Smallest League in the World

If you know the faces it makes it so much more enjoyable! Especially some of the commentary "It's just not Mavers' day!"

And Hickie trying not to laugh as cycles past on his bike. Nicely shot though.

Altjiranga mitjina

I have always been able to remember dreams. When I was at school I was always the only person in our class who ever seemed to talk about what I had dreamt about, noone else seemed to remember them, or they were not interested in their dreams at all. I'm not especially interested in dream interpretation, I've had books bought for me before, and I've read Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams. It's not the meaning that I am really interested in, but the experience itself, the feeling of being in another world.

From a while back I can remember the fragment of dream which inspired me to write this post. I dreamt that I was a medium, but instead of receiving messages from beyond the grave at a seance, or something similar, I was receiving them through my dreams. In my dream I was going to sleep, and when I was dreaming within my dream ghosts would come to me and tell me things that I needed to pass on to the living. That's pretty much all I can remember from that one, but it intrigued me because of the fact that I was dreaming within my dream. Almost as two separate realities were being created. Maybe in my "dream's dream" I could have had a normal dream, instead of ghost visiting me. All sorts of mind boggling alternatives exist.

More recently my dreams have felt more related to my life. I've had countless dreams about Glastonbury Festival recently, and I've even had a couple of dreams about computer games that I like. In fact just a couple of nights ago I had one of those rare moments when you wake up and you're able to re-enter your dream from where you woke up from. I managed to do this 6 or 7 times that night. It was pretty weird, but it was a very cool dream!

I find nighttime quite an inspirational place in general, or maybe it's just being in bed that does it. I come up with lots of ideas for stories whilst I'm lying in bed, most come to me in the morning, but occasionally I'll have a dream that will inspire enough to write it down in case I forget it. All too often I've been in the familiar situation where you're convinced you'll remember what you've just dreamt, only to forget it by the morning.

The last thing I'm going to mention is deja vu, which is something which happens to all of us, well I imagine it does. Quite often I'll have recurring deja vu, where I might have had deja vu six months ago over something, then I'll have the same feeling again over a similar situation. However, the feeling doesn't relate to what happened 6 months ago, but to feeling of deja vu I had back then. Confusing? It also often feels like I may have dreamt the situation that I'm having deja vu about. I quite like deja vu as it makes me think lots about crazy possibilities within existence, which is always good to spin your mind out a bit on a Monday morning!

All this writing's made me feel tired now. Time for lunch!


Zig a zig ah!

Perhaps I've been getting too engrossed lately trying to deconstruct song lyrics, but even before I started my novel, I still thought the Sugababes were never the most profound lyricists. I was stood waiting for the bus this morning, late again, and after Chris Moyles said how one of the Sugababes had spent the night in the nick for alleged assault he played one of their most recent songs, and I was reminded how much I hated this one particular lyric.

In comes from the song 'Easy', and contains this line "Hey Mr Postman, where's the post for my mailbox?" I'm guessing it is an attempt at alluding towards a subtle sexual subtext. But frankly it's just shit. One guy on a fan site called the lyric 'epic'! I mean, come on it doesn't even scan well. I'm surprised they didn't sing something about the milkman taking the cream from their milk, or some other equally poor metaphor. The song was co-written with Californian 'rock' band Orson, and I use the term 'rock' loosely as I imagine that Keane are probably also described as a rock band, tar them all with the same brush. I read a better description of Orson that called them "indie-types, but lets face it, they're about as indie as Steps." Accurate description methinks.

As for example's of their genius, well you don't have look too far. Check out this Dylanesque stanza:

There's no line for you and me
'Cause tonight we're V.I.P.
(I know somebody at the door)

Wow, I mean, I'm gobsmacked lads. Don't worry, it gets even better:

Just look at me, Silly Me,
I'm as happy as can be-
I got a girl who thinks I rock.
And tomorrow there's no school,
So lets go drink some more Red Bull,
And not get home 'till about 6:00.

6pm lads? Really rocking it up there. I'm now going to attempt to defend lyrics like this, but only a little bit mind you.

I think the main thing is that although song lyrics are poetry, they only tell half the story without the rhythm and melody to go behind them. Usually at the end of the day what determines the popularity of the song is its ability to catch your ear and hook you into song. Like it or hate it, it's this infectiousness that all pop records strive for, and lets face it, I don't think they're planning on challenging for a place in the Rock and Roll Fall of Fame. So my defense for these lyrics is that they are not supposed to be read silently, they are supposed to be heard, a bit like Shakespeare in many ways, though don't think for one second I'm comparing Orson or the Sugababes to Shakespeare.

This is not to say that some of my favourite bands and artists haven't produced some clangers, and drug induced lyrics often provide some of the most ridiculous lyrics of all time, but - in the words of Mark E Everett - I can't remember what my selective memory won't let me. I think at the end of the day what makes a truly bad lyric is when it stands out from within a song and something inside you makes you think 'hang on, that was really shit,' and this is when there the distinction needs to be made. There are good songs with bad lyrics, and bad songs with good lyrics, but when the correct combination is made then you get that musical rarity - a great song.


Nicely toasted

I really like toast. But it has to be toasted exactly right, too burnt and it's just wrong, not enough and it's just, well, bread. The word itself derives from the Latin tostare, meaning to "roast". But our modern use of the word comes from the old French word around 1398 and literally means, "to brown with heat". Enough history though, toast is great, end of story. So yesterday I was making myself a spot of lunch, I was having a fried egg and mushroom sandwich since you ask, and I like to toast my bread for my sandwich. The main reason for this is that when you're using a filling like an egg, which obviously has a liquid centre, plain bread can often break up under the pressure of the egg yolk. Some might say the bread just soaks it up, I say "No! Soggy bread is wrong!"

So I've put the toast in the toaster, my mushroom are done and my egg is just finishing itself off. Now I have quite a cheap(Argos) frying pan, it's non stick that isn't that non stick, so I'm delicately trying to free the egg from the grasp of the pan when I hear the toast ejaculate from its fiery pit. Unfortunately this excites me so much that I create a slight tear in my yolk, and yellowy goodness begins to spread over the pan. Thinking quickly I abandon the egg, goto the toaster, throw the toast on a plate and spin round with said plate back to the frying pan. As I do so I hear the sound of one of the pieces of toast fall off my plate, 'no worries' I think, I'll retrieve it in a minute.

So I manage to free the egg, get it on my toast with the mushrooms and I now go to get the other bit of toast. I search all around the toast. No toast. I look to the floor. No toast. I even went out into the hallway. No toast. I was beginning to get a little concerned for two reasons, one, my egg and mushrooms were getting cold, and two, that was the last of the good bread as I only had end pieces left. Things were getting serious.

After standing in the middle of the kitchen I decided my only option was to think like the toast. Maybe then I could find out where it had gone. So I stood by where I had last seen the errant slice, and imagined myself flying off the plate as I had spun around. Crouching onto the floor I examined the surrounding area. No toast. So I did the experiment again, maybe it hit a cupboard, went in the opposite direction and ended up in an open drawer. But, alas, no toast.

It had seemed that the toast had been swallowed up by a black hole and transported into the fifth dimension. Just my luck. Begrudgingly I took an end piece and ate my sandwich thinking about my lost slice and how lonely it must be. Mind you, I'm not a fan of cold toast anyway, so maybe it was for the best.


Grow Bikes

Does it just happen to me, or do you always find yourself stuck behind the slowest person ever when queuing at a supermarket checkout? In fact, this only seems to happen to me in Co-Ops, not Tesco's or Asda. Maybe people who shop at the Coey just can't find their way to bigger supermarkets. Just yesterday I was doing a bit of shopping, relatively pain free I must say, although they had run out of courgettes which was a bit annoying. But I went to pay, and at this Co-Op they only ever seem to have two tills running despite having around 20 check outs, and I had to make a quick decision as to which till to go to. There was a guy who had a fair bit stacked up on the conveyor belt on till one, but till two just had a guy with a motorbike helmet on and a few bottles of beer.

Of course, I made the mistake of taking till number two. Motorbike guy only had four bottle of lager, and a bottle of wine, but then when he was about to pay he suddenly decided that he wanted to get a grow bag for his tomatoes. He was obviously having problems seeing properly out of his helmet as he kept having to move his directly towards anything he wanted to look at. Anyway, he struggled to pick up a grow bag and gave it to the cashier. She added it to his bill, and he carried on trying to put his bottles in a carrier bag. Not as easy as it sounds it would turn out. The first bag he picked up he accidentally threw into the air, and after frantically swatting it around with his flailing arms, it fell to the floor and he opted to get a new one. Once the bottles were safely in, he decided they should be double bagged. By this time around three other people had gone through check out one, and because I had already put all my food on the conveyor, I couldn't move.

Well, he finally had his bottles safely doubled bagged, which I suppose was sensible really, but what I was more interested in was seeing how he was going to drive off with his grow bag. As he left, the cashier gave me a shake of the head and a sarky comment that only those disillusioned with public service can do. I paid quickly, and went outside to see my motorbike helmet mad sat on his moped. He had the grow bag half on his seat, with the rest dropping down to where his feet would normally go, and he was resting his feet on the bag. I stood at watched him slowly leaving the car park, he was even swaying as he went and I couldn't help but laugh as I saw him trundle around the corner, sat on a grow bag with a load of booze in his carrier bag swerving all over the road. I wonder what stories my next Co-Op trip will entail.

Trundling along

I can't believe it was almost a year since I ran a marathon, and the small amount of running that I've done since have made that day seem even further away. Training was pretty hard going at times, motivation was the main bugbear of my preparation. Running in the winter when it's cold and wet, and often dark, was no fun at all, but once spring set in I actually found myself able to enjoy my runs a bit more.

Of course I can still remember running in the snow in Oxford during March, including running from Oxford to Wheatly and back in the pouring rain, along the main road. Not the most idyllic of runs! I had a fair amount of self doubt, mostly around three weeks before the final date, as at that point you know that you can't really improve any more as you've run out of time.

The hardest thing to train for is psychological strength, the ability to just keep your legs moving, or to create goals whilst you're running and each time you achieve one you feel good. To a degree this kind of mental strength is something that comes naturally, but it is possible to train for this, and you can also get the strength on the day from people supporting you.

I still remember the reason why I wanted to run the marathon, and I'll admit I did for almost entirely selfish reasons. I wanted to show a lot of people wrong, to prove I could do it and do it well, I wanted people to be surprised that James "who is always having a pint in the pub" could run a marathon. The thing was though, once I started training, no one doubted me, and my initial motivation changed: now I didn't want to fail those people who had faith in me.

The race itself was a bit of blur really. Yes I can remember certain moments, but the vast majority of the race holds no particular memory for me. I remember starting and thinking that I would start slightly slower than my pace, to save my energy and just run comfortably and try and forget about the other runners around me. This strategy worked, and I felt good for almost the entire race. The best advice I received though, came from a friend on the other side of the world, and although I laughed at him at the time (it was a comment I totally expected from him), it was a phrase that I kept thinking whenever I felt tired: "Your body is a machine"

It sounds silly, but every time I thought this I pushed any tiredness or pain to the back of my mind and just concentrated on keeping my legs going, just keep working them.

All of these things helped me through, as well as all the people supporting me on the day, and in the end I finished with a time of 4hours 2mins, not sure about the seconds, but I was a little gutted not to break 4 hours. Maybe another time.

So fast forward a year and I'm sat at my computer instead of going for a short run just to keep on top of things. But another run looms not far away, the Bristol Half Marathon in September. I'll start training for this in about a months time, and I know that everything I learned from my previous training will come in useful, and I look forward to crossing that finish line again, complete with bottle of Stella in my hand!


This little piggy...

The ginger haired Tamworth is a rare pig that is slowly beginning to gain recognition as having the tastiest meat of all the porcine breeds. The Tamworth stands apart from other pigs, with its long neck and legs, and characteristic ginger hair, this is a pig that has more in common with wild boar as opposed to most other farmed pigs. The exceptional quality of the meat comes from the fact that the Tamworth is able to achieve a high body mass, without too much fat, that makes this breed a good 'dual purpose' pig, one that is ideal for pork meat and good bacon.

The name comes from the town of Tamworth in Staffordshire, where Sir Robert Peel began cross breeding his Tamworth stock with some pigs called Irish Grazers that he brought in from Ireland. Despite the obvious commercial quality of Tamworth meant, it is surprising to learn that the breed is classified as rare and critical. There are numbers of Tamworth in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, but they are still given a high priority of conservation by breeding societies in each country.

Tamworth pigs are not only known for their good meat however, in 1998 they were at the centre of a media circus that lasted for a week. Showing their boisterous, playful nature, two young Tamworth pigs escaped from an lorry as it was being unloaded by squeezing through a fence, and subsequently swimming across the River Avon before escaping into the undergrowth. They evaded their pursuers for a week, and in doing so they captured the hearts of the country, and in the end the pigs were saved from the slaughterhouse by a national newspaper, who paid off their owner in return for exclusive rights to the story. Such was the interest in this case that the BBC decided to dramatise the events, and it eventually became a 60 minute movie that premièred in April 2004.
Despite this brief foray into the entertainment industry, possibly the most coveted pigs in England are bred at a farm in Levisham, North Yorshire . The owner is Timothy Wilson, who co-owns the company Ginger Pig, one of the most well respected meat producers in Britain. He began breeding Tamworth pigs in the early 90s, and soon found himself with more meat than he really cared for, and so he got a butcher to teach him sausage making, read some cookery books and began making and selling his own meat products. He favours Tamworths because he 'likes big things, and the Tamworth is the biggest', and because of the quality of this meat he is now the primary supplier of meat to the River Café.

The Ginger Pig initially started selling their sausages at the Borough Market in London, and after their sausages proved an instant hit they eventually set up a stand at the market. Once joined by chef Paul Hughes, the Ginger Pig soon became recognised throughout the land as an producer of the finest meat products, and they now have their own butchers shop to accompany their market stand.

Despite the small numbers of the ginger Tamworth, there seems to be a genuine love for this breed of pig. They are friendly animals to keep, showing a good nature towards humans, and they are also excellent grazing animals are are very efficient at clearing overgrown land. The added bonus of their excellent meat makes them a good breed of pig to rear, and hopefully in the future more farmers will realise the various benefits that owning Tamworths can have. The ginger pig is considered to be the 'aristocrat' of the porcine world, and it would be a great loss to farming and agriculture if this breed were allowed to slowly die out.


The Perrantide Approaches

Cornwall is a county where its people are renowned for their great sense of pride, a strong cultural identity that can be seen in towns and villages across the county. But as St Piran's Day approaches once again, there seems to be a distinct lack of celebrations going on across Cornwall during the week leading up to the 5th of March. Of course there are the usual events occurring, the St Piran Play in Perranporth and the procession in Truro, but these events are only the tip of the festivities that could be much more widespread.

During recent years Cornwall's popularity has increased to the extent where the counties' image has become big business, and the iconic flag of St Piran is a strong brand image for Cornwall. It would be in the interest of the public sector to see that there is great marketability behind the celebration of St Piran, and that it would not only encourage spending from within the existing population of Cornwall, but it would also encourage tourists to visit the county during the shoulder season month of March. The need within the tourism industry to diversify their market in order to make promote an all year round industry would surely make St Piran's Day an obvious starting point due to its ready to sell image.

In Falmouth this year there is very little happening during the 'Perrantide' – the week leading up to St Piran's Day – yet Falmouth is one of the main economic areas in southern Cornwall. Keven, who has been running the Cornish Store on Falmouth's high street for nearly three years believes that St Pirans Day, and the sense of being Cornish is often something that is “celebrated more away from Cornwall”. Essentially this is how the large celebration of St Patrick's Day would have started, with the Irish contingent across the world spreading the remembrance of their patron saint, to such an extent that the English now celebrate this more than their own patron saint.

“It's not celebrated enough” said Keven, “the council need to help promote it, because it it's organised people will attend”. There is the constant problem within Cornwall of the 'dreckly attitude' that means that locals will usually wait for someone else to take the reins, and if that doesn't happen then they don't do anything to themselves to change the situation. However, like Keven said, if it is organised then the Cornish can prove as dedicated and motivated as anyone in the country when it comes to organising some top class festivities.

Both the private, and public sectors need to start realising just how much a date such as St Piran's Day can help promote their business and the region in general. Cornwall has a ready made, marketable brand that is just waiting to be used to its full potential and until then St Piran's Day will only be celebrated by the dedicated few, as opposed to the willing masses.


Diabolus in Musica

The rise of the MP3 player has meant that song playlists have become part of our everyday life, with vast selections of music available right at our fingertips. One of the beautiful things about music is its ability to evoke strong emotions within the listener, it can trigger old memories, it can rouse the passion inside, and it can cover a heart with clouds. Its universal appeal means that everyone will find themselves influenced and affected by a song at some point in their life. But when you have the ability to change lives, and indeed the world, how much can music reveal about the lives and actions of some of the world's most influential figures?

Recognised in a BBC poll to be the greatest-ever Britain, Winston Churchill galvanised a country when it was needed most. His steely resolve in the face of the overwhelming pressure faced from the opposing forces in the Second World War made him a figure of inspiration to the citizens of Briton. Churchill's strength and patriotism is clearly visible in the song 'Battle Hymn of The Republic', a song played at his funeral, and one that supposedly brought a tear to Churchill's eye whenever he heard it. A fervently patriotic song, it was have had a strong resonance with Churchill during the war, and with lyrics such as “let us die to make men free” there can be little doubt that this song would have inspired Churchill in times of trouble.
On the other side of the English Channel, Hitler was well known to be a fan of the composer Robert Wagner, not just his music, but also his anti-semitic writings that the Nazi Party used in their own propaganda. Many of Wagner's opera extensively use the tritone, a musical interval that spans three whole tones. In medieval times, this musical characteristic was called the Devil's Interval, because of the dissonance created by this sound. It creates dark and atmospheric music, the kind of music that typifies the way that Hitler slowly, but inexorably brought most of Europe under his power. While it is foolish to say that Hitler only liked Wagner because of the supposed 'evil' connotations behind his music, it is not unreasonable to say that Hitler enjoyed Wagner so much that he let his music and beliefs become an essential part of the Nazi movement.

Richard Nixon was to be one of the first contemporary leaders who openly embraced popular music and showed an interest in playing music himself; Nixon was a proficient pianist, even appearing on the Jack Parr Tonight Show. Nixon appeared to have a keen desire to be seen as a President who was looked at with the same admiration as musicians, and he used his musical abilities to try and raise his public profile. Yet these acts only served to create a caricature of the President, and it can be clear to say that his musical ambition and interest only hindered his image, and had a detrimental effect on his political career.

The current President, George Bush, is known to listen to his iPod whilst out cycling on his ranch in Texas. His own musical tastes reveal a safe, middle of road selection, with no black artists, no genre less than 25 years old, and no world music. Bush has a well documented past of misplaced words and confused sentences, and his unchallenging, simple music tastes reflect the thought process of the man himself. His cycling partner claims it's music to “get over the next hill", and sometimes when watching Bush in action, it seems that this is all he is ever trying to do.

Although music can often have an influence on the character of the listener, it should also be recognised that maybe the listener has chosen that type of music because they see their own personality within that music. Music will always have a place in society, affecting the man on the street, to the man in the Oval Office, and the world is all the more interesting for it. But every now and then it can be interesting to speculate on whether Hitler might have turned out differently if he'd listened more to Debussy as opposed to Wagner.


Where's my plunger?

Writer's block. It's something that most writer's complain of at some point in their life. I think this can be quite hard to explain to some people, I've only found it a problem when I have to be creative with my writing, as opposed to writing something like an essay. Perhaps though, 'block' is the wrong word to use, maybe 'struggle' or probably more likely 'procrastination'. No one can procrastinate quite like a writer.

Whenever I seem to be suffering from the supposed "writer's block", I always notice how effective I can be at actually avoiding writing all altogether. I'll read newspapers, check my email for the fifteenth time, look on YouTube, then check my email again. I'm beginning to get worryingly good at it. In fact, this blog entry is just another attempt to avoid my work, but the problem is is that I just can't ignore my work, it has to be done.

I was actually hoping in some small way that maybe by writing this now it might free up my mind a bit and get the juices flowing again as it were. I think the main cure is to just keep attacking the page, no matter what. I have been literally forcing myself to keep writing, and chastising myself when I my focus veers from my work. It's slowly working, after all, writing isn't supposed to be easy, if it was then anyone could write a novel.

Perhaps it's the discipline that I lack, the ability to remain undistracted for longer than two minutes is something that I wish I had. I do think that the struggle can be linked to a lack of faith in one's work, the low self-esteem. All this adds up and weighs on the mind in the form of depression and anxiety, only serving to stifle further writing even more. Quite often I hit a standstill purely because I think everything I write is worthless, but then I try to make myself carry on with the reasoning that, yes it may be worthless, but get it on paper and then maybe you can turn it into something worthwhile.

It's like Phillip Pullman says, the ideas are easy "it's writing the book. That's the difficult thing, the thing that takes time and energy and the discipline."


Bootiful Earrings

When I was young I seemed to lack the simple ability to look after my pets. My first set of goldfish died within two days, and my rabbit only lasted around six months – instead of telling me that he had died, my Dad said that he had run away,causing me to have nightmares for years that Champ would have been attacked by a pack of hungry rats. The memory of these animals still remains with me, but they were never around long enough for me to form any lasting attachment that makes me want to preserve their memory in any solid shape or form.

Yet a process that was originally pioneered in America seems to be attracting some interest from bereaved pet owners in the UK. Recently a Westcountry woman, Sue Rogers, had the remains of her two dogs, and her cat made into blue-tinted diamond. Costing over £3,000 it is certainly not a cheap process, but it does mean that she has a unique diamond to remind her of her lost pets.

I was first alerted to this technique on an advert for a well known vodka company, a story of how even an ugly man can be turned into a “girl's best friend” if he has his remains turned into a diamond. At the time I did not even realise that this was a real process, but companies such as LifeGem offer this exact service to the general public. However, watching the advert makes me think that maybe the money would have been better spent buying a bottle of vodka and having a good wake instead.

The main interesting aspect of this process is the possibility that any animal that has been cremated, as long as it has a skeleton or hair, can be turned into a diamond. I immediately thought of the recent poultry culls that have happened in Suffolk, and the 160,000 birds that were gassed. What should be done with the carcases? Couldn't the Government invest in a diamond producing plant, and then they could recycle the cremated birds and have an exportable resource in return. They could then use this money to compensate the farmers, who I'm sure would be very grateful for the money (although maybe they would rather have the diamonds instead).

On an international scale the Government could even claim that they also helping to combat the illegal trade of diamonds that causes so much blood shed in Africa. By creating our own diamonds, companies can obtain the stones from legitimately controlled sources, thereby reducing the amount of illegally traded diamonds within the industry.

Sue Rogers and her diamond cat and dogs, show just what can be possible by utilising cutting edge technology and 200g of animal ash. If the Government wants to make the best of a bad situation then maybe looking at carbon processing will provide with an answer as to how to turn a health hazard into something truly “bootiful”.


Rat Island

Well I survived the computer incident. Just.So now I have the means again to regularly feed my Guardian Online addiction. I was interested to read an article in the environment section about mass tourism in the Galapagos Islands. My earlier blog entry about Lonesome George made my eyes pay attention to this article, and I was interested to see that a rat had been found on the island this week. Nothing special there you may say, but not being indigenous to the islands, there has been cause for concern.

The allegation are currently aimed toward the MV Discovery, a cruise ship with a capacity of around 500 tourists. Arriving from Panama, it could easily have provided safe passage for the rat, which would have then disembarked for a tour of the island. There is the argument that this is just a coincidence, and indeed it could very easily be just that. But what cannot be ignored is that with the increase in tourism, it is highly likely that there will be a wide range of ecological effects on the islands.

1968 was the year that the Galápagos National Park Service was established, and they set themselves the task of creating a working tourism framework, that would protect the islands, but open them up to the undoubted interest of nature lovers around the world. They placed restrictions on the number of visitors allowed on each arriving boat, plus the requirement of a qualified guide for every twenty visitors.

The Galápagos National Park Service were the forerunners of eco-tourism, realising the need to maintain a balance between conservation and tourism. However, the situation now places the islands themselves in a very precarious situation. This huge rise in visitors will place a strain on their existing facilities, not just having an effect on the wildlife, but also on the experience of those people genuinely interested in the islands. The average EasyCruise passenger is not going be passionately interested in the islands as a whole, instead it's just a whistle stop tour; hurried photo opportunities in order to back in time for the lobster dinner and cabaret.

The Galápagos need tourism, no doubts there, but at what price? Their tourism needs to focus on sustainability, and needs to find the balance that it had kept so well until recently. Without this the islands will surely succumb to idle feet pushing back the hedges even further, and before long irreparable damage will have been done. This is a modern day problem that has spread to many delicately beautiful, eco-tourism destinations; the danger is that by losing sight of what makes these places so special we run the likely possibility that we will crush them with our crowds.

James' bane

Just going to start off by saying that this is the second time I've written this blog entry. Microsoft Shitty Explorer (not using this by choice I might add) just erased my last entry due to its crap Popup blocking system. OK i should have saved a draft, so I guess it's my fault, but just give me a break here. Why is there a need to refresh automatically, surely it would have the same rules if I just had to click on what I wanted to open again and it would work. A pox on you Microsoft, you and your software.

So my entry went something like this. I have always found that over the years that through having a geekish interest in computors, I have found more and more ways to become frustrated with them. Despite an above average ability when it comes to computer related problems, I find that there are just new and different problems which the average user probably never encounters - nor would they want to.

My most recent anatagonism has come in form of trying to install Windoze XP on my brand new PC. Basically, the laptop that I hd borrowed to take to Uni slowly died, and so I needed a new computer. My Mac was getting on in years, and although I love Macs, I felt a PC might be a better all round option for me. At least until I have more money and can afford a beautiful, stable, excellent Mac once again.

Being reasonably confident, I decided to buy my components for my PC separately as it would enable me to end up with the kind of computer that I acutally wanted, as opposed to a cheap run around. So everything arrived, nice and shiny, and I couldn't wait to get everything working so I could play Half Life 2 online...I mean do some important Uni work!

Problem 1: Accidentally bought the wrong RAM. Schoolboy error, but it was no big deal as I had another 512mb that was compatible, so at least I could get up and running. A quick chat with the nice people at Novatech, and they told me to post it back and I'll get the suitable replacement. Ideal.

Problem 2: So I put everything together, power up and begin to install Windoze. Shouldn't be too dificult, the format goes fine, but I start getting error messages relating to the copying of files over to the installation folder. Well maybe they're not important file, I think, so I skip them and carry on.

Problem 3 I reach the installation stage, everything goes fine. Install is done and it's saving the settings. I get to the last minute of the install, and the system reboots. Hmm, I'm sure it wasn't supposed to do that. I'm dismayed to then find that my computer is locked in a perpetual loop of crashing and rebooting. So not the easy task I expected.

For the next two days I tried a variation of installation technique, tricks and clever things. None of which worked. In despair I finally concluded that it must just be the disk, as it's the same files every install that are failing to copy. So a quick call later and a very good friend of mine has another copy in the post for me.

So now I'm waiting for that to arrive. In fact it may already be at home waiting for me. But I've started reading various posts on Tech forums, all suggesting that there can be other reasons for this error arising. Motherboard problems, faulty RAM and doggy CD drives. Oh joy. So now I'm stressing that it could be something much worse, and all this is happening in the week before I have to hand in all my work, which is currently sat on a laptop hard drive that I need to plug into my new computer so I can get the data off it. I'm sure it'll all work, it's just a little worrying right now. How will this drama end? Possibly in burning flames with a PC through the window.

If only I had bought a Mac...


Ahoy there!

I still find it absolutely unbelievable that the RNLI is still supported by the generous donations of the public. It's a service that saves untold numbers of lives every year; more often than not these lives are of young children who find themselves inadvertently in trouble in the summertime. It's important to recognise that the RNLI do not just patrol beaches in their RIB's, but they also risk storm and tempest many miles from land, risking their lives in order to save those in dire circumstances. There's is a service that is often overlooked in the public eye, but in the quiet of night they are always prepared to leave their beds and face the storm outside.

I just can understand that the RNLI is not a publicly subsidised service like the police or the fire brigade. Although, having said that maybe the season the volunteers are so dedicated and respected is because they choose to give up their own free time in order to provide this life saving service. Sometimes charitable generosity can provide much more than taxable income prised from our hands. The financial cost of keeping the crew trained and the lifeboats running are truly staggering, running costs are at around £120 million, with £24 million going on expenditure towards boat investment, equipment and shoreworks in order to maintain their efficiency. It cost around £1000 a year to train each volunteer crew member, and for each time an all weather lifeboat is launched, it costs an estimated £5,580 just to send her out.

At least now, thanks to programmes such as the BBC's Seaside Rescue, public awareness of the general scope of the RNLI's activities are being recognised. Fundraising totals are increasing every year, but consider this compared to fact that Children In Need this year raised half of the RNLI's total fundraising income in one night, compared to over the course of the year. I can't help but feel that the RNLI is being grossly overlooked by the public at large. More and more people holiday by the seaside, and all these people like to take advantage of the sea during the summer months. Yet due to factors such as poor equipment and education on sailing boats, or just a plain lack of common sense, these are the people who are facing life threatening situations. More often than not these casualties are young children, and the RNLI rescues on average, four children from the sea everyday.

I'm not suggesting that the RNLI is necessarily a more important service than any other, just than it appears to be woefully underfunded for the service that it provides. When the firemen went on strike a few years ago over pay disputes I felt no sympathy for them whatsoever. Fair enough, they probably do deserve a pay rise for the excellent service that they provide, but 40 per cent? And to go on strike for 8 days leaving parts of the country dangerously under covered in terms of fire protection. Imagine if the RNLI went on strike? Who could cover for them effectively? Hardly anyone in the entire country, there is no way you can teach someone how to skipper a Severn class lifeboat in fifteen foot swell and force eight winds and come alongside a stricken fishing boat in just a few weeks.

The difference between RNLI volunteers and those in other areas of the public service is that the empathy often felt between those being rescued and those on board the lifeboat. Many of the lifeboat crew have their livings linked to the sea, due to the very nature of the job a keen interest in the sea is required, and there is always the knowledge in the back of any seafarers mind that the RNLI are always there if the worst should happen. The fact of the matter is that anything can happen at sea, it does not matter how experienced you are, and the crew and skippers of these lifeboats understand this, it could happen to them, and it's just as likely to happen to you.

I have an incredible amount of respect for those who serve around the country, giving up their free time, in order give those at sea some peace of mind. It is something I would love to be do myself, but in my mind I do not think I have the fortitude to do so. So instead I will continue to support the lifeboat from the shore, confident to know that when I'm at sea, if the worst should happen, I'll have some of the most dedicated and courageous people in the UK there ready to support me.

Visit the RNLI Website for more details.

Chicken Soup For The Cold

As much as I like to enjoy myself over the festive season, I always end up feeling worse off during the first week or so in January. I would probably bet that over the last four or five years I've managed to run my body down into a cold every year; I never learn of course. Restless nights, then struggling to get up in the morning, and I always need to get up in order to either go to work, or get Uni work done. I wasn't surprised to see picture in the Guardian yesterday of empty streets and offices in London, a direct result of the first sick days of the year being taken, and Scilly was no different.

According to my Dad the town hall was nothing but a ghostly cavern, devoid of the electronic hum of computer monitors and clicking keyboards. I'm sure some of these absences, here and in the capital are absolutely genuine, but after having plenty of relaxing time off over Christmas and New Year, it can often be hard to drag oneself back into the working routine, especially when you only have January to look forward too. It's possibly my least favourite month of the year. It's always cold, it's long, and still too close to the winter equinox that there is no significantly obvious change to the length of the days, in fact the it doesn't stay light any later in the day, it just gets lighter earlier. Not much use when you're still sleeping - mind you I guess the farmers will be a bit happier for it.

My one consoling January fact? It's National Soup Month in America. Maybe if they eat more soup and less steroid pumped cows they might be able to lose some weight. Mind you I expect their soup probably has chips and jam in it.

Well I might join our American bosom buddies and have some chicken soup for lunch, after all if the Ancient Egyptians thought it could cure colds, then maybe they were onto something. The actual scientific proof of chicken soup helping colds is pretty thin on the ground; a study did suggest that the nutrients and vitamins often contained in chicken soup might help slow the activity of white blood cells, which would act as an anti-inflammatory, hypothetically leading to a temporary ease from illness. However, any likely benefit from soup in general probably comes from steam from the soup getting into the nasal passages and acting as a natural decongestant.

That's good enough for me though, I'm in danger of inhaling my keyboard at the rate that I'm sniffing. Stay healthy, eat soup.


Achive Your Resolution In '07 - Free Report Shows You How!

Well I guess this is the usual time for both reflection and looking forward to the oncoming new year. The tired corpse of 2006 has now been put to rest and millions of people are already breaking their new year resolutions. I'm not normally one for resolutions, I don't have anything that I want to give up really. Although there are a few things I want to achieve this year, so maybe my resolution should be aimed at trying to achieve these goals. Seems sensible.

A quick google of New Year Resolutions reveals the sponsored results to be full of Loan companies claiming to help you fix your debt, anti-smoking companies, lifestyle coaches, affordable counselling and claims of being able to change the world this year with our company. As with most things in life, these companies are quick to exploit those aiming for the quick easy fix to their lives, and those with New Year's hangovers often look to others to help as opposed to helping themselves. I'm not totally cynical though, some things such as giving up smoking often requires external help, and if this helps them stop then I'm all for it.

The most popular resolutions are always the ones that we are most familiar with. Stopping smoking, losing weight, drinking less etc. But there are few resolutions that are more centred around giving and helping others more. Maybe that's what we all need to be thinking of more at this time of year. The supposed message of Christmas has long since disappeared under the gloss of crass commercialism, but maybe with some extra focus then the New Year could become a popular image for making a difference in the world. Whether this is done by giving money to charity, volunteer work or something as simple as planting a tree, these are surely more worthwhile endeavours in the long term. Someone can easily lose weight, improve their fitness, and help a charity by doing something like running a marathon. It's no easy feat, but the rewards are incredibly good and the achievement itself is a pretty big thing.

So for this year I'm planning on paying more attention to the three 'R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I want to put more effort into growing my own vegetables this year in an effort to eat more good food. Also I want to keep working hard towards my MA, and pushing my writing even further than before. Shouldn't be too hard.

Blydhen Nowydh Da