Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Le Jog is Done

We did it! We set off from Land's End at 7am (after kipping in the van at Sennen Cove) and arrived at John O'Groats at 11:58pm the same day. No fuel stops, just two brief coffee and "comfort" breaks and a delicious drive. A real treat, if tiring, and we made loads of money too. I thought that this gigantic effort would cure me of my love of driving and watching the scenery going past, but not a bit of it.

As it turned out, we had loads of fuel to spare. I'm convinced now we could do 1,000 miles without refuelling (maybe another day). The best we had previously managed on a tankful of LPG was 310 miles. This was in ideal conditions in France cruising at 80mph. For Le Jog we were cruising at just under 60mph and managed an incredible 453 miles.

We haven't counted up all the sponsorship money yet, but the Bristol Hospital will be something like £500 better off thanks to the support of many generous people.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Asperger's Syndrome

This weekend, I did something I've never done before except in an aeroplane. I read a book from cover to cover within 24 hours.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon appeared on our kitchen table. It had been recommended to my wife and she had bought it. My daughter Rosie is reading it to her. My wife's not blind or anything, they just have that kind of relationship.

The story is narrated in the first person by a fifteen-year-old boy with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism. One day he discovers a dead dog in a neighbour's garden. The dog has been brutally killed and he sets out to find the killer.

Through his innocence, the boy's Autism amplifies how the lives of children, whether disabled or not, are messed up by the activities of feckless and irresponsible parents. I cannot recommend this book too strongly.

I'm now reading The Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Amusing Names

There's nothing amusing in the charges that have been brought against three Leicester City footballers recently.

However one of them is called Paul Dickov. I don't know about you, but if I were unfortunate enough to have the surname Dickov, I certainly wouldn't call my son Paul.

Well, it's better than Wank or Suk I suppose.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Music publishing

My friend Phil is a writer. He sent me a love poem he has written called Spirals, and asked me if I could set it to music.

This I have done. I now wish to email the finished article back to him. I have an acoustic guitar with pickup, a mic and an amp, and I can feed the output of the amp into my PC's sound card, but the results are dreadful.

I may invest in a decent sound card (if that is what's required). I may even publish my songs on the web.

On the other hand, I may use my daughter's rubbish cassette recorder and send it to him via conventional post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Busted

I am fortunate enough to have three lovely daughters, nearly all teenagers. We won't talk about my son today. Tonight, Lorna is taking the youngest, Annie (12) to Wales to see Busted play live.

It would be easy to dismiss Busted as talentless teen-fodder pap; especially with lyrics like:

I messed my pants
As I flew over France


My children take over the CD player whenever they are in my car, so I can't avoid listening to this stuff. Mostly, it is cynically exploitative of teen-girl behaviour. However, I have to admit "When Day Turns Into Night" is a well constructed song, both lyrically and musically.

The boys do have talent.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Growing Old

We went to the 50th party and I came back depressed. We stayed with Lorna's friends from school. They were kind and accommodating but I realised, with some clarity, that we have nothing in common. It's almost as though there are two species: homo sapiens and homo countyens.

They have two daughters in their early twenties who have both left home so they have taken several further steps towards becoming, well, "elderly". It's not their age that depressed me (they're both younger than us), it's not their pristine, semi-detached house in Croxley Green. It's not even their resigned contentment which they continued to protest throughout the weekend as if they needed convincing.

It's the lack of any common ground; any fundamental communication between us. It was as though the spark of life itself had departed.

We made no plans to meet up again.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The Weekend Starts Here

Those of us who remember Ready Steady Go will remember Cathy McGowan and the intro sequence with black and white scooters at the monochrome traffic lights. "The Weekend Starts Here".

It starts here for me, or at least it feels like it. I'm off to London tomorrow to visit a customer to talk about boring computers and then it's back home to play in the pub all evening. First time out with my new pickup, amplifier and mic. I've been feeling a right pillock practising using the mic in my daughter's bedroom (mine's not big enough), but singing into a mic without moving your gob is an acquired skill.

Then on Saturday we're off to London again for a 50th birthday party (a girlfriend of the wife): "Oh, you're looking sooo well, how are the kids?; they must be growing up now".

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Mordechai Vanunu

I am not a peace campaigner. I do it by proxy. I have friends who do it properly. They devote a large amount of their spare time to it. I might turn up at the occasional demonstration, but that's about it. We are indebted to peace campaigners. Some may not agree; some may not realise it, but we are.

There are few to whom we are more indebted that Mordechai Vanunu. He has been incarcerated for 18 years, 11 and a half of these in solitary confinement. His crime was to make the world aware that Israel was stockpiling nuclear weapons. If someone did the same today for Iraq, he would probably be given a knighthood.

He is about to be freed and (I'm told) he needs our protection. Few people make such a sacrifice for their conscience.

Read about him here.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Laugharne

I spent the weekend in Laugharne with good friends. Laugharne ( pronounced "Larn" and wins the prize for the longest monosyllabic place name) is famous for one man: Dylan Thomas. He wrote Under Milk Wood there and the place reeks of him.

By all accounts Thomas was no easy to get on with, and was deceitful with it. Ralph McTell immersed himself in his life during a barren songwriting period. The outcome was the album "The Boy with a Note", dedicated to the life and works of Thomas. My favourite song is "Summer Girls". It describes the young Thomas using deceit to get into the knickers of Swansea's local totty. Despite being a tale of unbridled lust, the song has a nostalgic charm (haven't most of us been there?). You can see the lyrics here.

Laugharne is by the sea. I acquire a sense of well-being simply by being near the sea. I believe many people feel this way. It's something very deep-seated and to do with the fact that we ourselves are 70% water. We say "we feel it in our water" meaning we understand, but don't know why.

I wish to live by the sea one day.