Friday, 30 November 2012

Revealing Bigfoot.

I’ve been unable to make a post for about twelve hours because there was a fault in the blogger system. It seems to be working normally again now (fingers crossed) so I can note something else I read in the news yesterday.

An American veterinary scientist claims to have some genuine Sasquatch hair, and further claims that genetic analysis gives an interesting result. It seems the female line is normal human, but the male line originates with some unknown hominid (for which read ‘ape-like.’) This interests me for two reasons:

1. I had no idea that there was any reliable evidence that Sasquatch actually exists. If there is, why isn’t it being trumpeted? Is there knowledge here that isn’t being made public?

2. Given some of the people I’ve known in my life, I suspect there might be more Bigfeet wandering around unnoticed than we imagine..

OK, the second is merely being facetious, but Ms Scientist goes on to make another interesting point. If her findings are right, she says, then Sasquatch should be given the status of ‘indigenous people,’ with all the legal protection thus afforded. This is to save it from those who like to go around killing things just so they can have some sort of trophy to hang on the wall. Could this, I wonder, be the reason why some knowledge isn’t being made public?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dog Star and Dog Devotion.

Tonight’s lesson: where to look for Sirius. OK, found it, but there’s a problem. I’m going to have to go out later at night if I want to see it, because it’s below the eastern horizon at the time I usually go out. The problem is, I don’t how much later.

In coming by this intelligence, however, I also came across a nice story.

Prince Sidhistra went looking for heaven, along with his brothers and his dog, Svana. The brothers all gave up, but Sidhistra persevered and Svana stayed with him. Eventually he found it, but only he was allowed in; they wouldn’t take the dog. ‘Bugger that,’ says Sidhi. ‘It’s both of us or I don’t come in.’ They were both allowed in.

That’s a nice story, isn’t it? I’d shed a tear if only I could find a hand to squeeze.

Colour Shifts and Saying it with Tears.

Tonight’s Dracula update:

(Well, sort of update anyway.)

Having previously remarked on Jonathan Harker’s propensity to colour shifts, we now have a new one. I quote:

‘Then her husband (Jonathan) turned to her, wan-eyed and with a greenish pallor which subdued the snowy whiteness of his hair…’

It seems that while Dracula’s poison is gradually turning Mina into a vampire, Jonathan is offering some compensation by becoming an oompa-loompa. Hey,ho; that’s Victorian England for you – nothing if not well balanced.

And talking of Victorian England, I can’t help noting that the ‘ordinary’ male characters – those whom Mina is want to call ‘good, brave men’ about twice a page on average – are rather excessively given to weeping and squeezing one another’s hands. It is with some relief, however, that when Mina asks them to promise that they will kill her should the vampire’s poison take her too far along the road of diabolical transition, they are too emotional for tears. Oh, good.

Tabloid Interpretation.

Every year in Britain (and presumably most other places, too) the death rate rises during the winter. This is due to such things as elderly people being more prone to illness during the winter, a generally greater risk of accidents etc. The extent to which the winter rate exceeds that for the rest of the year is measured and used for the purpose of comparison, and today it was reported that the ‘excess deaths’ for last winter were encouragingly lower – at around 24,000 – than they had been for the previous year. One news source I saw headlined this as:

Winter Kills 24,000 People!

I do believe there are probably people around the country who think that 24,000 people froze to death last year.

A Satisfactory Explanation.

There was a news report today concerning two policemen who went on trial charged with racially aggravated assault, following allegations that they had used racist language to members of the public. They were both found not guilty. One policeman admitted telling a black man that he looked like a monkey, but said he had merely been discussing evolution. Oh, right. That explains that one.

Bye for Now.

I bought another bottle of that IPA US Craft Beer today. My excuse for being so profligate was that it was my birthday, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it might become a weekly treat. It goes very well with hot buttered toast in the wee small hours.

For now, however, I’m going to take leave of absence for a little while. One of the things Mel brought over for my birthday was a lend of her Jonathan Creek DVD collection, and these are mostly early episodes that I never saw on the TV. My disc drive awaits.

Later or tomorrow, therefore…

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Finding Beetlejuice.

I now have another constellation under my belt (no pun intended.) Orion, this time. I’ve been noting those three stars in a line for quite a while, but for some reason I always had the idea that the stars in Orion’s belt were closer together. Tonight I came to the near-certainty that they were, indeed, Orion’s middle bit, so I made a mental note of the positions of other stars and checked with a website when I got back. Yup, I’ve found Orion, which means that the star top left is Betelgeuse!!! (or Beetlejuice if you prefer.) I even guessed that the missing star was Saiph, and that it was below the horizon. Getting clever, aren’t I?

And to move on from the astronomical to the astrological, today is my birthday. It’s also the night of the full moon, which is unusually bright (and was positioned a little further north than the full moon usually is at 8.45pm, which caused Miss Sarah’s cottage to be illuminated quite brilliantly.) Furthermore, my ruling planet Jupiter is very close to her (Mistress Moon, that is, not Miss Sarah,) which must bode something, mustn’t it?

She was casting very deep shadows, of course, and in one of them something moved. It was The Beast of New House Farm again, out on his nightly patrol. He didn’t wait to be invited this time, but approached me of his own volition. After a brief pat on the head he wandered off towards the pub, which makes me wonder whether he and Cassie (the publican’s dog) are now an item. Maybe he’s a Sagittarian, too.

Intrepid, but Soggy.

Tonight’s Dracula update:

The intrepid vampire hunters have had their first physical encounter with their quarry. It was a draw, more or less. There were no wrecks and nobody drownded, and nobody got bitten. Phew. So, the field having been neither won nor lost, they retired before sunset to Mina’s lodging in Dr Seward’s asylum, there to keep an eye on her during the dangerous hours.

She makes a nice little speech, in which she tells them that they mustn’t hate the Count. They must hunt and destroy him, but they must remember that he is a tortured victim, too, and so they should see their mission as freeing his mortal soul to go to the place where mortal souls are supposed to go. (Warning: I’m afraid there’s an awful lot of God, Jesus and Heaven in this book.)

Mina’s speech is rational, compassionate and tightly written. You begin to warm a little towards Stoker’s writing – until you read the next paragraph. I can only quote it verbatim to make the point.

‘We men were all in tears now (it’s an extract from Dr Seward’s diary.) There was no resisting them, and we wept openly. She wept too, to see that her sweeter counsels had prevailed. Her husband flung himself on his knees beside her, and putting his arms round her, hid his face in the folds of her dress. Van Helsing beckoned to us and we stole out of the room, leaving the two loving hearts alone with their God.’

So what options do you have at this point, apart from laughing your socks off and then vomiting into them?

Jonathan’s hair has turned white by the way, and his knuckles frequently assume the same hue. His face, on the other hand, is more prone to turning black with thunder. I expect his knees must be red from having himself flung on them, but Stoker spares us this detail.

Drowning, Not Reading.

Tonight’s Dracula update:

Stoker is a strange writer. As previously opined, he writes lunatics and brutality very well, using a style that is tight, eloquent and relatively retrained. His ‘ordinary’ characters, on the other hand, are a bit limp, and his relating of procedural detail is overdone. But now I’ve come to the real problem. We’re in the emotional aftermath of Mina’s assault by the Count, and the excesses are almost wondrous to behold. Whether he was trying to out-worst the worst of Dickens, I don’t know, but page after torturous page is so overloaded with excessive melodrama and mawkish sentimentality that reading them feels like drowning in a vat of disgustingly sweet syrup.

I think I’m just about through it now, and there is adventure in prospect, so I will persevere.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Demon Fruit.

Researchers in Canada have identified forty three prescription drugs which react with grapefruit in such a way that the patient can receive a potentially dangerous overdose. The news report in which I read this was headlined:

The Hidden Dangers of Grapefruit

How astute of the media to identify and shame the true villain of the piece.

Declining the Process.

Wendy suggests that I might take the opportunity of having my birthday coincide with a full moon to make a wish. She countenances caution, but I think I’ll go the stage further and decline altogether.

The making of a wish is, by its very definition, the invoking of a magical process. And as I understand it, the invoking of a magical process for personal benefit comes with a corollary: in granting fulfilment, the Universe assumes the right to make a charge of its own choosing and in its own time. Nothing comes free in magic, and I think I’d prefer to know the price before accepting the offer.

A Little Bird's Instruction.

It’s that old problem of interpretation again. In a very short dream I was walking down my lane towards the pub when a little female chaffinch flew up close to my face and hovered diagonally to my right. When I looked at her she seemed to be telling me what I must do – walk forward but keep looking diagonally to my right. When I got the message and fixed my head in that direction, she came and settled on my left shoulder and stayed there.

Being a Bit Silly.

I just discovered that if you pluck the ‘handle’ on an opened beer can, the sound is not unlike a Jews harp. Now all I need to do is find out how to get a tune out of it.

And, try as I might, I cannot get it out of my head that Yonkers rhymes with bonkers.

Discarding the High Tradition.

Having once been a confirmed aficionado of classical music, it surprises me that I’ve gone almost completely off it now. There are still a few composers and pieces I like, but mostly I find it tedious.

I was tending to think that the problem lay with its connection to the Establishment Mind, but now I think it goes deeper. When I listen to most classical music now, I hear too much mind and heart, and not enough soul. (Vaughan Williams and Delius are the major exceptions, by the way.) Or maybe I’m just becoming a slob.

Monday, 26 November 2012

On Self-Betrayal.

Tonight’s note on the progress of Dracula is not amusing. The narrative has reached a new level.

The hunters have broken into Mina’s room and witnessed the final throes of the Count’s assault on her. By modern standards, and with the added dimension of genre familiarity, the simple details seem tame: Dracula has bitten Mina’s neck and drunk her blood, and then forced her to drink his own blood from a wound he has made on his chest. Well, it’s what you’d expect, isn’t it? Yawn, yawn? No. Stoker writes this very well indeed. The sense of brutality is almost palpable.

So now we have two subjects on which Stoker writes very well indeed: the varying moods of the lunatic, and the brutal reality of assault. What does it say of him that he should write of such things with such apparently innate understanding? What does it betray?

Of more personal interest, what do some of the things I’ve written say, or betray, about me? Are writers who write of horror – supernatural or otherwise – merely possessed of an instinctive and disturbingly accurate imagination? Or are they releasing some real dark side of themselves onto the page? In all honesty, I don’t know the answer to that.

Another Absurd Headline.

This time from ANI. The headline read:

US Planned to ‘Blow Up Moon’ with Nuke

This struck me as implausible. For a start, isn’t the moon just a bit too big for such an endeavour? And secondly, wouldn’t it have had a bit of a catastrophic effect on our oceans’ tidal systems? They were the first two thoughts to arouse my suspicions; I’m sure it would have been possible to think of a few more. So I read the article.

What it actually said was the US prepared plans in the 1950s to detonate an atom bomb on the moon’s surface. It was proposed, apparently, that the flash of the explosion would be seen from earth and would intimidate the Soviets after the embarrassment (to the US) of the success of the Sputnik mission.

Well, I have to say that even the diluted version sounds a bit nutty, but it isn’t quite the same as ‘blowing up the moon’ is it?

In Need of a Lake.

After a life spent intermittently gadding about all over the place, it seems odd that I rarely stray more than a few miles from The Shire these days. Mel suggested the other day that I should drive somewhere and seek a different walk with different views. I wouldn’t see the point. I saw lots of different views when I worked as a landscape photographer, and eventually the desire to see more waned. It isn’t views I seek now, but natural energies, and the energies here are good. Apart, that is, from one thing: there’s no lake.

I like lakes; I’ve always liked lakes. There’s something about large bodies of still water that arouses a sense of life in me. But it has to be the right sort of lake – a natural lake, an old lake, a lake surrounded by trees with edges softened by a wealth of aquatic plants like bulrushes and water lilies. It needs to be the sort of lake that opens up the mind to the possibility of seeing the faun flit, or the ghost of some long-dead maiden float, among the encroaching trees; the sort of lake that has a calm, inscrutable surface from which might rise at any moment an arm draped in white samite, clutching the magical sword that will bring peace to the land and the soul alike. Even a few darting dragonflies and the ripple of a rising fish would do to start off with.

There’s a river about a mile away, but that isn’t enough. Water isn’t just water; water has radically different qualities depending on where it is and what it’s doing. The aggressive energy of a river is laudable in its own right, but it needs balancing with the reflective quality of stillness. Isn’t it a shame that life is never perfect?

Real Music and the Trials of Time.

Here's a short video of a top notch Bulgarian tune being played by three top notch Irish musicians.

Donal Lunny on the left is still going strong, but with rather less hair. Andy Irvine in the middle is also still going strong, but with a much greyer beard. And the man playing the guitar to the right is Paul Brady. He's the bloke who was singing The Streets of Derry with My Lady Cara the other night: fatter of neck, fuller of brow, and with a waistline on which the ravages of time have enjoyed much amusement.

Andy Irvine, incidentally, is much more iconic to me than The Rolling Stones ever were. The reason I wouldn't pay £1,140 to see him in concert is only that I don't have it to spare. And besides, I saw him a couple of times at the theatre where I used to work, and it didn't cost me a penny.


Celebrating the Un-Ordinary.

I wonder whether anybody can tell me whether there is any significance to the fact of a full moon occurring on one’s birthday. Does it, perhaps, mark the final transition to complete lunatic?

And here’s a point. Stoker might have a poor grasp of credible plot devices, but he does write a damn good lunatic. The best three characters in Dracula so far are undoubtedly Renfield, who’s a lunatic, Lucy, who’s the posh girl who gets done for, and the Count himself, who is an out-and-out villain without a single redeeming feature. Van Helsing is OK most of the time, but even he is not only an eccentric but a foreign one to boot. The ordinary characters are really a bit insipid.

Being Less than Credible and Failing the Lady.

Tonight’s Dracula update:

In Stoker’s worst bit of writing so far, the intrepid heroes are ensconced in a very important meeting about how to hunt down the fountainhead of the impending vampire plague, when Quincy – the intrepid hero from Texas – gets up and walks out of the room without so much as a by-your-leave. No one turns a hair at this, and the next thing you know there’s a shot and the window shatters. Quincy returns and says (in paraphrase) ‘Sorry about that. I saw a bat on the window ledge and I don’t like them any more, so I decided to shoot it. Only I missed. Oh, well…’ And still no one turns a hair.

Now, anybody who knows a badly contrived plot device when he sees one will naturally groan at this juncture, because he knows it’s only there so that at some point further on, somebody can say (also in paraphrase) ‘Mein Gott! (Which Van Helsing does say occasionally.) The bat on the window ledge was none other than Count Dracula himself, come to spy on us!’ And everybody else can join in unison with a rousing ‘A-ha!!!’ At which point, Dracula begins to seem like a forerunner of Winnie the Pooh. And it doesn’t quite stop there.

The Boys decide that Mina must play no further part in proceedings, because she is but a weak and feeble woman and wouldn’t stand up too well to the rigours of vampire hunting. And they continue to congratulate themselves, more than once, on the soundness of their decision. In paraphrase:

‘I’m so glad we decided to leave the little lady at home.’

‘So am I; it was a good decision. We are men of the world who have seen much, and even we will be taxed. A mere woman would be sure to crack under the strain.’

(For once, I’m in agreement with the feminists here, but the editor doesn’t pick it up at all. Maybe she decided it was just too blatant to need pointing out. It is.)

So poor Mina goes home uncomplaining and retires to bed, where she is now utterly vulnerable to the white mist that comes in around the door frame and the white face that bends over her as she sleeps. Even those readers who can't spot a crushingly bad plot device will no doubt be getting the picture: The Boys have made a terrible mistake, but will they learn the right lesson from it? We’ll see.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A Fool and His Money...

The Rolling Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and they just did a gig in London where the tickets close to the stage cost £1,140. Each.

So here we have a bunch of has-beens even older than me, strutting (rather more stiffly than they used to, I suspect) around a stage and singing ancient songs that would sound a lot better on YouTube. And people will spend a staggering £1,140 to witness it.

Why? Is it about being in close proximity to idols? Is that it? In which case, the obvious question is…

A Few Notes.

The unidentified creature in the roof space above my kitchen is giving audible notice of its presence again. I wish such things didn’t get on my nerves, but they do.

After a rare dry, bright day, the walk was wet again tonight. No Aboriginals in the shadows, though. As far as I know.

I noticed that the running water has washed away some hardcore and left a pothole at the edge of the lane, just where my ground leads onto it. It’s a bit deep to want to put a car wheel in there. Must think of a way to repair it without spending money.

I’m finding that, by and large, Dracula is quite well written. Occasionally, though, Stoker makes a real howler. Did he have an editor?

I suspect there might be somebody in the village who doesn’t really want me here, but I don’t know who. Too involved to bother explaining.

Bad Creatures.

It was interesting to read the list of ‘base’ creatures that Bram Stoker (through the Van Helsing character) gives as those whose baseness makes them prey to the command of the evil Count Dracula:

Bat
Wolf
Fox
Rat
Owl
Moth

Some of these presumably stem from their association with the night, but not all; and I should think that only the rat would make it into the list these days. How common perceptions have changed in little over a century.

Removing People Pollution.

If somebody is polluting your world with their noise, their paraphernalia, and even their very presence, how do you shut them out?

Murder is clearly not an option for a good many obvious reasons, and even getting rid of them by other means carries the significant risk of possibly making the matter worse.

So how do you do it? Should you do it? Could this be an example of creating your own reality in order to serve some purpose peculiar to yourself, and could that purpose even be the finding of alternative means? It’s an interesting thought.

A Pre Post-Feminist.

Tonight’s second Dracula update:

Mina Harker (wife of Jonathan Harker, who started the whole thing off by going to Transylvania to conduct the conveyance of Carfax Abbey and only escaped by crawling down a vertical castle wall) is prominent at this point in the story. She has a forte, it seems, for consoling distraught men – holding their hands, providing a literal shoulder on which to literally cry, and offering to be their ‘sister’ or ‘lifelong friend,’ while actually playing the role of surrogate mother. This would appear to vindicate the editor’s constant carping that she is not a ‘new woman’ (Victorian slang for feminist) at all, but merely a strong and capable one. Dr Van Helsing describes her as having ‘the mind of a man but the heart of a woman.’

I’m not sure whether this says more about the prejudices of Victorian men, or the prejudices of 21st century editors.

Is It Nigh?

Anyone who has seen Peter Weir’s film The Last Wave will have some idea of what it’s like in Britain at the moment. We’ve had so much rain over the summer and autumn that the land is saturated. It only takes an hour or two of light stuff to set the lane running again, and tonight there was even a pond a little further down. I saw a car drive through it – slowly. It was the only car I saw while out walking; it seems the residents of The Shire weren’t venturing out much. This quantity of rain begins to feel apocalyptic, and I’m wondering whether I should put a glass of sherry and a mince pie out for the Aboriginal when he calls. (They materialise in your house, you know. Most off-putting.)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Lucy's Lateness Laid to Rest.

Tonight’s Dracula update:

You might recall the earlier mystery of how the late Lucy was somehow to become later. All is now revealed. The transition was due, of course, to dear, sweet and very late Lucy having been relegated – or elevated, depending on one’s personal inclinations – to the status of Un-dead (sic.) The metamorphosis was immediately made apparent to the company of startled disbelievers by the fact that she now has dark hair. No more ‘sunny curls’ for Lucy. Only late Lucys have sunny curls; later ones become brunettes in order to declare their incontrovertibly bad girl status to the thoroughly disgusted onlookers. (It might also be speculated that there is a matter of colour matching involved. Black makes a much stronger accompaniment to red than blonde, and as Lucy has adopted the habit of biting children and drinking their blood – somewhat indecorously, it has to be said, if the evidence of dribbling is any guide – the change of hue would seem appropriate.)

Deliverance was at hand, however, in the form of Dr Van Helsing and his three little helpers. They went to work manfully with a pointed stick and a hacksaw, so the dear girl is now truly late and guaranteed never to be later again.

Unfortunately, no mention was made of whether Lucy’s newly disconnected head reverted to the sprouting of sunny curls on its ascent to the angelic realm, but I think we may take it as read. Blonde goes much better with white feathers, you see.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Mr Twilight.

It just occurred to me how easy it would be to gain a reputation with the locals.

‘That strange man talks to bats and only goes for walks at night. What do you think?’

‘I think we should get some garlic.’

It is, of course, purely coincidental that I find garlic utterly repellent.

The HSP Problem.

I’m just about convinced now of the reality of HSP and the fact that I’m prey to it, and it seems to have two fundamental features.

The first is greatly heightened awareness to everything around you. It’s caused, I gather, by the fact that the brain is wired differently from the norm. The second is greatly heightened sensitivity to those things which affect you psychologically or emotionally.

The relationship between the two is symbiotic, as you’d expect, but it seems to me that it’s the first of them that’s the major problem. It’s the aspect that makes mountains out of situations and issues that are mere molehills to other people. It’s all a matter of perception. You can’t change it and you can’t possibly explain it to those who don’t experience the world the same way. It’s why HSP types are misunderstood and often derided, and it’s why they go through life frequently having to put up with things that are rubbing their senses raw.

No doubt it’s why some people seek lonely garrets in which to distance themselves and be creative, and why a lot of them become dependent on alcohol or some other form of narcotic. I try to rely on a combination of reason and mental detachment, but it doesn’t always work.

An Invitation.

I’ve had this album for a long time, and I play it in the car a lot.


Jump in if you like, and we’ll take a drive around the rolling pastoral landscape of the Derbyshire Dales, nestled between the languid Trent Valley and the rugged uplands of the South Pennines. It isn’t quite Macedonia, but it isn’t bad.

This an unusual sort of post for me, but it’s getting late.

The Good Lord F.

Lord Freud, the investment banker tasked with the job of advising the government on how to demolish the welfare system, says that poor people should take more risks since ‘they have the least to lose.’ He says it’s a ‘dreadful system’ that permits the unemployed and sick people to have ‘a lifestyle.’ Lifestyle?

It must be obvious to anybody with a brain cell that his logic and his appreciation of reality outside his own rarefied circle are effectively non existent. He appears to be another proponent of Mrs Thatcher’s infamous desire for ‘a return to Victorian values.’ He’s about what you’d expect of an investment banker, and I think we’ve had quite enough of bankers running the show to last us several lifetimes. I wonder how much the taxpayer is paying him to offer this invaluable advice.

Isn’t it reasonable to expect Lord Freud and his ilk to stick to running their illusory, albeit lucrative, empires, and leave the philosophy to those with a soul?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Lucy in the Shadows with Fangs.

Tonight’s Dracula update:

The kids living in the vicinity of Highgate Cemetery are staying out late and coming home with bite marks on their necks. This was a common enough occurrence when I was a teenager – though not in my case, of course – but since the late-and-nearly-later Lucy now resides in that very location, I think we’re meant to draw a darker inference.

Apart from that, nothing much is happening at the moment, and Van Helsing’s somewhat unconventional syntax is becoming ever more difficult to decipher.

I will persevere.

The Posh Samaritan.

It’s been a low, uncommunicative sort of day today. There was an ever-present undertone of anxiety about it, and when the roaring wind blew a pane of glass out of my greenhouse, it felt unfriendly. Still, at least I got home before the forecast heavy rain arrived and made the bottom road near-impassable to vehicular traffic, as it’s wont to do occasionally.

The rain came on late in the afternoon and continued throughout the evening. It was still raining when I went out for a walk so there were no residual puddles and winking moons, just a shallow flowing stream where the tarmac used to be.

I’d only waded about a hundred yards when I saw headlights coming down the lane. ‘Oh, no,’ thinks I, ‘I’m about to be treated to an unscheduled cold shower.’ But no: the posh white BMW stopped and the window slid down. (People of my generation are still tempted to say ‘The driver wound the window down.’ But they don’t now, do they, not even me. We push buttons now. To continue…)

I recognised the driver as Miss Sarah’s neighbour, and he cordially offered me a lift. That’s unusual. I’ve observed that drivers don’t generally offer lifts to wet people – fear of dampening the upholstery, I suppose – but Mr Posh BMW apparently had Samaritan tendencies. I declined, of course, with equal cordiality, explaining that I was just out for my evening constitutional. And then it occurred to me that Mr Posh BMW must be about the only person in the neighbourhood who doesn’t know that the weird bloke from up near the school wanders the lanes of The Shire every night.

And if you want to see a funny little sketch about The Good Samaritan, take a look at this. I think I might have posted it before, but I don’t remember.

Cara And the Other Guy.

The Lady of My Late Night Listening is performing with another bloke. Nice sound, bad idea. And the pianist appears to have nails!

Beer and Games.

This American beer from the Tap Room Beer Company is quite splendid – light on the palate, full flavoured, and with a strongly bitter aftertaste. I was so pleased with it that I looked up the 2012 MLB results, and was perturbed to find that the Yankees lost the AL playoffs 4-0. Times ain’t what they used to be. I don’t remember Joe di Maggio, but I do remember Derek Jeter. And I remember those memorable World Series games they played against the Atlanta Braves. I stayed up late to watch several of them. There’s something surprisingly civilised about baseball.

American Football, on the other hand, is a bit tedious. It’s the way they keep stopping every thirty seconds or so for a committee meeting. When it comes to oval balls, I’m strictly a rugby man. It was my favourite game to play, and it remains my favourite game to watch (along with snooker.) Rugby players don’t wear helmets.

The beer bottle, by the way, also has a good tone when you blow over the top of it. F natural, I think.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Nice Yankee Surprise.

I have what promises to be something of a treat in store. I bought it from the supermarket yesterday. It’s a bottle of something called IPA US Craft Beer, and claims to have been brewed in Rochester, NY. D’you know, I thought Yankees only ever drank that pale, Scandinavian-style maidens’ water, but it seems not. This stuff is 6.3% ABV, which is a bit stronger than most maiden’s water (as far as I know!)

The label carries a bit of advice:

‘It is recommended that this beer be consumed within 1 year of purchase.’

Right, better get to it then. After my shower, I think. There’s only one thing that worries me - the label, again:

‘We’re sure you’ll love this product. If you don’t, simply return for a full refund.’

Will that include the air fare?

Being a Late Lucy.

Tonight’s Dracula update:

Lucy has become prematurely long in the tooth and turned paler than even a Victorian maiden has a right to be. She’s also died, except she hasn’t really; she’s just stopped being human and passed into the twilit realm of the undead.

But of course, we readers aren’t supposed to know this. Only Professor van Helsing is privy to such arcane knowledge at this point in the story, and he isn’t letting on yet. The commentator, on the other hand, is not so reticent. The book is a students’ copy, you see, with footnotes, and one of said footnotes informs us that Lucy’s hair will change colour later. (Later? But she’s bereft of life and rests in peace. She’s already a late Lucy. How can she become even later? What can this ‘later’ mean?) Fortunately, I’m one of the few people who’ve seen the odd film version or two, so it doesn’t matter. But suppose I’d just arrived on a night flight from some Remote Location. What then? Bloody academics!

Meanwhile, poor Arthur (the late-but-not-yet-later Lucy’s betrothed) is sobbing with his shoulders, and Mr and Mrs Harker have inherited a big house and lots of money. That’s about it, really. No nice wolves tonight, just an irritating bat that keeps tapping on the window.

The Moon and Leila.

The walk tonight was a walk of a thousand puddles, courtesy of all the rain we had today. The sky had cleared, though, and so every now and then the moon would look up me from the road – just briefly as I passed by a conveniently placed pool of water. And that reminded me of my old friend Leila and a story that I might have told back in the early days of blogging, but which bears repetition.

About three winters ago Leila was doing her advanced medical training at a hospital in Inverness, and one night she went for a walk along the riverbank at about two o’clock in the morning. It was during a very cold spell; the temperature was substantially below freezing and there was deep snow lying. She took a flask of hot herbal tea with her – ginger, if I remember correctly – just so she could see the moon reflected in the surface. She even sent me an e-mail telling me how thrilled she was to see it. That’s the kind of person she is. But that isn’t the best bit. The best bit is that as she was walking, an otter climbed out of the river and walked alongside her for a little way. Otters are well known for being extremely shy of people, and I think that Leila is the only person I’ve ever known who could possibly have that happen to her.

Why Care?

So the General Synod of the Church of England has rejected the proposed ordination of women bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury says he’s disappointed because he believes the Church should keep up with current attitudinal trends. In other words, it needs to modernise. David Cameron says he’s disappointed for the same reason. No doubt the traditionalists disagree because they think it’s important for the Church to maintain its traditions.

I think the real problem isn’t so much about the war between modern and traditional, but stems from the time-entrenched perception that the Christian Church is still at war with the ancient Pagans whose system afforded the same level of respect to priestesses and goddesses as it did to priests and gods. And also, I suppose, from the fact that God is a man and only wants men running his earthly affairs.

But why should I care? I stopped being a Christian when I couldn’t get sensible answers to reasonable questions.

Mixed Messages.

The road outside is impersonating a river again today, and the news is carrying more stories of yet more flooding problems around the country. This, it seems, is causing a sense of confusion in Britain.

Back in the early spring there were already hosepipe bans in place to avert potential drought caused by a succession of dry winters. As a result, there’s still a body opinion which says that we can’t afford another dry winter.

On the other hand, however, the year from April onwards has been one of the wettest on record with an unusually high amount of damage and destruction caused by flooding. We’re being told that the aquifers are now full to bursting point, so we desperately need a dry winter to make some space for further rain to run into.

Sometimes you just have to switch the news off and paint a wall or something, don’t you? And that’s just what I’m about to do.

Another Bit Missing.

I just met a really nice wolf in Dracula. His name is Bersicker (a corruption of ‘berserker’) and he only frightened Lucy’s poor mother to death because Dracula made him do it. Once he was released from the Count’s influence, he went back to the zoo for a bit of tlc and an ear scratch from his keeper. That’s something else you never see in the films. Why do they miss out all the best bits?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A Bit of a Gothic Preoccupation.

My latest ‘thing’ is a growing horror of being buried (or cremated) alive. I definitely want a crypt, a coffin that can be opened from the inside, and a bell. And I’m doing exercises every day to keep my abdominal muscles in trim so I can sit up properly when the time comes.

Today's Bits.

The nice thing about Ashbourne today was meeting a handsome and friendly little Jack Russel/Corgi cross. The not so nice thing was the visit to the chiropodist. I’ll spare the details, but it hurt. The walk back to the car hurt, and the subsequent drive home hurt. It still hurts. I’m hoping it will ease overnight because I need to go to the other local town tomorrow to get things I can’t get in Ashbourne.

The not so nice thing about The Shire is that I now have reasonable grounds for suspecting that the rackety creature in the roof space above the kitchen is a rat. I assume it’s trying to make a hole in the ceiling so that it can get at the food which it can no doubt smell. I’ve known mice attempt the same feat. They failed, but rats are a lot bigger. I do wish life would let me relax.

And talking of life, I had a visit from Brooklyn overnight. It reminded me to get a pack of bagels while I was out shopping, so it seems that blogs are useful after all. A few people might know what the hell I’m talking about.