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.