Dont buy the Sun.

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

Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Warrens via HIgh Hunsley to North Cave

Is is the end of a five day vacation for me, the first since starting work in Leeds. On my first day, I furiously made alist of all the stuff I was going to do:

Finish geneaology research
E-mail lawyers (Canada)
Email lawyers (Canada/house)
Sort out Canadian tax question
Send insulting reply to Intelligent Design website bloke's insulting reply
Clean and maintain bike
Walk cats at least twice a day
Book dental appointment
Finish paper on "Civilization; WHY?"
Finish short story
Write outline brief for Carl's 'Crips' company
Book rail tickets for LOndon visit
Sort out UK tax
Get new rail pass (replace stolen). Write witty blog entry about stealing being rife in England -cross reference with work comments about 'thieving Scousers and contrast with overheard comments re; fraudulent insurance claim(not by me - irony)
Visit music shop

Writing the list, as usual, took most of my morning, but immediately I can see that I have a mountain to climb before I can enjoy my vacation. I put the list to one side, and call my parents "I'm coming over tomorrow. Is that ok?". The ageing p's agree, so I decide that the list can wait a little longer, and I set off to the station for a replacement rail pass. Mine has been stolen, along with my wallet and some cash while I was snoozing on the train.

At the station, the staff tell me that getting my pass lost or stolen is just my hard luck and despite the fact that it represents an investment to me of £300, nothing can be done. I have a receipt for the original purchase, a police report of the incident and all my previous monthly tickets, but Transpennine express stand firm, despite a furious argument.

I ride off to a music shop in a bad mood, but the music shop visit represents a change in fortunes, because Nel has discovered a colleague who wants to "jam" with me. New guitar strings are needed, so I chain the bike in the back forty, and run into the shop for new strings. The shop assistant is very helpful (as are most in Hull : despite it's ramshackle appearance, Hull locals are a bit Haligonian - friendly, at least on the surface) and we chat shortly. Purchase completed, I'm anxious to be home and work on that list.

Outside, disaster has struck. The lights on the Crosstowner have been stolen, or at least some of them have. Not only this, but in the haste of the perpetrators to take one of my front lights, they have broken the bracket which attaches it to the handlebars. I'm distraught, angry and I have no shame in admitting this, slightly tearful. The anger is compounded because this petty piece of thievery is senseless - the lights are useless without the brackets which have been left, and I'm also angry at myself - "How could I have been so stupid?". Indeed we are always being exhorted not to give the thieves a chance. I'm distraught because the lights that have been stolen represent the favourite lights I have ever had - a set of wind-up LEDs that Meg bought me that are/were my pride and joy. I immediately scour the area, hoping to see someone who looks 'shirty', but see no obvious suspects. Luckily, though, I do find the front wind-up light and my other front handlebar light on the floor about twenty feet away from the crime scene. The rear lights are gone.

I ride home, resolving doubly to write that ironic blog entry about "thieving Scousers".

That night the guitar session goes very well. Nel's colleague Paul is a goodish player, fun to work with and lives really nearby. We immediately plan an appearance at a local Open Mike night . Things are looking up again.

Beverley Clump to High Hunsley

Two days later, on the last day of my vacation, we reward Paul for his excellent guitar playing with a twelve mile slog round the local hills. Since New Year we decided to stop complaining about how crap the local geography is, and get "out and about" despite the area's scenic shortcomings. The results have been surprising. While it is true that very few muskrats, or other wildlife, occupy Hull's hinterlands, we are on our second weekend of successful local walk now.

Today was an improvement on last weekend weatherwise - cold, windy for sure, but also sunny and clear. Wildlife was seen - pheasants, deer, rabbit and a red couple of red kite. We investigated a disused railway line, and clambered through one of it's tunnels, illuminated only by Nel's headlamp, and had plenty of up and down, gossiping continuously, and filling Paul's head full of our favourite theories (celebrities are the new lesser Gods, capitalism is rubbish, cats could be trained to enjoy hiking, Canada is brilliant, don't Yorkshiremen talk funny?). Amazingly Paul still shows desires to continue the acquaintance, despite the fact that these ideas are thrown at him in a seamless melange, and not necessarily consecutively, topics often re-emerging a good hour after apparently being discarded.

The second year of our Yorkshire experience has begun a lot more brightly than the first ever promised. Some of this fits in quite nicely with our theory that it takes about three years to settle in a new place, but some of it is due, undoubtedly, to our own New Year's Resolution, namely to enjoy life.

Friday, 25 January 2008

More crap science


In reference to your article

"Human Origins and Intelligent Design"

I read your article with interest, particularly your conclusion that "similarities make mating compatibility between Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, with modern humans (Homo sapiens ) a strong possibility."

You support your arguments with referenced sources, however, as one who is reasonably familiar with the literature on early hominids, I was puzzled by, both by your choice of references in many cases, and furthermore, by the way you chose to use those references. Two examples will suffice.

Firstly, you state that Neanderthals "probably interbred with humans". Your reference for this is given as

Wong, K., "Who were the Neandertals," Scientific American, Aug 25, 2003, pg. 28-37.

A quick search of Scientific American reveals that this article is not a peer-reviewed paper, but an article (a good article nonetheless) by a journalist, Kate Wong, describing the ongoing debate between proponents of the Out of Africa modeal and the Multi-regional model of human evolution. Where this article touches on the possibility of interbreeding between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens, the person who suggest this as a possibility, Fred Smith, of Loyola University, is clearly speculating, and even he concludes "that we need a good deal more data." To derive from this that "Neanderthals probably bred with humans", is, at best, a very weak conclusion.

Secondly, you assert that

"Neanderthal remains have with been found with art,42 culture,42, 43 including burial of their dead,44 and technology including the usage of complex tools, 42, 43 and chain-mail armor.45"

Chain mail armour? Your reference for this is:

45. Notes in Nature, 77:587 (April 23, 1908).

Another quick search of Nature's archives supplies the full text of your reference, which is as follows:

"In the February edition of the Bulletin International of the Academy of Sciences of Cracow, Mr K Stolyhow describes a human skull dating from the historic period which presents strong indications of close affinity with the Spy-Neanderthal type, the so called homo primogenius, of the Palaeolithic epoch. The skull, it appears, forms part of a skeleton from a tomb, in which was buried a suit of chain armour, together with iron spear head &c. In the great development of the supra orbital ridges, and the notch at the root of the nasals, the skull, which was found at Nowolowiska, closely resembles the Neanderthal type. It may be added that in view of Prof Sollas' recent reference of the latter to the Australian stock, the occurrence in eastern Europe of a survivor of the same type is a matter of profound interest."

Your "source" is interesting because it refers to a period of archaeology before modern dating techniques were available, but it also resonates uncomfortably, illlustrating one view of the time, held by many, that across the globe, there were still "races" of humans who were more "evolved" than others. The "Australian stock" referred to are Australian Aborigines, who were held to be among the least "evolved" humans, along with various groups "classified" variously as different types of "negroes".

I have no doubt that your intention was NOT to refer back to a period of anthropology (a very dark and unsavoury period) when scientific discoveries were used to promote racism, and I would never suggest that one possible aim of the proponents of Intelligent Design may be to promote the idea that certain races are pre-destined to rule, while others are designed to be ruled, but your careless use of references, (of which there are many more examples throughout your article) illustrates why Intelligent Design is seldom found in the pages of mainstream journals.

Your organisation claims the following:

"At the heart of our advocacy is to promote intelligent design theory purely on its scientific merits."

As a final note, I do not necessarily dispute that humans interbred with Neanderthals. For example, since the discoveries of the burial in Lagar Velho, Portugal where the remains of a young (homo sapiens) boy show decidely Neanderthal features, some leading anthropologists believe that limited interbreeding did actually occur between sapiens and neanderthal. This however has to be taken in the context of the overwhelming mass of mitochondrial DNA research which shows that large scale interbreeding of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals did'nt happen.

Martin Nickson

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Serenity, now!!!!

Just as the Inuit, current residents of the Frozen North are reputed to have over a hundred words for snow, the English equip themselves with a similar number of utterances to describe the permanent state of irritability that so many seem to inhabit. ‘Annoyed’ of course is a word that is recognizable in any English speaking country, but here you can also be a bit put out, browned off, hacked off, and at the end of your tether. As with all things English, there is a class element to all this. One would never have the hump (prounounced ‘thee ‘ump’), for example but one may be cheesed off, employing slang to indicate how one’s nose has been put out of joint. As well as having your nose put out of joint, there are other medical improbabilities. A person can swallow the dummy, have hissy fit, see his or her arse(although, admittedly this is a regional specialization), or be beside yourself. After getting up on the wrong side of the bed, you can be in a nark, a strop, or mood. Narks and strops can also be thrown, just like tantrums and wobblers.

If freezing someone out by giving them the cold shoulder does’nt work you can also give them a piece of your mind, the end of your tongue or a flea in the ear, or you can just take umbrage after someone else has taken a liberty or taken the piss with you. The incredible variety and diversity of English swearing, which we wont go into here, adds to the list, as do the equally diverse regional dialects.

Any article on the art of being mildly irritated, English style, cannot ignore the famous “tut” language of the middle classes. As hard to master as the “klick” languages of the San and other Southern African tribes, the “tut” is not one simple expression but is in fact an emerging language of its own, forged, perhaps, in the fires of mass commuting but now employed in so many areas of daily life. As an example, the Crosstowner is frequently tutted at in Leeds station, and on the train, by people who do not expect to encounter it. This is a short sharp “tut”, reserved for inaminate objects that present an obstacle. To illustrate, lets pretend that Jane from Accounts Receivables is hurrying for her train, and instead of observing her route ahead, she is concentrating on the timetable displays overhead. Rapt attention fixed on the overhead timetable and the conversations she has been having on her cellphone for the last forty minutes, she collides with the back wheel of the Crosstowner. In these circumstances, Jane will probably deliver the short sharp “tut”, then move rapidly onwards, “tutting” at escalators, soft drinks machines, platform seating and lampposts that present, to her, similar obstacles and that she collides with on a nightly basis. “Who put that there?” she seems to be expressing.

A longer “tttutttt!” followed by a huff, then the phrase “Charming” is a signal of real displeasure, aimed at, but never said to, a particular individual. It is an announcement rather than the commencement of a dialogue. As I think I have reported before, typical usage of this “tut” might occur as Jane’s train arrives. She positions herself right in front of the train doors, blocking any passengers who might be alighting. When the door opens she shuffles back the merest millimeter, leaving just enough space that emerging passengers are jostled and shouldered. If however, one of the passengers is equipped with a Crosstowner and resolutely uses its handlebars as a battering ram, forcing Jane and her hordes backward so that a clear pathway allows the alighters to alight in comfort, while all the time fixing them square in the eye with a steely gaze, Jane will “tttutttt!” mightily, followed by “Charming”. But she will move.

Mr Gold “tutted” irritably as I announced who I was during our telephone conversation. His tone and language indicated one who was most definitely more than a bit put out, and as the conversation proceeded, he continued to be in a strop. The reason for his annoyance was that we are giving him a quarter of a million dollars for his client’s near derelict property, thus delivering his client the paltry sum of two hundred and ten thousand dollars profit. But, Mr Gold has to actually do something to earn his cut.

“To be perfectly honest, Mr Nickson” [sigh] “I would not have sold you this property under these terms.”

“But you are going to, right?”

Tut. “Yes, we are trying to honour our agreement. The tenants have been served notice to quit, and that should be effective on February, 19th. Heavens know where they’ll go. This should have been sold to you with sitting tenants, and you should have had to deal with it if you wanted them out”

“Not my problem though, is it? Can I ask you just to clarify, one more time, that you foresee no problem with the tenants moving out, and if there is, your company will deal with it?”

Tttuttt. “Yes. I’ve told you. If they do not quit, we will take them to court. Do I have to say it again? ”

“No, it’s just that we have been trying to get some clarity from your company for some time, and had no luck. So let me just see, let me check my notes here. Good. And your company will handle the court action?”.

Tttttttttuuuuuuuuttttt!!!! “Yes. Is there anything else?”

I am feeling particularly stupid today, so I ask Mr Gold one more time if the sale is “on”, which he confirms before slamming the phone down.

We had today begun to look at other houses, and we had concluded that our original target, the derelict, was still the best bargain. However, neither I, nor our crack legal team had been able to obtain clear information form the sellers agents as to what was going on.

Now, in short, we are just waiting until the tenants leave, or the 19th February, whichever is the sooner. I don’t want to count my chickens before they are firmly in the horses mouth, but it looks like the house sale may still be ‘on’. I dig out my plans for a solar roof, and go over the specs one more time. Happy renovating. Possibly.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Of frogs and Men

Due to the Monday deluge a blanket of the wet stuff lies, as the poet would doubtless have observed (if he'd happened to be wandering in the vicinity, pondering things as poets do), heavy o'er the land like, erm, a mantle of God's blue miracle would lie shortly after it had, well, for want of a better phrase, blanketed the land . In short, rain has struck again in Yorkshire, and chaos ensues. In Leeds City Centre, roads gridlock as floodwaters make them impassable, and in an effect I confess I would never have predicted, shipping in the Yorkshire ports of Goole and Hull is severley disrupted. Apparently, like humans, sea-going vessels can have too much of a good thing.

Transpennine Express enthusiastically throw their hat into the ring, announcing that every train they had intended to be delayed that day is now cancelled, and furthermore, any train going anywhere in the near future better stop considering itself as the Little Train that Can, and start thinking in terms of " I will not pass". This emergency pronouncement is suspended shortly after I arrive at Leeds Station, and normal services, at least between Leeds and Hull are resumed. This is because, according to one of the insiders who now feeds us snippets of insider information from time to time, Malcolm in Transpennine's Customer Services sneaked outside the office for a quick smoke, and in the action of tearing himself away from the Internet, actually observed the real weather, and instead of the virtual tracks being virtually washed away by the etheric rain, discovered that, at least in terms of heading vers Hull, this green and pleasant Land was still green, and rather pleasant, if a bit wet. Malcolm's actions apparently spawned a frantic few hours of actually inspecting real climatological conditions, which resulted in Transpennine announcing, in rather heroic terms, that trains would run to Hull after all. The cry was taken up by one and all "The commuters must get through" and trains are resumed. Transpennine announce that henceforward they will conduct real track inspections in future, and several of their staff resign because this will mean reduced time on Facebook.

I have to confess that I fabricated the last bit of the paragraph, about people resigning, but the rest is perfectly true. TP staffers between Hull and Leeds, situated at stations along the route were being contacted by TP OPerations Centre and were being asked about local conditions. These local staff sprung into action and consulted their computers, which told them they were under three feet of water. So they reported this back to Operations, who cancelled all their services.

Back home, I'm telling Tosh about this when he stiffens, scents the air majestically, ullulating like only a 17 lb cat can (noisily), then bounds/scrabbles out of the open kitchen with all the grace of a bear cub negotiating a tangles of large roots. I watch him tiddle into the car-park and resume my academic writing. I'm writing the Abstract for my paper "Civilization: Why?" and am stuck between describing myself as being "gob-smacked" by my conclusions, or as being "kinda bummed out". Nel is correct - proper scientific writing is difficult.

Fifteen minutes later, I decide to go with "Like totally" for the first sentence when Toshack returns with his new pet, a large frog. Emotionally, I am in turmoil. Firstly, as I rescue the frog, it looks unharmed and I'm relieved. Secondly, not only is the frog unharmed but it is fully awake and functional. Emotionally, this is very disturbing. This is 9.30pm in January, in a latitude that is farther North than either Halifax or Toronto. Re-reading the fourth, fifth and sixth sentence of this paragraph, I do realize that it may not, immediately, have the impact I might have planned, but to someone whose father is a twenty-some year member of the British Herpetalogical Society, this active frog represents, to say the least, a dramatic development. Said frog should, normal conditions prevailing, be buried under some mud somewhere, preferably with a thin coating of ice on top of the mud, respiring unenthusiastically. Any frog found by a large hooliganistic domestic shorthair at this time of year should be, at best, comatose.

Toshack and I wrestle for control of the evidently lively frog for about fifteen minutes. Every time I rescue it, it jumps out of my hands and hops round the kitchen, quite aggressively if you ask me, and usually towards Tosh who threatens to pounce, but eventually, after much "shoo-ing", Toshack just settles down to watche it, so I'm satisfied that we are not stressing it too much, and I decide to let everything calm down, as my benevolent frog capture techniques, are, for the moment failing me. Comatose, the frog is not, and I have wrangled many frogs in my career: this is a slippery customer. Eventually stalemate assumes control. Me, Tosh and the frog sit in the kitchen. Each watches the other warily for signs of movement. I take a photograph to send to the British Herpetological Society - they are anxious for news of unusual froggy behaviour these days, and this is, I must re-iterate, pretty strange. The date on my camera may prove important. Some time later, with Tosh and frog virtually asleep, I spring my trap, catch the frog and quickly release it back outside.

I introduced my father to the joys of frogs when I was working as a laboratory technician. Some stupid kid brought a load of frog-spawn in a bucket to the lab I was working in. I could'nt find the pond that he said he had got the spawn from, so I released it into a pond that my father had recently dug in his back garden. His ornamental fish, one of the first luxuries he could ever afford, were his pride and joy, and within six months, the frogs I had "gifted" (without his consent) had killed, or replaced all his expensive fish. My dad, to my surprise, turned frog lover and, in his own way, active environmentalist. Over the next few years, and way before any regulatory requirements, his garden was free of pesticides, replaced by frogs and toads. He has an active wild beehive and does not discourage wasps and moths. His garden is beautiful and he is still an active member of the British Herpetalogical Society, filling in monthly reports in respect of any frog related activities in his neighbourhood. My dad's grandchildren love his frogs, and their existence,and evident life cycle, combined with its obvious visual references to human reproductive processes, have given two generations of emotionally challenged Nickson easy get-outs when inevitably asked(by young nephews) "Where did I come from". Unfortunately, we cannot answer as easily, "Where am I going to?"

Monday, 21 January 2008

Walk round Brough

We need to start getting out and about more. The weather recently has discouraged any walking, but finally on Sunday we cracked and went for a walk, despite the miserable drizzle.

The location is Brough - about 30 minutes on a bike, 15 minutes on the train and probably about two hours by car from where we live now.

Not too many pictures, it was uninspiring weather, but we gossiped a lot, as we always do, mostly about the readers of this blog. Mostly complimentary.

Brough and area

Monday, 14 January 2008

Jet pack

I made two items recently for work which were lots of fun. Based on children's drawings of possible future uses for water, I made a jet pack and a water recycling device. The Education Secretary of England visited the exhibit and saw the kids using their devices. Link to the news story is :

My photos of the items in the workshop are to follow later tonight.

The project was lots of fun, especially because working directly from the kids drawings (ie no plans) meant I had total freedom to interpret. I'll post the kid original drawings tomorrow, but the best thing was that I got the jetpack to "work" ie it actually sprayed "steam" when the kid depressed a lever and the water recycling thing actually had water, including Ice, flowing without hook-up to the mains.
Jetpack and water recycler

here's a link showing the original kids drawings I worked from , the jetpack and the triple taps are in there :

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Quarterly Report - Second Attempt

This, as the title indicates , is my second attempt to write this post. My first attempt rapidly descended into a trough of negativity sparked by my attempts to describe the political and social climate in England as experienced or viewed by us, after a year here. The sentence alone "after a year here" is significant because it was exactly a year ago, yesterday, that we re-arrived in England. I will re-try to describe the political and social atmosphere, as we experience it, in the following paragraph.


England is not a happy place. It is not a country where emphasis is placed on quality of life for the mass of it's populace, and it is not a place where culture, sports (despite the prevalence of sporting franchises) or arts for the people is either valued or supported by it's Government. The main function of the British Government is managing money : "Of course", you may say, "the economy is the most important thing for any modern government. It is what Government is for." This is true, to an extent, but most other Governments also concern themselves, to differing degrees, with additional matters : the French are protective of their language and culture, the Scandinavians are environmentally active, the Germans, Aussies and Canadians do invest in sports and the Italians spend fortunes on architecture, ancient and modern. Not so with the British Government. Every way I look at the British Government, I am left with the impression that it does not care what happens in this country as long as the money supply is protected, as long as inflation is controlled and as long as the City (Stock Market) is happy and active. Successive British Governments just do not consider the well-being of the society they rule as important - as Margaret Thatcher once famously said "There is no such thing as society".

See, I tried again, with no success, just negativity. This is probably because that reflects my own true feelings about England, and why when you discuss England with either new immigrants or its established denizens, the most common sentiment is "Well I know loads of great people, but this country sucks". I'll leave my inept political commentary there, and just say I agree with that sentiment.

Elsewhere, this is the most recent news round-up:

Toshack and Calli recently went the vets and had some injections and a full health check. The vet commented that Tosh, at nearly eight kilos was the biggest cat she had seen for some time, but not overweight, just naturally big. I mentioned that he's recently come back from some nocturnal adventures showing signs of having been involved in fights and she said she felt sorry for the other cat(s). I'm ashamed to say that my first reaction was to be proud of him for being a tough cookie : "Thats ma' boy!", but immediately I felt bad because I imagined him beating up some other poor little kitty and hurting it. Once he came back with some minor scratches of his own, but with great big clumps of dark fur between his claws - whatever he'd been fighting had definitely been on the receiving end of a beating. Thankfully, the trend has subsided recently - presumably whatever turf war he was involved in has been resolved. In truth, there's nothing we can do about this anyway.

House Purchase:
A total mess at the moment. The sellers are in Florida and have washed their hands of the sale. referring us to their property manager, an odious individual call Mr Gold who neither answers phone calls or e-mails. We think we still have an accepted offer lodged with the seller, but because Gold will not return calls we do not know what the situation is. The tenants are still resident, and for all we know, Gold could have agreed a sale with other people behind our back. Or decided not to sell to us. We may decide to withdraw from the sale, which would loose us a substantial sum of money that we've already had to pay out, but if the current situation continues, we will have no choice.

We both have the same jobs we had last week. We are continually stressed. I get loads of recognition for my work, but no pay rises. Nel's job is the more pressurized because it is much more of a solo enterprise, but mine is more frustrating because of the people I have to work with. Both jobs are very rewarding. These contradictions are intended - in reality we are both doing work that "engages" us, and if we are frustrated/pressured/stressed a lot of the time it is because we are both lucky enough to care about what we do, but we are both effectively newbies and make newbie mistakes : "Oh, you meant do'nt press the red switch labelled 'Launch thermo-nuclear devices'. Sorry, I'll remember for next time." In reality, work is shaping up nicely for both of us to have a rewarding last 20 years of working life.

Later this week, I'll tell you about re-meeting Karl, our friend from Leicester. Suffice to say for now that we've just seen Karl off after an amazing weekend. "Happy Re-union" is an appropriate phrase.


We plan to get out and about more in the forthcoming year. We have fossilized a bit this year, and apart from meeting an Englishman in Hull, have had no social life at all. That, plus some expeditions I have planned, is something that has to change.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Mr and Mrs Patel at the Triangle

Lunchtime in Leeds often sees me in the company of Mr Patel, who is the owner of the local newsagent, Triangle. Previously, I had been lunching a Dee's, a traditional English "greasy spoon" cafe, when the thought of yet another fried egg and mushroom "bap" (large round soft bread roll, not to be confused with barm-cakes which are large square soft bread rolls), was just not appealing anymore.

The British "greasy spoon" is the traditional working men's diner. To achieve full success, paint must be peeling, tables much be cheap laminate, rocking unsteadily as you sit down, and Dee (or insert name of Proprietor), must look as if they have been consuming their own food for years, with only two or three coronary by-passes as a result. In the old days, it was practically compulsory for "chefs" to be slaving over the stovetop while smoking a continual chain of Capstan Full Strength cigarettes. The only drink on the menu is 'tea'. Coffee is often listed as an item to be purchased, but, well, just do'nt. The tea is special though, unlike anything you have ever imbibed before, with seemingly addictive properties. A grease spattered food hygiene certificate is usually displayed near the till, less of a proud boast than a disclaimer.

I had become a regular at Dee's, eating there most lunchtimes and reading a paper when one day madness overcame me. I approached the counter and asked for a chicken club on rye, with Mayonaisse and Dijon mustard, and a large decaf. The cafe went silent and Dee just stared at me, hands on hips. Frantically, I tried to cover up : "Only joking, Dee, just the usual please!". To my relief, Dee laughed. "You Scousers..." she said, shaking her head. The cafe joined in the laughter, with a few additional witticisms from the regulars "I'll have an Earl Grey", or "Hey Dee, y'owt any caviar?", "Fuckin Mayonnaise! By eck". Despite the jokes, and the fact that I feel very welcome in Dee's now, I realised, it was time for an occasional change.

Knowing nothing of Leeds, I found the Triangle by accident, hidden in the maze of backstreets near my work, and found that Mr Patel and his wife cook bhaji's, putak's and other amazing edibles on a nightly basis. Their store, nominally a newsagent, is Mr Patel told me, more of an outlet for his cooking these days, as his children have all left home. In fact, Mr Patel seems to resent people buying newspapers, calling the Press "rubbish" and urging customers to buy a good book(from somewhere else) instead. One day he informs me with a wink and a broad smile that he does'nt like selling newspapers because the incredibly neat layout of his display gets disturbed whenever anyone selects a Daily Mail,Guardian or Times. Patel is definitely a neatness freak, and the store is clean, bright, cheerful and looks like it gets repainted every weekend.

The Triangle had become a regular haunt when I told Mrs Patel about the other "Triangle" I knew, which was the Triangle Pub in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax's Triangle was an establishment with a confused lineage, as the proprietor claimed that the name was an Anglicism of the Gaelic "shide Na Gael" (pronounced Shee-ne Gael). This supposedly translates as "Spirit of the Gaels (Celts)" and despite the fact that this translation is utter rubbish, this supposed name, and the interior decor, and the temperament of the musicians that Grasshopper and I, one night witnessed, fit perfectly with Nova Scotia's enthusiastic, but often misinterpreted, embrace of anything 'Celtic'.

Firstly, the decor of Halifax's Triangle, to anyone raised in Britain,is very confusing. Mostly this is because the pub's policy of being "more Celtic than thou" have led to them lining the walls with flags representing every terrorist group operating in Ireland. Further more, in a move which is either breathtakingly naive, or is one of the boldest aversion therapy-based Peace initiatives of modern times, the flags of groups from both sides occupy the same wall space. Anywhere in Ireland, (and possibly even more so in England), where the Red Hand of Ulster flag (representing various Protestant paramilitary groups like the UDA, UDR, UDF, UVF, UFF) was hung, you would definitely not find the Irish Tricolour, the IRA's Armalite logos, or Sinn Fein colours in close proximity, unless it was just prior to a group of one faction about to burn the flag of the other while parading their own.

Musicians at the Triangle also demonstrate a rudeness that would be considered atypical of stereotypical Irishmen. Grasshopper and I, on my recommendation, went to see a guitarist whose fretwork was pure wizardry. Unfortunately, his personality, did'nt quite match. Half way through his first set, an audience member left her seat near the front of the stage, possibly to visit the bathroom. The person, an obviously enthusiatic fan of JP Cormierre, for that was his name I think, tripped just as she passed the stage, and knocked a microphone stand. "Watch what the Fuck you're doing, you fucking idiot" , our charming performer spumed, throwing visual daggers at the embarrassed woman, before bad naturedly launching into another piece of marvellous digital dexterity. Shortly after, Grasshopper and I left for another establishment, where we got seriously entertained by a group of Newfoundland musicians who had genuine Irish accents, but no pretensions towards Celticness. That night Nashville was on the agenda.

Back at Leeds Triangle, the discussion has led here because early in my visits to the Leeds Triangle I discover that Mrs Patel has studied anthropology at University and, as a by-product, interested in anything Celtic. This Celtic interest was sparked because for a while, she and her husband lived in a town in China while her husband, a (now) retired civil engineer worked on a construction project. "They found Celts there", she tells me, "Ancient Celts in graves, living on the Silk Road three thousand years ago". Mrs Patel also knows all about Mohojandaro and the early Indian civilizations. There is a very weird synchronism at work here, so I decide to tell Mrs Patel about my quest to answer the question "Civilization: Why?" by early February. MRs Patel is opinionated, and she lets me have it "You can study the nuts and bolts of civilization all you like" she says "But really, REAL civilization is within us. We are either civilized people, or we are not, and making a great big city like this one, or Uruk, or Mohojandaro does'nt make us civilized. Cities are just economics, and they will come and go".

I'm stunned. I have to admit that "Civilization: Why?" had turned out to be a bigger project than I had imagined and was looking at revising my completion date back to late March because of some economics-based questions that had recently come to my attention. But Mrs Patel has answered, most of these questions. Cities(and by implication civilization) are in part, just a product of economics, and as such, like all complex human systems, we (humans) can either allow those systems to control us, or we can decide to control them. Mrs Patel is very civilized - "Take some bhaji's with you" she says.

Friday, 4 January 2008


Welcome to 2008, and especially welcome to an englishman in Hull, marcj and mandy, who's YNWA nickname, unless she can think of a better one, will henceforth be Anndra MacGhille Fhionntaiga, in memory of her historic connection with the Lindsay Clan of Aberdeenshire and Northern Scotland. For ease, we will just call Mandy 'Anndra' , the Gaelic form of her name. The other part of Anndra's new name is the Gaelic version of the name "Lindsay", and when you consider that the pronunciation is just as difficult as it looks, AND sounds like someone clearing their throat, it is not deacair to dtuigeann why the Gaelic tongues have been superceded by hybrids. Gaelic can be incredibly beautiful though.

I will not reveal the true identities of any of our new friends but say welcome, and note that both Anndra and englishman in Hull are co-incidentally putative parents. In modern parlance, Anndra is re-visiting parenting (child no 2) and an englishman in Hull is a newbie. Both new arrivals are fairly imminent (within the next month). By way of introduction to all three, other than the details already given the following applies:

marcj is already a parent, is also, at various times, a cat-victim and furniture maker, a professor in Ontario and has great taste in music.

Anndra, you know some of already, but she is also DR , has a distinguished family which includes Canada's leading atheist, and was along with Bunny FooFoo, Little Man and Toby, our family in LOndon, Ontario, as far as we were concerned. They did'nt get much choice.

englishman in Hull is also a lecturer, specializing in computers and other non-wood items. Mike's (that's his real name) history is incredibly interesting and if he gives me permission, I'd like to exaggerate it out of all proportion, at some point in the future. We met Mike and his partner across the hall in our apartment when we first moved here, and have become good friends. At some point in the future, the story of the eight week room (8 week) will also be told.

The reason that Anndra's name has to change, at least on this blog, is that we now have a cleaner and her name is Mandy, and confusion might arise as to why our friend Mandy was flying from Canada once a week to vacuum our hallway. So Anndra, it will have to be, and a rather attractive nickname, I think. Anndra knows Little Bunny Foo Foo quite well.

I also have a problem with the real Mandy (the cleaner), because calling her 'Mandy the Cleaner' does not do her justice. Instead, her name shall be Brilliant Mandy the Blessed, Saint of Everything and Saviour of the World. All has not been plain sailing with Brilliant Mandy the Blessed, Saint of Everything and Saviour of the World, however. Sadly, and inevitably, as is the way of the world these days, Brilliant Mandy the Blessed, Saint of Everything and Saviour of the World had been appearing to us (on a strictly cash basis) for only a short time when the thorny issue of money arose. Nel lead the negotiations, and I encouraged her to stand firm: I would back her all the way. It was a tough fight, but after a couple of weeks Brilliant Mandy the Blessed, Saint of Everything and Saviour of the World caved into the pressure and accepted a wage increase. We've managed to negotiate an hourly rate equivalent to the going rate for a skilled tradesman in Hull, and frankly if I could afford to pay more I would. Mandy is a true craftsman.

One final note for tonight is that we have a new bed. I know that it is considered bad taste to discuss one's boudoir secrets with friends, but I have no embarrassment in declaring to the world that our new bed was well and truly christened. Not only did we immediately fall sound asleep (after months of discomfort) but we both overslept the next day, such was the luxury of a comfortable mattress. The mattress is Memory foam, and if as the advertisement's claim, it is the product of NASA's space programme, then all I can say is that it was worth landing men on the Moon, and I will never again gleefully tell the story of how NASA spent millions developing a pen that could write upside down in zero gravity. The Russians, it appears took a pencil, but I bet they did'nt have Brilliant Mandy the Blessed, Saint of Everything and Saviour of the World, or a Memory Foam Mattress. 2008 has started well.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

You'll never commute alone...

Check out the link to this blog:

and this one :

I detect a pattern, indeed I had to look carefully at the opening photo on the commutertrain blog to make sure I did'nt have a case for copyright infringement. These blogs cover other areas of the country, and hopefully indicate how unoriginal my Transpennine Blogs are. I say hopefully, because it proves I'm not just a "moaning minnie", but am also disappointed . What oversees readers should understand is that this country not only originated the first rail fatality, but also invented commuter trains, and they are as essential to the countries economics as the 400 series of highways are to Canada, or the Interstate's are to the USA.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

catty christmas

Hey guys,
back and well rested for the new year. we dove, we conchered. ;)
we had a friend look after the place while we were gone, and he just happened to be a photographer. check out the cat pics