is perfect timing.
And as for me... I will be delighted (and not a little relieved) to have her safely back.
In the second test they spent the whole match on top only to throw away a victory near the end and this third one which has just finished they managed to throw away at least twice in the same match!!
Monday, December 18, 2006
Talking the other night, Verena asked me how I had managed with getting over my mother's death last summer. I realised I hadn't.
It's a strange thing, you get used to it... to the bare fact of it; so, if someone I have not seen for a while asks how she is I can blithely tell them she passed away last year; there is a kind of routine rehearsed storyline I can relate automatically without engaging my emotions.
But, for example, last week, when we had a look at some of the excellent photos my older son has had taken for his acting portfolio, my first reaction was to think how I could send them over to Liverpool for my mother to look at and then there was that shock of bereavement which reveals this big empty hole in my universe where she used to be.
The other night we also talked of that strange feeling of wondering if your parents, although they have died, would be happy with what you are doing. I don't know if everyone has this feeling but in my head it's in a file called "parental approval" which is in a little section of my brain called "still-a-child".
Finding that in myself it seems weird to think that it was probably in my father and mother too... that they also wondered whether their father and mother would approve long after they had died... and I wonder if my kids suspect it in me?
Monday, December 11, 2006
It's bloody freezing too... but how nice then to get a croissant and bring it back to have with a coffee... simple pleasures.
Friday, December 08, 2006
We do have some good ones, names I mean, for prisons... and some boring ones. The prison in Liverpool is called Walton Prison - not very exciting really and then there is a new prison which has been built on the outskirts of the city. It was no doubt a good idea of the city council to build the thing in the middle of nowhere but it does have one drawback. I discovered that while my mother was in hospital and I caught the bus to go and visit her. The bus takes a relatively circuitous route and stops at the prison on the way to the hospital.
Now, there is no other building, shop, house or anything for miles around and so if you get off at that stop you can ONLY be going to visit an inmate. A bit embarrassing if you are a young mum with young kids and you get off or on at that stop - it's pretty obvious that your husband is doing time!
I bet the councillors didn't think of that.
Anyway, in Manchester they have strange ways.. I mean Strangeways which is a pretty good name for a prison but by far the best is the prison in west London.
How could you beat a prison with the name "Wormwood Scrubs"?? It's pure Dickens... if a prison had a sound it would be... w o r m w o o d scrubs... you can hear the cell doors creaking...
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
There is about an hour to go and it is very tense...
One hour later... as one commentator aptly put it, "England successfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!"
Friday, December 01, 2006
England got themselves nicely slaughtered in the first test but we somnambulists are all quietly confident that we will show the Aussies a thing or two from now on.
So, it's back to the Guardian's ball-by-ball coverage until such time as I nod off!
By the way, to any of you who have absolutely no idea what I am on about there is probably no point in explaining... but it's cricket, innit?
A test match is an international cricket match and the Ashes is what England and Australia play for...
Now my laptop battery is down to 14%, England are 24 for no wicket which is a tentative but solid start - considering there are another 5 days to go - so it might be time to go and nod off for a while and then come back to find 250 for 2 at tea or 157 for 8... ooh, me nerves like...
Come on, Engla-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Monday, November 27, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
After that there have been trips to temples, old forts, markets, a ride on rented mopeds which ended face-to-trunk with an elephant; they have been to Kollam where the backwaters are, suffered the Indian equivalent of Montezuma's revenge after eating European food, treated themselves to whole-body Ayurveda massages, bought themselves material which they intend to get made into saris and Biddy even managed to get a bloodsucking leech on her leg - which she insists is really healthy!
It all makes it a bit difficult to mail them back when all you can say is; "erm, the leaves have fallen off the trees here and we had a look at the new Ikea catalogue last Thursday..."
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
It's not a crown, nor is it a florin or a shilling...
The date on the back is 1920 which means it is 50% silver!! If it had been a year older it would have consisted of 95% silver!! Bloody hell, they really made coins back in those days.
In the useless clue in the previous post I said it was worth the same as five tanners; a tanner is (was) a sixpenny bit... so we are talking about a coin which is worth 30d (that is 30 "old" pence - the d stands for pence - don't ask). Divide that by 12, as there were 12d in a shilling, and you get 2/6 - two and six - or as my dad used to say half a dollar (<- clue).
If I may be permitted a quick aside/rant... this is my problem with metric, decimalised centigradual measuring systems - they are so BORING! It's all 10s and 100s and 1000s!
Pre decimalisation in England we had 240 pence in a pound.
240! Now there's a number you can get your teeth into!
12 pence was a shilling - which is why we had sixpenny bits - half a shilling. There was a threepenny bit too (quarter of a shilling?? Ok?)
20 shillings was a pound - BRILLIANT!
And then there was a Guinea which was one pound and one shiling: 21/-. Furniture shops and car showrooms always had prices in Guineas for the same reason that everything now is 9.99 or 199.99 - you thought the article cost 399 pounds...but it turned out to be 399 Guineas which is 399 pounds PLUS 399 shillings.
Right, anyway, numismatists or oldmismatists... what is it?
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I would have thought that by now the England team/mangers/tacticians or whatever would have realised that after scoring the first goal it is totally and disasterously stupid to sit back and invite the other team to attack in the hope of holding on till the end. Admittedly the Dutch were almost as abysmal as we were but we should have pushed on to take advantage of that!!
Anyway, 7 minutes to go and I turned to TM who was dozing off and said, "right, now it's time for Holland to score two late goals and win!"
And with that Holland took a long throw and scored the equaliser!!
Then there was another 6 minutes of frenzied activity from both teams which was more entertaining than the previous 85 and it ended in a draw, a snore draw, a bore draw...
I love footy!!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Shades of the World Cup - why does anyone put themselves willingly through what is probably going to be an hour and a half just as excruciatingly awful as, say, England v. Portugal in the summer?
This is the cross the England fan has to bear - that explains the flag!
C'mon England...clap clap!!
Now, I am far from being an expert but isn't that the wrong way round? Aren't you supposed to be tired before you go to sleep and then feel full of energy when you wake up??
AM I MISSING SOMETHING HERE???
(Apart from sleep that is)
Monday, November 13, 2006
I type two wrong letters... oh well!
I hit backspace and the first letter's gone, brilliant!
I hit backspace again... and the whole bleedin' text disappears - not ok, not well, decidedly unbrilliant...
This seems to be a 'feature' of WORD in text field infected pages... but hang on, I'm sorry, what kind of imbecile created that feature? Was it the product of a long Friday afternoon open-end brainstorming session at MicroSoft HQ..?
"Ok, so we can make this feature where you hit the back space twice and the whole text vanishes, what do you think guys?"
"Whatever you say, Bill..."
"Sounds great, Bill.."
"Bill, you're the man!!"
The question is:
The second question is a little less technical... it's about pigs.
How many trotters do ten pigs have... assuming none of them have been involved in piggy wars or walked through piggy landmine areas?
In other words is there one trotter at the end of each leg of each pig or are there more...? I originally thought two trotters per leg... but subsequent research has completely bamboozled me... so come on, pig fans out there in Pig County...
Friday, November 10, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Look at those socks!
Well, it would have been her birthday today - Guy Fawkes' Day in England, the day when we celebrate the fact that something didn't happen and if you can find a more English celebration than that let me know.
My mum always said there was no excuse for forgetting her birthday it being firework night - so just to prove I haven't forgotten... Happy Birthday!
Friday, November 03, 2006
Anyway, after he had made a couple of mistakes I suggested he should buy my book for Germans learning English! He then took down my web address and promised to have a look!
I doubt that it will lead to a sale but it was nice to turn the tables for once.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
When I was talking to her on Tuesday (me in Munich, she in Bombay!!) I was thinking, “wow, that’s the first time I have spoken to someone in India!”
But then I remembered the last time I called British Telecom with a query about the telephone bill…
To be more accurate the notes are actually dissolving in unsuspecting people’s pockets.
It seems that some of these banknotes have been treated with a sulphate salt which turns into a kind of sulphuric acid when it comes into contact with human sweat…for example on your palm! Then the acid eats away the banknote and you end up with nothing.
I have been getting notes like that for years!
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
They are now in a small hotel in Bombay. I spoke to her yesterday through the wonders of modern mobile phone technology. They got themselves a chip there for their mobile which means I can phone them from Munich and, with the help of a special dialling number here, only pay €0.054 per minute!
Monday, October 30, 2006
What a weird feeling this is watching the online updates from Heathrow and British Airways, imagining them settling down in their seats getting ready for an eight-hour flight after hanging round Heathrow all day looking for ways to pass the time...
UPDATE - midnight: looks like they have finally taken off, one and a half hours late. So now they are flying back the way they flew this morning and in a couple of hours they will be over Munich again... shall have to look out of the window and give them a wave...
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Do people in England still do that sort of thing?? They are probably all sat in front of their home entertainment centres having a microwaved Thai curry...
Monday, October 16, 2006
I was thinking about 51; what can you do with that number? Divide it into 3 seventeens or take it from 100 leaving 49 which is the square of 7? And then I recalled a book someone lent me on reading Tarot cards.
It was real hoot of a book written by some Mystic Mrs.
The best thing in it - and there was loads to chuckle about - was her ongoing struggle throughout to bend over backwards in order to make the Jungian term archetype fit into her scheme of things. Her problem was that she thought the arche part of archetype was derived from the Latin arca meaning 'arch'.
She then had to find some way of explaining why the illustrations on the Tarot cards are often referred to as being archetypal images. This caused her all kinds of convoluted spine-splitting bends and twists as she tried to convince her reader that the archetypes are the kind of angle, or arch in which we view the Whole. Where she conjured that bit of gobbledigook from I do not know.
It would all have been so much easier if she had just looked archetype up in a dictionary!
Anyway, there was a section in the book which said you could work out the something or other about yourself by adding together the digits of your date of birth! So, for example you add together the year, say, 1969, and you get 1 + 9 + 6 + 9 = 25 then you add 2 to 5 and end up with 7 - this means you should never look at a black cat in a broken mirror if there is an "r" in the month.
So, I thought, what about 51; well, 5 + 1 is 6! And 6, since time immemorial, has been my "lucky number".
What more could I ask?
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Friday, October 13, 2006
The bloke who regularly fixes my bus is what they call a waschechter Bayer - a-dyed-in-the-wool Bavarian. Everyone calls him Ludwig but his name his Dietmar and he's a dab hand with cars. When I told him over the phone the noises Buzzy had made he said, "clutch" (Bavarians tend towards an almost Benedictine taciturnity), "maybe gearbox."
He came round to ours last Tuesday - a public holiday in Germany - with a gift of two loaves of home-baked bread and two pots of home made jam and then drove me to where I had had to abandon Buzzy... on the way we had to stop at his mother's allotment... he had to fix the water tap in the garden... before we left the allotment he had given me two of the lettuces which were growing there, one cucumber he picked from the... whatever cucumbers grow on, two carrots pulled out of the earth and washed under the now functioning tap; we had meanwhile also tried some yellowy raspberry things and the petals of a flower which he insisted tasted like pepper and I thought tasted like soggy tissue paper. We got to Buzzy, he had a look; "clutch . . . and maybe gearbox". We then drove in convoy to his workshop at about 15 m.p.h.
Finally he drove me home again.
And why am I telling you all this? Well, mainly because Ludwig saved me having to make the dreaded decision. Unbeknown to me, as soon as he heard about Buzzy, he had ordered a clutch so he could get the repair done quickly! That allowed me to feel duty bound to have the repair done; ergo niente decisiones (for the non-Classically educated, that is the hopelessly, ludicrously wrong Latin for therefore no decisions)
And maybe his inscrutable, chthonic Bavarian instincts told him that no matter how long I agonised about the decision, my rational, sensible, economy-thinking head would still have been slowly bludgeoned into submission by my dozy, sentimental, spendthrift heart.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Clutch kaput but also gearbox kaput... buggeration...
New clutch is going to cost around 400€; second-hand gearbox around 500€ plus labour.. ouch!
The question I have to put to myself though is: "is it worth it?"
Buzzy, as I have mentioned, is 18 already - so from that point of view the answer is "no".
But, as I have also mentioned, he is a member of the family too - so does that mean a "yes"?
Did I complain down below that I was being called an old softie?
What to do, what to do...?
Monday, October 09, 2006
This is a view of us from Saturn taken by the Cassini probe - that little tiny dot about the size of a pixel under the wider ring is the earth. In the inset you can see a slight protuberance at the top left - that is the moon. A holiday snapshot from 930 million miles away. Stuff like this never ceases to send chills down my spine.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
But you can say what you like, our Buzzy is a fine and noble bus. He always manages to get us home or failing that to make sure that any breakdown happens in a not too inconvenient location. This was a case in point. We had just loaded as much of Nicky's stuff as we could jam in and were setting off for her new place. Before we had even covered the first 100 yards and left the estate he was making warning noises, strange grinding banging sounds which I had never heard before.
Knowing Buzzy, I interpreted this as him saying to me:
"look, pal - I know Nicky is moving and it's important and all that but I have a problem here and before we set off and then break down in the middle of the frantic afternoon traffic right near where the Oktoberfest in being held with a bus full to the top of furniture and bags and so on, it might be better to turn back and think of getting a different vehicle on the job..."
So we did turn back and after some hectic phone calls managed to find a company nearby where we could rent a van for 3 hours. So we went and picked it up, came back, transferred the furniture etc and set off again. This time it was all ok, except for the mad traffic, and Nick was quickly installed in her new place.
Then that strange phase started where Nicky was then "home" and we (her mother, sister, brother and myself) were standing around looking awkward and out of place; feeling that we should leave but not knowing how to...
We were sort of saved in the end by having to go to get the van back in time. So off we went...
I just realised that I actually asked her where she was going to sleep yesterday evening! What a stoopid question... (I will let you think about the psychological background implications!!)
"Here..." she said.
So we took the van back and then returned to find a forlorn Buzzy. He's getting towed to the garage shortly, I think to have a reunification of clutch and engine.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Our Nick - seen here enjoying dinner with me many dinners ago - is moving into her own place today!
This guarantees me a bad back but also a wistful sentimental feeling made up of wondering where all the time has gone and foolishly wishing in vain it was all somehow the way it used to be along with being pleased for her that she is making the next step in her life...
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Well, I have been going through a bit of bloggy blues... thinking about blogging this; planning to blog about that ...and actually blogging nowt!
So, just to reactivate my blogginess, here's a joke made up by an old school-mate of mine, a lad who has to be given credit for successfully going through the whole of his formative years in Liverpool carrying the burden of being called Alex DeGier - I mean it's a great name but imagine in Liverpool ...
"wass yer name mate? DeGier...hey dat's de gear dat mate..." and so on and so on...
Anyway, his joke. When I was an SPTTCA (student part-time temporary clerical assistant) in a Bootle tax office in the far-off 70s, I tried to liven up a grey civil servant afternoon by telling them this joke ... they laughed for weeks about it:
A bloke goes into a pub and he sees Vincent van Gogh sitting over in the corner.
"Hey, Vincent," he shouts, "fancy a pint?"
"No thanks," says Vincent van Gogh, "I've got one ear!"
As my dad would have said, it tickles me that one!
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Backs are proof to me that if there had been an intelligent designer (of course there wasn't an intelligent designer but if there had been) then he/she or it was definitely NOT very intelligent.
Yes, I have a bad back. This phase of bad-backness has been going on for the last few weeks... just one wrong move and boing, there it goes... agony!
And you get no sympathy for a bad back.
Every time you get up from your chair and shout "ow!!" your kids just laugh at you....
Even the correct terms for "bad back" are a bloody nuisance. Take lumbago for example.
When I was a kid I always thought lumbago sounded really funny... I pictured a kind of special humbug. I mean the expression just doesn't tell you anything does it?
For example broken leg is pretty clear or sprained ankle but lumbago? What's that supposed to be?
Or look at sciatica, that's another non-name...
"I have sciatica"
"Oh, is that The Who's new album?"
The Germans are a little more helpful. It's called Hexenschuss in German which literally means witch shot... i.e. you have been shot by a witch. That captures the idea quite well.
However in Anglesey (Wikipaedia link) I found brief but nevertheless welcome respite from the physical and mental torture of lumbago. We were walking along the cliffs near Bull Bay and my back was twitching and pinging with pain. We came upon a little narrow wooden bench for walkers to sit on to admire the view. Now I had the idea to stretch out on it and... wonder of wonders... NO PAIN... just a warm sinking feeling of relaxation...
The Druids were pretty big on Anglesey, you know... hmmm...
Anyway, someday I must go back (oh please yourselves)...
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Anyway in deepest Bavaria it is back to school today - one day later than it would normally have been because the Pope was here. Just why that should make any difference I don't know unless it was a PR attempt to make him more popular amongst the local kids.
Back to school...arghhhh... how I hated it; catching the busses you hadn't caught all summer, feeling itchy and uncomfortable in the new unworn uniform you still had to grow into...and then the smell of the school again - that unmistakable pong of insufficiently aired school buildings... streams of kids eddying up and down the corridors and finally the form room - our prison cell for the year - where we would find out which group of sadists, loonies and misfits were going to be entrusted with our education this year.
It is maybe one of the few "advantages" of being adult - unless of course you belong to that group of sadists, loonies and misfits - that we don't have to go through "back to school" any more.
Well, I'm off to teach a class of dozy business people to speak English... back to school huh? How about a nice grammar test for the first lesson...
Monday, September 11, 2006
Up until 1956 the most moden computers which existed had been using magnetic tape or punch cards to store data...but then IBM came up with a computer which had a real harddisk for data storage.
This new feature was the size of a wardrobe (2m x 2.2m x 80cm) and weighed about a ton but it could store a staggering FIVE MBs!! That's just about one long mp3!
It makes you wonder what they did with such a miniscule memory...
Oh, and the cost for this harddisk with its 5 MBs was a mere three and a half thousand dollars a month (that's to lease it)!
Progress is not always bad.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Sitting slumped in the armchair with the remote loosely grasped in my hand I zapped around the TV channels the other night. A shock of recognition woke me somewhat when I saw Professor Richard Dawkins on some sort of chat/interview/everyone-talk-at-the-same-time-and-nobody-listens programme.
It was called something like “My Life” and it featured the aforementioned RD surrounded somewhat threateningly I felt by a group of mainly young people of various religious faiths.
“Oh here we go…evolution v. bible/Koran/Tibetan Book of the Dead or whatever…”
The presenter, whose name I made a mental note of remembering but have subsequently forgotten anyway, was good, objective and not afraid of cutting through the mindless unconsidered drivel some of his participants came out with – a feature which I have never before experienced on TV and which made the programme even more worth watching.
It turned out not to be the endless evolution “debate” – Dawkins quashed that quite early on by saying that any intelligent person, whether a member of a religion or not, accepts the overwhelming proof for the process of evolution, “the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope, high-ranking Buddhists, Jews…”
One of the main things I noticed was the complete misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Dawkins’ views.
“Why,” asked a Hindu, “are you trying to dictate what we all should believe? Religion is a powerful comfort for many people – why do you want to take that away?”
“I am doing nothing of the sort!” Dawkins replied. “You can believe what you want. I am here because this is a discussion about truth and I think to get to the truth you need to examine evidence and that is what science tries to do. There are no militant atheists trying to force people to believe something and then kill them if they don’t. That seems rather to have been the prerogative of some of the more popular religions over the years!”
Collective drawing in of breath!
A Muslim woman pointed out, “the Koran has not changed for over 1300 years, surely this shows that it must be true?”
“Well, for example, it says in the Koran that an adulteress should be stoned to death…”
A young bloke said, “There is a section written in the Koran for unbelievers. It says, “We, the believers, believe what we believe and you, the unbelievers, believe what you believe. We will never believe what you believe and you will never believe what we believe.”
The presenter commented, “Well, that was certainly worth writing down!”
An Anglican vicar picked up on Dawkins’ atheism.
“You have no proof that god does not exist so shouldn’t you really call yourself an agnostic and not an atheist?”
At this point I wanted to reply myself not about the hair-splitting atheist or agnostic point but the proof of existence bit but I couldn’t of course being still slumped, at least not quite so corpse-like as before, in front on the TV and not in the studio. However, having my own blog means that here I can, albeit belatedly, butt in!
When I was a teenager, as my doubts about religions and my awareness of their mutual inconsistencies began to grow, I started to think about the difference between proving that something does exist and proving that something doesn’t exist.
It is not just the same thing the other way around or whatever.
If someone claims there is a kind of butterfly with “eat my shorts” written on its wings then no matter how sceptical you are to begin with it would only need one such butterfly to be caught – or maybe a family of them – for you to be convinced that they exist. However proving that such a butterfly does not exist…well, where do you begin? Even after you have combed every square inch of the world and not found one it could still be that on some remote planet there is indeed a creature which we would classify as a butterfly and which has shapes on its wings which very much resemble the words “eat my shorts”.
Proving that this thing does not exist becomes an infinite task.
So, if it is vastly easier to prove that something does exist, wouldn’t it be fairer to put the onus on those who actually claim that this particular thing does exist?
Perhaps that’s worth writing down too.
Anyway, the TV programming bosses, in their infinite wisdom about how much serious thought we can handle in one evening, had imagined that 30 minutes should be enough to deal with this topic, so prof. Dawkins, the presenter and the assembled religious representatives ran out of time of course and finished having scratched the merest nano-millimetre of the surface.
I went back to zapping between “Celebrity Love Cess-Pit” and “Australian Snail Sucking Championships” and started wondering why so much TV is total junk and why the little jewels now and then are more then than now.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
I left it to cool down a bit and then tried again. Zzzapp – crackle crackle …clunk.
Now, of all the apparatus I have lying around or hooked up to the PC, the monitor is the newest …and it is not second hand or on permanent loan – I actually went to a local ‘cheap’ PC shop and bought it just 2 years ago when my old monitor had got so greeny-dark of picture that it was like peering into a festering aquarium.
This seemed to be a job for the vacuum cleaner. It gets incredibly dusty in my ‘office’ and that often leads to the electronic stuff overheating – which also leads to clunk type noises as various equipment gives up the struggle.
So I went and dug the hoover out of the broom cupboard and hauled it into the room. I noticed a few wodges of dust under the desk so I sucked them up first. Then I tried to hoover the monitor through those little slits at the back – I gave the casing a couple of thuds too to loosen the dust inside. “While I am at it,” I thought, “I might as well do the PC”. So I put the nozzle of the hoover at the back against the grill where the fan is and let that do a bit of dust sucking too.
By the way, the German language, once hailed by philosophers for its clarity and literalness, has a fine expression for vacuum cleaner. I mean “vacuum cleaner” is a bit weedy and non-descriptive anyway, which is probably why in English we use the much more evocative and onomatopoeic “hoover” in everyday speech.
Erm ...where was I? Oh yeah, German.
Well, the German for vacuum cleaner is Staubsauger which literally translated means “dust sucker”! Isn’t that great? For me it ranks alongside the German for “glove” which is Handschuh – literally “hand-shoe”.
So, vacuum cleaner still in hand, I looked over at Lappy. “Hmm, keyboard could do with a quick once over” – lots of mini-crumbs there from too many biscuits and sandwiches consumed during translations.
So I ran the nozzle from side to side across the keys until suddenly – thhhhunk….rattle rattle rattle …thwunk…
The zero key was gone!!!! Down into the unappetising bowels of the dust sucker.
I had a moment of vague panic as the hoover seemed to be screaming out for more and I looked at my disfigured keyboard waiting for blood to come pumping out of the wound…then I gathered my wits and turned the moaning mutilating monster off.
Into the kitchen; newspaper on the floor; open up the hoover; remove the bag – ER theme music in the background… I started exploratory surgery. I carefully tugged out some tufts of hairy dust… no key …then some more …nothing … swab …oxygen …
Finally there it was, the zero key still attached to a little bit of black plastic. Right, back into the ‘office’. On the keyboard itself there was a rubbery stump sticking up and another little black plastic part. Obviously these two little black parts fit together somehow.. hmmm.
I had often wondered how the keys work on a keyboard and now I know… it’s dead ingenious and dead fiddly when you try and put it back together having to rely on deduction and reverse engineering to understand where each bit goes. Anyway after about an hour of delicate plastic manipulative surgery, including bits pinging away onto the floor and a fair degree of cussing and swearing I finally got the key clicked back into place…
Aaaahh… that’s better!
Now, what was I doing again…?
Friday, August 18, 2006
Well, we got here. Through rainstorms and showers, drizzle and hail – and traffic jams, don’t forget the traffic jams…
We got to Dunkerque at just after and had a 5 hour wait till the ferry at The rain was streaming down, lashing down, battering down on the roof of the car as we tried to snooze.
Around 5, through the misty windscreen, I could make out a strange orange blob hovering towards us – alien abductor, balloon from “the Prisoner” - I wound down the window a little – actually you don’t ‘wind down’ windows any more in these new-fangled cars do you…erm ...buttoned down the window … motored down the window…? - and a strange voice said, “lowdin’ in ten minutes, moit.”
It was the very wet and windswept steward from Norfolk Ferries in his wildly inadequate oilskins.
You must do a crossing with Norfolk Ferries …the boats are amazing. The first time I crossed on one I had to ask to make sure I wasn’t on a luxury cruise ship to the
We got a seat facing a floor to ceiling window …wow …the Channel can be dead impressive. A rain-soaked foreboding sky and a sea a mixture of two disturbing colours – a military steely-grey and a sickly hospital green. Over towards the French coast the pendulous clouds were licked on their distended underbellies by a lurid unhealthy pink-orange reflection of dawn.
The White Cliffs looked very white too for once.
We disembarked and set off for the ’Pool. 500km and two appalling coffees (taste and price) later we straggled down the avenue, up the path and into the abandoned forlorn house.
It’s funny how little things can affect you powerfully even when you know they are going to be the way they are. I mean, I know there is no-one in the house to cut the grass and I know no-one has cut the grass this year and I know the weather has been very agreeable for unsupervised grass to grow …but still when I looked out of the back window and saw this …
…it hit me yet again that there is really no-one living here any more and what always seemed like a refuge …a nest, was not so nestlike any more.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Thursday, August 03, 2006
He got a new colleague a month ago... a 31-year-old father of two young kids. Tony was off last Monday and he phoned in the afternoon to check that everything was ok with his colleague...
"Yes, everything's ok ...see you tomorrow!"
"See you tomorrow..."
The new colleague went home at 4 ...had dinner, played with his kids until it was time for them to go to bed. Apparently he always went into the children's bedroom with them and lay down on the floor next to the bed while they settled down and went off to sleep - he didn't like them to go to sleep alone. So on Monday evening he lay down on the floor as usual and reached out to hold his young daughter's hand as she drifted off.
His wife looked in after an hour and she saw they were all asleep ...that often happened!
A couple of hours later she thought she'd better check again ...Thomas would be awake all night if he slept so long now.
When she went back in the children's room, Thomas was still lying there, still holding his little daughter's hand but he was stone dead.
Heart attack ...31 ...never ill in his life.
What a tenuous grasp we have on this slippery thread of life.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
"Hey, haven't seen you for ages..." "Yeah, right..."
... etc etc
Jo looked down at my midriff, which is a smidgin rotunder than it used to be, and with typical Josephine-terror-of-the-hockey-field directness pointed a spiky index finger and said,
"...and what's this then?" ...prod prod... "...football's comin' home...??"
So nice to see old friends again, innit?
And today, sitting in my 'office' in the midst of a Munich heatwave where the air outside is like thick warm cream, stuck in front on a hot computer, translating dry-as-dust texts about the origins of yodelling and the wonders of Excel functions, I am desperately trying not to think of a cool, refreshing, golden hop and malt brew slipping down my parched throat and quenching a thirst which needs not only fluid but also a certain sugar-based hydro-carbon ingredient...
"So, what's the next text?" as the heat increases and the sticky air outside starts to ooze ominously through the open window like invisible lava...what's next? Ah, economics...that should keep my mind off 'you-know-what...'
"A book about economics with examples of supply and demand drawn from real life and presented in a case study..."
Yep, safe enough...
And just what would this case study about supply and demand happen to be...?
Of all the possible situations this stupid bleedin' git of an author could have chosen, he picked a brewery in a small University town.
Supply of beer - demand for beer - how much beer does the average student need - if the landlord orders x amount of beer will he make a profit... aaaaaarrrgggghhhhhh!!!
You know if I did believe in 'someone up there', then I would have to say that he, she or it has really got it in for me!
Monday, July 24, 2006
My younger daughter Bid (don't ask) finished High School with excellent grades!
To say I was proud of her is nothing like enough! She really went through some low times at school but she kept on battling away and made a real success of it.
My little Bid, 19 and finished school...it's enough to make you cry!
Friday, July 21, 2006
But I can't cos it's great!!
It is just wonderful simply to go out in shirt and shorts, jump on the bike and pedal around a bit... no icy piercing wind, no splattery slippery snow... and sometimes with the right combination of scents from the flowers and bushes I could almost be in Greece...
I think - despite the decision I have just made to lose some inches around my spare-tyred, well-upholstered midriff - that today will have to culminate in a little beer-gardening!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
...makes it all worthwhile.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Ah, ok... it was me!
Thanks to all the other 5999 visitors though.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Go to ZDF GlobalPlayer vom 1. Juli , click START
...and be amazed!!!
(By the way, just to give you some idea of the standard here, the original broadcast was at the amazingly unprime time of 01.45 on July 1st!! Unbelievably some people I know saw it - which only goes to show what a sad lot of friends I have!)
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Well, far be it from me to engage in Schadenfreude ... but...
So, who's left now? A creaky, linament-soaked Threecolours; the crafty, wily, some would say cheating, Portly Geese and the Azure Squad who are supposed to defend and last night attacked as if they thought catenacchio was a double espresso with cream!
Who do we support now?? I think I will have to go for the pizza snafflers... what do you think??
*the title is just to keep you busy for a little while sorting out syntax
Sunday, July 02, 2006
The thing was though, the way they pronounce it down there you don't hear the "b" and they kind of swallow the "m" in their noses so it sounded as if they were all going round saying, "oh dear, oh dear" to us.
And strangely, after that-thing-yesterday-which-I-am-not-going-to-mention just now, it seems very appropriate that the Portugese should be saying, "good day, GOOD DAY!" and that to us English it should sound like, "oh dear, oh dear".
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Everyone is talking about Son of Erik's tactical preparations (or lack of them) for today's quarter-final clash between Hin-ger-land and the Portly Geese but I am also having to pay a great deal of attention to my own strategic, survival-ensuring game plan.
I am going to base my system around this blond midfielder (see below) who is brilliant at defending against those twin threats up front, Tensioninho and Frustratiano and should help to release Unbounded-Joynando if we go a goal up and go on to triumph.
So the search is on for a beer-garden ...
C'mon Spirit of '66...!
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
It's just that after weeks or rather months wandering through the one kind of freelancer's nightmare where contracts are cancelled and promised projects fail to materialise, I find myself in the other freelancer nightmare where everything comes at the same time.
So right now I am doing an intensive English course, 3 big very urgent translations and from tomorrow a few consecutive nights of gigging... which means even less time and less sleep than usual.
So the soporific, somnambulistic English performances are quite helpful really... thanks lads.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Considering I am quietly confident that Hin-ger-lad is going to be the World Champions, I can't help letting certain tremors of apprehension course through my body before today's game.
One thing is that we will have the fourth different formation in four games. I mean these are "kick-de-ball-in-de-middle" footy players... how are they going to handle all these instructions??
I remember Harry Kewell saying in the newspaper that Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool manager, had told him to play on the left, "... and as soon as I get my head round that", said Harry, "I'll be fine!"
What is there for you to get your head round, Harry?? It's dead easy! Just play on the left!
The other thing is that, once again, we should win this easily...and then there is the heat, 30° in Frankfurt today - gad, the heat - ... and then there's the foreign food... and then and then and then...
World Champion excuse makers...!
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Brilliant sunny weather here in Munich, the Swedes all seemed to get here yesterday getting pissed at all of our beergardens - IKEA had an open day too to welcome them... probably presenting them with free tacky folding football chairs or some such IKEA tat.
The Germans are driving along the street outside my window; their cars bedecked with German flags... never seen so many German flags on the streets since... well, erm... since that thing we are not supposed to mention, actually.
I was down on the Leopold Strasse last Sunday after the Brazil game and you could hardly move there for fans, banners, samba groups, scantily-clad dancers and so on. They were still at it at 1 a.m. when I was coming home from my gig!
God knows what will happen if they win the bloody thing... ah, but we will never know that anyway - cos WE'RE gonna win it!!!
(That's England by the way!)
Friday, June 23, 2006
Me: I say, I say, I say! How does a modern farmer identify his sheep?
You: I don't know! How does a modern farmer identify his sheep?
Me: He uses a baaa code!
Thursday, June 22, 2006
At 2:15 in the afternoon June 22nd 2005, as we were sitting inside Cologne Airport waiting for the connecting flight to Liverpool in our mad dash to get back in time, she slipped away.
My body still reacts with surprise whenever I think of it. Maybe it's a kind of visceral amnesia - I know it but I still don't feel it...
How long does it take to get over things like this? And what is that supposed to mean, "things like this"? What other thing is like this?
Hmm...I don't think I can write about this.
If you know what I mean then you will know what I mean and if you don't know what I mean then you won't.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
In the first half last night the players swaggered almost arrogantly around the pitch in Köln as if to say, "pah, think you can play footie, you flaxen-haired degenerate Vikings - we invented this game - watch us and be amazed!"
At half time the players must have metaphorically fallen behind a (large) couch and then reappeared scratching their heads and tousling their hair absent-mindedly before emerging for a 2nd half which was more like...
"Oh I say, that's a corner, isn't it? So, one of those splendid Swedish chappies is going to kick the ball into that squarish bit of the field.. oh, I say, the ball has bounced off his head and gone into that... sort of... netty thing... and my goodness, they certainly seem happy about something, those Swedish fellows... jolly good!"
The schizophrenia also extends to the fans... well, at least to this fan... I basked happily in the smug euphoria of the first half and then suffered and sweated through the doldrums of exasperation in the second.
Even after the game the conversations had a Jekyl&Hyde quality about them,
"Pile of crap this lot, couldn't defend George Washington in an honesty trial..."
"That Cole was good... bloody world class"
"Midfield dynamo? There's more energy in a railway porter's arm..."
"Hargreaves...brilliant...never stopped running..."
How could this bunch of misfits win the World Cup... but then let me hear a chorus of, "Hin-ger-land, Hin-ger-land, HIN-GER-LAND", I am suddenly L'Optimiste...
England: World Champions 2006?? Aye, it has a ring to it...
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I love it!!
What happens if Sweden just clobber us! Maybe FIFA should tell the Swedes that THEY should lose deliberately and then everything will be ok!
Meanwhile, what about other teams in this World Cup? So far the Argies are looking good as is Spain...the British newspapers are saying they may have peaked too soon... that's rich too! The unwritten message there is that England, in playing crap so far, has obviously NOT peaked too soon!
Perhaps we should do a deal with FIFA... if we agree not to lose deliberately today they could ask our future opponents not to win deliberately against us... that'll do me!
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Thursday, June 15, 2006
i) romp home comfortably against
ii) stutter to a 1-0 victory over
iii) are held to a draw by
iv) lose sensationally to
A couple more years off my life - at this rate I will be dead by next Friday.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
It was all going SO well against 24 year old Vita, a candidate from Ukraine and 14 year old Robert from Germany but living in the US on our webcam/skype quiz show "Global Player".
Robert was falling slowly behind and Vita and I were neck and neck...until THIS question...
"Which German footballer has taken part in 5 World Cups?"
"Hmm...must be Lothar Mattheus..", I thought to myself..
Up came the 4 choices: Schnellinger / Maier / Mattheus / Beckenbauer
"Ha, Mattheus...no problem..."
And then I made a big mistake...I started to think. This has always caused me great problems in my life...this propensity for thinking...
"Hmm... a World Cup quiz without a question about Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer... hmmm... could it be? Well, he played in 1966 when he was very young..."
I dithered and then dithered a bit more... finally I clicked on Beckenbauer...
"...and the player is of course...Lothar Mattheus! Oh dear, Phil..."
It's daft but it still irritates me now that I didn't click the answer I knew was correct...argghhhh!!!
So I didn't win....the Brockhaus CD-ROM!!!! The what...?
Could have been worse.
I don't know yet when the show will be broadcast on ZDF but I will post the date as soon as I find out.
It will also be available on a streaming link so all of you around the world will be able watch me meet my Ukrainian nemesis...
(didn't help them much today against Spain - muchos revengeos!!)
Thanks for all the good wishes!!!
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The summers in Ioannina are boilingly, blisteringly hot and you have to get up early to get anything done. So I used to get out of bed at about 7 and then slip down to the grocer's and get a cool sheep's milk yoghurt, nip into the bakery next door for a fresh crispy, crusty loaf, go home quickly as the temperatures were already beginning to rise and then make myself a little pot of Greek coffee and have my yoghurt with honey and slices of fresh warm bread to dip in...!!!
Ena paradeisiakó proinó - A heavenly breakfast...
Life's pleasures can be so simple.
Monday, June 12, 2006
So, I spent 5 or 6 hours on skype with the technicians from ZDF in Mainz yesterday (Sunday) trying to get the connection to work with audio and visual...until we realised that my PC - which used to be pretty good - is now about as powerful as a butterfly's sneeze. So...what next??
In the end a mate of mine offered to lend me his super-duper laptop for the occasion... thanks Paul - (this is the same Paul who has been fanatically collecting World Cup footy stickers; see: World Cup³) so I drove the 10ks or so over to his to pick up the mean machine and drove back only to find that the mains cable was missing... so back over again to pick that up!! By then it was about 00.30 this morning...Paul's last words were, "oh, by the way... so far no-one has been able to get it to connect to the internet!"
So I sat for a couple of hours trying to get the WLAN connection to work and then I thought, "oh bugger it let's try the Ethernet cable..." - click, clunk...connected!
Got skype installed and the webcam and went to bed as dawn was breaking...up at 7, tried everything out later with the ZDF techies and now I am all set to air my (non-existant) knowledge of World Cup history!
Let's see... 1966... erm...??
Sunday, June 11, 2006
On a more serious note...I am in a quiz on national TV on Tuesday...HELP!!
They are doing it with webcams and skype - so I went out and bought a headset yesterday for €4.99. I am still trying to work out how to put the bloody thing on! If I put it over my head like normal headphones the ear-pieces don't reach my ears but if I put it round the back of my neck the earphones keep slipping off...and however I put it on the microphone seems to be either up my nose or round the back of my head!
(Any tips gratefully accepted!)
So, apart from not knowing the answers to any of the questions, I am also going to look like a total wally with the headset stuck halfway up the back of my bonce... maybe if I paint a St. George's cross on my beer belly it will divert attention..
How about, "England's World Cup campaign starts with a very slight, almost inaudible, tiny little noise"?
A bloke at the next table to us actually went to sleep in the second half!
We were joking that the lads were suffering from the heat and came back to find that that was exactly the excuse they had used! Becks was quoted as saying, "you have no idea how hot it was out there". Erm, excuse me... but doesn't he play in SPAIN???
Anyway, Sven was "very happy" with the performance having presumably watched a different game and we had to put up with a succession of players who pointed out, "well, we got de free points - 'at's the main fing."
Saturday, June 10, 2006
It's a beautiful day here in Munich and I have reserved a table in a local beergarden for 10 persons, so we just need the team to do its stuff.
Munich is seething with fans from all over the world... it's incredibly impressive and colourful as they wander through the centre of town in their different strips, waving their flags and singing their songs... different colours, different languages, different cultures... and so far no trouble...
I am keeping to my prediction that England will win the Cup this time round but I might be reviewing that in the next few days!!
Hinger-land, Hinger-land, Hinger-land...
(...and this from a dyed-in-the-wool, devout non-nationalist - stirs up the passions footy does!)
Friday, June 09, 2006
Germany certainly got stuck in ...then had a little lapse ...then got stuck in again ...then a little lapse... and so on - and as for Poland in the second game of the evening...well, I don't think they actually turned up...
Ecuador looked good... I wonder though how it feels for them to breathe such thickly oxygenated air - do they have problems with it... didn't look as if they did, anyway.
AND, I am going to be on ZDF (Germany's second national TV channel) next Tuesday in some World Cup quiz programme called, "Global Player". There will be 3 candidates from all over the world each sitting at home in front of a webcam answering questions on - guess what..? -"the World Cup". They are sending me a webcam so that I can take part!
I don't think I will be in it for very long as I am the world's worst rememberer of those kind of facts... I will probably get to play against one candidate from Mensa's Football Fact Branch and an alien freshly arrived from the planet FootballTrivialia X33CX55#
Perhaps they will just keep asking me if Geoff Hurst's 2nd goal in the 1966 final was over the line...
I worked out the password for the second cryptex before Robert Langdon did!!
Huh? What?? Oh, sorry, I have just been speeding through the copy of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" which Nicky left here and I have just got to the bit where... well, either you know what I mean or you don't...
Meanwhile, it seems there is some football game or other in Munich today... yes, the World Cup is finally upon us here in deepest Bavaria and if I see one more interview with old German footballers who insist the ball wasn't over the line at Wembley in 1966 I will go nuts!!!
I realise my own writing style has become a little cryptic due to reading these infernal thrillers.
At least I have not yet slipped in to iambics...
(... or have I?)
Anyway, beautiful sunny day here in Munich - after weeks and weeks of rain and freezing temperatures. The Germans really know how to sort out the weather for these big events...
Everywhere you look there are displays counting down the minutes and seconds until the big kick off at 6p.m. here today.
Hmm...I seem incapable of stringing together coherent sentences ...I think I will have to go and read the last few pages of this bloody book... perhaps I will just have an apple first though...
Thursday, June 08, 2006
There is enough blood and gore to satisfy your average reader but not make you think that the author is psychologically unbalanced...there are some standard plot developments, some totally obvious plot developments but still enough twist and turns and red herrings to have me re-evaluating my opinions on certain characters a couple of times and in a normal world would have had me flicking back through the pages to check things. There are also a good few moments when I had to say out loud things like, "Oh come on..." and "...all this in ONE day..." and a few bits which seemed inconsistent but may have been due to skipping over things too quickly.
And there is a good dollop of Roman Art History thrown in...not bad fodder for a long train journey or a flight somewhere.
Plus, credit to the chap, he got me dreaming about the book last night. I don't recall exactly what the dream was but it had the same atmosphere that I felt in the book. That's quite an achievement really when you think about it, that an author has managed to wheedle his story deeply enough in your subconscious to infiltrate the dream department.
Well done Dan Brown.
Last night I picked up the copy of The Da Vinci Code which my daughter had also left here. At first glance it looks like it might be more of the same but this time in Paris instead of Rome...we will see.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
This morning at 6 minutes past 6 it was officially:
I was awake at that time but failed to recall, in my slumbery waking up delirium, that I wanted to remember.
Don't actually know what I would have done had I remembered...probably a sort of wry, meaningful look out of the window and maybe a knowing nod but I'll never know now anyway.
I remember being impressed in the third year at Junior School with 6th June 1966 which was 6.6.66 and also just after my final exams at university in July 1977; 7.7.77 and so on in August 88 and September 99 but this would have been even more special.
Still, next year there will be:
Well worth waiting for! Will someone please remind me??
Saturday, June 03, 2006
My blog for English learners
To celebrate Whitsun I am going to do a little shameless advertising! Well, if I don't advertise my stuff who will...? Certainly not AdSense!
Up there is my blog for English learners, English is Easy! which is gradually getting more and more hits and return visits even though I haven't really done anything to promote it yet.
If you are learning English - or indeed if you teach English - you might find it helpful to go and have a look.
The next step will be a website for learners of this wonderful but sometimes ...erm ...rather strangely-put-together language where there will be exercises, games and mp3s to do, play and listen to and more stuff like that. This will gradually attract quadzillions of visitors; advertisers will be begging me to let them have space... and that 1st million will be in the bag!
I have even registered a web address for all this and I was going to put up a temporary sort of marker website when I realised that I just could not remember how to set up a website!!!
I got my first website www.philnewton.de going years ago ...took me months to do it, too ...and now I come to need to do it again ...I have not the slightest idea how I did it!!
It's a bit embarrassing to have to search the net for tips on how to get your website up and running ..but it's for a good cause... that first million!!
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I had been looking forward to the game actually - a break from translating a software text - but when I saw the team our Swedish manager had picked the discontent started to well up in my marrow - or wherever it wells up- and I spent a lot of the game shouting abuse at the computer monitor...
In the living room TM was watching Jharmanhy squeeze a lucky draw from their game against Ha-Jarpan... actually the commentator on the TV was German so it was Deutschland gegen Japan and I noticed that she was doing her fair share of shouting a colourful mixture of German and English oaths at the TV, too.
That made me wonder whether it is the same for all football fans when we watch our teams. Do we all sit there and scream obscenities at the screen as our team's players waltz forlornly around chasing shadows and hitting stray passes to the opposition. Could it be that, say, Brazilian fans sit in total relaxation before their TV sets while their team runs rings around their opponents or do they too complain that the one player could have done a few more stepovers before lobbing the goalkeeper from 40 yards or that the other player could have done a few more flip-flacks after completing his 2nd hattrick of the game?
Whatever the answer might be I find myself still looking forward to the next game on Saturday against Ha-Jah-maic-ha... surely this time our Swedish son of Erik will play all the players in their correct positions and we will dazzle the world with our footybilities....?
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Over the whole two weeks during which every day I had visited the nursing home where she was slowly sinking, she hadn't really given me any sign that she was aware of what was going on... but on that day, 30th May last year, she was sat up in bed as I went into her room and she managed to say, "I haven't seen you for ages..."
And that was the last afternoon we spent together.