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What with two friends having been brought before the Beak for speeding recently I wonder as follows:
20mph areas seem to be well signed, at least in Birmingham. However I have no idea what the speed limit is on the Pershore or Bristol Roads. The Bristol is a dual carriageway and the Pershore is a major route although lined by housing, so I really don't have a clue what the limit would be. As my motorscooter will not go appreciably over 30mph this is not a problem for now but I will have to find out if I get anything faster as I intend to. Cars overtake me all the time even on streets (streets, not roads) where I am quite certain the limit is 30. The accident rate on Shutlock Lane, which goes up over Moor Green and is really just a country lane, does not surprise me. It's all very well to treat speed limits as though they were 'customarily observed' but how does one know if one is or is not in a 30 zone? Can the limit on the Bristol Road up past Pebble Mill, at one or any other time, really be only 30mph?
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Some years ago I wrote the following after the latest in a series of threatening and obscene calls:

"Just had another nuisance telephone call ... these things are quite regular and range from simply people ringing up and not saying anything, to explicit and violent threats. Is there any way of getting rid of them apart from changing my phone number? Maybe that's the best way. An awful lot of people have had my telephone number one way and another. The peculiar thing in my case is that there are at least two people (a man and a woman) persistently making these calls to me, so the Lonely Loony theory is out. To quote one example of their limited logic, once I found a message on my answering machine which consisted of howls and screams followed by: 'I hope I waste your electricity!' More recently the man phoned and imitated the Speaking Clock for some time."

One of the calls I didn't mention at the time was at three in the morning (waking me up of course) asking me if I would accept a reverse charge call from Australia. On another occasion a man putting on an American accent said, "I'm an American and I want to suck your dick and bite it off." On another I came home to find there was a message on my answering machine saying, "This is the IRA. There's a bomb in your letter box. You're fucking dead you wanker." Although so cowed was I that I didn't take the tape to the police station, which would have been the obvious course - death threats are an offence the cops take seriously and leaving one on an answering service is not a survival trait.

The calls very often came as soon as I sat down to have my tea, making me think that the caller could see the windows of my flat. Which suggests it was someone in the block opposite or the one at 90 degrees to mine. I think it was the latter - there was a flatful of people there who I had invited to one of my parties and probably repaid this invite by taking my phone number and using it to make threatening and nuisance calls to me for months afterwards.

The calls stopped when we got the 1471 service which lets you find out who last called.

I also once in the same period had a pizza deliverer turn up to my door with a pizza I hadn't delivered. And also heard giggling outside my door and found out later that someone had dug up one of the plants in the tubs outside my flat and thrown it onto the roof of the school adjoining the flats. Likely to be the same people.

Fortunately the only nuisance calls these days seem to be the silent or recorded voice type trying apparently to sell something. It was a nasty time though.

(original at 36 Square Metres)

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Dear National Rail Enquiries,
there is no point you telling me I can get a £15 weekend return fare to London when as soon as I try to buy it the fare seems to magically go up to £20. That is false advertising, isn't it?
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It was Moseley in Bloom this weekend and so I visited several gardens, some mostly vegetable plots, others huge and opulent, one park and one ancient Dovecote, and in one garden found pictures by a local artist I've already ordered prints from.
Also went to the Birmingham Buddhist Centre (in a former Orthodox Synagogue) - this was actually part of In Bloom because they were opening their garden to the public, but I had a look round anyway. Then today went to the Cotteridge Friends Meeting House - this was not part of In Bloom, although they do have a nice garden it is not in Moseley.
Rain: a lot, yesterday. Today, only on the way home at 9.30pm or so. 
Annoyance: wanted to put in a good bid for an item on eBay only to be told (too late) that my PayPal account was not linked to my eBay account so my bid couldn't go in. Would have won otherwise. 


Jun. 16th, 2012 08:51 am
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It's Bloomsday, the sixteenth of June, the day depicted (although in its case it's 1904) in "Ulysses." Yesterday I got very, very wet and so did the dog. I also got the MacBook back, £125 worth of repairs and it still won't run with an external monitor but then it's fine using it without, just that if I'd known I was going to use it as my one computer I would have bought a bigger screen version. And also sort of wish that I had bought the secondhand laptop I was offered at the end of last year, now gone of course.

Today it's just very windy and we're going to look at several gardens that are open as part of Moseley in Bloom.
This week I have not only read "The Girl who Played with Fire" (better than I expected and OTT stuff, well, it is supposed to be a thriller) but also seen the original film version of "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (too long).

I also have Sebastian Faulks' "Devil May Care" -- yes, Aegon Queens Club commentators, he does have something to do with James Bond but not I suspect writing the screenplays. I suppose we can at least be thankful they didn't think he was Iain Banks while they were following him around the stands. Faulks however does apparently put a tennis match in Devil May Care so perhaps he is a fan of the Most Beautiful Sport (qv. the inevitable David Foster Wallace quote which I'd pretty much forgotten was DFW when I noted it there). And I also have "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer which looking into it has illustrations (including one of a tennis player although the connection is tentative). 

The new job has not started yet although I have had one day's training and will soon have another. 
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And the question as so often is, do I go back onto Guardian Soulmates or do I think this is a complete waste of time?
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So that's something like 200 Post Office First Day Covers spraymounted to four A1 foamboards and put in place. Picture at - was quite hard to get a decent picture as standing face on to it there was not enough room to get a shot that wasn't 'barrelled'. Criteria for inclusion of FDC (there are 50 or so I didn't use):
- I like it
- it isn't yet another Christmas issue (not that I have it in for Christmas issues but they tend to overbalance the spread as there are a lot of them. OTOH until you get to the late 1980s or so they are the only ones that have stamps across the width of the cover, as more values were issued (Xmas stamps tend to have a 2nd class in the set, which other UK pictorial stamps don't).
- it isn't a definitive (yet further iterations of the standard non-pictorial stamp type)
- if it depicts a range of famous or notable people, it includes at least one woman (not e.g. the sports issue that had four different sports but all sportspeople depicted were men.)
- it isn't yet another Royal Family issue (though there are some Royals there).
- It fits in.

The boards are fastened to the wall using velcro tape which I'd forgotten about but which we used extensively when I was in the Government Office for London's comms team (we also used large numbers of foamboards! From that too I know that if you try to blutack them to the wall they will sit there for a few seconds and then fall off).


May. 15th, 2012 08:18 am
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Tonight is the writers' group, which I missed last week; tomorrow night there is a meeting of Holistic Birmingham which might be mostly practitioners but is still worth a look, Thursday the Selly Oak Choir starts up again; and at the end of June it's the Mostly Jazz Festival where on the Sunday the headliners are George Clinton and Parliament / Funkadelic. I so much want to go and see that - a rare opportunity.
While I was exploring around Selly Oak yesterday I happened upon the Birmingham and Worcester Canal as it passes under Raddlebarn Road alongside the railway. Couldn't see a way of getting down to the canalside path (and was later warned against walking along it into town as there are dodgy people about), but getting into the history of that might answer a question I've had recently which was re local history groups. The only one of those in this precise area seems to be more of a reminiscence group than taking the archaeological / architectural / historical angle that I am much more interested in. (although in Hammersmith it went the other way with plenty of historical / amenity groups and the only oral history projects ever were aimed at groups such as Irish or Polish immigrants, with little interest being taken in people who might have grown up in the area prewar, say). And looking up the B&WC historical website it has a certain overlap with CAMRA and real ale, which is no surprise - my one experience of narrowboating was the Kennet and Avon Canal in 2007 with a CAMRA group - a week of 26 pubs in a month in which I visited 70 pubs for the first time. At the current rate I'll be lucky if I make 26 first visits this year, despite having moved to a new part of the country.


May. 1st, 2012 12:26 pm
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About my Diploma in Translation:
Finally the results are here, and .... (drumroll)
I passed! Got a Merit in the General and Social Science papers, and a Pass in the Technology paper. And am trying not to be disappointed that I didn't get a Merit in all three despite the first-time pass rate being low!

So now I need to join the Institute of Linguists (being as I am one) and look for translation work.
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I had a hospital appointment today in the Ear Nose and Throat Dept. It seems I have hearing loss at both the high and low ends of the spectrum with peak hearing ability a bit to the 'high' side of centre - "it's an unusual case" says the specialist and suggests it may be because of an underlying problem in the inner ear - which wouldn't surprise me as I have arguable problems with balance (arguable because what's perceived as a balance issue may actually be due to having feet with very high arches and hammertoes - so walking on something that isn't optimum).

I'm to go back and discuss hearing aids at another date so far undecided.
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So I'm now in the new flat (well, actually at the moment I'm in the old flat, but I have taken up residence and move all my stuff in on Saturday). The last three days have comprised mostly painting and decorating: the chosen colour scheme is very pleasant even if the colour in the bedroom is greyer than I'd imagined. The scheme in the living room is similar to this: I have been spending some hours decorating and with the radio playing - station of choice, Free Radio, which used to be called BRMB.
And also I have a garage. For the first time ever. At the moment my bicycle is in it but normally when I'm over there it also houses the motorscooter, and will probably house other things as well. The whole to-ing and fro-ing thing has meant that last night I returned here on foot (at silly o'clock at night) and so took the opportunity to ride the bicycle over there this morning. (the other bicycle, the Brompton, is at M.'s mom's house: in the garage).
New flat is really quite cosy and so far I have met three neighbours (that's from two flats) and the chairperson of the residents' committee. They only have one meeting annually that is open to the public although presumably there is some kind of provision for submitting suggestions etc.
Yesterday also I went back to Wineshop! which as well as having a range of bottled ales that is almost unsurpassed locally (only, and even then I'm not sure, by Stirchley Wines), is also my nearest shop of any kind - also sells a basic range of groceries and if it also sells newspapers (I can't remember if so) I will be so set up. Peculiarly I have yet to find anything nearby that sells proper coffee for consumption on or off the premises, the Esso station opposite the University could even be the closest!
Tuesday, with H. to Selly Manor which is Tudor and features ancient furniture, etc. She decides there is no point us meeting up any more as she is about to be very busy. I am in fact relieved about this, not that she isn't nice (she is) but we don't have an awful lot in common. I'd be better off hanging out with writers - one member of the Prince of Wales (pub) writers group does as it happens live very close to the new flat. For example.
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Stepmum suggested on Sunday that if I was going to travel down to Guildford regularly it might be useful to buy a car. I'm not sure about this (in fact I'm fairly sure I don't want to - in theory I could rent but I'm not used to driving cars, far better at bikes whether pedal or, these days, motorised) - however it is a 3.5 hour train journey whether it's via London or via Reading. If the Zip was capable of more than 50km/h it would be worth trying, but I won't be able to afford a faster bike and also I'd need to take the CBT just to get a 125. I did feel though yesterday while trying to get ahead of traffic at the roundabout by Bournville College, that some more acceleration would not only be nice but make it a lot safer.

I dreamed I was in the Hammersmith flat and someone had done pavement art on the car park. However the pavement art I was thinking about wasn't in Hammersmith but here at the MAC, a week or so ago.

Am also very stressed re the new flat - we are about to exchange contracts but want to complete on Friday as well. To make matters worse my contact at the solicitors has been away from Friday and is only back today. Last night after the writers group I was talking to one of the group who told me she used to live in the flats that the new flat is in. Apparently it was a bit damp, but then it was on the ground floor (less light, rising moisture, no heat from below) and the new flat is on the 2nd.


Mar. 14th, 2012 08:14 am
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Just sent a story off to "Interzone". I note that they still require MS to be sent by post, no electronic subs. Discussed this with Andy Killeen who suggests it's because that way people take the submission process more seriously and don't just send stuff off in bulk.
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Getting everything ready for New Flat is a bit like cat herding if cats:
- have not appeared and should have done some time ago
- need to be contacted regularly
- may not in some cases actually exist
- charge by the second
- need to be put in precise order
- must in some cases be kept unknown to other cats
- have to be herded in an improbably small amount of time

After all if I can't get the place for long enough to decorate it or the carpet (which must be installed after the decorating is done) can't be delivered before the removals date - which must happen before I am checked out of this flat - then that is not a Good Thing. All I can say is that I am being kept busy. I also have 2 x medical referrals, 2 x other sorts of medical appointment, a job interview, and the usual dog walking and helping in the garden to do.

At the moment (although not at the moment, obviously - the observer affects the observed, but presumably only on Sundays, other days it's the guardian) - I am spinning off the rewrite of the Hammersmith novel into a short piece from the PoV of the ex wife of one of the major characters - she is never actually seen in the novel but definitely deserves her say, after all she had a valid reason to be an ex wife (nothing unpleasant but an area of emotional incompatibility to say the least). Andy Killeen's asking me if I'd written about Aleister Crowley has led to a desire to finish the novel with Crowley in it, which is the one under discussion.
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Tonight was quite good really. Guitar group in which we played less tunes than ever - "Wipeout" but mostly "Hotel California". Which was good as I learnt that I can't do bar chords yet but like arpeggio playing. We have three different rhythms to play the song with.
But quite apart from that, there was a red Routemaster parked outside the MAC - it had previously been by one of the bridges over the Rea, its route indicator showing Southall - Ealing. Apparently there was a filming of "Doctors" going on.
But that was only one of the two things that the floodlights were up for. On the ground where fairs are sometimes was a bonfire, and Indian music playing - a religious ceremony for Holi, which happens at the last full moon of winter. And that big full moon certainly shone down over Cannon Hill. Now I am back indoors and drinking a Gordon Xmas beer - all the way from the States via Stirchley Wines, and on sale yesterday at Stirchley Community Market (to their credit perhaps they don't call it a Farmers Market. It's a community market.) and listening to Radio 2 which is varying from 1990s music to a series featuring the stars of the '50s. And in the middle, now we have the Talking Heads.
At the writers group last night facilitator Andy Killeen mentioned Aleister Crowley. Cue me looking interested. He: have you written about Crowley? Me: blathers about the Hammersmith novel, "Walking on the Bones" which needs rewriting now that I know it is set in the summer of 1997. And no, it can't be transposed to Moseley or Selly Park, unlike me. Hammersmith is, as someone in my then writers group said, a character in the book.


Mar. 7th, 2012 05:07 pm
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So I need to look up "Princess Diana was a sacrifice" for a possible rewrite of the Hammersmith novel (which is now set over the summer of 1997 - as I started writing it in 1998 this seems like a good idea), but I am reluctant to read or look at anything by David Icke!
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Today I have been mostly going round Homebase and discussing what colour the walls of New Flat should be. Must ceilings be white? It seems so, although it hasn't always been the case where I've lived. I would also like picture rails which are not there now but are in this flat so I like the idea.
More recently, i.e. this afternoon I have been attempting the F chord as our exercise for next week's guitar group is to play "Hotel California" which requires an F# (similar). There does not seem to be a way round it as the Bm-F# sequence at the start of the verse is quite distinctive.
(pointless aside: I once stayed in a hotel in Sagunt, Spain, called the Hotel California. A metaphor for rehab, or something, it was not).
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I seem to have volunteered to help with the Prince of Wales (Moseley) Literary Festival this year. Well, "seem to have" - that's a phrase I hunted down mercillessly from the WIP. I have volunteered and if there had been similar things in Kingston I would have done so there (that there weren't is possibly telling). Just back from the MAC which does put me in mind of Riverside Studios (Hammersmith) but is mostly like itself. Apparently it used to be very run down but is now bright and shiny and I seem to be in there many days of the week, whether for classes or for coffee while walking the dog.

Today I have also been to the dentist with an aim to getting my teeth improved. They work OK but they could be a lot better aesthetically. Mind you when a dentist with many years experience opines that she is not certain whether to label a particular tooth as a 3rd or a 4th tooth you suspect you are in the presence of Weird Dentition (certainly one of my upper teeth originally grew behind the others and had to be removed when I was quite young - this is in fact what is behind the dentist's hesitancy re labelling). The work will take a while (and cost) but should be worth it.

I can't scan and post the picture I have found: a black and white snap showing a woman I suspect is my maternal grandmother,  astride a bicycle. She is wearing a knee length dress and the bike has a crossbar which may have made mounting and dismounting tricky. It's annoyingly devoid of referents - the bike could come from a wide range of eras and the picture looks as though it was taken in a back garden somewhere. It sort of looks 1940s but the hat she's wearing may give us some clue.

A book I found recently is called "Notes from Overground", by "Tiresias" (the poet Roger Green). In this tome he scrutinises what many have not really looked at - train commuting. And as it was written in 1984 it also gives us a view of the last years of nationalised rail services in the UK, a now nostalgic era of diesel engines and uniformly blue or blue and white livery and occasional pens of steam locomotives. Not even Thatcher tried it with the railways, realising they were dear to the nation's heart and also you do not try the patience of railway workers for they are bolshy and quick to (industrial) action. It is also in this book that we find the original investigation of that curious graffito CLOSE AT HAND IS FAR AWAY IN IMAGES OF ELSEWHERE painted near Paddington station in the 1970s and destroyed when the wall that bore it was demolished in the 1980s. That one joins the repetition of CHRISTIAN GOLDMAN? in such places as Hammersmith Broadway and Shepherds Bush in the 1980s, and the solitary THE NIGHT on the street wall of Nazareth House on Hammersmith Road which lasted until a few years ago and finds its way into my story "Cow Lane" in Music for Another World.

I'll stop here and refer the reader to this item by [ profile] sbisson of this parish:
which deals with all this. (I'd forgotten btw that I'd found a picture in the H&F Borough archives that shows that THE NIGHT graffito as existing in 1980, which either suggested my use of it in "Cow Lane" or else vindicated it, depending on when I found the picture - I suspect it would have been in 2003-4 when I was working on the pubs book so later than the writing of the story. I suspect the "90% crack up" item with its reference back to the French expression "metro - boulot - dodo" ("tube - job - kip") has gone as well. & between my comment to Simon's piece and now, the THE NIGHT one has indeed gone.

I suspect this is an example of "Circular reference, see, circular reference," as 'spride''s comments to Simon's article include a link to "Notes from Overground." I must have heard of that book somewhere, so why not in that comment?
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This morning three cheerful fellas from Kings Heath MIND came here and took away:
- the futon and futon base (bought from the Futon Shop in Old London Road, Kingston, c. 2006)
- the chest of drawers (already second hand but see above except from the Princess Alice* Hospice shop, and bought 2009)
- one bookcase (IKEA Wimbledon, 2005)
- the footstool box (also already second hand, also from the Princess Alice, furnishers to most of Kingston and Surbiton I suspect, c. 2010).
I was more than a little surprised to see two men and even more surprised when a third turned up. Usually with these things it's one person who then expects the householder to help, although some might not be physically able to do so and it is probably quicker to have two (or three) trained people.

Last night was the Prince of Wales writers' group again - there is going to be a PoW writers' festival this year again and I intend to get involved. Group was fine except that the second person reading carried on until 2215, i.e. fifteen minutes after it's supposed to end, at which point I made my excuses and left. The Rev James (ale) might have been £2 a pint but it wasn't that nice.

Today it has been raining and I have been walking the dog and also think I am coming down with a cold. Do not want to go to guitar group at the MAC tonight but as I have already missed the last two and I tend to believe that if you miss two classes in a row you never go back (because your routine now no longer includes the classes, and you've fallen behind) I really should go if I am planning to go back at all. Monday's class was ok apart from someone asking "Do you have children?" in the supercilious and not-value-neutral way that that phrase sometimes has. If I had told her "yes I have four and a fifth on the way" it would have astonished her, put it that way. (but her reason: "because I can't imagine you delivering that monologue to children"? do what? If my audience was kids it would have been different. I certainly didn't have a problem teaching younger kids, put it that way.)

*not the Princess Alexandra as I put at first. That is a pub, or pubs.
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And suddenly the living room is full of junk again. I can see a pile of first day covers, boxes and books of photographs, some 8mm films that I would get converted to DVD if it wouldn't cost me £250+, some CDs that aren't even mine, a torch, some cans of paint, and a large NEXT plastic bag that contains other stuff as well. Somewhere also there are notebooks.
This is because I am getting rid of some of the furniture prior to the move - one bookcase (IKEA 'Billy' brand, the type that fetches up everywhere), one chest of drawers - all the clothes and towels that were in that are  now in the cabin trunk and a lot of the kipple from that is what is now in here, one footstool, boxy and unclassic. The people from the MIND shop are coming to pick it up tomorrow.
This morning I didn't go swimming as the pool was not available due to private lessons. So I went on by bike around the area of the new flat, looked into two or three corner shops and was unable to find any real ale in any of them apart from the occasional bottle of Old Speckled Hen to humour people with; went into the carpet shop and talked carpet and delivery times; and finally headed back and on a whim, on the merest whim stopped at yet another offlicence / shop thinking this one might be better for beer.
And it was. Only possibly overshadowed by Stirchley Wines to the south it is a veritable cavern of beer and whisky. The proprietor, an Asian man as is that of Stirchley Wines, is more of a whisky buff himself and frequently nips off (or drams off, possibly) to Scotland on whisky buying trips. I stand looking at these shelves of beers for some time before saying,  "So this is where the choice of real ale is around here!" I cannot leave without buying three bottles thereof (Bathams Best Bitter, Kelham Island Pale Rider, Isle of Arran Ale). I had gone into Bournville and then back out again thinking to identify the Country Girl pub just on the Selly Park side as 'first and last beer for some time', Bournville being "dry". There is even a sign as you enter Bournville saying "Alcohol restriction area" or sthg similar.
After that I head for the MAC and have coffee there, hoping that this is enough exercise to make up for lack of swimming which after all I haven't done for a while; what with the cold weather and going away we have let it lapse. Though today I have also done two job applications and identified the reclining chair I bought in Kingston c. 2006 as a Gimson and Slater Rock n Rest from c. 1960, sadly now without the footstool which was originally an integral part of the set.

Today would have been David Foster Wallace's 50th birthday. It is also Chuck Palahniuk's 50th birthday. Someone like Malcolm Gladwell would no doubt come up with reasons why that isn't quite that massive a coincidence (undergraduate creative writing programmes being funded around 1980? Arts students tending to be born in one part of the year for some reason?)


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