Bernard Developments

I have been failing to document Bernard’s development. On the one hand, this doesn’t matter too much, as I have both (a) an in-depth photographic log and (b) Karen’s publications. But on the other hand, there are some things that get missed out, so I’m going to try to resolve that now. If you think that reading about my son will be dull, then you should probably stop now, though I’ve done my best to make it as interesting a read as possible.


Last night, a rite of passage. For the first time, I watched a proper pirated movie, by which I mean, old-skool video camera in the auditorium stylee. It’s a brand new film that is not yet available for rental, and going to the cinema just isn’t an option right now.

I was pleasantly surprised, actually. Though the colours were a little washed out and the sound quality a little impaired, it didn’t significantly detract from the experience. There were no incidents where the guy in front stood up to go to the toilet, and though the camera was a little shaky at first, it settled down after a minute or two. The image was of a very respectable resolution and quality, not like those guilt trailers would have you believe. I was very comfortable, had ample legroom, and the temperature in the auditorium was just right.

Many argue that if we don’t support the industry and their prices, then entertainment as we know it will collapse. It will happen overnight, and one day we will wake up to find that big-budget movies have left, and our only choice will be to watch home movies on YouTube. To which I say bollocks, because if people want something badly enough then they’ll be willing to pay for it, and if they aren’t willing to pay for it then they clearly don’t care. In my opinion, special effects are just garnish, and I’d actually quite like to see a level playing field, where cinema isn’t dominated by those with the deepest pockets. I also believe that these things happen in cycles, and the disappearance of the movie (or record) industry would be succeeded by the establishment of a modest new one.


Right-click, Delete

If you are Anna, you may want to consider yourself warned that this post may upset you. However, I know how inquisitive you are, and you’re going to read it anyway despite my warning, which is fair enough.

My latest mission puts me in the shoes of an *elite assassin*, or at least an *elite tracker*. An elite something, anyway. My task is to find and apprehend a small scampery foreign spy, who we believe has been deploying advanced foreign surveillance technology in our garage. Our scientists are hard at work analysing this high-tech gadgetry, which has been disguised to look like mouse poo.

The boys at the lab have come up with some very fancy cutting-edge equipment to locate and apprehend this villainous foe, including some things with lasers, some remote control thingys, a few explosive doodads and a magnetic whatchamacallit or two. For now, I have deployed a humane mouse trap with a proven record of being absolutely useless. My intention is to attempt negotiation, mutual understanding, and perhaps come to some sort of compromise that involves me getting exactly what I want. If this fails, I shall arrange for the scumbag to be kidnapped and dumped in a far-off and remote location, possibly the church yard round the corner.

We believe that we have narrowed down the spy’s hideout to two possible locations. It is only a matter of time until he makes a mistake, and when he does, we shall be there to catch him.

**UPDATIUM:** He’s onto us. Since deploying the traps, our quarry seems to have voluntarily left the vicinity. On his part, a very wise move. We shall monitor for signs of his return.

Music Music reviews

MIKA: Life In Cartoon Motion

For the last fortnight, my life has been consumed by this album. I can’t get it out of my head, so I’m going to review it in depth, as an attempt at therapy. Perhaps by recording my thoughts, my brain will not be so reluctant to keep a tight grip on them, and I may be released.

*Grace Kelly* – I’m not in love with this song, but it’s quite bearable. The chord sequence is a bit uninspired, and his voice annoys me when he goes for the high notes.

*Lollipop* – Trite lyrics, bland chord sequence and melody. Sounds like a really inappropriate advertising jingle. Hey, remember when Iceland approached Bennett to license “Mum’s Gone To Iceland” for their ad, and Bennett said “Uh, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, mate.”

*My Interpretation* – Please, kill me now. This is one of the most boring songs that I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s like Robbie Williams but without the charm, and I never thought that I’d say that.

*Love Today* – Chorus lyrics so bland that I can’t believe that he is actually of sound body and mind, and aware of what he is singing. This song does not do a single thing of interest – just coasts along from start to end with minimal effort. And his voice still annoys me when he goes for the high notes. It just sounds hideously unpleasant.

*Relax (Take It Easy)* – This song is good one of the best on the album. It’s not *good*, but in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

*Any Other World* – Biggest pile of shit imaginable. The lyrics are really earnest, in a very annoying way, with words clearly inserted just for the sake of satisfying a rhyming scheme, and then repeated a few times to make it seem more substantial than it is. The lack of imagination that went into the music shows Mika up as the talentless soon-to-be-nobody that he is. This song reminds me of the bad bits of Elton John.

*Billy Brown* – The verse sounds like Penny Lane crossed with a nursery rhyme, so he’s getting zero points for that. I usually like songs that tell a story, but this one doesn’t tell it with any panache at all – any appeal that this song may have is solely in the underlying concept.

*Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)* – I’m not going to make the obvious reference to Fat Bottomed Girls, because it’s already been done a few times already. However, I will note that if you listen to this song carefully, you get the impression that Mika sounds like he is actually being quite sarcastic, and is clearly trying to suggest that big girls are NOT beautiful. He’s clearly taking the piss. Incidentally, this song also dispels any doubts about Mika’s sexuality, because he sings about sex with women with absolutely zero discernible enthusiasm. The music is pretty good though, but again it suffers from having little dynamic – it just starts, continues, then stops.

*Stuck In The Middle* – Good song. The lyrics actually seem to have some weight. I’d recommend this one.

*Happy Ending* – Another boring ballad. No risks, no imagination, no effort, no investment. Just no.

*Over My Shoulder* – Shows a great deal of promise, but his voice just doesn’t seem to have the strength to carry the high notes convincingly.

I can’t remember ever being so agitated about an album in my life. Normally, when I dislike something, I can easily dismiss it, but there’s something about all the hype surrounding Mika that makes me furious every time I see his name. I want to grab people by the shoulders and shake some sense into them. I wonder if I’m living in my own personal hell, where this is all a joke that has been concocted at my expense, and you’re all finding it really funny watching me get so irate.

But then, on the other hand, maybe my fury stems from the fact that it could be the other way round. What if other people are seeing something in Mika that I can’t? And I wish that I could listen to his album a bit more, so that I could see it too, but the truth is that every time I put the CD on in my car it makes me want to drive into oncoming traffic.

I take solace in the fact that this second theory is incorrect, and that I am almost certainly right about Mika, and hence in a few months he’ll be known as “Mika. Mika? Oh, that Mika. I’d forgotten all about him.”

Mika has been compared to the Scissor Sisters, but he isn’t as good as the Scissor Sisters. He has been compared to Freddie Mercury, but he doesn’t possess a fraction of Freddie’s talent or enthusiasm. I’ve compared him to Robbie Williams, which I admit is damning with faint praise. And anyone who compares him to Rufus Wainwright is clearly barking mad. If you are considering listening to this album, I’d strongly suggest that you listen to a bit of Scissor Sisters, a bit of Queen, and a bit of Rufus Wainwright instead – you’ll enjoy it much more.

If Mika, or Mika’s people, are reading this article, I’d like to stress that I have nothing against Mika as a person (I am sure that if we found ourselves on opposite sides of a pub table with a couple of beers, we’d get on famously), and I’m not so blinkered as to rule out the possibility of enjoying his future work (in spite of my prediction, above); but Life In Cartoon Motion is, out of all the albums that I have ever heard in my life, definitely the one that has had the most destructive effect on my sanity.


A hearing test

Karen’s been nagging me to do something about my hearing for a while. I’ve always had difficulty hearing her. At first, I used to ask her to repeat herself. She would roll her eyes and tell me to do something about my hearing, and then obligingly repeat what she’d said, only clearer. After a few years of having to repeat almost every single sentence that she spoke, this gradually (and understandably) transformed into “(sigh) Nothing.”

In recent times, the accumulated misery has forced me to experiment with a couple of other responses. The first is to repeat back what I think she has said. This is hilarious for me. “You need me to batter the moon?” Hilarious. Sometimes, when I’m not feeling as funny, I’ll employ my second response, which is to just ignore her. This is a very dangerous arrangement, as I occasionally miss something important. So far, I don’t seem to have missed anything important enough to be life-threatening, but it has earned me a few nags.

Also, when driving around in the car, I find myself having to frequently turn the car stereo down to understand her. Here’s a little story that even she doesn’t know: the first time that this happened, I found it incredibly frustrating. Every time I turned the stereo down, it felt like she would talk a little quieter, so I got more and more agitated until it was practically turned off. Though, to be fair, she may just have been trying to subtly hint to me that my music was too loud. Tangent ends, and I hope that it doesn’t result in me sleeping on the sofa tonight, which would be a shame, because last night we had the sex and it was ace. Ditto for THAT aside.

So I finally succumbed, and while I was at the doctor a few months ago having my toe looked at, I asked my GP if I could have my hearing investigated. I’ve always had difficulty understanding speech in noisy surroundings, and I’ve listened to a lot of loud music in my time, so I felt that it was worth investigating the possibility that all this is related.

This morning I went to the hospital for an appointed hearing test. The doctor asked me a few questions, which I tried to answer honestly. I was asked if I hear any noises in my head, and I said that yes, I have this moderately high-pitched whistling that I hear when there’s no other sound. I was asked if I’d had any exposure to loud noises, and I said yes I’d probably played more loud music than I should have, but it’s hard to avoid when you’re the one on the stage. She asked if I ever wore earplugs on these occasions, to which I replied, completely honestly, “sometimes”.

I was placed into a soundproof box and given a pair of headphones and a button on a wire like what the weathermen have. I was told to press the button when I hear a noise, and keep it held until the noise stops. The test, it began.

The noises were of varying pitch and duration, and both ears were tested separately. As the noises got quieter and I strained to hear them, my headwhistling was joined by a kind of mechanical clanking that I had forgotten to mention to the doctor earlier. “Must remember to mention that to the doctor when I get out of this box,” I thought to myself. Of course, I didn’t want to forget this, which meant that my test results for the left ear were inaccurate as my attention was diverted.

I got out of the box and mentioned the clanking to the doctor. “Does it give you any difficulty, at all?” she asked and I said only when taking hearing tests. “Thank goodness you don’t have to take them too often then,” she said with a smile.

The results indicated that both ears were showing frequency response within normal ranges between 250 and 8000 Hz. “So,” said the doctor, “your hearing is fine. Your problems with hearing speech in busy environments could be due to Obscure Auditory Dysfunction.”

“Ah right,” I said, slightly ashamed that I was swelling the population of People With Wishy Washy Problems That Don’t Deserve A Clinical Name Yet Inexplicably Have One.

“There’s no treatment for it, but I can give you this leaflet with some useful tips on it.”

I looked at the leaflet and guffawed.

“*Make sure there is enough light falling on the face of the speaker and there is nothing obscuring their face.* That’s brilliant. Sheer genius.”

“Yes, it’s possibly not much use to you in a nightclub…”

“No, on the contrary. I can go up to the bar and say *Excuse me, can you turn the lights up a bit? I’m having difficulty understanding what my friends are saying…*”

The doctor’s blonde hair fell delicately over her shoulder as she tossed her head back and laughed at my hilarious joke.

“Any questions?” she asked. I opened my mouth.

“…about the hearing test?”

“Ah, about the hearing test. Uh, no.”

She offered me a referral to another department, where they could offer me further guidance on coping with my serious and depilating illness, but I said that for now, it wouldn’t be necessary. I’m content to go home and bask in the fact that I was right all along.





In The News

Those crazy Belgians

Two amusing aspects of this article, entitled “U-turn lorry stuck in cul-de-sac”…

> The foreign-registered lorry was carrying 23 tonnes of coke when it became trapped while manoeuvring in Whiterock Road in Wadebridge.

Do they mean coke? Or Coke®? Or perhaps a solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal?

> Traffic was largely unaffected, but police urged motorists to find alternative routes after the accident, which occurred at about 0600 GMT on Friday.

Find alternative routes… it’s a cul-de-sac!

*(bangs head against desk repeatedly)*