samedi 17 octobre 2009

Eaten alive by his own Kangoo

I've a vague idea that my car is becoming a man-eater. This is due to the steady deterioration of the central locking system. Neither front window will open and two of the door-locks have packed up.

I'm beginning to have a persistent nightmare that one day, it will refuse to let me out via any recognised orifice, squirt digestive juices all over me and simply swallow me alive, pausing only to gob a few scraps of hair and bones out through the exhaust pipe. I'll only be identifiable by dental records and the odd spare tyre.

Doubtless I'm a victim of my own prejudices and cosy memories of plastic windey window handles on cars and other antediluvian devices from a lost and nostalgic world of long ago, when men were men and Morris Minors were not yet being driven at 20mph in the middle of the road by overly-infatuated enthusiasts.

I've tried hard not to become a slave to technology: Look at TV remotes. Originally they were promoted as a means of saving terminally bone idle lard-tubs the bother of staggering three feet across a Barrett House living room to change channels.

These days, one false move down the back of the sofa, no-one can find the buttons and home entertainment as we know it grinds to a halt in a blind panic. Then there's the other buttons for the DVD, the satellite and a Force Ten outside putting the dish into orbit. Me, I walked away from TV, it's become too much like hard work vegging with a can of beer . . .

But I'm just as bad as anyone else. A few days ago my ADSL line went down for a few hours. At which point I realised just how lost I was without the computer: Couldn't access the blog, my website, my email, my clients. Scary.

Of course, what really makes these situations horrific is the Age of Mass Non-Communication:

Technical problems? Please consult our website.

I can't, the ADSL's down. That's why I have a problem.

Well, try our helpline.

You mean the one that's designed to save you money by avoiding talking to me at all costs?

To be ignored completely, please press 5!

(Blankety-blank, silence, nothing, emptiness, mutism, void, vacuum, deep space, out to lunch until the last syllable of recorded time . . . and the one after that)

If I ever discover who invented telephone call stacker systems, it will be worth starting the Revolution just for them . . .

These systems are possibly slightly more unhelpful in French than in English but it's a very fine distinction and nothing to get rabidly anti-French about.

I was astonishingly lucky. France Telecom knew about my fault and were actually in the process of putting it right. It is hard to quantify the magnitude of this particular miracle.

Maybe it's just the ageing process. Being the kind of person who routinely defrosts his fridge with a hammer and chisel (works a treat, by the way . . . especially if you have one of those crap cool-box things that ice up in about 12.8 minutes) perhaps I'm just not fitted for the traumas of hyper-technology.

It's bad enough having to put specs on to tune a guitar or even set the volume on my valve amp (lovely old relic of the steam age, Leo Fender's Rocket) and watching the few remaining shreds of my ever sparse rock'n'roll cool disappearing into the ether or even a passing hyper link.

But this week's retro success has to be rediscovery of the portable cassette recorder. These things are brill. You can take them to a building site (in this case, sunny Rouvenac, home of the living dead or possibly the Grateful Dead), fill them to bursting with dust, plaster and old bricks . . . and they still work!!!

Of course, it means going back to a musical timewarp, a cut-off date after which there were no cassettes. I'd forgotten just how good Thin Lizzy were, and then there was all that wonderful spoken-word stuff from the Beeb: Ian Carmichael is still Live and Dangerous.

lundi 12 octobre 2009

Up among the moods and clouds, a shadowplay

Over this summer I finally got to know and love the Pyrenees. I don't know why it took me so long to get there. It's possibly because I don't go a lot on the ultra-sunny picture postcard stuff, possibly because most great things come in their own good time. But give me the moody moments, the storms, the rain, the wild and savage mountains, these I can love to the end of my days.

This is it - The Last House Before Spain

I've meaning for a while to drop in a quick snap of my girlfriend Claire's mum's place; the house which gave this blog its name.

Actually it's a bit of a bugger to photograph, being largely smothered in gigantic horse chestnut trees, each of them laden just now with about three billion conkers. It's a lovely old place nonetheless. You can just about make out the exotic clutter of wrought iron that decorates the roof, and the front porch which was apparently designed to look as if it was falling off the wall from the word go.

Legend has it that Claire's family got it for a very reasonable price on account of it being haunted. The alleged ghost turned out to be a strange squeak in the electric meter. Should you be lucky enough to be invited f0r lunch here, the food is awesome and the pears from the orchard at the back, out of this world.

mardi 6 octobre 2009

Wotta lotta plotters . . . a theory which is mine

I have a conspiracy theory that I'm being surrounded by conspiracy theorists. Especially ones that have lost the plot, so to speak . . . Living in deepest sticksville, SW France, you do tend to meet a few folk who have come here to avoid life, the universe, the parallel universe, and everything, and everything else. But just lately I have been inundated with loons telling me that:

a) The moon landing was a fake

b) Somebody's air force is spraying us with barium in the hope of altering the weather

c) All the famous politicians are holding secret meetings to own the world personally

d) The world is controlled by giant lizards (presumably they beat the politicians to it)

e) We are all being force-fed GM foods in our sleep

f) A giant horned planet is going collide with the Earth in 2012

g) Well did you ever? What a swell party this is . . .

h) They've seen the planet and they know it's got horns

i) Someone's planning enormous explosions to move the Earth out of the way

j) Or maybe they were going to blow up the horned planet instead?

k) Perhaps it could just sound its horns and politely allow the Earth to move for it

l) You can never tell with a horned planet

m) Especially when the Earth moves for it, darling

As usual I may have got this all muddled up due to terminal vagueness/memory loss/not listening properly, and exaggerated it a bit for loopy melodramatic effect but you get the general idea.

I suppose it's cool if you own property next to Bugarach, the delightfully freaky highest mountain near us, which has apparently been designated the point of impact. That way you can sell it at a fat profit to some End-Of-The-World-Is-Getting-Nigher theorist, or even The Hunchback of Nostradamus and retire to the Bahamas.

Mind you, if I got vaporised before actually witnessing TEOTW (work it out . . .) at first hand, I'd ask for my money back.

I wonder what the collective noun for conspiracy theorists is? A plot, a coven, an obsession? Or even a conspiracy of conspiracy theorists.

They'll be telling us next that the giant lizards built the pyramids. What crap. We had a lizard working for us and it couldn't even make the tea, let alone lay bricks. It's what comes of having no thumbs.

I don't know why anyone bothers with this stuff when there are so many wonderful real mysteries. Wouldn't you just love to have watched them building the pyramids or Stonehenge? How did the Romans get their roads so straight? How does an aboriginal man know a tsunami is coming and leg it to safety the day before?

And don't you just love it when conspiracy theorists who smoke sit there telling you how THEY (alias THEM) are poisoning us and you must only eat ideologically pure, organic aubergines in order to survive.

And all this while voluntarily ingesting enough creosote-flavoured airborne filth to kill a horse. Perhaps they practise plotting against themselves in their spare time.

dimanche 4 octobre 2009

It's the blogroll of honour

This one ought to get my User-Friendly Label Of The Year Award. You can't help but be impressed by a company with the thoughtfulness to label its bog standard toilet paper in no less than four languages. After all that effort, it just seems a shame somehow to use a see-through packet . . .