Archive for June 2011

First serve: Do no harm

June 29, 2011

This is the season of strawberries. After a healthy game of tennis with my friend, Chibber, we passed a hospital with a casualty department. I say this because not all medical centres have emergency depots. Tennis players beware. If while mistiming the ball yet still using the obligatory open-mouthed scream a tennis ball sticks in your throat the nearest hospital might not attend to you as A and E is not in their syllabus.

As we sat on the steps outside drinking our cola and eating mars bars, into the conversation I lobbed a possible winner. Forgoing a check-in, how long could you sit in the waiting room before a nurse or administrator asked if you were OK. Now these places are open 24/7 with rotating staff you could be in a perpetual kind of medical limbo. Not giving your details you are not in the triage system and could just sit there as a concerned family member waiting for your sickly kin. There’s a strong possibility of being overlooked.

Chibber reasoned -divinely- that when the waiting room eventually emptied in the small hours someone with a uniform would enquire if they could help you thus abiding by their motto: Primoris operor non punctum. I was not so sure of his logic or the motto. There was only one thing for it. We went and waited in the waiting room.

A few hours passed, a lot of bandaged persons came and went, many unfortunates on trolleys were wheeled in and out, concerned family members sat and stood and slunk away, noticed and yet unnoticed. Sat in our uncomfortable chairs we were invisible men to the receptionists. Chibber came round to my way of thinking: this could last as long as Isner and Mahut.

We watched the smokers drift outdoors for a puff. This gave us a chance to discuss the most famous smokers of all time. This was a list and a half: Churchill. JFK, Castro, Sinatra, Freud, Socrates (Brazil football World Cup star). After a much heated discussion as though both cola addicts we were puritan non-smokers, we couldn’t put a fag paper between Michelle Pfeiffer and Catherine Deneuve over who was the more glamorous.

We dozed the doze of a cola haze. The small hours came and they transformed into the long hours; nobody annoyed us. A new balls please batch of tennis ball stuck in the throat patients appeared.

Chibber unleashed the breakfast serve: when do the long hours begin, are they after the halfway mark at 7 o’clock and he yawned a grunting Sharapova yawn. Seven is still a small number when you think about it. Numbers go on forever and seven is near the start. We waited until nine, nine is a long houred number, nearly double-figured and home to centre forwards, nine was the time when the tennis courts opened again. Experiment over, we left the waiting room and went back to the land of the strawberries with our racquets fully refreshed. As it was in season it was busy, there was a queue. We waited.


Butterflies and Windmills

June 24, 2011

Wind turbines would not win any beauty contests. Only an inhabitant of the Isle of Man would marvel at the triskelion structure of a wind-powered device. These tripod monstrosities are housed in wind farms. There are no sheep on wind farms. Or cows. Or chickens. Just rows upon rows of rejects from War Of The Worlds.

In contrast there is aesthetic beauty in windmills. These wind-driven pieces of architectural splendour have been around since antiquity. Like an overflowing rubbish skip in the road, nobody walks past a windmill without having a look. Sonnets, TV dramas and operas have been written about windmills. The artistically named, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), wrote a piece about a windmill, unimaginatively titled: The Windmill.

I stand here in my place,
With my foot on the rock below,
And whichever way it may blow
I meet it face to face,
As a brave man meets his foe.

And while we wrestle and strive
My master, the miller, stands
And feeds me with his hands;
For he knows who makes him thrive,
Who makes him lord of lands.

The land of the windmills is the Netherlands and was a popular subject for the mad Dutchman, Vincent Van Gogh. The painter depicted a prodigious amount of work on this object as it was part and parcel of the lowlands scenery. A windmill was a common fixture in the Dutch landscape though today this is now decreasing.

Although windmills are gasping for air, will anyone write a poem about a wind farm? Will there be a soap opera commissioned called Wind Turbine farm? Apart from the decorator, will anyone paint a wind turbine? I think not. Only Windmills have the power to captivate the cultural set.

In the course of writing this essay I have been knocked over by the sway of wind. Wind is definitely my favourite meteorological phenomena.

The bibliophile cometh

June 22, 2011

It was recorded that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had read every book that had ever been published in history by the time he died. STC knew the endings to everything – and the beginnings and the middles.

I imagine there’s a child prodigy out there who has done a Coleridge in our time. This voracious reader will have laid waste to every novel, textbook, newspaper article, pamphlet, leaflet and blog. This gargantuan intellect using literary algorithms will know the ending to this post before its been written.

Having read everything, this modern young Pliny will have waded through a lot of dross. He must suffer for his art; like the others.

* The film aficionado that has watched every Holly/Bolly silent/talkie western/war cult/blockbuster movie ever produced. Ole square eyes will be watching turkeys from here to eternity.

* The Food Connoisseur that wants to taste every edible (more…)

Not in Wisden #8: Boomer’s Drooper

June 18, 2011

In the days of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle there was a bowler named Spedegue. Spedegue was famed for his brilliant Dropper delivery. He propelled the cherry like quoits into the air to a height of at least thirty feet. From this great elevation, gravitational force helped it fall straight and true on to the top of the bails.

There was a bowler in the GDCCC that had a novel stock technique in the style of Spedegue. Batsman struggled to deal with the unusually floated lob ball that was named a “Drooper”. The Drooper was a lofted spinning ball that suspended in mid air and came on to the bat in slow motion.

The bowler’s nickname was “Boomer”. An ironical reference to a sonic boom. It was beyond reasonable doubt that Boomer’s yawning balls didn’t travel at the speed of sound. His missiles didn’t emit shock waves either but Boomer it was.

Batsman soon worked out they could run two runs (byes) while waiting for the Drooper to drop. Running one run would be illegal as a different batsman would be at the crease. Boomer then changed the tempo of his pitch depending on the running power of the batter. The slower batsman, failing to make his ground, would lose his wicket and be out. The scorer was unsure to log in the scorecard run out or bowled.

Variations of play abounded of this unique battle between bat and ball. One batsman dummied to run before returning to his wicket and had a chat with the keeper while he waited on the ball. The fastest guy in the school could run four runs before facing the Drooper. Imaginative batsman practised umbrella shots. The Boomer years were a time of gold dust for the game.

Form comes and form goes and Boomer’s form burst big time. The Drooper was constantly over-pitched and captain’s had to place three men at third man. Boomer was dropped and tried his hand at lawn bowls. This was a disaster. He couldn’t stop lob bowling and he left a trail of cannon ball craters and destroyed jacks on every bowling green.

Tales of the Wire: 5. Marlo

June 18, 2011

The legitimate businessman angle didn’t interest Marlo Stanfield. He would take another cut in the face to be at the head of a drug empire again. His days of supreme supremacy were over and there was a new King of sting on the block.

Nevertheless, Marlo was still rich beyond his wildest dreams. In many places he had taken his dirty money to be laundered. Material things -you could call it clutter- was Marlo’s new fixation. With a suitcase of money still reeking from the palms of previous owners -the desperate addicts of the street- he entered an auction house.

One painting caught his attention: The Triumph of Death by Pieter Brueghel.

A craving came upon him the likes of which he hadn’t felt since the Franklin Towers came down. This apocalyptic landscape was making him high. Bidding for the lot began and Marlo found himself in a two-horse race for the prize with an elderly gentleman. Not wanting to be outbid Marlo asked the man if he wanted to “step-to”.

The bidder stepped down and Marlo had his Triumph of Death. Cash, I always pay in cash said Marlo opening his suitcase. The auctioneer grimaced, the smell of sweat and degradation emanated from the dirty bills of the row houses. They wouldn’t be cleaned in this launderette.

Two burly security guards easily ejected the ex-drug baron from the hall and out into the street where he belonged. As he was led away he was screaming. “MY MONEY IS MY MONEY.”

Lieutenant Columbo endings

June 18, 2011

Two films. Two stories that are well-known. Two different takes.

The problem with making a film called Titanic is that every man and his panther knows the ending. No amount of characterisation and intrigue or the romance between Kate and William Leo stops you from wondering when the iceberg will appear. And when the big ice cube does hit the ship filmgoers think, about time too.

Senna the movie has the same problem most biographical stories have. If you know your subject, there are no surprises. This does not take away the gripping chequered-flagged finale. An on board camera films Senna’s last lap. The hairs on the back of your neck tingle for two minutes as you await the shocking denouement. Knowing the inevitable makes this vehicle more thrilling. Two films. Two different takes.

Ayrton Senna was an absolute master at driving in wet conditions. I would go so far to say that in all probability he could have driven his McLaren Honda over the Atlantic. He would have danced his automobile with white bears, iced icebergs, glided over the water with the complete control of a messiah. Miraculous and inspiring this fictional endeavour could be the greatest film ever told. All it needs is an ending. And a decent script, possibly.

With the script at the embryonic stage let’s tenuously move on. There are no Schubertian jokes. All jokes are finished and have an ending. New jokes are rare; arthritic oldies are regularly brought out of retirement. A friend could be halfway through a joke before you remember you’ve heard it before. In this instance, people react differently. Some will interrupt the comedian, thawing him in full flow with the cattling “herd it”. The more humane will let the joke run its course and laugh like a steam engine. A few will wait to almost the end before blurting out the punch line utterly destroying the comic’s timing. Nobody likes the third camp.

A satisfactory ending is paramount; although I’ve always been a 20th Century Fox man myself. The to be continued cop-out is not an option neither is a pass the parcel “Here is the weather report” or an unoriginal: The End. Therefore, in true intellectual writer status that I have fought hard to attain, I’ll leave with an unfinished joke.

Darth Vader meets The Dalai Lama on the frozen wastes of the Planet Hoth and says…

The hard drive is running out of GB

June 13, 2011

The UK is running out of landfill space. This leaves us with the rubbish question. Where do we put all the waste that we can’t recycle?

During my research I found out that modern landfills are safely contained and restorable. When it is restored, the landfill will blend naturally into the surrounding landscape. Restored landfills are used for, amongst other things, golf courses. This baffles me. Why not close down some golf fields and use them as a landfill again? This re-compacting of rubbish is surely a more desirable option than golf. Kills two birdies at the same time. We get rid of rubbish and the sport that stinks of excreta.

Of course, this won’t happen so we need an alternative. Think tanks were deployed and one proposed sending the waste into outer space. This was dismissed as pie in the sky. Even though it’s a one (more…)