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Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Quarterly Report (Continued)

Continuing the Quarterly Report, interrupted by the strange UK weather patterns, the subject of what we do in order to purchase cat treats follows.



Nel might want to add to this, but she's busy so I'll summarize for her, from my perspective. As a lot of you are scientists, you'll be aware that it does take a little while to secure proper laboratory space, but after some wrangling, Nel found the perfect mountaintop, complete with a castle, and essentially of course, fairly regular lightning, and is well settled in.

Nel is loving her job, and experiments and conferences (Edinburgh, Italy) are planned for the summer. She is also visiting London, ON in late summer for some collaboration work with Tutis. I do'nt actually know how the day to day work is going as I have effectively been de-looped from Nel's face recognition work ever since I volunteered to help her out in a face recognition task and did so badly that she had to use a sundial to measure my reaction times.

Nel might post on this later, but she's pretty busy doing scientific things and has just popped out to buy some test-tubes.


After a period of "worklessness" (See posts labelled Jobcentre Plus), I embarked on an audacious campaign to become Hull's Leading Freelance Scenic Carpenter (see Work posts). I plied my trade in Scarborough, before expanding my empire to Leeds. And there my career as a Freelancer has ended, because a few days into a gig at Logik, I was offered a full time position by same. After some wrangling, the deal was struck, and I'm now back at what I suppose I've done for most of my working life. Which is best described as "Making Wierd Things". Logical make trade shows, exhibits, events and such like. The work is fun, challenging and the workshop is clean, well-organised and well maintained. The only down side is a daily commute to Leeds, a journey that is enlivened by my war of attrition against Transpennine Express (particularly the 720 Class Turbo Booster) and my continued investigations into all things archaeological,as I get at least a full two hours per day of reading.


Very little activity here, apart from occasional weekend trips with Mike and Christine who live across the Hall, and are great people. Welcome family visits, of course, as well, and we're off to a wedding tomorrow evening but mainly having an awful lot of "stuff" left to do in Canada, and the finding of work have dominated proceedings.

Monday, 25 June 2007

"And the rain fell upon the Earth for Forty Days and Forty Nights"...

The guard on the 14.38 Leeds to Hull Transpennine Express is delighted "This IS the delayed 14.38 from Leeds to Hull, and we ARE running approximately 35 minutes late. We will probably experience further delays on this journey". The speaker goes silent, briefly, then pings back to life "Transpennine Express apologise for any inconvenience these delays may cause you in[sic] your journey"Mr Smug continues, obviously delighted, "These delays are caused by serious weather conditions". Silence, then another ping "Transpennine Express are pleased to get you to your destination today, even if delayed. Most other train operators have had to cancel services. Thank you." .........."Howden is your next station Stop. That's Howden, your next station Stop".

Mr Smug keeps this up all the way to Hull, each time with a different variation on the theme, and with increasingly lengthy descriptions of the weather. I suppose I cannot blame him, usually the guards are trying to explain their lateness with bewildering and ornate excuses: Saturday's delay for example was explained as "due to theft of signalling cable in the Doncaster area".

Transpennine Express are cock-a-hoop. After a month of nearly continuous rain across Eastern and Northern England, transportation systems are in chaos. Torrential rain has washed away river banks, flooded cities, closed roads and, of course delayed trains. The consequence of this is that Transpennine now have an 'out'. Today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, "while repairs are being undertook" [again, sic], TP can be as late as they want, forget to turn up, don't bother even starting out, break down, smell, be dirty, use terrible English, and bombard us with useless statistics - all traits that I, a regular traveller recognize as Standard Operating Procedure for TP - but now there's nothing I, or any of the other regulars can do about it because the floods have given them an excuse, and the clean up could take months. I can imagine plans are afoot in the Transpennine Boardroom to increase carbon emissions as quickly as possible in order to encourage more freak weather patterns.

I get back to Hull, and Nel and I set out to survey the local area. I know we should be helping elderly people cross the road, and inflating our dingy to launch daredevil rescues, but there's plenty of police sirens and ambulance klaxons hooting, the emergency services are obvioulsy on the job, so we decide to have a laugh and get wet. We took some pictures.

The Great Flood of 07

The neighbourhood cats are thoroughly pissed off with all this wetness, but as we wander the streets there's that usual camaraderie that only finds expression in modern urban humans in events of this type - troublesome, but not too disastrous. I am reminded of the Great Ontario Brown Outs of 04, when the Tim Hortons on the junction of Adelaide and Huron was the only place in the neighbourhood to have hydro. To retain status as a Troublesome Event, there needs to be some conditions, of course, conditions which stop the thing evolving into a Disaster. These conditions include that everyone gets to leave work early and have an extra day off the next day "clleaning up". Several friends who live in 2nd and 3rd floor apartments hope to qualify for this condition. Another condition is that although some deaths are allowed, there can not be too many, and the tragedy must not affect anyone important, like a footballer, politician or entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs however are allowed to loose their business, or get flooded out completely, as long as they vow to "carry on". Several animals must be rescued, preferably horses, or dogs. And most importantly of all, the men of the neighbourhood must be sufficiently inconvenienced (had to get feet wet leaving car), but not overly occupied by the Troublesome Event to have the time to gather in the street and discuss knowledgeably, and completely inaccurately, (in the case of a flood) the depth of flooding, extent of flooding, cost of water damage repair and whether the water they're standing in contains any vectors for Weil's Disease or just regular sewage.

I'm going to have my dinner, then rush out and join the rest of the men.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Quarterly Report

Six months since we moved here, to 'kin 'Ull, as the locals usually refer to it, so its time for another Quarterly report, this time sub-sectioned for ease of reference. I'll be adding to this post over the next week (June 24th to 30th, 2007).


Stalingrad, Rome, Manu Pichu, Babylon or Uruk, Alexandria, Mohenjadoro, Troy,Catalhuyik and New York. A list that, I can predict with complete confidence, Hull will not be joining any time soon. The sign at Hull's Railway station is a little bit overblown, not to mention, optimistic.

A new development is being constructed right next to the station, and already it is outdated, politically, architecturally and environmentally. The new development, intended to be the jewel in Hull's tiara is a glass and concrete monstrosity, a carbuncle(thanks Chaz) ,featuring a rooftop carpark (in an age where other European cities are encouraging bike, bus, ride), a "state of the art" air-conditioning/heating system (which has been properly condemned for being incredibly energy inefficient especially in light of the massive heat sink available 100ft away called the Humber Estuary), massive glass walls (possibly one of the worst insulators), and a sort of 70's shopping centre/mall appearance (where everywhere else is moving towards plazas, coffee shops and pedestrian areas).The final insult to good taste is that the supermarket chain Tesco's, takes pride of place front and centre of this development. Many people in Britain object to Tesco's because of the effect its chain of "local" stores is having on real local sole trade-owned butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, and I can sympathise with that objection. However, my real objection to Tesco's, is that like Walmarts in the US, or Zellers in Canada, no matter how hard the company tries to force it's brand up-market, a visit to any of these stores always feels to me as if the local trailer-park and penitentiary have both decided to have days out at the store at the exact moment that I need to buy some proscuitto. Slack-jawed youths and pot-bellied ladies in velour track suits sporting the famous "Essex facelift" seem to predominate in Hull's Tesco's. And everyone, but everyone is talking, no, arguing, on their cell phones.

We (more accurately 'I'), probably wo'nt be flocking to the opening ceremony. As for the rest of Hull, we do'nt flock there either. In fact, we have very little interaction with the city. We've been to local pubs no more than five or six times, meals not at all, and the movies once.

The Avenues.

The Avenues/University is the area of Hull we live in, and in contrast to the rest of the city, we know it well, and really like it. It is tree-lined, with old houses, full of character and is a well-defined separation from the rows of hopeless terraces that infest most of Hull. We shop at Pete's Butchers, the campest butcher in England "How do you take your pork loin, sir?", and get our cat's stuff delivered by Ian at Petaqua. The community association is holding an "Avenues Open Gardens" Day on 1st July and it should be great - we get to walk into some of the local private gardens and snoop around. Author's and artists live in this area - Steven Hall, author of Raw Shark Texts lives upstairs, and Philip Larkin lived about 200 metres away.

Just a note on Steven Hall. I met Steven while I was unemployed, and I thought he was unemployed as well - scruffy dressing gown, doing the laundry at 2.00pm on Wednesday, time to stop and chat, that sort of thing. Then he mentioned in one conversation that he'd sold his book. Steven is pretty cool - he likes our cats,and one of the first things he did to celebrate his book's success was to buy a Dalek. Those unfamiliar with what this is should Google it, or check out Steven's blog ( which has a picture. Steven's book is Raw Shark Texts and has been optioned by Hollywood to make into a film with the scriptwriter of The Full Monty on board. Nicole Kidman actually called Steven to ask him to change the main character from a male to a female so she could play the lead in the movie and Steven is being hailed as the next big thing. Like a lot of good artists, Steven, when I infrequently meet him these days seems excited, but is still pretty down to earth.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

The delayed 7.33

The announcement speakers are broken, the clocks do not work and I'have embargoed the only source of coffee in the joint. Yes, I'm back at Hull's Paragon Railway Station, and this time, its serious.

“Tickets Please!” the guard chimes as he approaches. It’s Thursday 15th June, and my transportation is the 7.33am Transpennine Express Service to Leeds, 170 Class “Turbobooster”.

“Tickets Please!” the guard repeats, hovering over my seat. He holds his hand out expectantly. “I’m sorry, my ticket’s delayed, if you could come back in 15 minutes, I’m sure it will show up” I offer. “I’m sorry, sir?” “My ticket, its delayed”, I explain, then add helpfully “Pocket failure at Brough. Zip’s totally locked up. I’ve got engineers working on it now, and I’ll let you know as soon as the pocket’s clear. Listen for further announcements”. I’d assumed that Dave, the guard, (who I’ve seen more of than Nel since I started getting the train this week), had a sense of humour, but he gets serious and tells me that travelling without a ticket is a serious offence. I blush at my backfiring joke and produce the necessary warrant, complete Cardinal’s signature. Dave stamps my ticket and heads off to make an announcement.

I’m working at Logical, a growing exhibit/set building company, which means a sixty-two mile each way daily journey from Hull to Leeds city centre. As Hull’s Leading Scenic carpenter, I was initially engaged for a week, but the contract’s been extended, thus boosting my rankings among Hull’s scenic elite. This is my second week, and after a two-hour drive (each way) on England’s busting–at-the-seams roads last week, the decision this week has been to “let the train take the strain” (an old advertising line). Unfortunately, neither the train, nor anyone associated with it seems to be showing any sign of strain that out of 7 journeys so far, three have been well over 15 minutes delayed on a trip that’s supposed to take one hour.

The tannoy crackles into life, and I flinch, “He’s going to say it, he’s going to say It oh God, oh God, oh mi God, oh just this once, please DON’T say IT.” I rage under my breath. Dave says IT. “Ladies and Gentlemen, ‘Selby’ is your next Station Stop. That’s ‘Selby’, your next Station STOP”. “Station Stop”????

I’m furious – how, in the name of Holy God, does the word “STOP” fit in that sentence? It is either a station called ‘Selby’, or a ‘Stop’ at ‘Selby’. The phrasing is ubiquitous among Transpennine Express guards and is obviously taught at Guard Training School as the correct form of words, but it’s so wrong. It is ugly, clumsy, ill conceived, meaningless, and thoroughly irritating. I imagine foreign visitors to these shores, who may have only a limited understanding of English to be totally baffled. At first, during my current commute I was completely confused, believing that my train visited Broughstop, Selbystop and Leedsstop. Thankfully, my journey doesn’t include Alsop (stop), and I imagine hoards of seasiders are relieved that Transpennie Express does not service the village of Start in Devon. The French would not do this with their language, and neither should we. Imagine travelling to Paris on a train that was onward bound for Marseilles; “Nous Arrivons a Paris. Finis. Paris est le suivant stationment finis”?

The “Stop” Thing all part of Transpennine Express’s annoying company mission to “help” customers. “Don’t bunch up on the platform” we are helpfully told via a humourous poster, as if the first thing in my head every morning is to find as many people as possible and stand very close to them all. The sweaty thighs of other commuters brushing my rump, complete with full close up of bad English dental maintenance is not an early morning prerequisite for me, and consequently I, and most commuters have developed a keen eye for space. We spread out along the platform and try not to even acknowledge each other’s existence; it’s second nature in such a crowded country.

Transpennine’s poster campaign exhorts us to Not Feed the Birds, Not Give Money to Beggars, Not to Assault the Staff, to Report Vandalism, Theft and Graffiti, tells us about the new 170 Class Turboboosters and how brilliant they are, advises “customers” not to get stuck in doors, tells us to watch out for Terrorists, asks us to “help us {them} to help you {us}” and proudly shows us Performance Indicators with 93% punctuality.

Perhaps I am contrary, but the more time and effort Transpennine Express insert into helping me, understanding my needs as a customer and making my travelling experience pleasant, the more I wish they would’nt bother. I have bombarded their website with e-mails about the fact that the trains just do not run on time. The relationship is clearly on the brink.

Click on the photos for a larger view. Exciting!.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

... and so to bed(court)...

Several more weeks of continued problems, two meetings and three increasingly powerful letters from Effectivo the Magnificent and nothing had changed at The Living Nightmare. Indeed, even the architects were worried, and had promised to intervene for the boys, but on the day of their scheduled meeting with GASTLI, the architects all had to go out and buy new BMW’s, so the meeting was cancelled.

Mazzer and FooFoo instructed Effectivo to tell GASTLI that unless more cold hard greenbacks were forthcoming, then RILED would remove themselves from TLN, sue them for the money they were owed, and cross them off their Christmas card list.

GASTLI ignored them completely.

RILED was (and were) left with no choice. FooFoo got a great big marker pen and emphatically crossed GASTLI off their Christmas card list. Our little crew were now officially renegades, outlaws and rebels. They packed up their carpentry essentials – kettle, stools, playing cards, and company pencil – and left TLN for good.

Sixteen and a half minutes later Mazzer, FooFoo, Politico Steve and Whiskey Tom were at the bar of the Oxford. Mastic Craig, who you may notice has mysteriously disappeared from this Chronicle, had, like an elf in Lord of the Rings, actually disappeared weeks earlier from the ken of mortal men, and to this day, no-one knows where he is, although six months later a series of very ugly babies were born in Ontario. So he was’nt there. But the rest of the boys got drunk

And that, as they say, was that. We sued GASTLI for what they owed us, lets say £30,000.00. They offered us $7000.00. We offered to settle for £17,500. They counter offered for $7005.00. We countered their counter offer with an offer to settle for $15,000. They countered our counter to their counter offer by sueing us for $100,000. We got a new lawyer, who is very good, and says we will definitely win. All of this has taken over a year so far, and finally we instructed our lawyer to apply for a court date. We expect to go to court in Fall 2007.

Effectivo The Magnificent

The oligarchy of Republic/Irecan/Lucid/Exact Domestical (respectively Stevies/FooFoo’s/Mazzer’s and Whiskey Tom’s Companies) could not be found, for a change in the Oxford Arms, but individually were, and collectively was, in a Dilemma. Dilemma are not, at least not yet, new models of Japanese hybrid cars, but are in fact Very Serious Situations.

The problem was rooted in that originally Mazzer and FooFoo had agreed to work at LOPBAMP! for a fixed amount of money – all things being equal. Unfortunately, all things were not equal, and GASTLI had made such a pigs ear of all the doings that needed doing, that the project was incomplete, and the fixed amount of money had been spent ( on wages by Mazzer and FooFoo, although they remained unpaid by GASTLI). The project, which Mazzer now simply called TLN (The Living Nightmare) was either half completed “strong” or remained a quarter uncompleted “weak”. Mazzer and FooFoo thought that GASTLI should find some extra cash to pay for completion, as it was GASTLI’s Bakunin-influenced approach to making things that had led to this Very Serious Situation in the first place. Everyone said so, even the architect, who quite liked RILED.

GASTLI for their part had reacted to this Very Serious Situation by simply stopping paying the newly formed RILED, even for work that had been done weeks previously, and had announced that they would continue to un-pay our hapless quartet unless they agreed to

a) stop laughing at GASTLI’s millwork and custom cabinetry

b) complete the project for the originally agreed price

c) stop helping Marky by telling him mistakes that GASTLI had made. Apparently, things went a lot smoother if you ignored mistakes completely.

The Dilemma that our crew therefore faced was whether to work for nothing until GASTLI actually got anything right, or whether to go and play somewhere else and find another way of getting enough money to keep the Oxford Arms in business, while trying to recover the money GASTLI owed them.

Advice from a Higher Power was obviously needed, but as the group were all atheists, a God substitute would have to do. Around about this time, the financial and political savvy of the mysterious Dr Large had begun to figure in the group’s collective decision making. This shadowy figure had begun to take an interest in the situation because she is what is inadequately described as Mazzer’s other half. Her interest in the events had really been kindled when the amount of treats she had been able to buy for her cats had begun to be limited due to cash-flow problems Mazzer was experiencing. DrLarge, advised from the fastness of her fiendish mountaintop laboratory that a lawyer would be the omnipotent power that RILED needed, and that she would fund the acquisition of same if it meant that at a later date, her cats would be able to eat all the treats Mazzer could buy them. As she was under 5'4" high, Dr Large was undoubtedly possessed of phenomenal powers both of logic and intellect, and Mazzer immediately began consulting the Yellow Pages.

Mazzer and FooFoo knew nothing about lawyers but their choice appeared impressive. “EFFECTIVO THE MAGNIFICENT” his business card exclaimed, “EXPERT IN TRAFFIC TICKETS, INTERNATIONAL LAW, REAL ESTATE AND CORPORATE LAW. HOME TUITION IN GEOGRAPHY A SPECIALITY”. Rod Effectivo himself, was no less impressive – he had no need to write anything down, and was extremely dexterous in re-arranging the cuff-links on his shirt. He obviously showered vigourously and enthusiastically, because he was very clean.

Effectivo the Magnificent assured Mazzer and FooFoo that he could resolve the whole situation within two weeks, and a letter from a powerful lawyer such as himself would do the trick; that everyone would agree it was a terrible misunderstanding and GASTLI and RILED would all be friends.

Unfortunately, since their first meeting, the boys had come to suspect that Effectivo was not quite as brilliant or as powerful as he claimed. For a start, whenever they phoned his offices, the receptionist told them he was making tea for his (or possibly “the”) partners, and would call them back as soon as the kettle had boiled. Effectivo also seemed to have an unconventional approach to law, attempting to pursue their disagreement with GASTLI under the procedures governing unpaid traffic tickets. Nevertheless, our Company Of carpenters continued to work and give Effectivo a chance to work his magic.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

in Which Stevie comes out to play and Tom tastes a horrid taste......

Four million, eight hundred and thirty eight and some four hundred seconds later Little Bunny Foo Foo and Mazzer were NOT in the Oxford Arms getting drunk. Accuracy is important in these matters, and an accurate statement would be that Little Bunny Foo Foo, Mazzer AND Politico Steve AND Whisky Tom and Mastic Craig were in the Oxford Arms getting drunk (as quickly as possible). It was Friday pay day, and everyone should have been happy, but confusion reigned.

“I want my pork PULLED…” shouted Stevie, “Close the US/Canada border!” declared Foo Foo, “The domestication of the Bos Primogenitus IS interesting” protested Mazzer, “No, no, no, HADDOCK!”, called Stevie. “….and I don’t just like rye cos it makes you feel funny” Tom wailed, then continued “My head hurts”. Mastic Craig was trying to sweet talk to the barmaid, Claire. Claire’s husband looked on, un-amused.

Many things had changed recently. Crazed military dictatorships had been caught lying about the military capacity of their enemies, thus undermining their credibility. Most of the barstaff of the Oxford had been fired in murky circumstances which Mastic did'nt want to talk about, and Foo Foo had learned that the Wiggles were a global franchise, not a single foursome of uniquely talented Australians. He had’nt been able to sing “Beep, Beep, Chugga, Chugga Big Red Car” with quite the same enthusiasm since this discovery.

Unfortunately at the Biggest, Poshest Architectural Millwork Project, nothing had changed. If accuracy matters, as referred to previously, then the correct description of affairs would include the words “deteriorated”, “much” and “very”. This, despite three Very Important Meetings between GAS (now renamed GASTLI – Good And Slow Lies To Installers) and our now expanded group of playmates. (It appears that the earlier incarnation was only provisional). At the first meeting, GASTLI had first promised to make things go “more betterer”. At the second meeting, GASTLI had double promised, in writing, that things “wunt git much mores worserer”. At the third meeting, JR had taken control, told everyone that he “dint uset ter had a pot wot to pee-pee in” and then started shouting at LBFF and Mazzer.

At first, Mazzer and Foo Foo thought JR was angry and jealous because they could do joined up writing better than any of the Rots, even Marky. Some time ago LBFF and Mazzer had promised Marky that they’d send him a short note “immediately” if they noticed that GASTLI had made any mistakes. This was so Marky could fix the mistakes. Mazzer and Foo Foo kept their promise, which meant that they’d had a lot of practice writing and were now quite good at it.

Later, Politico Stevie, Whisky Tom, Mazzer and Foo Foo put their heads together and thought very hard. Like a flash it came to them – JR was shouting at them because that’s how you do Business, specifically Business operated under the B.L.A.M.E Management System. Under this System, getting shouted at was to be expected – it was just a part of Business. GASTLI had shouted at Twenty Something until he had gone away. Then they’d replaced him with Wince, Whine and Complain and shouted at him. Then they’d replaced him with Algenon and shouted at him. Now, it was only right that the finger of blame should be pointed at our boys. As Foo Foo pointed out, it was no longer fair to point the finger at anyone who worked for GASTLI , because hardly any of them had fingers to point back with.

Later that day though, after Steve had had his pork pulled, Tom’s head had stopped hurting and then started again, Foo Foo had counted all the Big Red cars he could see in the car park, and Mazzer had told another fascinating story about early crop domestication, our Anglo Irish Canadian Scouse Cornish Conglomerate collectively came to the conclusion that for them, the B.L.A.M.E system was not going to help. Something had to be done.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Little Bunny Foo Foo and the Very Special Talent ...

On a cold frosty Friday afternoon in January, twenty-eight days after London Ontario’s Poshest Biggest Architectural Millwork Project !(LOPBAMP !) started, Mazzer and Little Bunny Foo Foo were in the Oxford Arms getting drunk as quickly as possible. It had become apparent that GAS were collectively possessed of very special talents.

GAS were a family company, founded by a tough, old, easily dislikeable patriarch called Jerry Rot, at a time when he had, (as he frequently reminded LBFF), “not even a pot to piss in when I started”. Nonetheless, like many self-proclaimed “self made men”, Jerry had enough fox-like cunning, ambition and bestial nastiness to build his company up to become a profitable entity, operated using Early Feudalism as a model. JR was in the process of handing GAS to his sons. Unfortunately, although Jerry had made himself quite successfully, he had not applied the same diligence to making his offspring, and the sons, “Marky”, “Peetey” and “The One with Weird Eyes”, had all developed with essential parts like intelligence, honour, truthfulness and decency missing. They did inherit their father’s sneakiness and love of money, but the only other discernable characteristic they displayed was an arrogance, of the type associated in the Old World with aristocracy.

Marky, Peety and the “One With The Weird Eyes” ran the three divisions of GAS – respectively Woodworking, Electrical, Bingo Halls – as cheaply as possible, but invested most of their time in internecine fighting. An employee of GAS told Foo Foo that recent family squabbles had focused on Marky’s son, Mark Two, who had been hired by Electrical to work on a large contract, awarded by the local Education board, to refit schools during the vacations. Once employed, Mark Two wasted no time, and set up a profitable sideline stealing school laptops and selling them on. Predictably, he got caught, and the family’s ire was now focused on Marky, because it had cost the Rots a considerable amount of money to pay off the school board and hush the whole thing up. Naturally, Foo Foo and Mazzer paid no attention to these scurrilous rumours and did not spend any time tell them to anyone who would listen.

Running a company cheaply usually means paying cheap wages which invariably means employing undermotivated, unqualified, inexperienced, young, unskilled staff. This was reflected in the GAS workforce. The more senior members of the Woodworking staff invariably lacked a finger or two and all, young and old were managed by Marky using the B.L.A.M.E management system {don’t Blame Anything on Me it’s the Employee’s fault}. In the case of LOPBAMP!, Marky had passed all responsibility over to a hopelessly out-of-his-depth twenty-something, and the trouble, and the project had started.

Twenty-something was in charge of a team of eighteen year olds who set about producing custom cabinets as quickly as they were capable. Unfortunately, having little experience in either woodworking, or in running projects larger than their own Grade Six Science Experiment, was a hinderance towards the final broader goal, which was to make kitchen cabinets quickly, its true, but also to make cabinets that actually fit correctly in their final destination. Emphasizing the former part of the objective, the team first made some radical decisions in respect of measurement. In a daring shift towards speed, they decided to expand on the “strong/weak” measurement system, expanding its parameters to ignore not only most of the troublesome increments between each inch, but also distracting side issues like “left”, “right”, “upper” and “lower”. Similairly, in a continuing drive towards efficiency, they abandoned cabinet shelving, plans, labeling, handles, door hinges and cabinet bases as relics of a bygone age.

This Cultural Revolution reached a peak when in a stroke of genius, they decided to stop making, or shipping complete kitchens altogether, and focus instead, on just make the easiest element of each kitchen. The effect of this was that instead of complete kitchens being received on-site, each of the 192 expectant kitchens only received one or two of the ten or twelve cabinets it had been promised. Apart from the fact that walking through LOPBAMP! randomly screwing single cabinets to walls represented a diversion to the pattern of work IRA(Not Inc) had planned, other tradespeople were becoming suspicious of the efficacy of the GAS system. Plumbers expecting to plumb, electricians hoping to wire and painters expecting to slap a last coat down were all reduced to standing round discussing philosophy and Paris Hilton.

It was this situation that Little Bunny Foo Foo and Mazzer were analyzing a month after starting the project. Their schedule, when they had estimated the job had been to complete the project in four months. Based on current progress, the boys’ Excel Sheet told them that they could now confidently expect completion in about two and a half years. Cuba was looking a long way off. Marky Rot had been contacted, and the problem had been explained to him. At first he failed to grasp the significance “Oh, you always get these teething problems”, he explained. On being pressed however, he admitted that the students who were to occupy each suite in just over five months time might find presence of carpenters, plumbers, electricians and painters in their kitchen a disturbance to their studies.

A meeting was declared necessary to sort the problem out. In the Oxford, Mazzer, who held the Rots in total contempt, was dreading the meeting, and was drinking heavily to subdue the bad taste that had come to accompany his dealings with GAS. Foo Foo, who was a brave little bunny, was drinking in anticipation, because he liked righting wrongs, and telling off bad people. Either way, both partners of IRA(Not Inc) were hoping that next week would see the end of their current Troubles.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Mazzer and Little Bunny Foo Foo have a busy day...

Little Bunny Foo Foo mumbled something that sounded like “In Iceland, events are a fish westerly caught” and slumped off his bar stool. Now that LBFF had joined him on the floor, Mazzer was able to make the point he’d been trying to make for the last fifteen minutes. “We need to talk to a leech”. LBFF looked blankly at Mazzer. “You know, a leech, who can prostitute for us”. Rob, the owner of the Oxford Arms, (or “the office”) as we called it, leaned over the bar and clarified matters “I know a good lawyer, if that’s what you need. Someone who can prosecute for you. And I agree, revenge IS a dish best eaten cold. But I think you’d better get home now, I’ll call Keys Please”.

A lawyer was indeed what was needed if we were to rescue anything from the disastrous project that as President and Other President of Irecan/Republic Architectural (Not Incorporated) we’d been discussing. The following account of that project is of course, entirely fictional and bears no resemblance to any actual persons or events that are or may be the subject of a lawsuit in the Higher Court of Ontario, or anywhere else for that matter.

Our heroic finish carpenters (for that was their business) first met after being introduced by a mutual acquaintance who was fascinated by cheap Chinese tools. Escaping the monotone droning of Mr Cheapdeal led to a dingy downtown London sports bar where Little Bunny Foo Foo thrashed Mazzer at pool, darts, shove ha’penny, pool (again), shuffleboard and mental arithmetic before deciding that they could work together. A week later, hurtling down the 401 towards Hamilton in LBFF’s Civic at 140kph, the car’s barely rubberized tyres clinging to the road, the partnership was born.

The boys decided that because of Foo Foo’s distain for keeping records, paperwork, taxes and observance of regulations (he described the speed limit as ‘guidelines’), Mazzer would handle the finances, taxes, legal stuff and contracts, while Foo Foo (who if he’d been a Spice Girl would have been described as ‘The Really- no I mean REALLY- Scary One’) was in charge of the day to day work - Operations, Site Management and Shouting at People.

Over the next three years the partnership went from tiny little projects, barely earning the boys their Tim Hortons money, to securing the biggest Architectural Millwork (posh carpentry) project in Ontario. Irecan/Republic Architectural (Not Inc.) scored top marks with architects and woodworking firms, successfully pulling off projects like the Hanging Panels Of Chatham, The Library/Stripjoint Fitout, The East Side Mario’s That Went South and The Little Doors That Could’nt. Our Celtic chums survived meeting characters like Terrytubby, who’d twice won awards as World’s Most Obnoxious Man, and who told Foo Foo, after a particularly heated argument about American Imperialism that if he did’nt like it in Canada he could “f*** off back to his own continent”, which only served to confirm Foo Foo’s view of the importance of Ireland on the World Stage.

Increasingly, as projects got bigger, IRA(Not Inc) engaged additional help, especially Politico Steve, another very talented craftsman who always came through when deadlines were tight, despite the fact that he was often busy losing his deposit in local elections.

Finally, in January 2006, a long awaited contract, the biggest of its type in Ontario that year, installing 192 kitchens in a local Halls Of Residence, commenced. The contract was awarded by a local cabinetry company who we’ll call Good And Slow. Our fearless contractors had some minor reservations about working for this company because they’d seen employees taking site measurements for the custom kitchens Good and Slow were to produce. GAS’s employees had a rather unconventional system of measurement, which employed words instead of fractional numerical increments. For example, when measuring a dimension slightly over forty one and a half inches, and slightly less than forty one and three quarter inches, the measurer would proclaim the dimension to be “forty one and a half ‘strong’”, or “forty one and three quarters ‘weak’”. The relationship between “strong” and “weak” and more traditional measurements also seemed to be time dependant, in that on Friday afternoons “strong” or “weak” took on a broader meaning, encompassing more fractions than it did on Monday morning.

These reservations notwithstanding, the project was a relatively straightforward one and calculations were being made of how long we could vacation in Cuba after it was done. It would take a very special kind of talent to make a mess of this project, and, as we unloaded our carpentry essentials on-site – kettle, stools, playing cards – spirits were high. Then the project started.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


One of the interesting aspects of moving back to the UK is getting to grips with the funny, sometimes annoying differences, between here and Canada. You are all pretty familiar with Martin's rants on the North American spelling of aluminum (US) as opposed to aluminium ( underlined in this editor as incorrect spelling, dear God, don't tell Martin). Anyway its time for the Canucks to get their own back. I give you the word 'bespoke' - anyone ever used that word for any reason whatsoever? I'm guessing not. Well here in the UK, bespoke is currently the fashionable word. It is used repetitively, and reverentially on design programs (architectural and interior). It basically means, I've got something none of you poor b***ds can afford (ie customized, exclusive). It looks like its now entered the main stream because today I got some internal mail from the Learning and Development Center at Hull Uni. It advised me that they had the expertise to create 'bespoke development plans'. AAARGGHHHH.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Chinese Curses Wilting Tomatoes

There is reputedly a Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times", or some such phrasing, which would seem to fit our current situation perfectly. Not only because we do live in interesting times right now, but also because the phrase is itself, not a piece of arcane wisdom derived from ancient philosophers, but more likely a made-up North Americanism, maquerading as truth or wisdom, made famous by one of the 20th Century's great Ploppyshankers, John F Kennedy.

And talking of Ploppyshankers, please refer to my post "The Ploppyshank Syndrome", then to these articles:

A journalist friend is also writing a piece, which I think will appear in the Daily News. Enough said about our circumstances really, except that behind the news, we spotted the trouble earlier than most of the badly affected people, and put massive pressure on anyone associated with Tivertons . Pressure included phoning their offices, cell-phones and e-mailing on the hour every hour for about two weeks while I was in a state of worklessness, plus a fantastic undercover operation, planned and executed by Idaho Burt. For us, this story is nearing the end, as the tenant should move out on June 30th, and realtors have been engaged to sell.

I know some people have considered the idea of property management, and this story should'nt put them off, except that I would recommend using one of the big national companies, because that way, if things go wrong, you are in a better position to direct any questions/lawsuits etc rather than being cheated by someone who can simply disappear.

Our second "interesting" issue is a lawsuit against a contractor who employed me last year in Ontario. I've hesitated to write about this in detail, mostly because it was hard to see the funny side of being owed $30,000. Not to say that its all been doom and gloom. Maurice (who from now on will be referred to as Little Bunny Foo Foo to protect his identity) and myself (who in future posts on this topic will be referred to as Mazzer in order to protect my identity) had plenty of laughs about this at the end of a night's drinking in the Oxford. "Mazzer," Little Bunny Foo Foo would say, as he fell off his bar stool having come to the conclusion we were going bankrupt, "We're screwed". A full reasoned post on this case will follow, in which any references to "revenge", or "a dish best eaten cold" or "six packs" should be taken as purely humourous devices, and not as literal references to options we seriously considered. This story too, while not done, is reaching its conclusion, as papers have been filed and we should be in court this Fall, after a year of legal fees. It is now in the hands of a judge.

Finally, for today, I can reveal that my plan to become Hull's leading scenic carpenter has swung into full effect. I'm off to Leeds tomorrow to start some freelance work. I almost turned the work down, because my tomatoes are wilting and Toshack has started to hunt in earnest, killing his first bird last week. How to stop him killing, while still enjoying the outside has occupied several of my hours. And that's when I realized that I'm finally beginning the process of settling in here - the emphasis of attention has gradually shifted from Nova Scotia, business and Ontario to Hull, tomatoes and dead birds.

Saturday, 2 June 2007


Hi all,
Most of you know Anna and I have been shopping, but it looks like the deal is done, with our new home purchase closing July 9th. :) Lots of space, extra guest room, and a fire pit outside that for some reason was advertised as a back yard. :) So everyone consider yourselves invited for a stay (all at once would be cramped, but fun) :)
Here are some home inspection pics
and our new address will be
Joe and Anna

Friday, 1 June 2007

Wharfedale, Yorkshire

We rented a car and set off for Wharfedale, ninety miles away. Four hours later, we arrived - so silly of us to travel on a Market day, every short cut we took through obscure little towns was traffic hell.

Nevertheless, Nel and I were determined to get a hike in up the Wharfedale Valley. This gave me an excuse to dispense with tourist information leaflets, and purchase, from a map vendor, some of the most exciting maps on Earth - British Ordanance Survey Maps. Nel's motives were a good day out. Mine were to purchase, possess, and scrutinize the maps, but also to see for myself the mesmerizing Neolithic field systems of Wharfedale. A brilliant description of this Neolithic History can be found at

Those few of you who may not be incredibly fascinated by descriptions of field systems and strip lynchets can just look at the photos below. Note that you can also get a pretty good idea of where we went by going to 54 08'42.08" N 2 02'46.2" W on Google maps.

Our original idea was to walk the ridges that line the valley and do a long loop up high (well 1800 ft), but a knee injury kept us to lower ground. Still, a good 10 miler.

Wharfedale, Yorkshire

We did have a whiff of excitement as we returned to base camp, witnessing the age old tradition of sheep herding. The following action shots show the whole event as it passed us on the road. To get the full animated effect, click forward on the slideshow as quickly as your computer will let you.

Sheep herding Wharfedale