Saturday, January 31, 2009


I should be ashamed of myself, a grown man shouting in the street...

I'd just been to the shop to get some "luxury bathroom towels." A nine-pack works out cheapest and lasts a while but doesn't fit into a carrier bag so I just carried it home as it was. One of the local knuckle-draggers spotted it as he walked down across the road.

"Hey mister, uh hu!" he shouted, "bog rolls! Uh uh uh!"

"Yes," I shouted back, "I'm planning on having a shit."

Thursday, January 29, 2009


People tell me things. I seem to have one of those faces that say "please tell me your life story." I don't need to know anybody's secrets: I'm not one of those who say: "I won't be your friend if you don't tell me your secrets." Your confidences are your own. I am happy to take you at face value. But people tell me things.

I went through a phase of wearing headphones (sometimes even connected to something) to try and minimise things but in the end I gave up on it. I will smile and be polite and I will listen as people tell me things.

Taxi drivers are notorious for this. It's understandable: it's a fairly solitary existence and I suspect that having a sober fare is a relief from the monotony of drunken drivelling. Sometimes it's just the usual "busy night?" "pretty quiet" pleasantries.

It's quite often football. Now, my interest in football waned with puberty but I can make all the right noises (a survival trick learned at school). And every so often we'll find that we're on the same wavelength: one old chap gave me a lengthy and knowledgeable critique of Ferenc Puskas' career one time. Cricket's safe: I'm happy to talk cricket. Though even I was taken aback the time I realised we were discussing the relative merits of A.C. McLaren and Hedley Verity. (Just for the record we retreated to the much safer ground of slagging off the Aussies and left the best of mates.)

It's not always sport. The cabbie who was doing a PhD. on the munitions industries of the Bury area was interesting.

But there is one that I think is a treasure. I've not seen him for a bit, I hope he's not gone out of business. You see, he had a habit of carrying on with the conversation once you'd paid the fare. We once got chatting about Buddhism and Joseph Conrad. Actually, it started with us talking about metaphysical poetry (we were both reading Andrew Marvell at the time) and I admitted that I struggled to read poetry though I enjoy listening to it. This led on to James Joyce, which he was struggling with. I actually find Joyce unreadable though I really enjoy hearing his work performed. A friend reckoned that my problem is that I was over-thinking it: "you've got to let yourself understand it without thinking about it. Let the words do their stuff without you having to peg them up on the pinboard." Just like the meditation the cabbie was into. He explained the principles of the workshop he was running in the local community centre. For the life of me I cannot remember or work out how we then progressed onto Joseph Conrad. I know that the linking strand was something to do with the Belgian Congo and King Leopold II but I'm damned if I can think what it was. I suddenly noticed the time: he'd been losing money for half an hour. I promised to have a look at a couple of meditative techniques he recommended, he promised to have a look at a couple of Edgar Wallace novels and we parted.

Every so often life seems quite civilised.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rites of passage

News from the railways:

Last week we were invited to be delighted that train cancellations were slightly improved on the previous year. Of course, what the figures forget to tell us is that when they decide that your train isn't going to stop at your station so that it can make up time and hit punctuality targets that isn't a cancellation. You may be waiting hours for the next one to come along, your train isn't cancelled. Oh no.

And this week Passenger Focus reports on the improvements in passenger satisfaction on the railways. Listening to their spokesman talking on the Today programme this morning it was quickly evident that they only surveyed passengers who actually managed to travel; they didn't talk to the passengers who couldn't complete their rail journey because the train didn't arrive. The only time I've ever received a survey form was mid-morning on the train that does the Cumbrian coast run from Lancaster to Carlisle. Mind you, that was back in British Rail days. It's a mark of the decline of the nation that we look back on British Rail as a golden age of service delivery.

It's probably just me being picky. To their credit, once you get past the headline drivel and look at the guts of the thing (and get over the provincial's natural irritation at "London and the South East," "Long Distance" and "Regional") you soon find just how good a performance you get from the local trains up here: you've a one-in-four chance of being pissed off by your journey.

Chugg, chugg, said Thomas.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Being awake in the insane hours, I got to wondering just what a trice is. I mean, if something's going to be done in a trice I need to know whether or not I have to make room in the parlour.

It turns out that a trice is derived from an obsolete English verb meaning "to pull off with one tug."

Which would make masturbation less time-consuming.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Film Fun II

Film title: The Arsenal Stadium Mystery Once upon a time, footballers were ordinary young blokes who'd smile awkwardly for the camera and mug it up for the newsreels.

Once upon a time.

Which might be part of the reason why I like The Arsenal Stadium Mystery* It's a curio piece, to be sure, but more than that it's rather fun. It was released in 1940 but is a lot more pre-war than you might expect by the date. No stiff upper lips in the bomb sites. No Dickie Attenborough playing a chirpy Cockney corporal. No air raid sirens or the like. It's all a bit quiet, a bit twee and a bit gentlemen and players. And no bad thing.

Newsreel title: Arsenal to meet Trojans at Highbury An amateur football team -- The Trojans -- are playing Arsenal for no apparent reason. Cue:

  • Lots of wooden acting by the real Arsenal team and George Allison (Lizzie will remember him).

  • Newsreel footage of Arsenal vs. Brentford (Arsenal's last game before the Second World War).

  • Real football with caseys, shirts with collars and centre forwards.

  • Jolly banter between crowd and referee.

  • E.V.H. Emmett providing the commentary for Gaumont British.
George Allison giving the Arsenal team a tactics talk Oh, and a member of the Trojans team gets murdered on the football pitch.

Cue all the usual stuff you'd expect. Plus a bit of love interest (Greta Gynt and Liane Linden, two good looking women with all the erotic appeal of a shop window mannequin).

And a young scientist whose laboratory consists of some glass retorts and a frog in his kitchen (hell, all bachelor pads are like that anyway!).

Leslie Banks asks a suspect if he'll come cleanly

There is motive and opportunity a-plenty and it is the lot of Inspector Slade to untangle the mess and solve the crime in time to allow a replay of the match. And it's not to interfere with the Scotland Yard concert party, which he is directing.

(If ever you get the chance to see this film, make sure you keep an eye on the goings-on in the background during rehearsals.)two footballers share a lady friend in the changing rooms
All this gives Leslie Banks, who plays the Inspector, the opportunity to give us another of his eccentric character turns, boisterously hamming it up with a sequence of hats-for-the-occasion. In lesser hands this could be a running irritant but Banks' performance adds to the overall tongue-in-cheek of the piece which elevates it from the run of the mill detective films of the time.

And they still manage to play fair by the rules of the genre. No deux ex machina explanations, and plenty of clues along the way. Not that the climax of the picture is in any way conventional!

* I'll skip the obvious mysteries about Arsenal Football Club.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Movie Matinee 7

Let us rise for the National Anthem

Movie Matinee 6

Movie Matinee 5

Now wash your hands.

Movie Matinee 4

Movie Matinee 3

Movie Matinee 2

You may like to avail yourself of a tub of ice cream from the salesgirl at the front of the theatre.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Midnight matinee 1

There will now be a short intermission.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Some of us know it's Monday

Ignore the video, just enjoy the story.

I think it's from "When You're In Love The Whole World Is Jewish" but I expect to be corrected by somebody.


Jane Birkin in a picture hat, just to cheer us up I did wonder if I should quit a post number 100, especially given that The Other Blog is approaching post 2,000 at a frightening rate of knots. Then I wondered why I was wondering that. And then it dawned on me that I hadn't had any sleep for thirty hours, save an hour's half-hearted dribbling down my shirt front watching Newsnight. Then I wondered why it felt like my whole body was made up of cardboard boxes joined together with bits of hairy string. Sleep deprivation does strange things. The first thing that usually goes with me is the spatial awareness: I bump into things and my typing gets a bit pcueluar. Then I get delusions of grandeur and toy with the idea of getting a job that doesn't involve me wondering which door I walked through.

If I'm lucky I then get a phase of being angry that it's hooligans like Serge Gainsbourg and King Kong that get the pretty women.

Then it's time to get up for another days' adventures on public transport.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Perchance to dream

My sleep patterns have always been, shall we say, peculiar. These days I seem to have settled into a sort of pattern whereby most week nights I'll get to sleep some time between two and four, to wake around sevenish, not counting the usual lucid moments. Every so often I'll oversleep to half eight. And once every other week I'll get to sleep about midnight. Saturdays are for sleeping. Sundays are for wondering what happened to Saturday. As I say, it's a pattern.

I've never been very good at sleep.

The one remaining puzzle for me is how I manage to turn my duvet round 90° in my sleep every night.

Virus alert!

By way of being a public service...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


A kitten in a glass

My father insisted all weekend that the weather was going to become milder and calmer and lovelier because some local weatherbod had reported that this would be so in the local paper and he's got it right so much more often than the Met. Office and blah-de-blah. I still insisted that he prepared his Soviet Navy surplus string long johns and Damart singlet ready for action. An easy forecast as I'd been watching the frost cloak my brother's car as we were talking.

All the usual media outlets have been pouring out forecasts of the year to come and how right they were this time last year so I thought I'd have a go at the old weasel-gazing.

Old Kev's predictions for 2009

  1. The government will announce that they have tackled the Daily Mail crisis du jour by announcing that they will be looking into review the steps and processes of a policy overview with a view to making an announcement about the steps that review will be taking to establish what announcement should be made.

  2. Newspapers will be full of photographs of snow/ice/hail/frost with headlines like "BRR!" "COLDEST DAY OF THE YEAR" and "BRITAIN SHIVERS." The news copy will omit to point out that it is winter time and we are north of Stalingrad.

  3. The collective British unconsciousness will come to the conclusion that a "reality TV star" isn't very nice and is, in fact, a bit pushy.

  4. Newspapers will have photographs of young ladies in bikinis frolicking on beaches with the implication that it is unseasonably warm. In August. The headline "COR WHAT A SCORCHER!" will be pretended to be Postmodernist Irony.

  5. Sir Alex Ferguson will claim that his Rice Krispies are conspiring to cheat Manchester United from its rightful place as Only Team Allowed To Win Football Matches, Whether Or Not It Actually Bothers To Get Onto The Pitch. He later claims that the Bible deliberately misquoted him to make him look paranoid and he refuses to talk to God any more.

  6. A nation groans as Richard Branson announces that he's starting a new venture to deliver a brand new service to a nation that's had to endure a bad old service because the companies involved don't have his talent for meeting the needs of the customer.

  7. One or other newspaper owned by people who live abroad with revenue income from the pornography business that is exempt from taxes because the company is registered as a donkey sanctuary in the Sargasso Sea will bemoan the impact of scrounging foreigners on British society and the collapse of traditional family values.

  8. The whole British transport network will grind to a halt due to leaves on the line/frozen points/melting tarmacadam/strong winds across the slip road at Newport Pagnoll.

  9. A sportsman sets a new world record for the transition between Plucky Newcomer via Set For The Top to Disappointing Neverwas with a time of 15.6 seconds, allowing for wind assistance.

  10. We'll do it all again next year, so long as the hamsters from Mars don't turn out to be real after all.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Water on the brain

My brother bought me an aquaculture kit for Chrimbo, which was rather decent of him. Essentially, it's a water tank, a timer, a tray with 'pots' of seed-infused foam and some grow-lights. It slotted together nicely and, after considerable thought as to where I might have a suitable surface not littered with books, DVDs, cassettes or more books, found it a home in the hall. I'd thought of having it in the living room but the light's a bit fierce and not one I'd be entirely comfortable with on an ongoing basis. Out in the hall I just get the indirect glow through the doorway (I've taken the precaution of setting the light timer to something approaching one or other of my usual sidereal rhythms). If all goes as the brochure says I shall be picking fresh basil in a month's time.

There is one drawback. I'm not sure that a man of my age should have anything in the house that involves the sound of a steady trickle of water through an irrigation system.

On reflection, this is probably a good thing: healthy eating and flushed kidneys. They pay pots for that sort of thing in health farms. I think we'll skip the coffee enemas, though.