Saturday, 30 August 2008

One Year Old

Just checked back and found that I made the first post year exactly one year ago today, wow some 240+ posts later and I am still here.

Big thanks to everyone who has dropped by to read my ramblings, will try to keep posting as long as my muse keeps cooperating.

Tomorrow's post will be on the subject of this summer's major comic book/superhero movie – and no it is not the one of which you are thinking.


Sad to hear that Geoffrey Perkins has died in a road accident, while he had a very successful career in tv I will always remember him as the producer of the greatest ever radio series The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Life imitating art or art imitating life? Do not know, but actor (David Duchovny) enters rehab for sex addiction is not very surprising news.

Meanwhile in the Red Sea scientists have discovered a new species of giant clam.

At the Birnam Highland Games today they are holding the World Haggis Eating Championship, good to see that the lager they are serving up with it is the ordinary Tennent's rather than the mind blowing Super (9% abv).

Friday, 29 August 2008


This bunch slipped under my radar until yesterday, as a fan of the works of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite I was not surprised to find that I really enjoyed their works.

Good to see that a pair of old punk rockers embraced the “wonders” of the internet and adopted a very low key approach to their music, read the back story here.

Here is a sample of their output:

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Fosse Way

Saturday lunchtime finds the happy travellers (well fed and “watered”) needing to get from south of Leicester to Cheddar in Somerset; any route finder would have sent us down 4 different stretches of motorway but we had a “plan”. Hairy nephew had suggested using the Fosse Way to get down to the M4 at Chippenham as he has motorcycled down it on a number of occasions.

The Fosse Way was originally built by the Romans and ran from Exeter to Lincoln and formed the Northern barrier to the Roman Empire, the section from Lincoln to Ilchester runs for 182 miles and deviates no more than 6 miles from a straight line.

I was familiar with the top section ( down from the A5 to South of the M40) from years gone by but had forgotten what a blast it is to drive on long straight roads that follow the contours of the land. There are some awkward crossings to be found here when the road intersects with major roads and visibility is not great, however the long straights, pretty villages and country views more than make up for that.

The rest of the journey did not disappoint, more views and interesting sights (the exterior wall of some country house that must have run for at least two miles beside the road outside Fossebridge). We were lucky that the traffic levels were light and we did not encounter a single large lorry on the journey so were able to make pretty good progress. The route is very popular with motorcyclists who are able to use the long straights to clear traffic at speed, one pair went screaming past and then braked for a speed camera before we could hear them winding up the throttles after they cleared it.

All in all a very pleasant driving experience, so good that we used it on Sunday to return North as far as the M40.

This site has some photographs of the road and gives some background.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Road Trip '08

Could well be off the air for the next three days, lil' bro' is flying in from Indonesia today and we are going on a wee road trip; big bro's, hairy nephew and Irish Lass's and then on to eldest niece, her man and wee bairn.

Miles will be driven, copious amounts of food, beer, cider and red wine will be consumed and there will be much banter, laughter and good times had by all.

Posting may be light but the laptop will be on the road as well so if time allows something may appear, failing that have a great weekend and see you next week.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Malazan Book Of The Fallen

Oh no, not yet another epic multi volume fantasy series I hear you cry but yes it is with a planned 10 books from Steven Erikson and 5 accompanying novels from a different author.

Read the first one around 5 or so years ago and was immediately hooked by a few aspects of it, the first was that it felt like you were joining a story that had started in an earlier book, the large and diverse set of characters, the labyrinthine plot lines and an air of darkness to it.

There are no obvious heroes underpinning the multiple story arcs, nor is there a single dark lord who must be defeated but it does contain various gods pursuing their own agendas, mages and the use of explosive munitions by the Malazan forces. Multiple races appear throughout and the action switches between locations inside the Malazan empire and without it.

The first book Gardens Of The Moon was published over here in 1999, seven years after it had been written and the good news was that the publishers contracted the author to write another nine for a very large advance. Book 8 was published this year so the end of the tale is in sight but how it is all going to end is far from apparent.

So, an epic fantasy series which is well written and with some great characters within the dizzying number of parallel story arcs – what's not to like.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Terry Pratchett On The Box

The great author was on tv this week criticising the decision by NICE to not make the Alzheimer's drug Aricept freely available to patients who are in the early stages of the disease. The decision was made in 2006 and various groups have campaigned against it on the grounds that it can help in some cases to prevent the progression of the disease.

He is buying his own and says that he and his wife have noted a significant improvement in his condition since he started on it – a big plus for all fans of his books. His arguments are not about his own case but about the thousands of others who are in similar conditions and cannot afford the £17.50 a week that the drug would cost.

Since Terry was diagnosed late last year he has not only helped to raise public awareness of the disease but also donated £500,000 for research – makes a change to see a “celebrity” doing something for the greater general good.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Mark Kermode - The Dark Knight

There has been some brouhaha in the printed media recently about the 12A certificate given to this movie, the gist of it being that parents have taken children under the age of 12 to see it and they have been scared witless. Various media watch groups have taken the opportunity to pour opprobrium on the BBFC for not giving it a more restricted classification.

As the good doctor pointed out again on Friday the key sentence in the guide to the classification is “Responsibility for allowing under-12s to view lies with the accompanying or supervising adult. “ .

This leaves no wriggle room for those people who have taken children under 12 to see it, grow up and accept the responsibility for your actions.

Still. it gives me an excuse to include Mark's review of the film:

Friday, 15 August 2008

The Imagined Village

My friends from Dorset have spent some weekends performing roadie duties across this land and Europe for this fine band. Their music is a stunning fusion of English folk with other musical styles and the line up contains a long list of very well known names; including Martin Carthy and his daughter Eliza, Billy Bragg, Sheila Chandra and Paul Weller.

Rather than attempting to describe their style here is a track called Cold Hailey Rainey Night:

For more tracks and details of tour dates check out their own site or their MySpace page.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Gnome Takes Holiday

Came across this story about a garden gnome being “kidnapped” from it's home in England and taken on a round the world trip taking in 12 countries including Thailand, Australia and New Zealand which lasted for 7 months. It was returned to it's owner last week along with a photo album which contained 48 pictures of the gnome on it's travels.

I suspect that the gnome's missing feet arises from an over zealous customs search for contraband rather than an abseiling accident.

Turns out that this is not the first occurrence of a gnome being treated to travels in foreign parts, there was another instance last year. Interesting to read the reaction from the local police force, it would appear either that they have lost a sense of humour or more likely they have become too focused on easy crime detections as the result of the government's obsessions with targets.

Meanwhile the local government body in Birmingham appear to be confused about in which country they are located.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


So on Thursday I go off the news grid for 48 hours and on my return discover that Russia and Georgia have got into a shooting war, seems that Georgia sent it's army into a former province to regain control on Thursday and that the Russians responded in force. What were they thinking, that everyone's eyes would be focused on events in the far east?

Meanwhile I had decamped to West Dorset, had a grand meal with friends on Thursday night drank some wine and rounded the evening off with a bottle of Dows vintage port (1983) – awesome. Friday was spent watching a county cricket match in Taunton under a mainly blue sky meeting up with more friends.

As a result it was Saturday afternoon before I returned to discover that Russian planes were bombing the bejazus out of the Georgian forces. It appears to have come to a halt today but in this miss match of forces there was only ever going to be one winner – we are all lucky that Georgia did not get it's way and obtain membership of NATO.

This unexpected conflict also had the undesirable side effect of increasing the price of crude oil, rising again after the recent falls.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Olympic Free Zone

With the exception of this post this blog is an Olympic Free Zone, even if it is subject to terrorist attacks, typhoons, plagues of locusts or incredibly amusing tales they will not be mentioned here.

Wish I could say the same about the rest of the media here, the BBC are planning wall to wall coverage on their 2 terrestrial channels and talk radio station plus their web site. Interestingly their team out there will be 100 larger than our “athletes”, which attracted many derisory comments when it was revealed.

The other channels will have some coverage in their news bulletins and no doubt will send some anchors out there to cover the games and news stories around them. I cannot see the point behind this (apart from giving the anchors a free holiday in one of the pollution capitals of the world), but they will all be at it. Print media – same sort of story but at least you can elect not to buy them for 16 days.

Am not sure when my disillusionment about this event first started to set in but lets say that it came to fruition with Ben Johnson in '88 and little has occurred since then to make me change my mind. It is sad that clean “athletes” are tainted by the actions of others but the reality is that the drug cheats are always one test ahead of the game.

Rant over, normal posting will resume.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

You Could Not Make This Up

A family with five children flying from Tel Aviv to Paris manage to leave their 4 year old daughter in the duty free shop and only become aware of this when they are informed by the captain of the aircraft (20 mins into the flight according to the policeman I heard on the radio). Their “excuse” of sitting separately might mitigate their actions for some but I say WTF, they must have been sitting together in the departure lounge! Read it all here.

Australians display good taste and demolish national stereotypes by rejecting the the Starbucks marketing machine.

As if things were not bad enough out there, now we have a “celebrity” chef trying to poison us all.

The headline for this story is Germany Hails 'bullet-proof bra', a more accurate one would have been “bullet friendly” bra.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Changing Landscapes

Driving back from Dorset last weekend we noticed that the fields on either side of the road were a golden brown colour probably due to their being planted with wheat. For the last few years at this time they have been mainly an ugly yellow colour as the farmers were growing oilseed rape, we both agreed that this more traditional colour looked much better.

Rather like the famous butterfly effect last years steep rise in the price of wheat has had a dramatic effect on the appearance of this part of England. While some people might accuse the farmers of jumping on a money spinning bandwagon I am aware that their costs have risen just as dramatically – the price of fertiliser has doubled in the last year.

Farming is a very hard way to earn a living as not many urban dwellers understand, the hours are long and the conditions can be harsh – all that is now compounded by criminals raiding their farms for diesel or metal to be sold for scrap.

Here is one of my favourite numbers from the farmer's friend Neil Young

Friday, 1 August 2008

Beer 115 – Wychwood Goldwing English Blonde

Another one from this small brewery, this is specially brewed for the Sainsburys supermarket chain using Styrian Goldings hops which give it a citrus aroma and slight taste. A very refreshing taste just perfect for a fine summer's evening, a respectable 5.5% abv it is just a shame that it is not available in more outlets. Far superior to their Wychcraft Blonde which is both weaker in strength and not nearly as pleasant on the palate.