Saturday, December 31, 2005

And a happy new year

I feel a bit embarrassed about staying at home tonight and not celebrating the new year in some kind of alcoholic way, with people around. Not that I normally go to a wild party on December 31st, but now that I'm writing about my everyday life on a daily basis, I feel like I'm under some kind of obligation to do interesting things every now and then, and I've probably not lived up to that standard just lately.

Also, because I spent the day before my birthday two and a half months ago looking back on the past year and wondering what the future will hold, I can't really do what everyone else is doing right now in their blogs. I'm just going to go and memorise some packs of cards and then watch the football. And I wonder why nobody reads this thing! Ah well, I hope anybody who does end up reading this has an absolutely wonderful 2006. Peace on earth and goodwill to all!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Goody Goody Yum Yum

I know I normally try to avoid writing about whatever's on telly at any given moment (otherwise it's too easy to use it as an excuse to run out of imagination and not think about what to put in this thing), but I'm watching something at the moment that makes me think "My god, this is awful!"

It should be good, too - it's a 90-minute special about the Goodies, the long-running, popular and very funny TV show from the seventies. They produced somewhere in the region of 40 hours of material over the course of the series, so there should be just about enough reasonably entertaining stuff to fill this special by itself. What they've done instead, though, is show a barrage of two-second clips that would have been funny if they were shown in the context of the 30 seconds either side of them, mingled with new footage of the Goodies themselves reminiscing in painfully unfunny style (worse even than the Two Ronnies in their recent series) and the usual list of celebrities all saying in identical words that they liked watching the Goodies when they were younger.

There isn't even enough of THAT to fill an hour and a half, so they've resorted to showing everything twice, padding out the show with "Later on, Rolf Harris will be saying this about the time the Goodies mentioned him on their show..."

Just repeat the flaming episodes, for crying out loud! It wasn't the highlight of British comedy history that everyone seems to be saying it was, but it was still usually funny enough to be worth watching, and every now and then it was hilarious. This, on the other hand, is rotten. I wonder if they're doing it on purpose, in line with the usual BBC policy of not repeating Goodies episodes? They're trying to convince people it wasn't worth watching in the first place.

Honestly, I'd stop watching it if only I could be bothered to get up and change the channel. I need to get over this laziness thing. I'm not planning anything for the new year, I'll do a whole load of memory training over the long weekend. Then, I suppose, I've got to go back to work. Ah well, could be worse.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

As Time Goes By

It really bugs me how quickly this year seems to have gone. I'm going to have to go to great lengths to make 2006 really drag. I should make the year as boring and uninspiring as possible, to make sure it feels like it goes on forever. I feel inspired to make resolutions, but I've already done that a couple of months ago on my birthday, so I won't. If I achieve too much next year, it won't leave anything for the rest of the world to accomplish.

I've just come 6th out of 23 in an othello tournament on Kurnik, mainly because of two walkovers against absent opponents, but it's still good. It drags my tournament rating up above 1200, which is cool, but not quite cool enough to get into the 1250+ tournaments they have from time to time. More hard work or sabotaging people's internet connections at crucial moments, whichever is most convenient, I think.

Meanwhile, I need to arrange a holiday - the US Memory Championship is on Saturday March 11th, and I've just about definitely decided to go there, just for a bit of competition practice. It's only a little competition, just five short disciplines, and I wouldn't be allowed to win it, because it's meant to be for US citizens only, they just let foreigners take part occasionally without their scores being counted. But it'd be nice to see New York properly. I've only ever had one flying visit, on my way by train from Boston to Washington back in 2000, and I don't think an hour and a half is enough time to do the city full justice.

Oh, and as a footnote to last night's entry, Everton lost 3-1, and West Brom beat Spurs. Hooray!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


The midweek football matches that haven't been called off because of the weather are kicking off round about now. I hope Boston's match was postponed in good time before the poor Carlisle players had to trek all the way down there - we've had a history of waiting till the last minute to call a game off in the past.

Anyway, at the moment I'm not as enthralled by Boston's hypothetical chance of making the playoffs as I am by the significantly more possible chance of Everton getting relegated. I do feel a bit guilty about hoping a team will fail so spectacularly, though. Admittedly it's normal to hope that one particular team will win any given game (very few people go to a football game hoping for a draw), and this does naturally extend to hoping that the other team will lose, but there seems something rather more malicious about desiring Everton to lose a sufficient number of games that they end up somewhere in the bottom three places of the league table at the end of the season.

On the other hand, three teams do have to finish in those positions every year, and thus drop down to the level below for the next year, and I think it's very much in the spirit of cheering for the underdog if I hope that the lesser teams manage to avoid the drop at the expense of Everton, a normally very successful team currently in their 52nd consecutive year in the top flight. So it's entirely reasonable of me to be wishing for them to follow up their two consecutive 4-0 thrashings with another heavy loss to Liverpool tonight.

They're currently 16th out of 20, coming up to the half-way point of the season, and with Sunderland dead last by a mile and seeming to have no hope at all of survival, and Birmingham also struggling so much that you wouldn't want to bet against them being relegated, we need Portsmouth and West Brom to rally sufficiently to drop Everton down to 18th. It could happen tonight, if they both win (unlikely, since they've both got difficult games), and it would certainly cheer me up unreasonably if it did. Of course, Everton's game on Saturday is against Sunderland, who ANYONE can beat, so they'd have to be even more terrible than they currently are to stay in the bottom three into the new year. Fingers crossed, though.

I've had a very lazy day today. Did a very little bit of memory training this morning, but not the several hours I was planning to put in while I'm off work with nothing better to do. I keep finding good reasons not to - along the lines of "Hey, Virgin Radio are playing their top 500 songs all this week, I'll have to listen to that..."

I think part of it is dietary. I'm no expert on what you should and shouldn't eat, but I'm pretty sure that stuffing yourself all day with leftover Christmas chocolate, biscuits and cake (home made cake, and delicious it is too) isn't good for you. Likewise, having no exercise whatsoever for the last week or so possibly contributes to my general lethargy. Never mind, I'll snap out of it tomorrow, do lots of healthy things, eat vegetables, run a marathon or two, that kind of thing. Or I might do the same again and sit around all day reading and listening to the radio. It's the holidays!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It's the longest possible time till more Christmas

But apart from that, everything is good in the world of Zoomy. I hope all my loyal readers had a great festive season too! Apologies for not posting here over the last few days, but as I mentioned, my brother was round, and although I've officially told him I've got a blog now, I think there's a fundamental difference between writing an online diary in the full knowledge that someone will read it, and writing an online diary while there's someone in the room with you who could look over your shoulder. But maybe I'm just weird.

Lots of snow today, on and off. There's quite a carpet of it out there now. Hopefully it'll carry on for the next week, making everything look shiny and pretty, and then go away before I have to go back to work next Tuesday. Hearing a lot of birds chirping outside this morning, I decided to put some food out for them, but after the Christmas gorging of the last few days, didn't have anything left in my food cupboard except some boil-in-the-bag rice. So I put an uncooked bagful out on the windowsill, then an hour or so later started worrying that if birds ate it, it would expand in their stomachs and kill them. Thinking that it was probably better to kill birds by neglect than by actively giving them lethal food, I took the rice back in and resolved to give them some bread when I get round to buying some tomorrow.

I have no idea whether these concerns of mine have any kind of medical validity. I'd look it up somewhere, but I can't be bothered. This also makes me feel guilty, but I suppose that's what the Christmas season is all about.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Target: 2006

I can't believe it's 2006 in a week and a bit. This year is to a lot of British people more or less my age even more significant than when 2000 came along with its unprecedented amount of noughts. Because next year will be the year that a whole generation look at the calendar and think "it surely can't really be 2006? That's the future! The distant future, with Galvatron and Unicron and Death's Head and all those lads!"

For the benefit of those readers who are too young or too foreign or had too deprived childhoods to know what I'm talking about, I should point you in the direction of Transformers: The Movie. The normal Transformers cartoon was set in the present day, you see, but for the big feature-length special cinema version, they did a story set twenty years in the future, with lots of new giant transforming robots, lots of the ones we knew and loved being killed (and only partly in order to force children to buy the new toys - there was genuine drama there too) and a really great soundtrack. Americans will tell you that the movie was set in 2005, so I should have been saying all this last year, but in the eighties there was a real time-lag for things like that to cross the Atlantic, and by the time we got the movie over here, it was 1986.

Also, Americans wouldn't understand about the British Transformers comic. In the USA, the cartoon series was super-cool, and the comic book was okay. Over here, the cartoon suffered from being chopped into five-minute instalments and shown on the otherwise unexciting Wide-Awake Club show on Saturday mornings. But the comic was something else.

Transformers were really, really, REALLY, popular, you see. People tend to forget that now, but EVERY child loved Transformers. So naturally, everyone wanted to read a Transformers comic. This left the publishers, Marvel UK, with a problem. They normally just reprinted American Marvel comics, and while there was an American Transformers comic, it was monthly, like comics all are over there. British kids couldn't be kept waiting a month for each issue, we were used to weekly comics. At first, Marvel UK compromised, and produced a fortnightly British comic, each issue containing half an American issue with some of the usual British filler (letters pages, reprints of three or four other American comics with vaguely robot themes, dull text pages about robots in the real world, one-page or half-page comic strips in the more traditional British style, competitions, fact files, readers' drawings, all that crap). That way as few as six pages of Transformers could still fill a whole comic. And kids would have bought (and indeed did buy) any old rubbish with that shiny logo on it.

But then the American comic stopped publishing for a couple of months after the first four issues. In desperation, Marvel UK decided to create their own Transformers material - it was that or put out a Transformers comic with no actual Transformers comic strip. And one of the writers they called on was a guy called Simon Furman. Furman's stuff was GOOD. Much better, in fact, than the 'real' American comic ever was. Rather than losing interest, the British comic-buying hordes got more into Transformers than ever. The British comic went weekly, dropped most of the backup strips and alternated between American issues chopped in half to spread over two weeks, and Simon Furman originals brilliantly fitting in between American stories so well that you couldn't see the join.

Which brings us to 1986. The American comic, for some mad reason, hadn't done anything to cash in on the movie's success, so Furman was told to come up with something. He came up with an epic called Target:2006, in which the characters from the movie travelled back in time and messed with the present-day characters. It was a masterpiece, and the talk of the playground every week (I was nine years old at the time). It led to a lot more stories set twenty years in the future (a lot easier than slotting them in between the American issues, which continued to drag down the quality of the UK comic every now and then), and fixed the year 2006 in the minds of British youngsters as 'the future'.

I just never thought it would actually happen. I could just about see the year 2000 coming to pass, I'd worked out how old I would be with an amazing BBC computer program that only took two or three days to type in out of a book, but I never considered that one day it would actually be 2006. I'm going to have to get hold of a time machine next year and go back to 1986 (for some reason you could only ever travel back in time exactly twenty years - apart from that time something went wrong with Unicron's time portal, but that's another story). I still just can't believe that it's going to be the future next year. My mind can't get to grips with the idea.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

No more teachers' dirty looks

Hooray for the holidays! Now all I have to do is buy cards and presents for everyone...

But enough about Christmas. On the yahoo memory group, there's some discussion about 'the Ben system', that technique for memorising numbers and playing cards that I dreamed up a couple of years ago. You might have noticed the name attached to it - it's a little-known fact that I was the one who thought it up, and played a large part in popularising it, because I did it in a very subtle kind of way. I've spent a lot of time in the past explaining at length that it's only a modification of the Major system, rather than a real system in its own right, and that in any case 'the Ben system' is a silly name and I wish people wouldn't use it. I tend to emphasise this so loudly and frequently that nobody could be left in any doubt that 'the Ben system' is the accepted name for it, even if they didn't know that beforehand.

I've got a bit of a reputation in memory circles for modesty, which I've acquired essentially by going around saying "I'm modest! Look at how modest I am!" Frankly, it's kind of surprising that it's worked as well as it has. There are very few things in the world I like more than having someone say I'm great, and any time I say otherwise it's only because I know it will prompt even more adulation and praise. Does this make me a terrible person? And should I care if it does?

Also, should I make a Christmas cake? I've got half the ingredients sitting aroundthe place. Or I could try my hand at a home-made Christmas pudding, so that I could get one without nuts in for a change. Nasty things. Or on the other hand, I could just do that extensive Christmas shopping like I really need to, and stop coming up with more exciting things to do. Why is it so difficult to find appropriate presents for relatives? Even cards are difficult - I have to find one that matches the person it's being sent to, because there's nothing worse than getting a generic Christmas card with a robin on it.

I had to check the cards I've received so far then, just to make sure there aren't any robins. I'd hate to seem ungrateful to the people who went out of their way to buy me a card. But it's okay, they're all good ones. Ah, the joy of receiving.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ooh, I could crush a grape!

Aargh! I just typed a long blog entry on my shiny new laptop and accidentally deleted it! Well, I'm not typing it again, I was already getting fed up with this keyboard. In fact, the last line was a decision to stick with the old computer for everyday computering, and just use this thing for CDs, DVDs (when I get round to buying some) and when I'm on the move, like the young go-getter I am.

The rest of the post revolved around saying that while I'm starting to like the new job, and could quite happily stay working there, I don't want to either commute or move to Burton, which seems like an insurmountable problem. None of the solutions I came up with are very practical, although becoming rich and famous and never having to leave this comfortable little rut of mine is always an option. Anyway, I'll go into more detail another time, I'm annoyed with this machine now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

All work and no play not good for zoomies. But that's the last late night I'll have to work for a while, and it's nearly Christmas, and the weather's quite nice at the moment. Possibly I'll have something to talk about tomorrow, who knows?

Monday, December 19, 2005

What a way to make a living

Working nine to eight is no fun at all, even if it is in return for getting the day off on Friday. Which I'm sure a lot of companies would give you anyway, what with it being the 23rd. Still, everything has its good side, and in this case it's that coming home late tonight, I saw a fox crossing the road and skulking into the yard two doors down. This is very cool, because I've never seen a fox around these parts before. I'll have to keep an eye out for him in future.

Still, all this work gets in the way of the other stuff I like to do of an evening. Christmas really gets in the way of memory training, and I was on such a roll with that too. Bah humbug.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Santa came a week early

I've got a new toy! A shiny new laptop, and it's great! I even treated myself to a new scanner/printer/copier thing, seeing as I haven't had a working scanner since I trod on my old one about six months ago. Spending money on myself is fun. I don't seem to have done it for ages. The new laptop is so cool, in fact, that I'm almost considering getting rid of my trusty desktop (which I'm typing this on right now), the only computer I've ever owned. I've had it since June 1999, which makes it really quite elderly by computer standards, and it's fair to say it's not as quick or properly-working as it was. But apart from the sentimental attachment, I'd have to work out how to transfer all the junk on it over to the laptop, which sounds like more work than I'm normally prepared to put into anything.

I still haven't actually bought presents for anyone who isn't me, but never mind. It's late-night shopping all this week, so although I've got to work late tomorrow and Tuesday, I'll still have plenty of time to buy cards and get them in the post at the last minute, maybe buy a few presents on Amazon, seeing as they emailed me to say the 20th is the last day to order things for Christmas delivery, buy a turkey and whatever else people are supposed to eat at Christmas, get some decorations, a tree or two and some kind of dancing reindeer or the like, clean my flat up a bit and get ready to celebrate the birth of our saviour in the appropriate style.

I need fairy lights. I've never had fairy lights before.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bright Light City

I went to London today to do a bit of Christmas shopping. As it turned out, I didn't do any at all, and just bought things for myself, but that's what I always do on the first shopping trip I make. I never seem to see anything that looks like a suitable gift until the very last minute. I've left it too late to post presents to people now, anyway, because I've got to be in the office Monday to Thursday next week and I won't get a chance to go to the post office.

I nearly spent £120 on a present for my brother - a Japanese boxed set of Predacons from that cool little comic shop on Tottenham Court Road - but decided against it in the end. We don't generally go above a fiver on our presents to each other, the rule is quality and entertainment value rather than material worth, and while that doesn't necessarily preclude buying something that's both cool and expensive, I don't really like to. It might look like I'm saying "Ha ha, I've got more money than you!"

So I need another shopping trip tomorrow to actually buy cards and presents, and maybe that laptop computer for myself that I've been meaning to buy for ages. I bought some CDs today, including a big Christmas compilation that my brother and I are going to spend the whole of Christmas listening to whether we like it or not (I insist, it's not Christmas without Christmas songs), and the CD player on my current computer is increasingly senile and non-working. I'll need a laptop for organising that memory competition anyway, so it's a worthwhile expenditure. I'll do something big and charitable to make up for it.

I need to buy decorations and food for the aforementioned festive fraternal visit - this'll be the first time I've entertained someone at Christmas time, and I'm determined to make a proper turkey dinner, and Christmas pudding and everything. I don't know how it's come round so quickly this year, it still feels like November to me.

Friday, December 16, 2005

But it makes me look like a geek!

I've got one of those luminous reflective jackets (with Parkhouse Recruitment written on it in big letters - I don't pay for my clothes, as a rule) that is very useful for stopping lorries from running me over when I'm cycling home from work in the dark. Or it would be, if I wore the thing. You see, that kind of thing is just so uncool. It screams 'trainspotter' to anyone who sees me wearing it. And because I'm so worried about total strangers' opinions of my sartorial elegance, I'm very reluctant to wear this potentially life-saving item.

"But Zoomy," I hear you say, "you look so cool that no amount of reflective safety gear could harm your image!"

Or, if you're more honest, "But Zoomy, nobody gives a monkeys what you wear anyway, least of all people who catch a fleeting glimpse of you from the pavement as you cycle past. And even if they did, they'd laugh at your normal clothes anyway, so you really don't need to worry."

So okay, I'll wear the nerdy thing. But I'm not wearing a helmet.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I don't know why, but I've had really epic dreams for the last couple of nights. Or maybe it's just that I've remembered them better than I usually do, by virtue of waking up half an hour or so before I need to get out of bed and thus having ample time to analyse my subconscious meanderings. But each of them came in three distinct interlinked sections, with a whole host of characters, strange locations and goings-on. This morning I even woke up with a catchy original tune running around my head, but I've forgotten it now, annoyingly enough. I do have another dream-composition from a few months ago that's going to be a hit single some day, or at least a popular jingle for a bacon advert (the lyrics involve getting out of bed and having a bacon sandwich, which was obviously something on my mind at the time).

A guy on an internet message board for idiots who want people to think they're clever (one of my favourites, naturally, although I don't post there much any more) is fond of saying that you only dream if you have unresolved thoughts in your mind when you go to sleep. So, he says, a practicioner of yoga (or whatever he does) doesn't need to dream and is therefore an altogether better person. Being too polite to say so to his face, I'll say here behind his back that this is the most ridiculously, colossally STUPID thing I have ever heard. Why on earth would you want to not have dreams? Letting your subconscious play around and entertain you is something that you should try to do as much as possible! In fact, what the world needs is a way to make people dream much more than they do at the moment. That would make the world a better place.

Last night's dream actually posed me a moral dilemma that I was ruminating about at work today. Going into detail would be long, complicated and incomprehensible, but the basic idea in this dream was that a friend of mine was unhappy, and I came up with a solution that basically involved taking her mind off things for an evening, rather than doing anything about the long-term cause. Indeed, when presented with an opportunity to ask for help from someone who might have been able to do more (but might have made things worse), I deliberately didn't. This, it seems to me, is typical of the way I always go about things. I do go out of my way to make other people happy, but only in the immediate kind of way you can do with a hug or a kind gesture. I generally avoid doing anything to help people deal with serious problems of their own. If someone's upset, my usual solution is to do something silly and keep everyone entertained, leaving someone else to do the comforting. Perhaps I should make more of an effort to do some good in the world. Or possibly I should stop overthinking everything and just carry on the way I am.

See what I mean about Christmas time? I'm getting all introspective and serious. It won't last. Anyway, if anybody was wondering how the new job's coming along, it's not too bad. I don't entirely know what I'm doing, but everyone else there is to a greater or lesser degree in the same situation, so it could be a lot worse. Still don't know if I'll stay there in the long term, but I'll cross that bridge when I either get fired or find out that I've been there for forty years and I'm retiring next week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fantastic and Terrific

By way of a belated birthday present, my brother found me a fantastic old comic, in more ways than one. It's issue 78 of Fantastic, the magazine of choice in the late sixties for British children who wanted to read American superhero comics but couldn't get hold of the originals. Or at least I assume it was - I've never heard of it before.

Actually, the title at this point in the comic's history was "Fantastic and Terrific", with the "and Terrific" in very small letters. This used to be a common sight on British comics - an unsuccessful one would be swallowed up by a more popular title, and the names would both be featured prominently on the covers for a while, so as to make sure not to lose the few readers who only liked the failing comic, before the second name, like Terrific, was quietly dropped. The cover also features the logo "A Power Comic", with a picture of a fist just to emphasise how powerful it is, the date (10 August 1968) and a little copyright notice for Odhams Press Ltd.

It was on sale every Monday for 9d - Australia 10c, South Africa 10c, East Africa 1.25, New Zealand 1/- (10c), Rhodesia 1/3, West Africa 1/-. So it's educational too - NZ was obviously in the process of decimalisation at the time, and a shilling went further in West Africa than it did in Rhodesia. The rather uninspired cover illustration is a close-up of the superhero Goliath's head, and a photo of the Fantastic Book of Soccer Stars that could be found inside.

The front and back covers are the only splash of colour in the comic - the British standard at the time was anthology magazines, in black and white, with five or six stories of five or six pages maximum each, with the obligatory crossword puzzles, letters pages, competitions and fun facts to pad out the stuff that people actually wanted to read. So ignoring the fact that the American material being repeated was designed to be read in full colour, in 20-page bursts every month, Fantastic strictly follows the British format. We get a luxurious nine pages of Avengers, Goliath and his friends battling the evil alien Ixar, five pages of Dr Strange in the middle of a longer magical fight scene with Yandroth, five pages of the X-Men thwarting the plans of the Mutant-Master and Factor Three, six pages of Thor exploring Ego the Living Planet, including a glorious double-page spread that must have looked so much better in colour, and eight pages of the Hulk fighting the Sub-Mariner. Plus a full-colour back-page pin-up of Unus the Untouchable, a crossword that you need to know the name of the Beast's girlfriend to solve, a "Spot the Boob" competition which isn't nearly as fun as it sounds (it's a spot-the-deliberate-mistake thing), letters and editorials. All for ninepence!

There's three-quarters of a page of adverts in the entire comic - two little ads for stamp collectors' outfits, and an encouragement to buy Tonibell Miniballs - the ball with the ice cream inside - in order to enter a competition and win £50 of vouchers to spend in London's biggest toy shop. Oh, and rather incongrously in amongst all the superheroes, there's the first of five pull-out profiles of famous footballers, that you can put together to make a little book, just in time for the 1968/69 season. This week it's Bobby Moore (who gets the front page, of course), Billy Bremner, Billy McNeill and Jeff Astle. Bremner's Leeds went on to win the league that year, if anyone's interested, so the Fantastic editors Bart and Alf (whose names replaced Stan Lee's in rewritten footnotes to the superhero comics) obviously knew how to pick the winners.

They really don't make them like that any more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Seasons in the sun

It occurred to me today that the next few months are going to be comparatively dull reading if you're mainly interested in this blog for the memory or othello talk. Memory competitions are traditionally all crammed into July and August, although there'll be anything up to two of them in March next year, which would be good. And even othello has now stopped until the end of February.

I've sort-of volunteered to organise one of the regional othello tournaments here in Derby next year. I never wanted to do one in Boston, because the place is so impossible to get to by public transport that it would just be inconvenient for everyone, but I've got no such excuse in Derby, so it's about time I did. If I put the tournament on in April, it'll be good practice for the memory competition I'm planning to hold in May - another thing I've been promising to do for years but haven't got round to it.

The othello will be a lot easier than the memory - that'll involve lots of advance preparation and (unless it's unlike every other memory competition ever held) a lot of unexpected problems causing it to run wildly behind schedule until we get pestered by caretakers trying to throw us out of the building. Which comes in handy when you need extra arbiters for the speed cards.

Monday, December 12, 2005

How To Be Friendly

I was wondering today why I don't like a particular person more than I do, when we've got such a lot in common and like most of the same things, and that led me to speculate about what qualities my favourite people have that makes them my friends. I decided in the end that it's not shared interests, so much - most of my friends aren't particularly interested in memory, or cartoons, or board games, or things like that. Likewise, more often than not I don't share their own favourite things and activities either.

I think it's more a shared mindset, or similar sense of humour - the people I like the most are the ones who I can have a really strange conversation with, both of us reacting to and building on the other's comments until the whole discussion is a lot more fun than either of us could hope to produce with anyone else. I also concluded that a special friend needs to be the kind of person who doesn't run away screaming when I mention that I'm in love with Piper O'Possum from Nick Jr.

I seem to have been doing a lot of thinking today. I've also been considering this book I keep talking about writing, and whether I'm going about it the wrong way. What I should maybe have done is taken a month or two off work with my redundancy money and devoted myself to it with some kind of seriousness. What I should also maybe have done is gone about approaching publishers and people like that first, rather than waiting until I've written the thing.

I know I had perfectly good reasons for not doing that - I didn't want to agree to write the book before I'd done it, because that would turn it from a hobby into a job, and thus make it a lot less fun. Also, there was that time a couple of years ago when I was asked to write a book, agreed to do it and then changed my mind and had to tell the company in question that I had (which is the kind of thing I really don't like doing). But now I'm starting to think that exploring the possibility of getting the thing published might be fun in itself, and might also inspire me to get writing.

Incidentally, more than one person has told me exactly that in the past, and I've replied that no, my brain doesn't work that way, so it wouldn't work. So I'm not claiming any originality in this idea, and I give full credit to everyone who's given me such good advice. But that's my plan for the moment - as soon as I get round to it, I'll look into people who publish how-to-be-clever kind of books and see about sending them a synopsis and sample chapters.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

log, on, secure, online, free

That's the title of the HSBC personal internet banking web page. Log, on, secure, online, free. It's said that for at least a couple of years, too. It's the kind of thing that makes you think you're logging on to an amateurish phishing attempt instead of an official website of a really big company.

I know that talking about other things I've seen on the internet is meant to be the kind of thing I don't do, but it was that or write a long essay about the things I've removed from and added to my Favourites list today, and I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be anything more boring than that. Except maybe the BBC Sports Review of the Year, which I've just turned off. I don't know why I always start to watch the thing every year, it's never remotely interesting. I might tune in again later to see who wins the award, but it's a foregone conclusion this time round anyway, so I might not.

So, fourteen more sleeps till Santa. Christmas seems to have come round unreasonably quickly this year. I still don't properly feel like the festive season has really started. Which is probably a good thing, because I usually get terminally depressed at this time of year, and I'm only just easing into that mental state now. Still, just two more weeks and it'll all be over, so if you see me in the meantime and I'm manically cheerful or sulky and uncommunicative, bear with me. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible after Boxing Day.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's how I feel. The office in Burton is finally more or less ready, so I don't have to work in Cheadle any more! Except on Monday when I have to have a final bit of training up there, but that's just a day trip. No more hotels! No more free swimming pool that I could never drag myself out of bed to use! No more meals cooked for me and paid for by my company every morning and evening! No more quality time away from cartoons and the internet to concentrate on winning the world memory championship!

Okay, it hasn't been all bad, but I'm still glad to be back home for good, hopefully. Of course, the others might still go into Burton on Monday and find that the building's completely unusable, but that's a little unlikely. I'll celebrate being able to post something on this blog every day by not posting anything tomorrow - my brother's coming round for the weekend, so I probably won't get a chance. But after that, I'll return to the daily dose of dementia, rather than doing anything productive.

Incidentally, I was a little disturbed to find out last night that the financial controller not only knows about my memory competitions, but knows enough about it to be aware that names and faces are my weakest event. If the boss is going to be checking up on me so thoroughly, he might find this blog, which presents a dilemma. Should I only say nice things about the job, just in case, or should I stick with the honest approach and say what I think? Not that I've got anything bad to say at the moment, but suppose I have in future? Censorship is bad, but then again as Thumper's mother's always telling me, if you can't say anything nice it's better not to say anything at all. Also last night, I sang 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' at a karaoke place, to the admiration of my colleagues. Admiration is good, being filmed by mobile phones doing it isn't. Horrible inventions. And I was trying to get a good reputation at the new place too, as a hard-working, serious, kind of guy. Ah well.

On the subject of work, I have rather rashly promised to take my final CIMA exams in June, or May, or whenever it is. This will involve a heck of a lot of studying (I haven't taken an accountancy exam since 2002, so I've forgotten all the stupid technical stuff that nobody knows in real life but you have to memorise to pass exams). What bothers me the most is that this will really get in the way of my memory training - I didn't start serious training until early 2003, so I've never had to combine the two before. Of course, if I just wrote a best-selling book, or taught courses to stupid businessmen, I wouldn't have to have a day job at all, so I've only got myself to blame. I'm sure I'll manage to juggle the two somehow.

I need a trip to London some time soon. Christmas shopping needs doing and (more importantly) I need to buy a whole pile of comics, too, I've got out of touch with some of my favourites just lately with one thing and another. And I really do need some new work shoes. To be honest, I needed some six months ago, but it's now got to the point where the left one is actively disintegrating as I walk around. Another week or two and there won't be any sole left - which will be fine as long as I'm careful not to be seen walking around the office, and avoid puddles when I'm outside, but it's probably time I got a new pair.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Great Googly-Moogly

Of course, the problem with spending a weekend doing absolutely nothing is that you don't have much of interest to put in your blog on the Sunday night. So for want of anything better to do, I'll enthuse about one of my favourite cartoons. Ntl's revolving sample channels (a great idea for encouraging people to pay for more expensive packages) has brought me Nick Jr again this month, so I get to watch Maggie and the Ferocious Beast. Yay!

The show is about a girl called Maggie, who has created an imaginary world called Nowhere Land, populated by an assortment of toys, birds, monsters, jelly beans and the like, foremost among them being the Ferocious Beast (a big, friendly, slightly dimwitted orange thing with red polka-dots) and a slightly neurotic pig called Hamilton. Yes, there are three equally important central characters and only two of them get a name-check in the series title. Poor Hamilton. The fact that the setting and everyone in it are figments of Maggie's imagination doesn't generally come up in the stories at all - they're light, uncomplicated, surprisingly philosophical adventures, occasionally with a moral but more often completely pointless (in a good way). We never see the real world, although Maggie goes back there at the end of the day.

It's the kind of show in which the best episodes are the ones where nothing happens at all. There are some fantastically off-beat episodes - "Morning in Nowhere Land" has no dialogue at all, and just shows the Beast and Hamilton waking up and going through their morning routine to the accompaniment of orchestral music until Maggie shows up and they start the day's adventure. "Where's Maggie" features Hamilton and the Beast sitting on a hill wondering why Maggie's so late coming back from her holiday, and worrying that she might not come back at all.

There are some great supporting characters too - Rudy the mouse is notable for the fact that his hat and boots don't come off. Everybody treats this as a perfectly normal thing, except the Beast, who keeps bringing it up in conversation in the hope that someone will explain it to him. Nedley the rabbit is entirely amoral, and just unable to see the point of doing anything that doesn't benefit him directly. In one episode he borrows Hamilton's jumper and then just refuses to return it because he likes it so much. Rather than ordering him to give it back, because that kind of thing just isn't done in Nowhere Land, the plan Maggie comes up with is to go to the beach, where he'll get so hot that he'll have to take it off.

You have to watch it to appreciate it, plot summaries don't do the series justice. "The Push-Me Popper" (in which Hamilton gets a new toy and won't let the Beast play with it because he'll break it, so the Beast takes it anyway and does break it) doesn't sound at all different from a million other cartoons, but there's something about the characters and the writing that makes it hilarious. I was laughing out loud when I watched it for the first time.

Anyway, back to Cheadle tomorrow. Last week there, fingers crossed, touch wood. See you Friday.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

That's better

Ahh, a day sitting at home doing nothing. You can't beat it. Well, nothing with a side order of memory-training, but I've talked about that more than enough here already.

Let's talk about my brother, instead, Doctor Joseph Pridmore. He passed his viva yesterday and got his PhD, which comes as no surprise to anyone but him - he's one of those genius types who goes through life assuming everything he does is going to be some kind of abject failure even though it never is. It's a good way to be, really - you're always sure to be pleasantly surprised. Anyway, I'm terribly impressed. I sometimes think about going back to university and trying to get at least a degree, just so as not to feel quite so inferior to everyone else. I know too many doctors already - lots of othello players and memory people have PhDs too, and there's only so much satisfaction you can get from boasting about being an unusually young university dropout (I went there at the age of 17 and gave up on it after a few months).

Still, now I get to introduce my bro to people as "This is my brother, the doctor." And I can always add under my breath "(albeit only a doctor of English literature, which isn't a real kind of doctorate)" if I get too envious.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Green Grow The Rushes-O

The poohsticks gang are meeting up tomorrow in a pub called the Seven Stars, in London, but I'm not sure whether I want to go or not. I feel like I haven't been at home here for years, what with being away last weekend and the last two weeks in Cheadle (surprisingly enough, the new building in Burton still isn't ready, so I'm back in the hotel next week too), and I feel like I need to recharge my batteries, rather than having another late-night drinking session.

It's been quite a fun week, though - we went into Manchester on Wednesday night to see the football. There were six of us, proudly walking from the car park to the Old Trafford stadium for the George Best tribute and a quite good game too. The tickets were very cheap by Man Utd standards - £19 each, and in the front row, right behind the goal, and everyone got a free George Best poster, to hold up during the minute's silence. 50,000 people being silent in a big stadium like that is quite a thing to experience. The game itself was enjoyable, too - for the benefit of non-football-liking readers, it was a Carling Cup game, which often means one or both teams aren't actually trying to win (the Carling Cup is not seen as an important trophy, so teams who want to concentrate on doing well in the league, FA Cup or European competitions traditionally field teams made up of reserve and youth players). But Man Utd, realising it was the first home game after Best died, played not quite their best team, but a team that most clubs would be happy to have playing for them in any competition. West Brom took the game seriously too, but they were outclassed, and lost 3-1.

You get a great kind of mob psychology going at football games - we were sitting with the Man U supporters, and so even though I'm cheering for West Brom this year (they survived a great relegation battle last year and I hope they can stay up in the premiership now they've got through that difficult first season) I was yelling for United on Wednesday night. The day before, we went to a pub to watch Doncaster playing Aston Villa. Villa are one of the rare top-level teams who always try to win the Carling Cup, so it was fun to watch them get comprehensively thrashed by Doncaster (who are two divisions below them in the league).

Anyway, I'm back home at number five now (although the 5 symbol at the door is still missing - someone really needs to get a new one) and I don't feel like leaving it for a weekend out in London. I might change my mind tomorrow, I'll see how I feel. But I'd quite like to do a bit of memory training this weekend (beat 30 seconds in the cards for the first time this week, now I need to practise the longer events that I don't have time to do at the hotel), with just a quick walk into Derby for fresh air and a bit of pre-Christmas shopping. I need to get a new book to read next week. After forgetting to bring one the first week and having to make do with Gideon's Bible (which, with the greatest respect to the Gospel makers, isn't an enthralling read), I've been making do with re-reading Stephen King and Flann O'Brien since then, but I could do with something new. I have to read something for twenty minutes or so before I go to sleep - it's a tradition.

Anyway, I need to have a think about memory things - Aubrey de Grey suggested not one but two great ideas for me to work on last Saturday. The first was an offhand remark about my ideas for memorising othello games - I'd said that the problem was there being so many possible moves to remember, to which Aubrey replied "I didn't think that would bother you." And he's right, of course - I've been trying to think of ways to minimise the amount of information I'd have to take on board, but why would I care about that? If I can memorise 50,000 digits of pi without batting an eyelid, why would I care how many othello moves I need to cram into my brain? I'll just do it the long-winded way, and see how far I can get! The other suggestion was for names and faces - apart from the idea a lot of people have toyed with over the years, classifying faces according to things like shape, hair colour and so on and converting that information into something that can be memorised, he suggested memorising a list of faces, and a separate list of names - and that way if both lists are in order, you don't need to associate the name with the face at all. It's food for thought.

Also in memory news, Boris Konrad's Speed Cards Challenge looks like it's definitely going ahead next year - a whole day of people memorising packs of cards, head-to-head against an opponent. It'll be great fun, and great TV - we'll have to see if we can get someone to take an interest. It'll be in Germany, during the World Cup, so there'll be press interest in an 'alternative sport' like that. There'll even be prize money! I might win it, although I'll have at least three rivals who stand a very good chance - Clemens is very fast with the cards, Lukas is great and Andi might just come along to this kind of thing too if we're lucky.

I can't think of any topic to discuss that might involve a reference to lily-white boys clothed all in green-o, so I'll give up on the ingeniuously themed blog and just observe that anyone who's ignored my previous advice to read Ozy and Millie needs to know that the last couple of week's comics have been on the subject of blogs. They answer a lot of important questions about what a blog should be like and why. And I hope my blog comes close to the obvious perfection achieved by Timulty's. Read it here!

Oh, and I've got another documentary-maker calling me tomorrow. I gave her my number especially so I can practice saying no to people over the phone. I do have a very good excuse for not wanting to get involved in this one, after all...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Christmas in Cambridge

Having finally got home from Cambridge after an adventure that involves missing one train, having the next one cancelled and trying to get back to Derby by an ingenious and circuitous route that took roughly three times as long as the original journey would have, I find myself needing to pack for next week's (hopefully) final jaunt up to Cheadle, but feeling like I'd rather spend the time recounting the fun I've had this weekend while WZebra (the othello program) chugs away in the background analysing my games from Saturday and telling me what I did right and wrong. I only ever pay attention to the things I did right, having no interest at all in being told I'm not a brilliant player. This is why the vast majority of my analysis goes into the ones I've won. And why I'm actually not a brilliant player, of course.

Before that, though, I should transcribe the conversation I had at dinner-time when Jenny and I went to a cafe in Cambridge city centre. There was quite a long queue, probably because while there were three women serving food to the customers, one man was entrusted at the end of the line with serving drinks and then working the till. Although a charming, friendly kind of chap, he didn't seem entirely focused on what he was doing, and the following is an extract from the dialogue that passed between us:

Man: And what would you like to drink, sir?
Me: Coke, please.
Man: Small, medium or large?
Me: Medium, please.
Man: There you go. Oh, I've done you a small one there. I'll only charge you for a small one, don't worry. That's £7.70 altogether, please.

[I gave him a five-pound note and three pound coins, and he gave me 30p back, then put my money into the till. He paused and looked at the note in his hand.]

Man: Oh, wait, that's only a five, I gave you change for a ten.
Me: No, I gave you a five and three ones, and you gave me 30p back. That's right.
Man: Oh yes, sorry. [Turning to Jenny] And what would you like to drink, sir?
Jenny: Um...
Man: I mean madam, sorry. I'll get my head working right in a minute...

Anyway, going back in time a day and a half, I got up on Saturday at the ungodly hour of 5:15, in order to catch the 6:00 train down to Cambridge. It turned out that 5:14 would have been a better time to set the alarm for, because I was seconds too late to catch it. That left me to get the 6:53 and still get there more or less in time, although it put a dent in the plans of Nick, who had come down to film me at it and had wanted to tape me arriving and talking a bit about memory in scenic surroundings before the tournament started. So he went off to a meeting and came back later, and everything worked out fine.

The traditional Cambridge Christmas Friendly was a little unusual this year. Not because of the date, it's traditionally held at the end of November, but because of the unusual number of people there. Apart from Nick and his camera, there were three new players (very rare at othello tournaments), and two people lurking outside the door armed with giant waterpistols. It turns out that they were lying in wait for one of the aforementioned new players, who's a student at Cambridge and part of the 'Ring of Death', in which students try to assassinate each other with waterpistols, poison (vaseline) and other such nefarious means. My best friend in days gone by, David 'Noddy' Page, was involved in that in his Cambridge days too. Aidan, the assassinee, spent the first round hiding in the toilet, arranging with friends via his mobile phone to get rid of the assassins.

I beat one of the other new people in the first round, which is always a nice way to start. Although we probably should encourage new people to come back to future tournaments by not beating them, I don't feel too guilty, because I at least had the decency to beat Fran 45-19, whereas Aubrey wiped out the other new bug, James. Other people probably beat other people too, but I haven't got all the results to hand - the ever-reliable Roy strangely hasn't posted the final scores on the mailing list yet, which he normally does via his mobile on the train home.

Anyway, after round one, we paused for a quick filming break. Nick had roped in Aubrey, who is very very good at interviews, to come over to the Trinity College quad with me and walk around talking about science and memory. I think it went very well, mainly because I was able to just name-drop some technical-sounding words like 'anterior cingulate' and let Aubrey talk about them at length. Incidentally, there's further proof to my theory that Nick is secretly evil and planning to make me look bad - he made a point of advising Aubrey to wear his hat because it was spitting with rain. Which might be quite innocuous, obviously, but Aubrey's hat is a crotcheted woollen bonnet that does look a little silly. He does have the accompanying genius that makes things like that and his yard-long beard qualify as 'eccentric', rather than just 'weird' like my own silly hat, so it's quite alright.

With Nick buzzing around with his camera, we went back to the Junior Parlour for round two, which put me up against Imre Leader, one of the absolute-tippy-top players in the country for the last twenty-odd years, British champion and the kind of guy the mention of whose name produces awe and respect from anyone with a basic knowledge of the othello world. And my win against him was duly captured for posterity, which is nice. Hope it makes it into the final film. I then beat Aubrey (also an othello legend) in round three, also under the watching eye of Nick's camera. The game was scintillatingly complicated, and I look forward to having Zebra's opinion on whether some of the weird moves I played were brilliant or awful, and what I should actually have done in the endgame when time-pressure forced me to cut short my calculations and just make a best guess.

Having thus made myself look much better at the game than I actually am, we adjourned to the pub for lunch and the committee meeting, which was quite productive. We settled on a probable venue and date for the Nationals next year, made at least one or two other decisions that were probably important, and the sausage, egg and chips were both cheap and delicious. Aubrey discussed his work in detail for Nick, who it turns out runs an annual charity event in which a scientist and an artist debate some fascinating issue. He felt that bringing Aubrey together with Damien Hirst to discuss aging would be a dream combination, and Aubrey wholeheartedly agreed, as did everyone else there. I'll certainly be going to see it if it happens.

Nick went back home after that, and it became clear that the presence of the camera had either spurred me on or put off my opponents, because my fourth-round game against Geoff Hubbard (who had also beaten Imre, and was the only other player on three points) was a complete disaster. It went wrong for me somewhere around move 20, which meant Geoff had the last two thirds of the game to contemplate at leisure the best way to go about completely thrashing me. Neither of us could quite work out a way to wipe me out, and he had to settle for winning 63-1 in the end.

My camera-inspired abilities didn't really come back to me in the remaining three games either - I did beat Yvette Campbell, but lost to Jeremy Dyer and Roy Arnold, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but I don't think I was playing half as well as I had been in the morning. Geoff won his first six games to make sure of winning the tournament with a round to spare, but then lost his final one to Aidan, which must have been some consolation for missing the first round and still ending up being assassinated after all.

All in all, it was a tournament that had everything. And as I said a few days ago, if anyone reading this likes the sound of it and wants to come to future tournaments, we could always do with more players. Check out the British Othello Federation homepage for more details - the next one's not till February, so there's plenty of time to make your mind up. And remember, othello is the same thing as reversi*.

*Footnote: Othello isn't the same thing as reversi, if you're going to be really pedantic about it. I've explained it here before somewhere, but it's really not important. For all practical purposes, anything you see called 'reversi' is exactly the same thing as anything you see called 'othello'. All clear?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hotel Hypocrisy

Sorry I didn't post anything last night like I promised - the planned moving of the servers down to Burton has been postponed, so we're staying in Cheadle for another week. What's more, I might miss tomorrow night too, since I'm staying over in Cambridge after the othello, so as to meet up with Jenny on the Sunday. Although I might find an internet cafe and bring you all up to date on the othello world, devoted readers.

Or you can just wait a year or so and see the movie - Nick will be filming me there, probably (we haven't actually arranged to meet anywhere, but I'm sure we'll manage to get together somehow - I object on principle to phoning the guy up to make sure he's going to make a film about me, it just sounds a bit desperate for the fame and glory...)

Anyway, this last-minute-ish change of plans (well, actually I'd been thinking of staying overnight anyway, to avoid the football fans who always share the trains from Cambridge to Derby at that time of night - there's invariably a match somewhere in the country with away fans who use that route) meant finding a hotel in Cambridge, and annoyingly enough my first choice is fully booked.

Sleeperz, while I'm on the subject, is the best hotel in Cambridge by far. It's literally right next door to the train station, it's staggeringly cheap, and much much nicer than any hotel that charges so little has any right to be. I discovered it one night many years ago, when my train was delayed by something like three hours due to a fatality on the line (this happens to me surprisingly often) and I couldn't face looking for the B&B I'd booked on a cold late night. And I've been a big fan ever since.

But seeing as it was full up this time round, I had to find another, and so I decided to splash out on an expensive one in the city centre. Then I remembered that the last time I booked a hotel and wrote about it here, I decided to splash out on a relatively expensive one for once too. Obviously, despite my mental image of myself, I'm not the kind of person who stays in cheap hotels after all. I'm the kind of fat cat who squanders his hard-earned cash on posh hotels and extravagant luxuries when it could be used to better the human condition. I mean, £80 for a night, it's disgraceful. Daylight robbery of the kind that happens at night, and I'm giving it my enthusiastic endorsement. Ah well.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It has robbed me of the wee bit of sense I had

So as I was saying last night, football. I do like watching football, and while you might say to that 'so what', I think that's something that's still worthy of comment. For all that it's the most popular sport in the world, I think a clear majority of the people I like to hang out with don't like the game. It's a matter of principle for a lot of people, a way of emphasising how they're different from the masses, but I think they're missing a treat. It does make me wonder, though - I'm a self-confessed nerd, and proud of it, and in theory I should go on at length to anyone who'll listen to me about how I have more intellectual things to do with my time than watch stupid games like football. I could say that whole speech off by heart, actually, having heard it so many times from my nerdy friends.

The nerds who do like football generally like it in a nerdy way - they memorise the winners and runners-up of every FA Cup in history, can tell you how many consecutive seasons Arsenal have spent in the top division and who came third in the fourth division in 1977. And then they fall asleep if they ever find themselves having to sit through an actual game.

But I'm quite prepared to make a stand on this point - footy is great. If I ever have to miss Match of the Day on a Saturday night, I get all grumpy about it. I'd go to live games every other weekend if there was one within cycling distance that didn't charge as much as Derby County do. There are very few things in this country as exciting as watching a good game of football, and anyone who refuses to watch a game on the grounds that they're too clever gets the same withering stare from me that I normally reserve for people who refuse to read the Harry Potter books because they're so popular.

Obviously the moral is that I should stop hanging out with nerds and start associating with different social circles, but football fans scare me.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Then again, I haven't written anything like this for a while...

When Harvey published the proof of his newly-discovered process for turning raisins back into grapes, he was awarded three Nobel prizes (literature, chemistry and peace) and the freedom of the city of Doncaster. Overcome with joy, he declaimed the following song:

I have more fingers on my left hand than my right;
Horses often look at me in an unusual way.
But receiving such honours brings me great delight,
And therefore to Doncaster I will journey today.

Setting forth in his clockwork-powered car from his home in Bognor Regis, he drove in a roughly eastward direction for three hours, hoping to see some sign that would tell him the way to Doncaster, but in vain. Finally, finding himself stuck in a deep pool of mud in the middle of a field, he shouted to a farmer slaughtering animals nearby, phrasing his request for assistance in verse, thus:

You there, farmer, with sharpened farming tool,
Allow me to trade my vehicle for a horse or mule,
Thereby traversing this muddy field the faster,
In order to speedily arrive at the town of Doncaster.

The farmer considered the request carefully, before responding in the following manner:

Bog off.

Harvey, a little disheartened but still determined to exercise the freedom of a city he had never so much as heard of the day before, climbed out of the car and walked across the remainder of the field, losing his shoes, hat and underpants to the mud along the way. Climbing over the stile, he found that the field bordered a supermarket car park with integrated international airport. A passing Boeing 747 stopped and asked him if he needed a ride anywhere, to which Harvey answered:

Aeroplane pilot with protruding nose,
I do indeed need a ride somewhere.
But please tell me where your aircraft goes,
So that I can know whether I should go there.

The pilot ventured that this was the worst example of improvised poetry that he had heard in his thirty-seven years as a commercial airline pilot, and asked Harvey why he didn't talk properly. Harvey explained by means of a shrug and offensive hand-gesture that while normal people might speak in such vulgar, non-rhyming ways, anyone who had the freedom of the city of Doncaster was surely honour-bound to convey their every thought and feeling by means of elegantly-crafted song. The pilot replied that his plane was in fact going to Doncaster, so if Harvey could refrain from polluting the air with further manglings of the English language, he would be happy to provide a ride. Harvey said:

Okay then. Suit yourself.

Seventy-three minutes later, the plane crash-landed in Venezuela. The pilot explained that he had pressed a wrong button, but that he wasn't to blame as the button in question did look very similar to the one that he should have pressed. If anyone was to blame, therefore, it was the person who built the aeroplane in the first place, who obviously didn't know anything about their business. Harvey, despite his earlier promise, was moved to comment on the situation in this way:

Although this morning I set out with the intention of visiting Doncaster,
Events have taken a series of unexpected turns.
And now I find myself somewhere in the mountains of Venezuela,
While all around me a Boeing 737 burns.

Will someone rescue me from this plight?
Has anyone yet pulled my car from that mud?
Will I reach Doncaster before EastEnders comes on tonight?
Or must I watch the omnibus on Sunday, which isn't anywhere near as good?

Upon being told by the pilot, the only other survivor of the crash, that the plane was a 747, that his song barely rhymed and didn't scan and that there is no material difference between the EastEnders omnibus and the daily episodes, Harvey added the following verse:

Why must you always criticise my verse?
I am the winner of several Nobel prizes!
I have the freedom of the city of Doncaster!
Which I will be able to exercise if the opportunity ever arises!

The pilot, already somewhat irritable as a result of the crash, was unable to tolerate Harvey's bizarre rhyming of 'verse' with 'Doncaster', and beat him to death with a severed piece of the wing. Harvey's last words were these:

Ow. If only I had remained in Bognor Regis,
And paid - ouch, stop it - the normal price for everyday services,
I would be - aargh! - in a much better situation than my current one is,
Oooarrgh, aieee, ungh.

Regretting his actions, the pilot developed a technique for bringing dead people back to life, only without an inclination to improvise songs, and used it on Harvey. He was awarded a number of Nobel prizes too, and the freedom of several cities, which he always made a point of never visiting, having been taught a valuable lesson by the day's events. Harvey missed three episodes of EastEnders while he was dead, and never found out whether or not Harold and Desiderata got married without Richard Burlington-Sykes revealing that they were in fact one and the same person. The farmer sold Harvey's car for fifty pounds and a bag of carrots and later denied that he had ever laid eyes on the vehicle.

The goose is getting fat

Christmas is coming. I can tell, because not only did I hear 'Fairytale of New York' playing in a shop this morning, the fabulous singing tree has reappeared in the shopping centre. If you're ever in Derby, you really should go along and see it. It was there when I first moved to the big city two years ago (doesn't time fly?), and its appearance coincides with other good things about the festive season, like late-night shopping and pretty lights everywhere. I love this time of year.

Also, I'm really on fire with the memory training. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but this kind of thing is important to me. I've never really managed to express how frustrating and upsetting it was to have the memory equivalent of writer's block last year, but it really did bother me no end not to be able to sit down and stare at numbers or cards for long periods of time. It seems that the only problem was that I was the world champion - the solution, and key to lifelong happiness, is obviously to try my best and only come second every year. But the way I'm going now, I'm pretty sure I'll win it next time unless someone else gets really good between now and then. Perhaps overconfidence will be my downfall. That would be good.

I'll add some more later - two posts in one day will make up for missing all those days in the last couple of weeks, and I feel like talking about football.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Pumping Iron

Well, I'm back home again after a longer-than-usual car journey - to avoid a big traffic jam on the M6, the drivers among us opted to sit through a series of smaller traffic jams on a lot of minor roads, getting lost three or four times along the way for good measure.

But apart from that, it's been quite a fun week. I actually went swimming before breakfast twice. The first time it very nearly killed me - after six lengths I got out of the pool and went back to the changing room not feeling too bad, then tried to restore my breathing rate to something close to normal and realised I was on the point of having a heart attack, or at least being sick all over that nice hotel's floor. It was about five hours later before I felt more or less okay again. But this morning I swam a bit further and recovered a lot quicker, and I think it's more or less done me some good, probably.

Not that I'm quite the slob I do my best to convince people I am. It's one of those secret skeletons in my cupboard that I don't tell people about, but I do thirty press-ups a night, whenever I can be bothered (about four times a week on average), and as many sit-ups as I can manage whenever I get a spare moment on my own. It started out a couple of years ago as part of a secret plan to become huge and muscular and impress people when I took my shirt off. It never really worked out like that, but on the other hand I suppose I could look worse. I've got a pot belly that I don't imagine I'll ever get rid of, but I'm not what you'd call fat. And maybe the swimming will build up some muscles, although since I'll be stopping after next week when I'm not in a hotel with a free pool any more, maybe it won't.

I'm coming home on Thursday night next week, and working in Burton on Friday, so only three more days without a blog entry before I get back on my surprisingly reliable schedule.

Anyway, I haven't just been pushing my body to the limits of physical effort this week, I've been really doing great with the memory training too. It's not having the internet or cable TV to distract me in the evenings that does it, I think. I beat my personal best time at speed cards twice in a row - 30.23 seconds is my new record. Which is quite encouraging, since I normally do better in competitions than I do at home, so I might well beat my official record next time I'm competing, fingers crossed. Also did quite a bit of training on numbers, and I think I've got past my minor mental block there. I'm really in the mood to win the world championship now - if only I didn't have this documentary thing ready to annoy me out of it...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hey ho, away we go

Sigh, another week in a nice hotel, all expenses paid. I shouldn't moan, really, but I think I'd still rather not have to work for a living at all. Although when I've tried that in the past it turned out to be excruciatingly boring. Anyway, since work's reducing me to only blogging on the weekends, this will be the last one till Friday. I'd like to say I've had a flood of emails and phone calls, letters, smoke signals and messages conveyed via swarms of locusts telling me people missed reading this thing every day last week and begging me to come back and entertain the masses, but I don't honestly think anyone but me has really noticed it was gone...

Perhaps if I actually wrote about something it would be more interesting, but then nothing has really happened to me. I could talk about my magic rubber duck, Mandrake, but he's the quiet type and wouldn't really fill much more than a paragraph or two.

I think I'm going to get one of those little pocket DVD players with the tiny little screens. They're really cool, and I need a new CD player since the one on my computer doesn't work properly, so it's a completely justifiable expense. The really top-of-the-range ones are only about £200, anyway, so it's hardly any money at all when you're as rich as I am. And, you know, the starving millions in the world will probably be okay anyway...

Oh, for anyone who's following my progress in memory training, I topped 3000 in half-hour binary practice today, which was great. I'm still a way short of my best (exactly 700 digits short, to be precise), but I love to see an improvement in my scores like this. My problem, though, is that I should be practicing with decimal digits, where I'm much further off the pace, rather than binary (only me and Gunther have done 3000 in competition), but I like binary more. I'm going to force myself to practice some speed decimals this week in the evenings and hopefully get my mind thinking they're fun too.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Unexpected sweeties

I've just found half a tube of cherry drops down the back of my settee. They're a bit sticky and difficult to separate from the plastic wrappers, but it's always good to find something like this that I'd forgotten about. Especially since I always consume sweets as soon as I've bought them, so gawd knows how I didn't scoff these ones.

If my memory was as good as everyone seems to think it is, of course, I would have known about these cherry drops all along, and finding them would have been much less fun. What always bugs me a bit about the memory thing is that everybody who hears about it assumes that it's some kind of natural genius on my part, rather than something I've had to do a heck of a lot of work to achieve. The question I get asked most by people (even more than 'why the heck would you want to do it?', which is a perfectly good question that I'd like to hear more often) is "How do you practice something like that?" whenever I mention that I've been practicing memorising cards or numbers or things.

I think I'd rather be sort-of-famous for achieving something by virtue of years of training and hard work, rather than by being freakishly clever. It's certainly closer to the truth, anyway, although of course I only do the 'work' because I find that kind of thing fun.

In other news, Hideshi Tamenori did win the Othello championship, although Takuji Kashiwabara gave him a scare in the semis - they drew the first game (it's best of three) and Kashiwabara won the second before Tamenori came through and won the last by a higher margin. After that, the finals were comparatively easy. That's Hideshi's sixth win in nineteen years, which is a heck of a long time to be at the top of the world like that.

I bought a lottery ticket tonight for the first time in ages. I don't know why, since I've already got more money than I know what to do with, but I didn't win anyway, so I don't have the burden of additional wealth to worry about. But that did remind me that I haven't decided what to do with that pile of cash sitting in my savings account now. Saving it for a rainy day seems contrary to the Zoomy philosophy. I'm still delaying the decision until I'm sure I'll be at this new job for a while, but now I'm rather less worried about being sacked for gross incompetence (I'm pretty sure I can at least bluff my way through the job) I probably should start making my mind up. Any suggestions would be gratefully received!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!

Hooray for the weekend! I didn't have a chance to keep the blog updated while I was in the wilds of Cheadle this week. I did write an entry every night with pen and paper, intending to type them up when I got home, but I can't really be bothered. Sorry. Maybe if I'm bored tomorrow.

Anyway, the World Othello Championships have been happening while I've been incommunicado - Britain's star players Graham Brightwell and Imre Leader both narrowly missed out on making the semi-finals, and so did reigning champ Ben Seeley. The semis and grand final are tomorrow, and I don't think anyone would bet against Hideshi Tamenori winning for the sixth time. And not just because bookies don't take bets on othello championships.

Incidentally, anyone wanting to come to the Cambridge 'Christmas' championship on November 26th might end up on the documentary I've been moaning about for the last month or so. If that encourages you rather than scares you off, we could always use some more othello players.

Hmm, what did I write about this week? I could put the edited highlights here... nah, it wouldn't be much fun for anyone. Except the bit where I call Sam a blithering idiot, since he was complaining that I don't insult him enough.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I'm So Tired

Staying up till 6am drinking and having a deep discussion about my identity/identities ("Is Zoomy the same as Ben, or is Ben the same as Zoomy?") seemed like a good idea at the time, but I probably should have considered that I needed to pack my stuff and get things ready to get up early tomorrow and go to Cheadle for the week. No time or energy to write anything more...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

It was four hundred years ago today...

I'm going to Crispy and Sleepy's for fireworks tonight, so I'll get the blogging in a bit early while I've got a moment. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to keep up the daily updates for the next three weeks - as I mentioned a few days ago, I'm going to be staying in a hotel in Cheadle during the week, so as to maximise the time I can spend in the soon-to-be-closed Cheadle office, learning what everyone does there. Whether I'll be able to get internet access from the office, the hotel or a handy internet cafe, I don't know.

What I am going to do is take my trusty narrow-ruled A4 pad with me and try to write a bit of How To Be Clever. I often write best when I'm using pen and paper rather than typing, for some reason. I'll take some cards and random numbers with me too, and try to practice memory rather than slumping in front of the telly all night, every night.

As for the review of the week's work that I vaguely promised to write, it's gone pretty well. Yesterday was fun - the Cheadle people all had the day off to celebrate finishing the annual accounts, or being made redundant, or something like that, so I was in Burton helping out with anything anyone could throw at me, which mainly involved impressing people with my Excel skills. This I think could turn out to be a problem with the job, actually - I've found in the past that the further removed I get from number-crunching and more into the realms of deciding which numbers need to be crunched, the worse I am at my job. But people always assume that because I'm good at the former, I must be great at the latter, so they keep promoting me. Is a mindless, repetitive job with no prospects too much to ask for? Anyway, we'll see how it goes.

Interesting fact I learned yesterday - it's illegal to set off fireworks after 11pm, except on Bonfire Night, New Year's Eve, the first day of Divali and Chinese New Year. So now you know.

Friday, November 04, 2005

I am the Weakest Link

Apparently my Weakest Link appearance was repeated tonight, but I didn't hear about it until after it had finished. Still, it's always nice to know thousands of people are laughing at my difficulty with pronouncing the letter R, or remembering what word means an item used in cleaning and a student charity week.

Still, this very appropriately reminds me that I'm not Anne Robinson, and so shouldn't go around being rude about people. With that in mind, here's a corrected version of part of last night's post:

I've just discovered a great webcomic I haven't read before - Mullein Fields. I've only read the first few strips, and it's (entirely coincidentally since the artist has never even read the comic I'm comparing it to) very like Ozy and Millie - which is a good thing to be. Go and read it, I'm sure you'll like it.

Actually, MF is only like O&M in the sense of humour and the general friendly feel to it - while Loretta is a similar kind of character to Millie, there isn't an equivalent of Ozy there, so the implication I put across by casual use of the word 'clone' is entirely wrong. As I said in the comments to last night's entry, I do apologise, and I won't do it again.

Ozy and Millie, of course, is a Calvin and Hobbes clone in the first place.

Which brings me onto the subject of the comments attached to these blog posts of mine. If you don't read them, you really should, because as they're not generally written by me, they're often a whole lot more entertaining than anything in the main text! But just in case anyone doesn't read them, I'll throw in another apology to Peter Davidson, whose art (on The Broons and Oor Wullie) I completely unfairly described as 'rubbish' a few weeks ago. Check out his website and see how great he actually is. He's still not as good on the Sunday Post strips as Ken H Harrison was, though.

And also, check out the comments to October 13th, where there's a plug for Aubrey de Grey's SENS thing. Get involved and live forever!

But the moral to all this story is that I really do like reading comments. If you're reading this, post a comment and let me know! Don't wait for me to insult you! It kind of bothers me that I only got to have a really fun discussion on the subject of the approach artists should take to drawing The Broons because I was rude about somebody. Is that the way the world works? People don't talk to people about the things they like unless the people they're talking to don't like them too? Well stop it, all of you!

I was going to summarise my first week's work at the new job tonight, but I seem to have been blathering on about other subjects for ages already, so I'll save it for tomorrow. I should also mention, after my whining last night, that both my trains were on time today. I'm not quite ready to feel guilty about complaining about trains just yet - I think that's a part of British culture, and I never poke fun at the French or Americans (which is also completely acceptable, and indeed encouraged, in this country) so I've got to vent my spleen at something. But on the other hand, I do actually really appreciate the train service. I should be nicer about it in future.

One more thing - this is me and my younger brother when we were that age. So comparatively speaking, I'm a very nice person nowadays!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I hope this old train breaks down

I've now been commuting to Burton-on-Trent for three days, and I've yet to go there or back on a train that was running on time. Today was particularly good - the 8:27 this morning was cancelled, "due to a fault with the train", and the 8:38 was five minutes late, but that doesn't count as late as far as the train companies are concerned (their statistics showing how many trains run late only count those delayed by more than ten minutes), so they didn't bother with an explanation, let alone an apology. Then tonight the 5:20 was 27 minutes late, "due to vandalism and trespassing on the line at Chepstow". So I got the 5:43, which was running on time, but I'm not counting that.

I don't have to go up to Cheadle tomorrow, so I get to work in my actual office for the first time. They have dress-down days on Fridays in Burton, which doesn't really thrill me. It's not that I like dressing up in a suit and tie, but if I don't dress like an accountant, I have a hard time pretending to be one. Besides, everybody else will have cooler casual clothes than me. And should I wear my Zoom-Zoom t-shirt, or one of the ones without big holes in?

I've just discovered a great webcomic I haven't read before - Mullein Fields. I've only read the first few strips, and it's a bit of an Ozy and Millie clone, but done well enough that I don't mind. Go and read it, I'm sure you'll like it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Go first class or third; marry a duchess or her kitchenmaid

I agree with Mr Hardfur Huttle on this point - I always avoid buying medium varieties of things if I can avoid it. This is one of those hard and fast principles of mine that I violate on a daily basis without thinking about it, but when I do, it bothers me. Cheddar cheese, you see, comes in four kinds - mild, medium, mature and extra mature. And while I would never even consider buying the medium kind, I do prefer the mature to the extra mature. Does that count as buying one of the medium varieties of cheese? Am I betraying my deeply-held beliefs? Am I only writing about this because I can't think of anything else? Who knows?

Anyway, nothing of any great interest has happened today. That lengthy minibus ride has for some reason inspired me to write superhero comics heavily indebted to Kurt Busiek's Astro City, about a couple of morally-ambiguous heroes - I'll have to see if I can find an artist willing to draw them for me. Might be difficult, though. There are a lot more would-be writers looking for artists than would-be artists looking for writers.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Well, that wasn't so bad

Although they want me to stay in a hotel down in Cheadle next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, while I'm learning the job. Funnily enough, one of the other new people is Patrick who used to work at Parkhouse for a few months a year or so ago, so I wasn't entirely surrounded by complete strangers. I've got a headache, presumably as a result of more or less working today for a change, or possibly the stress of a new job, or maybe I'm under telepathic assault by space aliens, I don't know. But for the rest of this week we're going to Cheadle on a minibus every morning and back in the evenings - spending four hours on the road in total and a bit less than that actually at work.

Anyway, enough of this accountant-talk. I've just been watching a new cartoon called Robotboy about, well, a robot boy. It's quite good, if not an all-time classic. There's a new series of Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends too, which is an all-time classic, so I'm happy. And then there's the second half of one of tonight's football matches while playing othello online. Perfect new-job-stress relief!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Witches bad, pumpkins good

There was a really good cartoon called 'Pumpkin Moon' on Sky yesterday, chronicling the great Halloween conflict between pumpkin lanterns and toy witches.

Which is a small comfort, but doesn't entirely stop me being scared about starting a new job tomorrow. What if it's nasty? So, in an attempt to ignore the whole thing and wallow in old childhood memories, I've been embarking on a train of thought set off by Scholiast's train of thoughts relating to her birthday.

It occurred to me that while I can't remember my sixth birthday party, I can remember writing about it in school the following day. Or rather, not writing about it. I got as far as something like "Yesterday it was my birthday. Robert Brown, Robert York, Robert Hodgson..." and then got lost in reminiscences about the party and the interesting fact that my three best friends were all called Robert, and didn't write anything else. The Roberts wouldn't have been the only ones at the party - I always had six guests at these things, that being the number of screaming children my parents had decided they could cope with. And that must have been quite a feat in itself - me, six other six-year-olds and my brother being four and doubtless embarrassing to virtually-grown-ups like us.

I'm pretty sure Juliette Wilson, who lived down the road, would have also been there. Possibly also James Small, if he was at the school at that time and friends with me (I can't quite remember), but I don't know who else might have made my priviliged guest list. It was the done thing to invite Gavin Barnes to parties, but I have a feeling that at the age of six (and having only been at my new school for a month) I hadn't quite realised the importance of getting in with the coolest kid in the class, so I don't think he was there.

This provokes further memories about Robert Brown, who I remember practically nothing about. He and I were both new at Clinton Park school that year - my first year of primary school was at Tumby Woodside school, which closed down at the end of the year and forced its 28 pupils to the schools up in Coningsby and Tattershall. I went to Clinton Park, where my dad was a teacher, while most of the rest went to Coningsby, so I was forced to find a new best school friend to replace Robert Hodgson.

Not being a naturally sociable type even then, at playtime I found a spirally snake painted onto the tarmac playground and amused myself by running around in circles on it until Robert Brown came up and started a conversation: "What are you playing?" "Running." "Can I play?" "Yes." And we were best friends after that. But then he moved away almost immediately afterwards and I never saw him again. Clinton Park's pupils were mostly the children of people attached to RAF Coningsby, so people were always coming and going when their fathers got posted to another base. Even so, most people stuck around for more than a few months, so I don't know what was going on there. I shifted my best-friendship allegiance to Robert York, and we were inseparable for the next few years until he moved away too - and even then we wrote to each other for a while and a few years ago got in touch through Friends Reunited.

Robert Hodgson, meanwhile, I met again when we both went to the grammar school and found that we didn't have anything in common any more, so we didn't hang out together. But I haven't the faintest idea what became of Robert Brown, or whether we'd find something to talk about if we met up again today. He's unsurprisingly not on Friends Reunited for Clinton Park, and you can't really Google someone with such a boring name unless you want to read a million articles in the hope that they'll mention where the subject went to primary school for a few months in 1982. It'll just have to remain one of those mysteries.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Memory loss

While I was memorising thousands of binary digits this morning, part of my brain was adding up how much money I've got and working out what to do with it. I remembered that I'd spent a fairly significant amount of money some time in the last couple of weeks, put it on the Barclaycard and thought it was a good thing I was getting this extra money at the end of the month, because otherwise it would have stretched my monthly pay a bit. But I couldn't remember for the life of me what this expenditure was for.

I spent absolutely ages racking my brains, trying to work it out. I knew it was something unavoidable, not a regular monthly payment but something that I had to pay every now and then, and for about a hundred pounds, but what could it be? Okay, I'm pretty relaxed about my money, but could I really have spent such a lot of it and forgotten? After running through every kind of household expenditure and tax I could think of, I'd just about come to the conclusion that I must have either dreamt the whole thing or been hypnotised into handing over my hard-earned cash to Paul McKenna. I gave up and decided to wait for the Barclaycard statement to see if that would remind me, then took my glasses off to clean them and remembered - "Oh yes, the new glasses!"

I'm not sure what the moral to this story is. You can still become world memory champion even if you've got a memory like a sieve? I really am so relaxed about my money that I can spend it and not consciously register it? My memory is going as I spiral helplessly towards thirty years of age? I really was hypnotised, possibly by an evil optician like in 'The Miserable Mill' by Lemony Snicket? Or perhaps I'm just plain mad.

In other news, I've been spending quite a lot of time lately playing othello/reversi at Kurnik, a Polish games website where you can play just about any weird game you like, without downloading things or signing your life away. It's where all the cool othello players hang out nowadays, and I've been sort of meaning to start playing there for ages now, but only just got round to it (and then only because I was bored stiff at work). But the whole site really does deserve a plug - not many people go out of their way to provide a place where you can play connect 4 with people from all over the world.

Also, Kurnik is Polish for henhouse. I think that's an excellent name for a website.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Anthology of Interest

Okay, it seems everyone wants me to do this documentary. Fine. If he does turn out to be evil, it'll be your fault. So, having decided that, I'd better get on with writing my books, so they can be launched to tie in with the theatrical release of this oscar-winning masterpiece.

I haven't really talked about my literary aspirations here before except very vaguely, so for want of anything better to write about, I'll describe 'How To Be Clever', so that anyone reading this can steal the idea and write it first before I get round to it.

The basic idea of the book is that, unlike some others that promise to increase your intelligence, aptitude, intrinsic moral worth, all that kind of thing, HTBC shows you how to make other people think you're clever, while actually remaining just as thick as you naturally are. This is an art that I've cultivated over the years.

It will include lessons in things like how to memorise a pack of cards (actually quite easy, with just a little bit of practice and the right technique), how to get into Mensa (there are actually very few different kinds of puzzles in IQ tests, so if you know what to look out for, and practice them a bit, you can increase your "IQ" a few notches), how to work out square roots without a calculator (they don't teach that in schools any more, so anyone who knows how to do it must be a real genius, right?), how not to play chess (trust me, once people think you're clever, they'll automatically assume you're a great chess player. The trick is to avoid actually playing a game, at any cost) and much more.

There'll also be lots and lots of useful random facts that you can slip into conversations, encouragement to be more creative and spontaneous (if you're going to be a genius, you have to be eccentric) and probably pictures too, just in case the book gets bought by the kind of person who doesn't like reading.

I've been writing little bits of it every six months or so for the last couple of years, and one of these days soon I'm really going to sit down and put metaphorical pen to paper, then try to get the thing in print. I don't want to approach publishers until I've actually written the whole thing, in draft form at least, because I'd hate to have to meet a deadline. I'm very bad with those.

Of course, I also resolved recently to write another book, didn't I? I've got ideas, but I think in the end I'll just sit down and write the first thing that comes into my head, and see what happens. It might be a masterpiece. It might be the complete works of Shakespeare. It might be about a terrapin called Dean. We'll just have to see.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Baby You're A Rich Fag Jew

I've got money! Lots and lots and lots of it! Ooh, and so many things shouting out at me to buy them. We finished work at lunchtime today (the Select people came and kicked us all out of the office, so they obviously couldn't wait to get rid of us), so we did the farewell drinking session this afternoon and early evening. So I can still get up earlyish tomorrow morning and go to see Grandma without feeling terrible - see, I'm just fine when I stop drinking Stellas after three pints and move on to something else.

So, unemployment until Tuesday, and then I'll be a normal wage-slave again. I'll have to stop talking here about the delights of not working and find something else (the life of an accountant probably doesn't qualify as interesting enough).

I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I taped 'The 5000 Fingers Of Dr T' this morning. An absolutely wonderful film, that surprisingly few people have heard of, it's a live-action version of a Dr Seuss book - a concept which should be completely impossible, but somehow works in this case. It captures the Dr Seuss look perfectly, and that's an amazingly difficult thing to do. Dr Seuss himself isn't as appreciated in some quarters as he should be, but the fantastic imagination that goes into his drawings is something that's unmatched in all of history. He's one of my all-time heroes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Is it too late to call off this whole documentary thing? Today's filming session had more telling me what to do than I like to have in my average day. Which makes me wonder again why I'm doing this if it's only going to get on my wick, when the end result is going to be people sitting and watching me going about my everyday life and talking about memory stuff. None of which is something I really like. So should I call Nick and tell him I don't want to do it, or just put up with it so as not to hurt his feelings?

Also, I've got a sort of reputation in memory circles as the kind of person who's down-to-earth, and doesn't go in for self-promotion. If there's an award-winning documentary about how great I am, it might damage that reputation.

I think I'll just do nothing and hope he realises what a dull documentary this would be. Anyway, officially the last day of work tomorrow! Got my P45 and final payslip today, the money's in the bank tomorrow, I would imagine there's going to be a fair amount of drinking too. Which might be a problem seeing as I'm taking my grandma out to lunch on Saturday. Ah well, I'm sure I'll be fine as long as I keep off the Stella.

Ross and Joey are drinking midori on Friends at the moment. Or several years ago when they filmed the episode, anyway. And it's probably coloured water, to be fair. Still, it's good to see.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I will not celebrate meaningless milestones

I don't want to leave my job and start a scary new one! Someone arrange things so I don't have to, please. Tomorrow is sort of my last proper day of work - not only do I have something to do (showing Kim from Luton the wonders of the bank reconciliations) but I'll be filmed either working or pretending to work. I'll wear my Parkhouse t-shirt as a sort of private joke. After that I doubt we'll be doing anything on Friday, and we certainly won't on Monday (officially our last day) because I don't think anyone's going to come in. We get paid on Friday, you see.

And then on Tuesday I start at the new place. This brings with it all kinds of anxieties. Can I still remember how to do management accounts after all this time doing financial analysis? Will the people there like me? Will I like the people there? Will I get lost on the way there on my first morning? I tend to do things like that when I'm nervous.

I got my new glasses at lunchtime. I was sceptical about their claims that they wouldn't be in before Thursday, so I went and checked on my lunch break, and they were there. Both pairs - the ones with normal lenses and the ones with the extra-thin ones which the people there assured me would take a couple of weeks. I don't know why I asked for the extra-thin lenses anyway - I didn't particularly want them, but I can never resist a sales pitch. I'm wearing the normal-lens ones at the moment, because I think they look better.

The new glasses are a lot less obvious than my old ones, if you see what I mean. A particularly short-sighted or unobservant person might not notice that I'm wearing specs at all, because they're quite small and less ostentatious. I think it's as close as you can get to contacts without the ickiness of sticking things in your eyes. I'd still rather not have glasses that look like everyone else's, though. Maybe when I've got a bit of money to spare I'll splash out on some Timmy Mallett ones. Or Jan Formann's ones, with an L on one side and a K on the other so he's got 'LOOK' written across his face. Then again, two of us wearing those at memory competitions would just look strange...