Archive for the ‘57 minus’ Category

It’s my fifty-seventh birthday today. Which, if it comes as news to you, means you really haven’t been paying much attention at all.

As on previous birthdays, I’ve absolutely no intention of blogging about anything serious, nor about anything on subjects profound.

I’ll merely commend to you the worls of astronaut and Senator John Glenn:

“For all the advances in medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday.” ‪

But since I don’t want to leave you with that alone, and as it is Tuesday, here are a couple of the creepier fast fictions I’ve written, both dealing with birthdays… of one sort or another.

Enjoy.


Title: A Birthday Treat
Word: hazel
Challenger: [Livejournal: mrs_karen_bear]
Length: 200 words exactly

On the eve of her second ninetieth birthday, she realised once again that she found old age a great comfort; it allowed her to express herself so bluntly without others criticising that she often wondered at the correlation between age and misanthropy.

The Procedure.

It was always capitalised in her mind, much as her first boyfriend was forever The Boyfriend. The Procedure would return her body to the condition it was when she’d been 29, the deep lines on her face gone, and the vision from her once soft hazel eyes restored. She blinked, twice, and then swallowed.

When she’d had The Procedure the first time, six decades previously, she hadn’t understood everything, but she’d been so hungry to live, so consumed with the urge not to die, that she’d agreed within minutes of it being offered.

Over sixty years of extra life, sixty years of thinking, sixty years of watching the world change. They couldn’t promise any additional changes, of course.

She leaned forward in the chair and sipped the liquid slowly, wondering about another sixty years in the chair she’d been confined to since a teenager.

Quadriplegia. Another sixty birthdays of people waiting on her.

She couldn’t wait.

© Lee Barnett, 2009


Title: Birthday Promises
Word: western
Challenger: [Livejournal: rachieb1807]
Length: 200 words exactly

He shouldn’t have had the file; police records shouldn’t be removed, but he wasn’t the only retired detective to take home copies of unsolved cases, to look at in the empty days after leaving a lifetime’s work.

He opened the file and read her name, studied the picture, noted the date of birth, and did a quick mental calculation.

You’d have been 32 today, hunny.

The press had called him The Birthday Killer, because the girl had been killed on her twenty-first birthday. Well, it was assumed she’d been killed – they’d never found most of her body. Small parts of her body, yes, but not the torso, nor the head, nor all of her limbs.

Just like the others. Three hundred and sixty-six in all over a seventeen year period.

He’d sworn when he’d retired never to forget them. His squad’s biggest failure.

He returned the file to the cabinet, putting it in its correct place, among the almost four hundred similar files.

They’d never found her body. He knew that because he’d visited her grave in the western pasture that afternoon.

Tomorrow it would be another grave and another file.

He’d sworn when he’d retired never to forget them.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

See you tomorrow, with… something new.

 
 

 
Not really part of the series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday today, but if you want to read the series, you can see the posts in the run by clicking here.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

57 minus 01: Well.

Posted: 16 August 2021 in 57 minus, blogging
Tags: , , ,

When I came to the final 55 minus post in 2019, I wrote the following:

David Allen Green, who tweets as @davidallengreen, will occasionally quote-tweet some bit of news and merely append the single word: “Well.”

It can mean anything from a gentle “I told you so” to “I wrote about this, you know” to a “yer never gonna believe this, folks, but…”

But often, it’s just a “hey folks, this is interesting.”

And that’s how I intended the title of this post until I started writing it and realised it additionally meant a few other things.

For a start, I’m ‘well’. Which I wasn’t completely sure I would be on this day when I re-started the blog eight weeks ago.

And, two years later, I can say much the same.

With the odd exception, I hadn’t blogged for 18 months. Yes, there’d been the annual A Life In Pictures post, and the one about my late brother on the twenty-third anniversary of his death, and a couple of other posts, here and there, but I took most of 2020 off, as well as the first six months of 2021.

And instead of planning a simple, slow re-introduction to blogging, I committed to not only a daily blog for fifty-seven days, but to write one new piece of fiction a week as part of it. (For that, you can thank an old friend who I promised I’d write new fiction, and put it out there. Kind of pleased me just how much I enjoyed keeping that promise.)

I can’t honestly say I expected to burn out during the run – I’ve done enough of these countdowns now to have safety nets if I need a day off. Sometimes, it’s because ‘life’, that lack of respecter of deadlines, gets in the way. On other occasions, it’s because I had a shitty night’s sleep and am like a zombie the following day.

And other times… well, other times I just need a day off, and I’ll take one so this thing doesn’t run the risk of feeling like a chore.

So, I’ll stick up an extra two ‘fictions from the blog’, or I’ll pull out a fairly timeless (by which I mean it’s not topical) post I’ve written in reserve, or even post, what we called on Livejournal, a meme; a Q&A or something.

Two things surprised me this run, though.

First I didn’t expect to enjoy the writing as much I did. The actual, physical and mental, wrangling of words to make them do what I wanted them to do.

I have enjoyed that. I didn’t expect to. I mean, I didn’t expect to dislike it. But I genuinely didn’t expect to actively enjoy it.

Secondly, it surprised me how quickly I got back into the daily habit. A pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.

Lessons learned?

Only three, I think, , one of which was something that did what it was supposed to, the remaining two I kind of knew in advance but it was comfortable to have them confirmed.

(1) Having and using goingcheep was a objectively good idea; something that’s very much not this blog, a daily brain dump, a couple of hundred words, on tumblr just to loosen up the fingers and get me in the mood to write. Never have I appreciated it more than I have this time around.

(2) the days of people frequently responding to the blog are long gone. Popular bloggers – usually with a specific bent, like DAG’s legal blog – might get a discussion going in the comments section, but personal blogs, blogs that wander all over the place? Not so much.

I did consider cross-posting to Medium but in the end decided against it this time. Maybe if I was actively aiming for a large readership, but I’m doing this as much this time around for my own amusnment and enjoyment as I am for others’. But it’s still something to consider moving forward.

(3) Which brings me to the readership numbers. Other than when I knew a post was getting some traction on Twitter, I didn’t even check the blog stats. I really can’t recommend this enough as a practice. And it wasn’t as if the blog was being promoted; I didn’t promote the blog on Facebook, for the fairly obvious reason that I’m not on Facebook. (Maybe that’s a post for another day.) I do link the posts on Tumblr but I get almost no click-throughs from it. But I still do it, because why the hell not?

And now I’m writing that out, I’m wondering whether I should at some point find some way of promoting the blog.

Hmm… something else to consider, I guess.

So, budgie, after fifty-six days, how did it go?

For me? Great. I got to stick – more or less – to the plan I’d had when I started: some old fiction, some new fiction, the Saturday Smiles, only one post on politics, (more will come in the ’57 plus’) and some reflections on the world during/after covid.

Some stuff didn’t work out, of course.

I had intended to put up some very personal posts. Never happened. I mean, there were a couple of personal ones, but not the three I’d written that were deliberately very personal, about me, about the inside of my head, and about personal history.

To be honest, I’m still not sure whether they’ll appear in ’57 plus’ but of those three I’ve written and not posted, I’d lay good money that one will appear, one might appear at some point…

…and one won’t, at least not without heavy rewriting; there’s still stuff in it that I’m not overly comfortable putting out into the public sphere.

Which leads me to the following.

This is the final post in the run of blog entries leading up to my fifty-seventh birthday, which if you’ve been paying attention and have even the slightest understanding of, y’know, numbers… is tomorrow: Tuesday 17th August.

I’ll probably post something tomorrow, if only because I no longer ‘have’ to do so, I could take the day off and not one of the six of you who are reading would blame me in the least.

So, yeah, there’ll be something. But, honestly, right now? I’m not sure what. I’ve a couple of creepier fast fictions about birthdays, one from 2009 and another from 2010, so maybe I’ll stick them up. I honestly don’t know right now. I’ll decide tomorrow.

And then…? And then…?

Well, then I start the new run of fifty-seven posts, and these are intended to be a bit denser. Some more stuff about politics, some more essay-type posts.

Oh, I’ll continue the fictions both old and new, and the Saturday Smiles, and the Ten Things posts. But some deeper stuff. Maybe some stuff on comedy, both the craft and the performance; there’s been precious little in this run other than the Saturday Smiles, and we could all do with just a few minutes light relief.

And I did enjoy doing those Saturday Smiles, especially finding clips of which readers were probably unaware and introducing them to people who didn’t previously know their work.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed reading the run.
 


OK, I think that’s about it.

Thanks for reading. Not only today’s but any of the posts you’ve read. Something else is coming. But meanwhile…

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

Well.

 

See you tomorrow, with… that something else. 

 


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is the final entry in a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Housekeeping Note: As mentioned the other day, I’m going to keep running this blog past my birthday; as usual on such occasions, the titles of the posts will switch from’…minus…’ to ‘…plus…’ And there’ll be 57 posts entitled that. Though I guess I’ll have to come up with a different tag line to: Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

There’ll still be old fiction on Tuesdays, new fiction on a Thursday, and the usual nonsense you’ve come to expect.

OK, on with today’s entry.


As with previous entries on medical stuff and travel, this post won’t be on the macro stuff, on national policy or anything, but how covid has changed what I do, what consequences it’s had for me.

And, maybe, on what it’s going to affect for me during the next couple of months.

So, time.

Time has been weird the past 18 months or so. We haven’t had the shared anniversaries we’d usually have; we haven’t been able to celebrate birthdays and annual successes… or, equally importantly, maybe more importantly, comfort each other on deaths, and the anniversaries of deaths or losses.

Because some people had their final birthday during covid, and nothing I could say here would possibly even slightly ease the anguish their family and friends felt and continue to feel. It’s fundamentally wrong, just wrong, that the dying couldn’t be comforted by, surrounded by, their loved ones at the time. And those who grieved coukldn’t even do so communally.

Moreover, no matter how advanced the technology gets, no matter how good the video streams become, there’s a distinct and definite difference between ‘being there in person‘ and ‘not being there in person‘.

There are times when ‘not being there’ isn’t that important, to be brutally honest. A friend celebrates their birthday, and arranges a zoom session for folks who can’t make the party? That’s cool. Same applies for weddings, and confirmations and bar mitzvahs. Hell for celebrations in general.

Someone’s grandfather is buried, in the same city, and they have to watch it on a screen? That’s not the same. At all. It’s not cool in the least. It’s heartbreaking, at best. I struggle in fact to see it as anything other than callous and cruel, and I wouldn’t blame anyone in that situation who felt like they were being punished for others‘ actions.

(Or if the others are elected politicians in power? It must have felt like you were being punished for others” inactions.)

My own birthdays are about as trivial an example as it’s possible to use… and it’d be meaningless and silly to use that as an example of missing a celebration. So of course I’ll use that.

I’ve never really been one for birthday parties. In part because I wasn’t exactly a popular kid in school. So, whether I decided early on that I didn’t want birthday parties because no one would want to be there, or whether I decided that after having had parties where it was obvious that no one else wanted to be there, I dunno. Either way, big birthday parties ceased fairly early on in my life.

(Having a birthday in the middle of the school holidays aided that, to be fair. It’s about the only reason I had until my 50s where I’ve been pleased that my birthday’s in August.)

Because of course, for the past decade or so, my birthday has taken place at the same time as The Edinburgh Festival. (Well, yes, ok, if you want to be pedantic, it’s always taken place as the same time; it just never really mattered to me that it did.)

Now, not all of my birthdays have taken place at the Edinburgh Fringe the past decade, but it’s usually played some part in the celebrations, because either because I’m up there for it or a couple of days after my birthday, I’m heading up north of the border,

In 2014 – for my 50th – and in 2019, of course, I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at the Fringe, and enjoyed both days enormously.

The past two years have left me feeling a bit weird about my birthday, and about birthdays in general during the pandemic. There’s a certain element of ‘birthday blues’ attaching to this one, I’ll admit, as I formally enter my ‘late 50s’.

There’s no general agreement these days as to what constitutes ‘middle-age’, is there? Whenever it comes up on Twitter, the discussions quickly devolve into arguments between those who [reluctantly] insist they are now, or still are, middle-aged, and those who want to avoid the label, so claim it’s always ‘ten years older than I am right now’. Me? I figured I entered ‘middle-age’ the day my son became 18, when he became an adult. But then I didn’t get married until I was 30, and I was 31, fifteen months later, when he was born. So, y’know.

But there is, shurely, a consensus on what qualifies as early-, mid- and late- of whatever decade you’re talking about.

A ‘zero’ year – 30, 40, 50, etc – isn’t part of early. It’s its own category. No one claims that being 40 makes you ‘in your early 40s…’

No, you’re just… 40.

So,

    31-33 – early thirties
    44-46 – middle forties
    57-59 – late fifties

And, in a couple of days’ time, I’ll be 57. In my late fifties.

And for the second year, I won’t be in Edinburgh for it. Which annoys me. I’d hoped to get up there this year for it, even if the Fringe wasn’t going ahead, or not in any recognisable way. I’d hoped to make it up so that I could finally discover whether it’s Edinburgh I love, as a city, or whether it’s the Fringe that I love.

Last year, although restrictions had eased a bit, things were far from ‘normal’, and everyone knew it. Someone suggested, only semi-jokingly, I suspect, that everyone should get to pause their birthdays for a year, and pretend 2020 never happened.

But yeah, I’ve had better birthdays, and I suspect this year’s won’t be great either. I’m… not looking forward to being 57. For all kinds of reasons. But I’m not. And no, it’s nothing to do with – as one person suggested, not unkindly – that ‘time is passing if you ever want to be in another relationship’.

I gave up on that possibility long, long ago. Without too much bitterness, I assure you… and…

(No, wait. I’m not going to do that now; that’s part of that very personal post I mentioned I’m writing but still never got around to posting. Maybe in the ’57 plus…’ We’ll see.)

Anyway, time and my birthday. I’ll be spending the day alone, for various reasons, which shouldn’t matter in the least; it’s just ‘another day’ as they say.

I should say that I’ve always been genuinely amused by those who decry others marking the turn of the year, claiming ‘it’s just another day, another 24 hour period’. The same people rarely take it in good humour when people ignore their birthday with ‘eh? It’s just another day, another 24 hour pension, isn’t it’.)

But yeah, while it doesn’t bother me that much now, today, I suspect it might well do so in 48 hours.

ANYWAYS, moving on…

Back to talking about time over the past 18 months that seem both to have lasted five years and yet also only 6months.

So many things that were ‘the norm’ back before the pandemic struck seem… odd now, seem weird, and frankly, seem flat out strange to me now.

I can’t remember the last time I went to the movies, in a proper cinema. Now, that in and of itself is ok; I can’t remember the last time I did lots of things. And only some of that is because I have a shit memory for lots of things.

But there are a couple of warring desires in my head: (1) the genuine urge to go to the movies just because I now can go to the movies, because they’re open for business, and because I’ll probably enjoy it… fighting against (2) the urge to avoid going into crowded places, no matter how ‘covid safe’ they protest they are.

And part of that last bit is because the very idea of being in a crowd seems to belong to a far away time, the old ‘the past is a different country; they do things differently’ thing. But it was only 18 months ago.

Only 18 months ago.

Time. We’re almost two-thirds of the way through 2021. We’re 227 days through it. And yet, it still seems like 2021 both has barely started, while also I’m kind of asking “we’re ONLY 227 days through it? How the hell are we not almost at Christmas?”

I mean, ok, I know March 2020 seemed to have 227 days on its own, but surely we’re more used to how time passes than that?

Because it’s not just the birthdays and anniversaries that matter, It’s – depending on your religion, Easter and Passover and Eid and Diwali – and it’s dozens of family occasions, hundreds of sporting events, including those that are taking place in 2021 yet all the coverage and merchandise says 2020. And yet more things; there are dozens of cultural events, hundreds of those little calendar markers through the year, anniversaries that pop up on your individual, personal diaries. “Huh, I started at this job two years ago”, “Oh, Timehop reminds me I was on holiday on a Caribbean island three years ago”.

“Oh, I broke up with him on the day of lockdown.”

The days of the week tend to run into each other. I’ve seen more “I thought it was tomorrow all day” and “I keep thinking tomorrow is the weekend, it’s not” online than ever before.

And while it pales compared to those who’ve lost people during the pandemic, it does… irk… that we have no idea when it will be… over. Even if we’re told when, and we believe them, it’s now hard to accurately judge the future, judge what period of time a week or a month is.

I don’t mean the formal lifting of restrictions. Hell, if the past few months have shown us all anything its that “the formal lifting of restrictions” and “things getting back to normal” are not only two very different things indeed; they’re talking about two entirely different things.

My friend Mitch Benn, the comedian, had a bit in his 2014 Don’t Believe A Word’ show about the difference between atheism and agnosticism. People confuse them, think they address the same thing. They don’t. Theism/Atheism are about belief, or the lack of it. Gnosticism/Agnosticism address knowledge.

In the same way, the formal lifting of restrictions addresses what you can now do, legally; a simple (ok, complicated but it should be simple) list of facts: you can do this, you can’t do that. Whereas things being back to normal is about how it all feels.

And time feels odd to me; it has for months. Not for the full 18 months since the first lockdown, but yeah, the past year or so.

If someone says “this will happen in a month”, I’m no longer exactly sure I know what a month feels like.

And that’s not right. That’s not… good.

And it’s going to take something to fix it.

Oddly enough, it’s going to take time.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else. And since it’s the final entry of this ’57 minus…’ run, you might well think you know what’s coming. You probably don’t.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant.

Indeed, as I’ve grown older, if not wiser, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

So, after another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a hearty ‘how the fuck should I know?’, here’s some much needed silliness.

For this run, I’m going to try and find, each week, three archive clips, one example of something that’s just… nice. And then end every week with something from my mate Mitch, who fortunately has continued to provide videos over the past year.

(And, since I said yesterday that I’m running the blog on after my birthday, that’s going to stay the rule when we switch to ’57 plus…’)

Ok then…

 

Oh, haven’t seen this one in ages. From the very first series of Not The Nine O’Clock News: Trade Union Negotiations

 

I believe that it’s obligatory at some point or another to show Four Candles, so here it is

 
 
How to Make a Movie Trailer. Exactly what it says on the tin

  
I have rarely wanted to be at Glastonbury. Very rarely. No, seriously, only vanishingly rarely. I wish I’d been here for this.

  
 
Absolutely no apologies for sticking this one up again, following the news from Plymouth this week. Mitch, on the Alternative Right, and, yes… incels.

 
 
See you tomorrow, with something else…

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

OK, this is a weird one, I’ll admit.

I can’t say it started on Twitter this week; Twitter this week merely provided a timely reminder that I’d said I might do it.

Y’see, every so often, someone on Twitter will put out a tweet. Say, something like this.

Now, at least he’s being somewhat fair. He did say ‘three’.

Often, whoever’s asking won’t; they’ll want you to identify your favourite tv theme.

And equally often, I look at such a request in bafflement.

Because, just as with movies, or songs, I can’t limit it to one. Nor even three. Maybe a dozen or so.

(I have an exception, just about, for my favourite novel. That is, and has been from the moment I discovered it, Irving Wallace’s The Man, of which a dear friend bought me a first edition for my fiftieth birthday. It’s one of my fondest possessions, I admit. It even smells like an old book should.)

And, with a lovely synchronicity, I wrote, on goingcheep, the other day:

Every so often the “what’s the best tv theme” question does the rounds on Twitter. And I can’t answer that question; I can never answer that question.

Because I can’t narrow it down to one answer. I can’t even narrow it down to 20.

A while back, out of boredom, I think, I found a site which let you download the audio of the theme, and I stick some in my iTunes. And use some as ringtones. And every so often, when I remembered one I liked, or came across a new one I liked, I’d go to the site, grab it, add it to the playlist.

Genuinely didn’t have a clue how many I had on the playlist until just now. When I checked. And discovered I have almost 150. Yeah, that may be too many to call it a casual thing.

And now I’m wondering whether to do a 50 tv theme tunes I like next Friday.

Someone talk me out of it.

So, no of course I’m not doing 50. That’d be daft. because I couldn’t even narrow down the list to 50. So, what the hell…? Here are sixty I like.

Not all in one post; that would be daft. (And would push WordPress’s ancient platform to reload the page every so often.)

So what I’m gonna do is provide ten at a time, for six weeks.

Which, I guess, kind of makes my mind up as to whether I’m going to continue into a ‘57 plus‘ run after my birthday. Not the hugest surprise, but yeah.

Oh, and these themes are not in order of ‘preference’, just in alphabetical order. Even if that means two of my genuine favourites – Washington: Behind Closed Doors, and The Zoo Gang – are relegated to the bottom of the list, and will appear in five week’s time in the sixth part of this mini-series.

But there’ll be some you expect to see, no doubt. There’ll be some you’re surprised at, no doubt. And there’ll – hopefully – be one or two that you’ve either never heard of, or had entirely forgotten.

Anyway, here we go


Theme 01: The Addams Family

I’m sure there are more ‘clickable’ theme tunes, but none spring to mind. This is one that always gets a smile… Although I’ve taken it from the tv series, gotta be honest and say that I prefer the casting, and the tone, of the first movie, with Raul Julia and Angelica Huston, and the wonder that is Christina Ricci.


 


Theme 02: Airwolf

There seemed to be a slew of tv theme tunes in the 80s that started with a rhythmic machine sound. Airwolf beat them all.


 


Theme 03: Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The perfect meld of tune and subject matter. Just perfect.


 


Theme 04: The A-Team

As with Airwolf, there seemed to be a fair few tunes that stated with a narration (The A-Team beat them all) and more than few with a first few notes sting (ditto). So of course this makes it in.


 


Theme 05: The Banana Splits

One of the very sentimental ones; I remember sitting on the couch watching this with my big brother. Always a fond memory.


 


Theme 06: Batman – The Animated Series

Not sure why this one works so bloody well; there’ve been more than a few Batman themes, more than a few animated super-hero themes. This wins every time. It’s so good.


 


Theme 07: BBC Cricket

Entitled Soul Limbo, by Booker T and the MGs, in case you wondered… Surprised me when I checked, given my lack of interest in sport, that two made it through the cut. This and Ski Sunday, which will be along in a few weeks. But yeah, of course this made it in.


 


Theme 08: Blackadder The Third

Like several other shows in this series, there are several I could choose from. I’ve never liked the first or the fourth series’ themes, but it was a tossup which made it in to this list between the second and third. The third just takes it for… for… I honestly have no idea why I prefer it. But I do.


 


Theme 09: Blockbusters

Another sentimental one. Before the hand jive, before Bob Holness started to believe his own publicity. Before it became A Thing, Blockbusters was just a neat tv show I enjoyed watching, with a cracking tv theme.


 


Theme 10: Blue Peter

Another one where there are multiple versions; I’ve chosen the Mike Oldfield version… I just like how… clean it is.


 

OK, there’s the first ten. Another ten, from Bonanza through Dallas next week

See you tomorrow, with the usual Saturday ‘something else’…

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for this blog run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. So, since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the story telling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across by chance, usually while looking for something else entirely.

As often as not, I have no idea why the image appeared in a search for something else, and equally as often as not, I have no idea why that image sparked a story while another didn’t.

I came across the following image the other day, while searching for something else entirely, but this sparked the slightest gem of an idea.

And here’s what it inspired.


Day 391

There were eleven of us left. Eleven, from a crew of two hundred and thirty-five.

The captain was the lucky one, I suppose. He died from an accident, on the fourth day. A faulty connector on his oxygen supply. At least that’s the official story. And there’s not one of us who believes it; personally, I think it was suicide, but he could have been killed.

And if it was murder, it would only have been the first. Murder, accident, suicide. These words seem to belong to the past, to a way of thinking that long ago ceased to have any relevance to us.

For the past month, the death certificates have had one cause written upon them: The Hole.

It’s there right now, outside the ship; a neon arsehole hanging in space. It ripped us out of the metaspace highway,, and parked us here, at this precise position in space; a dozen died from the sudden deceleration. I remember their names. I remember all the names.

A little over 1.6 trillion metres away. Never changing. And no one has a clue why it hasn’t taken us. We’ve seen asteroids taken in by it. Two weeks ago, it swallowed a planet. A whole fucking planet. With the most powerful scanners we carried, we could see the ships trying to escape from the orange and green sphere. None of them made it.

And we’re here, not knowing why. In a little over a year, we’ve learned precisely three things about The Hole: it’s there, it never changes in size, and – we can thank the surgeon’s interest in ancient history for this, for no one else knew the archaic measurement – it’s exactly one million miles away.

We can thank the surgeon for something else as well: the small foam pad on top of which is a smaller green pill; one per cabin. They appeared three weeks after we were captured by The Hole. It’s painless. Apparently.

A poison that leaves no trace. That’s important. Obviously. The surgeon came up with it.

Oh, wait, I’m the surgeon, aren’t I? I forget that sometimes. I blame the gravity, but it could be the home made brew someone in engineering created in the eighth month.

I open the ship’s medical log and reread the last week’s entries; I have no idea why I’m keeping it. Training, I suppose. There’s nothing to write of importance; nothing but the date, a damage report to ship and crew, and the number of us who are left. I have no idea, given the gravity waves, whether the date is correct.

The damage report is just a lengthening list of problems that can never be solved; we ran out of supplies six months back. And now I record one more death. Death in the line of duty, of course. Cause of death: The Hole. I should have done it yesterday. I thought I had, but apparently not.

A soft tone rings. Lunchtime. The captain’s last order had been that we maintain Earth time. It matters less since we couldn’t maintain the lights. But food times are important, I think. At least I think I think.

I close the log, and look around my cabin, once again cursing the lack of supplies. I walk over to the back wall, and slide open the drawer.

Second petty officer Johnson. I remember his sense of humour. And his booming bass. I thank him for his sacrifice.

And start preparing lunch for those of us left.

 
© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I’ve avoided writing about politics so far this run, and – to be honest – it’s not been that difficult. There’s nothing I’ve felt that I could write about current British politics that I haven’t written before. Well, for the most part, anyway.

Corbyn is no longer Labour leader, which is nice. Johnson – who I named primus inter mendaces – is still Prime Minister… which is less nice.

And just last week, Labour just proscribed four groups for holding values ‘antithetical to Labour’s values’. (Which isn’t entirely a polite way of saying they’re a bunch of antisemitic pricks, but it isn’t not saying they’re a bunch of antisemitic pricks.)

The Lib Dems are somehow even less relevant right now than they were ten minutes after the 2015 election result was declared. And, oh, yeah, there’s Brexit. Remember that? That’s going just swimmingly.

And there’s been a pandemic. So there’s that.

I don’t really want to talk about any of the above. And since it’s my blog, I don’t have to. So there.

But I do want to spend a bit of time on something that’s been gaining traction on Twitter. Which has absolutely no relevance or impact, of course, upon what we laughingly call ‘real life’, but anyway.

It’s the idea of A Progressive Alliance. The idea being that parties who hate each other’s guts, but who all hate the Tories even more, get together for a one-time deal, don’t stand against each other at a general election, then sweep the board, kick the Tories out of office, form a government, then… well, erm, that’s up for discussion, apparently.

Lots of people have ideas what they should do, but there’s nothing they actually have to do. They’ve already done the main thing the alliance was formed to accomplish: prevent the Tories forming a government. OK, that’s not quite fair: the primary aim is to prevent the Tories from ever winning another election, from ever forming another government. Primarily, this will be achieved by reforming the electoral system, including instituting proportional representation.

(I do have to say that I wish more people were a tad more honest about why they’re pushing this progressive alliance thing. Lots of people are honest about it, but too many pushing the idea still maintain they’re doing it for ‘fairness’ and ‘so that everyone’s vote counts’. No, they’re not. They’re doing it so the people-they -want-to-win will win and the people-they-don’t-want-to-win won’t win.)

Now, often, I can say that this idea, or that idea, has been around since I first started following politics, and maybe before even then. I can’t say that about a progressive alliance. Not really. I genuinely don’t think the idea is that old.

When I was in my teens, there was the ‘Lib-Lab pact’, from early 1977 to mid-1978. Due to by-election losses, Labour couldn’t govern without Liberal support, and the Liberal Party gave them just enough support to get them through.

And it wasn’t the first such pact, although they’re not common in Westminster by any means; less of a union than a coalition, more formal than a ‘confidence and supply arrangement’ (where parties agree to support a government at least on the budget and on votes of confidence).

And of course there’s been, within the past decade, a formal coalition government that only ended at the 2015 general election, six years ago… and three general elections ago. It’s kind of weird to think that just over six years ago, we had a coalition government in Westminster.

A progressive alliance is neither of those. I guess you could call it a pact. I mean, you could call it whatever you want; it’s never going to happen.

Never. As in not ever.

There are so many reasons for this, and if you want detailed political analysis, I suggest you look for professional pundits to give you it.

For this post though, I’m going to concentrate on just four reasons.

One, which with goodwill on all sides could be overcome. (But won’t be.)

One, which with goodwill and fear on all sides, might, possibly, be overcome. (But won’t be.)

One which no one wants to admit to but if they did, they might just bring the public along. (But they won’t, so they won’t.)

And one… which kills the idea stone dead in its tracks.

All share one thing, but they’re addressing very different issues. I’m reminded of Matthew Parris’s superb piece on ‘the seven bad reasons people give why you should vote, why they’re all wrong, and the only reason that actually matters, but it matters SO much, it supersedes all the wrong ones‘.

Ok, he didn’t call it that, but he might as well have done.

Well, that last of the reasons I mention above – the ‘ kill it stone dead’ one – might as well be called “the reason that matters SO much, that a progressive alliance won’t ever happen”.

OK, so the reason which with goodwill on all sides could be overcome. (But won’t be.)

Party rules might be bent at times to allow parties not to stand a candidate for election in a parliamentary seat, but most parties have rules against campaigning for another party, and especially campaigning against your own party’s candidate.

Now there’s a big difference, I acknowledge, between campaigning for another party who’s standing against a candidate of your own party on the one hand, and campaigning for a candidate of another party when your party isn’t putting up a candidate on the other.

BUT that assumes that if the main party instructs a local constituency party not to put up a candidate, that the local party is going to listen and obey.

And I think many constituency parties won’t obey; they’ll tell the party headquarters to go fuck themselves, especially when it’s one of the main parties. You’re going to have to get hundreds of local parties to agree not to stand a candidate, and then get the local party to campaign for another party’s candidate to be the MP for that constituency. Forget about trust issues – I’ll deal with them in a minute, I promise – you’re asking people who’ve campaigned for years to win a seat, for decades in some cases,… to not even try this time around. And more, to actively help someone else do it.

Even if you can get them to agree to that, who decides, for a start, who has to stand down? Do you go for ‘who came second last time?’ What if the last election was an anomaly? Do you go for the average vote over the past five elections? Or does the decision get made beyond the closed doors in what used to be called ‘smoke filled meetings’?

Who decides who’s included in this alliance for a start, and decides whose judgement carries more weight?

(One of my favourite quotes about US constitutional law is ‘the purpose of the Supreme Court is to answer two questions: Who decides…? And who decides who decides?”)

Would it make sense for every party to be counted equally? Really? Labour has – even now – over 200 MPs, the Green Party has… 1. SNP don’t fight seats outside Scotland, so are they only going to have to stand down candidates in Scotland? Yeah, that’s going to go down well north of the border. Lib Dems a decade ago had 60+ seats; now they have a dozen. Should they be punished now because they were in a coalition in 2010? Why? They have a different leadership now.

If it’s votes not seats that count, then Labour have to ‘give’ more. Will they? Why would they?

So, yeah, all of those can be dealt with, if everyone is willing to give a little, or give a lot in some cases. But it needs everyone to go along with it. And they won’t.

OK, moving on: The reason which, with goodwill and fear on all sides, might, possibly, be overcome. (But won’t be.)

People don’t vote in an election for one thing. Or at least, not everyone votes for the same reason. Not everyone votes for the same party for the same reason. It’s why manifestos (too long, admittedly) have umpteen pledges and umpteen promises and contain appeals to contradictory demographics. And parties assume, with some justification, granted, that each demographic group will actually believe that they’ll get what they want from a government of that party, while the stuff the group doesn’t like in the manifesto… probably won’t happen.

How can a manifesto with hundreds of policies be consistent throughout? It can’t be. It just can’t be. Parties know that, and they hope like hell that it’s just consistent enough to get people to vote for them.

Problem is that if you want a progressive alliance, all of that is an obstacle, a fucking huge one.

If Labour and the SNP and the Lib Dems and the Green Party and Plaid Cymru agreed on anything beyond ‘we’d like to be elected please’, or more accurately, if they didn’t disagree on shitloads that each party holds very dear to their heart, such an alliance would already be taking place.

And it’s not. And it won’t.

And even if it was, and it did, parties are assuming that the public will vote for who the parties want them to, who they instruct the voters to. You’re asking people who’ve voted Labour their entire lives to vote for another party… and then assuming that they’ll vote for you again later, when it suits you. It’s arrogant, and the public aren’t that stupid.

I mean, portions of the voting public are very stupid, but even that portion isn’t that stupid.

Which brings us on to the next reason.

The reason which no one wants to admit to but if they did, they might bring the public along. (But they won’t, so they won’t.)

The message given out isn’t the truth. The activists calling for this are treating the public like idiots. More than that, they’re treating the public like idiots with the memories of goldfish.

Activists and parties who want this are effectively saying to the public:

This is for the best. Listen to us, the people who care, the people you should trust. Listen to the politicians, you know, those people you can always trust. This is solely to ensure that your votes are reflected in parliament. Look, we can’t win without changing the electoral system. And we don’t like that we can’t win. We’d rather win. And, yes, we know we asked you if you wanted to change the voting system only a decade back… and you said a clear and loud ‘fuck no!’ But we know better than you and since we can’t win without changing it, and we’d really like to win… we’re going to go shit or bust and hope like fuck you’ll let us do it, because… We Know Best.”

Yeah. Not entirely sure that’s a wining play.

OK, and now The Big Reason why a progressive alliance won’t happen.

The reason a progressive alliance won\t happen, no matter how much people protest they want one…? Because it involves doing something that party activists, that party members, Do Not Want To Do, And Will Not Do: believe people who are members of other parties, councillors from other parties, MPs from other parties who have voted for things you loathe and detest…

…are not bad people.

That’s it, that’s the problem. Long ago, it’s not wholly a recent thing – though it’s more openly acknowledged these days – people in other parties, people who’ve voted for things you despise, who’ve supported politicians you loathe, detest and wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire… were good people with bad ideas.

That went the way of the dodo decades ago.

When people inside the party can’t stand each other (Tories at war over Europe and austerity, Labour at war over antisemitism and Brexit), you’re seriously asking people to trust, campaign for, defend and support people in other parties? Are you kidding?

You’re asking people in Labour to not only forgive but irrevocably do so, the Lib Dems for 2010-2015, to forgive the SNP for wiping out Labour in Scotland. You’re asking the SNP to work with Labour, for the Lib Dems to forgive Labour activists for regarding them as Tory fellating scum? You’re asking the Greens to support parties who won’t support green issues?

I repeat: who are you kidding?

You’re asking a demographic whose tribalism is one of their foremost attributes (for good or bad) to abandon – even if temporarily – that tribalism and support another tribe? Many tribes? While saying ‘it’s only temporary, but we’ll pretend is isn’t to con the voters..’

Once again: who are you kidding?

Not. A. Chance.

You want people to trust people they don’t trust, to recommend people they don’t like, to campaign for people they don’t believe. And to tell the public to vote for people they don’t respect.

Yeah, how do you think that’s going to go?

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I appreciate the forbearance shown yesterday. You get another couple of tales today, ‘nicer’ than yesterday’s I promise, then hopefully back to something approaching normality for the final week of the run.


It’s Tuesday, so a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, both from 2005.

Looking back at the 2005 run, there were some dark tales, some odd tales (some of them very odd indeed) and some, occasionally, nice ones.

Here are two of the last category. Two nice tales I look back at and wonder how I could have written them; I’m not sure I could now.

But I like them a lot.

The first tale shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows my love of ‘what if…?‘ stories. Hard to do one in 200 words, but I like how this one goes.

The second? Ah well, I don’t think the second one below is the first story I wrote in verse, but it’s one where I think I got it ‘right’; telling a story in verse… with a beginning, a middle and an end. In 200 words. And Ireally liked the rhyming cadence I used in this tale.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
Word: oddity
Challenger: [Livejournal: malkavs_child]
Length: 200 words exactly

I could have, you know. On another day, maybe even I would have.

Maybe.

Three years later, and I can’t get him out of my head.

From that first day in the student refectory, queuing up with people I barely knew, soaking in the sounds.

And there he was. Sitting alone, reading a novel; a shocking neon yellow cover with crimson lettering, an oddity among the conservatively coloured and labelled text books others had.

I’d noticed the book before I had looked at the person holding it. I saw eyes narrowed in concentration, the face betraying someone on the edge of adulthood; features still acknowledging their heredity.

He shut the novel and stretched his long arms out, yawning. Then he stood, placed the book in his bag, and aimed himself at the exit.

As he passed, he gave a cursory look in my direction and continued past.

He stopped at the door, then turned and gave me a dazzling smile…

“I could have, you know. Maybe even I would have… Maybe.”

“What’s that, babe?” he asks sleepily, stirring next to me in bed. I stare at him for a long moment, thinking that I could have ignored him that day…

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: And For A Sequel
Word: ranunculus
Challenger: [Livejournal: elfie_elfie]
Length: 200 words exactly

And once again, the stranger came;
He came most ev’ry year.
To make a sound, and look around
But mostly to drink beer.

     He’d sully forth, first East then North
     And end up in our place.
     He’d get right drunk, with beer he’d sunk
     Through the hole at the end of his face.

But as he fell, he’d curse and yell,
For times of long ago.
And with each glass, (he’d swear, his last)
My, how the tales did flow.

     He’d tell of things, forgotten things
     Of centuries gone by.
     And challenge those, with woeful prose,
     Who’d call each one a lie.

To folk in town, he was a clown
And no more need be said.
They’d heard before, these tales of yore
And to their homes they sped.

     Then came that day, the first of May
     When spring was in the air.
     The stranger’s heart, it gave a start
     And muscles deep did tear.

He hit the ground, without a sound
The stranger bit the dust.
The doc was called, the body hauled
With very little fuss.

     Permission granted, the man they planted.
     The priest said “dust to dust”.
     Upon his grave, the priest did lay
     Some sweet ranunculus.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Yes, I know it’s Monday, but… well, I started to write a post about how ‘time’ has changed for me during the pandemic, the third in a series (previous ones on medical stuff and travel) and then a few hundred words though it prefaced it with…

A bit shorter one today, as my foot started twingeing as I got into the flow and, in about ten minutes, went from ‘ouch, this is a bit painful’ to ‘oh gods, I need the painkillers, where are my painkillers, I’m sure I have painkillers in my bag…’

…before it started hurting a lot more. A lot more.

So, yeah, you get another couple of old stories today.

Sorry, You’ll probably get two more tomorrow as well. And, hopefully back to normal on Wednesday.


It’s Tuesday Monday, so a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, both from 2005.

I was still figuring out the format at this stage, and – looking at these two -I was feeling my way towards writing darker stories, much darker. These are probably two of the ‘much darker’ of the earlier tales. They fit my current mood.

Both could be expanded, I suppose, but I’m genuinely wary about doing so.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

For once, I won’t say ‘enjoy them’, but merely, ‘I hope you don’t have nightmares afterwards…’


Title: My Only Tendency
Word: zeitgeist
Challenger: Dave Bush
Length: 200 words exactly

I have a quirk. An eccentricity, an idiosyncrasy.

A quirk.

Sure it’s strange, but who’s to say that my habits are any less peculiar than your own?

Oh, you’re going to say that, are you?

Well… to be fair, you’re probably right.

After all, how many other people do you know who collect zeitgeist writers?

I don’t mean writings about the era in which the writer lived: the summing up of a culture, together with its mores and social, political or even occasional legal forays into self-absorption. Neither do I refer to the writings of someone who is generally regarded as the spirit of the age.

No, I mean that I collect the writers themselves. I kidnap them. I stick a needle in their arms and their marvellously clever brain shuts down long enough for me to ‘help’ them into the van.

It’s not been easy, but the cellar at the back of the house has borne witness to many of them over the years.

Every one of them looked upon as the spirit of their generation. And every last one of them writing as their final words their name, scratched on a concrete wall, with their broken… bloody… fingernails.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: Cold
Word: cold
Challenger: Derek [@apiphile]
Length: 200 words exactly

I’d been searching for her for three years when the telephone call came.

The ringing interrupted my shower and I turned the water off, grabbing for a towel as I stumbled through the room, drying myself as I went towards the telephone. My hand stabbed out and I pulled the receiver to my ear.

“Charlie?” came a voice I knew so well, moments before I could greet the caller.

“It’s me,” she said, unnecessarily. As if I could forget the gentleness of her dulcet tones. The voice continued, “I’m safe.”

Three years of not knowing, three years of wondering. Three years of hunger for her.

“I… I…” I stumbled over the words in surprise. All my plans, all my carefully worked out speeches. Gone, like they’d never existed, never been planned through the empty nights.

“Don’t try to find me,” she said. “I’m safe… at last. Safe from you.”

“Lisa, don’t go!” I cried, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’ll never do it again.”

“Once was enough,” she said, sadness suffusing her words.

The phone went dead. It was cold in my hands.

Cold.

Like a children’s game of hide and seek, I felt further away from her than ever.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else, more of the same, probably.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

 Well, can’t say that this is the first time its happened this run, but I’m staring at an empty screen and I’ve nothing to write about. Well, nothing that’d take up an entire blog entry. Well, again, nothing that isn’t the post I’ve been putting off finishing and publishing. I’m going back and forth on that one, to be honest. As mentioned previously, it’s a bit ‘personal’ and I’m still not entirely sure I want to put some of it into the public arena.

So instead of driving myself mad (a short drive, I assure you), here’s some stuff on various things I’m thinking about today. All of these could have easily been today’s goingcheep, but they weren’t.

So you get three of them here; aren’t you all lucky?

I wonder when…?
I quit smoking in 2016. I’ve not smoked for over 1,700 days. Every so often, I’ll work out the number of days and it always surprises me. And I never know whether to consider myself a non-smoker or an ex-smoker. I mean, I usually just go with “I don’t smoke… at the moment.” I don’t think I’ll return to lighting up cigarettes. But I’m genuinely scared that all it would take would be one and I’d be back on 20 a day.

I’m on my third… substitute, I guess you’d call it. Or third crutch. I started off my ‘no cigaetters’ phase by using a Curv e-cig, then switched to vaping after about six months, when I was pretty sure I was going to stick at the ‘not smoking’ thing. And about six months after that, I switched to my current method of vaping, an Aspire PockeX.

In over 1,700 days, I’ve wanted to smoke precisely twice. Both times were in the first year, both times I was pissed off and angry and just wanted a cigarette. And, fortunately, both times I was with friends none of whom smoked.

But I can honestly say that since the first anniversary, I’ve not wanted a cigarette, not once. The vaping does me very nicely thank you.

Two rules I set myself when I quit: 1) No evangelising to others; I loathed it when I was a smoker, and I don’t get to tell anyone else that they should give up. Corollary to that: don’t tell anyone else they can’t smoke around me. Again, I’ve given up; they haven’t. My wanting them to not smoke around me, if that were the case, shouldn’t trump their wish to smoke. 2) Just because I found it easy, using the method I did, doesn’t mean that anyone else would.

So what am I wondering? I’m wondering two ‘how long before?’s.

How long before… I stop being scared I’ll start smoking again?

and

How long before… someone will have trouble lighting their cigarette, and I’ll automatically reach for my lighter before remembering I don’t carry one any more?
 
 
A few Ten Things that I either can’t narrow it down to Ten or I couldn’t get to Ten, no matter how I tried.

Some time ago, on the blog, I started doing Ten Things posts. They kind of arose out of John Rentoul’s Top Ten feature in The Independent., wherein he asks for nominations for the Top Ten Returns from political wilderness, or the Top Ten Actors Who Are Younger Than You Think, or even the Top Ten deaths eclipsed by people who died on the same day

I’d never be arrogant enough to pick the Top Ten of anything, nor even usually my favourite ten of anything. But Ten Things I Like, that I can do. And have done. Whether it’s Ten TV Pilots I Like, Ten Comics I Like, Ten Doctor Who Episodes I Like, or even Ten Audiobooks I’ll Listen To Again And Again.

But sometimes, yeah sometimes, I come up with an idea, and I just can’t get it to work, either because I can’t get to ten, or I can’t narrow it down.

Here are a few:

  • Ten sf shows that aren’t Doctor Who that I really like
  • Ten Law & order partnerships I really like
  • Ten Things my brother introduced me to that I still like
  • Ten comics writer-artist teams I like
  • Ten musical comedians I really like
  • Ten pieces of tech that blew me away when I discovered them
  • Ten political pundits always worth reading
  • Ten Sexual positions I like (not really, was just checking you were still reading.)

 
 
Spoilers
Nothing to say on this one other than that I’d seriously consider voting for any political candidate who came up with a decent, sensible, rational and common sense rule that people could agree with… about what period of time is sensible, rational and common sense for people to give away plot points online.
 
 
Lockdown Surprises
Four quick points on this one; things I’ve learned or learned to appreciate over the past 18 months that I’d not have expected beforehand.

1. Video chatting. I always hated it before 2020. Genuinely loathed it. I don’t like how I look onscreen. I mean, I don’t like how I look in photos (not quite true, I’m less repulsed by seeing pics of me than I used to be) but I really don’t like, still don’t like, how I appear onscreen. But I’ve come to appreciate both the necessity and convenience of video chatting it’s enabled me to at least keep ‘in contact’ with people, including Laura and Phil. And while I still hate what I look like onscreen, I kind of like the idea of future doctors’ appointments being on video.

2. People are, for the most part, sensible. Most people have gone along with the necessary restrictions to personal freedom that are, y’know, necessary. And most people, for the most part, don’t confuse ‘disliking the inconvenience’ and ‘refusing to do sensible stuff’. And most people, for the most part, acknowledge that others might find it harder, while not being aggressive to those who do find it harder.

3. There are though a lot of fucking idiots around. Yeah, that ‘for the most part’ means that there are some fucking idiots, doing fucking idiotic things.

4. Getting back ‘to normal’ is going to take a lot, lot longer than I, or anyone, realised. Whether it’s mask wearing, or going to a crowded place, or even going to the theatre or the cinema. It’s going to harder than I thought it would be. Both to feel comfortable doing those things and allowing my desire to do them supersede my fear in doing so.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant.

Indeed, as I’ve grown older, if not wiser, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

So, after another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a hearty ‘how the fuck should I know?’, here’s some much needed silliness.

For this run, I’m going to try and find, each week, three archive clips, one example of something that’s just… nice. And then end every week with something from my mate Mitch, who fortunately has continued to provide videos over the past year.

Ok then…

 

Long before the word “Brexit” was even coined, The Two Johns (Messrs Bird and Fortune) nailed the Eurosceptic wrong of the Conservative Party. (Apologies for the not great visual quality of this, but the quality of the sketch makes it worth sticking with, I promise…)

 

Ah, yes, Not The Nine O’Clock News, with ‘Do you have an aleebee?’

 
 
Time for a couple more of Alistair Beckett–King’s glorious work. They’re very short, so have two of them.

Every episode of ‘popular space show’

If Poirot was your housemate…

  
There’s never a good reason not to show this one… the classic Duck Amuck

  
 
Didn’t intend to put this one up again today, but caught myself whistling it earlier, so I figure it’s fate. Mitch, on If Dogs Ruled The World…

 
 
See you tomorrow, with something else…

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Preface: I only realised while planning this entry that this is both the easiest and hardest of the “Ten Things” posts I’ve ever done.

I mean it; there are so many good, so many bloody good, episodes to choose from, that throwing ten darts at a list of the almost 70 Columbo episodes produced? You’re gonna hit 8 or 9 good ones and 3 or four that would make most people’s lists.

That’s the easy part. Harder is picking just ten I like. Do I go for the cleverest murder, do I go for the baddie? Do I go for the relationship between Columbo and the baddie? Do I go for how Columbo worked it out? Do I go for the reveal?

I could easily pick half a dozen of each. Instead, I’m going to limit it to two of each. So, two clever murders, two wonderful baddies, two lovely relationship pieces, two ‘lightbulb moments’ and two reveals.

That means, of course, I’m gonna miss out some glorious episodes. Maybe I’ll do another run if this blog run continues after 17th August. (I’ve no plans to right now, by the way, none at all. But I said that in 2019 as well, and I ended up running the blog through to Christmas and beyond.)

WARNING: Many, many, MANY spoilers below. If you don’t want to see them, best look away now.

OK, preface over, blog begins.


 

I’d actually forgotten I’d said I’d do this one.

I only remembered when I reread an earlier entry in the run and came across the passage

So, again, predicting is a mug’s game, a fool’s endeavour, an idiot’s quest.

Except in one circumstance. There’s one situation where a prediction is overtly expected, actively anticipated… in fact, it’s positively encouraged.

Whodunnits.

Murder mysteries. Private eye tales, detective stories.

You watch, or read, a murder mystery. And, in the absence of a Columbo-type story format¹, the author, the tv director, wants you to play along, to try to guess who committed the murder, who kidnapped the victim.

(¹Note to self: do a ‘Ten Columbo episodes Budgie likes’ at some point during this run.)

So, yeah, time to do a Ten Columbo episodes Budgie likes post.

A reminder as always… they’re not the objectively considered best, nor necessarily personal favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

*** TWO CLEVER MURDERS

Publish Or Perish (1974)
Jack Cassidy in his second appearance as a baddie, this time as publisher Riley Greenleaf who really really wants to stop Mickey Spillane heading off to another publisher. So he kills him. I mean… you would, wouldn’t you? I’m not sure you’d hire a hitman though, then go to the trouble to first ensure you’re incriminated, so that you can then prove you’re not involved… It’s clever as hell, and it’s utterly believable with Cassidy playing the role. All of his appearances involved clever murders, in all of them was he a fine match for Columbo, and in all of them he was, for the main parts, entirely unsympathetic, It takes skill and talent to be able to play such odious characters who are ostensibly perfectly reasonable, And Cassidy does it every time, in spades.

Whereas with some repeat guest stars, Columbo finds one portrayed character likeable, one detestable, say, with Cassidy, they very sensible made the characters entirely unlikeable… in part, I suspect, to make it harder for Columbo to remain entirely objective. A smart, smart move.


 
 

Short Fuse (1972)
Another smart character here – though to be fair, if they were stupid, they wouldn’t be interesting. Roddy McDowell is immature, irritating, capricious… and self-aware enough to know that people underestimate him because of it. And that works for him until it starts to cost him. People forget he’s smart. So when his uncle is killed via the means of an exploding cigar box, he’s not really the first person who springs to mind.

His immaturity somehow ceases to be an act at the denouement though. (Was it ever an act? You’re never quite sure). Columbo bluffs him with another cigar box, and McDowell’s character folds, quite dramatically…


 

(Oh, if you think there’s one very smart, say someone with a huge IQ, missing… trust me, he’ll be along later.)
 
 
** TWO WONDERFUL BADDIES

Note that I’m saving the ‘wonderful baddies because they’re fun to watch with Columbo’ for a moment’s time. These two are just out and out wonderfully evil.

Dr Ray Flemming – Prescription: Murder (1968)
The original, the one that started it all. Falk is still figuring out exactly how Columbo acts; he’s a little less bedraggled, a little more professional, a little less faux-absent minded, a little more obvious. And Gene Barry, as Dr Ray Flemming, is – surprisingly, if you’ve seen or read the original play – an out and out sociopathic prick. (I’d use cruder language but every so often I remember that I try and keep this place at least within shouting distance of all-ages)

So, yes, the original baddie, Barry’s smart, smooth, and highly intelligent, baddie is someone you can immediately decide “ooh, yeah, we like him, he’s horrible”. He kills his wife, and manipulates (I think that’s probably the right word) a vulnerable patient to help, assist and frankly, to kill herself to save him.

That it doesn’t quite work out like that comes as a surprise to Dr Flemming, and – to be honest – to the viewer. The show was off to one hell of a start. If you want to see where it all started, this is the episode to watch.


 
 
Wade Anders – Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous To Your Health (1991)
I started this sentence with “George McGovern was…” before I realised what I’d typed. Now I’m not saying that this would have been a bad idea, but yeah, I’m not entirely sure the story would have worked as well. I have no idea why I was thinking of George McGovern, who ran for the US Presidency in 1972 against Nixon and lost, badly.

Anyways… George Hamilton, that’s the fella. He plays true crime tv presenter Wade Anders who is blackmailed by a rival who knows that Anders appeared in a porn movie at the start of his acting career. Oh, alongside an underage co-star.

Anders kills the blackmailer. Obviously. With concentrated nicotine. OK, that’s less obvious. And he screws up how he does it, leaving some heavy handed clues for anyone to find. He’s much better at presenting crimes than, y’know, doing them. But, that aside, Hamilton is incredible on screen. Most of the guest stars on Columbo, there’s a generosity showing where neither of them is acting the other off the screen. Not Hamilton. Presumably it’s not deliberate because after all he was invited back, but when he’s on the screen, you barely notice Falk. Or anyone else. And that plays through to the character, where Anders, once he takes that first step of… well, murdering someone… is oily, smarmy, charming when necessary, icy… Just superb acting. And an out and out bastard throughout.


 

** TWO LOVELY RELATIONSHIPS

There are several other baddies with whom Columbo has a ‘good’, charming or even likeable relationship with through the show. Louis Jourdan’s chef, Faye Dunaway, even one of Patrick McGoohan‘s baddies. But if anyone made a list of just two, and neither of the two below were on it, I’d doubt their judgement.

Adrian Carsini – Any Old Port in a Storm (1973)
Ah, Donald Pleasance in a simply wonderful performance, the perfect ‘man out of his depth who gets more and more out of his depth until being caught is almost a relief’. It’s a subtle role that gets even more subtle as the story progresses. I mean, let’s get it straight: he kills his brother because the brother wants to sell the winery. Strip everything else away, and that’s what he does. It’s not even done out of malice but because that’s the only option he sees left. And Carsini is not a sympathetic character on his own. He’s a snob, and he sees little need for, nor understanding of, normal human interaction. It’s not that it puzzles him as much as he sees no need for it.

And yet Columbo likes him. He does. He respects him, mostly. But – as Columbo admits elsewhere – while there’s never a murder he likes, there are murderers he likes. And he likes and more importantly recognises the expertise Carsini has for his job, just as Carsini recognises and acknowledges the expertise in his job that Columbo displays.

And seeing the two on screen together, you feel you’re getting a masterclass in how two giants of acting, two very generous actors, are at pains to let the scene flow. Each scene between them is not merely a chance for each to shine, but an opportunity for both to do so.

The final scene between them, when Carsini knows he’s been caught, when Columbo has laid it out clear and blunt (well, as blunt as necessary but no more than that), they spend a few minutes talking and drinking wine before Columbo takes him in. And the scene is certainly the best final scene of any Columbo, possibly one of the finest scenes with a baddie of any Columbo.


 
 
Abigail Mitchell – Try & Catch Me (1977)
And then there’s Abigail Mitchell, a deliberately quirky, funny, sensible baddie who you like from the moment you meet her. She may exasperate you on screen a teeny bit; you know damn well she’d exasperate you in real life. Played by Ruth Gordon, I defy you not to wonder why she didn’t play Miss Marple at some point. And she’s a vigilante. Well, not really, but kind of. She’s utterly convinced her niece was murdered by the niece’s husband. So she locks him in her airtight safe and then goes away for a bit, leaving him to suffocate. Cold-bloodedly? Well, yes… and no. I’ve seen this episode a dozen or more times, and I can’t say definitively.

Columbo likes her when he meets her. She likes him. He teases her. She teases him. It’s to her and some friends that he makes the comment above about never liking the murder. Again, the respect for each other’s job, and the skill and dedication with which they perform it, shines through.

The age gap is too huge for there to be any sexual interplay between them, thank heaven, but there’s definitely an element of ‘oh, Lieutenant, if I’d only met you thirty years ago…’ And it’s not until the final scene or two that that unspoken line takes on a whole new meaning.


 

** TWO EUREKA MOMENTS

A Trace of Murder (1997)

Perfect example here of a very not great episode, a not great pair of baddies, and – to be honest – a not that great performance by Falk, for once. But a bloody perfect lightbulb moment (not even spoiled slightly by Columbo’s almost pantomime-like reaction to it.)

Columbo, together with crime analyst Kinsley (one of the baddies, played by Barry Corbin) and Cathleen, the wife (the other baddie, played by Shera Denesa) of the fella they’re trying to frame for the murder, meet to discuss the case. As far as Columbo knows, they’ve never met.

And then as the coffee arrives, Columbo sees the former casually move the milk towards the latter. And as he’s starting to realise what this must mean, they leave… and confirm it. For if they’d not previously met, then how would Kinsley know that Cathleen gets car sick when sitting in the back?

(Once he knows they know each other, it’s fairly predictable how he catches them. As I say, not great. But that lightbulb moment is one of the best in the entire run.)

 
  
Uneasy Lies The Crown (1990)
It’s probably a mark of how rare the genuine ‘lightbulb’ moments were in Columbo that both of the best ones come from the revival episodes. James Read is just about perfect as the young, ambitious, jealous, dentist who kills his wife’s lover (a mutual friend of theirs, and a patient of his), frames her for the murder and (a not uncommon theme) deliberately incompetently ‘tries to cover’ for her. Oh, the actual murder? He placed poison under a temporary filling, which dissolved, and killed the lover while the lover is in bed with the wife. And while the murderer has a cast iron alibi.

The eureka moment here shows its age as well. I’m not sure the idea of time-released medication is as foreign to most people these days but in 1997, it was probably new enough, and it was certainly new enough when the episode was originally written in the 1970s by Stephen Bochco. There are many conflicting stories about why the episode was rejected at the time. One suggestion is that Falk’s mother said viewers wouldn’t believe a dentist as the murderer? I dunno.

But the acting of everyone in the scene at the moment of comprehension is lovely, and Columbo throughout the entire story is edging towards the solution, so the eureka moment just caps it. The reveal is pretty good as well, including a double-bluff on both the baddie and the audience that’s revealed in the final seconds. Beautifully done.

 
** TWO REVEALS

And talking of reveals, Columbo excelled in them. There were a dozen, easy, I could have chosen but for me, two stand out far in front of the rest. One is a typical Columbo plot of using the baddie’s own cleverness against them.

But the first, the first is just exquisite.

Suitable for Framing (1971)
The story is fairly clever in its own right. Arrogant art critic Dale Kingston (Ross Martin desperately trying to leave some furniture unchewed) frames his slightly odd aunt for for the murder of his uncle. His plan involves planting stolen Degas pastels in the aunt’s place, having previously tried to get Columbo booted from the case. (Long time Columbo watchers know that’s never a good idea.)

Columbo turns up, and gets the artwork dusted for fingerprints, as he tells Kingston he knows Kingston killed his uncle and fingerprints will prove it. But not Kingston’;s prints, which Kingston has already said were on the prints ages ago… Columbo’s prints which – if the aunt did steal the artwork – couldn’t possibly be there. Kingston, thinking fast and on the very edge of panic, protests “But you obviously touched them just now!”

And that’s when Columbo reveals his hands – thus far kept in his coat pockets, but so subtly that no-one, neither the baddie nor the audience, even noticed – to show they’re in woollen gloves, and have been since he arrived.

 
 
The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (1977)
As others have said, there’s very little to dislike about this episode. Fantastic script,an on and off likeable baddie in Oliver Brandt, arrogance punctured, and a sequence of events involved that must have inspired that famous car ad, decades later.

Columbo starts to deliberately needle the baddie (played by Theodore Bikel) and ostensibly shows him how clever Columbo is… which Bikel’s arrogance in his own cleverness can’t take. Columbo shows Brandt how intelligent another suspect is. So, out of pique, offended arrogance and a desperation, a need, to show Columbo how clever he is, Brandt demonstrates to Columbo exactly how the murder must have been committed, the only way it could have been committed, then celebrates with a delighted bark as everything falls into place…

…before his laughter stops, as he realises that he’s just shown Columbo how the murder was committed… by him.


 

** BONUS
 
Dr Barry Mayfield – A Stitch in Crime (1973)
A bonus bit here, purely because I couldn’t let Leonard Nimoy’s star turn pass without comment. Solely because of THIS moment, one of the very few in the entire run where Columbo gets angry, and shows it. There are times where Falk, always underrated as an actor in my opinion, portrays Columbo struggling to keep his anger hidden. Here he doesn’t even try. It’s extra-ordinary, and glorious.

 


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for this blog run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. So, since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the story telling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across by chance, usually while looking for something else entirely.

As often as not, I have no idea why the image appeared in a search for something else, and equally as often as not, I have no idea why that image sparked a story while another didn’t.

I came across the following image yesterday, while searching an image of glasses. I meant spectacles, but this sparked an idea.

And here’s what it inspired.


The watching, the watcher, and the watched

I’d picked well. I knew it within moments of walking through the door.

The pub was almost empty, but that was good; that was what I’d hoped for. Hoped for, not planned. There was no point in planning it; I’d learned that lesson long ago. It only ever led to disappointment, for people are often unpredictable. Unpredictably so. So, I never planned it but I hoped for it. Oh, I hoped for so many things.

The only thing I was certain of was that I would get what I wanted. I would get it.. It’s all I’ve wanted since I started. And they do say that if you want something enough, that with enough hard work you can get it. And I really want this, and, oh, I’ve put in the work.

Getting there relatively early meant I had the pick of tables to sit at. I walked to the bar, ordered a large rum and sunk it immediately, the heat spreading through my body with a welcome familiarity.

I ordered another, and took it with me to the empty table I’d spotted the moment I’d entered the place. Of the four lightbulbs above the table, two had blown; that was good. I could sit alone until I chose otherwise, and equally importantly I could sit, long experience had taught me, entirely unnoticed.

My back against the far wall, I was well satisfied. For the moment, at least. I was close enough to the bar to see and hear everything, but just far enough away to be wholly ignored until I chose otherwise. I could see every part of the pub from my seat. OK, with the exception of the toilets, But it would do. It would definitely do.

I sipped at the drink, barely noticing it now as more people entered. An older couple, followed by another couple still older. My heart thumped. Maybe I was wrong. It had happened on occasion, and it meant that yet another night would be wasted. I knew that a fleeting mark of concern marred my features, and I cursed my weakness. But it soon vanished with concentration; hours of practice in front of my grimy bathroom mirror had helped with that.

I closed my eyes briefly; only briefly, I didn’t want to miss my chance when it came. My breathing slowed and my eyes snapped open as the door creaked and a crowd of well dressed people of my own age entered. This was more like it. The crowd? No. The age, yes. Late twenties, early thirties. Arrogant with the promise of years to come, of experiences not yet encountered.

An hour passed, and I nursed my drink, and the pub gained more patrons,. No one quite right though… and then the door swung wide open one more time… and He entered. I’d started capitalising them in my head a long time ago, and it felt… right to do so. A mark of respect before respect was even needed or due.

He was the right age, was dressed the right way, and walked almost with a swagger as He moved across the room. He had a face and body that women notice, and sure enough they glanced up, noticed Him and their eyes tracked Him as He passed them on the way to the bar.

I studied Him. Would He do? Was He the next one?

His hands looked strong, but not too strong; He stood up straight. All good. His eyes swept the room, and momentarily paused occasionally, but then continued. They swept over me and continued. Good. I didn’t want to be noticed. Yet. Very soon, but not quite yet.

He ordered a fruit juice. Odd. I expected a spirt from Him. I side eyed my run.

He drank the juice and ordered another, and drank that just as fast.

Then a third. And it was only then, as the new glass appeared in front of Him, that He suddenly looked in my direction. He smiled at me. I smiled back.

And with a small move of my hand, I gestured towards an empty chair by my side.

He smiled again. I smiled again.

Luring someone is difficult. Luring a victim is harder.

The conversation was brief, and He heard what He wanted to hear. As did I. I examined what I could see of His body. If not perfect, it certainly seemed adequate for my purposes.

He mentioned that hHe was alone, that He lived alone, and wasn’t expecting anyone else to join him. He lived nearby. All just about perfect. His eyes looked hungry. I wondered what He saw in mine. Whatever it was, He was at the very least interested. Good. It’d be easier if He was willing.

When He spoke of His job, I ignored it. I didn’t care. What he had planned later that week? It was wholly irrelevant to me. It was meaningless drivel and we both knew it, though wouldn’t admit it. My plans didn’t include caring about His tomorrow, let alone His next week.

Oh, yes, he’d be perfect. He was the one, I knew it.

And then he ruined it. With one sentence.

With one combination of words. “Shall I add you on Facebook?”

No.

No. No. No.

A serial killer wouldn’t be on Facebook and he certainly wouldn’t tell a potential victim his real name.

I swallowed the rest of my drink and stood up, surprising him. I never said another word, but my disappointment must have shown on my face. He looked shocked, surprised, offended. I didn’t care.

He wasn’t Him. He wasn’t a Him. He was just a him.

He wasn’t the serial killer I was hoping for. He wasn’t a serial killer at all.

I left the pub, and softly swore to myself.

Tomorrow then. I’d go out tomorrow.

My search would continue. Another night, another pub, another hope.

But I’ll be a victim one day, I swear I will. It’s all I want, you see.

 
© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Claire Quilty, on Twitter, said a while back that:

That’s relevant to what follows, so remember it; I’ll come back to it later on.

(And no, in case you’re wondering, this post has got nothing to do with antisemitism. Not directly, anyway.)


 

There’s a line that’s been used any number of times on telly, but I first came across it in, of all things, an episode of The Professionals. One of the lead characters is told

You’re not a very ‘civil’ civil servant, are you?

(I’m obliged to Mark Forsyth – who tweets as @inkyfool – for identifying the rhetorical device used therein as an “antanaclasis”.)

The past few years I’ve come to think the same about social media; i.e. it’s not very social a lot of the time, is it?

I’d say that I date the genesis of this observation to 2015 because that’s a convenient date for all sorts of reasons. For one thing…

And, for another…

 

But yeah, that’s why I date it to late 2015, although what I’m about to talk about probably (almost certainly) pre-dates that.

Social media, then.

Thing is… with the obvious exception of Facebook events, Google Hangouts, etc., it’s not very… social, is it?

And that’s leaving aside – ok, it’s not, because I’m about to talk about it… Because I’m no longer sure what qualifies as social media these days. No, not because of covid. Yes, what ‘social’ means changed during the pandemic. Changed irrevocably? I don’t know. I guess we’ll discover that together over the next few years.

But… what does ‘social’ mean?

I’m happy to reach for a dictionary at this point. (First not really about antisemitism bit; it’s my usual response when someone starts off with the ‘ah, but how do you define antisemitism, eh? Eh?’ My usual response is to point them at a reputable dictionary. Oddly, they tend to get very upset.)

But, yes, dictionary definition. Even merely as an adjective, ‘social’ has a fairly long list of definitions.

 

So… is Facebook a ‘social’ app? Sure. Even leaving aside the use of it to arrange drinkups and parties, it’s effectively a huge room, with dozens of people mingling and chatting with each other. Some stick to their own cliques, some do the rounds… and sometimes you get an idiot that no one invited standing on a table and shouting about the latest conspiracy theory doing the rounds.

Twitter? Yes, again. Same as Facebook… except that there’s a greater proportion of foulmouthed, drunk, or sleep-deprived, idiots.

Snapchat? And Tik Tok? I’ll take your word for it on both, as I’ve never been on them, and I’m pretty sure I never will be. (Actually, not quite true; I once downloaded Tik Tok, looked around for about ten minutes and speedily deleted the app.) But both are not for me.

But YouTube? How the hell is YouTube ‘social media’? If anything it’s a publishing platform, just as blogging platforms are – to me, at least – not social media.

It’s like those ‘what was the first social media platform you used?’ question that does the rounds every so often. I rarely include blogging or even livejournal/message boards because I don’t think of them as ‘social media’. However, apparently I’m wrong on that… or so I’m told whenever I express this view.

I mean – is this blog social media? (Checks my readership stats. Possibly ‘unsocial media’ would be a better description.)

But what I originally wanted to note that long ago time in the past when I started writing this post was a change in Twitter in recent years; it’s perhaps inevitable since we’ve gone through a shedload of contentious elections and votes and similar, resulting in more than a few populist governments. Add covid and 5G and any number of things tailor made for conspiracies…

At some point in the past few years the way we view ourselves and the way we view others has changed.

(And no, I’m not talking about the way we’ve gone from ‘those I’m politically opposed to are not good people with bad ideas but bad people with worse ideas’, something that’s taken over politcial discourse. Or at least I’m not just talking about that.)

As always, however, nothing is new; neither under the sun, nor on social media.

So, let me start with a friend a couple of decades back whose blog, on Livejournal, morphed over a period of a couple of years from a general ‘slice of life’ with other stuff frequently mentioned, into effectively a campaigning blog, with one sole aim: the abolition of greyhound racing in the UK.

That the sport (for want of a better word, my use of ‘sport’ isn’t meant to sanitise it, I promise) is cruel, wantonly cruel, knowingly cruel, is I think beyond doubt.

My friend, however, truly believed, and campaigned for, its abolition on the grounds that it was unforgivably cruel, irrendemently so.

And this is the change I’ve noticed taking over more and more of social media.

I came to realise then that she, through no overt ‘fault’ of her own, but in part because of her passion and campaigning, thought less of me

Not because I didn’t share her fury, but because I didn’t share her view that this was the most important thing to be angry about. Not the only thing, but certainly the most important thing.

And now we’re getting closer to what I wanted to write about, about social media.

Certainty, as I wrote about a couple of years ago, makes it easy to get angry; too easy, as it happens. And social media makes it easier than ever to do so.

With strangers. With people you don’t know.

With friends, however, it’s disappointment that leads to upset and anger. Usually, anyway.

And while in what we’re pleased to call ‘real life’ there are a variety of things you can do to express your anger, or upset or disappointment, all of them require some effort on your part.

Yes, yes, the last 18 months have shown the falsity of any distinction between ‘online life’ and ‘in person life’, but bear with me, ok?

Let’s say you fall out with a friend; ok, you’ve got to ask yourself what will be the consequences if you cut them out of your life, if you snub them, if you want nothing to do with them. What are you going to do when there’s a party, where mutual friends will want you both there. OK, they’ll want to know neither of you are going to ‘make a scene’, but they pretty reasonably see no reason why they should have to choose sides.

(In my own case, I choose not to attend such parties if someone with whom I’ve fallen out hugely will be there. I make the choice, because it’s better all around. No one feels like they’re walking on eggshells, they have a lovely time in company, and I have an ok time on my own.)

But, to be fair, if you have fallen out with, oh, I dunno, let’s call them Ethelred… it’s unlikely that your friends, even if they remain friends with Ethelred, are likely to tell you what Ethelred thinks about politics or sport or anything really. Your mutual friends may still stay in contact with Ethelred, but unless they’re completely thoughtless idiots, they’re not going to rub your face in it.

And then there’s social media. Where, among other things, they kind of are likely to do that.

Because if you fall out with Ethelred, and merely unfollow them, which is very easy to do – more about that in a moment – if your friends like something that Ethelred said online, they may repost it, retweet it, bring it, unasked, into your timeline.

So you mute them… yeah, that’s not gonna work, in most cases. So you block them.

Yes, you block them. Someone you were on good terms with, you erase them from your timeline, from your online life. (And if Twitetr could

Now unfollowing happens for any number of reasons: to be brutally honest, I usually assume that anyone who unfollows me hasn’t done it because I’ve overtly offended them… it’s because I’ve bored them. It’s a message “I’m no longer interested in anything you have to say”.

It stings if it comes out of the blue, but mostly it doesn’t, not with friends.

But one of the first online lessons you have to learn, and appreciate, is “never ever worry about who follows you, or why, and who doesn’t… and why.” Quickly followed by “learn to read fluent Tyop, and never highlight someone’s typos… unless the typo is very very funny.”

But blocking is something different., It’s final (usually), it’s an overt statement.

Tracy Ann Oberman ran a podcast entitled Trolled, wherein she interviewed celebs who’d been subject to trolling. What I found fascinating was that some, like Luciana Berger, rarely blocked, in part because she didn’t want the trolls to think they’d somehow ‘won’, that they’d upset her. Others like Gary Lineker took another view: they wanted the trolls to know they’d lost access to his feed because of their behaviour; ie that by their behaviour online, they’d forfeited the right to read his feed.

OK, coming back to what I started this blog with; now, I did say that it’d be relevant…

If I mention y = x + 2, does that ring any bells? No? Ah, that’s a pity. Well, it was when I came up with my own law.

I genuinely thought that might be it, that I’d never come up with another law that applied in all circumstances, universally.

And yet, over the past few years, I’ve blocked away racists, idiots, antisemitic fuckwits… and the occasional now former friend who stepped over a line I genuinely thought (and think) there’s no way back from. And I didn’t regret a single one of them.

And I’ve been blocked by racists, idiots, antisemitic fuckwits… and by the occasional friend where I stepped over a line they genuinely thought (and think) there’s no way back from. And I don’t regret a single one of them.

I know some regard blocking or being blocked as ‘a win’, but I never have. I’ve taken pleasure in some, and reluctantly agreed others’ necessity. But there’s not one I regret. Not really.

I wrote a post at the end of 2019 entitled Saying Farewell to 2019, A Good Thing in which I listed some good things that had happened in 2019, in the midst of what I considered a pretty shitty year all around. Among the fifteen items were these two:

So, far too long after I promised it, here’s a new Budgie’s Law:

BUDGIE’S LAW OF SOCIAL MEDIA

All blocks, every single one of them, without reservation, without
exception, for whatever reason, no matter who blocked who…

…are ‘for the best’.

I almost called it Budgie’s Law of Social Media Exclusion, but that could be confused for when social media companies show you the door… which is a whole other post. Maybe.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s Tuesday, so a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, one from 2007, the other from 2008.

Two stories, as different as can be, though I supose both could be said to deal with the concept of consequences. For once, I remember what provoked each of the story ideas, but for once I’ll keep them secret, as the memories aren’t exntirely pain free.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Enjoy them…


Title: Single White Fee Male
Word: spices
Challenger: [Livejournal: perspexavenger]
Length: 200 words exactly

The papers and the weapon had been on the table for an hour when the two of them arrived, walking into the building through different doors, entering the sterile air-conditioned atmosphere, away from the sounds and scents of the street; spices and exhaust fumes left far behind.

Escorted by security people hired by their mutual employer, they walked to the room that had been set aside for their meeting, but even in that shared experience the differences between them were evident.

While the larger of the men walked in long strides, forcing his companions to a speedier pace than they preferred, the other took his time, almost dawdling, his casual tread belying the tension in his face.

Entering from opposite sides of the boardroom, the assistant commercial director and the financial controller met at the large oak table. Smiles full of faked sincerity and meaningless obsequiousness lasted for less than a second before they appended their signatures to the documents. They bowed deeply and then the man to the left of the table fell to his knees, while the other lifted the sword from the table.

And thus the junior corporate whore was promoted to Senior Courtesan to the Board.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


Title: For No Money
Word: mellifluous
Challenger: [Livejournal: glowering]
Length: 200 words exactly

The woman was ill: the cancer had done terrible things to her face and body. She could have been any age between thirty and sixty; she was in fact thirty-two.

The young man in obvious pain limped forward to the foot of the bed, then began to sing. Clear, pure notes rang out into the room, and the older man watched as his daughter reacted to the mellifluous sound.

Soon enough, the sound faded. It had happened too often for him to be surprised at its effect any longer, but the woman’s father had tears in his eyes as he looked at her pinkish skin and gentle smile. It wouldn’t last long; no more than a week or so, but she’d be in less pain during that time.

As always, the young man refused any fee, simply saying that he’d be back.

Where he’d come from, no one knew. Where he went after each appointment was an equal mystery, though often discussed.

However, as he left each patient, he was limping just a little bit more noticeably, and leaving in just a little bit more obvious pain.

But no one ever turned his treatment down. Ever.

That was his curse.

© Lee Barnett, 2008


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Housekeeping note: Between yesterday’s ‘excitement’ (middle of the night walk, fire engines in early morning), and a lousy night’s kip, my foot punishing me for the longer than usual walks, and feeling ratty as hell today, I’m pushing off the very personal post I’m writing until later in the week.


I like quotes, and I don’t mean the “blimey, that’s going to cost me a lot less than I expected” from the plumber.

No, I like quotations from people. I don’t particularly care who they’re from, although it’s not unusual that poeple noted for their wit or excellence in language often come up with observations I like.

So, here are some quotes I like. Nothing more than that. I just like them.

Let’s start with two of my all time favourite quotes. They’re both lines I wish I could use every day of my life, I like them that much. Sadly, I can’t…

 
“I feel that events have forced us to become enemies. What a pity we couldn’t have got to know each other under happier circumstances. Then we could have become enemies of our own free will.”
   — David Nobbs, from A Bit of a Do

“In his ninetieth year, he could afford to be agreeable to everybody, though he tried valiantly to resist the inclination.”
   — Alistair Cooke on Frank Lloyd Wright.


 
OK…. moving on.

Given my oft commented upon trouble sleeping, and less often mentioned trouble staying asleep, let’s start with some about sleep, or bed…

“There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.”
   — Ralph Waldorf Emerson

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
   — Ernest Hemingway

“I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.”
   — Eleanor Roosevelt

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
   — Bob Dylan

“My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.”
   — Cary Grant

It’s funny; those two aren’t as contradictory as I one thought, you know…

And, one more… dedicated to so many of my friends… and to me.

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”
   — Ray Bradbury


 
Now some quotes I like just because I like them.

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion of one writer to alter another’s draft.”
   — H G Wells

“A man you’d follow anywhere, if only out of curiosity.”
   — Alan Coren on Boris Johnson

“A hard man to dislike, but it’s worth the effort.”
   — I first heard this from Barry Cryer, about journalist turned British politician Robert Kilroy-Silk, but I’ve since heard it from others, about others, said earlier.

“When children have their noses in books while the Universe is telling them to come out and play, we know something is going badly wrong.”
   — journalist Sue Nelson’s comment about a teacher who wasn’t allowed to take his class outside to witness an annular eclipse. I love this quote so much. “…when the Universe is telling them to come out and play.” The Universe; we live in it. We could all do with remembering what that means a bit more often.

“The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move eyeballs again… His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.”
   — Kingsley Amis on hangovers (in Lucky Jim). It’s been a while since I’ve had a bad hangover, but once experienced, never forgotten. Amis got it about right.

“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.”
   — H L Mencken. I mean, I could do a whole blog post on Mencken’s observations, but this one suffices for now.

“I must confess, I was born at an early age.”
   — Groucho Marx. Most of Marx’s best lines are, obviously gags. Occasionally, however, I like to think of him throwing one out merely to befuddle someone he’s grown tired of.

“A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.”
   — Alistair Cooke. Another from Cooke, and one that’s informed and educated me.,

“I must’ve seen it in a USENET posting”; that’s sort of like hearsay evidence from Richard Nixon.”
   — Blair Houghton. I truly wonder what the equivalent would be from the orange poltroon, given how often he excused his falsehoods with ‘I don’t know, I just saw it on the internet…”

“Free children are not easily influenced; the absence of fear accounts for this phenomenon. Indeed, the absence of fear is the finest thing that can happen to a child.”
   — A. S. Neill

“A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.”
   — Robert Frost. And it’s impossible to mention this one without quoting from Ambrose Bierce’s definition of a jury The Devil’s Dictionary”: “A number of persons appointed by a court to assist the attorneys in preventing law from degenerating into justice.

I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.”
   — Mark Twain


 
And finally, three to end with, about what “literature” is.

The purpose of literature is to effect social change.
   — John Mortimer (as Rumpole)

Literature is news that stays news.
   — Ezra Pound


 
“Literature is something you want to read again.”
   — Budgie

 

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Tueaday something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Usually, before I head bedwards, I’ll watch some news, then head to bed to read. I’m usually asleep by 2am-ish. I no longer – not for some years – go out wandering the streets at 1am, say.

(I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’d been pinged, and that I self-isolated. Well, yes, of course, I went for a wander at midnight the day my isolation ended.)

But the past two nights, I did it again, one leaving the flat for a wander at 11pm-ish… and last night where I went out at 1am and got home around 4am. I genuinely hope this isn’t the start of a habit.

I guess I’ll discover that in the next couple of nights. 

 

You can see above what time I took the pics on Euston Road and Oxford Street, about a third of the way through the wander.

Now, fair enough, getting home at 4am isn’t the worst thing, even though my advancing age doesn’t encourage it. but fair enough, a cuppa, then bed, and a decent kip will sort me out and–

Yeah, the fire alarm went off before 9 this morning. By the time I awoke, shrugged some clothes on, and left the building, I was greeted by the below.

 

 

Nothing to worry about; someone burned some toast and the alarms were set off. And we could go back into the flats in about half an hour.

All of immediate preface is to say… yeah, I’m very very tired.

And since one post I’m writing is a very discursive, personal, one, more personal in fact than I’d intended when I started writing it, and includes some stuff I need to think carefully about before I post publicly, that post ain’t going to be today’s.

Instead something else.

On occasion, I’ve lamented – not really, but kind of – that blogging has changed since my days on Livejournal, where sooner or later everyone did one of those “Answer 100 questions with a single word for each” or even detailed Q&A’s, where followers would submit five questions to be answered.

And I’ve equally occasionally done one here, both in ‘remembrance of blogs past‘ and because – for whatever reason – I want to stick one up.

They were usually on Livejournal referred to as ‘memes’, although they weren’t really. Seriously, they weren’t.

Although, I guess, if a word becomes used often enough to mean something unintended, more and more people will come to believe it’s a valid definition. See the ongoing argument between rebut and refute; they really don’t mean the same thing.

But as for the Q&As, they were just something people… did, and other people thought a) they were kind of a neat idea, b) they were a pleasant-ish way to pass half an hour completing, and c) that their friends might enjoy reading… and definitely might equally enjoy mocking the answers therein.

Some bloggers treated them with the utmost seriousness, answering every question honestly and without any deviation or guile.

Others would treat them as opportunities just to crack gags, and smart arse replies.

I’d guess, looking back, that I fell somewhere inbetween, where all of the answers were “the truth, and nothing but the truth”, but rarely – as a set – the whole truth.

And any questions I didn’t want to answer, or felt uncomfortable answering, I’d answer with the aforementioned gags or smart arse replies.

I haven’t done one this run, but for the reasons above, I’m very definitely doing one today.

It’s always amusing, well amusing and horrifying in equal part, for me to grab the questions from a decade old post, and see, as I delete them, which answers would remain the same as those I wrote so very long ago (am I that boring? that unchanging?), which answers are going to change, and which previous answers from back then are incomprehensible to me. How could I have done this, felt that, thought the other?

Still, those previous answers are for my own private pondering. You just get the current ones.

Time to answer some general questions…

100 questions, 100 answers
1. Full Name: Lee Barnett. No middle name, despite some people thinking that “Budgie” really is my middle name. And, as I’ve previously mentioned, I much prefer ‘budgie’ to my given name, and if you’ve ever any doubt which you should use, please, I implore you, use budgie. And, as also previously mentioned, if your response is ‘I don’t like using nicknames’, then I invite you to always refer to our previous Prime Ministers as ‘Anthony Blair’ and ‘James Brown’, and American presidents ‘William Clinton’ and ‘James Carter’.

2. Were you named after anyone? Yes, for my mum’s maternal grandmother, Leah. In Judaism, you tend to name after those who have died. I know nothing about her at all. And, as sometimes surprises people, I’ve no interest, not even a mild curiosity, in knowing about her, either.

3. Where did your nickname/handle come from? It’s a constant surprise to me that people who’ve known me for more than a month don’t know the story. A friend named Dave Rothburn came up with ‘budgie’, at Manchester Poly, coming up on 40 years ago. Full story’s here.

4. Are you superstitious? No, not at all. And have never really understood those who are. There are some remnants of my Jewish knowledge that I observe, but that’s more in memory of those who’ve died. And there’s some Jewish dietary stuff that I have no idea why I observe but I do. But no, I don’t ‘touch wood’ (wrong religion anyway), avoid cracks in the pavement, nor throw salt over my shoulder.

5. When did you last cry? From physical pain? Last week. My foot was bad. Otherwise, I had a mini-meltdown a couple of months ago, and at one point cried from pure and utter frustration.

6. Do you like your handwriting? ‘Bestest’ handwriting (i.e. when I’m handwriting something for someone else to read or because I want it to be ‘nice’) isn’t that bad – thank a previous boss for that – but my normal scrawl is horrible, full of personal abbreviations, and often indecipherable to me later.

7. What is your birth date? 17th August 1964, which this blog run should have made obvious. Yes, that means I’m officially “old”, well at least almost certainly older than you. Not necessarily, but I’d say the odds heavily favour it.

8. What is your most embarrassing CD? Currently? Probably the CD that came with my printer when I bought it. I don’t think I own any other CDs. If you mean albums, I gave up worrying about being embarrassed by my music tastes long ago.

9. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? Highly unlikely. To be fair, I think I’d probably be hugely surprised (both good and bad) if I knew how people honestly thought of me, let alone what I’d think of me – I suspect there’d be bits of me I’d like, and bits I’d be bored by, and very very certainly bits I’d detest. But no, I don’t think I’d be friends with me; almost certainly not. I’m not an easy person to be friends with, at all.

10. Are you a daredevil? In no way whatsoever. I rarely take risks, definitely not physically, and on the vanishingly rare times I do, I’ve analysed (over-analysed?) them to the nth degree.

11. Have you ever told a secret you swore not to tell? Yes, but (a) only back in the days when I was a financial director, when ethically, I had no choice in the matter, and (b) I chose to break a confidence in order to correct a seriously wrong (and potentially dangerous) impression person A had of person B.

12. Do looks matter? No… in the kingdom of the blind. In any other sphere, of course they do! I can’t understand anyone who thinks that looks don’t matter. I know that some disagree with this, but I think looks are what gets you interested in someone you don’t know… and everything other than looks keeps you interested. Other than romantically… the answer’s the same. In politics, in fashion, in every sphere of human endeavour, looks matter. I wish they didn’t – man, do I wish they didn’t, he says looking in the mirror – but they do.

13. How do you release anger? ‘Writing it out’… or ‘bunkering down’ for a while have both been known. If I’m furious, really furious, then ‘writing it out’, pouring the venom onto the page… then deleting it… had helped more than once. Hell, more than once a month, often.

14. Where is your second home? My closest friends, in Ham. They were my ‘social bubble’ during lockdown and after my son and ex-wife, they’re my family.

15. Do you trust others easily? Most people? No. It takes a long time for people to earn my trust. There are (and have been) exceptions, of course. That said, I don’t expect anyone to trust me, until I’ve earned their trust.

16. What was your favourite toy as a child? Lego. No question. I had other toys and games, but it always came back to Lego.

17. What class in school do think is totally useless? Geography. Never saw the bloody point of it. If you’re going to need it in your later life, or you’re going to make it your career, great, I’m pleased for you. You can learn it at GCSE and save the rest of us having to know it. I can’t think of a single thing I learned in the subject that’s been any use whatsoever in my life post-school. (I’m well aware that what I learned in ‘Geography’ at school is not what’s taught in the subject now. Cool, I’m very pleased for them. My answer remains the same.)

18. Do you keep a handwritten journal? No, I always have a notebook on me in which I scribble down thoughts and ideas, but it’s not a diary nor journal.

19. Do you use sarcasm a lot? A lot? No. Sometimes, yeah, when I think it’s necessary… or occasionally funny. Actually, strike that. I use sarcasm like I do any other rhetorical device: when I think it’s necessary and appropriate.

20. Have you ever been in a mosh pit? No. No no no no. No.

21. Favourite movie? Couldn’t narrow it down to just one, even if you paid me. A dozen, ok. Half a dozen, maybe. One? Not a chance.

25. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? There are people who don’t?

26. What’s your favourite ice cream? Carte D’Or Banana. That they no longer make it is irrelevant. The best ice cream I’ve ever had, however, was melon flavour. Only had it once, in Israel in 1980, but the memory lasts…

27. What’s your shoe size? 11. My foot size varies, it feels like anyway, depending upon how bad the pain is. My usual foot ware is Karrimor Summit trainers. They’re great, and almost the only things my foot feels ‘solid’ in.

28. What are your favourite colours? Black and red. Look I had to give two, so I added red.

29. What is your least favourite thing about yourself? See the answer to question 21 above.

30. Who do you miss most? Michael, my late brother… more recently, for various reasons.

32. Are you patriotic? Not in the least. I don’t feel any pride about being British, nor any specific link to Britain in general. I quite like living in London, but if i had to move elsewhere in the UK, wouldn’t really bother me other than missing friends. The same answer applies were I to have to move abroad.

33. What are you listening to right now? A playlist called Walkin’. Currently the Theme from Shaft.

34. When was the last time you ate chocolate? Yesterday; a bar of Whole Nut.

35. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Don’t have a bloody clue, and suspect I wouldn’t care less about it..

36. What is the weather like right now?

Like this:

37. Last person you talked to on phone? My ex-wife, Laura, checking what time we’re doing the weekly Zoom session with our son, Phil, who lives in Wales.

38. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Depends on how far away they are. If they’re close, eyes. But in general, their face. (See answer 12. above.) But eyes? And eye makeup? I’m a sucker for gorgeous eyes.

40. How are you today? Tired, in a bit of pain, irritable.

41. Favourite non-alcoholic drink? Coffee. Or still water.

42. Favourite sport? Don’t have one. I’m not a sports person. Games? Sure. Snooker. Sports? No.

43. Your hair colour? Heading rapidly towards full white, with the occasional bit of steel grey.

44. Eye colour? Brown. And staying that way, thankfully.

45. Do you wear contacts? Yeah, for most of the the week. One or two days a week, I’ll skip them. Some friends have, I suspect, never seen me wearing spectacles.

46. Favourite month? November, no question. (See answer 49. below)

47. Favourite food? Don’t really have one. If I like it, then I like it as much or as little as anything else I like. I’m really not a food person. At all.

48. Last movie you watched? In a cinema? No idea. Can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema. On telly, a rerun of Air Force One, the other evening.

49. Favourite day of the year? 2nd November, my son’s birthday.

50. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings, every time. I don’t enjoy scary movies, generally at least. I have enjoyed the occasional one. I still think the original The Omen is one of the best movies for so many reasons, but I’d prefer a happy ending most times. The question’s unfair, though – nothing says you can’t have a scary movie with a happy ending, is there?

51. Summer or winter? I always used to prefer Summer, but I’m unsure these days…

52. Hugs or kisses? Depends on the person I’m with… or want to be with.

53. Do you smoke? Currently? No. I quit in November 2016, and after a brief ecig phase have vaped ever since. But I’m very aware that despite never wanting a cigarettes in the past three or more years, all it would take is one bad day.

54. What is your favourite dessert? Banoffee Pie.

57. Living arrangements? I live alone, in a small flat, in Abbey Road. Yes, that Abbey Road. Can’t ever see the former bit changing, though of course the latter might.

58. What are you currently reading? Prose – a non-fiction book about US Constitutional Law; comics – rereading Sandman.

59. Do you have any kids or do you want to have kids? Yes, one twenty-five year old son, the Phil mentioned above. I don’t want any more; very happy with the one I have, thanks.

60. What’s the first thing that the opposite sex notice about you? No idea, but I’d guess the hair.

61. Have you ever fired a gun? No. Strangely enough, I don’t feel as if I’ve missed out any. I’m mildly curious as to what it would be like to shoot one, and to see the effect of me pulling the trigger, but only mildly curious. It’s a curiosity (like parachuting and bungee jumping) that I’m more than content to leave unsatisfied.

62. Favourite games? Backgammon in ‘real life’; snooker on the iPhone.

63. What did you watch on tv last night? Lots, but I’m a news junkie so always safe to say “news” and MSNBC before bed.

64. Favourite smells? Citrus, leather, freshly mown grass and freshly baked bread.

65. What is the first thing you think when you wake up? “Ugh.”

66. How tall are you? Six feet exactly

61. What photo’s on your screen lock? I don’t have a photo; a digital image of the hypotheticals logo .

68. Ever been in rehab? No, but have been in a mental health unit, both voluntarily and otherwise.

69. Have you ever killed an animal? Other than insects, spiders, wasps, etc.? No. And wasps deserve it, the little buggers. In fact I think that great effort should be made by various people to make animal experimentation compulsory for wasps.

70. What do you think of hot dogs? The owners should be prosecuted for leaving them in the car.

71. What’s your favourite Christmas song? Probably this one.

72. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Coffee. Strong coffee. Very strong coffee.

73. Do you do push ups? No, I don’t do any form of formal exercise other than walking, when the foot is up to it.

74. Have you ever been hospitalized? Yes, many times. Most recently was a year or so back.

75. Do you like painkillers? When I need them, I take them like sweeties.

76. What’s your secret weapon to attract the opposite sex? Hahahahahahaha. If anything, I have a not so secret weapon to repulse them; it’s called ‘being me’.

77. Do you own a knife? Yes, two Swiss Army knives, one that never leaves the flat as it turns out it’s illegal to carry in the street (due to it having a lockable blade.)

My main one is this one, the Deluxe Tinker.

78. Do you have ADHD? No, or not that I’m aware of.

79. Have you any tattoos? No. I’m allergic to pain.

80. Have you any piercings? No. (gosh that was an easy set of three to answer.)

81. Name three drinks you regularly drink: water, coffee and single malt scotch whisky; Jura 10 yr old as the usual, The Balvenie 12 yr old Doublewood on special occaisons.

82. When did you last get lost? Last week; was on a wander, thinking about stuff, looked up and realised I had absolutely no idea where I was. I’d turned off the main road and was in a cul-de-sac.

83. What’s under your bed? Nothing but carpet.

84. What time did you wake up today? 9:00 am (see preface above)

85. Current haircut? See answer to 43 above.

86. Current worry? See answer to 21 above.

87. If you could play any musical instrument? Mouth Organ. Usually popular, and no one ever asks you to sing. I have one. I should learn to play it.

88. What was your first paid employment? Other than working for my father in the hair salon? Supermarket (Sainsbury’s) shelf stacking and on the checkout.

89. What was the last CD you bought? Again, I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD. Last music I bought was a Dolly Parton collection.

90. Do you have a motor vehicle (car, bike)? No; even if I could afford one these days, I’m not entirely sure I’d get one.

91. Who’s the one person from your past you wish you could speak with one more time? My late brother. No surprise there.

92. Where do you want to live? Quite happy in London, thanks.

93. Number of pillows you sleep with? Two on each side of the double bed.

94. Are you paranoid? Why do you want to know? Why? Why?

95. Latest crush? Latest? I don’t remember the last one I had. I guess I sometimes get them, but fortunately, for both people involved, they fade fast.

96. Last thing you ate? Toast, with a couple of slices of cheddar.

97. What’s in your pockets right now? Money, keys, iPhone, vape liquid.

98. Are you single? Well, I appreciate the interest, but you’re probably not my type, and I’m definitely not yours. Whatever your type is, trust me, I’m not it.

99. Have you ever won any awards: Yes.

100. Who do you tell your dreams to? I rarely remember dreams, and those that I do are always nightmares and I really wish I didn’t.

  

See you tomorrow, with something else… 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant.

Indeed, as I’ve grown older, if not wiser, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

So, after another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a hearty ‘how the fuck should I know?’, here’s some much needed silliness.

For this run, I’m going to try and find, each week, three archive clips, one example of something that’s just… nice. And then end every week with something from my mate Mitch, who fortunately has continued to provide videos over the past year.

Ok then…

 

Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller play Holmes and Watson, because of course they do (I’m not about to put the Mitchell & Webb one up. Though it’s glorious and wonderful, it’s not something to make you smile; it’s something to make you cry. And that’s not what these posts are for.)

 

It’s rare, I’ll admit, that anything to do with the orange poltroon makes me actually smile. Michael Spicer manages it, every time. The Room Next Door

 
 
I offer no excuse for including the following, other than that I’ve been watching a lot of Law & Order recently.

  
 
Nothing to say about this other than 100 Songs You Heard And Don’t Know TheName Of. (Unfair; you probably know most of them, but I’d bet not all of them.)

  
 
The news this week about GB News’ viewing figures falling off a cliff reminded me, for no apparent reason at all, of this, one of Mitch’s more sweary songs. No, really, it’s very sweary. But it was a fond (?) farewell to UKIP, when it finally started to implode.

 
 
See you tomorrow, with something else…

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Occasionally, a tweet from somoene I follow will set off a train of thought.

More rarely, it won’t set off a thought, but, well, this’ll happen…

And this tweet was from someone I follow who doesn’t follow me, doesn’t really know who I am, and who will once in a blue moon will respond to a reply. She tweeted something that… hit home.

(The original tweet contained some personal information, so you’ll have to forgive my summarising it rather than reproducing the actual tweet.)

She lost her father a couple of years ago, and mentioned that she’ll still, every so often, miss something he did or said, or hear a piece of music and think that he’d have liked that. And she rhetorically wondered if that would ever end.

Although most responses were of the negative, ‘no that won’t ever end’, they weren’t unkind, but even within that, the immediate reactions fell into three types:

i) The “No, but would you ever want it to? While you remember him, he’s not really gone” reaction

I understand both the intention and sentiment behind such a response; of course they don’t mean that whoever died didn’t really die. But even so, it’s an position that I really have no time for.

And, in some ways, doing the whole ‘they’re not really gone’ can be cruel, Memories inevitably fade, both in strength and in detail: that is the way of memories. And if you do sign up to the whole ‘while you remember them’ thing, then as the memories fade, there’s gonna be some [undeserved, unjustified] guilt. Because some people are going to believe that it’s their responsibility to continue to remember their departed relative or friend, in order to ‘keep them alive’. And that by not being able to remember them quite as clearly, or in such detail, they’re somehow letting the deceased down. But they’re not.

I’m reminded of a rabbi of my acquaintance who – while they struggled with the reasons for this rule ot that law – very much liked the idea of the Jewish stonesetting. When Jewish people are buried, the headstone isn’t erected at the same time. It goes up later, usually around 11 months later but I’ve known shorter and longer periods. My rabbi friend said there was a reason for it, far beyond the strict religious justification; social ‘life goes on’ reason of which he very much approved.

For those who had not moved on, who were still grieving rather than mourning, the stone setting was a concrete (sorry) reminder, a reminder and an admonition to them: they died, you didn’t.

And for those who might have moved on a bit speedily, it was an equally strong reminder, an equally stern admonition: Hey! Someone you cared about died, you know!

I’m not entirely sure I go along with all of that, but I do very much believe that once someone has gone, you need to genuinely accept it, in all the ways that matter, and know that the memories aren’t an unbiased representation of the person who died; not really. Because they couldn’t be. They’re your memories; filtered, sorted, and sometimes censored, but they’re your memories of them, which might not be strictly accurate.And that’s how it should be; they’re what comes next.

ii) The “No, but what triggers it will change over the years” reaction

Oh, I have a lot of time for this one. Very definitely. It only makes sense to me, because as memories fade, they also fade in different ways. I can no longer truly remember how my brother sounded in normal speech. I mean, ok, it’s been 23 years, and I have very little of his recorded voice. I have one snippet, from my wedding, during which he was making a toast, so it’s not exactly his ‘normal speaking voice’.

So the ‘hearing someone that sounds like him’ trigger evaporated long ago,. I have no idea what music he would have liked now, though occasionally I’ll hear music we both liked at the time.

For the first few years after Mike died, it was most often personal news that I wanted to tell him about, jokes I heard that I wanted to tell him, or even jokes I heard that I knew – I absolutely knew – that he’d have told me first.

Now? Well, I’ll get onto that in more detail in a moment, but it’s often stuff about which we wouldn’t have necessarily talked about then but would now…. Confusing, I know, but bear with me.

iii) The “no, it won’t change, but how you react to it will”

And this one hit home.

Harder than I expected it to when I read the comments saying this, and the feeling grew over the rest of the day.

I’m a huge believer in people being the sum of their own experiences, and I guess memories play into that. How I react to something, anything, now isn’t how I’d have reacted a decade ago, or two decades ago… or 23 years ago. Because I’m a different person now. I’ve a decade’s, or two decades’, or 23 years’, worth of experiences and memories that have changed me.

I don’t know what I’d be like had my brother not died in January 1998, but I’m damn sure I would have been… different in some ways, probably in many ways.

I’ve heard it said that ‘time heals all wounds’. Metaphorically of course, because I can look at my foot with a two-decades’ old three inch scar on it, or my upper chest with a three month old two inch scar on it. They healed over time, of course, but left obvious, blatant, physical marks.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, or at least not without leaving scars, physical or otherwise.

What time does do, I’ve come to realise and appreciate, is that with every passing month, every passing day, rather than healing all wounds, the passing of time merely lessens the temptation to pick at the scab.

Because what happened at some point, and I’m damned if I could identify exactly when, was that my reaction on hearing a joke, or reading a story, or listening to the radio, or watching television, stopped being “Oh, I wish I could tell Mike this…” and instead became, “Oh, Michael would have really liked that…

It happens a lot in Edinburgh (and I think that he’d have really enjoyed me getting up there, would have enjoyed my getting to write with Mitch for the radio and for Edinburgh) but not only then.

It happened a lot during the past 18 months, especially whenever I watched Michael Spicer’s marvellous “The Room Next Door” pieces. Not once was there a “Oh,I wish I could call Mike to tell him about this”; it was always “man, Michael would have loved this…”

It’s happened with tech a few times as well. I’ll think, while being amazed at some piece of tech or another, particularly my iPad, and what it can do, how much Mick would have enjoyed having a play with it.

It happened not that long ago. I was walking back to the flat from Central London. It’s not that long a walk – well under an hour – and if the foot is behaving, and the weather is nice, then sometimes I’ll walk back.

And it happened indirectly because I cleared out a load of stuff I had on my computer. I needed to clear some room on my hard drive and came across a load of ancient radio recordings, some of them from A Week In Westminster, Westminster Hour, and similar type programmes.

I deleted loads, but came across something called “Tales from the Cutting Room” by the journalist Michael Cockerell. I kind of faintly remembered enjoying it, but didn’t recall it clearly.

Now, when I started what I refer to online as the #DailyConstitutional, my daily hour or more’s walk, my rule was: no current affairs, no current news, no recent politics news, for reasons previously mentioned.

But this wasn’t modern, this wasn’t recent. It wasn’t even recent when it was broadcast; Cockerell was talking about his decades’ long career as a political journalist, and interviews he’d conducted, and especially what got cut in the edit. So there were clips from interviews that had never seen the light of day.

This clip was about Jim Callaghan, British Prime Minister from 1976 to 1979, and the only person to have held all four great offices of state: Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary.

As the programme closed, Cockerell related a conversation he’d once had with Roy Jenkins, wherein Jenkins said [about Callaghan, who hadn’t gone to university] that he’d never before come across such a powerful personality linked with such a lack of intellect.

Jenkins, of course, was one of four university educated men that Callaghan had beaten to the Labour Leadership, and to the office of Prime Minister, when he went for it in 1976. When Cockerell then quoted Jenkins to Callaghan, and said that the view was shared by others, Callaghan had laughed, and then he came out with one of the greatest political quotes I’ve ever heard:

“It’s true, although I think I was probably cleverer then they thought I was. Yes, I haven’t got a huge intellect. But then again, I became Prime Minister… and they didn’t.”

And that’s when I laughed and thought… “yeah, Michael would have liked that; he’d really really have liked that”.

I don’t think of my brother every day; I’d be lying if I said I did. But when I think of him, there’s not been a single time I’ve not missed him.

And I kind of think he’d have liked that as well.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for this blog run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. So, since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the story telling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across by chance, usually while looking for something else entirely. As often as not, I have no idea why the image appeared in a search for something else, and equally as often as not, I have no idea why that image sparked a story while another didn’t.

I came across the following image Tuesday afternoon, while searching for information on the English civil war for… something else.

There was just something about it, and it sparked an idea.

And here’s what it inspired.


A Small Breach of Conformity

She was early, and the heat had taken her by surprise. She was the only one, though. All around her in the streets, and now, in the square itself, people passed her with perfectly selected attire, entirely appropriate for the weather at this moment.

For the briefest moment, but only for the moment, she regretted not checking the government issued official weather forecast before she left. “Accurate to the centimetre”, it promised. And, like most government pledges and policies, while it was impossible to prove its accuracy, it would have proved – had anyone cared to check – equally impossible to demonstrate any inaccuracy.

She had been born after the supremacy of conformity, and though there were occasional attempts to change it, they never came to anything. Why, politicians would ask, would we or should we change what people don’t wish to change? They were all sure there was an answer, but no-one ever changed.

She had been careful the past few days not to do anything that would alarm, or shock or horrify her neighbours. A visit from the conformity police even in these days was something to concern.

She looked around the perfectly proportioned square, noting the perfectly proportioned paving design beneath her feet. No one had apparently realised that she wore two faintly different colour shoes. Her little rebellion. But, she acknowledged, it was very little. So far.

There were three large buildings comprising the sides sides of the small square, with one side open to a park; a park with perfectly coiffured trees, the exactly recommended diversity of flora and fauna, and an acre or two of grass of exactly the same height.

Two of the buildings were new, or at least the buildings were newer replacements for their predecessors. Outside they were twins of each other, the same colour of brick, the same windows equidistantly spaced, the same height, width, depth. All the same. And she knew that inside the buildings, were she to step inside, there would be identical dimensions, floors, purposes and people.

The third building, though, the one in whose shade she currently stood, enjoying the brief relief from the shade. That was her destination in about – she glanced up at the sky and read the digits being projected – twenty-two minutes, after which she would discover whether her plans had been worth her time. She mentally reprimanded herself at the idea of thinking ever being a waste of time. That’s what they want you to think, she thought, and hid her smile at the joy of arguing, even with herself.

Being early had its advantages, though, she thought. The shadows thrown by the biggest building’s two angular upper floors created the cooler area in which she found herself. She placed her shoulder bag on the ground. That in itself, she knew, was a breach of etiquette, but only a minor one.

She took a moment to enjoy the mental exercise of making a decision for herself: should she risk what she wanted to do next. Would they stop her?

But apart from the heat and her slightly aching feet, she was mildly curious what reaction she might do next would provoke. Disdain? Sadness? Pity? She made her decision. She unclipped from the side of the bag a grey canvas roll. She shook it, and snapped her wrist. And placed the small frame of a chair now hanging from her hand onto the ground. She knew it looked more fragile than it was, and with an anticipatory smile, she sat in it. She opened the bag, pulled out some papers, and started to read.

It didn’t take long for her to sense the disdain; it was almost palpable. When she looked up from the collection of papers in her hand, she was careful not to meet the eyes of those who were either contemptuous or shocked. The former she fully expected, the latter saddened her. She hoped no one would call the authorities though. It wasn’t a breach of the law, but of the social contract. She didn’t know if they regarded that as worse, as the people passing obviously did.

She continued reading until, with a start of surprise, she looked up. Longer had passed than she’d anticipated, and she grinned widely at the thought, now uncaring of the blatant surprise on those who saw her. She pushed the papers back in the bag, apathetic at how they fit, then snapped the chair closed with her wrist.

She aimed herself at the third building and walked towards it.

This was it. This was her opportunity. She’s found them. Yes, yes, it was ostensibly working for Them, but she’d heard the stories, the hearsay, and had discovered the opportunity. To work from the inside, to work for change for the sake of change. In a world where conformity was everything, where planning was supreme, where surprise was discouraged, where… she thought the forbidden word: where boredom reigned, she was taking the opportunity to do what she wanted, when she wanted, how she wanted, and with whom she wanted.

She hadn’t booked an appointment, she hadn’t called ahead. She was convinced her initiative would be rewarded by these people, by these people above all.

She registered the sign on the door of the building, and slowed her pace.

The Ministry of New IdeasPermanently Closed

For the briefest of seconds, she felt pain, deep in her stomach. How could they do this to her, how could they? The sheer, unfettered, arrogance and contempt. Why would they?

She stopped. And worked it through in her mind. And reached her conclusion.

Then she smiled, pushed open the door and passed the test.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Yes, I know it’s Wednesday but I’ve had a lonnng afternoon, my foot is hurting and I’ve a headache.

So, although it’s Wednesday, another couple of stories today.

It’s Tuesday Wednesday, so a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts.

Erm.

Two more fast fictions, both from 2010 this week.

The first was, as I did occasionally, written in verse. I liked doing something different every so often, and writing in rhyming verse was always fun, especially when I couldn’t get the story to work in prose, as with this one.

The reaction to the second tale surprised me at the time. I thought it was fun and clever. I never thought of it as ‘hot’, but who am I to argue with those who told me they found it so.

I hope you enjoy both,

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Enjoy them…


Title: Typing Too Fast
Word: equivocate
Challenger: [Anonymous]
Length: 200 words exactly

The role of some who merely serve others
Is often mistaken, my sisters and brothers,
As something less special; unimportant, they’d say.
Until Her name is mentioned, and that dreadful day.

As the Official Typist, others were wary
Not to call her a mere secretary.
Did the king himself not oft praise her worth,
As more valuable than all treasures on Earth?

Until that day when the pressure did loom
And documents flew in and flew out of her room
As she typed first an order, and then a request
And then a submission, and all of the rest.

The mistake, when it happened, was very small, but
In context, however, the consequences not.
At the meeting they’d held, the twenty-third of his reign
The pen had run out and he’d signed once again.

She’d meant to type that the king had re-signed.
A missing hyphen, however, was not spotted in time.
As Official Typist, you see, her records were Law.
And the King was removed, protesting his fall.

And then civil war; barons fought for the crown
And monarchy started her slippery slope down.
And all because of a tiny mistake.
Made by one who merely serves and waits.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: Amazing Jack of Spades
Word: equivocate
Challenger: [Livejournal: hylandsdeath]
Length: 200 words exactly

The jacket was removed first, slowly but deliberately.

Next came the shirt, unbuttoned one fastening at a time, scarlet painted fingernails catching the eye as they moved down the garment. Expecting the shirt to follow the jacket onto the floor, they were surprised when she gently but expertly tossed it onto a nearby chair.

Her face was almost expressionless, slightly bored, and showing mild irritation. Either way, people weren’t overly studying her features.

Instead, every eye in the place was on her arms and legs… and torso. A tattoo was observed in silence, as was the long faint scar that could have been from an appendix removal. But still they watched intently.

She slid the short skirt down and stepped out of it, then with a sigh, took off the bra.

She pirouetted, then raised an eyebrow enquiringly at the man with the gun. Satisfied that she carried nothing hidden, he nodded and grunted what might have been an apology.

She quickly dressed and then they returned to the poker table where she’d just won the previous hand with a straight flush, jack high.

They didn’t equivocate about accusations of cheating in Deadwood, she realised as she started to deal.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s Tuesday, so a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts.

A couple of fast fictions, both from 2010 this week.

Two stories, as different as can be, though both with an undercurrent of ‘regret’, one expressed rather more healthily than the other, maybe? I leave you to decide. And no, that’s not a mistake in the title; Jess chose (as one other person did in the history of the fast fiction challenge) not to give me a word to use in the tale, merely a title.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Enjoy them…


Title: I Always Hated You
Word: [none offered]
Challenger: Jess Nevins
Length: 200 words exactly

I never liked the way you were always at home in any social setting: how you’d walk into a room where there were thirty different people, none of whom knew each other, and half an hour later, there’d be six or seven different conversations going on, with you drifting from one to another as if you’d known them all your life. All the time, that smug half-smile on your face that others found endearing and that you swore was merely relief at getting through it.

I loathed the way you pretended not to know how attractive the other sex found you; you couldn’t not have known, not with the way you responded to every person who wanted your ear, acting brash with one, bashful with another, flirtatious with a third… and each of them convinced they knew the real you.

I found it contemptible how effortlessly you found it, settling down with me – how could you have genuinely been happy settling for a wife and children when you so obviously enjoyed the spontaneity that familial obligations denied you?

And then you died, you bastard, before I could tell you again that I loved you.

And I hate you for that.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: The Hour Before Dawn
Word: candour
Challenger: [Livejournal: Avril_Says]
Length: 200 words exactly

I dreamed a city once.

Minutes before I fully awoke, my mind full of possibilities, I dreamed a city. Broad walkways, tall spires, millions of people.

And then I witnessed decay and destruction; high buildings tumbling, crushing those beneath; roads collapsing where once lovers had walked; I knew that negligence and disregard were to blame.

I dreamed a lover once.

Golden hair, wide eyes of deepest midnight blue, flowing chiffon almost disguising her femininity, features that left me dumb in awe.

And then I saw her grow old, and her beauty fade, and her charm evaporate, and I was wholly aware that apathy and neglect were entirely at fault.

I dreamed a life once.

Liked by friends, loved by family, respected in my chosen profession. A deeply caring, productive life.

And then, with the passage of time, it became ordinary; friends found other amusements; family became a chore for all involved; my career was merely prostituting meagre talent. And selfishness was the default first option instead of a reviled last resort.

And then I cried in candour at the realisation that the last was neither a dream nor a nightmare, although I wished beyond hope that it had been either.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s been a weird few days, and my foot is killing me, so after more than a month of daily posts, I’m invoking Blogger’s Prerogative and doing an easy one today, just images from an old favourite…

worldmappers.org

If you’ve not come across the place before, well,

 

Worldmapper is a collection of world maps called cartograms, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.

 
Here are some odd ones…

Let’s start with home. My home, that is; the United Kingdom. For better or worse, it’s where I live. And it’s where a lot of people live. And where a lot of people live, who used to live somewhere else. And where a lot of people used to live who now live somewhere else.

Migration to the UK 1990 to 2017. (Hello! Welcome!, Grab a chair, I’ll make a cuppa…)

Migration from the UK 1990 to 2017 (We’re sorry, world, honest!)

And one more before we leave old Blighty: [gridded] population distribution.

Going global, here’s the estimated World Population, as of 2020:

One very much for me now. Coffee production, as of 2014. (They don’t show by brand but I’m pretty sure Sumatra is in there somewhere)

Do you enjoy eating plums? Well, here’s plum production (territory in proportion to the plums harvested) as of 2016.

Oh, you prefer Pineapples? Also, as of 2016.

Oh, you don’t like either? Well, you’re not getting away scot free either. Consume anything? Well, here’s an Ecological Footprint of Consumption 2019

Oh, you’d prefer per capita? Coming right up

I quite like this one. Land surface resized by its population overlaid with data about biodiversity hotspot regions.

Earthquakes, 2001 to 2017

Earthquake risk, overlaying population.

The US Presidential election 2020. You remember that, yeah? Well, I’ve seen lots of different visualisations of the results, but I’d never seen one quite like this. I feel like it’s obligatory to cry “Look what four years of the orange poltroon did to you, America!”

Here’s a less odd, but equally fascinating, one: the growth of covid through 2020:

worldmappers.org – Aren’t maps fun?

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Tuesday something else.

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Every so often, online, someone will ask a specific question, a deceptively simple question. ‘Deceptively’ because the honest intention is that people should become comfortable with admitting having being wrong about something.

And that’s not a bad thing to do. Neither the asking of the question, nor the intended consequence.

Though I’ll admit to a prejudice against people who claim they’ve never made a mistake, never fucked up, never come to a wrong conclusion… (with their deliberate implication being ‘I’ve never made a mistake, so I’ll never make one going forward.’) I don’t like it in bosses I’ve worked for, I don’t like it with people I know, and I loathe it in politicians.

Note that when I say “wrong”, or “mistake”, I’m not talking about someone who uses the weasel words of “I reached the best conclusion I had with the information available”. No, I mean “I was wrong about something.”

The question I refer to is:

“Name one thing about which you had your mind changed by a single argument? (Whether that argument was made to you in person, online or through an article or video.)”

After all, a single argument isn’t additional information; it’s a deliberate attempt to change someone’s mind possibly via additional information but certainly by an argument… that the person hadn’t previously encountered.

I mean, I like to think of myself as a not entirely unintelligent person; I’m sure most people like to think of themselves in the same way.

OK, I’m fairly well read (on many things, but certainly not on everything) and it’s rare for me to, these days, encounter an argument, certainly online, that I haven’t come across before. It happens, sometimes, and happened a lot, earlier in life.

But yeah, it still happens occasionally.

Here’s one I’ve mentioned before: the death penalty.

While I spent much of my life… uncomfortable with the practice of the death penalty, I’d not come across ‘a single argument’ against which I had no defence. I’d seen plenty of arguments that made a moral argument against it, but they were always an argument against the death penalty in principle, and I never really had an issue with it in principle, merely in practice. But I was never quite sure why I was so uncomfortable with it in practice.

I’ll get to that argument that convinced me otherwise in a moment, but what I want to stress is that when the argument came, it wasn’t directed at me, specifically. It was made on a CompuServe politics forum a couple of decades ago and the moment, the very moment I read it, my mind was changed.

Again, it wasn’t aimed at me, but it could have been. My closest friends would immediately recognise why it worked with me; indeed, as with most friends – you’ve got friends who would do the same – they know that some arguments just won’t work with me (you) whereas others are so perfect, they’re almost calculated to work on me (again, you.)

Here’s the argument that worked on me for the death penalty. I’ll say it as it was addressed, so the ‘you’ in here is ‘me’, ok?

“If you acknowledge that no justice system is perfect, then, inevitably, there will be miscarriages of justice. Which, equally inevitably, means that someone entirely innocent of the crime will be executed.”

That’s all it took. (I’ve seen it argued that it’s similar to the ‘better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be jailed’ but I don’t think that’s true at all. The ‘better ten’ is an argument for making the system as perfect as you can but not punishing unless you’re very, very sure. The ‘there will be miscarriages’ is an argument against making The Most Serious irrevocable mistake that can be made.)

Now, it took me a bit longer (and I’m not entirely, wholly and completely, there) to acknowledge the wrongness of any state execution in theory, in principle.

But in practice? That single argument forever and irrevocably convinced me of the wrongness of ever executing someone, no matter how convinced a court might be that he or she committed the crime. Because for every time you’re convinced the court reached the right decision, there’s a chance, albeit possibly a small chance… that the court got it wrong.

And that small chance is enough, for me, to wholly invalidate that most serious of penalties.

I’m about to ostensibly change the subject, but I’ll bring it back to some relevance to the above, I promise. Just bear with me, ok?

What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me? No, don’t answer that.

A few years ago, when my marriage ended, when Laura and I split up, I moved into a two-bedroom flat in Barnet; the second room was reserved mostly for my lad Phil when he slept over, but there was a decent-sized living room area, and a similarly decent sized main bedroom.

The flat was exactly the right size for me. (The kitchen was entirely too big for my needs, as any kitchen bigger than a rabbit hutch would be, but other than that, I mean.) Big enough to feel comfortable in, small enough for me to look after, without much effort. But for whatever reason, the light sometimes bugged me. Not the size of the bulbs themselves, but the quality of the light in the place.

I tried brighter bulbs and they helped but not enough. Then I picked up some ‘daylight’ bulbs.


Sidebar: I have to digress slightly here and say that when I asked my usual ‘photo reference library’ – Unsplash – for ‘daylight bulb’, they offered me lots of photos… of plant bulbs in daylight. Lots of daffodils and vegetables and the like. I found, and find, that more amusing than I probably should.


Anyway, as I say, I picked up some ‘daylight’ bulbs. They happened to be the most ‘energy efficient’ available but that wasn’t why I bought them; they just were the best I could find for what I wanted.

And, not quite instantly but pretty soon, I enjoyed the light in the flat. I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from SAD (Seasonally Affected Disorder) but I definitely enjoyed living at the flat more with the white light bulbs than I’d ever done so previously.

Thing was I happened to mention to a friend of mine who is heavily into environmental campaigns what I’d done. He and his partner, who was similarly hugely into the environment, were delighted. They good-naturedly teased me a bit about ‘going green’, and when I protested, he got very serious for a moment: I don’t care why you’re doing it, beyond me liking my friends to be happy, but whatever the reason, I’m happy you’re being energy efficient.

And then he said something that resonated, that brings me back to the above death penalty thing: if I’d have known that daylight bulbs would make you more energy efficient, I’d have suggested it ages ago.

It’s always stuck with me, that additional observation:

If I’d have known that daylight bulbs would make you more energy efficient, I’d have suggested it ages ago.

Is that the answer? Is that the answer to persuading people to campaigns, important or not, global or not, urgent or not, less to do with the ostensible subject of the campaign, and more about targeting your message. And not to a group — political campaigns have known it for ages, targeting everyone of a specific demography – but finding a way of tailoring your argument to an individual.

(And yes, I’m very aware that Cambridge Analytica targeted political ads to individuals, and very small groups, but given they did it via – together with Facebook – effectively conning millions of people, I’m not entirely convinced they’re the pattern anyone should follow.)

Because, I tell ytou something without fear of contradiction, we’re going to need to find a way of convincing people, one-by-one, of something. We need to find that way now.

Because of the covid vaccine. (Yes, I know there’s more than one vaccine, but I’m sticking to the singular for this, ok?)

Almost (I nearly typed everyone without the qualifier, but of course it’s not everyone) everyone who wants the vaccine, or has been persuaded by a) the government, b) the health department, or c) the scientific community campaigns has either i) already received their first vaccination, or ii) already had an appointment for their first shot.

(Not for nothing, but I’m truly interested in the number of people who received their first shot and chose not to get their second…)

But the vaccination numbers (not the vaccinated numbers) are dropping, and we’re getting to the areas of population, both here and across the Atlantic, where people don’t want the vaccine. (Again, I’m of course excluding those who have been advised by reputable and competent medical professionals not to have it; those people are why it’s so bloody important that everyone else gets it.)

And we know that those people won’t respond favourably (as in ‘yes, now I’ll have the vaccine’) as a group to campaigns and arguments and debates and threats and pleas. Because if they would… they already would have.

So, the governments are forced to either mandate them with the thread of going to jail or losing their jobs, or find some other way of persuading them.

I don’t know the answer. I suspect some computer modelling might be required, and a lot of analysis, in order to find an argument that persuades a very small number, who go on to persuade more.

But we need an answer. Before we go through the alphabet and end up withan Omega Variant that, though the chosen-to-remain-unvaccinated’s selfishness and antipathy, starts killing millions more.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant.

Indeed, as I’ve grown older, if not wiser, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

So, after another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a hearty ‘how the fuck should I know?’, here’s some much needed silliness.

For this run, I’m going to try and find, each week, three archive clips, one example of something that’s just… nice. And then end every week with something from my mate Mitch, who fortunately has continued to provide videos over the past year.

Ok then… let’s start.

 

While this week’s isn’t going to be all medical/covid related, this video definitely gets prime spot this week: Matt Green on A Minister gets pinged

 

The first of two “every so often, I remember that this exists”. I’m a sucker for cover versions, and re-interpretations. This, by The Post-Modern Jukebox does exactly what it says on the tin, with a couple of guest stars at the end to lend their seal of approval: The Evolution of The Friends Theme Song, 1920s to 1990s.

 
 
I’m not sure when I first discovered Rik Mayall; it’s possible, I guess, I’d come across him before what I first remember encountering him for, as Kevin Turvey. but Turvey was the first time I saw him and thought ‘holy hell, this is something special’. Here’s Mayall as Kevin Turvey Investigates… Sex.

  
 
For today’s ‘nice’ smile(s), here’s the second of the “every so often, I remember that this exists”: Emma Stone and Maya Rudolph doing Call Your Girlfriend

  
 
A more recent one from Mitch, this week, about how nice it must be for international get-togethers now that someone isn’t there any more…

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Todays’ post was intended to be a ‘Ten Things‘ post, this time on comics I’d reread during lockdown, but, to be honest, I’m both demob happy because I got out of self-isolation at 11:59pm last night, and really not in the mood because I had an awful, just awful, night’s sleep last night.

And – to be brutally honest – while I was keeping a promise to myself (and one other person, an old friend) to write and publish one new piece of fiction every week, I feel no such obligation to keep to my own wholly arbitrary and invented rules about any ‘Ten Things’ posts that I entirely made up for this countdown run.

So, the entry that was planned for today? You get that next Friday.

Probably.

Instead today, since right now I envy a gnat’s attention span, you get some odds and sods, various things that are on my mind right now before flickering away.

No, this definitely isn’t a multi-part goingcheep, how dare you think that? #WhistlesNotQuiteSoInnocently

Self-isolation – it’s ended!
Well, just after 11:59pm, last night, my NHS Covid app did something weird. I expected to get a notification that my self-isolation had ended, and that I was now free to go out, if I wanted.

I mean, ok, as I said in the entry on Sunday – 57 minus 30: So, I was pinged… – I then discovered from calling 119 that I wasn’t actually, y’know, legally obliged to self-isolate.

I hadn’t been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, I’d been pinged.

And being pinged, if you haven’t tested positive, just means that you’re obliged to consider isolating, although the advice, the very strong advice, is that you definitely, definitely, very definitely, self-isolate.

Now I don’t hold myself out as a paragon of virtue, by any means. And I’m as hypocritical as the next person. (Unless the next person is a British politician, in which case, yes, I’ll acknowledge that I’m not as hypocritical.)

But I do try not to be hypocritical, and given that everyone, including me, benefits from me staying at home and isolating, and no one, including me, is actively harmed by me doing so, it made sense to follow the best advice and self-isolate. And yes, there is a ‘hypocrite’ charge to be levelled at those who tell others they should always self-isolate no matter what when pinged, but who choose (for all sorts of reasons) not to do so themselves.

So, yes, I self-isolated. And it wasn’t pleasant, to be honest. While I’m neither the most social nor sociable of people in general, I loathed being stuck in the flat, not being able to go to the shops, not being able to see my few regular contacts-in-person, and not being able to grab a coffee outside.

But back to the weird thing my app did just after 11:59 last night.

(Oh, and well done, seriously, to whoever designed the bit of the app that ended isolation at 11:59pm rather than at midnight. I’m not even slightly kidding. Had it been at midnight, you’d have had confusion; if your’e informed your isolation ends at Thursday midnight, is that midnight as the day ends, or midnight as the day begins? Someone thought about that, and it shows.)

I didn’t get a notification that my self-isolation had ended. Instead, I got a notification that I had to self-isolate for ten days.

Yeah. As I say, weird.

I hadn’t seen anyone since I’d been pinged, so how could I have a new potential contact? And when I opened the app to check what was going on, there was no ‘you have to isolate for 10 days’ or anything. Just the usual indication that all’s well. Fortunately, in the ‘settings’ part of the app, there’s an opportunity to discover both “date of exposure” and “date of notification”.

Mine showed:

Date of exposure: 12th July 2021 (ie the original contact for which I’d been notified to self-isolate, and was 10 days ago, crucial.)
Date of notification: 23rd July 2021 (this previous showed last Friday, when I was pinged)

So, it was the app resetting itself. OK, but you saw my congratulations earlier about the 11:59pm? Yeah, someone didn’t think about this bit. I’d hate to think how many people panic on seeing that second ‘false’ notification about having to self-isolate again.

Anyway, my enforced stay at chateau budgie ended and… so I went for a wander at midnight to celebrate my own personal Freedom Day. (Sorry, but you knew that was coming, right?)

I won’t lie; I thoroughly enjoyed the wander, more than I think I enjoyed almost anything else in the past week. I was, for once, precisely what my twitter profile says: a wanderer and a wonderer.

I wasn’t, however, accompanied by the usual audiobook nor podcast. I wanted to enjoy the walk, as long as my foot would allow, and so I just let my mind wander, and hoped like hell it would retrun when I arrived back at the flat around 1:10am.

Here’s a couple of things that I was thinking about…
 
 
But he lied!
A Labour MP, Dawn Butler, someone generally I’ve not got a lot of time for, though, vanishingly rarely, she surprises and impresses me – called Boris Johnson a liar in the House of Commons. Now this is a no-no, and she was asked to withdraw the comment as unparliamentary language by the Deputy Speaker, who was in the Chair. Butler refused and was then ordered to leave (‘withdraw from’) the chamber for the rest of the day.

Now there are two entirely valid ways of looking at this. The first is that she knew what she was doing, she’s more than aware of the rules of the Parliament as set out in both Standing Orders and Erskine May. She knew that by accusing the PM of lying (and it’s the accusation towards another MP that really counts, not accusing a minister, since the latter is decided by, erm, the PM) and therefore she deserved everything she got. She’s got nothing to complain about and anyone supporting her is just plain daft; it’s not like she’s a novice who made a mistake. She broke the rules of debate in the chamber, and then refused to obey the Chair. Doesn’t matter which rule was broken, the House of Commons’ rules are set by all MPs, and deliberately breaking them for publicity is puerile and immature.

As I say, that’s one view.

The second, very different, take is that she thinks, as do many, that the rules barring an accusation of lying in the House of Commons are, today, ludicrously anachronistic. That the rules were created in a time when it was genuinely expected that MPs would not lie nor mislead the House; deliberately misleading the House was if not a resigning matter than certainly an incredibly serious offence, one that could end a promising career or certainly pause one for a while. It certainly wasn’t expected that a minister or, heaven forfend, The Prime Minister would mislead the House on a frequent – oh my gods, it’s frequent – basis for no reasons other than political expediency and because he can get away with it. Taking this view, the only way to bring home to the public how ludicrous the rules are, and to get some publicity for the move, is to challenge the PM by name, call him a liar, and take your lumps when the Chair kicks you out. It’s not that serious a punishment, after all. You get kicked out of the chamber for a few hours. So what? You go to your office, answer some constituency email, do some correspondence, and then wait for the news media to ask for interviews.

(Readers who remember my naming Boris Johnson our primus inter mendaces may speculate at this point which view I have more sympathy with. Who knows, you might even be right. Possibly.)

Both of the are valid interpretations, I think. I should say that one journalist I admire hugely for his writing views the allegation of lying as a no no, no matter what. I think he’s wrong when it comes to serial liars, but his view is, apart from anything else, it only and always adds heat to a discussion, and never light; it never accomplishes anything and if anything prevents any possibility of moving forward. It’s abuse, plain and simple. As I say, I disagree with John Rentoul on this.

However, what I struggle to consider as valid view is the professed surprise by so many British people who frequently (frequently? Daily to the extent that it’s rare they talk about anything else) comment on British politics. This is far from the first time this subject has come up, and to pretend that a) Butler didn’t know what she was doing, or b) that the Speaker had any choice in the matter before she threw Butler out, is false ignorance.

The Speaker really didn’t have any choice in the matter. The most liberal interpretation of Erksine May is that accusations of lying are allowed but that the Speaker’s permission must be sought in advance and it should be in the form of a formal motion to the House, a procedure that hasn’t been used in decades.

To pretend the Speaker did have a choice both lowers Butler’s intention, and achievement, and the perceived knowledge and intelligence of the person making the charge.

And just as I was finishing up this entry, I came across the following thread on Twitter, which I heartily recommend to all.

Anyway, moving on to one last thing.
 
 
Something silly
Something very silly to end today on. Not silly, or not silly-in-the-same-way, so that it should be part of a Saturday Smile, but silly nonetheless.

Many years ago – far, far too many years ago – I first heard Alistair Cooke’s tale of when he was told “Cooke, you must learn to murder your darlings.” Cooke said it was said to him by a tutor at Cambridge while the latter was brutally excoriating an essay of Cooke’s which contained, Cooke thought with typical modesty, some superbly excellent writing.

It always reminds me of the no doubt apocryphal tale of Noël Coward, when he was directing a young writer’s play. The play was overrunning, and Coward was cutting bits to bring it within the time allotted for the production. He came to one passage, hesitated for a moment, then with a brisk movement, struck out the line with a thick blue pencil.

The writer had remained silent until now but at this specific line, he could stay silent no more. “But that’s my favourite line!” He protested.

Coward is reputed to have languidly looked at the young writer and reassured him not unkindly. “It’s a lovely line indeed; a beautiful line.” Then: “Use it in another play,”

I’ve remembered both lines and used them on myself occasionally,.

Neil Gaiman was asked last week, as he sometimes is, from where he’d came up with the name Coraline, the eponymous hero of the novel. Neil told the tale that he’d once typed “Coraline” instead of “Caroline” in a letter; hethen thought it would make an excellent name for a character. Larry Niven had written “Treasure your Typos” and he did.

I mean, I’d heard “Treasure Your Typos” before, but this was the first time I knew who said it.

It had two immediate effects.

The first was to remind me when I once did treasure my typo. I’d written a story for a horror anthhology comic called Trailer Park of Terror; the story was called It’s Been Done Before, and was a ‘twist in the tale’ thing.

One panel was the one on the right.

It’s fine, a perfectly serviceable panel. Did the job.

But the letterer had made a small mistake, which fortunately we caught during proofing the story.

He missed out the L in the word PUBLIC.

So the caption read…

I ONLY REMEMBER MEETING THE PUBIC DEFENDER.

Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

And that little moment of joy gave me the idea for You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. So that was nice.

But, I hear you ask…

Well

No need to thank me.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else. It’s Saturday tomorrow, so you know what to expect.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

In honour of that, here’s something new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before. I came across the following image this afternoon. I liked it, and it sparked an idea.

So here’s the story it inspired.


A Call From Miranda

The call came through just as he was heading for the door, a journey home, and an evening spent regretting too much.

Only one caller used that tone, and it was one every police recognised: it was Miranda.

OK, officially, the name of the caller was The City, but within days of the system going live, some wag in the fifteenth precinct had named the voice Miranda, and it stuck. A year later, they’d made it semi-official.

It was rare that The City called; rare, but not unknown. and he answered the call with no more concern than he would have his long-departed wife. In the days when she called. Come to think of it, he mused as he answered the call, he was probably more concerned by her calls back then, certainly towards the end.

He slowed his walking, just in case. You never knew with Miranda.

“Good evening, detective,” came the latest iteration of a polite voice he’d learned to recognise in his first week of training.

“Evenin’ Miranda,” he replied, wondering just for a moment how The City would have responded had he said another name.

“What can I do for you?” He continued, already half-assuming his evening was blown, but not quite ready to give up on the idea of leaving the precinct.

“There will be a murder in 13 minutes and 9 seconds,” said the voice.

He stopped walking.

“Repeat,” he stabbed out, any pretence at politeness evaporating.

“There will be a murder in 13 minutes and 5 seconds,” said the voice.

“Where?” The question was automatic, he was already thinking about who else would be getting the call, who else would meet him at the scene.

“At your current location.”

OK, that was new.

“At the house?”

“It will not be at your home, detective,” the voice seemed to gently chide him.

“No, no, I meant… forget it.” Sometimes, rarely, Miranda betrayed her ignorance. It was never worth mentioning it. She’d say thank you for new information but unless it was relevant to the case, it would never even be filed. Police slang? The City preferred formality in all things. He was marching back to his squad room, thinking bad thoughts about worse people.

“Who’s the likely victim?”

“Current indications, most likely probabilities, and–”

“Who’s the victim?” He barked out, already back at his desk.

It may have been his imagination, but the reply seemed to contain a trace of irritation at the interruption, but he didn’t care about that just now.

“You are the predicted victim, detective.”

OK, that was uncommon. Rare, even.

Crime prediction had been around for decades; it had a lousy success rate, but politicians liked it, and the public liked it, so The City was allowed to make the predictions.

Serious crimes only, and even they varied with the change in administration, but even then, thousands of hours were wasted every year checking out the warnings. Most times it never panned out, fortunately. But every time a prediction was accurate, or at least could be called accurate, the media went nuts, and the word would come down to treat the forecasts with more respect.

“Time?” He asked,

“The time is now 9:34pm, detective. Would you like to know the weath–”

“No,” he said shortly. “What is the time to the predicted murder?”

“There will be a murder in 11 minutes and 35 seconds.”

“Scenario?” It was odd how the training kicked in. Not “circumstances”, not “parameters”, not “how?”. But “scenario”. That was the word The City responded to best.

“The most likely scenario predicted is that an weapon undetected on arrest will be used by someone to…”

Did he imagine the pause?

“…kill you, detective.”

“Well, that’s not great,” he said aloud.

For a moment, he wondered whether the Miranda was composing a response, then the voice confirmed it.

“Other likely scenarios are available, together with probabilities.”

And then it hit him.

“Why have no other police officers been informed of this?”

“Your question is based on an incorrect assumption, detective. Other police officers have been informed of this likely murder.”

He glanced around the squad room. No one was looking in his direction; some detectives on their phones, but none looking worried or anxious.

“Who’s been informed, Miranda?” He asked.

“Would you like the list in alphabetical order or in order of level of seniority?” The City asked.

“No, I mean…” he paused. “Have any officers in the precinct been… no, strike that. Have any officers inside the precinct station been informed?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“It is police department policy not to warn potential criminals that…”

Oh great.

“Ok, I get it.”

“Reminder: There will be a murder in ten minutes exactly.”

He remembered the last time this had happened, the last time a police officer had been warned of their own murder. Three years back; the poor fool had barricaded himself inside a cell. Nothing had happened. But, he’d had an asthma attack while inside and had died before anyone could persuade him to take his medication. And a year before that, a couple of officers on patrol had become so paranoid, they’d almost shot each other before they could be talked down from it.

A thousand thoughts raced through his head, two racing to the fore, however. One was not very nice, the other was just possible, but…

He took a deep breath, and made his decision.

“Thank you for the warning, Miranda. I’m going home.”

“There will be a murder in…”

“Yeah, save it. I’m going home.”

“Warning saved.”

“Good night, Miranda.”

“Good night, detective.”

He ended the call, looked at his desk, looked around the squad room one more time, and walked away from it.

He maintained a blank expression until he got to the car, but as he thumbed the door and it opened, he smiled. It was a nice smile, tinged with appreciation.

It had been the ‘Warning Saved‘ that confirmed it. Miranda may have been literal, but she wasn’t that literal; she knew idioms, analogies and metaphors.

He wondered which of his colleagues was smart enough to have hacked into the phone system and either angry enough at him or annoying enough to have tried to haze him back. Colletti? Could be. He’d never forgiven him for the 37 pizzas. Or Robinson? She’d been livid after he made her call the local zoo and ask for Mr C Lion.

The smile faded as he considered the other possibility, that Miranda now was actually that literal.

He drove home, very slowly, and hoped that he’d still be around tomorrow to find out.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

One of the mainstays of US comedy for the past couple of decades has been The Daily Show. Originally helmed by Craig Kilborn, it only really took off under his successor Jon Stewart. When Stewart retired from the show after 16 years, his successor Trevor Noah- after a fairly ropey start – managed to make the show his own.

It took me a good two years to ‘get’ Noah’s version of the show, though it wasn’t like I watched every episode. I wasn’t waiting for the show to work for me or anything. But I watched every so often, and after about two years, it hit me that the show was clever enough, professional enough, and funny enough for me to think ‘ok, now I want to see what the show does about this and what it says about that.’

Every so often, there’s an attempt to answer the calls and try to make a UK equivalent of The Daily Show.

And it has even been tried a couple of times; arguably. the most successfully (or least unsuccessfully with Trevor McDonald and Marcus Brigstocke. Others might point at 10 O’Clock Live with Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Lauren Laverne and Jimmy Carr.

Or, being cruel, maybe that should have been “Others might point at 10 O’Clock Live with Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Lauren Laverne… but Jimmy Carr.”

UK versions fail for a variety of reasons, but they always fail.

There are lots of reasons why, each specific to the individual show, but there’s one ever-present reason why all of them fail: UK comedy shows aren’t allowed to use clips from parliament for the purposes of satire, comedy or mockery.

Yeah, I know. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver even makes a thing of it; whenever they show something from Parliament, the UK broadcast has to replace the clips of parliament with something else; Oliver chooses to make it something entirely irrelevant and silly, like Gilbert Gotfried reading TripAdvisor reviews.

But comedy shows aren’t the only time permission or rights refusals have stopped an adaptation of a foreign show working in the UK.

A few years ago, there was a tv panel show called The Bubble; it was a success overseas but never really rose above mediocre when tried in the UK.

And mainly, thought not solely, that was because the main news media refused permission for the programme to mock up news items purporting to be real.

Why would that be needed? Well, the simple but superbly clever concept was this:

The Bubble asks three celebrity contestants to separate true news stories from fakes after spending four days locked away in a country house with no phone, TV or internet access.


The host will present them with a mix of news reports, headlines and images from TV, newspapers and celebrity gossip magazines.

And “all” the contestants have to do is say which stories are true and which have been made up.

The obvious thought is: “ok, some stories are obviously going to be true and some are obviously going to be false, it’s going to be the one that could be true that will be the tough ones…”

But I always think in response “No, it won’t. It’ll be the utterly ludicrous ones…”

Suppose instead of four days, the contestants had been locked away since 31st December 2020.. I’ll exclude celebrity deaths because every year has people die unexpectedly. And I’ll similarly exclude anything to do with the existence of Covid, since we’d had almost a year of it already by the end of last year.

But suppose when exiting, after six months, the contestants are given the following: 

  • An insurrection at the US Capitol with a genuine, armed, attempt to prevent Joe Biden becoming President
  • Elected representatives actively helping said insurrection, and letting rioters in to state legislatures
  • Elected representatives who downplayed the seriousness of the insurrection being proposed to sit on the committee investigating it
  • England reaching the final of Euros 2020… in 2021
  • A Canadian MP was first caught naked in a zoom call with colleagues, then was caught urinating on camera — and he’s NOT related to Doug Ford.
  • The Olympics, a year delayed, going ahead in a country with increasing covid infections, with only 1 in 5 fully vaccinated
  • All Nippon Airways, selling tickets for airline dinners on the runway, never leaving the ground
  • Matt Hancock has to resign after being caught on his own department’s CCTV in an amorous hug with an aide
  • John Bishop crashed his car to avoid “a big chicken”
  • Bibi Netanyahu no longer Israeli PM
  • Someone pays $2.9m so they could say they own a 15 year old tweet
  • Tussaud’s has to put Trump’s waxwork into storage because people kept punching it
  • Scientists officially investigate whether sightings of the Loch Ness Monster could be whale penises.
  • 1500 bottles of vodka made from radioactive apples grown near Chernobyl is prevented at the last minute from being exported to the UK
  • Australian researchers claim short sighted people have worse sleep than those with normal vision
  • In New York, a Catholic priest claims demons have been contacting people by text.

I think more than a few contestants would be repeat-pushing the “Made Up Story” button, don’t you?

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s Tuesday, so a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts.

A couple of fast fictions, one from 2005, one from 2009.

Two very different stories, although one could, I suppose. arguably be the sequel to the other. I’d never claim that it is, of course. And I hadn’t even considered it until I saw one after the other. But yes, if it pleases you to think of them as such, feel free to do so.

The 2005 story surprised a few people when I wrote it, since by then they were used to me taking the darker path when offered a title that gave me that opportunity. I took as much pleasure in that as in the story itself.

The 2009 tale, on the other hand garnered the comment ‘Aha, there you are. I knew that more recent charming tale was a blip.‘ I enjoyed that as well.

Something that cheered me as well: despite my joining the platform Racket, I’ve not done anything with it yet. That this tale has the word in the title is a nice bit of synchronicity.

 

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Enjoy them…


Title: Dizzy With Wonder
Word: lenient
Challenger: Anja Pirat
Length: 200 words exactly

I’m not sure when the exact moment occurred.

But at one point or another, general chatting had turned to mild flirting, and by the time I realised it had happened, we were already sending messages to each other with our eyes.

We were both attending the same conference, she as a speaker, me as a delegate, and when I’d disproved during the Q&A the old line about there being no such thing as a stupid question, she’d been lenient with me, answering the question in a way that didn’t make me feel a complete idiot.

A partial idiot, for sure, but even that was better than I deserved.

To make amends, I’d invited her for dinner, fully expecting to be turned down. Attending numerous conferences over the years had led me to a convenient pattern: dinner alone, meeting up with others for drinks, and then crawling off to bed, alone, in the smaller hours of the morning.

However, she’d accepted and somewhere between being handed the menus at the start of the dinner, and sitting on the sofas ordering brandies a few hours later… magic had taken place.

I was in love, and I never knew when it happened.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: The Racket They Made
Word: forlorn
Challenger: Ade Brown
Length: 200 words exactly

The sky was incredibly blue. He’d never really noticed it before, but it really was as blue as in the storybooks he remembered reading as a child.

A wisp of whiteness drifted past in what seemed a forlorn attempt to remind him that clouds existed, then the sky was revealed again and he smiled at it.

A lazy smile, not unattractive under normal circumstances. He’d see her soon, and then they could spend some time together.

Laying on the ground, staring straight up at the blue, blue sky, he could hear noise of some sort, but he was entirely apathetic to the sound, concentrating on the now uniform blue that seemed so close. Uniform, but changing nonetheless. It was getting darker, but he didn’t mind, he could see deep into the colour. And he smiled.

He closed his eyes, then opened them again, suddenly remembering the flowers.

He remembered now: he was taking them to her.

And then he remembered crossing the road to the cemetery. And the car. And then flying…?

The sirens were quite loud now, he realised.

But it didn’t matter, for the sky was really, really blue.

And then he closed his eyes again. And smiled.

© Lee Barnett, 2009


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

When I post these blog entries, I have a standard process. I’m sure I could automate it even more, but I kind of like the old-school feeling of doing it manually.

In rough order:

  • Then I copy the text of the tweet, go into my Twitter scheduler – I use Buffer – and set up two delayed tweets: one for the US crowd, to post at 11:30pm for the New York lot and 8:30pm for the West Coast, and another, an In Case You Missed It Yestersay, for 10:30am UK time the following morning.
  • And, finally, I’ll cross-post it to my Tumblr account. Not the goingcheep account, one named, simply enough, budgie’s blatherings. The former, you understand, is reserved for the daily brain dump.

Rarely, however, does any of that go in reverse.

Rarely do I cross-post from Twitter to here, for example. It happens, occasionally, but only very rarely. Rarely, for example, do I cross-post from Tumblr to here. Again, it happens occasionally, but only occasionally, and even then, it’s usually something from the blatherings account.

So, you appreciate, it’s vanishingly rare that I cross-post from goingcheep to here, yes?

OK, so here’s something cross-posted in its entirety from goingcheep yesterday.

Saturday 17th July: Pinged…

Y’know, when I read stories this week about there being so many people ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app, and the then reported suggestion that the government was considering reducing the sensitivity, so that fewer people would be pinged…

…I thought it an unquestionably stupid idea. It sounded almost Trumpian to me; you know, the whole ‘we only have so many people ill because we’re doing so much testing…’ nonsense.

It’s astonishing how a single notification can change one’s mind.

And, as I tweeted Friday night, knowing that yesterday, a Saturday, I’d usually post a set of funny videos.

Now, I was only semi-kidding about both the tumblr entry and the tweet. I was genuinely but entirely unsure how I felt about being pinged, about what it could mean, what it did mean and, well, everything.

So, yes, there was a Saturday Smile yesterday, and yes, it had a very obvious theme.

Which left me another 24 hours to think about being pinged, what it means, and all of it.

And, 24 hours later, I’m still unsure about a lot of things. Some things I’m very much not unsure of, but yeah, some… I’m still very uncertain about.

Let’s start with the obvious.

I dislike being told what to do, even if I know it’s for the best. So, I greeted the lockdown(s) with about as much enthusiasm as you’d expect.

And despite my being neither the most social nor sociable of people, it grated not being able to go out and, y’know, see people.

But at least I knew that ‘everyone else’ was in the same situation. No one was getting away with it. Same with the mask mandates (as our American cousins call it.) While I don’t enjoy wearing a mask, I do so for all the usual reasons, and because, well, because everyone else is doing it.

(While I’m sure there are some abusing the health exemptions, I’m also sure that the number of people doing so are tiny. I think most people are doing what they’re supposed to.)

So, maybe you’d anticipate my reaction to getting ‘pinged’ to be ‘well, I know that half-a million other people have been this week, I’m not alone, so be it…’. It wasn’t. It really wasn’t. I hated the idea of being told I was stuck in the flat for the next week. I loathed the concept of ‘you see those four walls around you in your small flat? Get used to them because that’s all you’re seeing for the next week.’

But ok, I’ve been pinged. I know what that means.

It means… I’m stuck in the flat; I’m legally barred from leaving my flat for the next week.

It means… ordering food online for the next few days. It means I can’t enjoy my #DailyConstitutional like I usually do.

It means… I can’t see Laura (my ex-wife) for coffee and a catch-up. I can’t nip over to Richmond to spend the night with my closest friends, the people who were my social bubble.

It means… I can’t use the communal washing machine, but that’s ok, there’s no reason to actually get dressed for the next week.

It also means, I discovered a couple of hours ago, that I was wrong about much, about most, of that. But more about that in a moment.


Small sidebar: I woke up this morning, and for once, did not open Twitter immediately. For some reason, my devices hadn’t backed up overnight so I set my iPhone and iPad to backup and left them alone for a while.

By the time I got to them, the latest Tory/Government weirdness had broken, and done the rounds, and then been U-turned. I’m glad I only discovered the story after the U-turn had occurred because my reaction earlier might have gotten me barred from Twitter for obscenity.

OK, so yesterday, the news broke that the Health Secretary, one Sajid Javid, had tested positive for covid-19, and would be self-isolating immediately. Exactly the right thing for him to do, of course.

There was some small speculation as to who he’d been meeting and whether any other cabinet ministers would have to similarly self-isolate. By the time I headed for bed, it had come out that two of those were probably The Prime Minister (who had his own covid problems last year) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

Now, there’s a pilot scheme at the moment, allowing people who get notified to NOT self-isolate but instead take daily tests, and only isolate if they test positive.

This morning, Robert Jenrick (Housing, Communities and Local Govt Secretary) was on telly defending Johnson’s and Sunak’s taking advantage of the pilot scheme. While he was on air, the PM and Chancellor announced they would not be doing so, and would instead be isolating.

That’s the U-turn I discovered. As always, with this government, it was incompetently done, incompetently managed, and – even when the ‘right thing’ was eventually done – it was accomplished incompetently.


OK, back to the ‘it means…’ and what I was wrong about.

I’ve mentioned my ex-wife Laura before. She’s one of my favourite people on the planet, and fairly drowns in that rarest of commodities: common sense. Even when I disagree with her advice, it’s usually sensible, rational and perfectly justifiable.

Well, she told me to call 119, the national covid helpline and ask them what the rules were if you’ve been pinged.

I’m very glad I followed the advice. Because some of it I was wrong about. And even as someone who pays attention, it’s fair to point out that I didn’t know some of this stuff.

I live in a small flat, in a small block of flats. There’s a communal washing machine/dryer and a communal garden area out back. I assumed that self-isolating meant they were out of bounds for the next week.

Well.

One conversation with a very nice lady at 119 later…

Main thing: If I live alone, am fully vaccinated, am not showing symptoms, and haven’t had a positive test… self-isolation – even from app notification – is “advisory only”. Not legally mandatory.

Now this surprised the hell out of me, I’ll be honest. Genuinely astonished me. Now, of course I am going to self-isolate. I mean, there’s a difference between what’s you’re legally obliged to do, and what you’re supposed to do, what the best advice is.

And I’ll take the latter, especially if it enhances the protection for me and others, every bloody day of the week.
 
 
Secondly, as long as I try to avoid people and don’t go near them (ideally, do it when no one else is present), I can do stuff like ‘go into back garden area of flats’, ‘go down to use communal washing machine’, and ‘throw my rubbish in the bins out back

So I can get some fresh air of an evening, if no one else is around. Which is very nice indeed. The nice weather and the sunset falling quite late? I can sit outside reading or watching some stuff on the iPad.
 
 
Finally, being fully vaccinated, and not showing any symptoms, there’s no real point in ordering any online tests. Given that self-isolation lifts Thursday night, and I can then walk in to get tested, might be worth getting tested afterwards, though, to see if I’ve had it at any point.

So, I don’t get to have my #DailyConstitutional every day, but neither am I locked into the small flat in the heat with no opportunity at all to get some fresh air.

Which is nice.
 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.