Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Realising the full gravity of a trip to Mablethorpe

Mablethorpe on t'Sea
... and, actually, didn't we have a splendid time indeed.

The other day I took a couple of old coots from the village out for a trip (as part of an outreach programme) and their choice of treat was a visit to the electric cinema in Mablethorpe, to see 'Gravity' in the new three-dimensional moving pictures with sound version.

Had a thoroughly splendid time.

Mablethorpe is so small that it's marked as M'pe on the Ordnance Survey maps but it has the most splendid little multi-screen cinema. In summer they make enough money on the tourista trade to survive and in the winter months they keep the place open to amuse the knotty-pated locals. The entrance hall is about five metres by four, and that space includes the inevitable postcards, DVD sales, sweet stall, ticket booth and coffee machine - for tea and coffee is included in the price of a billet which is a brilliant idea in winter. The cheap seats are standard fare but the upper-crusties seats have legroom abounding and are padded with horse-hair and goose feathers. The whole operation successfully walks that line between being run by just two people and also being professional and slick. It's truly a hidden gem.

Gravity, on the other hand... how expensive must it have been to maintain all of those film crews in orbital space? I wonder how many clapper-board clackers they lost. The three-dimensional effects were stunning - with the glasses we all looked like the mice in Wallace and Gromit's cellar. Debris flying out of the screen, splashes of water to duck for and a depth to the vistas of planet Earth that I haven't experienced since my last Shuttle mission. Wonderful stuff. The film itself however...

Well, you know that feeling when the night train rushes past and the little hook arrangement that is supposed to oik you out of the trackside hammock like a sack of mail fails and you're left sat sitting there, all alone as the train (of thought and plot) thunders on? Well that's how Bullock and Clooney left me. I was rooting for them both to stop whining and get on with it and hurry up and die, and only Clooney obliged. How different a film might it have been with two different actors eh? Two who could, oh I don't know - act. A plot that, oh I don't know - didn't rely upon my caring whether either or both of the only two actors in the whole film lived, died or gave birth to twin possums while singing the American national anthem backwards...

The experience though was brilliant and the three-dimensional effects totally terrific and I am pleased to report that neither of the old coots had a bladder accident or anything.

I like this "3D" thing. I suspect that films are going to take on a whole new dimension in future.

A please please please to Ealing Studios Hollywooden - from watching all of the trailers for forthcoming releases I am moved to ask for someone please to make a film that is not dark, grim, violent and filled with flailing arms and legs in front of green-screen LPG explosions... Something, oh I don't know - cheerful and bright mayhap?

If you are within a couple of thousand miles of Mablethorpe I can thoroughly recommend the cinema there to you. A very civilised experience - easy (winter) parking, no kiddywinkles, coffee on tap...

Sunday, 20 October 2013

For gods, guns and sex

It's Sunday morning and, despite the law of England forbidding the shooting of anything except vermin of an immediate threat to livestock, the rectum with a rifle is still shooting anything furred or feathered that moves on the old railway line and has been doing so since before 7am.

Sunday - god and guns.

The internet - god, guns and sex.

... and bitten tongues.

I bite mine quite a lot. I mean I don't take it out and bite it deliberately or anything, I bite it while it is in situ and I do so 'phorically. Usually. Except when choking on nonsense.

F'rexample. In an author group that meets on FaceBook, an "erotica" author screaming hysterically about how she's had a "friend" request from a man that she doesn't know (not me!) and that we we should all block him immediately because he might be dangerous. Note that she didn't say that he had a squint, he wasn't carrying a blood-soaked teddy bear, he hadn't sent messages of a questionable nature, he was just trying to connect online with an author that he very probably reads, in the way that the website in question dictates approaches should be made.

Another author who was booked in for an online event in England where the times were given out in GMT and she posted online wanting help to make sure she was booked in at the right time - so I asked which time-zone she was in and received the reply "WI". Eliminating "Women's Institute" since, while they are a large organisation they have yet to declare their own time zone, I guessed at Wisconsin, USA. [Is there a Wisconsin anywhere else?] I spent five minutes working out her local time for the event and updated her online plea for help, including a link to a web site showing world time - only to receive the reply that, yes, her profile gave out this "Wisconsin" as her location but she hasn't lived there for years and doesn't give out her real location because the mayor of the town she used to live in was misappropriating money and it was no place to bring up a daughter and 'laws were being passed against women' (that's a direct quote) but she'd like to go back there to help sort it out some day and the governor is thinking of running for president so everyone should be scared...

I left her to it, if she can figure out that the planet is an oblate spheroid and that it rotates then I'm sure she'll turn up at her seminar on time. Gods and guns help the poor "souls" who are on it with her and who are probably expecting mature interaction regarding publishing...

Another author posting at not some little length about how one of her male fans had started an online conversation with her and she felt threatened and de-this'd him and de-that'd him immediately. The talk of restraining orders and men only wanting one thing and how all men are violent and nasty flies thick and it flies fast.

These "ladies" all write titles such as "Spank Club" and they write about heroines being tied down and forced and kidnapped and of vampires and zombies and sex with vampires and sex with zombies and of shootings left right and centre. Scantily-clad or naked women adorn their book covers, and are usually restrained in some way but looking as though they enjoy it - and there's usually a smoking, blood-dripping gun on the cover somewhere too.

In those same online groups, whenever there's some mass murder in a school or shopping precinct, the vociferous gun lobby seem oddly absent and the rest all "pray" for the victims and entreat their god to "look after them".

It doesn't do to ask where their god might have been when a swift kick in the nuts of the mass-murderer before he got out of his '73 Pinto and walked into the "mall" may have done more good.

Just this morning one lady author plastered LOUD WARNINGS in capital letters all over one group because her website had been hacked and it was full of "... scary Muslim religious stuff ..." - and how she was praying that it would be gone soon and we should all check our own sites. Won't somebody think of the children? She was so busy asking us to pray for the religious "nonsense" to be removed from her site by her ISP that she forgot to scream at us who her ISP was or to let us know the "correct" religion in which we should be praying for her.

I'm guessing that if she'd caught the hackers in the act she would have reached for her Colt 45 and shot them herself, Sunday or not. [To be fair, it was still Saturday in her time zone when she posted.]

The conclusion to this rambling? There isn't one, except maybe that everyone apart from me is very odd indeed.

[Damn it, I seem to have just bitten my tongue again.]

One thing I can tell you though is that there are three rather vanilla views that are apparently not protected under the twenty-seventh amendment to the fifteenth article of the something or whatever that applies the world over, and those are being vegan other than for fanatical human health "reasons", not liking the idea of civilians carrying guns the way stray dogs carry fleas, and being atheist.

Tick all three and you are beyond the pale.

Tick, tick, tick.

Oh, and any hint in re perhaps over-reacting to your fans when you write about gore, blood, guts, horror, graphic violence, sexual domination and bondage. That doesn't go down too well either. Sanity is probably the fourth horseman of the cerebral apocalypse.

Tick, tick, tick. tick. Possibly soon to be tic, tic, tic, tic...

The interwebnetting is truly an odd place.

Witness the 700 visits a day that my earlier throw-away post entitled "I have the ankles of a ballet dancer" is currently garnering compared to the 28 visits total and dead as a dodo that the title "Free Book" managed.

At least the rectum with a rifle from the old railway tracks appears to have gone back under his rock and the Lincolnshire world has gone quiet again for a while.

Now, if you'll please to excuse me I must don my shin pads, elbow pads and cricket box and wade back into the fray, Mr Bentos. Pops pith helmet on head, shoots into the air and strides into the melée, scattering bibles and contracts for the East India Company to all and sundry...

Repeat after me, Mr Hutson, "it is not my responsibility to correct or educate the internet"...


Did anyone leave the lid off a large can of "Especially Stupid" overnight?

Monday, 14 October 2013


NGLND XPX, by me.

Just in case any of you long-suffering readers of me find this thing on the interwebbings I do not want you to have to shell out moolah for it to satisfy any morbid curiosity or confirm already deeply-held suspicions in re the state of the contents of my head, so herewith a one-time post on what's being keeping me quiet this past while.

Should you feel moved to find an eBook to prop up the wonky leg of the dining table, here tis. The print version will join the Amazon versions asap, or slightly hitherto, if not before or after. They take a bit longer to work through the belly of the beast. In a week or a year or whenever it will also be available everywhere from iApple to Barnes and Noble and WHSmiths et al. Meanwhile in all sorts of ridiculous versions including Kindling, PDF, Word file and stone tablet...

FREE BOOK - follow me follow, down the hollow and click on the link below, there entering

the code RH77Q should you make it to the checkout


The website is a respectable one from the American colonies, and thus far proven free of spam, entering the code will obviate the need to enter any icky card details online - it'll just reduce l'addition to zero and then ask you how you would like your download. The code will work happily until the end of the month.

The book is on the amazons but there's no way to make it properly freebie on there.

As serious literary works go this one is a bag of Dolly Mixtures. not a roast beef dinner.

The cover depicts the little planetary plant-survey robot, iG-Zero-D, who accidentally meets a Mr Moses and in desperation issues him with the Four Commandments. Unfortunately, when iG-Zero-D is beamed back aboard the survey ship moments later the beam also sets alight a bush or two in the area and starts a bit of a legend...

It's all rather silly. We have some terribly English zombies (how would one tell?), the migration of the human race, robots knitting with rubber needles, a rogue comet, the Industrial Revolution re-imagined, Her Majesty The Queen showing how "first contact" should be done (with tea and biscuits) and we see the introduction of National Service in place of the Old Age Pension.

The contents of NGLND XPX:

The Model-T Virgin.

Begging your pardon my lord, but Cook’s been eaten again.

Robots knitting with rubber needles.

Je pense it’s all going very bien.

Footloose, en pas de basque.


In which Mr Cadwallader shampoos his parrot in the rain using some very dated popular science.

Diary of a National Service chap.

Blood-curdling screams and the Whitworth screw-thread.

The Day the Earth took tea

The title is a txt msg nod to our dear Admiral Lord Nelson, and his heart-warming message issued just as that rumble we now know as The Battle of Trafalgar was about to begin. England expects every man to do his duty. Splendid chap. Quite barking.

My next task is to supply a short story each for three third-party anthologies, one looking sideways at Christmas, one taking a swipe at "B-Movies" and one that is supposed to be thoroughly serious science fiction. Oh that last one is so not going to happen...

For my "B-Movie" stint I shall be mercilessly poking the poking stick at Jurasick Park - beware the velociducks, they hunt in packs...

After that I'll be diving into a post-apocalyptic utopia (yup, not dystopia) in a world populated with pensioners who barely notice that the general population has all died of idiotitis or something.

Here endeth the one-time Public Service post.

Chin-chin chaps.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

I have the ankles of a ballet dancer

I have the ankles of a ballet dancer and, sometime soon, I'm going to take them out of the jar on my mantelpiece and have them transplanted in place of my own.

The label is a bit smudged though, they might be the ankles of a belly dancer. My memory isn't what it used to be.

My first ever job was as a filing clerk in a seven-storey building, in the days when computers were rare beasties ('... fewer than six in the world ...' who could ever need more?). Paper files were how things were done. Paper correspondence, notes, case-papers relating to miscreants and n'er do wells. Tens of thousands of them in that one office building alone. The whole structure had been designed around the weight of the files, the sixty-yard long row of cabinets down the centre of each open-plan floor could not be moved for fear of the floor bowing up and the concrete-clad walls sagging. Each support pillar was surrounded by a collar of tin cabinets and desks for humans were restricted to the outermost floorspaces. The ladies in tweeds who filed and de-filed alongside me had to reach high to pop their patent leather handbags on top of the cabinets as they shuffled their way along (and I kid you not, they carried those handbags as well as their files, everywhere they went).

For seven hours twenty-four minutes of each weekday (not including luncheon) sometime between the hours of seven a.m. and six p.m. I ran up and down stairs (the lifts were too slow, too crowded - shared with the Magistrates Court and full to the brim of shysters, charlatans and liars - oh and a few solicitors too). I found files, moved piles of files, cared for files and re-cased files, re-tagged files and updated files.

Naturally, I fell down the stairs once or twice too. Everything was needed yesterday, or earlier if possible, and a filing clerk's reputation stood or fell on a mental log of where each active casepaper was and on how short a time it might be retrieved in. Stairs were taken at the run, six or more steps at a time up or down, for £29 a week in cash in a little brown envelope, signed for at 11am each Thursday at the armoured hatch to the "Finance Office". Happy days.

On one such staircase occasion I landed like a small pachyderm on my left ankle, wept a little involuntarily, then - as one did in those pre no-win no-fee compensation days - staggered around for the rest of the day still working and then walked home. Then I walked back to work the next day, walked home again, walked back the next day, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It wasn't broken - I'm not my sister, Pear Tree Log, who drove home in a manual car once with a broken left ankle. No, mine just flopped around a bit more than the other one and gave a pretty display of all of the reds, violets and indigos of the rainbow for a couple of weeks. It didn't seem to be serious enough to enter into the "The Accident Book", anyway, not worth facing the miserable moustachioed harpie charged with keepng the thing safe and out of reach in her steel-reinforced canvas Civil Service issue underwear.

Aforesaid ballerina-ankle has always twinged a bit since, I have used it as my weather gauge. A dull ache for rain, one twitch for snow, two twitches for a hurricane, that sort of thing.

Well, day afore yesterday, much more than three decades after I fell down the stairs it decided that it was reluctant to carry my weight around and sent telegrams to my brain in re the matter of "ouch" and "oh gosh" and "my goodness me what an interesting sensation that is". After only a mile or so of my customary perambulation a quick conference between brain, skeletal structure and wuss-control decided that a u-turn and return to base was in order. Wince wince step, ouch ouch hop back the way I had come.

I am falling apart. Have I finally reached the age whereupon I have an excuse to carry the OAP weapon of choice, the crinklies' equivalent of nunchaku, the walking stick? It's a bit early, I had hoped to at least make it into my sixties before needing the services of a Helper Monkey.

My Beeton's Household Medicine recommends keeping it elevated (I have strung it up from the chandelier in the library) and soaking it in Hendricks gin and Jura whisky between applications of Vindaloo.

May I quite seriously though express my eternal gratitude that I am afflicted by merely the long-delayed bite of the Civil Service Staircase rather than something truly serious, such as Hippo-Toe, and that my office chair will still roll about with its driveshafts disconnected... ;-)

Now, does anyone know where I may procure the services of a good saw-bones who will do home visits for ankle transplants if I supply the spare parts and the anaesthetic? Cash available and I do not need to see your credentials, just a reference from a Bishop and your military discharge papers will do.

M.A.S.H. for tiffin methinks. Actually, I have potato, cabbage, onion and strong white pepper and it is autumnal - a nutritional nod to Eire may be in order, and what I don't eat may be used as a hot cataplasm.

Splendid. Chin-chin.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

It's raining Datsun cogs and my brain has gone a.w.o.l.

Yours truly

My brain shut down about half an hour ago and I lost the ability to do joined-up thinking. Working on the theory that this is due to curry deficiency I have rice on the hob at the moment and the makings of a vegan Bloke's Rogan Josh waiting attention. If that doesn't work and my capacity for thinking has gone west for all time well then, I'll just have to join a political party and run for office.

Wish me luck. It's been a most peculiar sensation.

Anywibble. I rarely post videos, since I can rarely view them myself but this one deserves an airing. The CEO of Nestlé (Chief Executive Omnipath - he exhibits every psychosis on the human menu) seems to think that water - all water on the planet - should be the exclusive commercial domain of corporations such as his, to be sold back to those who can afford it.

The chap is quite plainly stark staring swivel-eyed bonkers, and if you ask me he is probably suffering from a little bit of trouser insecurity. According to this, the next self-appointed messiah, GM foods are wonderful, organic food is a commercial criminal offence and Nestlé is the best thing since those little chocolate bars we still associate with it. It's now the 27th largest corporation on the planet, apparently and has a LOT more money and power than about a third of the countries on the planet.

I can't decide whether this chap is scarred because he was never breast-fed, or unbalanced because he still is being breast-fed. Either way, he's seriously damaged (as most CEOs are, certainly all of the ones I've met).

Food, water, shelter, medical care and physical security - these things are the only reason any government has to exist at all, and their provision is the only possible excuse governments have for levying taxes. None of them, not one, should be in the hands of "chaps" such as this gentleman or any out-of-control too-big-for-its-boots commercial enterprise such as Nestlé.

All of those sci-fi and speculative fiction stories about the next wars being between corporations don't seem so very far fetched once you realise that chaps like this one are "in charge" of corporations.


On the The Diesel-Electric Elephant Company front I shall soon be interviewing a brave horse (a rescue horse that has had a book written about it) and a Bigfoot (ditto, introduced by the author of Nobody Loves a Bigfoot Like a Bigfoot Babe), plus a lady who writes paranormal fiction (well - real fiction about paranormalities). The Penguin man previously featured has a new book out and I've persuaded the chap from Guadalajara to write another article for me. A rather splendidly eccentric author/yoga teacher is on there at the moment and a fun interview she made for too.

Yikes, O'Reilly, I think that my brain may be coming back. It was obviously some sort of spice deficiency. I may have to top up the levels later, just for medical reasons of course, nothing to do with it being cold, wet and windy in Lincolnshire or my having had to break out the winter stock of fingerless gloves, electric underwear and woolly socks.

Right-oh, I suppose that it is time to go down to the hollow and there for me to wallow in mud, glorious mud (and in tidying up my English zombies in NGLND XPX).

Chin-chin and do please think about leaving anything marked "Nestlé" on the supermarket shelf won't you please? Thanks awfully.


Saturday, 14 September 2013

An inspiration

My driving licence photo

Well there's splendid for you, yes indeed. The interwebnettingsonline have let me back in. Apparently I had to update my drivers or something (odd, because I wasn't in the car) and something to do with a "registry value". The upshot just outside bagshot is that I am once again loose on the cyber-grass.

In a very strange turn up for the books Her Majesty's DVLA (the Driver and Velocipede Lighting Association) have sent me my renewed licence to drive. All of those dire warnings about getting photos taken at the three Post Offices in England that are still open and offer the service were obviously just so much hot air. Mind you, as predicted, any Officer of the Ler who checks my licence will take one look and immediately search the sills for sawn-off gatling guns.

Chris, the Story-reading Ape kindly took up my offer for a profiling and a plugging on das The Diesel-Electric Elephant Blog, and his celebrity appearance has caused four more rats to scurry out of the woodwork squeaking moi aussie, moi aussie (must be some French-Australian thing). Three of the wee beasties have offered to do so only should I reciprocate. By "reciprocate" I can't help but wonder if they mean subject myself to interview on their blogs or run back and forth like the trunion-flailers on a steam engine. Anywhichway, many thankee kindlies to Chris!

We broke the 2,000 barrier on Twitter without getting ourselves put in Twitter jail, which took some shuffling. Conjugate twit. I twit, you twit, they tweet, we teeter on the brink.

Just seen a news - "news" - item on the Bee Bee Cee regarding Kopi Luwak coffee which sells for about £60 a cup in London and is "made" by force-feeding civit cats the beans and then oiking them out of their poop to sell to gullible Londoners. At this point I should confess that a kind rellie did once buy me a bag of the stuff, and it was very smooth coffee indeed! However, that's not the point of mentioning the article. I mention it because it has given me inspiration regarding a very expensive tea, a box of 600 Typhoo teabags and the dog and the dog's doings ... Now, what to call my new, very expensive tea?

Well, chin-chin chaps and chapesses, I must rush around the online now that I'm back, checking that it hasn't been sold off as part of the Post Office or something.

Gratuitous photo below of yours truly abseiling for charity. And, yes, I did land on my feet and not my Arsenal Villa are doing awfully well again this season are they not? It was a long time ago...

Ian Hutson, abseiling. Should have seen his legs shaking at the top as he stepped over the parapet...


Thursday, 12 September 2013

I think you'll be amused by its audacity, delighted by its presumption.

Pear Tree Byre apple crumble

I'm writing it up as pugnacious but tractable, truculent yet succulent. The crust is crustier than an upper-crust crusty during perfect-crusting season and yet combines its crunch with the soft underbelly so characteristic of the Home Counties during a winning cricket season. The filling speaks to me of apples fresh from Mr Newton's head-bone, sweet as a spring lamb but with a hint of the tartiness of old fishnets worn under tweeds, and it has the firm texture of a WI wrestling champion but who is honestly soft enough to cry at films with mildly unhappy endings. In combination, within the embracing warmth left over from a spell in the locally wood-fuelled Rayburn, the overall effect is of a hug by a giant Teddy bear who is only too well aware that the way to a chap's stomach is past his epiglotttis under cover of a vanilla custard camouflage. As a pudding experience I would have to say that the only improvement might be if Spitfires were to fly in formation overhead and for a choir to sing Jerusalem on the lawn as it was served. And for the dish to be one of those that never empties.

Yes indeed.

I've just shovelled down a portion of Pear Tree apple crumble, still hot from the oven.

Home-grown apples, more crumble than the Roman Empire towards the end of the Roman Empire.

This is the reason why I have a little silver crumble-spoon hanging from a chain concealed around my neck. This is why I keep a small jug of custard warming under my armpit at all times. This, and because I wasn't born yesterday. Or the day before.

In short, a triumph.


Thank you Sis!

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Great British Bake-Off.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Roll up, roll up

Are you brave enough to sit in the interview chair?

My lords, ladies, gentlemen, wombles of all descriptions, oyez, oyez, oh good grief.

I invite and implore any and all of you to please subject yourselves to a spot of publicity for your blog.

To wit, an interview on The Diesel-Electric Elephant Company website.

Every single one of you out there would easily make the subject of a fantastic article, believe me - you would.

You have my word as an Englishman that this is no trick, it is offered without obligation or expectation and that my motivation is just to make the Diesel-Electric blog better by including a very, very wide range of highly interesting people (YOU!) and their life stories or anecdotes. Along the way I hope to also encourage traffic to your blog (by tweetering on the brink, facebookering and suchlike). The control of the content remains entirely yours, I promise you. It'll be fun (I hope) but you won't be made fun of or embarrassed in any way (other than just by being in the spotlight itself). You're not being drawn into some horrible process or obligation or machinery.

Previous interviews have included all manner of chaps and chapesses from film folk to authors, from California to Mexico, from Norfolk to London. There have been folk who have been actors in films like Skyfall and television like Torchwood, and there have been stories of expat life in Turkey, a retired B52 bomber pilot, a lady author of (mild) erotica and some village-life blatherings of my own. Links to examples are listed below.

The procedure is simple, you just answer the prompt questions (if you want), give me a bio to work from (if you want) and give me a few "soap-box" paragraphs (if you want) of whatever is dear to your heart. I'll then wrap an article around it, include any links that you want (to your blog and such) - and then send the whole text to you for approval or disapproval before publication. Ask for any changes that you want, or cancel the whole thing (interviewees have asked me to do both in the past, and it is absolutely not a problem). Send me a photo or twelve - yourself if you like, or photos related to your article.

I'm not looking for desperately personal exposé, no way José, just to celebrate the diversity of the circumstances and stories we have in this blogger gang. It could be your whole life, or just one episode in your life, or just a rant or an anecdote. What's in it for me would be some delicious material to make Diesel-Electric blog more attractive. What's in it for you would be more traffic to your blog, and I hope, some fun.

No obligation (obviously!) and no worries, just kicks. You'll not be surprised to learn that my style is less than serious...

The Diesel-Electric Elephant Company website & blog is here. Have a butchers and see if it tickles your "Ooh-yes-I-fancy-being-on-there bone" or your "yes-I'm-brave-enough-for-that glands".

An example of a film-producer/actors plug here. And here. To give you an idea of the style.

An example of an author plug here. And here. And here.

As needed, between us we'll forge a whole new genre especially for you.


I just need enough to start me off.

A bit of a biography (whatever is already public or whatever you want to reveal, have a look at the author examples - they don't go too deep!)

A bit of a soapbox moment (anything you want to say - what's important to you, what you love or hate about your life, the world, or your favourite anecdote). This is your description of whatever you are happy to talk about - your life, an episode of your life, your story, what it's like to create/run a farm/restaurant/live in France/live in Spain/move around the world or knit tea-cosies - anything. Maybe your hopes for the future, your brilliant/disastrous moments from the past, your worries or loves about the world today.

Photos - you (if you want) and/or images linked to your story - anything (of a safe for work nature of course!)

Your blog links, any books or work you want to highlight - links to be included to get people back to your blogs.

The prompt questions you might answer (all optional)

  1. You have been granted three wishes. Anything at all. What do you wish for?
  2. Is there a particular period in history or the future you would love to have lived and if so, why?
  3. Choose ten food items you would take with you to an island if they were absolutely all you would eat for the rest of your life. Water is supplied.
  4. You get up in the middle of the night and pop down to the fridge for a gin and a cheesecake but there's an enormous spider on the kitchen table, eating a whole chicken. What do you do?
  5. Are you a dedicated follower of fashion or do you just look for whatever’s on the floor in the morning that still bends/doesn't smell and then wear that?
  6. If you could go back to being your childhood self but knowing then what you know now, would you?
  7. If you could go back to any time and tell your parents one thing (and have them hear you and act), what would that one thing be?
  8. What can make your blood boil in an instant? What really, really annoys you?
Email the lot to me at and I'll get back to thee.

If you'd like to feature but aren't sure about what to send, just email me and I'll come up with an idea and an easy plan for you.

How brave are you?

How brave am I?


Friday, 6 September 2013

Hector, y'all - in Philadelphia.

Only two things are certain in this life; death and taxes.

I'm not sure about death, I've seen too many peculiar things to be absolutely certain.

Amazon recently mass-emailed anyone with titles selling on their dotted com to say that aforesaid titles would be summarily removed if US tax information was not forthcoming by the 10th of the 25th (which I took to mean the 25th of the month of October). This included all "non-US" folk.

It's not a new problem and was on the cards to be addressed ay-sap anyway, but this email was the final kick up the Arsenal Villa that I needed to get the job done.

Her Majesty's United States Inland (Internal?) Revenoo Service isn't very polite. Very few tax "services" are. When you sell books on Amazon, Amazon keep 30% gross from your royalties and give it on your behalf to the US IRS. Flat, end of story, goodnight Vienna, l'addition s'il vous plait, no by-your-leave or oh I do beg your pardon. They just keep it.

I'm not awfully familiar with Unc. Sam's taxation but from memory I think that regular folk only pay "nationally" type "incomey" taxes exceeding 30% once taxable income exceeds, roughly, $183,250 (when the sliding scale goes, I think, to roughly 33% and onwards, an increase from the previous step's 28%). Well, for we benighted "non-US'ers", Amazon fork over 30% of dollar one, 30% of dollar two, 30% of dollar three etcetera, etcetera - and you don't get it back. One or two folk have tried and succeeded, but they all went by names such as "Richard Branson" and "King George III".

There is a treaty twixt jolly old England and Mr USA, a treaty that states that they pay their taxes, we pay ours, when we live there we pay theirs, when they live here they pay ours and if either of us earn money in theirs or ours without actually being there physically then we each pay our own, generally. This international treaty isn't good enough for Amazon. Oh no.

There is but one way to stop Amazon creaming 30% off the top - a 30% which is not deductible by the time you get around to paying English taxes, so you can end up paying twice - and there are two ways of achieving that one way, so to speak.

The first is to obtain an ITIN from the Confederacy US IRS, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The procedure for an Englishman to obtain one of these involves reporting with one's passport and a kidney-on-ice to the Foreign Office and then paying for a certified colour photocopy with which to proceed by post, or walking into the US Embassy in either Beijing, Paris, Frankfurt or London with the original in person, being interviewed, filling in a load of forms, waiting three months to be turned down (they all are turned down initially) and then employing a commercial agent to try again for you. If you ever do obtain an ITIN you then wait for it to be sent across the Atlantic by snailmail, then you fill in more forms and send them back across the Atlantic by snailmail for the US IRS to agree that they have given you a number and that the treaty applies and that you don't need to pay tax twice unless they change their minds again.


You can take advantage of being a business and not an individual. In this case you ring up (and it must be by telephone, and furthermore a telephone not on speakers, not Skype or the interwebnets) to speak to an US IRS department in Philadelphia (noting the five-hour time difference, natch).

Twenty-five minutes on hold... you're in a queue, answered in strict order, so don't hang up...

Ding-ding, click, click, buzzzzzzz pause and silence, then Hello, my name is XYZ and my Service Number is 0123456, to whom am I speaking?

Hello, I am a business in England and I would like a US Employer Identification Number please.

Whoo-hoo! Ten minutes (talk time) and we're done. My EIN works in all the places that a non-US ITIN would have done, and in the same way. Amazon are happy. They're still not prepared to reciprocate by paying any corporation taxes themselves in England, the UK or Europe (they avoid these by basing themselves officially in Jersey and Switzerland), but they're as happy as they ever get.

The US IRS didn't care to know whether I was incorporated, limited, discorporeal or discomnobulated; I might have been trading out of a suitcase on the pavement (sidewalk) for all they cared. Did I have any US employees? Sorry, no, should I have? Oh no - that's a good thing sir, we could not have given you an Employer Identification Number if you had any US employees. Oh, splendid, I don't follow the logic, but splendid...

No passport details, no ID required of any kind - if Sir says that he is a business, and Sir has said so on record Sir, then Sir's word is good enough for the US IRS. Have a nice day (and the lady did actually encourage me to have a nice day at the end of our call too).

Mind you, the lady in Philadelphia (where they make the cream cheese) wasn't happy. She was reading off her screen from a script and, my goodness me, didn't she speak slowly! I'm guessing that she must have thought that I was some raving lunatic talking at ten to the dozen even though I tried, I really tried to slow down. Someone out there will know, I don't - is it a regional thing? I seemed to be hurrying her all of the time. Once or twice I thought she'd forgotten me altogether. She was very patient and very polite, but like a Mars Bar, she had just the one pace at which she would rest, work and play.

There were other... complications too. My company name for one. An address with a name instead of a number and with village instead of a city for another. Everything had to be spelled out phonetically and then repeated for confirmation.

The Diesel-Electric Elephant Company? I'm not understanding what you're telling me sir, please say that again. Tango Horace Elspeth Doris Indigo Eckythump Sierra EbyGum Lunatic Hyphen Endocrine LisOtherPeople Exothermic Christmas Tricycle Rectilinear IforYouandYouforMe Clodhopper Elephant Company Sir? As in elephants? Sir - you can't trade in pachyderms in the United States, it's just not allowed...

No, no - I publish books...

But Sir, elephants can't write, and I'm fairly sure that they don't run on gas Sir or electricity. I have to report you for animal abuse now sir, what did you say your address was?

Owl Towers...

Oh Sir, you cannot trade in owls either in the United States...

Owl Towers is my address...

If Sir works in a dress Sir that's Sir's business but there must be neither owls nor elephants involved.

Owl Towers is where I live and work...

No Sir, I need the number of the building your business is based in, the number and your street and your city and your zip code... Sir's address...

I think I got my EIN number because she was a little bit afraid in the end that she could catch whatever it was that I had over the telephone, even via satellite and at fourteen shillings and sixpence a minute. She may have been worried about becoming accidentally fluent in my version of the phonetic alphabet, the version that includes A's for 'orses, B's for 'oney and C for miles and D fer Doofer and E by 'eck and effervescent (think about it)...

The lady's last attempt at going through the motions with some non-US foreigner was to ask me to make two separate statements that she would record, one stating that I did not intend to undertake a business in the United States that involved gambling or money-lending, and the other (and which suggestion I liked much better and am seriously considering) was that I would not be involved in trucking on United States highways.

I'm guessing that the gambling/banking thing is because of the Mafia monopoly, and that the trucking thing is because of the Trucking Unions? I didn't ask whether prostitution and manufacture of explosives would be OK...

Parked in front of a fire hydrant

After being on hold for twenty-five minutes and then under intense but inter-lingual scrutiny by such an august body for a further ten or so I was so flustered that I think I finished the call with a "thank you sir".

I hope that she understood that I was just trying to be polite and express gratitude!

Time alone will tell though whether Amazon think that the new EIN number (tautology, Timothy, tautology - as in Employer Identification Number number...) is good enough.

The Greek and Roman gods alone know what I'll have to do if it isn't. Wish me luck!


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Papiere bitte...

Would you buy used bullion from this man?

I don't ever ordinarily get to see myself without my specs. If I look into a mirror without them I have to put my hands out while I edge forward to avoid headbutting the mirror, and by the time everything comes into focus my nose is pressed on the glass. Having seen this, it's a small mercy that I am now grateful for and I would also like to apologise to everyone who does have to see me, with or without specs (mine and their own)!

Got one of those letters from the ar*se of government a few weeks ago; threat threat threat threat threat £1,000 fine threat threat disenfranchisement threat transportation to Austria (sic) threat threat threat please pay this fee and send us an up-to-date photograph of yourself for our little ersatz Identity Card system by any other name. Please be sure to use your own name.

Finally got around to bothering with it by putting on my best bib and tucker and separating my eyebrow. The advice when I was a lad was that if you wore specs when you took your driving test that you were to wear them at all times when driving. Later, when this "by the back door" Identity Card system came into place, the advice was still along the lines of "if you wear specs ordinarily then wear them in your mugshot too". Now that the gloves are coming off and the pretence is being dropped the stated orders are that "eyes should be clearly shown, do not wear spectacles if they obscure your eyes".

This is because H.M. Computaz Inc cannot easily run auto-profiling and facial recognition software if you have £800 of Dame Edna Everage wing-back plastic hanging off your nose.

My specs don't so much obscure my eyes as they make me look as though I am peering back up at you belligerently from an electron-microscope slide. So I left 'em off.

Ye gods and little fishes!

The advice is also that you must not look as though you are happy or familiar with the concept of "happy". No smiling, mouth shut, eyes wide, ears flat, tail down, look like a beaten dog, that sort of thing. Why they don't just go the whole hog and administer a full general aneasthetic before letting off the magnesium flash-bulb beats me, it's not as though they are shy about their demands. Anyway. I did the best that I could with what I had.

The "original" Me in the middle of the mugshots above begs the unfunny question of when exactly I had my mild stroke and when and why did my nose melt and then re-solidify like something that has dripped off my forehead.

The two joined-up right sides of my face look reasonably sane. Just.

The two left-sides joined together remind me of someone who probably masterminded some ram-raid on a derelict and boarded-up bank and then had a shoot-out with loaded baseball bats when the police arrived.

In all three of them I look about fifty years older than I feel inside.

I know that the left-brain versus right-brain thing is a complete myth, but seeing this does make me wonder if left-face versus right-face perhaps tells us more! I know which of mine would win in a knife-fight between them.

I think that the concertina folds of the neck are the result of my winding it in and out so often and so far.

At least the genetic lottery was kind enough to let me inherit my dear late mother's hairy chest and my late father's flat ears.

It remains to be seen whether Her Majesty's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Numpties will accept my offering or simply send the RSPCA around with one of those "dangerous dog" poles.

I would wait with bated breath, but I have yet to post the damn thiing off.


* Not one of mine, obviously.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The feminist fascism of laundry labels


Until a few years ago I couldn't wear a hat without feeling that I had some sort of small alien sitting on my head. Then, suddenly, the wearing of hats just "clicked". I love 'em. Given that I is a bloke I refrain from wearing the more flamboyant creations of the millinery masters and stick instead with the timeless classics. When working (quite seriously) I often sport the pith helmet, when sleeping I am to be found a surprising number of times in the "bobble" or "beanie" hat and while bathin' I favour the tweed flat cap.

The label inside my current favourite flat cap gives all kinds of dire warnings about how it may only be cleaned by Vatican staff and with some sort of damp silk cloth and dried with the aid of an asthmatic butterfly.

This is nonsense.

If I wear it, it will at some stage in its life be the subject of a "bloke wash". If whatever it is it survives then I will like as not wear it again. If it doesn't survive a "bloke" wash then I have fresh rags. The flat cap is no different.

I've just bunged mine through a Bosch machine on "bloke" setting (usually number 5) and with Tesco's finest (cheapest) washing-liquid sachet thingies.

Not only is the favoured titfer now sparkelicious and fresh and free from the ravages of the bird-poop that rains down hereabouts, but it's also virtually dry after a mere 1,600rpm spin.

Time will tell of course whether it falls apart on me at the most embarrassin' of moments but for now I shall say only this. The most important thing is to remember to take your head out of it before puttin' it into the washing machine.



Sunday, 1 September 2013

Do come in from the rioting in the garden, Maud

So. Well. Aye. The last ambulance has finally departed, the fire is largely extinguished and the village P.C., Constable Wazzup-Chapps has been released from his own handcuffs. The Blacksmith commented as he freed him that in all his years as an emergency blacksmith he'd never seen a pair of handcuffs used in quite that way, certainly not with the little chain still intact anyway. The trophies have been awarded, old scores settled and much tea and cake consumed. Preliminary figures suggest that more than four shillings may have been raised for village funds although resurfacing the road outside the village hall will probably eat into that sum a little.

The elderly matriarchs of the village successfully rebuffed the challenge from the upstarts in the next village over the matter of the naked mud tug'o'war, winning by four fractured kneecaps and a mild concussion. Photo below with the bits that blogger won't allow blurred out. It's not the best of photographs because my view was partially obscured by the hair on Mrs Parminter's buttocks but it was all that I could do from behind the bars of the press enclosure. The bars in the press enclosure were open from 8am and were very reasonably priced indeed.

The less elderly matriarchs of the village successfully defended their honour and pride in the Hand to Hand Combat classes, this inspite of the unfortunate incident when Doris mis-read the instructions and used her teeth to tug the grenade off the pin instead of following the more usual procedure of vice and versa. Someone always loses their head at some stage during the show, but rarely with quite such aplomb. Doris was posthumously awarded the "Nice Try" trophy. The sheltered and council housing in Burberry Lane were cleared property by property in the record time of eight minutes twelve seconds.

The Jams, Cakes and Floral Arrangements classes were hotly contested by the gentlemen of the village. so much so that shin-guards were issued and the pulling of hair firmly discouraged. Water-hoses had to be deployed in the Scones class to break up a fight between "Plain" and "Cheese" contestants. Ms Clarkson, the village School-Ma'am, was regrettably also forced to administer several quite vicious canings, extra Latin prep and some three thousand "lines" (to be handed in next Tuesday). For those involved, the lines required are to read (in cursive and in ink) "I am a chap and I must not wrestle like a big girl's blouse over cookery-related competitions".

The new "Authentic Thai Cuisine" class attracted several adventurous chefs who brought their own fresh ingredients:

Ingredient 1

Ingredients 2 and 3

Ingredient 4

but the class was won in the end by Daphne Scrottle-Smythe with a "Jungle Curry" tofu stir-fry and chips with peas and gravy. This class is under review and may not feature in next year's show because the Fire Brigade suspect that it was an over-heating turbocharger on Daphne's diesel-stove that caused the main conflagration.

The photography classes that I had the privilege of judging went well, with almost one entries in most categories.

Dominic, the old lush proprietrix of Belleau Kitchen blog, not only entered the cakery classes with the creation shown below but also remained largely on his feet while judging the "rural alcohol" entries. Entries consisting of pure unadulterated Red Diesel or Methylated Spirits were awarded "Honourable Mention" certificates but were not included in the final placings for VAT-related reasons.

A cake consisting of seasonal fruit, chocolate and four large bottles of Pimms.
The bottle to the fore, while initially thought to be 90% proof mid-morning flow, turned out in fact to be my nephew's Silver Birch Sap concoction and won first prize, rapidly evaporating in a crowd-situation.

Sadly, this year none of the tomato (toh-mah-toe) entries exploded (in previous years inadequate provision had been made for shielding them from the sun), and the mixed-produce boxes were delicious. The contents of the boxes were almost good enough to eat too.

If nothing else, judging at an English village show does rather require one to know one's onions. These are not one's onions, they are someone else's.

They will be delicious later.

The lady judge supplied by the military wing of the Women's Institute asked to remain anonymous because of some congenital blurring issue with her face. Aby village would like to extend a formal apology to the Women's Institute, and to assure them that we are doing everything that we can to locate and return the U.N. helicopter that the lady was flown in on. Really though, you should not have left it unattended, not even for a moment.

So there we have it. The show's over for another year. Splendid. Chin-chin.

Ticketty-boo-hoo even.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Modern Pagan rituals involving spiders

It's ruddy-well happened again.

Me sleep last night was a little more disturbed than usual before I sank into it. It bounced around the room scattering my Airfix models of Spitfires, disturbing my scientific notes and overturning several experiments that required the use of delicate Erlenmeyer bulbs and a long-snout retort. Eventually though I managed to bring it under control and I slept like a pith-helmetted cherub until two, or possibly three in the morning when I was awoken by the unmistakeable sound of a female Tegenaria Gigantea tip-toeing across the ceiling.

Cognizant of the recent social backlash that followed my fisticuffs with several brutish Pardosa Amentata earlier in the week, I resolved to settle the matter amicably and with reference to due politically correct procedures.

Quick as a flash I threw me bed-covers aside, flung Aristotle-bear to the floor and encouraged the evil bugger into a tumbler by dint of reverse-psychology keywords and some succulent scraps of human flesh kindly donated by the nightlight-wallah (he makes sure that the candle never goes out overnight and needs no more than two fingers in order to strike a match, the rest were superfluous anyway). We, spider and I, stared at each other through the hand-etched scenes of ancient Rome on the crystal, eye to eye to eye to eye to eye to eye to eye to eye to eye to eye. I hissed and the spider reared up and hissed back. At last and at least - we were communicatin' verbally! Was this to be true progress?

I enquired about the ugly bug's opinion of the West Indies' fielding practices. I offered conversational openings relatin' to the advantages of the Taylor’s Scion 1855 Vintage over the more pedestrian 1931 Quinta do Noval Nacional. Not a ruddy thing, I might as well have been speakin' in tongues. All I found returned was the indolent glare of the common ill-shod ruffian.

Well I'd had enough, I don't mind telling you. Disturbed sleep is one thing but ignoring a chap's best conversational gambits is quite another. I slapped my working-copy of Bradshaw down on top of the tumbler and sent myself back to the land of Nod, pronto. Damned impertinence could wait captive until morning eh?

Well, things didn't go any better this morning in re explorin' the inner child of the beast, laying bare the reasons for its criminal intrusion and working out some programme of sensitive rehabilitation. Damn thing had set up home in me favourite tumbler! Wouldn't leave!

I flicked, I waggled, I tapped and still the damned thing just sat in the bottom and hissed at me. On the terrace outside my bedroom I exposed the critter to increased centripetal forces by wheeling around at speed with me arms outstretched. At about 78rpm (the "golden" number of revolutions per minute) it appeared finally, dangling on the end of a two-foot length of web - positively enjoyin' the ride from the sounds it was makin'.

Well by this time of course I'd attracted quite a bit of attention from the gardeners, possibly because I'd kicked me jim-jam trousers orf durin' the night and was wearin' only the tops, "baby doll" style. I don't mind telling you that I had only the strength left in me to increase to maybe eighty-one or possibly eighty-two rpm for another four or five seconds when, finally, the beast's web snapped and it was flung off into the rhododendrii near the library windows, landing with a distinct "thud" and not a few cuss words.

Dizzy as I was I made it back indoors and although life goes on I do have to say that this episode simply disproves once and for all the value attached to this namby-pamby politically-correct approach of "understanding them" and "pouring resources into their needs" and hugging miscreants and such. It got me precisely nowhere, and I shall henceforth return to my more usual arachnid approach of shooting the little buggers until dead. I have had this morning further signs erected showing the customary skull and crossed rolled-up magazines and bearin' the legend "Spiders? I don't think so". Later on today the t-shirts are being delivered and they bear such vicious slogans as "This is an arachnid-unfriendly zone" and "Two legs good, four legs good, eight legs bad".

Let's hope that they take notice.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Wrestling in my striped pyjamas

Sans spectacles (I'd left those in the bedroom area next to my clothes and the prosthetic left hemisphere of my brain) I was cleaning my teeth late yestereve (one of the few non-removable items of my person) and became aware that I was not working alone. A vast spider was cleaning his teeth and gargling mouthwash at the sink alongside mine. Vast. Biblical. Possessed of different bodily time-zones pertainin' to the extremities of his bulk. Of sufficient girth to put the ooh I just fainted into the word "big".

Bein' a chap of action and military trainin' I immediately implemented all of the prescribed emergency procedures. I emitted a high-pitched girlie scream. I leapt onto a three-legged stool (from the "Emergencies Cabinet") and tugged my red tartan dressing gown hither and thither. I dialled two nines and warned the beast that if it didn't leave immediately I was quite prepared to dial another. I hit it with a slipper. It hit me back with one of its own. I hit it with the other. It had six more than I in reserve.

We came to plain fisticuffs of course and rolled around a little, scattering bottles of medicated shampoo and Parminter's Best Menthol Knee-Wax and such until I found myself flung across the room and washed up next to the toothbrush glass. This stemmed cut-crystal god-send was rolling on the floor next to the scales that speak volumes about one's body-mass index. I slammed, positively slammed the glass down on top of the spider in the manner advised in The Ladybird Book of Domestic Situations.

It looked like a biblically-proportioned, highly unamused spider wearing a cheap champagne glass as a fez.

I ripped the lid off my Harrods yellow-enamelled flip-top retro pedal bin and tried that.

It was still not amused, and now looked like a biblically-proportioned spider paying homage to nineteen-fifties yellow-enamelled headgear, askance - bordering on the casually jaunty.

Using the bathroom chair and the extra-long "buttock crack" loofah I fought my way through to the living area, all those years of house-training tigers for the Maharajah of Upper Chapati finally paying dividends - only to find a second spider of similar proportions in residence there and running to the aid of the first.

It was like a husband and wife all-in wrestling tag team. No sooner had I clamped the silver punch bowl down over one (and damned the spillage of my bedtime Ovaltine) than the other dragged me away like some succulent steer lassoed with a strand of web as thick as Nanny's ankles.

To cut a long story short [too late, you boring git, far too late for that] I eventually contained one under the tin bath that I sometimes use to soak my gout bandages in, and had the other pinned helplessly beneath one of my larger, more "serious business" Spode gazunders. I contrived to keep a foot on both, rather straining the canvas gusset of my PJs somewhat, and managed by dint of bending over backwards to tug at the tapestry bell-pull by the roaring fireplace (another skill mastered during the latter days of my Civil Service role as senior Yes Indeed to the Maharaja of Upper Chapati).

This being late evening Dorkins answered and, expecting merely one of the more usual carpet-accidents as a result of my drinking too much orange squash too late in the day or something, had thought to bring lots of newspaper. Quick as a flash he rolled up the Estate-Manager's Weekly (a broadsheet, not a tabloid of course) and set about the beasts as only an experienced domestic can. This of course had no effect whatsoever but while they were spraying web to pin the screaming Dorkins into the corner of the room over the lesser Titians I managed to make it to the bedroom gun cabinet and break out the elephant gun.

It's a relatively young elephant of course but, my goodness me, what a shot! Bang! The first arachnid ran around the room grasping its peppered buttocks (a dish the Maharajah of Upper Chapati used to love - peppered arachnid buttocks). Bang! The second arachnid squealed and dropped Dorkins to the floor. Bang! The portrait of Mummy presented to her by Mr Picasso caught it (ruddy elephant never liked that one).

Fifteen long minutes we spent, elephant gun and I, sheltered behind an up-turned sofa and driving off the insane attacks of the arachnids. Once we ran out of ammunition for the elephant's blunderbuss we broke out the Gatling. Elephant cranked the handle while I directed the spray of bullets and sang Jerusalem to keep our spirits up.

I needed two cuddles and my extra-special teddybear fetching before I could get back into bed and fall asleep. My rooms are a complete mess.

What the hell is it with warm weather and spiders?