Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A tail of two kitties*

* All credit to PJ for the pun-tastic title.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lady Bountiful

When we moved into our new home, nearly a year ago, we discovered a bunch of stuff that we didn't want -- radiator covers, a wooden fireplace surround, that sort of thing. We shoved it into one of our sheds and forgot about it. Today, however, we ventured into the world of giving stuff away -- Freecycle. I composed the messages, uploaded some pictures, and sent our stuff out into the ether to find a new owner.

Wow! We got lots of emails for all of the items within just a couple of hours! What a great service! But then, doubt sets in. You have to choose who is going to get the radiator cover, the fireplace, the CRT TV. Suddenly, you slip into the mindset of a Victorian Poor Law Guardian. Who are the truly deserving poor rather than the merely indigent -- or, in this case, those members of a shady netherworld of dealers who lurk on Freecycle, pick up your stuff, and then sell it on? Lists of criteria start to form in your mind: How polite are they? Do they mention specifically what they want to use it for? Can they use punctuation correctly? (I am an editor, after all.) And then there's the big challenge for the emotionally empathetic -- how can I say no to so many (nice-sounding people)?

No wonder Bill Gates set up a foundation to deal with all this. It's exhausting and emotionally draining.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"It's called home ENTERTAINMENT"

"Do you want to watch The Dark Knight?"

I think about this. I know that I ought to. It's the second-highest-grossing film of all time. Lots of people clearly loved it. Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart are good actors, and Christopher Nolan's made some interesting films that I've enjoyed.

I think some more. The film is going to be long, it's going to be loud, and it's going to have lots of set-piece chase sequences and explosions. I hate noisy overblown films. I find the sound design to be deafening, the dialogue muddied, the character development and plot consistency thrust aside in search of BIGGER! LONGER! LOUDER! fight sequences.

No, I don't want to watch it. I didn't enjoy the first Batman film in this series. I don't want to watch another bloody film with The Joker chewing scenery left, right, and center. I only liked the Tim Burton one with The Penguin and Catwoman; no penguins, I'm not watching.

"You don't have to watch it. It's not supposed to be hard work, it's supposed to be entertaining."

I decide not to watch it, and the decision feels right. There's something terribly satisfying about deciding that you no longer have to watch what all the cool kids are watching. I just wish I'd said the same thing about Sin City. Actually, I did want to watch Sin City; I just wish I hadn't once it was over. A highly stylized exercise in male wish fulfillment, full of violence and with all the women being scantily clad prostitutes? Not my cup of tea. At all. And it FELT really long, with people "dying" and then waking up, and lots of drawn-out, repetitive fight sequences. At the end, I couldn't believe it was less than 2 hours in duration; it felt like an eternity. By contrast, we've watched Ice Age and Ice Age 2 in the past week and really enjoyed them. Fun stuff.

I sometimes worry that I'm slipping into middle-age with astonishing speed and ease. When PJ's away, I tend to watch a lot of ITV3 -- or OAP TV, as I like to call it. Repeats of Poirot and Jeeves & Wooster; nice dramas with happy endings. (Although, there's a whole class war issue at play in Poirot; it's nearly always the servants bumping off their masters and mistresses out of seething resentment. Interesting.) Or it's fascinating and mad French documentaries on BBC4 about the house of Chanel. Or QI, either on Dave or the new series on BBC1. Nothing too challenging or depressing.

On the other hand, I really liked V for Vendetta, and I didn't expect that at all. It felt very English for a Hollywood thriller, with a really English vernacular and some GREAT jukebox scenes (an early 60s Wurlitzer, I think). And, we also enjoyed Offside, an Iranian film about girls trying to get in to see the Iran-Bahrain World Cup qualifying match in 2005/6. And tonight we're going to watch Helvetica, a documentary about a font. I know: The fun never stops here in Hampshire!

A time for change

Yes, it's been a long time coming.
Yes, I already feel so much better.
Yes, it's just what we need in this era of "credit-crunch Britain"!

I'm talking about, of course, my new library card! After two years of library-free living, I've signed up with our local public lending library -- and have taken out two books, picked up some leaflets on local adult education courses in digital photography and Chinese, and inquired about the Chandler's Ford Crime Fiction Reading Group. I always feel happy in a library -- all those books to browse and no money to pay.

First up: The Devil in Me, a collection of short stories by Christopher Fowler, and then The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford -- it's on The Guardian's list of 1,000 books you should read, which is going to form my reading list for the year. I've just got to finish Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride first; 100 pages to go and I love it! (So much more enjoyable than Oryx and Crake, which is one of the most depressing books I've ever read.)

Expect Amazon's sales to plummet in 2009. Heh.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


No, not the latest atrocious score from the muppets at Carrow Road, but Shin's ongoing lead in the great mouse hunt of 2008/9. So far, Nin has only pulled in 2 but has managed to leave them intact, rather than decapitating them in a post-kill frenzy.

At least they haven't left them in our beds . . . yet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I caught the train into Southampton today, partly because I enjoy train travel and partly because I hate circling the city centre looking for a parking space. As I handed my ticket over for inspection, I noticed that the guard's job title has changed: He/she's no longer a guard or a ticket inspector or even a customer service representative; no, he/she's a "revenue protection inspector".

Protecting revenues -- not customer safety nor the railway company's standards and reputation, but cold, hard cash. At least South-West Trains is NOW being overt about its priorities.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Walkin' in a winter wonderland

It's cold. I mean, really cold right now. I woke up this morning to a completely white world -- sky, ground, trees, the air, everything. And it's not snow, but a very heavy and very beautiful frost. The water in the water butt is frozen solid and even the gnome looks chilly. The BBC Weather Centre has claimed for several days now that it was going to be warm this weekend, but they're clearly still hungover from Christmas.

Wrapping up very warmly, I ventured down to the local garage to buy The Guardian and treated myself to lunch at The Old Forge as a reward for finally doing some exercise. Feeling revived, I tramped back across the fields and up through the woods, with stunning views. The only thing that would have improved the afternoon would have been PJ at my side -- or a dog. Something with a wet nose, either way.

It's now time to build a fire and burn through the scanty remainder of our log pile, while polishing off the last of my best find of 2009 so far -- a hitherto-unread Christopher Fowler novel, Rune. (I love his work; if you like murder mysteries and arcane pieces of London history, check him out -- particularly the Bryant & May novels.) The cats have already positioned themselves on top of the hot water pipes running along the landing and seem reluctant to shift. Good thinking. I'm also contemplating making a plum crumble to have with custard after the remains of last night's veg curry. Sounds good, no?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


I don't know about you, but 10 days of constant grazing at treats both savory and sweet have left me feeling somewhat lardy. I've consumed my own body weight in Cadbury's Roses AND Twiglets -- the latter being something of a surprise, as I thought I didn't like them. (PJ is most unhappy; the Twiglets are his territory.) I still have vast amounts of food around the house to use up -- panettone, parkin, toffee, chocolates, cheesy twists, and yes, a few Twiglets -- so we really needed to get out and do some exercise at the weekend. Which we did, in the form of a 6 km walk around the neighbourhood on Sunday.

For the first time since we moved here 8 months ago, the woods weren't knee-deep in treacherous mud; they were knee-deep in frozen treacherous mud, a very different and much more manageable proposition. We worked our way through them, across some fields, through an abandoned churchyard, under the railway lines, and over to the Itchen Navigation. We then walked all the way back alongside the river to Allbrook, for the final and annoyingly uphill leg of our loop. Crimbo chocolate sustained us on our journey, but it was good to get back inside and build yet another fire -- it's COLD here. We even saw icicles on branches that were dragging in the Itchen, which is rather unusual. Unfortunately, there wasn't any ice on the canals, so no skating a la the Dutchies for me.