Friday, 19 February 2010

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Prevaricate (v) To paint fashionable veins one one’s legs in advance of old age.

My mp3 player is so full of stuff now that half the time I have no idea what I am listening to, and, while reading on the Tube for instance, can’t be bothered half the time to pull the machine out of my pocket to check what the track is. In the future, no doubt, I will have the option to have the name of the track and artist scroll across my eyeballs in an organic font of my choosing, but for now, I’m stuck with what I have.
I leave it on constant shuffle, which is perfect for me since it forces me to listen to stuff I may not choose voluntarily, and the tracks are a genuine surprise.
It is, as you may expect (or not, since you may not know who I am), an eclectic mix. representing the Classical community, we have Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, Maria Callas and Philip Glass (among others). There’s a good representation of World music, which consists in the main of South American/Latino although I also have some Romanian gypsy music which was recommended by The Evening Standard. Then we have jazz and blues, from Charlie Mingus, Albert King, The Nigel Price Trio and some older blues artists whose names escape me, although I’m pretty sure they all begin with ‘Blind’.
Then there’s rock from Rammstein, Pink Floyd and Yes, some Beatles, Them Crooked Vultures, Frank Zappa, Syd Barrett, the complete Kraftwerk, some folky stuff from The Imagined Village (who do a very interesting version of Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’) and a double CD of cover versions from The Ministry of Sound, a double CD of Erasure that I found in Barnardos, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Editors.
I’m particularly fond of The Editors, who are the best band I’ve come across in the last few years. They seem to know what they’re doing, and they do it very well, which is all one can ask for.

Monday 15 February 2010

Acrophobia (n) a morbid fear of circus performers

The Ugly One rang me in a panic at work, as Robert’s boss had rung our home, Robert having put us down as his emergency contact. It seemed that he had not turned up for work this morning, and was not answering his phone. Just to be sure I rang it myself, but it just rang for about a minute and then disconnected.
‘I’ll have to go round and check on him!’ the UO said, and promised that he would ring me when he found out what was happening.
My colleague, Mr WCS Harbinger (WCS being ‘Worst Case Scenario’) immediately began concocting visions of Robert lying dead at home being systematically consumed by his dog who would have no other source of nourishment.
As it turned out, R had been ill during the night, had slept through the morning and consequently had not rung in.
‘How is he?’ asked Mr WCS Harbinger.
‘Alive, but slightly chewed,’ I replied.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Billingsgate (n) Word used to denote the scandal of Beryl Billings, who was exposed by The Wrexham Leader in 1989 via taped conversations as the one woman in North Wales who voted Conservative throughout the Nineteen Eighties.

I had a dream the other night in which I was looking after some goats in a field. A man I had never seen before, a tall, chunky, gingery blonde man, came up to me and said ‘How did you get into keeping goats?’ to which I replied, ‘I used to drive pigs about.’
Yes. that’s what I thought.
This evening I made some seafood laksa with king prawns, Pollock, salmon and smoked haddock. I’m not sure how successful the final result was, as the smoked haddock tended to overpower everything.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Plethora (n) The placenta of the sperm whale. In the eighteenth century this was often collected, dried, cured, and used by whalers’ wives as shopping baskets.

On a whim, I decided to make my own pizza. Actually it wasn’t an immediate whim, as I had bought some packets of pizza base mix from Sainsburys earlier in the week.
So, I made the bases, and the UO had kindly made me a tomato sauce to spread over them. It was then just a case of strategically arranging some mozzarella and assembling the toppings. I had, being the sort of person who perennially overbuys, supplied myself with a plethora of toppings. One pizza had coverings of two sorts of salami, parma ham, olives, anchovies and roasted peppers, and the other had chicken, bacon, chillies, anchovies and roasted peppers.
Once they were ready, the UO fired up the DVD and we watched ‘X-Men origins – Wolverine’ in which Hugh Jackman reprised his role as the blade-fisted one. It was better than X-Men 3, but that isn’t saying much. On the whole it was very good. Gambit makes an experience. I’ve always thought his mutant power to be a stupid one, since he would be entirely helpless if playing cards had never been invented.
The pizzas came out very well, if a little weighty. Holding an entire slice just wasn’t viable so we had to resort to knives and forks.

Friday 12 February 2010

Loth (n) A square of translucent material which was traditionally used by mediums to cover and consequently dim the glare of electric light

As we were loth (we are often loth, it has to be said. If there is one thing which we regularly are, it is loth) to go out on Sunday to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I booked a table at Indian Zing in Hammersmith, which is becoming one of my favourite places to go.
I met up with The Ugly One in a pub called Salutation, and either they are very expensive or I haven’t been out drinking for quite some time. Two double vodka and cokes, in very narrow test tube style glasses, came to £12.80.
By the time I’d picked myself up off the floor, which I presume they pepper with sawdust from some of the rarest of Amazonian trees, the Ugly One had arrived.
Indian Zing was marvellous. I had crab claws and lobster.
I’m so posh sometimes I despise myself.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Thursday 11 February 2010

Persiflage (v) To constantly beat, e,g a wilful child or a carpet.

While sitting in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, waiting to be called in for a blood-test, my thoughts were drawn, as they often are, to ‘Coronation Street’ and the onscreen lives of Ken and Dierdre Barlow. The hospital has picked up some old ticket machines from a Safeways Deli Counter. The number on the LCD screen was 9. My ticket was 34, so I had quite a time to ponder.
I’m thinking of commissioning an opera based on the life of Ken and Dierdre, although I haven’t thought of a title as yet.
Ideally it would have a score by Philip Glass, and would be a Beckett-esque tragedy covering thirty years, one decade per act, and with a different person playing their psychotic daughter Tracy every time she appears on stage, just to keep it real.
Act I begins on a high note with the wedding of Ken and Dierdre, lots of choruses and a duet, but laced with a menacing counter-melody from Mike Baldwin, whose affair with Dierdre in 1983 initiates a feud that continues through the years until Mike’s tragic death in Ken Barlow’s arms in 2006.
After the blood test I had to have my knee x-rayed by two children. I swear they were on work experience or something. One of them had barely started shaving, and she was the one who looked the oldest.

Wednesday 12 February 2010.

Matador (n) A Spanish rug, placed at the entrance of the house in order that guests may wipe their feet on it before they enter the house.

We watched a very interesting Horizon documentary about infinity this evening which was presented in the usual pop-science way that the BBC presents science these days. Intercut with scenes of children who were asked for the biggest number they could think of (one of said ‘a hundred and twenty’) were interviews with working scientists and mathematicians who have long pondered the concept and presented us with some of their conclusions.
It is a sad fact that most scientists are far more eccentric in real life than any of their fictional counterparts, although it cannot be doubted that they are weirdly brilliant.
I did like the concept of the infinite hotel, which one professor (who looked and sounded like Marty Feldman’s Igor from ‘Young Frankenstein’) used as an example of how to understand infinity.
If, for instance, the professor booked a room at the infinite hotel, and it was fully booked, a room could be found by making all the guests move one room up, thus leaving room 1 free.
Thinking about that in depth makes me feel queasy.
I also learned that a googol is a 1 with a hundred noughts after it, and is a very big number indeed, not as big as a googolplex which is the number 10 raised to the power of googol.
Then there is Graham’s number, invented by Ronald Graham, a mathematician and former circus performer (honestly, he was trampolining on ‘Horizon’ just to emphasise the fact) which seeks to solve a problem in Ramsey theory involving n-dimensional hypercubes.
In layman’s terms, the problem is:-
‘Take any number of people, list every possible committee that can be formed from them, and consider every possible pair of committees. How many people must be in the original group so that no matter how the assignments are made, there will be four committees in which all the pairs fall in the same group, and all the people belong to an even number of committees.’ I am obviously not a layman, as I still can make head nor tail of it.
Anyhoo, Graham’s number is so big that there isn’t enough matter in the universe on which to write it down.
I confess that at this point I got a bit lost. I was on more familiar ground when they started talking about monkeys and typewriters, and a scientist has started a computer simulation to try and produce sections of Shakespeare from randomly generated text, although already he has surmised that to produce an entire line of Shakespeare’s text would take at least from the time of the Big Bang until now. So, given infinite time, the complete works of Shakespeare could be produced randomly by a monkey on a typewriter, but that gives me a terrifying partial glimpse of how long infinite time just might be.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Monday 8 February 2010

Flimsy (adj.) Exhibiting the characteristics of a Flim.

Coronation Street is getting a bit dark of late. Peter Barlow is descending into a self-created hell of alcoholic madness, possibly because he has never come to terms with the fact that he used to be Scottish and ginger, and some time back transformed, in true Doctor Who fashion, into an Italian Mancunian. Or maybe it’s because no one seems to recognise that his best friend is Keith Duffy from Boyzone, or realise that Kim from Hearsay is working behind the bar in the Rovers. It’s enough to drive anyone to the Newton and Ridley.
Meanwhile, Gail Potter-Tilsley-Platt-Hillman-McIntyre has been taken off to ‘The Lakes’ by her newest husband, Joe. (‘The Lakes’ for Corrie residents is a bit like Leicester is for Eastenders characters. Some people never return.)
Joe has refurbished a boat and ominously named it ‘Gail Force’. Joe is also in serious debt to a creepy loan shark, and has decided to fake his own death. He should have known better than to try and fake it in ‘The Lakes’. The power of ‘The Lakes’ will compel him to stay, and indeed he was dragged to a watery doom beneath ‘Gail Force’ while a baleful full moon shone down on Gail Potter-Tilsley-Platt-Hillman-McIntyre, falling to her knees on the jetty and shouting ‘Joooooooooooooooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!’
OK. She did shout ‘Joooooooooooooooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!’ but she didn’t fall to her knees. She should have. It’s the traditional thing to do in these circumstances.
Gail should have known better than to marry Joe. Out of her four husbands, three have come to sticky ends, and the other one ran off with a Geordie, which is worse than being gay in Weatherfield. However, as her husband sinks (possibly to re-emerge in Holby City), her son Nick returns, himself transformed into a less blonde version with new sticky-out grabbable ears.
I want to live in a street where you can go away and come back regenerated. I’d avoid ‘The Lakes’ though, and Leicester.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Mancunian (adj) A description applied in the Nineteenth Century to the Chinese residents of Rusholme. A film, ‘The Mancunian Candidate’ starring George Formby and Gracie Fields, detailing the trials and tribulations of one such immigrant was released in 1946, but soon withdrawn due to complaints about its depressing subject matter. Formby’s famous songs about Mr Woo were originally commissioned for this picture.

I couldn’t be arsed to go out anywhere, and planned a quiet day on the sofa reading my book, but the Ugly One decided to clean out the fish tank so I escaped to the bedroom and put all my books in alphabetical order.
At the moment I am reading ‘The Shadow of The Torturer’ by Gene Wolfe, which I read some years ago, and didn’t get on with. Now however, I am finding it a vastly more enjoyable experience.
‘24’ is back, and Jack Bauer is up to his neck in it trying to prevent weapons grade uranium reaching a dastardly foreign country. Oddly, the president of the country is the presenter of the Indian ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Scouse (n) A small parasitical invertebrate which infests the armpits. Not as common today as in Victorian times when the practice of mutual armpit-rubbing was a secret vice among many sections of society.

I spent a relaxing afternoon making Penang paste. I’d already been out to the shops but had to go back to get cumin seeds. God bless Indian corner shops! This evening I made Chicken Penang which was so good I wanted it to bear my children.
The Sky ad with Gene Wilder singing a song from Willy Wonka is beginning to get on my nerves. Needless to say, the Go Compare ads haven’t got any funnier, or any more appealing in any sense. The meerkats have nothing to worry about.

Friday 5 February 2010

Acquiesce (v) To leak water until one dissipates completely, leaving only a greasy puddle.

Today I went into the underground bunker gentlemen’s toilet and someone was sitting playing Super Mario in the next cubicle. I could recognise the distinctive sound effects.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Thursday 4 February 2010

Mendacious (adj) Fabulously masculine

Sometimes fiction and reality interact to provide a surreal day. This morning I walked into the gentlemen’s toilet in the underground bunker and found a Traffic warden singing and dancing in front of the mirror.
Then there’s the Sontarans. I have two colleagues who bear such a strong resemblance to Doctor Who’s Sontarans that I cannot but help imagining them in warrior space suits. There is another one who comes in for meetings, bearing the same hairless dome. Maybe I am right. Maybe this is a small scout party on a reconnaissance trip to gauge the underground bunker’s defences.
Watch the skies, readers!
On a whim, having realised that I have no Bob Dylan in my CD collection, I popped into HMV and found two Bob Dylan albums in their ‘2 for £10’ sale. There never seems to be a time of the year when HMV are not having a sale so one might as well conclude that at any one time they will be selling cheap CDs of one sort or another.
I was delayed getting home due to a person under a train at Finchley Road, which is a very sanitised way of telling commuters that someone has flung themselves under the wheels of a moving train and has no doubt, ended up in various bloody pieces.
In these times of campaigns for the legalisation of assisted suicides, it should surely be an option that people who wish to take the ‘under the train’ route to the hereafter should be allowed to do so at a scheduled time and place. I would imagine the stretch between Uxbridge and Hillingdon on the Piccadilly Line would be perfect as it seems to be always closed for random spurious reasons.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Polynesia (n) A pernicious disease which strikes unexpectedly at parrots’ legs.

Midsomer Murders has become something of a National Treasure. DCI Tom Barnaby has been mopping up the blood and bodies in the sleepy Shire of Midsomer since 1997, so the entire premise of the programme has acquired a kind of tongue in cheek element.
The greatest mystery of Midsomer, however, is why DS Dan Scott (John Hopkins) went sick in 2005 and never came back. I’m not that fussed, as he was replaced by a cute Welshman, (Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones) but I would love to know why his passing was so abrupt.
Tonight we watched DCI Barnaby investigate ‘The Creeper’, in which Rik Mayall was drugged and suffocated by Jenny Agutter.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Nomad (n.) A wandering sane person.

Sausage chips and beans! Hoorah!
My favourite meals, despite my predilection for complicated exotic recipes, are the comfort foods of my youth, which generally involve either sausages or potatoes, or both.
The Ugly One decided, on a whim, that tonight we would have sausage, chips and beans, and very nice it was too.
Continuing from my hype diatribe of yesterday, I am rather surprised at myself since I never mentioned the I-Pod, perhaps the most pernicious of bad quality fashion accessories, not only because one is committed to having to use I-Tunes to upload music, but also because the product (as has been reported) is prone to breakages and the company are loth to replace the damaged items. Another problem is that the trademark white earphones are possibly the most sound-polluting headphones ever made. Whenever I hear the overloud hissbeat of an MP3 player on the Tube (and it has to be loud to be overheard on the Tube) nine times out of ten it is the evil white headphones of the Satan I-Pod.
And yet the I-Pod is baffling popular. Why?
‘They come in nice colours,’ a colleague told me yesterday when I questioned her rationale for planning to purchase one. That says it all really. We live in a culture where style is vastly more important than content or function. Where greed was good in the eighties, shallowness is the virtue of the Noughties and beyond.

Monday 1 February 2010

Impotent (adj) Incapable of erecting a wigwam

Our book club book this month is Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’, the scripts of his seminal BBC series in which he wrote monologues for famous actors of the day, including himself. One would have thought that in reading them without the benefit of the actor’s interpretation one might have lost something, but so far that is not the case. In the case of Patricia Routledge’s beautifully rounded tones, they are easy to imagine in one’s head, and for Alan Bennett’s own performance ‘A Chip In the Sugar’ I tried to imagine it as a Welsh voice. This worked remarkably well, and if one exchanged the placenames, i.e. Bolton, Bradford and Ripon with, for instance, Chester, Wrexham and Ruthin, one might never know that this had been written for a Lancashire voice, since the cultures are in essence very similar.
There are people in the underground bunker where I work with Blackberrys now. I have nothing against the Blackberry per se, but I have, over the course of my life, acquired an innate hype-sensor.
We are all slaves to many things, but slaves to the hype are the most common. What is it, for instance, that a Blackberry can do that a less expensive mobile phone cannot do? Yes, it has the QWERTY keyboard, which is designed for the thumbs of a small and rare South American monkey, but otherwise, what does it do?
The name Blackberry alone, it seems, confers a glamour which bewitches the most technophobic of us.
‘I’m getting a Blackberry,’ a friend announced to me recently, with such evident glee that I suspected it was a euphemism for penile excitement.
‘Why?’ I asked, which provoked a look of confusion, as if the question had not occurred to him until now.
I never got a proper answer, but the reason is, as I know, that they are fashionable. They may be the most annoying and impractical things on the planet but they are, as Americans would say ‘cute’ or ‘adorable’. I would call them memes personally, cultural viruses which infect the gullible, and are on the same level, culturally speaking, as Hula Hoopas, clackers and moon boots.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Sunday 31 January 2010

Brogue (n) A popular lesbian fashion magazine.

I took Henry for a walk, or rather, he took me. He had his own ideas about where he wanted to go so I saw no reason to dispute them.
Robert returned and took Henry home. Suddenly it feels very quiet and still, and I am haunted by the thought that something is missing.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Incurious (adj) Having a long felt want for a tattoo.

So, I braved the bitter winds of Bayswater and set off for the Thai supermarket. As some may know I like to make my own Thai curry pastes, and have been finding it very hard to get hold of Kaffir limes. They look a little bit like proper limes, but are smaller, darker and knobblier. They had no Kaffir limes, so I bought a small ordinary lime instead.
As recommended in my Big Book of Thai Curries, I painstakingly ground the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar. Quite honestly, I don’t see that doing it this way makes any vast difference to the result, so next time I’m using the food-processor.
The Ugly One ordered ‘G-Force’ on his DVD subscription list, not something I would normally choose to watch, but it was an enjoyable enough tale of CGI guinea-pigs and a geek mole forming an elite Task Force.
Henry sat and stared at me pleadingly while I ate my Spicy Coconut Chicken.

Friday 29 January 2010

Ballad (n) A naughty Chinese boy.

I took the day off today. My bruised ribs are giving me some jip. My intention was to visit the Thai supermarket to stock up on supplies. Instead I limped to Morrisons and bought a lot of ordinary things and some sausage rolls, and had a quiet cappuccino in BB’s cafĂ©..
I didn’t have to buy much as we were expecting a Tescos delivery this evening.
We were also expecting a visitor since our friend Robert was going home to the Frozen North for the weekend and was leaving his dog Henry in our care.
Henry is a loveable mutt, but being essentially still a puppy he is both boisterous and inquisitive. After Robert dropped him off he whined and whimpered for a good half-hour and then spent the rest of the evening sniffing everything in sight.
We had to lock him in the bathroom when the Tesco man arrived in case he jumped up at him and knocked him back down the stairs.
Anyway, once all that was over and we wiped up the wee that Henry had done when he panicked in the bathroom, we settled down to watch the final of Big Brother.
Celebrity BB has been a bit of a damp squib this year. One would have thought, as this is the last Celebrity BB ever, that Channel Four would have made more of an effort to find actual celebrities as they have in previous years (One is reminded of the Jack Dee, Vanessa Feltz year or the Rula Lenska/George Galloway/Michael Barrymore year, or even the Germaine Greer/John McQuiddick times). Katia, Lady Sovereign and Thisqo? Please! It is little wonder that many people were thinking that BB had filled half the house with fake celebrities (as they did with Chantelle back in the day) who had to convince the real celebrities that they were famous.
Ironically, the competition was won by Alex Reid, the latest victim of the lamia Katie Price. He seems a very nice man, although not the brightest himbo in the firmament.
‘I love Katie Price,’ he told the assembled mob, who all then booed in a very satisfactory manner.
Henry followed us up to bed and slept between us like a furry bolster.