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Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Mystery of the Hurty Paw

As you may recall, we have two cats - Canadian Barn Cats to be precise - who are now approximately six years old, well-travelled and middle-aged (for cats) and in consequence of that, one would think that they fall firmly under the rules of the adage "You cant teach old dogs new tricks" in other words, you would think their behaviours would be well established by now. Unfortunately, as Callisandra Vella, Queen of the Urban Jungle, would undoubtedly point out, the cats - that is, her and Toshack Tiddly Om-Pom-Pom - are not dogs. Hence, when during a memorable evening with Joey and Anna, Toshack turned up with a hurty paw after another nocturnal excursion, a mystery was hatched.

On presentation of the hurty paw, and accompanying limp, Toshack's paw was examined, forensically. With the sick feeling that accompanies examination of any serious injury (and I have a degree of experience in the area) I sat him down in a quiet spot and gingerly inspected the limb in question. I felt his leg bones carefully, half-expecting the horrible rubberiness and swelling that signifies fracture. Nothing. Then I looked carefully for signs of punture - a small piece of glass, perhaps. Nothing. Then a comb through his fur, and along the muscles of his leg, from the shoulder down, pressing gently to see if any tender areas could be identified by his reaction. Nothing.

The next day, by chance, he had a vets appointment for his regular shots. Before the shots were dispensed, the vet was informed of the circumstance. She too conducted a thorough examination, and apart from declaring that he had "large elbows", found nothing. However, she did advise something that no cat owner wants to hear:

"You should keep him inside for a week. See how he gets on."

I took the cat home with a feeling of dread, a feeling that was fully justified at four am the next morning when I was awakened by a gentle paw on my nose. So it went for a week, and all went to plan. The limp got better and we were interrupted in our slumbers to the point of sleep deprivation by a very bored, too-closely-humanised cat. We let him out at the end of the week, but two days later, the cat came back, limping. This time it was a different paw.

It was clear we had a serious mystery on our hands, and if the vet could'nt solve it, then like all humans these days, we of course turned to our new God. The internet. Thankfully, the net was exceedingly helpful - cancer, arthritis, brain tumour, liver disease, dislocation, skin condition, high blood pressure - all were suggested, and despite the certain knowledge that the internet also features web-pages on alien abductions, Bosnian Pyramids and Intelligent Design, at least some of these possibilities were considered by virtue of shoe-horning and squeezing the cat's symptoms so they vaguely matched a description of brain tumour symptoms provided by that world renowned feline expert "Kitty Lover" from Yahoo Answers.

We eventually found the answer by spending far too much time watching Toshack's behaviour (time that should have been spent renovating) and the answer was simple, and not provided on any of the internet forums I had visited. Toshack, as you may recall, hates next door's cat, Max, with a passion he reserves for black cats (we did consider reporting him to the Equal Opportunities Commission). A new behaviour caused by this hatred is that when Max appears at a window, Tosh has taken to hurling himself at that window in a rage, flailing at the glass with the strength that only an 18lb Canadian Barn Cat can muster. The consequence of this gloveless boxing match is that Tosh bruises his claws to the point where they are bleeding and bruised, hence the limp. Unlike humans though, Toshack does not spend time researching his injuries, or reflecting on his actions, or even looking for answers as to why his paw is hurty. If Max appears at a different window two minutes later, the behaviour is repeated. Stupid cat ! you may think, and I would agree. What kind of creature would be so stupid as to endlessly repeat actions that were both pointless and caused harm to themselves?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Let that be the end of it...........

There has, it can now be revealed, a shadow hanging over these pages for the last few weeks. That shadow has caused nightmares, ruinous ruminations and palpatations but today the sky has cleared, the sun is shining and happiness reigns. The reason can be found here:,19528,11669_5390867,00.html

For those unfortunates unaware of his beauty, Xabi Alonso is a footballing poet. He sprays passes the length of the field, distributing the ball with the vision of a philosopher, the precision of a neuroscientist and the artistry of a leading scenic carpenter or fanatical glassblower. His thinking is on a par with most computer boffins (especially those involved in AI), and the incision with which he directs the midfield echoes the incision of a keenly minded legal eagle. Further more his care and consideration keenly matches former Scottish dwelling single parents and his grace is catlike. He is a teacher par excellence and probably a good cook as well.

Having now described this footballing great in terms that most, if not all, readers of this blog can idntify with, you will be minded as to why I am very happy it appears he will not leave English Football's most successful club.

And in keeping with the underlying ethos of these occasional submissions, I promise to mention football no more until the posting "A Faint Whiff of Optimism" makes it's regular appearance in August, (just before the start of the season) and the consequent annual withdrawal of that posting four months later.

Up and Down In Harrogate

In the world of technical Theatre, a ''flat' is a large(usually), rectangular(usually), timber(usually), frame clad in canvas or plywood and painted. It forms the majority of scenic backdrops. In general terms, 'fear' can be defined as "be afraid or feel anxious or apprehensive about a possible or probable situation or event". The reason for introducing these terms so early in the missive is that I'm in Harrogate, balanced precariously on top of a very tall flat, attempting to feed a flexible hosepipe down a small hole that runs down the back of same, when I am unwillingly introduced to fear.

"Hey Chief, what do you want us to do?" asks the friendly voice from 'below'. In this case 'below' is a concrete floor, inconveniently placed twenty feet lower than the present location of my feet.

I look downwards and am somewhat surprised to see two of my crew, arms folded and totally relaxed, craning their necks to gaze upwards. I stow my surprise, and belay the gutteral utterances that are competing to escape the larynx area. I probably also surpress the "fight or flight" reflex and give thanks to Richard Dawkins, inventor of evolution, that he was thoughful enough to provide me with a Brocca's Area of the Brain, not to mention a forebrain. This means I can plan, co-ordinate and execute my next actions, and not all Gods would have been thoughful enough to give their Creations such abilities. Breathing calmly, I restore my "centre", drawing on David Carradine for inspiration - the David Carradine in the tv series "Kung Fu" you understand, not the David Carradine of Bangkok hotel rooms.

"Erm, lads....who's holding the flat?" I enquire "This one I mean" I say, pointing to the one I'm perched on.

The lads looked puzzled. "We are!!!!" they reply. There is a slight pause, the penny drops and they each sprint to the corners I had assigned them earlier, and enthusiastically grab hold of the flat with as much energy as they can muster. Fortunately I am holding onto the water pipe and the live electrical feed for our stand, so I dont fall off as the flat rocks violently back and forward. I climb down and we have another impromptu 'Rules of Manual Handling' briefing.

There is an phrase , current in England, that seems to accompany every sentence uttered by men, to wit and ipso facto : "to be fair". "To be fair" is most often applied when the exact opposite is meant. For example, you might visit the local butchers and enquire the price of a nice leg of lamb. If the price is extortionate, the butcher will say "To be fair, it's two million pounds. But it was a very well thought of lamb, most popular on its farm, and the best gamboller to boot". Or you might get a quote for a small extension at Large Mansions, and the builder will say "I've had a look at the job, and to be fair, it will cost the Gross Domestic Product of Belgium, and take five years. And we wont be back for any snagging." In the case of my team at Harrogate, to be fair, they were new, but we survived, and loaded out after four days with no serious injuries. If I were to be unfair, I would add that their company name "The C Team" was entirely appropriate.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

BMD announcement

In the world of geneaology, BMD stands for "Births, Marriages and Deaths" or, as it is also described as my mother scrutinizes the pages of the local newspaper "Hatched , Matched and Dispatched". Here at YNWA, I can annouce that we have a birth of our own to announce in the form of our first earnings. You may remember that we rebranded and went commercial several months ago. That commercial decision is now bearing fruit in the form of our earnings history as presented by Adsense, who are, I think, our sponsors. The following table is a direct copy and paste from the Adsense accounts:

Page Impressions Clicks Page CTR Page eCPM [?] Earnings
AdSense for Content 5,580 0 0.00% $0.00 $0.01
AdSense for Search - No data available -
AdSense for Mobile Content - Get started
AdSense for Domains - Get started
AdSense for Feeds - Get started
Total Earnings

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The World's Biggest Asshole

The first tale I am about to tell is completely true. In fact if there was a Notary Public handy, I would dash off to them poste haste, sworn statement in hand, begging to be Notaried in Public. The reason I emphasize the veracity of the following tale is because occasionally, just occasionally, I, like all writers, paraphrase conversations I have been involved in. This, you understand, is not lying, or even being economical with the truth, in fact writers have a term for this editing process(AKA 'making things up') which is "finding your voice". In the following reported conversation, my voice, at least other than a in the sense of being a verbatim report of an exchange I was party to, is absent.

I was renting a car because the call for Mazzer has again been raised. This time a trade show in Harrogate needs desperate attention, so tomorrow, at parent o'clock (which is sometime around dawn as far as I am concerned) I am off to that quaint historic centre, urgently to screw bits of wood together. Actually, the last phrase in the proceeding sentence is an example of me finding "my voice" - the deliberately wrong juxtaposition of nouns, 'do' words and 'describing' words is a fine example of the Nickson voice, stolen completely (called 'homage' in Creative Writing classes) from at least three well known comic authors. Anyway, I digress, so back to my tale. At the vehicle rental facility, I was explaining to the salesman that I was, despite my accent, not at all Liverpudlian, or of the 'Scouse' persuasion, but in fact, a Canadian, Strong and Free, immune to cold, someone who laughed in the face of beavers and definitely knew his muskrats from his ski-poles (see This self-identification towards Canada, usually occurs when I dont like someone and want to confuse them. It works very well, in the light of my own brogue. In this case, the salesman had raised the old ire by declaring happily that he was "Glad I was not Polish" - apparently driving ability is genetic and he was much happier renting to a Scouse Canadian he had never met before than a Polish person he had equally never met before. The verbatim part of the tale, now follows:

Salesman; "Oh ! Canada, Eh? I was there last year ...Your full address please, Sir?.... yeah, Texas, it was.....and the company name?....?

Me; "What?"

Saleman : "Company name???"

Me; " Company name? It's 'Mazzer O'Reilly's Bespoke Scenic Carpentry And WoodSmith Emporium'. Do you mean Alberta? People say its a bit like Texas?"

Salesman : "Thankyou. Well no, Texas, it was, so I suppose that technically its not Canada, but .....would you like the additional insurance, Sir? know what I mean...?"

Me: "Er, no.....and er, no.....what was Texas like?

Salesman; "Thankyou.... didnt really like it, it was like a foreign country...and sign here please...thankyou....everyone was Spanish"

Me - after a short pause : "Well, you know, technically, it is a foreign country....But, er, did you go to the Alamo when in Texas?"

Salesman: "Oh, yeah, that bit was brilliant. Still, though, there were loads of Mexican there as well."

The English often laugh at the lack of general knowledge demonstrated by Americans, and to an extent the Canadians are even worse - look up Rick Mercer's 'Talking to Americans' on You Tube. It is quite funny, but I do wonder how many English people visit the USA in the sure knowledge that it was created in the 1950's by Walt Disney, just after John Wayne had subdued the Wild West. I got in the car and drove away without extending our ignorant conversation further. At that point, I thought I had experienced one of the biggest assholes I have met for a long time, but a scant twelve hours later, I was proven utterly wrong.

"And what do you do?" I asked the gentleman sitting opposite me in the Raj Pavilion, HUll's finest Indian restaurant. The occasion is that Lina, a former grad student at Hull has returned for the weekend, and Nel's department have organised a meal in honour of the occasion. We have not been out for months and it's a great chance to meet up with a great crew of about fifteen people from all round the world. The only drawback of academia is the inevitability that you stop seeing these people when they move on. Reunions are fun, and there's always a culturally, genderally mixed group. Meeting new people at these events is usually great. My opposite conversationalist is new - brought to the evening by one of the group as a kindness because he, and his partner, are in town for the weekend on a course at Hull University.

"I run a karting business. Multi-million pound business."

"Oh, really? ". He looks youthful.

"And where is this business?" I enquired.

"About an hour and a half south of here, by car. About an hour by Porsche."

There was an expectant gap, that I think I was supposed to fill, but instead my attention was drawn by the Red Haired Boffin's conversation with someone, who frankly we can now define as The World's Biggest Asshole's partner.

"Yes, they're Canadian Barn Cats. Two of them...." RHB was in full flow but TWBA's partner interrupted her breathlessly:

"And are you going to breed them??"

TWBA's partner was deflated to discover that the moniker Canadian Barn Cat is an ironic pretense, a silly joke, and that we were'nt going to be making big bucks by breeding our scraggy moggies. TWBA looked me ;

"Why would you bother spending good money bringing those cats back here, when they arent worth anything?"

At this moment, I have to confess, a steely glint entered the eye of yours truly. There are some lines drawn, which once crossed can never be re-crossed. Unfortunately, TWBA noticed not my increasingly hardened attitude, and the equally frosty reception he was generating from the rest of the table, and continued

"And I dont understand why anyone would bother giving up a life in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, for a shithole like Hull, just to teach in a University. I mean, surely you could have had a business making loads of money rather than come to a dump like this. I'm not trying to be offensive, mind, I just look round my five hundred acres and it's heaven. True, the local village may be full of Muppets but we're running a multi-million pound business. I've got fifty four employees. You know what I mean?"

More pearls of wisdom followed, despite the fact that by now everyone at the table was tying their shoelaces, making calls on their mobile phones or just going the washroom to try and avoid engaging TWBA in conversation. At one point. he latched onto a conversation I was having with someone else, whereby te coincidence that we'd both lived in Leicester some time ago, but possibly concurrently, was mentioned. TWBA was quick to jump in:

"You would'n t recognise Leicester now. It's awful - Spot the White man."

The announcement, made shortly after, that TWBA was leaving "in the Porshe" was greeted by one of the most obvious displays of falsified disappointment that I have ever witnessed from a group of assembled boffins. Even neuroscientists at a Learning Styles conference could not generate a level of hostility that TWBA managed. As we drove home in our rented car - "the Ford Micro" - it emerged that RHB, at the other side of the table had been treated to a similar display by TWBA's partner.

Next day I drive to Harrogate and am re-united with Witto, who as Project Manager is a Prince among men. He's giving me lots of work at the moment and it is a joy to work wih him. Nel spends the day with the cats, putting up bunting for next weekend's Ella Street Festival (of which more later). Somehow, despite there being not one Porshce in our street, or onsite where I am, we manage to have a great day.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Outsiders

I am in London, having a great conversation with Chris, a long-time friend. The reason we are having dinner in London is that London is, at least for the moment, the location of Christine's residence and I have been called to the capital, at very short notice, to work. Meanwhile, in Hull, Joe and Anna, who's current residential location is Toronto have arrived at Large Mansions, expecting to visit self and RHB, except that I am not there. Joe and Anna dont originate from Toronto (or even from the same continent as eachother), RHB comes from England via Canada, and Chris, who comes from Wales, via Liverpool and Turkey has taken me to an Indian Restaurant. Chris and I are discussing Erik Eriksson's notions of developmental psychology, as several young people we both know currently seem to be in the phase he described as the 'identity versus role confusion' crisis. For most of these young people, the theory states, the crises will be resolved after their imminent exams - High School ends and they make choices about their future. Lucky for them, they will imminently settle down, and according to Erickson, only have a couple of crises left to negotiate, which they will do from a position of economic, geographic and relationshipical stability as settled adults. Once

Which only highlights the necessity of my new work "Developmental Psychology - A Non-Developmental, Non-Psychological Approach". The problem it seems stems from the invention of teenagers by American anthropologists early in the Twentieth Century. This unnecessary distraction added a burden to the already hectic schedule of pyschologists who were studying babies. An already difficult task became Herculaean as in addition to trying to persude babies to walk over cliffs, the psychologists now had to try and unravel the mind of entities who apparently had very little in the way of thought processes. Nevertheless, our psychologists bravely plunged in and their work led directly to the movie "The Wild Ones".

The success of interpreting teenagers was the ultimate undoing of psychologists, as the world audience now demanded more. This time the people wanted to know about adults. Some hardy boffins took on the task, but alas, it was a bridge too far. Quite frankly, most psychologists around the world were by this time broken, exhausted men (most psychologists are apparently men, or at least that's what you would think judging by the relative proportion of Departmental Heads and publishing to gender), which explains why parapsychology exists and also explains the poor state of Developmental Psychology as it relates to adults. People like Erikson, when asked to explain adult development had just about enough energy to say "Well, I'm an adult, so I suppose most adults must have steady jobs, be married, have a few kids and occasionally go for a walk in the park, so I guess most adults must develop like I do".

But, meeting with Chris, Joe and Anna show that there's gaps in these descriptions, in fact most of the people I know do not live lives that conform to any easily describable norm. I used to think it was because I know a bunch of wierdos, and to an extent, the friends I am lucky enough to claim have not lived "standard" lives, but looking wider, the question must be asked "Who has?". Chris and I were discussing this at dinner, and she does live in London, but she is not from there. Neither are most of her friends, they either live elsewhere, or are like her, 'immigrants' to London. The restaurant we sat in was operated by a very nice group of Indian immigrants and accents from around the Globe predominated. At least in that restaurant, most of us were Outsiders, but as I realized, there is an awful lot of us.

Back in Hull, Joe, Anna, Nel and I went for a great hike in North Yorkshire, had a surprisingly good mid-afternoon meal in Whitby (the place Dracula's coffin was brought ashore in the novel) and ended up back at Large Mansions toasting Tom over a bottle of Beamish. Conversations during the day illustrated how no-one's career was settled and none of us could realistically claim that they knew where, how and what they would be in five years time. Practically no-one we discussed would neatly fit Erikson, or anyone else's Developmental descriptions. We are all Outsiders.

Anna on trail

Joe in Whitby

Anna and Nel by dingely-dell waterfall


Tall ship in Whitby

Monday, 1 June 2009

Welcome to the Mother Of Parliaments

As the date draws ever nearer for the landing of the Canadian fleet, it appears that it may all be in vain. As readers may be aware, half the population of Canada - approximately six people - have fled the True North strong and free, in a rag-tag and bob-tail Armada, escaping the tyranny of the alien Harpons. As a population, they are a hardy folk, habituated to scraping a meagre existence from the landscape - in the case of the Nova Scotia population they gather shellfish on the Atlantic shores, making crude shelters from driftwood called 'timhortons', while the Ontarians fleece tourists at Niagara Falls (the World's biggest disappointment) with $16.00 beefburgers. The invasion of the merciless Harpons has devastated the population of Canada - reports say that total numbers have fallen from 45 to "about 12" and now the remnants are, guided by their legends of "the green place", risking everything, especially their luggage, by loading their few remaining precious belongings into their tradition vessels, apparently called 'aircanadas' and with the ritual cry of "Your luggage has been sent to Newfoundland" , have set out for the promised land of freedom, decency and democracy. In other words, they're coming here.


I dont really know how to put this, but I have to point out that there are other places whose names begin with 'U' (for United Kingdom), where democracy could be said to shine with equal brightness - like Uzbekistan for example. It could be that over time, the name of the 'green place' was forgotten, and all that was definitely known by Canadians was that it began with 'U'. So when the decision was made to find 'the green place' , they consulted their one remaining Atlas (that was found in a sinking diesel submarine in Halifax harbour), and discovered inside the Atlas a badly photocopied page showing a map of this country (with Scotland and Wales crossed out rather rudely) with the simple word " home" scrawled in biro.

Anyway, it is too late now, the 'aircanadas' have doubless set sail for Blighty, with the luggage heading for Iqaluit in a seperate vessel, and I have made all the amendments to our property necessary for the Canadians to settle in, for example, instead of the traditional English barbeque, which as we all know consists of a small aluminum tray with some unlightable coal in the bottom, I have bought a small nuclear power plant to serve as an analogue for a real North American barbeque. They will hardly notice the difference. I also considered renting, from a nearby circus, two small bears that could lurk round the back yard, thus making eating outdoors hazardous, but decided against this on grounds of health and safety. There was no way I could guarantee the bears safety against the local six-year olds. Finally, I have installed cabinets on every available wallspace thus reducing the floor space of our house so that it is a series of narrow corridors, bought every power tool that the local hardware store can sell me, dug a huge basement installing a crappy bar in the corner and a never played pool table in the middle, put engines or motors on everything I possess, and have installed 14 bathroom suites - one in every room and the rest scattered throughout the hallways. While I am aware that my own Canadians do not have all these accoutrements in their own homes, I am aware that they expect to see all this when they visit other people's houses, so hopefully they will feel at home.

My sincere hope is that these preparations will ameliorate the disappointment they experience when they realize that, in looking for the shining light of democracy, they could have picked almost anywhere else that began with a 'U' and found a similar luminence, the only difference being that in the United Kingdom, or Great Britain, those responsible for our democracy now all refer to eachother by their first names "Tony" or "Gordon" or "David", in a middle-brow, middle-management styled show of unity with us, the subjects. In other countries with comparable levels of democracy whose names also start with a "U", the United Arab Emirates for example, terms of address are more formal. So instead of "Tony", "Gordon", "David", there is Sheikh or Excellency. Like us though, the UAE has a hereditery constitutional monarchy, and a Parliament mostly made up of relatives, or close associates, of the country's Royal family. I am unsure of the statistics in the UAE, but here in the UK, we bask in the knowledge that over 60% of our Parliament consists of people who attended 'Public' (remember this term 'Public', in the UK at least, actually means "very private" and is used when describing Eton, Rugby etc etc) schools. This is a comforting statistic, as it means that those who know how to rule - the 1.5% of those clever enough to have been borne into enough wealth, and come from the "right" families - are still ruling, with the success that you would expect from those who assume they know best.

Unfortunately, however, occasionally, the applecart is upset, and in the UK at the moment, apples have been strewn all over the road. The reason is that, rather unwisely ( and this is a difference between the Uk and UAE) a relatively free press has been allowed. For the last few weeks, the self same press have been gorging themselves on the apples from a cart that they have knocked over. The 60% of the 1.5% and even the remaining 40% of the 98.5% have, it appears, been misusing a system of expenses that exists in our Parliament. MP's have claimed for duck houses, non-existent accomodations, toilets, donations to charity and all sorts of things that tthe public have disapproved of fully. The scandal has been widely reported and so it is unnecessary to go into more detail here, but my major concerns are not about the expenses claims themselves, but that discovery of this scandal was made possible largely by means of various acts of Parliament voted on by the very MP's who are now being 'outed'. Freedom of Information Acts, policies on disclosure, transparency in Government; all these allowed journalists to gain access to the information that they have now used to shame numerous MP's. "Ah-ha! " cry some " A great sign that our system works! A pox on you doubters and naysayers!". "Oh no! " cries Mazzer "I'm being ruled by people who are too stupid to realize that you dont stand on the branch of the tree you are sawing."

Much opinion has been expressed that this scandal could represent a new start for democracy, but those of you who have read "Civilization - Why?" will be aware of the opinion that there are two states, nay, two oligarchies, in the world that have historically protected themselves most effectively from change. One of these is China, and the other is the UK (5000 years and 2000 years respectively). Gordon, our Prime Minister, has, acting quickly in response to the crisis, announced the formation of a "council for democratic reform" that will, excitingly, even include "some" people from outside the political system. This CFDR will look at how to make the activities of MP's more "transparent". The true genius of the British system is that forming a Council cannot actually be described as "doing" anything, but to make sure, the Council for Democratic Reform wil also look at the Health Service and the BBC. Gordon's promise, is however irrelevant, because he will certainly be voted out at the next election. Gordon's replacement is ggoing to be David. David was eductaed at Eton.