webofevil: (all hail)
By train from London to Brussels, Brussels to Cologne, Cologne overnight to Copenhagen, Copenhagen to Gothenburg and Gothenburg to just outside Oslo[1]. Sounds like a quick trip, doesn’t it? No, wait, not “quick”—what’s the other one?

What I did on my holidays )
webofevil: (Default)
A while ago in Worthing I had a Chinese takeaway. My fortune cookie said:

So more a reassurance cookie, then—or, depending on how you take it, an “It’s not all about you” cookie.

Recently I had another Chinese takeaway in Worthing because why the hell not. This time my fortune cookie was more abrupt:

Or, put another way, stop consulting damn fortune cookies.

The second one is even better if you imagine it being barked at you by an irascible elderly Chinese man.
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On the morning train down to Sussex there’s a group of men in light grey suits heading off for a day at Goodwood.
Man 1: When did you tell your wife you’d be coming home?
Man 2: Tomorrow. I told her she could cook her own dinner.
Man 3: My missus said to me, “Just don’t forget I exist”. When I go out on the lash I forget to call her or text her or anything, and then when I get home I get a right bollocking.
Man 4: Fuck her, she’s too needy!
Man 2: Watch your language, Phil. There’s kids in this carriage.
Man 4: Sorry. [To the woman sat opposite him:] Sorry about that. [She shrugs.]
Man 3: Yeah, watch that. We’re going to be in the posh esclosure today.
Man 1: Esclosure?
Man 3: Esclosure.
Man 1: It’s enclosure, Wayne. Jesus Christ.
A wedding where two of the bridesmaids were in their early 30s but the third was two years old, while the best man was the groom’s seven year-old nephew, was not going to be an occasion where “we respectfully ask people not to bring children”. Rather, the couple had gracefully accepted the fact that among their circle of friends there were at least 15 children of infant age and so held their reception at a country park near Havant that’s full of animals, meaning that years from now there will still be kids saying to them, “Oh my God you had the best wedding you had rabbits”. Also: alpacas, a Shetland pony and a two week-old pig in a bucket.

We were all gathered in a courtyard in the afternoon sun. A guest I had been chatting to said, “Excuse me, I’m going to find my wife.” He scanned the crowd of about 60 guests. “Or perhaps not,” he added, and looked around some more. “I have this knack,” he said glumly, “of failing to pick my wife out of a crowd. The most recent time, we were in a small branch of PC World. We had agreed that if we couldn’t find what we were after, we’d go into the shop over the road. I finished, looked around the place for her and couldn’t find her, so went to the other shop. There was no sign of her there either so I came out again, at which point Jane was just coming out of PC World saying, ‘Where the hell were you?’”

He hadn’t mentioned his wife’s name before; I had met her earlier. “Oh, you’re Jane’s husband?” I said. “Jane, who’s… just there?” She was indeed no more than five feet away from him, talking to my mother. “Oh God,” he said, “not again. Please don’t tell her.” Should I alert Oliver Sacks?
webofevil: (Default)
Today I had to pick up a specimen bottle and a sharps bin from my local chemist.

“These for your Christmas party, then?” he grinned as he handed them over.


Jul. 29th, 2008 06:50 pm
webofevil: (Default)
If someone more enterprising than me wants to wander along the apparently endless line of stationary traffic outside my flat selling shop-bought drinks at even a slight markup they’ll make a storming profit. Who knew water mains contained so much water?

The last time I saw my road cordoned and deserted but for emergency vehicles it was 21/7, so I'm quite glad that this time it was just for a burst pipe.


Jul. 7th, 2008 12:45 pm
webofevil: (Default)
Unable to resist the challenge, [livejournal.com profile] flaneurette has reproduced CITV's dubious bookends (complete with wormy segments):

webofevil: (Default)
My father is notorious for being random with presents. God knows it can be hard to know what to buy someone, but his gifts can vary from “A Present From Norway” coffee-table books (because he’s Norwegian, incidentally; he’s not quite that random) to, for example, the time he sent me a whole salmon from Norway through the post, which would have been fine except that he decided it would be easier if he cut it in two, thus rendering the vacuum packing null and void and rendering me unpopular at the local sorting office when I was eventually able to go and pick up my parcel after a week.

He had apparently been mulling over my latest present for months, but the first I knew of it was when I saw him at my sister’s 40th in Fredrikstad on Friday evening. It’s a family heirloom—an antique wooden drinking bowl, once used for drinking mead, that used to hang in my grandparents’ dining room.

Antique Norwegian folk art drinking bowl (serving suggestion)

Although the first thing about it to strike you, the recipient, might be its size and how to go about bringing it back to England, it turns out that the most pertinent thing about it is the word “antique” in the previous sentence. As he was telling me about the fact that he was giving it to me and it was just outside in the car, my father produced the stamped certificate that he had gone and got from Norway’s national museum allowing me to take the bowl out of the country. “You will have to declare this at Customs,” he said. My brother and sister had also received drinking bowls, both of which were slightly more elaborate in design and thus, apparently, were far less likely to be allowed out of the country. I was both moved by the gift and slightly alarmed at the possible scenarios I saw unfolding at Gardemoen airport.

(The birthday party itself went exactly as birthday parties should. At 2am my sister called order from on top of a table in the restaurant, holding aloft a long turquoise scarf. “Something happens to you when you turn 40, both physically and mentally,” she announced. She stood on the scarf like a skipping rope. “Mentally speaking, wisdom is like a rubber band.” She accidentally tore the scarf in two, and regarded it thoughtfully. “It can be divided into two parts.” She waved the two bits of scarf vaguely over her head. “Wisdom is also like rhythm gymnastics,” she said.

“Come and have a drink,” cried someone in the crowd.

“Right,” agreed my sister, and she disembarked from the table.)

At the airport I had to ring for service at the Customs desk. “I’d like to take this out of the country,” I said, presenting the bowl. “Here’s the certificate saying I can.” “Right,” said the officer, uncertainly. “Just a minute.” He took the paper from me and went back into his office, saying the Norwegian equivalent of, “Oi, Terry, you know anything about this?” He returned a couple of baffled minutes later. “Yeah, that’s fine,” he said. Of course, sod’s law dictates that if my dad hadn’t gone to all that trouble, I would somehow have been spotted and hoiked in for questioning before I ever even made it to Duty Free and would right now be furiously demanding to call the British embassy.

No such worries at this end, though. Customs at London City Airport consisted of a red phone. “I’ve got something to declare,” I said. “Where are you?” said the voice. “The red channel,” I said. “Are you at Stansted?” said the voice. “No,” I said. “Ah. What are you declaring?” said the voice. “A wooden bowl from Norway. I have to prove I’m allowed to bring it with me,” I said. “Well, I’m at Stansted airport right now, but thanks for your honesty. Enjoy the rest of your trip,” said the voice. As I replaced the receiver I felt a bit guilty about not mentioning the heroin. Your suggestions are invited for an even more risibly ineffective method of Customs control.


May. 13th, 2008 11:20 am
webofevil: (Default)
So the TV’s on at low volume while I’m doing something else and this Carol Vorderman ad comes on advising people in debt to get slightly more in debt with the company she’s endorsing, and midway through it the start of the phrase “you can rearrange your existing finances”, with all the traffic noise outside, genuinely transmits itself to my ears as “you can wreak vengeance”. I think I prefer this as a model of debt management.

webofevil: (Default)
Should you find yourself with Finnish art students living above you, it’s entirely possible that you will occasionally come downstairs of a morning and be faced with something unexpected drying in the hallway, like this:

(Golden turd, Finnish art student, clay and gold spray, approx 10" in width)
webofevil: (Default)
Another track up on Myspace. Glacial output at the moment, I'm afraid. I mean, who are do they think they are, Kraftwerk?

Plasma Kiser on Myspace

At least last night when I was mastering this I was able to partially answer something that had been bugging me for ages. There's a long stereo extension cable running from my computer to the hard drive multitrack, and one of the connectors was slightly loose. I tightened it and immediately the thing that had been bugging me stopped: while loose, the connector had somehow been functioning as an aerial and had been faintly picking up Asian talk radio. It's undetectable in the Hard-Fi remix, for example, but only because I cut the track off immediately the music stopped—otherwise, in the silence that followed, you would just have been able to make out a caller’s opinions, in Urdu and English, on burning issues of the day...
webofevil: (Default)
... And I’m back in the room. For nearly a week it looked as if my computer was dead and I was going to have to pay through the arse to resurrect what was left of its memory. However, [livejournal.com profile] psychonomy visited and performed his dark magic (students of the occult should note that the rituals seem to consist mainly of swearing), the result of which is that, as far as I can make out, my machine is out of its coma and its memory is unaffected. Apparently, I need do no more than (a) buy an external hard drive to properly back stuff up and (b) owe [livejournal.com profile] psychonomy approximately a vat of cider. This is all good.

I’ve wanted to mention a fair few things over the past week but for now I’ll merely mention this touching and inspiring story of a man who appears to have chased his dream and finally got what he had always desired:
Man who repeatedly jumped out at emergency vehicles killed by emergency vehicle
webofevil: (Default)
Tip: if you find yourself leaving the house and for no apparent reason suddenly feeling taller, in a mildly dizzying way reminiscent of being about 14 and returning somewhere after a few months to find that everything is mysteriously just that bit shorter than it was, and the feeling doesn’t in any way settle so that after 40 minutes of walking you’re concerned that you might be in the grip of a very gentle delirium that somehow doesn’t involve a high temperature, it might just be that when you took your fleece off earlier in the day without remembering to remove your glasses you bent them so that they were in a shape reminiscent of Nicole Kidman’s post-Botox eyebrows.

Should you ever have a burning need to feel slightly taller, however, this is a neat trick to remember.
webofevil: (Default)
Over the years I’ve had difficulty persuading window cleaners to clean my windows, mainly because the windows that really need cleaning are a good 15 feet off the ground above 10-foot deep lightwells surrounded by spiked railings. Perhaps understandably, this arrangement appears to be window cleaner kryptonite. Nonetheless, surely there must be one or two out there who would know how to deal with this setup without, let’s say, dying, but every one that I’ve asked has all but fled screaming. So when a few years ago I found someone had put a post-it through the front door saying “WINDOW CLEANER” with a phone number, I was on the phone in less time than it took you to finish this sentence.

I think I know how this normally works. You arrange with a local window cleaner that they will come round to your house on or around a certain day, when you may or may not be in, and you then pay them soon afterwards on a basis suitable to both parties. File under “not rocket science”.

I found myself talking to the window cleaner’s wife. “When will he next be around?” I asked.

“It doesn’t work like that,” she said. “He doesn’t have a fixed schedule. He travels all over the place.”

“Oh, all right,” I said. “So how do I arrange this?”

“Well,” she said, “on a day when you’re going to be at home, you call in the morning and see if he’ll be in your area that day.”

“Seriously?” I said, after a pause. She became slightly defensive.

A couple of weeks later I found myself at home for the day. Out of curiosity I rang the number. “Is Steve going to be in south London today?” I asked.

“No,” said his wife. I haven’t bothered since.

So my question is: am I missing something here? Is this actually a fantastic business model I simply haven’t grasped? Have I just not understood how I stand to benefit here? I only ask because every six months or so I get another identical post-it through the door, so I guess he’s still making the window cleaning work for him. But how?
webofevil: (Default)
It’s a beautiful day out on Derwent Water. Three of us hire a small boat and head out on a voyage. (In the absence of any photographs, the attached mock-up will have to suffice.) About half an hour into our trip, when we are as far down the lake as it’s possible to go, I take the helm. About three minutes later—while, and I’d like to make this clear, we are adhering to the strict shore-proximity limits made very clear to us before we were allowed to board—our boat bangs into something. “What the hell was that?” says L, but I’m already steering hard to port to take us away from the, no doubt about it, rock that we have somehow ploughed into and, mercifully, escaped unscathed.

We are just at the stage where we have established that we weren’t at fault as there was no marker buoy and we are safe because there’s no water coming in, when there is a different sort of bang and suddenly the engine is revving like an angry hairdryer as we drift helplessly to a halt. Yes, we try turning it off and turning it on again. No dice. We can only move where the current takes us.

This is not an old-fashioned tale of endurance against the odds. It’s an entirely new-fashioned story of a man simply googling the number of the launch hire company on his mobile and ringing for help. Once L has done this, we can only sit and wait. It is, as we have already established, a beautiful day, and the time is passed with only the mildest of recriminations.

When we break down, we are firmly in the middle of the water, a respectable position to break down in. Half an hour later, however, we have drifted inexorably towards the treacherous shallows at the shoreline until we are no more than a humiliating 30 feet from the water’s edge and the road beyond. We call half-heartedly for help from passing tourists and drivers. They stare at us. We stop. “The bus goes from just over there,” says L thoughtfully. We contemplate the water and wonder if it would be worth the chill.

It turns out, when we have eventually been retrieved and towed back, that the gearbox at the bottom of the outboard motor has almost completely sheered off, clearly through fatigue and not as a result of contact with, say, any uncharted rocks. Technically we are due a refund but it’s clearly easier for the guy to offer us another round trip for free, which we take him up on the next day so we can take our friend A out as well.

This time we are determined to be prepared and have brought along Pimm’s and plastic glasses. Unfortunately the weather is a little different today; there’s a stiff breeze and the water is distinctly choppy. We cling determinedly to our Pimm’s as the boat repeatedly smacks down on every wave, cold spray flying over the bow and soaking us. “Are you having fun yet?” cries L, five minutes in. “Are we nearly there?” replies A plaintively.

But eventually the wind dies down and it’s another excellent day, despite our outrageous attempts to tempt fate by venturing back to the exact same area where we hit the rock. (This is deliberate; A is seeking evidence that it actually was a rock, as he reckons that it was probably a scuba diver. If forced to forage for an alternative explanation I would take a side bet on it having been a really big turtle, but that’s my limit.)

The moral of this story is: visit the Lake District. It’s eye-wateringly lovely. Also, just because a collision and a catastrophic engine failure may have happened to occur within twenty minutes of someone taking the wheel, that does not mean that that person is some kind of Jonah, and friends and friends’ wives need not make quite such a big deal of “putting their lives” in that person’s “hands” when that person takes the helm on future occasions.


Jun. 18th, 2007 12:41 pm
webofevil: (Default)
It is time to go to bed when you are flicking through the Freeview TV menu and you misread Sky’s “Secret World of Airports” as “Secret World of Armpits”.


Apr. 16th, 2007 10:31 am
webofevil: (chiraq)
My 12-year-old Norwegian niece explains why she doesn’t ever want to go to the States: “Because of all the bumps.”

“... Bombs?” my mother guesses.

“Bumps,” my niece insists defensively, but it turns out she actually does mean bombs.

“Which bombs?” I ask. “I mean, they have lots of bombs, but normally they drop them on other countries.”

“What about...” My niece fumbles for the word. We let her; she’ll almost certainly find it without any prompting. Her English is impressive, light years ahead of, for example, my Norwegian. My attempts to speak it usually provoke unstifleable giggles, my accent acceptable but my unsteady grasp of grammar and syntax leaving me sounding like a three-year-old with a thyroid problem. “... the flights?”

“Oh, that,” I say after a moment, and suddenly find myself talking about 11 September in terms I never would have thought possible at the time: “Well, look, it only happened once. It doesn’t go on all the time.” (A potential slogan there for the New York tourist authority.)

She won’t be swayed, though. America is apparently full of people flying themselves into buildings and blowing stuff up, and she wants no part of it.
webofevil: (Default)
Memo to me: If you hear what sound like big bloody fireworks going off in clusters at three in the morning, the noise ricocheting around the area but no flashes or bright colours to be seen, then of course it’s the sound of volleys of stun grenades as armed police storm an ex-Rasta temple which is also probably London’s biggest crack den and is, unbeknown to you, half a mile away from your flat. Honestly, it’s so obvious that it barely even needs pointing out.
webofevil: (chiraq)
When I was about 19, I was on the train on the way home to my mum’s for Christmas. At Shoreham, the stop before mine, a guy got on and sat down opposite me. He recognised me; I wouldn’t have known him. “Bloody hell, mate,” he said. “How are you?” I had been to primary school with him. I gave him the gist; university in London, etc. How about him? “Been to prison,” he said, matter-of-factly. If I’d been mid-drink I would have spat it. “Jesus,” I said. “What for?” “Armed robbery, mate,” he said. He didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t particularly want him to. We made unrelated small talk until Worthing and went very separate ways.

On Sunday I was in town again and bumped into someone else from our class who I’ve not seen for at least 10 years. A good 80 per cent of my class seems to have stayed in Worthing, and he seemed to have news about nearly all of them. Turns out the armed robbery guy—for whom prison was the life-changing experience it was designed to be in the first place; it scared the living shit out of him and he determined to do something with himself: he now runs a successful building firm further along the south coast, and good luck to him—had left out one salient detail when I met him that day on the train, one that explains his fairly short sentence, but one that I understand he didn't want to share. I don’t know what the other members of the gang (which included the brother of someone else from my class) were armed with, but he was carrying a cucumber.
webofevil: (do not cross)
As is often the way with wild surmising, my wild surmising the other day was way off the mark. My downstairs neighbour was not removed from the premises in a police van; what I happened to catch sight of was the uniformed driver helping a colleague climb in the back and closing the door behind him. My neighbour wasn’t even arrested, in the event, as he willingly co-operated.

“I went outside to talk to the workmen,” he told me. “They’d parked their bloody great vans on the pavement, four of them, and two cars. You could hardly get to the front door. I went and had a word with them—I’d had a bit to drink—and they got stroppy. One of them told me to fuck off. So I went inside, came back and threw a bucket of water over them.”

Three cars, a van, at least eight officers—for a bucket of water. “That sounds right,” said a police source. “At one in the morning, those officers will have had absolutely nothing to do. The call’s come in, a load of them will have thought, ‘There could be a fight... I’ll have some of that’, and they’ve all hurried round to yours.”

Best thing is that, for the rest of the night in question and the next, the tube workers crammed their several vans into the Underground station car park, where they all just about fit, but getting them all in and out must have been a logistical nightmare. If a bucket of water (with a consequent slap on the wrist) is all it has taken to persuade them to sod off from our bit of pavement, my downstairs neighbour may turn out to be something of a—yes, admittedly wayward and pissed—hero.
webofevil: (do not cross)
Good thing I keep late hours. Twenty past one last night my doorbell rings loud and long. “Oh, this had better be good,” I tell the intercom.

“It’s the police,” it replies.

“Ah,” I say, and go down to let them in. They look me over, decide I’m not their quarry and storm upstairs. They bother the Finns who live there for a few minutes, persuading them to roll up their sleeves to see if they have any tattoos, then come clumping down again when one of them remembers that I mentioned a basement flat.

“Someone came out of your address,” a policewoman tells me, “and had an altercation with one of the workmen outside.” Enough of an altercation, that is, to warrant at least eight uniform and a police van. The detection side of their job has been made slightly easier by the news that the assailant is tattooed.

The workman will have been working for Tube Lines, who are given to parking their vans on the stretch of pavement outside on the odd occasion when there’s major Underground maintenance going on overnight. They had been there in force the previous night, and around midnight yesterday evening I was aware once more of the familiar revving engines and shouty banter.

The police hammer on the door of the basement flat. I hear it answered. They are instantly in no doubt: “Could we talk to you, sir?” His tattoos must be showing. Then a lot of voices talk at once, until I hear one of the men who share downstairs saying “There’s no need, I’m not under arrest,” followed shortly by an incredulous “Am I under arrest?”. He’s under arrest.

My guess is that the workmen have turned up, as has the volume for anyone whose bedroom is out front, and our hero, incredibly drunk as I have occasionally encountered him, has resented this and popped out to have “a word”. This is only wild surmise on my part, however; I wasn’t able to ask him, as he disappeared into the night in the back of a van.

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