Saturday, July 30, 2005

I Haven't Got A Hat

This is the first time I've been to London since the bomb things. The only noticeable difference is that half the underground lines are closed, and the bins on the train down from Derby were all taped shut with a single strip of red sticky-tape. This doesn't strike me as the kind of thing that would put off a determined bomber. If anything, wouldn't it make life easier for them? All they have to do is peel off the tape, put the bomb in the bin and seal it again. Not only does this security measure present bombers with the unheard-of sight of a train bin not full to overflowing with rubbish, but it makes it less likely that anyone will empty it before the bomb's set to go off.

Still, nobody blew up my train, so I'm here at the net cafe in Victoria, passing the time until I'm meeting Jenny. I've got a small bottle of bacardi and a large coke in my bag, symbolic of my not wanting to repeat the last time I got drunk in Jenny's company and made a complete exhibition of myself. She didn't mind, of course, because she's lovely like that, but I do feel like when I get drunk I should be telling her how lovely she is, rather than forcing her to be on the receiving end of some lengthy whining about how nobody loves me.

Anyway, I want to be in a reasonably fit state tomorrow, because I'm meeting journalist Josh tomorrow lunchtime, also at Victoria, for an interview. God only knows what he's going to ask me, because I've already given him my full life story in graphic detail twice now; once over the phone and then again in person in Darmstadt, with him scribbling down my every utterance, word-for-word and longhand, in a little black notebook. This book he's writing is either going to be the longest work in history, or composed entirely of my reminiscences about everything even vaguely connected with memory competitions.

Also in my bag is my hat, which brings me back to the subject header. Frankly, I'm tired of it. It looks silly, it's uncomfortable, and I'd rather not wear it. I think I look quite cool otherwise - white jeans, white t-shirt, black leather jacket, and the bald head and beard make me look sufficiently eccentric without any need for headgear. But how do I get rid of the thing? I can't just stop wearing it - it's such an inextricable part of my personality. I can see it's going to take some kind of big public announcement, involving comedy sketches, musical numbers and a closing song-and-dance routine to the title number from the 1935 cartoon I named this post after. Or maybe I could just say it blew away in a tornado.

Anyway, time to put the stupid thing on and go and meet Jenny. I'll ask her advice on the subject. And tomorrow I'll find the time to go to every comic shop in London and track down a copy of GLA #4 if it kills me.

Friday, July 29, 2005

I think I'm poorly

I also think the universe is laughing at me. When I took a week off in February and went to Las Vegas I got the flu and spent most of the time in bed. Today I woke up feeling tonsilitissy and I'm definitely feeling sick now, although it might just be a case of eating too much.

I'm not normally ill, though. In the six and a half years I was working at Adams I only had one genuine day off sick, and that was with an injury rather than an illness. I had several other days off here and there, but that was just when I couldn't be bothered to get out of bed. But I've had one genuine day off sick while I've been with Parkhouse, plus the flu. Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I should register with a GP (although I don't think that's going to happen - not only does this process involve talking to people, there's also a chance of being poked, prodded and diagnosed by people, none of which are things that I enjoy).

Anyway, this is my excuse for doing no memory training today. Well, that's not entirely fair, I did start an hour numbers session, and abandoned it after eleven minutes when my mind was wandering too much. But it started well, and leaves me vaguely hopeful of getting back on track with a bit more time. Which, of course, I don't have.

But having given up on that, I went to Nottingham only to find that all three comic shops there have also sold out of GLA #4. Okay, it's good, but this is just silly. The retailers should have noticed how popular it was, and increased their orders accordingly. Still, I got the new Ultimates, which is great, and Runaways, which is also great, so I'm not complaining. I'll see if London can be any more use tomorrow, assuming I'm not bed-ridden.

Having come back to Derby, I went to Burger King for lunch, deciding that this was a special occasion (stretching the definition a tiny bit there, but hey, I'm the one who made these arbitrary rules about what I allow myself to eat, so I can bend them if I want). Having got my XL bacon double cheeseburger meal (large), I went over to get a straw and some salt, but a member of staff who was hanging around stood in front of them and smilingly held the bin open for me. Presumably he sees a lot of people who buy meals and then immediately throw them away.

I wouldn't normally write about that kind of thing, but it seemed like something out of the book I bought in Nottingham today - "Incompetence", by Rob Grant. I certainly wasn't planning on buying a book, but I threw my whole money-saving thing completely out of the window today. Special occasion, you see. Anyway, I picked it up out of curiosity and had read the first two chapters before I could tear myself away, so I had to get it. It's hilarious.

I came home and half-heartedly shuffled a couple of packs of cards, but I could tell I wasn't in the mood, so didn't go any further. I contemplated going to Sheffield in my continuing quest for GLA #4, but got to the station just as a train was leaving, so didn't bother. If I don't find a copy tomorrow, I'll be irritated in the extreme.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


I just won an othello tournament on VOG. It mainly involved a lot of lucky swindles and wins despite playing fairly badly, but hey.

Anyway, I've got the day off tomorrow. While playing othello and watching the Simpsons, I've been picking up all my packs of cards that fell on the floor months ago, and sorting them out. I left 20 packs in the hotel in Darmstadt because I couldn't fit everything in my bag with the trophy, but I've still got just over 40 useable packs left. Thank you Andi Bell for forcing me to take dozens more than I needed or wanted from Weinheim last year!

Tomorrow, hopefully, I'll get a practice in for hour numbers, hour cards and binary. Then the plan is to do the same on Monday. This seems a bit unlikely, knowing me as I do, but that's the plan. I might also go to Nottingham and pick up those comics I couldn't get last week, along with this week's crop. Which I think includes Runaways and some other good ones, but I can't remember.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Ultimate annoyance

I went out for lunch yesterday specifically in order to buy the comics I hadn't been able to get at the weekend, only to find that Forbidden Planet was sold out of both Ultimates and GLA. This irks me a bit.

I was going to write about something else tonight, but I can't remember what it was. Maybe I'll remember later.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Phones - who needs them?

In the middle of eating my dinner and watching cartoons tonight, I had a phone call from my mother, of all people. This being the first time we've spoken in the best part of three years, as well as the first time she's ever phoned me for any reason, you'd think it would be the end of the world or something, but it turns out she was after the number for my brother's new flat (and hung up sharpish when I told her I hadn't got it).

It's news to me that he had a new flat, but hey, nobody tells me anything. Anyway, immediately after that, I got another phone call from RNIB, asking me to sell raffle tickets. Where they got my name, number and address I don't know, because I'm pretty sure I haven't done this kind of thing for them before, and certainly not while I've been living in my new place. But I said yes, because I can't say no to people on the phone, which is why I try not to use them. And it's in a good cause, anyway. Maybe I'll sell them to everyone at the WMC and MSO, you know, just to make myself more popular.

Anyway, after finally finishing my spaghetti bolognese, I called Grandma to see what the heck is going on. Turns out that not only did J move out all of a sudden yesterday, but she's got a new place in Wyndham Court, the old folks' home. All of which is great, although it does mean I'll be volunteering to help move lots of things from one flat to another when I should be training for the WMC in two-and-a-bit weeks.

Oh well, such is life. I could just unplug the phone and become a hermit instead, but that would be a lot more boring...

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Half-Blood Prince

I'd like to comment on it without spoiling the ending for anyone who hasn't read it yet, but I can't really. So consider this a warning to stop reading now if you want to read the book without any hint of what happens.

But much as I loved this one, just as much as the previous five, I worry about the setup for the final Harry Potter book. I've read and watched a lot of great stories about characters who juggle ordinary lives and fantastic adventures, and while the adventures are what thrill the reader, it's the ordinary lives that make the story compelling, readable and enjoyable. And the end of HP and the HBP sets the stage for a story without Harry's ordinary life, and just a battle to the death with the forces of darkness.

I'm sure I'm wrong, of course, because I don't think it's possible for J K Rowling to write a bad book, so I'll just wait and see. But I am a bit concerned.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The After Party

"It's the first trophy I've ever won!" whispered Ed next to me on the stage, proudly examining his prize for being the second-best of the two international competitors.

I stole the show, though, with my slightly less embarrassing best-international-entrant prizes - receiving in turn a certificate, a large box of milk-related goodies*, T-shirt and trophy, I balanced them all in a big stack in one hand to shake hands with the last prize-presenter, dropped the trophy lid on the floor, picked it up, staggered to the back of the stage, put the stack down on a table, knocked a glass of water over Ramon Campayo's laptop, went to mop it up with the T-shirt, tripped over a speaker and nearly went flat on my face. Charlie Chaplin has nothing on me.

But the show was great - we were entertained by backwards-talker Bernhard Wolff and magician Timothy Something**, which was fun even with a limited grasp of German (although journalist Josh, who doesn't know any German at all, was a bit lost). We need a show like that at the world championships in Britain, if only to make a few people pay attention to it for once.

Later, in the bar, Christian Schmitt beat me at chess - not normally a surprise given how terrible I am at the game, but worthy of note for the way that he did it without looking at the board, relying on hearing the moves and picturing the game position in his head. Another thing I'd love to learn how to do, but since I'm such a bad player it wouldn't be very impressive even if I could do it. Now, blindfold Othello, that might be something to learn. Put that on the list of skills to develop***.

Back home in cold, rainy England, and back to work tomorrow. I feel more like sleeping for a day or two, to be honest, but I need to go in if only to book some holidays and cancel the three days between WMC and MSO that were meant to be for rehearsing pi****. Really fired up about the WMC now, which is great - for most of the last year I've been feeling like I was never going to be that motivated about it (or anything else) again.

* The German equivalent of the Milk Marketing Board were sponsoring the event. I'm wearing a 'Milch' T-Shirt right now, and I've got another one proclaiming that I stand on milk girls, or something along those lines.

**Yes, I'm the World Memory Champion and I can never remember people's names. Want to make something of it?

***Backwards-talking has also been added to the list after that show. I'd love to be able to do that.

****Long story. Check out the Yahoo group 'memorysports' for the details if you really want to know, or I might talk about it a bit more here some time.