Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Best not to ask

Heard in a west London street between a man, a woman and a second man:

“Look at it this way- you've got Mr. Right...and Mr. Left.“

Friday, July 30, 2004

More a sort of clarification

Think I offended Brother.

Admittedly, I sounded a bit down on last weekend from reading this. And I did enjoy myself. At times. But who said a blog has to be balanced & fair? It's more like the depressive's equivalent of Fox “News".

It's great getting everyone drunk in one place. It's more the endless Sunday in Surban Hell, Surrey, which reminds me why I stopped doing sundays.

Besides, what sort of person has their main meal at lunchtime once a week?

But I had a good weekend overall. What sort of frustrated writer writes about all the good things in their lives?

Cleared that one up.

...some say I 'ave me moods...

I'm a miserable bastard.

At least, I only really seem to blog when I'm feeling like I want to lie down where I am, cover my ears and do the noise Father calls the moaning. Which is definitely less than three-quarters of the time.

Like now.

But at least I'm not in an over-priced nightclub being pressed against wealthy city types. It's the hottest night of the year, and some of them will be *very* sweaty.

Spot on with that Long Dark Summer thing by the way.

Instead, I'm watching The Fast and The Furious. Have played computer games with better story lines.

Bloody planet. Be glad to get off it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

NOT a metaphor

Well, the Long Dark Summer continues, and not just on E4. There's a big gray cloud stretching out from Watford to Borehamwood and my jacket looks like spending a fifth week out of the wardrobe. Having my lunch it's like early spring with a lot more bugs.

It takes a lot of getting used to out here under my tree. I'm used to hearing something incomprehensible like how this is the hottest summer since 1918, or the driest since the Great Malt Drought of 1852. But this summer so far has been decidedly average, and perhaps it's telling that people are starting to notice, in an age of record-breaking weather, that this season is such an underachiever. On the other hand, maybe this is the weather finally being normal after all these years. We've just forgotten what normal is.

And you'd think that cold snap would have killed all the bugs. It was the coldest one for a decade you know.

Monday, July 26, 2004

"Well, it's all for a good cause, isn't it?"

I should have known there was something wrong with an email which begins "My mother's line-dancing group..." Particularly when it came from Blondie.

But, and perhaps inviting my afternoon to be ruined, I read the rest of the mail, which showing either almost endearing naivete or *almost* impressive chutzpah, she's emailed to the whole office. The line dancers are looking to defy economics, not to mention twenty years of progress in disability rights, to "buy this poor girl a wheelchair by collecting her weight in bottle tops...." And, sure enough, it said "PLEASE HELP!!!"
I forwarded it to Brother with a heading of "kill me now". He agreed things were a little bleak. And yet, instead of shutting Blondie, her email and her 10 stone of plastic bottle tops in a metaphorical airtight room for a long weekend, we couldn't resist picking holes in it. Here's a few:

1) Obvious one this, but how do you go about buying a wheelchair with about fifty bags of plastic bottle tops? There's a few theories that could explain this, and I couldn't help but ask Blondie.

- The "Benefactor Challenge" Theory. This states that a generous benefactor will donate a wheelchair if a challenge is fulfilled, in this case to collect her body weight in plastic bottle tops. But how generous is this offer, really? Will the girl get the chair if they do not succeed in this challenge? If yes, then what's the point in wasting my time? If not, then evidently this person with a disability is being used as part of some kind of sick power play, in which I want no part. Could anyone really say "No, you're two stone short, therefore the girl can crawl home"?

- The "Recycling" Theory. Again, interesting one this. About ten years ago, charities realised that your small change wasn't worth much against Esso's, and started asking for your bank details instead. But before they reached this point, it wasn't uncommon for Blue Peter to ask for a million foil bottle tops. Now, aluminium evidently has worth, and can be recycled. Of course, Blue Peter asked you to post it, when really they would have made more money if they'd asked for the price of the stamp you used to send in your junk.But just assuming unsorted plastic can be effectively recycled (bearing in mind that in the real world the man-hour cost of processing and sorting the plastic is deducted from its value), I decided to try an experiment, particularly as she'd suggested that this was how it worked. I walked over in more concillatory mood, having torn her to shreds earlier, and said "OK, here's one to get you started." I gave her my empty drinks bottle. She took the cap off, and threw the rest of it in the bin. 'Nuff said.

- The "Blue Peter" Theory. This is one of Brother's. Maybe there's a parallel campaign to obtain sticky back plastic. Hey presto, one wheelchair.

2) The email helpfully specifies: "Items with plastic caps include; Comfort bottles, soft drinks bottles, milk bottles." Quite apart from the fact that I'm beginning to suspect a back hander from Lever Bros (Persil bottles have them too), I'm suspicious as to why no brands of soft drink were mentioned. And why she felt the need to specify that all of them are, um, bottles.

3) We have way too many charity drives in our office. And these are all for good causes, aren't they? For example, a recent project raised £15.24 by selling cakes for the Peace Hospice.Win-win situation right? Except, of course, for the fact that we were continually badgered (even in important case discussions) to spend out our 20 pence on a cake. Which sort of cost us a lot of time from our own work, which essentially consists of caring for people. (Hence me almost snapping on Day 3 "Here's £2- now fuck off!" 

Just imagine all 30 of us in the office lost two minutes. It's reasonable to assume that the county lost at least that amount again. Wouldn't it have been better to suspend that person for an afternoon, and donate their salary to charity? Just a thought.

4) Would be far less trouble to just donate fifty pence each. Which, incidentally, is the cost of a TON of unsorted plastic for recycling. Not to mention the factor of compassion fatigue. All of the people involved may fall into that dangerous trap of feeling that you're St Bob Geldof because you brought a bag of plastic junk into work this morning.

5) I do a lot of work for Charidee, y'know. Maybe this is a little harsh, but do you have to advertise how much good you're doing? If you want to do some good, why not let yourself be caught by a girl with a clipboard and set up a standing order? Over a year, you'll be giving as much, personally, as badgering all your mates to sponsor you for a big charity stunt. And only your bank will know. Oh. 

6) It's resulted in me getting dirty looks all day.

It just highlights that no matter how pointless, futile and ultimately counter-productive something may be; you can't question it because it's for a good cause. Waste fifty tins of baked beans to highlight how little food there is? Fine! Do a crazy stunt, watched by a crowd? Go for it. Walk around with a big arrow saying Look At Me I'm Doing It For Charity. It's for a good cause.

Next week, Dwarf Tossing and Cock Fighting. It's for charity you know.

RIP Google!

Maybe I could learn a new song on the guitar? Study some obscure train of thought to do with airport architecture, and how far we've come since the nazis first built real airports to that weird blue shed going up at Heathrow?

Or find out when the third series of Six Feet Under, frustratingly trailed under the unbelievably appropriate hookline of The Long Dark Summer, is actually going to be on. So I can count the days. Or do some work-related research, or find a phone number of an information line I need.

Or explore any one of a million irrelevant trains of thought. I can't.

Whatever their reasons for doing it, the MyDoom creators have killed off Google. And suddenly the way I rely on to find information seems, well, fragile. The Internet was designed to survive a nuclear war, and yet without an index, it may as well not be there if I want to find something new.

They're always impressed at work at how quickly I can find a piece of information. They don't realise it's all about knowing a single URL, and just being able to phrase the right search. It's not really something that comes from me. I sometimes think we're going from having knowledge in our heads, to knowing where to find the knowledge. Which is great, as we know more, but it's just a little dependent on technology, electricity and a good connection. Having Google & a dictionary on my phone changed the way I learn things. I don't think "I should look that up", and forget before I get home. Now I look it up. Now. And if I can't remember the thing, I can often recall it faster on my flashy phone than I can by working it out in my head.

Anyway. Gone. And I don't seem to have an alternative. Yahoo!? Doesn't seem to work. Lycos? I don't even know if that runs any more. And Ask Jeeves inadvertantly mirrors Wodehouse's creation for sheer dry inability to give a productive answer. So I'm stuck.

I might look at one of the many books gathering dust on my shelves. And if anyone can tell me when Six Feet Under's coming back...

Me Again

I think I've finally got the use of my head back.

Sometimes you just lose the ability to think, and it's difficult to find a cure for it. Recent events make it clear a holiday's not going to do that, but you bring yourself back to life in the most unexpected circumstances, be it an image of everything you've ever wanted or a dreary weekend in a leafy suburban hellhole.

I'd better rewind on that one. As a family we went to housesit our cousin's place for the weekend. And, sure enough, it's a leafy hellhole.

Space and fresh air are all very well, and I did appreciate the fact that they have a shed (or 'rumpus room'- it's pure Ned Flanders) approximately the size of my flat. And trees, and songbirds.

And nothing but sprawling streets, and no shop for three miles. Christ it's maddening. Perfectly friendly neighbours, no distant sirens or hmmm of traffic to shatter the peace. Nothing but the creaking of an old swing and the song of happy, perfect people who don't have too many books. It was like the Stepford families. As the weekend wore on I got frustrated, reactionary, mad, and, well, me.

Rewind again. Events I can't even start to explain drove me to go on a little journey before landing in leafy nowhere. And several times I saw, just out the corner of my eye, an image of all the things I want, and ways in which I could be almost, dammit, happy. If you looked too long or tried to rationalise it, it would suddenly be ten miles away, but it wasn't just a pair of eyes, or a garden full of stars, it was a life. And I got taught one of those annoying lessons in the glaringly obvious, which is that what I'm supposed to be doing with my life is to get that life I want, and, well, live it. Annoying isn't it? And yet, curiously redeeming.

Blogger's changed while I've been away. Two months is a long time on the net. Christ, an afternoon's a long time on the net. I'm probably going to look like an old-fashioned journalist hammering away at a keyboard and looking for the return lever in a cloud of smoke until I get the hang of this new interface.

As for me, I seem to have aged a bit since I last looked in the mirror. It maybe didn't help that I had 5 hours sleep and three days of stubble. I sometimes wonder if I'm going through my daze a little too often. Or maybe the fact I don't have a record of what was on my mind is catching up with me. So come with me as I wear the keyboard out.