Posted by Mister JTA on July 29th, 2008 | 8 comments
First things first: there’s now (at long last) an explanation of why this is called ElectricQuaker anyway. If you’re one of the ten or so that ever wondered about that, feel free to go have a read.
Admin over, let’s get this mammoth post done, shall we?
It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, if I’m honest, so it makes some sense for me to try and get everything written down, or I’ll only forget it all.
A good deed goes around the town
Way back on Monday the 14th of July I was keeping myself busy with a whole pile of things to do, most of which involved Being Domestic, which I’m still getting the hang of. Annie was due in by an afternoon train, so I was scurrying over towards Morrisons around noon, with the intention of getting some actual provisions before she turned up and got the impression I’d given up food until Lent, or something.
Anyway, I was just crossing the Taxi Rank when I realised there was an old chap in one of those odd little electric scooters struggling to get it up the pavement, and with a similarly old lady trying to give him a shove. I went over to see if they needed a hand (not, I have to say, without some reluctance, because people can be funny about you if you imply that they’re not coping with this) and it turned out the scooter was busted; the battery was full, but the power wasn’t getting to the wheels.
I ended up wheeling him down Cambrian Street, so he could leave his shopping with the woman, and then up Great Darkgate Street to his flat near the ship. I’ve never before realised how bloody steep Darkgate is. It’s uphill all the way!
The Ruins of Rhodesia
He was a really nice guy, happily, and was a policeman in Rhodesia (as it then was). He’d been out on patrol, with some of his fellow officers, looking for rebels in the jungle, I think, and he was driving the lead Land Rover and sent it over a landmine. Killed two of his friends and messed up his back so he can’t walk properly. They pensioned him off and he’s come over to Wales to retire. Fascinating chap to talk to; although he’s not at all pleased with the way the old country’s been going lately, which is understandable enough, when you consider that if he lost his legs in a bid to stop the populous getting gunned down and then some nutjob with a toothbrush ‘tash took over and is gunning ‘em down without even the decency to sneak about and act ashamed of it.
Apparently back when we owned it there used to be tourist-garnering posters that read ‘Come to Rhodesia and see the ruins of Zimbabwe.’ After they got independence they changed the wording to ‘Come to Zimbabwe and see the ruins of Rhodesia,’ which, he pointed out, “Was bloody right.”
I really liked the guy; he honestly was a gentleman, and you don’t get many of them to the pound, these days. He tried to give me a fiver, and we had some little fencing of sensibilities where I was refusing to take money, and he said he’d feel better for having furnished me with a beer, but as it happened he didn’t have any cash on him, so everyone’s honour got satisfied by default, and we shook hands. Derek, I think his name may’ve been. Derek Cox? Not sure; I’m bad with names at the best of times, and it was a couple of week’s back.
It was exhausting work, if I’m honest, but it was nice to be on the giving end of some Aber Effect rather than just the bloke saying “Well that’s very nice of you, cheers!” (And I cashed in a whole bag of Karmic Points later, as we’ll come to presently). Anyway, whilst that did set me back by several hours, it all balanced out because Arrive made such a mess of the trains that Annie didn’t make it into town until the evening, anyway.
Tuesday the 15th was the first day of Graduation, which resulted in my alarm waking me up at ten to seven and chivvying me out of the airbed so I could take myself up the hill to work for Campus Clothing, which involved an exhausting ammount of standing up, and a lot of fun Selling Things (I really did like the Selling Things bit; quite appart from the fact that there are actually people out there who carry fifty pound notes in their pockets, every sale I made felt like I’d won, somehow. I don’t think I could do it full-time, because the only books involved are the nasty sort which require maths to be kept in line, but it was really good fun.
Cider and Conviviality
Limped back down the hill in the evening, and then everything goes into a blur for several days, because it’s been a couple of weeks now, and I’m not quite sure what happened when. But there were at least two days of getting rid of the mammoth beer stockpile, and on another evening Annie Soup-From-A-Stone-d me into cooking a pasta sauce (‘Can you just chop the onions?’ and ‘Some mushrooms would really help this sauce’ and ‘If you just fry the mince I’ll see if you have any stock cubes which would help the flavour…’).
Matt and Paul seemed to spend a lot of time about the place, which was nice, and helped contribute to the speedy demolition of the Beer Stockpile, and there was some good Playing Classical Music At Two In The Morning, which I’ve always meant to do, but which is easier with people shouting out requests. And I’ve finally learnt the name of Night on Bald Mountain, which ought to save me asking Ruth what it is every single time I hear the damn thing, which is almost certainly a Good Thing.
Striding to the Soundtrack
Less of a Good Thing was the habit I developed of staying up until the small hours of the morning and then forcing myself out of a nice warm sleep as soon as the alarm began to bleat at me, but it turns out I do a damn good line in Willpower when I need to, and I was actually in the Arts Centre by the appointed hour every day. Go me, huh? I confess to only making it up the hill with the help of a very loud song on loop from my Zen, and that I do remember, because it went something like
Tuesday: ‘Myzsterious Mizter Jones,’ — Slade (with clearer audio & a plain background here)
Wednesday: ‘Protect & Survive,’ — Runrig (This version has much clearer audio, but static saltire instead of the actual video).
Thursday: ‘This Darkest Winter,’ –Runrig again. (I’ve worked to it for a decade or more, I can have ‘em twice! Fuzzy audio, I’m afraid, but the kickass lyrics are over here.)
Friday: ‘Hell March,’ — Red Alert (I suspect you can establish how tired I was from the extent of my need for hefty marching tunes. Hell March is the only thing to have ever got me from the Bodleian to St Aldates in under five minutes. Damn fine march.)
Anyway, I wasn’t just soundtracking myself; I was also selling things like crazy, with occasional breaks to go off and try and photocopy my expenses slip (in the process of which, I lost a tenner, because the machine ate it, and the people at the Issue Desk in Hugh Owen were not pleased when it transpired that I didn’t have (with me) my written permission from Ruth that I could use her card. Awkwardness. Also, dammnit, that was my tenner, that was!)
We sold out of all of the things we were attempting to sell, and got a lot of mail orders in, to save people from having to be dissapointed, so I’m anticipating some species of bonus from that. Mind you, the basic cheque would be nice; I think Charlie is due some more rent today and, whilst I can lay the money out, it would be nice to watch it coming straight back in again!
Commodore Cinema: Because you can only watch one screen at once, anyway.
Saw The Incredible Hulk at the Commodore, which was fun (and dear God, I loved that ending!), so thanks, again, to Paul for not only reserving us some seats, but also for showing us the projection engine and the telephone. I shall come and see that film that has a live-action arrow storm as a thank-you.
Annie didn’t leave on Friday as previously planned. I wasn’t actually there at the time, but there was something about Paul and Matt ambushing the train as the level crossing in Llanbadarn and hauling Annie off, and stealing all the US Mail, and things. Or, at least, that was what Paul’s text contrived to imply, so once we were done taking mail orders and the last of the graduates had dissapated Carrie got Rhys and I to pack away the stall, and I came back down to the Uberflat, and Paul made me a cup of tea that promptly went cold whilst I bemused every girl in every chemist in town looking for some hair dye that doesn’t exist in Wales.
There was hair dyeing, and ratatouille, and considerably more drink. And Matt somehow put a huge dent in my bottle of whisky, but I did say he was allowed, so that’s OK. The bath is not purple, either, so it is All Good.
Come Saturday the 19th of July, however, pretty much everyone was due to be leaving, and I was up early (yet again. I swear I don’t know how I manage it) to pack, ready for the Hour of Leaving, at 09:30.
I think we actually got away at a little after 11, or possibly 12. By that point I was also carrying a vast saucepan, srtapped to the back of the rucksack, and a monitor, whose cables I forgot to untie until Dan actually turned up, leading to some infuriating last-minute banging my head against the underside of the desk, and trying to work out what went to the monitor, and what went to the old SVGA CRT that lives under my desk, and has, of course, exactly the same connector, when they’ve both been disconnected from a tower and are lolling about on the floor and getting one another in knots. Never attempt to untie technical goods in a rush; it just leads to undignified grunting and periodic curses.
I got fairly well jammed into the back of Claire’s car, which, though God knows how, actually had the power to haul everything we’d loaded into it, and then I went to sleep, which is my ususal strategy for preventing travel sickness, and which does, actually, work pretty well (although it does require a talent for sleeping pretty much anywhere, which I sometimes worry I am losing, but which seems to be sticking with me so far.)
Arrival in Cumbria
We made fairly good progress up to Cumbria, although I think Ruth would’ve preferred it if she could’ve slightly fewer hours attempting to entertain herself with the scant supply of entertainment provided by Penrith while we slogged up the M6 and dumped the contents of the car at the cottage in Mauld’s Meaburn and left Dan to work out how to turn the electricty on, and build a computer network for the code that was due to get hacked up over the week.
On the way along the A66, on one of the Dual Carriageway bits just after Temple Sowerby, we spotted a small child’s bicycle lying in the right hand lane. Slap bang in the middle of the carriageway. It was very surreal; I half expected Ogri to wheelie over it and yell “Oi!” at some deadhead in a Volvo…
Anyway, we pulled over in a convenient layby, and I got to use one of the Emergency Phones. 62B, it may’ve been. Very friendly woman on the other end, who didn’t seem cross that I wasn’t actually broken down, and she said that they’d send someone out to shift it, which can only have been a good thing.
We collected Ruth outside Penrith station, where she was standing and looking fed up with the whole damn dorp, and made our way to Morrisons to provision up (for there is, of course, no shop in Maulds Meaburn).
No, knot my thumb!
We’d all settled in fine, by Sunday morning, and had even got the Rayburn working (I, as a Hadley lad, had something in the way of an affinity with the thing, which pleased me, and it was good to be working with an actual fire again; ‘s been too long!)
By Sunday morning, however, the fire in the Rayburn was out, which I’d expected to be the case, having damped it down the night before, and so I was attempting, with the aid of a small hatchet, to create some post-kindling sticks from some seasoned offcuts of pine planking (which I’m sure you know are the kind of thing you need once you’ve got the actual wood alight, and before you start to throw in big logs and coal).
All was going well. Basically a standard “You begin chopping wood with your axe. You cut off some dry firewood” repetition. And then things went kinda wrong, viz:
“You continue chopping wood with your axe. But wait! There’s a knot in the wood! The axe bounces! The axe hits you! You drive the axe into your thumb!”
Happily, and presumably as a direct trade-off against all that positive karma I mentioned stockpiling over the previous six days (which, let’s face it, was certainly worth a thumb, and probably a limb or two) the hatchet slammed into my thumbnail which, being a tough bugger, deflected the angle of the blade such that, instead of going clean through to the bone, I cut the fleshy tip of my thumb off, and missed all the major veins.
Panicked Ruth by stumbling inside, with my thumb in my mouth, mumbling through the blood, and with a great splodge of gore on my shoe, and going upstairs to get some toilet paper whilst refusing to tell her what was wrong (which, in retrospect, is the kind of thing that would make you think things were very seriously amiss). Tom, it turns out, doesn’t really believe in first aid kits, but he did have bootlaces, so I caught hold of one of those and Claire tied a tourniquet round it, as they tend to ask you not to do, nowadays, and that reduced the pulsing spurts of blood enough to get some healing going on.
Cue the tea, svp
Once the immediate bleeding had got sorted out I came down with the shakes and, for some reason, stayed pretty whacked out of it for the next few days, which was a pain. Although the fact I kept nodding off in the middle of the afternoon could also have been because of all the Not Sleep and Not Sitting I’d put in whilst selling things to Graduates, I guess.
Anyway, Ruth gave me some sugary tea, which fixed the shock reaction by politely pointing out that the British don’t kick up a fuss over trivialities like barely-missed mutilations, and we all piled into the car and went to Appleby in search of a chemist with a bandage.
Morrisions inexplicably comes up with the Goods
Appleby, however, is a town of decent, law-abiding citizens, many of whom were playing bowls when we arrived, and the chemist was consequently closed, because it was a Sunday. So we went back to Morrisons in Penrith instead, and a lovely woman called Geraldine patched me up, and the chemist came over and, upon being told “I did it cutting firewood,” replied, brilliantly, “Ah, yes. Well, we’ve all done it,” as if it was the most common injury in the world. (And, to be fair, you can see how it could, at least, be the most common injury in Cumbria…)
They gave me a nice packet of painkillers, as well as the usual stuff like tubular bandages and melanin pads, and things and so I was able to keep out infection and still make myself useful by sorting out the fires, and things (although Ruth hid the hatchet, and, as it happened, there was a whole bag full of just the kind of wood I’d been attempting to create, hidden away in a cupboard. Hey ho.)
[At the time of writing, it's close on one in the morning, and I didn't get too much sleep last night, either, so I find I am losing the will to add to the 2,800 words I'm told I've already got down on paper. Not much happened for the rest of the week, anyway...]
I’ve been learning some Ruby, and can now puts things like a demon. A demon who’s got a definite feeling that there ought to be more to coding than that, sure, but a demon nonetheless. Who knows, I might get beyond the ‘Writing a sarky DOS prompt’ stage that I managed with QBasic. Shall have to see, would probably be good to do something useful!
I do think more things may’ve happened, and there was a fascinating return journey that involved mountains and cliffs and a lot of running on petrol fumes, but I think that can wait until I’m not faced with a paltry six hours sleep! This has gone on quite long enough already; I’m sure most of the Internet doesn’t have this kind of attention span, anyway!
Dan, indidentally, has photos of the injuries, and things. I suggest the rubberneckers amongst you apply to him!
Am about to attempt to tag things. Hm. Wish me luck!