On getting older, and no wiser

Funny old weekend really, as birthday weekends often are. I took a couple of days off around the day itself, just to sort out the looming monolith of giftage and panic that is the buildup to Xmas. And blow me if it hasn’t worked, and we’re pretty much sorted.

Admittedly, a lot of this is down to my insisting on Clare dropping some very unsubtle hints about what she wanted, as opposed to her usual ” oh I’ll leave it up to you, you always come up with such lovely presents.” Cue three weeks of fear and existential angst as I overspend in a panic that she’ll be disappointed. If she doesn’t like what she’s getting this year it’s her own darn fault.

So, the Friday was spent shopping and spending forty minutes getting out of a car park in central Reading. The main design flaw in town parking is the central corkscrew ramp used for access. Which is normally fine, but when everyone is trying to get out at the same time, that main artery gets clogged in a hurry. It comes to something when both driver and passenger end up checking their emails while waiting for the car in front to edge forward a couple of feet.

From that little adventure, we just had enough time to get changed before heading back into town and heading up to That London for to see the Mighty Boosh.

Funny story. Clare agreed to go with one of her Internet buddies yonks ago, one of those “one too many glasses of wine, ooh that sounds like fun” deelies. She thought nothing much more of it, especially as the friend in question has vanished from the forum she frequents, and she knows nothing of the Boosh anyway.
Her friend reappeared a few weeks back, complete with tickets, but full of apologies as she now couldn’t go. Did we still want to?

Well, it’s somefing different, innit?

It was very silly, a lot less in-jokey than I thought it was going to be, and very funny. It got a bit self-indulgent at the end, but then if you’re a comedy duo playing the Wembley Arena, I’d say you’ve got a licence to wig out a bit.

Saturday was the birthday. Lots of cards with money in, and the big gift, a Wii. I need to dedicate a full post to this marvel, but let’s just say I’m already addicted. If anyone fancies a head to head on Mario Kart let me know, and I’ll squirt you a Friend Code.

That evening could not be more different to Friday, as we whizzed to Chelsea for the tradition that is the Coro Christmas Concert. I’ve raved about Coro before, and will continue to do so until people start listening. They are on top of their game, and when they cut loose they can shake a church off it’s foundations. Add in the bonus of readings by the Gay Gandalf hisself, Ian Mckellen, wine and mince pies on the interval, and you have a warm and cosy and very English start to Christmas.

The thing about birthdays is that you don’t really feel any different, even though supposedly it’s a landmark day. Aging is a lot more sneaky than that. I will happily jump around on the Wii, or hammer a couple of chords on La Roja, my red electrical guitar, and I might as well be 16 again. But at the end of my traditional birthday haircut there was a lot of white hair in my lap mixed in with the brown. So who’s to say how old I really am. According to Wii Fitness, I’m 60. But then the day before I was 80, so it’s entirely possible I’ll be back on nappies at the end of the week.

Having a birthday this close to the end of the year does have the knock-on effect of causing one to muse on recent history, and the year just leaving in particular. In a week when Forrest Ackerman, Bettie Page and Oliver Postgate all left us for pastures new, it’s difficult not to feel reflective. It’s been an interesting 2008 to put it mildly, and I can’t think of anyone close to me that’s not been affected in some way. More on this later, I think, before Mrs Maudlin puts her hand in mine and gives it a squeeze.

In summation, then, as I’m aware that I’m starting to ramble a bit. I had a great birthday, and I’m planning on having a great Christmas. That’s all that matters right now.

Coming up – more on The Year Of Change, and my Tracks Of 08.

Whuff of the week

As seen on a bottle of Clare’s posh shampoo…
Probably not especially clear, but the first line of the copy reads:

Really? I’d have said the only thing you need to use a bottle of shampoo is, you know, hair.

The Problem With Phileus Fogg

Fogg, contemplating a spate of dickish behaviour.

My research leading up to this years Nanowrimo has led me to re-read Jules Verne’s “Around The World In Eighty Days”. It’s been a salutary lesson for more than one reason. Firstly, I haven’t read it since I was 11, and I’d forgotten just how tightly written and fast-moving it was. Its the perfect example of the kind of book I like to read, and the sort of book I want to write.

Secondly, and more importantly, I’d never realised that Phileus Fogg is a complete knob. Worse, he’s probably seriously mentally ill.

Let’s examine the evidence, ignoring the urbane charm of David Niven in the delightful 1956 Hollywood version, or indeed Willy Fog, the cartoon lion of the 90s kids show. No, the Fogg I am talking about is taken straight from the pages of Verne’s novel. This is a man with few friends, no family to speak of, and habits that are not merely regular, but obsessive compulsive.


During his brief interview with Mr. Fogg, Passepartout had been carefully observing him. He appeared to be a man about forty years of age, with fine, handsome features, and a tall, well-shaped figure; his hair and whiskers were light, his forehead compact and unwrinkled, his face rather pale, his teeth magnificent. His countenance possessed in the highest degree what physiognomists call “repose in action,” a quality of those who act rather than talk. Calm and phlegmatic, with a clear eye, Mr. Fogg seemed a perfect type of that English composure which Angelica Kauffmann has so skilfully represented on canvas. Seen in the various phases of his daily life, he gave the idea of being perfectly well-balanced, as exactly regulated as a Leroy chronometer. Phileas Fogg was, indeed, exactitude personified, and this was betrayed even in the expression of his very hands and feet; for in men, as well as in animals, the limbs themselves are expressive of the passions. 

He was so exact that he was never in a hurry, was always ready, and was economical alike of his steps and his motions. He never took one step too many, and always went to his destination by the shortest cut; he made no superfluous gestures, and was never seen to be moved or agitated. He was the most deliberate person in the world, yet always reached his destination at the exact moment. He lived alone, and, so to speak, outside of every social relation; and as he knew that in this world account must be taken of friction, and that friction retards, he never rubbed against anybody.  


This is a man that will fire his manservant for bringing his shaving water two degrees too cold, and yet will happily drop everything and gamble his fortune on a club-room wager. Bi-polar? Quite possibly. This is a man that, on that journey, will show no interest in the wonders unfolding before him, preferring instead to stay in his cabin and brood over railway timetables and steam train schedules. This is a man, who when presented with the opportunity to rescue a maiden from an untimely death at the hands of Brahmin fanatics, chooses to do so only because his timetable has opened up enough that he has some free time to do so!

This is no hero, Readership. This is a sociopath. Phileus Fogg is desperately unstable, unable to relate to the outside world in a normal fashion, and frankly seems one rash, ill-thought decision away from killing himself and taking his travelling companions with him.

More of an anti-hero then, I guess. I swear, if it wasn’t for the more honest lunacy of Passpartout, the thing would be almost unbearable. I have to admit that I can’t stop reading, though. Not just to find out what happen at the end. To find out also if the so-called hero becomes any less of a dick.

A Fable

My mate Kev told me a little story this lunchtime that I thought was worth sharing with you, Readership.

Two guys walk into a village, trailing a big cage on wheels behind them. They gather the inhabitants.

“Right,” the first guy says. “I’m in the market for monkeys. Anyone that can bring me monkeys will get ten quid a head for them.”

“Deal!” say the villagers, and off they scurry. Soon, the two strangers are inundated with monkeys.

“Right,” says the first guy when the cage is filled. “That’s a lot of monkeys. I’d like more, but I appreciate they’re in short supply at the moment. So, if you can find any more, I’ll pay you twenty quid a head.”

“Deal”, say the villagers, and off they scurry. They return, with a much reduced haul.

“Now,” says the guy when he’s jammed the monkeys into his cage. “I’m a fool to myself, but I loves me the monkeys. So, if aaaanyone can find me any more of those adorable little furry primates, I will pay them fifty quid a head.”

“Deal!” say the villagers, and off they scurry. This time, most return empty-handed. A couple have scavenged up some scrawny-looking specimens, but on the whole it looks like the village is out of monkeys.

“What a shame,” says the first guy. “Tell you what. The weekend’s coming up. I’m going to take a day or so to take care of some other bits of business. I’ll leave my assistant with you to finish off the paperwork, and make sure things are straight and even. You never know, you might find some more monkeys in the meantime.”

And off he goes.

“You seem like nice, financially astute people,” says the assistant later that day. “So I want to share an idea with you. How about you buy all your monkeys back from me for oh, I dunno, say 35 quid a head. Then when my boss comes back on Monday, you’ve got a fresh new supply of primates to sell him at fifty quid a pop. You’ll make a fortune!”

“Deal!” say the villagers, and buy back all their monkeys at thirty five quid a head.

“Excellent!” says the assistant. “Now, I just have to confer with my boss about something completely unrelated to this deal, and I’ll be back to conclude our business on Monday with him.”

And off he goes.

And the villagers never see anything of the pair of them again.

And that, my Readership, is how unscrupulous financiers go about shorting stocks.

Seems a lot like a cheap, dodgy con, don’t it?


Douglas Rushkoff gives more background to the fun and frolics of the financial marketplace. Moreover, he actually uses plain English, and makes sense. Which, these days, is a bit of a godsend.

Sick Sick Sick

Parry, pre-purge.
Parry, pre-purge.

You’ve got to admire the sheer gall, if you’ll excuse the pun. After Bruce Parry’s Amazon was accoladed to the skies last week, it seemed like the smiley ex-Marine could do no wrong. He’d come up with a perfect bit of telly, thrilling, moving and thoughtful.
So how does he follow up last weeks masterful episode? By spending most of it throwing up, noisily and on camera. I had to turn the show off after half an hour, especially as I was becoming uncomfortably reminded of the bout of food poisoning I’d suffered over the weekend.
Shame, really. I was quite looking forward to seeing Bruce in a dress, which had been promised in the trails. Actually, thinking about it, that might have brought on my own Achuar purging ritual.
You do have to wonder about a tribe that thinks it’s natural and healthy to throw up copiously every single morning. It seems like officially santioned bulimia to me. It was certainly clear that the regime wasn’t doing Bruce any favours. I’m really in no place to comment on the rights and wrongs of other cultures, but I don’t think that’s something I’ll be trying any time soon. It’d ruin the taste of my morning coffee, for one thing.
I wonder how long it’ll take an Internet scamp to edit out everything but the puking and put the unexpurgated highlights up on YouTube? End of the day?

Thieving Bastard

I think theres room for another lock there...
I think there's room for another lock there...

Somewhere, some merciless little shit is building himself a bike, using bits he can scavenge from other cycles. Mine, mostly. So far, he’s taken my front wheel (and had the cheek to leave his battered old wheel in part exchange) and, on Friday, my saddle. I haven’t cycled home standing up since I was about ten and let me tell you, readership, it’s great for the thighs but Nether Gods, can you feel it afterwards.

Now, it’s entirely likely that I’ve just been unlucky and I’m not being targeted at all. But that’s not the way I feel at the moment, and I’m completely paranoid about leaving the bike anywhere, regardless of how well secured I’ve made it. I can’t afford a new saddle until payday anyway, which means I’m stuck with a bus trip in, or walking to the station. Neither option appeals especially.

I just feel a bit hopeless and a bit silly. And a lot angry.

I wonder how hard it would be to hack an AutoTaser for bike use?