Friday, 29 July 2011


I am troubled.

I have not The Television at home, but it exists in multi-channel, widescreen, HD format at my mother-in-law's house, and I stay there twice a week for work. There, The Television trumps all things, so I end up hearing quite a lot of it.

Last night, on a US television show I know not which, two female presenters were discussing the STAGGERING fact that in the UK just recently, a magazine advert with Julia Roberts in it had been pulled because it was considered too airbrushed.

The presenters were falling about with laughter over this nonsensical behaviour from English people "Haven't they got better things to discuss?" they said, after a forty-minute programme entirely devoted to how much Hustler is offering Tot Mom to pose. "OF COURSE it's airbrushed. If it were me, you bet I would want it airbrushed!"

They showed pictures in magazines of themselves, that had been airbrushed, to prove how true that was. One of the two is a singer, and she showed her album cover. "You know why I chose this picture?" she said. "Because it doesn't look anything like me! I'm three years younger and three years skinnier there!"

"See how much better we look?!?!", they asked us.

"Apparently," they managed to squeak out around their laughter, "in England this issue was raised in parliament!!!!!" (actually, they didn't say parliament. They called it the English Legislature).

Then this morning, in my 'book biz round up' email at work, I got a notification of an interview with Maurice Sendak in Vanity Fair. This is the cover of Vanity Fair that popped up:

Oh, I beg your pardon, I said. I seem to have been accidentally linked to Maxim instead.

John Green, on his blog and on Nerdfighters and all those places where his vlogbrothers videos go, is talking about The Great Gatsby these days. In his first video - conveniently for this post - he reminds us about the bit when Daisy describes finding out, in the delivery room, that her new baby is a girl:

"I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool..."

And this has all been said before, in better ways and more erudite ways and I have nothing new or different to add, except another voice to it. At least officially, at least in public, some UK MPs (sorry, some Representatives in the House of the English Legislature) are too.

Friday, 10 June 2011


While I'd love to be writing you a blog post along these lines:

"On Tuesday, I drove to a book launch on a backroad highway that is under construction at a rate of approximately three inches a year. I arrived at the 'escorted one-lane passage' at a comparatively good time, only having to wait about ten minutes before the cortege coming in the other direction passed and we were able to resume our journey. Those people in the queue ahead of me had not only been there long enough that it made sense to turn off their engines, but had also got out a picnic, and were in the second innings of a cricket match."

Here is what I've really got to give:

Monday, forgit what did.
Tuesday, forgit what did. Nothing pertikeler for tea.
Wednesday, forgit what did.
Thursday, forgit what did. Wish I was a beter girl.


Saturday, 30 April 2011

nagez, rameurs!

Radio silence; maintenance-level, low-functionality, etc. It’s where it’s been at the last couple of months. But you don’t want to hear about that.

You want to hear about this, and I want to tell you about it!! This is what has made me excited enough to come out of hiblognation:

(Image by David Bernier,

Nagez Rameurs, Genticorum’s new album, is coming out in almost no days' time.

Why is this so so-exciting? I’m glad you asked.

Because it’s going to be awesome. Obviously.

Because of the cover. If you have facebook, which I don’t but I piggybacked on someone to look at it, you should seek out their page because you can see the finished cover there. But you must also look here at the designer's page If the best album cover in the world is not this one, with three hairtastic French musos rendered as wooden puppets paddling a canoe with their instruments, then kindly fax me an answer as to what is.

Because of the canoe. This is a voyageurs-themed album, and you know very well that I never met a folkloric canoe I didn’t like. Some of you in fact know that it was a folkloric canoe that brought me to Canada in the first place (no, not literally; but you are hilarious; what a good joke).

Because there is reportedly a song on it called ‘turlutte hirsute’, ref: my post months ago about how every time a Quebecois musician cuts his hair, a fairy dies. I am so joyous that these boys clearly understand the important hair-to-musician nexus, (ref: also that Pascal Gemme is far and away the current reigning Samson of Quebec music).

Because of weird coincidence. The title track – the title itself – comes from a French translation of the English-language 'Canadian Boat Song', that until I read about this album a few days ago, I had not heard of. Cut to a few days fewer ago, when I went to a book launch in Regina for a novel that deals with Confederation (good for my citizenship education). It turns out said novel, by chance, contains the Canadian Boat Song, such that one of the presenters at the launch gave a wee talk about it AND we all ended up singing it. This reminded me of another very similar flying-canoe-related coincidence that happened to me the first time I ever went to Quebec (I won’t bore you with it now). There’s something about this particular bit of my adopted country’s heritage that’s done me only good, and I feel quite certain this top-of-their-game, hair-reverent, coincidence-embracing, creatively-packaged record is only going to add to my conviction that this is the case.

Am I back in the blog? Not sure. The exam marking is approaching, so I’m ratcheting up a notch for the three-jobs-at-once season, which is never my best side. But thanks for waiting.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


My brain is so…fogged today.

I was reading an email at work, and I flipped over to the internet to look something up so I could reply. I got on my opening page and immediately had no idea what I had wanted to look up. Not the first. I couldn’t even remember who the email was from. I had to go back and read it all again and work out what the thread of my thoughts had been.

I got an email from my sister, and it reminded me I had wanted to tell her about a blog post I read a while ago. I went to the blog in question and suddenly couldn’t think at all what it was in the blog I had wanted her to read or why. I went back through some of the posts but none of them rang that bell that said, that was it.

I went onto the library website to see if they had any of my books yet. Two out of four requests, they have in. I decided to look up another book I’ve been wanting to read, and I entered the author’s name: Liane Moriarty. The library website search said, did you mean ‘lane ordinary’?

Just for a moment, I thought, I don’t know. Maybe?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

how many toasters does it take...

Some many months ago, I was (unsuccessfully) attempting to combat a bout of insomnia with repetitions of On Ilkley Moor Bar t'at, and its theosophy.

Last night, it was economics, thanks to 24 Hours from Tulsa.

In the mid-1980s, a petrol, or possibly oil, company had a tv advert to promote its reward card. Everybody used Green Shield Stamps back in them days, so although the reward card scheme was identical to that, racking up points in return for paying for petrol, there was obviously some need to preach to the suspicious who were not sure about a plastic card versus tiny slips of gummed perforated paper that you were supposed to lick and stick onto a cardboard...card. (In reality Green Shield stamps just got lost in the glove compartment or were whipped out of your fingertips by the wind as you crossed the garage forecourt to your car. As a kid, I found it hard to get a handle on the Green Shield stamp. It was so important, because it was But they were always crushed and coated with mud in the footwell, or dinged to shreds in the ashtray, and the card was never about, and then sometimes you would find one among the pile of parental pocket change on the sideboard, and...wonder).

So. The petrol company (I googled it; it's Mobil) did this advert about the things you could get with your points, and the song went: "I was only 24 toasters from Scunthorpe. Only 6 double beds from Torquay".

Now, we all know, until very recently at least, supermarket points things - aside from being calculated to confuse foreigners - buy practically nothing until you have been accumulating them for four hundred and ninety years, and then your options are an acrylic tumbler with the supermarket logo on, or a keyring. (The reason they are meant to confuse foreigners is the way you are asked for the card relating to a particular points scheme when you try to pay for things. It's not a quesion, as in, 'do you have a Nectar card?' The cashier just says, 'Nectar?' - or here, 'Optimum?' If you are confused, or are foolish enough to ask for elaboration, it is customary to simply repeat, 'OPTIMUM?').

So to reach even ONE toaster, even a hundredth of a double bed? You would surely have to drive a considerable distance. Yet the singer is in a car, 24 toasters away from Scunthorpe. And six, count them, six double beds from Torquay.

You're wide awake now too, aren't you?

The furthest point in the UK from Torquay has to be John O'Groats. Torquay is way in the south west. It's only about 100 miles from there to Land's End. The driving distance from John O'Groats to Torquay must be something just over 620 miles.

If I can earn 6 double beds from driving 620 miles, then...I can get a bed for going about 100. I could drive to London from Leicester, and I wouldn't even have to go back.

Conveniently, probably the furthest point from Scunthorpe is Land's End, since Scunthorpe is in North Lincolnshire. It can only be about 400 miles. That's 17 miles for a toaster.

Mobil, I didn't take A Level Economics. I didn't even take GCSE Economics. But even I can see that's financial suicide on your part.

This song was written before the Channel Tunnel existed. I guess you could allow for car-ferry transport to, say, Zeebrugge, or Ostend, thus opening up Europe and a much greater distance for the 24 toasters and six double beds to cover, but I don’t think that’s really in the spirit of the song.
However, since I still was not asleep at this point, I decided to allow for that Channel Tunnel they’ve got there, and assume Mobil must mean a much greater distance than the UK could offer.
Since I was in bed, I made some guesses about reward-points-to-litres-of-petrol ratios, and random looking-it-up after the fact bore it out – a litre gets you a point. 4.5 litres per gallon = 4.5 points (can you keep up with the maths?).
A nice economical little car like the Micra (I wish they had them here, but can you imagine driving on the Prairies in one? The people in their monster trucks wouldn’t even see you as they chewed you up into their front grille) gets about 50 mpg when driving long-distance. 4.5 points for every 50 miles.
Now, points-to-pounds. I don’t live in England any more but I’d say you could get a decent toaster for fifteen quid. (Not one that does eggs, probably, or has a muffin-or-croissant cradle on top for when you want to defrost pastries. But one that toasts.) The best-known supermarket points scheme gives you £2.50 for 500 points. 3000 points for the toaster.
Times 24.
72,000 points.
If 72,000 points gets me 24 toasters, and 50 miles gets me 4.5 points..then...16,000 miles. 16,000 miles for my 24 toasters.
As the crow flies, that’s beyond New Zealand. Driving distance, overland and through the Channel Tunnel (remember that far back? Still with me? Getting sleepy? Good) it’s got to be somewhere in Asia. Mongolia, maybe (I’m adding miles to detour through Iran around... that sea there, above Iran. My geography is about as good as my maths. The Black Sea? The Caspian?)

None of this, though, approaches the question of why, if you had 16,000 miles worth of points under your belt, you’d think of getting 24 toasters. I hear you can get some really good stuff from those points things now. There’s more to rewards than acrylic tumblers and multiple toasters.
Unless you have a large extended family in Ulaanbaatar who all really enjoy breakfast, and you are looking for holiday gifts to take them, I suppose.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

what did you expect...

...if you're going to leave partially-drunk travel cups of tea out in your car for the day at this time of year?

Friday, 31 December 2010

vous connaissez l'histoire...

Health and peace to you as the old year passes.

Try not to make any pacts with the devil tonight, ok?

Thursday, 30 December 2010

taken for questioning

I buy soap and shampoo from a particular shop for a particular reason. They sell solid shampoo, which means it doesn’t come in a plastic bottle.

I hover around fifty-fifty on whether it’s preferable to avoid plastic or palm-oil when it comes to soap and shampoo. I don’t know which is worse – buying things with palm oil in them, or buying things in plastic bottles. Each as bad as the other, probably. However, at the moment it is certainly easier to avoid the plastic bottle (soap and shampoo-wise) than to avoid palm oil. Even fair-trade places like Ten Thousand Villages still use palm oil in their soap.

I’m not sure if the particular shop has palm oil or not.

Okay, I just looked it up. Apparently not, so there’s another reason for me to keep going there.

Anyway I was lucky enough to receive a gift voucher for this shop, and was almost out of both soap and shampoo, so today I went.

I headed straight for the shampoo, and picked up the one I always get, because it’s meant to be good for if you swim in chlorinated water a lot. Immediately, a sales assistant appeared. ‘Which is your favourite shampoo?’ Um, this one. The one I’m buying. She fetched me a little paper bag to slide it into and I carried on. Another assistant asked if she could help me. I asked her to cut me a piece of the face soap I use. ‘Have you used this before?’ Yes. A third assistant then approached to ask if there was anything she could help me with and if I’d seen a particular product, the one she was holding. No, I said, because I hadn’t. Then she told me all about what it did. And then, shampoo assistant came back, and, wondered ‘Do you know that buying two shampoos would mean you get a free tin?’

I’d been in the store about a minute and been asked six questions already.

At that point the second assistant came back with my soap and asked if I knew about their promotion. I could get the same amount of soap again – of any soap – free! So I set off to look at all the soaps and choose one. Then, the first assistant came up again. ‘How long have you been a (our product) lover?’ I blinked. Caught off-guard, I actually started explaining how when I first moved here I’d fly home to England through Toronto airport and there was a shop there, and then when I came back I…

Then I stopped. You know, I finished vaguely. She nodded receptively, but I managed to hold my tongue and turned back to the soap.

‘Have you chosen your second soap yet??’ I jumped. Second assistant was back. No, I’m still looking. She slipped away again. Each time I reached for a soap, I could feel her inching back towards me. I backed off and took a turn around the shop to steady my nerves. And, in honesty, to see if I could do it without getting questioned.

With a deft two-step I made it back to the soaps and grabbed one of approximately equal size to the one I already had. I stepped smartly to the cash desk to pay, congratulating myself on avoiding having to parry a single enquiry.

‘Have you seen our (these products on the counter)?’ This time, I went for yes, because they were technically in front of my eyes and I had, in fact, seen them. ‘Would you like one?’ Not today. ‘Have you received our newsletter??’ No, I said, again truthfully, and watched as one was put in my bag while I paid. ‘Have you signed up for our email newsletter???’ Just for a moment I almost told the truth, but caught myself in the nick of time. I straightened my shoulders, got a grip and, Oh, yes, I said sunnily, signing the slip with a flourish and picking up my bag, escape now firmly in my sight.

One soap was left on the counter. The sales assistant picked it up to put in my bag. ‘Ah, you chose that one?’ she said encouragingly, and unable to stop myself, I said, I once got a lip salve thing in the same…flavour, and I liked it. ‘Oh!’ she exclaimed, ‘we don’t have the lip balms in that line in our stores any more. You must shop online. How long have you been visiting our online store?!’

I eyed her for a long moment.

I haven’t, I said. But I begin to think I might start.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

some sort of joke?

Winter solstice, don't get me wrong. I like you. I like your vibe. I like what you signify.

But...let's make it a year til I see you again, shall we? Because this is the third time in a row we've got together, without an intervening interruption from your carefree brother, summer solstice.

I'm glad we were able to meet again here in the northern hemisphere, where things are the right way up and go in the right order. But, you know, absence makes the heart grow fonder. So how about this: I promise to stay on this end of the globe, and you promise not to come back for 364 days. Deal?

Also: today's lunch? fly in my soup.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


For holiday giftitude this year, I decided to only get people exactly what they wanted. Often I spend a lot of time thinking of something [that I think is] cool and unusual that totally goes with someone’s interests. But the thing is, everyone gets a lot of gifts. Not only is there Christmas and Hanukkah but there are a tremendous amount of end-of-year birthdays within my closest and mostest. And the thing I thought of was probably fine, but it wasn’t something they said they wanted, it was just something that kind of goes with them.

In the past I have also made socks for people. Because, well, even if socks don’t necessarily ‘go with your interests’ as such, I still think someone spending time to make you something nice by hand is a good gift. One reason I like to make people socks as gifts is because it means I was thinking of them, and spending my time producing something that is especially for them. To me, it’s meaningful.

I am still going this route in one direction; possibly two. But for everyone else, this year is the ‘just pick something off the list and buy it’ year.

This may sound a touch cynical and easy-way-outish. Well, it sort of is. I am making myself an easy holiday after all the travelling and moving and jobhunting and so on. But if there are Amazon wish lists out there, and there are HBC registries, and they have on them things that people said they wanted, well, why not point and click? You said you wanted it; here it is.

Then, quite recently, my dad threw a spanner in the works. When are you going to do me another pair of socks, then?

So my dad would really actually like - he said he wants - a pair of socks. A week and a half ago, I decided I would just about have time to squeeze in making a pair and mailing them.

This, friends, is lovely yarn. Look at it. I absolutely knew it was going to self-stripe in an interesting colourway and pattern. It’s Gawayn and the Green Knight foresty – pine foresty, the dark green and silver-grey-blue of evergreens and mythology.

And lo, the silver-blue behaves and interacts very nicely with some of the other blended colours, interleaving row by row. Pleasing.

Then suddenly, this arresting weird-ass pooling effect with the dark green. What the hell?

It doesn’t get better.

I did not sign up for making socks with a map of farking New Zealand on them. I hated it more and more as I went along. I wondered if it would work differently if I had knitted it pulling the yarn from the inside of the ball rather than from the outside, but deadline knitting is no time to be experimenting in that way. I had to get these in the post, pronto. I decided the Pooling New Zealand of No Apparent Reasondom could go at the back and down the heel, where it would be covered by trouser, and carried on.

When I got to the foot, it did this:

So now the well-behaved interleavery of the smoky silvergrey with the other evergreen forest colours was pooling to make a new zigzag stripe – a New Zealand in negative, if you will, and right on the top of the foot – in colours pulled straight from my sister’s bedroom decor circa 1987: pale grey with dusty rose, lavender and powder blue accents.

None of which features in my dad’s favourite colour schemes, for socks or anything else. None of which is part of any legendary evergreen forests of yore. And all of which combine with the original New Zealand effect for a yin yang of Ugly As Sin.

I have two balls of this yarn, so my final bid to unbugger up this sock was to add in the new ball, knitting one round in the first yarn and one in the second, to try to break up the pooling. Break up the pooling it did, but it also gave me a random pattern last seen on the screen of my Atari computer during the 20 minute burr-burrr-burrr session it underwent while loading the Sammy the Sea Serpent game from a cassette tape.

I unambiguously hate this sock. I thought it was going to be lovely, and it’s ugly. It’s taken a lot of hours, and everything about it is off. I don’t even slightly want to give this to my dad for Christmas. I definitely don’t want to carry on, and finish it, and then waste even more hours making a second that is equally hideous. There is nothing to like about either the process or the product.

Emergency socks are on the go. There’s still time.