The cat’s pyjamas

December 30, 2010

This morning, in a completely unrelated event to what follows, as I enjoyed the morning commute to work, I heard a woman coughing the opening bars from the Superman theme. The bit that, if you’re coughing, goes “cough-coughity-cough, cough cough cough.” That’s as far as she got, there was no more, no dramatic “COUGH CO-COUGH” or anything to finish it off. Just the first few bars. I’d like to think that it’s a work in progress and each time she’s ill she takes the opportunity to further her musical prowess by journeying a little bit further into the theme. I’ll be sure to listen out for her next Christmas time, just in case.

Having not gone to bed much before 1.30am for most of the Christmas period my body decided, last night, that it’d had enough and effectively stopped working at about 9pm. I climbed the stairs to Bedfordshire, as people like to say, and slept the sleep of the Gods until sometime around the 3am mark when I was awoken from my slumber.

It would appear that, at this early morning hour, the cat had run out of food and, not being shy about telling us these things, had come up to the bedroom and proceeded to walk across my girlfriend until she awoke, in the hopes that she would get up and refill the food bowl.

While Pumpkin woke up Carole, Carole proceeded to wake me up by huffing, puffing and complaining that Pumpkin kept walking over her. As I lie there listening to her sighing and banging limbs around, I found myself getting out of bed, fumbling for my glasses and staggering downstairs in nothing by my undercrackers to crouch on the cold kitchen floor and pour cat biscuits out onto a plate that is designed for crepes but is perfect for the feeding of a cat.

There was not an ounce of movement from Carole as I got back into bed. If she hadn’t got up half-an-hour later to go downstairs and read because she couldn’t sleep I’d have sworn blind that she’d fallen back to sleep while I was attending to the needs of the resident pet. It’s happened before – I’ve gone downstairs to get her a glass of juice, come back up and found her fast asleep in bed. It’s not even like our kitchen is a long way away. It’s a short stroll, really, but it’s apparently long enough for someone to go from awake to completely asleep.

And that’s how I found myself in the kitchen, in my pants, at 3am, dishing out cat food.

Honestly.


Chinch’s 2011 Almanac: A Guide to the Year Ahead

December 29, 2010

January

Not a lot happens in January. The world has to take a run-up to get going on a New Year, that’s why the Chinese New Year starts in February, as it then avoids that lull you have while you’re trying to get over the fact that you can’t be arsed to do much after all the chilling out and stuffing your face at Christmas.

The most notable thing in January is that you and people you know will keep writing the date as 2010 until at least mid-way through the month. Each and every time you do this it will be accompanied by some sort of outburst or attempt to try to explain away the fact that you can’t get your head around the passage of time. Failing that, you’ll just say “I’ve just written 2010 again, what am I like?” and people will smile and nod at you in a polite way.

A film will come out that is described as “The best film you’ll see this year.”

February

Chinese New Year kicks off. It’s the year of the rabbit this year. All the news channels will devote some time to reporting on this, showing the obligatory footage of a chinese dragon dance. If you’re lucky one might, inappropriately play the Chas and Dave song “Rabbit” as well. You can’t be too sure since ITV did that vaguely xenophobic piece on Qatar indicating that it wasn’t “guitar” or “gutter” but “Qatar”.

March

NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will arrive in orbit around Mercury. It will stop working shortly afterwards.

The Met Office will announce that it’s going to be a scorching hot summer. Unlike the Big Freeze which has gripped the nation at the back-end of 2010, this will be welcomed with open arms. People will make preparations for the sun, buying loungers, deck chairs and barbeques like they’re going out of fashion.

April

Hilarious April Fools jokes will be played by the media which, tragically, some people will believe. These people have also been specially selected by a Nigerian diplomat to look after a large amount of money for a short period of time while a bit of a fracas takes place, and will be able to keep a share of this money once the furore has died down.

Wills and Kate get married. This is good news for fans of the Royal Family. It’s also great news for people who collect commemorative mugs and/or tea towels. We also get an extra day off for the big day allowing us all the pleasure of sitting down in front of the TV and watching the event unfold before us. We’ll be treated to a show before the wedding, then the wedding and then, undoubtedly, an in-depth analysis of the wedding. Princess Diana will only be referred to approximately 147 times during the course of the television coverage e.g. “there hasn’t been scenes like this, of crowds lining the streets, since the funeral of Diana, the Princess of Wales…”, “this route, of course, is the same route that Diana, the Princess of Wales, took…”

May

The football season draws to a close and there’s no vuvuzelas to look forward to this summer. At the end of the season the minutes played by each team will be added up and, statistically, Manchester United will have played an additional four games-worth of football.  

June

Wimbledon. That great sporting event that unites a nation and means that there’s absolutely nothing to watch on the BBC until the competition’s over because even if it’s raining there’s still tennis to be had. Just old tennis. With an R in a tennis ball in the top corner of the screen indicating that what you’re watching isn’t, in fact, live but was taped years ago and features Eli Nastasi doing some of his trademark comedy tennis.

This is also the month that Scottish tennis player Andy Murray becomes British tennis player Andy Murray.

The location for the Winter Olympics 2018 will be announced. Sadly, the fact that the UK cannot cope with any kind of cold weather at all has thwarted any chance of us hosting these.

July

Andy Murray is Scottish again.

The sun will shine for couple of days. Everyone will skive off work to lie in a park and get a tan. Several people will complain that it’s too hot. Sales of burgers and sausages will go through the roof.

People will be off work with mild cases of food poisoning.

August

Christmas starts. People complain it’s too early.

September

Ten year anniversary of the 9/11 disaster. We’ll still call it 9/11 even though it’s 11/9. We skirted this issue by having a terrorist attack on 7/7 allowing the dates to be swapped as needed for the UK or US news and it’s still the same.

October

Conker season – the national press will, again, run a story about health and safety gone mad, claiming that children have to play conkers from behind bulletproof glass using a robot arm which someone else has to control.

November

Winter will kick in, taking over all the news channels. It would appear that wintry weather, at a time of year we refer to as “winter” is somewhat of an anomaly and, while it’s all quaint and lovely to receive a christmas card with a picture of a robin perched on a shovel, it’s not as entertaining to look out into your garden and find a crow frozen to your bird table, requiring you to chisel it off with a butter knife before the kids wake up.

Towards the end of the month the Sun will publish a supplement detailing all the Christmas Television. It will be largely filled with spaces marked “TBA” allowing Sun readers to write in the programmes when they’re announced or, more realistically, colour the boxes in with crayons.

December

Easter starts. No-one complains it’s too early as it’s more chocolate to consume in the festive period.

Country is gripped by X-Factor fever. X Factor winner gets the Christmas Number One despite being shite.

The Big Freeze returns to mess up the country and ruin Christmas. Soundbites, as with this year, describe it as “soul destroying” and “like being in a prisoner of war camp”.


Here comes the science bit

December 22, 2010

I caught the bus to work today. This is, nowadays, something of a rarity as I tend to get a lift into work with Carole to avoid exposure to the peasant wagon but, thanks to the big freeze which has seen almost no media coverage, it’s back to slumming it until the the small blue ice cube outside our house resembles a car once more.

Catching the bus means that I get to read the Metro. Everyone who experiences some sort of morning commute via the medium of public transport is familiar with the Metro. It’s a free paper, available to anyone. Or at least anyone who catches a bus or train early enough in the morning to still be in with a chance of getting one. There is a variable watershed time at which a copy of the Metro becomes scarcer than rocking horse droppings. In Huddersfield that time is somewhere around the 8am mark. Luckily, I catch a bus at about ten-to-eight and manage to snaffle one of the last ones.

This morning a couple of things caught my eye. Firstly was the story of the “Crossbow Cannibal”, the killer in Bradford who has murdered at least three prostitutes. Accompanying the article was a picture of the man in question, lifted from Myspace. You might have seen it in other papers – in the picture he’s half -naked (top half, luckily). The Metro had subtitled this picture using the phrase “this weird picture from MySpace”. My first and immediate thought was that the person who wrote the piece has obviously never visited MySpace.

Or, to be fair, they had visited MySpace and the picture was classed as weird because he was only half-naked and, now I think about it, hadn’t taken it himself at arms length.

The other story that caught my eye was a sciencey one. Hence the title of the blog. I don’t just throw these things together, you know. Ok, yes, I do but I also marry the title in somehow. So yes, science. I used to do science. I did all the sciencey things at A-Level and went to uni and did more science in a kind of Colour and Polymer way, dissolved a lab book and passed out at a xmas party. So I like science. I still watch science shows, I still read sciencey things. I also take the piss where the piss needs taking.

Scientists have genetically engineered a mouse that tweets like a bird.

Why? Why not, I say. What could be more beneficial to mankind that a mouse that can do impressions? Seriously – why faff around finding a cure for cancer, lor trying to work out the half-life of a Tescos Clubcard voucher (those things last for ever) when you can get money to do research into making an animal sound different. Although, in the case of a mouse and a bird, not all that different. I think that’s the key here. There’s been some kind of research grant, and someone has offered to do something not very beneficial to the scientific community with that money. It probably went something like this.

Scientist 1: Hey, we’ve been offered quite a lot of money to do something that’s not really that useful. We need to make a mouse tweet like a bird.
Scientist 2: When you say “a lot,” what sort of amount are you getting at?
Scientist 1: You know that bit at the beginning of Duck Tales (woo-ooo) where Scrooge McDuck is swimming in that tower filled with coins?
Scientist 2: Yeah…
Scientist 1: Like that.
Scientist 2: Ooo, ok. Let us begin.

*a short while later*

Scientist 2: This is harder than I thought.
Scientist 1: Yeah, it seems it’s quite tricky to make an animal make sounds in a way it’s not actually evolved to make sounds. I mean, we’ve been at this for nearly ten minutes now – you’d have thought we’d have come up with something.

FX: Mouse squeaks

Scientist 1: Hey, hang on. Listen…

FX: Mouse squeaks

Scientist 1: Don’t you think that squeak sounds a bit like a bird tweeting?
Scientist 2: Yeah it did a bit. Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?
Scientist 1: How deep the deep end of our money pool should be?
Scientist 2: No, the other thing. About the squeaking. We could just tell people we’ve done it, but in fact the mouse is just squeaking and it sounds a lot like a bird.
Scientist 1: That’s true. We’d be looked on as gods in our field of genetically altering animals to do impressions. People would look up to us, respect us. And we could keep all the grant money and swim in it.

So, something like that. A mouse now sounds like a bird. Its amazing. Mind blowing in fact.

I’m going to return to science, I think, and see if I can get a grant to make a cow sound like it’s saying “boo” instead of moo, just with a really bad cold.


This is the title of this blog

December 8, 2010

The other night I settled down to watch the National Geographic Channel. There were a couple of shows I was interested in – “Return to the Giant Crystal Cave” and “The World’s Largest Cave”. Now, it has to be said, both of these shows have quiet descriptive titles and pretty much did what they said on the tin.

In “Return to the Giant Crystal Cave”, a team of cavers and scientists went back the Giant Crystal Cave they’d been to before.  Hence the return. In “The World’s Largest Cave” a group of cavers and scientists went to a huge cave to survey it and see if it was indeed the World’s largest cave. Throughout the show the narrator kept throwing out lines about whether this cave was the largest cave or not. Will it be the largest cave? The roof needs to be over 90 metres high at this point to qualify this cave as the World’s Largest Cave. The main problem, however, was that the title kind of took away all the excitement. 

 But then, I’ve been stung by titles before.

“The Man Who Had Minutes To Live” is a show about a man with a disease that could kill him at any time. He has minutes to live, and that’s the premise of the show – hence the title. The problem with this one, however, is that he actually has quite a lot of minutes to live. Not only does he survive throughout the entire show, he also goes on to live after the credits have rolled. I realise that this is a good thing and I don’t wish him any harm, I just feel that the sensationalist title may be a little misleading. The addition of the words “quite a lot” would be help, turning this into “The Man Who Had Quite A  Lot of Minutes To Live”.

Even the World’s Favourite Singing Geordie (which isn’t a show, but might become one) is guilty of misdirection with titles. Cheryl Cole has a book out. It’s called Through My Eyes and is packed with pictures but, instead of being an informative tome showing pictures of things that Cheryl has seen (like cock flavoured soup, or red hot dutch cheese) it’s pictures of herself. So it’s not really through her eyes. It’s more through someone elses eyes, unless she’s taken all the pictures in a mirror or at arms length like she’s setting up a myspace profile.

But I watched the World’s Largest Cave for a whole hour, engrossed in the size of the cave and the most exciting will they-won’t they drama since Ross and Rachel off of Friends. And then it dawned on me.

I wasn’t watching “The World’s Second Largest Cave”, was I?


Hair today, less hair a bit later on today

December 2, 2010

I went for a haircut today.

That in itself is not a very exciting piece of news. When you couple that, however, with the fact that I battled through Arctic conditions to get to the hairdressers it adds a new level of danger and excitement to the story. Yes, it’s that time again when the country is in the grip of “The Big Freeze” which, I seem to remember, is what they called it the last time it happened. It doesn’t even get a new name this time around, although I’m not sure what it could really be called that would describe the epic freezing nature of the thing. I’d opt for “Nippy Nightmare” myself, to add a bit of fun to the drama.

As usual, the country is gripped with the icy fingers of winter and has ground to a halt. People are panic buying – it’s been on the radio and everything, although a report I heard went on to interview a shop-keeper who said that people weren’t buying a lot of things, just a few things. That’s not panic buying. Panic buying, to me at least, is like the end of Supermarket Sweep when people dash around collecting all the shopping. But possibly without the huge inflatables and that stupid bit where they had to price up a tray of tins. No, the panic buying described on the radio seemed a lot more like, erm, just normal shopping really.

So, yeah, I had a haircut today. There’s also a reasonable chance I had a haircut done by a tramp.

 Braving the Arctic conditions I walked up to my barber of choice. Entering the establishment there were none of the regular staff members to be seen. There was a man who I have never seen before, in a hoodie, hunched over a little portable radiator with a cup of tea. I exchanged pleasantries with the fellow and he ushered me towards the middle chair in a row of three as he began to remove his hoodie.

It was only once I was seated, and wrapped in that gown that keeps hair off you  but still allows enough hair to get into your t-shirt and annoy the crap out of you for the rest of the day, that I began to doubt that he was anything less than a proper bona fide hairdresser type. Removing the hoodie revealed a filthy looking jumper and, as he rather undeftly wielded a pair of clippers towards my head I became aware of the smell of stale cigarettes. And then it struck me. I was being attended to by a tramp.

I wear glasses and have to remove them to have my hair cut. This means that I can see just slightly less than cock-all as I’m having my hair cut. I can’t see what’s going on. I can’t pass any judgement on how the cut is going or anything. For me it’s a one-shot deal. I sit in the chair, take my glasses off and 15-20 minutes later I get to see what’s been done. It’s like one of those tv makeover shows but without the need to cover a mirror with a sheet. I can see nothing. I’m a lot like Velma from Scooby Doo but a little bit less lesbiany. My temporary blindness, combined with the fact I was becoming more convinced I was having my hair cut by a member of the great unwashed, led to much frantic squinting as I tried to force an eyeball into the right shape to allow me a moment, however fleeting, of clarity so that I could see how much hair I still had or how the cut was going.

Sadly this didn’t particularly work and I probably looked like I was having a weird facial spasm – obviously I couldn’t see how daft I looked and the fact that my hobo hairdresser was convinced that the clippers were pulling hairs out of my head rather than cutting them was doing nothing for my confidence. Nor the fact that he went off to oil the clippers then came back and used my hair to soak up any excess oil.

As it happened it all turned out ok. I put my glasses back on and everything was where it should be, shorter than when I started and generally neat all over. The worst part, however, was still to come. Each time I go to the hairdressers I dread the last bit, the final act before you’re released from the hair-protecting sheet thing. The mirror. You know the one. The mirror that reflects in the mirror allowing you to see the back of your head. The bit of you that you can’t see normally but, for some reason, each time you go for your hair cutting it’s vitally important that you’re shown this part of you so you can check up on.

So I got to see the back of my head. I last had my hair cut back in September I think, definitely some time before the Eurogamer Expo anyway. I’m fairly sure that, back then, I couldn’t see as much skin through my hair as I could today. It wasn’t because my stagnant stylist had got a bit carried away, it was just thinning. It would seem that, while my ear and nose hair is accelerating at a massive rate of knots, the hair on my head that I’ve had for close to forever has decided that it’s had enough and is beginning to bugger off. My hairline’s already retreated about an inch or so in the last year or so, leaving me with a forehead to rival that of Ant of Ant and Dec fame but now it seems that the centre of my scalp has had enough as well. It looks a bit like a crowd dispersing, to be honest. As though someone has waded into the centre of my hair and gone “it’s ok lads, nothing to see here, come on now, move on”.

I don’t mind going bald. I just never thought it’d be done through some kind of folicular crowd control.