Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Workdays

I've begun to organize my photographs, so here's another gallery which is the beginning of documenting an ordinary workday. I would'nt even begin claim to be an amateur photographer, it really is just a hobby and a vanity project, so by all means click on by. These albums are almost entirely for my own benefit.

If, however you want to see some professional work, I'm persuaded by the work of my friend Dave Jones, who is interested in the narrative versions of documentary photography. Dave's work can be found at :

http://www.graphicphoto.com/photographers/index.php

Once there, click on Davy Jones for a sample of his portfolio.

Dave's work took some getting used to, and like all art, you either get it or you do'nt. I'm beginning to get most of Dave's work, especially his ride project, which legend has it cost him about £20,000 and a marriage. Ride exhibited in Paris this year, and as a working commercial photographer he 'did' the new brochure for the college where Nel's brother, Will, teaches.

My Leeds album is below. It is best viewed in a Picasa slideshow, which I get to from this website by clicking randomly, and furiously on the image until it fills the screen.

Workdays

The Road To Miklagard

When I was working at Atlantex in Nova Scotia a small road trip was arranged. Our company had made a sign that had to be installed at the Headquarters of the global paper manufacturer, Stora-Enzo. The paper mill was located in Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton. As Vice President, I made the executive decision to send myself, plus one of the worker from the Production Shop, to supervise the install.

Joey Monk, brother of Tony, the notorious Ploppyshanker, volunteered to accompany me, as I had recently, once again, fired Tony. Most of the guys who worked in the Production Shop lived around East or West Chezzetcook (inexplicably pronounced Chezzencut by the locals) part of a small series of settlements which lay 30-40 kilometres north of Halifax, on what is (even more inexplicably) known as the Eastern Shore. Incidentally, Nova Scotia's Southern Shore is the stretch of coast that runs directly south of Halifax to approximately the Clark's Harbour/Yarmouth

Our route to Port Hawksebury was via the 401 highway to Truro, a direction that I fully expected Nova Scotians to describe as westward. Joey and I met very early, and loaded our tools into the back of the large truck. Joey was the navigator, and I had elected to drive. I jumped into the driving seat, but was surprised to see Joey struggling to hoist a large, evidently heavy, hold-all into the middle seat. we were only scheduled to be away for one longish work day. "Ready?", I asked Joey. "Yes, Mr Martin", the gruff voiced Joey said "Looks like she's comin up nice". I examined the sky and agreed. It was going to be a beautiful day.

As we cleared the outskirts of Halifax, I pressed pedal to metal and threw the truck into cruise. "About four hours you reckon, Joe?". Joe did'nt answer immediately, and I glanced at him. He was studying the map intently, tracing his finger along the route I had highlighted. Every inch or so, as he moved his finger along the road, he scribbled something down on a piece of paper. I concentrated on my driving for a second. "Ok, Joe?", I asked and glanced at him again. He had opened the holdall and had pulled out four largish telephone directories., and was carefully flicking through one of them evidently consulting the paper he'd written on. Another note, then he discarded the first directory and started flicking through the next.

After a while, Joey spoke "We should be allright, Mr Martin" he growled, "I've got them all". "Got what, Joe? " I asked. "Timmys" Joe explained "There's eight between Halifax and Port Hawksebury, so we should be able to get a decent coffee, even out here in the backwoods. Gotta be careful though, some of the water out this way's not so good. There's five or six PetroCanada's as well, so we wo'nt be stuck for gas. "

It was apparent from the way Joe spoke that this was a major expedition for him. I was surprised - even as a Liverpool "homebody", I knew England pretty well by the time I was eighteen, but Joe was late forties. He explained that the major highway to Halifax had only been open about ten years and before that, people from the Eastern Shore rarely bothered travelling more than a few miles away from 'home' because the coast road made the thirty kilometre journey take three or four hours. Years ago there had been a railway, but when it closed, communities on the Eastern Shore had lost jobs and reasons, as well as the income, to travel anywhere, except for those people who moved "away". Those people seldom came back. Just getting to Port Hawksebury represented a major challenge to Joe.

After Truro, Joe became much less talkative. He'd spent some of the journey persuading me to re-hire Tony again, something I had already resolved to do, but gradually he stopped talking as we got nearer to the Canso Causeway. "You OK, Joe?" I asked a few times. "OK, Mr Martin", he'd say "Just a bit of indigestion, I think. I'll be fine", but as we drove, he began to say that he was feeling "a bit sick, nauseous like". Just before Port Hawkesbury, Joe asked me to pull over quickly. I did so, and he leapt from the van, and puked up violently. His face was grey and he was shaking. I thought quickly, and called Stora Enso. We were only five kilometres away, it was a very big factory and I was pretty sure there would be a nurse on-site. This was confirmed, so I helped Joe back into the truck and sped to the factory, where as promised we were met by a nurse. She assured me that she'd look after Joe, and get him to hospital if necessary and there was nothing more that I could do.

The rest of the day was a nightmare. My boss, the President, had not informed me that Stora Enso was a heavily unionized site. Stora Enso had not informed it's unions that the sign was scheduled to be installed, so the first part of the day was spent negotiating with the unions as to which trade was going to install the sign. The construction of the sign (fibreglass and metal with some incorporated lights), made the negotiation more difficult. Apparently carpenters whose job it should have been to install the sign, were not allowed to drill bolt holes into the sign's metal frame, by their union rules. The metal workers, who were allowed to drill metal, were not allowed to drill into the concrete wall on which the sign was to be installed. And no-one, especially the electricans were allowed to touch any of the lights, because that was the maintenance department's job, and this was their day off. I was not allowed to touch the sign once it had crossed the factory gates, and could only point at it from a distance, in order to help instruct the installation.

Eventually a compromise was reached, so myself and the necessary twelve tradesmen got the sign installed. The labourer's union guys held the sign against the wall. The carpenters marked where the sign should be drilled. The metal guys drilled the sign. The labourer's held the sign up again, the carpenters marked the wall and the site's Operations manager drilled holes in the wall. Then the carpenters inserted the bolts and tightened them. Then we wrapped the sign in kilometres of black and yellow hazard tape, installed a safety barrier and vacated the area, safe in the knowledge that the next day,the maintenance guys could plug the lights into the nearby outlet, and thus declare the sign operational.

Meanwhile, I recieved several phone calls from the nurse, who reported that she thought Joey just had a tummy upset, and it was safe to take him home. At the end of the day, I met her outside her office. "It's strange, " she mused "No temperature, pulse is ok, breathing is calmed down. My best guess is a panic attack, but he's fine now. He's had a good rest". Having had panic attacks myself, I did, retrospectively, recognize that it could be, but I was puzzled - forty year old fishermen just do'nt seem the type. I was relieved it was'nt a heart attack. I helped Joe into the truck, and he apologized. "No problem, Joe, everyone gets sick. Let's just get you home."

As we drove back to Halifax, Joe brightened visibly. In fact every kilometre closer to home saw him perk up, incrementally. By the time we were home, Joe was ready for a beer. "See you tomorrow, you Crazy Englishman" was his cheery farewell. Glad that Joe had'nt died, I went home and had a beer myself. Later that night, our President telephoned " They love the sign at Stora" he said. "Good", I replied "I'll be in late tomorrow, it's been a long day". "Actually, I was going to ask if you could go up there again" said Phil, the President. "They love the sign, but they want it moved. Who do you want to take with you?".

Friday, 23 November 2007

Leedscapes

I ride past this building every night; a Leeds office block. I wonder every single time; what do all these people sitting at all these desks actually do? Are these the people whose telephone system is routed through Ulan Bator? Will the people who work here spend the next thirty years in these Identikit desks, planning Christmas parties? I understand small offices - you would know your neighbours, maybe be part of a community. But I do'nt understand these monoliths. Admittedly, the people working here probably do not understand a work history that either the Red Head Boffin or me have had( my personal record in one job was 2 years, 77 days and 4 hours).

My brother in law has recently celebrated his 25th year working in the local Ford factory(near Liverpool). He is younger than me, and a great guy, but I realized the other day as I rode past this place how strange our life has been. As adults, we have absolutely no idea what it is like to be in one place for more than seven years. We have together lived in Liverpool, Leicester, Halifax, London(Canada) and now Hull. During this time we've worked in Coventry, Birmingham, Leeds, London(UK) and Sarnia. Nel has also lived in Windsor(Canada), Switzerland, Willenhall, Cheshire and Montreal. Between us, we've worked as postmen, telephone directory delivery people, administrative assistants, bar staff, musicians, theatre wardrobe, carpenters, managers, boffins, trench diggers, kitchen installers, au pairs, students, bank workers, shop assistants, Vice Presidents, dole office clerks, carpenters, welders and been on the dole.

I told my relative this history because for a lot of people we know, it's fairly normal - Grasshoppers was a cleaner and is now a top boffin, for example, and has lived in Arkansas, Kansas and Nebraska (not really, but basically quite a few places). My relative was surprised we were all still alive, because to him, we've all lived a life that he associates with vagrants or drifters. Conversely, I am horrified with is life - I equate it with a prison sentence. Personally, I think I am incredibly lucky to have such variation. He thinks we are crazy.

I'd be interested to know what you think - stability vs variation. That is the question.

Things to do on the train

Rather than spend my whole journey to Leeds every day either (a) quietly fuming about TP and planning my revenge (b) reading loads of books and crap science (c) reading about football - currently more frustrating than either of the above because Liverpool are in a mess, Eire got totally humiliated in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, and England were just as bad, I also have been messing around with a few story ideas for some fiction.

After a few attempts at writing fiction, in which the tall, dirty blond, ex-musician, ex-high-jumper, half-Canadian hero saved humanity after a strenuous cross-country hike (which involved some exhilarating mountain bike descent's) by fitting solar panels to the roof of his new house, I decided that the advice given in all creative writing classes - write about what you know - can be taken too seriously.

Instead, I've now gone to the fall back of all imminently unsuccessful fiction writers - a children's fantasy book. I've developed a few plot lines, all of which, upon review seem familiar. For example, my latest idea involved my heroes embarking on an expedition. Perhaps I should be honest and say that they were embarking on an expotition. So, for the moment. all I am left with is the map of the world that my characters inhabit. And who might these characters be, you wonder? Well, is'nt it obvious, and without further ado, I should introduce the World of The Meeps. You should be able to click on the image for a bigger view.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

New house

Joey Mac asked for more details of the house we have almost bought. I have not mentioned this in more detail because the sale is by no means complete. Yes we have made an offer on a property, and yes that offer has been accepted, and yes our mortgage application has been approved, but two possible deal breakers remain. Firstly, there is the approximately 146 Polish tenants who currently occupy the house. Our offer to buy includes that the tenants have to be out of the house before we finalize the deal. If the tenants are not gone, then we will not buy, and we have today been given a date of December 19th (note to self - must e-mail Bill) by the landlord's agents, so it could be a busy holiday period.

The second potential hiccough (or is hiccup correct ?) is the survey, which in the UK is a slightly more formal, and can be a more professional review of the structure, value and fabric of the building than in Canada. As those of you who are Canadian are aware, the Canadian housing inspector profession (UK equivalent is Surveyors) is woefully unregulated. In fact, my experience is that in Canada, a chimpanzee who has barely passed its' Nest Building Proficiency Badge can easily set up business as a Housing Inspector, and be flooded with work. The trading name of the most famous Housing Inspector Company in Halifax, NS is Inspector Clouseau, and that this company is named after a bungling idiot Detective who screwed up everything he touched is a fair reflection of the average skill level within the "profession". In this case, the name is not ironic.

Anyway, our survey is to be conducted shortly, and I expect that it will tell us that a new roof is required, that the house requires rewiring, and that there is damage caused by damp as a result of a leaky bay window. Again, if there are more serious structural problems we wil probably withdraw from the sale and absorb the costs to date. We want to buy a house which is in need of improvement, and do not mind serious improvements - in fact that's the whole idea. However, we will not get involved in re-building.

The house itself is a four bedroom mid-terrace, about 100 years old, small back yard, very badly maintained and the aforementioned tenants. Full pictures will be available if the sale proceeds to completion, but for now, we're just planning the cost of renovations. This is itself also not a wasted exercise if this house does not get purchased because we'll need the info that we're currently finding out at some point or other anyway.

Nel has pulled out of the purchase about 17 times (yesterday), while I am planning to have solar panels, a small wind turbine, rainwater collectors, ground source heat pumps and a living roof completed by December. Ah, the joys of half-empty/half full.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Crap Science

A few years ago, I decided that as a failed semi-professional musician, the next step for me to take was to embark on a course of education. After a year of distance learning at Athabasca, Canada's Distance Learning University, during which I completed one semester's worth of courses in basic Anthrolpolgy, we were making preparations to leave Canada, so I abandoned the concept of enrolement in a recognized establishment and went freelance. Naturally after a whole successful year studying anthropolgy my choice of study area had to be "Why, and how, does civilization exist? and what is the future of the Human Race?". Once I had mastered this subject, my plan went, then I could probably focus on a career/vocational related topic and get a better job.

The plan is going pretty well, even if I say so myself, and having read several books on the subject of civilization and stuff, I'm pretty sure that although I have not yet obtained a definitive answer, it is just because I have'nt used the right words while searching Amazon.com. So my education continues at least for the next few months, although I'm confident of having the whole civiization issue wrapped up before we get a new roof on the mansion we've recently bought.

There is a minor problem though, because while one of the best things about embarking on a self-guided course of education has been the freedom to be completely unguided by informed people directing me towards reliable, worthwhile and well researched opinions and publications, there is also a whole bunch of crap out there.

One of the first 'papers' which aroused my suspicions that not everything on the Internet was totally relaible was The Olduvai Theory by Richard C. Duncan, PhD. At first glance, this work, for want of a better word, looked genuine. The author is a PhD - good. It is called a 'paper' - good. The word "theory" is mentioned several times - excellent. It is dated - very good and there is an institute name on the title - all very scientific. The paper namechecks a significant anthropological site (Olduvai gorge, Kenya) - this all looked very professional. The subject matter is important - The decline of Civilization due to resource Usage.

I tucked into the paper on the delayed Transpennine 7.33 and admittedly, (I blame the earlyness) missed the hint in the first paragraph that the 'paper' might need some work. It was only after cross-referencing the Olduvai Theory with some of Nel's scientific papers did I realize that she infrequently (if ever) uses the word "horridly" in the first paragraph, nor does she conclude that vital first paragraph with "I have no data to support this claim".

Furthermore, Nel, in my experience usually eschews personal details from her papers such as "It was because I was grouting the bathroom tiles that I did'nt analyse my data for simply ages". Mr Duncan is not as reticent, as he explains in paragraph 3 of section 2 why the Theory took a bit of time to develop "So for the next decade I went about my way: raising kids, building airplanes and teaching engineers."

For me, it was only when Mr Duncan used the phrase "willy-nilly" (Section 5, Paragraph 1, just past Selby), in his scientific document that I began to realize that this publication may be somewhat less than peer-reviewed.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Infinite Deniability Principle

By the early Nineties, the British Government were faced with a very serious problem. The Nation's Transport Infrastructure was in crisis, especially the Rail system where bad organization, industrial unrest, and years of underinvestment had transformed Britain from a pioneering force in Railways boasting not only the first, but also the second, recorded Railway fatalities, to the Poor Man of Europe (in Railway terms). Even the Italian Railways were better, courtesy, so legend has it, of Il Duce, although even my most extreme complaints to Transpennine Express nowadays stop short of suggesting that we install a Fascist Dictator just so that I can arrive at work in sufficient time to be insulted about being a "Scouser" all day.


Many people make the mistake of thinking that the solution that the British Government devised was to privatize the Railways, but this type of thinking demonstrates an almost total lack of understanding of how the British bureaucratic mind works. The real problem you see, was not that the transport system was in chaos, but that the Government had to answer questions about it, and deal with the many inherent problems it caused. The Government of the time, and their successors therefore needed solutions based on The Infinite Deniability Principle. Privatizing the railways was only a byproduct of a project, the chief aim of which has been to inject Infinite Deniability, and it's cousin, The Total Whitewash Policy, into every inaction of every bureaucrat who we pay(to ignore us).


In the Railway reforms that have plagued this country for the last twenty years, the project has been a complete success. However, details of that success will have to wait a while, as I explain, as quickly as possible, how the British privatized rail system is funded. Simply put, the British taxpayer pays for it. To elucidate further involves describing how each railway line is put out for tender as franchise by the Government. Companies then bid, every seven years for each franchise, but to make the process attractive to businessmen, franchises all come with a subsidy, paid from the Public Purse. The value of the subsidy is staggering. Figures for the subsidy that that Transpennine receive are mysteriously absent from the Government informational websites, but figures issued by the Government for a smaller franchise can be found at:



http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/passenger/franchises/winnernewcrosscounty.



The total for this, smaller franchise, over eight years is £1,056,000,000 (that's £1.056 BILLION) for this particular company. As for the company that owns Transpennine Express, a company called First National, it's profits increased last year, just in it's rail sector to £48.5 million pounds, as reported in the article below. The comments from users that follow the article are also worth reading.



http://business.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1769172007



I had researched these figures, and knew them by heart when I received a letter from Transpennine explaining why the trains were always late:


" Our new Class 185 trains are of a fixed length - three carriages. The size of the new trains was determined by the available funding, which in itself was set prior to the launch of the franchise. The funding and size of the new fleet are part of our franchise agreement, which we are operating to the guidelines set by the Department for Transport.


We can certainly appreciate that, from a passenger's perspective, adding a fourth carriage would seem an ideal solution to alleviate crowding, however, this is not as simple as it may appear. It would be possible to build additional carriages and integrate them into the units, but this could not be done without significant additional funding. The fleet represents an investment of over £250m, with each carriage costing over £1m.

Barry Hutton, Customer Services Advisor"



While I enjoy being patronized as much as the next man, I'm a bit of a stickler for accuracy. My next letter pointed out to Mr Hutton that he was talking about completely the wrong railway, as the Class 185 train does not usually operate in our region. I did however suggest that in the public interest, if the company took one quarter of it's profits, they could increase their fleet by twelve carriages. The response from his manager was immediate:


"I was sorry to find that my colleague attempted to address your complaint with reference to our 185 rolling stock and I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies for this error. "



However, the manager, Lauren, still plead poverty and laid the blame squarely at the door of the Government, who by inference, have imposed a contract on poor little Transpennine that is punative to the extent that it prevents them improving their services, even if they really, really want to:


"As with any Train Operating Company, we only have a limited fleet in line with our contract with The Department for Transport, but we will continue to monitor our passenger numbers and lobby for extra carriages where necessary."




Obviously, trading letters with some kids in a call center was getting me no-where. Next step was, as previously described, a letter writing campaign to every Member of Parliament, Town Councillor, Passenger Stakeholder Group and interested party I could find along the route. The response has been underwhelming, apart from my local MP, Diana Johnson, who wrote the following to a Mr Vernon Baker, of Macclesfield. Mr Baker is the CEO of Transpennine Express, and was recently in the news for completing the New York Marathon in about three and a half hours. I cannot resist saying that this is considerably quicker than most of his trains could have done the journey.

"Dear Mr Baker,

Re: Martin Nickson, Apartment 1, 109 Park Avenue, Hull, HU5 3EZ

Please find enclosed a copy of the correspondence I have received from the above constituent regarding Hull to Leeds journeys. If what Mr Nickson says is correct then I am very unhappy at the level of service provided. A two car formation for the peak service (7.33) between Hull and Leeds is a poor service. The journey is almost an hour and standing is unacceptable given the price paid for tickets and in addition the fact that it will lead to people using cars instead. I am under the impression that the new rolling stock were brought in to ensure that peak time services on Transpennine routes were made up of three or four car formations. I would be grateful if you could assure me that this will be the case for the 7.33, and 8.37 services out of Hull and the 16.38 and 17.38 services back to Hull for the benefit of my constituents.


I would also be grateful if you could ensure that Mr Nickson receives any compensation which he is due for delays to his journey. I can understand that in exceptional circumstances the correct trains may not be available leading to overcrowding on a two car train. However, I presume running a two car service saves money on fuel and staffing. Perhaps, it might be appropriate to consider passing on some of this saving to your customers who have to stand as a result."



Buoyed by the first glimpses of the campaign I have long predicted, I decided to write to the Department Of Transport. My reasoning was as follows:



a) They are the Department of, ....well...., Transport.

b). As the Department of Transport, they dish out the dosh (ie my money) to these rail cowboys and if anyone is in a position to take some action,it would be them . Because they are responsible for ,... well...., Transport.


The response illustrates the Infinite Deniability Principle brilliantly. The opening is promising:

Dear Mr Nickson

Thank you for your e-mail about overcrowding on the Transpennine
Express.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) is the independent regulator of the
railway industry in Great Britain. One of our key roles is to ensure
that Network Rail, the owner and operator of the national railway
infrastructure (the track and signalling), manages the network
efficiently and in a way that meets the needs of its users, the train
operators. We are also responsible for licensing operators of railway
assets, setting the terms for access by operators to the network and
other railway facilities, and enforcing competition law in the rail
sector. ORR is also responsible for the regulation of health and safety
on the railways.



Good, they ARE the people I should be talking to. Then we get:



However we do not regulate all aspects of the rail industry and have no
remit over the day-to-day provision of services by train operators
except in terms of health and safety. Although we enforce health and
safety legislation on the railways under the Health and Safety at Work
etc Act 1974, the scope of that Act does not extend to the welfare of
passengers or to concerns about comfort and well-being.



More details then follow, describing all the other things the Department is not responsible for, and directing me to write to Passenger Focus, a Government sponsored Stakeholder Group, who are even more powerless than anyone else, but at least get to complain to the Rail Company on nice letterhead.


The overall picture is a very neat example of Infinite Deniability, an endless loop of non-responsibility and inaction. The whole point of the exercise to the casual viewer is to provide a rail service. To those in "the loop", getting people like me from A to B is the last thing on the agenda. The only intersection between the loopers and the loopees is where the loopers manage to take money from the loopees twice for a service that's as bad as it ever was.







Monday, 12 November 2007

Halloween 2007

Tom came to Toronto for an overdue vacation. Halloween included the Church street - street party then off to see the bands at the Bovine sex club. the name of the club is for publicity only, although we did suspect there were a few cows hidden behind the pool table.
http://picasaweb.google.com/macinnes.j/Halloween2007

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The (delayed) Quarterly Report

Delayed but accurate-ish, here's what's going on at the moment:

Weather:

Exactly the same as it has been since we arrived (apart from the Great FLood of 07). Having been in Canada, where seasons still exist, this continues to make dressing for my daily commute a bit complicated because I keep expecting cold weather (just as in Summer I kept expecting warm weather). I continue to take ski-gloves, wet weather gear and keep a change of clothes at work, but more in hope, than expectation, of rain.

Cats:

Needy, demanding, playful, cute, underfoot. Calli is continuing to establish a reputation as one of the local "toughies", and Tosh still likes to walk on his lead occasionally, presumably for comfort.

Jobs:

My job is going well, and I am planning a workshop coup, gradually positioning myself as management material by volunteering for all sorts of jobs that need me to have access to a computer, because it is obvious to me that any real measure of a successful manager bears a direct proportional relationship to the amount of time that you spend dealing with people. I have not established the exact ratio, but it is obvious that the less time you spend with the staff you manage, the more competent you are.

Nel's job is going well as well, although teaching load is requiring more of her time. I however cannot complain about my managers in comparison to Nel's. As some of you who read this are academics, you may concur that if I were to write a sentence that read "The management of Hull's Psychology Department leaves something to be desired" , then a perfectly reasonable response would be to report me to the United Nations Tribunal on Understatement and demand the death penalty. Lab Space is one issue which mystifyingly remains unresolved. However it is the Department Chair, whose Interpersonal Skills are legendary, convergent and entirely consistent with, developmentally speaking, those of a five year old child, that have caused me some mirth, and Nel some exasperation. Nel recently pointed out an example of how a shortfall in the department's complement of technician's had adversely affected some work she had planned. She politely forwarded him the details of the incident in order to help him make the case for another technician with the University Administration. His response included the sentence "I know it looks to a few of our newcomers that I simply sit and fidddle while
Rome burns but somethings are simply impossiblke to do just now" (spelling reproduced from the original). I wish him good luck in the career in business that he wishes to return to, namely (and I'm not making this up) Management Consultant.

House:

Few househunters include "Must be practically derelict" on their list of "Must Have"s when househunting. I would speculate that this number is reduced further if you include those who actively, and at great length, canvas the neighbours on whether an area is suitable for cats, but these factors have narrowed down our house search to the point where we are currently in the process of buying a semi-condemned property about 150 metres from our current location. The deal is not yet done - a final hurdle may yet be a structural survey revealing serious faults which even we, in our relatively unusual hunt, find unacceptable. Still, and all, plans for remodelling are under way, including feasibility studies on solar panelling the roof, rainwater capturing systems and grey water recycling systems. Exciting times if all goes well.

Liverpool Football Club:

Last night, 8-0 victory over Bestikas of Turkey was a European Record. You will never walk alone, indeed.

You Guys?:

Hopefully all are well. This website is now limited to the Few, as I have named us lot who regularly read/contribute to it. This is a consequence of my burgeoning career as a writer, and the need for some privacy from a voracious public, (AKA readers of ThisisULL) .

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Land of pictures

A collection from one of Anna's Friends on live journal. Any of these real photos in Russia would win a graphic artist in the west an award for social satire.
http://topbot2.livejournal.com/3068400.html#cutid1

Monday, 5 November 2007

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Those of you who watched the footage from the first Gulf War might be forgiven for thinking that Transpennine had added to their calumnities by not only getting the timetable wrong, but had also now committed the further error of depositing me, via a time loop, in a war zone instead of at Hull's Paragon Station at 18.38. But no, the following clips are from Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawke's Night, November 5th, and the proceeding week.
video

The volume of Fireworks let off must be considerable, the barrage has continued from nightfall till about 23.00 every evening for the last week. A possible Career Option (No23) occurs to me, but I wonder how the request would be received at Jobcentre Plus if I enquired whether help and advice might be forthcoming in the area of Making Explosions.

video
The cats have been confined to Barracks during evening hours.This advice was first proferred by a friendly Policeman, advice I totally ignored until a "banger" went off about twenty feet from where Tosh was practising the Classic Pounce. Tosh's Pouncing Practice resembles Little Kanga's Jumping Practice in the Sandpit - a not quite grown up replication of an adult behaviour, and as such is very cute - the target (usually a leaf) is spotted, the moggie crouches low, bum wiggling until it reaches a critical frequency of wiggle, then the Pounce. Usually the leaf escapes unharmed.

After ignoring the Policeman's advice, I took Tosh out for his first nightly constitutional, but the firework startled him mid-pounce. He ran off in every conceivable direction and disappeared for three hours while fireworks exploded in the sky around him.
video

After I found him, very scared, I decided to keep the cats indoors for a few days until Guy Fawkes Festival Week is done. Guy Fawkes Night used to be, in my childhood, one evening involving some Sparklers, a pathetic Catherine Wheel and maybe two rockets(all supervised by my father, wearing a full protective asbestos suit) is over. Tosh was also quite scared by the incident, although as with all cats, is now more determined than ever to get out, especially because he cannot. I don't know who's behaviour is more contrary - cats wanting to venture outside in the full knowledge that it will be a terrifying, dangerous experience, or humans celebrating so exuberantly the failure of an act of terrorism.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Mushrooms and Gardens

Walking round the garden with the cats, mushrooms are spotted. Fall is a beautiful season.



These slideshows are pretty small but if you click wildly on the shots, you can get to our Picasa page, and from there all the images can be seen bigger in a full slideshow. Watch this post, it will be added to during the course of the evening and tomorrow.