2.244 “It’s zero, double seven, double nine….”

I got the bus home from work yesterday. I sat upstairs and had, basically, the whole top deck to myself. Well, I had it all to myself once the guy with the really long beard and the chain mail wristbands got off the bus. Surprisingly, I also felt a little bit safer once he left. Although a part of me was wondering what the chain mail was for apart from, obviously, deflecting sword blows using only his fore-arms.

But, as I was sitting upstairs, reading my book and fighting the urge to fall asleep, a man and a woman got on the bus. They sat downstairs but, I assume, somewhere close to the stairs leading up to the top deck. I say this because I could hear every single word they said.

And it only got better when the conversation turned to exchanging contact details.

“I have a really easy mobile phone number,” said the man, loudly. “It’s really easy to remember!” And then he recited the number, incredibly loudly. And you know what, it is easy to remember. I could actually tell you what the number is right now. I won’t, because that wouldn’t be fair – to broadcast a complete stranger’s phone number across the internet – but him shouting it out on the bus seemed to be absolutely fine. I wondered, if I waited long enough, he’d reveal his bank details. Sadly this wasn’t to be the case.

There may have been a reason he was bellowing his number out. It may be the woman he got on with was a little bit deaf, or chose to sit further away than the adjacent seat. Or it may just have been that he’s one of those people who has a hard time regulating the volume of his voice. Like Brian Blessed. Only a Brian Blessed that doesn’t climb mountains, choosing instead to travel around on the peasant wagon.

And while I was sitting there mentally taking note of this man’s phone number, an idea started to creep into my mind. I had – still have, technically – this man’s phone number. This loud, loud man’s number. I, by my being a passenger on the bus, was privy to this information. Something which, you’d think, I should only know if I was an acquaintance of the fellow or was, say, a form upon which he had to write his contact details.

But I had his number.

Would it be wrong for me, squirreled away on the top deck of the bus, to enter his number into my phone and compose a text message. Something along the lines of, “Hello! You don’t know me, but thanks to the booming qualities of your voice I now have the means to communicate with you and would like to take this opportunity to respectfully ask you to use your indoor voice.”

Or, probably because I’d be riding the crest of an adrenalin wave as I knew what I was doing was wrong, “I’m sorry, can you please STOP SHOUTING!!!”

I didn’t do that though.

But I wanted to.

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2.243 Finding Bigfoot II

Forgive me, for I have sinned.

I watched another Finding Bigfoot.

This time, they were in New Mexico. Apparently New Mexico – like any of the other states they have visited – is rife with ‘Squatches, as they keep referring to them. And this time, on a solo hunt, one of the team tried to lure a Bigfoot to him by setting off fireworks. Yes, fireworks. Because apparently Bigfoot loves a decent fireworks display. They probably go bat-shit crazy on the 4th of July. And, living in the woods, they have such easy access to fireworks that they’re bound to like them. Like people who advise you to go fishing with cheese as your bait – something that the fish can readily get in the wild, that’s bound to work.

So, again, they held a town hall meeting and loads of residents turned up and told their stories.

One woman, who started crying because she was so scared, told how she woke up in her cabin in the woods (she went to sleep there the night before, she wasn’t dragged there by a Sasquatch) to find a Bigfoot peering in her window looking at her. Another couple told how they were camping or, I should say, sleeping in the back of their car in the woods, when a Bigfoot walked past the car and scared the bejesus out of both of them. There was also a man who told of seeing two Bigfoot (Bigfeet?) crossing a road and running up a stony hill, without dislodging a single rock.

Intrigued by these stories, they set out to investigate.

Firstly, the two creatures crossing a road. The expert listened to the story. He listened attentively, asked questions, pointed, nodded, kicked some stones around and made it look like he was investigating. Then he decided that a) the man had seen two Sasquatch and b) they were twins. He then justified that by saying that he was sure that Sasquatch could have twins and that, probably, their breeding process was very similar to ours so it was highly likely they were twins. Something of a quantum leap, I couldn’t help but think, as he’d worked out the reproductive processes of a creature that no-one knows exists. So that was good.

The woman in the cabin – the one who was so terrified by the experience that she was willing to put that all aside for 15 minutes on TV – took the team to her cabin. They looked at the window from the outside. Then they looked at the window from inside the cabin. Then they went outside and held up a stick and asked the woman to tell them when the top of the stick was level with the top of the creature she saw years ago. And then they scientifically measured it, determined it to be tall and declared it a Bigfoot. I would have just told her to get some curtains for the window, which would stop any passing mythical creatures from staring in.

And then the couple in the car. The same team who went to the cabin came to the car. The exact same team. They recreated it in exactly the same way. Tell us when to stop, they said, when our hand is level with where you saw the shoulders of this creature. They measured it. It was big. And that was only the shoulders. Adding on a head put it bang on the height they think a Sasquatch can get to. They only think they know how tall they can get, but they’re pretty sure that they can have twins. It’s baffling.

And after all this measuring, and the woman telling the story of how the Sasquatch walked past the car and she saw it and it scared her, the woman – the same woman who was at the cabin and just accepted it was a Bigfoot with no messing around because of the evidence provided by a stick and a tape measure – first said it was probably a deer and then said, “Well I didn’t see what you saw, so we just can’t say if it was a Bigfoot or not.”

I mean, it’s good that they’re using a consistent approach when it comes to analysing this stuff.

2.242 The Essex Lion

It can’t have escaped your notice that, over the weekend, there was a lion loose in Essex. Or not a lion loose in Essex, depending on whether you’re a sane, rational person or someone who is easily confused by the size of a cat.

The story came about because some holiday makers near Clacton has seen what was obviously a lion in a field. So they did what every self-respecting person would do – they took a really blurry photo and then phoned the police. And the police came out in force, urged everyone to stay indoors and mooched about the streets in the stab vests with the hands tucked inside for warmth. Because, as we all know, if there’s a chance a lion may eat you, you should always be wearing your stab vest.

Animal experts were called and they looked at the grainy photograph and immediately declared it was a lion. An eyewitness – or earwitness – was on hand to say he’d been walking his dog and heard what was clearing the roar of a lion because he knew what lions sounded like, having seen one at the start of any MGM movie. He’d also watched Daktari as a child and so was more than familiar with the whole concept of a lion, even one with special needs.

Sky News even broadcast live pictures from the scene – the countryside – in the late hours of the night. It was dark. You couldn’t really see anything. But they did know this. No zoo had reported a lion missing and that the circus which had recently been in town hadn’t lost a lion, mainly because they didn’t have any to start with. What they didn’t know, though, was how old the lion might be. Because that was the most important thing.

And then 24 hours after it all began, the police went “sod this for a game of soldiers”, packed up and went home. An animal expert had another look at the photo and said, “That’s not a lion. Whoever said that was a lion was clearly an idiot. It’s not a lion it’s just a cat,” and people were allowed to go back outside without fear of being eaten by a savage wild beast as they went to get some milk from the local Spar.

All in all it was good.

The Metro this morning described the people who took the photo as “caravan dwellers” which made me laugh and also reminded me of the scene in Father Ted where Ted is desperately trying to explain perspective to Dougal. Even more so when you consider that all the worldly wisdom has decided that what the caravan dwellers did see wasn’t a lion, it was just a large domestic cat and the chances are that the domestic cat was probably closer than they thought it was when it was a lion and it was further away. And, of course, most of the media is now launching a hunt along the lines of “Do you know the cat mistaken for a lion. Call us now!” Sky News already thinks they worked out who the cat belongs to and everything – the owner can tell, from the grainy photo, that it’s her cat and says that it’s probably sulking because she’s on holiday in Scarborough while the cat is forced to stay at home and impersonate jungle animals.

And what of the eyewitness, are they being punished in any way for – essentially – bring Essex to a standstill for an entire night because they thought they were on safari? It’s clear, when you look at the story more closely, that they’re actually being punished already.

For one thing, they’re on holiday in a static caravan in Essex.

2.241 The Reason Google Was Invented

Years and years ago I used to know, via the internet, a girl called Justine. I can’t really remember much about her other than the fact that she used to refer to sandwiches as sammiches and her mum was involved, somewhere along the line, with stealth bombers. Making them stealthy or painting them with stealthy paint. Or something. Looking back on it, she probably shouldn’t have told me that because I’m sure it breaches some sort of Official Secrets act or some such.

But when I knew her, we talked about writing a book together. A story of a boy who didn’t know his father but, through a school project, ended up finding out all about his dad which then put him in danger. We talked about it for ages and ages. We looked up suitable names for the boy – we wanted something that was strange, but also meant that the boy was heroic. We came up with a brilliant name which I’ll be absolutely buggered if I can remember.

And then Justine found God or something and renounced the internet.

And that was that.

But I’ve started the story again, which is all very exciting. It’s not very long, in all honesty, consisting of – at the moment at least – a bit of an outline of the first chapter and the last two lines of the final chapter. I feel very J. K. Rowling-y with that because, should I ever finish the bastard thing, I can say in interviews that I knew how it was going to end before I’d written the middle. I can be mysterious and things of that nature.

But this blog isn’t really about that as much as it’s about the fact that – as part of this story – I spent a while online this afternoon adding to the vast array of weird things I have entered into Google’s search engine.

Previously, for example, I have searched for “jobs for a six-year old in the Brighton area”. I can’t really remember why I did it. I must have needed it for something. But it is something I have searched for. Today, though, I’ve been searching for heights of buildings and then for how long it would take someone falling off those buildings to hit the ground.

Which, worryingly, a lot of people must do as there are pages and pages on questions and answers covering an insane variety of heights. 

Now I just need to put my new-found knowledge to good use…

2.240 The Last Day

I don’t think there’s any day in a person’s life when they are more productive, or more focused on a task – or tasks – that they’ve been putting off.

I mean, sure, there’s all the times when you have to do something and you keep putting it off and putting it off. Those times when you just have to write that report or finish a script for a CBeebies competition or something less specific than that, but you find yourself strangely drawn to the previously ignored level of untidiness of your shelves. The order that the books are in is neither chronological or arranged by height, with all the hardback books at one side of the shelf and all the paperbacks at the other. Or starting off with hardbacks, moving to paperbacks and back to hardbacks, like an inverse bell curve. There are a lot of shelving possibilities. And it’s only when you have stuff to do that you notice them.

Or maybe, just maybe, you want to listen to some music while you’re working. And you fancy kicking it old school and putting on a CD (ok, not that much old school) but you go to the box which should house the CD you fancy listening to only to find that it’s not there and in its place is another CD that doesn’t belong. And you have to trace the trail of CDs all the way back to find the one you want, but along the way you realise it’s been a while since you last listened to a particular CD and so you stop off and listen to that and by the time you get to the CD you originally wanted to listen to, you not only don’t want to listen to it anymore, but you’ve wasted a lot of time in doing that. Because you didn’t just stop there, you decided that you should organise your CDs by artist, or by album title, and spent a while doing that. And now, with iTunes and the like, you can just click a button and it’s done. And there’s no time wasted there.

But the most productive day of a person’s life – the day in which, if they were that way inclined they could cure all the world’s diseases or develop warp engine technology or just do everything they’ve really wanted to do and really get into it so that the day just flies by but the person feels as if it has been a great day because things have been accomplished – that day comes round every now and again.

I’m enjoying one right now, in fact.

The most productive day I’ve had for a while. If I wanted, I could cure all the world’s diseases. Or at least make a start on it, and be dangerously close to a breakthrough but then I’d probably have to stop. Because the one problem with this day – this magical, inspiring day – is that when it’s over, it’s over.

You’ve run out of holiday.

It’s no use.

You have to go back to work tomorrow.