Doing battle with daily dragons

Friday, September 30, 2005

Creature Friday

For your consideration...a cat with wings.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

IT COULD BE YOU!!

I have noticed my hit counter in the corner creeping steadily up towards the 10,000 mark. Yes, I suppose a couple of those might have been mine checking up on the site, but I feel pleased and fuzzy inside that anyone's taken the time to read the stuff that pours out of my ears.

In the vein of Alkelda, I shall offer a reward to the 10,000th viewer; a fruit plucked straight from my creativity shrub, if you will.

Happy viewing!

In the Mood

I’m a big fan of packaging. Products that have a big, shiny picture on the outside of what’s on the inside are easy to understand, leading to the phrase, “It does what it says on the tin.”

This is a club in Milton Keynes that we pass every time we head to Xscape for our excursions out on the slope.

You have to admire their honesty.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Kung Fool

Last night I hurt myself. This is not a new thing. While trying to get out of bed this morning (not as easy as it sounds) I got to thinking about whether or not there is anyone else on the planet who has hurt themselves more than me. The only name that sprung to my mind immediately was Jackie Chan.

The reason that Jackie Chan has hurt himself more than me is that Bruce Lee has never kicked me off the top of a 20 foot wall. For this I am eternally grateful. However, when they were asking for volunteers for this particularly ludicrous stunt, a 17 year old Jackie Chan was the first with his hand in the air saying, (in Mandarin, of course)

“Please, Mr. Bruce Lee sir, most talented and twitchy of Kung Fu masters, I would be honoured for my humble chest to briefly play host to your most worshipful foot before plunging 20 feet to my almost certain death as the safety budget on this picture is about the same as you’d pay for a pack of cheese and peanut butter crackers out of the vending machine.”

Later, on a different picture, he let Bruce Lee kick him through a plate glass window.

I would have been last in line (had I been born a Chinese stuntman) for that particular assignment saying,

“Please Mr. Bruce Lee sir, most wiry and terrifying man who can wipe the floor with my entrails, may I please be the last of the approximately 840 men who attack you so that your mighty fist might be tired enough not to rupture any of my very important internal organs?”

To make a long story short, the reason Jackie Chan has hurt himself more times than me is that, while he is a phenomenal athlete and entertainer, he has very little sense of self-preservation. This is why there is now a small plastic plug where a bit of his skull used to be keeping his brains from spilling out of his head.

Most of my injuries have resulted from pure clumsiness rather than violent martial arts encounters. Last night, I had a pretty extreme wipe out on my snowboard. ( I don’t expect any sympathy. I know my track record as far as snowsports go.) What I found the most amazing about the experience is that even though it happened very quickly, I remember the thought process that went through my mind as it was happening.

9.31.01pm- My board hits a surface near the middle of the slope that is less suited for me than it is for Torville and Dean.

My brain: You are about to have a nasty accident at high speed. I hope I am not about to be severed from your spinal column, but since that appears to be the case, it has been nice working with you for the last 30 years or so.

9.31.02pm- Airborne.

My brain: This is going to hurt quite significantly. Please prepare yourself.

9.31.03-05- Impact. Impact. Impact.

My brain: Ow. Ow. Ow.

9.31.06- Stillness. Significant windknock-outage, whiplash and half the slope down my shirt.

My brain: Wow, I hope someone else saw that. There's no point in the pain we're about to suffer if no one witnessed what was most likely a fairly impressive stack. Okay everybody, I need damage reports stat! Fingers? Check. Collarbone. A tentative check. Neck? NECK? Hey uvula, can you give me a visual on the neck?

So here I sit, the morning after unable to turn my head or bend to my left. I am most desirous that no one attempt to sneak up on my in the next 3 days or so.

Or kick me off a wall.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bog Matters

There is an incredibly important world meeting taking place in Belfast this weekend that doesn't seem to be getting the press it deserves. The 2005 World Toilet Summit is meeting to discuss critical issues such as soap (liquid vs. solid) hand dryers (electric vs. paper) and the age old lid up/lid down controversy. Can you imagine the AGM?

Speaker: And now, Number two on our agenda...

Crowd: HA HA HA HA HA!

Speaker: Do you have to do that every year?

Sock It To Me

Today I’m sad. I’m sad because I have to finally admit that it is no longer summer. I know this because when I went to the postbox down the road, I actually had to put on my shoes and a jacket.

The shoes were the real kicker. I would walk around barefoot all year round if I thought that, at some point in January, my toes might turn blue and fall off. I have carefully cultivated hobbit feet. They come out of sock hibernation as soon as the crocuses do, to tread purposefully over loose gravel and other painful surfaces to toughen them up for the event of summer, where they will be lucky to see the inside of any sort of foot covering until round about this time of year. Sadly, I felt the need to open up my sock drawer this morning to prepare my tootsies for the advent of chillier weather. In younger days, I might have been able to hold out til the end of September, but now that I’m old and crotchety and have blood pressure so low that doctors routinely ask me if I’m still breathing, socks are my friend.

In honor of the advent of sock weather, here are several sock related resources for your consideration:

The Bureau of Missing Socks- Solving that age old question of why you end up with a sock drawer full of misfits.

The Sock Shop- The most amazing fun and funky socks to keep the piggies warm in the winter.

Wikipedia- The definitive history of putting socks on your hands and pretending to make them talk to one another. The long arm of your sweatshirt is also useful for this purpose, but tends to get you in trouble with your German professor when using one in class to practice vocabulary with your neighbour.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Memo

Friday, September 23, 2005

Random Music Meme

Another little bit of Friday Fun I gaked from Clive. Take your MP3 player, whack it on "Shuffle" and let it answer the following 13 questions for you. Some of mine made me laugh out loud.

1. What do you think of me, Random Music Player?
Oh Well-Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Nice to know that I inspire indifference in those around me.

2. Will I have a happy life?
Rat in a Cage- Smashing Pumpkins

We’re not off to a great start here.

3. What do my friends really think of me?
Food and Creative Love-Rusted Root

This explains all the dinner parties and affectionate interpretive dance recitals.

4. What does my S.O. think of me?
Book of Love-Peter Gabriel

Result!

5. Do people secretly lust after me?
Nobody’s Girl-Bonnie Raitt

Weak.

6. How can I make myself happy?
Cold Water- Damien Rice

The iPod has obviously never experienced my near boiling point showers. I’m such a wuss, I’d rather not shower than have cold water cascade over my body. EVERYONE who turns on a shower after I’ve been in it ends up doing a naked, “OW HOT HOT HOT!” dance around the bathroom.

7. What should I do with my life?
Nowhere Fast-Bryan Adams

That planned to move to Silverstone is off then.

8. Why must life be so full of pain?
All Because of You- U2

Yet another ringing endorsement of my existence.

9. How can I maximize my pleasure during sex?
(No joke)Wake Up- Alanis Morrisette

This usually does it for most people.

10. Can you give me some advice?
Walk On Down- Aerosmith

Down the street? Down the alley? To Australia?

11. What do you think happiness is?
Closer To Fine-Indigo Girls

Getting closer every day.

12. Do you have any advice to give over the next few hours/days?.
Hiccup-Pink

Has anyone ever had a really extended period of hiccups? It can make you want to kill yourself.

13. Will I die happy?
Casey Jones-The Grateful Dead

Driving the train, high on cocaine...how could I not?

The Greatest Line in the World

Here’s a little Friday morning meme. It's harder than I expected:

- Find your favourite, all-time greatest, FIRST LINE of a movie.
- Find your favourite, all-time greatest line FROM THE BODY of a movie.
- Find your favourite, all-time greatest LAST LINE of a movie.
- Then, using ONLY the words from these quotes, (but not all if you don’t need them) come up with the ALL-TIME GREATEST MOVIE LINE EVER. Extra kudos for creative context!

First Line, from Mallrats:
Brody: (vo) “One time, my cousin Walter got this cat stuck in his ass. True story.”

Body Line, from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead:
The Player King: “We’re actors. We are the opposite of people.”

Last Line, from Amedeus:
Salieri: “Mediocrities everywhere, now and to come: I absolve you all! Amen! Amen! Amen!”

The All-time greatest movie line ever:

The Leading Player of the Happy Valley Sanitorium Amateur Dramatic Society, Willard Lobach, addresses the disheartened cast of his musical version of The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (Working title: Let’s All Stab That Guy in the Bathtub!)

Willard: “People now and to come! We’re actors! True mediocrities! The opposite of my cat Walter. Amen!

Phew!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

iWakenings

All of us look for some order in the chaos once in a while. I imagine this even applies to my iPod.

Obviously rebelling against the permanantly turned on "shuffle" feature or possibly trying to inform me of it's awakening sentience, I was treated, one after the other, to Better Man by Thunder, Better Man by Robbie Williams and Better Man by Pearl Jam.

Either that or it's hitting on me.

A Festive Warning

A message to all of those retailers that I’ve seen stealthily sneaking suspicious red and green boxes with pictures of holly on them into their stock shelves for the past two weeks:

KNOCK IT OFF. I’M SERIOUS. CHRISTMAS IS OVER 3 MONTHS AWAY AND I’VE GOT HALLOWEEN AND THANKSGIVING TO ENJOY BEFORE I DRAG OUT THE TINSEL AND MY “CHRISTMAS WITH FRANK AND BING” CD. (really.)

IF I SEE ONE MORE BOX OF CHRISTMAS CAKE OR HOLIDAY FAMILY ASSORTMANT CHOCOLATE SELECTIONS, I’M GOING TO SHOVE A MINCE PIE SO FAR UP YOUR ASSES YOU WON’T KNOW WHAT KIND OF FRUITY HOLIDAY GOODNESS HIT YOU.

I’m having a bit of festive grumpiness today as I’ve spent some time on the phone ordering Christmas cards for two separate companies. Did I mention that I’ve got the window open and the fan running due to the fact that it’s over 70F outside?

Ask anyone who knows me and you will find out that I looooooove Christmas. I could lick Christmas from head to toe. I’m all over Christmas.

BUT NOT WHILE I’M STILL WEARING FLIP FLOPS.

I inherited Extreme Christmas Joy from my mother who made every festive season in our house while I was growing up utterly amazing with holiday breakfasts, beautiful decorations, fairy lights, extravagant gift-giving and music. I attempt to emulate her enthusiasm here in my own home although I am severely limited in the space and cash departments. I was even the one that convinced my mother-in-law after 6 years to get a proper fairy for the top of their tree to replace the “Holiday Slapper” who topped it when I arrived. (No joke, it was a Barbie Doll in a pink dress and she bugged me big time.) What it all boils down to is that, when the time comes, I am literally ready for a whole heapin’ helpin’ of holiday.

AFTER I PUT MY SHORTS AWAY.

So, I'm watching you retailing whores out there. Don't forget about the mince pie.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cleanliness is Next to Blogliness

Let me tell you why the Rock Star is outside mowing the lawn at 1.30 pm on a work day.

Moot and PPD are coming home tomorrow.

They’ve been on an extended sojourn of Long Beach, CA to attend to some business and some pleasure (A conference and a 35th wedding anniversary on board the Queen Mary, where they met.) leaving BoyRacer, The Rock Star and myself in charge of the house. Not, I imagine for the faint of heart.

I mean, we’re all adults, but as far as our standards of housekeeping go, we are, in a politically correct sense, “differently clean” to my in-laws. We haven’t spent the week throwing chicken bones on the floor for the dog to take care of, or left dirty underwear hanging from lampshades or anything, but from past experience, it’s best to have Moot return to her house and have it look like NO ONE has been living in it for the past 10 days if one does not wish to receive what can only be described as a “mother clucking”.

There are two other people who endeavour to assist us in the cleaning task. They are The Cleaners and they arrive like clockwork at 10 every Monday morning and more often than not, no one is particularly pleased to see them. While they undoubtedly make life easier for Moot in general, for 2 hours every Monday, life invariably gets more complicated.

I try to stifle the snob that lives in my soul. I really do. Education is both a blessing and burden; you become enlightened to many facts, including the level of ignorance that surrounds you.

The Cleaners are mother and daughter; Cleaner the Elder and Cleaner the Younger. Although they obviously see each other on a daily basis, they always seem to have many surprising things to tell one another at great volume while the rest of the house is attempting to conduct business. This is an example:

PPD: (on the phone) Yes, good morning. I’d like to order a dozen units please to be delivered to…

Cleaner the Elder: OOOOH, WASN’T THAT A DAY ON SATURDAY, YOUNG JIMMY GETTING CIRCUMSIZED?

Cleaner the Younger: OOOOH YEAH, HE CRIED AND CRIED, DIDN’T HE?

PPD: …Um…to be sent to….

Cleaner the Elder: OOOH, YES HE DID! WHAT A LITTLE PAIR OF LUNGS HE’S GOT!

Cleaner the Younger: OOOOH YES, BLESS HIS COTTONS!

PPD: Can I call you back?

And so on and so forth. One cannot help hear this sort of conversation and many other vaguely more disturbing ones in the course of the day, the gist of which could be dramatically improved if either would simply pick up a newspaper that didn’t have a topless woman on page 3.

At any rate, the Cleaners have been and gone this week, making our task of tidying slightly less of a hard slog.

However, having said that, I’m off to grab a broom.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Prepare to Be Boarded

Yarr, Ahoy, Avast and so-forth. I hope everyone is intending hearty celebrations in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The morning has certainly kicked off to pirate-y start in our little enclave when I was thanked for making grog (tea) by the shivering maties above decks. (The guys that work in the attic)

With a yo ho ho and the like.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Creature Friday

I'm usually completely bolloxed by Friday and in the absence of any real substance, you get yet another creature.

I've discussed my dabble into the world of D&D on several occasions. At it's most enjoyable point, I played with 2 DMs who were not only actors, but playwrights as well, with an enormous talent for writing interesting campaigns. One of them wrote in an encounter with a group of tinker gnomes who were severely accident prone due to the nature of their brilliant but useless inventions. Hence, the rocket powered rocking horse.

On the theme of rocking apparatus, The Rock Star and I ran across one of these at a crafts fair (which, to protect his badass reputation, was totally my idea) a few weekends ago. When we suceed in spawning, you can better believe that one of these is on the cards.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Music for a Thursday

The Independent did a feature article on British artist Imogen Heap this week and I only just got around to downloading her track "Hide and Seek" today from iTunes.

It's not often a random recommended song totally kicks my butt, but this one does. It could do without the vocoder strangeness, but at the same time the effect gives it an edge. Not like when Madonna uses it and sounds like a former-exhibitionist- attention- whore- who's- outlived- her- career- and- should- probably- stick- to- riding- and- hunting- well- maybe- not- riding- alien.

See what you think. Click on the "Hide and Seek" video. The visuals aren't particularly important. Just kick back and listen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Non-Traditional Education

LawGirl sent me a little note this morning with a touch of the ridiculous to it:

There's this non-trad, first-year law student who finished his undergrad at Harvard who has submitted a formal proposal to the faculty to improve Valpo's (Valparaiso University, Indiana) school rank by requiring all students to stand up and enunciate when they answer in class. Upon being informed of this in Honor's ConLaw, a student remarked ..."I don't know if it will improve our rank that much when I stand up and they see that I've peed myself..."

Ah, the glorious, time honoured tradition of the non-traditional student.

It seemed that every class I took at college had one. In subjects such as Intro to Physics or Latin American History from 1700 to the Present, (yes, I reall did take that class) they blended into the rest of the note-taking throng. However, in classes like Sociology, Christian Ethics or Aesthetics, they made right nuisances of themselves. I imagine they used this equation when working out their role within the class:

if
my age > age of classmates
and
professor’s age > age of pupils
then
professor = me

therefore if
my age > age of classmates
and
age = knowledge= right to an opinion
then
my knowledge/ right to an opinion > knowledge/right to an opinion of my classmates

Now, obviously I'm totally for education at any stage of life. If I get a Master's one day, its likely I'll be a good deal older than I am now, but I hope I'll still be cool. There was one grandmother on my theatre course who listened to club music, drove like a maniac, drank like a fish and had us in stitches the whole time. The kind of non-trad I’m talking about is the overweight 50-ish bald guy who sits at the back of the room, tries to co-teach the damn class along with the professor and asks complicated questions that require 20 minute answers in the last 2 minutes of the session. Does anyone else know that guy?

However, following my non-traditional student rant, this very much related story has been being followed by the BBC for about a year or so. Since Kenya made primary school education free in 2004, huge numbers of poor children have been able to take advantage of some basic learning, but the big story is this guy. An 85 year old man called Nganga Maruge has also taken advantage of the system to receive the education that he never had. He’s in the same class as several of his 30 grandchildren and even wears a school uniform. "To me,” he said, “Liberty is going to school and learning." This week, he boarded a plane for the first time in his life and travelled to the UN to call attention to the plight of children denied an education due to extreme poverty. This guy is doing something extraordinary in his twilight years when most of us hope to be sitting comfortably in a big chair watching re-runs of Coronation Street. He is as non-traditional as it gets. In fact, he holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest person ever to start school.

When sorting through all of the awfulness of the daily headlines, this story has a coolness factor of 20 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mis-spelled Tomfoolery

See? I TOLD you my husband was a Rock Star.

Here he is with his erstwhile Mis-spelled buddies on a recent photoshoot; from the left. The Cheerful Idiot, The New Guy, The Rock Star, Captain Hairy and The Nudist all looking very musically contemplative on an industrial estate in Aylesbury.

If you have a look at the other shots, I'm sure you'll come across the one The Rock Star hopes I won't show my mother.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Last Night in the Mud

I have a huge affection for my adopted country.

This is the scene: Saturday evening. The air is sultry and threatening. Indeed, distant rolls of thunder can be heard above the guy who’s singing “Jerusalem” directly into my left ear. The Rock Star, myself, The Chorister and her significant other, The Playwright, are sitting in the middle of a seething mass of humanity in Hyde Park for the Last Night of the Proms. We make it through the salmon sandwiches, the humus and Pringles, the cous-cous, the cherry tomatoes and most of a pitcher of Pimms while enjoying the sultry sounds of the BBC Big Band, Claire Teal and a Queen Tribute act before The Chorister reports feeling the first large droplet of rain.

The Rock Star and I are nothing if not prepared for once in our lives. Taking long boat trips during an English summer often necessitate the donning of full waterproofs which we fortuitously brought along for just such a turn of events. The Rock Star was particularly relieved to find his, as the only other ones that fit him belong to PPD and would be more appropriate on an off-shore oil platform in a force 10 gale rather than a spot of drizzle at a picnic. Did I mention that they also happen to be nuclear orange?

So here’s what I love. Did the rain stop the picnics? No, the umbrellas and tarpaulins sprouted like magnificent, waterproof flowers. Did the lightening stop the show? No, although we were disappointed that it missed it’s cue during “Bohemian Rhapsody”. (Thunderbolt and lightning/very very frightening) Did the deluge that followed dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for the traditional finale? Of course not! (To be honest, the inexplicably long stint of Mick Hucknall on stage drove more people away than the rain.) Dammit, it was summertime and everyone was going to bloody well enjoy themselves. As long as you could keep your champagne from getting watered down, and your union jack from sticking to itself, everything else was secondary.

And, despite the heaven’s opening, I do enjoy a good sing-song, even if it does extol the Victorian, empire-building values of 19th century imperialists. I’ve always had a niggling thought at the back of my mind, however, that there might be someone from the US state department just behind me, waiting to throw me in a dark cell somewhere should the first few notes of “God Save the Queen” escape my lips.

So, as we trudged back to the car park through the quagmire feeling slightly soggy and uplifted, we reflected on the satisfying end of another British summer.

I’ll be expecting them to come for my passport later this week.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rock Demon

I have nothing of value to contribute today, so here is a horned, winged, chicken-footed demon playing a Fender Strat.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Stickonomics

I got pissed off this morning as I was sitting all scrunched up in my bathtub. So I decided to write to my MP to complain about it.

Dear Mr. Bercow,

I’m sick of trying to squeeze my ass into a child size bathtub every morning and trying not to drench the whole room when I wash my armpits.

Please do something about making it easier to buy a house so me and my fat ass can shower in peace.

Kind Regards,

Blogapotamus Rex, constituent, Aylesbury Vale.

All kidding aside, I was doing a little research this morning for the letter which, if I do say so myself, presents the argument beautifully. It breaks down like this:



This is an average couple living in Great Britain. They're white. Other colors don't show up well on pink, so don't bug me about it.



Their individual average yearly salaries come out to £22,411 ($41,203)

They want to buy a house.


The current average house price in Great Britain is £161,700 ($297,523) Just for the record, the average in OUR area is £219,260. ($403,472)


The current mortgage lending rate is 3.5 times their combined salaries, which is about £156,000. This is not taking into account other factors like children or existing debt.


This means that a couple with an AVERAGE YEARLY INCOME of £44,822 a year is left with a £10,000 shortfall when buying a house at the CURRENT AVERAGE PRICE.


This, of course, leads to drinking.
Just this morning, the Bank of Scotland patronizingly suggested that first-time buyers “take advantage of real estate opportunities in the north of the country.” Which, in my mind is a smarmy way of saying, “So what if you have to leave your families, friends, homes and businesses? We’d really appreciate you freeing up the room for our fat cronies to buy their second homes which they’ll then rent out to financiers from the city who want weekend retreats. Be good peasants and move along quietly before we bring the dogs.”

The fight goes on…

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Truth & Lies

This is an old meme, but I seem to be having a bit of a slow day today.

10 Truths, 5 Lies

1. I was once threatened with arrest for soliciting.

2. I have punched someone in the face

3. I once shaved my head.

4. I am orally fixated.

5. I have kissed a girl.

6. I have an irrational fear of ladybugs.

7. I was once injured in a major bar fight.

8. I once skipped work to get drunk.

9. I have played naked soccer.

10. I have a secret passion for country western music, Keith Urban in particular.

11. I sleep with a teddy bear.

12. I have exposed myself in front of a theatre full of people.

13. I was once shouted at in the airport by a member of Elton John’s entourage.

14. I have accused a member of the clergy of witchcraft.

15. I have 6 individual pieces of body art.

And now for the Truth and the Lies.

1. True- When I was 15, I was waiting for my father outside a Laundromat next to a payphone in the middle of downtown Frederick. A cop came by and told me he “didn’t like my kind” on his beat and I’d better move along if I didn’t want to go to the station. I was completely bewildered until it dawned on me that he believed I was a prostitute.

2. True- You know that kid at your school who you feel sorry for but his social skills are so appalling that you can’t help but hate him at the same time? He caught me at a bad moment.

3. False- I experimented briefly with clippers, but never had the guts to go all the way.

4. True- I have a pen cap in my mouth as we speak.

5. True- I recon there are very few women who get out of university without having snogged another woman. It’s totally just like kissing a guy, only with less stubble.

6. False- Very few flying things bother me, save for wasps, who can die in torment.

7. True-It’s not often that real, wild west style brawls break out in bars, but I got in the middle of one (which had nothing to do with me, I assure you.) and ended up with legs so badly bruised, I was on crutches for a couple of days.

8. True- Although I didn’t really plan it that way. It was too hot to work, so I called in sick and drink gin and lemonade all day with my housemate.

9. True- It was pretty dark. I think the goalie came off worst; one of the girls playing kicked a ball at the male goalkeeper, we all heard a loud smack and then saw him crumple like a piece of paper.

10. False- Keith Urban may be an attractive man, but even a pretty face can’t make me like country music.

11. True- Einstein is his name. I’ve had him since I was 10. Luckily, The Rock Star likes him too.

12. True- I was playing a pantomime villainess and had to carry the “unconscious” ingénue off stage over my shoulder. Sadly for me, one of my boobs escaped in front of a packed house at the Bristol Opera House in Indiana eliciting the sort of response you’d expect from a small town crowd in the Midwest.

13. False- “You filthy little pig! Make way for His Royal Campness before you feel my boot!”

14. True- I’m 2 years old and sitting in a supermarket trolley when some nuns walk down the aisle. “Look, Daddy, witches!” I shout gleefully. My father moves further away from me.

15. False- I only have 3.

Kum Bah Ya

We’ve been having some beautiful cool, damp mornings in these dying days of summer. For the last few mornings, as I’ve stepped out on the deck of Galileo, I’ve been reminded of my time served at summer camps when I was young. (er) (My parents would most likely reprimand me for referring to “my youth” at 30 years of age)

Summer camp is a uniquely American kind of tradition. Brits that I’ve met have only really experienced the phenomenon through instructional videos such as “Friday the 13th”, “Meatballs” and the gritty documentary, “Ernest Goes to Camp”. To be fair, a good deal of the Hollywood summer camp experience rings true, (canoeing, campfires, ghost stories, panty raids, bugs, etc) although it does take a few liberties. (mass-murdering un-dead psychopath hiding in the lake, murdering fallen virgins.)

I spent 3 summers at Camp Manidokan just up the river from Harper’s Ferry. It was a church sponsored camp, so perhaps my experience might have been vaguely different from someone who attended a secular camp. (At a secular camp, there was no real moral code that prohibited one camper from hitting another camper over the head with a dead snake.) I remember it with tremendous feelings of fondness now, although I’m fairly sure that, at the time, the weeks I spent there were full of tremendously bewildering feelings.

As I was 12, 13 and 14 during my years at Manidokan, I believe that one of my main focuses was probably trying to find someone to snog. I wasn’t an entirely attractive pre-teen; while my skin remained mercifully clear, I endured the social death of braces, which I wore for 4 of the most formative, cruel, growing up years that anyone who has ever been a teenager endures. But, as most awkward teens find, the people you want to snog are always wrapped around someone not quite so awkward, which tends to fill one with the idea that one is, and forever shall be, intrinsically un-lovable. So, Marc Pepper, wherever you are, now that I am 30 and married, I forgive you.

The nostalgia I’ve been experiencing for the last few mornings has little to do with the hormonal mishaps of youth, however, but rather the memory of waking up in the forest in a vaguely damp sleeping bag (due to condensation, although there was always the temptation to dampen your bag personally rather than endure the trek to the outhouse in the middle of the night where you would undoubtedly be savaged by Screaming Jenny or the Dwayo or whatever hellish monster was reportedly waiting out there for you.) and watching the sun come up through the trees. The early morning trek down to the bath house where you’d endure a cold same-sex group shower (with everyone in bathing suits, of course) was the most brilliant way to wake up; the woods coming alive, the early sun on your face, the smell of pancakes drifting out from the cafeteria and the promise of a challenging day, whether it meant the gruelling all-day hike up Maryland Heights, the long canoe trip down river to Harper’s Ferry, or the slog through the forest to the swimming hole that was turn-you-inside-out cold.

My favourite part of the week was inevitably the last night when we moved all of our sleeping bags up to the campfire hill and spent the night, weather permitting, under the stars. There were always a lot of smores, dramatic, teary good-byes, stolen fumbly kisses, (I can only imagine) and laughter that was impossible to stop even when tired, cranky counsellors threatened to throw all offending parties on the bonfire. (The spirit of Christ, though meant to be present throughout the week, was wearing a little thin by Saturday night.)

I hope that when I have kids at that age, I can find somewhere in the woods to legally leave them for a week or two so they too can discover the joys and fellowship of the Great Outdoors.

But first, I’ll tell them about Screaming Jenny.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Value of Charity

Here’s a moral conundrum for you on a sticky Monday morning that the Rock Star and I chatted about over the weekend. It starts with an example:

Driving home from a gig on Friday night, around about 3.30am, we noticed what we thought to be a large sack of rubbish lying on the pavement about 200 yards ahead of us. However, when our headlights reached it, it turned out to be a guy lying on the pavement by the side of the road in the middle of just about nowhere with his head in the street and the rest of him on the sidewalk.

“That’s not good.” I said, as we came to a halt inches from the prone reveller.

The Rock Star told me to stay in the car and took his phone in case medical assistance was needed. Luckily, it wasn’t.

“You alright, mate?” the Rock Star ventured.

“Huh?” said the Guy Lying in the Street.

“You’re lying in the street, mate. Are you alright?”

“Oh yeah, man, I just got kinda tired.”

“Um, if you’re gonna sleep, maybe you’d like to do it in the grass over there?”

“No, man, where’s the fun in that?”

And with that The Guy Formerly Lying in the Street got up and happily wandered toward what we hope was his place of residence.

So here’s the thing: Does an act of charity still have the same worth depending on the motives behind it, or is it merely enough that it is an act that does good? The Rock Star and I stopped because…well, that’s what you do if you see a guy lying in the middle of nowhere on the pavement with his head in the road. He was kind of big and scary and neither of us actually WANTED to stop, but…that’s what you do. What I’m wondering is if we had stopped out of genuine desire to do good, would that be worth more morally in the Great Book of Whatever? Or is it enough that we stopped?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

High Times

Sundays are good days for adventures.

While sitting in the beer garden of a lovely local village pub, The Hairy One suddenly perks up from the bottom of his lager.

"Oh my god, we should go to the Field of Joy."

Fearing some masturbatory slacker slang, The Rock Star and I look at eachother with a certain amount of trepidation, however the rest of our party seemed keen on the idea as well, having already been aquainted with said piece of acreage.

"Erm, what?" ventured the Rock Star.

"It's the biggest field of weed you've ever seen in your life," replied Captain Hairy, with his trademark dirty smile.

The Hairy One pulled out his phone and proceeded to search through his photos to show us visual proof that nearby, there were in fact at least 3 football fields full of hemp. Having been convinced that that was a sight that we needed to see, we all piled in cars various (our slacker type friends in their mismatched, misfiring 70's era Beetles and us into our rather more comfortable, quiet and grown up Seat Altea) to go in search of this veritable field of dreams.

It is, of course, not of the smoking variety. A field of pot the size of Central London in rural Buckinghamshire would likely be noticed by the authorities sooner rather than later and by the local burnboys even sooner than that. The field in question is a field of male plants used in manufacturing of twine, fabric and other goods that people often buy at canal and rock festivals to show how subversive they are by purchasing goods "that are made out of weed, man."

The fields themselves were vast, looking rather more like they belonged in a jungle in Cuba rather than in the sedate English countryside. The Hairy One stared wistfully over the tops of the plants, speculating on the existance of a private stash of female plants in the centre of the crop. We dragged him away eventually. We love Captain Hairy, but being that he often is unable to find his ass with both hands tied behind his back, we were doubtful of his ability to distinguish the difference between two virtually identical plants.

The joys of country living.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Arachnight

Last night’s electrical storm was something to behold. It had been on the cards all day; the air was swampy and the smell of ozone made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

The Rock Star was in Aylesbury haggling out his troubles with the Mis-spelled Band when it all started. I had all the windows on the boat open due to the heat of the day. When you live in a well-insulated steel tube, 85 degree sunny days are not your friend. Anyone who’s ever gotten into a car that’s been left in the sun all day will know that sometimes it’s just easier to sit outside for a while rather than sit in the sauna that is your car’s interior. At least on the boat, you don’t burn yourself on the seat belts.

The lightning had been going for sometime without thunder. I know where I grew up we called it “heat lightning”, just because it usually proceeded a doozy of a thunderstorm on hot evenings. And it was no different last night. I heard the rain coming up the canal just in time to race through the boat and shut all of the open windows before it crashed down on top of the boat, like someone spilling marbles from 1000 feet up. (Hard rain is a noisy affair on Galileo.)

Then the thunder started in earnest, accompanying the constant illumination of the lightning. It was mostly ignorable; I was reading a book and had the television on for company. Ftn’s deplorable “Most Haunted” series was on, complete with hysterical female host and extremely camp “spiritual medium”. I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the show but just as the resident of a “haunted house” was explaining that her television set mysteriously went on and off at night, a massive bolt of lightning fell nearby followed by an almighty thunderclap that knocked out the electricity to the marina. I laughed out loud.

But oh, my laughter rang hollow in my ears when I realized I was not only sitting in darkness, but that I was not alone. I had company. And it had more legs than a kick line at Radio City Music Hall.

The open windows on the boat draw in the wrong crowd; mosquitoes, moths, Daddy Long Legs and other mischievous and anti-social flying things whose only purpose seems to be dining upon us or trying to invade various exposed orifices while we sleep. For this reason, we let spiders stay. Sure, they get cheeky now and again, trying to spin a web across the bathroom door or in the middle of the kitchen, hoping to pull off a serious spider coup-de-tat, but for the most part, they stay out of our way and munch mainly upon things that annoy us. However, they have a rather unpleasant habit of growing larger.

Entering the bedroom lit only by the lights powered by the boat’s battery, I discovered, to my horror, 3 spiders hanging directly above the bed; all larger than a 50p piece. They looked to be family, all with identical markings, looking as if they were perhaps attempting to perform some feat of aerial acrobatics involving a very small trapeze. (Hurry, hurry hurry, step right up! Come and see the Amazing Flying Arachnid Brothers!) The shadows from the harsh lighting made them look all the more leggy.

Spiders don’t bug me too much, as long as they’re small, but these guys exceeded the maximum size allowable indoors, so I went to get a glass to turn them out.

The first two came quietly with a minimum amount of protest (“It’s a fair cop,” they seemed to say, “I am a bit of a whopper.”) but the third staged a daring drop onto the duvet (nightmare scenario) leapt over the side and scuttled into the closet. (another nightmare scenario. No one wants a spider in their pants.) Luckily, he chose The Rock Star’s shoe to conceal himself in which was easily upended out the bedroom window. He spidered away in the darkness, sulking.

Having triumphed over the creepy trio, I turned to find a much smaller spider moving as fast as he could toward the window.

“Don’t get any ideas.” I told him.

5.48pm- Just as a footnote...this is how NOT to get rid of spiders in your home.