Archive for February, 2007

Hey! I’ve been here before…

I’ve just finished reading the Judas Pair (again), and there’s something bugging me.

Every time I read something I try to map the locations onto places I’ve previously been. I’m not quite sure why. If it were, for example, a book about Bishop’s Castle (God help us), I’d try to dump my recollections of the place on top, which is fine. I’ve no trouble with the Malcom Pryce books, because Aber fits fairly neatly on top of ’em, most of the time, and that sort of thing doesn’t really bother me – after all, if something is set in a real-life location, it’s only natural to think of it as set there.

What’s more weird is the way I take other places and bend them round fictional settings. Lovejoy’s cottage, for example, is firmly mapped onto the ground floor of the house my grandmother used to have in Pleck Road, Walsall, somewhere about as un-wattle-and-daub-Norfolk-y as it’s possible to get, but it’s been mapped onto that ever since I started reading the book, although it took me ages to realise that this was the case. But at least it’s the only place I map things onto.

My infants school, on the other hand, shows no such self-control; in it’s time it’s been made to fit – with astonishing neatness and no overlapping bits, in every case – Linbury Court, the place Billy Bunter lives, the floorplan of Hogwarts (which, despite its having been thrown up in the 60’s out of concrete and pebbledashing, it still manages to do far better than the full-blown film version) and, on those occasions when Ruth’s talked about her school, St. Elphin’s as well.

Now some of this makes sense. Using my infants school as the layout for Jennings books works because I started reading those when I was in year 5, at the junior school over the road, and painfully aware that the two styles of school couldn’t be reconciled. Thieving the floorplan of somewhere sufficiently distant for me to feel some level of nostalgia, therefore, made perfect sense. However, by the time I read Harry Potter (note lack of present tense, please), I’d got plenty of other places to work with, and yet I still used Hadley Infants. The “other places to work with” had doubled by the time Ruth was talking to me about her place, and I’d even seen photos of it, but, time and again, the old hall from Hadley raises itself up a couple of floors and does the office of a common room. It’s like my brain is too lazy to store more than one set of backdrops, and it’s hoping the stuff in the foreground will make up for it.

This might be something everyone does – I know my father used to think of Green Knowe as being his grandmother’s house in Kineton, and, obviously, I know I used to think of it as being (as it then was) my grandmother’s house in Newport, and that’s probably because it’s not a story you can map onto a place sorely lacking in a big evergreen tree, even if it isn’t a yew…

To an extent, it all makes some sense. But the flexibility of the places amazes me. Seriously, the infants school hall is a perfect match for the dorms in Jennings, or, indeed, what Ruth has told me about, and the hall at Hogwarts, although I tend to ignore the silly ceiling, and everything bends itself around whatever place I’m reading about, to make sure it all fits brilliantly, which is always does.

Except, if I’m doing all the work of bending things around so the fit so well, why don’t I just imagine things from scratch?

Because, I suspect, they’re never as good.

Moria, for example, is waaaay better in my head than it is in the films, and that’s great, and, by and large, a standard requirement for any film adaptation. But compared to the floorplan of – I’m using it because I think it counts as a more mainstream example than Jennings – of Hogwarts, even when that floorplan consists largely of walls painted in magnolia, lino floortiles and low ceilings with the occasional pot-plant on the windowsill – it sucks. Even though I have, somewhere along the way, gone to the effort of dreaming up neatly carved steps and things.

Which, I suppose, is why people like telly more than books; it tries to do all the hard work for you…

Afternoon all.

My sister has broken the computer back home. That’s “broken” from the point of view of her & my mother, mind, since what she’s actually done is bugger up the mouse and the PS/2 port, not the actual machine. From where they are, though, in the land of not-knowing-the-keyboard-shortcuts, it’s effectively screwed.

I only found this out because my mother had to ring me to find out how to shut it down without damaging it, which, in some ways, puts her a level up from the average users who’d just pull the plug out – she was, once, quite good with computers, before the advent of “start” buttons which, er, don’t, in fact, start anything, and her main worry was that, without a mouse to click the shutdown button, it wouldn’t be able to park the hard disk properly, and it’d all get bust. (To be fair, she didn’t say that, but I extrapolated from the fact the computer we used to have did demand the feels-like-we’-re-computing rigmarole of returning to the c:> prompt and asking it if it’d like to get parked. It used to bring back a message that said something like “HD PARK OK. NOW TURN POWER OFF!” …)

Anyway, that call took some time, because I first had to explain the “ctrl+alt+delete, and now navigate to “shutdown” with the cursor keys” bit, and then ask why the mouse wasn’t plugged in. It wasn’t, it seems, because my sister decided it was broke last night, and tried to swap it for another mouse which “had a connector like a spaceship” in that it was “wedge-shaped, and full of little holes.” I didn’t even know we still had a mouse to plug into the com port back home, but apparently we do. Predictably, that didn’t work (Hell, even I don’t know where the serial port is on that computer, and I built the damn thing) and so (I’m guessing) she got really cross and – somehow – ripped the PS/2 mouse either in or out, so what they now have at home is a PC with a PS/2 mouse port full of the pins from the connector on the mouse, and a mouse that can never connect to anything again.

Given that the mouse plugs in at the back of the machine, down and to the left of the desk, I’m assuming she took up the mouse in two hands and ripped up and towards her. Can’t imagine why, mind. Ordinarily I’d say I’ll go home and fix it, but it’s nae really that simple, for I’m not due home until October as it is.

I’d not advise buying a whole new PS/2 mouse in the hopes that the port will be OK if you cut the power and pull the shredded pins out with tweezers, because it doesn’t sound like the balance of probability is in favour of it being in a good way, given what’s happened to it, and the box back there only has two USB ports, one of which is taken up with giving them an internet connection. Two, ordinarily, would be plenty for them, as it’s one for the Internet thing and one for the printer / USB stick, neither of which get used at the same time on enough of a regular basis to ever matter.

If, however, they’re going to have to give one over to the mouse, that suggests lots of disconnecting the Internet fun-ness whenever they want to save to a USB key, or print something, or similar.

But, even I – prone as I have always been to sudden flashes of mentalist rage in the vicinity of computers (once, after I got my top character killed in Hillsfar, because of a stupid fight in the arena because of Wak bloody Rather, after I’d spent weeks getting up at 06:00 before heading off to junior school to play it, I caught hold of the monitor, dragged it towards me and then rammed it back so it made an inch-deep dent in the wall behind it – damn thing survived, amazingly, we’ve still got it somewhere) – even I find it hard to imagine destroying a mouse just by pulling. Or, at least, destroying a mouse so the pins stay in the port; dragging it free and lobbing it against the wall I can see could happen more easily, and picking it up and slamming it into the desk so hard the button spring break I’ve done once or twice. But ripping the pins out and leaving ’em in the socket? Man, that is excessive violence against peripherals.

Also, as I say, it rather sinks the use of the PC, which always strikes me as a bit dim… Ah well. It does, at least, save me telling you about the daft dream from this morning (there was a bus, in Bath, which ended up by Morrisons in Aber, and a guy stood in the road with a crash trolley, and revived a guy in the bus next to the one I was in, who’d been having a heart attack). That dream was rubbish.

Must be something in the lack of beer…

Well it’s been a while since I had two mental dreams just before I woke up…

This one, mind, wasn’t as fantastically funny as the last one, but, in the manner of someone with nowt better to do, I’m going to tell you all about it anyway (cue mass exodus from desks as people scramble to avoid hearing someone else’s dream…)

There’s this abandoned cottage, small, and run down, and with an upstairs room quite like the front bedroom at Mauld’s Meaburn, except the floor’s on two levels, and made out of planks of rotten-looking wood. There’s two big bookcases at each end, and I’m looking through their contents – entirely old penguin paperbacks, entirely made up of the General Fiction range, with a couple of Crime ones thrown in. They’re all really tatty, and I’m poking about without any definite aim…

…and Statto suddenly rushes in, and tells me about this really important meeting I’ve got to be at. So the scene dissolves to, for some reason, a cross between the big reading room in the Northwest corner of the NLW, which has been crossed with the Jekyll and Hyde, and at which there are loads and loads of people.

The meeting appears to be ready to start, and seems to be an old Guild GM, with Bethan about to chair it, and it’s running late because I haven’t turned up. And then my mobile goes, and I end up having some sort of conversation with someone on the other end, possibly about the books I’d been looking at. That takes ages, and Bethan gets really cross, and tells me to get off the phone so she can get on with the meeting (although why it can’t happen without me, I don’t know).

I tell her to get stuffed, because it’s really important that I take this call, and that I have to talk to this person (although I don’t know who the person is). Bethan reacts really badly to that, in the sense that she turns into Bec Corn, the meeting vanishes, and me and Statto are in a faceless indoor shopping centre, like the Bull Ring, or Telford, or somewhere, trying to get onto a travellator. It’s really hard, because it’s steep, and so we crouch down. It’s lucky we did, because I nearly get my head taken off by the transparent pale-blue plastic roof that’s over the thing about four foot from the floor.

Then it levels out, and turns into a pneumatic tube, which gets dark and less blue, and which is really bumpy and uncomfortable, and spits us out by the kiosk in Waitrose in Wallingford, where a burly guy in orange dungarees demands to know what we were doing in the corpse tube. I ask “what corpse tube,” and he explains that’s how they move coffins about the place, and it isn’t an escalator at all.

So we go and look for beer. (I dunno why, because Statto doesn’t drink the stuff) I can’t find any bottles, all I can see is tins, such as plum tomatoes come in, with orange labels, and pull-rings. Then Statto turns up really angry holding a bottle of Newky Brown, full of beer, but with a hole in it, and wants to know why I smashed it, and I say I didn’t, and he says that yes I have, look, it’s right in front of me, which it is, on a pallet loaded up with bags of sugar. So we have an argument, Mansbridge arrives, and the alarm goes off and wakes me up.

I’m starting to wonder if these might be stress-type dreams, of the sort I’ve not had for some time, and which I never remember to keep tabs on, so I’m trying with the tabs thing now. Of course, it could just be that I’m going mental… Certainly bloody sounds like it.

Edit: 18-52, 21/02/07
Put in links to Bethan’s blog. And, er, wikipedia page, the presence of which took me rather aback. In the interests of fairness, therefore, I’ve linked to a BBC page for Bec, since it was a choice between that, or the bit on the Guild website from when she resigned, and I dinnae trust the Guild to keep the site going with all the links where they are at the moment [or, you may rightly surmise, very much at all]. In t’unlikely event Bec’s wandering about over here and wants me to plug a proper blog instead, she’s more’n welcome to drop me a comment.

And now I’m going to get a shift on out of the Reserve, because in three minutes they stop paying me to be here.

Somnrisusing. Or something like that.

I had the weirdest experience, this morning. At 06:00 I laughed myself awake. I’ve never done that before. It was… odd.

See, what happened was, I was having this dream, which featured a land-rover and some really muddy hills, and me, Norman, Nick Frost and a third guy whose fact I don’t even slightly remember, were slogging over them.

At which point, the whole scene faded to the dining room at Manse Road, where I lived until about 2001, with the old leather sofa that used to be in there, and the little brown sofa from Hafan and the little table we got and then gave to Dan and Claire.

And on the table were shots, I think of Vodka, or something equally foul, and… Nick Frost was knocking back these shots and trying to sing the song that Lister, Petersen, Selby & Chen sing in a Red Dwarf flashback scene in something like series one (“I’ve been to Titan / I’ve been to Polanski / I can name ninety men / Who’ve slept with Kochanski”) …except he was really drunk, and kept getting it wrong, and had to keep drinking shots as forfeits, and then he’d get it wrong again…

At this point, in my dream, I was in a laugh-out-loud giggle loop, and I kept thinking “I need to stop laughing, or I’ll wake up!” After what seemed to be half an hour of this, I did wake up, sniggering madly away with, as Jeff says, my shoulders going like I’m drilling the road…

…except, it turned out, I wasn’t actually laughing. I know this, because I was finding this dream so funny, and shaking with laughter so much, that Ruth woke up, under the impression I’d finally cracked and was sobbing hysterically and trying to keep quiet about it so I didn’t wake her. Presently, therefore, she asked me what was wrong, and I said something like “It’s… so… funnnnny!!” and then I thought “Er, no it isn’t. Why in the name of God am I giggling so much?!”

I still can’t work out what was funny about it now. Or why Norman was there, or anything else about it.

But laughing yourself awake at 6am is kinda new to me, so I thought I’d foist the concept on the Internet and save myself the trouble of thinking about it anymore. Anyone who’s had that happen to them, mind, is more’n welcome to tell me about it…

Hoo boy…

…Nice to see life’s still hanging about feeling stressful. Although that said, I’m on Saturday Duty now, and, to save getting up at 0630 and hanging about on a bus, Ruth & I splashed out and slogged off to a hotel in the middle of Oxford, last night, where we hung about in the Spa and things. And we had tapas, so that was good.

I’m trying to get through things a day at a time, at the moment, which I think isn’t a great sign, but there’s nae much more I can do about that, and, anyway, I’m no here to whinge at ye. I’m still liking Diplomacy, incidentally; I’m Russia, or, ‘the purple one’ over there, and, with the exception of the icky blue French bits, the board’s looking rather nice.

Mainly, though, I’m here to say I’ve finally sorted myself out and organised a proper uploading of the photos for my last post, which are rather good, so do go have a look at ’em and admire how astonishingly sloshed I am.

Meanwhile, my hectic madcap social life continues in a long whirl of midnight parties on Thames-cruising yachts; I’m not only planning to meet Statto later, I’m also going to go to the cinema!! For the first time, er, since ‘Seducing Dr. Lewis’ was on at the Arts Centre. In Aber. Yeah, hectic, that’s me. Pft.

Have fun!

A weekend away and an Aftershow

Well. Actually the aftershow for Panto took place a week ago, but I’ve got two photos of it what I’ve taken some time to upload. And even then I needed Ruth to point out how to do the size attributes and things…

However, we’ve just got back from Bath, where we’ve been hiding for a couple of days because we rather needed a break after January, which was rather a stressful month, what with Panto and all other manner of concerns wandering about…

So, aye, we went to a really rather nice place done by Paramount Hotels, which, despite being near Bath felt really rather Northern, which was nice. It was on the upper slopes of a valley, which makes a nice change after the flat tedium of Oxfordshire. Hills I like; flatlands can go hang.

We polled up on Friday evening, after various excursions to doctors surgeries, Waitrose and Swindon (This is what you get for getting on a train direct from Didcot to Bath if Worst Great Western are running it; ie, a train that doesn’t stop at Bath – nice train, though, full of legroom and proper doors you open by leaning out of the windows. Nice to see an IC 125 still wandering about the lines, though).

Saturday we took a wander down into the bottom of the valley, which seemed to contain an interesting looking school, and then slogged back up the hill, beneath a pair of buzzards, which I’m not sure I’ve seen before. We get Kites round here, though. Back on site we went into the gym thingy, in search of, I’m sorry to say, exercise. Not a fan of that sort of thing, but, since I’ve been told it’d be good for my poxy knees to muck about on cycling machines and generally trying to build up the muscles in the approximate vicinity of said poxy knees. That was predictably tiring, but somehow faintly rewarding, and then we piled off and had a bit of lunch.

Come the afternoon we hit the steam room, which, like all steam rooms, is really rather super. No plunge pool, which I was a bit sad about, but the main pool was OK, though slightly cool for me at 28 centigrade. And then there were some really astonishing hydro beds which pumped air though holes in the frame, which gave an experience somewhat like being battered by lots of water being blown about, and was still strangely relaxing.

It was all really fantastically refreshing, which is hard to fault, and so we’re likely to head back at some point in the summer – every couple of months seems a good time to take a break; and since our last proper one was the Ramble, that was a very welcome weekend.

Pantomime Ended
with a big aftershow which was superb. I did, however, get astonishingly drunk, as the picture’s likely to show. Mind, I was knackered as well. The thing what I’m holding is the silver trowel the Sinodun Players dish out each panto since ’96 to the person who’s built up their part the best. Which is super, hooray! (Although I do feel that if I did clever “making it look like a painting” photoshop work on it it would suddenly look like I’d walked out of the cover illustration of a 1070’s bodice-ripper…)

Aftershow JTA

and then Ruth had a picture taken for her industry year report to show that she isn’t just doing Fortran and trying to set the volume of the television to – as she now realises she’s been doing for months – a multiple of five, which has somehow ended up with the following photo:

Aftershow Group

And now I’m posting this and having done with it, because we’re just coming to the end of V for Vendetta, and I like the ending too much to miss it for the sake of telling you guys what we’ve been up to, toptastic though you all are.


Can’t get images to work. Someone’s gonna have to guide me through that bit, I reckon. Problem with the permissions, I think, but it was making a nuisance of itself.

Two things:


Two of the energy-saving uplighter lightbulbs in my office have gone, and have thus been replaced. Except we’ve run out of white ones; I’m sitting here basking under a sodium street-light glow. It’s giving me a vague headache, but it feels somehow warmer. Evidently my brain thinks I’m sitting here beneath the glow of a two-bar fire.


When I sign of a chitty to say I’ve done a certain book, I date it. Because things here work in the fairly long-term, I date it with the year, as well, so a typical chitty might have something like “04/12/06, JTA” written on it.

Today, for some reason, I keep writing “01/02/03” rather than a more chronologically correct “01/02/07.” And I’ve just realised that’s because the last time I ever dated anything on the 1st of February was back when I was still in the VIth form, in 2003. I know this, because I distinctly recall being pleased that the date was, if you didn’t care too much about the tens or hundreds column, 1-2-3.

That, in itself, was probably quite sad. What’s rather sadder, however, is the way I seem to have clung to this feeble enjoyment for the past four years, to the extent that I keep trying to replicate it as soon as I’ve got to the “/02” stage.

Oh dear oh dear.

And now I’m going to see about a haircut, because Panto’s over and I’m fed up with my fringe poking me in the eye all the time.