Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tara 2009

Did I read that in her Christmas speech the Queen said 2009 was a pain in the arse?

Well, if she did, she was dead right! I am quite pleased to see the back of it.

However, optimistic as ever I wish you all...

A Happy and Prosperous 2010!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What's Smart about it?

The Smart - inspired by the sardine can.

We had a gig last night and after it I drove the band van with all the equipment back to where we store it and got a lift back into town in a Smart. This was the first time I had ever been in one... and may well be the last time.

Apart from anything else, I could hardly get in in the first place. The Smart is not recommended for two people whose "diets" are not going too well.

This one (it was a rented semi-automatic cos the guy driving it has a broken toe at the moment and can't use a clutch) didn't even have power steering and I was getting exhausted just watching him struggling to get this little tin can out of the parking space - especially after driving a van full of equipment which was feather-light to drive.

I suppose there is one can rest you chin on your knees as you tootle along... but as Paul (driver - broken toe) said, you wouldn't want to be in one with someone you didn't know too well, it's a little too... intimate.

Anyway, another first for NeutronNews - and one more thing that I never need to buy.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Too Late... have all missed Carl Sagan Day! I have just left the chat room which was linked to the live stream from Broward College in southern Florida. I was the last one still standing in the chat room...another first!

Carl Sagan is one of the very few people on my list of "people I would really like to meet/to have met" and the speakers made me even sadder at not being able to achieve this.
The most moving tribute was kept for the last... paradoxically coming from a very frail looking but still keen-witted, belligerently atheistic James Randi. He mentioned the many rumours about Sagan "converting" to religion on his death bed (so reminiscent of all the twaddle about Darwin's last words) and very emotionally told how Carl was together just with his wife Ann Druyan as he lay dying. She told Randi how they had said their goodbyes, knowing that it would be for the last time... and that was it.

It's easy to see how wishful thinking can fuel a wishful belief in the "afterlife" but you have to imagine there's no heaven...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New (Old) Look

I got a mail from my younger daughter last night about a website she had found:

You have to upload a suitable picture of someone and then you can choose a "look" from decades gone by.

This is how our Bid would have looked if she'd been a dedicated follower of fashion in 1960:

She looks frighteningly like a couple of my old teachers from when I was in infant school!

I was going to do the same with a picture of mine but then I realised I already have real pictures from that time which look like that ... duh!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Atchoo

Yes, it was my birthday yesterday and, yes, I managed to get some kind of cold/cough combination which meant that I spent the day (and the day before actually) coughing and sneezing in bed.

At least this means that my diet has got off to a good start... I poisoned myself with alcohol last Sunday, poisoned myself with some strange beans on Monday and then came down with this lurgy on Wednesday. Haven't even felt like food&drink for a week. It's not exactly Atkins methodology but it'll have to do.

Meanwhile, in Deepest Bavaria, we had our first snow yesterday... yep, s n o w ... time to start thinking about that little dream house in Greece (<- flu-induced ramblings by the way - unless anyone has a suggestion).

So basically: bleeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuugh

Monday, October 12, 2009

Neutron Resurrectus Est

There is only one good thing about having a hangover - there comes a time when you actually feel better. Correspondingly, having a really bad hangover means that your recovery is like getting over a serious illness. Having a catastrophic, supernova, brain-bursting hangover makes your recovery more like a resurrection - returning from the dark netherlands of the deceased.

It all started as an innocent bread-and-butter gig in an Irish pub not far from where I live, about a 15 minute walk (and I do like to walk home from a gig - it's nice to be in the fresh air and away from the noise). I had a beer during the last set (I don't normally drink during gigs - well, not much - but as I have made a pact with one of the other guys in the band to start a diet this very Monday I was perversely aiming at getting a few last beers down me neck before the deadline).

A birthday party arrived in the pub... a lot of people I knew, including my elder daughter and a lot of other people I hadn't seen for a long time... visitors from the States, Aussies, a New Zealander...
"Have a beer!" "Don't mind if I do!"
"Ouzo?" "Certainly... yeia mas!"
"Bet you don't know which whisky this is." "Erm... hmm, definitely not the same as that other one we just tried".

And so on, and so on...

Time to go, handshakes, hugs and farewells, the warm glow of human fellowship.

Outside... fresh air and... kerPOW: drunk!

My 15 minute walk home became extended to more like 45 minutes due to the substantial number of involuntary steps to the side, to the left and to the right... and back again. For the first time in my life I started to understand Greek dance.

I shall draw a veil of discretion over the events of the hours following my difficult but eventually successful attempts to overcome the evasive keyhole in our front door, just as my memory itself has drawn its own veil over that cloudy time until I finally was able to still the rollercoaster in my head and sink into sleep.

Yesterday was a daytrip to Hades, metaphorical rending of garments and gnashing of gums spent in the company of the chthonic gods; a day when I didn't wish that I was dead for the simple reason that I thought I was! But today... oh glory to my liver... I have returned not, however, to say a futile "never again" but an "at least not for a while".

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Don't Ring Us...

Will you look at that! A newly discovered diaphanous ring of dust around Saturn.

Full story at NASA

Monday, October 05, 2009

54 going on 22

In the run up to my birthday next Friday (bleugh) a few disjointed remarks.

We had visitors from Scotland last week - an old friend and her new boyfriend. We got to talking about age.. and he said in a wonderful Edinburgh brogue which I won't even attempt to spell phonetically, "I saw a t-shirt the other week. On it were the words I'm 18 with 36 years' life experience".

That's exactly how it feels, isn't it - there's in-your-head age and on-the-outside age.

I've just had a lesson with two ladies who are enjoying their retirement and this subject came up. We sit around a table for the lesson and I always end up facing a small mirror on the wall opposite. Invariably I look over at it at least 50 times during the hour and each time I think "who's that old bugger?" before realising it's me! (In-your-head age and on-the-outside age.)

The subject of age came up again at the gig I played on Saturday - I don't quite know how the conversation turned to wrinkles and cremes to fight wrinkles and injections to iron out wrinkles and so on...

I said, "as far as I am concerned the best way to get rid of your wrinkles is to take your glasses off when you look in the mirror".

Maybe I could get that on a t-shirt...?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Liza23 and Big Bruvver

My elder daughter plays bass in a band... and they have just won the Bavarian Music Lion Newcomer 2009 award!!

Here they are:


A Neutron as proud as a very proud thing.

So we went to Berlin to take part in the awards. Great evening... red carpets, TV cameras everywhere, good food, good drink (FREE!!!) and good music.

Then next day we did some sightseeing in Berlin.

It's a marvellous city Berlin but they still have this left over from the DDR gave me the creeps the first time I was in Berlin in 1978 and it seems it still gives me the creeps now. There's something insecty, soviety about it - I had the feeling that there was someone behind every facet watching you with binoculars...


then you can get some of this...

and the world is new!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Only 36 Pages...

... but it's still my book!

I couldn't resist getting a test copy from lulu.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


For those of you waiting with that good old bated breath to find out what that frozen beer tasted like...

I'm sorry to confess that it took quite a while to get round to trying it. I didn't want to try it without being sure of having a few other beers in just in case but then when I had a few beers in, I simply ignored the unfrozen half-opened experimental bottle.

Anyway I tried it on Tuesday and it was f****** HORRIBLE!


So if you have forgotten your beer in the freezer and you think, "hmm, maybe blah blah..."


Friday, July 17, 2009

40 Years Ago...

..I was watching every news programme, science update, etc, I could about the Apollo 11 mission which was well under way at this point.

Take-off was yesterday 40 years ago...and the landing would be this Monday, 20th...although we were sat watching it at 3.00a.m. on the 21st in Liverpool.

NASA has released pictures today from the LRO of 5 of the 6 landing sites here. It won't convince any of the misguided Apollo hoax doughnuts - but what would?
(By the way, Apollo hoaxers, you do realise there were 6 landings don't you? Did NASA fake them all? Did they fake the other 3 lunar circumnavigations, Apollo 8, Apollo 10 and Apollo 13? What about the other Apollo missions...7 and 9? Faked? And the fire..etc etc? Ho hum.)

There is also a great website where you can follow the mission in "real" time - sort of forty-years-ago-real-time:

We Choose the Moon

I would have loved that when I was a kid!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Tight-Fisted Auld Git.. what you might call me, but I don't care!

I was looking in the fridge for something to have for lunch...opened the freezer and found...this!!

Yes, a bottle of Augustiner...frozen solid. Amazingly it hadn't cracked - but this is still a potential disaster. At the moment it is thawing in the kitchen and later I will simply have to try and drink it.

This happened to me once before, many many years ago, and the bottle had actually cracked but the beer was still frozen. It took me many hours of creative thinking before I finally was forced to admit that I would have to sling it because the danger of swallowing glass splinters was too great even if I poured the thawed out beer through a fine sieve...

It still rankles that I had to throw it away.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Body Clock Alarm

It's 9.55 and according to a programme I saw the other day about the body clock, I have about 2 more hours to go before I am out of the heart attack danger zone.

It seems that in the morning hours from waking till midday, first of all your blood vessels are less flexible than at other times, secondly you have more likelihood of fatty deposits building up inside them and, thirdly, as if that were not enough, your blood is actually thicker than later on in the day...presumably after it has been watered down by intakes of alcohol following a lunchtime pint...

As if waking up isn't bad enough!

On the tele they underlined my newly postulated vulnerability by showing endoscopic views of blood vessels sort of contracting and heart valve-looking things sort of labouring away at pumping thick viscous blood on its ponderous journey.

I HATE those kind of pictures! Just looking at them makes my heart start straining and complaining as if it's suddenly realised what a hard job it has to do and I get into that mentality of "listening" to it, listening to it beating away...almost taking conscious control of it - like I used to with my breathing as a awful situation where you end up desperately trying to stop thinking about doing it ...breathe in, now breathe out, in again....out - hey, heart! ...keep beating! er.. out ...BEAT!!

90 more minutes ...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Odysseus Becalmed

It has been rumoured, not without just cause, that, like Odysseus on his way home from Troy, I have been becalmed. And indeed, 'tis true!

I have been drifting aimlessly in the bloggy doldrums, the sea gurgling idly around my soggy timbers and slapping gently against my bows, here in the midst of the Sea of Apathy.

But now I sense the faint stirring of a breeze somewhere off over the horizon, the slightest ripple of the sails...could it be that my journey recommences at last...?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Off the Ale

One of the clever functions of new religions is taking over the festivals and traditions of previous religions, adapting and adopting them and fitting them into the new system. The Romans did it with the Greek gods and goddesses and then took over the various divinities of the tribes they conquered and renamed the deities with Latin names. And then there's the intermingling of traditions and fables which link lots of religions - just take the Osiris story and its biblical parallels as an example.

Anyhow, one more example of this is Lent, of which we are in the middle just now. 40 days of fasting and stuff to prepare for Easter. The word Lent comes from the Saxon word lencten which simply means spring and the tradition itself of giving up eating or in some way "purifying" yourself goes way back into the darkest depths of our ancient common past.

In deepest Bavaria this time is called Fastenzeit where the emphasis is on fasting - this was the inspiration for the monks to create their Starkbier (strong beer - with about 7% alcohol content upwards) which I have referred to in reverent terms in other previous posts!

When I lived in Greece back in the last century (ARGH!!) they took this period fairly seriously (seriously in Greek terms at least, i.e. more like "seriously") and if you went into a restaurant during that period the waiter would ask if you were fasting, in which case you would be given a separate Lent menu with unleavened bread and all sorts of other special Lent-conforming meals most of which tasted brilliant!

Well, coincidentally to Lent, I decided to give up alcohol for a while ...this did not come as a consequence of any religious epiphany but after a particularly boozy weekend on the Guinness Tour with my Irish band which left me feeling decidedly wasted. I am now coming up to 4 weeks during which time barely a drop of alcoholic beverage has crossed my lips.

It got me thinking whether it might not be a bad idea, in these days of luxury and excess, to give up for a while something which we believe we cannot do without ...say, TV or the mobile phone, or driving, etc., etc. When I was living alone in the early 90s I didn't have a TV. As a result I experienced a huge sense of liberation and suddenly discovered that I had a whole lot of time on my hands which I could use for different, more productive/enjoyable things ...

Hmm, I am even thinking of suggesting this to my kids ...

On the other hand maybe lack of alcohol has completely addled my mind...?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Could Anyone Go By Car...

...when you could travel by the Munich branch of
Siberian public transport?

It was minus 18°C this morning at 7.00 as I was on my way to teach and there was a razor breeze which slit open my cheeks and froze the contents of my paranasal sinuses along with most of the frontal lobes of my brain.

Up there on the left you can see the u-bahn station, cold, depressing, concrete, functional... and turning to the right (below) the welcoming warmth of the open plan bus shelter and the 172 bus in cool blue and a pale pink stalag-style block in the background with a few lifeless trees to give you a last little psychological flash-freeze treatment.

It's days like this when sitting at home in bed translating seem so very appealing...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How Windows Make You Sad...

I mean windows windows, not Windows windows. Everyone knows how Windows windows make you sad. And angry, and frustrated, and computer-cidal.

Changing our window windows - 1934 original, beautifully designed, draughty, energy-profligate windows for brand new, 2009, double-glazed, energy-efficient but totally anonymous windows.

3 steps:

From this...
to this...and finally this...
Yes, I know the old windows were, well, old... and rusty and broken and draughty and they HAD to be replaced but I still feel as if we did a lobotomy on the house.

Shed a tear or two I did (yes, I agree - I am going totally nuts).

Still, Biddy made the brilliant suggestion that I keep some of the old pieces of stained glass so that she can make something from them, so we will have a reminder.

While the work was being done I was talking to a neighbour who told me that our local, the Sefton Arms, is going to CLOSE DOWN in about 4 weeks!

Shock, horror!!

Another lobotomy...

And I know I would much rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy.