Pre-flight Check

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This is your Captain speaking. Please fasten seatbelts and note that the no smoking sign is lit. We will shortly be taking off for The Weekend, flying at a speed of approximately sixty minutes per hour.

En route we will be flying over some of the world reknowned landmarks of the weekend. There will be The Plains of Ly-In, soft and gentle landscapes where coffee grows freely, and then a little further on we will pass the now compulsory Asda Foothills, where we will be asking you, our valued passengers, to chip in and buy some of our marvellous collection of beers and souvenirs.

A little later in the journey, we will be passing over the breathtaking scenery of Bee Gny Tout, where the temperatures are a cool -3°C . There will be a considerable stop off here, you'll be pleased to hear, as we refuel in preparation for the week to come. Enjoy the high peaks, the virginal slopes, the glorious shining snows.

After the stop off there will be a short period where I'm afraid we're going to have to use the autopilot, so I'm not too sure where we'll end up, but we're certainly going to be returning to Ly-In at some point on Sunday.

Strap in, hold on tight and make sure you've notified your next of kin.

For we is partyin', mon.

Light the blue touch-paper....and bring it on.

Fixation

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On wandering into town today, myself and a colleague heard some high-pitched shrieking, and then shortly afterwards happened upon a woman sitting cross-legged at the bottom of a flight of external steps, covered with snow, and one or two of them dotted with the contents of her handbag.

She was sitting in the snow, manically texting away. We stopped and asked if she needed some help, and she said 'I've fallen down the stairs' and then went back to her phone.

The scene felt totally wrong. We should have been the heroic rescuers, helping her to her feet and getting her things together. Instead we were on the fringe, standing and not knowing what to do. She seemed perfectly happy...just sitting, in the snow. Texting.

I got her stuff together anyway, even though she was totally ignoring us.
Tap. Tap tap tap. Tip tappity tap.
A bloke in a suit appeared at the top of the stairs, came down and helped her up. She wanted him to help. Not us. We were just random bystanders.

Willing, helpful, cheery and respectable looking (well, my colleague was), but just not goddamned good enough.

Maybe she'd been texting when she fell, but when she fell, she'd just kept on going with those buttons and texted for help.

The Powers Of Stealth

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This weather rocks, but there are some hazards of walking to work in the snow.

Two miles.
Three rolling snowfights.

Three schoolkids, the tail end of a larger group having leapt at the first opportunity to take the day off, advance grinning towards me, crouching as though stealthy, snowballs being packed down in gloved hands.

"Ahhh, man! I'm never gonna see them coming."

One smirks, but their mock crouches drop lower, as if expecting me to pull some kind of snow weapon from my pocket. When they judge to be in range, they straighten up.

"Shit! It must be some some sort of camouflage!"

One of them laughed and dropped his snowball, another's went to snow dust in the air, and the other flew towards my face. An instinctive hand went to stop it, caught it on the tips of my fingers, which bent back elastically and pushed it back the way it came, skidding to snow dust at the feet of the kid who threw it.

Result! I hadn't been hit!

I scooped up some snow, and as the other kids came skidding up the road, the carnage began.

I sit directly underneath the office ceiling air-con-cum-heater, so my coat will probably dry soon.

Some other kids joined my side, but we were still hopelessly outnumbered. It was like a good-natured snowy version of Zulu.

Hatfield ain't so bad.

Thunder and Snowflakes

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An email warning from an office to the north has given the evacuation warning.

The Mega Killy Snows of Death are coming.
I'm quite partial to just staying here, watching the country collapse into snowy paranoia and the early, supermarket-raiding stages of the apocalypse.

Who fancies a quick camp fire in the middle of the office and a few rounds of Cumbaya?

There is thunder, lightning and thick falling flakes outside my office window.

I might go home in a bit.

Incidentally, if you're reading this in a snow-free London, or the South of England...GET OUT! GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN!


AAAARGH!

Choked

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Today I slipped
down my steps
I did not know
there was snow

I dressed with closed white curtains
In a room that is light at night
As the road thunders by
Headlights strobing gently

I haven't written a word
For nearly two weeks
So I thought I'd tell
Of falling into the roses
This morning
In a verse
And maybe feel like I'd done something.


It's bollocks of course.

"So where is the recipe from?"

A problem. Right there. There is no recipe...but that just wouldn't be any fun.

My recipe for home made chilli is only loosely based on chilli. I start out intending to make one, and then I fall prey to the seductive calls of the variety of spices and herbs I have in my cupboards, and the poor thing gets pulled all over the place.

The origins of chilli, or chilli con carne, are, well, lost in the mists of time. Possibly Spain. Possibly Mexico, but more than likely Texas. Fine. I start out, and my recipe is sitting squarely in the middle of the Lonestar State. Dubya's homeland. Dusty.

Oh, and you'll need this up to see what I mean.

So you have your mince. Frying gently in a little olive oil. All okay so far. Stetsons perched lazily on a cactus.
Add tomatoes.
Recipe still tethered outside the saloon.

But now the first temptation comes trotting along. At the moment, the recipe isn't rooted in Chilliville (Arizona now, it seems). Mince and tomatoes...and who could possibly deny a little basil to complement them? The recipe is torn from the Deep South and hurled across the Atlantic towards Italy. Only it never gets there. This is meant to be a chilli, right? Only now it's a proto-chilli that smells a little Italian.

The recipe is currently clinging to a scientific weather bouy in the icy middle of the Atlantic, rolling on a girt sea, halfway between the pride of its homeland and a really good bolognese.

Add the first sprinkle of chilli powder. The recipe moves again, but only half way back across the ocean. No bouy this time. Recipe is getting damp. And salty.
Add salt.
Recipe stays put. Treads water.

Add kidney beans. Another step closer to home, and by my reckoning the recipe is probably now gasping for breath on a beach in Florida.

Another sprinkle of chilli dunks the recipe into the Gulf of Mexico, but at least it's warmer than the Atlantic.

All it would take to keep the recipe within a reasonably determined swim of it's homeland at this point is for me to stand over the cooker, happily stirring, and maybe sprinkling in a bit of pepper or more chilli, before I dish it up and eat it.

But no. Things are still a bit simplistic. Sure, there's the meat and basilled tomatoes and the chilli kick, but where are the fulsome round flavours? Hmmm? Where are the herbs and not-so-spicy-spices that complement hot dishes?

India.
That's where.
The recipe can try to make a break for shore, but it's a shorter journey to my cupboard from the cooker, I beat it easily and with a terrified moan it is airborne again.

The major issue at this point is the decision which way the recipe goes. It has to be halfway between here and India. There's back across the Atlantic, and the icy frozen rolling waves, yawning the miles away, or there's the Pacific. I'll make a concession at this point and let the recipe take the warmer option.

In goes some ground cumin, a sprinkly bit of coriander, a generous looping pouring of garam masala and a hesitant pinch of marjoram...all of which don't so much change the recipe's ballistic direction as just jiggle it about in mid-air, probably making it feel a bit ill.

After a brief hypersonic journey, a lot of whimpering and a sudden stop, the recipe sits slumped, exhausted and airsick (but recovering) on a bar stool in Hawaii.
Lucky bastard.

"Hmmm?"
"Where's the recipe from?" asks my housemate again.
"Oh, you know. Here and there."

Loads Of No Snow

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Yesterday was exciting in terms of post. A book I recently...parted ways with arrived, fresh and shiny new, from home as a gesture of understanding the times I'm going through, and by the time I'd got home, someone had signed for a package. My Mum, worried about the Big Killy Snows of Death rushing towards the United Kingdom, had ordered me some pyjama trousers in time for the chill, so I would still be warm in my bed. The bed which, incidentally, is covered with a tog 13 duvet, in a room with an electric fireplace, in a double-glazed house with cavity insulation, with gas central heating.

So apart from the pending excitement of Arctic Doom, last night still looked like being a little quiet. I made myself some kick-ass winter stew, watched 'A Beautiful Mind' for the first time, and played the greenhamster-lent Prince of Persia. Oh, and there was, of course, the obligatory pre-snowstorm phone conversation with my Mum...

Me: Seeing as I live in the same town, even if the snow is deep I expect I'll still have to go to work - if the buses don't run I can just walk.

Mum: Have you got enough warm clothing?

Me: Well, yes, you know - I have those two massive fleeces, hardcore trekking boots, bright yellow arctic coat...I'll be all right.

Mum: Have you got a warm hat?

Me: I've got a baseball cap...that'll do.

Mum: Gloves?

Me: Er, no, actually I haven't got any.

Mum: I'm a bit worried that you haven't got any gloves.

(continues in same vein for a while)

Mum: What about trousers?

Me: Jeans.

Mum: They'll get wet. Tuck them into your boots.

Me: (warming to the subject) Well, if it's really deep, I haven't got any waterproof trousers.

Mum: I knew it! I did offer...(starts laughing)

Me: Yes, I remember...it was one of your better pitches to try and get more stuff to order from the catalogue...(starts laughing)...your retail addiction!

Mum: Well I was right...

Me: Mum, the reason 'You'll need them if you ever want to go for a walk in the rain' just seemed a bit odd at the time...

(George the Parrot starts laughing down phone from Mum's other shoulder, Mum finds this hilarious and laughs even more)

Despite living here, despite earning my living here, despite having my life and a few of my friends dotted around the area, working, cooking, playing, writing, drinking, living and doing it independently, all a good four hours, two buses, two trains and one boat from where I grew up, there are some times that the miles don't matter, and you're earthed by something outside of distance.

So sorry if you were looking forward to snow, or a day off work or school today. The Arctic Front sweeping across the UK was met with a standing high temperature zone expanding outwards from Hertfordshire, which in turn was centred on Hatfield, and a toasty-warm engineering graduate in new pyjamas.

Parrot Café

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The Café Of Your Very Dreams is a little more humid this week. The demure and merely decorative pot plants that last week set off the classy decor have...grown. Lush and verdant leafy sprays wave gently underneath the ceiling fans, and Amazon parrots, mixed with conures and macaws scratch, scrape and flit amongst the growing wooden rafters. I'll take this opportunity to point out a minor mistake in Pirates of the Caribbean...parrot shit is not white, but green, but that doesn't stop it bleaching your clothes. Thankfully there is a natural canopy of vegetation forming somewhere above our heads, so falling guano shouldn't put us off today. Not that the parrots are alone in being the only wildlife lurking around in here...

Come in, sit down, chill out, bask in the tropical heat, slip off that third vest and relax. Sink into a sofa with a muffin.
Why not? In this café, everything is easy and the café provides everything.

I'll just prepare the Uberpercolator for today's drinks...Brazilian cocoa in here, tapping the grind down level in there, hmmm. 'Insert Sustainably Grown Mahogany 4 by 2 Here'. Ours is not to reason why...in it goes...
A little more attention to the compartments that have sprung up for today's orders...sugar, blimey...four bags. Check. I'll just stick my head round the door and make sure that the cow in the kitchen is suitably hooked up, and we'll be off...

Right. Button pushing time.

WELL JUST OUT OF INTEREST, I'VE GOT MY PHONE SORTED OUT NOW, BUT I STILL THINK THAT 'NOT AN ERROR. YOU SHOULD NOT BE SEEING THIS MESSAGE' RATES QUITE HIGHLY ON THE COMEDY front -ah. The whistle goes, all is ready.

What have we here...?

First up is in fact S, who dropped in a little late last week asking for a traditional coffee and a chocolate biscuit...and of course the chocolate was grown in Brazil. Fairtrade, obviously.

Karen dropped by and asked in a lilting Spanish for a large espresso, ground over the waters of the Panama Canal, between the hulls of two container ships refusing to let the other go first. Enjoy, Senorita - just shift that monkey off the chair. He's asleep so he won't notice. The carpet...oh, er, well, it used to be a carpet...is quite soft.

Gh travelled home via the wonders of South West Trains this morning, and understandably wants something to warm him up. Even more understandably he asks for a hot and steaming Colombian. So, fresh from a brisk couple of laps around the frosty playing fields is Ana Sofia, looking beautifully rosy cheeked and she's certainly steaming. I hope you can work out the whole body heat sharing thing, Mr. Hamster. Have a coffee as well while you're at it.

Now, here...well, it's a coffee, but conspicuously without any fruitbat fillets. That must be in some way significant, no? Gordon, this one is yours. That's a python, not a draught excluder. Ye-es. Best leave him where he is. There's no shortage of chairs, old boy...

Two small sticks, lovingly smoothed and sanded...and made from the finest mahogany...to be wedged between the eyelids of Dave. Don't look at me. You got what you asked for - I just push the button on the bloody machine. Here. Have a coffee as well. Latte, if that's okay. What with all these espressos, I've got to give the cow something to do...

Huzzah! More milk has been used, this time for Shiv's Caramel Latte. Hot, brown, creamy and halfmade of thick syrup, my dear. Hope that's okay. Oops. Careful, mind the jaguar. He's an old softy really.

Una Cerioca for querida K...a little more mellow than your average espresso, but smoother because of it, I understand.

So, enjoy your drinks/sticks/biscuits/South American models, people, and tuck into the quadruple chocolate muffins.

...Into A Gleeful Melancholy

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A colourful weekend, from the disturbingly familiar yellow of the single experimentally bought bottle of vodka red square lager (yes - that's all in the same bottle, kids!), to the cool glowing blue lights of a funky city bar, to the pale cream rotundas in the ceilings of the magnificent country manor club we (somehow) ended up in, all the way through to the reddish tinge to our eyes on Sunday morning.

There were a respectable number of bars, a respectable number of drinks, a delightful amount of small talk, laughter and just the right amount of post-break up buddy chat, all leading inexorably to a few hours of dancing that was anything but respectable.

Sunday included espresso, bacon and egg toasted sandwiches, home-made chilli, more espresso, Playstation 2, lounging luxuriously, films and music.
So goddamned stylish.

A good weekend.

I was unable to keep in touch with the rest of the civilised world in much the style I had wanted to over the weekend because I was a little challenged in the telephonic department.

The first sign that all was not well in my little phone's head was this:




I feel a strange affinity with it.

Café de los Sueños

High Peruvian peaks with mist rolling in gorges down the terraces of beans...

Whether you want your beans ground with the molars of a llama, roasted over the Tierra del Fuego or served with a side order of Amazonian Fruitbat fillets, The Coffee Shop Of Your Very Dreams will be serving coffee on a South American theme.

What will you be having?

Orders please!

Comfort in Sound

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From the stereo or from my guitar, I feel like I'm sinking into music at the moment.

It's the same feeling as when a comfortable sofa gives underneath your weight and in that gentle settling, there is a relaxing and a release of tension.

That's how me and music are getting along at the moment, which is a good thing to have to fall back on. Music was my first love, and all that...

I am discovering new depths to albums I had given only a superficial listen to before, and finding that I actually love this but I'm not too keen on that...but what I'm needing at the moment is good compilations.

Compilations were a great thing back in the day when I would buy one CD every few months, because if a good one came out it could give you all the singles that made you want too many expensive albums. The first compilation I got was Now 34...Ini Kimose, Weezer's Buddy Holly, Blur's Parklife, Oasis' Some Might Say...I can practically recite the track listing.

(I'm a bit wary of all this talk about music, because what with the Autoblography's layout and whatnot, I'm scared that I'm living through the plot of High Fidelity)

Anyway, now I want a good few compilations because I'm hungry for a variety of sounds and my stereo is getting stuck up. It always used to be a bit of a snob; not playing the free CDs from the front of Melody Maker and NME...sometimes it would even turn it's nose up at CD singles from small independent labels - I remember being most annoyed that The Divine Comedy's National Express wouldn't play. It thinks CD-Rs are below it most of the time, but bizarrely, some are fine.

For a time I developed a method of getting the thing to acknowledge the existence of these CDs. Spin the disc before closing the lid, wait for the jiggle noise, turn spinny thing to track 8, lift corner of stereo, wait for second jiggle noise, drop stereo gently, wait for the 'Ah-hah! I thought I'd lost it but there it is!' noise from the stereo (said in a frightfully posh voice, obviously). Turn spinny thing to track 1. Listen to CD.

Now even this doesn't work, so sometimes I have my personal CD player hooked up through the AUX. But it's a lot of bother. So instead of chopping and changing the CDs every time I want to listen to something different, I have a couple of options.

1. Steal Sue Stamp (the robot DJ) from Radio Warwick, with the downside that they'd probably notice.
2. Steal Studio 2 from RaW, same problem.
3. Buy a new stereo
4. Ask those nice wonderful people in Blogland if they fancy making me a Mix CD.

Ahem.

Update: I forgot to say: I shall reciprocate in kind...and I give GOOD mix.

A Reassurance

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Dear Ann,

I happened across your new blog by accident. It seems you're pretty new to blogging, had a big flurry of activity and have been quiet for the last ten days or so. I hope that wasn't anything to do with me.

When I found your blog, Logogram, I was struck by the similarity of our links lists. Now I'm told that under the bonnet of your site is a big ole chunk of the coding for mine, which, much to the surprise and chagrin of it's creator, isn't even implemented properly.

Now I was a bit annoyed and 'muh' the other day, but that wasn't anything to do with you...I just had no contact details or way of getting in touch.

Welcome to blogging...but hey - part of the fun is finding your own favourite websites, and mucking about with your own code and presentation. I wouldn't want to put you off or anything by being a big old ranty git because you cut and pasted a load of stuff off my site, and then took out the bits that you thought would mean you wouldn't get caught.

Don't worry about it. Chill. I'm cool with it. Our sites still look totally different anyway, and I can tell you that that list of links you have is certainly, in my opinion, a good one. Happy reading...but surely, it's not a huge amount of effort to figure out which blogs you prefer yourself? Like I said, it is fun.

I hope you carry on blogging, and enjoy it. But I just wanted to say, nicely, that while I'm okay with what you did, I recommend that you do it yourself...because you're denying yourself a lot of pleasure and discovery.

Have fun.

This weekend promises to be rather excellent.

Monsieur gh and myself shall be sullying forth into London Town, to do what, we do not yet know, and to see whom, we do not yet know. We have a slightly better idea of what will be drunk, but only as yet in terms of quantities.

I like this stage, when things are formless and crackling with potential...

Any ideas or recommendations for two young gentlemen in London of a Saturday night?

Mr. Jones and Me

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When I first heard the alternate, live version of Counting Crows' Mr. Jones on the 'Live on a Wire' CD, I got shivers down my spine. There is what might almost be a prologue to the song proper.

'If you want to be a rock 'n' roll star,
then listen now to what I say,
just get an electric guitar and learn how to play,
just learn how to play.'

Seeing as the original song was about the desire for fame, and all the good things that fame seemed to promise, the live version on that CD is different, altered, more retrospective. The band got their fame, but it wasn't all it appeared to be...and the song changed to reflect that.

But the prologue is a statement, an altruism, which applies to a lot of things. Coupled with it's original version, there is a sensation of learning, of progression, but with the prologue, it's like a bit of advice.
If you want what we wanted and got, then you can't just sit there.
But it might not be everything you think.

If you want to be anything, then you can't just sit there. If you want something different than what you've got, you don't just have to want it, you have to put effort in and learn how to get it, and then you have to learn to live with it once it is yours.

Today's experiment (you don't have to do it if you don't want to): apply this to your dreams, and act accordingly...

Now, I don't necessarily want to be a rock'n'roll star, but learning to play the guitar is on my 2004 To Do List.
I played a lot last night, and in one evening went from doing scales...through the nightmare that is the torture chord F Major...all the way to my first (rather wobbly) rendition of 'House of the Rising Sun'.

Cliché?

Hell, I was chuffed with myself.

Flying Penguins

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A harmless bit of fun. Addictive, compelling, and if you can get a competition going with someone, so much better.

Personal records:

Furthest: 321m
Furthest without bouncing: 207.3m
Shortest with penguin being hit: 42.7m (very funny)

Bring it on.

Don't get me wrong. I still feel muh. But this put a smirk on my face for a bit...

Instructions from your stereo

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I'm feeling very muh-like at the moment.

It's not a terribly descriptive statement, but 'muh' is a very expressive word. It indicates that the grey fog of confusion has descended upon my brain, there might well be a truck-load of fatigue in there, emotional absence, dust, stuffiness, discomfort and a lot of grey.

So, muh.

I'm in such a state that tag lines and lyrics to songs are almost autosuggestive. I caught myself actually giving thought to Fly to El Salvador!...as suggested by the excellent band Athlete, but the next line was 'don't know why and I don't know what for', so my motivation ebbed a touch at that.

Despite my extensive music collection, cultivated through eleven years of loving music, seven years of teens, three years of being involved in student radio and two of being a cheese DJ, I couldn't for the life of me think of a song that combined everything I need to hear, along the lines of 'worst things happen at sea you know, cheer up you old bugger... (Always look on the bright side of life: Monty Python)bom bom, bom bom-bo-bo-bom(catchy theme from a popular film) gonna try with a little help from my friends(obvious)it's not about you joggers, who go round and round and round and round (Parklife...needed for a bit of a wakeup)i'm gonna get it right(Fairground Attraction's biggest hit)'...and a whole lot more. So I just listened to the radio instead.

In another attempt to shift this heavy muh-time, I'll try and get good and angry. Only I'm not really.

I discovered to my surprise that my links so matched the favourite blogreads and websites of another blogger that they are in fact, practically identical!

Even down to the hover comments. But what seems odd to me is that this person, whilst obviously a person of distinguished tastes so close to my own has not included a link to either me or the person off my reading list who I talk to most often.

Bizarre.

Not angry. Still feeling muh.

Ah well.

Update
Muh is not new. here is a better definition. And that gimp who copied my list has also copied my spot in the blogging rings as well. No contact details for them yet, so it's just irritating.

In the Jingle-Jangle Morning...

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Coffee up, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome once again to the Coffee Shop of your very dreams; a warm, convivial and above all free café where everybody knows your name (assuming they can read), there is no such thing as 'a sneezer', and the Prime Percolator, Fine Filter, Smooth Operating Coffee Machine morphs into whatever is needed to provide you, the customer, with whatever you desire every Monday, the most caffeine-hungry day of the week.

Sit yourself down in your favourite sofa, grab a muffin and hang on...

As we operate on first come, first served here, there's a pint for Spengy, he didn't specify, but the Coffee Machine knows he likes his beer, so there is one of both lager and premium filter coffee. Out of the same dispenser in the machine comes another pint, this time of Java, for gh, who was in work TOO GODDAMN EARLY.
Like me.

Out of a slot that smells seductively of the orient, bringing to mind tall clippers in spring gales, sitar notes in the evening breeze and monkeys harassing the tea pickers comes a steamy, spicy chai for Annie Mole.

Gordon brooks no cliché in asking for two muffins (they are free, you know), a chunk of Rocky Road, and...a skinny latte. You could skip a mouthful of muffin and have a half-decent coffee, matey, but it's your call. Hope the Monday is working out okay.

The Green Fairy *is feeling a little tender, hence running the Cool Coffee Creator at minimum volume today. She gets her Silent Silk, and water and Alka Seltzer. If it's alcohol induced, then there will be food in a minute as well. You can nick a chip from Karen.*

Good job we took Marjorie on, as there are now big gaping slots in the Supreme Coffee Maker for food as well. This is, after all, The Café of Your Very Dreams, so a bit of a fry up is no problem. For Karen gets herself a full on, multicultural breakfast, including but not limited to fried potatoes, gammon, eggs, pickled onion, beans, tomato, toast, chips, cumberland sausages, ketchup and piccalilli, all of the neverending-plate variety. If anyone's hungry there's enough here for everyone. I'm not looking at Gordon. I'm not. Skinny latte. Tut. Anyway, a big latte for Karen as well.

Dave gets a rich and creamy hot chocolate with a bar of Dairy Milk to dip in, as his body is stil recovering from last week.

Lolly wants something strong, so once again the bin receptacle on the side of the Coffee machine swings ponderously open, and the echoing drip of espresso can be heard within. Good luck.

Miss Shivery gets her chilly little icebound hands on a toasty minty mocha...most warming, and judging by the weather over there, badly needed. Pix has slipped in an email request for vast amounts of strong black coffee to help with the shock and bandwidth worries resulting from the newfound and explosive fame of The Shoe Project...no problem! Have a jugful.

That's yer lot for today, although I suspect that there will be a few latecomers, and once again Krissa is probably dozing gently on her favourite sofa by the fire, unthinkingly camouflaged and currently without coffee. All things can of course be remedied. Sorry for the lack of late service last week, dear people.

I'll just take a...*muh*...single...espresso.

The coffee shop is expanding, and things get a little hectic round here at the beginning of the week. So the coffee shop of your very dreams has taken on Marjorie, veteran waitress of two roadside Little Chefs and a greasy spoon in Manchester what got shut down by the Ministry.

Imagine her at the table. She sticks one hip out, lolls her head on one side, jiggles her pen high up in the air in a manner likely to remove the eyes of anyone foolish enough to try and walk behind her. She holds the order pad and peers at it.

"So thats one pint for the Australian Geezer, of coffee or beer...dunt say."

*chews gum with mouth open*

"One abstainer, fine, swan off then...one chai, no sugars, check. Two muffins and a piece of rocky road and a skinny latte? Right you are then squire..."

*places pen behind ear and fixes it in place with chewing gum*

"One Silent Silk, today's special, a smooth rich grind with no percolator noise and a glass of mountain spring water with two Alka Seltzer....like, whatever...and a pint, definitely coffee this time. Right. Got it."

*removes pen from behind ear but leaves gum in situ*

"Anything to add to the Monday Morning Coffee order?"

(Coffee will be served at 3pm, to give our American cousins (on the East coast at least) a chance to get an order in)

Caffeinated Lunacy

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Well, IT'S FRIDAY!

Woo.

I'm checking out a flat in St. Albans tonight, which should be fun. More on that on Monday. I haven't done any writing in bloody ages and that is annoying me. Allie flits off to Cranfield on Sunday, which gives me the entire day to drink too much espresso and play Lord of the Rings write.

I have a lot of projects I'd like to start, a few of which I've been giving the unprecedented attention of planning and making notes on. The only unfortunate thing is that I've tried starting a couple of them, including the potential novella, and then gone back and been a bit surprised at how cacky it all seems.

Blogging is so much more seductive.

And it is all your fault, you licentious, voracious readers, you.
Thanks.

Good Form
Everyone is doing good things at the moment, but in a few cases I've been enjoying some things more than others (I'm a fussy bastard, I know). Here's a quick run down...

Relly went away for a while, and now she's been back a while more, and is in SUCH good form that it seems almost criminal not to put her link in capitals. Sparkly bits from the Old Laundry basket include a magnificent tirade about popcorn, and the ongoing grinchy bloggy bits about wedding magazines have had some interesting results...

The Manly Smell shuffled off this mortal coil today, but hopefully not permanently.

There's a big ole sexy hoo-hah cookin' up in the domain of The Green Fairy, with lots of saucy and confessional comments, making it a hot box to watch. Mike even popped in to give everyone his 'Golden Number', despite being dead. Nice to know that there's broadband on the other side.

El pequeño buho trotted out this masterpiece the other day, ostensibly for her broadsheet readers. Go see.

Advance Bookings

Anyhow, due to my easily anticipated failure in the attempt to draw up a mailing list in time, I will start taking orders for Monday morning coffee now, but I take no responsibility for any trauma or other injuries (however induced) resulting from the bad karma of ordering Monday's coffee now.

On your own head be it.
Coffee, anyone?

A Challenge

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This post is written including phrases suggested in the comments of yesterday's post.


0730hrs Saturday January 16th, 2010. Ayewarwaddy River, Mandalay Waterfront, Burma

Special Agent Bill Marx walked slowly, with long swinging sweeps of his feet, down the jetty for the Kwe Zoon ferry. The river boat was late, and the noise of the awakening animals in the Sea World next to the terminal was getting to him. It was just coming round to sunrise, and a low haze hung over the city behind him. He lit a cigarette. The sound of an ancient and labouring petrol outboard came across the waters. A ferry official hurried over.
"Ready sir? All okay sir? You look worried sir."
"Me?" Marx took a drag, and nodded at the open bars of the Park, "Nah, just that penguin is looking at me funny."
The official glanced frowningly back and forth from Marx to the distant penguin with increasing speed.
"Don't worry about it."
The official bobbed and scurried away. The boat was in sight now. He swore and flicked the still new cigarette into the water. Smoking was illegal in the US now with the new divided States and the new world order. It was one of the advantages of foreign service that he could still get away with it. The long low flat-rooved boat curved bobbing up to the jetty and just one man got off, wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase.

"I'm sorry I'm late. We had a few problems with New Min's supporters downstream."
"That's okay."
"No, it's not. They get just as good intelligence as us, and they're on the lookout. Sometimes I think I'd be better off paddling to Mandalay."
"Heh. Come on. We've got to get to base."

1027hrs, Friday April 22nd, 2005. US Embassy, Cairo

The British aide walked up to Marx's desk and slipped a weighty but slim file onto the papers already there. He couldn't help but sneer at the ashtray.
"Anything else?" snapped Marx.
"No sir."
"Good. Go," said Marx. After the aide had gone, he added, "Bloody British," under his breath.

Marx was in bad temper. The newly constructed city flood gates were holding, but after the bursting of the unknown artesian reservoir underneath Lake Nasser, he was having trouble keeping operations going. Egypt was essentially one huge flood plain, and the water, once outside the levees and dams, just rolled over the country with no resistance. After the biological aspect of the civil war, this was like a cooling balm to Marx's red hot bed of intrigue. Nothing was happening. No alerts, no advances, no operations. All was silent on all fronts. All that was troubling was the news from back home. Political disillusionment motivated divisions claiming totally arbitrary names from the media, looming civil war...nothing good was coming over the wires.

A klaxon sounded in the operations room. A summary of the emergency hit his screen. Shit! A biological warning from the deep south. Old Sudan. Spreading unidentified biological matter. Marx picked up a phone.
"Johnson?"
"Just about hear you sir."
"What's going on down there?"
"Nothing as far as I can tell sir. Bit of a panic, but I can't understand what's going on. Bit damper than usual after the floods, that's all."
"What's the biological attack?"
"Sir?"
"We've got an alert here from a faction leader that he is abandoning camp due to the spread of an unknown biological substance."
"Ndebele, sir?"
"Yeah."
"Right, well, I've got it covered, then. He's a bit jumpy at the moment. I'll just whip up some toilet duck and head on over there."
"Explain yourself, Agent."
"Sir, everything is a-ok down here. If after all that bloody water all we've got to worry about is combatting mildew in the Sudd region, that's fine by me."
Marx hung up. He needed to get out of the service.

0655hrs, January 16th, 2004. Cheesy French-themed Posthouse Hotel, Somewhere in England

Marx rolled over. The sheets twisted round him and pulled them off Mary. She sighed.
"How many times have I got to tell you? Please don't pull them off me. I can never get warm again afterwards, and anyway, it's freezing in here."
"Yes dear," said Marx.
"I can't believe it, William. I'm naked and you're not even looking at me. I don't understand you sometimes. Last night in the bar you seemed more interested in the adventures of the all-girl accordion orchestra than you did in me."
"That's just not true, dear."
"Well. Order breakfast."
As he got up to use the phone for room service, Mary pulled the sheets round her rolled herself up in them leaving none. She glared at him from her new bed linen sarcophagus, making a point. Marx went and took a shower. When he came out she was sitting cross legged on the bed wearing a hotel dressing gown, frowning.
"They've only sent up chunky marmalade with the toast."
"And?" said Marx, a note of annoyance creeping in.
"But William, you know I can't abide chunky marmalade. It plays havoc with my..."
"I'm leaving for Cairo this afternoon, by the way."
Mary looked shocked, and Marx left before she regained her composure.

2320hrs, Thursday 17th October, 2007. The Red Oktobar, Orlando, Florida, US

"So what do you think of all the rumption?" asked the guy at the bar next to Marx.
"I don't know." he answered.
"Well, who do you support? The Minnies, Daffies, who?"
"You ask a lot of questions."
"Well, I'm curious. I want answers. Say, what line of business are you in?"
"People pay me to do things, and I do them," said Marx, sipping his whisky.
"We'll pay you, Bill."
"How do you know my name?"
"We need people like you. Ex-intelligence."
"How do you know my name?"
"You're Bill Max. Ex CIA; England, Egypt and Malaysia."
"I'm not Bill Max."
"Sure you are..." said the man, staring worriedly. "Aren't you?"
"My name is Bill Marx, and if you have money, I'm in."
"Not Max?"
"No. Where'd you get that idea?"
"Automated information drop, not far from here. Honestly, you wouldn't believe the lies the laundromat told me!"
"You're new to this game, aren't you."
"Does it show?""
Marx finished his whisky.
"Which lot are you working for?"
"The People's Mickey Mouse Party"
"You're for the Mouse?"
"It's not done to put it that way, but yes."

0803hrs, Saturday January 16th, 2010. New Mickey HQ, Mandalay, Burma

"Gentlemen, I give you a pig's eye view of the workings of a slaughterhouse."
Gasps sounded across the auditorium. Marx's wasn't among them. He knew what was coming. A voice rang out from the audience.
"May I ask where you got these pictures, Colonel?"
"On this occasion, yes," said Marx's boss. "These pictures, of the very central operations centre of the Porky's main camp in Kuala Lumpur. One of our regional targets. There is...a man on the inside."
He left a dramatic pause.
"The New Porky Pig Nation are planning an assault on the new base in Myanmar set up by The New Pluto Union. According to our intelligence, if we ambush one crucial unit en route to the assault, the attack will fail, but severely weaken the Pluto Union base. Then we can launch a full scale assault, and capture it."
Another hand shot up.
"How will we know which unit to attack?"
"I'm not going to lie to you. Our intelligence runs out here. We're going to have to figure it out ourselves, and it won't be easy. We'll have to run through the known inventories and manpower available, assess their skills and select what we can only hope will be the correct target. It'll be like looking for the best gearing for singlespeed underwater mountain biking whilst on vacation in the Sahara."
A light smattering of laughter greeted this.
"But with your help, for the good of our cause, we will strike a rousing victory that will raise spirits in every New Mickey base around the world, and we will be thrashing the Plutonians at last."

Vacancy

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I'm feeling singularly uninspired today.

It's a gorgeous day, sun is shining, birds are singing, and old grannies who slipped over on the morning ice going for a newspaper at 6am are just beginning to get their footing.

So it seems a shame not to post.

So in the style of a primary school keep-the-kids-quiet-and-occupied exercise, give me the title to a post, and I'll write the post. The more unusual or challenging the better...and yes.
Even the very strange will be considered.

Post Script to le Jour

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After bludgeoning my way through today, right now I feel like curling up
under my duvet and only emerging for the rise of a new dominant
species on Earth.

Note: may actually do this.

Of Sex, Dulux and Pavlov's Dogs

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In which Stuart asks some curious questions on the subject of naughtiness, and Phileas Fogg has problems with the Malaysian Wildlife Authorities

It seems to me that I ask a lot of rhetorical questions on this blog. Questions that aren't so rhetorical as to make me think that no one will be moved to comment, but still- I think I ask more than I answer. Today isn't really going to be any different.

In The Gun Seller, Hugh Laurie gives his lead male character a nifty trick for trying to make sex last longer. The chap tries to remember all of the names of the colours on the Dulux Paint Colour Chart...on one occasion getting up to No. 31 - Burnt Sienna, which as I recall was a personal best.

Scraping back the limescaley residue from the long-evaporated mists of time, I remember that there was similar advice in a Men Behaving Badly book. The technique was to think about non sexual or actively off-putting things...the image that leaps from memory is Bruce Forsyth squatting on a glass table...Helmut Kohl doing the same...socks...the list goes on.

I'm guessing that everyone is familiar with the principle of positive statements; saying things over and over to yourself to enforce something in your mind. And then there's Mr. Pavlov and his dogs...conditioning a reflex reaction to something through a similar process.

If you put the two together, some unfortunate soul who used that method and got a lot of sex might end up feeling sexually confused about DIY, aroused by re-runs of Play Your Cards Right, turned on by European Economic Policy and very raunchy towards his own laundry basket.

Just a thought.

When a man is tired...

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Had a very long day.
Very long, involving getting lost in the B-roads of Essex, and I've come back to the rearing prospect of 10pm-4am work stint on Saturday night.

But in the midst of the weariness, something I've hoped for for a long time has come through. So, for a few weeks in February, I'll be on the golden commuting route to work in The Big City.

Very exciting!
(Say, 'Very exciting' to yourself in a Welsh accent)

Am off. Too much to do here. A pizza, a glass of vino, and a large dose of literature is required.

A Call To Arms

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The time has come, say I, to vent my spleen upon a subject that has riled for many years.

Last night there was an extremely annoying programme on't television.

I'm not sure if anyone outside of London would have seen it, as it was extremely London-centric (for want of a better word). It was clichéd, it was misogynistic, it was cheesy, badly presented, contradicted itself regularly, and played host to someone I can only imagine had some sort of episode in front of their editing equipment. And it wasn't even reality TV.

Most programmes these days have music to accompany different scenes, stories or features, but the music underneath this programme, 'Inside Out', changed every twenty seconds or less, and what's more, it was sometimes amusingly selected. Underneath a feature on fraudulent disabled parking in the capital, there were numerous clips from the 'Trainspotting' soundtrack. Like yeah, heroin and parking offences, man. It's all part of the same inherent problem in society.

I've often thought that in TV programmes where music is used to give atmosphere, make a point, or even make gardening programmes look cool, they should put a list of all the music used in the show on the end credits. It would only be fair to the artists.

As an added bonus, this would also bring to an end my annoyance at not being able to figure out the name of the bloody song inside the criminally short time that it is playing. When the clip is about ten seconds long, and played three or four times throughout the programme, I am given to groaning and asking very loud rhetorical questions..."What is it? What IS it?"

Last night was the final straw.

I want this to happen, and I want it to happen now. I'll get the RIAA to put their weight behind it, and to prosecute a few pensionable TV Producers on their side of the Atlantic, just to show that we're serious. Then maybe a high-profile court case involving national rioting from the entire country at not being able to remember the name of the hip-hop track playing over the bit with the azaleas in 'Gardeners' World'.
Get a few of the more accessible politicians on our side, get questions asked in the House, and we're away.

Tell me I'm not the only one, and that all of this might one day happen?

Ministering

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Well, okay.
Monday morning - never anyone's strongest time, hence the Monday Morning Coffee Emporium.
Monday morning - never anyone's strongest time, hence the quietness of any Monday Morning Coffee Emporium that takes place before 4pm.
Who would like an email reminder when there's a coffee-related post?

Or should I just set up the Monday Morning Coffee Ordering service on Friday Evening?

In other news, Miss TequilaMockingBird has brought my attention to yet more weblog awards, based in the US this time and purporting to be international. According to the Sardonic Latin-spirit related Avian, however, there's a strong Texan bias.

Go and do your global duty - pull the averages away from the Lone Star State, vote for your favourite weblogs from all over the world, vote for the stars, vote for the underdogs, vote for, well, me obviously.

But seriously, if it's 'By Bloggers for bloggers' (as the runner appears to have tried to set it up), then it would be nice if we all pootled over there to show our appreciation for those who we admire. Naturally most of my nominations came off my blogroll, and to prevent emnity, hostilities or the launching of ICBMs, I won't be too specific.

But, by my watch (which is of the rather limited 'two hands and some numbers' variety) we've only got until 3am Tuesday 13th January in UK time, or 10pm Monday the 12th, US Eastern Standard Time.

So off you pop.

Snug and Intimate Coffee Gig

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Well, it's a small, intimate starting group for Monday Morning Beverages today...there'd be more of us, but if I leave it much later than midday the whole thing becomes a bit farcical.

First up is Dave, who is gearing up for an unpleasant meeting this afternoon and needs a bit of Betelgeusian courage (as opposed to the Dutch kind). Providing this, the machine in the Café of your very dreams has grown a bizarre section off to one side a bit, containing something that reminds me of a teleport in the better class of TV sci-fi series.

There's a drink in there, and it is purple and has an olive bobbing around in between the larger bubbles, so I'm going to assume it's the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster he ordered. No way I'm testing it to find out, either.

The more mundanely coffee-related sections of the Prime Percolator has also provided a single espresso for a chaser, but has prepared much more just in case Dave loses consciousness after his first drink.

The supremely elegant Green Fairy recieves a steaming Ribena, and, despite the fact it's never done this before, the coffee machine has also produced a pair of slippers so fluffy that they have earthing strips down the back to get rid of the static before it builds up to hair-raising proportions. Enjoy...

Now. This compartment at the side of the Finest Filter opens to reveal the kind of syringe I last saw in an episode of 'All Creatures Great and Small'...I think James Herriot was doing something to a horse with it.

Anyway, it's top-full of dark and lustreful espresso, and is earmarked for Mr. Porny Boy. I'm not sure where you're going to be able to fit the end of that needle, but good luck with it. There's a darkened corner over in that area of the Café, so...er, yes.

And just to make up the numbers, I'm going to roll through a carafe of Java, pull up a sofa and have a chat with you all, because business is slow and there's nothing I'd like more to be curled up watching the static coruscating across Miss Fairy's slippers, watching the tweety birds circling Dave's head as he gets further down his Gargle blaster, and trying to ignore the moaning from the darkened corner of the shop.

If anyone else wants something, I'm sure I'll be able to tear myself away. Enjoy your drinks, people.

Café des Rêves

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Morning All.

Coffees, teas, milk infusions...muffins, gitchoor luvverly muffins 'ere...

Orders and reasons, if you have them (or need them, to be honest, on a Monday like this one), please!

Now I've put the title, I've had an horrific flashback to French Lessons at school. It was some sort of cheesy French 'soap' where all the kids spoke very slowly and very clearly...

Okay.
We need coffee...and it'll be served at about 12 midday.

Orders please.

Number Three Is Now Urgent

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I would like to make an alteration to my 2004 To Do List, if I may;

3. Move your goddamned ass out of Hatfield bloody *NOW*

Thank you.

Someone else was shot in the Town Centre last night.
Correction:Not shot. Stabbed apparently.

Why the personal drama? Don't I know crime happens all the time?

Well, because there's only about twenty shops in Hatfield...it's not exactly a bustling metropolis, but there've been two shop shootings in the last three months, and they found a shallow grave round here the other day.
Add to this the fact that there are thirteen burnt out cars and five motorcycles within five minutes walk of my house, and you'll get closer to where I am at the moment.

I'm from the Isle of Wight.
The most dramatic thing that happens round my way is a little lighthearted smuggling and grannies growing pot in their back gardens. Add to this the fact that a woman throwing her pet iguana at a bouncer (for not letting her into the pub with it) made front page news back home, and that my all-time favourite headline for the local paper is 'Accident-prone horse falls in cesspit', you can see that this is all a bit too different from back home.

I miss Craggy Island.

The Battle of Who Could Care Less

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Feeling cheery today.

1. It's Friday
2. I'm kicking ass across the board
3. I've already written the final couple of lines of my new project. (The rest has yet to be filled in) They are;

And they were both right.
For there are no happy endings, not for those who seek them, nor for those who make them.

And while they may seem a bit odd, especially that bit about happy endings, then, well, that's all part of the project.
*rubs hands together*
I can't wait to get to work...so much so that the word 'work' doesn't seem to fit.

Damn I feel good today.

The title? Oh, well, I just have that song in my head. Which is another reason to be happy because it is a great song, and beats the hell out of the Stuck-In-Head song from yesterday, which was the theme tune to 'The Gummi Bears'.

Happy weekending, peoples of Earth...

Thursday, Thursday

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Someone once said to me that Wednesday was the best day of the week - at that point you're over the 'hump' (her words) and it's all downhill to the weekend.

My reply was 'Hello! Saturday and Sunday? No?'

Often when my Mum plays the type of lottery scratchcard where three of the same amount wins that prize, she reveals two lots of two amounts before she's finished. Say, two £7 and two £30,000 amounts. She pauses before finishing the card and says, 'Ooh, seven pounds would be nice.'

Every time (I confess I may sound annoying) I say 'Er, I'll plump for the thirty grand, if that's okay.'

I don't like it when people feel that they should limit their hopes for whatever reason.

It is absolutely pissing it down today, and I got soaked on the way to work.
On that note, tomorrow I hope to be in the Bahamas.

What?

As an aside

I've linked to his site before, and to be perfectly honest I rather unfortunately haven't seen or spoken to him in ages, but if you want to see some top notch photography, then you should head over to my uncle's site; Chris Chapman Photography.
He lives and works in the Dartmoor area, and his pictures of the people and landscapes over the last 25 years are something else. Have a good look around the galleries and everything - there are some really amazing photos in there...

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