Nemesis vacancy

This is exactly why I should have left well alone. I finally log on to my clunky “Mr Site” webmail and what’s there waiting for me? A message from Martin Noble. Nobody will remember, but at the start of 2008 I wrote a blog entry deciding that I needed to have a literary feud, to give myself some gravitas or something. And, slightly arbitrarily, I chose Martin Noble, on the basis that he had written the Target novelisation of Automan which was sat on my desk at the time, and which wasn’t that great a book, and which had a stain on the cover. Except in his message Martin is incredibly polite, explains he had sciatica at the time of writing it, and even apologises for the stain. So he’s obviously not much cop as a nemesis. Which means I’m left with no literary feud, and nobody will take me seriously. I think my best hope now is that George Osborne writes a book (I mean like one of those crappy spy books MPs are always churning out, the Big Red Book doesn’t really count), because he’s already annoyed me by changing his name from Gideon to George in “an act of youthful rebellion”. And he graduated from the same college I failed to graduate from on account of those library fines. And he even went there to read Modern History, which is what I did, until I swapped to Archaeology and Anthropology on the grounds that you got to wear a better hat. It’s almost like the bit in the swamp cave where you have a fight with somebody and you pull off their mask and then it turns out you've been fighting an evil version of yourself ALL ALONG only with a strange nose that looks like a bum.

Not really worth the wait

Oh, good grief, two and a half years since my last post. I’m starting to wonder if, just possibly, I might not be very good at blogs. Or at the internet full stop, seeing as I've managed to log onto Facebook and check my website a combined total of about twice since 2008. Partly this is because I'm congenitally incapable of writing passwords down any place sensible, and mostly it’s because I end up feeling guilty about not logging on for so long, which then makes me try to avoid it some more, and so on, in a vicious feedback loop, until the whole thing becomes a full blown email phobia and I end up curled into a ball under my desk eating a babybell. So sorry to anyone who left a message, I'm going through them now, except I have a horrible feeling that the website ones get automatically deleted after a few months. I know I’m rubbish.

Anyway, if you were wondering, I've spent pretty much all of those two and a half years buying tat from ebay. There’s a fair bit to get through, so I won’t waste any more time:

Tat I Have Got Off Ebay #1: A mechanical calculator

Actually this was a bit too expensive to count as genuine tat. But it is pointless, and it makes people sigh and roll their eyes at me, so I think it still counts. The sad truth is that for the first half of the last century calculators were stupid bulky contraptions, taking up most of a desk, like this:

Until, one morning in the early 1930’s, a young Austrian called Curt Herzstark had his once in a lifetime revelation: if you could make a calculator small enough, you could lift it up. And if you could lift it up, you could turn it upside down. And if you could turn it upside down, you could write the word ‘BOOBS’.

The engineering required to achieve that level of miniaturisation would be revolutionary. But just as Curt had started designing his amazing device the war came along and he was thrown in a concentration camp. All seemed lost! Except, as it happened, the Nazis were so excited by the idea of being able to write ‘BOOBS’ on a calculator that they let Curt go on developing his machine whilst he was imprisoned, hoping to be able to present it as a birthday present for the Fuhrer.

It’s scary to think how different history might have turned out if Hitler had been able to shock Churchill with a calculator that could be used to write ‘BOOBS’, but things didn’t pan out for the Nazis, Buchenweld was liberated in 1945, and Curt’s invention was saved for the rest of us. To this day the Curta is popular with rally drivers, who use it to pass the time on boring rallies by writing not only the word ‘BOOBS’ but other words like ‘BOOBLESS’ and ‘SHELL OIL’.

Here is a picture of my curta calculator:

Next time: Tiny Plastic Post Office Tower 

(no subject)

Twenty five years ago I did a really bad thing. It was the end of 1982, my first year of primary school: Tron was in the cinemas, Peter Davison was fighting a giant rubber snake on Doctor Who, and I started spending time with a girl called Charlotte Hawkins. That wasn’t the bad thing, it was good. We sat next to each other in assembly, and a couple of times we even held hands. Her haircut wasn’t all that, but neither was mine, and frankly I didn’t care, because she had a nice smile. We hung around together for I’m not sure how long, but it was at least a week, which in kid years is a good six months - happy and carefree, not bothered by property prices or dental fees, and blissfully unaware that before the decade was out the recipe for beef Monster Munch would get badly dicked about with.  
Then, one morning in the playground, a few of my peer group took me aside and explained the facts of life. It was no longer acceptable to be friends with a girl, unless she was a blood relative, and even then it would be frowned on. A year before, in infant school, it had been fine, but – seemingly overnight  – a collective chemical explosion had gone off in everyone’s brains and it was suddenly apparent that boys and girls were as different as Big Traks and Lolo Balls,  and we could never have anything to do with each other again for the rest of our lives.
Slow on the uptake as ever, I’d somehow missed this blinding revelation, but as soon as it was made clear to me that a continued association with Charlotte would turn me into a laughing stock, I resolved to take action. So the next day, when she came to sit next to me in assembly, I pulled a face, folded my arms, announced loudly that “I DON’T TALK TO YOUR KIND ANY MORE” and shuffled closer to Andrew Winter and Jeremy Strickland, who were boys. Charlotte looked a bit upset, but mostly just confused, then quietly went to sit somewhere else. And I instantly felt wretched. In that split-second I learnt an important lesson: Winnie Cooper and Paul were growing up and shipping out to Vietnam peer groups are f*cking idiots. 

Already drifting apart
Anyway, I’ve been tidying up for the last week, and I found a poem written by Charlotte. It was titled ‘Sunset’. And it starts off pretty bleak:
The sky is yellow
It blinds my eyes
The yellow ball is frightening
I don’t dare look at it.
After that there’s some slightly lighter stuff about fluffy clouds, but then it finishes on another grim note:
Now I can see the black rooftops.
They look like frightening castles
Looming over me.
The only explanation for a seven year old coming out with that kind of thing is obvious: my terrible rejection had crushed her. Almost certainly it must have sent poor Charlotte spiralling into a life of drug abuse and depression. Now in her thirties, forlorn and still bizarrely terrified of the sun, she probably evolved into some kind of Gollum creature, selling bags of glue to the goth kids outside Chichester Cathedral.
Except it turns out this is not exactly how things panned out. In fact, according to google, she actually evolved into a presenter for Sky News, which is either better or slightly worse than selling bags of glue to goth kids, depending on your point of view. Oh, and apparently her face evolved like this:

 Who I will now refer to as 'my ex'
Now a lot of people would just say things like “it’s water under the bridge” or “you did what anybody would do in the situation, don’t beat yourself up about it” or “let bygones be bygones” or “she obviously forgot you and the entire incident by lunch-time” or “I stopped reading this three paragraphs ago”. But I’m a little deeper than most people, and as a result I still feel incredibly guilty about my behaviour. So I say this to all of you: I am now quite happy to be seen holding Charlotte’s hand in public, regardless of what any of you think. Sure, I know she’s a girl, and yes, I know it’s going to make me a pariah and a laughing stock, but I don’t care, because I’m no longer bound by your narrow views on what’s socially acceptable.

(no subject)

A while back on America’s Next Top Model, the increasingly unhinged Tyra Banks criticised a contestant for being “too video”. I haven’t got a clue what she was on about, but ever since then me and my cousin Chloe have enjoyed accusing each other and everybody else of being too video. I think I like things being “too video” even better than I like “hanging it from the big bell”. But now I have a new favourite inexplicable expression, which I picked up from a floppy haired indie idiot trust-fund boy on the tube the other day. He was telling his friend as loudly as possible how somebody he was at art college with wasn’t very good at designing posters. We, as a carriage, were obviously meant to be incredibly impressed at his glamorous art college lifestyle, and presumably of the thirty year telesales career he has to look forward to. Anyhow I managed not to smack him, and I was rewarded for my baby jesus-like self-restraint. “He doesn’t have a heart! He’s got no soul!” floppy haired indie idiot trust-fund boy fumed, louder than ever. “He’s not even human. He’s a vector! He’s a vector, man! He’s such a vector!”*. He was obviously pretty proud of this description because he kept on repeating it all the way to Islington.

So now I’m looking for someone to dismiss as being too much of a vector. An obvious choice would be this man, but unfortunately I think he’s brilliant.
*I know, probably you’re all going to say “So what? Us kids are always using “vector” as a pejorative. Get with it, grandpa!”. Or possibly I’ve unfairly misjudged the situation and the idiot indie floppy haired trust-fund boy really did go to college with Vib Ribbon. In which case I’m sorry.

(no subject)

Despite a half-assed intention to be a bit more discerning in my telly viewing habits, I’ve still found myself sat up watching old Tales Of The Unexpected repeats at one o’clock in the morning more times than is really justifiable. It would be okay if every episode was Timothy West drinking gallons of Royal Jelly whilst Susan George wafts about in a slightly see-thru top. But mostly they’re not. Mostly they’re the slowest, most awkward bits of drama ever put down on videotape. If I didn’t already have my literary feud with Martin Noble I think might start one with Roald Dahl (though actually the ones based on his stories tend to be quite good, and obviously he’s dead so it would be in bad taste, and if we did have a feud there would probably be an unexpected twist where he turned out to be Toyah Wilcox, or my own reflection, or a bee.)

Last night’s episode made me wonder if perhaps the series wasn’t written at all, but just improvised by whoever they had in that week. “Do whatever you fancy Timothy. Though you need to make it last 35 minutes, so be sure to show us all the most mundane details you can think of. And don’t forget to pull a spooky face at the end”. Anyway, it went like this: A surgeon got given a gigantic diamond by a grateful patient, worth a million dollars. He took it home and, inexplicably, hid it inside an ice-cube in his fridge. But a man who knew about the diamond broke into his house, along with a young woman. She wasted a lot of time drinking iced drinks instead of looking for the diamond. Next morning another surgeon found the diamond in her intestine. He tried to sell it at a local diamond shop, but it was the same shop the first surgeon got his diamond valued at, so they phoned him up to ask if he’d been burgled. Happy to get his diamond back the first surgeon went home to have a celebratory vodka on the rocks with his wife. “Where have you hidden the diamond this time?” asked the wife. It turned out he’d hidden it in an ice-cube again. The episode ended with a crash zoom on the wife’s face as she made a funny gulping noise. Oh no! He had accidentally put the ice-cube containing the diamond in her drink. So the twist was that it had been drunk. For the second time. At no point was it explained why a) a man this stupid was allowed to be a surgeon, or b) WHY PEOPLE KEPT DRINKING ICED DRINKS BY SWALLOWING THE ICE-CUBES WHOLE AS SOON AS THE DRINK WAS HANDED TO THEM.

(no subject)

our julie
Originally uploaded by gideondefoe
I’m really going to have to forget the updating-at-weekends bit of my resolution because again I’ve got nothing. I went to a birthday party. And there was a girl there who I hadn’t seen in ages and who I’d name-checked in one of the pirate books. I thought about saying “I named a fictional gigantic boat after you. It was called The Lovely Emma. Because your name is Emma and you’re lovely, you see?”. But it’s hard to drop that into conversation without sounding creepy, so I just ate a potato instead.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Julie Christie’s face. If every time that someone didn’t have anything worthwhile to say on the internet they simply stopped typing and posted a picture of Julie Christie’s face in place of what they had been about to write, the world would be a much better place.

(no subject)

I’m very jealous of internet terrorist rhodri, who now has a literary feud with My Tornado Hell’s tangerine vomiting Caroline Phillips. I’ve wanted a literary feud for ages. Everybody knows that you’re nobody in the world of letters if you haven’t head-butted Gore Vidal or given Gabriel Garcia Marquez a smack in the face or spilt ink down the front of Mark Twain’s suit. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that my lack of a literary feud is obviously the reason – the only reason – that to date pirates hasn’t been nominated for a single award.

I started drawing up a list of potential feud partners, and there are quite a few obvious choices. There’s Jeanette Winterson, for all those godforsaken homeopathy/magic faeries articles the Guardian can’t get enough of nowadays. Or Matt Ridley for all the clumsy shoe-horning of his slightly nasty politics into otherwise quite good books about genetics. Or ridiculous bobble-headed Gillian McKieth, for, well, everything about her.  But really my enemy should be working in the roughly the same genre as me.  For a while I thought maybe internetsdairywould do. It would certainly be convenient, because we quite often have lunch together anyway, so if we just threw in a bit of glowering over the chicken and pesto sandwiches that would kill two birds with one stone and save a lot of time. But he already has that cowboy nemesis. In the end I’ve just gone with what happened to be lying on top of my bookcase. So: Martin Noble. Your 1984 novelisation of Automan is not very good. Possibly this is because you didn’t have much to work with in the first place, given the original teleplay wasn’t much cop. But regardless of this, it is still a poor book. And my copy has a strange green stain on the front. What do you have to say to that Martin?

Post Office Tower

Post Office Tower
Originally uploaded by gideondefoe
Like usual, I've managed to underestimate my tax bill by about a factor of two. So, feeling suddenly a bit destitute, I decided to collect all the loose change off my bedroom floor. And impressively it came to a bit over 170 quid, which sort of shows you how often I tidy up. 170 quid is quite good, but it's not going to keep me in the rump steaks to which I have become accustomed. However, as luck would have it I've come up with a clever money making scheme that doesn't involve people buying the pirate books in vast quantities, because obviously that's not working, you miserable tightwads. My plan is inspired by my favourite building in the world, the London Post Office Tower. As you can see from the photo, I've used some of my loose change to build a replica of the tower, which would look good on any desk or mantlepiece. I'm going to sell 'Build your own GPO Tower kits' which will include all the the coins required and detailed instructions on how to stack them. The model pictured uses 10 pounds 38 pence worth of coins, so if I can sell each kit at 20 pounds a pop, then I'll be rolling in it. Place your orders now!

I'm not complaining about paying the tax by the way, I'm just complaining about my rubbish mental arithmetic. For a start, I reckon I've had about 60 grand's worth of hospital treatment in the last tax year, so I'm quids in anyhow. And, more fundamentally, if you bang on about being left wing and then start moaning about paying tax then you're an idiot. I went to a meeting of the Society of Authors once (there was free cheese and sausages - that's honestly the only reason I went. I didn't join. I can't think of anything worse than a society of authors) and everybody there loudly proclaimed their leftwing credentials, whilst at the exact same time discussing how they were going to move to Ireland as a tax dodge. If I was an Irish nurse and some f*cking tax-free POET came into the ER complaining their liver was hurting I'd probably accidentally inject a laxative into thier eyeball.
Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant didn't it? I forgot that this isn't that kind of a blog. Spangles, eh? Remember spangles?