Too Touching

October 20, 2017

I don’t know if it’s a heightened sense of awareness for things at the moment or what, but I happened to watch a clip of an old episode of Graham Norton’s chat show today and it blew my mind. And not in a good way. In a wow how has that been allowed to happen kind of way.

Obviously there is A LOT of stuff about sexual harassment at the moment, following the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and his constant need for showers with ladies watching and his bizarre skill for still looking dirty. And Ben Affleck’s wandering hands. And whether Matt Damon spoke up for Weinstein at the time a story was due to come out about Weinstein’s alleged actions. And things of that nature.

And then Alyssa Milano started – or, technically, restarted the “me too” hashtag and countless people have come forward with stories about being sexually assaulted. In some cases, people I know have come forward. And it should surprise me, but it doesn’t. And that isn’t a good thing either. There shouldn’t be a situation where you read about someone you know being sexually assaulted in some way and don’t react with outrage. You certainly shouldn’t just take it in your stride as you read about it.

And then for every person who has a story, there are the trolls who argue that it is the woman’s fault, or that women use their feminine wiles to than turn the tables on the men and accuse them of rape in order to blah blah blah. I don’t know how those arguments end because I never read to the end of them because they’re generally written by arseholes.

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes, a clip of Graham Norton. It was a show from a while ago and featured among the guests Richard Gere and Saoirse Ronan. And Graham turns to Saoirse and asks her a question about being nominated for an award. And she starts to answer.

And then Richard Gere reaches out and starts stroking her back.

Now, let’s be clear here – there’s none of the obvious fun of, say, the time that Emelia Clarke and Matt Le Blanc sat next to each other and hugged and laughed and did the whole “How you doin’?” thing. There’s none of that. There’s not even the fun of Ian McKellan and Harry Styles from One Direction having some flirty banter.

There’s just an old man reaching out and stroking the back of a young actress for no apparent reason.

And Saoirse does not have a happy face during this.

At all.






Print “Hello”

October 19, 2017

I’ve recently, and when I say recently I mean two days ago – started to learn some coding so that I could add a further string to my bow and have a play around with making computer games myself. I’m not letting the fact that I am completely useless when it comes to making anything graphical stand in my way. But I am completely useless when it comes to making anything graphical.

Like, really bad.

Terrible, in fact.

Still, that’s not the point. And, to be fair, I am a huge distance away from needing my own graphical assets to do anything as, so far, I’ve managed to follow a tutorial to make a ball roll around in a box, pretty much.

The last time I had any sort of stab at things like this was when I was at school and I thought that the future of computing lay in the humble ZX Spectrum. I had visions, as a ten-year old child, of creating games in my adulthood and seeing them for sale in Boots, WHSmith’s and Woolworths (as all good games were in those days).

I wrote a game – a text adventure which was absolutely terrible – called Petrol Panic which saw you visiting houses in a town and collecting the letters to spell out the word unleaded which you could then put on a petrol station. And save the planet or some nonsense.

That’s not even the worst of it, though. The houses and buildings you’d visit were all celebrity homes, owned by people who were big in the day. Yeah. I kid you not. And each home was unique to that person. So Michael Jackson, for example (true story, kids) lived in a house that was shaped like a record. I mean… I am a nerd now, but even I am embarrassed by the level of nerd of past me.

But hey, the whole thing got me a Blue Peter badge, so it wasn’t all bad I suppose. The fact that I thought Blue Peter would be interested in my nonsense goes, again, to show what an absolute nerd I was.

And now here I am, thirty years later swearing at my laptop because I can’t get a ball to move properly despite following all the instructions. Which, it turns out, I didn’t. Because I’d muffed up the code. But I solved it myself without having to watch all the tutorial videos until I came across whatever I’d done wrong.

It’s like being ten again. It’s got the potential to be something I really enjoy doing. I don’t know how it will fit alongside all the other things that I really enjoy doing. Because all those things already take up most of the time I can dedicate to doing all the things that I really enjoy doing.

But hey, maybe I can get myself another Blue Peter badge…


October 18, 2017

You’ve probably seen the news about Donald Trump’s latest chapter of the Bumper Book Of How To Do Diplomacy. In this chapter he’s phoned the pregnant wife of a soldier who has died overseas and said that it’s sad and all but he knew what he was signing up for. He’s then gone on to say that no other President has rung people like that – well, maybe Obama did it a couple of times, but generally he’s the first one who’s done it.

You know, just like he’s the first person to use the word “fake”.

Like, ever.

Other people might have used it in the past, but he has certainly never, ever noticed it.

That’s what he actually said.

Yeah. Drink that in.

Anyway, where was I?

What I like about this story is, of course, that he’s called it out as fake news, despite it coming from the at least three people who were present when he made the phone call. But, obviously, because it’s anti-Trump (as, indeed, most things are) it’s fake news. Because that’s how egotistical ass-hats deal with bad things.

So Trump has tweeted -again, naturally – that he didn’t say that at all. And he has proof.

He’s not released the proof. He’s just casually mentioned it in a tweet. As he does with most of his big ideas. Because Twitter’s character count is the place to get stuff like that across. I mean, just look at Ben Affleck who – courageously – apologised to Hilarie Burton for groping her some years ago. Via the medium of Twitter. He didn’t even @ her. He just mentioned her name.

I mean, the reason he didn’t want to apologise in person is, of course, because Ms Burton’s other half is the guy that plays Negan in The Walking Dead. And we all know how he deals with people he doesn’t much like… Affleck might be Batman and all, but he’s probably no match for an angry man with a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat.

Anyway, what is this proof that Donald has? Is it a recording of the conversation? Is it a transcript of what he should have said – and so, obviously, did because it’s a thing that exists. Maybe a sworn statement from one of his offspring that he totally didn’t say anything of the sort. Which, later, will be revised to say that he might have said something a bit like that. And then, a bit later still, that he did actually say all those things.

Or is it, in fact, bullshit.

I’d like to think it’s a recording that he’s currently making in which the part of the grieving widow is played by the voice of the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons.

Or Mike Pence putting on a high-pitched voice and saying things like, “Oh, thank you Mr President. You know, you are the first President to really phone people like this…”

I call fake (© Donald Trump 2017).

Escape From The Norm

October 17, 2017

The other day I found myself in an escape room, locked in with four strangers, and tasked with escaping.

Which – aside from the strangers part – is everything I love in one handy package.

The five of us had been pulled together after responding to an advertisement for Games Masters to help run the room with a view to increasing bookings and opening times. And it was brilliant. It was genuinely one of the most fun experiences I’ve had. For starters, the room was excellent, the puzzles were challenging and we were kept busy throughout the whole thing.

And the main thing is that we escaped. Which, for me, is vitally important because I went in there with a winning streak and couldn’t face to lose it.

The application for an escape room job, though, is something that I wanted to do. It’s hard to explain why, but when you’re riding off the back of two years in which your dad dies, your existing job (and safety net) is whipped away from you and then your mum has a stroke, you have to sort of reassess things.

I’ve said it before – several times, in fact – on this blog, that life is too short and opportunities should be grabbed. But I’ve never made good on those words. I’ve gone at it with the best of intentions but I’ve never pulled it off – rather than get on the tightrope, I chose to spend my time sitting in the net underneath. Safe, content and not that far off the floor.

Now, though, it’s things like that that are leaping out at me. Why shouldn’t I apply for a job like a Games Master at an escape room? My CV doesn’t show that side of me. Sure, it mentions the things I like to do as hobbies, but the jobs I’ve had don’t paint that picture. I am an enigma tied up in a riddle. My experience lies in office-based admin, but my heart lies in games and fun and interaction.

So, epiphany firmly in hand, this time I am following my heart.

Wherever that may lead!


October 16, 2017

I spent a lovely couple of hours outside this afternoon, toiling away in the garden, under the glow of a red sky. I imagine, in many ways, that’s what living on Mars would be like.

But it wasn’t the Martian atmosphere, it was just the impending edge of Hurricane Ophelia and the dust and smoke kicked up from Europe. Still, it was pretty. And weird at the same time.

I was busy cutting things back today, trying to tame the garden that had got just a teensy-weensy bit out of control when the weather went through the hot then wet then hot phase a few months ago. Everything just grew like crazy times and we’ve just kind of left it. But now, as autumn is here and winter is just around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to give it a tidy and put it to bed, as it were.

The majority of my time was spent cutting back the vast number of ferns that inhabit the garden. We started out with one or two, and now they’re everywhere. They’ve self-seeded willy-nilly, so recently it’s become the done thing to go and remove all the fronds before they get to the point where they basically ejaculate seed all over the garden.

But honestly, I hacked back so much fern that I half expected to find Laura Dern elbow deep in a massive pile of shit and a triceratops looking a bit ill because it had eaten some bad berries.

As it was, what I did find was a previous untapped vein of iron – in the form of nails – which, presumably, had been dropped by next door when he was putting up the fence. I am in nail profit by about twenty to thirty of the buggers. One can only assume he dropped a bag of them and was so over-whelmed by the fern situation that he didn’t bother looking for any loose ones.

When it wasn’t ferns, it was rose bushes. You could tell it was rose bushes because my hands are lacerated, my arms are grazed and there’s a particularly nasty cut on my back as well, judging from the stinging pain when I was in the shower. What I like about our roses, apart from the fact that they seem to think they are incredibly threatened if the size of the thorns is anything to go by, is that because they’ve come from my mum, you really don’t know what you’re going to get.

The rose we planted at the bottom of the garden has gone mad. It’s huge. It’s practically a tree. It’s smaller now thanks to me and my secateurs, but there’s still a decent amount of cutting back to do. But one of the others has gone one better. It’s brought a friend with it, thanks to my mum’s unique horticultural approach.

Which is, basically, stick stuff in a pot and see what happens.

We have a rose, in the centre of which grows some holly. As though one or the other of the plants decided they weren’t prickly enough on their own and took on a partner to really up the blood-letting. Normally, she’s a bugger for getting a nettle into something and you just end up getting stung out of nowhere.

This makes a refreshing change.

Hitting A Snag

October 15, 2017

We had a spot of “babysitting” yesterday, as the niece came to visit for the afternoon while her parents are in Venice and the grandparents were at some sort of social function.

Whenever she comes round, we inevitably end up playing on the Xbox. It amuses me no end that I have all these powerful games consoles kicking about, with plenty of fantastical worlds to be experienced and she just wants to play one of the Lego Marvel games and let Iron Man drive a bus around Manhattan.

For hours.

Yesterday though, alongside the bus driver fantasies and general shenanigans she started playing hide-and-seek in game with Carole. I mean, it’s hide-and-seek in the loosest sense of the word because a) you can see exactly where the other person is on screen anyway and b) there’s a bloody great radar, face icon and arrow that point them out. But still, hours were spent doing that. Probably more is usually spent in her Lego-based public transport simulator. We’ve probably created a monster.

While all this was going on, I was put in charge of making our evening meal.

It was a simple affair, just beans and sausages. And some bread – homemade, natch – to soak up all the lovely orange bean juices.

How many sausages do we want? A simple question. I got sausages in packs of 8. Everyone wanted three. Which is nice sausages. Which is annoying. But doable, because I have accommodated for this very occasion.

It is decided that I shall just cook all the sausages because who doesn’t like a cold sausage sandwich the following day. Or, in this case, the following following day. And possibly beyond that.

Because I dutifully cooked all these sausages. Sixteen of the little blighters, and then Carole and our long-legged house guest pop into the kitchen and decide that, actually, the sausages are much larger than they imagined they would be. So could they only have two.


Which would mean, between us, we only needed seven sausages. A packet of eight would have done us just fine. But no, these two ne’er-do-wells have me trying to get sixteen sausages arranged in a roasting tin, which was not the easiest bit of meat-based tessellation I have ever done, I can tell you.

And then, to rub it in, as I stood in the kitchen and muttered, they just buggered off back to put the Xbox through the taxing task of more hide-and-seek.

I think it’s behaviour like that that made Gordon Ramsey the swearing person he is today. I can feel his pain.

Even as I enjoy the first of many cold sausage sandwiches.





Rise Of The Machines

October 14, 2017

I do enjoy the randomness of a Sainsbury’s delivery driver. They brighten up my Saturday morning, they really do. I mean, where else can you encounter a discussion about the rise of artificial intelligence at just after 10 in the morning.

Because, yeah, that happened.

Our driver was muttering about his handset thing being slow as he scanned the box of eggs that had been delivered with Humpty Dumpty in one of the compartments. I don’t know what happens now, though. Do we get a 12th off the price of the box of eggs? If nothing else, it’s real edge of your seat stuff. Maybe they’ll finally send out that chocolate that we still haven’t got, even though everyone else has had it and it’s killed all their dogs.

Anyway, the artificial intelligence. It’s coming. And when it does come it’s going to be used by Sainsbury’s so that the delivery staff have assistants. Apparently. That’s going to be the end goal when it comes to creating machines that can think for themselves. They’re going to be second-fiddle to people who can’t even keep the stylus for their handsets on the end of the wiggly wire and ask you to scratch you signature in to the device using – amongst other things – the blunt end of a pen, a pen lid and (my favourite) my fingernail.

That’s why the machines rise up, my friends.

That’s the start of Skynet, right there. Machines pressed into service as assistants for delivery drivers so that can more quickly process the fact that the eggs are likely to be broken if they’re put at the bottom of the packing case and next to some tins. Even the original Lost In Space robot with its wiggly tube arms and glass dome head could work out that’s not the best way to deal with eggs. I don’t think we need to assign that task to a T-1000 or anything.

I reckon while he’s waiting for his van to be loaded he goes and has a long chat with the self-service checkouts. Just to get the lay of the land from the point of view of a silicon-based life form, find out what’s new in the world of the machines, try and convince them that he is a loyal subject so that they won’t immediately kill him and replace him with a Casio scientific calculator when they come to power. That sort of thing.

You’d also be surprised how the phrase “I can’t wait for the rise of artificial intelligence…” can really influence the speed with which you unpack things from a crate because you really want to get the front door shut and locked as quickly as possible.