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I have finally been persuaded to watch Game of Thrones. Not sure what to think about it. I mean I have to admit to a certain fondness for the aesthetics of a young lady's convexities but even though I've only seen the first episode I have seen the boobs or bare backside of practically every female member of the cast over the age of eighteen and under the age of fifty.
Frankly, I'm finding it a wee bit gratuitous.
And I'm a little disappointed since, as you may have gathered, I prefer girls in armour . . .

UPDATE: I've watched several episodes now and my worries about too many bare breasts were unfounded - they've moved on to ladies front bottoms now . . .

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I was listening to the radio whilst driving down to see my brother, Chris, when I found myself yelling in fury at George 'We're in this together!' Osborne. This is not unusual, of course, since Radio 4 often carries interviews with our beloved chancellor and they almost always reduce me to screaming, raging incoherence.
I should like to point out that I am not dogmatically political. I like to think of myself as a pragmatist with no sympathy with the extremes of either Right or Left but believing that some aspects of life are better looked after by The Nation than The Individual. Defence is obviously a national concern as is Health, Education and Policing. Taxes are, to paraphrase (or not), Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, what we pay for a a civilised society but years of Tory and then pseudo-tory New Labour government driven on by a populist, right-wing press have conditioned the public to the idea that taxes should never rise and that any increase, even to the top rate which the vast majority of them will never pay, is an evil that will destroy society.
The other major problem I have with out current political class is that they are willing to sell anything, indeed almost everything that we, the people, own as a national industry or institution. It started with British Telecom all those long years ago and the success of that drove Maggie and her successors on to sell all the utilities, energy and water, the railways and even the Defence Research establishments and all the defence industries that were left*. Basically they have no national pride, no belief that there is anything more important than staying in power and making money for their sponsors in The City.
At this point I realised that I wanted a new party to vote for. I wanted a party that would see that there is nothing wrong with supporting National Industry, nothing wrong with Nationalised institutions when those institutions affect or benefit The Nation. I want some socialism in Health, Education and Housing. Basically, I thought, I want a new political party.

A National Socialist Party.

On second thoughts, no I don't . . .

*OK, they did the last one by selling British Aerospace and then allowing the newly privatised (and suddenly hugely profitable . . .) Bae to buy up every defence oriented company they could including Vickers, Alvis and GKN. All gone now because Bae is no longer a British company and it shut down it's british operations in favour of it's new Swedish (Hagglunds) and South African (OMC) acquisitions. The new Britsh army armoured vehicles will be a warmed over version of a thirty year old Austrian / Spanish design armed with a French gun, powered by a German engine and sold to us by an American consortium. It was described by an Army Source as being 'British to it's bootstraps'. My Cornflakes nearly went into reverse when I heard that one.
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I recently read a scholarly paper* about Roald Amundsen which has sent me off on a little quest that, I'm fairly sure, will be fruitless. I don't usually read academic papers unless they're declassified military reports on new (well new forty years ago) weapons or they're papers about the more esoteric subjects that affect the military - I have a fascinating paper on the shear strength of soils and how it affects vehicle mobility, for example.
Now I know what you're thinking after reading that last paragraph ("Just how can I get him into my bed") and I can see that Amundsen doesn't fit into my usual pattern of reading but, obliquely, he does. You see the paper was concerned with his death and he died in an plane crash.
At least he was last seen in an aeroplane which flew into a fog bank and never, so far as anyone knows, flew out again. Some wreckage was found but nobody really knows what happened. So, you see, right there is the thing to make me sit up and take notice.
The 'plane itself.
It was a French seaplane. A Latham 47 to be precise and this is where my interest was well and truly piqued. You see I know a bit about aircraft. Mainly military aircraft, true but my knowledge is pretty broad - you may test me out the next time we meet - but it is also pretty shallow. I have only the most rudimentary knowledge of aerodynamics, mechanics and the principles of the internal combustion engine but I can recognise most aircraft you might care to show me and probably give you a brief run down on their history, engines, users and even designer.
Anyway, back to the Latham 47. I'd never heard of it. Never heard of the manufacturer, even. It is, or rather was, a French company who built seaplanes for the french navy in the interwar period. Seaplanes, french aircraft and the interwar period are probably my weakest areas, aeronautically speaking. Oh well, it has given me a slight obsession. I now need to track down more information on the Latham 47 - specifically some sort of official report on it and, if possible, the accompanying pilot's notes. The original paper on Amundsen was dubious about the safety of the Latham 47 and I think that might be a little harsh. Aircraft back then weren't built like they are now and were inherently less safe and I think a little too much emphasis was put on the untested nature of the aircraft. I intend to investigate!
Wish me luck!

* Link to the aforementioned paper - http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8938557
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I'm watching Starship Troopers and I don't know why. It's a really stupid film of a really stupid book.
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Anyone who has had to get from the Chester end of the M56 to the Tarbock end of the M62 will have had to make the choice between driving all the way round via the M6 or taking the shorter route over the Silver Jubilee (Runcorn to you and me) Bridge. The shorter route is prone to serious congestion at times so the choice isn't an obvious one. However, someone somewhere has noticed this and a NEW six lane bridge is scheduled to be built to ease the congestion, A great idea, I hear you cry, but it's not that simple. Obviously it can't be built with public money for the public to use as that is just too obvious. There has to be a profit in it for someone so it's going to be yet another Public Private Partnership - and we all know what a storming success they've been. It will also, of course, be a Toll Bridge. This is so the private sector can make their profit.
Now, if you're anything like me, you'll be thinking, "So what? I'll just keep using the old Silver Jubilee bridge". They have thought of this, however, and plan to reduce it to ONE lane in each direction and charge a similar toll to the new bridge for the journey. The rest of the roadspace on the old bridge will be given over to pedestrians and cyclists. My guess is that they realised that if they leave the old bridge open as usual than nobody will use the new bridge that has cost (if it comes in on budget) £431 million and those nice private sector people who built this bridge (and who will be granted £14.5 million a year for over 26 years on top of an £86 million grant "to cover the costs of land assembly and advance works remediation") may lose their money - which is what happened with the M6 Toll road.
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Ok, today I'm going to let you into one of my darkest secrets. Actually I think it might be a fetish if not an actual perversion . . . Don't panic, however, it's nothing illegal as far as I know, just a little bit odd.

Right, deep breath . . . I have a thing about women in armour. There. I've said it. It started a long time ago when I was about nine or ten. I read lots of books at that age. The usual sort of thing you'd expect; The Land of Green Ginger, The Hobbit and the various Chronicles of Narnia to name a few.

It is with that last set that the first inkling of my problem came to light thanks to this lady.
Aravis, from The Horse and His Boy. Here was a girl who not only rode horses (something that ALL girls want to do, right?) but carried a sword, loved to shoot and, to my ten year old eye, looked surprisingly good in armour. She was, I decided, worth getting to know so I was quite disappointed when the book ended and she didn't appear in any of the other books except for a tiny mention in The Last Battle. This might have been the end of my little peccadillo had it not been for a not particularly good film called Willow and the lovely Joanne Whalley.

By this time, I was a teenager with all that that implies, but I was also a serious weapons and armour geek and my first thought on seeing this vision in steel was (this is true) 'nice aventail'. I shalln't dwell on the film since, as I've already mentioned, it's not very good and Sorsha's sword and armour are a bit Spikes of Villainy but I should mention that Ms Whalley looks good no matter what she's wearing so this may not be an armour thing after all.

Since fantasy films (and good fantasy films even more so) are few and far between I had no way to indulge this quirk of my nature for many years. It was awakened recently and unexpectedly when I was watching The Arabian Nights. I say unexpectedly because in all the versions I've read there is no reference to Scheherezade suddenly appearing armed for battle.

Oddly, when she did my first thought was, "Aravis!". With hindsite, the actress in question, Mili Avital (that's the lady on the right . . . I don't have a Dougray Scott thing), looks a bit like Joanne Whalley so maybe it's not the armour . . .

Actually, it is definitely the armour because I found myself in discussion with both Holly and Julia about various characters in the Fire Emblem games where it became obvious to me that I was using characters not because they were good fighters or had useful skills but because they were, there is no good way of saying this, Hot Babes in Armour.

OK,I think this is enough confessing lest you think I'm strange.

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During the process of redecorating the house we had to enter the forbidden realm of Holly's bedroom. Apart from the blue and purple walls* I thought there wasn't much to be done. Julia, however, with her designers eye spotted that part of the ceiling was sagging. I poked it whilst saying, "I think we can sort this".
My finger went through the ceiling.
Wondering what to do next, we decided to consult a higher being - Julia's brother-in-law, Dan.
"You'll need to replace the entire ceiling", said Dan, rolling a cigarette, "Clear the room and we'll start tomorrow morning"
So Julia and I started to clear all the furniture from the room. I removed the wardrobe and while I was sliding it out onto the landing part of the ceiling fell on Julia's head - which I thought was hilarious until I realised how much it had hurt her.
So I sent her to bed early and got on with clearing the room ready to remove the ceiling.
I went to bed at about midnight and at a little before eight the next morning my phone went off. It was Dan calling to tell me he was outside. It was the start of a hell of a day.

An hour later you could see the roof through the bare joists.
You couldn't, however, see the floor due to it now being covered in pulverised ceiling.

The amount of dust created was horrific. I got through five dust masks and looked like I'd just come off shift in the local coal mine. Of course the old ceiling - plaster, laths, glass fibre insulation and all - had to be shoveled into rubble sacks and carried downstairs. Then, of course, we could start pulling the nails out of the joists. At a rough estimate there was about 2000 of them. By this time it was getting on for noon and I was getting peckish. It turns out Dan doesn't run on food. He survives on roll-ups and beer. He also has a remarkable ability to make me work even when I'm faint with hunger . . .
So, instead of lunch, we went off and bought plaster board, brought it back and started to fit it. At this point Julia took pity on me and made sandwiches. We didn't stop any longer than was necessary to eat them.
It took us all day but by 8 that evening we had an entire new ceiling up.

*the choice of which convinced Julia's sister, Kim, that Holly was a goth. I mean, really? A ginger goth? Well it did result in Holly getting some interesting Christmas presents for a few years.
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We're in the process of moving house. The process involves a lot of DIY to get our current house into seriously good shape for selling.
I hate DIY.
I'm not bad at it though.
Not good enough to do plastering however.
Anyway, we paid a builder to do the stuff involving plaster, long ladders and seriously heavy lifting (the bathroom, exterior painting and laying turf) while Julia and I started painting and laying floor respectively.
Luckily I found some laminate flooring whilst I was clearing out the garage. High Quality laminate that I got cheap from a friend about ten years ago. This went down easily in the back bedroom and with a splash of paint we were done. To floor our bedroom we went out and bought the cheapest laminate we could. This turned out to be a mistake 'cause it was a nightmare to lay. Laminate flooring planks which are neither flat nor straight are so difficult to put down that it took Julia, myself, a fair amount of foul language and a large hammer to get the last half-dozen rows in and properly seated. Wit it finally down I hoped to slap some gloss on the skirting and architrave and we'd be done but I was wrong. . . so wrong . . .
Julia has learned a new phrase; Feature Wall.
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The last post was way back in February on the day that the dog was run over. Yes, that was the worst day of my life. Julia didn't blame me - which I thought she would - for his demise but she was very upset.
The cure for this turned out to be another dog.
I didn't want another dog.
We got another dog.
Julia loves the dog.

I love the dog . . .

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Today may be the worst day of my life.

However, I think that two days hence will actually be the worst day of my life.

Naturally, I'll let you know.

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