Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pond Life

Hurray! A victory for commonsense occurred this week as Mr Justice Burnton ruled that people are entitled to swim in Highgate Ponds on Hampstead Heath all year round. The ponds had been at risk of being closed to swimmers because the Corporation of London cannot afford full-time all-year round lifeguards and therefore were concerned about being sued for negligence should anything untoward happen to anyone. Fortunately, Mr Justice Burnton has struck a blow against the nanny state when he drew on a House of Lords ruling in 2004 in which Lord Hoffmann stated that “If people want to dive in ponds or lakes, that is their affair”.
It’s refreshing to see that the UK is still (to some degree) resisting the cult of health and safety and the climate of free-for-all suing that pervades elsewhere. People not taking responsibility for their own actions, striving to blame someone else, it really pisses me off. It's absurd how our society sometimes caters for the terminally stupid, encroaching on our freedoms to safeguard the irresponsible and the daft. In days of old this didn't happen; it was called natural selection.

It reminds me of a time I was in the Alps in Switzerland, and my friend took me to one of the observation towers they have dotted round the mountains. These towers are made of steel and some are over 100 foot high. They are unmanned and you can climb up a spiral staircase to a platform at the top which offer spectacular views and poo inducing vertigo. They are very similar to this monster from Bulgaria.

We reached the top, and I was a bit out of breath and gripping on tightly.

“Bloody hell, you wouldn’t get these in the UK”.

“Well, you don’t have the views we have.”

“No, not that. I mean, the safety issues.”

“Huh? These are very sturdy. Excellent engineering.”

“No, I mean, someone might jump off”

She looked at me incredulously

“Why would anyone jump off?”

Still, when all’s said and done I still won’t be venturing in until the summer, unlike some of the crazies the pond attracts.

Spikey Sand Fairy

Go yonder to see a slideshow featuring a baby porcupine, and try and make your mind up which side of the ugly/cute spectrum it falls.

I personally was reminded of the Psammead who starred alongside some highly irritating squirts in a BBC kids programme of old.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Man of Leisure

Something tells me I get dressed a bit too late in the day and am earning myself a reputation as a layabout.

Picture the scene. It is 2pm and I am sat in my parent’s living room, wearing my underpants and one sock, talking to one of the cats. Mum enters.

“Oh, you look like you’re going somewhere.” Quite Earnestly.

“Wha…? Where would I be going like this?”

“Oh, it’s just you’re usually still in your dressing gown at this time, and you are wearing a sock.”

Hmmmm.

Breaking Down, Freaking Out

Eeeeesh. Whenever something goes wrong with one of my parents’ cars, it’s always me that’s driving it. Usually it’s fairly small scale, like a blown tire or a lost hub cap, which is pretty easy to get sorted (although I still get it in the ear off mum sometimes). Today however, it was slightly higher on the old calamitous jalopy scale: a mysterious engine fault which has left the car out of action (I’m hoping the mystery has nothing to do with me having driven it at shockingly irresponsible speeds earlier on).

I was out in the middle of nowhere when I noticed the car was losing some of its grunt, and then a light I’d never seen before flashed up on the dashboard. Although it didn’t seem too major, I thought it best to pull over and phone my Dad, as he Knows Things. So I pulled over, and we agreed he should come out and meet me to escort me home lest it died on me completely. I figured I’d have about 20 minutes or so to wait for him, so I got out of the car to stretch my legs and as I did so I glanced over my shoulder, and caught sight of this weird looking guy about 20 metres down the road peering round some trees at me. He was a creepy looking fella – scruffy, about 40, with a moustache and wearing tatty camouflage gear - and bearing in mind I was a good 8 miles from the nearest town and 3 miles from the nearest village it was a bit weird. My feelings of weirdness were not helped by the fact that when he realised I’d seen him, he ducked back into the trees. A number of muddled thoughts were running through my mind - “Please don’t let him have a hammer!” “Thank God I’m not a woman” “Maybe he likes men...?” “If he comes over and is a mentalist do I lock myself in the car or run down the road?” “Should I stare over there so he knows I’ve seen him or should I pretend I didn’t notice him?” “Do I try and start the car and drive off a bit further, or might the desperate revving make him realise I’m stuck here?” – and I got in the car and watched him in my rearview mirror creeping around in an unsettling way sort of stalking the car until my Dad arrived. Upon which the mentalist looked a bit put out, and slunk down the road in the opposite direction.

So anyway, the car did die completely as Dad escorted me home. The AA were called and duly arrived and I learnt some stuff. Now, I’m very non-technical and so was very surprised when the AA man got into the passenger seat with a smart looking laptop and plugged it into some hole I never knew existed and ‘analysed’ the car’s engine. He told me that some electronics in my car had detected a fault with the engine, and therefore caused the engine to cut out so it didn’t get damaged.
“Huh? So, there’s a computer in the car which can override me…. like Kit?”

Friday, April 22, 2005

Cumin hme 4a fu wks

Things are a bit fraught with Housemate Reggae and his girlfriend at the moment, and this is having a knock-on effect on me. See, Housemate Reggae is one of those tiresome types who becomes completely devoted to the current squeeze, to the extent that even if you live with one of those types you won’t see them for days on end. And when they are about, they’re always on the phone, and when they’re not on the phone you’ll be having a conversation with them, only to turn round to find them engrossed in texting. And so with his disagreement with his lady, I have become Housemate Reggae’s surrogate text target, and I feel as though I am being bombarded. Normally, Housemate Reggae’ll text me about once a week, usually to arrange meeting him somewhere. But currently I’m getting about 2 a day. My actual problem with this though is that Housemate Reggae also has an overly casual texting style which is at odds at mine and not strictly to my taste. Now, whilst I try and keep my texting style fairly, how shall we say, ‘professional’ - abbreviating only the obvious or longer words - Housemate Reggae seems to shorten at will and misspell deliberately.

Thus I might get such a message:

“Yo Hmun, hws u? So brd @wrk wht U dun?”

or

“rly knkrd, cnt B arsd wit wrkn 2dy!!! Dun NE fink ths Rftanun, Prly CU l8r”

I don’t really know what I’m supposed to say to these. It’s not just the difficulty I have deciphering them that irks me, but the obvious link between their commencement and his lady troubles and as a result I can only reason that Housemate Reggae normally wouldn't really care wht I wuz dun on a Wednesday lunchtime and therefore it makes me wonder if he really cares now. I am sure as soon as he smoothes things over with her they’ll cease to come, and annoyingly that annoys me too!

Celeb Spot! Drunken newsreader/hypocrite Alaister Stewart padding through Waterloo on Tuesday evening, wearing a mackintosh and squinting with a small cigarette butt in the corner of his mouth.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Knees Up

I'm in reasonably good spirits at the moment. The reason for this is my knee. Up until about a year ago I used to do a fair bit of running. Not competitively, not involving buying 'gear' or ever talking to people about it or anything, but just a fair amount of soft-core leisure running. I wasn't a particularly able runner (built for speed, see?) but I'd do about 4k about 4 or 5 times a week, and be thoroughly sweaty and puffing afterwards. But it kept the belly off and the jowls tight. But then, about last February I was running along and a sharp pain struck behind my knee cap and then the whole joint locked up. As soon as it came and I'd stopped running it went, but reappeared as soon as I started up again. I laid off the running for two weeks, and then gave it another go and after about 5mins/1k it struck again. I repeated this cycle of lay-off and relapse for about 3 months before deciding in May of last year that my running days were behind me. I'd meant to get it sorted by a doctor, but with finals and a thesis to do it was low on my list of priorities - and besides, both my mum and best mate have had completely unsuccessful knee-ops which has made me very dubious about the science of knee medicine.

But anyway, last week I decided to try out my knee briefly on the runner at the Gym as I do every month or so now: and found I was still going after 10 mins, more than double what I can usually manage. I've now done a couple of 5ks this week, both times stopping due to a poor level of fitness rather than knee knack. I'm slightly bemused as to how or why my knee has seemingly managed to fix itself, and secretly worried this is just leading up to a hideously painful collapse and crippling gruesome knee rupture or something.

Elsewhere, I stumbled across this piece of Hank Marvin inspired gloriousness today. God, discoveries like this makes me sometimes wish I was around in the 70s: some of the stuff just seems so shamelessly budget.

OK, Celeb Spot. I was in the lift at Tufnell Park Tube on Tuesday, examining the retards who make up the audience of the Queen The Musical advert* and having a chuckle, when I turned to glance at my sole lift companion and realised it was Fast Show-er Charlie Higson. The surprise almost made me say "Oooh, hello sir!", but I stopped myself

* There's a not-as-good version of the ad here. It really does look like some sort of special outing for the terminally sad - It truly makes me wonder about what sort of people the minds behind this ad are trying to attract. My favourite is the chubby moustachioed nerd in the bottom right, fist punching the air in a paroxysm of ecstasy. I'd say there's a 80/20 split between those who look to be truly having the time of their empty existences, and those for who the show has been something of an epiphany and have a "I've wasted my life" glaze upon their resigned faces.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Say your prayers pilgrim

Today, I’ve been sat at work with Sky News on next to me, watching the Pope dying. I thought for a while maybe it was one of the most elaborate April Fools ever and he would appear on a balcony, seemingly resurrected and laughing at everyone, but it’s past noon now so I guess not