Tuesday, February 28, 2006 4:27:50 PM
Noticed this morning that Dennis Weaver has died.
Well, there you go.
I've been yodelling the phrase "there you go" in a poor imitation of Weaver's catch-phrase from the McCloud series for nigh on 20 years now. Maybe more. It's part of a litany of phrases that I use on a regular basis in an attempt to confuse my kids.
Here are some more.
I didn't get where I am today by being somewhere else
T'ings is looking pretty bad at de moment but dere does seem to be some hope of a constitutional settlement
Dougie Fresh you're on.
Eeeeeeeeeehhhhhhmmmmmm. (In the style of Scouse chanteuse, Sonia)
Take two (whatevers) in to the shower?
Tricky chap, Johnny (whatever)
Fat and stupid is no way to go through life, son.
I'm a good little doggie. I'm a good little dog.
Be wewy, wewy quiet.
Dar-ren! Get down!
Very much so, I fancy. (In the style of John Motson).
A cliche for almost every occasion, there, I think you'll find ("I think you'll find" is itself a cliche that I picked up from Mr. Oakes.) I've not even included my board gaming cliches, most of which are inspired by the Who.
Trading game: "I call that a bargain." or "Give me a hundred. I won't take under."
Business game: "Meet the new boss."
Any game: "Let's see action."
I think I inherited this propensity to speak gibberish from my father. In my youth his stock phrases were "I must go to Moscow" and the even more mystifying "Which switch is the right switch to Ipswich?". He was also fond of saying to my clumsy brother, "You had all the floor to tread on and you had to choose my feet", which may not make perfect grammatical sense but it gets the message across.
On the other hand, I can't remember any stock phrases from my mum except her habit of periodically saying "Anyway, that's that", throughout one of her marathon two hour phone calls. I think she had a list of things for each phone call that she had to talk about and, mentally at least, she liked to tick them off as she completed them.
Gibberish must be a male thing, I guess.
Monday, February 27, 2006 7:06:13 PM
Mrs. Fiendish often comes up with useful new words, unintentionally. I rarely remember them, unfortunately. The only ones I can think of are "carbonated paper" (fizzy paper?), and wantant (a sort of rampant wantoness). However, she did come up with a good one yesterday so I am writing it down whilst I remember it: "eloguent" is a mixture of eloquence and elegance, and she used it to describe my writing style - presumably in mocking terms.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006 12:01:57 PM
So, anyway, on the day before my two eldest sons were having the bejasus kicked out of them in two separate incidents in the Enfield environs, we had a little life-threatening incident at our house involving my father.
My Dad is 80-years old and, like a lot of people of that age, is a bit “muzzy headed” (as he terms it). Put politely, he is easily confused. He’s also living on his own for the first time in his life, so he spends a lot of time round our house, making the 90 minute trip by bus (two buses, in fact) from Barkingside to Enfield every day to spend about an hour with us (long enough for a meal and a cup of coffee) before he makes the 90 minute trip back again. I think it is the company of bus travellers he likes, rather than the company of his family.
At week-ends, he spends all of Saturday and most of Sunday with us, so when he visits on a Friday it makes sense for him to sleep over in what my wife insists on calling “the study” – it’s actually a room that was formerly a garage on the side of the house. On this particular Friday, my Dad had got up in the middle of the night for a pee (a not uncommon occurrence) and had, presumably, missed the target (ditto) and as a result got his socks wet.
He has a bit of history with this. Once, when he stayed at my brother’s house, he’d got his socks wet in the middle of the night, decided to rinse them out and, in the absence of any radiators operating in the middle of the night, dried his socks out on the bulb in a lamp. The result was the sock started smouldering, the smoke alarm went off, and everyone in the house got an unexpectedly early wake-up call.
Singe your pants
Unfortunately, “once bitten, twice shy” does not always apply with old folk whose short term memory is failing. Dad repeated the trick at our house, only this time the smouldering sock fell on to a foam mattress, which proceeded to catch fire. Whether it was the dark, or the fact that the room quickly filled with thick smoke, I don’t know, but Dad didn’t seem to pick up on the danger of the situation and was happily wandering off to the kitchen (to get some water to put out the fire? Who knows?) whilst the smoke alarm was doing its stuff. Mrs. Fiendish, who can be woken by the sound of a moth whispering in the next county, was first to be woken by the sound of the smoke alarm, and quickly got everyone out of bed.
The last time we had a fire (kids playing with matches in the bedroom), she’d bravely gone in to the room (while I cowered in the hall) and thrown all the burning materials out the window into the back garden and prevented too much damage, but on this occasion the smoke was too thick and acrid even for Wonder Woman, so she closed the door, put a wet towel along the bottom of the door, and shepherded everyone outside whilst I called the fire brigade.
We live about a mile from the fire station and our saviours were there in less than 5 minutes, which was pretty handy as I was getting cold sitting in the car with just an overcoat on over my underpants. With the assistance of breathing apparatus they put the fire out, trampled on a few of my CDs (mostly Rod Stewart and Supergrass plus 10cc and Sly and the Family Stone – who are you calling anal?) in the process, and then did the inquest. They were a bit sceptical at first about my suggestion that the fire had been caused by a sock being placed on a light bulb, but sure enough, that was the cause.
Still, no one was injured or killed. My games collection is a bit smoky and some of my CDs have picked up water damage. The study is a total mess and smells like a students’ smoking lounge but insurance will cover the cost of redecorating and we were contemplating redecorating it anyway!
It was, however, a wake-up call, in both senses of the phrase, in terms of my Dad’s deteriorating condition. We were hoping to move him to a retirement flat and pay for a carer to pop in for 2 or 3 hours each day to ensure he takes his medicines, has something to eat and generally looks after himself, but it is clear now that he needs full time care. It may be that 99.99% of the time he is perfectly capable of looking after himself but the 0.01% of the time when he does something stupid could possibly be fatal; usually his daft actions take the form of heating up a cold cup of tea by pouring the contents of the cup into the kettle, or ineptly washing up his plate and cutlery (despite the fact we have a dishwasher and tell him not to wash up), but we can’t take the risk that he’ll take it into his head to replace the light bulbs in his house or stick a tin of peaches in the microwave, in which case the potential for a serious incident is quite high.
So, now we’ve finally sold the house, negotiated with the mad woman he lived with for 30 years who jointly owned the house, emptied the house of all the junk the mad woman left behind (she’s naffed off to Australia whilst the house sale is going through), sorted out power of attorney over my Dad’s affairs, told the estate agents we won’t, after all, be buying the retirement flat we/he had agreed to buy, baby-sat my Dad every evening and week-end, we are now in the process of finding him a care home.
Two week-ends ago, we looked at the cheaper, local options. One of the stipulations in the enduring power of attorney agreement is that we (my brother, my sister and/or I) can only spend his money on things which he, himself would ordinarily spend things on; this makes life a bit tricky, as ordinarily my Dad would not spend a penny on anything except foreign holidays. We are talking about a man who cancelled Meals on Wheels (cost: £2.50 a day for a hot meal plus pudding) because he would prefer to go to Tesco’s and get whatever ready-made microwave meal was on special offer for £1.99 (pudding not included).
“Dad, do you actually like chicken vindaloo?”
“No, but it was on special offer.”
“Oh, that would explain the Heinz baby-food jars in the cupboard, then.”
So, that’s why we were looking at the cheaper options. To be honest, my Dad would rather walk the streets and live in a septic tank than spend money on care; it’s not just the money – OK, it’s almost entirely the money, because there is a chance that his savings will run out if he lives to be 217 (I keep trying to tell him that ten bob notes are no longer legal tender) – but it’s also the principle of the thing. As a former member of the Communist Party and someone who fought for his country in World War II, he is of the opinion that the government should pay for his care, and, of course, if he had been a drunken, gambling spendthrift, they would pay for his care, but unfortunately he is the sort of man who keeps threadbare clothes “because they will be handy to wear when I am doing the gardening” even though he won’t be doing any gardening in his new abode. Seeing as he often comes round our house wearing these “gardening clothes”, he seems to be of the opinion that London is one big garden.
So, although it is more than our lives are worth to tell him he’ll have to pay “rent” in his new care home, we felt obliged to honour the spirit of the power of attorney agreement and look at the sort of cheap and nasty rest homes he himself would probably choose if he knew he was paying for the care.
And, my god, they were horrible. Absolutely soul-destroyingly horrible. Like hospital wards. Full of comatose or permanently bewildered folks sitting around, waiting to die. I suppose I should not have been surprised, really, but I was, in a way. My Dad may have the memory retention of a Sinclair ZX80 but he’s active and can hold a conversation, even if it is the same one he held 5 minutes ago.
The staff in all these places all seemed personable enough, though one does hear dark stories of incapable but stubborn inmates being bullied or drugged into being compliant, but I just could not bring myself to consign my Dad to one of these places for the rest of his life. So, we then explored the Harrods end of the care-home market. Some of these don’t refer to themselves as care homes – they call themselves hotels. Residents are welcome to come and go as they please, have guests visit, get pissed in the bar, order room service, enjoy the cabaret acts – the whole shebang. Given the greying of the hobby, I can see the whole postal gaming community ending up in one of these places and being happier than pigs in shit. The major difference between these places and a hotel is that they have trained nursing staff on hand 24 hours a day and all the residents are over 60 (though I have been to some hotels where this is the case). We found two places we liked and settled on the one more local to us in a nice part of town; apparently, the famous Arsenal diver Reyes lives down the same street.
A long and stressful period in my Dad’s life – and ours – appeared to be coming to an end. There was just one more twist in the tale. My sister returned from a 6-week spell sorting out her holiday home in Spain and suggested at the last minute that Dad could go and live with her in the Essex wilderness. My sister actually works in retirement homes and deals with the elderly, so this is not such a daft idea. However, she does live in the sort of place that workers in the Siberian salt mines would think twice about moving to, so I personally thought it extremely unlikely that Dad would agree to it, as he likes to be close to public transport so he can get from A to B, albeit via F, K, F again, Q and Z. My brother was also in favour of Dad being looked after by one of the family, and I was a bit worried that Dad would be railroaded into an option he didn’t much fancy.
Are you ready for the country?
I was all prepared for a long and possibly heated discussion at the family meeting to discuss Dad’s future but in the end it was all settled in 30 seconds in the kitchen.
Sister: “Do you think Dad would come and live with us?”
Me: “Not really, no; but you’ll have to ask Dad.”
Sister: “Dad, do you want to come and live with us?”
Dad: “Not really, no.”
So, that was the end of Plan L, back to plan K. Of course there was a bit more to it than that, but even the prospect of saving thousands of pounds a year was not enough to persuade my famously miserly Dad to go and live in the Essex countryside.
Coda - this bit written some 10 days after the above
Yesterday, my Dad moved into the home. On the first day, to my knowledge, he played Scrabble, had a dance (there is a fabulously favourable female to male ratio in these homes) and chatted up all the female staff. The management of the home recommend that we don’t visit him for the first few weeks so as to allow him to get used to his new home and, in effect, let it dawn on him that this will be his home from now on. Not visiting him is going to be tough. We’ve seen him almost every day for the last 9 months and though his range of conversational phrases is barely larger than that of the average “pull the string and hear me talk” doll and though there are dozens of other things we’d rather be doing than sitting down with him watching TV, we’ll miss him and, more importantly, I think he will miss us.
Friday, February 3, 2006 4:18:35 PM
It’s been a while since my last blog entry but life has been incredibly hectic of late, and either I have not had the time to write something or I have just not been in the mood.
This is one of the ironies of doing a blog. When you have time to update the damn thing it is probably because you are bored and have nothing worth writing about. When you are leading a full and interesting life, you don’t have time to update the blog.
So, back to the ancient Chinese proverb: “May you live in interesting times”. So far, 2006 has been “interesting” but not enjoyable. In fact, I’d go so far to say that with barely one month of the year gone by that 2006 already counts as the second worst year of my life thus far: the worst year was when my mother suffered her first stroke. This time round, the stress is being caused by the accelerating mental deterioration of my father.
Parents, eh? Who’d have ‘em?
The mean streets of Enfield
The cause of family stress has not all been from further up the family tree; the kids have been providing their fair share of worries. Whether some of these behavioural incidents have been caused by our enforced neglect of the children as we concentrate heavily on looking after my father, I don’t know. If I did know, or even presumed to know, I am sure there would be a book deal or television show involved somewhere. Something along the lines of “Would it be so bad if you pushed your father into the path of the oncoming train?” would be a suitably sensationalist title – not that I have ever considered doing such a thing. Well, not seriously. Well, certainly not for longer than a second. Two seconds at most.
Don’t worry, I am only kidding. I don’t deny hypothesising about the day when my Dad is no longer with us, but Mrs. Fiendish and I have invested so much time in looking after the old boy in recent months that we’d consider it rather ungrateful were he to snuff it now.
The kids are (not) all right
As for the kids; well, the eldest is doing GCSE’s and is pursuing the age-old strategy of revising for his exams by playing computer games every spare moment that he has at home. Number two son is evidencing all the signs of a very bright kid who is easily bored. Number three son is (touch wood) amazingly low maintenance at the moment, but then he is pre-teen and the hormones haven’t kicked in yet.
Talking of kicking ….
Three week-ends back, number one son returned home from his Saturday afternoon stint at Enfield market with a black eye. I am not entirely clear what happened, because he is very much from the Vicky Pollard “Yeah, but … no, but …” school of rambling irrelevant explanations, but so far as I can ascertain he had been set upon by a gang of youths with whom he had had a disagreement on a previous Saturday. He was with a girl friend, and these youths on the other side of the street were paying them a lot of attention, and he jokingly suggested to his girl friend that they fancied her. He soon found out different when they surrounded him, forced him to the floor and gave him a good kicking.
The girl friend, God bless her, rescued him in the time honoured fashion of screeching like a harpy and relying on the reluctance (one hopes) of teenaged boys to hit a girl, especially a good looking one.
They repaired to her house and patched him up a bit. On his way home, he found one of the gang alone, and proceeded to try and make a citizen’s arrest. This, according to Jack, consisted of him giving chase whilst on the phone to Edmonton police station. “We’ll be with you in 30 minutes, sir. Where exactly are you? I see. But in your last phone call you said you were in Southbury Road. I see. And every time you trip this lad up and sit on his chest so you can make a phone call to us, he makes his escape, does he?”
I was just getting the full story from number one son when the phone rang. “Good afternoon, sir. It is Police Constable Whatever from Chingford Bridge police station here. We have your son here.”
Now, one of two things are likely to go through a father’s mind when he gets a phone call like this.
1.Oh my God, what’s happened to him?
2.Oh crikey, what’s he done now?
I'm in with the in (trouble) crowd
I must admit, I went for option 2, mainly because number two son is (according to number one son) hanging out with the “cool kids” in his year (i.e. thugs who don’t much see the point of school). Of course, this explanation is just what the parent wants to hear. Our son could not possibly be a delinquent, he must have been led astray by those horrible kids whose parents don’t eat brown bread/brown rice/ fresh fish/ sun-dried tomatoes (delete as applicable).
As it turns out, he and his friend had been set upon in Chingford by a gang of youths who proceeded to give him a good kicking until he surrendered his mobile phone.
Bloody mobile phones
Has street crime become more prevalent because kids are not as law abiding as they were in our day, or is it because in our day there was nothing really worth nicking? Mug an 11 year old today and chances are you’ll get a mobile phone and maybe an MP3 player, plus some expensive trainers and possibly a gold chain. Mug an 11 year old in the late sixties and you’d probably get some conkers, some Soccer Stars stamps, and a half-eaten Curly-Wurly.
Continuing the Daily Mail theme, our kids have had two bikes stolen by persons who have simply pushed our kid off his bike and then made off with the bike. We knew who they are, and where they lived, but unless we could catch them in possession of the stolen bike, there was little we could do about the incidents, according to the police. In the end, in the case of one bike theft, we "stole" back the bike when “our side” came across the thief in a situation where he was outnumbered.
This is the sound of the suburbs
All of this does not paint a pretty picture of Enfield, an otherwise pretty normal, unassuming London suburb. Most of our peers live outside the M25 in the Cambridgeshire area. For the same money that we spent on our house they got a much bigger house, better schools, a safer environment, a much more expensive season ticket and the sort of night-life that a person in an iron-lung would find insufficient. It’s tempting to follow them and move to a village environment, and to hell with “easy access to London” – it’s not as if we have much opportunity to go out anyway. Unfortunately, wherever we move, it has got to be somewhere that my father can travel to easily; his other children are in Norfolk and North Essex in archetypal sleepy villages (think Soham, or Huntingdon in the Michael Ryan era – OK, perhaps not the best examples), and right now we are his only contact with the outside world.
That, however, is another story, and not a particularly joyous one, so we’ll save that for another day.
Thursday, January 19, 2006 3:30:46 PM
I am finding as I get older that I am becoming less tribal and more tolerant in my music tastes. By more tolerant, I mean less likely to ridicule mercilessly someone whose musical tastes are different to my own. Gone are the days of rushing to a school-friend’s house on a Tuesday lunch-time to listen to Johnnie Walker run down the top 5 singles and hoping all the while that Alice Cooper had somehow managed to keep that useless pile of kak, the Bay City Rollers, off the top slot. If people want to listen to music I consider a waste of time, then let them.
Mind you, if they do so in my company and force me to listen to music they have chosen, then I feel entitled to pass comment on it. With old friends, such comments can be pointed and pungent: "How many gloomy Nazi bands are there in Manchester, for heaven's sake?"
With relative strangers, one has to be a bit more circumspect. "Hmmm. I was never really into Elton John or the Bee Gees so the Scissor Sisters aren't really my cup of tea."
With Mrs. Fiendish I have to be more than circumspect. The poor woman has to listen to Ian McNabb day after day, and she can’t stand his voice, so I guess I can endure a bit of David Gray. I mean, I’ve got a lot of time for David Gray. He’s slogged his guts out to get where he is. His voice has a certain plaintive quality that is appealing in small doses and which would possibly be more appealing still if he mixed in the occasional uptempo track, instead of specialising in the sort of tracks Al Stewart rejected as being a bit too downbeat. The fact that his music makes me morose and suicidal is my problem, not his.
Having said all that, however, the other day Mrs. Fiendish gave James Blunt’s “Back to Bedlam” an airing and by track 3 I had to beg her to turn it off and put something more positive on, like Joy Division doing their extended 15-minute electro-workout of “Old Shep” or Leonard Cohen's "Slave Songs I Have Loved".
Jeez, what a self-pitying misery-guts he is! It would not be so bad if he weren’t very much from the Michael Bolton “massively over-emoting” school of singing but after two and a bit songs where every line suggested he was losing a pint of blood but trying to be terribly British about it all, I had had enough. And this was the fastest selling UK album of all time or some such? God help us.
(P.S. Please don’t show this article to Mrs. Fiendish!)
Thursday, January 12, 2006 6:38:46 PM
I went to a funeral yesterday.
We said goodbye to Uncle Len. He wasn’t actually my uncle. He was married to my mum’s cousin, and I have no idea if there is an official description of such a relationship, so Uncle Len he always was, and Uncle Len he shall always be.
January seems to be the month for funerals, of late, in my family. Last January it was Aunt Bertha. She really was my Aunt, and, yes, she really was called Bertha. My Dad’s called Alfred, so I wonder if my grandparents had some sort of Saxon fixation?
The eulogies were very different. Bertha’s daughter described how lively and caustic her mother was. One didn’t have to read too far between the lines to deduce that Bertha could be an awkward customer but she was fun to be around.
Len, on the other hand, was an amiable, placid, helpful, generous man. It’s not the done thing to talk ill of the dead and in Len’s case it would be practically impossible. I mean, for all I know, he had terrible taste in slippers, hummed out of tune whilst driving and chewed biscuits with his mouth open, but all I remember is a man with a twinkle in his eye, an enthusiasm for life and a deft ability to get on with just about anyone.
He had two sons. The elder is a little younger than my (elder) brother, and the younger is a year or two older than me. As we all lived in Hornchurch, we used to see a lot of each other, especially in the summer holidays. John, the elder brother, introduced me to the true purpose of horse racing (gambling) and tried, unsuccessfully, to convert me to the appeal of Tamla Motown at a time when I was listening exclusively to rock music and going for the “longest hair in the world” award. Paul, the younger brother, introduced me to numerous money making enterprises involving slot machines.
As an aside: I grew out of my rock fixation to embrace other forms of music, including Tamla Motown. For Christmas last year I bought Mrs. Fiendish two albums of Motown Chartbusters and a close examination of the sleeve notes of one of them (Big Hits and Hard to Find Classics Volume 4
) reveals the name of "cousin" John, who apparently is now such a recognised authority on Motown that the label consults him on track listings for their compilations. It is, by the way, an excellent compilation, that eschews the well-known and over-played Motown classics to concentrate on songs from lesser known artists.
Where was I?
Talking about funerals.
They are rather enjoyable, aren’t they? The loss of someone you love is a terrible thing, obviously, and especially harrowing for those closest to the deceased. Even so, there is comfort to be drawn from the ritual remembrance and the company of sympathetic friends and family. Unlike with many weddings, you don’t have that slightly uneasy "sizing up the other lot" period, before everyone gets too pissed to care that the bride’s aunt has eaten more than her fair share of tiger prawns and the groom’s brother took a mobile phone call during the best man’s speech. At a funeral, you are all the same family and, hopefully, any family feuds are forgotten for the day.
You meet up with people you may not have spoken to for twenty years and you realise that, apart from the fact that you are now talking about prostates and pensions rather than pubs and performers, your affinity with these people is unchanged.
Hell, if my brother did not have to drive back to Norfolk, we’d still be there gossiping with our “cousins”.
All of which makes it a bit odd that my mother hated funerals so much that when she died, she forbade anyone from attending hers. At the time she was scheduled to go in to the flames, I had just emerged from the Angel pub in City Road having downed a double whisky, and was on my way to Bunhill Cemetery for a few moments to myself. Only my brother and sister were there at the crematorium, because someone had to be there to pay the funeral directors. Oh, and my mum’s cousin Keith was there because he never did what my mum told him to do when she was alive, and he was blowed if he was going to start obeying her when she was dead. Even my mum’s father did not attend, although in his case, that might have been for the best.
The subject of my mum’s funeral was broached after we had committed Len to the ground. At the time, honouring my mother’s wishes seemed the right thing to do. However, none of her children, at that time, had had much experience of funerals. Like our mum, we believed they could only be gloomy, miserable affairs. It’s since dawned on us that, in all probability, we made the wrong decision. You shouldn’t deny people the opportunity to say goodbye to someone they loved. Funerals aren’t for the dead, they are for the living.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006 2:26:32 PM
Mrs. Fiendish and I had a row last week over a kitchen timer. For some reason, it reminded me of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand (the Arch-duke, not the band), which, according to my "O" level History, was the event that sparked WWI but which was not the actual cause.
Mrs. Fiendish came home from doing the shopping and noticed I had bought a kitchen timer - one of those gizmos that you wind up and which goes "ding" when it winds down to zero. I'd had one of those days when the phone keeps ringing every 5 minutes, and I was just looking forward to vegging out and not answering any more queries, when she asked me why I had bought it.
I explained that we'd recently ruined two pizzas through cooking them too long. "But we've got a timer on the oven," she said. This was not an unreasonable statement but caught me at a bad time; I was not in the mood to be challenged on the purchase of a three quid timer, so I suggested that she tried picking up the oven and taking it into the living room, and then compare that experience to picking up the timer and taking that into the living room.
"But I won't use it," she protested. At this point, the sensible thing to have done would have been to have shrugged my shoulders and said, "Oh, well, it was only three quid. I can use it the next time Adam Huby comes round to play games ...."
We'll burn that bridge when we come to it
Of course, I didn't do the sensible thing. I submitted burnt spaghetti as additional evidence of the urgent requirement to start using the timer. Of course, it wasn't I who had burnt the spaghetti, or the pizza, it was Mrs. Fiendish. That did it! She lost her temper, and shouted; I sulked and gave her the silent treatment. World War One kicked off, but the good news is it will all be over by Christmas.
Was that, the historian might ask, where the seeds of this domestic flare-up were sown? It was the first Christmas in three where Mrs. Fiendish did not have to spend the whole time up in her room studying for her Master's degree (which she passed in late 2005); it was also the first time in months where we did not have to look after my ailing father (of whom more anon). She had this romantic notion that the family would spend time doing things together. Ice skating at the Tower of London. Going to the theatre. Popping off to a European capital for a long week-end.
What actually happened was: she sat on the settee stuffing her face with confectionery she didn't really want to eat while the 4 boys in the house (me and my three sons) played on their computers. True, we did spend one afternoon shopping for a replacement engagement ring in Hatton Garden, but I quickly decided that a divorce would be cheaper and over more quickly. Afterwards we went to see "The Chronicles of Narnia", which might best be described as five go mad in a bad D&D adventure (even though, technically, there are only 4 frightfully nice children in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe").
On further review, however, I think we can safely discount Christmas as a cause of the kitchen timer flare-up. I'd rescued the situation somewhat by taking her dancing on New Year's Eve. Well, I say "dancing". She was dancing, I am not quite sure what I was doing. It might possibly be described as dancing as Mrs. Fiendish did comment "You do the same dance to every song" - a charge I utterly refute, by the way, especially as she made this comment after "Baggy Trousers", and I dance (in a bad way) totally differently to ska than I do (in a bad way) to Motown. Any fool could see that!
I find dancing an utterly miserable pastime. I would truly rather visit the dentist than go to a club. At least the pitch of the dentist's drill changes occasionally, and you get some decent conversation too, some times.
I must admit to a certain amount of schadenfreude (Emma's brother) when Mrs. Fiendish suffered a swollen knee in the days following our dancing escapade, though the doctor claims it is purely viral and nothing to do with cutting a rug too enthusiastically. However, I kept the schadenfreude under wraps, so we can discount that as a cause of the kitchen timer flare-up too.
No, I think we can safely ascribe the heightened tension to the house move.
Our house (not)
Not our house move, though one of those might be on the cards if one of our sons continues hurtling on the path towards expulsion from his school at the rate he is currently travelling. No, I am talking about my father's house move.
If you think moving house is stressful, try organising it for someone who you'd have misgivings about backing in a "best of five" memory contest against a goldfish.
Try doing it as part of a committee (my sister, brother and myself) who have differing ideas over what's best for my father.
Try doing it when your father is only the joint owner of his house, and the other joint-owner is on extremely bad terms with you.
So, that's why tempers were short. That's why I've not been blogging for a while. It's not that I haven't had spare time, it is just that I have not felt in the mood to do anything that requires too much mental effort. This week my father is in Devon with his youngest brother, so it has eased the pressure a bit. We've still got to sort out all his bank accounts, a new power of attorney, the solicitor, the sale of the house, the purchase of the retirement flat (or should we send him straight into a home? It's only a matter of time unless he dies first) and sort out social services in Enfield, but this is actually easier when he is not around, as we don't feel obliged to consult him. It's not that he's lost his marbles, merely that he can't remember where he put his marbles five minutes ago; when he finds his marbles again, he knows how to play with them. Oddly enough, he also has no trouble recollecting where he left his marbles in 1952.
Into each life some rain must fall. (Longfellow)
I've been remarkably lucky on the rainfall front. (Shortfella)
My life has mostly been one long drought. With the inestimable support of Mrs. Fiendish (we've kissed and made up) I'll get through this rainy spell.
I can stand a little rain. (Joe Cocker)
Tuesday, January 10, 2006 11:43:05 AM
Been a bit quiet on the blog front for reasons I will bore you with soon. In the meantime, I came across this article which I found interesting.
Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime. It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity. In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess. This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.
"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."
It's illegal to annoy. [/COLOR]
A new federal law states that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language. "Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called "Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy." To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section's other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for politicians to oppose the measure. The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16. There's an interesting side note. An earlier version that the House approved in September had radically different wording. It was reasonable by comparison, and criminalized only using an "interactive computer service" to cause someone "substantial emotional harm." That kind of prohibition might make sense. But why should merely annoying someone be illegal? There are perfectly legitimate reasons to set up a Web site or write something incendiary without telling everyone exactly who you are. Think about it: A woman fired by a manager who demanded sexual favors wants to blog about it without divulging her full name. An aspiring pundit hopes to set up the next Suck.com. A frustrated citizen wants to send e-mail describing corruption in local government without worrying about reprisals. In each of those three cases, someone's probably going to be annoyed. That's enough to make the action a crime. (The Justice Department won't file charges in every case, of course, but trusting prosecutorial discretion is hardly reassuring.) Clinton Fein, a San Francisco resident who runs the Annoy.com site, says a feature permitting visitors to send obnoxious and profane postcards through e-mail could be imperiled.
"Who decides what's annoying? That's the ultimate question," Fein said. He added: "If you send an annoying message via the United States Post Office, do you have to reveal your identity?" Fein once sued to overturn part of the Communications Decency Act that outlawed transmitting indecent material "with intent to annoy." But the courts ruled the law applied only to obscene material, so Annoy.com didn't have to worry. "I'm certainly not going to close the site down," Fein said on Friday. "I would fight it on First Amendment grounds." He's right. Our esteemed politicians can't seem to grasp this simple point, but the First Amendment protects our right to write something that annoys someone else. It even shields our right to do it anonymously. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas defended this principle magnificently in a 1995 case involving an Ohio woman who was punished for distributing anonymous political pamphlets. If President Bush truly believed in the principle of limited government (it is in his official bio), he'd realize that the law he signed cannot be squared with the Constitution he swore to uphold. And then he'd repeat what President Clinton did a decade ago when he felt compelled to sign a massive telecommunications law. Clinton realized that the section of the law punishing abortion-related material on the Internet was unconstitutional, and he directed the Justice Department not to enforce it. Bush has the chance to show his respect for what he calls Americans' personal freedoms. Now we'll see if the president rises to the occasion.
I can imagine our news management obsessed government being very interested in this idea but thankfully, our legislative process which, last I heard (back in the mid-seventies when I studied the British constitution) reviews bills on a clause by clause basis, would probably weed out the sort of "trojan horse" elements that American lawmakers seem to practise. I am often baffled by reports of a bill going through Congress which, for (spurious) example, supposedly seeks to address child-care issues but which also has a clause on oil consumption in residential homes.
Saturday, December 24, 2005 9:27:39 PM
Even though Jesus was probably born in late summer (otherwise it would have been a bit parky for the shepherds watching their flocks at night) and so now is an entirely inappropriate time to celebrate his birth, I am going to wish you all a merry Christmas. Not happy holidays or even season's greetings. As Noddy Holder memorably bellowed: It's Christmas![/FONT]
Any road up, if you are of the politically correct persuasion, you might enjoy this
from a Spurs message board.
Friday, December 23, 2005 1:36:49 PM
Christmas is nearly upon us and after being pretty good for 6 months or so in terms of not eating anything with too high a fat content I have, in the space of 5 days, wallowed in a cholesterol festival of junk snack food.
It's all very decent of the boss to buy every department £50 worth of pork pies, scotch eggs, cheese twists, crisps, wafer thin mints, mince pies, all butter shortbread, honey coated peanuts and, for the health fanatics among us, tangerines, but did she have to put our department's selection on the desk right next to mine?
Somebody from another team came over and said, "You've been sitting here watching all the gannets come over, who has been the greediest?".
It's me! Me, me, me, me, me. Burp.
Luckily, at home, Lin has not felt in a Christmassy mood. Or, as she put it, I don't fancy putting up all the decorations, cooking all the food, setting up the dining tables for the extended family, all for zero appreciation.
I think this is what is called a pointed comment.
So, at least at home, I have not had to resist the temptations of toffees, nuts and mince pies because Christmas hasn't started yet. We've got booze in the house but that's because the in-laws are down and having a fully stocked beer selection is one of the perks for my father-in-law for driving down to see us. Basically, his wife cleans our house from top to bottom, does all the ironing and cleaning up after our house-wrecking three sons, and he drinks the beer....
.... which is a totally unfair description of his contribution, to be fair. He does the cooking, washing up and general ferrying me about by car to pick up things that are too heavy for me to carry on the bus.
Another reason for Lin not feeling very Christmassy is the complete absence of community spirit among the male element of the Harrington household. Lin and I are both off work between Christmas and the New Year and she had this romantic notion that we'd spend time together as a family, going ice skating, seeing plays, visiting foreign cities, and it's clearly not going to happen.
Number one son is going to be spending all his time with his mates or holing up in his bedroom playing Linkin Park at ear-bleeding volume. When he's not doing that he'll be playing World of Warcraft or Halo II.
Number two son is going to be spending all his time with his mates loitering on street corners trying to work out what a hub-cap is because he feels obliged to steal one. When he's not doing that he'll be playing World of Warcraft.
Number three son is going to be spending all his time on his new computer playing World of Warcraft if Dad (that's me) can get his PC configured - a bit tricky when the little sod never leaves the house when you want him to!
The in-laws would prefer to sit and watch soap operas but, curiously, only ones based in the north of England (whence they hail).
I'll be promising myself I'll be catching up on all those things I meant to do throughout the year: write the rules to Metric Mile, install a new motherboard on to number 1 son's old PC, tidy up the loft, update my CV, overhaul the Fiendish web site, write a long overdue letter to Stuart and Angela Blower in Canada, sort out my Dad's financial affairs, sort out my financial affairs (I'm sure my brokers stiffed me for £3,000 when I closed down my ISA and yet I still can't be arsed to chase it up), transfer our home videos to DVD, watch the entire canon of Buster Keaton (lent to me by Peter Stanton), weed out my mail file in Opera and so on. And I will do all this after just one more session of X-Com: UFO Unknown.
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