Wednesday, September 29, 2010


So, in addition to drawing a rather impressive series of satirical Star Trek cartoons back in my school days (here, here, here, here, and here if you're particularly bored), a recent email from a long-lost friend appears to have uncovered evidence suggesting that I might've, um, defaced school property with my sketches of Kirk and Picard.

Oh well, it was only Hamlet - who the hell has bothered reading THAT?!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The car wash story

If, for some reason, you found yourself in a static position just staring at my blog last week, first of all what's the matter with you? Why aren't you outside scampering around and doing exciting things? That aside, if you *were* just staring at my blog, you would've seen a series of furious tweets on my Twitter sidebar thing relating to the fact that I was washing my car.

Apparently the weekend before I'd happened to mention to Big Bro that my car was filthy and needed a wash. At the time so was his, and he apparently offered to delay washing his so we could take part in some sort of brotherly bonding experience and wash them together. I, apparently, said yes.

By the following weekend I'd completely compartmentalised this fact in my tiny brain, only to be terrifyingly reminded of it when I happened to remark to Sparky Ma that I intended to have a lazy Sunday in front of the telly. One furious look and a series of choice words from Big Bro shot that idea down in dramatic flames, and so on Sunday afternoon I arrived back round at my parents' house ready for a quick once over my adorable car with a wet sponge and some bubbles.

Or so I thought.

I've always been full of pride for every car I've owned, and particularly with my Minis this has been reflected in a car washing technique that has lasted around about the two hour mark. When Big Bro changed his car last year, however, he surpassed even my dedication to the art of wiping bird poo of a motor.

He researched it on the internet. He bought the biggest car washing kit known to man. He formulated STAGES.

I had forgotten this.

The first instance of scrotum-tightening fear I experienced that Sunday afternoon came when he barred me from helping in the initial two stages of washing his car. At first I thought this was A GOOD THING, because I got to sit inside with Sparky Ma watching Kindergarten Cop and drinking a cup of tea. About an hour later, however, Big Bro stormed in and said "I'll complete mine on the road - get your car in the front garden and begin stage one."

"What's stage one?" I whimpered.

Big Bro tutted and looked at me like I was a special. "It's the rinsing stage, OF COURSE."

I looked over at Sparky Ma, but she just slipped ever lower behind the newspaper and pretended not to notice what was going on.


I scurried outside.

• Stage one, as I noted, is the rinsing stage. To achieve this, you use a high-pressure hose to dislodge any chunks of dirt that may have become attached to the body of the car. You do not use the high pressure hose to mimic urinating on the front garden, unless you want to be the focus of a withering stare from HE WHO MUST BE OBEYED on the other side of the road, having paused momentarily to watch you with disdain while he delicately dabs water away from his car with what looks like a fine lace hanky.

• Stage two involves cleaning the wheels with what looks like a hung, drawn and quartered hedgehog, and apparently weathering a further series of humiliating comments about yours truly.

• Stage three actually involves sloshing some car shampoo on the car. The car shampoo appears identical to Predator blood, and I was carefully monitored to ensure that I didn't waste any (as if I was going to drink it or do my hair with it or something – admittedly both distinct possibilities if left unattended). This was followed by another rinse stage, which was admittedly made more enjoyable by almost dousing one of the neighbours when she came out of her front door and I turned to say hello.

• Stage four involves wiping any remaining water from the bodywork of the car using a Californian Water Blade. It was when I'd almost completed this stage that Big Bro came over to check on my progress and, upon finding it did not even meet, let alone equal, his lofty standards, flicked dirt on my bonnet and made me repeat stages three and four.

• Stage five saw me ordered to apply tar remover to those hard-t0-remove pieces of road scum that get flicked up off the road and stuck to the doors. This was an utterly soul-destroying task.

Brief pause, possible tears. MANLY TEARS, I MIGHT ADD. Helpless looks from frightened mother. Tweeting cries for help. Stern-faced brother orders me to put down iPhone and get back to work.

• Stage six involves dabbing any remaining water away from the bodywork using the aforementioned fine lace hanky, which I discover here is a microfibre cloth. I don't even wash my face with something so soft and sophisticated.

• Stage seven is the wax stage. Big Bro joins me on my car at this point, having finally finished his own motor. As with when I offered to help him paint his bedroom and actually ended up doing the whole thing myself, I find that he concentrates on about 10 square centimetres of the roof while I am left to do everything else. By the time we've applied wax to the entire thing my previously shiny car looks like … well, a massive bird has taken an epic shit on it.

Sparky Ma comes out and so as not to enrage THE WRATH OF BROTHER, hesitatingly offers us both dinner. I have been doing this for three hours. I am inexplicably soaked from the waist down. I want to go home, but I am hungry so I say "yes." Big Bro turns to me and says "we will finish this stage in 30 MINUTES!"

I look at him, but all I hear is Mrs Kim from Gilmore Girls.

• Stage eight is initiated exactly 30 minutes later, with the furious buffing of wax off my car. What is revealed underneath is very clean, and very shiny, and, I can't help but think, slightly smaller than what I had at the beginning, as if some of it has eroded away with the all the strenuous sponging and furious buffing required by all the earlier stages.

• Stage nine was the 'black trim stage,' where we walked around the car applying a cream that looked a bit like semen to the black trim to transform it from a weathered grey to showroom-fresh black again. I can't help wondering at this point if I am the subject of some horrific practical joke.

• Stage 10 required me to walk around the car, liberally spraying 'fast glass' on the windows, headlamps, and my face. One of those things should not have been sprayed with 'fast glass.'

By the time we finished it was night. Sparky Ma said "mmmm, that looks, um, clean," but the truth was it was so dark she couldn't see it. The whole thing had taken four and half hours. I got home and immediately vetoed any thoughts I'd had about going for a run. There is only one photo of the afternoon's events; I did not take any more because Big Bro shouted "YOU'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE A PICTURE EVERY FIVE SECONDS AND PUT IT UP ON TWITTER, ARE YOU?!" It can be seen here; you can see the car-washing commie in the background.

It rained the next day.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


I've been providing technical support to the wonderful Glittering Lee as he embarks on his initial faltering baby steps as a new iPhone owner, and as thanks for my help he waved his magic photoshop wand and imagined me as one of Apple's in-store geniuses.

The result, I think you'll agree is, well, genius.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

My arse hurts: the Richmond to Windsor bike ride 2010

The Richmond to Windsor bike ride crept up on me a bit this year; in fact, I actually only signed up for it about three weeks ago, and at one point was even debating whether I'd even bother doing it. Just last night I was complaining about it to Sparky Ma. The reason? I dunno … I think I felt woefully unprepared for it. The last time I'd been on the bike was last year's ride. But then again, the last time I'd been on it before that was 2008's ride, so if anything I was just as well prepared this year as I was last.

But seriously, three rides in two years? Ouch.

Anyway, having payed £17 for the privilege of taking part I thought I'd better do it, so I was up at seven this morning for a nutritious breakfast (porridge - slow release energy), got my kit together, and got out the door.

The day immediately took a bad turn when not one minute from my house I was stopped by some local busybody wanting to discuss a new recycling plant the council want to build in the area. I barely discuss anything at 10 past eight in the morning, let alone debate the merits, or lack thereof, of a recycling plant. While he was busy pulling an A3 laminate of the plant out of a worn plastic bag I told him I had the council's information pack in doors (technically I do - ironically it's in the recycling bin) and that I'd consider it in my own time (a lie). He then asked if I'd sign his petition against it. I rolled my eyes (behind my sunglasses so he couldn't see) and repeated what I'd just said.

Then, basically, I just cycled off.

En route to Richmond I had the unerring sensation that something wasn't quite right with my bike, although on the face of it, aside from being a bit dirty from the accumulated muck of the last two rides (particularly 2008's horrific washout), it was fine; I'd oiled the technical-looking bits and pumped up the tyres earlier in the week. Still…

Upon arriving at Richmond I decided that the rear tyre was a smidgeon under-inflated, so pulled out my pump and went at it. And then the valve broke and all the air came out. Well, some of it. I quickly and wisely put the valve cap back on to contain the leak.

I was thus confronted with a dilemma, the options available being thus:

• Phone Sparky Pa, tell him of my predicament, ask him to come get me, and bail out of the ride.
• Do the ride with the valve cap in place and hope it was sufficient for the 40 miles to Windsor, and the 10 or so home.
• Get someone to fix it.

While option two was dismissed almost instantly (even I can't believe I considered it), option one appeared VERY tempting. But then I realised that Sparky Pa would probably say something like "no, I'm not coming to get you, you lazy tyke," and I'd have to walk home from Richmond with an epic sad face. And anyway, having got to Richmond Green the sight of all the other participants boosted my spirits somewhat. I (kind of) wanted to do it!

So I went over to the mechanics tent where a nice chap changed the inner tube in about five minutes for the princely sum of £5 (they also had a box in which you were supposed to throw loose change as a donation for their tea fund, but I only had notes so I just looked at him with apologetic eyes, although in hindsight he probably didn't see this as I was still wearing my sunglasses). This was good because, quite frankly the last time I tried to change a tyre I was about 9, it all went horribly wrong, and I threw an immense hissy fit. Chances are if he'd told me to do it myself I'd still be sitting on Richmond Green sulking now.

Anyway, with my stead restored to full working order, I headed off to join the queue for the start line. Unlike previous years, though, the queue this year stretched right to the opposite corner of the green and had begun to loop round again.

I tried to take a picture, but I couldn't get it all in frame, so I did a video instead. Look:

That done, I faffed about putting my phone back in my bag, only to turn around to find about 50 more people had joined the line. I sighed, and tacked myself on the end.

It took about 25 minutes to reach the front, at which point I heard the compare (alas, not the usual Shatner lookalike) make a fascinating comment about most men not being secure enough in their sexuality to have a wicker basket on their handlebars, and then I was off.

So, yeah, the ride went OK. Good, actually. I think I did it in about the same time as the last few years, obviously arriving at Windsor a smidgeon later than usual due to the delayed start, but physically I don't feel too exhausted - with one exception: my arse.

I don't know whether I've shed fat in my posterior, or whether it's just a case of not being anywhere near as prepared for the rigours of being perched on the saddle for so many hours as I should be, but it REALLY HURTS. At one point I sat down on some damp grass to try to alleviate the pain, but that just made me look like I'd suffered some sort of horrific downstairs accident. Cycling home from Windsor was especially painful. As a result, my saddle and I are currently NOT FRIENDS.


On the plus side, based on my recent cycling history, I won't have to deal with this problem again for at least another year.


Bonus photo!

This adorable pony was tethered at one of the rest stops. While I sat soothing my aching posterior, I watched a woman approach it to take a photo. The pony just wanted some attention, though, so she stroked it and they both appeared to be having a great time. Then the woman walked away and the pony started spazzing out a bit, shaking its head like it was having a bad reaction to some E or something. This went on for about a minute, at which point I decided I'd had enough of seeing a pony having what looked like an aneurysm, and jumped tenderly back on my bike before cycling off at speed. I hope it's OK!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Out and about: walkabout

After the excitement of Wednesday's trip to London Zoo, I decided that I'd spend one day just wandering around London. Whenever I go into town it's always with a purpose - a meeting, a trip to the cinema, meeting friends in a bar - never just to take in the city. So I decided to remedy that with what can only be called a walkabout.

I got the train to Waterloo, and then just walked. For about six and a half hours. I started in Covent Garden, where I checked out the gloriously huge new Apple Store, and basically spent about 15 minutes looking around in awe like OMG Cat.

It's basically a very beautiful, very well restored building packed full of my favourite shiny tech. Essentially, Heaven.

Then I walked through Covent Garden and down Charing Cross Road to Oxford Street, where I fought my way through the heaving masses of slow walking mouth-breathers to the Selfridges end. After that I ducked and weaved through some back roads round to Carnaby Street, down Shaftsbury Avenue, and basically back to Covent Garden where I then headed east, eventually ending up just past Tower Bridge. And when I ran out of exciting stuff to look at, I turned around and walked all the way back to Waterloo, where I hopped on a train home.

All on foot, and with only one 15 minute pause for lunch, and another five minutes nursing a bottle of juice outside a Starbucks at Butler's Wharf. Glorious weather for it too; I've got a bit of a tan.

Some photos?

One of these shops is lying about what they sell.

This was the size of a toddler and probably costs a small fortune, but I WANT ONE.

A Spongebob Squarepants drum kit. Why not?

I finally fulfilled my desire to walk over the Millennium (formerly wobbly) Bridge. I also walked through the Tate Modern - lovely building.

I think I'd rather have liked to give it a go while it was still wobbling. I imagine it would be a bit like walking on jelly.

This is the Golden Hinde, the ship that Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe aboard. Oh, but wait a second - what's that, Senator Vreenak? Yes, that's right: it's a replica because the original rotted away.

I first visited this little shopping centre when I was on a school trip years ago. It's a serene and welcoming little place just back from the Thames.

Love the criss-crossing walkways in Butler's Wharf.

I have decided that I would like to have a central base of operations here, please. Donations gratefully accepted.

That's not the river - that's mud.

Classy photo, eh?

Some plucky anti-war protestor obviously made a little stand in Foyles using a copy of Tony Blair's new autobiography.

Morris dancing Storm Troopers of course!

Yeah, J.J. Abrams isn't the only one who can throw a lense-flare in randomly - and I guarantee mine was done a whole lot cheaper.

And when I got home I bought a coat off the internet that I've been assured will make me look sexy.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Out and about: let's go to the zoo!

Whenever I take a week of work I usually a) get told off by colleagues for not going away somewhere, and b) wing it. By winging it I mean I get up each day and decide what to do then and there. Aside from the traditional and always enjoyable shopping expedition to Kingston with Sparky Ma, this often results in me waking up late, having a cup of tea, then retiring to the sofa for an all-day DVD boxset marathon.

And while all-day DVD marathons are fun, they aren't exactly a good use of my 20 day holiday allowance, are they?

So this week, I decided to get off my backside and, y'know, do stuff. And what better to do then spend some quality time in one of the world's most brilliant cities - which also happens to be right on my doorstep (not literally).

I started with this:

Yes, the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square was showing all the Star Trek films in order. I didn't see all of them, but I did see two - the ying and the yang, the dizzying high and the terrible low: Star Trek V and Star Trek VI. I don't think I really need to explain which was the best one, do I? Truth be told, though, I actually really enjoyed Star Trek V, although it remains a pretty flawed movie. Take it as a given that VI was awesome. And it was a joy to see them on the big screen again after so many years.

Things really kicked off on Wednesday, though, when Best Mate Jo and I went to London Zoo. This was a cracking day out, and because I'm feeling lazy I'm just going to post photos along with some snappy and witty captions.

I can't for the life of me remember what this was, but we were both rather taken by its lovely eyes.

Giraffes. OBVIOUSLY.

Dramatic owl. This is a Burrowing Owl. It has a brain the size of a pea. That is my one Burrowing Owl fact.

Fake gorilla.

Monkey in silhouette.

I was going to tell the llamas that leg-warmers are out this season, but I thought they'd spit in my face.

Prairie Dog. Basically a fat Meerkat.

69-ing Aardvarks.

Meerkat: basically a thin Prairie Dog.

More Meerkats. You wouldn't believe how much these animals have to put up with people shouting "SIMPLES!" at them these days.

Sleepy Tiger.

Mick Jagger-fish.

It was while looking at this vibrant fish that I stunned Best Mate Jo by telling her that I thought Finding Nemo was dull.

Tiny orange frogs!

This sign is just *begging* to be altered for this website.

Temptingly close…

This Lion is called Lucifer because his zoo registration number is 666.

Disappointed to find there were no penguins in the penguin pool.

Found them eventually in a different pool on the other side of the zoo. This is Ricky. He gently flapped his wings and jumped dramatically from one rock to the one RIGHT NEXT TO IT.

Sexy shrimp!?

This made us laugh like specials.

Liar - LIAR! It's called Earth Eater, but it doesn't eat earth, or indeed, THE EARTH. I'm going to have this alleged planet-destroying fish under the trade descriptions act!

Sad fish.

We also got to see the zoo's highly advanced fish tank cleaning equipment in operation.

All in all, then, it was a brilliant day, topped off by a brief stop at Oxford Street where I almost collided with the most terrifying animal of the day.