Prodigality and consumerism


Only a Viking would say this just before he dies, so not surprisingly today’s title is taken from one of Hyglak’s lines in The 13th Warrior. As one might expect since I’m going Hollywood Norse, it has indeed been a good day.

The first good thing that happened was that my nerdy, overpriced new mug arrived from Cafepress this morning, which meant that I could have a full-grown mug of tea at work for the first time in years. This was such a significant event in my life that I took a picture of said mug, complete with tea.

That's what I call a proper cuppa

That'll cure the shakes.

Later I discovered that one of my friends plans to visit next weekend, which means that I get to have some company without haring across the country all weekend. It also means that I can go to the big car show at Powderham Castle next Saturday, take the convertible and generally show off. I can look forward to that while spending a blissfully inactive couple of days at home this week. A significant coup on the planning front there.

As this was happening, it became increasingly obvious that there wasn’t much for me to do at work, which meant that I could waste my morning and most of my afternoon on the internet. The rain and cloud of last night and the morning cleared up, making way for blinding sunshine and blazing heat, but the air conditioning kept the office just about habitable. Still no complaints there, then.

Yesterday we contacted the supplier about my stereo, and today we had a response. I’d been dreading pulling the unit out, because I can’t just put the old one back in and I’d be without a stereo until a replacement arrived. The news was to be good there as well. They replied that the satellite navigation problems I mentioned earlier are a designed feature. All I need to do to stop that happening is press a single button on the facia once, a fact that the ridiculous instruction manual failed to mention. Since that manual looks as though it made its way from Mandarin to English via Swahili, Navajo, Estonian, Finnish, Welsh and Portuguese, each translation courtesy of Babelfish, that isn’t particularly surprising. This means that the whole thing is working now; I have GPS capability, can play MP3s, VCDs, DVDs and goodness only knows what else, and I can plug in an SD card full of music and set it to random play. I almost want to go on another five-hour car journey now.

Finally, as I left work I could do so with the roof down and some German industrial music blaring out fit to raise the dead. If I hadn’t had to go to work today, I think it would have been perfect.

Normally this would call for more music, but my computer is refusing to play ball and only giving me depressing songs. Chris Isaak? After a day like today? No, thanks. I’m in more of an Aerosmith mood this evening.

I nearly forgot to mention that GlobalComment have published another poem I wrote. This time it’s about losing drinking companions to the responsibilities of family life. I’m such a cheery cove.

[Edit: the day continues well. My computer took the Aerosmith thing on board and gave me F.I.N.E. How cool is that?]

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I live in the charity shop district of Exmouth, so quite often I see nice things going for a song. Unfortunately, I also start work at eight in the morning and don’t finish until at least six, which makes it difficult actually to buy anything. Yesterday, however, I saw something so compellingly cheap and useful that I enlisted some help from the family to get it for me.

The Oxford Library of Words and Phrases

The Oxford Library of Words and Phrases

As you can see, the set has a lovely red cloth binding with (presumably) imitation leather spines, and it’s going to come in useful for more than beautifying my groaning bookshelves. Volume One is made up of quotations, Volume Two of proverbs and Volume Three of etymologies. It will now be even easier to make myself look clever when I write things.

What price did I pay for this little gem? The princely sum of three pounds. That makes a nice change from the branch of Oxfam that once charged me five-hundred pounds for a set of three second-hand books. Yes, I’m talking to you, Tony.

The Lord of the Rings, late first edition copies

Those expensive second-hand books. Late impressions from the first edition, 1961. You can just about see my favourite bookmark next to the phone.

I didn’t say I was overcharged, did I? Worth every penny.

I thought I might also share how I paid for my unwonted literary profligacy, so here’s a picture of a strengthener that I made for one of our clients. It’s made from medical grade Cobalt-Chromium alloy by the time-honoured technique of lost wax replacement casting, and I made it last week.

Full lower mesh strengthener, hand-made by yours truly.

Full lower mesh strengthener to stiffen an acrylic denture, hand-made by yours truly.

Plans are afoot to make my summer a lot more interesting than I expected it to be, so I’ve added a song about flying in airliners in honour of my impromptu holiday planning. It has virtually nothing to do with my summer plans, but what the hell? Parts of an aeroplane are mentioned in it, and that’s good enough for me.

I was going to end it there, but then I remembered a poem that I like, which is also about flying. This one is an ode to the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2C.

The Pilot’s Psalm (anonymous)

The B.E.2C is my ‘bus; therefore I shall want.
He maketh me to come down in green pastures.
He leadeth me where I will not go.
He maketh me to be sick; he leadeth me astray on all cross-country flights.
Yea, though I fly over No-man’s land where mine enemies would compass me about, I fear much evil for thou art with me; thy joystick and thy prop discomfort me.
Thou preparest a crash before me in the presence of thy enemies; thy R.A.F. anointeth my hair with oil, thy tank leaketh badly.
Surely to goodness thou shalt not follow me all the days of my life; else I shall dwell in the house of Colney Hatch forever.

Hullo my freaky darlings.

I was speaking to Natalia a week ago when I mentioned an idea I’d had to start a blog called The Shadow Over Exmouth. When she asked me why I hadn’t, my answer was so utterly feeble that I realised I ought at least to see if I could make it work. The results, dear reader, are here for all to see.

The company health insurance just reimbursed me for some dental work, so today I did what I always do when I’m remunerated: I wasted it on junk. I hopped into Sceadufell, ambled into Exeter with no roof and some violent rock, parked in the first place I saw and went looking for some cinematic goodness. The plan was simple: get hold of Apocalypse Now, This is Spinal Tap and perhaps a Creedence Clearwater CD, then head home and spend all day tomorrow watching the films to death, playing the CD and reading Myths and Legends of the Celts, which Natalia gave me when she visited. Once I got into the shop, however, the plan rapidly went west. I couldn’t find any of the films I wanted immediately, so I lost all patience, bought Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, series three of Futurama, a Rolling Stones album and a Billie Holliday compilation, then left to find another shop. There aren’t any. Well, there’s a branch of Zavvi, but that’s as much use as a chocolate teapot since the entire group went bust. Then I walked into Smith’s.

I didn’t find what I wanted there either, but near the door, where it had been cunningly placed to waft its siren song to my defenceless ears, was what I needed. I’d heard that Tolkien’s retelling of the story of Sigurð and Guðrún was due out, but I had no idea that it was already in the shops. The stand of copies came as something of a surprise. Immediately, all trace of rational consumerism was supplanted by naked acquisitive greed, and I bought a copy without reading the price. My M.A. is in this area and I read my Shippey, so I know that there are some serious cruces of scholarly debate in this story; and what Tolkien has to say about the discrepancies in the different versions is going to interest me a great deal. It wasn’t a scholar that pulled out his wallet for this one, though: it was the eight-year-old boy who spent Christmas 1984 deciphering Thror’s map, and has been hooked ever since. Sorry, Natalia: I promise that I’ll read MacKillop, but only after Tolkien has finished with me. I’m going to enjoy this immensely.

Long story short, I did find Apocalypse Now and – an added bonus – A Bridge Too Far, back where I’d started at HMV. I now have far more than a day’s worth of entertainment, no money, and sunburn from driving with the roof off. Again. All in all, it’s been a pretty good day.