Friday, 31 May 2013

A very specific loss

You may have noticed that Julie has a certain way with words.
Specifically, a way that tends not to correspond with many other people.

As you may have noticed over the last couple of years, this is really rather entertaining. However, that entertainment comes at a cost. That cost is clarity. Usually, this isn't much of a problem; I can look round and see what Julie is referring to.
Unfortunately, if Julie is talking about something that's not to hand - or if I'm not in the same room as her - then it makes it much more of a guessing game.

Most of us, when faced with a word that is on the tip of our tongues, will stop talking and stare into space until we remember what we wanted. In fact, if you are anything like me, then you could end up staring into space for quite some time.

Not Julie. Oh no. Julie jumps in not only with both feet, but fully dressed and ready to go. In this instance, we were getting ready to go out for a walk. I was by the front door, putting on my shoes. Julie, for some reason, had gone into the kitchen and was there doing up her coat. Then there was a small noise, a clink.

Eventually, after some discussion, it was established that a metal part of her coat had come loose. It didn't help that Julie kept insisting "the thing - you know... the thing."
No... no, I don't...

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Wedding banned

It's been about six and a half years since we were married. It was a lovely day, which was pleasant, considering the weekends either side of the one we booked were absolutely vile. Mind you there was one vile thing about our wedding day - my head. As the morning went on, my head grew progressively worse until I found myself trying to cope with a near-migraine level headache.

Toffed up, me and my best man got a taxi to the hotel where we got married, and began the process of meeting and greeting various friends and relatives. It was the first time I had met many of the younger ones, and I was pleased to note that they were a fairly well-behaved bunch. I'm not much for children at the best of times and I definitely didn't want any excitable kiddies that day.

Our home-made table centrepiece. Hedgehog, of course!

Apart from our tying the knot, we both agreed that the highlight of the ceremony was when my foster brother, who is severely disabled, acted up at precisely the point I had predicted.

Before the wedding, we had to drop by the registrar's office to discuss things. I was adamant that I wanted Jim to be there, so I was making sure that there would be no objections on the part of the officials. However, I did warn them that Jim has a broad sense of humour and, while unable to speak, he uses his laughs to communicate some things very well. And, being mischievous, he responded well to the question, "is there anyone who objects to these two being married.?"

Cue the snigger.

The registrar hadn't quite believed me when I warned her, so this snigger came as something of a surprise; I knew from our first meeting that, while efficient, she was also officious and patronising.

There was another incident concerning the registrar.
When we moved to discussing some of the finer details of our ceremony, the matter of restrictions was raised. Now, I had heard something about this. If you were to be married in a non-ecclesiastic manner, then the music played should have no religious references. This ban included Robbie Williams' hit 'Angels'.

I objected to this. Not so much for the banning of a Robbie tune (which I rather like, actually), but that there were restrictions being placed on our special day - one we were paying for. Nevertheless, argued the registrar, angels are a religious construct and therefore cannot be played at a civil ceremony.


The registrar went further; we were not allowed to choose any music that was inappropriate for such an occasion, and we would have to submit which songs/tunes we had in mind. Julie was also unimpressed.

I burst out laughing, but the registrar was none too happy, and gathered up her papers, saying, "well, I think that's all we need to discuss for today," before bidding us 'Good day' and leaving.

In the end, this was the music we chose for the ceremony. Approved, of course.

  • Bride's entrance: 'Horizons' by Genesis
  • Signing the documents: 'The Rose' by Bette Midler
  • The couple leaves: 'Handbags & Gladrags' by Stereophonics (it's Our Song)

PS - apparently, the ban on ecclesiastical references in songs has since been lifted.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Friesians on the funny farm (AKA "Old MacDonald had a wotnot")

The other day, I told you how Julie's mouth jumps in before the brain has a chance to react, and I illustrated that with an example where two farm animals were confused (link).

What I didn't tell you, however, was that the theme was continued for the rest of the day, segueing from one bizarre conversation to another, where pigs were apparently fed up with their lot and spent their days masquerading as other animals, and ... no. I think I'll save that one for another day...
You get the point, though.

There are a lot of fields just outside of town, and since it's really low-lying land, pretty dreadful for crops. Enter the cows and sheep.
The sheep must have got wind of our impending arrival, for there was not a one to be seen. Instead, there were just a few cows dotted around the field.*

I'd seen the cows from a distance away, but it seemed Julie was drifting, as she didn't really notice them until we had almost passed them.

Well.. yeah...
Julie explained to me afterwards that she was merely continuing a running gag. Funny - I don't recall one conversation constituting a running gag...
It may not have been - it is now.

I'll tell you what, with all the running gags and in-jokes we have, any passengers in our car are going to be seriously baffled.

*Including one cow that was having some trouble and was instead dotting around the field... ew...

Friday, 24 May 2013

The placing of the platypus

Once more, we return to the veritable minefield that is Trivial Pursuit. And to what is apparently becoming the signature beastie for Julie's Gems - the platypus.

Just when you thought the pesky thing couldn't cause us any more trouble, up pops its leathery beak. In all fairness though, the problem isn't due to our mighty monotreme. Instead, it's human hearing all the way. That, and the serial misunderstandings that begin once Julie asks me the question...

Now, why does Abbott & Costello come to mind...

For those of a curious mind, here's where Tasmania happens to reside.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A half-half laugh

Some time ago, we were browsing the internet, looking for things to fuel our joint obsession. No, not naughty cigarettes, I'm referring (not reefer-ing) to our shared interest in hedgehogs.

Spike, Julie and their mascot, Reynard.

Originally simply my own mania, once Julie came to the Spiny Side, she quite happily fell in with my ways. We now have a glass-fronted cabinet quite literally crammed with various hedgehog figures - plus an echidna or two - a large amount of plush 'hog toys, and various other related knick-knacks. Reynard even has his own Facebook page, although he hasn't updated it since he got married and went on honeymoo.... what the hell am I even saying? It's a puppet!

See? I said it was an obsession.

Any way, on a little stroll through the internet, we happened to chance upon a site that sold items of clothing with, among many other things, hedgehog-related images and phrases. We were particularly taken with a cap.

Yes, I know it's 'shopped. They make them to order.

Since I see myself as having many characteristics in common with hedgehogs (small, round and prickly), I thought this would be great for me. And as it happens, they also make one for the ladies. Yes, 'Half woman, half hedgehog'. If you fancy one, you can visit the [Australian] site HERE.

I suggested that we could sport matching titfers;* Julie, however, seemed to want a different cap made...

Famously so. I keep meaning to visit their shows; they're meant to be highly entertaining.

Visit the Ladyboys' site here.

* 'Titfer' = 'Tit for tat' = hat. Cockney rhyming slang, don'tyeknow.

Monday, 20 May 2013

We're all of a Twitter...

Just a quickie to let you know we finally made it onto Twitter...

So come and join us!

Julie's got it covered.

Now that the weather is finally beginning to warm up, there are a lot more things to see and do with your time off. On the one hand, it's great, because getting out and about means a lot more things around you. By the same token, however, that also means distractions when you're driving. Our dad was notorious for this, which was troubling when the road you were on happened to be little more than a track clinging to one side of a valley...

It does tend to provide a talking point though... hehehe...

Earlier today, Julie and myself were taking a drive through the Sussex countryside. With perfect timing, though, it began to rain at precisely the moment we walked out of the house. Just a few drops at first, but when we got into the car, the spots turned to a spattering, and as we drove away along the seafront, it turned heavier.

Well, crud.
It goes without saying, of course, that the latest weather report had it as being beautifully sunny all day.

I shouldn't moan, really. As we progressed, we passed one of those open-topped tour buses; astonishingly, there were still a couple of determined tourists staring forward defiantly from beneath soggy raincoats. Pillocks. You'd never catch us doing something as asinine as that (*coughs uncomfortably...).

Something else we saw was an open-topped kit car with a Q registration plate.

For persons not in the know, the letter 'Q' is generally not included on a UK car registration plate, as it's considered to be too similar to the number zero. However, for kits, rebuilds and vehicles of unsure origins, the Government whacks a 'Q' right there for everyone to see.

Julie wasn't too worried about that, though. For her, a far more interesting (and fair, I have to admit) point was how wet people inside that car would get. After all, it wasn't even a drop-top (convertible). I pointed out that the interior was probably mostly if not entirely waterproof to some degree. Not only that, if they decided to use it for a shopping run or similar, they could always throw a tarpaulin over the back seat.

Okay. Time to shift gears.

I have a very curious mind, especially when it comes to words. I love how various languages relate to each other, how words can have different meanings but the same historical root, how the English language evolved... well, you get the idea. I'm a word nerd.

When I mentioned to Julie about the possibility of tarpaulin usage, my WN gene switched on and suddenly decided it wanted to know the historical roots of the word. Unfortunately, I wondered this aloud to my wife, someone who has, at best, a most pragmatic approach to the English language.

Well played, love. Well played.

For anyone that is interested in the etymological roots of the word 'tarpaulin', here is the Wikipedia entry.

Of course, if you happen to be anything like myself, you're going to want to look up the entry for 'palling', and thereby doom yourself to hours of chained searches on Wikipedia....

Friday, 17 May 2013

Fancy some crispy soap?

Well, it's Friday - fancy going for a celebratory drink? Or would you rather we got in some beer and wine and settled down to watch a film or play a shambolic game of Trivial Pursuit?
Oh, hang on - we can't have the booze without having some nibbles, can we?

Banana chips, mixed nuts and chilli corn chips.
Damn... I'm hungry now...

Oh... you want something a bit more traditional, you say? Pork scratchings? Dry roasted peanuts? Or do you just want some crisps?*

Mm. OK, you can have those. I'll stick with normal crisps, if ye don't mind. You know, slice the potatoes, fry and season them, that's it. Don't make them from bits of spud that keep falling apart and have to be squashed together. Having said that, Julie likes Pringles, especially as a snack to go with her favoured tipple...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The crabs are [getting] fresh.

Some time ago, on one of our visits up to visit family in Birmingham, it was decided that we would go to a Chinese restaurant. Now, I'm not a connoisseur or anything, but I and many others know that if you go to a Chinese restaurant and the place is full of Chinese people, then you know the food is going to be pretty good and at least somewhat authentic.

Set in the Nechellls part of Birmingham, there is in fact a whole Chinese shopping centre, which includes the said restaurant, a supermarket with all the ingredients needed for Chinese food (and more), plus several other apt businesses for the community. Surrounded by railings and gated, the shopping centre is even built to resemble a sort of stereotyped view of Chinese buildings - think pagodas and apply that to every unit in the retail centre.

Long story short, Wing Wah is a great place to eat, if you're ever in the area, and you can stock up on massive amounts of root ginger too in the Wing Yip supermarket.
Inside, the decor continues along the Oriental theme. However, since it is a restaurant, there are also a lot of items scattered around the place based on the general idea of 'food'.

One area was devoted to seafood, so there were various images of fish on the walls, along with a few fake or preserved crustaceans, starfish and the like.
However, Julie seemed to be distracted by one particular specimen...

Well, really! I knew it was a friendly atmosphere, but that's going too far!

Image courtesy of Piotr Motyka who doodled daily
up until 2012. Here's his blog, now moribund.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Universally unique

Once in a while, I feel compelled to ask Julie how she manages to come up with all the stuff she does. As I have said before, on numerous occasions, it's not as though she is lacking in intelligence. There just seems to be another aspect to my wife that is devoted to straying from the mundane, boring pathways of general conversation.

Sometimes, the reply is a simple, "I dunno", but there are other times when the reply itself becomes another Gem.
Usually, this will take the form of another baffling statement, or Julie will be in something of a whimsical frame of mind and play the 'silly card' for all its worth.

However, there are occasions where Julie will turn out to be prime philosopher material. I imagine it's the unique world view she has.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Diggin' down on the farm

If Julie has a fault - unlikely, I know - it's that her mouth has a tendency to say something before the brain gets a chance to edit it.
Unfortunately, Julie's mouth doesn't have access to all the knowledge that her brain does, so it tends to tag things and respond accordingly, even when the situation doesn't completely conform to her brain's definitions.

Here's a prime example. We were out for a drive the other day, shunning the main roads as normal and pootling around the small lanes - dodging into gateways every now and then to allow oncoming traffic to pass. Not a lot of conversation was going on; what with the narrow lanes and tall hedges, I needed to be careful with my own driving, just in case someone coming the other way wasn't careful with theirs.

When it comes to this, Julie tends to drift and take only passing note of the scenery, near and far. When we passed (yet another) gate leading onto a field, we caught a fleeting glimpse of an animal with black and white colouring.

Actually, no. Not 'moo'. More like 'whinney' or 'neigh'.
Yep. It was a horse. However, Julie's mouth had done its party trick and made what it had thought to be the obvious connection. Unfortunately for Julie, I had also seen the beastie in question and had recognised its equine nature.
I laughed, and Julie knew immediately what had happened and switched the running of the mouth over to her brain, admitting that it was, indeed, a horse.

Sadly, Julie lost the chance to leave it there and almost literally dug herself deeper.

No. I don't think so.
They're yellow.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

World Book Night 2013 - the final draw

Hello folks, it's time for another shambling video clip from Spike and Julie of Julie's Gems. This time, it's in aid of the final part of our free prize draw. In case you weren't aware, here were the prizes:

The first four people whose names were to be picked would win an exclusive World Book Night 2013 edition of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, and one lucky person would get everything pictured above. Everyone would also get some official Julie's Gems bookmarks, lovingly laminated by my own fair hands.

Anyhow, down to business - here's the video clip of us making the draw. Apologies for the poor lighting, and for my abysmal mumbling; in my defence, I'm just getting through the last bit of a nasty cold.

So there you have it. Congratulations to Rob for bagging the big prize, and to Magenta, Mikey, Lisa and Slim for winning individual copies of The Eyre Affair. Messages, emails and wotnot will be winging their way to the winners to tactfully enquire as to postal addresses as soon as I post this blog.

Tata for now, and thanks so much for taking part, both in the draw and the blog in general. Don't forget, if you find yourself involved in a Gem-like situation and feel it warrants an appearance here, you can email us with the details at


The extreme egg fiasco

We have a problem. We like food. Unfortunately, we're not too good at controlling what we eat, nor the quantities thereof. Oh, and by the way, that statement doesn't just apply to my wife and me, but Western civilisation in general. We have come to consume too much of the wrong things and too much in general.

I'm currently trying to work with a dietician. Julie, on the other hand, tried that and various diets a long time ago. In the end, we agreed surgery was the only option. Julie had a gastric bypass, a version known as the Roux-en-y procedure.

This, without a word of exaggeration, has changed her life completely. It's entirely probable that it saved her life. Compulsive eating is a psychological problem, one that our primitive bodies are ill-equipped to cope with.

For those who can't stomach (sorry) looking at graphic details of operations, the notion is a simple one. Basically, the stomach is cut in half and the appropriate tubing is connected up to a much smaller gastric pouch.
Initially, the diet is severely limited, but with time, the patient can once again eat much of what they did before - just in drastically smaller portions. Even then, the stomach is still an elastic organ. It can stretch, and does. However, even taking that into account, one would still never be able to eat the massive portions as before.

It's a difficult situation, not just for the patient. A lot of human social interaction is based around the consumption of food and drink, and most pubs, cafes and restaurants don't really understand the concept of needing a tiny portion. Indeed, many get rather shirty when you ask for a child's portion when you have clearly left childhood far too long ago.

So how small does the stomach become after the operation?
About the size of a hen's egg.


Obviously, you're never going to be able to take in what you could, so if you have this op, then you're going to have to take a daily dose of vitamin & minerals in tablet form..
As I mentioned, the stomach may regain some magnitude, but only in a small way. Maybe twice the size of an egg, maybe a bit more.

It's not an exact thing, because everyone is different. Some keep their diet to minimal levels, some find they can't eat certain foods any more; some can't handle sweet stuff, others have trouble with greasy food - oh and it really doesn't take much alcohol either.

So, when Julie and me were in a cafe having a bite to eat, I was ploughing through a nice panini. My wife, however, was gingerly picking at hers. Oh, she was enjoying it, but necessity meant that she had to take it carefully, or she would end up with a side-effect known as 'dumping' - although this is more usually encountered in association with sugary foods.

With this in mind, we began to discuss how much her stomach will have changed in the few years since her operation.



Just in case you didn't know, the World Book Night Prize draw is now closed. We will be filming a clip today for the drawing of the winners and posting the results tomorrow.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

World Book Night 2013: A final fail and a call to arms

Yes folks. As I type this, you have just under six hours to enter the free draw. If you want to be in with a chance of winning a great book posted to you anywhere in the world, then email us immediately (if not sooner) at - you never know, you may even bag yourself loads of other goodies too, including some official Julie's Gems bookmarks, featuring quotes from the great lady herself!

As a sweetener, here is one final outtake from our pitiful attempts at making a promotional clip for this draw (made in association with World Book Night 2013)...

There you go. All done and dusted.
We will post the results of the draw on Thursday.

Monday, 6 May 2013

The ballad of the runaway Gem

'Twas a gloomy day, in a wintry Spring
When our lad Spike did a foolish thing.
There was a matter upon his mind,
The answer to which, he just could not find.

His wife, Julie, she had a knack
Of making even the best of logic slack.
When she spoke of matters simple,
Poor Spike's brow began to wrinkle.

When fair Julie began a phrase,
Her mind and mouth would part their ways,
And listeners would then be caught
In a web of words, where sense was naught.

And when the truth was brought to light,
No man was sure that all was right.
For what was said, and what was not
Would confuse an unholy lot.

But poor Julie cannot be blamed
For phrases that couldn't be tamed.
Nor the fact that whatever was said
Was not, in fact, had been born inside her head.

Simplicity began, but instead was lost,
As Julie's mind took and tossed
A short phrase with words so few
into a rambling speech, a potent brew.

Soon after a Gem, her husband asked
"How can a remark be so sorely tasked?"
For a brief moment, nothing was said,
Then Julie replied, with a toss of her head.

So let that be a lesson, the moral is this;
Don't look for answers when logic is pissed.

Friday, 3 May 2013

It was the best of Gems, it was the worst of Gems.

There are times when you know it's going to be a good day. You wake up and you just feel good, sometimes for no apparent reason.
And so it was on this occasion. I'm not a morning person, not by any stretch of the imagination - a trait I have inherited from my mother.

Quote by Oscar Wilde

This time, I was happy to get up and cheerfully fix my normal tea and toast (with Marmite, naturally) and sit in the armchair quietly reading. OK, so just because I was happy/fine to be getting up, that didn't mean I was first up. That only happens if I don't bother going to bed in the first place. Julie was sat in her chair, having had her breakfast and gone down the road for a local newspaper.

There must have been something in the air, because Julie was feeling rather chipper herself. We had a pleasant chat and then decided to have a drive over to Bexhill, wander around the charity shops and then stroll along the (rather long) promenade and up the cliffs.
It was a clear, bright day, but the wind was sharp, sharp enough to give us a little sideways grief on the marsh road to Bexhill - and driving along the Western part of the prom. When we got there, I goggled at the amount of cars - I knew it was a Saturday, but it looked like Bexhill was going to be rather busy.

As we strolled towards the town centre, be began chatting and commenting on things. It soon became apparent that the day was going to be a good one for Gems too. Not everything was certifiable gold, but it was on-the-spot entertaining, and we soon had a good banter going between us. In fact, I had trouble trying to jot things down, partly because of the rate the Gems were coming, but also because many of them were too specific to the moment. Take it out of context, and you had nothing but words.

It was only after Julie had hit a particularly fine run of Gems that I felt compelled to comment.

Now that's generous - giving me an option along with the Gem.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

World Book Night Fail II - the Techno-derp.

OK, so there we are trying to film a clip for our World Book Night free draw. Yes, we managed to get it together in the end, but there were a couple of problems. One was my poor delivery, and the other was my less than stellar ability with editing tools.

Mind you, Julie's grasp of technology seems to be even worse than mine (somehow...).


Don't forget - you still have time to enter the free draw to win a load of books, CDs and other goodies!
Email us at - and don't forget, this is open only to residents of Earth.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Dirty old world

One of the things that Julie and me like to do to relax is to go for a drive. For us, it's a great way to de-stress ourselves. If I have a bad head, for some reason, it works wonders to get into the car and just pootle about for an hour or so. What we like to do is go exploring; lots of little roads, places we've gone past, names we've seen on signposts. Alternatively, just driving along long stretches of road, enjoying the air (if it's warm enough) and listening to music.
That's if Julie manages to stay awake, that is. There's something about the movement of the car that just lulls her to sleep. She has often said that if someone came up with a bed that mimicked the motion of a moving car - while remaining in the one place - then they could make a fortune.

Naturally, we do enjoy the scenery, but as the driver, I tend to miss a lot - we tend to agree that concentrating on the road should be my main objective.* However, because I do pay a lot of attention to details, I often see things that Julie misses or has not seen until then. My peripheral vision will pick up things like the slight movement of a rabbit by the roadside, or some bird of prey hovering over a field.

Red Kite in Wales. Pic from Byrdir, a farm that does accommodation
and has a nice little blog going too.
In contrast, and possibly caused by the aforementioned lulling motion of the car, Julie's visual acuity seems to be less than 20/20...

Quite possibly, love, quite possibly.

*My father was notorious for not being able to keep his eyes on the road. It was very common that we would have to act as a second and maybe even third pair of eyes. I especially recall one family holiday in France. We were driving along one side of a beautiful valley, and Dad was constantly distracted by the admittedly gorgeous scenery on the other side.
(Dad) "That's a pretty chateau over there." 
(us) "It's a very attractive road in front of us, Dad!"


I'll tell you what; when I went looking for a picture of a red kite, I never expected to find one as part of a blog by a Welsh farm, a farm that has a large amount of accommodation to its name.
The front of the website looked so good, I decided to see what the options for staying there were like. Very nice, as it happens. A beautiful location, nice cottages to stay in... I think I might have to keep this place in mind for sometime in the future (when we have the money, in other words).
Here's the link again