This is the Captain Speaking


I found this over Relly's way, and thought I'd take the test, and apparently...

You are The Cap'n!

Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some slit the throats of any man that stands between them and the mantle of power. You never met a man you couldn't eviscerate. Not that mindless violence is the only avenue open to you - but why take an avenue when you have complete freeway access? You are the definitive Man of Action. You are James Bond in a blousy shirt and drawstring-fly pants. Your swash was buckled long ago and you have never been so sure of anything in your life as in your ability to bend everyone to your will. You will call anyone out and cut off their head if they show any sign of taking you on or backing down. You cannot be saddled with tedious underlings, but if one of your lieutenants shows an overly developed sense of ambition he may find more suitable accommodations in Davy Jones' locker. That is, of course, IF you notice him. You tend to be self absorbed - a weakness that may keep you from seeing enemies where they are and imagining them where they are not.

What's Yer Inner Pirate?
brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!




I'm having difficulty catching up with all the great stuff people have written while I've been's going to take me so long that I might just have to (finally) get internet access at home. This might well have implications...The Autoblography may finally get A Design, and I will have the internet as a writing *cough* research *cough* tool. This may also mean that I never write again unless it is for this rather orange publication.

Smell That Grinding Corn

After arriving back from holiday, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was going back to school or university. Even to the point where my subconscious was bubbling up with the thought that I might need new stationery. It's scary how the old yearly timetables stay with you.

Work is good, and I'm creaming through the first few days back with magisterial enthusiasm and application. This post-holiday effect will probably evaporate in a few days, leaving me with that niggly 'You don't really know what you're doing' feeling to work through.

Hues of An Autumnal Slight

I like Autumn. On a months-long timescale that goes beyond the first few minutes of adjustment when you step out of your front door in the morning, it's refreshing for the air to be cold and crisp after a long time of summer. I suppose, in much the same way that lots of people like Winter because of associations of Christmas, a little while after the start of the school and university year, in that first burgeoning month of coolness, I have my birthday, so that might be something to do with it.

Alice also likes Autumn, but her birthday is at the other end of the year entirely. She doesn't like the cold, either.

You know in 'Bridget Jones' Diary' when Bridget's Mum is always trying to get Bridget to 'get her colours done'? Alice has, and, looking at the results from the outside, it would have appeared to have completely changed her wardrobe and the way she dresses. She has a small book with myriad fabric samples of different graded colours with little comments on...'wear when older'...'not to face'...and so on.
Alice has beautiful rich auburn hair.

When we made a laid-back trip into St. Alban's on Saturday afternoon, I was still in a bit of a daze with a messed-up body clock after our nocturnal flight from Andalucia, but Alice seemed to glow with a supernatural energy. She raced around Marks and Spencers, grabbing one thing, comparing another, combining things, checking prices, constantly asking my opinion on everything and, scarily, taking note of what I said. She was only prevented from going further by the fact that we had slept in so late, and the shops were shutting. It dawned on me, slowly, that there were a lot of 'Allie-esque' clothes around.

So now I know why my girlfriend likes Autumn.
It's the only season when she can get her shopping groove on.

Sunshine Photoblography


There are a few pics from the holiday over at the Photoblography.

Arriving at Gate 4A...


Well I sit here again, a darker, redder russet colour about my skin that was not there before. I take this seat, stretch out my fingers and touch the mud of my half-fulfilled dreams.
There is a glass of absinthe at my elbow, a stereo that I am learning to appreciate all over again, and a new line in vigour that took my room to the cleanliness that has been left behind by the passing of my freshly-home enthusiasm.

I’m back.

Allie and I had a conversation last night. I was arguing against viewing the return to work as a return to reality. Our holiday was a break from work, a time when we did different things to what we usually do, but it was real. It was just different. If you draw a line between your work and your holiday, and view one as real and the other as unreal, then you will start to view reality as something that you can escape from, and avoid.
You can’t take a holiday from your life. Everywhere you go, there you are. Still living your life. a bit of it differently. You can take holidays from things, but I prefer to take holidays to things...places, people, dreams...

...and man, did we have a good time.

I apologise to people I promised postcards to. I take way too long choosing postcards, and by the time that I have any together that I like, I don’t want to part with them. Sorry...

Anyway, we hit Madrid, avoided our pre-booked hovel with the semi-leprous harridan who wanted us to upgrade into her flat’s spare bedroom, and checked into abject luxury after sliding up the Lonely Planet’s pricing scale at alarming speed trying to find a spare room in the city. We did the Prado at Mach 1 as most of it was closed off, Alice had her first taste of tapas and Mojitos, and it has to be said that the Mojitos in Madrid knock spots off the one I had in Manchester.
Funny that.
We met a couple from London who had been clubbing at 4pm on a Sunday, who didn’t know what a Mojito was, so we showed them.
Travelling (only slightly hungover) to Cordoba, we had a great little place by the river and smack bang in the centre of the old town, poised magnificently between the Mezquita, the old Christian Palace and the Juderia, the old Jewish Quarter, packed with tiny lanes and alleys, and unexpected tea shops and museums painted white rising on the banks towards the modern town.
Rolling on down to Granada, my favourite town in Spain, we spectacularly failed to book our Alhambra tickets in advance which meant I had to get up at 6.30 in order to queue for tickets...standing in line in the dark cold with thirty other international crap people, while bats span overhead and a feral cat wandered amiably up the line, savaging everyone who petted it. The Alhambra was swamped with tour groups but we found oases of calm and peace between them. The favourite (or worst) moment, was when we were resting in the beautiful gardens of the Summer Palace, the Generalife. A long thin pool of water bordered by rose bushes was swooped on by red dragonflies, and two lazy fountains welled at each end. A tour group dopplered by on the other side of an immaculate hedge. “THIS PLACE IS VERY SPECIAL HAVEN OF PEACE AND TRANQUILLITY! NOTE PLEASE THE ORDERED GEOMETRY OF THE GARDENS. VERY RELAXING AND QUIET PLACE! FOLLOW PLEASE!”
The next two days were spent in mild panic as I attempted to squeeze as much experience out of the town as possible before it was time to move on. One night in particular makes me smile as I type. I’ll heft out my diary as I wrote about it as soon as we got back, dog-tired, to the flat.

18th September...erm, no. 19th September, Hostal Gamarro Ramos, Granada, 0050ish

We-he-he-he-e-e-ee-e-ell, look where we are. A’stumblin’ through the barrio, after pasta and San Miguel in the Albaycin looking up at the lit Alhambra, with an intense flautist playing classical harmonies, through the basement of an Arab-run café, smoking shisha and drinking Café Turco and Té Jazmin, and to the end of the night with a swift couple of beers at Bar La Hacienda, the only non Granadese there, accompanied by jumping music and free, gorgeous tapas while spontaneous dancing broke out and died down and the lean guys posed for the thin girls and the fat boys talked and ate tapas at the bar, laughing and joking and drinking and chewing with thumping of the bass.

It was my kind of night.

After three nights in Granada, we sight our sights high and wound our way up into the mountain villages of the Sierra Nevada, Las Alpujarras. Our chosen place of hostelry was a walker’s hostel built to house labouring families during the Civil War, surrounded by gardens, and no road access...a goat path led off the main road (‘main’ is a bit of a misnomer). It was gorgeous, silent and the mountain stars were jaw-dropping, but on our final night in the place’s only double room, we were kept awake by myriad entities chewing crunchily through our roof. Distressing.
A 6.15am bus out of the mountains began our trek down from 1250m to approximately –1m, as we dived from the pastoral delights of the Sierra Nevada to the neon, chips and beaches of the Costa del Sol, and hit the beach twenty minutes after hitting Nerja. The next four days were spent sunbathing, reading and swimming, teaching Allie to snorkel, and attempting to coax a smile out of the girl who worked mid-morning shifts at a bakery near our hostel, where the service was short but the coffee and croissant breakfasts were to stab viciously for.

We flew out of Malaga at 2.20am on Saturday morning, and slept, after arriving home at 6am, until 1pm.

I have a diary which I kept up quite well until we reached the beach, but hey, there wouldn't be much point now...

Hello there again!

Don't You Just Love It...


I'm off then. Off to pick up my Euros and traveller's cheques, off to finish packing my huge, new and curiously tubular backpack, and off to make Allie a late night snack, as she only gets in from Edinburgh tonight at about a quarter to ten.

We catch the 4.48am train from St. Alban's tomorrow morning, and our plane is due to soar out of Luton at 7am.

We're off to Madrid, then Cordoba, then Granada.
That's the first week's plan, anyway.

The plan for the second week is that there is no plan.
If anyone wants to contact me, then I'm afraid you're just going to have to hold it for two weeks.

I make no apologies.

Anyway, wish me sun, sea, sand, san miguel, and all the other things I want that don't necessarily begin with 's' and so don't get to be mentioned here.

Take good care of yourselves.

I won't be long.

Walking To Work Down Traveller's Lane

I have been a waiter, a cashier, a shelf-stacker, a teacher, a tutor, a surveyor’s assistant, a salesman, a kitchen porter, a barman, a disc jockey and an engineer.

I have been a student, a sailor, a TV presenter, a radio producer, an actor, a DJ and a drill instructor.

I have been a pilot, I have been drunk, (but never both at once) I have written a novel and I have read many.

I have been a lover, a loner, a son and a brother.

I have loved, lived, sung, drunk, eaten, and my face has been warmed by a hundred setting suns.

For all of the time I was all of these things, I have always been only two.

Myself, and a traveller.

I’m off to be myself for a while.

Blowing In The Wind


With apologies to just about everyone, including myself;

"No, no, too literal, too factual," said Frankie, "wouldn't sustain the punters' interest."
Again they thought.
Then Frankie said: "Here's a thought. "How many roads must a man walk down?"
"Ah!" said Benjy. "Aha, now that does sound promising!"

How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?

Number of roads to manhood=R
Average length of a road (in miles) = x
Age at which boy starts walking (in hours) = y
Average walking speed (in miles per hour) = z

Number of roads before turning 18 years of age:

(((157 788)-y)*z)/x)=R

Example: Our hero begins walking at the age of 3, down half-a-mile-long roads, at 3 miles per hour:

(157 788 - 26 298) = 131 490 hours walking

131 490*3 = 394 470 miles

394 470 / 0.5 = 788 940 roads walked down before manhood

Speed at which a three year old would have walk in order to walk down only 42 roads in fifteen years: 0.000159707 mph.

Which would mean, that in that time, the continent he was standing on would have moved by 15*0.000063 miles, or 0.000945 miles, meaning he would, in fact, only walk down a full 42 roads six hours after his eighteenth birthday, and the whole thing falls down again.

Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand?

None. The only compulsory action for sleeping in the sand is the digging of a hole in the sand. If she has to enlist in the navy in order to pay for the digging of the hole, then the matter becomes one of international politics and the service contract she has signed up for. It should be noted that usually only wrens are accepted. (Sorry)

Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannonballs fly, before they're forever banned?

Cannonballs are not yet banned.
Let the number of times the cannonballs must fly, before they're forever banned = Y
Let the number of times cannonballs have flown (so far) = C
Let the number of times cannonballs have yet to fly before they are banned (please note, this could be an infinite number as I'm not sure anyone could now be arsed) = K
Let the number of times the cannonballs have yet to fly after, and in spite of the ban = B

(C+K+B) = Y

The answer, my friend, is (please see above), the answer is (please see above)

How many times must a man look up, before he can see the sky?

One. Answer dependent on visual acuity and whether or not said man is in a building or not.

Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?

One. Answer dependent on aural acuity and whether or not said crying people are nearby.

Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take 'til he knows, that too many people have died?

None. Unless he is told by someone else, or sees it happen and forms the opinion that too many people have died, he will not *know* that too many people have died. He might approach this knowledge in the time leading up to his own death, but at the moment at which this knowledge is realised, he is dead. So he never knows. This argument may or may not be a load of shit.

The answer, my friends, is (please see above), the answer is (please see above).

How many years can a mountain exist, before it is washed to the sea?


Instantaneous creation of mountain.
Mountain is in a temperate region.
Transfer time of material from site of mountain to the sea is one year.

Mountain is 1000m in height and forms an equilateral cone. Its sides are therefore 2308m in length.
The area of the base of the mountain is= (pi)*(2308/2)^2 = 4 188 790 metres squared.

Total volume of the mountain/cone:
(4 188 790 * 1000) / 3 = 1 396 263 402 metres cubed of rock.

The total rainfall received by the mountain is dependent on the area covered by its base.
Assumed temperate region, leading to 500mm, or 0.5 metres of rain a year.
Volume of rain received by the mountain:

0.5*4 188 790 = 209 435 cubic metres of rain fall on the mountain each year.

Let us assume that each cubic metre of rain erodes 0.001 cubic metres of mountain:

209 435 * 0.001 = 209.435 cubic metres of mountain are eroded each year.

Therefore, the number of years a mountain can exist before it is washed to the sea, ignoring freeze-thaw processes, avalanches, deforestation, acid rain, birds sharpening beaks and people drilling into it, is:

1396263402 / 209.435 = 6, 666, 810 years.

Add one year for the final amount of mountain to be washed to the sea:

Six million, six hundred and sixty-six thousand, eight hundred and eleven years.

Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist, before they're allowed to be free?

Let the maximum time that some people can exist before they're allowed to be free= E

Let the infinitesimal amount of time before complete decomposition (i.e. ceasing to exist) that they are free for = T

Let the length of living existence (conception to death) = L

Let the time from death to total decomposition (dependent on ambient moisture content, temperature, carrion, and local wildlife) = D


Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn't see?

Assuming infinite capacity for ignorance, and representations from above;

Let the number of times a man turns his head, pretending he just doesn't see = N

Let the time it takes for him to turn his head (in hours) = G

G*(L- 157 788) = N

The answer, my friends, is (please see above), the answer is (ple-ease see above).



Well, it was my first 'profound' post, and someone decided to reproduce it in its entirety over at their place.
I don't know whether I feel chuffed or not.

Getting more than a bit pissed off

My faux-housemate, who arrived late one night clutching a plane ticket from Malaysia and wearing a badge saying 'Please take care of this bear' (not actually true) is now officially Someone I Do Not Like.
It takes a great deal of hard, sustained work to achieve this, and so let's go back and see how Hee did it.

1) Walked into the local Blockbuster in order to find my house. Got people who only wanted pizza, coke and a film to bring him to me.

2) Turned up at my front door clutching plane ticket pathetically in one hand, as if expecting another baggage check.

3) Five minutes after I took a gamble accepting a complete stranger into my house at night, he tries to sell me Sagee (TM) tablets. Also asks me if I suffer from leg pain as a result of alcohol abuse (all Europeans suffer from alcohol abuse, apparently), as he has something I can coat my feet with at night to help with this. I diplomatically decline. He accepts a ham sandwich after his long journey, but spends a minute examning it and then leaves it. When I left the room for 20 seconds, I hear the bin lid swing. Sandwich miraculously gone on my return.

4) Next day he wanders into my room and points at the computer, demanding that I watch a CD-ROM for Sagee (TM) brain enhancing tablets. I inform him that my PC doesn't work (it does). He asks if the Playstation will run it. I say no. (It wouldn't) At this point I tell him I don't want to buy anything. Nicely.

5) Next day my food starts disappearing. No evidence.

6) My housemate Danny has not asked any of the rest of us if he can stay. Hee has not asked us, either. It's been three weeks now. Khalil who only moved in last weekend, actually thought Hee was his housemate.

7) He drank all my tea.

8) I caught him nicking a packet of crisps from Claire's cupboard. He makes his daily special of fried eggs drowned in Soy sauce, accompanied by pilchards in tomato sauce, with rice. This stinks out the house. He looks down on anything I make. "You eat pizza?"... "Yes."... "Ho! (laughs) Okay..."

9) He makes late-night shouting phone calls.

10) Last night, he started playing music. I assume, Malaysian music. At 1am.

...and breathe.

The Final Thought

I think it was Sir Winston Churchill (I don't have a quotes book that goes past his war speeches) that said 'We shape our living environment, thereafter, it shapes us.'.
Maybe we can stretch that a little.
Humanity...look at the world around you. How much input and control have you had in the way the world is today?
How do you feel?

No further comments your honour. I'm off on holiday. I will be being intentionally shallow. No more profound thoughts for a week or two.

I warned you guys...


Time passes. Things change. The fact that we are human and we can spot the differences between what once was and what is is one of the things that makes us what we are. Solitary, lonesome, nostalgic creatures with the unshakeable feeling that we should be more at home in this place we call Earth.

We spend most of our early years becoming attuned to the world. Then it does that really annoying thing. It changes. And it doesn’t stop changing for a second. It doesn’t let us catch our breaths. We spend the rest of our lives living and learning, changing and growing as fast as is comfortable for ourselves...but now it might never be enough.

We are the first generation for a long time that might have difficulty keeping up with itself. Technological change is accelerating at a rate powered by money and business. People change at a rate powered by self and acceptance. Business powers the acceleration, and people continue to be born the same. Something, somewhere, eventually, won’t match up.

This occured to me whilst walking home down Traveller's Lane:

One of the finest points of our civilisation, our global culture, is the fact that the pursuit of truth is its highest goal.
The overwhelmingly sad thing about human culture is that truth has become an abstract concept so we can pursue it.

That's enough for today, methinks.

Impending Profundity


I think I might have discovered my serious thinking muscle. I've never been prone to deep and profound thoughts before...and when I have, then only occasionally, something I could put down to the weather, the international political climate, or how much money I had at the time.

Now, much like the first couple of days after you first discover you can wiggle your ears, I'm doing it all the time.

I...think...I might post some of them.

We'll see.

Spanish Update

Spain is still there.
In slightly less internationally-important matters, I booked a place to stay in Cordoba in the office at lunchtime, and after the first few sentences in Spanish got heads turning, I refused to get nervous and Italian-sounding again, and had a reasonable conversation with the kindly gentleman at Hostal Pilar del Potro.
My workmates still took the piss out of me for the 'double t' at the end of my name, which slipped out in English before my brain got to it.

Bloggin' On

Well, despite being really quite busy this week, I've managed to do a bit of browsing and I've added a couple of links to the roll of *cough* hon- *cough* -sorry, don't know what's wrong with me- *ahem* roll of honour on the sidebar. This means I'll be able to get to The Cult of Robyn without going through Dave, and Krissa's latest thoughts will be that much quicker forthcoming.

Three cheers, everyone...

New Housemate


I have a new housemate. His name is Khalil (I think, it sounds like that, anyway..more on that when he gets his first piece of post), he's a third year Astrophysics student at the University of Hertfordshire, and he has a pet rabbit called 'Bunny' who is currently living in our shed.
He seems cool, which is a bit of a turn up for the books...

...and takes the current housemate tally to this;

Downstairs: Me
Upstairs: Smallest room (not the toilet): Claire - newly 21 yr old McDonalds shift manager...shortly off to Malaga
Second largest room: Khalil
Largest upstairs room: 'Danny', nocturnal Post-sorting malaysian gentleman, and his guest from home, 'Hee', who is still staying, still around, still trying to sell things (to Khalil this time, not me, I told him to bog off). He has stopped drinking my tea, mostly because I have now run out. He thought my cupboard was Danny's, allegedly, which would explain why all my food was disappearing. Grrrr. We'll see if he actually stops using it now I've explained it to him.

Socrates, Sartre and Sinatra

I work hard at my job.
Don't get me wrong.
I enjoy it.
Don't get me wrong.

It's just that I've tried to steer clear of identifying myself through it. I don't want how I earn my living to be how I'm defined.
In this way, despite having worked in Hatfield for nearly 5 months, I don't really think about it a lot outside of office hours, or give it an inch to expand into in my own time. It's not that I'm not dedicated to my job, (don't get me wrong) it's just that it's my's not my title or defining quality.
At least, I've tried to keep it that way.

The spin side of this is that I'm beginning to feel a bit detached from my life.
It's odd.

It's the distinction between 'I work as a...' and 'I am a...'.
It might not seem like much, but it is leagues of difference to me.

Feeling Strangely Mine


Well, it's looking like being an eventful couple of weeks for yours truly. Not only am I quitting these shores for climes Spanish on Saturday morning, but in the meantime I'm aiming to have the first three Agent Traps (TM) dispatched by Friday lunchtime. On top of that there's all sorts of exciting things going on in the background.
I'm currently typing on my new laptop whilst sitting on my sofa in front of the TV. I might need to clarify a couple of points though. The laptop cannot truly be described as new...and hasn't really been describable that way since about 1996.
It has a Pentium.
That's it.

Nevertheless, I am extremely chuffed, especially as it was free because Allie's parents didn't have a use for it any more. It also means that I can blog and watch telly at the same time, an important development as I have now come up with a theory on reality TV. More on that in a sec.

Don't Mind Him, He's From Hatfield

Alice has an inflated opinion of my ability to speak Spanish. This has arisen as the result of one of those sunny, leaf-shadow dappled moments that tend to make the covers of university prospectuses.

Allie: Go on, speak some Spanish.
Me: I know you are pretty, er, I am going to the post office my name is Stuart I have twenty three years and I like beer.
Allie: What does that mean?
Me: You are beautiful...

Alice is a linguist. She studied French and German for four years at Warwick and can also hold her own in Italian. Despite this demonstrable ability to pick up languages, the little Spanish I could teach her went in one ear in Spanish and came out of her mouth in a strong Italian accent. There were '-ay's and '-ee's creeping in where none went before.

I booked our first few night's accommodation yesterday, and in the first outing my Spanish skills had had in nigh on five years, I was nervous. I started sounding…different. The Argentinian accent I prided myself on in the GCSE oral exam...changed. The helpful lady on the other end of the phone changed languages to accommodate me, but unfortunately Italian has never been one of my strong points.
We got it all sorted out in the end...well, I think so anyway.

Reality Bites

Reality TV is here to stay. Different types of it appeal to different people, and then there are those to whom all types appeal, and these would sadly appear to be the majority.
I can't stand the airport kind of programme. Big Brother...bearable. Anything where they get celebrities together? Can't stand them.
Now I may be wrong, but I think some people find the Airport/Club Reps style of programme watchable because it's people having arguments...real people getting pissed off and letting rip. This kind of programme has me trying to relax my fingernails out of the plaster before the ceiling gives way. Soooo frustrating. Annoying. Pointless.

I can't stand the celebrity-style programmes because everyone is so lovely with each other and they are all the best of friends, and of course, famous people only ever have positive emotions. Some people like that. They feel that they're gaining a deep insight into the workings of the celebrity lifestyle. Personally, despite the video evidence to the contrary, I cannot see Harvey from So Solid Crew and James Hewitt becoming homeys.

Maybe this is why I don't mind the Big Brother style of programme all that much. It's peopled by a group of people who aren't liable to start mouthing off or grinding each other's faces into the check-in desk, but their wannabe-celebrity skills are not so polished. They will start off by pretending to love and get along with everyone but it's fun watching the cracks assert themselves.
But only if it's already on in the background, you understand.

The Invasion Has Begun


You all thought it was going to be the squirrels, but you were wrong...bloggers are under attack.

This little beauty cropped up less than twenty four hours after Karen's encounter with it's twin, raising the frightening prospect of strategically planned attacks across great distances.

Dave's plague moved the international community to voice it's support, especially after the chilling account of an encounter with a terribly persistent enemy unit.

Wendy of Chicago has borne the brunt of the blogger-targetted attacks, and has given us all valuable accounts of her war. From initial detection, through their establishment of a beachhead to her emotive and heartfelt accounts of living under occupation, Wendy, our hearts and minds are with you in this darkest of hours.

Brendan, who must surely face risks that would have most UK and US bloggers running for the hills due to his antipodean abode, has in fact braved the dangers and established a sort of pact of non-violence with a member of the enemy, known enigmatically only as 'Lulu'. The hopes and fears of the global blogging population, and our aspirations for world peace, rest squarely on his shoulders.

Meanwhile, as the battle continues, many may find Cathy's instructions for dealing with an enemy infraction useful. Nigel also gives us some advice as well as the grisly details on what to do if attacked by a Belgium-sized spider whilst driving.

On a more positive note, and also in Belgium, Zed and Quarsan report the capture of a Prisoner of War, including some of his equipment.

Bravo bloggers!

All of which makes my own minor skirmishes with the enemy look rather small and insignificant, but remember bloggers, in this epic struggle, we can all do our bit.

Be careful out there...

..and good luck.

The Regulars


Every pub has some.
But the definition of a regular goes beyond someone who merely drinks in the pub regularly. There needs to be a further element of dedication...or reliance.

When I worked in Benjamin Satchwell's (a Wetherspoon's in Leamington Spa) a couple of Christmases ago, I got to know the regulars there. The Wetherspoons chain is especially prone to accumulating regulars; older guys who come in, maybe with a book, take a seat and nurse a £1.25 pint of Summer Lightning for a few hours in solitary cogitation. That's the lone regular, anyway.
In Satchwell's there was a trio of these guys, who occupied one end of the bar and chatted amiably amongst themselves and half-heartedly attempted to chat up the barmaids whenever it was quiet. In the late afternoon they would pick up their hats and go their separate ways to their respective (and more expensive) local pubs, to make way for the louder heavy drinking crowd in the evening, when the pub became a heaving, smoky mass of humanity, most of whom were struggling to make their way to the bar.

They were such a fixture. In a way they helped to define the pub's character. In the couple of hours before they left in the evening, they would sometimes sing, quietly, old songs with women's names in the titles.
One year later I rang the pub for a reference.

Familiar Voice:Hello, Benjamin Satchwell's.
Familiar Voice:Yes?
Me:Can I speak to someone who actually works there please?
Charlie:Certainly my good man. One moment...

Last night Alice and I had a wander into St. Albans.
Alice was so excited to actually be doing something social in the mid-week that we went into the loudest pub we could find. it was pretty empty, it being only about 8 o'clock, but a huge array of sound equipment and TV screens was emitting a barrage of noise.

Alice:(excitedly)It's Karaoke Night!
Me:(not) Wow, yeah, cool.

Quite how we managed to go from this opening dialogue to the point where I submitted a slip asking to perform Frank Sinatra's 'I've got you under my skin' is beyond my powers of recollection, but that's what happened.

My moment arrived, my name was read out and I made the walk of shame up to the booth, and when I got there, I was told that their Sinatra Karaoke CD was scratched. I went to sit down again.
A couple in late middle age sat down at the table next to us with two large glasses of white wine. The man, who was wearing the glossiest leather jacket I've seen outside of the stage rendition of Grease, leaned over toward me.

Jacketman:What did you want to sing?
Me:Oh, er Frank Sinatra's 'I've Got You Under My Skin', but their CD is scratched.
Jacketman leans back and reaches into his (in all probability polished) coat. he pulls out a wadge of CDs. He picks one out and hands it to me.
Jacketman:There you go.
Me: (in disbelief)Is this the karaoke version?
Jacketman nods. His wife and/or girlfriend beams at me from over her white wine. With pride.
Me:(as I return to the booth)Oh, er, well, thanks!

I sang.

When I sat back down again we had a brief 'So, do you come here often then?' conversation. Allie accidentally killed it by saying that she'd only moved in on Sunday.
I can only assume that karaoke-obsessed Jacketman didn't want to talk about anything but his beloved Wednesday nights in the Peahen, because from that moment he sat in stony silence over his white wine, with his wife, until he got the call to go up and sing 'New York, New York'.

Allie and I left to go home and watch Teachers.

Cold War


There is a silent standoff taking place in my house.

The scenes are played out over days and weeks, the players strut back and forth about their daily business in forgetful bliss, and only when the appropriate time comes does the drama become real, in fact terribly so.

Should the person have charged headlong into their doings without due consideration, the results of this deadly powerplay could lead to embarrassment, rising anger and resentment, and ruined clothing. With a little care and forethought, horrible consequences are avoided, alternatives are found, and outright violence is least for a few hours.

No one in my house wants to buy any toilet paper.

I have bought the entire house's supply since I moved in. Once when I held off buying some more for a week or so, people began keeping secret individual rolls in the nooks and crannies of the cupboard above the cistern, and after a while I lost my patience and, in a state of wonder at the pettiness of mankind, I caved in and bought some more. The secret rolls instantly disappeared and everyone started using the main supply again.

Now, whilst budgeting my life to the penny in order to go on holiday in a couple of weeks' time and not have to hitch around Southern Spain, I have decided not to buy any more paper. Let it be someone else's turn.

In this strange saga, minor details of my housemate's lives have come to the fore, and even become vital. Claire, my housemate, works in McDonalds. The only reason life, limb and personal property in the form of underwear have all been kept together in our house is that there is a small yet neverending pile of McDonald's napkins on top of the microwave in the kitchen, one or two of which seem to migrate into the bathroom daily without recourse to human intervention. They are waxy and unpleasant.

I refuse to sustain the lax and frequent bowel movements of my cohabitants. They have enjoyed the comfortingly soft fruits of my labour for too long. They must learn that toilet paper does not grow on trees...well, okay then...they must learn that toilet paper does not miraculously appear of its own accord.

They must consciously acknowledge that there is no longer an endless supply of soft, gentle sheets to feed their filthy habits. They must make this connection, and that connection must be strong, so that it sticks in their minds long enough to be there when they next go shopping. If this connection has to be born of a badly timed realisation resulting in a tight-buttocked descent to the saviour-like pile on the microwave, then so be it.

I shall not be moved.

The thing is, I'm not enjoying the interim all that much.
I might have to keep my own secret roll in the cupboard above the cistern.


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