Wednesday 18 April 2012

My own words

What the hell is Gardens of Time?
Will People on Facebook stop sending me stuff! I am busy!
 Gardens of time? Farmville? Fuck-off-ville! I dont want them.
I have a life thanks! I think. Well come to think of it, maybe I don’t?
Spend all my day on the PC writing words? Words I hope someone might enjoy. Words I hope someone might read. Critical words.
Well, not critical as in ‘critical’.
Do you ever notice that Word doesn’t spell-check if you write in caps. That’s quite critical, really.
Writing in caps is like shouting loudly. Which I do quite a lot.
It wouldn’t make sense, would it?
We writers don’t proof-read, we’re not smart enough. Well, we might think we’re smart enough to re-read what we write, but we never see the bits in the corners, do we?
Word does that. At least, we hope it does. We don’t have time – too busy, being creative. Like rembrant – I wrote that in lower case, so Word could help me with the spelling. But it couldn’t.
I had to Google it.
Rembrandt! Apparently.
And Word had heard of it. It just wasn’t going to hint.
It does that – Word.
I know the answer,’ it says, ‘but you have to make your question a bit more exact. More literal - I looked that word up – shift F7 – ‘if you want me to help you. Don’t ask me to spell or suggest things that aren’t almost right. It would make me look foolish. And I am world number 1. You’re not.’
I don’t like Word. I’m not sure it deserves its capital letter.
So I am king. I know what you want to say. I just pretend I don’t. Like when your Mum raises an eyebrow when you try and lie to her.’
Smug. That’s what Word is.
You can’t lie to me. A pan-face won’t work. I am a computer..
 But I can turn you off…?
Yes you can…but you wont.
I might!
NO - You NEED me.
I am off to buy some stuff from Adobe.
No. All you need is Microsoft! We are the ONE!’
Goodbye Word – you are a phoney and a cheat – what we need is the real word. My word. My WORD! The one without your confrontation.
Before I go, I have one more word to say to you, Word – NOTEPAD!
Notepad, notepad, notepad!
And…HTML tags.
From now on, I will write the words and I will format them.
Me. Me and Notepad. For those who have never heard of Notepad - think notepad. Like paper. Without lines. Then, when you have finished, think crayons. Then highlight pens.
Then hope to hell that, after you have written all this shit, that you wake up tomorrow and learn a new language that can transform these scribbles into something that someone – anyone – can read! Together we will create the eBook!
A new dawn arrives.
Bloody hell, is it daylight already?!

The Man with a Bee in His Bonnet

For God’s sake! I have just been invited to a book launch – online, I hasten to add, nobody invites me to physical ones anymore in case I scoff all their champagne – to a novel called: “The Boy who Flew with Eagles!” by some American.
Yes. Literally less than a year since an unheard of Swede filled our shops with one of history’s most unoriginal blockbuster titles, followed just recently by his 5th one called something even more dreadful like: “The Girl who fell in the Stinging Nettles on her way Home,” every writer and his cat have jumped on the lumbering band-wagon before it collapses under the over-burdened weight of illiteracy, bearing titles about 'people who did something, to something, with something else!'
Well, ladies and gents, for once I have decided to join them in this topical last roll of the wooden-wheel and come up with a few short scribbles of my own.
My debut – under the name of Stig Fastman – is called:
The Man who Annoyed a Nation. - It is quite a simple story where it’s curly-haired English protagonist, who is also its antagonist, manages to irritate everyone in the entire world, and makes millions of pounds doing it.
A follow up is entitled:
The Man who annoyed even more people, even that nice Mr Morgan - about a London barrow-boy who makes millions of pounds by saying 3 words, once a week.
This is swiftly followed by a complete series of rehashed stories:
·         The Dog who went for Walks,
·         The Cat who dug my Flowers up, and finally,
·         The Cat who dug my Flowers up again, but wont do Anymore (Haha, take that you Bastard, BB-guns rule!).
Then follows a European theme –
·         The Girl who Played with Silvio Berlusconi,
·         The Girl who Wanted to play with Silvio Berlusconi, and
·         The Girl who will Probably play with Nicolas Zarcozy very Soon.
Before I finally cash in with:
The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo (on his Penis) – a tale of sub-normal paranoid romance erotica by some sex-starved bimbo who is about as illiterate as David Beckham’s adam’s apple.

Is originality really a thing of the past – or is that irony?

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Where's ya bin?

I was in London this week. I don’t really like London, not quite my bag I’m afraid. Too fast – unfriendly – expensive. But thankfully I have a choice not to live there. So do all the others, too, there’s always choice. I offer them no sympathy.
My train is late; I’m not surprised, nor even upset. An extra 30 minutes in Liverpool Street station gives me time to admire it’s astonishing old architecture, with a roof suspended on vaulted pillars crafted in a Victorian age from cast iron in intricate patterns by gifted tradesmen.
I do this standing up – stations no longer have seats.
They no longer have common sense either, as I am about to find out.
As it is lunchtime by my out-of-sync time clock, I browse no less than 17 outlets offering me fast food, even faster food, express food and possibly super-sonic meals, were I to request one.
Selecting a high-speed sandwich and an express expresso, I loiter amongst the angst of delayed commuters, balancing my goodies while clinging to my luggage as the fearsome tyrannical lady on the tannoy announces that she will detonate it if it is more than 3 inches from my grasp.
However, having devoured my overpriced and tasteless dejeuner, I am left with its highly unnecessary packaging to dispose of. This proves to be rather more of a problem than I have bargained for.
Somehow, I feel significantly uncomfortable as I glance around like a probing owl, looking for a bin. Perhaps a bit too paranoid that I am being monitored as a terrorist, I do my best to look casual as I saunter around, peering into corners and behind bill-boards for somewhere to unload my burden. My search is fruitless, save for viewing a sign that tells me that ‘dropping litter’ is a capital offence punishable by extended sentences, possibly in a cell shared with sex-offenders.
In the end I ask a guard.
He has no idea, because he works for Anglia Trains – whoever they might be – which somehow makes him exempt from giving advise on anything other that revised train schedules. Please stand behind the line.
I ask another.
‘It’s outside,’ he informs me.
‘Outside where?’ 
‘Outside the station, Sir. No bins allowed in a railway station!’ He tells me this quite smugly, glaring at the scrumpled up paper cup in my hand as though I was a common litter criminal.
I gather my luggage and head for the exit in search of the holy-grail depository.
‘Ticket?’ demands yet another guard, holding out a chiselled hand. Plenty of guards – just no bins.
‘But I haven’t been anywhere!’
‘Still need a ticket to leave the station.’
I eventually find it in the depths of a pocket and show it to him, and he nods me past.
Aha! At last, a big green plastic bin, on wheels – which is padlocked!
I consider leaving my cup and sandwich box on its roof until I spy the same guard watching me suspiciously. Instead, I make for the exit proper, just about managing to contain my rubbish and luggage in my only two hands. The upward escalator is still, and my way barred with yellow tape displaying the words caution on it. Obviously a non-moving escalator is far too dangerous for me to be near.
It doesn’t actually say fucking, I made that up, but I am convinced it would do if it could. Because it is a serious offence to cross yellow tape, and my cellmate beckons.
3 flights of stairs - 3 whole fucking flights - I struggle up, with my heavy luggage and this toxic waste in my hand, until I reach the street.
A bin – there it is on the other side of the road. Not just any road – Liverpool Street. If this street was actually the main street in Liverpool, it could not have been busier.
Patiently I wait for the little man to turn as green as I feel after those 3 stairs, allowing me my rite of passage over the impetuous drivers, each one who would rather kill me in a heartbeat than waste their life waiting for one minor to cross the road.
In goes the cardboard – at last. I consider yelling triumphantly.
As I turn to retreat, the man changes from green to red - as red as my anger. In the distant railway station, my train has arrived, secretly creeping up on me. It was to be 30 minutes late, but now it’s magically caught up.
Toot-toot – it says.
My life flashes in front of me as I flash in front of a taxi breaking the land-speed record with its horn blowing, and take on the 3 flights, in rapidly descending order.
‘Fuck-off!’ I want to shout, but thankfully I remember that prison-cell and desperately seek out the meagre flimsy tissue-like paper with a barcode on it that I have just paid in excess of thirty quid for.
It may very soon expire.
So might I.
Toot-toot – says my train again. Come on you, why weren’t you waiting with the others. I’m going to leave you here, just for fun.
Under the wrath of a thousand stares, the wheels of my trolley-bag firing off dangerous sparks from the cobbles of the platform underneath, I make it just in time and find a seat.
‘Welcome to the Stanstead Express,’ says the driver. ‘Calling at next city, small village, big village, hamlet, little hamlet, bigger hamlet and miniscule rural settlement before it reaches Ryanair, possibly some time this afternoon – Anglia trains accepts no responsibility for the lateness of any of its trains. Ever! So there! Furthermore, I would like to advise you there are no bins on this train, so take you rubbish home with you, you scumbags!’
At last, I can look my fellow man shamelessly in eye again.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Mourning is broken

    Today marks 100 years since the Titanic went down in iconic fashion on route to New York, taking half its passengers with it into the freezing North Atlantic. It was a torrid time that many would rather forget, if we were allowed to. It also spurned a metaphor, or even a whole philosophy that nothing is unsinkable. (Nearly a century later, Royal Bank of Scotland proved this theory once again, but that’s another matter entirely.)

    But do we really have to revel in it quite so much? 1500 lives lost in one disaster was pretty rough, I know. But a lot more were lost on the Somme a few years later.
    Does it really warrant a reconstructed voyage along the same path, for those macabre enough to take it.      
    Do we really need Jonathan Humphries and half a dozen others reading from diaries of those who perished so we can all have a cry for someone we never knew. 
     Can a centenary of tear-shed really warrant Joss Stone warbling on to a auditorium full of hankied-up punters about how terrible it all is, while pretending to be black. What is it with that woman? When she speaks, she is just another West country girl with pretentious over-tones but then give here a few notes and she is instantly from Alabama. Why doesn’t she don some boot-polish and really make an arse of herself? What a phoney!
    Anyway, I digress. My point here is, why does the world love to get its hanky out about every little thing? Millions of people bawling their eyes out for months when Diana’s driver took into a pillar in a Parisian underpass does have some level of comprehension, because a lot of women liked to think she was like them. She wasn’t of course, unless they were selfish manipulators out to grab every headline and penny that was on offer. But that too, is another story. 
    But do we have to get on our knees and thank the lord for our own worthless lives every time another decade marks something that wasn’t very nice. Jamie Bulger, Stephen Biko, Damilola Taylor. Yes, they got killed, it’s a shame. So did my uncle, crossing the road. Get over it.
    The ship went down – we learned something - be possitive.
    We learned that icebergs are big evil bastards hiding under the surface - like tax bills.
    We learned we should never trust anyone who sells us an infallible dream – like politicians.
   Finally we learned that if the ship is going down, throw all the fucking violins over board, so we can drown in peace!
    And possibly Kate Winslet if she is around.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Introducing - the eSheep!

     As you get older it becomes apparent, if you’re paying attention, that sometimes you are no longer very good at doing some things. This I have discovered recently. It seems that, despite my own delusions, I am not particularly clever at mending tools that have broken beyond simple repair, like the lawnmower or a broom handle. I am also no longer good in the company of people with a limited sense of humour, or vegetarians - or at doing the washing up!
     But, for some strange reason I have recently developed an excellent sense of smell. Why is that? Is it common? Does British Gas use octogenarians to detect leaks? Well no, I don’t think so - research shows that as we get older our senses become less efficient. So maybe it means I am getting younger? I wish! Many years ago I used to smoke – and we all know what that evil habit does to the taste-buds – but surely mine haven’t suddenly just recovered? After 20 years?
     When I walk around the garden, I can now smell lilac flowers from 200 paces and I’m sure that never used to happen. Likewise, in the kitchen I can detect a dirty glass or cup, based on smell alone. Also I now can tell a decent wine from a one that smells like horse urine. Mice? – I get them banged to rights, long before the cats detect their existence. Herbs, spices, yoghurt, smelly dogs, they all appear to me as though in colourful stereo! And my own socks – well, let’s not go there! How absolutely weird! They say blind people have a great sense of smell, and I will admit that nowadays I wear reading glasses, but surely that’s not it?
     Not that I am complaining. At least now I can locate my own slippers.

     At last Spring-proper is upon us here in France and, as always, I mention the garden; something that a bit of dazzling sunshine works its magic on as nature licks her wounds after a spiteful winter has been dismissed, leaving its trail of desolation behind. Dogs, sheep and myself have all been shaved in varying degrees of embarrassing stripes, although at least I have a hat to cover mine when visitors call. In fact, the last few weeks were so damn hot that the sun has already eaten a layer off my skin as I spent endless bare-breasted days re-fencing the field to contain our ever increasing flock of sheep. We now have 15 - not quite sure when that happened.
     At 6 weeks old, our two youngest ones – Rogan and Josh - are still getting milk from a bottle, since their mother disowned them at birth, but at least they have stopped eating my garden. Oh to be an animal so simple that you cannot see the irony, as you happily nibble on rosemary, garlic and mint!
     At least Kebab, the goat, only confines his dining to our washing line! Just kidding – we don’t really have a goat – and if we did I am not sure I couldn’t eat a whole one.  
     This year the sheep are giving me another headache though, as I try and keep up with new euro-legislation which has come just into being. Yes, the French have yet again implemented an over-administrative process, this time that requires me to put a microchip into each of their ears so that they can track them - possibly by radar – and introduced the eSheep!
     However, in this case, I will have to rather embarrassingly hold up my hand in class and admit that I was actually involved in the early trials for electronic livestock identification, something that in hindsight probably serves little usage. You see the concept - as with many concepts - works very well on a drawing board, where ideally the food-chain can be so linked together by computer data that in practice we could identify everything we eat, right down to its place of birth, diet and logistical voyage all the way from there to our plate. ‘What a great idea?’ said a naive young Andy, ‘and let’s make some cash while we are at it.’ The problem was then, and still is to this day, that nobody gives a flying f**k where their food really comes from, as long as it’s cheap and tastes nice. The fact that I now have to add an extra couple of quid to production costs, let alone a heap more paperwork, to each animal at my end so that – if someone were so inclined – food could be traced back to our field, helps nobody, least of all me. The minor fact that my few animals will probably be slaughtered on our farm helps me even less so - I know where they came from without have to plug them into the National grid, thanks.
     However – and here comes the real thorny side – UK have not actually implemented this process yet! So now the French can only trace the lambs that have been produced in their own country, not the 40% than have been ‘invisibly’ imported from Britain! French farmers - you have to love them? Priceless!

     It rained today. Whoopie. That’s twice this year now. Thankfully I have all the vegetables planted, except for the spuds. We’ve had a continual problem with blight for the last few years, so this year I have sought out some new seed that carries a resistant gene. Unfortunately, they don’t sell it in France and I had to order some on the internet. Except, UK companies are unable to post potatoes to France, for reasons better known to themselves – or possibly yet another absurd EEC rule - and I have eventually had to seek out my Sarpo-Mira variety in Ireland. Cost £2.25 plus postage of £13! Madness. Fifteen quid would buy me two barrow-loads from Lidl!
     Yes, we do have a Lidl, in fact 2 new ones have been built within 5 miles of here, just last year.
     Which brings me neatly round to a story: I am the only person I know to be thrown out of a Lidl store - In St Tropez, no less!
     In the first instance, this raises a couple of interesting questions.
1:- that they actually have a Lidl in St Tropez and
2:- that anyone could possibly be thrown out of one?
     Well, the reason for me being in there was we had just seen a sign, whilst sitting the horrendous queue for a parking space in that over-priced egotistical little fishing village, that said ‘Champagne €10 per bottle’. You see, Lidl, unlike our other super-markets – and most of UK's – maintain a constant pricing structure throughout the country, no matter how affluent the inhabitants of that area; in fact, for most goods, this universal price is maintained throughout Europe. So a bottle of what would have cost upwards of £100 in a restaurant in snobby Poser-town was a still only tenner. Bargain!
      Being thrown out? Oh, only a minor offence really – for having no shoes on. It seems the Germans may encourage some of Europe’s lowest low-life into its stores, but gypsies are one step too far!