The Opposite Of Frequent

Feathers keep falling into my flat from the ledge by my skylight where the pigeons sit in the sun. I like the way they float down and found it almost serene until I remembered how disease-ridden pigeons are.

Also happening outside my window: lots of noisy construction. They're drilling right now. We still get transient guests in the building, using a flat for just a week or a weekend. One of them stole my neighbour's bike when they left. These young souls were in town for a wedding and we said hello out of the window.

Why I choose this to share, of all the things that have happened in the eight weeks since I last posted, I'm not sure. Perchance to highlight how trivial blogging can be? If I told you everything that's happened, it would take me eight weeks to write!

I like having this outlet but when you start to find it a chore to post frequently, as I have, it's a bit like the tail wagging the dog. National Novel Writing Month is on the horizon and Shig has convinced me to take part this year. I hope to improve my writing style because I've become bored with the stock turns of phrase that I use here all the time. I've been reading more, because there's something unhealthy about reading your own words more than anyone else's. I'd love to (ultimately) have something more concrete than an online diary to show for all the time I spend writing.

This blog ain't dead. It's still twitching and medics are en route. Thanks for all the messages about it.


Big Trouble With Little Objects

I thought I'd left my phone in the car so I went downstairs to check. At the bottom of the stairs (but still a short way from the car) I realised I'd hadn't brought my car keys because I knew, subconsciously, I wasn't driving anywhere. So, my dilemma: go back for the keys now when there's no guarantee I'm actually going to need to open the car, or continue to the car, see the phone on the passenger seat and then go ALL the way back for them? Tricky stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

I drove to To-ne's barbecue so we could buy beer on the way, but I'd planned to drink and pick up the car on Sunday. We took a taxi all the way home that night before I remembered I'd left my house keys in the glove box. (It's what I do when I park at airports so I can't lose them overseas.) I smoked while I considered ways of breaking in but it was clear we were going to need another taxi. There again. And back again. Thirty pounds for all three trips. An expensive mistake.


Now That's What I Call Great Storytelling

The recent six-part Jekyll on the B.B.C. was a style-over-content masterpiece: snappy dialogue, beautiful people and the most O.T.T. lead performance I've seen since... ooh, James Purefoy's Marcus Antonius last month. There was some rather original violence too, such as when James Nesbitt delivered a still-twitching torture victim to A&E in a holdall slung over his shoulder, or when he killed a lion with his bare hands at the zoo. Whatever this program wasn't, it was consistently entertaining.

The absolute superlative highlight for me was the opening of the final epsiode. The previous week's preview showed a ruthless mercenary who, we assumed, would be sent after the escaped Mr. Hyde. The teaser sequence the following week is all about the same fella: he's training, killing, taking no shit from his employers and (through a flashback to a moment of the series we've already seen) waiting to be called into action when he is needed. He's a secret weapon, a boss level, a nemesis.

Then we're back at last week's cliffhanger ending and Jekyll/Hyde/Nesbitt is still surrounded by bad guys on a rooftop. Up steps the new ultimate tough guy character. He approaches Hyde with a tough-talking line and, in one fast fluid movement, Hyde turns and throws him off the building to his death on the pavement below. What a set-up and what a way to reinforce that your central character is the bad-ass of bad-asses! The credits hadn't even rolled. The writer in me was in awe at that.

Update 2007-08-18: Having described it, I now find you can watch the whole delicious sequence online. They changed the title to "Hyde" instead of "Jekyll" for the last part too. Who got the style? They do.


It's Duck And Rabbit Season

I love me a good barbecue, especially when the meat isn't shaped like an animal. (Fish I can handle.) Yesterday, Tone did the honours. Phil brought a cooler for the beer to save us walking to the fridge and back which was my kind of decadence. Chris brought a chocolate fountain - like a fondue with added drippiosity - which was Alice's kind of decadence.

I wore trainers and a brown shirt but you could tell it was summer because I had sunglasses on. I don't really do summer clothing on account of our short summers. I did look an underprepared British fool in Miami that one time, and also those three times I played lunchtime soccer in the park in Norfolk wearing all black. But I coped with the Downend sun by taking off my socks and rolling up my jeans. Underpreparedness 1, Adaptablity 2!

You could tell it was summer by the Bristol Balloon Festival too. We didn't go but they were in the sky so difficult to miss.

Saturday was my revenge on Alice for taking me to a garden party full of her lovely friends earlier in the summer. The host told me his life story and asked me to choose a Bowie album to play so I was good. We went for a walk and ended up in the only park in Clevedon I'd ever been in before, approximately twenty years ago. (Maybe there's only one park?) The day was rounded off watching a travel video from North Korea: the background music, added by the tour company, was overtly militaristic and a camp German tourist with bleached blonde hair and Noel Edmonds' hand-me-down jumpers wouldn't stop winking at the camera.

The film ended with the spectacular Arirang Mass Games in which 100,000 brainwashed citizens prance around for their glorious leader's entertainment. Pretty though. Almost worth it.


Post Yourself Yellow

They're having fun marketing The Simpsons Movie. Select 7-Eleven stores have been kitted out like Kwik-E-Marts and the Burger King promotion lets you "simpsonize" yourself into a cartoon. That's me, innit?

Chabon (And On And On)

The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay is possibly the longest novel I have ever read. It's only 600 pages but it took me nine bleedin' months, in which time I think I picked it up about twenty times. That's not a bad average per sitting but I blatantly need more sittings!

I enjoyed it yet, here I am, not thoroughly recommending it. That's embarrassing because I gave it as a birthday present a long time ago, back before I'd started the first chapter. Do we still use spoiler warnings on books when, like, nobody cares about books any more? All this Deathly Hallows nonsense would suggest so. We'll have a warning, then: spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler! There are seven hallows, not six.

Returning to the book I just read:

Samuel Clayman and Joseph Kavalier are two New York Jews (one fresh off the boat from Czechoslovakia) whose rise in the comics business paralells the rise of the Nazi party in Europe. They can't fight physically so they write big Nazi-bashing adventures for their trademark superheroes, The Escapist and Luna Moth. They fall in love but not with each other. One goes to war, one stays behind to mind the other's wife and child, they are reconciled and live as an unconventional family unit of four in the 1950s.

I cared about what happened to the characters but wished I would make it happen faster. The early sections were heavy on Jewishness which was educational but failed to resonate with me personally. Harry Houdini, Salvador Dali and Stan Lee had entertaining cameos. The lines between the real-life New York and the fictional Empire City often seemed blurred and I was disappointed when this aspect of the story was written off as the fantasy of a delusional man halfway through.

Best for a comics nut like myself were the affectionate tributes to genre characters as Kavalier and Clay ripped off Action Comics without infringeing copyright. Unfortunately, I took an hour out one Sunday morn to read Kurt Busiek's Astro City which does the same trick faster and in colour: The Samaritan is Superman, Cleopatra is Wonder Woman, the Honor Guard is the Justice League, etc.

Read either (but not both) and don't dally. For all the Potter-knocking, Rowling is probably more balls-out fun. And for my next trick, something light like The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry.


You Can Cook Cucumber!

I admired KitKat's pledge to herself to accomplish something new every week. Unfortunately, a lot of her new things looked like new ongoing commitments - joining a gym or a book group, for example - and I was sure I didn't have the time for all that.

So, to Plan B: one week I tried sweet and sour chicken balls from the Chinese take-away instead of pork balls, and the week after that I had chicken with cashew nuts for the first time. That's my kind of tasty adventurousness but somehow, I can't help feel, it wasn't quite in the original spirit. So I comprimised, bought a cookbook and now I'm trying to cook something new every week.

The Mod and Helen finally came to Bristol last weekend and good fun was had by all. I met them in the middle of a harbour festival that I didn't know was happening and probably would have missed altogether if they hadn't made me leave the house. We scoured the food stalls for delicacies and picnicked in a quiet spot beyond the safety barrier on the waterfront.

People get nervous cooking for Helen because she's a rather talented chef. I wasn't, but I did opt for a dish I'd done before. She made sticky toffee pudding from scratch. Good food was had by all.

Salmon And Cucumber In A Creamy Sauce
1 cucumber
1 small onion
vegetable oil
150ml whipping cream
seed mustard
350g filletted salmon
lemon juice

Slice the cucumber in half longways. Scoop out the seeds and cut into half-rings. Chop the onion. Fry both vegetables in a splash of oil for 2 minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of flour and stir in.

Add the cream and a few teaspoons of mustard. Dice the salmon and add it raw to the mix. Cook the whole lot on medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with lemon juice. Decorate with parsley. Serve with anything you like. (We had white rice.)

Baby Been A Bad Blogger

Remember me? I used to post stories here that somewhat resembled the truth about my life. No? You can get in on the ground floor now then.

Facebook has played its part in occupying my time, though what you do with what you find there is what it's really all about - not all that messing around with silly add-ons where vampires fight werewolves. I've discovered new things about people I thought I knew back-to-front. I've discovered common interests with people I only knew slightly well and now we're closer. I've checked out my friends' friends for potential singles and I've been on a semi-date. I've laughed at the female student trying to run her own private escort service, though she's not ugly and her rates are very competitive. I've joined groups for local events and I've introduced myself to a handful of people that will be at The Beastie Boys' Brixton Academy gigs in September. And I'm just getting started...

The rain has abated here, Blair has begun his mission of atonement in the Middle East, Gordon Brown is our new Prime Minister and there's been a "credible" sighting of the missing Madeleine McCann three months after her abduction when most people, like myself, had begun to consider her another tragic statistic.

I had mad insomnia this week but it's better now. Sadly, David Tennant's mother died of cancer. And Kylie Minogue, a waitress on the Titanic in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, was mistaken for an actual waitress during filming in Cardiff. Apparently, an old lady from a nearby hotel asked her if it was too late to still get a cup of tea!

Carry on.


Cause Of Flooding (9,8)

We Brits are having a really wet year. June was the wettest June since records began in 1914. The last seven days have seen some truly excessive rainfall and there's no respite in sight. Bristol's been alright because it's mostly hills - just don't live in a trough. But less than fifty miles away, the town of Tewkesbury is all sandbags and insurance claims.

How many people know the nursery rhyme Doctor Foster Went To Gloucester? It's just dawned on me that different regions might have their own variants.

The worst surprise I had all week was that new Coke Orange doesn't taste much like Mezzo Mix, a popular coke-orange drink in Germany. It's also a product of the Coca Cola Company so why the difference? Coke Orange is being marketed as a limited edition with the slogan "get it before it's gone", to encourage consumers to get onboard faster than they did for Coke Zero. Canny stuff!

That's "canny" meaning "clever", not "it comes in cans".


Schoolboy Error

Nine days away from the blog. I guess I had some motivational problems! Going back to work was a drag and now the boss is back too so I have to be visibly pro-active (which so much tougher than simply getting the job done). He's not all bad, though: this morning he called before work to say to stay home because of the bad weather.

My old high school made the national news this week for all the wrong reasons. The local papers said it was the result of an internet spat over a boy the night before. One parent said the same thing happened when he was in school thirty years ago so perhaps the country isn't completely going to the dogs after all. Or it's always been going to the dogs.

I used to want to be a teacher but it wore off around the same time teachers started getting shot. Talk about being under-appreciated at work! I really ought to remedy that one day, seeing as how it would take all of five minutes. Mr Turasiewicz, Ms Roberts, Ms Davies, Mr Lewis, Mr Newman and Mr Fry: when I paid attention, you were all brilliant.