EDitorial ± 24-Feb-2006

Devil Finger

Far as I can tell, thanks to Freeview, the kids watch an unbroken stream of Chuckle Brothers (to me, to you), Tracy Beaker (down in The Dump) and Kerching on the insta-parent device that is CBBC.

Sometimes another prog rears its head and drifts from the back room into my consciousness in the kitchen, where I'm often to be found hanging on to Peter Allen's every word. Last week, that televisual offering was the briefly named Stupid.

I caught the last five minutes of a single show and it made me chuckle. There's Marcus Brigstocke, him from We Are History and The Savages (that did it for me, too), making inane banter with his blue sidekick, but best of all there were the short sketches with mostly kids, inc:

  • a weird family, dressed as aliens, slowly making their way up the bus queue by making a strange humming noise in unison
  • the hysterical girl in the school science lab, spilling a tiny drop of water on her sleeve then yelling "It Burns!"
Best of all was the kid with the possessed digit, poking uncontrollably at another kid's shoulder while intoning Devil Finger!, Devil Finger! His victim then retaliated with Cow Bite! I'm told by my offspring that the best defence against DF is, in fact, Bendy Wendy!, using a bent finger to block. Should be on primetime.

Thought I'd set the under-the-telly-box to auto record the next episode: v. disappointed to see "No matches found". Last in the series, so I gather. Bother.

EDitorial ± 23-Feb-2006

Smile Like You Mean It

Thursday lunchtime -- ping-pong tonight -- and something's missing. I've got the (ITTF approved 40mm) balls, inc. a new batch of three orange RITC Friendship fellas in the post from ebayland, but nowt to put 'em in. I need a secure container. I pine for one of those Christmas sweety tubes, the ones full of Smarties or Jelly Tots. It is, however, February.

Hour or so later, taxi-ing Middler to her modern dance lesson -- big exam is next week -- and we're practicing smiling, this being a vital weapon in the dancer's armoury. They call it "bright eyes", says Middler, and you must show your teeth at all times.

My first attempt didn't impress: no Dad, she said, has to be more natural. Next go was better, if painful, but quickly evaporated once we hit a queue of crosstown traffic.

The people who grinned themselves to death
Smiled so much they failed to take a breath
— The Housemartins, The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death
Once she was safely ensconced at the Dance Studio, I did my usual parental supportive thing and zoomed off to Sainsbury's for misc sundries. Juice for the dancer: check. Doughnuts, both jammy and ring, for the kids (and their dad): check. Dishwasher tabs: mental maths told me that two 15-packs for a fiver beat one 32-pack for six quid.

Back home, fed kids, got my ping-pong gear on, and decanted the bargain tabs into the box that lives under the sink. Now, I love an empty box -- who doesn't? -- and those Finish containers are mighty manly. Thinks: maybe it would make a fine receptacle for my TT balls? Out with my fragile packet o' balls and into their purpose-built home. Works a treat.

Remained only to apply lots of white labels in a Blue Peter stylee to cover up the branding, leaving only the word "Powerball" exposed -- did you see what I did there?

Note: we were thrashed 9-1 that evening.

EDitorial ± 20-Feb-2006

Nineteen Items

For no good reason, twenty things (minus one) from today:
  1. it's 00:29, I should have been in bed 90 minutes ago, and my nose is cold
  2. leapfrogged a fellow cyclist on way to work, undertaking him twice and being overtaken twice; eventually pulled alongside and had a jolly chat for The Last Mile
  3. homemade chicken soup (for the soul) for lunch with Rose's bread rolls: tasty and mighty filling
  4. now listening to Andrew Collins' show from yesterday on 6 Music: he's just relaunched his blog, which is great for those of us who used to read his old one on the Beeb site
  5. curling at the 'lympics: women's team went out thanks to the Canadian captain "delivering a stone under great pressure"
  6. kiddies back to school, grudgingly, after half-term, all three of 'em still in uniform when I got back
  7. last of Saturday night's Oleron raspberry tart with mascarpone: yum
  8. bloke who refills the vending machine at work advised everyone not to touch the chicken soup: it's fowl, he said
  9. company website appeared in the top 10 relevant Google results for the first time, which was nice
  10. brought bike inside briefly to reaffix my Specialist lock which had decided to lose its grip on the saddle post
  11. Ben Sherman sneakers arrived in the post courtesy of eBay
  12. fun listening to The Boy reading his Biff & Chip (& Pin) book entitled Poor Old Mum to his poor old mum
  13. email arrived from a chap in search of a recording of that pirate sketch from The Million Pound Radio Show: was about to investigate turning my old cassette into an MP3 when his follow-up email arrived saying he'd found one
  14. ran out of (free) bananas in the office
  15. penultimate Life On Mars, and a death in the cell: gets ever better, IMHO
  16. hope to finish David Lodge's "Thinks" before closing my eyes tonight
  17. kittens enticed into kitchen with some M&S rabbit food: pure bunny, said GLW to the mogs
  18. endeavouring to drink more water in between hot caffeinated beverages; still slotting in one lemon & ginger teabag per day
  19. admiring Eldest's very first webpage today, My Pets!, featuring both puddytats and the fish

Item 20: there is no item 20.

EDitorial ± 16-Feb-2006

Size Matters

Half-term and a day off with those darn kids, going loco to Norwich. Now there's a city for you: they think they're just so GREAT with their jumped-up John Lewis and their fancy Forum (note: both rather good). Shame about the whole relegation thing last year. Not.

After some quality time in Borders, we took the castle museum by storm. Well, we bought a family ticket.

Had quite forgotten that there's loads to see within those walls. And while the kids were occupied with the Romans and Boudica, I slipped away for some modern art. Current expo is entitled Size Matters, or as the brochure has it typographically:

Apparently this "investigates the way in which contemporary British artists have experimented with scale". Or, to me and you, various big and little things. First up, just inside the door, was a moped, a bit like my dad's old Honda 70. Only this has a pizza box on the back, and the whole affair's 145% larger than it should be. Odd.

Other highlights: a shelf showing a tiny space panorama, c/w a teensy Airfix astronaut hanging from a thread; a wall-mounted miniature LED display listing lots of House Rules, eg no curling, no perming, no tanning; and a hugely long a wooden drawer containing, oh, a dozen compartments.

But star of the show had to be Hikiri Sawa's "Dwelling", a black and white video of jets and airlines flying, landing and taking off ... in someone's flat. Whoosh, down on to the dishwasher. Whee, through the living room. Hard to tear yourself away.

EDitorial ± 14-Feb-2006

Fleshy Green Flower Heads

The Boy was partying on Saturday at the local bowling alley. While he was absorbing huge quantities of sugar -- dessert consisted of doughnuts with chocolate sauce, sprinkles and ice cream, and he was mightily wired for the rest of the day -- I did the weekly shop in Morrison's next door.

Was impressed with they way they'd individually priced and shrink-wrapped the broccoli portions: that one 73p, this one 59p, etc. Most convenient, I thought. And I passed on this observation to GLW that evening. Oops, mistake.

Over packaging! Environmentally hostile! Green produce not greenly produced! But, I protested, don't you usually put the broccoli in a bag when you buy it? Apparently not. This developed further into general accusations against the big supermarkets until, thankfully, the subject was dropped. Phew.

So there we were like an old couple on Sunday night enjoying a very camp Marple adaptation with Emilia Fox wearing some stunning little numbers. Then there's a break, and on comes an ad for Morrison's showing a shopper reaching for a head of (open to the elements) broccoli...

EDitorial ± 8-Feb-2006

Windows Annoyances

Phone call from the garage (rhymes with marriage) lunchtime-ish today: your car is ready, Mr Broom. That'll be £xxx pounds, if you'd be so kind, where xxx consists of £yyy for a new regulator unit and £zzz for labour. And there it was, parked flush with the kerb on my cycling return home, c/w fully operational windows: they go up, they go down.

See, sometime last year the driver's (is this near-side? port? aft?) 'leccy window decided to call attention to itself by failing to do the one simple task asked of it. I depress this button, you descend, or I lift this button and so should you. But this little piggy wouldn't go down more than about 5cm before stopping. Which caused some embarrassment when, say, entering a multi-storey car park or using the KFC drivethrough, being obliged to physically open the door to grab the ticket or take the Bargain Bucket. Really, you'd struggle to fit a side order of BBQ beans through such an opening.

And lo, an item appeared on my ToDo list saying "fix car window". At this point there should be a montage demonstrating the passing of the seasons, perhaps with falling leaves and driving rain, through which we see the gradual weathering of my handwriting. Yes, time passed and I did nowt about it.

Until last Saturday, when I took matters into my own Handy Andy hands. I'd had a chat with a passing Renault mechanic (wait long enough and one will appear) who'd asked if I'd tried to push the window down while holding the button. No, I said. Might be worth a go, said he, and give it plenty of WD40.

There I was with my can of miracle squirt. Cajoled one of my brood into pressing the button while I pushed down: sure enough, it moved jerkily down. So I kept up the pressure until it went all the way. Yay, I thought ... can you see what happens next? ... and of course, the darn thing wouldn't then come up, being now stuck in the down position. Bottoms.

Much spraying and prying was then called for. Heck, I even bought a new mini-can of the wonder lubricant. Final straw when the little red straw popped out of the sprayhead and lodged itself in the door frame, out of reach. Which was how I came to be sitting in the driver seat on Saturday evening equipped with a sheet of bubble wrap and various coloured poster pins creating some very makeshift glazing.

Ah, the joy of windows.

EDitorial ± 5-Feb-2006

Mine's A Hawaiian

Getting the kids out of the house is akin to herding kittens. After the Big Decision to venture out with Dad on their bikes came (a) the battle for the lone bodywarmer, (b) the sulking about having to go fetch a long-sleeved top, (c) the grumps over being told to tuck trousers in socks, and (d) the whining re wearing a coat over a fleece. And then, once finally on eight wheels, we had the deliberate go-slow by Eldest.

But things improved and got much jollier later. Coming back, The Boy wanted to know what was for tea: begins with an "H", I said. He thought long & hard before guessing: "Pizza?"

EDitorial ± 2-Feb-2006

Tipping In The Ocean

Friend of mine lives out past Woodbridge near Hollesley Bay, current home of two neighbouring prisons --- one open, one high security --- and former home of that Archer fellow. He (the friend, not dear Jeffrey) mentioned that it's a short distance to Shingle Street from there, and that an 80s pop star had a house there. Said he'd heard an interview on Radio Suffolk over the Christmas period with this ex-celeb, who spent most of his time these days in the USofA. He thought this might be Nik Kershaw, so I emailed the radio station and sure enough, it wasn't.

At pretty much the same time I learned that an 80s pop star was due to play some rare live gigs in California, supporting The Beat. This chap was putting aside his polyphonic ringtone business for a few days to strut his stuff once more under the bright lights.

That man: Thomas Dolby, hero of mine for the last twenty or so years.

To quote Stephen Foster, champion of local music at Radio Suffolk,
"Did the interview in September. We sat on the beach at Shingle Street for the interview."
Cool, methinks. I believe Adam & Joe caught up with Mr Dolby many years ago at his seaside pad: dunno if that clip made it on to their highlights DVD. Mind you, as the incomparable Mark E. Smith recently said in Word magazine, never meet your heroes.