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Sore throat blocked nose blah blah blah

Last night I was lying in bed, unable to sleep, trying to make as little noise as possible so that I wouldn’t prevent Karen from sleeping. Eventually I thought better of it, and decamped downstairs and flopped out the sofa bed.

For over an hour I lay there, my brain whirring and bouncing, constantly providing me with stimuli and imaginary matters to keep me awake. This often happens when I am a bit poorly. On more than one occasion, I remember seeing that there were new replies to a post of mine on an internet forum, so I had to check to see what they’d said. All of this was in my imagination, of course, but it was highly disruptive.

Eventually I took a short break, went to the toilet, had a glass of water, and told my brain to behave itself. I went back to bed and made a conscious effort to stop thinking. Apparently this worked.

But the reason why I put fingertips to keyboard is this: at some point during my ceaseless thrashing, my brain came up with an awesome band name. Or maybe it would be an album name. Either way, at the time it seemed like the best band name ever, and I would have switched the light on and written it down, but I felt that it would be counter-productive in the whole “getting to sleep” project.

This morning, I managed to remember the band name without too much head-scratching, which came as something of a surprise. Even more surprising, it still seems half-decent in the cold light of morning.

And what is this band name that you are teasingly withholding from us? I hear you say.

No Bears At All

Now I just have to figure out what it means.

*UPDATE: Google tells me that this phrase exists in a book called The Bears on Hemlock Mountain – maybe I picked it up subconsciously at some point? More likely, it’s just a coincidence.*

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What have I been up to lately?

Not blogging, that’s for sure.


I’ve got a couple of new toys, a Squier Vintage Modified fretless Jazz Bass, and a Zoom H2, which is a nifty little recording device that contains 4 internal microphones and records WAV and MP3 files to SD cards in startlingly good quality. It’s loaded with bells and whistles and is just what I’ve been looking for all these years. I’ve also restrung my acoustic guitar and have purchased a set of strings for my Epiphone SG. This happens quite infrequently. I’ve also got my guitars up on wall hangers these days, which means that I have to spend less time picking them up off of the floor and retuning them.


I have a new Krups coffee machine, the XP4020 ((the Krups website is antler-scratchingly bad, so I refuse to link to it)). I’m getting superb espresso out of it but it’s still taking some time to get used to. The grounds are very wet after use (which is supposedly due to the grounds not being tamped down hard enough, but I’ve tried a range of forces between featherly and elephantine and it’s making no difference) and I can’t get a decent foam on my milk. It will come in time, I’m sure. I’m really appreciating how much more quickly I can make a good cup of coffee these days. With the old machine I’d spend a fair amount of time waiting, but now I can do the whole process with no wasted time.


Haven’t been doing much of this, though on a couple of occasions lately the three of us have cycled round to some nearby brambles and gathered up kilos of blackberries. That’s damn good fun.

Playing Tomb Raider 2

As mentioned recently. Ah, they don’t make them like they used to. I’m playing in little bursts, half an hour or so every other day, and I’m currently a short way into the 40 Fathoms level.

Watching CSI, 3rd Rock From The Sun and Sapphire and Steel

Thanks to Mr Hg for the latter. We’re currently half way through season 5 of CSI, and we’re working our way through them at a rate of approximately one season every month. I think that we’ve seen most of seasons 6 and 7 already but we’ll enjoy re-watching them, and we’re definitely looking forward to season 8 which we haven’t yet seen. And I’m watching 3rd Rock in order too – I’ve just started season 4 and I think that for the most part I haven’t seen any episodes in seasons 4 to 6.


I’ve actually been reading more recently, getting through about a book per week. It’s not the most readious period of my life to date, but it’s definitely well above average.


Wandering around parks and playgrounds, taking photos of things and sharing mischievous smiles with Bernard. His language development is currently at a stage which I would describe as “explosive” with new words being added to his vocabulary daily. I’ve also organised all my photos from the last few weeks, so there will be a photo-based post on this site every evening for the next week.

Gardening and DIY

A little of this, but not too much. The occasional carefully-chosen task, selected for optimal benefit:time ratio. That said, the garden and allotment are both in reasonable condition. So it must be a case of working smarter, not harder.

Contemplating felines

We’re pretty much decided on this one, actually. We’re intending to go round to the rescue shelter tomorrow to see who is around. All three of us are cat lovers, so we’re unanimous on this one.

Complaining about my wrist

10 days ago I woke up with a very sore wrist. I wore a support bandage quite a lot over the next few days. People would put on concerned faces and ask me what happened, and I had to sheepishly respond that actually I just slept on it a bit funny. Karen thought that it was RSI from all the Tomb Raider I’ve been playing. After 5 days, it was not getting better. As an experiment, I took the bandage off, and kept it off. It’s been getting better ever since. I’ve decided to attribute the persistence of the discomfort to muscle atrophy, and what the injury needed was not rest, but exercise.



I estimate that over the course of a 24 hour period, I am collecting (and discarding) approximately the weight of my own head in nasal mucus.

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Busy week

It’s been a busy week, which is why things have been quiet round here. Here’s what’s been going down.


Karen and I have spent a lot of time on the allotment. Whereas it did look like this, it now looks like this:


We’ve cleared a lot of brambles, dismantled the rotted cold frame, had a big bonfire, and put some carpet down to suppress weeds. We also found some rhubarb of the variety *Hey, Free Rhubarb!* and planted it in an appropriate location. It’s progress, definitely.

My first MP3 player

On Wednesday I got my first ever MP3 player. As you can see, I’m right on the cutting edge here.

It’s not even a state-of-the-art device. It’s a Creative Zen Stone, a little thing with 2 GB of storage and no LCD display. For £30, you can’t go far wrong. I also got a little FM transmitter so that I can play it through my car stereo, which is now over 5 years old.

Electrocuting myself

While investigating a faulty kitchen light, I think that I may have accidentally electrocuted myself. I have a small blister on my thumb, and one on my forefinger, where I pinched a screw. As far as I can see, it’s not radiating heat, so electrocution seems the likely candidate. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that said screw would be live.

Playing Tomb Raider

I rented Tomb Raider Anniversary for a week. I played the original, many years ago, and it’s interesting to see what has been added and what has been taken away. I’ve bought a second hand copy so that I can complete it at my leisure.

Teaching Bernard to spell his name

Not putting too much pressure on him at this early stage, obviously, but it does yield such gems as this one:

Bernard: “R”
Me: “No, that’s not an ‘r’, it’s an ‘n’.”
Bernard: “Buck, buck.”
Me: “Heh, not ‘hen’. ‘N’.”


Like father, like son

Bernard is one year old, and the approved method of descending the stairs is for him to crawl down backwards, whilst I stay a few steps below him.

On a couple of occasions, he has reached the penultimate step with the mistaken belief that he has reached the bottom. Probably distracted by some exciting item that he is eager to get to.

At this point, he turns around and starts to walk/spring away, completely oblivious to the fact that his next step will take him over a lurking six inch precipice. I do what I can to catch him, but when this occurs at 6:30 in the morning, I have the reflexes of a remarkably sluggish pat of butter.

The poor little guy is somewhat surprised at this point, and may wail a tad, but no permanent harm is done, and within minutes we are happily playing as if nothing had happened.

The reason why I have related this anecdote is that two nights ago, I did exactly the same thing. Well, not quite exactly. I was walking down the stairs in the conventional manner, and the lights were off (because it was late at night and I did not want to disturb “her upstairs”). I miscalculated, and down I went.

No serious injury was suffered, though my left food did come down in a slightly awkward way, and a certain discomfort was felt in my second toe. Not painful enough to be a break, maybe some kind of stretched muscle. I limped throughout the day yesterday, but this morning I was back to full health.

I’ve had a slightly farcical few days actually. As well as the tumble two days ago, I spilled a mug of tea yesterday. I was putting it down on a colleague’s desk, and as I pulled my hand away, my finger must have still been engaged in the handle. Some tea spilled on his desk, and the rest fell to the floor, where the mug broke. I was quick enough to announce “shit” before it hit the ground, but not quick enough to catch it in any way.

No tea landed on my colleague, which was somewhat of a relief. The puddle did lap at the base of his keyboard, mouse, and telephone, but no permanent damage seems to have been done.

As I was clearing up the broken mug, I stabbed myself in the left index finger. Not a serious injury, but enough to give me a mild discomfort whenever I try to use that finger for typing etc.

Additionally, Karen has an impressive spot growing at the base of her spine. I think she’s going to let me pop it for her when it is ripe, but I’m not allowed to take photos. I might have to set up a secret camera to record the footage.

So yeah, we’re not at peak physical condition right now.


Head Wound


While working on the fence around the back of the house, I turned around and banged my head against an overhanging rose.

“Oh dear,” I thought to myself, as the thorn withdrew wetly from the new hole in my head, and blood started trickling down from my hairline.

I grabbed my spade (hey, it’s been in my family for generations ((3 in total, if you include my son)), I wasn’t going to leave it behind) and made straight for the house, trying to staunch the flow without being exactly sure where the puncture wound was. All the while, blood dripping down onto my spectacles, giving me a nice grisly *noir* camera effect on the world.

Once inside, I made my way up to the bathroom, trying not to make a mess of the carpet. There, I leaned over the sink, and gently called Karen’s name to wake her from her slumber.

I’m okay now. She’s making me a cup of tea.

Oh, by the way, this happened about ten minutes ago. It was so exciting, I felt that I just had to share.


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.


Not the evening that I had in mind

So, I’m a big old fool who broke his toe earlier and has subsequently spent the entire evening in the waiting room at the hospital, along with his poor long-suffering wife and child.

But I was witness to the best game of Snakes and Ladders ever, which I absolutely must tell you all about.

Two young boys, I presume brothers, approached the king-size S&L board painted on the floor in the waiting room. Well, technically the older one dragged the younger one by his sleeve, but that’s just a detail really.

The older brother announced “Right, I’m 11, so I move 11 squares. 1, 2, 3…” and so forth until he was stood on square 11. He then moved up the ladder to 14. “…and you’re 4, so you move to 4.”

He reached across to his brother, grabbed his sleeve, and manhandled him onto square number 4.

The game continued, each turn the older brother advancing by 11 and the younger brother by 4. I wasn’t paying heaps of attention, but I was aware of the older brother when he hit the final square and still had a few steps left to take, so he backed up a few squares.

Then it struck me – to get an exact landing on the final square from 11 paces, the older brother would have to be moving from square 11. And that square had a ladder on it that led to 14. It was absolutely impossible for the older brother to win.

My wry smile turned to a grin when I realised that his younger brother was currently 4 squares back from a ladder which led to square 18. In two moves, the younger brother would land exactly on the final square.

And so it came to pass. The younger brother couldn’t believe that he had won. The older brother couldn’t believe that he hadn’t. After all, the whole game was stacked so that he’d win, right? 11 against 4? How could it end up like this.

The Snakes are a fickle mistress, yes, but do not assume that the Ladders can do you no harm.

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!*


But Where Would We Put The Baby Seat?

I bit my tongue again yesterday, for the second time this year. Differences:

* When I did it [in January][], I drew blood. Whereas:
* When I did it yesterday, it was to the accompaniment of a sickening crunching noise which made me feel a little uncomfortable for quite some time. I was worried that I’d caused significant internal damage to this delicate organ.
* When I did it in January, I was sat at my desk in the office. Whereas:
* When I did it yesterday, I was sat at [Nick][]’s dining table eating sausages.
* When I did in January, I had driven to work in my car. Whereas:
* Yesterday I was a van ((Short-wheelbase Ford Transit, 30k miles)) driver. Vans are awesome. I want a van.
* When I did it in January, I endured three-and-a-half days of pain. Whereas:
* Physically speaking, I’ve pretty much recovered from yesterday’s incident already. It still feels a little conspicuous, a little uncomfortable, but not in an ow way. However, that crunching noise still haunts me through the night. Crunchety crunchety crunch. Slightly gritty, slightly gristley, not at all nice.

But hey, vans are ace. Hop on the motorway in one, and suddenly you’re in this elite club of van drivers. The cameraderi amongst the brethren is astoundsome. The lights, the indicators, a whole language. Belong.

It’s also a very valuable lesson. Not until you’ve driven a van on the motorway do you appreciate quite how large the blind spot is. Convex mirrors help greatly, but they also distort distances. Repeatedly, I found myself silently cursing the guys who drove on sidelights when dipped beam was more appropriate, especially the ones who would drive alongside and match my speed, instead of passing me properly. In a normal car, you can glance over your right shoulder and follow them through the rear driverside window, but in a van they are reduced to a small, barely visible item in your convex mirror. It is common for people to hold a view of white van drivers as being unpredictable and dangerous, so it surprises me that they pull off these moves that depend so heavily upon the driver’s continued vigilance. If you’re going to be prejudiced, at least be consistent. Insert sound of my mind boggling.

*If you like reading about Illnesses And Maladies (Oh Woe Is Me!), [click here][] for more!*

[in january]:
[click here]: