The Second Obligatory GBBO One

Someone actually phoned us during Bake Off.

Yeah, I know. I mean, who does that?

We don’t know because we didn’t answer it, no message was left and the caller withheld their number. But they still phoned us. During Bake Off. Not even during that bit of Bake Off that no-one gives a stuff about when they talk about the history of biscuits or bread or whatever baked good it is. It was during actual baking.

It’s just as well they did withhold their number, otherwise I would have rung them back (during the bit about the history of biscuits because it’s not what we watch for) and given them a piece of my mind.

They were probably phoning to tell us that we’d been involved in an accident in the last three years or that someone in our house has vibration white finger or some kind of industrial deafness. If I’d spoken to anyone, it certainly wouldn’t have been me that had had an accident in the last three years. It would have been them, in the space of a phone call. With associated workplace deafness as I bellowed “IT’S BLOODY BAKE OFF YOU HEATHENS!” at them.

At one point I thought it might have been my mum, unable to log in to the computer or something. If it had been I’d have just been forced to take the computer off her. There’s nothing else that could be done. If a person doesn’t respect the Bake Off hour then they don’t deserve to have things that they can’t work properly. But it wasn’t my mum. So she can keep the computer. For now. Because there’s another eight or nine weeks of baking left – it’s bound to happen at some point.

Anyway, my Team Selasi support wavered a little this week, with or without the phone call. I’m still holding on to it, but it had a wobble around the Viennese Whirls. And I was tempted to jump to Candice when she pulled out the stops on her ginger pub. But I must stay strong and stick with my first choice. What I am enjoying this series is that it’s two weeks in and I can’t remember a single thing that Jane has baked. Even now, thirty eight minutes after the show has finished. Not a scooby.

That probably means she’ll win.



Starlings Of The Beach

One of the distinct differences between Crosby Beach and any other beach we’ve visited, aside from the addition of the 100 metal cocks with men attached, is the fact that instead of a constant swarm of seagulls vying for any food that you may have cause to drop you’re besieged instead by starlings.

And not just one or two of the little speckly buggers – they arrive in packs and just hop about as you munch your way through some lovely seaside chips.

Now, as seaside-based avians go, I think I prefer the starlings to the seagulls.

You often see seagulls brazenly just stealing food from people’s hands – sometimes as it’s on the way to their mouths. Seagulls know no bounds. They have no etiquette when it comes to foraging. Starlings, on the other hand, do. They will happily sit at your feet and stare at you with their beady little eyes, daring you to drop a morsel that they can immediately peck at, rather than stealing it directly from your grasp.

Starlings are quieter. Seagulls are noisy buggers at the best of times with all the cawing they do. They’re like feathered yobs, just out to cause trouble and making as much noise about it as they can. The starlings, not so much. Sure they swarm around in packs, but they’re reasonably quiet with it. You can be surrounded by starlings, but still enjoy the peace of the beach and the serene views of an offshore windfarm. You couldn’t say the same for the seagulls, they’d snap you out of your daydreams with a mighty bellow from their chip-guzzling throats.

Starlings look cuter than seagulls as well. Sure they have beady, staring eyes, but they look a lot friendlier than a seagull which is more-or-less pure evil in bird form.

They still crap all over your car when you’re not looking, though. So there are some downsides to them. But overall I think starlings are my beach bird of choice.

I’m just not sure there’s a map that details which beaches are over-run with them. They’re probably not regarded as highly as clean sand or pollution free water, and that’s all beaches seem to be categorised by these days.

Maybe it’s a project from when I’m made redundant…



Over Cast

Having been to Beamish, the next stop on our tour of places where everyone talks funny was Crosby Beach. Which is sort of Liverpool-ward, somewhere. Near Southport. Anyway, everyone speaks funny when you get there.

Crosby Beach is a fairly non-descript beach, aside from the fact that Antony Gormley has stuck 100 metal casts of his own body – complete with rust gathering cock but curiously no nipples – along a length of it. The statues just stand there, staring out to sea and are covered, and revealed, by the flow of the tide.

And that’s it.

It’s 100 identical statues which are only made different by the stuff growing on them and birdshit, basically. Oh, some are buried in the sand. So you can only see half of them – mercifully the cocks are covered. So that spices things up a bit.

I don’t get it.

I tried to get it.

But I couldn’t.

It was like Henry Moore all over again. I don’t think sculptures are really for me. I feel like the kid in the Emperor’s New Clothes.

And then I read the information board about the whole thing, entitled “Another Place” which said that it represented man’s struggle with the passage of time and something to do with nature or some load of old bollocks and I got it even less.

It’s just 100 casts of a nippleless naked man stuck in a beach.

Still, it was a very entertaining stroll along the beach if for no other reason than the plethora of beached jellyfish which littered the shoreline and which various people were poking at with sticks, feet and bare limbs. Because that’s totally the best thing to poke at a jellyfish with. I’ve never seen a beached jellyfish before, so it was quite entertaining for the scientist in me. But to see so many of them – and some were quite hefty – was even more fascinating/strange.

And, dare I say it, a lot more interesting than 100 naked rusty men statues.


Poke Furniture Land

I had occasion, this morning, to enjoy what I would call an extremely productive loiter.

Carole had begun a quest to find a notebook identical to the one she has recently purchased, which – alas – has so far failed to bear any kind of notebook-based fruit. As part of her quest, she went into the sprawling metropolis of Huddersfield to see if she could find one there. And I, ever eager to go out (as you know), tagged along so that I could be dropped off at the retail park bit so I could get something from Maplin.

And so it came to pass that that was what happened.

I went into Maplin, Carole went into town. Our plan was to regroup when Carole returned from town which, she said, would be a reasonably fast escapade.

So I did Maplin in reasonably quick time. In, look at stuff that I don’t want, fail to find the stuff I do want, ask about the stuff I do want, buy the stuff I do want as well as take note of the price of things I don’t want want but would be curious about.

I was done reasonably quickly.

But it turns out that the Retail Park is a PokeStop. So I was happy as Larry, collecting Pokeballs, potions and Clefairies while I waited for Carole.  I was also hatching an egg, so was doing a bit of a walk from shop to shop to rack up some distance, while maintaining the appropriate radius from the PokeStop.

At one point my journey ended, probably for a Weedle or a bloody Pidgey, outside Oak Furniture Land. I stopped and caught things, swiped the Pokestop and evolved, transferred and powered up Pokemon. As you do. I was happily minding my own business when a member of staff came out of Oak Furniture Land and stood in the middle of the car park.

“Still warm, isn’t it?” he said.

I wasn’t paying any attention to him. I didn’t even know he was talking to me. Because, you know, I didn’t know him from Adam nor did I make any move or give any sign that I had any inclination to talk to anyone, let alone a random person from a shop I was not going in.

“Oh,” I said, realising his question was directed my way. “Yes, yes it certainly is.” And it was. Warm as frick. Muggy as anything. Definitely warm. That Oak Furniture guy certainly knew his onions. At least when it came to temperature.

“Got yourself a new toy have you?” he asked, nodding his head at my purchase. You have to love the fact that shops don’t do bags now. Everyone can see what you’ve bought, and indeed ask about it to their heart’s content. But he wasn’t done. “What is it, eh? A router? Is it a router?”

He looked pleased with himself at this point. Like he’d remembered the name of something that you could maybe buy at Maplin or was vaguely computery.

“No, it’s a game capture card. So I can record gameplay.”

Well, that shut him up. Because a) it’s exceptionally nerdy. And b) see the about note about “router”.

“Oh right,” he said. “Games, eh? And what is big in games these days?”

And then before I could answer, bombarding him with details about things announced at E3 or Gamescon, the upcoming influx of VR and a variety of other things, he just went “Football, yeah? Football games.”

So basically, FIFA. That’s it. Which is more or less what I said. And then he just went back in the shop. Like he arrived, so he returned. Unannounced and unwanted.

I feel bad that I didn’t reciprocate in some way. That I didn’t ask him what was big in oak furniture these days, and then – as he was about to answer – just say “sideboards” or “coffee tables”.



One of the rules we’ve had, since my dad passed away, is that when my mum is in the loft, doing weird and wonderful things in the garden, or poking around in the garage she should always have her mobile with her. That way if she becomes trapped, falls or whatever she can at least signal for help.

This has been a rule for five months now.

Today she asked me to show her how to make a phone call using her mobile phone.

You’ve got to think that really this should have come up sooner than today. I mean when she’s happily telling you about the time she had to crowbar some firewood out of the stack while balanced on a stool, you do start to worry about what things she’s up to now she’s entirely unsupervised and free to run amok.

So I showed her how to use the mobile phone today, ready to use all the essential pre-approved mother jargon if needed – loaf of bread button, middle stick etc. I didn’t go into too much detail about how I don’t think a phone signal can penetrate the foil insulation in the loft should anything happen to her up there as I didn’t want to worry her too much. But I really don’t think it can. I remember dad saying he’d had to move the TV aerial out of the loft because the insulation blocked most of the digital signal. And my mum is only rocking a Nokia 3310, so I can’t imagine that has much in the way of signal boosting capability.

Still, it is large and bulky enough that she could use it to smash her way out of the loft if needs be.

She had, though, hung onto a letter and brochure that BT had sent her offering her a pick from the latest smart phones. I can’t imagine my mum with a smart phone. It’s not even like she’s worked her way along – to go from a Nokia 3310 that she still isn’t sure of the menu for to something she can swipe, take pictures on and send emails is a massive step. And it’s just not the right one to take. For my mum, or for the phone.

That little phone will have left the factory filled with hopes and dreams. It will have heard tales about how the phones that have gone before have become treasured companions of the humans who used them. It will think that it too is going to live that life. A life of adventure and the latest apps. A life of usefulness and joy.

But if you’ve ever seen an old person on a bus with one, you’ll know that at best it’s just destined for a life of having the keypad tones on – loudly – for ever with no hope of them ever being turned off and it’ll be a fine line between making a phone call and accidentally taking a picture of their ear.

Maybe we should get her a carrier pigeon…