Gardening Stunt 2007

The blackberries are already thriving

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

We’re getting an allotment!

My role in this project is very much as hired muscle. I think it’s going to be up to me to do all the digging and clearing and other manual labour. Hopefully this means that Karen will be the Weed Queen and keep all of that stuff in check.

Since uniting with Karen, I don’t really do much cooking, it’s true. I’m not a completely incapable cook, and if she went away for a while I am sure that I’d be able to pick up where I left off. But in the absence of such a situation, we have a mutually beneficial arrangement. I haven’t had to do much cooking for the last 3 years, and she has rarely had to touch a vacuum cleaner. I mop floors, do all the car admin, get the TV license, take the bin bags out on Mondays, trim the ivy, make the bed and keep her WordPress installation up to date, she does the laundry and grocery shopping. We’re both happy with the division of labour.

So when it comes to deciding what to grow at the allotment, I have to defer to her. And if she asks me what I think we should do, I’ll give her my ideas (Hey! How about we plant everything *diagonally*?!?!?! ((yes, I really did make this suggestion)) ) and she’ll smile politely, somewhat condescendingly, and ignore my stupid ideas. Because, truth be told, I’m like the three year old with a plastic hammer who is “helping” his dad to put up a fence.

But what I do know for certain is that we need a shed. A huge great big shed, mounted on stilts, in case it rains.

About Me Stunt 2007

New Year’s Resolutions

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

I seem to have developed a very agreeable system. I’ve had it in place for a few years. I start writing my New Years Resolutions in the first week of January, and continue to quietly append to the list until somewhere around summer. Then, in October, I write a blog post revealing what they were, and how successful I’ve been ([2006] [2007]).

My first New Years Resolution for 2008 is therefore to continue to use this system.

*Next week’s stunt post will be on the subject of our new allotment – look out for it on Monday.*

Computing Music Stunt 2007

What I want for Christmas

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

I’d quite like a new hard drive for my computer. It currently contains a 40GB drive and an 80GB drive, and what with photographs and MP3s and occasional TV shows, I often find myself running out of space.

*UPDATE: Didn’t get a hard drive, so I ordered myself one on the 27th. I decided to go for a 250GB Seagate Barracuda.*

I also need some new slippers. I have made frequent announcements to this end, and I think I can be pretty certain that someone will have heard my call. My current pair were from the market, and within weeks the seams had given way and my toes were pointing out the front. I tried to patch them up, but it was only a temporary fix. I’ll miss the ventilated slippers, in a way. I enjoyed those moments when I was making coffee in the kitchen, minding my own business, only to be startled by small fingers tickling my toes. I’d look down, and there would be Bernard, seemingly unperturbed by the aroma. Perhaps there wasn’t even an aroma to be perturbed by. Another perk of ventilated slippers.

*UPDATE: Yeah, I got slippers. Two pairs.*

I want to rediscover my love of music. Over the last few years I’ve found myself listening to music less and less, and songs that once filled me with emotion are now leaving me cold. My CD collection is dull and uninspiring, and for the most part, I can’t be bothered to go to the effort of picking out something to listen to. My finger traverses the spines, every case that my finger bumps over seems to contain something pointless and unappealing. I reach the end of the row, and repeat the exercise on the shelf below. Once upon a time, music was a core part of who I was. Now, it’s just a neglected category on a blog.

*UPDATE: I’m enjoying Norfolk & Western and Of Montreal. I’ve also managed to get the radio in the car working again.*

I also wouldn’t feel too violated if aliens came down and fixed the leaky gutter outside the front door.

*Next week’s stunt post will be on the subject of New Years Resolutions – look out for it on Monday.*

Stunt 2007

Christmas Decorations

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was a fan of extravagant Christmas decorations. I came from the *if you can see green, it needs more decorations* school of tree-dressing. I was just continuing the traditions that had been established in my childhood.

But time has taken its toll. Encroaching curmudgeondom, environmental awareness, and Karen’s influence have all combined and changed my view. I still like to drape long strands of tinsel along the top edge of picture frames, but I’m no longer the lightoholic that I once was. The majestic exterior displays that some of our neighbours have implemented seem excessive and vain. I’d be happy to have one or two strings of low-power lights around the house, but Karen would rather that we don’t, and I’m cool with that.

We haven’t put up my 6′ artificial tree this year. We were concerned that Bernard would be unable to resist the urge to pull it down on top of himself. In retrospect, perhaps we were unnecessarily paranoid, but so it goes. While digging through bags of decorations (for tinsel, see above) I did discover the old foot-high plastic tree that I used to have in my bedroom back when I was a teenager, so we’ve put that in the middle of the dining table. That’s our tree this year.

The thing that baffles me is that “tradition” can make people do such irrational things. We install cavity wall insulation and loft insulation to reduce our heating bills. We replace our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent alternatives. We turn the TV off instead of leaving it on standby. We worry about carbon footprints, and petrol prices, and all that jazz.

Then December arrives. Suddenly, it’s time to cut down a tree, decorate your house in unnecessary lights, throw the switch, and it’s all okay because (a) it looks pretty and (b) it’s tradition. I look at the aforementioned lightshow adorning the exterior of my neighbours house and imagine them saying *Kids, we can have extra lights this year, because Pete next door has been so careful with his energy consumption over the last eleven months! w00t!*

You know what I want to do? I want to walk up my street at 2am in the morning, ringing the doorbells of all the people whose Christmas lights are glowing brightly. And I’ll say “Excuse me, but would you mind switching your lights off? Oh, whoopsie, were you sleeping? Sorry, I assumed that you were awake, because YOUR LIGHTS ARE ON.” Maybe I should just head out with a pair of secateurs and switch those lights off in the old-fashioned way.

At the end of the day, I appreciate that the tradition of Christmas is very important to some people, and they will defend their right to be as wasteful as they like. And I have to respect that, because I know that I am not perfect either, and there are still probably thousands of ways that I could further reduce my negative impact on the environment. After all, what’s the difference between the people at #40 draping their house with enough lights to land a jumbo jet, and me leaving my computer on overnight to download the latest Ubuntu release?

*UPDATE: some photos*

*Next week’s stunt post will be entitled “What I want for Christmas” – look out for it on Monday.*

Displeasure Parenting Stunt 2007


*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

Santa Claus is a big pile of bollocks. He’s what you get when you take two historical figures who are famous for gift bringing, blend them together, allow it to ferment for about 100 years until a dominant form emerges that bears little resemblance to either of the originals, hijack it for advertising purposes, and then continue using it for advertising purposes for another 80 years.

“You cynical bastard, ” some whiney git whines, “are you going to deny your son the tradition of Christmas?”

That depends, I reply. Are you talking about the tradition of giving? Or the tradition of demanding? The tradition of generosity? Or the tradition of shopping?

Once upon a time, Santa had good intentions. But now, he’s a corporate shill.

“But, ” the whiney whinotrope continues to whine, “children are innocent and beautiful. They don’t understand such foulness. They are incapable of conceiving such things. To them, Santa is a good man, for he brings them gifts.”

Exactly, I reply. Isn’t it our duty to protect children from the things that will cause them harm? If they don’t understand the dangers of wanton consumption and the worship of consumerism, surely we should be keeping them as far from it as possible, rather than burying our heads in the sand and saying “Oh, I’m sure it won’t do any long-term damage. We can always un-train them later.”

I’d love to be able to embrace Santa Claus. Like Jesus Christ, I agree with everything that he stands for. But his legacy has been poisoned by the people who have co-opted him for their own profit. I think that everyone knows this, but most people are too afraid to act on it. There’s pressure coming from all directions to perpetrate this destructive tradition.

And then there’s the whole magic/lies argument, which needs no introduction. In a nutshell (hmmm, apparently it *does* need an introduction) you’ve got “I shall tell my child the truth” versus “I shall let my child believe in magic, for innocence passes so fleetingly, and magic is fun.” Both sides of the coin have their pros and cons. I’m going to play that one by ear, I think. Half of my brain wants to encourage honesty, truth and trust with my son, but the other half wants to give him a memorable childhood that is full of wonder and awe and mystery. Pffft, exaggerated shrugging action.

*Next week’s stunt post will be on the subject of Christmas decorations – look out for it on Monday.*

About Me Photos Stunt 2007

Stuff in my bag

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

The contents of my bag

The contents of my bag, which I purchased 3 months ago. You can buy one just like it from the National Trust if you so desire.

The contents of my bag

(Yes, the PNG is transparent, so you can overlay it on the JPG if you so desire).

1. The bag in question. It has lots of pockets – I count seven zips in total.
2. Moleskine notebook.
3. Uh, uh, papers, um, just papers, uh, you know, uh, my papers, business papers.
4. Diary. A6 Week-to-view diary, 13 months starting from July. I’ve been using this type of diary for three years now, and it seems to have become my “thing”.
5. Second camera again. Still a Pentax Optio S30. This is where it really lives. Observe the awesome hand-knitted pouch, created by the delectable Karen.
6. Car stereo fascia. It’s a Sony, about five years old. The FM tuner seems to be broken but it can still play CDs and receive traffic announcements, so replacing it isn’t high on my agenda.
7. Binoculars. Occasionally useful, which might surprise you.
8. Sturdy reusable plastic bag. Everyone should carry one of these.
9. Keys – house, car, bike lock, office.
10. Breath mints
11. Pens. I’m using one of the beige ones at the moment, but I think that it’s nearly run out.
12. 64MB Pen drive (rarely used)
13. Phone. Motorola Razr, nearly two years old. No plans to upgrade, at present. My ringtone is “Birdhouse In Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants.
14. Mini tripod
15. Loose change
16. Lip balm. I believe that this was purchase in Amsterdam in 2003. Ugh.
17. Wallet
18. Mag-lite

About Me Photos Stunt 2007

Stuff on my desk

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

My desk

Here is my desk. It’s an Ikea Jerker that I bought about 14 months ago, when we moved into this house.

My desk (overlay)

(Yes, the PNG is transparent, so you can overlay it on the JPG if you so desire).

1. Three boxes. One contains AC adapters, one contains receipts, and one is labelled “Misc crap” and contains all those little things that you don’t have a real home for. Mounted on the underside of the shelf below these boxes is a little OSRAM LED lamp.
2. Red Dwarf videos. I’m currently going through a bit of a Red Dwarf phase, reliving my teenage years. One, or more, of these VHS tapes may have been acquired at a reduced rate by switching price labels in WHSmiths. Such a rebel, I was.
3. Camera box. Nikon D40. Haven’t quite got round to putting this box in the garage or loft or wherever. On top of it is my camera case.
4. Books. One that I’m reading, one that I’m yet to read, and my 2005-06 and 2006-07 diaries. Older diaries are kept in a storage box in the garage, but I like having my last two to hand, just in case.
5. My pyro box. Lighters, matches, and an ancient pack of Golden Virginia.
6. Audio cassettes. All the live recordings, taped rehearsals, and early albums by my old band. On top of this little box is my bank statement book, and in front of it are my watches.
7. Pile of Terror. One of these boxes is also labelled “Misc crap”. Everything in this pile has no home, but hopefully I will rectify this one day. It’s a low-priority thing, and to be honest, most of this stuff could probably be thrown away, and I would never notice.
8. Postcards that Karen brings me.
9. Keyboard. It’s a Casio CTK-671.
10. Monitor. It’s a Sony. It’s a good monitor, but still… Sony. Ugh. Sorry. Tucked beneath it is a hefty reusable plastic bag. In front, a notepad with a comb on it, and to the right of that is the magnet that opens the drawers down to the side of the desk.
11. Man bag.
12. 8 track. It’s a Yamaha MD-8. I don’t use this much any more, so it now lives under here, and can be slid out if/when I need it.
13. Keyboard. It’s a Microsoft. It’s a good keyboard, but still… Microsoft. Ugh. Sorry. Behind it is a cheap plastic toy that my dad brought back from China. Its purpose is to spin round, light up, and play the Crazy Frog theme. It worked twice, then broke. So sad.
14. Photo of Karen. Whenever Bernard sees this, he points and says “Mama” about thirty times in quick succession.
15. Margarine tub containing a secret project that I’m working on. In front of it are my two coasters, by Marcus Gray.
16. Backup CDs and burned Linux ISOs.
17. A4 paper for the printer. To the left, empty CD spindles.
18. Printer. HP Laserjet 4L.
19. Some old envelopes for the recycling box. I just left them here while I took the photo to make the place look untidy. I am smart like that.
20. Second camera. Pentax Optio S30. Again, it doesn’t normally live here, but it gatecrashed the photo shoot. Behind it, an empty CD spindle. In front of it, the lens cap for my camera.

What else is on the shelf with the monitor?

* Two speakers (Harman Kardon Soundsticks II, the woofer is down there on the floor, glowing blue).
* Letter rack, containing things to file, things to do something about, and envelopes.
* A little pile with some post-it notes and Carmex lip balm on top.
* Pen pots
* Camera manual
* Some more pieces of paper to deal with
* Spindle containing blank CDs.
* Desk lamp.
* On the wall, some photos.

How has my desk changed in the last year?

14 months ago, it looked like this. Those two shelves at the top used to contain a lot of junk, so I moved one of them down to act as a monitor shelf. This gives me more space to work with at keyboard level, and also allows me to raise the speakers by six inches, out of Bernard’s reach (he likes grabbing them and playing with them. I can understand why – they are quite lovely). And the 8-track, as I previously mentioned, is now underneath that shelf.

You can also see that I’ve installed the second side-shelf, and used it to make a nifty little keyboard stand (the other end of the keyboard rests on my bass amp). This has been in place for quite a long time now.

And finally, here’s a photo of my desk at the previous house. It’s only six months older, so much of the hardware is the same.

Displeasure Stunt 2007

What would you put in Room 101

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time. We have not read each others entries before publishing, and have taken care not to discuss them.*

*Title suggested by Ade.*

Corrupt Governments

I’m fucking sick of it. I’m sick of governments that surreptitiously act in the interests of their commercial sponsors, whilst feeding an endless stream of lies to the people whom they are supposed to be working for, laughing their socks off because they know that the majority of their citizens are too dumb, naive or optimistic to realise that they are being taken for a ride. I’m sick of wars on terrorists, wars on drugs, wars on monks. Where’s the fucking War on War?

The Entertainment Industry

At the point at which entertainment needed an industry to keep it alive, it ceased to be entertaining. The industry took over, and now it’s just like another form of drug peddling. Entertainment, true entertainment, is sitting on a sofa with a friend and two guitars. It’s throwing a ball with your kid. It’s watching drunk men stumble home. It’s riding a bike down a muddy hill, with the ever-present threat of falling off. It doesn’t need DRM, because it can’t be duplicated.

I understand the appeal of CDs and television, obviously. I’m not suggesting that we destroy it all, because there’s a place for it in a well-balanced diet. But I believe in moderation, and remembering how to make your own fun.


Do not want.

About Me Holiday Stunt 2007

What I did on my holidays

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time. We have not read each others entries before publishing, and have taken care not to discuss them.*

*Title suggested by graybo.*

When I was a kid, I used to go on holiday with my family to places like the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District and Cornwall. Sometimes we’d go further afield, like Scotland or North Wales or Brittany. I think once we went to Edam. On the whole, we liked to stay in England, and usually for only a week (we tried a few fortnight-long holidays, but agreed that a fortnight was too long for a holiday). Sometimes I would go camping with my mum. I have a story about that.

In my first couple of years at secondary school, there were school-run trips to France which I went on. We got up to all sorts of mischief, I’m sure you can imagine.

During my University years (and the period immediately after) I went on a few holidays with friends. Matthew and I went to Dublin and Amsterdam (not in the same trip, I hasten to add) and I also went to Skegness with half a dozen friends. This was back when I was an appalling, and irresponsible, driver, and I was one of the two designated drivers on the trip. I didn’t crash into anything, but I did have a couple of near misses, and I am ashamed.

After I met Karen, I went on holiday more often, and much further afield. We’ve been to Dublin, Prague ([1] [2]), Venice, Budapest and New York. We’ve also been on holiday in England, to the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District.

Since Bernard was added to the family, we’ve been to Cornwall, and are soon to visit Center Parcs for the first time (I’ve borrowed a bike rack from Bob [1] [2]). Hopefully the three of us will visit plenty of fantastic places together.

At some point, I’d like to see Iceland and Scandinavia (perhaps as some sort of Northern Ocean cruise?) and various places in the Far East (inspired by a couple of friends). This all may have to wait for another 17 years, but then again, maybe not.

Food Parenting Photos Stunt 2007

Top 5 leisure activities

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time. We have not read each others entries before publishing, and have taken care not to discuss them.*

*Title suggested by Rach.*


At long last, I have found an enjoyable way of getting regular exercise. Going to the gym is dull as dishwater. Karen and I used to play Squash, but haven’t done so since halfway through her pregnancy (though we are going on holiday at the end of the week, and have a Squash court booked). My fitness is returning, and it’s having a major positive impact upon my overall mood.

Taking photos

I wouldn’t consider myself to be a “photographer”, by any stretch of the imagination, but I have recently acquired my first DSLR (a Nikon D40) and am enjoying learning about shutter speeds, aperture, and all that guff.

Playing with Bernard



Followed by a bout of wrestling. It’s awesome.

Drinking beer

I like beer. Not in huge quantities, nor on my own in the evenings, but its deliciousness can not be denied.

Eating pie

I like pie. In huge quantities, and on my own in the evenings.