Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Well I had to get around to this sooner or later. There are some movies that I watch over and over again, often driving others to distraction :-) Here are some of my favourites with a comment on why:

The Return of Captain Invincible: a wonderful spoof, including such gems as the superhero being questioned during the McCarthy Witch Hunts in the 1950s and being asked why he has a red cape.

Undercover Brother: a spoof of Shaft where our funky hero battles against The Man. Some excellent humour including the black revolutionary organisation that has a white member, thanks to Affirmative Action.

Galaxy Quest: the ultimate Sci-Fi spoof where the cast of a TV series are taken up into space my aliens who think the TV shows were real and have recreated the spaceship. Too many great gags to pick on just one!

Beaches: OK, so this is not a dumb comedy, but I really love this film, even if I do end up blubbing like a big girl at the end.

Saving Private Ryan: OK, better save my manhood and choose a war film! Seriously, though, this is a really great film and should be compulsory viewing as part of history at school, alongside Schindler's List.

The Lord of the Rings: a wonderful film of a wonderful book. If are not hooked, try again watching the extended DVD versions if possible. Full of great stuff. One of my favourite moments is when Sam nearly drowns while trying to swim after Frodo when the Fellowship breaks up.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What happens next?

Today I want to tell you about a dream I had.

It was shortly after we lost our daughter. I was hanging on, but could feel my strength slowly ebbing and was not sure how much longer I could go on. Then I had the dream. It was the most real dream I have ever had, complete with touch and smell.

I was walking along but cannot remember where it was - I can only remember feeling that it was a wonderful place. Then I saw my daughter. She walked towards me and said "Look at this place, isn't it great?"

We hugged.

Then we were not alone. We were joined by a couple of old friends of mine who had also died too young, and some dogs that I had owned when I was younger. I hugged my friends, patted the dogs (I can still feel their fur) and then woke up.

Now I am not claiming that what I saw was real. Part of me says it was a desperate ploy by my brain to stop me going over the edge. Whatever it was, it marked a turning point for me, put me back on track so that I could continue, to help the rest of the family through.

I hope it was real, though. One day I hope to return.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Future of Crime and Punishment

Crime and punishment is a big problem in the UK. One problem is that we do not have enough space in our prisons for everyone who should be in there. This has been causing problems for some time, with prisoners being released early, but most recently we have seen dangerous criminals given lighter sentences so that they do not have to go to prison at all! This is clearly ridiculous!

So, here are a couple of possible (but not especially serious) solutions to this problem.

1) Send prisoners overseas to serve their time. The UK already has precedents for this, with many services such as telephone call centres being located in India where it is cheaper to run such things. So why not set up prisons in places like Siberia for serious, long term prisoners? Now THAT would certainly be more of a deterant than the threat of a few hours community service!

2) Bring back the death sentence. The British abolished this after a couple of trials that resulted in the execution of people that should not have been, most famously Derek Bentley, the young lad who was with someone who shot a Policeman and was probably trying to tell the shooter surrender his gun, rather than telling him to shoot - the phrase being "let him have it" after the Policeman had asked for the gun! Anyway, we certainly now have plenty of undoubtedly guilty people serving very long stretches... (Well in British terms anyway, where "Life" can mean 12 years or less!)

3) Following on from the last idea (and recent viewing of Celebrity Big Brother) we get "Death Row - The Reality Show" where viewers get to vote for who they think should be executed next. "To execute Bill call 0800 54321 02". I think I may be onto the next blockbuster TV series! :-)

Of course, none of this stands a chance of happening due to our excessing concern for the criminal's welfare. Don't worry about the poor victims - someone I know was attacked recently and the only help he recieved from Victim Support was the suggestion that he move somewhere else! Not very helpful and certainly not the sort of "support" you expect!

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Rock Chef

As a teenager I always wanted to be a rock star - most did in those days. Unable to get on with a normal 6 string guitar (at the time I did now know it, but I have a condition called Dyspraxia which affects coordination among other things - maybe I will blog on this another time), I took up bass guitar. 4 strings made this a lot easier for me, although I still had to work really hard to get even reasonably good at it.

I played in bands, gigged a bit, and then children arrived, so I gave up.

Then, at the age of 40, my mid-lfe crisis kicked in. Some get a sports car, some get a new wife, I got a new guitar. But not a bass, this time I got a 6 string electric guitar, determined that Dyspraxia would not beat me this time. Amazingly, I picked it up fairly quickly and can now play well enough for my own entertainment.

And this is where The Rock Chef comes in. Sometimes on a Friday evening or at the weekends when I tend to do a lot of cooking, I become The Rock Chef. I strap on my guitar, plug it into a small battery powered amplifier that my wife bought for me, clip the amp onto my belt and head off to the kitchen. This allows me to cook and play guitar while I am waiting for something to rise, heat up, cook, etc.

I wrote a Rock Chef song as I cycled in this morning. Sung as straight 12 bar blues:

The Cheese Grater Blues
Well tonight I'm making pizza
And it's time to grate the cheese.
I said tonight I'm making pizza
And it's time to grate the cheese.
And I sure hope that grater
Is goin' to be good to me!

Well I'm gratin' up the cheese
And it all is goin' well.
I said I'm gratin' up the cheese
And it all is goin' well.
Now I've slipped and cut my fingers!
Sure hope that grater burns in Hell!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snooooowwwww!

Well it finally looks like we are going to get some real winter weather here in good old Blighty! Winter so far has generally been fairly warm and wet - it is nolonger possible for us to deny the truth of Global Warming! Those of you in the USA and Canada have, of course, been having a rather different winter and may well be thinking "Global Warming? Bring it on!"

But as I was saying, Britain has now been getting some snow, and I am now keeping an eye out for the first flakes to start falling outside - my excuse to jump on my bike and head for home. I love cycling in fresh falling snow, before it turns to ice or slush, both of which are bad for the cyclist...

One thing that makes me want to have snow is that our dog, a 1 year old golden labrador called Custard, has not seen proper snow yet (just a few flakes one morning when he was a puppy) and want to see what he does. Will take have to film him, I think.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I read the news today, oh boy!

Sorry, can't help it! I am going to have to comment on Celeb Big Brother and how the media are handling it!

The media is currently full of how Jade is being racist to Shilpa. Sure they are having lots of arguments, and Jade is shouting a lot, but I don't think they are getting it right.

The problem is not race, it is Class. Shilpa is from the top strata of Indian society and expects to be treated with respect. Jade will not do this, and resents Shilpa's many comments that draw attention to her lower intelligence and education. Many of the arguments actually start when Shilpa makes a nasty comment to Jade.

However, there is a third player here which the media are totally missing out on, because the reporters are clearly only watching selected footage. The REAL nasty piece of work is Danielle (the sweet, innocent girl who became Miss UK by accidentally sleeping with one of the judges), who makes comments to keep things going when Jade is trying to calm down, and laughs/smirks/giggles when the arguments are going on. She is also the only one to have made what anyone should see is clearly a racist comment: "I wish she would f*$% off home". She tried to deny it was meant like that, but it is a "standard" British saying and can only mean one thing. But the media are so hot on blaming Jade, they have missed it!

This then gets me thinking. If they can't get a story right when everything is there for them to see, how can we trust them on other, more complex, issues? The mind boggles!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A poor, dumb animal?

My mum has a pony called Humphrey. She bought him when she lived in the wilds of Scotland, after the people who bought him to do pony trekking decided he was too wild for the job and were going to "send him to the glue factory" as the saying goes.

He now lives in a paddock on the edge of town, with other ponies in neighbouring paddocks that he can socialize with and a nice, warm stable that he can go into when he wants to. No one rides him as my mum thinks it would be cruel.

Well, inspite of advancing years and very bad knees, my mum insists on getting up at the crack of dawn and cycling (yes it runs in the family) up to the field to feed and tend to her baby, but this morning she was not able to, so I got the job - being the only member of the family that she trusts to look after him "properly".

So I stopped off on my way to work, in the wind and rain, to feed Humphrey, clean out his stable and paddock, feed the birds that live in the woods nearby, etc, etc. By the time I had finished I was a wet through and caked with mud (nice sticky clay) with straw and hay sticking out from odd places, and must have looked very sorry for myself. Meanwhile, Humphrey was slowly munching through breakfast, taking a mouthful which he would slowly chew on, while looking around, savouring the odd slice of carrot or apple that gets mixed in with his food. After finishing his main food, he strolled into his stable (remarkably warm and snug considering conditions outside) and started to much on some of the fresh hay that I had put in there. Meanwhile, I climbed onto my bike and set off for work.

You know, for a poor dumb animal, he has got us very well trained...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Jelly Babies and other magical food

What is it about certain food that gives them the power to make you feel that, against all possible reason, all is well in the world?

I had real trouble getting out of bed this morning, but I got ready and set off to work. As I entered Canterbury I stopped at a shop and bought some Jelly Babies. Now the morning is flying by, and it is break time already. It might be the huge amount of sugar in them, but I don't think that is all of it. There must be something that is especially comforting about certain food - maybe it reminds us of when life was less complicated and stressful, when the biggest worry was whether Man Utd would win on Saturday, or whether I would be able to watch UFO on a friend's colour TV (it just did not work in black and white!).

Another magical food for me is the Quesadila sold at a local Maxican and sandwich bar. A wonderful combination of refried beans, salsa, jalopinos, etc inside a toasted wrap. Mmmmm. One of these with some natchos and cheese sauce at lunchtime and I am ready for world conquest. I think Santa Anna must have eaten these before deciding on war with Texas, but he clearly did not feed them to his troops too! If he had I think the entire USA would now be speaking Spanish! :-)

For many, chocolate seems to be a magical food, but it does not work for me - not that I do not enjoy it, of course!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Welcome to my new blog. In this blog I will be writing down some of the odd, random thoughts that go through my head as I cycle to work each morning - a journey of around 8 miles, up and down hills, along narrow yet amazingly busy roads.

To start off with, I will set out my theory about the weather and cycling.

Wind: If there is a noticable wind it will be coming from within 45 degrees of the direction of travel. Even if I only cycle a couple of miles to the shops, by the time I start the return journey the wind will have changed enough to be blowing in my face again! Failing this, winds will come in strong, unexpected gusts from directly to one side or the other, threatening to blow me either into the path of an oncoming bus or 4 wheel drive, or into a ditch or hedgerow.

Rain: It is never raining when I set off on a journey - NEVER! However, if there is any rain to be had, it will arrive in huge amounts when I am on the most exposed stretch of road for miles around. Sometimes it only rains where I am. I once rode along a cycle track with a narrow strip of cloud directly overhead and got soaked. When I rejoined the main road it was totally dry.

Temperature: The relationship between temperature and the clothes being worn by the cyclist is simple and absolute. Regardless of the temperature when I set out, it will rise or fall to cause the maximum discomfort. If I set off in water proofs and fleece jumper the temperature will soar until I am riding along in my own personal, mobile sauna. If I am daring and set off less well covered the temperature will plummet so that I am in danger of dying of hypothermia before I reach my destination. The only exception to this is at the height of the very short English summer, when I can go out in shirt and shorts and only risk sunburn and skin cancer.

Having said all that, I love cycling and dread the day I am not fit enough to make the journey and have to resort to something more conventional, safe and comfortable!