Quick and incoherent thoughts on my return…

Most important: go to Texas, because virtually everything you think about Texas and Texans is wrong, and since coming back I’ve decided it’s actually Europeans who are dreadful people – snotty, self-important, dismissive, ignorant, petty, humourless nations with a proud history of persecution and a propensity to dictatorship. (Post-holiday blues, moi?)

Texans are great. Humour as dry as a bone, enormously hospitable and all consumed with an honest curiosity about why on earth anyone would come visit them.

I am going to be saying “Awesome!” a lot for the next couple weeks.

My mates are also great people. Ten days hanging around with such focused, straightforward, do-y people did me the power. Thanks, guys.

Swimming is awesome. I need to do more.

Tubing is not just awesome, it’s totally awesome, but doing it on the Guadalupe River at 40 Celsius is going to be rather nicer than doing it on the Thames in October, so that’s one to save for a future trip.

Aside: the ice-cream place where M bought me a bakewell tart ice-cream in Richmond today is also awesome, but is not Diet.

The Ford Escape is the worst, sorriest, most appalling excuse for a simulation of something which might under the right circumstances qualify as a vehicle that I want to write to its design team and invite them to explain themselves very briskly indeed. Whether it was drifting round corners if taken at above 2 mph, creaking as though it were ship-built, or just being completely and utterly gutless, it never once gave me a moment’s pleasure. Driving it for a week ought to be reserved for people who hurt kittens for pleasure.

I have now eaten in a revolving restaurant. (In the linked page, I am the diner on the right, enjoying a typically low-key soft drink.) And we got there by going along the River Walk — a successful urban regeneration project for once….

Perfect final activity: watching beer be bottled, sterilised, labelled and packed in the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, “the cleanest little town in Texas”.

Texans are proud of things; it seems to come naturally to them. On the odd occasion they do have to go looking a little harder for the prize, though. I was constantly expecting women to mention in passing that their son, Skeeter, was the tallest pre-pubertal Caucasian teen born south of San Antonio on a Thursday since 1972.

Should more spring to mind, there will be updates.

A Little Bit of History

Only a little bit, mind you, but I am really, really glad that the magic of technology has helped me spruce up and rescue this audio file. It’s an “interview” (I was a singularly incurious interviewer at the time, under the influence of puberty and obligation) recorded when I was I suppose 13 and my nan was in her late 60’s, about her experiences in the war.

Personally, I spent 8 minutes yelling “ASK HER MORE ABOUT THAT BIT!!!!” at my former self, but hearing her voice again after getting on for 17 years was pretty extraordinary in itself. Thanks I guess are due to whichever of my teachers at Treviglas got me to do it; I suppose it must have been Mr. Firmston (history), but it could equally have been Mrs. Sleep (English).

Anyway, my own personal blast-from-the-past. 1991 or 1992 vintage. I rescued this off tape; how long will an mp3 on the internet last? Makes you feel like a donation to the Wayback Machine, or “rogue archivist” Carl Malamud, or if you like the big picture, the Long Now foundation.

Plymouth in the Blitz

[gplayer href=”/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/PlymouthInTheBlitz.mp3″ ] Plymouth in the Blitz [/gplayer]

Do yell if this doesn’t work in your browser.

Why I Loved The Hotels I Stayed In Last Night

  1. The first hotel did not have a room
  2. … and thought my distinctly feminine roomie was a bloke …
  3. … so OF COURSE we couldn’t share a double bed! because that would be, y’know, like, GAY or something …
  4. The second hotel only had one wedding on
  5. Their bar and indoor swimming pool shared a room. Stinging-eyes cocktail bonus!
  6. Wait, their bar and indoor swim… never mind.
  7. They did a buffet English breakfast…
  8. … but waiter “service” for toast and coffee …
  9. … which therefore arrived shortly after I’d finished my main breakfast …
  10. … which I had to complete by 0930 ON A BANK HOLIDAY SUNDAY for some completely incomprehensible “reason”
  11. … and my plate was removed from in front of me while I was still eating.
  12. Fortunately the wedding party only set the fire alarm off twelve times at 1am

Moral of story:
Do not stay in tourist hotels. Ring ahead and check that they think they’ve sold you what they’ve actually contracted to supply. Never dip below four stars.

I feel like a freed hostage.

Is This Really The End Of The World?

So the coalition has released its agreed priorities with admirable promptness. Glad I didn’t bother with the manifestos; now I can read two at once.

Disclosure: I am a non-politico, but I have friends with strongly held views across the spectrum. And I also understand the difference between a stated intent and an executed policy, but I am essentially handing out the rope here for these good folks to use.

But essentially, I was kind of hoping we’d get the Tories doing the financial stuff and the LibDems doing the social stuff, because the Tories may have detoxed after the bitter insult of Section 28, but I am not going to blindly start trusting them without some evidence of goodwill. The work is for them to do, not me.

Overall verdict: a lot of fine words, a lot of stuff I want to think about more, but this may not be the end of all things as we know them.
Continue reading

The State of Denmark

In a rare show of unity, everyone announced today that everyone else was hideously corrupt, whilst pocketing a fat brown envelope.

Used fivers spilling out of their pockets, everyone was quick to point out that that other person over there, that shifty looking one, had definitely stuffed one of the tenners falling out of their shirtsleeves into the already groaning breast pocket of that guy, possibly whilst doing something illegal to a third person. Commentators brushed aside piles of money to point out that the third person could almost certainly sue, thus substantially enriching themselves and their lawyers.

Lord Haveringill-Fothersmyth, a cross-bench peer available at reasonable hourly rates, charged ¬£375 to sketch out for our correspondent on the back of a blank cheque for sixty-three thousand pounds drawn on the account of a major consultancy exactly how it was that corruption had entered the very highest levels of government, apart from the bits he was involved in, as well as the media and sport. “Mistakes have been made,” declared Lord Haveringill-Fothersmyth, “and lessons will be learnt. This is a clear indictment of — what was it you wanted me to blame again?” [Ed: No! Cut this bit. His solicitors have been on the phone all afternoon and I have a week’s fact-finding in the Bahamas at stake on this.]

Next: read on for our shocking expos√© of corruption in the charming Hawks & Ballarat Islands, this year’s go-to holiday destination. Why not treat your loved one to “Beauty under the Sun”(TM)?

It’s a good job…

… that I didn’t go out and buy a Sony PRS-505 the other day. If I had, I’d have been tempted to eschew Sony and Waterstones’ generous promise that prices will be “Much the same as normal paperbacks” by finding a copy of, say, Neal Stephenson’s new opus Anathem on a site like Fictionwise (because Waterstones only have it in hardback and couldn’t bear the thought of cannibalising their own sales… another industry finds its Inner Dinosaur), pay for it in US Dollars, then use DRM removal tools in order to get it into a format the Reader can handle. And then not only would I have it the moment it came out, for less than the hardback price, instantly and conveniently, having saved Waterstones the trouble of trundling it around the country (and the planet the CO2 that that would have cost), but I would probably also be utterly engrossed in the doings of Fraa Erasmas and virtually unable to conduct my own life because of this engrossment.

Phew! What a relief that DRM keeps us from nightmare scenarios like this, eh?


Right. Jolly good. I’ve had the most marvellously busy couple of months, which has kept me out of trouble and off the interwebs, probably to everyone’s benefit.

I’ve had three conversations with three separate people* lately which brushed gently across the same territory. The topic is, as you have probably guessed by now, my artistic input. Since you’re reading this, you fairly certainly know or are aware of me to some extent. You know that I lead a telly-free life here in the civilised London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, spending my evenings running loads through the washing machine on inappropriate programmes for thrills, and occasionally dipping into the print media to keep the old thinker ticking over. Continue reading