Friday, May 30, 2008

Open Source Garden Advice

We've got the keys to the New House now, which is so exciting that I started hyperventilating outside Pizza Express earlier and some skater boys looked at me as if I was some kind of dangerous nutter.

Anyway! There's a tree in the garden that we want to cut back a bit, as it's draping itself all over everything...but we don't know what it is. Does anyone recognise it from the below photos, and if so, do you know if we can prune it a bit?

'The branches are kind of corkscrewy,' adds Mr BC. It's a bit like a weeping willow, only it isn't a weeping willow. Here it is from another angle:

Any and all suggestions gratefully received!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Patroclus and Mr BC Discuss...Stress


PATROCLUS and MR BC are waiting for the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall programme to come on. A voiceover announces a forthcoming instalment* of 'Location Location Location'.

VOICEOVER: Buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can imagine.

MR BC: No it isn't.

ME: It's supposed to be. We must have done it wrong.

MR BC: I don't remember getting in any way stressed about it at any point.

ME: You were quite stressed about it the other day.

MR BC: Well, all these estate agents and solicitors kept ringing up to say 'Congratulations! You've exchanged!' When I was trying to eat my lunch!

ME: You aren't like other people, are you?

MR BC: No.

* Is this how you spell 'instalment'? Or is it 'installment'? I am having a minor crisis about it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Mug Chain

I am having a pleasant instant-message conversation with my brother about what we did on our respective weekends. Suddenly, apropos of nothing, the conversation takes an unexpected turn:

BROTHER: Did Alan Turing actually used to chain his mug to the radiator?

ME: I don't know. Did he?

BROTHER: I can't remember if it's true, or whether I made it up.

ME: I once tied a mug to myself*, but it wasn't my 'magic' Alan Turing one.

I do some digging on the internet, and discover several references to Alan Turing chaining his mug to the radiator. I duly inform the brother.

BROTHER: Ha! I knew I hadn't made it up!

ME: Is this for a client?

(My brother works in marketing too, and is often required to come up with 'creative ideas' to promote some piece of software or other.)

ME: Are you giving away branded 'mug chains'?

ME: Give us your business card, and we'll give you a FREE mug chain - just like Alan Turing's!

ME: Radiator not included.

It becomes apparent that my brother has sloped off, no doubt unable to withstand the vim and verve of my potent wit, so I relate the conversation to Mr BC instead.

MR BC: Is the mug included?

ME: Hm, I didn't think of that.

A companionable silence descends. Presently:

MR BC: It would need to be quite a long chain, so you could lift the mug to your mouth.

Suddenly this doesn't seem to be such a bad idea at all. Branded mug chains would be cheap to produce, and would surely be popular among the Turing-worshipping geek community, who would no doubt welcome a means of keeping their 'special' mugs - which they probably got from Linus Torvalds's secret bunker at the alpha launch of the Linux kernel in 1992 - out of bounds to their colleagues.

The chain could also imply 'security', and would therefore be an ideal booth giveaway for a security software company, like an antivirus company. And what's more, by ensuring that the mug is not used communally, the chain would - quite literally - prevent the spread of 'viruses' across the 'workspace', thus giving concrete, tangible form to an abstract, metaphorical notion; something the software industry has always struggled to do.

I am on marketing fire! I sketch a rudimentary mug chain on my to-do pad, and make a note to fax it to none other than Siralan** himself.

It is at this point that I notice it's already midday, and there's washing to be done, and boxes to be packed, and carrot cake to be made - and before I do any of that I have to write an article about online video for one client and a list of recommendations to the governments of Central and Eastern Europe for another.

The mug chain will have to wait. But ITS TIME WILL COME, goddammit.

* A true story, but one for which the world is not yet prepared.

** Sugar, not Turing. Alan Turing is dead, for a start, and therefore doesn't have a fax machine. And he wasn't a 'Sir', although he did more for this country than Suralan ever has, and what's more Suralan wouldn't even have had a company if it hadn't been for the work of his illustrious predecessor. And besides, faxing my idea to Turing, the rightful originator of it, would be tantamount to commercial suicide!

Monday, May 26, 2008


The lovely Mr BC has tagged me (mainly because I asked him to, I've never quite got the hang of these 'meme' things) to answer the burning question: 'What revelations have you had since taking up your writing career?'

The reason I wanted to do this one is that I'm aware that quite a few of you are, like me, toiling at the unglamorous end of the writing industry, with no prospect of ever being asked to write anything about dragons, or ninjas, or unfeasibly attractive and scantily-clad Liverpudlian teenagers.


So now I am going to impart some wisdom, and then I will tag some more of you to impart your own wisdom, and maybe together we can create a beautiful primer of everything that anyone might want to know about how to be a 'professional writer'.

Here we go then, some revelations I have had since I took up my writing career - or rather 'accidentally fell into' my writing career - nine years ago:

1. Being a freelance writer is brilliant. You get to work at home, have coffee whenever you like, look out of the window whenever you like and (usually) organise your working day however you like. Now there's the internet, and laptops, you can theoretically work from anywhere, which is how I didn't have to give up my job to go and look after my mum when she was ill, for which I am profoundly grateful.

2. Those adverts ('Make A Living From Writing!') that you see in the back of Sunday supplements are deeply misleading. Unless you're extraordinarily good, extraordinarily lucky or extraordinarily well-connected, you're never going to make a decent living as a freelance journalist, novelist or screenwriter. (Obviously this doesn't mean you shouldn't try, especially not if you're a naturally gifted creative writer, but just be aware that it's highly unlikely to make you unbelievably rich.)

3. This doesn't mean you can't make a decent living as a writer, though. You can. If you get enough work, and if you work hard enough at it, you can even earn the equivalent of a six-figure salary*. To do that, you need to be in the private sector. And not just any old part of the private sector - you need to be in an industry that's awash with cash. And not just any old industry that's awash with cash - you need to be in one whose products are complicated and obscure, and therefore need careful and precise explaining. It helps if it's an industry in which not many people know how to write about the products in a way that laypeople understand. Technology is one. Finance is another**. Pharmaceuticals is probably another one.

4. Once you get into one of these industries, and demonstrate that you can write beautiful, limpid prose that not only educates the target market about what the product does but also makes them REALLY WANT TO BUY IT, you'll be amazed at a) how much people are prepared to pay for your services and b) the kind of things they ask you to write. On more than one occasion, I've been paid to write an internal memo. Amazingly, there are people who have so little confidence in their own writing skills that they'd rather pay someone to write their emails for them. In some ways, I find this a sad reflection on an education system that has clearly failed a lot of people. In other ways, I'm eternally thankful that so many people feel unable to string two words together, because otherwise there'd be no work for me.

5. There's a received wisdom in the world of marketing that no writing is any good unless it's 'punchy', which means 'extremely short', 'devoid of verbs' and 'bereft of all meaning'. Many clients don't seem to care what the text actually says, as long as it meets these criteria. (This post of Matt's sums up the attitude nicely.) This means that I quite often spend all day writing meaningless 'punchy' stuff, which is why I like to be quite long-winded on this blog. Sorry about that.

Now then, let's hear it from fellow writers Great She Elephant, Bête de Jour and Rach. And of course anyone else who feels like joining in.

UPDATE: You can read Rach's very fine answer here.

* For the record, I don't have a six-figure salary, but I came within spitting distance of one during the dotcom boom. The dotcom boom was brilliant.

** I'm aware that the finance industry is currently emphatically not awash with cash, but give it six months and it'll probably recover.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Guardian Letters Project: The Results Are In

For anyone who's still following my FEARLESS INVESTIGATION into the possible gender bias on the letters pages of the Guardian and the Observer, I am proud and delighted (not to mention just a little bit deflated and depressed) to inform you that the final reckoning has been, er, reckoned, and you can see the results in these three separate posts.

I know this is not the most important thing in the world. I know that even by drawing attention to it I may be setting the cause of gender equality back rather than forward, a bit like Bidisha does with her frankly bizarre outburst about why people don't rate JK Rowling as a writer (thanks Oli for bringing that to my attention).

I may just be depressed because I read the comments thread appended to this XKCD post about the ratio of female to male leads in Hollywood movies (thanks Del for that one, via Slaminsky), and realised that there are a lot of people out there who won't accept what's staring them in the face, and probably never will.

Anyhow. Your fearless investigator ploughs on regardless, at least until teatime, when she's scheduled to continue the Firefly-watching marathon that she has embarked upon in response to your overwhelming recommendations. I am very much enjoying it so far.

IN OTHER NEWS: After what may have been possibly the least stressful house-buying escapade ever, Mr BC and I have exchanged contracts on the New House (which is actually a very Old House), and get the keys next Friday. Woo!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

'The Gift'

Although this blog may give the impression that I am a saddo stay-at-home no-social-lifer whose idea of entertainment is staring intently at Statcounter until I begin to discern patterns in the data, like that geezer in A Beautiful Mind, I can assure you that nothing could in fact be further from the truth.

Why, only the other day I was round at the house of my friend S, whom I've known since we attended the same nursery school in the north of Scotland at the tender age of three, and who by some bizarre concatenation of coincidences now lives at the other end of the street from our new house.

S introduced me to her friend L, who was also visiting, and a pleasant three-way conversation ensued about the usual things: the 'usual things' these days being babies, epidurals, episiotomies (if you don't know, for god's sake don't look it up, especially not in Google Images) and the way one's outlook on life changes when one reaches one's late thirties.

S and L are more 'conflicted' about the latter than I am, because whereas I gave up my hardcore party lifestyle a good few aeons ago, S and L are still quite keen on getting out into the world and enjoying themselves in an, erm, uninhibited kind of manner.

(Only my friend S, for example, could go out on a Saturday night to play in a fiddle orchestra recital in a Cornish village hall, and return the following afternoon having seduced a Young British Artist - and for this I take my hat off to her entirely.)

L said that her fondness for partying combined with her status as a new mum had become untenable, and that she was leaning towards settling down and jettisoning some of her more bohemian friends. She no longer wanted to 'walk between two worlds,' as she put it - quite poetically, I thought.

So far, so Sex And The City Series 6. But then weird wavy lines descended across my field of vision and the next thing I knew the conversation had ceased to make any sense whatsoever:

L: Because it's a pain, you know. I just want to lead a normal life, but there are all these birds everywhere. Like the other day I was in the chemist's, and the shop assistant went all blue jay all over me.

S: What's blue jay?

L: You know, a blue jay - like a chough, or a linnet. You know. A lot of outpouring of emotion.

S (to me): L has the gift.

I nod dumbly and begin to wonder whether I've suddenly come down with a rare case of ergotism (I've been watching a lot of House lately, and if there's one thing that House teaches you, it's that you never know when ergotism might strike).

L: Yes. And like, you know, the other day, there was an owl moth in the house. You know those moths that have a pattern on their back like an owl? Well, my grandmother is an owl. And so I knew there was something wrong with my grandmother. And of course it turned out that she was ill. It's exhausting. I wish I could turn it off, but people need me.

S: You could just give it up.

L: I could, but you know, there aren't very many of us. I shouldn't waste it.

While I'm still wondering what the hell all that was about, not to mention whether there actually is such a thing as an 'owl moth', L decides it's time she went home for her dinner and bids us a cheery goodbye.

S later explains that L is a shaman, and is forever being called upon to escort unwanted bird-spirits from this world to the next. We agree that we wouldn't want to be shamans, although S goes on to claim that she inherited the gift of second sight from her grandmother, but doesn't like to use it.

I consider making some kind of counter-claim about my own 'gifts', but beyond the fact that I once passed Grade 4 piano, there's nothing I can immediately think of. I've always been the square one.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cryptid Corner

When the lovely Mr BC and I were sojourning in Helsinki in 2006, we had occasion to take a trip to the beautiful medieval town of Tallinn, where not only did one of us have fish soup for breakfast (which is all kinds of wrong), but where, on disembarking at the ferry port, we also saw a solitary taxi driver holding up a cardboard sign that read 'BAT PEOPLE'.

I remember being terribly interested in this at the time, an interest that I am sad to say was not shared by my travelling companion, who was more interested in getting into town and wolfing down fish soup. (At breakfast time. I ask you.)

I still don't know who - or, more ominously, what - the taxi driver was expecting to pick up, but yesterday while going through some old photographs I happened upon one that might hold a clue to the mystery:

Blurry though it is, I think you'll agree that this image presents compelling pictorial evidence for the existence of a forgotten race of bat people. In addition to the creepy, batlike stance, on enlarging the photo you will also notice the unusual tonsure, suggesting that this particular specimen is a member of an elite ecclesiastical order - possibly even a high priest or priestess.

I can't find any references to a race of bat people among the usual literature, but I feel that this photo, combined with our experience in Estonia, points to more than mere coincidence. Could this be an ancient cousin of the Mothman, or even the Owlman of Mawnan Smith? I think it certainly warrants further investigation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Will Get Back To The Picts One Day, Honest

Goodness, what a lot of work I have on at the moment, but I feel neglectful of you, lovely blog-readers.

So here for your edification is a marvellous post from io9, all about the myth that women don't like science fiction (I have been instructed under no circumstances to refer to it as 'sci-fi').

Is it just me, or is all this 'women don't write blogs', 'women don't blog about politics', 'women don't write letters to the newspapers', 'women don't like science fiction', etc. thing becoming a bit tiresome? What do people think we do all day - go shopping and talk about shoes?

Women: not all necessarily like this.

As Annalee Newitz points out, women like science fiction all right - usually when it's got good female characters in it. And for my money, you won't find a better range of female characters anywhere on television, let alone in science fiction, than in Battlestar Galactica. Why, there are so many! And so varied! And they're all proper characters, with proper, complex personalities, in a proper story, not just simpering foils, or 'token feisty woman' characters, or one-dimensional babes.

And surprise surprise, everyone seems to like it. Maybe because that's what life is actually like*.

Battlestar Galactica: advancing the cause of gender equality, one vest at a time.

Something to think about there, eh?

* Apart from the imminent threat of annihilation by sentient aliens robots disguised as humans, obviously. Although...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Readers! Do you also have a blog? Do you want to tell all about your blog to a complete stranger, in complete confidence? Do you have the stamina and strength of mind to answer many questions about why you blog, where you blog, when you blog, and whether you've ever actually, erm, 'got jiggy' with anyone as a result of blogging?

If the answer is yes then don't wait another minute - pick up your laptop and go to Bête de Jour's. He's doing a survey of bloggers and needs another 757 replies, apparently.

Go to it!

(Unless you've already done it, of course, in which case don't go to it, or you'll pollute the sample.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Probably Hormones, Isn't It?

Question: is it *very* wrong that I have a sizeable girl-crush on a 16 year-old Australian pop chanteuse?

I thought so.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Plural Of 'Penis' Is 'Penises'

Things That Really Annoy Me, no. 819 in a potentially infinite series:

People who think it's either clever or funny (or both) to put a spurious and wrong Latin plural of a commonly used English word in brackets with a question mark after using the correct but mundane English plural.

Often applied to 'penises' (penii?), 'geniuses' (genii?), and so on.

Example spotted in the wild in today's Guardian:

'The briefest of searches reveals that there are people out there engaged in Tom Baker scarf knitalongs, swapping encouragement over those tricky colour-changing points at a woolly Dalek's "shoulders", sharing patterns for K-9 tissue holders, knitted Tardises (Tardii?) and even a truly resplendent version in cream and red wool of Peted Davison as the Fifth Doctor.'

Why, Lucy Mangan, why? You know as well as anyone that 'Tardis' is not and never has been a Latin word. It is and always has been an acronym for 'Time and Relative Distance* in Space'. It's an English word, and its plural is 'Tardises'. You had it right the first time and what's more, you knew you did. Why let yourself down like that?

* Er, or, you know, 'Dimensions'. (Thanks LizSara!) Hmm, I may have shot myself in the foot a bit there.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bird Augury Top Trumps

Question: If a lone magpie portends sorrow, and the crow is the harbinger of doom, which one would win in a fight?

Note: This is NOT a rhetorical question. This morning I saw a magpie and a crow having a fight in a tree, and I've spent the whole rest of the day wondering which one portended more bad luck for the other, and whether any of it would rub off on me.

Sometimes this is as much intellectual engagement as I can handle in one day.

ALSO: What is the infinitive form of 'harbinger'? To harbinge? To harbing? Oh, the entire day is shot through with uncertainty.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ranty Rant Rant

Ooh, but there are a lot of things making me angry today.

It all started quite early this morning when I read on Annie Slaminsky's blog about Boris Johnson's new sidekick saying that black boys should have black, male teachers.

I know absolutely nothing about the reality of what it's like being a teacher in inner-city London, but I'm deeply suspicious of any attempt to segregate people of different racial origins, I'm deeply suspicious of any attempt to articulate 'being black' with a propensity to commit crime (black people don't commit crime: poor people commit crime*, and if a disproportionate number of poor people are black then perhaps that ought to be the focus, just saying), and I'm deeply suspicious of any suggestion that what a given profession needs is fewer women in it.

THEN I open the newspaper to read that the Burmese junta is impounding food aid and not allowing foreign aid workers in, which just beggars belief. What are they going to do with 38 tonnes of biscuits, for fuck's sake - throw a big tea party for all their junta chums?

THEN (and I realise we are descending quite rapidly in order of importance here) I happen upon an article in the Telegraph about female bloggers who have got book deals and newspaper columns and agents and sitcom deals, which is great and all, but why must they all be either sexbloggers or mums? Are we *ever* going to get beyond the idea that our bodies and motherhood (or 'childcare and gynaecology' as our old chum Mary Dejevsky put it) is all that women are able or qualified to talk about?

And on that same note, my ongoing anally-retentive project to count how many letters published in the Guardian and the Observer are by men and how many by women is starting to really depress me too, especially as I have a sneaking suspicion that it actually over-represents the number of women who write in to the paper. And now I'm thinking that maybe the reason we don't write to the papers is because we're programmed to think that our bodies and motherhood are all we're able or qualified to talk about, no thanks to you, THE TELEGRAPH.

Crikey. I think it might be time for a little lie-down.

UPDATE: Now I've had a little lie-down and feel a bit calmer, may I say how much I enjoyed Alexis Petridis's review of the Nick Cave Hammersmith Apollo gig. 'He has developed a style of keyboard-playing that Little Richard would have rejected as slightly florid: legs splayed, knees bent, head back, one arm skyward and, at particularly dramatic moments, fist shaking at God. The overall effect is at once viscerally powerful and coolly ironic, both hilarious and utterly gripping.' Excellent. The world will be a poorer place when the boy Cave eventually pops his apocalyptic clogs.

* Anonymous pulled me up on this in the comments, quite rightly. What I meant was, if you're going to commit a crime, it's probably got more to do with your economic and social circumstances (i.e. stuff that can, theoretically, be changed) than anything else. But Anonymous reminded me that very rich people also commit crimes, and then I spent a long time thinking about all the different kinds of crimes that people commit, and the underlying reasons for them, and I accept Anonymous's charge of being ridiculously simplistic. That's the trouble with ranting; it's never very rational.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Oh Dear, Oh Dear

Evil Tim Footman has tagged me to tell lies about the Chuckle Brothers on the internet. Or more precisely, seven true facts and one lie. And only about one of the Chuckle Brothers. And you have to guess which fact is factually incorrect.

I can choose which Chuckle Brother I want to lie about, apparently, although up until a few minutes ago that was something of a moot point, since up until a few minutes ago I had no idea who the Chuckle Brothers actually are.

(I know! And me with a Masters degree in popular culture and everything! Raymond Williams would be awfully disappointed.)

All the name conjured up in my head was a rather confusing montage of Chuck Norris and those two scousers from Harry Enfield who say 'calm down calm down' and bob from side to side.

I have since established that the Chuckle Brothers are neither martial arts action heroes nor comedy Northerners from a TV sketch show. I had to find this out for myself, because Mr BC was no real help in the matter:

Me: Do you know anything about the Chuckle Brothers?

Mr BC: Hmm. I think Richard wrote an episode for them once.

Me: Anything else?

Mr BC thinks for a moment.

Mr BC: No.

Anyway, these days we are fortunate enough to have access to an oracular fount of human knowledge, namely 'the' Wikipedia. Here are some facts that I sourced from 'the' Wikipedia about Paul Chuckle, who is one of the Chuckle Brothers. One of them is factually inaccurate. Can you spot which one?

1. Paul Chuckle (real name Paul Elliot) is one of the Chuckle Brothers.

2. Paul is a comedy Northerner, but not one from a TV sketch show.

3. That's not to say that Paul isn't in a TV show, because he is. It's called Chuckle Vision, and it's meant for children, which is why I've never seen it. (This will probably change soon.)

4. Paul has a catchphrase, but it isn't 'calm down calm down'. It's the equally lexically economical 'oh dear oh dear'.

5. When Paul crashed a motorbike while on holiday in Kefalonia, he was dismayed to discover that, far from rushing to his aid, a number of onlookers had instead chosen to loiter at a distance intoning 'oh dear oh dear' in a comedy Northern accent. That, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the occupational hazards of showbusiness.

6. Or they might have been actual Northerners who were just saying 'oh dear oh dear' in a concerned tone, only in his disorientated state, Paul mistook them for fans. A loss of perspective regarding one's own importance in the grand scheme of things is another of the occupational hazards of showbusiness.

7. Also, this was reported in the Metro, so it might all have been made up to start with.

8. Paul and his brother Barry are very popular in Mexico, where they are known as Los Hermanos Chupacabras.

Los hermanos Chupacabras: ¡uy uy uy!

Erm...over to you.

UPDATE: Far better efforts are to be found at Slaminsky (Perkin Warbeck), First Nations (Friedrich Nietzche), Betty's Utility Room (Israel Kamakawiwo'ole) and Geoff's blog (Madame Blavatsky)...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Paging Mervyn King

You were probably thinking that this country's incipient economic slowdown has been caused by things like the US sub-prime mortgage bubble bursting, the rising price of oil, the rising price of food, the rising price of water*, the abolition of the 10p tax rate and the sudden reluctance of banking institutions to lend anyone - even each other - any money at all.

Well, more fool you, because according to Elle Decoration editor Michelle Ogundehin, all this is a nonsensical fabrication made up by 'statisticians'.

'I hear people aren't shopping as much,' laments Ogundehin in this month's editorial**, as word of our new-found parsimoniousness wafts on a gentle zephyr into her luxury modernist retreat in one of Cloud Cuckoo Land's better postcodes.

But Michelle isn't buying all that depressing economics guff. What's really causing British consumers to tighten their purse strings, she believes, is their inability to find really good, authentic designer furniture.

Never mind the price of a pint of milk, the fact that the market is now flooded - simply flooded, darling! - with fake copies of Mies van der Rohe's 'Barcelona' chair is causing British shoppers great distress, to the extent that we literally don't want to go shopping until the nasty fakers stop 'devaluing the meaning of good design'.

Alistair Darling, know thine enemy.

But don't worry, people of Britain! Michelle has a cunning plan to restart the flagging economy and get us all shopping again. All we need to do is go to the 10 Downing Street website and sign a petition demanding that fake designer furniture be outlawed.

'After all, without authenticity there can be no quality, no meaning and ultimately no value,' she warns. And no megabucks for her furniture-designer friends either, presumably.

(While you're there, you may like to sign something that's ACTUALLY WORTHWHILE. Like this one, perhaps.)

* My monthly water bill went up from £112 to £134 last month. How can this even be possible?

** I wanted to link to this, but sadly Elle Deco has no online presence. UPDATE: But wait! I can copy it here we go, the economic wisdom of the Oracle of Kings Reach Tower IN FULL:

'Authenticity is the word ringing in my ears this month. I hear people aren't shopping as much and statisticians have put it down to the fragile state of the economy. I don't think it's just that. I think there's simply not enough good stuff out there. Consumers, you and me, aren't stupid. We don't buy things we don't like, that we think are overpriced or badly made, whether that's homes, furniture or dresses.

But, of more concern, on the design front, cheap is coming increasingly in the form of knock-off versions of classic pieces. These fakes are invariably produced using lesser quality materials, often in sub-standard factory conditions and with little consideration for human rights***. As such they devalue the meaning of good design at every level.

And yet it was recently brought to my attention that it's legal in the UK to manufacture and/or supply such copies just 30 years after the issue of the original design, as opposed to a minimum of 70 years after the death of the designer, as it is in Germany or Switzerland.

Fakes flood the UK market because we don't have sufficient laws to prevent them. We effectively promote plagiarism! What can you do? Simple. Join the campaign to have the law changed by adding your name to the e-petition lodged on the official 10 Downing Street website.

ELLE Decoration has an absolute editorial policy of never knowingly endorsing copies of iconic designs. After all, without authenticity there can be no quality, no meaning and ultimately no value, whatever price you paid. Add your name at'

*** You will note that protecting the human rights of people working in these supposed designer knock-off sweatshops does not turn out to be La Ogundehin's primary concern...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Why I Love Cornwall

Warning: may contain smugness.

Because this is the view from our new house*:

Because this is the view from the terrace of our new local:

Because I can go for a walk at lunchtime in places like this:

And this:

And because none of these things happened after all.

*contented sigh*

* Apparently this place has a reputation locally for being 'a bit rough'. Make of that what you will...

TOTALLY UNRELATED UPDATE: Quick - everyone over to Malc's blog to congratulate him on successfully delivering his first piglets...look at not to think about their eventual fate, though...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Farewell Then, Ken

Two steps forward, three steps back for London, then. I know I don't live there any more and so I shouldn't care, but I really do.

But now I've got over the horror and embarrassment of seeing someone who thinks it's OK to use the word 'picaninnies' elected to be mayor of what is - or at least was - probably the most successfully multicultural capital city in the whole world, I've decided that Boris and everyone who voted for him have actually done Ken a massive favour.

A third term as mayor would probably have sent him the way of Tony Blair, plus the economy is about to turn nasty and the Olympics are going to be a huge fiasco, as any project of that size is bound to be. So this way Ken will - I hope - avoid all of that and go down in history as one of the boldest and most successful and most genuinely enthusiastic and committed politicians of our time.

Say what you like about Ken, I'm still massively in awe of him for standing up to Blair and the Labour Party, for actually getting the congestion charge up and running, and for genuinely loving and caring about the city he represented. I voted for him in both elections and I'd have done so again this time.

(Somewhat more alarmingly, I've also had a huge crush on him for years.)

Ken: *would*

But if Boris is what Londoners want, who am I to argue? I just hope he - or whoever he puts in to do the job for him, as if that wasn't MASSIVELY CHEATING - manages to do a decent job and doesn't let the whole place down.


UPDATE: This neatly encapsulates my worst suspicions about a lot of people's motives for voting for Boris. He's funny! He's not Ken! Who cares what he actually thinks, does or stands for?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

'Best Girlfriend Ever'


PATROCLUS and MR BC are pottering about in town.

Mr BC: Hmm, well I'm ahead of schedule with episode two, I think I could quite justifiably, erm...

Me: Quite justifiably what?

Mr BC: Well, I mean, if you didn't mind...

Me: Didn't mind what?

Mr BC: If they haven't sold out, I mean...

Me: Haven't sold out of what?

Mr BC: Grand Theft Auto.

Me: Oh! No, I think you *should* get it.

Mr BC: Really? But what if I get horribly addicted to it and start playing it 23 hours a day and shouting 'THAT's what you get for messing with the J-Man!' at some poorly-rendered Eastern Europeans?

Me: I think you should - it'll probably be the last chance you get to play unspeakably violent computer games before the baby's born.

Mr BC: Really? You don't mind?

Me: Not at all. Plus I like watching you play computer games, it's fun.

Mr BC: You are the best girlfriend ever.



Mr BC is playing Grand Theft Auto IV, successfully sourced from Woolworths.


Me: Why are you driving that man's car?

Mr BC: I think it's my job.

Me: But you don't know your way around! And you keep crashing into things!

Moments later:

Me: You just ran over a pedestrian! Did you mean to do that?

And then:

Me: I can't *believe* your cousin hired you to be his driver. You can't even turn a corner without knocking over a lamp-post!

Shortly afterwards:

Me: You're on the wrong side of the road!


Me: Oh god, you're going to hit that wall, oh god, I can't look!


Me: Do you even *have* a driving licence?


Mr BC: Maybe we should go for a walk.