My Slippers

This lovely poem about getting older was written by Steve's Grandmother, Jane:

When I was younger my slippers were red
I could kick my heels right over my head
When I was older, my slippers were blue
But still I could dance the whole night through

Now that I'm old, my slippers are black
I walk to the store and puff my way back
I get up each morning and dust off my wits
Pick up the paper and read the "obits"
My name is still missing; I know I'm not dead
So I get a good breakfast and go back to bed
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The Big Bang Theory: Is it OK to Laugh? - Some Musings

We stayed up late tonight watching The Big Bang Theory.  It's late and it got me thinking:

<lj-cut text="BBT"> Steve and I are latecomers to the Big Bang Theory. It seems to be constantly on Freeview whenever we channel surf and we've been drawn in, watching episodes in random order.  I like Sheldon and Amy particularly, and find Penny slightly annoying.
 It seems that people that like BBT really like it and I was wondering what the charm is. I can't imagine that the networks were very excited by a pitch for a sit-com about theoretical physicists, although there's no reason why physics should be less interesting or less amusing than, say, law.  And are we laughing at geeks or laughing because we are geeks, and so get all the references? Are we laughing because we are reassured that however geeky we are we are not as geeky as Sheldon?
Which brings me to Sheldon. I like Sheldon partly because he's Bunter-esque. He's  thinner, older and much, much brighter but he has the same knack of manipulating people and getting his own way in spite of his total self-centredness. Is it OK to laugh at Sheldon?  Many people on the autistic spectrum exhibit Sheldon-like tendencies and Aspergers / autism is not a subject for comedy.  Maybe it's Sheldon's childlike tendencies; his neediness and being high-maintenance which makes him endearing as well as funny?
In Raj I see another parallel with Bunter. In the Bunter stories Indian prince Hurree Jamset Ram Singh is a prominent member of the supporting cast, extremely bright, good at sport, rich and with an extraordinarily idiosyncratic form of speech. Frank Richards has been both criticised for portraying Singh as a racial stereotype and praised for not only having a child from an ethnic minority in his stories but making him one of the heroes.  Raj is similarly bright and similarly at variance with American culture. I'm unsure about some of the gags - his cousin working in a call centre in Delhi, eating hamburgers.
I suppose comedy needs stereotypes - people and behaviours that we can identify with and laugh at, but it's a fine line sometimes.
Penny's straight out of the Rachel box - pretty, ditzy, bad at organising her life, dreaming of a glamorous job but getting nowhere and waiting tables until something happens. The one area of her life she is in control of is her sexuality which she uses to manipulate people and to create a sense of unease and occasional discord amongst the male characters.  I can't see her winning Feminist Icon of the Year any time soon. At the same time, she is the yardstick of "normality" against which the others are measured. Bernadette is firmly in the sidekick category, being the pretty girl's plainer friend. She's also the nice girl you'd take home to mum - even Howard's mother is won over eventually.
Many of the comments I've made about Sheldon also apply to Amy, but there's an extra dimension to my favourite character. She is sexless rather than not sexy, deeply absorbed in her scientific research and comic in her efforts to negotiate "normal" relationships. What message is she sending out?  Are super-bright women not normal?  What comparisons can be drawn between Amy and Penny? Are the antics of Shamy funny because they are incapable of a normal relationship or do they stand outside to show us how daft all our relationships are? Sheldon and Amy don't play games like Leonard and Penny and are always completely open and honest with each other, for example. 
I know, I'm over-thinking. As I said, it's late.
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My Entry to the Wandsworth Story Competion

I came third out of fifteen entries. Not bad for a story that isn't exactly positive about Wandsworth. The story had to be 500 words or less and have some connection to the borough. The news story at the end is true, BTW.
Prison Life

“What's lackin' in 'ere, mate” said Bill. “Is birds”.

We were on remand in Wandsworth. I'd brought something I shouldn't have back from holiday and got picked up by a cocker spaniel at Heathrow. Never asked Bill what he was in for; seemed rude, somehow. We were both contemplating time inside and Bill, stretched out on the top bunk, was working out ways to improve the prison system.

“Yer see, John” he continued. “If they want yer to be a decent member of society once you've paid yer debt, like, then they need to expose yer to all the temptations of the outside world in a controlled environment.”

“And that would be in prison?”

“It would, John, yes. And in order to prove that I am a citizen worthy of takin' my place amongst the great and the good of 'ackney Marshes upon my release, I need to be exposed to them fings. That's beer, bookies and birds in my case.”

“We have female officers”

Bill scowled. “They're screws, not birds.” I shut up.

Next morning, 7am. “Oi Bill! Time for breakfast, mate. Bill!”

Bill sprawled on his bunk. The last time I saw anyone that blissed out they were on E.

“Kate, darlin''” Bill muttered in his sleep.

I lost patience. “Bill, you can stew in your pit for all I care. Anyway, I thought your missus was called Jenny.”

Bill stirred. “Wha'? Wassup?”

“You were talking about someone called Kate,” I ventured.

Bill smiled. “Kate... Get a move on, John. Breakfast”.

Two or three times a week for the next three months Bill slept deeply, woke with difficulty and muttered Kate's name in his sleep.

All good things come to an end, as they say. The night before my transfer I woke around 3am and was shocked to see a woman in our cell. In the moonlight I made out a long dark dress and a strange expression, cold and cruel. Soundlessly, she climbed up to Bill's bunk.

If you've done a stretch you tend not to embarrass easily, not round other men at least, but I felt uncomfortable asking Bill about this woman. He laughed it off, said I'd been dreaming. She seemed bloody real to me. She wasn't an officer but she could flit round the prison after lock up and she must have had keys. Made no sense.

I was shipped off to Pentonville the following day. I'm a reformed citizen since my release; family man, girlfriend and two kids. That night stayed with me, though. Then there was something on the news the other night that brought it back. A skull had been found in some bloke off the telly's garden, the remains of a Victorian murder victim. They showed a photo of the murderer. Kate Webster, the first woman to be hanged at the Surrey House of Correction, now HMP Wandsworth.

Bill had lousy taste in women.


Weird Questionnaire

Taken from GBSteve:

Éric Poindron’s Étrange (*) Questionnaire

(*) Bizarre, extraordinary, singular, surprising. Le Robert Dictionary

1 – Write the first sentence of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
"There'll be no landing that castle here without permission, even if your dragon has run out of doughnuts".

2 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?

3 – Look at your watch. What time is it?

4 – How do you explain this — or these — discrepancy(ies) in time?
I have a pretty accurate sense of time.

5 – Do you believe in meteorological predictions?
Yes, but I fear my faith is misguided.

6 – Do you believe in astrological predictions?
Yes. I'm a trainee astrologer.

7 – Do you gaze at the sky and stars by night?

8 – What do you think of the sky and stars by night?
I want to be up there.

9 – What were you looking at before starting this questionnaire?

10 – What do cathedrals, churches, mosques, shrines, synagogues, and other religious monuments inspire in you?
Curiosity about their history. And if there's any good stained glass.

11 – What would you have “seen” if you’d been blind?

12 – What would you want to see if you were blind?
My husband.

13 – Are you afraid?

14 – What of?
The future. Uncertainty. Growing old. Especially uncertainty.

15 – What is the last weird film you’ve seen?
Pan's Labyrinth, I think.

16 – Whom are you afraid of?
No-one I can think of, but some people make me nervous.

17 – Have you ever been lost?
Frequently. I have a very poor sense of direction.

18 – Do you believe in ghosts?

19 – What is a ghost?
Some kind of hallucination, maybe a recording of past events, almost certainly not a dead person.

20 – At this very moment, what sound(s) can you here, apart from the computer?
Steve in the kitchen.

21 – What is the most terrifying sound you’ve ever heard – for example, “the night was like the cry of a wolf”?
Probably the first time I heard a fox.

22 – Have you done something weird today or in the last few days?
I try to do something weird as often as possible. Most recently, read up on cultural relativity in UFO belief.

23 – Have you ever been to confession?
Once. I went to Methodist church as a kid. Methodists don't confess to a priest - it's silent prayer then the minister forgives you. I was underwhelmed.

24 – You’re at confession, so confess the unspeakable.
If you are an omnipotent deity, you know it already. And you know whether I'm sorry or not. So what's the point?

25 –Without cheating: what is a “cabinet of curiosities”?
An old, battered wooden box full of interesting junk.

26 –Do you believe in redemption?

27 – Have you dreamed tonight?

28 – Do you remember your dreams?
Yes, quite a lot.

29 – What was your last dream?
Steve and I were on holiday in Scotland. It was too cold to go out, although the views of the countryside were lovely. So we went to this strange underground shopping centre and Steve shoplifted a silver pendant and stole my watch. This is odd, as in waking life he is very honest.

30 – What does fog make you think of?
Winters as a kid in Cheshire.

31 – Do you believe in animals that don’t exist?
Some animals do exist, we just haven't seen them yet.

32 – What do you see on the walls of the room where you are?
A print of Noah's Ark, lots of bookshelves and CD shelves.

33 – If you became a magician, what would be the first thing you’d do?
Turn David Cameron into a toad. Best to start with something simple.

34 – What is a madman?
Someone who doesn't match the norms of society.

35 – Are you mad?

36 – Do you believe in the existence of secret societies?

37 – What was the last weird book you read?
I'm reading it now. The UFO Phenomenon by John Michael Greer.

38 – Would you like to live in a castle?
Yes please. Now.

39 – Have you seen something weird today?
Not yet.

40 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever seen?
Horror Hospital. Weird, mad as a bag of badgers and funny for all the wrong reasons.

41 – Would you like to live in an abandoned train station?
No. I wouldn't like to live in a liminal space that doesn't lead anywhere.

42 – Can you see the future?
Sometimes. I have some clairvoyant ability and I've had precognitive dreams.

43 – Have you considered living abroad?

44 – Where?

45 – Why?
I love the scenery and the ponies.

46 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever owned?
Rocky Horror Picture Show.

47 – Would you liked to have lived in a vicarage?
Yes, but only if it was built before 1930.

48 – What is the weirdest book you’ve ever read?
Loads. Probably either the Mothman Prophecies by John Keel or a Fortean book about the Owlman of Cornwall.

49 – Which do you like better, globes or hourglasses?

50 – Which do you like better, antique magnifying glasses or bladed weapons?
Magnifying glasses

51 – What, in all likelihood, lies in the depths of Loch Ness?
A creature.

52 – Do you like taxidermied animals?

53 – Do you like walking in the rain?

54 – What goes on in tunnels?

55 – What do you look at when you look away from this questionnaire?
Coats hanging up.

56 – What does this famous line inspire in you: “And when he had crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him.”?
The start of an adventure.

57 – Without cheating: where is that famous line from?
MR James, maybe?

58 – Do you like walking in graveyards or the woods by night?

58 – Write the last line of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
When time stood still for the last time, Jenny knew that the sweetshop would never again run out of treacle toffees.

59 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?

60 – Look at your watch. What time is it?
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I need a new job. Maybe I should retrain as a cow-whisperer?

NEW! CowSignals® Training Course
Cows send out useful information every moment of the day. You just
need to know how to read the signals. This 1 day course is aimed at
advisors and dairy farmers in the field of practical dairy farming. The
focus of the course is on meeting the demands of the dairy cow on
issues such as housing, feeding and welfare. Our training is
instructive, practical and advice is to the point and based on scientific
knowledge. This no nonsense course aims keep it simple and starts
with: Look -Think- Act. You will receive a Plumpton College

Steve is picturing cows punching out morse code to foreign bovine powers. I see them on hills with semaphore flags. Either way, learn to speak Moo in a day. You must be tempted
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(no subject)

Despite not liking my job very much, I am still feeling rather down about not getting the permanent post. I wasn't sure whether to apply or not in the first place. It's been long weeks, evening and weekend work and very tiring. Given I want to write in the evenings, it wasn't good.

Part of feeling fed up about it is that I like winning. It's never pleasant to compete for something and not get it. Also, I put a lot of effort into the job and it feels like there's no reward at the end of it, although my manager says I can use her as a reference.

Positively, though, I'll have loads more time to write, the house will be tidier and the Careers Adviser network is already buzzing - I got my last job through a friend of a friend. I do tend to get depressed when I'm out of work, so need to be careful to avoid that.
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Back from Gencon

And here is the list of convention awesomeness:

Best Convention Product - Cherry cough sweets. Steve alone managed to eat 80 and everyone else on the Pelgrane stand made a significant contribution. Less useful but more bizarre were the bacon-scented cuddly bacon plushes for sale in the anime cinema.

Best non-convention product - Aussie miracle hair stuff, for surviving the 90 plus heat every day without my hair turning to straw.

Cowboy Bebop. I have my own plushie Ein.

Selling 38 copies of the Occult Guide.

Completing my limited edition Bookhounds box set. I have the Antidiluvian one.

Being described as a "demure English lady author" by someone who obviously did not know me well. For a second there I knew what it was like to be Jilly Cooper.

And best of all, seeing loads and loads of lovely people I only see once a year. Hello to all, it was great to see you!!

(God help us, Steve is arranging his GenCon loot and photographing it. Cease this geekiness immediately! ;))
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The Strange Case of Wandsworth Annie


The recent discovery of a skull in David Attenborough's back garden reminded me of an interesting ghost story. Wandsworth Prison is a men-only medium security facility in South West London. It was the last English prison to dismantle its gallows but, despite its gory history, it has only one ghost - a woman known as Wandsworth Annie.

When the prison was built in Victorian times it was called the Surrey House of Correction and housed both male and female inmates. Executions were held there from 1878 to 1961, at first in a building known as the Cold Meat Shed and later in another purpose-built execution chamber. While there are several theories as to who the ghost might be, the likelihood is that Wandsworth Annie is the shade of Kate Webster, the only woman to be hanged there.

Webster was a housemaid who killed her employer then chopped up the body and disposed of it in a river. Legend has it that she rendered the fat and tried to sell it to the local pub landlady for cooking. Some body parts were found, providing enough evidence to convict Webster. The skull, however, was not until it turned up in Mr Attenborough's garden, originally the site of Kate's local boozer, The Hole in the Wall, which ties neatly in to the story about the pub landlady.

Webster's waxwork was a popular attraction in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's for a while until public interest waned. I'd like to know if there's been more ghostly activity at HMP Wandsworth since the discovery of her victim's skull.

Have a look at the picture of Webster on the Capital Punishment website. She looks very scary.
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