25.5.09

GREETINGS FROM
KENT

My friend Tommi from Finland flew over on
Saturday and yesterday we hopped on a train
to Lower Upnor in Kent to go to my friends
Heidi and Malcolm's barbecue.

All of sorts of merriment ensued with the aid
of dubious quantities of alcoholic beverages
and the volume button was completely lost
before the sun had even had a change to set.

(Please click on the images
to view larger versions.)

Above from the left: Caroline, Tommi,
Dawn, Gary, Malcolm.



Above from left: Dawn, Gary,
Heidi, Caroline, Tommi.


Later in the evening it was time for their dog
Hurli's walk (below) so me, Heidi and
Tommi went up the hill to the
woods behind their house.




We also popped down to the riverfront (below)
which is just a few yards from their house.




Our wonderful hosts Heidi
and Malcolm (above).


H and M had made us a Tiramisu cake for afters
(straight out of a box!) (above and below).
Dawn was "mother".


Something was obviously very funny!
Heidi and Caroline in action (below).



19.5.09

SPRING BREAK

I'm going to sign off now until the beginning
of June for a bit of a spring break.

Tommi's flying over from Finland on Saturday and
I'll be a busy bee playing tourist with him for the
following week so I've got to save
some energy for that.

Back soon!


18.5.09

SOMEWHERE OVER
THE RAINBOW

Last night I was watching telly in bed and all
of a sudden the sky went really dark and
this amazing rainbow appeared.

This picture is from our front door
towards Mitcham in the south.



16.5.09

IT'S A NORSK
FAIRYTALE

And the winner is....Norway!

Alexander Rybak took the lead with his own
composition
"Fairytale" from early on and in
the end won with the biggest score ever, 387,
overtaking the previous points monster,
Finnish winner
Lordi's haul of 292 in 2006.

UK's Jade came fifth with 173 points and Finland
joint last with Lithuania, both scoring only
22 points. I'm not surprised at all,
the Finnish song was utter shite!


My personal favourite of the evening
was Malta's Chiara with the
beautiful
What If We.

The Unintentionally Funniest Lyrics first price
of the night goes to
Svetlana Loboda of Ukraine.
She declared that she is our "anti-crisis girl"!


The intermission show was spectacular (below):
massive swimming pools hanging from the
ceiling with girls thrashing about being
lowered towards the crowd so they could
touch the see-through bottom!

As the evenings UK host Graham Norton put it
"the Moscow show is of an enormous scale
and it's doubtful if we'll ever see
anything like it again."


He also said that "this is the year music came
back to the Eurovision" after so many years
in the political voting wilderness. There was
a bit of it going on tonight as well with almost
every country voting for their neighbours but
Norway's win proves that bringing in the
expert judges votes (as well as the audience
phone votes) made a difference. It
seemed to be more about the music.

All in all an enjoyable show. So,
start building the set in Oslo,
Eurovision is a coming!

I'm in love
With a fairytale
Even though it hurts
'Cause I don't care
If I loose my mind
I'm already cursed


15.5.09

DOING IT

THE HUMANS

As my regular readers know I'm a huge Toyah fan.
The whirlwind that is Ms Willcox is now also
a part of a group called The Humans with
her guitarist Chris Wong and
Bill Rieflin of R.E.M.

They've just released their debut album
We Are The Humans.

I wasn't too sure about the whole project when
I first heard snippets of the songs on MySpace
but having listened the whole album and
the tracks in full a few times...I'm loving it!

Toyah's voice is superb and even though I'm
not usually too keen on artsy fartsy musical
landscapes and tracks that seem to go
nowhere for some reason this album
speaks to me. It's beautiful, surprising,
even fragile in places. Recommended.


EUROVISION

Tomorrow is Moscows turn to host
the 54th Eurovision Song Contest.

It should've been called The Eastern Block Song
Contest years ago as there is no way another
country apart from our friends in the
old Soviet countries will ever win again.

It has lost its appeal somewhat but I will
be watching as usual simply
beacause it's so naff!

Also another reason to tune is to hear Graham Norton
in action for the
first time, he has taken the
reigns as the UK commentator after Sir Terry of
Wogan had enough and retired.


And the songs? I did like Montenegro (below top)
but sadly she didn't make it past the second
Semi. Out the finalists I like the
Maltese
(below bottom) entry.


Less said about the abysmal Finnish entry
(above middle) the better....not
that the
UK one is any better!


NICE SUMMER PIC
OF THE DAY

STUFF

Check out these two sites
www.stuffonmycat.com and
www.stuffonmymutt.com.

They do exactly what it says on the tin:
cats and dogs covered with everything
from toilet seats to tarot cards.

Great sites for wasting time. And yes,
the pets are probably very pissed off!


AMELIE

WARNING: CONTAINS
PLOT SPOILER


I'm not a great fan of artsy fartsy films, especially
foreign ones so when I watched the 2001 French
Amélie the other night I was in for a surprise!

It was funny, warm, well acted and
a great little story. Recommended!

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain is a film
about an extremely imaginative young girl,
Amelie (Audrey Tautou), who has a
very isolated upbringing.

The film begins by explaining what happened to
her as a child and then moves on to see
her moving into her own flat and
her first job as a waitress.

The story is jazzed up by Amelie's ways of
dealing with things. She meets a man, Nino
Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz),
and plays a game with him.

He's lost one of his photo albums which she finds.
Instead of simply returning it she does it
in a unique manner because she
is too shy to talk to him.

The viewer is bombarded with trivial yet
sweet information on the arrival of any
new character, the interesting subplots
throughout, and the strange thoughts
and weird antics of Amelie herself.


JOURNEY

Did you know you are African? No, really.
It might come as a huge surprise
but in fact we all are.

I'm loving a new series on BBC Two
about the origins of humans.

In the Incredible Human Journey Dr Alice Roberts
travels the globe to discover the amazing story
our species. In the ultimate travel story,
Dr Roberts crosses the globe to find out how
our ancestors colonised the planet.


She examines bones, stones and the latest
scientific theories to discover how one small
group of people left Africa, their descendents
crossing deserts, oceans and mountains,
surviving an Ice Age and overcoming
the Neanderthals to populate
every part of the world.

On the way she also examines how our skin
colour and other distinctive features
evolved across each of the continents
to produce the global diversity
of peoples today.


SUNSET OF
THE WEEK

11.5.09

NO REGRETS

MISQUOTES

A comment supposedly made by Darth Vader
to Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy
has topped a list of phrases most
often misquoted by film fans.

The words "Luke, I am your father" are familiar to
millions of fans of the George Lucas films. They
are widely believed to have been uttered by Darth
Vader when he confronts Luke Skywalker
in the Empire Strikes Back - but in fact
they do not feature in the film.

Second place in the poll was taken by Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs, with the evil Queen's
quote 'Mirror, mirror, on the wall -
who is the fairest of them all?'.

The actual line begins
'Magic Mirror, on the wall'.

In third place in the poll of 1,500 film fans,
by
LOVEFiLM.com, was Dirty Harry -
played by Clint Eastwood - saying
"Do you feel lucky, punk?"


In fact, he says "Do I feel lucky?
Well, do ya punk?"


And while "Play it again Sam" may be forever
linked with Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart's
actual line is "You played it for her, you
can play it for me. If she can stand
it, I can. Play it!"


Fifth was Hannibal Lector in Silence of the
Lambs, who did not say "Hello Clarice" but
instead said "Good evening, Clarice".


Star Trek's Captain Kirk did not say "Beam
me up, Scotty", with the closest he ever
came to this phrase was a less pithy
"Scotty, beam us up".


Darren Bignell, Communications Manager
for LOVEFiLM, said: "Iconic film lines are
part of everyone's vocabulary these days,
but it's interesting how years of quoting
have had a Chinese whisper
effect on accuracy."


The Top Ten Movie Misquotes (below
in misquoted form) were as follows:


1. "Luke, I am your father" - Star Wars V:
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


2. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest
of them all?" - Snow White and
the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


3. "Do you feel lucky, punk?" -
Dirty Harry (1971)


4. "Play it again, Sam" -
Casablanca (1942)


5. "Hello, Clarice" - Silence
of the Lambs (1991)


6. "Beam me up, Scotty!" - Star Trek:
The Motion Picture (1979)


7. "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn" -
Gone with the Wind (1939)


8. "If you build it, they will come" -
Field of Dreams (1989)


9. "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore,
Toto" - The Wizard of Oz (1939)


10. "Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to
seduce me?" - The Graduate (1967)


PENGUINS AND
SOAP

A German mathematician loved the cartoon series
Pingu so much that she started collecting
everything penguin-related.

With over 7000 items in her collection Birgit Berends
(below top photo) is now a Guiness World
Record holder and has opened a penguin
museum in the historical "pilots
quarter" in Cuxhaven.

While over here a pensioner from Birmingham
has collected more than 5,000 bars of
soap from all over the world.

Carol Vaughn, 65, from
Sutton Coldfield, started
the impressive horde in 1991 and has
no plans of throwing in the towel.


Her hobby has seen her build up the haul
from all over the world and from as far afield
as Australia.
She said she loves finding a new
soap she hasn't seen before and likes to find
ones that might seem unusual.


She added another 13 to the stash while she
was on holiday in Morocco celebrating
her 65th birthday in February.


"I wouldn't dream of actually using the soaps,
but I do wash regularly, I'm not a dirty
old woman," she added.


Adding that she did not know how much her
collection was worth, she said: "It would be
fun to have the collection valued, but I
don't think the Antiques Roadshow are
going to be giving me a
call any time soon."


HOMEMADE
HEROES

Superhero films are ten a penny now – most
recently we had Watchmen, a tale of a
group of masked vigilantes
taking on crooks.

Well, it might come as a surprise but
some caped crusaders are real.

Although not blessed with real superpowers,
these members of the Allegiance of Heroes
who communicate on internet forums –
have their hearts in the right place.

Master Legend, (below on the left) from Florida,
says he can see demons and sprits, used
voodoo powers to fight evil and
had a witch for a mother.

The 42-year-old divides his time between distributing
food and medical supplies to the homeless –
and confronting child molesters, crack addicts,
rapists and murderers. "I know where to find
to look – the dangerous places where most
people would never really want to go,"
the masked man added.


His comrades in the US include The Ace,
Symbiote and the creatively-named superhero,
er, Superhero (above with Master
Legend from the left).

But before you scoff, note one man who has a
place in the pantheon of greats.
New Orleans'
Nostrum claims to be 100 years
old and in his prime.

In fact, heroes abound all over the world.
Italy's crime-fighting detective Entomo
patrols the streets of Naples, while Hong
Kong's Red Arrow keeps the peace
in his country.


Entomo said: "Hear my buzz, fear
my bite: I inject justice."


In these troubled times, the world indeed needs
heroes - people to inspire, to lead and to fight
injustice. Fortunately, there’s a list
of these people on the internet.


The World Superhero Registry is a helpful guide
to the superheoes who patrol the streets -
ordinary people who have decided to take
a stand by dressing up in a costume and
giving themselves a cool name.

The costumed vigilantes range from Foxfire
(currently keeping Michigan safe) and Insignis
(Salt Lake City, Utah) to the less impressive
but probably more helpful Polar Man (who
shovels snow off people’s steps in Canada.)


The website also includes helpful advice on
how to register your crime-fighting persona
without giving away your real identity
(‘When addressing the envelope, do not
write the address by hand. Do not
include a return address.’)


Currently, the UK has a couple of superheroes listed
as protecting the country from supervillains -
Batman & Robin, who work in Whitley, and Red
Arrow
, who’s on secondment from Hong
Kong. Regrettably, Britain’s other heroes -
Black Arrow and Angle-Grinder Man -
appear to have retired. This may,
potentially, leave us vulnerable
to supervillains.


10.5.09

NEW RESIDENT
LOUNGE LIZARD

Remember Geraldinho, the grey and white cat
that comes round for daily meals?

Well, she's started to come indoors now as well!
The other day I found her lounging about
on the landing upstairs.

But we don't mind- she's so cute and friendly!
It's nice to have a new resident lounge
lizard now that
Gerald is no more.

We've agreed that come next winter we'll start
keeping her indoors at night when it gets cold
as she clearly has no home and we'd like
her to get used to living here.


OUT OF THE
CHAIR

WARNING: CONTAINS
PLOT SPOILERS


I'm not a sci-fi fan or a Trekkie at all.
I can take it or leave it.

This afternoon KB dragged me to Wimbledon
to see the new Star Trek film. I'm bloody glad
she did because it is absolutely brilliant!

This prequel which explains how it all came
about is funny, sad, there's plenty of action,
it's well acted and scripted so that even
non-Trekkies such as myself don't walk
out of the theatre going "er, what?"


The funniest bit of the film for me was when
Kirk, who is not supposed be onboard The
Enterprise in the first place, sits in
Captain Spock's place and without missing
a beat or even looking that way he says:
"Out of the chair" while walking past.

The only criticism I have is that Simon Pegg
(as Scotty) appears way too late in the film.
He's in it all of five minutes. But then with
a guaranteed profit of many millions
I'm sure a sequel is in the making.


8.5.09

CONCUSSION

OH TAMIFLU, WHAT
DID YOU DO?

Harry Houseago, 13, a pupil at Alleyn's school in
Dulwich, south London, which has closed
because of swine flu fears, has written a
song about Tamiflu, the anti-viral drug
issued to all students as a precaution.

Lying at home in my bed
When I should be having
maths instead


But they've closed up my school
'Cos some children were sneezing

And they got us believing
That we'll all be ill and
get the swine flu


The doctors gave us some pills
Saying "This is so you
won't get ill"


So stay at home
Study on your own

Oh Tamiflu, what did you do?
I was fine before you came along
And now I've got a pain
in my head


So I think I'd better stay in bed
I get to watch the TV
And no one bothers me

I fall asleep and wake up feeling queasy
And ev'rything's reeling,

It's not very pretty
I'll have to go ... to the loo again

I remember they gave us pills
Saying "This is so you won't get ill"

But now I know
This is worse than any cold

Oh Tamiflu, it's down to you
That I'm feeling slightly nauseous
And now I've got a pain in my head

So I think I'd better stay in bed


KNITTED BY
NANAS

My favourite cereal has probably the best TV
advert series of the last five years. Whoever
thought of this concept is a genius!

"In the Shreddies factory nanas knit
great taste into every square."

Quality controller Charles makes sure every
Shreddie is extra lovely. One of the nanas Ruth
(in the pink cardi) thinks "He's so hot!"


DRIVING MISS
DAISY


Remember the pony riding
Jack Russell Freddie ?

Well now the seven-year-old has taught fellow
Jack Russell Percy, who is one, to ride on the
back of a horse around fields on the
back of Shetland Pony Daisy.

Owner Patricia Swinley, 73, who runs a farm
in Flaxley, Glos, said: "Freddie was riding
Daisy one day when my friend Sally's Jack
Russell Percy jumped up there too".

"It seems Percy was really keen to imitate his older
friend. They tend to squabble when they're riding
together, so now we let them take it in turns.
Freddie is getting quite old now and can't leap
up there anymore, so we lift him on. Then Percy
has his go. He's very eager and jumps around
all over the place in excitement. But luckily
Daisy is used to it and doesn't mind."


Freddie and Percy also appear happy to ride
in a little cart as Daisy, who is just 37 inches
(94 cm) tall, pulls them around
the country lanes.


Patricia added: "Freddie became famous for
riding Daisy and local schoolchildren still
pop by the farm in the hope of seeing him.
But now it seems Percy has become
his very keen understudy."


Percy's owner, friend and neighbour Sally Jones, 39,
who keeps pedigree cattle said: "They both love
going in the cart. We call it 'Driving Miss Daisy!'
We get a lot of cars looking at us, a pony with
a trap and two dogs inside. We wouldn't do
it if they didn't like it, but they
all do, terriers and pony."


SUNSET OF
THE WEEK

7.5.09

COPY CAT

STOP IT

Oh for crying out loud!
Stop it now!

SAND

Bigger than three double decker buses and using
a whopping 300 tonnes of sand it would take
a big bucket to create this sandcastle.

The impressive fairytale-like fort, built by
Brit Paul Hoggard, measures 8m (26ft)
high and almost 24m (80ft) wide.

He built it with a team of ten international artists
to celebrate 20 years of sand art in the town
of
Scheveningen, Holland, which was the first
European town to see a large-scale
sand art building.


It took Paul, 43, and his partner Remy, 38, seven
days to create the masterpiece.
"Funnily enough
growing up I never really had chance to
go and build sandcastles like the
other kids," he said.

"Perhaps this is my way of making up for that.
This was certainly one of the biggest sand
castles I've made and it was really fun to see
everyone's faces when it was built."


Paul discovered sand art while on holiday in India
and now travels
all over the world with Remy
to build sand sculptures. They've worked in
Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, UK,
Ireland, Bulgaria, Turkey, Canada,
USA, China and India.


NO BIRDBRAIN

"In the past, people thought birds were stupid, "
laments the aptly named scientist
Christopher Bird.

But in fact, some of our feathered friends
are far cleverer than we might think.

And one group in particular - the corvids -
has astonished scientists with extraordinary
feats of memory, an ability to employ complex
social reasoning and, perhaps most
strikingly, a remarkable aptitude for
crafting and using tools.

Mr Bird, who is based at the department of
zoology at Cambridge University , says:
"I would rate corvids as being as intelligent
as primates in many ways."


The corvids - a group that includes crows,
ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays and
magpies - contain some of the most
social species of birds.


And some of their intelligence is played out
against the backdrop of living with others,
where being intelligent enough to recognize
individuals, to form alliances and
foster relationships is key.

Read the rest of this interesting
BBC article
here.


147 YEARS

Aah, bless!

Chanel, the world's oldest dog, celebrated her
21st birthday yesterday with a certificate
from the Guinness Book of Records
and a visit to a dog hotel and spa.

The wire-haired Daschund from New York,
who is 147 in dog years,
is in good health
but needs goggles to help
her poor eyesight.


Owner Denise Shaughnessy said: “She has to
wear the goggles because she has cataracts
and is very sensitive to the light.”


The retired Army Veteran, who adopted
Chanel when she was six-weeks-old, added:
“I take good care of her, I treat her just
like I would treat anybody, like
any family member.”


Chanel entered the record books as oldest
living dog last Spring.
But even she hasn’t yet
beaten the world’s oldest ever dog
Bluey.

The Australian cattle breed was born in
1910 and lived to the ripe old age
of 29.5 years (206 dog years).


5.5.09

WHY?

BRIGHT IDEAS

Check out these strange lamps!

I quite like the The Liquid Lamp and
Recycled Book Lamp (above.)


HIGH TIDE

Whatever next!?

Holidaymakers hoping to make a splash on
the beach this summer might want to track
down a pair of these striking shoes.

Known as High Tide Heels, they combine
the elegance of stiletto heels with the
swimming speed of flippers.

They could provide a fashionable alternative
for sun-seekers who don't want the hassle
of changing footwear every time they
cool off with dip in the sea.


The shoes were created by the Belgian artist
Paul Schietekat for an exhibition in 2006
but there are not thought to be any plans
to release them commercially.