Saturday, May 30, 2009

Virgin on the ridiculous

Consider this gentleman.

He tries to connect to his Virgin Broadband service and his world falls apart around his ears.

Is he checking his email? No. Is he interacting with social networking sites? No. Is he checking the news? Or watching a fillum? e-shopping or engaging with the worl in his rôle as cybercitizen?

No, no, no and no again. There is nothing remotely positive about this man's doings.

Some scenes you just want to watch over and over again

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A quick burst of the William Tell Overture

Today is St. Lone Ranger's Day. All over the country there will be cavalcades of wee bairns dressed in white buckskins and masks.

"Heigh, ho, Silver! Away...!"

They will declaim, in between picking the scabs off each other's knees. Two-finger bang-bangs, mind-scrambling richochets and scrabbling round the arid badlands of Salford Docks and all points up to Bacup.

"Aargh! He's shot me, Butch!"

"Miss Worswick, they've shot his butch!"

Rushing round with broomhandle hobby-horses.

"Da diddle-da, da da da da da da da da da da dee diddle dee diddle dee diddle dee diddle dum! Ra-diddle-da-diddle-da-da-da!"

Who was that masked mixed infant?

Monday, May 25, 2009

As she is spoke

Taking a breather

I'm catching my breath over the bank holiday weekend. There's a lot to be done - the garden's threatening to invade the Western World; the house is a tip; and there are some scary work deadlines looming over the next few weeks; and I don't care. I've caught up with some sleep and I've reminded my family what I look like and that's pretty much as far as it's going.

I've been overworking lately and it tells. What should just be the ordinary aches and pains of middle-aged life are more niggly than usual and all the usual allergies are kicking in with a vengeance. They're much of a muchness, the problem lies with my reactions to them. Waking up with a panic attack at quarter-past two in a morning isn't a good idea; especially when it was past half one before you get to sleep. Idiotic.

A couple of people I know have died recently. A great pity, they will be sadly missed. Another had been incommunicado lately and we wondered if we'd somehow upset them. It turned out that she was in a hospice: she didn't let anybody know because she "didn't want any fuss." It's difficult to be cross in the circumstances.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Savannah gave me the excuse for the first one. The rest are just because.

Someone once said that Eric and Ernie were like two much-loved daft uncles being silly just for you. I can think of no better tribute.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


They're digging up the tramlines (again!) in Manchester City Centre so I'm either trudging between stations or getting a bus until the inevitable project over-runs take us into Christmas. This week we've been having bursts of absurd showers: one minutes it's sunny, next minute somebody's emptying their bath over your head, and the third it's sunny again. During one of the wet intervals I took what little shelter there is at Piccadilly Gardens.

Spotting a movement overhead I realised that the 'pigeon' sat on the lamppost was actually a peregrine falcon. The weather cleared, it shook itself dry and took off at a leisurely-but-menacing pace over to Market Street.

It's not so bad sometimes.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

One of those things middle-aged gentlemen do

Walking past the European market stalls in Manchester I was taken by one selling a bewildering array of salami. I asked the pretty young German blonde for a couple of green pepper salami.

"You can buy seven different salami for £10," she smiled. Sweetly.

I handed my £10 note to the pretty young German blonde and said thank you to her and to her pretty middle-aged German mother.

I can pretend as much as I want but in the end you can't fight the programming.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Les Vamps and Gertie

Now we've got Episode One under us belts I'll try and hunt down Episode Two...

(How tantilising... I keep finding tiny fragments of 'Fantomas'...)

Just to keep me happy for the evening, here's the great Winsor McCay's "Gertie the Dinosaur"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Midnight Matinee: fourth and last

Mind how you go on the way home.

Midnight Matinee part three

Further installments of the serial by Louis Feuillade.

Midnight Matinee part two

Be careful to have watched part one!

Midnight Matinee part one

Fresh from Gaumont: Les Vampyrs

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chuffing 'eck

I've started and abandoned a few posts this week; perhaps another time for those, when I'm in a mood where I won't frighten the horses.

Instead, let us consider the railway system. Regular readers (bless you both) will know that I depend on public transport for to get me anywhere more than a couple of miles away. I try not to bore you with it because it bores me silly: time was when you'd go to a station, get a train, get off, job done but that seems like another world of childish enchantment these days. What few trains still stop at our local station are ageing rattlers from the early eighties packed to the ginnels with pissed-off passengers and running late on principle.

It annoys me to see the rail adverts on the telly. The journey from London to Manchester on Virgin is portrayed as a carnival of comfort, ease and romantic discovery. I'm still shouting at the screen a quarter of an hour after the advert's been and gone. If that's not bad enough, there's another one which portrays passengers as sheep: OK it's honest but you'd think that even these days they'd have a bit of shame about it. Mind you, if we were sheep we'd get better conditions of travel.

Like the Post Office, the government's anti-poverty agencies and the House of Commons Fees Office, the railway system Must Make A Profit. Quite why is beyond me. The railway system, like the Post Office, is part of our national infrastructure: it is the stuff that facilitates the profit-making elements of the economy. If you fuck up the infrastructure you fuck up the business, which is why Tesco makes a huge profit with its fleet of new vans and that bloke with a Transit van up on bricks isn't going to cut it in the Logistics Sector (remember when it was 'transport' or 'haulage?')

Strangely enough, the road network isn't required to make a profit, even when road charging is being applied. It would be interesting to apply the same criteria to roads as apply to rail...

One of the reasons why we're down on trains is "lack of demand." The trains still steam through once every half hour, they just don't stop. It would be no great hardship to stop, just three minutes for the on/offs, which is within with the five minutes the train sits at the signals just outside Castlefield waiting for its slot into Manchester. But there's no demand. The Sons of Beeching reckon that outside standard commuting hours there is no need for anybody to use small suburban halts, so by not providing the service they can demonstrate that there's no demand. Furthermore, if there's no demand then perhaps there's a need to wind the station down...

Imagine this thinking being applied to your small suburban roads: how many vehicles per hour do you get down your road? I live on a bus route that's also a rat run for emergency vehicles wanting to avoid the motorway traffic. Outside the school run I reckon that typical weekday traffic down our road is about half a dozen vehicles an hour (including the buses). If it were a rail line it would be closed down and grubbed up. The myriad closes and cul-de-sacs of suburban England would be even quieter. So you'd not be able to drive your car up to your house, you'd have to park up at the end of the 'viable' stretch of roadway, which may be miles away and make your way home by shanks' - or even literal - pony.

If you had to do that at each end of every car journey you'd not be inclined to do so very much driving. Which is one way of cutting down the carbon footprint of the nation. But no, instead we impose this model on our public transport, thus increasing the carbon footprint. After all, if it's a five- or ten-mile car journey to the train station to catch an unreliable, old, grubby train with poor connections to the other services involved in your journey why wouldn't you just keep on driving?

Ernest Marples at least had a financial interest in putting Beeching up to chopping up the network. I can see no motive for his successors save that they are utter fuckwits.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Greening the cracks

Daphne's post got me thinking about lily of the valley, one of a group of woodland-glade plants that do surprisingly badly in my garden. Like columbines, foxgloves and campions, I plant, they sulk, they die. A shame as I find them utterly charming. Some folk have them growing like weeds. Indeed, this is one of the fresh delights caused by the detours I have to make round the building site: the cracks in the pavement outside one house are lined by lilies of the valley, all in bloom. I am suffused with envy. A few doors down from me a clump of Japanese anemones are doing similar. All I can manage is some groundsel and willow herbs. I'm tempted to cheat and resort to seeding the area with marjorams and wallflowers.

I do better by the cracks between the house and the path, which are currently seething with valerians, dog violets and marjoram. I had to grub out the teasels and sycamores. And the cypress seedling that I found by the back door. Commonsense tells me that I should remove the seedling dogwood from the base of the fencepost but it has such good colour in its young stems I couldn't do it. Perhaps later in the year when I'm feeling ruthless.

It obviously runs in the family: I noticed that my parents have got a fine crop of wallflowers and snapdragons lining their foundations, interspersed with seedlings of the little dark Viola labradorica. As we were admiring this accidental planting I noticed something different.

"Isn't that a hollyhock?" I asked.

"Is it? It'll make a change from cherry trees."

Pecking order

My brother and his family are on holiday so my parents are looking after things. He rang up to let them know they'd arrived safely:

"How's the rabbit?"

"He's OK."

"How are the cats?"

"They're OK."

"How are you?"

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday singalong