Archive for December, 2010

Dodgy haikus

December 26, 2010

I read up on haikus in Stephen Fry’s book The Ode Less Travelled. He suggests that the English language is not well-suited to the haiku and, in any case, it is a pretty serious sort of thing for which one needs to be steeped in Japanese culture to have the smallest chance of writing anything deeply significant. Setting that aside, I can see no reason whatsoever as to why it should not be deployed in base form for a bit of fun on twitter.

Tweets have to be 140 characters or less in length. A haiku has three lines with syllable counts as follows: 5-7-5. This approximates to an average of 8 characters per syllable for a haiku tweet.  That should be more than andequate. I have therefore decided to put up haikus as tweets, so do please check me out @ffyrm (there are two f’s at the start of ffyrm on my twitter account).  I don’t know how often I shall do this but I have put three up so far. I must stress that this as a bit of fun, not serious poetry!

Blog prose flows full flood

Character count in twitter

Trickles haiku tweet

Hope you enjoy them. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Christmas lunch 2010

December 26, 2010

I am pleased to report that Christmas went off very well this year. I received several nice presents, including the graphic novel Watchmen and Stephen Fry’s autobiography The Fry Chronicles. Part of me would like to write a short graphic novel and so I shall be looking at Watchmen for possible ideas on technique, style and structure. I am currently working on my own autobiography and so the Stephen Fry book will, likewise, be of some considerable interest.

Vegetables and stuffing prepared on Xmas Eve

I spent most of Xmas eve preparing the vegetables and the stuffing (well, except for the egg which I added on Christmas morning – it is balanced on cling film in this picture). The parsnips went into a soup stock made with herbs and the neck of the turkey. I added cream and chopped chestnuts after whizzing the parsnips and this resulted in a very tasty soup.

Table set for Xmas lunch

After I got the soup under control, I laid the table. This was my own table, that I made about 10 years ago. It comes apart and gets stored in my garage. It takes around 20 minutes to assemble and in the summer I put it up on the patio if we have a BBQ. I like the sense of anticipation that goes with a table set out for a formal meal; I find it satisfying and strangely full of promise.

The turkey, I served with traditional accompaniments: caramelised carrots, roast potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry & orange relish, and gravy. The turkey breast carved well.

The remains of my home-made Christmas pudding

My Xmas pudding had been maturing for about a month. I put it in a large pan to steam for about three hours and then served it with the option of clotted cream, brandy butter or custard. I went for the custard and thoroughly enjoyed it. I  feel that it is definitely worth taking the time and effort to make your own Christmas pud, even though some of the ones you can buy in the supermarkets are not at all bad. When I had the pudding at table, I did the flambe thing and set it alight with brandy.

So now it is all over for another year. I had hoped to play a selection of seasonal songs on my Korg electric piano after the lunch was finished, but I did not manage to learn them in time. Maybe I’ll do that next year.

Imprisoned in my sitting room

December 18, 2010

I was relaxing in my sitting room when I decided to go to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Automatically, my hand extended to the brass handle and levered it downwards. Imagine my incomprehension as I felt no resistance at all as the handle was depressed. I tried again and again; it was not connecting with the catch. The door should have opened in, towards me. Suddenly, the fact dawned upon me that I was potentially a prisoner in my own sitting room!

A series of possibilities flashed through my mind. I thought about   kicking through one of the door panels or smashing a window in order to make my escape, but both of these options would have been expensive. Then I mentally kicked myself and remembered that there was a second door that we keep permanently shut, behind a large armchair. I squeezed round the chair and managed to open this door, moved out into the hallway, and finally forced the recalcitrant lock from the other side.

I fetched a screwdriver and took off the brass surround. On inspection, I found that the square metal spindle barely protruded through to the handle section on the inside face of the door and that the corners had become worn down with repetitive use over the years. At first I could not think of a way to fix this.

Spindle protrudes insufficiently

I tried pushing the square bar more fully into the inside handle mechanism and turning the lever; it worked, the spindle rotated. If the door was less thick, I could get the handle to work again, but I didn’t want to start digging bits of wood out of the door. The focus of the problem therefore switched to the length of the spindle, not the thickness of the door: how could I make the spindle longer?

Sawn dowel peg as extender

I went out to my garage workshop and pottered about. In the back of my mind I was thinking about a ball bearing or a small metal nut. Unfortunately, I could not find one that would fit the cavity of the outside brass handle. I then hit upon the idea of dropping a sawn off bit of a wooden dowling peg down the hole. In other words, I was not going to make the spindle longer, but I would force its position to change in a fashion that would be functionally equivalent to its extension. I sawed the peg, dropped it in the hole, gave the mechanism a squirt of WD40 for good measure, and reassembled it. My dear blogophiles, it worked! I felt very pleased with myself. Speak to you later.

A functional handle, once more

Crisp morning by Roker pier

December 17, 2010

I unlock the car and start the engine. The external temperature reads minus 4 Centigrade. There is only a small amount of frost on the windscreen, I suppose that there is not much moisture in the air today. I notice that the sun roof is half raised. I realise that I must have touched the control yesterday evening when I was reaching up to put on the internal light, to look for something. I must have driven all the way back from the airport in the cold with it open!

I drive through the crush of parental automobiles as kids get dumped into the nearbye school gates, and head on through the city towards the coast. I park the car by the Bungalow cafe and look out to the harbour. It is a beautiful, crisp December morning and the sun is glinting on the brickwork of Roker pier. Every now and again a roller hits the wall and a cloud of surf sprays up into the air with the grace of an ocean ballet dancer. Tom arrives and we go for our breakfast.

View of Roker pier from Bungalow cafe

By the time coffee arrives we have started on the exchange of the week’s news. I am well into my sausage and bacon before Tom tells me about the purchase of a very nice Fender gig bag from a Newcastle guitar shop. When it comes to the fried egg on toast, munching is intermingled with talk of 13th chords and the complexities of jazz guitar. The second cup of coffee is concluded with good wishes for the festive season and a resolve to meet once more for the Friday full English early in the new year. But don’t worry, my dear blogophiles, I shall talk to you again before then. Indeed, I look forward to chatting with you as I stumble through the joys, trials and tribulations of Christmas and all that that entails! Speak to you later.

Newcastle airport

December 16, 2010

I have 15 minutes to wait before the plane I am meeting is due to land. It is icy outside but fortunately there has been no snow here today. I have a mug of Starbucks coffee and a plate that, until a few moments ago, held a slab of chocolate chunk shortbread. The shortbread is currently in my tummy, save a film of grease that it deposited upon the tips of my fingers; fingers that are now skating rather to easily across my notebook size qwerty keyboard. I use all fingers when I type, something I have my mother to thank for; she taught me on an old Imperial typewriter when I was bored one long summer school holiday. Even a coffee at an airport cafe sparks reminiscences.

In front of me is a large, cone-shaped artificial Xmas tree. At least, I should be very surprised if this object had ever had real birds perching on its branches. The decorations look tired. The lights are boring. This is Christmas just because it has to be so, in a public space in England, at this time of year. The building is as high as a half-decent church, so I guess a good designer or decorator could do quite a lot to pretty things up. Still, there would probably be no cash for that in these times of austerity, and Christmas is a slightly tricky concept in a multi-cultural society.

Waiting on a cold Thursday evening

I have discovered that the arrival of the plane I am meeting is delayed by 40 minutes; it could be a lot worse. I am having some difficutly in controlling my body temperature. If I put my wooly hat on, it is too hot; if I take it off, it is too cold. The mind appears to be down-geared by the process of waiting, as boredom kicks in. I have become the sort of person who thinks about his woolly hat. At this point, in an act of desperation, I turn to my Kindle and Bleak House, by the wonderful Charles Dickens. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Car snowed up

December 7, 2010

There has been another fall of snow overnight. I think it must be around 10 days ago when I last drove my car. Some people in the street do seem to have kept their vehicles moving but I gave up the fight early on in this cold snap. Food is a concern but I have stocked up with some basic things like muesli and potatoes. I have also bought some tinned food, on the basis that we should be able to eat that if we lose gas and electricity. Hopefully, such an  extreme scenario will not become reality.

Car snow bound

Speaking of reality, last night I played a gig at The Cup n Spittle in Second Life and half-way through the show the building poofed; it vanished. I looked around and we were all standing on the snow. It felt very cold. One person had put a puffer jacket on his avi, and he looked warm as toast. I rummaged around in my inventory and found my santa outfit, from last year. I put that on and played out the piano part of the gig. Strangely enough, after 3 years, it seems more natural for me to say “I put that on…” rather than “I put the outfit on my avatar”. I think of Fyrm Fouroux as my virtual persona; I should say that it is more tangible than an imaginary childhood friend might be. It certainly raises some interesting questions about the concept of person.

I am going to try to avoid going out of the house for the rest of the day. I have put the recycling bins out and in doing so gained quite enough fresh air to last me a couple of days. I think a great deal of piano and guitar practice might take place. Apart from that, I have started to read Bleak House by Charles Dickens on my Kindle. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.