Went to Moseley Bog today for the first time. It's just off the Yardley Wood Road in Birmingham; here's an approximate Google map. Hopefully you can make out the large area of greenery: this is the wood surrounding the bog. We parked in Linkswood Close, just off the road; then walked down to the pedestrian entrance. There's no car park (at the moment), though there are plans to make over the area soon.
One reason for visiting was to see the place where J.R.R. Tolkein spent a lot of time as a boy (he lived nearby). You can certainly see how the woods would fire the imagination of a child: dark green, damp, deciduous forest, with meandering paths, mouldering wooden steps, exotic fungi, fragments of wall (I believe there used to be a mill on the site once - the old millpond is still there), streams and boggy pools. Madeleine loved it, finding gnarly holes rotted out of ancient tree trunks to hide in, kicking leaves around, splashing in puddles, and walking along the wooden walkways and bridges which circle the muddiest parts of the site. Plus it was virtually empty and very quiet, so we had it almost to ourselves, adding to the sense of "another world". There was a sense of mystery about all the fragmentary ruins, plus we came across a couple of mossy sculptures, one of a crocodile and another of a dinosaur, which Madeleine approached with trepidation. Great fun.
I am a long-time Residents fan, and have most of their records either on CD, vinyl or mp3. They never fail to fascinate and amuse.
Anyway, I was trawling around on YouTube and came across a ton of their music videos. They also have their own YouTube area, which includes several hilarious yet disturbing short films about a 9 year old boy called Timmy who has bizarre dreams and adventures: this one is my favourite.
Some of the videos for their music are cracking:
Also found the video for Songs for Swinging Larvae by Renaldo and the Loaf (stablemates of the Residents). That has got to be one of my favourite song titles ever. Absolutely crazy video: sort of David Lynch meets MTV via the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
(I also discovered a copy of the video for Heart of Glass; classic song, and every time I watch it reminds me of falling in love with Debbie Harry when I was a teenager. Who didn't?)
And even found videos for Eardrum Buzz by Wire (when they nearly became mainstream). Plus some pretty rare live video of their early stuff: Heartbeat, Practice Makes Perfect, Another the Letter, The 15th, Two People in a Room. And the video for Ahead.
And brilliant visuals for Gantz Graf by Autechre. One of my favourite tracks ever.
Some of the notable things she's said recently:
A while ago, she decided to rename her dolls: Postman Day, Strawberry Ice Cream Balls, Baby Locket.
She is really enjoying Mister Men at the moment. She especially likes the bit in Mr. Greedy where he finds a giant's table, with a huge plate of food. She spent a couple of days reciting the section about the floor the size of a field, chairs as big as trees, table as big as a house, potatoes like beach balls, sausages like pillows.
Likes doing jigsaws, and can do all of the ones in her Gruffalo book (12 pieces each). She also likes playing Alphabet Lotto and Picture Lotto: you match cards showing pictures or letters with "bingo" style cards.
We played the Funny Instruments Game recently: making up instruments based on things like fruit or animals: banana guitar, guitar which makes a sound like bees buzzing.
Likes playing with Lego, and makes houses, swimming pools, bouncy castles.
She can count to 20 (although she tends to miss 15 out).
She can recite the alphabet, and recognises the letters "M" and "S". She calls "X" a kiss.
She calls a guitar a "bitar" and instead of "pretend" she says "bitend".
Also unfortunately having an awkward phase, where she gets very argumentative. She has learned how to use the word "not" and when she digs her heels in will say "I'm not going to do it!" She also turns around the things we say to her when she's misbehaving: "Give it to me straight away."
Congratulations to Paul and Jude, whose new baby boy Timon arrived safely.
Also congratulations to my other friend Paul and his wife Awo, whose son Elliot (not directly named after me, but I still take it as something of a compliment he has the same name as me), was born about 10 days ago.
(I avoid putting birthdays online because I am paranoid :)
Everybody writes some poetry, some time; usually when they're a teenager. I spent a lot of time writing poetry (I prefer to call them "texts") when I was at University. Was any of it any good? Mostly, no. But occasionally there was good stuff. I frequently toy with the idea of putting it online. Very few people have read it. At University I was part of a writer's group. We did a couple of public readings, and even released a tape of the group doing readings of their stuff. I spent some time compiling my poems into a set for submission, but have never got round to it.
Anyway, I thought I would put a few up, mainly for posterity, for myself. They say something about me, I think. They capture a point in time when I was quite confused about most things. I was (literally) nocturnal, and had a warped, self-obsessed view of the universe. I invented a whole host of characters for my fiction and poetry. I wrote it all very quickly, with very little editing, being heavily influenced by Dada and Surrealism, the whole stream of consciousness thing. Towards the end of my writing "career" I had moments of lucidity, where I would write something which seemed near perfect. There are hopefully a few moments like this in the stuff I'm going to put up here. My decision to do this is partly due to Chloe putting her poems online. You can ignore them if you want: just don't click on the texts link in the left menu.
I have never liked London. There, I've said it. It smells funny (I think there's an open sewer near my hotel), the water is brown, the tubes are far too crowded, it's ridiculously expensive, everywhere is hot, and people rush around like the world is due to end.
Come to Birmingham, our water's lovely.
I'm at LinuxWorld tomorrow (in fact, in about 7 hours), so I'd better go to sleep now. By the way, I wouldn't recommend the Hilton: the "broadband" in the hotel is appalling, and clocks in at about 40Kbps. The reception on the TV is crap. I've only got one towel. There's no herbal tea! Breakfast better be something special...
Entertaining novelty toys, retro posters, and nostalgia. I particularly like this section, including a breakdancing book with Mr. T on the cover.
(This one's for you, sis.)
Over the weekend, we (me, Nicola, Madeleine) went on a Haven Holiday. I wouldn't normally, but we got it cheap by collecting coupons in the Sun (I don't read that, by the way, I just bought it enough times for the coupons. Honest.). It cost about Â£80 for three nights, and we stayed in a caravan on Presthaven Sands (in North Wales). It's a great holiday for children: they had shows for the children in the evening, an inflatable slide, trampolines, dodgems, merry-go-round, playground, soft play, indoor swimming pool, walking distance to the beach, amusement arcade (Madeleine enjoyed the machines where you flick 10p pieces at a moving conveyor belt covered with prize squares - land on a square, you win that amount). Bingo for the adults and cabaret (we didn't see it, but the first night Eastern Promise were playing). A most enjoyable time was had by all. Here are some pictures of characters from the shows (a slightly twee maelstrom of europop and miming by people in furry costumes, but Madeleine enjoyed it). Here's Greedy the Gorilla:
And here are the other members of the Tigerpops team, Rory the Tiger and Anxious the Elephant:
(Sorry about the picture quality: it was dark in there.)
I should have also mentioned: during the holiday, Madeleine went down an enormous water slide on her own. This wasn't our intention: Nicola was going to go down with Madeleine on her lap, but the lifeguard wouldn't allow it. Nicola asked Madeleine if she wanted to go down on her own, and Madeleine said yes. Nicola said she felt sick. It must have been about 15 feet off the ground, going round in a loop perhaps 45 feet, and with a foot of water in the bottom. I wasn't sure; I waited at the bottom of the slide. Madeleine started off on her back, and by the time she had reached me she was on her front, head-first. She went under the water and I scooped her out. But it didn't phase her at all.
She also went on an inflatable slide. Here she is on her way down:
As you can see, it didn't phase her in the slightest!
A tip for people sending off packages frequently (I do when I sell stuff on Amazon). Rather than pay for recorded delivery or the like, get a pad of Certificates of Posting from the post office (I get mine for free). These prove you posted something, so if someone disputes you did post their parcel, you've got proof you sent it, and it doesn't cost you anything.
Update: my sister thinks this is bleeding obvious, but if it took me 34 years to work it out, I'm sure there are a few other people in the dark out there.
Another update: here's a link to my sister's blog: http://www.peskyproductions.com/.
I am officially self-employed, and last week attended a workshop at the local tax office on "Becoming Self-Employed". It's worth a mention because it's a really good course which cleared up a lot of my confusion. I'm going to another this week on filling out your self-assessment tax form. They courses are free and available at all local tax offices, so if you haven't already, get along to one if you're self-employed.