Monday, 4 August 2014

No spikes for Spike

Out for a walk the other day, the three of us (two humans and a doggie) were walking past an ornamental garden area. Form the corner of my eye, I spotted some large flowers and did a double-take.

"My my," I thought, "that's a rather large thistle."
Of course it came out a little differently, leading Julie to make a certain observation.

Friday, 1 August 2014

No entry. It's your own fault.

What is it with my family and keys?

Years ago, when me and my sister were just kids, we all went on a day out and had ourselves a wonderful time - right up to the point our parents locked BOTH sets of car and house keys in the boot. Or trunk, for non-Brits. Cue an expensive journey home, including three trains, a bus and a taxi. Not necessarily in that order. And then we had to break into our own house. Oddly enough, it was soon after that that us kids got our own house keys. I wonder why...

Some years later, I was working night shift at the Cadbury factory in Birmingham, when my shift leader came to me with a message that my parents were at the security gatehouse and needed to see me. I started panicking - after all, when you get an unexpected visit from your folks, it's not often good news. Besides which, you will have got the gist already. Yes, they had gone out for the evening and locked themselves out. I had a little rant about communication.

Fast forward some more. Not long after I had moved south to live with Julie, the two of us went to the beach. I'm not great with the idea of leaving my belongings unattended on the beach while we go for a swim, and there was a small pocket on the inside of my shorts. Unfortunately, when I went for a dip, the keys fell out. Fortunately, I found them rolling in the surf on the water line. Fortunate indeed. Never before or since has Julie been so angry with me.

And now yesterday.
I was talking to my Mum by means of the old telephonic device, and she was telling me of her 'little bit of fun' the day before. Apparently, my mother had had a hospital appointment. Parking there is abysmal, so she booked a taxi, removed a lot of crap from her bag in order to make moving about on crutches a bit easier, and then shut the doo...oh shit.

No sooner had the door clicked shut than she realised she hadn't put the house keys back in her handbag. Crap. The taxi and appointment still need to happen, so off she went. When she got back, my mum found that while house keys were absent, she did have the car key. Deciding to use a cafe as an impromptu office, Mum tried to think of how to get a locksmith - not having one on speed dial, you see.

Having failed to come up with a solution, Mum then went to a garage to fill the car with fuel, and noticed a police car there. Collaring a copper, she asked him if he knew of any locksmiths in the area. Confused, he asked why, and got the whole story.

Well, there's handy.

Interestingly, I have come across a couple of good ideas for trying to make sure you have a house key with you at all times.

Found on Tuvie, this one looks funky, but I can see you would have to have a key specially made. Far better is this idea from - it's a silicon rubber bracelet with a pouch for you to put a key or an emergency tenner inside.

Naturally, the bands you would wear would not be transparent - it sort of defeats the idea of hiding something. I'm seriously liking this product, actually. Ideal for kids, clubbers, people on the beach (ahem), I am actually thinking about finding out if there is anywhere over here that flogs them.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

So long, farewell, etc etc

*cue a bugler playing 'The Last Post'...

Yes, this is all about goodbye, I'm afraid.

It's been a good few years, and yet this moment had to come. Today, I have decided to blog about bidding people fare-thee-well...


You thought that Julie's Gems was ending? Oh no, I'm on about a particular instance when I was meeting up with some friends.

...I'd best start again.

My job entails working a twilight shift, meaning that all the evening activities (Magic: the Gathering) had to be knocked on the head. On Monday, however, work had been cancelled, so I found myself free to play some cardboard crack (as M:tG is often known).

A good night was had, a Conspiracy cube was played, as well as a three-way standard, and some very nice trades for decks we were constructing. Not only that, but there was discussion about wedge commanders, Khans of Tarkir, and the merits of using counters or dice.*

However, all things must end, and I gathered my stuff together and dropped by various groups to say my goodbyes.

For none-British people, a Brummie is a resident of the city of Birmingham. Along with residents of the nearby area known as the Black Country (all the coal), including Walsall and Dudley (or Doodlay, as it is pronounced), this is a common way to send someone on their journey.

In any case, my contribution was well-received and served as a good way to end the shenanigans.


* Ladies and gentlemen, this conversation is currently cruising at an altitude of 20,000 feet over your heads...

Monday, 28 July 2014

Rubbing her up the right way

What with the hot, close weather, and a few other factors, the last few days have been quite draining. If you were to draw a diagram of my sleep pattern, it would probably resemble a Julia set.

Complex, almost chaotic - but pretty to look at.
As I write this, it is roughly 8:30, and I have been up and about since 4:30-ish. I have played cards, read some of a science book, done some writing, had a spot of breakfast, and completed a few puzzles in a magazine. About half an hour ago, Julie woke and switched her radio on to listen to the news. Roxy heard this from downstairs and came up to bid her 'good morning' and have a bit of attention.

I got dressed and came into my office to do the 'dailies' as I refer to my regular activities. However, no sooner had I sat down, than I heard Julie pipe up with something that absolutely demanded a reply.

For those of you that didn't know, Roxy is a bit of a tart, especially when it comes to having her belly rubbed. In fact, she will often go out of her way to make it easy for you and to indicate, in that ever-so-subtle manner of hers, that she wants a belly rub.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Punked again

Some time ago, I reported that Julie had trolled me as we were out for a drive (Fingered...). I'm sorry/happy to say she has done it again.

What? Sorry - you want context? What's to say? I mean, we're driving along and I slowly became aware that Julie appeared to be groping her own arse. Then I asked a silly question.

Well played.

All I could think of though, was one of Paul Whitehouse's characters from The Fast Show, Clive Tucker.

Clive Tucker, left.

Incorrectly listed (initially) in many articles as having a sneezing problem, you will clearly see from this 'episode' of Country Matters with Bob Fleming, that he has a different trouble altogether...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Twofer Wednesday - Limiting the options

Driving back home the other day, we were passed by someone in a bit of a hurry.

Relative speeds not captured, sadly.
In Britain, the national speed limit on normal roads is 60 mph - unless otherwise stated, of course. On dual carriageways and motorways, this goes up to 70 mph - again, unless there are signs telling you otherwise.

On this occasion, I estimated that the now rapidly-disappearing dot in the distance was going at least ninety. At times like this, I wish I could just open the window and drop a flashing blue light onto the roof of the car...

Splitting hairs, but I suppose it would be an entertaining defence to try out in court...

Have a tune.

Monday, 21 July 2014

It's Twofer Monday!

A lot of our Gems come from when we are driving. I'll be concentrating on the road and the pillocks on it, and Julie will normally start drifting off to sleep, passing through a rich vein of Gems on the way.

On Sunday, we took Roxy back to the rescue centre, where she met up with one lady who had formed a deep attachment to her - and it was mutual. Both Roxy and this volunteer were over the moon to see each other.... but I'm getting way off track.

Years ago, I used to work at a dairy that was some distance from home. Despite this, there were a number of colleagues that lived in the same town as us - or pretty much on the way. This meant that there could be a bit of fuel saved if we shared a shift and a car for the journey. One of my colleagues had a fun little habit. Instead of wolf-whistling or shouting some crude epithet in appreciation of a comely young lady, he would shout 'sausage!' This wouldn't be aimed directly at the young lady, but just exclaimed in general, almost as an observation.

It's not hugely subtle, I admit, but since I picked up the habit - and then passed it on to Julie, it's become a lot less subtle. Shouting it out about a man? Wow...

The first time Julie did it, we were driving past a cyclist. I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or the cyclist. I know we both wobbled as we tried to keep on the road. Apparently, Julie had forgotten her window was open..

Sorry - I'm veering off track again - it's those sausages... er... yeah...

Um, where was ...ah, yes.

Anyway. Out for a drive to the rescue centre, and to the side of one road were the remains of an animal. A mammal of some sort - that's all we could tell.
Mind you, Julie reckoned it had a doppelganger.

This last was aimed at a cyclist we were passing. As I tried to contain my laughter, I looked my mirror and found that the lycra-clad bloke was doing the same thing...

For reference - some people may not have seen Ice Age (why not?). Scrat is a sabre-toothed squirrel with a fondness for acorns and a case of bad luck big enough to hold the world.

Acorn just out of shot...
Meanwhile, Sid the Sloth is an intentionally pathetic character who nonetheless has a decent side. Useless at pretty much everything, Sid only ever achieves anything by accident, and sleep usually only arrived at after some awkward shifting around on a bed of rock (and it's possibly that was meant to be a geological pun).

I have to admit tossing and turning a lot like this...

Friday, 18 July 2014

I've told you a million times...

People - including Julie, sometimes - often ask if I make up the stuff I post on this blog.


Well, apart from trying to fill in some blanks in the background. But the main gist of it, the core of the posts, remain exactly as they were when I recorded them. Trust me, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

That doesn't stop Julie from protesting.. well, not her innocence, exactly - more my lack of it...

...and thereby dropping herself further into it.
Not quite a win for me, but I'll take it.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Crossing the eyes and dotting the tease

Julie needs to wear glasses - so do I, come to that, but Julie needs to wear glasses all the time. Apart from when she sleeps or is bathing. That'd be silly.

In a sense, Julie has been lucky with getting her glasses made up, as technology has managed to stay barely a step of her needs. Almost each time she gets her eyes tested, Julie is told that she may have to have corrective surgery 'next time'. Fortunately, 'next time' appears to be taking a cue from Tomorrow in this instance, since 'next time' never really manages to reappear.

You see, to get the right level of sight correction, Julie's glasses have been getting thicker and thicker.

No, she does NOT look like that.

Obviously, there is only so far you can thicken lenses, and the threat has always been to have the surgery, but technological advances mean that the opticians can get a decent lens from a thinner piece of material.

Without the glasses, one eye does have a tendency to pull to one side, but it's nothing major - certainly not Marty Feldman territory. Or, as Julie puts it,'s true, I suppose...

Monday, 14 July 2014


There are many divisive topics of discussion. Politics is obviously the major area of activity, especially when you realise that 'politics' is not just anything to do with your government, but anything in life that has a meaningful impact on your your own life and those of the people you love (and, in the case of the abortion/sexual health situations, those of people who don't even exist yet. And may not).

Increasingly, people are becoming more and more overly opinionated about things that don't really matter, notably in the area of entertainment. And, for the record, I include all sport in that broadly-sweeping category. Why? Because when you get down to the basics, football (for example, he said, writing this on the day of the World Cup final 2014...) is not a job for most of the millions involved. And for those that are, so what? You are still only creating something to entertain the great unwashed masses (another quote mangled there*).

"I beg your pardon?"

Moving to the world of food (and I realise that some of you will now realise where this is going), it is oddly more cloudy. When you think about it, food is an essential part of life, so having an (informed) opinion about it can have a direct impact on the health of people that consume it. Eating something slightly out of date. Chili-eating contests. Fast food. Aspartame in diet drinks. Corn syrup in diet drinks. Marmite.

the offending article

Wait, what?

Some years ago, that reactionary and inflammatory rag of a newspaper known as The Daily Mail reported on a set of food products that were deemed in their pet scientists' (paid) opinions. Most of these foods were obvious, some of which I have listed above. However, tucked away in there was Marmite.

Horror of horrors, it seems Marmite is 11% salt! (full nutritional info here) That means that if you slather 100g on your toast you... wait, what? It seems someone has never eaten Marmite or has tasted it briefly and taken against it. In case you don't know, the black stuff is not for piling on like jam, Nutella, or peanut butter (blech). Seriously. If you tried eating 100g of Marmite in one go, you may as well call a priest for the lining of your mouth, as it would be stripped away like butter under a blowtorch.

This is where people get it wrong. Unlike the other spreads, Marmite is savoury, not sweet, and savoury generally means that it has more salt. Besides - have you seen how much salt is in bread? I bet you eat far more salt in that than you would in a single serving of Marmite.

Oh, and just for giggles, here is a link to a Daily Telegraph article commenting on how healthy Marmite can be.

As a company, Marmite are fully aware of how divisive their product can be. In fact, in Britain, a totally divisive subject is often known as a 'Marmite topic', and reactions to it range from this:

To this:

As I say, the company knows of this, and uses it extensively. In the past, they have gone for a 'political campaign' on behalf of the 'Love' and 'Hate' parties, but my favourite ads were drawings made of Marmite with the tagline 'you either Love it or hate it' (sic) scrawled on one side.

For the record, I hate Mr Bean.

In our house, the human population is split down the middle. I love it, Julie hates it, and we aren't going to let Roxy near it. Not if she wants to sleep in the same room as us.

It's fairly entertaining for me, as whenever Marmite is mentioned, Julie goes into a paroxysm of disgust. Some of this is a physical shudder, but much of it is a loss of sentence structure as she goes into a stuttering ramble mode.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Logic has been diminished

When I started writing these Gems down, I never gave a thought to context. All I committed to paper were the exchanges, divorced from the events that led to and followed them. This wasn't much of a problem to begin with, but now I have a small box full of scraps of paper and filled notebooks, I find myself looking at a set of almost unintelligible scrawls, with no idea of what prompted them.

All this means that I am now faced with two options. I can either fake a backstory, and hope I can get it as true to life as possible, or I waffle on, filling the post with a series of side-stories and unrelated topics.

No idea who did this, but it belongs to the surrealism art school. ...perhaps not that unrelated...

Forcibly dragging the post to something resembling order, the only background I can provide to today's Gem is that me and Julie were discussing her ability to entertain with verbal slips (and spot-on bon mots). Very often, Julie will do herself down, claiming she is thick, slow, and dull.

That's one thing that is pretty much guaranteed to anger me and anyone else who knows Julie. Just because I remember lots of useless titbits of information, that does not mean I am more clever than the next person. When Julie talks about her work, I generally sit there while my eyes glaze over and the conversation flies so far over my head that it attains near-earth orbit. The reverse is true wen I begin discussing the intricacies of playing Magic: the Gathering.

However, there is one aspect of my psyche that would enforce such a self image. I can be very picky about some things. I like things to be correct and will attempt to correct people - including myself - when I believe them to be wrong. Since I spend a lot of time with Julie, this means that I do nit-pick at things she says. And trust me when I say I have got into trouble about doing this. Right, sis?

That said, may I present this legally-themed Gem.

Yes, I am fully aware that 'grounds of diminished responsibility' is a defence tactic, not an accusatory one. But - it was fun to roll with it, right up to the final brain crash.


The two cartoon images come courtesy of an anime game series known as 'Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney', although some people, mostly in the West, will know them from the series of parody videos, Phoenix Wrong. These videos cut together parts from the games and then overdub music, quotes from movies, and classic comedy sketches, all punctuated by a banged gavel and a cry of "Objection!" Take a peek at this example.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Oh! The jiggery pokery!

Knees bent, arms stretched, rah-rah-rah.... ...sorry.

By now, you should have a fair idea that I am a great fan of wordplay, both intelligent and base. In case you aren't too sure what I mean by those terms, the difference comes when you have the reaction of either 'heh - clever' or 'hurr-hurr-hurr'. And just in case you still aren't sure, here's a handy visual guide.

"I see what you did there."                         "He said bottom... pfffff!"

However, I am erratic. Sometimes, it takes me far longer to 'get' a gag - but then there will be times when I am stuck in a manic free-associating mode, and almost everything is twistable. And yes, Julie usually tends toward the latter mode.

That's not to say that everything that comes off the cuff* is 'naughty'. Many people, mostly professional comedians, thrive on firing out barrages of clever little gags (Milton Jones comes to mind), or comebacks to snide comments/hecklers. A lot of what I say, when I want to twist the meaning of another person's sentence, will tend towards the less cerebral, shall we say. The thing is, by doing that, I am training everyone to believe that will be all I would come out with. The my fun really begins; firing off on bizarre tangents, people will start laughing at the joke they expected to hear and then go blank and say, "wait, what?"

If this is sounding familiar to you, I'm not surprised. You've been reading about Julie doing this to me and others for a few years now...

Now and then, though, I screw up. I will say something without really thinking about it and fall foul of my own methods (this recent slip comes to mind)...

Changing the scene a little, now.

Until recently, I was out of work. Now, I have a part-time job in a factory, dealing with soaps, bath lotions and tanning products. As such, we have large cubic tanks of the appropriate chemicals at the start of the line feeding into the bottles. On Monday night, we were dealing with a foaming handwash. While it's cleaner than, say, tanning mousse, it's still a bit of a bugger if it is spilled, because it is incredibly liquid, and moving the tanks around is a process carried out with great care.

When it came to hanging one tank for another, a colleague set to removing the empty tank, while I got the full one. Moving very slowly to avoid sloshing the handwash, it seems I was concentrating more on my work than my words...

It was fortunate that my colleague had the empty tank, as he was laughing far too hard to be careful with it. Meanwhile, this was the look our team leader gave me...


* Hurr hurr hurr...

Monday, 7 July 2014

Smart Parts

Until my father's car was passed along to me, Julie and me had had an extended period of not having our own transport. That may not be too much of a problem, but as anyone who had HAD a car, bike or whatever before losing it will know, you find yourself frustrated and a little lost once that car has gone. All those places that were previously accessible suddenly become distant and unattainable. It doesn't help that I'm not much of a public transport kind of person.

Naturally, you fantasise about having a car again.

By this point, Smart Cars had been around for a while, but I still liked the idea and the look of them. Being able to get into tiny parking spots was a bonus. Cheaper, more economical and allegedly more eco-friendly (although doubts have since arisen, which I do not fully understand), the only downside of them for me was the lack of storage space. Okay, for a single person, it wouldn't be too much of a problem, but for a couple with luggage, space is going to be a very pertinent issue.

You might think I'm being a little oversensitive about this, but after a fly-drive holiday to Ireland with a friend where the agent supplied us with a Toyota Yaris, I take it seriously. I kid you not. That Yaris had a boot (trunk) that had space for only one suitcase stood on edge and perhaps a small bag to one side. Perhaps. There were other issues I had with the Yaris, but the storage was the main one.

Let's get back on track.

Naturally, this little fantasy of mobility was a shared one, even if the specific details varied a little between us...

This took place some years ago, and I still don't know what Julie meant by that. Nor does she, so at least I have company in confusion.

Mind you, this paint job might qualify.

Easy, rider.

Now, THAT'S what I call a compromise...

Friday, 4 July 2014


There is a famous and oft-quoted and paraphrased bon mot which has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the US statesman and former president.

Many people have since added a third option; human stupidity, housework, etc etc...

Some time ago, I was talking with Julie about this blog and the Gems she comes out with. Gradually coming to terms with the fact that most people are on her side (including me!), Julie is sort of enjoying the notoriety she has in our currently small audience.

We have mentioned before that my notes are referred to as 'damning evidence that could be used in a court of law' - or something very similar - but this time, Julie raised the possibility of a legacy.

"If I died," she said, "would people remember me?"
I replied that while I hoped that day lies long into the future, I believed strongly that she would.

Obviously, Julie meant 'posthumous success', but it struck me as being accidentally very deep.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Hiking through the hypothalamus

I have spoken before - a few times, actually - about Julie's tendency to get caught on a verbal loop and begin rambling, utterly the same few words or syllables - or similar ones. There is no way I can write those down with any accuracy, so just check out the posts with the 'rambling on' label.

Sometimes, these verbal loops tend toward the slightly manic, so I try to butt in and break the cycle. These days, all that happens is that I will say, "Julie...", and Julie will stop dead and 'complete'* the phrase with, "...shut up."

At first, however, all I could do was this.

(Hands up who misses Calvin & Hobbes...)

Recently, I broke a loop...

I know that feeling. In my case though, it's more that I zone out and it seems my brain has put up a note to the effect that it has gone for a weekend break....

"Screw this - I'm outta here."

*Please note that I have never told Julie to 'Shut up.' I love and respect her too much to do that.

Monday, 30 June 2014

My spidey-nonsense is tingling...

I'm fairly appreciative of those eight-legged fly-killers we get in Britain. Not the nightmare fuel you find in other countries, eating birds, snakes, or small cars.

Oh look - it's Spider-Nope!
Feel free to much on the stuff that eats or craps on our own food, but leave us and ours alone thanks.

Julie, however, isn't too fussed on anything that doesn't go round on two legs. Come to think of it, not many of those, either... Out of deference to my sensibilities, Julie has managed to overcome her dislike enough to capture and eject most spiders she finds. As long as they aren't too big and/or fast.

The thing is, spiders tend to be fairly nondescript in Britain, and as such one looks pretty much like another. This means that this can lead to a case of mistaken identity.

There's kinky. It reminds me of this FABulous fella.


Friday, 27 June 2014

Speaking in tongues

Fancy a Trivial Pursuit Gem? We haven't had one in such a long time...

I'll be honest - it feels like Julie does invent her own method of communication on many occasions. As to whether it is an improvement or not, I couldn't say. It is, however, usually far more entertaining and interesting than plain ol' Standard English.

Found on
As for the correct answer, I am not too sure now, but a cursory glance through various biograpaphies leads me to believe he may have enjoyed the French language.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Vaguely vegetarian

Sausages, bangers, whatever you want to call them, they're a popular dish wherever you go. Being something of a purist, I tend to shy away from the cheap supermarket ... things. If you look at the ingredients, there may be so much cereal filler in there that you might as well call it a loaf.

However, if you are talking about vegetarian sausages, that is a different thing. While I enjoy meat, I admit that you can find a decent veggie banger.

Er... no. not that one

THAT'S more like it.

We were discussing the merits of vegetarian sausages a while back, and Julie had this to offer on their origin.

It took me a while, but then I realised that Julie was under the impression that these were sausages made from vegetarian animals...