Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Plucking Bankers


Good morning loyal Blollowers... (I'm trying out different nouns for people who follow the Blog, I don't think that one works though, I'll try something else - Feel free to make suggestions)

Sorry there was nothing posted Yesterday, got a bit snowed under with writing... For work!.. I know right?  It's amazing how much less fun writing is when it's about stuff like money and email and computers and stuff.

And I'll apologise in advance because there won't be any Blog next Monday either, what with it being a Bank Holiday and everything, and I'm thinking of going to a Medieval Fayre (What you 'Muricans might call a 'Renaissance Fair) So a lot of people wandering around saying 'Forsooth' and 'Egad' and waving bendy swords at each other... Presuming it's not raining of course, which it won't be, because it never rains when I'm off work (Please see my early works for explanations of the words Irony and Sarcasm.)

I've often wondered what's so special about Banks that they get their own holidays.  Religious holidays, even the ones stolen from Pagan sources (i.e. all of them if you go back far enough) I understand completely.  And I also get the 'The chances of a great percentage of the population being too drunk to work' ones... Actually, this is in danger of getting away a bit, let's make a list of the eight current English Bank Holidays (Because I'm English... Not British... Or European).

-oOo-


  • New Year's Day - 1st. Jan - Too drunk
  • Good Friday - Look, I'm not going to go into what date Easter's on. Work it out for yourself, it's the Friday before the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after the vernal equinox - Religious
  • Easter Monday - Three days after that - Religious
  • May Day - First Monday in May - Kinda Religious (in a spooky Pagan way - WoOooOooOOoOOo)
  • Late Spring - Last Monday in May - Used to be Religious (Whitsun) but isn't now.
  • Summer - Last Monday in August - The One, True bank Holiday!
  • Christmas - 25th December - Religious
  • Boxing Day - 26th December - Too Drunk

-oOo-

So, we've got two days off that we can thank the banks for... Kinda... OK, so Late Spring Bank Holiday is what used to be Whitsun, but it got moved because it was a religious holiday related to Easter and it used to bob about the calendar like a drunk hamster in a wood shavings shop, causing huge gluts of holidays around the same time and causing the workforce to descend into wanton debauchery.

Oddly enough, Late Spring Bank Holiday is a popular day for throwing a wheel of cheese down a steep hill and then breaking your legs trying to follow it - Nowt as queer as folk, as they say.

Right, so only one Bank Holiday has anything to do with the Banks - And then only tenuously - Summer Bank Holiday, is a last chance for a day off in the nice weather, that's pretty much it.

One thing I did find out in my deep, probing, research for this piece (which didn't only include flicking through Wikipedia - you heathens) Is that there are a couple of (not really very) interesting facts about Bank Holidays.

-oOo-

There are two types of Bank Holidays, Statutory ones - Those defined in the 1971 Banking and financial dealings Act (Basically, the eight listed above). And holidays by Royal Proclamation - Things like Royal Weddings, Jubilees and stuff.

The Government can make any day they like a Bank Holiday, as long as they ask Parliament's permission first.  They can also institute all sorts of scary Draconian provisions.  For instance, if you act as a Bank or trade in foreign currency on one of these occasional holidays, you can be fined up to £400 and/or spend up to two years languishing in a small cell with only a PlayStation 3, High definition television, a fully featured gym and lots of illegal drugs for company.

Legally, you cannot be forced to make a payment on a Bank Holiday, as long as you promise to do so the next working day... Good luck trying this with that nice Mr Patel at your local corner shop next Monday. (Although he does have the implicit right to deny service to customers on the grounds of them being a bit of a cock)

-oOo-

Oh yes, I almost forgot May Day - Which isn't, as most of you think, what pilots shout into their radios as they're about to dunk the old cabbage crate into the briney - Is the celebration of Spring, and fertility, and setting fire to Edward Woodward (Which will not, as I believe I 'may' have mentioned before, bring back your apples) - It's what we used to call Beltane in the good old days.  The Germans have an even better name for it, they call it Walpurgisnacht - or Walpurgis Night, which sounds all Spooky and Halloweeny but is actually named after the 8th/9th Century English Missionary, Saint Walpurga.  Who was cannonised after her bones started to exude an oil that was found to be medicinal...

One thing: Ewww!
Another thing: Who in their right minds thinks - 'I say, those bones are a bit slimy, let's rub them on this open wound'?

Another case of those bloody Christians, coming over here, renaming our holidays...

Friday, 26 April 2013

This is why I'm smiling, how about you?


Well kiddiewinks, it's very, kinda, almost the weekend!

Woo and indeed yay!

Anyway, you may have noticed that I'm in a good mood... Now some of it's because it's sunny, some of it's because I've eaten a large proportion of a packet of Dark Chocolate digestives, but most of it is because currently, life is pretty good.

Don't get me wrong avid readers, everything's not perfect... I'm still broke, the trike's still in more pieces than is technically good for it, and we still breathe a sigh of relief and do a high-five whenever the bill at Asda is less or equal to the amount of cash we've found down the back of the sofa.

But, putting aside those sorts of problems... I'm smiling.

What's that? Why is life pretty good? you ask, What's my secret for having a sunny disposition whilst the rest of the population is wading through its own filth?

I'll tell you... And it won't cost you a penny... Unless you want some snake oil, then I'll have to make up a fresh batch, and that can get expensive, have you ever tried to milk a Killer Whale without waking it up?

Listen to my story, heed my words, clip on your special ears, ├ęcouter la class, and you can be as happy as me, guaranteed...

A while ago, things were pretty crappy, I mean hack at yourself with a breadknife crappy.  The sky was black, the wallpaper of my mind was peeling and even own-brand vodka was expensive.  I bounced from bad idea to bad idea, trying desperately to keep up the facade that everything was great.

My friends noticed of course, I noticed that my friends noticed, because some of you aren't particularly good as whispering, and the words 'What's up with that fat grumpy twat?' do carry quite well.

My family REALLY noticed, every little annoyance of theirs was yelled at, minor rule infractions were stamped on, even things like having the audacity to watch two TV programs that I wasn't particularly enamored with in a row, caused stomping and slamming of doors and suchlike.

In short, I was behaving like an arse... To everybody.

I stopped playing Computer games (Well, stopped isn't quite right - I still played them, but I sort of played them for the sake of playing them, rather than actually wanting to.  The gamers amongst you will know what I mean.)  I stopped drawing, which is something that had never really happened before.  And I got all reactive, my answer to every question was 'Whatever', or 'If you like', or 'I don't care'.

The only thing guaranteed to make me forget about how I felt was posting wordy status updates of Facebook - It meant that I could say what I meant and how I felt, and there wouldn't need to be anyone to interact with, there wouldn't need to be a reason for it.  Some of them were funny, a lot of them weren't, some shouldn't and didn't make sense anywhere else than inside my head.

They were just me shouting at the void I guess... Momentary flashes of dubious control in what I saw as a passenger ride through my own life.  A couple of people commented that they were funny, or thought provoking, or downright weird - And that maybe I should start a Blog.  I dismissed this idea, obviously as Blogs are for self-indulgent wieners with too much bloody money... No, hang on, that's not right... I'm thinking of Ferraris, Ferraris are for self-indulgent wieners with too much bloody money (Except for the 1967 275 GTB four-cam, they're for connoisseurs) - Blogs are for spotty types who still live with their parents and believe that their opinions are worth more than other peoples.

Yeah, right - Not me at all...

So far, so depressed.  But then a few more people said, 'Your updates are funny, but they get lost in all the FaceBook chatter, you should put them somewhere else, like in a Blog.'

This went on for some months, and although I didn't start the Blog, I did start drawing again - And although I say it myself, a lot of the stuff I've done recently is the best I've ever done.  I was so impressed with myself that I actually changed my profile on LinkedIn (A kind of business based Facebook) to say that I was a Graphic Artist, with some IT experience, rather than an IT guy who could draw a half-decent octopus.

This tiny act made me feel a whole lot better, it was almost as if by re-labelling myself, I'd made a physical change.  Things continued to get better, I even sold some of my pictures Internationally (Although I'm still not convinced that these weren't pity purchases - But I try not to think about that too much). And then I got a phonecall from a guy I'd worked with a couple of times in the past, telling me that there was a vacancy at the place he worked.  So I went, and interviewed, and got the job.

The job wasn't hugely taxing, I've certainly done harder before, but the people were nice, I enjoyed the work, and my attitude slowly changed.  I started taking pride in what I did, and after a mass assault from Mrs & Mini Dandy, I started this Blog and started publicising it on Twitter.

If you want to exercise your brain... Try writing a daily Blog - It will turn your head upside-down and inside out.  But it's fun, and it gives you a bit of affirmation that you're not the most boring and useless person in the world (Whatever you do, don't start a Blog if you actually are the most boring and useless person in the world, it'll be crap and it'll make you even more depressed) - If you're interested, the Blog gets somewhere between 50 and 100 views every day - Which I don't think is too bad for what is effectively clap-trap.

Then, yet another person I used to work with contacted me out of the blue.  This improbably named, but lithe as a racing snake, gentleman said that he had another friend who had a Blog, and he thought that we might be able to do a bit of crossover work.  He needed some guest writers, and I needed more fans to affirm my self-worth.

It was in this fashion that I was introduced to James Josiah, one of the true behemoths of British Flash Fiction, and I started to write creatively.  I then started writing fictional entries in my, previously (almost) completely factual Blog - Hopefully you've been amused by both the Edward Teach and Mal the Hunter stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Then an odd thing happened, JJ published a collection of Flash Stories that had been previously published on his website as a book, on Amazon, which you can all buy (and you should all buy, it's great).  And he very kindly included one of my stories. (And through a strange quirk of alphabetisement, it lists me as the author... I wrote about 500 words of it, and that's all)

So, if you're keeping track, you'll realise that I am now both a commercially accepted artist, and a published author, I should really charge you guys for reading my Blog, I'm probably, like, the most famous person you know...

When this happened, I had a permanent grin on my face and became an Amazon evangelist.  Then I got followed on Twitter by a famous person, one Jason Bradbury (The bald guy with the glasses from The Gadget Show and Don't Scare the Hare) - I mean, he follows me (before I followed him, I might add) and about 49,000 other people, so we're not bosom buddies.  But I think he might occasionally read the Blog, I certainly had hits from Israel when they were filming the Gadget Show in Israel.(but I guess that could have been a coincidence)

And just when I thought my life couldn't get any better, (without a massive injection of cash, and all the people I owe money to mysteriously dying) - I've been given another commission   Now I can't go into detail, as the project is still in its infancy, and I'm not sure how much the producer of the book wants me to say,  but it's for a book cover, a book that will go on to be sold, very possibly on Amazon (See how it all just fits together? It's like there's a plan).

When I found out about the request, I nearly pooped, it's difficult to explain how excited I feel.

And that, dear, dear readers is why I'm smiling so much.

I honestly believe that if I hadn't taken ownership of my own destiny, by the tiny, simple expedient of changing my job title on Linked-In (Which I changed again when I got my new job, but the good had already been done by then), none of this would have happened.  This was my own tiny, flapping butterfly wing that created the oncoming storm of my unfettered happiness.

So do it, make a change, even a tiny one - you never know where you're going to end up.

P.S. When I told the MiniDandy about the new illustrating job, she claimed full responsibility, saying that none of this would have happened if she (and her Mother) hadn't convinced me to write the Blog - I can't have anything for myself!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Ahhh, what a cutie... Argh! Get it off me!


You know what's great?

Dogs, dogs are great.  Everybody loves dogs... Actually, I do know there are people out there who don't like dogs, they're odd people, but they are out there.  There are even people who are allergic to dogs, but then there are also people who are allergic to water (Yes, there are - The condition's called Aquagenic Urticaria) so we'll leave them out too I think.

I'll try that again... Everybody who doesn't not like, or isn't allergic to dogs, loves dogs.  I've had dogs myself pretty much since I first left my parents' home some twenty-five years ago and I wouldn't be without one.

Don't get me wrong, they're not all sweetness and light, they wreck your stuff, eat your stuff, urinate and defecate on your stuff, run off with your stuff and get hairs all over your stuff.  In fact they often do combinations of two or more of these things simultaneously.  But even when you come home and your dog has torn all the stuffing out of your new sofa cushions, eaten it, then vomited it all up over your other new sofa - All it takes is that tilt of the head to one side, lolling of the tongue and wagging of the tail and all is forgiven... And it's even more adorable if the dog does it to you, and not the other way around.

I seem to have always had, what the media likes to class as 'Dangerous' Dogs.  So I've had a couple of Rottweilers and a couple of Staffordshire Bull Terriers and they've all, to a dog, been as soft as grease (cue cries of 'it's the owners' from anyone who's ever had one of these)

As you can imagine, after so many years of dog ownership, I have a couple of stories.  These few are about my first dog.

-oOo-

My first Rottie, Saffron was a vegetarian. No, really, she was - Couldn't keep normal dog food down at all, made awful smells out of the other end too - But I think that that's a feature of the breed.  She is also the dog that provided the sauce for this famous recipe.

Now, that particular dog was with me through some pretty bad times, where I was associating freely with people who may not have been regular churchgoers, and had more than a passing interest in recreational pharmacology.

It was after a long, hot, Summer's day that one of my confederates was, how should I put it? Using my small living room mirror for purposes other than that for which B&Q supplied it to me.  Despite no financial transactions taking place, he was in possesion of a credit card and a rolled up £20 note.  All was going well, he had divided up a large amount of... Erm... Product... Into a number of longer and fatter than average lines and absently offered them to the person next to him.

The person next to him however, had gone to the toilet, and had been replaced by a 90lb rottie who proceeded to inhale the lot.

Ever seen a rottweiler that's just ingested a large amount of benzoylmethylecgonine? I have... And I don't want to see it again thank you very much.  They're a strong dog, but not hugely bright, and intoxication doesn't help.  We locked her in the porch, hoping that the lack of stimulus would help her to calm down, it did eventually, a couple of hours later, after her walking straight through the wooden door as if it wasn't there.

-oOo-

In fact, when I first bought her as a pup, the breeder warned me that 'Rotties don't go around, they go through.'  She displayed this admirably one day whilst I was training her to 'Stay'.  Simple trick you might think, make the dog sit, tell it to stay, walk a few yards away from it and then call it - very important thing for her to learn.

But I got cocky, and made the distances that I would walk away longer and longer.  100 yards passed without much of a hitch, I mean, she'd start crying and stuff, but she wouldn't move.  Then I got to about 200 yards, and she adopted that 'hunched' pose where you could tell that she wanted to run towards you but still didn't.  I thought that I'd take it to the next level, so I did the 200 yard stay, turned, called her, and then as she started running, I turned and ran. This is the last thing I can remember, but piecing various eye-witness reports, what happened next was that she sped up, to a point where she became a blur and people in the surrounding area claim to this day, that they heard something like the noise the Starship Enterprise makes when she engages warp-drive.

Then she hit me in the back of the legs and I flew up into the air, summersaulted through 270 degrees and landed on my face.  I awoke some minutes later to hysterical laughter from my co-trainer and ferocious licking from a very apologetic dog.

-oOo-

I was gardening once, no, that's a lie, I was in the garden, with a beer, and things were being gardened around me.  I found a couple of chunks of Aerated Concrete block buried in the soil, a bit like breeze blocks, but for girls... So I threw them into the pile of junk that was destined for the skip.  Moments later, I heard what my Mother (before she died) used to describe as a 'graunching' noise.

Turning around, I saw that Saff had eaten most of one of them, and was starting on the other.  Don't remember it effecting her teeth at all, but I tried to take it off her anyway.  She made it clear that she wanted to keep it in that particularly rottweilerish way of rotating her backside around what she was eating, so she was between you and it and, whilst not exactly growling, grumbling quite forcefully to stake a claim for ownership.  I was having none of this and took it off her altogether, but wherever I put it, she would find it and start eating it.  No where was out of bounds... In the end I gave in and let her eat it, it was easier in the long run.

I could go on all day about this, there are stories involving deck chairs and ice-cream and motorcycles, but I'll save them for another time.

Have a nice weekend if I don't see you before.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

It only takes 30 seconds, according to Jared Leto


Yay, it's hump-day!

So we're halfway through the week and it's all downhill from here, unless you're on a skiing holiday, where it's only half downhill... But at least you're sitting down for the uphill bit.

Anyway, I was listening to the news yesterday, and it seems that we're running out of nurses.  I mean, who knew that they were disposable?  I regularly run out of stuff like chocolate, and toilet paper, but never a particular kind of person, or someone with a particular job.  I looked into it further and realised that what the person who wrote the script for the news report actually meant was that we don't have the requisite number of nurses for all the sick people that there are.

Now, I know that there are many healthcare professionals who read the Blog, some are even Scottish - So you could say that I have the ear of the International Medical community.  It would be an easy win for me to go on about low wages, long hours, unappreciative and abusive patients (or customers... Are we calling them customers yet?) and terrible working conditions.

But how many times have you known me go for the easy win?  OK, apart from those few times that you've just thought of? See, not very many at all.

Well, I looked into it further, and realised that we're also running out of Police & Fire people, Care home workers, sewer cleaners, money, services, petrol, fuel oil, jobs in general, affordable housing and clean air.

So it seems that the problem isn't that there are not enough people, quite the opposite in fact, I'm fairly convinced that there are too many.  I don't just mean in this country - This isn't going to be a racist rant about uncontrolled immigration, I'll leave that to the frothing at the mouth EDL types, they do a much better job of putting together a cogent, measured argument than I do *cough*.

I mean globally, there are currently about 6.8 billion people on the planet, and only about 58 million square miles of landmass.  If you remove the 18 million square miles that make up the Arctic, Antarctic and various deserts, that's 0.005 square miles  (just over 3 acres for the bumpkins amongst us) of space for each one of us to call our own.  'That's a bit abstract,' I hear the townies say, 'Exactly how big's that?' - Well, I'll tell you... It's not quite two soccer pitches each.  A family of four would have seven soccer pitches, which isn't bad if all the land was equally good and it was all shared out equally.  But it's not.

Greed, the mechanisation of food production and heavy industry have all helped to make sure that most of us are crammed together like sardines, as tightly as possible.  And laziness and coddling has led to most people not being able to care of themselves.

So, a perfect cure for this problem, that will cut down the population, take the stress off the service sector, encourage self-sufficiency, advance scientific endeavor and give the reality television companies something to really spunk their budgets on for the next ten years.

Send 75% of the population to Mars.

No, stop laughing, I'm being serious.

I'm sure a lot of people would volunteer, they could be the new planetary government.  Then you could send all the able bodied people who've been on benefits for over eighteen months, they could be the people who actually 'do' things.  Then there's long term prisoners, for whom Mars would become the new Australia - Might be worth settling them on the other side from all the 'nice' people though, no need for walls or guards then.

Then, as the colony became established, you could introduce new regulations.


  • Fail your exams - Go to Mars
  • Receive a prison sentence of over five years - Go to Mars
  • Wear a snap-back - Go to Mars
  • Be convicted of a terrorist/paedophile act - Go halfway to Mars then mysteriously disappear
  • Openly enjoy Dubstep music - Go to Mars
  • Walk down the street outside my house at two O'clock in the morning shouting  - Go to Mars
  • Watch the X-Factor unironically - Go to Mars
  • Change your name to Ziggy and sing about spiders in a whiney voice - Go to Mars


Within a couple of generations, Earth would be a relative paradise again, Lions would lie down with lambs side by side on piano keyboards.  The air would be clean, the rivers would flow like polished crystals and all clouds would look like comedy animals performing circus tricks.

Right up until the mad scientist that we accidentally deported builds a flying saucer with nuclear powered lasers and neutron bombs and comes back to claim his birthright.

So, the plan might need a little work, but I think it's still basically sound... Maybe Jupiter might be a better bet, less chance of any of the useless buggers coming back.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The price of everything but the value of nothing


Good news! - Well for you guys anyway, I managed to think of a subject on my way into work this morning.

For the past two million years, ever since Homo habilis threw a rock at some strange proto-duck with the intention of making it her lunch, the human race has been fascinated by shopping.  In these early times of course, you could argue that that was more hunting and gathering than it is what we understand as shopping now.  But the theory's essentially the same.

I need something, so I'll go and get it.

In its most simple form, that-there is shopping.  Oh it's evolved over the past couple of millenia, I mean certain economic structures have come into play.  Early man would go out hunting and take half a dozen spears with him in order to kill, let's say, an antelope.  But if he got lucky, he might only use two of them.  Now, he's all full of adrenaline from the hunt and he uses three more to bring down another one.  And now, he's got a problem, he's got two dead antelopes, that weigh about as much as he does.  It's two miles back to his mud hut / cave (delete whichever's least geographically apposite) but he doesn't want to waste it, or leave it to attract the smilodons.  So, he enlists the help of another person to help him in an;

'Urk, you help carry this back home, I give you half for your trouble,' stylee

Our hero is happy, he has one and a half antelopes, Urk is happy, he has half an antelope for doing essentially a bit of humping and dumping with none of the associated chucking sharp sticks at things.
So we've arrived at bartering... I have something you want, you have something I want, as long as they're of equivalent value to each other, let's swap.  In the above example, Urk swapped the sweat of his brow for a nice antelope butt, and who wouldn't do that given the chance, they have a multitude of uses don't they?  Still technically shopping.

This of course has its own inherent problems... What if I want something you've got, but I don't have anything that you want?

Well, I could go hungry, but what I'd probably do is fall back on that staple theme of computer adventure games and childrens' television and find someone that had something that you want, but also wants what I have.  There's no limit to amount of times you can do this, it's common for there to be six or seven 'swaps' before you get what you want.

In fact you might have heard the Japanese folk tale of the Straw Millionaire, where a peasant makes a series of trades, starting with a piece of straw and ends up marrying a millionaire's daughter, or if you're slightly less classically educated, Kyle MacDonald, and his website One Red Paperclip, where he managed to trade the titular paperclip up to a house in Canada.

But this extended bartering system falls down because people are, in the main, lazy.  You might have a pretty stone, and want a new hat, which I have.  But what I really want is a chicken.  So you go to the nearest village to try and find a nice lady (because we all know how much nice ladies like pretty stones) who has a chicken.  You can't find one, but you do hear from a different nice lady who wants your stone, and has a club, about a nasty man who lives in the forest, many miles away, who has a chicken and deserves a lump on the head.  The time has come where there's something that you're unwilling, unable or just too lazy to do.

So you lose out on my nice hat, and die of pneumonia during the next rainy season when you go out with wet hair.

So, what we need to find is something everyone wants.  Yes, OK, I know, everyone wants THAT, but there are certain cultural taboos, not to mention problems with spreading infectious diseases that are the reasons why THAT isn't currency in many places (Except under certain, special, circumstances).

I'm talking about fiat money, or just 'Money' as we've come to know it.  Fiat money is money that isn't worth anything in itself. The metal in a £1 isn't worth a pound (it's worth about 5p if I remember correctly) but you can swap it for £1 worth of anything you want.  Solves all the laziness problems you see, you can just wander down to the shops and give the nice guy behind the counter a number of £1 coins and wander home with your antelope or hat or pretty stone, whatever you like.

Have you noticed on paper money (which is worth, in itself, even less than metal money) it says, and I quote;

'I promise to pay the bearer, on demand, the sum of X pounds'?

In the olden days, you could wander into the Bank of England, wave a crumpled fiver at them, and they would give you five pounds worth of pure gold.  Try that now and they'll just look at you as if you're stupid.

If you kick up a fuss, start frothing at the mouth, and give it the old 'But it says here...' and point to the tiny writing on the note, they might just give you a new fiver to get rid of you.  It's more likely that they'll call security and turf you out on your backside avec le grande vitesse. If they did give you the gold, which they wouldn't, you'd get about 1/210th of an ounce, or about .14 of a gram (I think, but maths was never my strong point) Which you'd probably lose on the way home anyway.

If we evolve the system again by one degree of laziness, you get online shopping.  You can swap money that has never physically existed for real-live goods.  I hear you cry 'What do you mean money that has never existed?!?!?!? I am confused and angry at your uncomfortable suggestion!?!?!?!'

Well, let's think about it, those of us who are lucky enough to be employed, or to receive benefits for that matter, get paid for the work we do.  That pay goes from our employer's bank, directly into our bank in the form of a series of electronic impulses.  When we pay for our book, or CD or porcelain statuette of Kate Middleton riding an Aardvark, it goes from our bank to the seller's bank in the form of a series of electronic impulses.  It never exists in the real world.

Effectively, you're directly swapping the sweat of your brow for a badly modeled anteater... Change that anteater for an antelope's butt, and you realise that the last 100,000 years, as far as shopping is concerned, may as well have never happened.

Welcome to the 21st Century Urk, make yourself at home.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Should I have bothered? Probably...


I very nearly wasn't going to post a Blog today, I drew a blank with serious ideas, and I couldn't think of anything funny.

I couldn't spin out a story about one overpriced prima-donna of a footballer biting chunks out of another overpriced prima-donna of a footballer then limping off like a petulant seven year old, pretending that he'd been fouled to avoid retribution, for long enough to fill a whole page.

I wasn't in the mood to comment on the Cypriot financial crisis, or the vast swathes of the uneducated masses confusing Chechnya and Czechoslovakia (or thinking that The Brighton Pavillion is a Mosque)

Neither could I rouse enough bile to comment on why North Korea has stumbled down the list of 'things that people are talking about that involve the end of the world'

You see, this is why I don't do 'Current Affairs', it all comes from being so gorram  anachronistic I guess.
So I started looking through the back catalog of the Blog and seeing if there were any 'unfinished stories' or suchlike that grabbed me.  But there weren't.  I guess that it's just because it's Monday and the uphill struggle seems a little steeper than usual.

We all feel a bit Meh! occasionally, right?

What I did notice was that there were a few posts that stood out as having much lower than average number of hits - Now I know that this Blog is a bit hit and miss (Take today for instance).  But personally, I think some of these are OK.

I mean there's one post on the list that spawned the idea for the short-story that you can buy, with real cash-money, on Amazon, and that got less than 30 views!  You people are so fickle.  So, as I'm a second chances kind of guy, at least where pushing my juvenile claptrap out to an unwilling audience is concerned,  I present the six least read Blog posts that are any good... I've written posts that have had less hits than these, but in fairness they were pretty awful - I wouldn't ask you to read them...

But these, these are great... Well, They're OK... I say OK, the chances are your eyes won't fall out whilst you're actually reading them, Not fall out, not completely at least.

-oOo-

Let's start at the least worst:

With 30 page views, published back in December 2012 is - Something for the Weekend - Where I tell you about the day I spent working in a hairdressing salon:  Caution, starts with a dream sequence involving sturgeon and a wheelbarrow full of custard.

Just pipping it to the post marked 'Not quite as good' by one page view, also from December 2012 is - Pandas, the Eastern Scourge - Describing the enigma and possible evolutionary development of the Giant Panda.  This idea was developed into the Flash Fiction story 'Danao', as published to critical acclaim in February 2013.

With two less page views again is the confused engineering nightmare of - Maybe they explained it badly - A frank and forthright discussion on how the laws of physics can work against each other and we've all just accepted it since 1903 because we don't know any better.

Then we jump down the scale all the way to 22 page views, the oldest post in the list, from November 2012 and the first real post on the Blog - I'm a Bigot, You're a Bigot, We're ALL Bigots... - This attempts to describe, in an educational way, how bigotry can be a terrible, life changing thing.  To get the most from this Blog, you may need to know some of the short-codes that Starbucks use for their drinks, although... Nahh, con't worry about it.

We jump ahead to February 2013 for - Celebrity? She's a bit of a cult - A post where I display my complete ignorance of popularist celebrity culture, and delve into the past of one Kimberly Noel Kardashian and her ilk.

And right at the bottom, wallowing in the cesspit of ignored posts, was the very next day's post, racking up an almost unbelievable 20 page views, plucking at the very heartstrings of your ever-loving Bloggoteer, comes - My Interview with iBazinga magazine -  A pun and in-joke riddled travesty that details ficticious questions, asked by ficticious people, from actual places that the Blog has had hits from, which points you to other posts on the Blog... A bit of light Blog-a-ception for you there - But it does hold a link to the Chimpin Dandy's super-villain origin story, involving a smattering of telling lies to strippers to get free dances.

-oOo-

Hopefully I'm have magically become more creative tomorrow, or you could be lucky and something odd will happen to me between now and then.


P.S. Anyone else had trouble downloading the client for the free version of Star Wars: The Old Republic?  Thought I'd bang it on ready for playing it over the bank holiday weekend, but it's taken two days to download so far, it keeps stalling.  Hope this isn't a precursor to the quality of the game...

Friday, 19 April 2013

If I hadn't seen it I wouldn't have believed it


Well, it's Friday again and the promise of two days off when the temperature may reach into double figures, lightens my soul like only the crying of someone else's children in Waitrose normally does.

Sorry the Blog skipped yesterday, it's all this damn paying work getting in the way again.

I know you guys like to hear about how much the real-life world of IT is like the one depicted in 'The IT Crowd', so I thought I'd recount some of the fun and exciting things that happened to me during what I consider to be my first 'Real' job.

The year was 1985, the wreck of the Titanic had just been discovered, Axel F by Harold Faltermeyer hadn't been totally buggered by that frog thing and Mick Jagger and David Bowie were at the top of the charts with 'Dancing in the Streets' (Whilst not looking at all gay in the slightest)

I was seventeen and worked for a small (and now sadly defunct) marketing company, based in a renovated stable, in the small Derbyshire village of Brailsford.  It was run by a couple, let's call them John and Margot (Because that was their names) who had, if I was being charitable, delusions of grandeur.  They'd drive around in his slightly scabby Alfa-Sud, him in a sharp three-piece suit and her in tight-fitting business-wear where the blouses were low-cut and the skirts were short, as was the fashion in the 80's if you wanted to do business.

Their core business was printing promotional items, little metal signs, t-shirts, that sort of thing, but they'd just bought into a PC network reselling scheme and they were doing their best to tout it around local businesses.  They weren't technical, and at the time, I wasn't particularly either, which was recipe for hilarity if ever I heard one.

A normal work day would be:  Get the bus to work and then wait outside in the rain and the wind for the bosses to turn up. Put the kettle on and go to the newsagents for the Daily Express.  Make coffee and fire up the camping stove.  Listen to John reading out the headlines whilst Margot tutted and I cooked bacon for sandwiches. Drink strong coffee and eat the sandwiches. Do the Express crossword.  Print a few t-shirts. Go to the Pub.  Offer to exchange printing services for beer.  Stay at pub for two hours.  Stagger back to the office.  Drink Coffee.  Wait for John & Margot to fall asleep.  Get bus home.

Very little I.T. related stuff there, I think you'll agree.  But that all suddenly changed after I'd been there about three months.   Then we got a couple of PCs delivered from the resellers and I started demo-ing them to prospective customers.  Business really took off... Kinda...

-oOo-

We arranged a demo for Charing Cross hospital in London and I arranged to meet John at the railway station so we could travel down together and discuss 'Strategy'.  He didn't turn up (Bearing in mind this was before mobile phones so I couldn't chase him), luckily we'd had the kit sent to directly to site, so I arrived and set it up in this chap's office. The demo went as well as could be expected seeing as I was not a salesman, merely a scrawny, long haired, metalhead.  The demo was finished by lunchtime and the customer turned to me and said.

'Shall we get some lunch?'

'Yes... That'd be great, thanks.'  I replied.

'You do have an expense account, right?' He asked.

'Ah, no, not really,' I looked in my pocket and found the grand total of £3.45

'OK,' He said, 'I'll pay, but I'm going to send your company a bill for it.'

Which in fairness was exactly what he did, we sat in the pub for a couple of hours talking about how awful my company was and how he didn't blame me, then I caught the train home.  We never recovered the kit.  John's excuse was that he'd had a skinfull the night before and had forgotten all about it.

-oOo-

Another time, we had the chance of demo-ing the system to Shell UK.  I knew this wasn't going to go well, but I had my suit dry-cleaned anyway.  The demo took place at, what was then, Shell House on The Strand (again in London) and this time we all drove down there in the Main Distributor's Jag, with the kit in the boot.  The demo was due to take place in the mid-afternoon and we arrived there at about eleven-ish.  We unloaded the PCs and took them up to the conference room, where I was left to unbox and set them up whilst everyone else went to the pub.  five minutes or so before the demo was due, my bosses, the distributor and the Shell guy who'd arranged the meeting all rolled through the door, giggling and doing that 'Shush' thing to each other and the other ten Shell senior managers in the room, that you do when you're drunk and people are scowling at you.

Again, the demo went OK, we had to stop a few times when John forgot what he was saying, or had to ask me about how the system actually worked, or had to go to the toilet.  Luckily not a great number of people were actually paying attention, as Margot was perched, bleary eyed, on a chair in the corner with her skirt ridden up so far that not only could you see she was wearing stockings, but also a thong (She allegedly had a friend who worked with Janet Reger, and we would often be treated to an impromptu fashion show when she had acquired a new item).

At the end of the demo, the distributor asked if there were any questions, accused the chap who asked the first one of storing half of his breakfast on his tie and then promptly took a step back and fell over his chair.

Upon our exit, John did a stage wink at the Shell chap who'd taken them for lunch and said:

'Cheers Brian, the cheque's in the post'

We didn't get the business, and the most surprising thing was that John was surprised.

-oOo-

As business started to slump, they gave me a key to the office and they started to come in less and less.  This suited me just fine, and would have suited me even better if the Internet had been freely available.  I'd come in at about 10-ish, wait for Margot to ring to check I was there, go to the pub, back to the office for an hour and then go home.  During this time, I became friends with the landlord of the local pub, The Rose & Crown, and slightly more than friends with one of the barstaff, the particular young lady had a few 'friends' in the village and was known for being 'accommodating', which I can confirm.  I would often trade printing services to the landlord for beer and food.  In fact, during my time there, I completely refreshed all of his signage and designed him new menus.  I also became addicted to Salmon & Salad cream sandwiches.

One lunchtime he came over and said:

'Can you use a hammer?'

'Yes, of course.' I lied, nodding like a loon - In fairness, at this stage I wasn't particularly sure which end you held and which end you hit stuff with.

'Come with me...'

We went into the somewhat dilapidated beer garden and he showed me a long strip of concrete that he'd had laid.

'Very nice,' I said, not really sure what it was I was looking at.

'It's my new skittle alley, if you give me a hand putting a roof over it, I'll pay you in beer and sandwiches.'

So, I spent the summer of 1986 building a skittle alley (which may or may not still be there), a huge chicken coop for his 'fancy hens', and learning some very interesting things from a barmaid some seven years older than myself.

-oOo-

One Friday morning, I was sat in the office, spinning around on the chair, waiting for my check-in call from Margot.  The phone rang, I answered it, it was Margot.  But this time the call was a little different.

'Dandy, what are you doing on Monday?'

'I don't know, whatever you tell me to I suppose.'

'Right, we're going on holiday for the month, and I need you to feed the cats.'

'OK.'

'I'll come and pick you up and show you what needs doing.'

So I sat and waited, and then waited, and then waited a bit more and eventually the popping and banging from the exhaust of the Alfa announced her arrival.  I locked up and went out to meet her.

'Sorry I'm late,' She said, 'Pippa and Debbie turned up, so we all had a bit of a drinkie.'

We drove to her place, which was an apartment in an old manor house down the road and she showed me where everything was, how much the cats ate and where the tea and coffee was.  It turned out that they wanted to me close the office and come and stay all day in their apartment whilst they were away.

Everything was sorted, and she was just about to drive me to the nearest bus stop when I had a call of nature.  Margot directed me to the correct area and I went into what was a very well appointed Victorian style bathroom.

Which just happened to have a life-size  naked, photograph of her over the bath.  It answered a couple of questions for me, the first one being that her blonde hair hadn't, as I'd first though, come out of a bottle, and the second was that certain parts of her anatomy, that I'd thought had been surgically enhanced, probably weren't.

When I left the bathroom, some twenty minutes later, she looked at me and said,

'Perhaps I should have warned you about that... I used to model when I was younger'

I just nodded, as I didn't really want her to hear how out of breath I was.  The drive to the bus stop was a little bit weird in fairness, but I'd just about pulled myself together enough to go to the pub that night and tell everyone I knew, and a lot of people that I didn't.

On Monday I went to her flat, and her next-door neighbour let me in.  I fed the cats and made a coffee.  She had some bayonets hanging on the wall, so I had a bit of a fiddle with those, wandered around the gardens and had a general sniff around.

I found some modelling photos, and then more modelling photos, and then some photos that weren't exactly of her modelling, I mean she wasn't looking at the camera in most of them, neither was the other person in them, and they were probably taken by a third person.  If I was her, I would have probably have hidden these away from prying eyes, rather than leave them on display, in the back of her underwear drawer, under what amounted to a false bottom.

The next four weeks virtually flew past.  And when she called me on the Monday to make sure I was back in the office she sounded quite upset, I asked her what was wrong and she said:

'Those people! The neighbours we left the key with! They've been through my stuff, even my underwear drawer! I'll never speak to them again!'

I expressed my shock at their despicable behaviour... And left it at that.


See you on Monday kids, and remember, you never really know anyone until you've seen them naked.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle


I like a good party, me.  I'm a great fan of the alcohol and the moving of parts of the body in a rhythmic style to phat, dench, beats and so forth.  But more and more, recently, I've found myself being invited to parties hosted by people I don't know hugely well.

I mean, I know these people, don't get me wrong... I don't just wander up to any building that sounds like it contains people 'Getting their groove on', knock on the door, hold up a four-pack of Carling and say 'Dave invited me' ('cos there's always a Dave around somewhere isn't there?).  But I've probably only seen them a couple of times a month, over a few years.  I guess I'm maybe what they used to call in the olden days 'a face'.  Someone you see around the place and nod at who you think might be more important/mysterious than they actually are.

Actually, it could be that it's actually Mrs Dandy who gets the invite and I just tag along, but I couldn't possibly comment.

Anywho.

They usually follow the same sort of timeline:


  • We (because it's invariably a 'family' invite.) arrive about 15-20 mins after the posted start time, because you don't want to seem too keen.
  • We look suspiciously at all of the other 100+ people in the room, few of whom we know.  We get scowled at quizzically in return.
  • Eventually, someone we know quite well turns up and we annexe a couple of chairs/tables and set up court, where we can be visited by other party-goers (including our original inviter or the person for whom the party has been thrown) at their leisure.
  • We have a few beers
  • Dancing ensues
  • The decision is taken whether to leave the car at the venue and get a taxi home is discussed and summarily rejected.
  • I drink more Coke / Lemonade than is strictly good for me
  • I comment pointedly on the tightness of / lack of clothing on some of the female guests to any of my male compatriots within earshot.
  • I further research the above subject until I'm noticed doing so by the wife.
  • We go home, in the car, in a generally frosty atmosphere.


But we got invited to an 18th Birthday last year which went a little bit differently.  First of all, the invitation contained those two words specifically designed to stab fear into the heart of every right-thinking Englishman. (No, not that, Bring Your Own Bottle is four words)

'FANCY DRESS' - But at least there was a theme, 'Heroes and Villains'

So we all went and had a bit of a think... The MicroDandy was fine, he had a Darth Vader costume already, The MiniDandy wanted to be a Jedi (we have the Force-FX lightsabres and everything, so it was just a case of making her a costume - Good job I can sew innit?).  Mrs Dandy has a fine selection of Goth stuff, so 'Generic Vampire' was her choice.  So it was left to me, I really wanted to go as Iron Man, but there wasn't enough time, or money, or talent available to make a decent costume in time (which I wasted  a significant proportion of sulking about it) So I had to go with something I already had.  Now my normal, day-to-day wardrobe contains all the items required for a decent Neo or Morpheus, Connor Macleod of the Clan Macleod or H.P. Lovecraft, but I fancied something different.

I decided to go as 'The Terminator', which I had the clothing for but not the prosthetics, because of course, I wanted to be a battle damaged T800 (and who doesn't deep down?) - So I searched the web and saw many, many videos of Americans with too much time on their hands sticking LEDs and theatrical PVC appliances to themselves and thought 'bugger that I'll just paint it on'.

So, if you'll picture the scene, I had my selection of acrylic paints that I once used for painting toy soldiers, in the upstairs bathroom, with one of those shaving mirrors screwed to the wall, you know, the ones with the comedy extending boxing glove type fitment.  painting my face, right-handed (I'm left handed) without my glasses on (I'd tried just painting over my glasses, but it didn't look very effective) - This was the result... Ah, yes, I forgot to say that I'd ran out of silver, so had to use gold...



So we got our accessories together and took some pictures, the smaller Dandies grabbed their lightsabres, Mrs Dandy grabbed our new puppy (that I had made a pair of bat-wings for) and I picked up my shades, the freshly painted, over and under Nerf shotgun and my .50AE Desert Eagle... For how does one terminate properly without devastatingly powerful projectile weaponry?

We then started on the party timeline as described above.  We got as far as the 'Someone we knew turned up' stage when suddenly there was a massive influx of Darth Vaders and Jedi.  Now, my son took umbrage at this because he'd had the idea of coming as Darth Vader first and he did no more than to storm across the room to set about these poor people with his lightsabre.  I don't know if anyone here's ever been twatted by a seven year old, full of righteous indignation, overarm, with a solid blade lightsabre - But it bloody hurts.  And I admit I felt sorry for these poor teenagers trying to defend themselves with the little plastic extendy-blade lightsabres, or in one case, the cardboard core of (I think) a roller blind with the end painted red.

Not sorry enough to stop laughing and do anything about it of course, but sorry all the same.

Then things went downhill, the guns got borrowed and they danced around the room for a good hour or so and spent their time being discharged into the faces of villains by heroes, or slightly more often, vice-versa.  As did the puppy, who, even if I say so myself, was incredibly cute dressed as a vampire fruitbat.  And I seem to remember at one point having a lightsabre duel, with the MiniDandy, between songs, in the middle of an empty dancefloor.

The night wore on, more coke was drunk and the number of people in PVC hotpants dancing to 'Gangnam Style' seemed to multiply every time I looked up.

I took a few minutes out to write something on the 'guestbook', well, I say write something.. What I actually did is stand there for ten minutes with my mouth open, thinking of some edifying advice for someone who'd just entered adulthood, then gave up and drew a dragon wearing a cowboy hat, which I then mislabelled as a dinosaur wearing a cowboy hat and wandered back to our little group of tables.

Can you think what had happened in my absence?  Have a guess...

Nope, wasn't that.

Not that either.

It certainly wasn't that, but only because I don't think that there's that much oil-based lubricant in the East Midlands area.

What had happened was that a number of our friends had turned up a little more than fashionably late and had, as a group, dressed up as 'The Scooby Gang', complete with improbably attired, lizard based villain.

Oh yes, and my seven year old son had field stripped the Desert Eagle into it's component parts and spread it out on one of the tables, he'd had an encouraging audience and everything.

I tapped him on the shoulder and said:

'Dude, you gonna put that back together?'

'Nope.'

'And why not?'

'I don't know how...'

So after the slowest sliding facepalm in the world, I sat down and set about re-assembling the gun, it took longer than I'd expected, as the breech cover had fell off the table and rolled away, and it was dark, and I had the same drunken audience.

On the whole, a great party, I need to go to more like it. And so do you guys, you owe it to yourselves.

And if you do, don't forget to send me an invite.  Oh yeah, you need to mingle, the mingle's the thing(le)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

I saw his face, I'm not a Belieber


Well, if you tuned in yesterday, you'll know that I conducted an ill thought out experiment to see if I could bait a Belieber into threatening me with bodily harm.

I admit I didn't try very hard, I just commented on the whole Anne Frank/Justin Bieber news story (There's a link to the story on the BBC website in yesterday's Blog) and said something to effect that Beliebers are more likely to make death threats than they are to be effected by them.

You'll be pleased to know that I've not been threatened, or had my sexuality or the very reason for my existence questioned, unlike some people I could mention.

There have been no DMs from 14 year old girls from Oregon telling me to leave their future husband alone or face the consequences.  Neither have I had clouds of youngsters with nary a pubic hair between them camped on my front lawn burning effigies of whichever member of One Direction is popular at the moment which they've quickly drawn a moustache and titanic sideburns on to make it look more like me.  My cat has not been nailed to the front door and my goldfish has not been blown up with my own pair of antique, Victorian fire bellows.

So, this lack of affirmative action leads us to a number of possible conclusions.

1. I am not important enough to bother with.

Now ,this is my favoured explanation, I assume that the people who issue the threats are only interested in clashing swords with the great and the good.  A sort of Munchhausen by famous proxy deal.  By abusing a famous person, they belie(b/v)e that they become famous themselves, or at least they interact with people that they see on their 50" plasma screen balanced precariously between the sink and the toilet of their aloominum skinned single-wide trailer.

2. I wasn't obvious enough

I like to think I'm fairly subtle. I mean, I enjoy knob jokes as much as the next man... As much as the next few men all rolled together if truth be told, but you know - I do tend to dress things up in 'purty talk' more befitting my inferred Dandy status.  Instead of comparing the antics of his more psychotic fans to things that may have gone on in the latter days of the Wiemar Republic - I should just have said something like 'Beebur iz gay an Sucks Donkey D*ck' and let them have at me. (Please note: I have no insider knowledge of the 'artist' in question's sexuality, or his propensity for performing fellatio on farm animals, I include this section purely for dramatic effect, as an example of the language that his fan-base would be familiar with, no offense is inferred, implied, intended or suggested - Just in case there are any multi-armed cybernetic lawyer machines watching).

3. It's all a big con, engineered by his management to keep media attention on the pint-sized popinjay.

Contrived? Well, if your manager is a real life Van Wilder from the nation that can turn the honest and honourable sport of all-in wrestling into a mass market soap opera, then why shouldn't you take the angst and hormone fueled attention of love-starved teens with unformed emotional compasses into a huge (but supremely moist) cog in the media machine.  After all, you've turned a nineteen year old from a prosperous suburb of London (Ontario) who started out posting videos of himself singing on YouTube, into what I understand is termed a 'Wigger' and a polished, preened and soul-less cash cow.  what's one more offence against youth helping to weigh your soul down into the fiery pit?

Whilst we're on the subject of his management, I wonder if Mr Braun has had a quiet word with him about the whole Anne Frank debacle, what with his own grandparents having only narrowly escaped the holocaust themselves?

One would hope so... Wouldn't one?

Anyway, the only thing that happened to me was that I had my original tweet immediately picked up and forwarded by what I presume to be a Bot... And the number of hits on the Blog was slightly higher that I would have expected (23 hits in the first few minutes, rather than the normal 10-15)

On the whole, a bit of a damp squib, which by a strange quirk of fate, is, I beliebe, the name of Mr Bieber's next album.

-oOo-

As an aside, during the rigourous research procedure before the publishing of today's Blog (the customary flick through Wikipedia to check names and dates) I noticed  a couple of (semi) interesting facts.

London, Ontario (The City of Mr Bieber's birth) is in the county of Middlesex.  Which goes to show that if you don't nail things down, people will steal them, geography included.

There's a river running through it called the... See if you can guess... That's right, The Thames!

There's a Blackfriars Bridge, a Victoria Park, an Oxford Street, and the township of Westminster (which includes the village of Lambeth)

However, the most unintentionally funny thing that I read is that there was a fire in 1845 which destroyed a fifth of the (then) town... That's not the funny part though, the funny part was that one of the first 'casualties' of the fire was the only fire engine that the town had.

I know that Americans don't understand irony, I wonder if the Canadians do?

Monday, 15 April 2013

He said Baby, Baby, Baby, Who?

Pretty quick one today, probably, About a fishing trip.

Now, I'm not one for your actual fishing, I mean, I can see the appeal of sitting by the side of a picturesque lake, in the sunshine, with a bucket full of cold cans and a bacon sandwich, but the whole stabbing worms and having a mouthfull of maggots has never appealed to me, jus' nah ma t'ing Brah!

Anywho...

I read a news report this morning about a certain Mr Justin Bieber, who, on a recent visit to the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam left a message in the guestbook stating:

"Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."

OK, so it was ill advised, probably a spur of the moment thing. Who amongst us can say that the nineteen year old versions of ourselves have never done anything stupid? I know I can't... I really, really can't.

Effectively, if I was feeling charitable, I'd imagine he was saying, 'I hope she'd have liked my music, or my personality.'

Uncharitably, I'd be thinking, in the back of my mind, that he meant 'Hey grrrl, the whole dying in Belsen thing musta been real whack, and I don't really know your story, but you musta been fly as they gave you your own museum. You'da liked me, I'm da shizznit'

What I think might be MY personal problem with him hoping that she'd have been a Belieber is that there are a vocal hardcore who viciously dive on anything anti-Bieber and tear it apart with their rabid, pre-pubescent fangs. There's an even smaller, even harder-core sect of Belieberdom that does the same to people who have stood next to, kissed, looked at, or even breathed the same air as La Bieber - How would the world have been changed if Anne Frank, generally seen as the very personification of persecuted youth, had joined those hallowed ranks?

Now, I know it's against the laws of the Internet to invoke the name of a certain Austro-Hungarian born fellah with a toothbrush moustache and side-parting, but I am quite fond of using the word Nazi as you may have noticed in previous posts. One of the first traits that people think of when you say the word 'Nazi' is fanaticism. (Along with the whole 'Aren't those Hugo Boss designed SS uniforms darkly fashionable' thing.) And fanaticism is something that Bieber's fans are keen to show in spades. You only have to look at the replies that Drake Bell, popular Nickelodian actor, guitarist and Belieber troll got when he suggested that Mr Bieber might not write all of his own material, or possibly could benefit from guitar lessons.

Not only were aspersions cast on his sexuality, musical talent, sanity and relationship status, but there were honest to goodness, actual death threats. With one young lady going to the lengths of tweeting 'live' threat updates as she got her Dad to drive her to the airport where Mr Bell had 'challenged' the irate Superfans to meet him and air their grievences in public.

Seemingly, when it came down to it, there was little 'carrying through' of threats, but some generally good natured banter ensued.

You have to worry if stuff like that is just advertising hype though, designed to raise their profiles. I hope it's not, I currently quite like this Bell chap, (my Daughter was a great fan of 'Drake & Josh'), and would hate to have my regard for his integrity dented by the foul mistress that is the Hollywood fame machine.

So, I thought I'd conduct a completely non-scientific media experiment.

This morning, I tweeted the following message:

So, #Bieber thinks Anne Frank would be a #Belieber, strange, when she spent her life hiding from death threats, not issuing them.

Complete with hashtags designed to ensure that the most bottom-feederish, hardcore, Belieberettes would rise from the murky depths like fame-addled sturgeon hunting for frozen peas.  Just to see if they turn their spindly hate-antennae towards me, or just concentrate on the famous Hollywood types.

So far I've been re-tweeted by someone called Justin Bieber - I'm going to go ahead and assume that it's not the real songstrel himself, or even a real person, as the Twitter ID of this person is @JustinBCookie, but they do have 3,462 followers, which is a start.

But we'll see what happens when the USA starts to wake up in a few hours - I'll keep you in the loop.

Wish me luck fellow citizens of the Blogosphere, but the chances are I won't need it.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The sins of the Father (Pt 3 - Final)


'Roost traffic control, this is the Edward Teach, requesting landing clearance.'

'Good morning Edward Teach, you are expected, please make your way to dock four.  Five knot speed limits apply and will be enforced.'

'Understood, dock four, thank you Roost traffic control, you bloody officious pile of scrap tin and frayed wires.'

Everyone on the bridge turned to look at When.

'What? No damn construct's telling me how fast I can pilot my own boat in friendly airspace!'

'Whose boat, Mr When?' The Captain asked as she strode through the door from her quarters onto the Bridge.

'I... I mean, we... That is, obviously, she's your boat Captain... I... I just meant that...'

'Calm down man, when I'm not on the bridge, better yet, when I'm not actually on board, feel free to think of the Teach as your own.  Although I'd like to think that you'd treat your own ship better than you treat this one sometimes.  You still owe me a new boarding tube.'  She sat in her command chair and surveyed her screens, 'Which dock has she put us in?'

'Erm... Four.'

'FOUR?' She jumped back up and stormed towards the main viewer, 'Four is the bay where the garbage cutter docks on a Friday morning!'

'Lucky for us that it's Wednesday then,' Commented Landry, the Communications Officer, with a smile.

She turned slowly towards him, and the colour drained out of his cheeks, 'Mr Landry, who are we exactly?'

'Captain... I don't...'

'Let's start with something a little simpler, Who are you?'

'Carter Landry, Ma'am, I don't see...'

'Ah-ah, and what do you do?'

'I'm... I'm the Communications Officer,'

'Where?'

'On board the Edward Teach?'

'Yes, well done.  What kind of ship is the Teach?'

'She's a Corsair...'

'And who is the Captain?'

'You are Ma'am, obviously.  I meant no disrespect!' He looked at When, with a growing glint of panic in his eyes.

'Don't look at him, he can't help you.  Next question, where are we?'

'At the Roost, your family home... But...'

'Ah! Finally, there we have it! We're at my family home, where my loving Mother and Brother will no doubt be waiting for us with open arms and a twelve course banquet.'

When stifled a laugh.

She shot him a look made of knives and thunder, 'Can you see why I'm upset that they're making us dock in what is, effectively, a garbage chute?'

'Yes Ma'am, of course, I completely understand.  I'm sorry...'

'I'm glad we all understand each other.  Frobisher!' She shouted, not taking her eyes off the quivering young officer.

'Aye Ma'am?'

'Connect to traffic control and get us a better berth will you, there's a good disembodied head!'

The lights flickered on Frobisher's face as he inveigled his way into the Roost's network.

'Edward Teach, this is Roost traffic control, please cease and desist you efforts to connect to...' There was a loud crackle as the communication signal was cut and reconnected, 'Edward Teach, please make your way to dock two.  Fifteen knot speed limits apply but will not be enforced.'

'Fifteen knots, but not enforced?' Mouthed When to the Captain.

'You expressed a concern that five knots was too slow for our purposes, so I took the liberty of increasing the dock speed limit and disabling the pressor emitters whilst I was connected.' Replied Frobisher, an air of smugness radiating from his expressionless face.

'Very good, Dr When, bring us into dock two, try to keep us below fifty knots and if you take any more paint off the hull I'll skin you and use you to patch that slow leak in the number three gasbag.'

'Aye Ma'am!' Grinned the First Officer.  He opened the Intercomm, 'All hands, prepare for docking at the Roost, this will be a...' He looked at the Captain questioningly, she shook her head slowly, 'A short visit, grab what decent food you can and if you need equipment, Ask for it, don't steal it, these people are our friends'

The airship turned majestically and made headway towards the Roost.  The stark cliffs of the Captain's home coming into view piecemeal through the mountain mist, showing the vast extent of the ancient estate.   She missed her home and her family, but her Mother's disapproval of how she made her living made these visits few and far between.  They were less than five hundred meters away when the green landing indicators lit up around the entrance to dock two, and the huge steel doors started to grind open.

She sat back into her seat and braced herself, When always showboated his way into the Roost and she was sure that this time was not going to be any different.  He took up a position behind the helmsman and cracked his knuckles.

'Roost traffic control, this is the Teach, we're having difficulty with our landing automatics, we will be docking manually.'

'Acknowledged Edward Teach, dock two is cleared for approach.  Emergency services have been advised.'

When cut the connection and pouted, 'I said that we were coming in on manual, not on fire...'

'They've seen you dock before, obviously.' Grinned the Captain.

He glared as he took the controls, gunned the engines and aimed the ship straight at the broad, glass windows of the traffic control centre. The Teach jumped forward, her tethered gasbags struggling to keep up with the sudden acceleration.

'Ramming Speed!' Yelled When over the squeals of the over-stressed connecting chains.

He waited until he could see the screaming faces of the traffic control team through the armoured glass, and the heavy shutters of their collision screens starting to deploy before he turned abruptly and headed for the docking bay.  Cutting the engines, he allowed the ship to turn around completely so that it was facing backwards and applied full burn on the maneuvering thrusters.  She entered the bay stern first and coasted slowly to a halt just as the docking tube engaged on the hull.

The Captain turned to the bridge crew. 'Secure engines and thrusters, rig the gasbags for neutral buoyancy and for gods' sake lock the cargo bays, we don't want any inquisitive members of the Pewter Guard nosing about in my booty.'

The crew dissolved into fits uproarious laughter.

'What? Why are you all laughing?'

They all turned towards her, and seeing her reddening face, started to laugh even louder.

'What are you laughing at?  Mr Landry, When, stop laughing!  I'll keelhaul the lot of you if you don't stop laughing.'

Luckily, they were laughing so loud that they didn't hear the Pewter Guard Commander on the viewscreen, demanding to know why they'd docked their sloppily patched, scab ridden junkpile of a corsair in the Baroness' personal dock.

Else there'd have been a massacre.

-oOo-

OK, so I'm afraid that I'm going to end this story right here, as I intend to use this arc in the book.  You'll all find out what's happened to Lady Dorleith's Father, Mother and Brother soon enough (hopefully) - And there will be further, complete, adventures of the Edward Teach coming soon.

Just not this particular one.

See you on Monday - Watch out for the Spiders.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

They came out of the Sun, all Dakka!-Dakka!-Dakka!


Last year, we had a note from the MicroDandy's school, saying that they were doing a project about what Britain was like after the Second World War... Rationing, National Service, stuff like that.  His first thought was to talk to his Grandfather about his experiences, what with him being alive at the time and everything - But because he is almost clinically lazy, the task of listening to his Grandfather's stories fell to me.

So one night, I trudged around to his house, notepad in hand, and asked; 'Dad, what did you do in (the years just after) the War? - The stories he told had to be quite heavily edited for their intended young audience, but I'll tell you pretty much what he told me.

(Note: Yes, this is my Pigeon Exploding Father, just so as you know what to expect.)

-oOo-

Our story starts in 1947 when he was conscripted into National Service (Which we should definitely still have in my opinion), and sent for eight weeks training at RAF Innsworth in Gloucester.

 It was here that he learned to shoot;

'We were all on the range one afternoon, taking pot shots at these targets with Browning 9mils, bloody horrible things they were, used to grab the skin between your thumb and first finger when the hammer came down, really heavy trigger too... Rubbish... Anyway, there was this clot who comes onto the range with a Sten Gun, waving it about, coming the big I Am.  Fired a couple of shots down the range and it jammed, no lubrication you see, you had to keep 'em clean, and he obviously hadn't been.  So he took the magazine out, banged it against his boot, stuck it back in and pulled the slide back, which is something you don't normally have to do, I think this might have confused him.  He fired a couple more rounds holding the barrel, not the magazine like they tell you to and, it got hot, so he moved his hand back and his fingers got caught in the ejector mechanism - took the ends of his fingers clean off, started running about the place screaming and crying and p*ssing blood everywhere.  We couldn't stop laughing long enough to help him.'

He learned to throw grenades;

'Grenadier training was a waste of bloody time, we spent days throwing de-activated Mills bombs into pits then covering our heads and counting to seven, just to make sure we could throw 'em forty feet so as not to blow ourselves up. I wouldn't have trusted half the blokes there to throw a teabag in the bin, nevermind chuck something that could blow their bloody heads off!'

How to use a parachute;

'I didn't get to jump off any of those fancy towers that you see in the documentaries.  My parachute training consisted of sitting on a bench in the back of an open truck with fifteen other blokes, driving at forty miles an hour across a bumpy field with a great bloody ape of a Sergeant kicking us all off the back at ten yard intervals.  You learned how to land properly pretty bloody quickly!'

And hand-to-hand combat;

'We shared the base with a load of bloody Rock Apes (Note: this is a derogatory term for members of the Royal Air Force Regiment, although this term wasn't in use at the time, my father never misses an opportunity to be offensive to people he considers inferior as new insults become available.) who did the guarding duties, general rule was, if you wanted to join the RAF they asked you three questions - Can you breathe through your nose? Can you spell your own name? Do you know who your Father was? - If you answered yes, you got into the RAF, if you said no, you got put in The Regiment.  I said this to one on the main gate one night as we were coming back to barracks, he didn't take kindly to it, I got some lumps that night...'

After this training was complete, he got transferred to Flensburg in Northern Germany, promoted to Sergeant, and joined Transport Command as a Radio Operator.  He spent the next few years flying all over the world. Cyprus, Hong Kong, Iraq, Libya, Malta and Malaysia were all popular destinations for him and his crew.

He also did a number of 36 hour shifts during the Berlin Airlift (Of which there is ample information on t'Internet, so I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores of it here.) And tells many similar stories about flying cargos of coal and food and mail into Berlin, refuelling then turning around and flying back to base, but these two stick in my mind.

'We were coming in to land behind this Dakota (an American transport aircraft), we were packed in about 200 yards behind him and still about 500 feet up.  We'd just cleared the fence at Tempelhof airport when he lost control and dropped onto the deck, We'd already commited to landing and the pilot was just about to grab a handful of throttle and yank the stick back when a couple of bulldozers appeared from the side of the runway and pushed the wreckage out of the way, we just cleared it - I needed to requisition a new pair of trousers when we got back to base that afternoon.'

And;

'We'd just landed and taxied over to the hard-standing where the groundcrew were going to unload us when this Penguin (an officer with no flying experience) waddles over with a clipboard and says "Right lads, need you to stay on board while they juice you, you're taking fragile cargo back so try not to shake it about too much."  Then this truck backs up right to the cargo doors, some sheets go up and we feel the plane shaking about.  We get the all clear and take off back home.  When we landed, all these ambulances turned up and all these kids got out of the back of the plane and were whisked away.  Turns out we were transporting German evacuees.'

And as you can imagine, he had a fair old repertoire of things going wrong.

'We had a heavy landing with this York at RAF Uetersen, so heavy in fact that one of the tyres blew and we swerved off the runway and into the weeds, never had an entire aircrew simultaneously s*it themselves before, it smelled like the Elsan (Chemical toilet) had exploded!'

'There was this CO at one of the airbases we were visiting who was keeping his hours up (If you wanted to still call yourself aircrew, you had to do a certain amount of flying time every year.) when we needed to get something signed, he was just doing laps of the airfield, about 200 feet up in an Oxford, or maybe an Anson.  So we got a cuppa and went and sat outside NAAFI to wait for him to finish.  He was coming in to land when he got hit with a crosswind, our pilot had commented on it as we came in the previous day, but it caught his plane and flipped it on its side.  The tip of one of hit wings just clipped the ground and he cartwheeled across the runway and bust into flames, poor bugger never stood a chance...'

But his favourite story, about his favourite plane, which he never tired of telling, and never tired of embellishing  as old soldiers often do, was this one.

'Towards the end of my time, the RAF had done a deal with the Post Office.  The P.O. were taking surplus Mosquito fighter-bombers, painting them red, and using them to carry mail.  Our crew got the job of flying loads of them from Germany back to the UK, then cadging a lift back and doing it all over again.  All this flying over The Channel got very boring after a while, and to make it more exciting the pilot would see how low he could fly, or how fast, or see how long he could fly on a knife edge (with the plane tipped at 90 degrees to the surface of the water) or any combination of the three.  There was this one time when the navigator spotted a fishing boat on the horizon right in front of us, so the pilot dropped us down to the deck and throttled up to about 300Mph, at the last moment, we popped up, flipped onto a knife edge and flew in between the derricks on the deck.  Then we buggered off sharpish, hoping they were too busy s*itting themselves and hadn't seen our squadron markings.'

-oOo-

Just thought I'd let you know about some of the wonderful things that people have type into Google and managed to find the Blog this month:

How much does Les Invalides weigh? - I presume they meant 'L'Hotel National des Invalides' Which is a set of museums in Paris, why anyone would want to know how much they weigh is beyond me I'm afraid

Post a comment on Vital Organs Blog - Nope, no idea...

And the ever popular Swing away Merrill - This is now the all-time most popular search, with seven incidents.

OK team, that's it for today, maybe there'll be more Steampunk in the mix tomorrow

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Steve the Hedge


Kids are great, aren't they though? I like kids so much that I went and got some of my own.  I decided to get one of each, you know, so I could experience both sides of the coin as it were.

I know that a few of you out there in the Blogosphere have children. I mean, I've accidentally read... Oh, I don't know... Literally tens of Blogs that say things like:

'And this is little Clinton taking his first steps, we bought a new deep-pile carpet for the whole house in case he falls over.'

'Jocasta looks absolutely scrummy in this Anne Geddes original Bumblebee costume that I bought from Fortnum & Mason (in the sale, Tarquin tells me that he's not made of money, hahahaha!)'

'We took the BMW so that Phillipe and Hermione could have enough room for all of their imaginary friends'

And I suppose I can sympathise to a degree, net-savvy Yummy-Mummies spending their time between glasses of Veuve Clicquot filling the empty void left in their lives after they gave up their full time job as a Business Analyst or Advertising Executive to be a real woman, just like their own Mothers', by telling their equally vacuous friends how their offspring regularly exceeds the targets that some book or other has set for them, whilst they're trying to re-invent the non-existant neon coloured school satchel market in their spare time.

But for every one of those, I have five, or maybe ten people who I follow via Twitter or Facebook that regularly say things like:

'Oh for God's sake, my idiot offspring has crapped in the bath... AGAIN! And he's NINE!'

'Well, I'd told her not to lick her fingers and put them in the socket, then there was the bang, but I knew she was OK because she was crying.'

'So, I got a call from the school and this very nice lady told me that HellChild had said "That's not a willy... THIS is a willy!" which it seems is frowned upon in a mixed ability PSHE lesson nowadays.'

See if you can guess which of the people I count amongst my friends? I'll give you two guesses, but the first one doesn't count.

Anywho, back to my own little bundles of joy... As I said, there are two of them.  The MiniDandy is a teenager, who writes a Blog (very) occasionally, that some of you even follow.  She's the thinly veiled heroine of the Edward Teach stories and is quite odd, in an individualistic, original way.  She gets her sense of humour, irony, fair play and indignation from me.  Her mood swings, irrational behaviour, clothes sense and general female-ality are all from her dear Mother.

My Son, who despises being referred to as The MicroDandy, so I won't, except just then, which he won't see so it doesn't matter.  Is a completely different tray of spiced giraffe tongues.  He's also odd, don't get me wrong, sometimes supremely odd.  I mean, you'll often wake up after having a bit of a snooze on the couch and he'll be standing there, staring at you, just about breaking a smile, then turn around and walk out of the room.  He's got a mind like a steel trap, and can find a hole in any argument faster than a Teflon stoat in a greasy Swiss cheese factory.

He's logical, calculating and almost autistically anal about things.  Which is great if you need him to remember something, I mean, he can quite honestly quote chapter and verse things that he finds interesting that have happened over the past five years.  But ask him what he had for lunch of course and he looks at you as if you're an idiot and says 'Can't remember.'  He's also the basis for the Ice-Demon killing, Pig Exploding hero, Mal Ak'hai the Hunter

But he's not one for whimsy, which can be a bit of a handicap in the Dandy household... Or at least he wasn't, until last night... He came into the living room and said,

'Dad, I've written a story, do you want to hear it?'

Being a kind and loving parent, I ignored the obvious, intuitive answer and replied;

'Yes, I'd love to hear your story.' And you know, I'm glad that I did - It's a gem.  I present it below, I have taken the liberty of correcting his spelling and punctuation, for clarity's sake.

Steve the hedge lives in fire hydrant land.
Steve is always watered, because of the fire hydrants.
But if you dig a trench, from the lake to Steve, it would make Steve very happy.

It's a thing of beauty, I'm sure you'll all agree.  It's got everything, whimsy, abstraction, nonsense, descriptiveness, at the end - fatalism bordering on the Dadaist.  I loved it. I've had it framed and I keep it on my desk.



(And yes, for the eagle eyed, that is a whiteboard with a picture of a squid on it behind the frame - What of it?)

I was slightly worried about him, in a John Wyndham, Midwich Cuckoos kinda way, but now I'm not.  He's one of the Firm now, definitely  100% on target to be a gen-u-wine, solid gold, stone cold, thousand yard staring, klaxon blaring, Dandy of the old skool...

Maybe of the new school...

Maybe that's even better...

But more likely, very much worse! - MuahahahahahaahahahahahahHAHAHAAHAHhahah!

I think we should all beware, just in case, start stocking up on tins, maybe dig a fallout shelter.  Because if either of the smaller Dandies ever makes a bid for global domination, the chances are that it's going to be him.

Yet another reason I'm sinking all of my spare cash into the space program.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The sins of the Father (Pt 2)


She stood on the bridge of the Grabthar’s Hammer, next to her Mother’s heavily decorated command chair.  The battle had been raging for nearly an hour now and the sky was dark with Spiders.

‘Alexander! Report!’ Baroness Bhin-dhee of Minidandia yelled at the battleship’s ancient AI.

‘We are currently outnumbered five to one, we have Spider interceptors inbound on bearings zero-four-two, one-two-four, three-five-eight and…’ Replied the ornately lit brass and copper head in the corner of the bridge.

‘Enough!’ She turned to Dorleith, ’Let’s see if we can find your Father shall we? He’ll probably be needing a hand about now?’

The eleven year old girl looked up at her Mother and smiled, she knew exactly where her Father would be, right in the middle of the biggest, thickest ball of Spiders that he could find, tearing them out of the air with his bare hands if he had to.  It was hard for her to understand why he hated the Spiders so much, even back at the Roost, before she was old enough to come along with her parents on the raids, every story he told ended up with his knife being plunged into a tabletop, or a crystal goblet of brandy being thrown into the fire, and him stomping off hurling obscenities at whoever got in his way.

‘DiGriz, this is The Hammer, Where are you, you old goat?’ The static from the speakers indicated that they were out of range, ‘Alexander, what was the last known position of the DiGriz?’

‘Our Cruiser, the James DiGriz, last known position bearing two-six-four, distance four miles,’

‘Show me.’

The main screen changed from the tactical display to a map showing Northern Macedonia, the flashing red dot indicating the last known position of the James DiGriz was hovering over the mountains to the west.’

She opened the shipboard Intercomm, ‘All hands, this is the Captain, we’re rendezvousing with the DiGriz, any gunner that has a Spider in their sights, take it out now and make ready defensive positions, keep those mechanical scum off my hull,’ She turned to the helmsman, ‘Lay in an intercept with the DiGriz, let me know when we’re in communications range.’

‘Aye Ma’am, course laid in… Captain!’

‘Aye?’

‘We’re going to have to fight for every yard, that course’ll take us through a cloud of Spiders a mile thick,’

‘Gods damn it Mr Hadleigh, bring Mary online, divert power from the engines to her and fire as you get a target.’

The deck thrummed as power poured from the great fusion engines at the rear of the airship, to the Ion cannon that occupied almost the entire front half.  The Grabthar’s Hammer had been built around this big gun, it was designed to kill the Spiders’ electrical systems and render them inoperative en-masse but unfortunately, because it was so powerful, they could only fire a few shots before they needed to cool and recharge.

The first blast took nearly one hundred spiders out of the fight, their systems fried as their lifeless husks fell onto the ruins of what used to be Kumanovo. 

‘Well Ma’am, that certainly seemed to have got their attention, we have fifty… No, sixty targets inbound, five seconds before we can fire Mary again!’

‘Fire as she becomes ready, Helm, then as soon as she fires, hard a-port, bring us broadside to the cloud. All starboard guns, be ready to fire as you acquire a target!’

Mary barked again and the sun-bright blue flare carved another chunk out of the cloud of chittering limbs and spines. The Helmsman dragged the ship hard to the left, airbrakes and scoops deploying all down the port side, the connecting chains to the gasbags groaned with the sudden tension as the deck slewed drunkenly below them.

The Captain grabbed hold of her chair and held onto her Daughter with her other hand.

‘You alright?’ She shouted, over the blare of the bridge alarms.

‘Aye Ma’am,’ replied the little girl, attempting a salute,

‘Good Girl, strap yourself in, it’s going to get bumpier before it gets calmer.  Mr Hadleigh!’

‘Aye, Ma’am?’

‘Keep us headed in the direction of the DiGriz, but initiate a Crazy Ivan, let’s clear ourselves a gap.’

‘Aye, All hands! Prepare for violent manoeuvres, we will be initiating a Crazy Ivan in five seconds, tie yourself to something solid and find yourself something to be sick into.’

The ship slewed hard right, as Mary pointed towards the enemy she fired, scooping great swathes of Spiders out of the cloud, then the Hammer came full broadside to them and the deck guns fired another cannonade.  The left-right movement continued for two miles until the Helmsman cried,

‘Captain, I’m getting a signal from the DiGriz!’

‘Onscreen!’

Through the interference on the viewscreen, the unmistakable silhouette of her Father appeared, he had his favourite monomer edged cutlass in one hand and a repeating ion pistol in the other, he was in mid-flow.

‘… Damn your eyes, man if I thought for a second you were running from your post I’d show you your own liver before making you eat it…’ The picture faded and then snapped back into sudden clarity, ‘Get off my bloody ship!’

He had the head of a Spider impaled on the end of his sword and was rapidly beating it against the bulkhead.

‘Massimo?’

‘I’ll kill ye, I’ll kill every one of ye, you’ll wish you’d never been riveted…’

‘Massimo!’

‘I’ll hunt down where ye wuz made, an I’ll kill everyone there, then I’ll find where the constructs that made ye wuz made, and I’ll kill them, then I’ll…’

‘MASSIMO! – I think it’s dead!’

‘Aye, Whut?’ The bear of a man that was Baron Massimo Lohlephel blinked the red mist from his eyes and looked at his screen, ‘Ah, hullo my Sweet Flower, Mist of my Midsummer Morning! Ah.. I’m.. a bit busy at the moment, I’ll pull out your eyes you clanking contraption… No, not you Dear, I’ll get back to you in a wee while…’ He turned away from the camera and yelled, ‘Get that bloody million legged abomination off my bridge Mr Cotterill!’  And with that, the connection went dead.

‘Alexander, can you contact the Slut?’

Dorleith giggled, The Slut was her Mother’s pet name for Angelina, the AI on board her Fathers ship.

‘Aye Ma’am, connection established.’

‘Get a status report on the DiGriz’s systems.’

‘They have multiple hull breaches, Spider boarding craft cover the entire fore-section of the ship, there are more mechanical lifesigns on board than the internal sensors can reliably count.’

‘Damn! Are we close enough to fire on the Spiders without hitting the DiGriz?’

‘Not with any degree of certainty Ma’am, no.’ Replied Hadleigh.

‘Take us in, weapons free, fire at will!’

The Hammer lurched forward, Mary and the other cannons killing Spiders in all directions as they went.

‘Erm, Captain?’

‘Yes?’

‘We’re slowing down!’

‘What?’

We’re slowing, I’ve lost control of the throttles… We’re… We’re in full reverse?’

‘Alexander, what in the seven hells is going on?’

‘The James DiGriz has invoked remote access; they are controlling us for the moment.’

‘What? Can we over-ride the signal?’

‘No Ma’am, Angelina has locked me out of my own control systems; I will be having stern words with her when we get back to the Roost… Ah!’

‘What now?’

‘I am detecting a tritium leak in the the DiGriz’s starboard engine, there are signs of an impending cascade event.’

‘Get them onscreen… Now!’

The main viewer sprung into life, Captain Lohlephel was sat, calmly in his command chair.  The bridge was swathed in smoke and the sound of gunfire could be heard in the distance.

‘Hullo my Jewel, I’m sorry about pushing you away..’

‘What’re you doing Goat?’

‘I’m saving your life…’

‘I don’t…’

‘Angelina informs me that my engines are just about to go critical, and the lifepods are covered in Spiders, so I’m going to take as many of these mechanical monsters with me as I can.’

‘No!.. I… I fought my way here, I’ve come to save you… We can…’

‘You know this is the only way, Is Dorleith there?’

She nodded and beckoned her daughter across, ‘Daddy wants to talk to you.’

‘Hello Daddy!’

‘Hullo Beautiful Girl, hope you’re OK.   I’m sorry, I’ve got to go now, but I know you’ll keep on fighting… Don’t let the Spiders win, try to stop ‘em any way you can.’

‘I will Daddy, I promise!’

‘I know Baby.  I love you both so much.’ He put his hand on the viewscreen, ‘I…..’

A freezing ball of tritium gas rapidly expanded from the rupturing engine, which then ignited in a ball of fire two miles across.  The main windows of the bridge exploded into shards which spread across the room like knives, narrowly missing the dumbfounded crew.

‘DADDY!’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Criven Preen’s calm voice brought the Captain back to the present, she slowly looked around and realised that she was once again in her cabin on the Edward Teach.

‘Nothing… I just remembered…’

‘Yes, indeed, nasty business, your Mother has the details, if you wish to help.’

‘Help?’

‘Yes, your Father needs rescuing.’

‘Rescuing?’

‘Yes, rescuing, you have been following my conversation haven’t you?’

‘Well, no, I…’

‘I see, well, I suggest you talk to your Mother, she has the details.  Now, I need to leave, I have other errands to attend to.’

‘Can we drop you anywhere?’

‘No, that won’t be necessary, thank you.’ He doffed his hat, stepped back into the shadows, and was gone.

‘I…’ She turned and entered the bridge, ‘Set a course for Minidandia, best speed, and get the ship tidied up, we’re going to visit The Baroness.’