Thursday, 27 September 2007

The future's bright... and small

I have alluded in previous posts to how my life is over-run with small things. It really is. I live with short people. On the Midget-Human-Giant spectrum, Stray is marginally taller than a legal midget (and thus a super-midget, verging on the sub-human). Badger is short for a human but rather tall for a badger, lying in the sub-human to human zone. (I suppose there is a clue in the species...) I am most certainly not short - nudging on 6ft, give or take, depending on how long it's been since I got out of bed, and the height of my heels. I fall somewhere between super-human and sub-giant territory.

I like being tall. I like the fact that, more often than not, my nostrils are well clear of other people's armpits on packed tubes and trains. This is usually a good thing, except when I find myself 'facing' under-heighted men whose heads are closer to my chest than the normal rules of decorum would allow. I also like the fact that the grey hairs which are beginning to sprout on the top of my head are out of sight of most other people.

I've observed aspects of being short which are less than ideal. Stray can barely reach the pedals in her car. This strikes me as A Thing Which Is Not Good.

I am tall enough to be able to reach a clothes lines strung high enough to hang bedlinen from without it engaging with passing dogs without having to jump and catch the line at full stretch.

I might be tempted to feel slightly superior, but I am instead rather jealous of my semi-pint housemates (see, I have to insult them at every opportunity to get over the sense of inadequacy caused my unnecessary height, mass and volume.)

Here's why:

  • They buy children's clothes and pay no VAT;
  • The loss of human functionality incurred on shrinking a human appears to be extremely nonlinear in favour of the midgets;
  • They fit in a normal size bed without feet hanging out the end or head crushed against the headboard;
  • They can live in tiny spaces and not get claustrophobic;
  • They can't see the dust on top of the fridge;
  • They can walk through the 'garden' without danger of being decapitated by low-hanging vines and other vegetation of horizontally-orientated growth;
  • They can walk on the roof without fear of it collapsing;
  • They have oodles of leg room on even the most cramped of commuter trains;
  • They weigh less, consume less fuel to transport, and require less food to sustain, being inherently more ecologically sustainable;
  • They are less likely to damage extraneous limbs or graze knuckles when climbing up stairs;
  • They have less far to fall;
  • They look sort of sweet, in the way that the next iteration of unfeasibly small laptops and mobiles look sweet.

Damn them...

On the other hand:
  • I do not have to perform minor athletic miracles every time I hang out my washing;
  • I can fully utilise top shelves;
  • My arms are sufficiently long to be able to put duvet covers on duvets unaided;
  • I can usually reach the loo roll, regardless of the ingenuity of the last visitor to the facility in replacing it after use;
  • I can see over the counter at the chippy;
  • And over the dashboard of my car;
  • People do not feel the need to tell me when they have encountered someone shorter than me.

On balance, though, I think the short people have it. They're certainly better for the planet. Perhaps a selective breeding programme should be established in the interests of a sustainable future...

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Pixie's posers

Over at the blog of the same name, Prada Pixie posed some questions. I've answered them.



1. What is your all time favourite book, from childhood, as an adult?
The BFG. I don't think I have an all-time favourite adult book. I think I lost the ability to form opinions when I came into prolonged contact with civil servants.

2. All time favourite movie as above?
All movies were terrifying as a child (the cinema was dark and contained odd people), and now, well, I don't know. Amelie was sweet.

3. Favourite type of chocolate, and how much of it do you eat a week?
Green & Black's Maya Gold. Maybe a bar every other month.

4. Favourite drink, non alcoholic and alcoholic?
Tea. Beer.

5. Where is your all time best holiday destination?
The inner reaches of my imagination. I go there many times a day during my micro-holidays. So much more fun than being holed up in an office, and so much quicker to get to than anywhere requiring a visit to Heathrow....

6. Where is your dream holiday destination?
I quite fancy crossing the Atlantic by Tall Ship. That's not really a destination, though, is it? I'll conveniently ignore that and hope no-one noticed... Oops, did I say that out loud??

7. Which is the best Beatles track of all time?
I am the Nerd God Walrus. Evidently.

8. What are you most proud of having achieved (having children doesn't count)
Winning Blades in Eights with lots of my family around for the celebrations.

9. What would you want for your last supper ever?(assuming it's food you like now and not liquidized mush when you are 90!)
Lamb stew like my mum and her mum (and probably every female ancestor) make/made it.

10.How old were you when you had your first snog, name of snoggee if you dare?
5. Ben Fenwick.

11.Do you have an unfulfilled ambition?
Yes. More than one.

12.If so what is it?
Well, probably the most pressing one is to get more leisure time.

13.What yer gonna do about achieving it?
Retire. But not for a while.

14.Describe the outfit that best describes you as you are.
No outfit. Really. Bare skin, all the way.

15.If you were on Desert Island Discs which one piece of music would you want to keep?
Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. The essential melancholy to my sanguinity.

16. And what would the luxury item be, as in no use at all, on a desert island?
My violin together with all its accompanying gubbins and violin-friendly conditions.

17. Outside of your partner, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Beyonce Knowles, J-lo who do you fantasise about?
Hmm. Sir Thomas More was a bit of a hero, but rather difficult to fantasise about due to separation of head from body and five hundred years removal.... Oh, OK. A tall, dark handsome gentleman who I refuse to name.

18.Describe the contents of your purse/wallet, i.e. receipts/ bus tickets/ plastic you never use/ and if you're lucky enough money. (English use of the word purse here).
Library cards for my alma mater, a photocopier card for the Radcliffe Science Library, a credit card, debit card, driver's licence, ye olde donor card, half-used book of postage stamps, four days of expenses receipts, list of telephone extensions for my colleagues, probably a few reward cards, some coins, etc.

19.Outside of the family what item would you save from the inferno?
Are housemates items? I'd probably save them. One over each shoulder. They can't weigh that much... Assuming they managed to get themselves out, I'd take my fiddle.

20.How much would you like me to stop now?
This much.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Geek? Nerd? or Supreme Nerd God?

Heck. It's true. I now am not only a Geek. I am a Nerd, too. In fact, I am The Supreme Nerd God. This doesn't fit well with my atheism...

DJ very kindly left a challenge on her blog. I appear to be the nerdiest person in the universe.

I am nerdier than 100% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

No, really. No-one has a higher Nerd Score.

And I answered all those questions honestly, too. Somebody please Help Me....


Post Script

Having suspended my belief for long enough to pretent to accept that the pigeon IS naked (I would have said so were it plucked, but it isn't and this caused me no end of existential angst: "if I cannot accept the pigeon to be naked, can I truly be a nerd?"), I can now reveal my nerdotype: says I'm a Cool Nerd Queen. What are you? Click here!

I feel compromised on the subject of pigeon nudity...

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Great Auntie Nellie would have had a fit...

...But first, I would like to thank Pixie for the rather splendid "Nice Matters" award. It adds a much-needed dash of pink to my blog. I will make some nominations when I find the criteria (anyone know what these are??)

It reminds me of Great Auntie Nellie's crocheted pillowcase. She probably wouldn't have grown flowers in a shoe. Far too practical for that.

Back to Auntie Nellie and the fit I suppose she would have had. It was a strange sequence of events...

I was leaving a perfectly innocent comment on Pixie's blog (a journal which regularly causes my ears to turn a funny shade of crimson), which just so happened to require the use of the past participle of "crochet". As a quick check on usage, I typed "crocheted" into Google. It rapidly appeared that "crocheted" did indeed appear to be in common usage (or as common as you'll find for a handicraft which is on the endangered list). I finished my comment and published it and was just closing some tabs when I noticed, not very far down the results, something which caught my eye:

For your own safety and comfort, prudes, the easily offended, young children, people who look like young children but aren't, people who think they are badgers, badgers who think they are people, and those allergic to acrylic fibres should look away now.

Badger, that includes you. Read no further. I'll post something more Badger-friendly soon.

--- home of the crocheted vulva and other vagina ...
I make and sell crocheted vulvas. My website does not contain nudity (aside from a single artist's rendering of female anatomy) ... - 2k - Cached - Similar pages


Well, that was a search result not to be ignored. Having just got back from a weekend at the Hotel Parental where I feel that I somewhat abused the facilities (free board and lodgings for myself and a couple of Swiss, home grown plums, car washed, and a date and walnut loaf thrown in for free), I feel the need to get a present for my mother. Being a sexual health professional, I thought she might find a crocheted vulva useful as a teaching aid for the young and impressionable. Well, OK, that was the best excuse I could think of for having a good poke around the site. With boggling mind, I set about a thorough investigation.  In so doing, I learned that somewhere in the world, someone makes muff muffs and assorted, hand-crocheted genitalia-themed novelties. It is possible to make a living from muffs like these??

Girls, I implore you all (and my mother would no doubt do likewise) to keep it clean...

I am Spartacus

With thanks to trousers' recent post for prompting this memory.

Way back when I was just finishing my school days, a bunch of chums were thinking about how to make our final school assembly memorable. One lad, Tim, was rather keen on recreating the "I am Spartacus" scene. He had carefully gauged support for this idea, found that it was generally positive, and had lined up in the region of ten people with an agreed order to follow his kick off to the proceedings. Other people had confirmed that they would contribute if Tim led the way. It was hoped that the rest of year who were not in the know of what would happen would get the idea and spontaneously join in, until the whole year group had identified themselves as Spartacus in a glorious show of unity and solidarity, concepts which were strongly encouraged at my school.

How it would appear...

It promised to be a rather splendid and jolly caper. Our school assembly hall was an impressive thing with seating for, I would think, about 400 people. It had a balcony which swept from one side to the other in a graceful curve, and which would make the perfect location for a recreation of the famous scene. Picture it from the perspective of the teachers at the front of the hall - shout upon shout of "I am Spartacus", emanating from the fine body of students assembled in front and above them as they stood up to be counted. It would be memorable, indeed. The general consensus was that this would be a good and harmless giggle, and for the most part, we were good and harmless students.

The day finally came. A few hundred people were assembled in the hall. I had spent most of the assembly glancing at Tim (who had worn his red jacket making him easy to pick out from the gathered masses) and his line-up of cronies, not wanting to miss the moment that would be talked of for years to come, and would put our year on a par with those present for the famous flour assembly, forever remembered in the collective consciousness of the school and which still causes teachers there to glance nervously at the grille above their heads before speaking*.

By very nearly the end of what appeared at first sight to be a dull and totally forgettable assembly in which the teachers present no doubt said all the right sorts of things about moving on to a new stage in life and wishing us all good luck in our A level exams, there was a slight pause as one teacher finished his oratory and another one shuffled into place to begin, adopting his traditional posture of staring fixedly at his shoes with his fists jammed into his pockets.

A sharp intake of breath was heard. Then a flurry of activity, followed by the cry, "I AM SPARTACUS". Across the balcony, Tim was standing with his chest puffed out, arms flung wide and with a triumphant, if slightly wild, look in his eyes. All heads turned. In the few seconds of perfect silence that followed (which I recall passed almost excruciatingly slowly) Tim's expression metamorphosed into relief at having got this game started, then expectation for his number two to declare his hand, then hope, then beseeching, followed by disbelief, and after maybe a second of silence had passed following his declaration of Spartacus-ness, his face settled into something between fear, embarassment and regret, as he realised that his number 2 would not in fact be declaring himself to be Spartacus, nor would anyone else, and he was left standing up, alone, the centre of attention, and looking rather silly. With all eyes in the hall now fixed on him, Tim had nothing more to say. He looked down to the stage to find the teachers staring up at him with that expression of disapproving non-surprize which teachers do so well. Thinking quickly of how to rescue the situation, Tim followed up his outburst with a rather sheepish "Er, thankyou..." and hastily resumed his seat. Thus the exercise to recreate one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history had reached a hasty and premature conclusion.


Total silence.

We all feared for Tim, almost able to hear the cogs whirring away in the headmaster's head, rapidly considering how best to respond to this disruption, to establish authority and punish the offender. Perhaps rather fortunately for Tim, the response was taken out of his hands.

Hesitantly at first then, as it became evident that no immediate coup de grace would be delivered from the stage, uncontrollably, the silence cracked into laughter. Lots of laughter. Massive fits and gales of laughter from everyone in the room. Everyone, except for Tim, whose face had gone the same colour as his jacket. The laughter continued for perhaps a couple of minutes, until we collectively realised the need to breathe. Once the last smatterings of laughter had died down, the assembly then continued without any reference to what had just occurred, continuing as it had begun, in totally forgettable fashion.

Spartacus never quite made it into the collective consciousness of the school, but thanks to Tim, those who were present still remember their last assembly.

*The famous flour assembly in which a bag of flour was suspended above the grille over the heads of the speakers' platform during a speech day. A candle was lit under a length of string supporting the bag shortly before the speech day started, allowing the perpetrators to watch the fine floury dust shower the speakers from the hall and escape the hastily organised search that followed.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Small visitors

All sorts of interesting things/people drop into this house, and with a few notable exceptions (the mosquitoes are MASSIVE), they are mostly rather small. A few weeks ago, it seemed the flying beastie population had hit its maximum and I could barely turn on a light without a swarm of various sorts of moths, mossies, midges, craneflies and other assorted insects homing to it. Most of these things I live alongside quite happily, but the biting things are far from being my friends. Fortunately, this week they've been biting everyone except for me - this might be something to do with my not being around this week and instead being rather boringly at work. 

We had a rather large moth flying around the living room a few weeks back as Stray and I were contemplating the thought of a mug of cocoa and a few rather convoluted crossword clues. It was absolutely enormous with a huge, heavy-looking body. And it was very, very black. And had a rather odd form of flight. After watching it career around the room for a few moments more, it became obvious to us that this moth was in fact a bat. Between Stray, the bat and me, we squawked a bit, opened the door and cowered in corners, flinching when the bat headed our way. The bat seemed to keep its cool, though, and calmly made for the emergency exit. Phew.

I was, however, rather delighted when this obliging little creature (some sort of hawker dragonfly, I think) dropped in on me today and consented to be photographed.

Actually, it wasn't so little. It was maybe three to four inches long with a four inch wingspan, so quite large as flying beasties go. And rather spectacularly painted, no?? Well, anyway, it'd wedged itself in the dusty no-mans-land between sofa and floor-to-ceiling window, struggling valiantly to get at the vast open space outside, and nutting itself with grinding frequency against the glazing (yes, those are bits of cobweb and dust caught up in its wings...), causing it to need to rub its no doubt sore head.

The predatory Snuff/Orphelia was sitting atop the sofa just in case the stricken thing managed to gain enough height to escape the sofa hinterland and become A Valid Plaything. The beastie appeared to be well-trapped in three spatial dimensions - sofa/window on the z-axis, floor/certain-death-by-cat on the y-axis, and two window frames on the x-axis. It needed help.

Much flapping of towels, relocating of cats and shining of torches later, I eventually got the thing onto the curtain, where it posed gratefully and recovered from the percussive beating it had given itself. A few snaps later, I dragged it out of the door on the curtain and gave it a good shake, leaving it to fly off to fight another day.

I hope it identifies and learns some self-preservation lessons from its brief stay in the house of flying things.

Strange ideas...

Leafing through a magazine left on the train last night, I got sucked into the "ask the doctor/agony aunt/Mrs Mills" page. Same old issues - too much sex, not enough sex, he's cheating on me, I want to divorce him, my child is constantly arriving home in a police car, he is seventy years older than me but I don't think the age difference is a problem, my mother doesn't approve of the way I cook cabbage...

I used to think it would be fun to write one of these pages. Mine would go something like:

Dear Doctor,
My husband is losing hair from the top of his head and we haven't had sex for months. I read about chemotherapy on the internet and I'm worried he may have cancer. He obviously doesn't trust me as he hasn't told me this himself, and I think he might be seeking comfort from another woman. Our relationship is over. I hate him. I want him out of my life - should I leave him or kill him, or how would you recommend finishing him off?

Dear Tracey,
Your husband is probably just losing a bit of hair and sex drive. I suggest you cook him a nice meal and tell him to go out for the day with his friends whilst you take a long, hot bath. This won't actually fix his inherent ageing or make time run backwards, but it should mean that you are unarmed when the men in white coats arrive to take you away, and he doesn't have to witness the scene.
Best of luck,

and just for fun, I'd write to myself...

Dear Doctor,
My otherwise highly intelligent friend can't distinguish between a person (a particular person who is short for a human and has short hair) and a cat (which is normal size for a cat, and whose fur is a similar length to her friend's hair). I suspect the problem is one of the following:

  1. she has very poor eyesight;
  2. she has some abnormal brain chemistry;
  3. she has early dementia;
  4. (the thinking-outside-of-the-box-solution (and why would my brain be in a box, anyway?)) her friend is actually rather like a cat.

Could the symptoms be due to excessive consumption of Diet Coke? Should I encourage her to drink water instead, perhaps eat more oily fish, stop referring to her friend as Tiddles, and get the friend to stop climbing up the curtains??
But Why?

Dear But Why?,
Your friend's behaviour is very concerning. Could you tell me more about the symptoms?

Well, Doc, I was first alerted to this behaviour during a conversation this morning:

Stray: Thanks for the tea. Is Badger in?
Me: Erm, not sure. Don't think so - haven't heard her...
Stray: Oh, actually, I heard her squeaking earlier - yes, she is in.
Brain knocks this bit of information against a few other pieces collected that morning, in particular the notable lack of noise of squeaks, clicks, clucks, and collisions of head/limbs with immovable objects, and decides further questioning is required to ascertain the truth.
Me: Squeaking... Was she doing her 'Frank' [sex-pest ginger cat] noise, by any chance?
Stray: Yeah.
Brain digests this information. The evidence that Badger was in the house was that Stray had heard something this morning that sounded rather like a cat. However, Badger usually wakes me up when she comes in. I hadn't woken to the noise of a returning Badger. I can also usually hear the after-effects of tic-ing as her head or arms flail against the headboard/wall combination which is poorly insulated from my ears. And also, the lights left on for latecomers were still on when I got up that morning - Badger is rather good at turning lights off. The only hint that Badger was home was the sound of a cat miaowing...
Me: [Trying to phrase this in the most gentle way possible] That's odd - the lights were left on - she usually turns them off when she comes back... You said she was making her 'Frank' noise - might it be possible that you heard Frank miaowing and mistook it for Badger?
Stray: Erm... yes...

Dear Doctor,
My otherwise highly intelligent friend can't distinguish between a person and a cat...

Perhaps some of those letters really do refer to real situations...

Thursday, 6 September 2007


I put in a personal appearance in the company's offices in Guildford yesterday for the first time in a long while. It was rather nice to be able to catch up over coffee and cake in a civilised atmosphere far away from the immediate clutches of my customer with colleagues I hadn't seen for months. It was a much-needed break to the commuting routine. I even managed to squeeze in a pub lunch with my excellent, excellent Quality Minion. I felt well-liked, catching up with people and exchanging news, in stark contrast to my position with my customer where I appear to be causing lots of trouble by wanting to get things done and delivered, disturbing the comfortable existence of long lunches, smoke breaks and coffee mornings (in fact, the sort of day in which I was indulging yesterday).

I stayed put in the office long enough to check my voicemail. I discovered I had 16 messages, and felt immensely popular (mind you, the messages did stretch back to June, so perhaps I'm not that much in demand...). On listening to my voicemail, I found:

  1. 12 silent messages;
  2. 3 messages containing only hold music;
  3. 1 message with a recorded invitation to consolidate all my debts into a single manageable monthly repayment.
I didn't feel quite so popular any more.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Pick and Mix

The people who've made my day (some for the better others for the worse. All the more remarkable):

  1. The Bearded Lady Of Guildford (BLOG), who appears to have taken up residence at the train station. I wish I was in less of a hurry in the mornings, and instead had enough time to engage in conversation. I'm sure it'd be enlightening.
  2. The guy with a tattoo of something which looked like it was supposed to be the Magna Carta on the inside of his right forearm, who I sat next to on the train to Clapham Junction. So many questions I'd like to ask him: Why that? Why there? and Do they have deodorant on your planet?
  3. The cop who was silent with deafening levels of anger throughout this morning's 'Lessons Learned' meeting.
  4. The colleague who praised me for keeping my cool on the rather crazy day that was last Thursday. This is the same colleague with whom I regularly get absorbed in conversations, get into lifts, and between us forget to press the button for the ground/20th floor. We usually discover our folly after maybe half a minute when someone gets in on the same floor we think we left some moments ago. She puts the mishap down to having had a 'senior moment'. I usually blame the oversight on the generationally-neutral 'being away on a micro-holiday'. We managed that twice today...
  5. The guy who pushed me out of the way to get a seat on the Guildford train, only to endure thirty minutes of my noticing his immense and unrivalled levels of dandruff. It was a truly spectacular collection (or is there a more accurate collective noun for dandruff flakes - a blizzard, perhaps? or maybe a drift?) of flakes. Most remarkable, but not exactly eye-candy. Far from it.
  6. The well-spoken hoodie with a pleasant accent and clear enunciation who very politely asked me for directions to the main High Street in Guildford. My pleasure, young man.
  7. The friend who is hearteningly, ludicrously, entertainingly, ridiculously, stereotypically and rather endearingly in love. Awwwwwww...

I love people. They're such fun and fascinating things.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Why I love science

Following Kindablue's post, I lapsed somewhat into science geekery. Delving around in the YouTube archives, I found this most wonderful macroscopic demonstration of the sorts of phenomena I used to get VERY excited about in my days as a graduate student. I simply cannot understand how the guy narrating this is not wetting himself with delight.

Isn't it the most beautiful thing? Oooh, I think I need a little lie down now...