Friday, 29 November 2013

Love over Scrabble.

As a family, we have always liked word games, Scrabble in particular. Of course, there have always been personal foibles, and I don't expect that will change. Dad, in particular, used to make random guesses at word spellings; in case you couldn't tell, he was more of a numbers man. Many times, he would play a word and there would be a chorus of  "what the hell's that?", only for us to find out he was going for some semi-phonetic version of a common word. In fact, it got to the point when "Bagsy* coming last!" became his opening gambit.

He wasn't that bad a player though. As he always liked to put it, he was often runner-up. Pity there was usually only two of them playing.

On one occasion, a family game, it was my sister who was failing and trailing. In fact, by the end of the game, she had only managed 98 points. To put that into perspective, anything below 150 in a four-player game is, for us, a bad result. Ever the dutiful father, Dad decided to console his stricken daughter.

*'Dibs' for those more used to USA English

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A lickle trouble

Viewers of programmes like Eastenders, and those who have seen films with Jason Statham in them will know of a certain vocal characteristic of those who live in the London area. Essentially, letters and wholes syllables are swallowed up in a glottal space, resulting in an almost total absence of the letter 't'. In fact, the very word 'letter' ends up being pronounced as "le'ah."

Dad had a similar, yet different, approach to pronouncing whole words. It was - and still is - a family in-joke that Dad could never really pronounce the 't' in the middle of a word. Instead, the hard sound of the consonant was transformed into a 'k' sound. Since my father was fond of Derbyshire, and a lot of his and Mum's spare time revolved around trips there, this invariable meant going through Matlock. Or, as Dad would call it, 'Macklock'.*

You can see how this is going, can't you?

Now, since Dad was rather fond of a tipple, especially single malt whiskies, the family joke has always been about 'lickle bockles'. My father always took it with good grace, and even enjoyed joining in with the banter. Brilliantly, this Gem has someone else falling foul of the whole scenario...

Hmm. If this was Twitter, this would probably be given "#guessyouhadtobethere".

Interestingly enough, when I was having an idle google, I found a site that would seem to have been named by my father...

I'm not making this up - ickle bockles is a site that provides you with all those horribly small toiletry containers that airports demand these days. Visit THEIR SITE to find out more.

*either way, Matlock is a lovely place to visit, but it is a right bugger to drive through as it's at the bottom of a long, narrow valley.

Monday, 25 November 2013

New old news

Even before we suspected anything was wrong, Dad was one of those people with an offbeat sense of humour and liked to look at things from skewed directions. He was also well known for being easily distracted and for getting his sentences tangled up.

When we finally noticed he was becoming even more vague than usual, we suspected Alzheimer's disease. The real cause, a massively aggressive brain tumour, floored us all.

As a tribute to my late father, I want to dedicate this week to him with three Gems (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Silly and yet sharp, he's still missed, and always will be.


My dad is the reason I'm a big fan of surreal humour. The Goons, Monty Python - even The Young Ones - all came to me via my father. It may have surprised some people, knowing him as a sober-looking besuited man with a very well-maintained beard, that he would have such a liking for these things. However, 'silly and surreal' was a very good way for him to let his hair down. One of our favourite things was to hold a conversation about nothing at all, with each sentence being replied with something that took the chat in another new direction.
"So, what do you think?"
"Orange. Definitely orange."
"Not square, then?"
"It's a close call, but square is very Marmite."
"True, true. The brakes make too much noise as it is."
See what I mean? Absolutely bizarre. This is why he and Julie would get on so well. In fact, they would take this conversational art and take it to new, utterly baffling (yet logical) extremes.

A few years ago, a new newspaper was launched in the UK.

Nice and cheap, the i is a news digest, meaning that all the stories are pared down to the minimum. In other words, no rambling articles where the same thing is repeated ad nauseum. As an added - or removed, possibly - bonus, there is very little in the way of celebrity crap. Even better, being a sister publication to The Independent, it is resolutely liberal and fairly open-minded. Unlike the 'newspaper' below...

Yes, it's a fake. Yes, that's me.
Originally, this newspaper was only published Monday-Friday. It was less than a year, though, that a Saturday edition was introduced for the stratospheric cost of 30p. Before that point, though, my dad and I had a conversation...

It took me far long than it should have done to work that out.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Pre-emptive Alzheimer's?

There comes a time when you have to give up. You have tried your very best, tried approaching the problem from different directions, and it finally becomes apparent that you should really have been approaching the problem from a different dimension.

We have tried to explain it before, but it strikes me that all we have done over various posts is provide various possible mechanisms for Gems to occur. The actual cause? It's my belief that Julie trusts me enough and is comfortable enough around me that she can leave her highly-ordered office worker mentality behind and let herself go with a huge sigh of relief and a steady flow of WTF.

Today's Gem is a prime example of my inability to 'get' what Julie meant. Trust me; context makes no difference. Worse, the longer I look at it, the more I become convinced it makes sense, if only I could stare at it long enough for my eyeballs to start bleeding and tartan spiders to emerge from my fingernails...
Sorry. I must have missed some medication...

In the meantime, I'll leave you with the Gem. If you understand it, then good for you. Just stay well away from me and pay attention to those nice people in the white uniforms...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Oral, not aural.

Let's be honest, we've all done it. We have all said something and then immediately wondered why you did. Sometimes, it slipped out and you aren't even aware you spoke until you realise people are staring at you. Sometimes, you are caught up in the moment and an incautious phrase escapes before the mental filters can stop it.

And then there is Julie. Shameless to the end, all manner of things are said at the drop of a hat, with not a regret. Brilliantly, many Gems arise as a direct result of my wife attempting to justify herself or defend something she has just said.

For example...


Monday, 18 November 2013


I'm a bit late today, so I'll get right to it.

Today, Julie gives us an insight into a possible career change. One which would make Franz Kafka proud.

And before you say anything, no, I did NOT make a mistake in writing that down. It's just Julie thumbing her nose at Physics once more.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Cartography or Anatomy?

I love place names, and how you can almost read a history of the place within that name, if you know a little about words and older languages. Of course, many places in Britain have certain endings, such as '-ham', '-ton', or '-bourne'. The first of these two indicate a township, and the last the location of the settlement, a small river. Other place names refer to specific landmarks (such as windmills), events (Battle, for example), or even people (Birmingham originates from 'Beorma's hamlet'. Which still doesn't explain why the residents are known as 'Brummies').

I'm at a loss, though, to explain the name of the Oxfordshire town of Kingston Bagpuize. Oh, I've no doubt it's easily found out, but I think I would rather not, unless guaranteed it was not to be mundane (and yes, I am aware 'Kingston' is easily divined).

With that in mind, let us return to our little day out last Saturday for this week's final Gem.

Driving home, I am pleased to say that the weather was not nearly as bad as it had been. Wet and dark is not a good combination.* This meant that we were better able to enjoy our surroundings and take in details - such as this road sign.

Obviously, to me and Julie, this was easy entertainment, what with our propensity for wordplay - or mangling, as the case may be.

For the record, and I did say this to Julie after I managed to stop laughing, my first thought had been to change the second word to 'Borstal'.

As a little extra, here's a picture of a pub in Painters Forstal.

The Alma in Painters Forstal
I came across this while I was researching the place and found this picture quite amusing. I don't know if it's just me, but it looks like the builders of the pub got carried away and suddenly found they had crossed the kerb and were on the road... It's just me, isn't it... Oh well. See you next week!

* Stop giggling.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What a sausage!

It's been long known that much of the British sense of humour is based around the use of double-entendres. Many an innocent comment has been countered with, " the actress said to the bishop." My own take on this is the modern version, "...that's what she said."

It's truly amazing just how even the most banal and incontrovertible comment can be retroactively altered by one of those two phrases. Best of all, to my mind, is that you can utter the punchline with no real aim, but to prove to the world that you are still breathing. However, the magic then takes place in the mind of the first speaker. Suddenly, their mind is now working overtime, trying to work out what on earth was smutty about what they said. Often, that person somehow manages to take it even further than was intended by the joker. I have often been surprised at the turn of mind that people take - even when I'm barely aware that I actually replied to their original sentence...

Funny how peoples' minds work, ain't it?

Of course, I have now managed to reach some sort of plateau of meta-smuttiness, where I now no longer have to say anything. I may assume a certain expression, but normally, people who know me will find themselves either cringing at what they just said (expecting my input - even if I'm not there!), or slowly, haltingly picking their words with exaggerated care.

At this point, I will state in my defence that I'm not like this all the time, despite popular belief - and any evidence to the contrary. Yes, I do take great enjoyment in wordplay, from puns to well-crafted sentences. However, I'm also a bit of a daydreamer, so when I'm in company and someone has carelessly let free a sentence that couldn't be more open if it had major surgery, I don't always react. In fact, the first I will know of such a situation is the silence of people all looking at me, waiting for my input. And all I'd say would be, "...what?"

As you will have no doubt noticed, I'm not entirely alone in this mindset. Julie, in fact, surprises even me with comments, and even I am not immune to setting myself up...

So, back to last Saturday, that soggy day. It was the first Saturday we had really managed to get together for a while, and we were determined to make a day of it. We had intended to go to Brighton and browse the shops in the Lanes, but the severity of the rain meant that we would have wound up soaking wet, even with ducking in and out of places. Thus it was we wound up driving around Kent - again. It's a great place for a pootle, lots of little towns and villages to stop in and have a cup of tea.

Our ultimate destination was one we have visited many times before. It's a little distant (by British terms, as opposed to other countries, perhaps), but Macknade's Fine Foods is well worth it. It's an amazing food hall, with an emphasis on local foods and delicatessen foods. There is also a great little cafe which usually has soy milk. Furthermore, despite the overly hipster feel of the place, the food is tasty, comes in decent quantities and isn't overly pricey. We've never had more than a slice of cake there (gluten free too!), but it's normally been plenty to keep us going until our evening meal.

Just part of the food hall. The cafe would be behind the photographer.

In the car park, we were sat in the car with the doors open, enjoying a brief respite from the rain, and just watching the world go by. We began picking up on small details around us; this registration plate on a car, that toddler with her panda hat, complete with ears - and a man leaving the shop with a bag in his arms, out of which was poking a number of very long, very thing and very wrinkled ... sausages?

Well played, love. Well played.

For the curious, this is what kabanos look like, although these are relatively wrinkle-free.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Scrunched-up sheep

When you're out and about, driving around, there are often quiet moments. You've got fed up with the radio and you have temporarily run out of things to talk about. You're In The Zone and looking out of the car window, barely taking in your surroundings.You're on autopilot. The body is perfectly able to take care of things, and the eyes have become the ultimate in optical technology; you are taking in everything you need and more for driving the car safely, but they still have the facility to notice random little things.

That, folks, is the basis for this week. On Saturday, me and Julie were out for the day. Unfortunately, we chose a pretty damp day for it, so anything we saw out of the car windows was at least partially obscured by a near-constant mist of road spray.

Where we live, there are a great deal of fields. A lot of them are marshland, but it's amazing what sheep will put up with. As we traveled, the rain pattering on the roof of the car, Julie's mind wandered and she idly started up a silly little conversation.

That kept us going for a little while... heh...

Friday, 8 November 2013

Steamed about physics

I've bought a new book.

I'm a long-time Terry Pratchett fan. I have several books signed by him, have met him in the process of said signing, and have even helped to interview him on BBC Radio 4, talking about the novel Mort and other things Discworld. He is as genial and sharp a chap as you would expect him to be, and I'm going to shut up now, or several friends of mine will be visiting me to give me a good kicking...

Because I enjoy reading, I am often known to have failed to go to bed at nights, simply due to the fact I didn't want to put a book down. However, I already had something else I wanted to do today, so I went into town, picked up the copy of Raising Steam I had reserved (nearly coming away with an expensive slipcased version in the process), and dropped it off at home before heading off out again.

By the time I returned home, Julie had come back from work and had her tea (evening meal, for non-English folks). We chatted a little, and after a little while, Julie asked me if I had got hold of my book yet.
"OH, yes."
She smiled, and asked the question I had been expecting.

Uhhhh... what?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow.

This one could be described, in a more print-based environment, as being 'hot off the presses'.

The weather in Britain has been unpleasant lately, although not nearly as bad as the weather experts predicted. That's only for this country, of course. Other parts of the world have far worse weather, but moaning about the weather seems to be a well-deserved cliche.

I was out, attending to a couple of chores, and happened to notice that the clouds were rather - as Julie would put it - "ominominominous". Since it was late in the afternoon, I thought it might be nice I collected Julie from work, as opposed to letting her trudge home in the grotty weather. I'm nice like that.

It was an uneventful drive to her and then home, which was nice, especially since there are roadworks that have blocked off one section of a major road on the seafront very close to us. Putting it bluntly, it's fucking chaotic. While getting home was a relative breeze, it took me twenty minutes to get further than a hundred yards from our house on the way out.

Once parked up, though, I sat still for a moment to let the controlled ire of idiots subside. Julie also remained in her seat, too, but for a different reason. Coming up the road was a learner driver.

Seeing one of these ahead of you on a narrow road.
Never cheering.

Since I had parked on the right-hand side of the road, Julie thought it best to let them by before making a move. Unfortunately, it seems like the learner had not long begun their lessons,* and was proceeding very cautiously (i.e. 'very slowly') up the road.

Obviously, it probably was less than a minute, but to Julie, with her hand on the door handle, it must have seemed like an age.

Yep. That one earned her The Look.

*Poor bugger, eh? Just started learning, and they're being dragged around near closed-off roads during rush hour.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Fast/food kills

Coming straight from the old school of comedy comes this little Gem.

Out for a drive, I'm concentrating on the road, but Julie is looking around and spots this sign.

It didn't apply to us, as it was posted at the entrance to a side road. Julie, however, decided to embellish the details a tad.

Nice one.

If you like the idea of fun with road signs, have a chuckle - and then reel in horror - at the implications of this sign. Click on the link to see a full-size version.