May 2009


I’ve finished Sigurd and Gudrún, so I thought I’d review it. Thanks are due again to GlobalComment. Of course there are better reviews you can read, but this one’s mine.

I like cars. I like to drive them, I like to talk about them and I like to look at them. Yesterday I went over to see my mechanic to ask about fitting my birthday present into Sceadufell, and he mentioned that he was displaying his Triumph GT-6 over at Beer today. That was all the excuse I needed to break out the car wax, my nastiest rock compilation and a pair of sunglasses, and see what was transpiring at the Pecorama. The rest of this post is shameless car pornography.

Jaguar XK120, in biscuit with red leather interior.

Jaguar XK120, in biscuit with red leather interior.

Left: C-type Jaguar. Right: replica D-type Jaguar. Fear the sexy cats

Left: C-type Jaguar. Right: replica D-type Jaguar. Fear the sexy cats

Porsche RS60 Spyder. Lucky for the owner.

Porsche RS60 Spyder. Lucky for the owner.

The E-type Jaguar. So beautiful that a French art gallery exhibited one.

The unspeakably gorgeous E-type Jaguar. Background: TVR Tuscan. Lots of other nice cars as well.

Austin Healey 3000. I would do unspeakable things to own one of these.

Austin Healey 3000. I would do unspeakable things to own one of these.

Triumph TR3 in British Racing Green.

Triumph TR3 in British Racing Green.

MG TC. A true gentleman's roadster.

MG TC. A true gentleman's roadster.

Triumph GT6. Two litre straight six engine, red leather and walnut trim.

Triumph GT6. Two litre straight six engine, red leather and walnut trim.

Douglas Adams fans: this is what a Ford Prefect looks like

Douglas Adams fans: this is what a Ford Prefect looks like

Replica 1935 Auburn 851 Speedster replica. 4.2 litres, six cylinders. You try ignoring it.

Replica 1935 Auburn 851 Speedster. 4.2 litres, six cylinders. On the right is a Morris Minor. Aren't car shows great?

That E-type again

That E-type again

1935 Alvis S.A. 13.22 "Firebird" Saloon

1935 Alvis S.A. 13.22 "Firebird" Saloon

A Ford Galaxie full of Elvis memorabilia

A Ford Galaxie full of Elvis memorabilia

My father learned to drive in one of these. An Austin A40

An Austin A40. My father learned to drive in one of these.

The C-type Jaguar again

The C-type Jaguar again

1921 Rover 12, rescued from an orchard in 1985

1921 Rover 12, rescued from an orchard in 1985

Left: Triumph TR6; centre: Triumph TR5; right: Triumph TR7

Left: Triumph TR6; centre: Triumph TR5; right: Triumph TR7

Foreground: MGB; background: 1988 Renault Alpine V6

Foreground: MGB; background: 1988 Renault Alpine V6

The Rover radiator ornament, 1921. It says 'Rover' across his shield.

The Rover radiator ornament, 1921. It says 'Rover' across his shield.

Ginetta G27, with an MGB in the background. Nice.

Ginetta G27, with an MGB in the background. Nice.

Well, that’s quite enough of that. Needless to say, Beer was lovely. No clouds, blazing sunshine and a packed beach. It rained for last year’s event, so hardly anyone turned up. This year was just a riot of different cars and various enthusiasts being enthusiastic. There were hardly any ordinary cars to be seen and for once mine looked quite boring. It was great. If you don’t like cars, however, you just wasted your time reading this.

Well, it’s finished. It took all day, but now it’s been processed, trimmed and polished. It’s not how I’d have chosen to celebrate the end of another year on the planet, but I’ve had worse.

Looking back a couple of days later, I realise that the best thing that happened all day was that my entire family, including my brother-in-law and my brother’s girlfriend, clubbed together to get me a ridiculously ostentatious car stereo. It’s a pity I was in such an appalling mood at the time, so could only think about the increased risk of someone breaking into the car to steal it. I can be a pillock at times.

My Full-Full, now finished

My Full-Full, now finished

Most people who’ve found this will already know that I’m training as a dental technician. To be perfectly honest, this is a ludicrous move for a twice graduate, since it means jumping through a lot of hoops to take a colossal pay cut. Still, there are one or two compensations, and one of those is being able to look back on a day’s work and see some practical result from it.

A full-full wax-up, as prescribed for edentulous patients

A full-full wax-up, as prescribed for edentulous patients

The end of the academic year looms large at the moment, and I’ve been taking some time to produce the practical coursework that will be required of me on Thursday. What you see in the picture is a full over full wax pattern, which will be used to make two plaster moulds. Those moulds will be filled with high-impact acrylic to make two dentures ready for trimming and final finishing, and I’ll be doing that tomorrow.

To be honest, I’ll be glad to see the back of this particular module, which has been rushed through to get it in before the end of the year. Come to think of it, I’ll be glad to see the back of the whole course, get registered and stop having to drive to Cardiff and back once a week. I’ve spent a lot of time in higher education, and never have I seen such a disorganised and rushed course of study as the one on which I’m engaged. It’s a sausage machine to turn out people with paper qualifications, whose existence the government can then put down in the official statistics to prove that they’ve made up the shortfall in technicians. As usual, a problem will appear to have been addressed without any practical difference being made. Don’t you just love politics?

Anyway, the depicted job isn’t great, but it meets the laughable standards required of students these days. I’m putting it here not so much to show how clever I’m getting as to mark a milestone of sorts: another piece of coursework that I don’t have to think about again; another faltering step on my long and meandering journey toward being useful.

Tuesday’s soundtrack

Today’s selection came out of my car’s delightfully outdated Minidisc player while I was risking life and limb on the byways of Devonshire, and has been augmented by what I put on when I came home.

Faith No More: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Extreme: Evilangelist
Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love
Metallica: Poor Twisted Me
Offspring: Come Out and Play
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Jangling Jack
Paradise Lost: Enchantment
Johnny Cash: One
Billie Holliday: That Ole Devil Called Love

I’ve said before that I don’t like going to London. This dislike is, however, entirely due to my having to use public transport to get there instead of my much-beloved sports car, Sceadufell. The capital itself makes a nice change from sleepy Devon.

This weekend I hopped on a train and headed over to the abode of my good friend the Crimson Welshman in Highbury. This was to be our base of operations for an assault on the Science Museum and the Theatre Royal, where the new production of Waiting for Godot is arousing a lot of interest. Having dragged myself away from a troublesome bite register too late to have the shower I’d promised myself, I arrived up in the Smoke tired, smelly and in need of a drink. Matters were improved on my arrival at Arsenal tube station, when I received fresh orders to pick up two orders of chips: as promised, I wouldn’t starve. The Crimson One was cooking steak and chilling beers, which was just what the doctor ordered (if, that is, the doctor in question had been asked to prescribe a sure life-shortening diet). On my arrival I was handed a glass with a sugar-coated rim, containing something orange. It was Campari and orange juice, part of the plunder of a recent trip to Rome, with which my friend had been practising his cocktails. This set the tone for the rest of my visit.

Steak dinner with beer and comedy DVDs: on an exhausted Friday night it’s a vision of paradise. We ate, drank and watched some political satire. In honour of my visit, Have I Got News for You had been recorded (Rolf Harris was the guest host), and afterwards we broke out The Thick of It and The New Statesman. I retired late to the notoriously treacherous air bed that kicks you off at three in the morning. Fortunately, I was drunk enough not to care.

The wage of sin is recycling

Friday evening gets under way

Saturday morning began slowly, with headache pills, orange juice and a pot of Earl Grey. We nipped out to get essentials: the newspaper, some Amber Grief (I’d run out) and the components of breakfast; and after a suitably regal repast and a spot of music from Hotel Crimson’s new MP3 player, we stumbled out to greet the new day.

Morning continues to happen in Highbury

Morning continues to happen in Highbury

Words cannot describe what an utterly appalling experience the Tube can be on a Saturday afternoon. At one point we were crammed in so tightly that the brim of my hat was jammed against someone’s shoulder, while my neck was bent almost double to accommodate the curvature of the roof. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I wish I were a few inches shorter. I managed to capture some of the insanity for posterity before movement became completely impossible.

The Crimson Welshman models London Underground's overcrowding problems

The Crimson Welshman demonstrates London Underground's overcrowding problems

We must have spent hours in the Science Museum. I love to wander around the assorted jetsam of ingenuity displayed there, and it’s easy to get lost in it and forget to sit down. Naturally I stopped off on the aviation floor to renew a perennial pilgrimage: on display are Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth, the Schneider-winning Supermarine S-6B and the Blériot XI that made the first Channel crossing back in 1909. They also have Alcock and Brown’s Atlantic-beating Vickers Vimy and an Antoinette IV: easily the most graceful of the early aeroplanes. There was a purpose to our visit, however, and so much of our time was also spent reading about Dan Dare and the birth of future Britain.

Colonel Daniel McGregor Dare, Space Ace

Colonel Daniel McGregor Dare, Space Ace

Dan Dare: of all the heroes of my boyhood, he had the most impressive eyebrows. Of course, that was actually his grandson, since the original comics came out when Dad was at school, but it’s a fairly fine distinction. Combining his exploits with the real-life progress that went on while he and the Mekon were duking it out is an interesting idea, but there’s only so much 1950s technology that you can look at before you get thirsty. We adjourned to Gordon’s in Villiers Street, to drink madeira until we were due to meet the rest of our theatre party. Flushed with the day’s experiences, or possibly the Riesling that had preceded the madeira, we headed over to Trafalgar Square to meet the twins. They’d been busy with horticulture coursework, and were ready for a spot of early dinner and some thespianic diversions.

Gordon's Wine Bar, where you can get a drink and, sometimes, a chair

Gordon's Wine Bar, where you can get a drink and, sometimes, a chair

We were half-way through the first act of Waiting for Godot when I dozed off, but that wasn’t the fault of the cast. Perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten those escalopes of turkey at St. Martin’s in the Fields, but it’s more likely to have been the fortified wine. Fortunately I only missed about fifteen minutes, so I didn’t lose out on a great evening’s entertainment. Sir Ian McKellen deserves particular praise for his portrayal of Estragon, but he was the narrow best of an excellent cast. Somehow, when I read the play I’d completely missed the comic elements, which were brought out marvellously in this production: the theatre resounded with laughter, and there were two curtain calls before we left.

The Theatre Royal welcomes your humble correspondant

The Theatre Royal welcomes your humble correspondant

Having seen the twins off at the station, my host and I concluded the evening as one might expect: we fortified ourselves with Staropramen and went home to drink yet more beer. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t last long, but I did get the chance to recommend some additions to the Crimson One’s Johnny Cash collection before I collapsed entirely. Another night of falling off the air-bed and wishing I had another duvet, and it was time to go home.

The line from London to Exeter looks so much friendlier on the homeward stretch. The journey into London gradually replaces green, rolling fields with a grey city-scape, but in the other direction, the concrete and brick slowly gives way to green vistas and the occasional idle sheep. I had my new books with me, so I was able to punctuate the bucolic idyll with episodes from the bloody fall of the Niflungs and speculations on Lugus as the name of Caesar’s Celtic Mercury. Mercifully and unexpectedly, we arrived in Exeter on time, so I was able to jump straight onto the outgoing Exmouth train and was home in time for tea: an agreeable end to a very pleasant weekend out.

London weekend soundtrack, courtesy of Radio Crimson

Groove Armada: Chicago
The Rolling Stones: Paint It Black
Bob Marley: Stir it Up
Almée Mann: Save Me (acoustic)
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A K622 Adagio
Blur: Dan Abnormal
The Divine Comedy: Here Comes the Flood
U2: Sunday Bloody Sunday
Libera / Lyndhurst Orchestrathe (cond. Gavin Greenaway): Vide Cor Meum
Stiltskin: Inside (live)
Bardo State: Sospiro
Scouting For Girls: Elvis Ain’t Dead
Kasabian: LSF
Johnny Cash: Folsom Prison Blues
Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain King
Manic Street Preachers: The Everlasting
Fun Lovin’ Criminals: Blues for Suckers

Later today, when I’ve had the chance to get the pictures off my phone, I shall post an account of my weekend up in the Big Smoke. Before that, however, many thanks are due to GlobalComment, who have published one of my poems under the kind auspices of the editor. It’s rare that I get as far as showing these scribblings to other people, and it came as something of a surprise to be asked for permission to publish. Any and all criticism is, as ever, gratefully received, and can be posted there as well as here. Do have a look around the site: it’s well worth a read.

The Exe at Exmouth, as I saw it when I wrote the poem

The setting for Estuary Sands: the Exe at Exmouth

A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.

Samuel Johnson

I had it in mind to write a serious post about a work-related issue that I’ve heard about this week, but it can wait. I know someone who needs cheering up, and since that person probably represents my entire readership, silliness it is.

Some time ago I was at a parish jumble sale over in Littleham when I came upon a strange little volume called Bizarre Books. It’s a collection of titles belonging to actual publications that are peculiar, concerned with extremely obscure or odd subjects, given to humorous misinterpretation, or just plain bonkers. Here are some examples.

Allin, Russell V., The Resistance of Piles to Penetration (Spon, 1935)

Watson, John L., The Big Book of Busts (San Francisco, CA: Hypermodern Press, 1994) – it’s about chess.

Wynne, May, Girls of the Pansy Patrol (Aldine Publishing Company, 1931)

Frolov, Yury Petrovich, Fish Who Answer the Telephone (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1937)

Makula, Alex, Thirty Years of Bananas (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1993)

Carlson, Bruce, Illinois Roadkill Cookbook (Farmingdale, NY: Quixote Press Publications, 1990)

Cobb, Ivo Geikie, The Glands of Destiny (William Heinemann, 1927)

Floyer, Sir John, The History of Cold Bathing (S. Smith & B. Walford, 1706)

Baldwin, Ed and Stevie, The Great Pantyhose Crafts Book (New York: Western Publishing Co., Inc., 1982)

Charles, Edouard, The Man with the Iron Eyebrows (Royal Magazine, 1902)

Hogan, William J., The Complete Book of Bacon (Northwood Books, 1978)

Morowitz, Harold J., The Thermodynamics of Pizza (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991)

Farr, Adams, The Fangs of Suet Pudding (Gerald D. Swann, 1944)

Chase, Mary Ellen, The Girl from the Big Horn Country (George G. Harrap, 1937)

Handy, Etta J., Ice Cream for Small Plants (Chicago, Ill.: Hotel Monthly Press, 1937)

That’s probably quite enough to give you an idea of how entertaining this book can be. It does, however, present difficulties for someone like me, who likes to make things up to confuse and annoy people. I could recommend, for example, that someone read Bicycling in Neolithic Brazil, only to find that somewhere between these unassuming brown covers is a work with precisely that title, published by Trubshawe and Pratley in 1897. Nevertheless, I refuse to be daunted by such dark and forbidding prospects. Here are some titles that I have invented (the one about bicycling doesn’t exist either as far as I know).

Friblet’s Concordance to the 1927 Manchester Telephone Directory

Baines-Frusset, Col. Septimus Q., Badgers Across Arabia (Timbuktu: Oddfellows’ Press, 1921)

Crupper, Millicent, Great Works in Custard (Soligorsk: Ivan Ivanovich, 1904)

Steinkopf, Wilhelm J., Eels at Eighteen Feet (Hamburg: Keinmal, 1876)

Thicke, Ignatius Balham, Duplicated Hapax Legomena in Palaeolithic Literature (Minehead: Station Road University Press, 1988)

Squeek-Lytely, Irving, Cooking with Pumice (London: Nosuch, 1974)

Well, now that I’ve wasted your time and mine with that childish tomfoolery I’m off to do something more worthwhile – like throw half-cooked pasta out of my bathroom window or design a more aerodynamic daffodil. I suppose the moral of this story is that no matter how ridiculous your subject of interest seems, there’s probably someone out there who will publish what you have to say about it. I leave you with my random quotation for today.

If Mr. Selwyn calls again, shew him up: if I am alive I shall be delighted to see him; and if I am dead he would like to see me.

Henry Fox, First Lord Holland, 1705-74

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