Well done them

Apparently there has been a Royal baby. Huzzah and all that. Well done them.

The thing that impresses me about the whole thing, however, is not that there is a baby (I’m reliably informed that lots of babies arrive every day), nor that there is a Royal (for they seem to be ten a penny and history shows us that they’ve rarely had trouble continuing). It’s that someone within the palace looked at all the waiting people outside the palace and the hospital and all the waiting media and clearly decided: fuck ‘em. Let them wait while we do our thing.

I hope it was the new parents, because that would speak very well of their priorities.

Perfect location casting

A couple of years ago, TLW & I had cause to go on a bit of a mission to the darkest North West of England for a family do. The accommodation was arranged for us; we just got given an address to turn up to and check in. We did so, and then (as tradition demands) we headed to the bar of the accommodation for a pint.

The place was very strange; a motel in the arsehole of nowhere, with strange acts on and a strange clientele. We all felt that it was kind of phoenix nights meets grab-a-granny, but without any of the charm. In short, it was very depressing.

Last week, I started watching Utopia, a new and strange show on Channel 4. Early on in the first show, they needed to have a location where a man on the edge would go, where they could contemplate ending their life as bits of it threatened to fall down around them.


They seem to have found the perfect motel in the arsehole of nowhere, wouldn’t you agree?

2012 in review


2012 did not start well for me. December 2011 contained loss, death, stress and funerals, and that carried over into the new year. I was not a happy camper at the start of the year.

It got better, though. TLW & I took the demon hound on her first holiday and to see my lot in Norn Iron; after that we left her at home and enjoyed breaks in Bruges, Jersey and then one in Cape Town. I changed job and have enjoyed it thus far, despite now having to spend a fortune on TfLs services. We’ve been to musicals, pantomime and have the ballet lined up for next week.

We’ve grabbed a bit of life this year, and have made the most of it. Let’s see what happens next year…

Bringing back the memories

In my poorly remembered career as a student, some of the most fun to be had in the vicinity was at a Methodist Central Hall. In Birmingham.

Of course, most people wouldn’t associate (a) Methodist Central Hall or (b) Birmingham with wild fun for student ages, but the fun was there. For reasons alluded to by Auntie Beeb.

Methodist central halls were grand buildings that used to attract thousands of people when the temperance movement was at its strongest. But over the years many have been sold off, with some now used as bars and nightclubs.

The central hall in Birmingham is opposite the magistrates’ court. Built in 1903, it has huge, intricately designed windows and its spire towers above many of the other buildings in the area. It’s a Grade II-listed building.

But it stands completely empty.

There’s a sign for the Q-Club nightclub still on the front, but that was closed in December last year. There’s a palpable whiff of urine in the doorway and faded graffiti underneath a sculpture of John Wesley preaching to his followers.

I find it terribly sad to think of the Que standing empty; no more Atomic Jam, no more Flashback, no more introducing sheltered young NIrelanders to proper all-nighters that end with the watching sun rising through stain-glass windows and silhouetting totally trashed people in silly clothes. No more being charged £1 for a 5p ice-pop and thinking it a bargain.

‘course, I’ve mellowed a bit myself and no longer think that lying on your back on the floor of a chillout room (listening to a friend chatting to the Snoopy picture) as the highlight of a term, but back then and back there it was much awesomeness. And it’s now gone, to be turned into flats.

Sad face.

How opinions change

When I was but a young thing, there were issues with the first couple of iterations of the NI Assembly, to the point that it kept collapsing. During this period, I thought that it was a crying shame; we went from having a dozen local ministers covering things to having three direct rule ministers; clearly they weren’t going to do as good a job, and NIreland would suffer.

A few years later, and things are somewhat different to my way of thinking. Clearly for a country the size of NIreland, it’s over-governed with three ministers, let alone the dozen local ones. Especially when the three local ones are drawn from the same quality pool as these jackasses.

The chief executive of Translink has been criticised for not appearing before Stormont’s regional development committee.

On Wednesday, the committee discussed the issue of Translink’s offer of a pay rise of 24% to its train drivers.

Committee chairman Jimmy Spratt said he did not think it was “a hardship for someone on £200,000″ to appear before it and “explain what’s going on”.

SDLP assembly member John Dallat said he was disappointed at Ms Mason’s non-appearance, and added that he could have been meeting the prime minister on Wednesday.

“Anyone who puts a family commitment before appearing at this committee needs to consider their position,” he added.

Mr O’Neill said that he was confident about Translink’s business case for the pay offer and that it could fund it.

However, Independent MLA David McNarry said Translink should be wary of assuming the pay offer would get “royal assent” or that the committee would “unanimously endorse” it.

Which one there is the most silly fecker?

  • John Dallat – for assuming that there is no possible family explanation that would be more important than a bunch of committee fools in a jumped up talking shop. Which is more important – delivering a report to Stormont, or any number of things that someone’s family demands of them?
  • David McNarry – for thinking that any employee contract negotiation requires “royal assent”. It’d be a pretty sorry state of affairs if it was required. Politicians should only really be involved in a single salary negotiation, and even then in a limited way: their own. And they should definitely be required to justify that salary to the people they represent. For example, Mr McNarry should be justifying why he’s worth £43k in salary and £67k in expenses for his office…

It’s sometimes striking to me just how quickly and completely my opinions can change. Clearly local democracy is a good thing, but too much of it can really get stupid very very quickly.

Oh dear

If you’ve been out and about on the tube during rush hour recently, you’ll likely have heard the dulcet tones of Boris Johnson. It’s unnerving hearing a voice doing anything other than give station and service updates, even more when it tries to be enthusiastic. Like this:

Yes, Bozza, we know, the entire system is going to be gridlock. Yes, it’s going to be unpleasant. Yes, it’s worth researching GAOTG and their station disruption maps. But stop trying to pretend that it’s going to be fun to live through this disruption.

Of course, it could easily be worse. Imagine, if you will, that the voice making these announcements was significantly more adenoid-y. “Comrades! It’s the General Secretary Mayor Livingstone here, instructing you to all find some other way to get to work, because I need these trains to get people to and from my vanity project the Glorious Olympiad!”


Happiness is sometimes a difficult decision

Things that make me happy:

  • A quiet evening in with TLW
  • A half decent football match on t’telly
  • Cake
  • The prospect of a long weekend
  • A difficult decision

That decision is one that’s intriguing me. See, PTerry has not one but two new books out this week. So, should I start with The Long Earth, an entirely new thing for His Terryness that looks to be quite an intelligent read? Or should I go for something else entirely: the second book of his that has just been released:

So: is it to be the exciting and intriguing new book, or the very thoughfully titled World of Poo?

I’m torn…

Admissions of defeat

While I thoroughly enjoy the company of Roxy in the house, it has to be said, there are disadvantages to having her about. Chief amongst them is this: she likes to get a bit muddy, and run about indoors. This isn’t too big a problem downstairs where there are no carpets; that’s why the good Lord invented mops. But upstairs we have carpets and beds which don’t react too well to muddy paw-prints and dogs shaking off moisture.

Also, I’ve discovered that there are better ways to end a lie-in than having 50lb of mongrel hitting you at the end of a flying leap.

So we’ve tried a great many things to stop her going upstairs. We’ve done discipline, and it worked for a while until she was allowed up to stay in our room when she was sick. We’ve tried blocking by jamming the door at the top of the stairs, and it worked until she figured out how to open the door with her damn nose. We’ve tried rewarding her to stay downstairs, but she prefers to find out what’s going on upstairs to the treats we offer.

So, we admit defeat. We headed to Argos and made a special purchase:

Yes; we’ve admitted that the hound is going to force us to change the way that we use the house. And so, I put myself at risk of death attacking me on the staircase just so that I don’t get a muddy carpet.

If that isn’t a sign of middle-age hitting me on the back of the head, I don’t know what is.

I don’t think that No 48 applies to me

By some metrics, the Daily Mail website is the most read newspaper website on t’internet. This is a surprise to many. including me; it’s a very strange place to navigate and, if I’m honest, it’s not exactly in possession of the sanest editorial policy in the world. But then I often find myself reading things on it that have been linked to by others. Such as this article, sent by TLW.

If you wash up straight after a meal, know how to bleed a radiator and your mother has started asking for your advice, then you can truly claim to have grown up.

Other key signs of adulthood are more obvious, such as having a mortgage, being married?.?.?.? and wearing sensible shoes.

They are all listed among 50 benchmarks that researchers say mark someone out as a grown-up.

The list is hardly comprehensive, and a lot of them aren’t exactly grown up in their priorities. Budgeting every month is a pretty sensible one, yes, but Being sensible enough to remove make up before bedtime is (a) not relevant to a huge number of people and (b) a sign more of mitigating juvenile behaviour (such as being too tipsy to take off warpaint before sleep) than of being outright adult. But some are quite sensible and the like: keeping track of interest rates, having a joint bank account, owning a lawn mower, all are quite grown up.

Incidentally, apparently I’m 43/50 “grown up”. Any guesses as to which ones I missed?

I keep doing this

Looking back, it would appear that I’ve managed to go another entire month without posting anything here. In my defence, it’s been a bloody busy month.

In April, I was working in Greenwich, and was able to drive to work in fifteen minutes, or walk in about an hour. This meant that I was able to do silly little luxury things, like go home in the middle of the day and have a nice lunch while looking after the dog.

And who wouldn't want to go and have a quiet meal with this little creature begging to steal from the plate?

It was a nice arrangement.

However, come the start of May two things happened. One, I had a birthday and therefore became old and grouchy. And two, I started working in a dreaded place known as North Of The River. Meaning that getting to work is now over an hour door to door, involving multiple changes of transport and requiring actually planning. I’m loving the new job; the only downside is the commute and that poor Roxy gets to spend more time on her own. Probably sleeping and dreaming of overthrowing her biped overlords, and that can’t be good.

Other observations from the last month:

  • Avengers Assemble is an excellent movie.
  • The Kindle, which I’ve always liked, has become a thing of excellence over the last few weeks. It’s exactly what you need if you’re travelling on the trains/tubes because there’s no fiddling with papers in confined spaces.
  • New phones are aces, especially the One X. Me like.
  • Of all the London travel websites and apps that I’ve tried, London Travel is by far the best. I like how each of my options for travel is but a single click away.
  • New PCs are also aces, especially when the PC they’re replacing fell off the ark. I get to play all my old games again! Hurrah!
  • When researching of prices and a surplus of vouchers lead you to try and buy said new PC from PC World, avoid. I forgot this advice, and ended up getting mighty annoyed by a salesdroid insisting that I needed Office (I do not, OpenOffice has been downloaded), that I needed to buy a cloud backup solution (I do not, I have local backups and Dropbox for the rest), that I needed an extended warranty (I don’t; that’s what the manufacturer is for) and that I needed to buy Norton (I do not, because it’s shitty bloatware and the free alternatives are better). End result: I bought the damn thing from John Lewis instead for a little bit more but less hassle.
  • Out of all the droughts I’ve ever seen, this is the only one where I’ve almost drowned about a dozen times due to rain.

A good event, all round

If you’ve not been reading the papers, or watching the news, or listening to any radio that features news, you may have missed the small kerfuffle about unrest in Bahrain. About the state there brutally suppressing said unrest. And about a number of very highly paid people driving very expensive cars around a track there.

First off, the race was very entertaining. Well, the bits of it that I saw on BBC were; under the new broadcast setup I didn’t get to watch it live but did catch the 2/3s of it that Auntie got. There was lots of decent racing, a few very good overtaking moves and a hard fought win by a boring driver from a very exciting (and slightly insane) driver. All good, and a race worth having.

But that’s been an aside to the main story, which has been HOW DARE THEY RUN A RACE THERE DON’T THEY KNOW PEOPLE ARE DYING OH MY GOD THE HORROR.

And it is horrible; yes, there are many nasty things going on in that small country. Yes, the F1 race is a large advert not for the country but for the ruling elite. Yes, the people behind F1 are quite easily painted as mercenary friends of the oppressive rulers of such countries. But, the same things were true last year when the race was cancelled, and the nasty things have continued since, despite the race being cancelled. It’s just that we didn’t hear about it because the news moved on after the decision was taken not to race.

This time round, there has been a fortnight where Bahrain hasn’t been out of the news, and not for reasons that any ruling clique would like. There have been images of the unrest; the news of the man dying over the weekend has been broadcast worldwide; there have been debates carried out publicly about security; the leaders of the parts of the free world that watch Formula 1 have been speaking about events.

In short, the decision to run the race has brought the attention of the world to what’s going on. Maybe that’ll help more than last years strategy (the same people taking their ball and going home, allowing all of us to forget about it).


There once was a time when BBC Northern Ireland had a serious job to do; they did some really dangerous investigations and uncovered some really important stories. But now that peace is pretty well established and the culture of secrecy surrounding many nasty things has been defeated, what is a small public service broadcaster to do?

Stunningly, their latest revelation is this: buying in bulk saves you money.

Except, being the BBC, they got it arse about tit: Cold reality for poorest households.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been told that a growing number of households have no choice but to purchase 20 litre drums of oil that are significantly more expensive per litre than buying in bulk.

BBC’s consumer correspondent Martin Cassidy has been calculating what that means at today’s home heating oil prices.

The comparison shows a yawning gap in annual heating costs.

Not surprisingly the household relying on buying its heating oil in 20 litre drums is paying a lot more for fuel.

No, really? Buying fuel in amounts that is massively less efficient in packaging, transportation and general all round effort per liter is more expensive than buying a large proportion of a truckload? And this is a bad thing?

Dear BBC: find something real to get angry about. Please.

Bugger. It happened again.

Last year, there was a period of about, oh, two months where I forgot about this place. I felt bad about that. And I tried to come back again, but the same damn thing happened.

So, five weeks after my most recent post, I’m back. Once again (thanks to a minor issue at my web host, I’ve had to do a lot of reinstalling and password changing (always fun), but the site is back up and running. Which is nice.

What has happened since I last posted? Not a lot. Work, eat, sleep. Got excited by some football results, and very annoyed about others. Wondered why the world was getting annoyed about many things and not about other things. Pondered why anyone was giving Occupy! the time of day. Spent quality time with TLW. Watched seasons 1-3 of The Wire, and cursed FX for screwing with the scheduling so that I missed season 4. Attended a funeral. Had a Christmas. Cursed the dog for killing the fence at the bottom of the garden.

So, not much really…

The times, they are a’changing

In 2006, I was a low rank nerd, with a score of 68. I was single, lived on my own, and spent many hours of every day on blogs and the like. Computer games were played often.

In 2011, how have things changed?

I am nerdier than 70% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

Hang on; I spend much less time on t’internet than I used to. I spend less time playing computer games. I’m married, fer crying out loud. How can my nerd score have gone up?

It gets worse: by some metrics I’m actually nerdier.

NerdTests.com says I'm a Slightly Dorky High Nerd.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

How the hell did that happen?

Not subtle?

Back in Belshaft, I was rarely bothered by political canvassers. Most of the political parties were content to rely on tribal ties to get their vote out, and the ones that made the effort to pound the pavement tended to be the ones that I’d never vote for.

Over here, it seems to be a little bit different. For example, only this weekend I had a knock on the door from my local MP, who had a little team with them and seemed to be knocking on each of the three hundred doors on my road.

“So,” said she, “Mr Hillan, I’m sure that you’re aware that the London mayoral elections are coming up next year, Ken v Boris… Do you happen to know who you’ll vote for?”

“Yes, I do. And I’m sorry, but it’s not your guy.”

“Oh I’m sorry to hear that, do you mind if I ask why?”

“Because he’s a mentalist and he scares me.”

Three things that I think, following this encounter:

  1. My self restraint is better than I thought, I managed to avoid pointing out that her seat could have been won by a donkey with her colour of rosette; I managed to avoid mentioning the word ‘demagogue’, I didn’t mention anything about election stealing, Marxism or individual and non-mandated foreign policy decisions. My, I must be growing as a person.
  2. Fair play to her, wandering the streets of an afternoon when there could be any number of people who’ll answer the door and point out some of the things mentioned above.
  3. I’m not entirely sure that TLW will ever let me answer the door again…

Why the jubilation?

So, the Jackson death trial. There’s something about it that just sits very wrongly with me.

It’s not the verdict; I can see why it was so. It’s not the media, for you can count on them to be fucktards given the slightest opportunity. It’s not the prosecutors, for much the same reason.

It’s the complete loons outside, who were dancing in the street and announcing that “justice had been done”. No, it hasn’t. The wheels of the justice system have turned, and someone who is probably guilty of being bloody stupid has been caught and punished for it. But that’s not the same as justice; justice would be getting all the people who surrounded Jackson, who were catering to his every whim, who put him in a place of being in terrible pain and having to prepare for a show that clearly he wasn’t capable of doing. Justice would be letting the world know the cost of being a media creature for your entire life, and trying to stop it happening again.

Justice, in fact, would be demystifying the poor man. And getting the nutters on the street to move on. But they’re not going to dance to celebrate that, are they?

Winter is definitely upon us

The signs that winter is here, despite being very delayed this year:

  1. The clocks have gone back, bringing us that little bit closer to the day when I arrive at work in darkness and leave again after the sun goes down.
  2. A new Pratchett is sitting, waiting to be read.
  3. We’re starting to worry about how things will look at the end of the financial year, as opposed to tidying up how they were at the end of the last one.
  4. TLW has broken out the first stew of the year.

Cue the Eddard Stark memes…

Bring back GMT

There is an ongoing fight in this country to be rid of Greenwich Mean Time; the arguments in favour of abolition are that it’s better for school kids to have daylight after school than before, that accidents will decrease, and that it’s an anachronism. The arguments in favour of keeping it are that farmers need the early morning light, Scotland needs some light, and that it would put us on the same time as most of the continent to our south. Including bits hundreds and hundreds of miles to our east.

I’ve always been in favour of keeping it. Partly because the reasons to abolish are pushed largely by people like RoSPA and other nannying folk, and because the reasons don’t form a coherent enough argument for me to think that it’s worth abandoning hundreds of years of tradition.

Now, I have a new reason. For, y’see, for the first time I’m walking a dog every morning as we go into winter. And if the clocks don’t go back from BST to GMT soon, then the entirety of my walk will be done in the dark. Which means several things: foxes are still about, fewer people are about, and it’s difficult to see what the little madam on the lead is up to. So I need that little sliver of daylight.

Also, it’s much more difficult to pick up the dogshit when it’s too dark to see the ground, and the consequences of doing something wrong there are just too horrible to consider…

Unexpected ‘benefits’ of dog ownership

ScaryDuck, who keeps a log of people looking angry in local newspapers, alerted me to this article: Faversham mum told to put dead fox in her wheelie bin, which has answered a little question of mine.

Where, in a city, do you dispose of dead animals that arrive in your garden?

Back when I were a country lad, it was simple; dead birds got put in a hole (if very young witnesses were about) or left somewhere for the local feral cats to get rid of. Larger corpses were usually dragged off by animals quickly, or a nice friendly farmer could get rid of really big things. Simples.

Here, if (for example) a dog kills a small bird and drags it into the house, you can safely hide it in the wheelie bin. But we have feral foxes here, and our dog trainer1 told me a while back that one of her clients’ pack of dogs had eviscerated a fox that had wandered into the house. How do you get rid of that without the bloody bin police noticing it?

The above article answers: you don’t worry about the bin police, and just throw it in the bin as per normal. Which is nice to know.

1 – yes, it’s gotten to the point where we have a dog trainer. Very odd.

Let the battle commence

What with my subtle and well hidden dislike of politicians and politics, I am heartened to see that plans to cull 50 MPs continue apace.

Some of the most high-profile MPs in Parliament face seeing their seats disappear as part of a far-reaching shake-up of the Commons map in 2015.

Ken Clarke, Chris Huhne and Tessa Jowell are among those in England whose constituencies may change.

The plans, which will be subject to two years of consultation, are part of a move to cut the number of MPs by 50 to 600 by the next general election.

What amuses me is that the coming couple of years, when the proposals are being dealt with through consultation and the like, will see some of the nastiest politics of recent days, as sitting MPs spend their time stabbing opponents (within and without their own parties) to secure the new constituencies for themselves. It should be hilarious to see the alleged elder statesmen (and -women) fighting like cats in a sack. Especially when there isn’t much to be lost from our point of view.

Bring it on, and if possible, televise it.