Gardening Photos



Leading the field in the garden, this guy shows the rest how it is done. Some rather pathetic-looking marigold stalks reply "Well, we’d be doing much better too, were it not for all these bloody slugs."


Thought For The Day

**When** driving along a busy main road and you encounter a stationary queue of cars coming from the opposite direction, created by someone who is waiting to turn right into a side street (across your bow), it **is** considered good manners to slow down, flash your lights ((yes, yes, technically illegal, I know)) and allow them to turn in front of you.

**However**, you should check your mirror first. Because if, against all odds, there is actually nobody behind you for, oooh, a hundred metres, you **will** think to yourself “Hmmm, I look like a **fool**.”

Music Music reviews

More Recent Listening

It’s been a few months (about three of them, I think), so here’s some stuff that I’ve been listening to lately.

Takk **Takk** by *Sigur Rós*

This is a superb listening experience. The first half of the album is fluid and seamless. I don’t want to use the word repetitive, because of the negative connotations, so suffice to say that it is perfect ambient or background music. I have suggested to Karen that we should be playing this kind of thing to the unborn child for the benefit of its soothing, lullaby-like effects. Not the lullabys of open fires and rocking chairs, but of icebergs and penguins.

Whereas the first half has an underlying dynamic to it, the individual tracks in the second half seem to have their own individual lifecycle, each particular song standing more on its own. There is also more variation within this second half, some of the songs feeling a little louder, heavier, threatening.

I accept that for many people, this album will seem a bit nothingy. But they are clearly idiots.

Clor **Clor** by *Clor*

Clor have split up already, but not before leaving us with this. It’s a mesh of punk and pop and techno with a homemadeness that all adds up to something unlike anything else. I was originally turned onto them when I saw their performance at the Reading festival last year, and was left open-mouthed at the originality of the concept and the grooviness of the basslines. After having listened to the album many, many times, I also have to say that it is startlingly high on singalongability. Phrases like “Our pockets, full of little miracles” wedge themselves in your brain and demand your assistance. Short keyboard riffs are scattered throughout, catchy little melodies that make each individual song instantly recognisable.

The last few years have been a barrage of fabulous debut albums from British bands, with follow-up albums being inevitably delayed or disappointing (see The Zutons, below). Clor are one of the few bands that I think could have had enough mileage for a second album. Sadly, we’ll never know.

Tired Of Hanging Around **Tired Of Hanging Around** by *The Zutons*

Gah, it’s Franz Ferdinand all over again. Who Killed The Zutons was a great album, but they seem to have lost all the quirkiness that made it interesting, perhaps in an attempt to appeal to the mainstream. There are a couple of catchy numbers – Oh Stacey and Valerie are infectious – but it’s a forgettable experience overall. Which is a shame, because I’ve already bought tickets to one of their shows.

The Life Pursuit **The Life Pursuit** by *Belle And Sebastian*

Belle And Sebastian have really grown up in the 9 years that I’ve been listening to them. If you had told me that they would ditch their tweeness and develop their sound into nigh-on danceable pop music, I’d laugh at you and tug your eyebrows ((why not)). It’s sounding very good after two listens. Whether it will stand the test of time or not, we shall see.

Certainly, they deserve brownie points for having the guts to adapt their style. Many bands operate like a business, churning out the same stuff over and over again in order to keep their existing fans happy, rather than poking into new genres as their fancy takes them. In fact, I think there should be a law that states that after recording an album of (say, for the sake of argument) guitar-based soft rock, the band in question are forbidden from recording any more albums of said guitar-based soft rock. Keep the gene pool fresh.

Eyes Open **Eyes Open** by *Snow Patrol*

Lots of people like them. Lots of people whose opinions I respect. And so I feel a little bad for not liking them all that much. Maybe one day I’ll have a revelation and start liking them, but for now I just feel indifference. If the randomiser puts this album on then I probably won’t skip it straight away, but I can’t see myself ever selecting it deliberately. A little too formulaic, perhaps?

From The Cliffs **From The Cliffs** by *Guillemots*

For a little while, I thought that Guillemots were my new favourite band, but upon closer inspection they have only recorded two songs that really blow me away. Trains To Brazil and Made Up Lovesong #43 are absolutely amazing, but the rest of the songs on this EP sound like the simply-fabulous Rufus Wainwright having an off day.

3121 **3121** by *Prince*

TAFKATAFKAP has these occasional flashes of brilliance which make me want to like him. But then I discover that I just can’t listen to an entire album of it. My ears just glaze over and I find my attention wanders to other things, more mentally stimulating things. If I were to write blah blah blah blah blah a few hundred times, you’d just skip to the end of this paragraph and read the review of the Jack Johnson album, and you’d be right to. See the parallel that I am attempting to draw?

In Between Dreams **In Between Dreams** by *Jack Johnson*

This guy makes a guitar sound great. Not in a Jimi Hendrix way, I hasten to add (in case you had got completely the wrong impression, right off the bat), but by reminding us that less is sometimes more. When everything is feeling unnecessarily complex, it takes something like this album to remind you that piling on too many so-called enhancements and ostensible optimisations will eventually result in an unmaintainable mess. Strip the lot down to its core, and you will sleep much more soundly.

Again, I’ve only actually listened to this a couple of times, so my opinion is still subject to the forces that come into play after that all-important Listen #5.

Corinne Bailey Rae **Corinne Bailey Rae** by *Corinne Bailey Rae*

Well, now that Mothers Day has passed, we’ll probably never hear from Corinne Bailey Rae again. Bland and unoriginal, I have no idea how she got so famous, the mind boggles. You know when you see a trailer for a movie, and it looks very funny, and so you go to see it? And then you discover that the trailer contained all the funny bits without exception?

Similarly, you know how you saw an advert for this album on the TV, and there were snippets from three songs, and they sounded quite pleasant? Well, that’s it. The rest is filler.


Eye To The Telescope **Eye To The Telescope** by *KT Tunstall*

By contrast, this is surprisingly good. There are a couple of possible filler tracks in the second half, but for the most part each song stands nicely on its own merits without feeling like ideas are being reused. If I had one complaint, I’d suggest that the incredibly catchy choruses are occasionally supported by rather nothingy verses.

I’m going to stick my neck out a bit and venture that I also rather like her voice. Much like you, I hear hundreds of new singing voices each year, and most of them just sound like a vehicle for the lyrics ((heheheh, I’m reminded of the beautiful line in An Open Letter To The Lyrical Trainspotter by Mansun, which contradicts my point entirely: The lyrics aren’t supposed to mean that much, they’re just a vehicle for a lovely voice.)), but I can get quite enthusiastic about Katie’s. I can’t explain it.

It took me over a year to finally get round to giving her a chance. I’m glad that I did. Again, I haven’t yet reached Listen #5 with this one, but I’m quietly confident.


Search Engine Etiquette

If you want to encourage referrals to your [WordPress][] weblog from search engines, then the least that you can do is to ensure that people will be directed to a page containing the information that they seek. I consider this to be basic etiquette.


If the relevant search engine result is pointing to a monthly archive, or a category archive, or even the front page of your site, then it is likely that within a few days or weeks, the particular post in question will have moved to the second page of results. This means that when your visitor lands on the page, they won’t see the information that they expected (at least not until the search engine next reindexes your site), and they may not necessarily know where to go next.

My solution to this problem is to ensure that only individual entry archive pages show up on search engine results – all other pages on this site will not be indexed. Look in your header.php file and just inside the `< head >` section, add the line from [search-engine-etiquette.phps][] ((It’s only one line of code, but when I pasted in inline here it caused some strange problems with WordPress. It seems safer to leave it in an external file.)).


What Does This Do?

Basically, it means that for any page other than an individual entry archive page, the robots rule `noindex,noarchive,follow` is specified. Search engines are instructed not to index or archive that particular page. However, they **are** instructed to follow links on the page to look for other indexable content.


I’ve upgraded from [WordPress][] 1.5.2 to 2.0.2, and am also now using [Akismet][] to stop spam ((not that you will have ever seen spam on this site, of course, but I was getting a lot in the moderation queue, making it likely that I’d accidentally miss a genuine comment)). If you try to write a comment and you get the following message, then it means that your comment has passed the spam filter:


> Your comment is awaiting moderation, and is presently only visible to you and Pete himself. Once Pete has approved it, it will appear publicly on the site, and any comments that you write in future will be automatically approved.

However, if your comment does not appear, and you do not see this message, then it means that your comment has been mistakenly identified as spam. Use the contact form (link is in the top-right corner) to let me know, and I’ll retrieve it from the sticky spam trap.

Fiction Peril Poetry

Anecdotal Warning About Hitch-hikers

*The sun had long since set, I was driving over a bridge,
She suddenly came into view, her thumb up for a lift.
I brought the car to a sudden halt, from behind I heard a beep,
And just one minute later she was in the passenger seat.*

*I’d offered her a lift, as previously stated,
As her direction and my own approximately correlated.
Two minutes down the road, things went a bit downhill,
When she produced a hefty knife, and this made me feel quite ill.*

*Now I am in pieces and not in the metaphorical sense,
She’s kept my hand as a souvenir and chucked the rest over a fence
And my car is in a canyon in a very remote place
And my girlfriend will be worried because I’m not usually late.*

*There’s a rat or mouse chewing on my ear, it tickles quite a bit.
Well, it would if I were still alive, right now I can’t feel shit.
I can’t hear any traffic, and it looks like it might snow.
Despite what you might think, it wasn’t such a bad way to go.*

DIY Gardening


I installed a water butt last week to see if I could make the world a better place. It’s been exciting.

The first hurdle was the unavailability of a proper stand. We were informed by a Customer Services Representative at Pimp Your Garden PLC that this was due to a huge demand for water butts. Sankey, who manufacture water butts, had basically shifted their production facility from a 50/50 split to put more emphasis on butts, and less on accessories. Fair enough.

We purchased the butt and then went off on a stand-hunt. In a nearby garden centre, we found no stands, but we did find a rather cute little slimline butt that we would have bought, were it not for the fact that we already had a butt in our boot and we couldn’t be bothered to return it. So we bought a cheap terracotta pot instead, which we could turn upside-down for use as a stand.

**UPDATE:** *Found a proper stand at a different store. I’m much happier overall, but with the new stand the butt can’t get as close to the wall. I will need to hack the downpipe a bit more.*

We brought the butt home and I set to work cutting a hole in the top for the downpipe. At this point it struck me that I’d need to divert the downpipe away from the wall. By now I was sick of thinking about butts, so I put the project on hiatus until the following weekend.

IAMOWIM Meander Music

Pete vs Brain Cells

It is very very late on a Tuesday night. Karen and I are lying in bed, in the dark. [Yellowphant][] is dozing, but he is the only one.


Karen: *I’m hungry.*

Me: *Hey, me too!*

Karen: *Let’s eat!*

We leapt out of bed and dashed down to the kitchen.

Karen: *What shall we have?*

Me: *What have we got?*

Karen: *Jam!*

Me: *Yay!*



My coffee machine is broken. This is our concern.

It’s not some fancy-schmancy pressure-driven Gaggia or whatnot, so I suppose I should be pleased that this will not result in phenomenal expenditure to get it repaired or replaced, but it does mean that I am without my daily dose of freshly-ground coffee to pep me up in the mornings.

A mug of instant coffee lurks on my desk, snarling and cackling at me like some warty old witch or some filthy creature. Remember the “rodents of unusual size” from the [Princess Bride][]? Yeah, like one of those.

[princess bride]:

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a mug of instant coffee. I used to like it quite a lot. Funny, that.

**UPDATE:** *Hey, do you want to see my “I am foolish” face? The coffee machine just needed descaling.*

Other News

In other news, the roads are insane this morning. A combination of some highly disruptive local roadworks, and heavy rainfall, has resulted in utter chaos. Many drivers are avoiding the roadworks by driving down a narrow country lane which I have been using for a few weeks. This lane is mostly wide enough for only one car, with passing places. As you are no doubt aware, the trick to negotiating such roads is to keep your distance from the car in front, such that there is always at least one passing place between you and them, which you can drop into if the need arises.

However, these town-dwelling dorks haven’t all figured this out yet, so this morning a jam of epic proportions ensued. Fortunately I was sufficiently far back to turn round and seek an alternative route.


Feeding The Ducks

Feeding The Ducks

Watch The Video


As you’ll see, we’ve made quite a few changes

I received a letter from my bank yesterday. They send me lots of letters, often containing leaflets with changes to my terms and conditions. These leaflets are too dull to read, which I am sure is intentional. By now, I wouldn’t be surprised if my bank have a legal claim to my left testicle under the terms and conditions of my current account.

Leaflet extract here we go:

> We have recently completed a review of the features and benefits we provide to our customers. Following this review, we have made two changes to the services we provide you.

> **We will no longer be offering you Airmiles**

> […]

> For more information, please see ‘Your Questions Answered’ overleaf.

I briefly paused, to prepare my questions. *Are you, or are you not, utterly selfish bastards?* was one, and *Did some focus group tell you that your customers wished for less from their credit card account?* and *Is this personal, or is this some big fuck you to all your current customers?*

I turned over. These are the questions that they had anticipated:

1. **What do I have to do?** *Well, duh – stand still while we take the piss. Not hard, is it?*
2. **When does the change take effect?** *Check your Terms and Conditions – we’ve backdated it by three years. Hahahahahah.*
3. **Do I lose the Airmiles I have collected with my Card?** *Well, if you consult your Terms and Conditions, you’ll see that we’re doing you a great favour by allowing you to hold onto them. Yes, you may touch me.*
4. **Will I still hold an AIRMILES account?** *Why the hell did you just capitalise that, all of a sudden? Never mind, uh, yeah, for what it’s worth. Like you care.*
5. **Where can I continue to collect Airmiles?** *Up your bum, second shelf on the right.*

Oh, but wait. It gets better. In the post this morning, an oversized yellow envelope. I unwrap it…

> **We’ve made some great changes to AIRMILES.**

> Welcome to the new-look AIRMILES. As you’ll see, we’ve made quite a few changes.

You can’t make this shit up.

Ironically enough, my balance of 550 airmiles is just about enough to get me a return flight to Budapest.