Friday, 12 October 2012

Unsure, to be sure

Picture the scene; Julie and me will be having a chat. Suddenly, a wild Gem appears. Julie uses Baffle! It's super-effective!

OK, Pokemon-style shenanigans aside, I will often have to override that little trip-switch in my head so I can get my thoughts together enough to be able to write the Gem down. Following that, we will often talk about the Gem or what was going through Julie's mind while the mouth was off doing it's own thing.
That's the point, you see; Julie has said this to me often enough, and I am quite prepared to believe it; her mouth has a mind of its own and doesn't like to take instructions from the brain. Unfortunately, this is often just as confusing for my wife as it is for anyone she might be talking to at the time.

And, to be perfectly honest, it doesn't help when Julie's mouth decides to chip in when she's trying to explain herself. Seriously - it's like she's having an argument with herself. Don't believe me? Try this Gem for size...

You know, I don't think I was part of this conversation...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The illegible type

So we had our friend around to visit, which was lovely. Pierre, however, had never experienced Julie in full-on Gem mode in person. Also, he found out first-hand just why there are bits of paper scattered around the place - because you just never know when a Gem will occur.
Naturally enough, since there is no way you can suppress a talent like Julie's for very long, our German friend did find himself wondering if it was a problem with his understanding of English, or if logic had indeed done a bunk and left the conversation.

Me? I was scrabbling for one of those handy bits of paper, and reassuring Pierre that his commendable grasp of our language hadn't slipped, I hastily scribbled down what Julie had said.
As I have said before, there are often occasions when I will be writing a Gem down, but Julie will use that little gap in the conversation to come up with yet another Gem. Sometimes, it gets so that I'm struggling to keep up.
Fortunately, it wasn't that bad this time - only one more Gem was produced. But, boy, was it a belter...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Pistachios; nuts, not seeds, but very possibly seedy.

Sorry about the delay, folks; I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things...

When my German friend came for a visit, he arrived bearing gifts - mostly food and drink. It turns out that he had also been informed by a mutual friend that I am rather partial to pistachio nuts, so he bought three bags for me. Two packs had the shells on, but one was salted and the other simply roasted. The third pack contained shelled pistachios. Shelled and skinned, but unroasted and unsalted.

(In answer to your unspoken question, yes, they are meant to be green.
They're also one of the healthiest nuts you can eat and they last ages.)

When I opened the pack of shelled nuts, to see such a vivid green was interesting. Julie was a tad perturbed, until I pointed out that was how they were when free of shell, skin and salt.

I tell you - I nearly choked on my nuts.
Perhaps I should rephrase that...


For more information on pistachios, drop by this site.

Monday, 1 October 2012

A generous, axe-wielding howler of a Gem

WOOHOO! We're back!
Many apologies for the absence, and I hope you haven't all drifted away through boredom. I promise you that we are now back on track and ready to post at our original rate of three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), with possible extra posts when we feel like it.

Since we last posted, Julie felt as though she needed to store up her reserves, which meant the Gem rate wasn't particularly high. However, that's not to say that my darling wife was entirely silent. In amongst everything else that had been happening in our chaotic couple of months away, we had a visit from Pierre, a good friend from Germany (something that confused Julie's already dubious geographical knowledge). It didn't help that she - for some reason - seemed to mentally default his name to Piers...

Anyhow, the day came, and we sat in the lounge, waiting for Pierre to arrive. Since we had never met in the flesh before, this was going to be an interesting meeting, and Julie was a tad nervous.

Now, was it nervousness that made Julie confuse psychopath, philanthropist and philatelist, or was she just getting back into Gemming with a fine old start? Whatever it was, welcome back, Julie!
As for Pierre, well, he proved to be a great guest, and it was fun to have him around for the weekend; pity it wasn't for longer... It also turned out that he had left his axe at home and has no interest in collecting stamps. However, he IS a rather generous person. While not precisely of philanthropic levels, we were stunned at the  basketful of goodies he brought us...

Booze, chocs, meats and - mmmm! - lots of pistachio nuts! As you can see, my friend is substantially taller than me (and rather cautious of camera flashes), but he was a gentle giant and it was a pleasure to have him as a houseguest.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

On hiatus.

Hi folks.
Sorry, but those circumstances really are not good. We're going to be on hold for a while.
See you soon!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A pause and a change.

Hi folks, Spike here. Just to let you know that circumstances beyond out control are forcing us to slow down on the posts.For the next few weeks, there will be posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and maybe one or two extras.

Sorry about this. We love you all.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

That's what I'M talking about!

Here in Britain, we have been gradually switching our TV signals from analogue to digital. Essentially, it should give us more channels and a clearer picture. What it really meant was a lot of people suddenly finding that they can't watch the four or five channels they were happy with. Well, not unless they either forked out a small amount for a digital adapter, or for a new TV and/or aerial.

What with all of that, we were discussing whether it was worth our while switching our phone line/internet provider to someone that deals with TV too. We looked at details for a while, bit it evidently all got a bit too much for Julie. all those details, comparisons, offers, etc. Julie looked at me and tried to tell me what offer may have been the best - or was it that she wasn't bothered at all? Or maybe she meant something else? I was completely lost, to be honest. And it seemed I wasn't alone...


Monday, 30 July 2012

Nuttiness is ungrounded.

Or not. I'm not entirely sure, to be honest.
You see, today we're celebrating a return to posting with a journey into Britain's legal past. We have a long and... glorious... history of legal matters in this country, some of it less comprehensible than others. I have in my own personal library a few books that revel in the dotty things we have managed to do and come up with in years gone by, but there are a couple of books I do like to return to now and then. One of which is The Return of Heroic Failures, a compilation of less-than-salubrious foul-ups from Britain and the world.

I have already featured a tale from this tome, regarding the sorriest fleet of submarines ever to (dis)grace the seas over on Sikkdays* some time ago. Now, I want to introduce what is quite possibly the most baffling piece of legislation the legal world has ever seen (in so few words, at any rate).
In 1972, it was decided that we really, really needed to know how to define a peanut - aka a ground nut. Hence the Ground Nuts Order.

Well, that's cleared that up. And to think we moan about the crap that the greysuits in Brussels come up with...

* Whaddya mean you've never heard of Sikkdays? Go and have a look - it's the property of a friend of mine, but he graciously allows me to post odd things every now and then.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Julie's Gems - on hiatus

Hi folks.
Sorry about this, but Julie's Gems will be on hold for a little while.
We will hopefully be back in the next few days, even wackier than before.
Cheers, and thanks for your support.
Spike & Julie

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Bungalow Booze Blues

So that's it. Our week of documenting the Gems from a wine-and-Trivial Pursuit night is over, and all that remains is to see our heroine off to bed. Unfortunately, the alcohol has now definitely taken its toll on her legs...

...yes, dear. Goodnight, love, sleep well.

And to everyone reading, thanks for following this week and over the course of our time - did you know, by the way, that we have passed our 300-post mark in the course of this week? Here's to the next hundred and more!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Bosom buddies have bad memories, apparently.

Acronyms - they can be handy, they can be confusing (anything official, or a series of space saving measures in a newspaper article, for example). Some acronyms are just letters (RAC), but others form actual words and often have been contrived to do so ('The man from UNCLE', anyone?). Sometimes, these 'words' can be inadvertently offensive, and sometimes they can be offensive by design, even if only for humour's sake. If you have seen the CLITORIS scene in one of the Red Dwarf episodes, you'll know exactly what I mean.

With that in mind, I dreaded what a boozed-up (ok, she was just a bit tiddly) Julie was going to make of this question...

BAFTA, of course, stands for British Film and Television Awards, but you probably worked that out, right? Julie knew, but but the lure of an opportunity to muck things about proved to be something of a siren call.

And now, as a special treat for you, have a CLITORIS.

Tata for now - tune in tomorrow for the finale to this week's Trivial Pursuit bonanza. And yes, it's going to be a good one.

Friday, 20 July 2012

No man is an island, however...

Usually, if I ask Julie a question in Trivial Pursuit (or another quiz) to which she does not know the answer, then her knack for coming up with a reply that is off the wall and out of the window will usually come up trumps. During this game, though, the wine consumed was taking its effect and snappy answers were becoming a tad rarer. Don't get me wrong, my wife was still apt to verbal shenanigans, it just took a little longer, that's all.
All the same, I was caught wrong-footed by her answer to this question. I mean, I bet I can imagine the answer some of you could come up with...*

In light of the alcohol consumption, I did wait a little while for Julie to complete the word 'mountaineer', but was ultimately forced to facepalm...

In case you were wondering, the answer was 'during take-off', because John Glenn was an astronaut.

*Jogging, of course...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Warning! Alcohol may cause eyestrain!

This week, as you may have noticed, is a full week of Gems, all resulting from a single game of Trivial Pursuit. You may also recall that said activity was assisted - for Julie, at least - the consumption of a glass or two of wine. A half-decent Shiraz, as I recall.
To begin with, any oddity was purely down to my wife's generally wonderful nature. After a while, however, the wine did begin to take effect. Not that Julie was slurring her words. No, it was more that Julie's brain was actually being slurred.The mouth was fine; I could understand every single word that was spoken. It was just when you put the words together as Julie did that your own brain began slurring in sympathy...

Apparently, this quirky little epithet meant that Julie's eyelids were feeling heavy as a result of the wine she had drunk.
Yes, love. It's totally obvious, now that you mention it. -.-

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Stop! Grammar time! - featuring Igor Stravinsky

So, Trivial Pursuit. You get asked a question, you answer it. If you get it right, you get another go. If you're in the right place, you also get a token to place into your playing piece - 'getting another wedge for your cheese', as we often say.
And that's it.
In theory.
In practice, there will be lots of banter, cries of 'how am I supposed to know that?' and accusations of skulduggery. There will also, if Julie is playing, be random observations on the question, the answer, a different question or answer, or anything that happens to be on her mind at that particular time. And when I say 'random', you know I mean 'random'.

I suppose we ought to be grateful Julie didn't burst into song with 'Old MacDonald had a farm'...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Getting personal with a planet

In case you are unfamiliar with the board game Trivial Pursuit, Allow me to shed some light on the matter. Essentially, it's a pub quiz for the family to enjoy within the comforts of their own homes. There are six categories for each player or team to answer questions on; Geography, History, Entertainment, Art and Literature, Science and Nature, and Sport. Here's a sample of one of the question cards.

Now, the thing is you can't help but look at and read at least one or two of the other questions on the card. Even if you are only supposed to read the brown question, you are likely to have more than a glimpse at the first question and the two on either side of the proper one. And if something catches your eye, then this is going to be even more applicable.
I can't recall what question Julie WAS supposed to be asking me, but it's largely irrelevant, in the light of her inadvertent discovery of the science question elsewhere on that card...

There's not a lot I can say to that. Did I mention (yesterday) that alcohol was being consumed?

Monday, 16 July 2012

Warning: Cheats will be crucified.

It must have been because it was my birthday - Julie suggested the other day that she bought some wine and we had a night of games - a choice of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit in our case. Since wine was in the equation, that meant my suggestion was to have some fun with questions and answers. As a result, you lucky people can now look forward to a week of alcohol-soaked Trivial Pursuit-related Gems. That's a whole week, so don't think you have nothing to look forward to on Tuesday or Thursday... or the weekend, come to that.

To start off with, I thought we'd reference some popular culture, to wit the film which consistently tops the (British) polls for the best comedy film ever; Monty Python's Life of Brian. It has always astounded me that Julie simply does not 'get' Monty Python - or The Goons either. I mean, when you consider how anarchic she can be and how supremely surreal (a term I had to explain to her, bizarrely enough), you would have thought she'd be able to quote the films and programmes with the best of them. But no. I will be almost literally falling off my chair with laughter as Michael Palin's Pontius Pilate discusses the apparent hilarity of his friends name with his uncontrollable legionnaires. Julie will be staring at me with a baffled expression. That's if she's even in the room.

So, when Julie pulled out the card to ask me a question, she groaned as she read it.

This was going to be a long game...

By the way - fancy a blast of fwankly wisible humour?

Friday, 13 July 2012

Pissed-up piscines on acid

Julie and alcohol. What a combination. Mind you, Julie without alcohol is possibly just as bad. The thing is you just never can tell.

I was sat in my office, pootling around the internet, looking for things to feature here. Things to post to Facebook. Things to watch and listen to, and things to blow up (in games, naturally). It was late in the evening, and I was thinking about closing up shop, as it were, when Julie came upstairs and popped her head around the door to say 'hi'. Not just 'hi, actually. Once the greeting was out of the way, my wife embarked on a particularly surreal series of non sequiturs.
As I said last time, the best way to cope with a full flow is to ride it out, smiling and/or nodding at the appropriate places. Or staring blankly. That works quite well, too.
However, bear in mind that I told you that this little rambling run was so far off the wall it was out the window and into the street. When I managed to get my head together long enough to say something, I rashly accused Julie of having had a little tipple. Something that she vehemently denied. In her own little way, of course...

Surely it says something about your mind when, upon forgetting the word 'judge', the only possible alternative your brain can offer is 'fish in sulphuric acid.
I'm just going to file this one under 'WTF?' and move on rapidly.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

An unnaturally natural explanation

Here's the thing: Julie does have her Little Moments. Those times when the only hope anyone talking to her has of making it through alive is by riding the wave, so to speak. Just let it wash over you and then come bobbing back up like a seabird on a rough ocean.

Well, that's not strictly true. In my case, I'm generally in a desperate hurry to write down everything Julie is saying before my pen spontaneously combusts...
So, there I was, notepad at home, but a scrap of paper dredged from my pocket and pressed into service. Smoke was starting to emerge from my pen, as Gem overtook Gem, when - BAM! Julie decided to engage in a little self-analysis.

Do excuse me - I think my brain just exploded...

Monday, 9 July 2012

Just as bad as each other.

That's us, alright.
I know I have a habit of trying to set Julie up and occasionally baffle her with science and/or terminology - all in the interest of getting a Gem or two out of her. However, it does have to be said that Julie gives as good as she gets. I just tend to end up falling silent, the wires in my head having been crossed by a freshly-delivered Gem. Since I stutter on occasion, it's usually best if I try and think about what is going to come out of my mouth.


The thing is, I have a sort of in-built verbal reflex that tends to come out with comments just when they're most prone to humour and/or being in danger of misinterpretation. Or, even worse, of being interpreted correctly by people who are likely as not to give me a good kicking if they catch onto the fact I'm making jokes at their expense.
Hi folks, my name is Spike Matthews, and I'm a smartarse.

Case in point: Julie and myself were out the other day, just for a stroll. I'd accidentally left my notepad at home, which lulled Julie into a false sense of security. For much of the walk, Julie seemed to be in 'chatter' mode, which was good, as she does have a lot of good things to say. After a while though, the gears in her head shifted subtly and the mouth began to overtake the brain. Unfortunately for my wife, this meant the mouth had to to take up the slack and produce things of its own invention.*
Even more unfortunately, Julie's chatter had somehow induced me to slip into 'smartarse' mode. Smartarse, with an apparent side-serving of 'snarky'.

As a result of these circumstances, we wound up with a few Gems. Gems I managed to capture thanks to a stray piece of paper in my back pocket. As I was scribbling furiously, I was barely concious of Julie, who was still chattering away to my left...
"I'm leaning on a lamp post on the wotnot of the street..."
Despite my concentration, I laughed and paused in my writing, long enough for Julie to ask me a question which earned a knee-jerk reply.

er - sorry, love.

*Of course, this is how most Gems are produced...

Friday, 6 July 2012

You couldn't make it u... oh - she did.

OK, so we were playing Scrabble, which is a word game. However, today's Gem is - to me, at least - very much a definitive one. Yes, there were doubts as to what Julie was trying to play for her turn, but I still maintain what she said as a defence is more than equally applicable to her whole approach to life.
Now I have strung things out by repeating myself with polysyllabic terminology, all that remains for me is to draw back the curtain and present what I feel may become the slogan for our blog.*

'nuff said.

*Previously, we had considered using the phrase, 'Julie's Gems - the best website this side of the table'. However, I think we should drop it in favour of the above Gem, as the new one goes some way toward explaining a bit more about who Julie is and what she does.
What do you think?
Either comment below or send us an email to

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The curious case of the leaky colander

Time to give Julie another break, methinks...

The man above is Niko Alm. He is a Pastafarian. That is to say, instead of a Christian God, or a Muslim Allah, or... whatever, he purports to worship The Flying Spaghetti Monster. As such, he went through the Austrian courts in order to fight for the right to wear a colander on his head in photos for his driving licence and passport, as he claimed it was religious headwear, as per his faith. And he won. Here's the story. I like the bit that says he passed a medical examination to say he was fit to drive...

Meanwhile, over on Facebook, one of my friends has managed to display a stunning sense of loyalty and support to his mother. Andy, for it was he, had happened to be in the vicinity when his poor mother had an absent-minded moment as she was cooking dinner. The vegetables needed draining, so Mum tipped them into a colander. Unfortunately, said colander wasn't resting on a pan or over the kitchen sink...

 Naturally, the first thing that a dutiful son would do would be to offer assistance. No, not Andy. Straight onto Facebook it went... I dunno. What is the world coming to when a woman can't depend on the men in her life to spread juicy gossip about the slightest mishap?
>coughs uncomfortably<

Monday, 2 July 2012

Gaming or parading in kombats?

This last weekend saw Eastbourne Armed Forces weekend.  I am vehemently anti-war, so I tend to avoid anything to do with it all, but I also have an interest in history. I have especially become more interested in local history. Unfortunately, as the most bombed town on Britain's South coast during WWII, a lot of that history will involve war.
Most of the events - if not all (I had trouble keeping track of it for some reason) - were centred on Eastbourne's redoubt fortress.

(NOT a model - this is one of my photos of the redoubt,
but run through a tilt-shift filter)
These fortresses, of which there were a few built, don't actually date from the last war, but from the Napoleonic wars. They have simply been adapted for whatever need as time passed.

On Friday evening, there was a gathering of cadet groups from various regiments or branches of the forces. Julie and myself hadn't particularly planned to watch it, but had instead happened upon it during an evening stroll along the seafront. More specifically, we had happened upon it just as they were finishing and taking it in turns to march off into the sunset.

I mean the car park. Sorry.

Unfortunately, there really wasn't enough room for us to pass by them, so we had to stand aside. I have to say, that discipline was pretty lax; even though the moves may have been pretty much in synch, there was a lot of incidentally chit-chat and joking. It may have been this that put Julie into her whimsical frame of mind.
Yeah, right. like she needs any excuse, eh?

(Mind you, I'd give a lot to see a Julie's Gem - style "Fatality!")
In case you aren't of the classic gaming fraternity, Mortal Kombat was a cartoony... er, combat game, where you had to hit certain buttons on a control pad to be able to use certain manoeuvres. If you were anything like me, though, you just mashed and bashed the buttons and hoped for the best.
Personally, I would love to think that Julie's own instructions would have resulted in a military display such as this:

Friday, 29 June 2012

Satan, rocks, and an x-rayted song.

Last week, Julie found she had somehow hurt her back, just below her neck. Don't be worried - all she has done is somehow pulled a muscle. However, on top of her little accident at work (see Monday's post), this comes as especially unwelcome timing. The pain turned out to be a tad worse than that in her foot, so she has been forced to speak to her doctor again, with the result that she has been prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
I know the pain must be rather nasty, because Julie is actually fine with taking the tablets (as far as having to take medication goes). That said, Julie is trying to limit the amount she takes. Not because she is concerned about becoming hooked on them, but because of the side-effects. It's a legitimate concern. especially so in the light of her weight-loss surgery. Because of the reduced stomach size, Julie is now both more and less reactive to the chemicals in the meds, so while some tablets seem to have lost their effectiveness, others will turn out to be more of a problem.
So it is with co-codamol (a mix of codeine and paracetamol). I'm not going to go into details. They're not icky; you just don't need to know them. Suffice it to say that Julie finds she has to work out if she's more concerned about the pain or the side-effects at any one point before taking and co-codamol. Or, as Julie put it,

A little note for the folks who may have got the wrong end of the stick here; hardcore - in this case - does not refer to 'action', but to the rubble that is used in construction. Although I'll freely admit that, when I first saw a sign advertising 'Free hardcore', I not only got the wrong end of the stick, I got the wrong stick altogether.
Ah, youth.

What with Julie's foot and her back and my ongoing headache issues (and occasional back troubles), a lot of our conversations turn to health matters. Usually, we'll lament our lot, and then follow it up by saying that there are many far worse off than we are... although that doesn't make it any better.
Julie said it best.

And on that note, we shall bid you fare-thee-well and have a great weekend!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Durr-an Duran...

I have a colleague who only works part-time. It's a good thing for him, as he came out of retirement to do the job. It's also a good thing for the company, as they don't want a full-timer.
Dave's a decent enough bloke, but he couldn't, to quote Terry Pratchett's Soul Music, carry a tune in a bucket. He can't even whistle tunefully. Seriously, it's almost painful. For someone like me, a person that needs a bit of music in the background, that needs the flow of music to be right, it really does verge on the painful.
Even worse, his grasp of lyrics is tenuous beyond belief. Again, to me, this is like fingernails down the chalkboard of my soul.

Some years ago, when the Bob Marley track Iron Lion Zion was suddenly a massive hit, I was living at my parents' house and they were having some work done on it. Unfortunately, I was working a night shift and trying to sleep through hot summer days with a workman listening to the radio and trying to sing along with Bob. Even more unluckily, the only words he knew were 'iron', 'lion' and 'Zion'. Even worse, they were out of tune too. Commercial radio being what it is, the song was repeated ad nauseum, and I got very little sleep.

Back in the present day, I was packing some boxes, when Dave came along, 'singing' along to Duran Duran...

Well, it beats "lalalalalaa", I suppose...
Here's the original - clean - video.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Julie vs the telesales people (part II)

We posted a Gem a short while ago about what happened when Julie received a call from a telesales person (click here to see the confusion). After that, we were talking about other ways we could baffle the buggers...
This hasn't happened, but we wish it would. We're just waiting for the right time.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Painting the sky with feathers

It's time for a certain young guest star once more :-)

Sharron and her family were visiting her mother-in-law, who had recently been seriously ill and now returned home. The weather was quite pleasant, apparently, which made a nice change from the wind and rain that had been hammering the northern parts of the country for some days. In fact, the sky was a beautiful shade of blue, so much so that Sharron remarked on it to her daughters. They looked out of the windows, and then the youngest daughter said:

You gotta love the surreal innocence of kids, eh?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Having a (non)sense of place

[My apologies, today's post is a little on the lengthy side.]

Working at the hospital can be dangerous. Quite apart from abusive drunks on the night shifts, germ-ridden people coughing into your face or razor-sharp instruments seemingly waiting to cut you at the first opportunity, there are the trolleys. Sorry if that reads like I am being flippant towards the last one, but I'm not. It's admittedly not as potentially lethal as the others, but it's a real danger nonetheless.
Imagine you have a trolley laden with its contents - and this goes for the hospital beds being pushed around, too - moving along a corridor. Maybe one wheel sticks, maybe they're all very free-flowing. However, the fact remains that a huge chunk of metal is being pushed and/or pulled by one or two people. What happens when you come to negotiate a corner, or go through a door? It's going to be tricky, holding the door open with one hand and manipulating the trolley with the other.

That's when you need to be careful.

Julie found this out to her cost recently, as she was trying to move a loaded food trolley (and they're very heavy, I am told) into a corridor, out of a lift (elevator, to US English speakers). One of the wheels caught her foot, which obviously hurt like blazes. Julie, being bought up to not worry about things and to get on as best as she can, didn't mention it at the time.
However, the top of her foot continued to hurt like blazes.
Eventually, Julie went to see a doctor, who referred her to the hospital for an x-ray. This, thankfully, turned up no broken bones, although there had been some fluid created as a result of the accident. This would apparently subside in a few more days. This was a relief, as we really didn't fancy Julie being signed off and not getting any pay. We can't afford that right now.

Julie and myself were talking about the accident, and I was asking some questions; Was it reported? (there isn't anyone around at the weekends to report to.) Was it recorded in the accident book? (see previous parentheses) Have you spoken to a team leader since the weekend? (well... no)
It was about this point that I went on a little rant about how they should be issued and wearing protective footwear - what we in the business know as "toe-'tectors". I also hectored Julie about needing to tell someone about it as soon as possible; if nothing else, if it turned out there was something seriously wrong, then her employers would know why and how. Julie has a tendency, when I begin one of my little tirades, of letting me run my course and then saying something like, "well, we'll see." Which is quite aggravating.

In any event, Julie told her supervisor the next day. She was told that Occupational Health* would need to get in touch with her and go over the incident with her. However, there was an obvious problem or two. You see, Julie only works an early evening shift, one which has very little overlap with office staff. Not only that, but the day after Julie's chat with her supervisor, she was due to take a couple of days off. Just when were OH supposed to be getting hold of Julie?

If that wasn't enough, after I had written this Gem down, Julie dug herself in even further...

[Even better, Julie just came back from work as I was typing this out. Naturally curious as to what I may have been slandering her for (just kidding, it's all true), she had a glance and wanted to know the Gem involved. I read out what I had copied down and she stood there for a moment and then said,
"Well, that makes sense, doesn't it?"
Yes, dear.]

*Occupational Health is one of those departments within a company that has arisen as a direct result of the culture of litigation that has become prevalent in much of the western world these days. Essentially, they exist to give the company a reason to avoid paying out any money to an injured party. To this end, OH will ask you so many questions that you get fed up of it all and decide it's less hassle to go back to work.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bonus post - "Seriously, Siri?" on The Devil's Panties

It's webcomic time, again, folks!
Today, I'm introducing you to The Devil's Panties, a comic which is a lot less demonic and some way less naughty than the name implies. Jennie Breeden, the writer and artist, presents us with a slice of her life every weekday and most Saturdays. It's not strictly true-to-life, as not many people do really have miniature good/evil/princess versions of themselves bickering between themselves over her shoulder.
Apart from that, the comic follows Jennie and her fiancĂ©e (he recently proposed to her at a kilt-blowing convention, which should tell you a lot about both them and the webcomic) as they try and make a living from making the webcomic... can anyone else hear Edith Piaf singing "Je ne regrette rien" very slowly?*

In case that puts you off, let me also tell you that Jennie has some very idiosyncratic friends and relatives, which is hardly surprising, considering that she herself is into, yes, kilt-blowing and fantasy LARPing (that is, Live Action Role Play), in which Jennie roleplays as an orc called Dammit. She even has a secondary webcomic called 'Geebas on Parade' in which she draws about her experiences as a LARPer. In many ways, that comic is almost funnier than TDP, however, it is back to the satanic underwear for today's bonus Gem.

Recently, there was a big family event in the Breeden household, which meant that a lot of the family were around. and it appears that Jennie's family are just as funny - intentionally or otherwise - as the lady herself. Take, for example, the efforts of one Uncle Sidney to record something on his iPhone. Actually, the recording probably went well enough. It was trying to use the speech recognition software known as Siri to label the file that caused him a spot of bother...

(copyright Jennie Breeden)

Poor Uncle. I wonder if they've let him forget it yet...
If that wasn't enough, there is a semi-regular feature in TDP known as 'What not to say in the bedroom' (usually featured on Saturdays). Take a look at this example...

(copyright Jennie Breeden)

So there you have it, another webcomic. Hope you liked the introduction - now go and read The Devil's Panties.

*If you haven't seen the film 'Inception', you won't have a chance of getting that joke. Sorry.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Longer doesn't mean longer.

The passage of time is a very subjective experience. Poor situations seem to make the day drag out interminably. Conversely, if you're enjoying yourself, you're bound by the laws of conversational narrative to utter the immortal line, "what, already? I just started! I don't know - just where does the time go?" As the author Terry Pratchett has also noted, your perception of time already elapsed will vary too. You may look back on a work or school day and lament how it never seemed to come to an end. However... wait, what? We've just had the longest day of the year? I could have sworn it was February yesterday! Or, as Sir Terry has it...

Of course, you don't need any such mundane approach to time dilation when Julie is around. If nothing else, after a few Gemmed-up exchanges with my wife, you'll have only the vaguest idea as to what century you're in. What I wasn't aware of, however, is that even Julie is affected by her in-built temporal distortion field. Even more oddly, Julie can turn this field on by having a nice lie-in.

I'm not a morning person, never have been. Unfortunately, being Gemmed later in the day means my brain is awake and then ties itself into knots trying to figure out the meaning behind what the ears have just fed it. So, there I was, mug of tea raised partway to my mouth and an expression of terminal bafflement on my face. Julie saw my confusion and decided to help me out.

Well, that's nice. Do you think you could find the time to explain it to me?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bonus post - cautionary canine creation

Yesterday, Julie was less than supportive of my desire to have a dog from a rescue centre. However, as you may recall, the topic arose because we had been discussing some distressingly poor examples of poochdom. The most common example was what essentially appeared to be nothing more nor less than a toupee with legs and teeth. Then there were the big, fluffy ones. Usually Bernese mountain dogs crossed with Alsatians or huskies and lumbering along with lung conditions that'd make hardened smokers wince in sympathy.

However, one dog topped them all. After a little searching, I reckon what we saw was actually a Mexican hairless chihuahua. I love the fact they had to add 'Mexican' to the description, considering chihuahuas are Mexican in the first place, being given the moniker after the town of the same name.

 It's an ugly little thing, for sure, but more than that, it's a pathetic creature. I mean, you have to remember that things like this are descended for wolves. That, ladies and gentlemen, is genetically so close to a wolf it's almost identical.
Looks nothing like a wolf, does it?
Or, as Julie put it,

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

It mutts be love at a rescue centre

Sorry! Terrible pun, I know.
The thing is, my family has had a few dogs over the years. The first I recall was Skip, an English Springer Spaniel - and a big bugger he was too. He was a pure breed, and as such had many of the problems that pure-breed dogs (and cats) do. In the end, it was bowel cancer that got him, but he lived a happy life. Even happier if there was ice-cream in the offing.
It took quite some years before my folks could bear to get themselves another dog. That dog is Toby, a Jack Russell terrier - again, a pure-breed. Again, he's had quite a few medical issues, but again, he's in his old age and still enjoying himself enormously. It's fairly pleasant too, in that he's generally a lot more well-behaved and mindful of himself than Skip was. Skip was a great dog, and tremendously loyal, but he had the attention span of-SQUIRREL!

Ever since moving out of my parents' place for good, I have to admit I have missed having a dog around the place. The thing is though, I work full-time, as does Julie (in a roundabout manner), so it wouldn't be fair on any animal if we did take one in. The closest we got was when Julie sponsored a dog from the charity, The Dogs Trust. This is Jacob.

As you can see, he's not a pure-breed, although there is a lot of Jack Russell in there. I never got to meet him, as the sponsorship was all done online and he lived half a country away. Oh well.
My point, though, is that I approve heartily of The Dogs Trust and what they do. When we are out for a walk and we see some runty little hairpiece or a slobbering beast with more muscles than brain cells or something that looks like it makes a living from chasing parked cars, we know that we could never go the pure-breed route.
For me, it goes even further, as I explained to Julie.

Mind you, I suppose it would have to be a mentally robust animal, considering how off-beat its new humans would be...

Monday, 18 June 2012

Private Eye: Dumb Britain. Julie responds.

There is a satirical, highly politic and left-leaning magazine in Britain called Private Eye. It's efficiency in annoying the establishment, the arrogant and the merely(?) powerfully inept shows up very well in light of the times that the publishers and editors have been called to court for daring to challenge a dangerously unbalanced status quo. And won. Among many things, Private Eye dislikes celebrities and the cult thereof, the class system, hypocrites, biased journalism (yes, I know), corrupt officials and excess of most kinds.
They also like to poke gentle fun at other things, such as poorly-worded signs, odd things for sale under bizarre pricing conditions, and just how some people only open their mouths to insert their feet. One of their features in this vein is the 'Colmanballs' column. Another is 'Dumb Britain', which centres on questions in quiz shows and the otherworldly responses. Admittedly, it is sometimes the quizmaster fouling things up, but it's usually the contestant. Sometimes, it appears as though the magazine is poking fun at people less educated than themselves, but it does have to be said that a lot of answers go against any kind of internal logic and clues that the question has provided. Take a look at the feature from the latest issue.

In the first two, there is definitely an element of educational snobbery, but the third one has no excuse. They have already been given the county and they go and mention a different one? And as for the 'Dumb Australian', (s)he was told that the answer was a country. Where on Earth is there a country that has a name sounding like 'Fiddler on the Roof'?

Julie enjoys this section usually, so I was reading out the questions to her. Once she had provided an answer, I would go on to inform her what the contestant had come up with. When it got to the final one, I asked, "Which Mediterranean country, whose name sounds like that of a musical, owns the island of Rhodes?"

Oh dear. I thought she was Being Silly, until I saw her expression...
Mind you, at least Julie,unlike the contestant from Australia, managed to come up with an answer that was geographical. The rest of it can be put down to her admirable lack of grasp of matters geographical.

Actually.. and I can't let this slide... Julie really should have known better, because the correct answer, of course, was 'Greece'. The homophonic musical, Grease, is one of Julie's all-time favourite films and musicals.
Oh dear.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Snoring; it's just not safe.

(Following on from Wednesday's dancing doggie* )

So, one Gem on, I was feeling pretty flaked out and Julie suggested that I have a proper nap. This I did, although I wasn't expecting to sleep for real; I have the be very tired for me to be sleeping upright in a chair. Something woke me with a start - as it happened, it was Julie coming in to say 'bye' before she went to work an evening shift at the hospital. Blimey - I must have been tired to have slept so long. And so deeply, too. Julie had had time to sit, read her book, do a sudoku and then leave to get changed and fix herself a drink and a snack before leaving.
And I slept through it all.
One thing did concern me, though. I snore. I can snore loudly, too. (Julie also snores, something she vociferously and repeatedly denies, despite the evidence and witness reports. And the fact she's the only person I know who can wake themselves up with their own snoring)
My first concern upon waking was that I hadn't forced Julie out of the room with my nasal noises.

Er. Thanks? Especially for making sure I'm wide awake.

*Possibly. Allegedly. Probably not...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

C'mon, jack your doggie

Every now and then, you get a moment when all you want to do is just sit quietly and maybe read. Well, so it was with Julie and myself one afternoon recently.
A Sunday, as I recall.
It's nice, to just sit and be happy in each other's company, even though you aren't doing anything in particular. Julie was reading a book, and I was feeling a little under the weather,* so I was having a nap in the armchair.
Gradually, I became aware of a noise coming from next door. I lifted my head sleepily and cast a quizzical glance at the appropriate wall. Julie notice this and felt moved to explain.

Okay - not sleepy any more! Confused as hell, but not sleepy...
Needless to say, it was definitely a neighbour using a vacuum cleaner..

* I've always wondered about that phrase. Of course I was under the weather. If I was above it, I'd need a bloody space suit.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Venus in Blurred Jeans and other shenanigans

They say a week is a long time in politics. It's also a long time in science, weather, blogging and - more to the point - it's a long time for Julie to remember things that people may have said.

A week ago, the orbit of the planet Venus happened to pass between us and the sun, resulting in some first class pictures and a lot of scientific data. A little closer to home, where Jubilee mania was well and truly in full swing, the transit of Venus resulted in confusion and a somewhat baffling Gem, courtesy of one of my colleagues. This was posted on Friday. On the following day, Julie and myself were sat in the living room, and I asked if she had read the Gem yet. As it happened, she had, but - touching upon an earlier conversation we'd had - wanted to make a point about it. I was completely unprepared for the resulting conversation.

In other words, you have been warned.
Now read on.

I was absolutely speechless. Just when it seemed Julie couldn't up the 'Odd' ante any more, there she went.
Epic. Truly epic.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Insectile-related synaesthesia?

Hi folks, how is your weekend going so far? Julie's at work right now, but that's fine, because it allows other people a chance to shine on here. Mind you, today's special guest seems to be heading towards having a permanent support role, considering her output so far (here, here and here. The last of these has a permanent place in the top ten, it would appear).

Yes, once again, one of Sharron's daughters makes one of her special pronouncements. Special enough, in fact, that it prompted her mother to make a request on facebook for possible explanations...

For a little while, the meaning remained quite elusive. However, I think I have it - maybe it's all that time with Julie?
Basically, my reckoning is that Sharron's daughter saw this little bug and imagined it inside her shoe, wriggling around. And that she imagined it so well, she thought that she felt it. What do you reckon?

Friday, 8 June 2012

Transitory Jubilations

Nationally, and internationally, there have been some big reasons for hogging the headlines in a positive manner. One of them was the very recent transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. It took a few days to do it, but it was easily visible to anyone who had the most rudimentary of equipment. Even a pair of cheap binoculars would have done it - although you had to take precautions, naturally. Even with a little disc taken off, there's plenty of light to cause permanent damage to your eyes. Take a look at this cunning device for eclipse-watching.

Clever, eh? Would it have been worth looking like a wally, though, just to see a little dot on the face of the sun? Well, yes. Don't take my word for it, here's a picture of Venus set against the sun, taken on June 4th.

In case you weren't sure, that little black circle is Venus, set against
a magnificent dawning sun.

Beautiful, isn't it?*
Sadly, by the time you read this, it will all be over, bar the dissection of data gathered by various scientists. The last time it happened was back in 2004, but don't get excited, because I can pretty much guarantee you'll never have a chance to see it first-hand again. You see, this particular phenomenon only occurs in widely space pairs over an even more widely-spaced period of time. Here's a good description of the science bit - with no difficult parts.

I was talking about this to a female colleague of mine last week, as we sat in the canteen at work. At another table, one of our other colleagues was sat playing a game on his phone. Most of the talk was between my female friend and myself and it was a little vague, because we were excitedly talking at cross-purposes about the transit and trying to explain it to yet another colleague.
The point we were especially trying to make was the need for him to pull his finger out and make plans to either observe the transit of Venus or book a berth in a cryogenics facility. After all, it was literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as my female colleague explained - before the game-player suddenly jumped in and came up with a comment that blew us all out of the water, metaphorically speaking.

Nice one, mate. Science to a diamond jubilee in one giant and very uneasy step. In case you weren't aware from our last post, Queen Elizabeth has reigned over Britain and certain Commonwealth countries for sixty years now. This fact has elicited a massive jubilee, resulting in a four-day weekend for many and street parties all over.
Quite what this has to do with a planet crossing the face of the sun, I'm not sure, but I suppose I can't really deny he was actually quite correct. Her Majesty, even ignoring her currently advanced age, will never get another chance to see Venus taking a leisurely stroll across our nearest star.
Oh well.

*ZME Science (a superb general science blog by an enthusiastic amateur) has an excellent article with even better photographs, so why not trot along and enrich your mind.