Into the darkness

May mean nothing, but I refuse to go into the darkness without saying I don’t want to go:

Yesterday I had to explain to someone that the EU wasn’t about how much bend was in a banana, it was about what goes on behind the scenes. Like the Northern Ireland peace process, which is bound up in the 1998 EU Human Rights Act. When we leave it’s null and void. The response was, “Oh…”

In one Sherlock Holmes story Conan Doyle has Dr Watson surrounded by young men whooping with joy at the idea of going to war. He notes that they are all too young or too insular to know what it’s really like, they have no idea what came before the hard-fought peace they enjoy now and that the people who’ve given them all these ideas of ‘glory’ aren’t the ones going to be living with reality of the aftermath. He then loses his temper as there is nothing between their ears to reason with. Throughout is Conan Doyle’s own sadness at the tragedy that the only way they’ll learn they’ve been lied to is the hard way, by which time it’ll be irreversible and too late.

(Also liked Dara O’Briain’s comment about going to the supermarket and finding “blaaagh!” bananas, this is what they really look like, the EU protected you all these years so you had nice bananas, but you didn’t want that, no, and now you’ve got “blaaagh!”)

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First World Problems

It’s 3am as it’s day off on night shifts and ‘Leave’ Europe has just gone into the lead on the election count. I am pre-emptively making trade agreements between here and the rest of the world ahead of any border closures tomorrow: I’ll post lemon curd to Germany in return for…

In other news it’s wedding season and we’ve been learning about using shop-specific wedding lists. What this means is that the happy couple go to a shop that sells everything they could need for their new life together, ignoring such inconveniences like already owning everything they’re going to need what with having lived together years and having a family already, and they choose items to put on their list. Guests then get the option of buying items from the list, which the shop stores and delivers, which has the advantage that it’s something they’ll want and that they’ll only get one of it as it disappears from the list when it’s bought.

What this covers up is the potential for a wonderful racket by the shop. It’s not possible to put on the list anything in the sale or that at some point in the future may be in the sale. Only items that are full price and that season can go on “To ensure availability and prevent disappointment.” This means that if the couple want something in particular they need to either buy it then and there themselves or ask a guest to pay at least double the going rate for it.

Also, the shop dictates how the list is set up and accessed, imposing their own assumptions that everyone involved works 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri and remains in the country and online at all times. If I think really hard I may be able to name three people I know in this day and age who do this.

I can see that this is a First World Problem, but I do object to guests being treated like this.

Well, the household here have found an answer. We’re aware of the going rate of most items round here so we can see which ones have had a serious mark-up on the lists. So when we saw how much one shop was charging for lead crystal glassware, which weren’t particularly pretty either, we took Dragon for a scamper to a nearby town known for being a bit posh and went round the second hand and antique shops loading up a vaguely matching set at a fraction of the price. It’s been commented before that people are given them for weddings and then give them away 50 years on unused with the labels still attached, so sadly it’s quite easy to go and buy a complete set. And if anyone gets a second set, fine, they’ll just need to have bigger parties.

Other actual First World Problems do the round of tweets.

My favourites are, “A swan has spat in the salsa” and “My pug has hiccups.”


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Trite sayings can be found everywhere, from placards in gift shops to bookmarks in the post office. The majority are nauseating, although every now and then there’s one that connects, which is why there’s such an industry.

I inherited some bed linen from someone who felt that they’d outgrown Snoopy. One side of the pillow it says, ‘I’m allergic to mornings’, the other, ‘Today has been a good day.’

I didn’t ‘get’ it when I was younger. Now though I have the latter face-up, as I am aware enough and work in a field that causes regular thought on it, that to manage to return home in one piece and read the sign on the bed, that means that yes, whatever else has happened, it has still been a good day.

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History – small changes add up

‘History’ happens everyday. It’s the little things. It’s the big things. Mainly it’s inperceptable. But sometimes you can notice something small and realise something big, then see that it’s a moment that will never be repeated in your lifetime.

When I went to university for the first time, I was tall enough to see over the heads of Chinese students if they stood in front of me. This was normal. There was a reputation that they were short. I thought nothing of it.

Four years later and the Chinese students were tall enough to look down on me. Now, this wasn’t that the same people had grown, it was that the new students arriving four years later were that much talller than their predecessors.

In four years?

Later I realised something that may have contributed. The students I had seen first had been born around 1979. Those four years later were born after the introduction of the one-child policy. Was the effect of this really that stark?

Then last week I was at a restaurant and the Chinese lads at the table opposite stood up. Of the five of them, aged about mid twenties, two were over 6ft tall. And what was particularly telling was that no one else in the household thought that this was unusual.

Last week I mentioned this to friends who’d started university with me or a couple of years previously. They were gobsmacked that there were now 6ft 20-something Chinese lads about, let alone so many – they’ve not seen them yet. And again, the household was surprised at their surprise.

In the household I’m the only one to have gone to university so far – their world is still fairly monocultural. The new government plan apparently is to encourage people to go to their local university and to live with their parents throughout: why would anyone want to meet any new people or ideas, or learn anything not in a carefully chosen and filtered textbook?  

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New Technology

We’re a closer to the day on which I dispense with technology and return to pen and paper.

Someone in the household has “one of Mr Jobs fruit based toys” as an engineering friend calls them. He got a new one today. But it doesn’t talk to his computer. It will only talk to my computer (as I have Windows 10). My computer though is only set up on special occasions, such as when I’m calm enough to be able to use it without screaming.

[Reading this over my shoulder he says that it will talk to his if I let him upgrade his computer to Windows 10. No. I feel there should be at least one in the household that still talks to everything that has been before and that I can still use while keeping my temper].

[I’m getting what can only be described as ‘An old fashioned look’. Well, yes].

*cue argument that this only has windows 10 because it had windows ‘8’, called 8 as it was named after the new circle of hell that is currently being built for the designers*

I’m reminded of the comment by Douglas Adams that any technology invented before you’re 20 is old, any between 20-35 is amazing and any when you’re past 35 is frightening. Too true. But only because the new stuff is completely unusable and designed with such short-sight – I remember explaining slowly and carefully to someone what a floppy disk was and I’d only written my dissertation on it five years previously.

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After the poll revealed the ‘Boaty McBoatface‘ is clearly most popular there was debate as to whether it should be adopted or if somethng “more sensible” should be.

It’s a serious debate. It’s a balance between suddenly getting full national publicity and a following in schools or having a more worthy name that no one can remember. There were suggestions of a weekly cartoon with fluffy toy boaty boats that small children could have as they then grow up to be great polar explorers. Wouldn’t get that by being sensible.

I think the giveaway though of how this may go is that even MPs have started to refer to ‘Boaty’:

In other news, as we have been looking far and wide, we can say that H.G. Wells is right and the martians have landed:

Photo 13 of 13.

Tried sending it to ‘‘ but they don’t have any means on their page to accept offerings. They have a page for it, but it doesn’t work. So you’ll just have to enjoy it instead.





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Burning bridges

Apparently burning things cleanses and forms a break with the past. So, partly to move on, partly to free up space and partly to keep warm, we used a different fuel source in the last fire we had.

After years of staring at boxes, I was finally in a physical and mental state to go through the various drafts of my thesis. I have kept one paper copy of each, as I know that electronic copies eventually corrupt, but now the rest are being used as kindling.

And the main fuel is the bench that my parents bought when they married. Dad said he’d reached the point after years of varnish and creosote that it had become so thin in the winter damp that he couldn’t trust it to take his weight. So he has bought a new one, with metal supports, and chopped up the old one which we are burning piece by piece.

It’s upsetting to see them go, but they’re building up dust and beginning to decay – hopefully the photographs and memories won’t.

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