Friday, 26 February 2010

stir crazy

A day working at home and a Friday evening in and I'm going bananas. That's with endless cups of tea, as much crap food as I want, multimedia entertainment opportunities and access to toilet facilities that don't come with soap retrieval requests. How would I cope incarcerated? On this evidence not very well. It is chucking it down outside and this village doesn't offer that much in the way of entertainment but I have decided to go out. I'll stride past the bus stop chavs like I have somewhere to go and the freedom and fresh air should shake me out of this gloom. Just thinking about it makes me realise I'm not nearly grateful enough for my liberty to do pretty much anything I want. Nowhere better epitomises the idea of the right to do whatever the hell you want than America of course. The shift of the US embassy to Battersea despite their website's suggestion that there has been 'consultation' is just one small example of the freedom the US exerts, even in a foreign country. Whether the ambassadors understand irony or not, this freedom is not something enjoyed by a resident of Battersea, Shaker Aamer. I say resident but in fact that's his former address. Since 2001 he's been resident in Guantanamo Bay (not the nice bit) even though he's never been charged with anything and officially cleared. You can read more about him here and here. You have the freedom to do so.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Euro cows

The following is by the boy. It's his homework but North and South thought it deserved a wider circulation. So we doubled the readership by putting it here. Matt is away.

Memories are like movies. For me the ones from last week and the week before are mostly as clear as glass. Much like the HD movies of today. Older memories become cloudier and cloudier the further back you go until you can only get tiny snippets of them, such as your 4th birthday when your Granddad bought you a bike or when you first went on a plane to Spain. These are the memories that make us as people. Everyone has different memories, so everyone is different.

Holiday 2003
Eight countries in a week. Well, eight days to be exact. Eight years old as well. Me, my older step-sister and my younger brother are all eight years in age apart. My siblings didn’t go on this holiday. It was just me, my Dad, and his best mate.

We took the Euro-tunnel from Folkestone to France. My dad and X had several hours driving ahead before the next stop. They both used to work for Euro-camp. The tales they told of French girls and Pastis were the cause of much side-glancing and laughter. But they are experienced drivers, they know the language and they know the roads well too.

I’m here now looking at the old photos of this trip. I'm much smaller, of course, cuter, if that is the word and Dad; he’s not grey.

I'm thinking back to the time in Germany, a petrol garage. Just a routine stop. I specifically remember this because it was very strange. Mega-Bubble Bum-Bum was the name of the chewing gum. I called X and Dad over, they laughed aloud. We bought a pack, still laughing all the way to the till. The German lady looked at us funnily; I remember that well, the eyes, questioning what we were all giggling about.
The gum was shaped as a cigarette. The hilarity increased. “What sort of gum called Mega-Bubble Bum-Bum is shaped like cigarettes!” was the question we were asking. I remember this maybe too well as it probably doesn't mean much to somebody reading this. But for me this was one of the defining aspects of this holiday.

Switzerland, the best hotel we’ve stayed in so far. I had the Playstation Portable with me. ‘Abe’s Oddesy’, a game that you could play for hours, was the game I was on. I remember the sounds from this game much better than the images. “Yo yo yo yo yo” was what the avatar would say when you wanted to move an object with telekinesis. ‘Abe’, the protagonist moved back and forth across his futuristic landscape.

My room looked out on the beauty of the Alps. The slopes, crags, rock faces and snow covered peaks were stunning. The mountains could see everything. I remember looking to these mountains before I went to sleep, they compelled me. The sheer difference between this and what I was used to in Ipswich and London was the thing that got me. Clean and fresh, yes, a toothpaste ‘ad’ spectacular.
Luxembourg. People laugh at Luxembourg. Dad and X didn’t. They already knew the city. I reckon if you grew up there you would always be OK. Not a great recommendation I know. Even though Luxembourg is an incredibly small country, it’s a wealthy place. Safe and secure. It fits snugly between France, Germany and Holland. We’d crossed those borders before.

For some unknown reason there were cows everywhere. Not real ones, but big, life sized ones painted in seriously bright colours. They were just stood around the city randomly. You could touch them but there were signs in French and German saying ‘Do not sit on this cow!’ I remember dad and X laughing. They were always laughing. That night we stayed at Victor’s, X’ friend’s house. He never explained the cows. Thank God. Really nice chips and chocolate. It’s true about Belgium. We indulged there, especially on chips, and high on carbs we took the motorway back through to France, heading home.

Austria and Poland are snippets that are missing from this memory. I know we went there, but like the bits of movies that disappear.......

Friday, 12 February 2010

fly like a bird

A news item caught my ear on the radio this morning. It relates to this story about the international Olympic committee's decision not to allow women to compete at Olympic level in the ski jump event in 2010. Apparently the women's ski jump lobby have been pushing for years with no effect. The reason cited by the IOC is that there are too few nations able to compete at the elite level despite there being more women and more countries involved at that level than in other allowed Olympic events. The speculation is that having women competitors would undermine the masculinity associated with it and affect the sponsorship revenues of the rough tough derring doers who want to maintain the awe they inspire every time they throw themselves off that ramp. What I really liked was the aside that said that women have been ski jumping since the 1880s but at that time they could only do it if they held a man's hand! I wouldn't do it holding hands or otherwise.

In the 80s (1980s not 1880s) I was in Innsbruck with best mate and a local lad named Georg (pronounced Gay-org) showed us round the city. He told us how a car manufacturer had filmed an ad where they sent a car down the ramp there. Incredibly they did it with a driver at the wheel and two of these guys were hospitalised with serious injuries. Perhaps they should have held a lady's hand.

Incidental to this Georg wore lederhosen which he proudly boasted had been both his father's and his grandfather's before him. And they had never been washed. I hope, if he has passed them on to his son, that someone has at least given them a wipe over with a J-cloth.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Nominative determinism

It is estimated that in the 13th century about a third of men in England were called either John, William or Richard. I suppose the addition of an extra name was inevitable. One way that people 'earned' surnames back in the olden days (with such precision as this it's clear that I studied history isn't it) was through their occupations. John the blacksmith became John Smith, John the Carpenter became...well it's pretty obvious. Here are some more:

Archer = professional Archer
Bailey = bailiff
Carter = cart maker
Carver = sculptor
Chaplin = chaplain
Chandler = candle maker
Cooper = barrel maker
Day = dairy worker
Fletcher = arrow maker
Frobisher = Polished armour and swords
Gardner = gardener
Hooper = Fitted hoops on barrels
Kellogg = A killer of hogs
Leach = doctor
Machin = stone worker
Naylor = nail maker
Proctor = steward
Redman = thatcher (reed man)
Sawyer = wood sawer
Trinder = wheel maker
Ward = watchman

Puts a whole new light on Kellogg this does. Suddenly the name is elevated in my mind from the bland to the rough and ready.
"Matt Kellog is in the neighbourhood ma!"
"Lordy lordy, hide them hogs now boy."
The famous Kellogs should have done gritty, no-nonsense muesli, not golden flakes of nutritionless cardboard.

Anyway, I got to thinking about nominative determinism yesterday. The term is a coinage of the Feedback column in the British popular science journal New Scientist, stemming from this item in 1994:

"WE recently came across a new book, Pole Positions - The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet, by Daniel Snowman. Then, a couple of weeks later, we received a copy of London Under London - A Subterranean Guide, one of the authors of which is Richard Trench. So it was interesting to see Jen Hunt of the University of Manchester stating in the October issue of The Psychologist: "Authors gravitate to the area of research which fits their surname." Hunt's example is an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology (vol 49, pp 173-176, 1977) by J. W. Splatt and D. Weedon."

In a sense it's like names have come the full circle. What you were once named for is somehow in your psyche and you end up being pulled towards those jobs. The reason I was thinking it is because someone applied for a course because he wants to be a swimming instructor. I can't say what his name is here but suffice to say it suits the job to a tee. Other occupations he may consider is baggage handler and elephant inspector.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Spurs 13 Crewe 2

pure class! click on the picture to take you to the Pathe film of the match


Thursday, 4 February 2010

(something you're aiming for) you're having a laugh

The snow started at about 4pm as I was driving home from work. By 5.30 it was quite thick on the ground and we knew that it'd be an effort getting to Elland Road. Accidents and scared drivers made it a painful approach but we managed to dump the car in a car tyre sales place in a gloomy industrial estate in Leeds. At this stage everyone seemed pretty friendly and jolly but, from what I've read this morning, they weren't feeling quite as jolly after the game and decided to 'hang around' in a menacing way outside the away end, and this was why the police kept us in for a full 45 minutes after the end of the game. The walk back to the car was a little more edgy with very brave Leeds fans giving us the throat cutting sign from behind the glass of the pubs they were in.

They were in a no lose situation as far as I could see. They did themselves credit on the pitch and the vast majority did the same from the stands though the talk this morning on forums like 606 suggesting the Spurs fans were quiet is embarrassing sour grapes I think. My ears and sore throat attest to amount of noise we were making and everyone who saw it on TV said that noise from both sets of fans was great.

The result was right, the quality difference was also about right for the gap in league positions but the once mighty Leeds made it hard work by running their socks off for a good 150 of the 180 minutes that the tie spread over. Rightly so too. This is what makes the FA cup so good. No doubt we'll take a fall at some point in the future to lower league opposition (later rather than sooner and PLEASE not to Bolton) but last night showed some of the quality in depth 'top' clubs are supposed to have. Without Palacios, Assou-Akotto, Lennon, King, Woodgate and (thank God) Keane we dominated possession and as Harry rightly said, should have scored 6 or more. It wouldn't be Spurs if they didn't make you wince and clench though and, sure enough, with a little help from a myopic Linesman, Leeds got back into the game on half time after Defoe got the first of his hat-trick with a bit of a lucky chip from all of 5 yards.

Second half was great- Spurs fans singing 'Oh when the Spurs....' in that slow, almost choir-like way that seems to irritate opposition fans; Leeds fans singing 'We all stand together...' or some such (I think it's their version of that Paul McCartney frog song though I need to listen more carefully next time) then a second goal from Defoe that helped us all unclench for a bit. They never really threatened second half and some players really stepped up the mark. Apart from Defoe, whose third goal at the end made up for a miss from a similar situation in the first half, notables were David Bently and Gareth Bale. Both played well, especially in the second half and the more they used the space on the wings, the more Leeds look unable to cope.

I am so glad they dumped out the other United and will watch with interest their results over the next few weeks in the fizzy pop league. All joshing aside, they are too big a club to be languishing down there in the 3rd division. When you look at the attendance Wigan got on Tuesday night for their FA cup game it makes it all seem topsy turvey.

I won't be going to the Bolton game being as it is on Valentines day. And it's in Bolton. It's interesting that it was already earmarked for a live TV coverage- just shows that the TV people were really hoping for another fairy tale. Even though Leeds blokes have a habit of calling one another 'love', there won't be any fairy tales at Elland road for at least another season.

ps. I only took one of these pictures.

me, the boy and S gave the following ratings to the Spurs players (we would have done Leeds too but couldn't rememeber any of their names apart from Beckford). I think these are what we said but it was late and I was driving in rotten conditions , drunk from euphoria and over-singing.

Gomez 6, Bale 8, Bassong 6, Dawson 7, Corluka 7, Huddlestone 7, Jenas 5, Kranjar 6, Bentley 7.5, Crouch 7, Defoe 9.


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

word cloud

created at

I'm not sure what it's for either