Day 44 in the Big Brother House

One forty-one PM.
Charley is in the garden with Nicky.

They’re dissecting Heidegger’s principle of Phenomenology as discussed in his groundbreaking work Sein und Zeit.

They are examining his concept in German so as not to lose the subtle nuance of the philosopher’s keenest thinking.

Meanwhile in the caravan Ziggy and Liam have held a seance to bring Albert Einstein back from the dead.

‘Where’s the Ho’s and Bitches?’ asked the ghostly apparition of the German-born theoretical physicist.

‘I beg your pardon?’ asked Ziggy.

‘The snatch, man, where’s the juicy booty?’

Liam tactfully cleared his throat.

‘I’m sorry Albert, we called you here to help us construct a new paradigm for the conceptualisation of relativisitic cosmology that Ziggy’s been working on.’

The world’s greatest thinker paused to assimilate the task the two Big Brother housemates have set themselves.

Then he shook his head, said ‘Nah, screw that, dudez. I wanna get me some grab-ass.’

And then I wake up.

Einsten and Heidegger are just figments of my overheated imagination.

Most of the Big Brother housemates really are as stupid as they seem.

Carole and Liam show a frightening amount of intelligence compared to their fellow housemates; they don’t really belong in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Chanelle has just said, ‘Swedish? What language do they speak?’

And Charley has just said, “Where’s Nepal? Poland?”

Now Charley is doing her very best impression of Catherine Tate without even drawing a single breath, ‘I ain’t bovvered do I look bovvered? I’m not bovvered I couldn’t give a shit I’m really not bovvered.’

I’m secretly praying that there’s a sniper on the roof if Charley is evicted this evening.

The vet’s photo session

Today I went to the veterinary practice that’s been treating Beech’s fracture.

I met the veterinary surgeon who took me in to a small office where we went through the three sets of x-rays that mark his progress.

The first set was taken the day after he was kicked.

The second set was taken three weeks later.

The third set was taken almost five weeks later again.

The first group of x-rays show no sign of damage at all.

The second group clearly shows signs of calcification (outlined).

But no explicit signs of a fracture (and we should perhaps remind ourselves that after this x-ray Beech trotted up sound!).

The third group shows a hairline fracture (outlined) but the calcification has vanished – a good sign.

The bottom line is the prognosis is good.

He’s got another six weeks of box rest but the Robert Jones Dressing can come off.

And we can get a farrier to remove his shoes and trim his feet.

Get well Beech!


Mushy peas are excellent

You’ll probably never find mushy peas on a Michelin menu but last night they saved my bacon (euphemistically speaking).

I concentrated so hard on cooking the main bits and bobs that comprised tea and getting the timing right that I completely forgot to cook the veg.




An evening between the covers…

I need to write about last night’s book group…

Have you ever been in a room with a group of people who had a common purpose?

An addiction, if you will?

Even if you haven’t, sit there for a moment and imagine it.

Picture, for a few minutes, that you’re sitting on a comfortable chair in a large, light, airy room.

There’s a lot of natural light; makes the room seem even more comfortable, friendly.

The collection of pleasantly not-discordant modern art hanging on the four walls adds to the ambience.

There are a dozen participants in this meeting.

Each sits there, looking relaxed yet slightly nervous at the same time.

A small amount of chat gently buzzes around the room; conversation is polite – people reacquainting themselves since they saw each other last.

The meeting is called to order.

The organiser asks the group who wants to start.

It’s an older woman.

But instead of standing up and saying ‘I’m Mary and I’m an alcoholic’ she starts to talk about the book she’s just finished reading.

And Mary is so completely enthused about the book that as she speaks she believes.

She’s so caught up in it that as you listen you begin to believe she could walk out of here and sell it to the first adolescent youth she found.

To close her summary she reads a short passage and bloody hell she makes it sound even more interesting.

How is that possible?

And you sit there.



There’s a pause.

And then a round-group discussion starts.

People add their own views, ask questions and a conversation builds with ‘Mary’ temporarily holding court as the holder of specific knowledge.

When things falter the group’s chairperson relaunches the ‘Who’s would like to go next?’ question.

The next speaker – also a woman, also of a more senior generation – starts to tell of her book…

A biography of Ted Hughes which, obviously, goes in to a degree of detail about Sylvia Plath.

This speaker is also completely enthused.

You don’t know if it’s a cumulative effect that has built on the platform reached by the previous speaker.

You don’t care if that’s what it is.

You’re too caught up in her enthusiasm, her passion, her intellect to care.

You feel infatuated by the work she’s talking about.

Even before she’s finished you make a mental note that you’ve just got to get hold of a copy of that book!

And so the evening goes; onwards and upwards.

Later, things peak.

Another group member speaks about a book that you read a few months ago.

A work you didn’t like but did at least finish out of respect for the author.

But she reads a passage – a long piece of prose you remember.

And in her reading she transforms the book, reframes it for you.

It becomes a work which you want to sit down and read again.

Try to read again, but this time you’re going to try harder.

By the end of the evening everyone has captured at least some small part of your mind.

As the evening gets later even the small number of people who didn’t like their books find favourable things to speak of.

When it’s time to go home you feel mentally exhausted.


And privileged.

It is a privilege to spend a couple of hours with a collection of disparate folk who share a common bond.


People who are so enthused by their common love that their fervour is infectious.

People who enjoy their books even when the book they’re reading gives them no enjoyment.

Random thoughts…

The first round of Tapas you’re offered in Andalucia is usually pork.

    The Spanish have a wonderfully flexible view of what constitutes meat. Many visitors are amused to find a large lump of chicken in the bottom of their bowl of ‘Sopa Vegetal’ – unless the visitors are vegetarian, of course!

The Parque Natural de Sierra Nevada is the most heavily protected area in Europe.

    It’s true that the Spaniards are justifiably proud of the unchanged-for-centuries beauty of the natural environment of the Sierra Nevada. But there does lurk a conspiracy theory about the region. It has been reported that during the Spanish revolution a large amount of wealth disappeared… and was buried in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Which is why (the conspiracy theorists would have it) that it is illegal to disturb the flora and fauna in the Parque – illegal to even dig a hole in the ground. Which is why the residents of the Parque can’t have mains electricity, mains water, mains gas or mains drainage. Folk who live in the Parque live lifestyles that have changed little – by way of modern convenience – in the last thousand years.

I have no idea why I’m having these thoughts.

I think a mug of hot chocolate is called for!


Weekend plans…

Saturday (weather permitting) Vin and I are off to terrorise the good people of Bromsgrove Riding Club with our usual out of control exciting performance of dressage.

This time Prelim 7 and Prelim 14.

On Sunday – provided neither Vin nor I are feeling totally clapped out or past it – we’re off to Allenshill for a quick round of show jumping.

Which may or may not be equally out of control exciting.

Three days to learn two tests, rehearse them and get in sufficient show jump schooling.




Kill all the cows!

Kill the cows; kill them now!

They’re destroying our planet.

A survey has just concluded that a Landrover Discovery emits 3,500g of carbon over a 30-mile journey.

Whilst a cow emits 4,000g of carbon a day!


While I admit I’ve employed a smidge of humour here I do think this not-really-earth-shattering news might give us all pause for thought in what is in danger of becoming a relentless pursuit of those who use the internal combustion engine.


I mean, surely, until someone can devise a system of giving credit to (as well as not being judgemental of) a person who drives a V6 3.6 litre 4×4 which runs on LPG – and therefore has a smaller operational carbon footprint than a Mini – we’re being very dishonest with our motivations.



Books and Language

I’m so excited.

The first batch of set texts for my OU course have just arrived.

Of course, getting excited about the arrival of (plucks a book off the pile) ‘Medea and Other Plays‘ by Euripides isn’t the same as getting excited about reading the said work.

Actually, it’s being a very literary day.

I’m trying to finish a short for publication. Yay.

I’m working on a book review. Yay (again).

It’s Book Group tonight. Yay.

And, as mentioned, some set texts have arrived. Double Yay.

Unfortunately I’m struggling with Billy Bragg’s polemic on the meaning of national identity in modern Britain – ‘The Progressive Patriot‘. Boo.

In simple terms Billy – a guy I’ve admired for a couple of decades – has lost the plot.

He demonstrably fails to understand what it is to be English let alone British.

Billy doesn’t even consider what being English or British means within the context of being Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Mancunian or Liverpudlian.

But he does have an excellent grasp of what it is to be a middle-aged white male from the south-east of England.

Ho hum; Billy Bragg seems to have become the typical Guardian reader.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the Atlantic…

A group of people called The Simplified Spelling Society have launched a campaign to cull the English Language of all those confusing words and phrases in an attempt to make things easier.

I’m not altogether who they’re trying to make things easier for.

But as The Simplified Spelling Society are a US organisation (they would say ‘organization’ and therein, I suspect, lies the rub) it’ll be interesting to see if they have any impact on society – British, Candian, New Zeland, Australian or even American.


Best Served Cold

a short…

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

When I was a boy my father used to say it to me.

He meant ‘don’t be impulsive, play the long game’.

Decades later I used the phrase in combat.

Mount Tumbledown.

My troop – all three of us – were the point force for 2 Para south of Darwin when Colonel ‘H’ (who clearly hadn’t heard the phrase) picked up an SMG and stormed a well-dug-in-and-fortified Argentine position.

While H was getting himself killed on the Ajax side of the Mount we picked off the Argies from their own left flank.

Executed them under the clear, cold, black south Atlantic night sky.

Shot them as their silhouettes, strobed by the fire-fight with the main force, highlighted every moment.

It was like shooting big, stupid, slow-witted bears.

By the time the three of us had downed 80 – who previously thought they were so securely dug-in they were invulnerable – the rest realised they were being slaughtered like animals.

So they surrendered.

The media made much of H’s sacrifice and that 1,200 Argentines surrendered to such a small British force.

But the truth was that three specialist snipers played the long game and then expended our entire stock of ammunition in thirty-five minutes.

Twenty-seven years since the Falklands and I’m still playing the long game.

My target walked across the pedestrian precinct.

Same time every Friday.

Same routine.

It’ll be his downfall.

I smiled through the window as I sat on a stool in the cafe window.


Playing the long game.

Three years I’ve been watching.

I’m going to teach you a lesson, friend.

You don’t screw with me.

As he walked up the steps to the building I entered the date, time and event in my notebook.

For the last time I checked back to the previous week’s entry.

Nothing different.

He was met at the door with a handshake.

I imagined the conversation.

Come in.

His host waved his hand in front as if to part the air for the Great and Worthy Bastard.

How’re your children?

And your wife?

Did they catch the attacker yet?

Be patient, I’m sure they will soon.

He went inside.

I finished my cup of tea.

The irony is that I could have stopped the attack on his wife.

But it would have caused ripples.

I might have left a profile – an image on a CCTV or a security camera or in someone’s head – as I decked the adolescent mugger.

I’d been following her for an hour as she threaded her way through the shops, streets and markets.

The boy came out of the alleyway.

I saw him look her up and down, guessing her ability to fight back.

He ran down the pavement, threaded his arm through the loops on her bag, smashed hard in to her and ran off.

I was eighteen feet away, could have stopped him with a rabbit punch to the larynx.

Let him pass, said my head.

I obeyed.

She hit the pavement with a dull thud like a sack of potatoes.

Fractured her skull.

I could have stopped it.

Could have taken him out before he got to her.

I had the range, had the pace and had the ability.

But protecting her wasn’t my role; I was on surveillance.

He ran past me not knowing how near to death he’d just come.

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

This time, another form of assassination.

I’m going to assassinate the character of someone who loves to be at the centre of his community.

Three nights ago my target’s wife and children spent the night away; the first time in a year.

A family party; they went last year.

And the year before.

Coincidentally, three nights ago the Essex Constabulary had photographed my target’s car as it kerb-crawled around two notorious red-light areas of the county.

At noon yesterday photographs of the vehicle, its registration number and description were posted on one of those ‘goody-goody’ neighbourhood watch-type internet websites.

At 3pm yesterday The Daily Mail knew about it.

At midnight last night two undercover reporters jumped out of a Ford Transit, loaded up the target’s rubbish bins from outside his house and drove off.

I can imagine their shrieks of laughter as the Mail‘s reporters undid the rubbish bags that contained – amongst the usual household rubbish – the vilest, most horribly graphic images of child pornography.

They probably rubbed their hands with glee as they discovered the torn-up-but-easily-reassembled stories of child rape and violent incest.

As I waited for the next stage of the plan to occur I turned the car keys over in my pocket.

Keys to a duplicate car, identical to his, the same registration details, same colour and even the same slightly fractured number plate on the rear.

This evening I’ll remove the identifying marks and then torch it.

In the glove compartment will be the mobile phone I used to call The Daily Mail.

And a computer hard-disk, a clone of the PC in my target’s office.

Just like his reputation and professional career, everything will go up in flames.

That’s right my friend.

When I’m done, you won’t be able to get a job selling shirts on a market stall.

In an hour and a half, when you go to your office, the police will be there, waiting.

And they’ll find more pornography.

As well as evidence that you’ve been spying on the occupants of the ladies toilet.

And a sign-on for an on-line bookmaker’s account.

In three years – or two, whenever it is they’re going to let you out – I’ll still be here.



Playing the long game.

And I’ll get you again.

And again.

Don’t screw with me.

Softly, softly catchee monkey.


Mewn pleidlais hanesyddol ym Mhontrhydfendigaid ddydd Sadwrn, mae Plaid Cymru wedi penderfynu rhannu grym â Llafur ym Mae Caerdydd.

Penderfynodd cyngor cenedlaethol Plaid Cymru gefnogi’r ddogfen “Cymru’n Un,” y cytundeb rhwng arweinwyr y ddwy blaid, gyda 225 o blaid ac 18 yn erbyn.

Bydd aelodau Plaid Cymru yn cael lle yn y cabinet am y tro cyntaf erioed, a bydd Rhodri Morgan yn parhau’n Brif Weinidog.


Rhodri Morgan?