Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Skull Club Band

October 12, 2017

Science is a wonderful thing. It truly is. Thanks to someone who spent a lot of time with calipers and what amounted to the erasers off the end of pencils, it’s possible to put the flesh back onto a naked skull with a reasonable amount of accuracy.

This technique has helped identify victims of crime in real life and on television. CSI used to have a woman come in and painstaking recreate the faces of victims with almost 100% accuracy, for example.

The technique has also been used to put skin on the bones of long dead figures. When Richard III was found in a car park, for example, his face was recreated so that we could see that, actually, he looked exactly like he did in many of the paintings. Some could argue that was a colossal waste of time, but it made for good television. And the woman who loved Richard III more than anything nearly exploded in excitement when she saw him. Again, just to reiterate, he looked exactly like the portraits of him. Which is what you’d expect. Given that the portraits were painted while he was there. But that just adds flesh to the bone, so to speak, of the theory behind the whole facial reconstruction thing.

Meanwhile, more recently a museum in Otago (New Zealand, apparently – thank you Google) have unveiled the face of a 2400-year old mummy that they’ve spent a dog’s age reconstructing following a shed-load (scientific term denoting a lot) of scans and precise measurements.

The revealed face belonged to a woman who had lived to the ripe old age of 50 and was in poor health when she died. They knew this from earlier scans, not from reconstructing her face. I mean, bearing in mind that this is the face she will have had at death, she doesn’t look that under-the-weather.

But that’s just one theory.

Do you remember all the bunkum around Paul McCartney being dead because he wasn’t wearing shoes on that album cover. I think I have more evidence that the theory may be true. Except he had been dead for around about 2400 years, probably before shoes were even invented…


Science doesn’t lie, folks.

(Unless you’re a Creationist.)


Read All About It (Yesterday)

October 11, 2017

I went on an expedition today to secure myself a copy of the Huddersfield Examiner. Because, fact fans, Wednesday is traditionally jobs day. And with today being Wednesday, it was decided that the paper should be purchased just in case I was missing any employment nuggets.

“But wait!” I hear you say. “Who buys a newspaper nowadays?”

Exactly my friends. Exactly.

Newspapers, once the backbone of information dissemination are now novelty items mainly bought by the elderly and people with inadequate data plans. Everything is online. We live in a digital world. I can read everything that is in the paper online. And, brilliantly, I read everything that is in the paper online yesterday. Such is the nature of print journalism.

I used to have a thriving career as a paper boy, keeping the denizens of Norton Tower up-to-date with their news and current affairs and reading the Garfield comic in whichever paper it used to be in. I think it was the Express. I hope it wasn’t the Mail. I will have to rethink all my life choices if it was. I can’t imagine that the Saturday bag – which used to way an absolute ton due to the volume of paper within – weighs anything close to what it used to, now that people have the news at their fingertips.

It’s both a testament to the technological marvels of the time, and a sad reflection on the death of the smelliest, dirtiest form of news acquisition.

Anyway, today is job day. But what the paper now does is, basically, act as a printed out version of Fish4jobs. It’s a website made flesh. Or paper. A website made tree flesh. It’s digital information in analogue form.

I should have looked in the paper in the shop. I could have had a quick look and clocked that it’s all the stuff that I’ve already seen online – both jobs and news.

The worst part is that it cost seventy-five pence.

I also bought a tub of custard. The custard was only slightly more expensive than the paper. And I’ve had a lot more joy and fulfilment from the custard, I can tell you. But then, you can’t eat custard online.

Well, if you’re on the right websites you probably can.

It’s A Puppet!

October 10, 2017

Hold the front pages, people. There’s a crocodile in the Thames.

Today there has been a bit of hub-bub on Twitter, and a few online news sites, about a crocodile that has been filmed, merrily swimming around some houseboats in London.

If you watch the video it will take you all of a couple of seconds to realise that it is not a crocodile. I mean, it looks like a crocodile. Sort of. Mainly just the head. But it doesn’t take Steve Irwin (luckily) to realise that it’s not in any way, shape or form real.

Aside from nothing else, the way it holds its head does not change throughout the whole thing. Not to mention the way it casually just turns through 90 degrees with seemingly no effort, on the spot. Which, when you’re a head attached to a long, muscly body, isn’t going to happen.

When you’re a plastic head, or similar, on a radio-controlled boat however… well, that’s a different kettle of fish.

There’s a quote in the Mirror from a lady who says her children like to play in the area near where the crocodile was spotted. She says, now, that she can’t let her children play there because clearly there’s a chance they’ll be devoured by this creature.

The footage comes from a man who started filming it when he saw two men staring down at it as it floated around Chelsea Harbour. Two men who were, undoubtedly, steering it as it nosed around the houseboats.

That thing about when you hear hoof beats think horses not zebras, should probably also be applied to when you see crocodile heads bobbing around the Thames.

Maybe this is the job I should get into. Is there a position for someone to travel around and just slap sense into people when they conjure up crap like this. I suppose if I was doing that as a living, I could expand that into having a word with all the people who post messages about having people they know involved in any and every crisis that occurs just because they like the attention.

I’m willing to bet, probably, by tomorrow one of them will have been bitten and/or eaten by the crocodile.

What amused me the most about this whole thing was that, apparently, the police had been called to the croc, but later said that it had nothing to do with them. And then the RSPCA chimed in and said that it was a dangerous animal and the police totally should be dealing with it.

It’s one of those “not my job, mate” moments on a grand scale. Who can wash their hands quickest when it comes to dealing with out-of-place crocodiles?

I love it.

A Model Application

October 9, 2017

The one thing about signing up with about a gazillion jobsites is that you are encouraged to get job alerts sent to your email on a regular – daily – basis.

These are, as the name suggests, jobs that the sites have listed which fit the criteria you have entered for what it is you want to do. They are, therefore, tailored to fit you.

I got one for a female model.

Every time one of these slips through – which has happened a couple of times – I am less convinced that there is actually an algorithm in place behind the scenes of these websites. I think it’s possibly a little bit like any kind of machine in The Flintstones – inside the workings of a job website is actually a small, aggressive and bored bird who just pecks out different jobs as and when it feels like it.

I suppose, given that this is 2017, I could have applied for the role of female model. And, had they turned me down on the basis of being neither a female or a model I could have sued them for discrimination and been interviewed on This Morning, sold my story to The Sun and generally milked fifteen minutes of fame until the inevitable call came to say that I could be on the next series of Big Brother.

But, obviously, that’s not that case. I didn’t apply. I just laughed at the email, read the advert and moved on. Except that by reading the advert I’ve now planted the seed further into the algorithm machine/angry bird. It now thinks that is a field I am looking at. I’ve had a further one saying that a model was needed for a wedding shoot, involving – bizarrely – a pyjamas section.

Again, this wasn’t for me. But, again, I read it because I am just that sort of guy. And the pyjamas thing made me laugh because that’s one aspect of the perfect wedding scenario you never hear people banging on about – what PJs they’re going to be wearing, if any.

But, again, reading the ad has meant that the site has registered another potentially interested datapoint, which means I’ll probably get more. And I know I’ll read them because I like to see if I can determine whether they are legitimate modelling things or just a seedy man trying to acquire themselves a potential victim.

Not that I would know what a legitimate modelling thing looked like. Although I did once walk past a man taking pictures of a young girl in a fancy dress on the beach at Lytham St Annes, so I definitely know what the seedy side would look like.

Anyway, back to the looking…

127 Seconds

October 8, 2017

It’s not been a bad morning, shifting the myriad of exceedingly heavy and/or awkward things that mum has strewn around the garden. Planters that have been in situ for so long that not only have the roots grown out of the bottom and into the strata underneath, but they have also disintegrated to a point where even looking at them might cause the whole thing to shatter uncontrollable, showering you with deadly plastic shards and the contains therein.

The main task, for me at least, was to empty the pond – there were no frogs, but there were freakish alien larvae things which were fascinating to watch before you convinced yourself that were it to leap from the water it could easily burrow into your brain like that slug thing in Wrath of Khan.

What I quickly learnt, after Carole and my mum had poked off to the shops for a variety of things costing less than a pound each, was that the decking is a death trap. I mean, that’s not actually that much of a breaking news story. We already know that it is slippery as a very slippery thing – maybe an eel in some lube – but the fact that it is rotting through in various degrees across the whole structure adds a further element of excitement to the whole proceedings.

In fact, rather than a game show based on seaside 2p machines, or that ridiculous one that used to be on BBC1 where contestants rolled a ball down a lane and hoped it stopped before it fell off the end, a game show should be made in which contestants are tasked with crossing a rotting deck.

I, it’s safe to say, would have been eliminated.#

I was happily bailing out the pond with a couple of plastic buckets. I had just emptied the buckets into the garden – the pond water being, basically, liquid plant food (and alien larvae things) when I head a crack.

And I fell.

Now, it wasn’t quite Hans Gruber off the Nakatomi Plaza. The drop between decking and the ground is only a matter of inches. But when you leg vanishes under you, into a hole that is only as big as your foot, it’s pretty unsettling. Or unbalancing, at least. You can think of it like when you stand in a snow drift. Or used to stand in snow drifts. When it used to snow properly, and not just the fine sprinkle we get nowadays that brings the nation to a standstill.

So I fell in this newly formed, splintery hole. My right foot disappeared. And I toppled to my right like a newly-felled tree. Swearing as I did it. The whole way down. To me it seemed to take a long time, but that’s because – like the last two seconds of a sporting event in one of those underdog movies – everything moves in slow motion as your brain is reacting to the fact that you could be, for want of a better word, fucked.

I wasn’t fucked.

I managed to land, more or less, on my arse. I mean, I was hanging off the edge of the decking, my leg was bent under the remaining – unbroken – deck pieces and my hand which had been clutching the bucket at the time was nestled in the remains of a plastic bucket, the edges of which were gnawing away at my hand.

I got out pretty unscathed. There are a few scratches, there is less skin on my leg. But for a minute or so there was a genuine worry that I would still be in that position when Caz and mum came back – bearing in mind they’d only just left – because I couldn’t work out what position I needed to get in to be able to free my leg. It was almost like I needed to move my leg to change position, but because my leg was stuck I couldn’t do that. I knew, in that moment, what James Franco felt like when he had to cut his arm off in that film. It was the exact same situation.

And then I managed to move a teensy bit, and I was able to escape.

But still.

It was close.

What’s worse, and will make the film adaptation of this tragic turn of events even more exciting, is that I didn’t even have a pen knife. Should the worst have happened, I would have had to saw off my foot with the shards of plastic from the bucket. The bucket that had previously contained filthy pond water with alien larvae creatures in it. I mean, the infection risk alone…


Keeping Mum

October 7, 2017

There’s a level of panic that builds in you when you phone your mother and she doesn’t answer any of her phones. Not a sausage on the landline, and nothing on her two mobiles. Yes, two mobiles. Because my mother is a drug dealer or something.

Before Easter, I wouldn’t even have given it too much of a second thought. But since the stroke there’s always a little worry that you’re going to call and there’s not going to be an answer because the person you’re calling can’t come to the phone anymore. It’s a morbid thought and not in any way pleasant. But it’s a real fear. Just one that nestles, quietly, out of sight at the back of my mind.

Today it came to the fore a little as mum was unreachable at half past one this afternoon. I rang the house phone several times, thus allowing for her to be in the bathroom or whatever, but no answer. And her mobile phones both went unanswered – one ringing for ages and then saying it was unavailable, the other ringing and then giving me the engaged tone.

I sent texts which also went unanswered.

I was, I reckon, five or ten minutes from getting changed and hot-footing it over to Halifax to see if mum was lying sprawled on a floor somewhere, a casual glance through a window just showing the tip of a slipper past the end of a chair or something. And then mum rang me.

And opened with: “What do you want?”

Which was nice.

As it happened I was ringing to tell her that her slave workforce would be arriving tomorrow morning to do the various bits and bobs that needed doing before the trusted (for real, not like the dodgy fly-by-nights who did the driveway) guys who were coming in to redo all the decking (for, alas, it is insanely rotten in places because – for some reason – dad does not appear to have ever treated it with anything…) started their work on Monday. It was as simple as that, but escalated when no answer came back from anything.

Of course, she was out with “the witches” – the gang of women of a certain age who whisk mother away to things and make her sit through the film Lion at least twice and bang on and on and on about how wonderful I, Daniel Blake is. They were out in Halifax causing merry mayhem in Harvey’s (a highly over-rated shop in the town centre), because that’s what they predominantly do. They’re always in there. All the bloody time. It’s like Cocoon in that shop. You can feel your life force being drained when you just walk past.

While I was on the phone to mum I could her my aunt in the background guiding her on what to say, like she was being held hostage. “Tell him you’re with us…” she said. “Tell him you’re okay…” I was surprised I didn’t receive a picture on my phone of my mum holding up today’s newspaper. Actually, I wasn’t surprised. I suspect the only pictures any of them take on their phones are accidental ones of their own ears.

So I’ve had to get my 70-year old mother to agree to tell me when she goes out with the witches now. Rather than me having to ring her neighbours and have them peer through the windows or bang frantically on the door.

I feel like an over-anxious parent. It’s ridiculous.

Table Top To Table Bottom

October 6, 2017

It’s been a while, because Carole’s cousin Daniel has taken to living in Austria and spending his time hiking up and down mountains, but when there’s a chance for a games night, we’ll take it.

Especially when you’re in ass-kicking form.

I won some games.

Which is brilliant.

We’ve lost the book we keep the year’s scores in, though. So I don’t know if I’m catching up with Daniel or still trailing away at the back of the pack – if three people makes a pack, that is.

But still, a win is a win. And I smashed it out of the park with Takenoko and a quick round of the ridiculousness of the Sherlock Holmes game where you have to solve terrible – in all senses of the word – crimes.

That game was picked up by Carole for 50p at a car boot some time ago. We’ve played it on-and-off, but have only played the first four or five cases. But they’re ridiculous. They really are. Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective of all time, everyone knows that, but the cases people take to him in this game are ridiculous. I mean, they are.

The gameplay finds you, as a coloured bust of the detective himself, moving around a board however you see fit and visiting a number of different locations which leads to a clue in a book. Some of the clues are statements, others are ridiculous hints at a syllable which makes up a part of the motive or whatever.

The one we played tonight – which, I don’t know if I mentioned, I won – was solved (by me, natch) without ever finding a clue which pointed to the culprit. That’s how good these cases are. You can be happily poddling around the board getting snippets of words and then you stumble into one location where, more-or-less, the whole crime is spelled out for you in a sweeping statement.

Which is pretty much what happened to me. I was off headed back to Baker Street while Carole and Daniel were still searching. And they had found far more clues than I. Maybe I’m just a natural detective. Or naturally suspicious of people in general. Who knows?

Still, a win is a win.

What happened after that is very much not a win. But no-one needs the details of that.

I lost everything else that I came into contact with.

It was almost as if the natural balance of the universe caught up with me – having not had a games night for quite some time, we’d obviously caught it unawares.

It was good while it lasted.