diamond geezer

 Friday, December 31, 2004

Diamond Geezer - the 2004 index

A About Time, academia, Acorn Antiques, advert calendar, A&E, America, anagrams, anniversaries, art critics
B bags, Bank of England, barbecues, baseball, BBCi, BBC2, beaches, Big Decisions, Blogger, bloggers A-Z, blogposts, Bloomsday, blue moon, Brit awards
Big Brother: predictions, day 1, day 7, day 19, day 22, day 70
Bow: bendy buses, Bow Arts Trust, Bow Road station renovation, buses, Double R Club, Routemasters, transport history
C Cambridge, career, Ceefax (at 30), cereals, change, children's books, cinema names, City, comments, Commuter Handbook, Congestion Charge, the Count, counties, Creative Lounge, Crossrail
D Dasani, daylight saving, D-Day, democracy, dgTunes, Diamond Geezer, Diana fountain, Doctor Who, Dome of Doom, doodlebugs, double issue Radio Times, download chart, Down Street
E East End, eclipses, Election 1979, emergencies, English Euphoria plc, Enquire Within, Euro 2004
F farthings, festive emergencies, Festive 50, FIFA 100, flags, flags on BBCi, Football League, Formula One, four, four letter words, four minute mile, fox hunting, Freeview, Friday Five
G geezer du jour, geezers, Gherkin, Google images
H Harry Potter, health, health and safety, hearts, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Hoover Number, hospital
I ice lollies, ID cards, ideas, immigration, inertia, instant messaging, interactive books, intuition
K Kingsway telephone exchange
L leap day, leap year, leaving, Letraset, life, Limelight, Little Britain, local radio, lottery
London: Beckton, blog, books, Enfield, High Holborn, Islington, marathon, Merton, 01, Open House, Oxford Street lights, Postman's Park, prepared, reading, RunLondon, sitcoms, Square Routes, street cries, 2016 map, views
M maths problems, mazes, media, mobile phones, mortgages, my diary, Mylo, Mystic Meg
Meridian: Greenwich, Dome, Tower Hamlets, Stratford, Waltham Forest, Pole Hill, Waltham Abbey, rest of world, all on one page
N neighbours, New Piccadilly, New Year, 9/11, normal, North Greenwich
O online voting
Olympics: 1896-2012, 2012 bid, 2012 transport, East London, Leap For London, medal table, Olympic flame, Paula Radcliffe
Oranges and Lemons: St Clements, St Martins, Old Bailey, Shoreditch, Stepney, Bow, candle, chopper
P parklife, passwords, Peter Pan, photographs, postbag, Powerpoint, predictions
Piccadilly: Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, everything inbetween
Quizzes: alphabetical, anagrams, bingo, Disney, Euro 2004, French towns, indie music, mobile numbers, newspapers, numbers, Queen Elizabeth II, Pet Shop Boys, Piccadilly line, Premiership, St George, tube strike
R Radio 4, radio highlights, readership survey, reality TV, resolutions, retail therapy, Richmond, rounding, Routemasters (50), Royal Academy, Roy Lichenstein
Reviews: Battleship Potemkin, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Day After Tomorrow, Football Factory, History Boys, Incredibles, Mylo, Richard Herring, Saw, Spiderman 2, Super Size Me, Trevor Horn
S San Francisco, sell-by dates, Shattered, security, security alarms, search engines, sex, single life, singles, Slough, Smoke, snow, soup, spatially unaware, spellings, Spitalfields, St Swithun, Stanleys, Streets, summer, the Sun, supermarkets
Silver Jubilee: Jubilee line, Charing Cross, extension, quiz, photoblog, all on one page
T tea, Temple Bar, text adventures, Theobalds Park, 39 stops, timetables, toiletries, Top of the Pops, top threes, top ten names, top ten 1984, top 25 1979, top five Xmas 1984, train journeys, Transit of Venus, Transport Direct, tube links, tube week, TV channels, 2005, two years, typewriters
U UK textmap, US elections
V Valentine's Day, visitors
W Wayne Rooney, weekdays, Wembley Stadium, Wikipedia, wine, Wordcount
X X Factor
the best of March, April, June, 1994, 2004

Why you're going to celebrate New Year at the wrong time

It sounds simple enough. When you hear Big Ben start to chime twelve, 2005 begins. Unfortunately it's not simple at all.

1) Digital television isn't live. If you have digital TV you'll have noticed that digital TV is broadcast fractionally later than analogue TV. Use your remote to switch over from analogue BBC1 to digital BBC1, for example, and you'll probably hear the same snatch of conversation all over again. This is because the encoding and decoding of the digital signal causes a brief but noticeable delay, and so no live event can ever be broadcast live. See in the New Year digitally on Freeview or Sky (or watch a football match, for that matter) and you'll be celebrating a second or two late. Such is progress.
Test: On my TV, digital BBC1 (via Freeview) runs approximately one second behind analogue BBC1. Unfortunately I can't test ITV or Channel 4 because my Freeview reception is crap, I can't test Channel 5 because my analogue reception is crap and I can't test Sky Digital because I don't subscribe to it because it's crap.

2) Digital teletext isn't live. I already hate BBCi (the BBC's digital teletext system) with a vengeance. Here's another reason to hate it. Old Ceefax features the time in hours, minutes and seconds, because Ceefax is perfectly accurate. New BBCi only includes the time in hours and minutes, because BBCi isn't (and cannot be) accurate. Not that you'd be sad enough to see out the old year on teletext, of course.
Test: When I check the time on old Ceefax it's spot on. When I check the time on new 'improved' BBCi the clock runs highly irregularly with the minutes changing anywhere between 15 and 35 seconds late. BBCi has a gobsmackingly unreliable clock.

3) Digital radio isn't live. Same problem as above. Digital radio signals take longer to process than analogue so someone with a 21st century digital radio will hear everything a few swconds later than someone with a 20th century wireless. Even the Greenwich Time Signal doesn't beep at the right time on digital radio, it beeps late, so never set your watch by it. Such is progress.
Test: I risked my sanity by attempting to listen to Radio 1 simultaneously on VHF radio, digital radio and Freeview. Good old VHF broadcast everything 'on time', but digital radio was one second behind and Freeview was another 1½ seconds behind that.

4) Online radio isn't live. Not that this will surprise you. What with downloading and buffering and all sorts of other bytesize mullarkey, the BBC's online Radio Player runs very late indeed.
Test: Radio 1 online runs as much as 14 seconds later than Radio 1 VHF, which is as rubbish as you might expect.

5) Analogue radio isn't live. No, really. "The transmitted signal takes a finite time to travel from Broadcasting House to a transmitter, and then from the transmitter to the radio. Of course, the further a radio is from the transmitter, the greater the delay - at 200 miles from the Radio 4 LW transmitter at Droitwich the delay is roughly a thousandth of a second - and as a compromise the pips are delayed so that they are accurate at a distance of about 100 miles from the transmitter." (more here)
Test: I couldn't test this one, but I did get my atlas out to check which places are exactly 100 miles away from Droitwich and therefore get accurate pips. Answer - Cambridge, Lincoln, Blackburn, Snowdon, Taunton, Southampton and, yes, central London.


6) Big Ben isn't accurate. Big Ben's not doing badly for a 150-year old clock - in fact it's a masterpiece of Victorian chronological engineering - but even with regular adjustment it can be a second or so out. Just because you can hear Big Ben chiming in the New Year doesn't mean that the New Year has begun yet. Or that it didn't start slightly earlier.
Test: Big Ben was two seconds late seeing in 1990. Trust me, I checked at the time.

7) Big Ben only chimes on time if you're standing right next to it. The BBC have a microphone positioned right beside Big Ben's giant clanger, so the sound of the midnight chime hits the airwaves almost instantaneously. Stand and listen to the great bell anywhere else in London, however, and the sound travels towards you at a rather slow 330 metres per second, just as the laws of physics decree. This means you'll hear the New Year arrive one second late from 10 Downing Street, 2½ seconds late from Trafalgar Square and 7 seconds late from St Paul's Cathedral. [You may, or may not, remember that Big Ben's aural delay lay at the heart of a particularly cunning episode of Captain Scarlet. No OK, you probably don't.]
Test: I was standing beside the Thames at midnight on New Year's Eve last year, about 330 metres away from St Stephen's Tower. That means I should have heard Big Ben ushering in 2004 precisely one second late. Unfortunately the sound of the cheering crowds around me drowned out any sound Big Ben might have been making, so I couldn't confirm whether or not the theory works.

Moral of the story: Before you go out this New Year's Eve, set your watch accurately using analogue Ceefax. Or stay in and watch analogue TV. Or just get drunk and you'll neither notice nor care that you're celebrating the arrival of 2005 at the wrong time. Happy New Year, whenever it begins.

 Thursday, December 30, 2004

Review of the year 2005

Jan: The Freedom of Information Act is launched. Government grinds to a halt when Mr Cedric Evans of Skelmersdale writes in demanding to read every civil service email containing the word 'the'.
Feb: A shock headline in the Daily Mail warns that a house price crash is imminent (see also March, April, May, June, and every other month this year).
Mar: Linda Barker launches a new range of flashing blue sofas, perfect for hiding behind during the new series of Doctor Who.
Apr: An ASBO is imposed banning tearaway teenager Wayne Rooney from venturing within 500 yards of Old Trafford.
May: A General Election is called for 05/05/05, but only those with ID cards are allowed to vote. David Blunkett is returned with an increased majority.
Jun: The new Harry Potter novel is leaked when filesharers get hold of a 30GB mp3 of Stephen Fry reading the entire book.
Jul: The IOC award the 2012 Olympic Games to Paris, who then decide that maybe they don't want 20 years of crippling debt after all and pass the Games on to London instead.
Aug: The winner of All-Nude Big Brother 6 is revealed to be an undercover Sun journalist.
Sep: The Royal Mail introduce third class post, whereby letters are delivered at random by illiterate postmen. Few people notice the change.
Oct: George Bush presses the wrong button on his golf buggy and a small Middle Eastern country vanishes.
Nov: The ban on fox hunting with dogs finally comes into effect. Red-coated snobs get round the ban by inaugurating a new sport called dogs hunting with fox.
Dec: Some ghastly disaster happens. Everything else pales into insignificance.

 Wednesday, December 29, 2004

New Year Resolutions 2004 - the results

1) To go somewhere I haven't been before.
Verdict:
Not a great success. OK, so back in January I'd never been to Stanmore Broadway, the top of the Gherkin, Hounslow bus station or the new hospital in Norwich, but those really aren't the sort of places I had in mind. 2004 is therefore memorable for being something of a repeat, geography-wise, and spatially unadventurous. Must try harder.

2) To reduce my spam intake.
Verdict:
The plague of email spam has been halted, thanks to my ISP who installed spam-blocking software at the end of January. I do miss getting emails, though. Alas it seems the spammers have turned their drone-like attention to my comments box instead, but at least Haloscan seem to have them under control.

3) To keep my place tidy.
Verdict:
Not bad. OK, so there are Christmas cards littering the carpet and there's a string of fairy lights down the hallway, but I believe they're temporary. Other than that, if you're one of the six visitors to my house this year I do hope you'll agree the place looked reasonably presentable.

4) To go up to anyone I see wearing more than one item of Burberry clothing and call them a tosser.
Verdict:
There aren't many Burberry tossers any more, are there? The hardcore scallies have moved on (Von Dutch, anyone?), and now you're more likely to see beige plaid on a granny's handbag than a chav's cap. A year is a long time in fashion.

5) To go back to the cinema again.
Verdict:
After 12 months away from the big screen, I finally made it back in May. And June and July and August and September and October and November. But not December, so maybe Hollywood hasn't completely won me back yet.

6) To shed pounds.
Verdict:
That's money not weight, you'll remember, given that I am one of the world's worst shoppers. Unfortunately I remain so, and I've probably got worse this year rather than better. I barely wasted any money in 2004 on the acquisition of material goods, which has been great news for my bank balance if nothing else. Maybe I'll spot some must-have item in the January sales later today, but somehow I doubt it. 1pm update: Just walked the length of Oxford Street - spent 93p

7) To search out new and exciting webpages and stuff for all my readers.
Verdict:
Like this and this and this and this, for example. Sorted.

8) To drink at least one of the three bottles of complimentary champagne sitting in my kitchen.
Verdict:
No such luck. I had the means, I just needed motive and opportunity. Here's hoping 2005 has a bit more fizz.

Just the one resolution for 2005, I think...
1) Carpe diem

 Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The top 3 albums of 2004



1) Destroy Rock And Roll - Mylo (released 24 May)
"It's sort of Royksopp with a smile, or an upbeat Air, or a more modern Moby, or Lemon Jelly without the quirks. Samples from acts as diverse as Prince, Kim Carnes, Scissor Sisters and Daft Punk are mixed with grooving synth beats to create one of the freshest sounds of the year. Well I reckon anyway."

2) A Grand Don't Come For Free - The Streets (released 10 May)
"so there it is, a concept album for the new urban slacker, bit of a result
minor details elevated high, for there is poetry in the mundane
it's a winner, it's a soundtrack to one lost summer, nice one geezer"


3) Scissor Sisters - Scissor Sisters (released 2 Feb)
"It's not an album of cover versions but every track sounds like it was recorded this year but written by somebody famous 30 years ago. I can hear the blatant influence of David Bowie, the Bee Gees, Steely Dan, Sparks, Sylvester, at least three eras of Elton John and even some Rocky Horror Picture Show. And oh boy, against all the odds it so works."

Hmm, that's the same Top 3 I brought you halfway through the year. Has nothing better been released since June? Well, no, not really. I think this was the year that the music industry and I lost interest in each other, although not deliberately. I was planning to bring you my Top 10 albums of 2004, until I counted up my purchases and found that I've only bought 9 albums this year. I've not downloaded anything either, even though I know this is the new medium of choice. And yes, I know there have been some outstanding albums released during the last 12 months (and you may even want to tell me some of those I missed out on). But I'm hoping for better in 2005.

 Monday, December 27, 2004

A century of Neverland

100 years ago today, JM Barrie's classic play Peter Pan was performed for the very first time. You know the story (girl meets flying pixie, girl flies off to magical land, girl has lots of adventures with pirates and crocodiles and fairies, girl flies home, girl grows up) but what you may not know is the fascinating background to the story...

Pan timeline
1860
James Barrie is born in Kirriemuir (it's not far from Forfar).
1866 James's elder brother David dies on the eve of his 14th birthday in a freak skating accident.
1894 Barrie marries actress Mary Ansell, an actress in one of his plays. They remain childless.
1897 Barrie meets the Llewelyn Davis brothers in Kensington Garden. He plays with them and tells them stories (not that he was, erm, one of them). On New Year's Eve he meets their mother at a dinner party and subsequently befriends the family.
1901 Barrie goes on a camping holiday with the boys at Black Lake, near Farnham. On his return he writes The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island, the story on which 'Never Never Land' will be based.
1902 Barrie publishes a novel called The Little White Bird, about a childless author who meets a boy called David in Kensington Gardens and tells him stories about a character called Peter Pan.
1904 The play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up premieres at the Duke of York's Theatre in London on December 27. It is a great success. Even the critics applaud at the end when asked to clap if they believe in fairies. "an artfully artless, go-as-you-please play which has all the pretty inconsequence of an imaginative child’s improvisation, all the wild extravagance of a youngster’s dream…" (Illustrated London News)
1906 Barrie publishes the short book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. The book is dedicated "to Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies and their boys (my boys)".
1907 Arthur dies of cancer, allowing Barrie to grow even closer to his widow and her children.
1909 Feeling rather betrayed by the whole situation, Mary has an affair and divorces her husband.
1910 Sylvia dies of cancer. Barrie becomes guardian to all five Llewelyn Davies children.
1911 Barrie adapts his stage play to write the novel Peter and Wendy, now more usually known as Peter Pan.
1912 "There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning. Down by the little bay, at the south-western side of the tail of the Serpentine, they will find a May Day gift from JM Barrie, a figure of Peter Pan blowing his pipe on the stump of a tree, with fairies and mice and squirrels all around. (the Times, 1 May 1912)
1915 Eldest son George Llewelyn Davies is killed in the trenches during World War 1.
1921 Middle son Michael Llewelyn Davies drowns in the Thames while a student at Oxford.
1937 JM Barrie dies, having donated the copyright to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1929.
1960 Peter Llewelyn Davies, tired of being labelled 'the boy who never grew up', throws himself in front of a train at Sloane Square station.

3 outstanding links
jmbarrie.co.uk
A complete Peter Pan theatrical history (follow Smee's pointing finger)
Randy Constan's gobsmacking Peter Pan fanpage

 Friday, December 24, 2004

X-1
preparing for Christmas emergencies


helping to prevent a terrorist attack


Government intelligence suggests that an attempted terrorist attack on your home is imminent.

On the evening of 24th December a white-bearded extremist, possibly with stockings over his head, plans to break into your home and leave a suspect package at the foot of your child's bed. International police have been informed. Await deliverance.

Keep alert
Look out for suspicious vehicles, such as flying sledges.
Block your chimney (or buy a house with central heating).
Leave out a glass of sherry laced with rohypnol.
Children – be vigilant! Stay awake all night if necessary.

You may have vital information to help the authorities. If you hear sleigh bells, see an old man distributing presents in a busy shopping mall or come across reindeer droppings on your lawn, please tell the police immediately. They want to see Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen and the rest of the Rednose gang behind bars as soon as possible.

Terrorists need…
A place to live:
Are you suspicious about an elderly Scandinavian gentlemen who's recently moved into an igloo down your street?
To plan: Have you seen anyone pay an unusual amount of attention to your rooftop, or to those of your neighbours?
Equipment: If you are a retailer, has anyone come into your shop recently and asked for a faster-than light high-capacity sled?

With your help, and with continued public vigilance, this evil empire can be thwarted. Or we'll just bomb Finland and ask questions later. One day, we hope, you'll be able to tell your children that 'Father Christmas' doesn’t exist any more.

Be reassured that overnight festive break-ins like this are very rare. Don't have nightmares out there. Do sleep well over Christmas.

 Thursday, December 23, 2004

X-2
preparing for Christmas emergencies


basic first aid


Knowing what to do in a turkey-cooking emergency is vitally important.

If your turkey still hasn't defrosted by daybreak on Christmas Day, keep calm. Don't rush about in a panic screaming "Oh my God!! Oh my God!!" because this won't help.
Assess the injured turkey carefully and act on your findings using the basic First Aid steps listed below.
Keep an eye on the injured turkey's condition until the emergency Paxo arrives. Then nod sagely.

Take time now to familiarise yourself with some of the more common turkey disaster scenarios below.
Consciousness: If your turkey is conscious with obvious signs of life, place your fingers on the bird's throat and press really hard. Listen for that tell-tale life-sapping squawk. Then open the rear airway, shove your hand up and pull out the giblets, just to make doubly sure that this is an ex-turkey.

Burns: For all burns, cool with cranberry sauce for at least 10 minutes, then wrap the affected parts with sausage meat and silver foil.

Circulation: Check for a pulse. If you find one then sorry, you've probably cooked a nut roast by mistake.

Shock: If your game bird has cold clammy skin when laid out on the dinner table, assume the recovery position and start mouth-to-mouth.

Fractures: Remove breast-bone. Tug sharply on one end. Make a wish.

Bleeding: Control severe bleeding by applying pressure with the prongs of a fork. If blood drips out, loosen any restrictive strips of bacon and shove the bird back into the oven for two hours at gas mark 6. Beware - many families are forced to suffer bleeding turkey for many days after Christmas.

Blockages: Still eating turkey in the New Year? You must be choking.
For a bootiful Christmas dinner, consider getting proper First Aid training. The Government's Chief Medical Officer, Bernard Matthews, recommends Delia's Norfolking Christmas (£15.99). Or just pop out to McDonalds instead.

 Wednesday, December 22, 2004

X-3
preparing for Christmas emergencies


coping with specific emergencies


The emergency services are trained to cope with a wide range of emergency situations, but there is a lot you can do to help yourself (especially if you spot an unlocked window on Christmas Eve).

Fire prevention and safety
Reduce fire hazards in your home. You can bin those hundreds of highly combustible Christmas cards for a start. And always make your Blue Peter Advent Crown from flameproof tinsel.
Most fire deaths and injuries occur while people are sleeping. That's because it’s fun setting Grandpa's beard alight while he's snoring away during the Queen’s Speech.
Fit and maintain smoke alarms, just in case one of those fifty IKEA tealights you’ve got dotted around the house should create a superheated atmosphere accidentally causing a dangling strand of tinsel to spontaneously combust.
If trapped in smoke caused by blazing candles, rest assured that at least you'll slip into unconsciousness anaesthetised by the smell of musk and sandalwood.

Explosives
When you walk into your lounge halfway through Christmas morning, the room may look as if a bomb has hit it. Just in case this is true, evacuate the family immediately and contact the emergency services to organise a controlled explosion.
Always pull Christmas crackers with extreme caution. The jokes inside may cause untold damage if not handled correctly.
If a Christmas pudding goes off in your kitchen, try to cover the brandy-fuelled flames with a damp tea towel. Order the rest of the family to stay in the dining area away from serving hatches in case there is a second pudding in the area.

Power cuts
If the power fails, log into our website for further information about what to do next. Alternatively use your common sense and go and buy some batteries.
Alternative entertainment is available. Victorians didn’t have Play Stations to keep them amused, did they? You could read a book, have a tinkle on the piano, play a game of Cluedo or, erm, just wait for the power to come back on again.

Biological attack
If you spot a sprout on your dinner plate, do NOT touch it.
Move quickly away from the immediate source of danger.
Wait for emergency chefs to arrive and examine the scene.
You may need to be decontaminated. This will involve gargling with gravy and covering yourself with a temporary serviette.

Chemical attack
If your auntie has bought you an unwanted bottle of perfume or aftershave, always dispose of the contents carefully (preferably while she’s not watching).
If your auntie is wearing an offensive perfume, construct a lean-to in the garage and quarantine her there for at least 48 hours.

Radiological attack
If your nose starts to glow red*, don't panic. Go and stand outside in the fog where you can be used as an emergency air traffic homing beacon.
*Other symptoms may include being laughed at, being called names and not being allowed to join in playing reindeer games.

Emergency planning exercises
These are held annually around the country to test our preparedness. Large groups of civilians find themselves compelled to assemble in local shopping centres. Here the crowds are addressed by civic officials who dispense good cheer and essential Christmas advice. On a pre-arranged signal the Mayor then presses a big red button. This illuminates flashing warning lights in the sky to warn shoppers against venturing too close during the festive period. See local press for details.

 Tuesday, December 21, 2004

X-4
preparing for Christmas emergencies


what's being done to protect the UK?


The UK has had to live with the threat of Christmas for many years, ever since evil terrorist St Augustine slipped the first Bible through English customs. The emergency services now have well established plans and procedures in place to deal with a wide range of festive events.

The police, fire and ambulance services are specially trained to deal with Christmas.
The police deal with Christmas by switching from trying to catch criminals to raising revenue by breathalysing drivers instead.
Ambulance workers deal with Christmas by holding a sweepstake to see which driver can mop up the most drunkards.
The fire brigade deal with Christmas by dressing up in red costumes and climbing onto illuminated rooftops.
Military assistance can be also called upon if necessary, just so long as all the servicemen aren't too busy serving in Iraq.

Previous successes in the fight against Christmas:
You never see Noel Edmonds any more, do you?
And we got rid of Warninks Advocaat...
And the Innovations catalogue...
And Meltis Berry Fruits...
And religion.

New anti-Christmas legislation is to be introduced next year:
From 2005, Christmas presents may only be wrapped in transparent cling film. We apologise that this may diminish your feelings of excitement and anticipation somewhat, but it's better than being blown sky-high by gift-wrapped explosives.
Extra-large Advent calendars will be introduced with a slice of fresh fruit behind each window rather than a slab of fattening chocolate.
The Royal Mail will be forced to introduce a new service called SuperSpecial Delivery where, for a fee of £10, they promise not to steal any of your Christmas cards and the contents therein.
Christmas Day will be moved to February 29th. That'll show 'em.

Remember that nearly all of Christmas is preventable. You can get practical, easy to follow advice on preventing Christmas from your local mosque or synagogue.

 Monday, December 20, 2004

X-5
preparing for Christmas emergencies


The Government is working hard to make sure that the UK is as prepared as it can be for Christmas, and it is important that you are ready too. By being informed and prepared, you can significantly reduce the risk to life, property and waistline. We’d therefore like to take this opportunity to warn you that the country will soon be shutting down for at least two days, maybe four, maybe a week and a half, and that buying food and travelling by rail will be nigh impossible during this period.

general advice about what to do in an emergency

If you should suddenly find yourself in the middle of Christmas, your common sense and instincts will usually tell you what to do. Unfortunately hiding in the cupboard under the stairs until the whole event is over is not usually an acceptable option.

Whatever the case, it is important to:
Make sure 999 has been called.
Wait patiently for three wise men to arrive.
Follow the advice of the emergency services.
Get extremely drunk in a desperate attempt to blot out the nightmare festive situation.

If you are not involved in the incident, for example because you are of a different religion which doesn’t believe that it's possible for a supreme being to impregnate an innocent woman, then you may still be in danger. In such cases the advice is:

1) Go inside a safe building.
Unsafe buildings are clearly marked on the outside by glowing, flashing lights. Beware. The occupants are likely to have been brainwashed by commercial forces beyond their control and may try to force feed you with sherry. Keep away.

2) Stay inside until you are advised to do otherwise.
Signs that the Christmas period is finally over include lengthening daylight hours, blooming flowers, repeated holiday advertisements and being able to turn off your central heating. If in doubt, emerge and see.

3) Tune in to local radio or TV for more information.
When Christmas is first sighted on the horizon, usually in late October, radio and TV companies will interrupt their normal programming to bring you information about the incident and to dispense retail advice. All your favourite celebrities will appear, bedecked with sparkly tinsel, telling you what necessary preparations need to be made, what supplies to stock up on and who has the best 3 for 2 offers on bottled water and tinned food.

Remember: go in, stay in, tune in, block out.

In certain very unlikely situations, you may be asked to leave your home by the emergency services:

Regret using quite so much brandy on the Christmas pudding.
Unplug the flashing snowman on the roof.
Leave as quickly and calmly as possible.
No, put those presents down and leave now.
If you are forced to travel long distances to unknown parts of the country in order to reach a place of safety, remind yourself that this is what Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus did 2000 years ago and that everything turned out alright in the end.

 Sunday, December 19, 2004

Christmas Alphabet word search: This word search contains 25 festive words, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet. Can you identify the whole alphabetical list from A to Y? (Sorry, I gave up on Z) (Answers in the comments box)

Y S A M X H P E S O J W
L A H R E E D N I E R R
L N R G L E G N A V T E
O T R U D L E O N I Y A
H A Y U N W R A P R E T
B O M L A E G T A G K H
E R X R C I V R K I N G
L E I E F Q U E E N O I
L F Y T N E S E R P D L

X-6
Christmastime in E3

Flashing Santas shining down from tower block balconies
A few strands of tinsel draped behind the bar of a pub
Well-dressed couples turning up to a festive dinner party
Stressed-out drivers endlessly honking one another
A pensioner walking back to her lonely basement flat
Wide-eyed children looking forward to the big day
A wreath on the door of a Victorian terraced villa
Cheap lager being lugged home in a Morrisons carrier bag
A mob of feral children hurling an egg at a passing bus
Crowds of beaming worshippers exiting a carol service
Queueing for stamps in the run-down Post Office
Strings of red and white lights illuminating Roman Road
A small fir tree sat on a pile of tyres in a dingy garage

 Saturday, December 18, 2004

Bow Road update: You can't use Bow Road tube station today. You couldn't use it last weekend either, or the weekend before that. In fact, what with the Christmas weekend coming up, you won't be able to use the station on any weekend in December. Then there's three more weekend closures in January and another at the end of February, all of which makes for a prolonged period of travel misery for us Bow residents on top of all the late evening closedowns we've been suffering since March. And all because renovation work at Bow Road station is going on months longer than expected, and because it seems the only way to finally bring the whole overblown project to an end is to force passengers to find alternative travel arrangements at weekends while workmen try desperately to catch up. OK, so it's only a 7 minute walk from here down the road to Mile End, but it's the principle of the thing that matters. The chairman of Metronet admits that there have been problems...
"Refurbishment and modernisation work has started at nine stations. There has been some slippage in the programme due to the time taken in attaining design approvals and agreeing the full scope of station works with London Underground. However, we are confident that the slippage can be attributed to mobilisation and ‘learningcurve’ issues – and we aim to resolve them by the end of the financial year."
Which appears to confirm my suspicions that my local station was shut after 10pm every night from March until September while virtually nothing was going on inside. Thank you Metronet. At least since October things really have started to happen. No really. Now there are black cables, and cameras, and white cables, and paint, and purple cables, and even the odd workman walking around trying to look busy during those increasingly rare hours while the station is actually open. I've still not seen one new development that improves my journey to work, though, not one. Check the comments box for further details (or go read my new 'Bow Road page' which, like the station, is still under construction).

If you've just arrived from Metafilter (ooh, Metafilter), then let me assure you that...
a) No, I have never blogged about the curious retro-style tube adverts for London's Metropolitan Tabernacle. Blimey, aren't they dated?
b) The Metropolitan Tabernacle isn't quite a 'historic London landmark', but it is a very prominent building at the Elephant & Castle.
c) My photo of the pink elephant and castle at Elephant and Castle (8 days down the page) was taken on the opposite side of the road from the Metropolitan Tabernacle, so I have sort of been there.

 Friday, December 17, 2004

Dear Mum and Dad,

Happy Christmas. You'll be glad to hear that my Christmas cacti are now dripping with pink buds and the geraniums on my frost-free balcony continue to bloom spectacularly. I've decorated my flat by draping the usual fairy lights down the hallway, and your fibre optic Christmas tree is busy changing colour on the dining table. I've now received 16 Christmas cards, which isn't a very impressive total given that I'm planning on sending out about 70, and it's probably at least a hundred less than you've got by now. Thanks for your homemade Christmas card which is now sitting in pride of place on the TV. You'll be pleased to know that my homemade Christmas card to you is already in the post, although it was particularly naughty of David Blunkett to resign while my card was at the printers.

Life at work continues to be manic. The low point was two weeks ago when I missed the company's Christmas party (free bar, sit-down meal and a tentful of entertainment) because I was too busy working for the company. Thankfully I've not had to work as late as half past nine again, but I'm still the mug who's sat in work at 8am and 8pm while everyone else swans off at what used to be my normal leaving time and manages to have a life. At least I'm finally due more than a fortnight off work after I crawl home tonight, which'll give me a chance to drink normal tea again during daylight hours if nothing else.

My new passport arrived in the mail yesterday. They sent the old one in a separate envelope, and my local postman somehow managed not to steal either of them. I reckon the new photo almost looks like me, certainly more than the last one from ten years ago, but you'd probably prefer the set of photos I couldn't use because there was too much white background and not quite enough of my face. It felt odd seeing an expiry date of 'Feb 15' at the back of the passport and realising that they meant 2015, not the day after Valentine's Day. At least this means I'm not due to be getting an ID-chipped biometric replacement until I'm 50.

I hope you're both well. Sorry that you couldn't both make it down to London for the 'annual' day of Christmas shopping this year. To be honest, Mum, I'm dead impressed that you can make it as far as the village shop after your hip operation last month. I'll pencil in a quality festive shopping day sometime next year instead. And I'll see you both next week.

dg
x

 Thursday, December 16, 2004

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(my thanks to drD for the link)

 Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tube strike quiz: Only two of the following excuses given for strike action on the London Underground are true. I wonder if you can tell which two they might be? (n.b. 'true' is not necessarily the same as 'justified')

• Drivers on the Northern line are to strike because a 35 hour working week is far too strenous.
Drivers on the Metropolitan line are to strike because 52 days annual holiday just isn't enough, poor lambs.
Drivers on the Victoria line are to strike because they were all replaced by computers ten years ago.
Drivers on the Waterloo & City line are to strike because driving backwards and forwards between the same two stations all day is so incredibly boring.
Drivers on the Piccadilly line are to strike in a row over the demotion of a driver for passing red signal lights.
Drivers on the Jubilee line are to strike in protest at having one of their trains repainted to support London's Olympic bid.
Drivers on the Hammersmith & City line are to strike to demand that their line be reassigned any colour other than pink.
Drivers on the East London line are to strike because they fancy a day off to go to the January sales.
Drivers on the District line are to strike in protest at appalling facilities at Earl's Court station.
Drivers on the Circle line are to strike because all that going round and round makes them giddy.
Drivers on the Central line are to strike because Bob Crow fancies some publicity.
Drivers on the Bakerloo line are to strike because being a tube driver means either clocking on before 5am or clocking off after 1am, spending your shift stuck inside in a cramped cab, coping with stroppy passengers who insist on holding the doors open, working weekends, risking dodgy track maintenance, coping when people throw themselves off the platform in front of your train... and because quite frankly you wouldn't put up with it either.

 Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Acorn Antiques - the musical

Manchesterford's finest soap opera is coming to the London stage. Victoria Wood has written a musical version of the legendary cardboard drama, and the show is due to open at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 9th February next year for a limited 16-week season. The cast includes all your favourite Acorn Antiques stars, including Julie Walters, Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston, as well as top support from Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey and Sally Ann Triplett. And, sssh, but I have a copy of the script! And it's very good.
BABS: It certainly sounds like a genuine Picasso, Martin, but I'd have to see it to be sure.
The first act comes live from the rehearsal rooms at the Enoch Powell Arts Complex, Sutton Coldfield, where the producer is struggling to explain his modern plot revamp to a stupefied cast. There are a lot of jokes about haemorrhoids (and several references in homage of Crossroads), and the whole act is a fine sideswipe at the onward march of the politically correct. I will admit that, after a first skim read, I was a little concerned that the Acorn Antiques sparkle had been lost. But I needn't have worried because the fine detail is hilarious and sets the scene perfectly for what follows.
BERTA: Where's Mrs O? It's only the thought of her macaroons that's kept me going!
Act two opens on 'traditional' Manchesterford High Street, complete with wool shop, drapery, ironmongers, red pillar box and, of course, your favourite antique dealership. Mrs Overall (who'll be played on stage by both Wood and Walters) is at the very heart of the business, but even her teatray and fresh-baked parkin can't stop the onward march of progress. A series of Wood-esque musical numbers (nobody else could get away with rhyming sandalled with man-handled, or erogenous with old-codgerness) interweave with a moral tale about multinational retail franchises. And there are some unlikely romances, some long lost relatives and an awful lot of tweed into the bargain. I loved it.
BABS: What was that terrible noise? It sounded like a tray of coffee being dropped on someone who's just been electrocuted.
Devotees will be pleased to hear that the number of mentions of 'macaroons' is in double figures, including a song of their own and a starring role in the dénouement. I'd love to tell you more, but that would be desperately unprofessional. There are a multitude of exquisite lines in the playscript (like the one about Clarice Cliff, the one about fair-trade coffee and the one about wartime rubber shortages) but I've been well-behaved here and have only used quotes from the original TV series instead. But, on the basis of what I've read, I shall definitely be buying (bloody expensive) tickets for the play's West End run. It looks like a classic to me, Miss Berta, and no mistake.
MRS O: Why don't we all have a mug of my delicious home-made sherry and a couple of sausage dumplings?
Acorn links
some old scripts (episodes 1-6 and 12)
Victoria Wood speaking on BBC Breakfast
Theatre Royal Haymarket (tickets now on sale)
buy Acorn Antiques on DVD (in February)
the real Acorn Antiques (it's on Exmoor, honest!)

 Monday, December 13, 2004

Let's all write a book...

Have you noticed how easy it is to write a book these days? Bookshops this Christmas are piled high with short novelty volumes knocked off by their authors in a couple of hours flat. These books usually feature one short phrase or home truth written in large font across the middle of every page, each surrounded by acres of empty space. And people actually buy these lightweight publications, presumably to give to people they don't care for very much.

So I thought today we'd have a go at writing our own book. In less than 24 hours. I can't guarantee it'll be on the shelves in time for this Christmas, but it might be worth us trying to get it published next year. I've decided that the title of our moneyspinning text will be The Little Book Of Four Letter Words and it'll feature just one four letter word in very big type on each page. All you lot need to do is to come up with your favourite 4 four letter words and stick them in the comments box. I've started things off. Let's see just how easy this authoring lark really is...

The Little Book Of Four Letter Wordsby dg readers© 2004
onceupontimefroghomebeerfootballapexpunt
pertwoofpouttoutheelblagherehearwerewhir
peekblahsnugteartwatfunkwinebikeearsnose
titstoescatsdogsfoodhugsworkshopplayrest
bledpukespewplopblogblagfafffuzzphatbook
fourwordlovetrueroombedsspivvampflamdude
arsebooblegsmushliveyourlifefreedropdung
overwalldovebluestarcalmpineIkeaxmastime
deadewessaltlickdumpgametonebellshagpile
rugsburnhumpbackwailmeatmeldfoldfletkelp
rockblobleaktornteatlustwantplaylostduck
whommakemuchcashrearshutstubstopthe end


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