Posts tagged “Cactus World

The Notebook: 4.0 Stars

The Notebook  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)I’m vegan.  This makes me better than most other people.  I’m not being big-headed or stupid or anything, that’s just the way things are.  (See “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” for more details.)  I’m lucky, in that the whole population of Cactus World is vegan, which makes things a lot easier.  However, the same can’t be said for some of the neighbouring areas.  My flat has a couple of air vents in it with built-in fans.  These appear to be connected to all the other vents in the building, via a series of pipes buried in the walls.   They’re the sort of vents you can use to ‘enjoy’ a ‘domestic’ going on next door.  If I lived in a Hollywood film in an old apartment in New York, I’m sure I’d regularly hear murders being committed through them, (which there’d mysteriously be no evidence for when the police arrived to investigate things); or perhaps a major terrorist attack (with a nuclear bomb of course) being planned.  I suppose I should be thankful that the vents are in the kitchen and bathroom, as they don’t seem to pick up the sound from other rooms of happy couples em, coupling.  So anyway, a little while ago I went to the aforementioned bathroom, to do some ‘bathroom things’.  As soon as I opened the lounge door, my senses were assaulted by the smell of cooked fish.  I doubt the world’s oceans smell as fishy as my flat right now.  Unfortunately, the vents transport smells as easily as they transfer sounds.  Four emergency incense cones have now been lit, in an effort to neutralise the insidious odour.  (High-powered ones obtained from the US military, through a special arrangement with the authorities in New Mexico.  They have “the fragrant aroma of smouldering Piñon firewood that is characteristic of the whole Southwest and the foothills of the Rockies.”)  We’ve yet to hear any announcements regarding whether this is a deliberate chemical weapons attack on Cactus World, the result of a massive industrial accident, or simply the outcome of dinner-time for one of my neighbours.  For a vegan however, it’s pretty crap; and annoying.  The last time my flat smelt this fishy was the day I first came to see it prior to moving in.  This was later determined to be a deliberate ploy by the previous inhabitants to disguise one of their leisure activities; it was about a year before it ceased to smell of dope; my predecessors were apparently keen on a joint or two.  This film doesn’t feature any of these things.  In fact, it couldn’t ‘unfeature’ them more if it tried.

2004  –  Certificate: 15  –  USA
Rating Details: Moderate sex

I need to go on a diet, (even more than I normally do).  This film was so syrupy and sweet that just watching it has made me put on about 5kg.  The plot twist at the end is also so obvious that it probably shouldn’t really count as one at all; it’s like one of those weakening fronts you see on weather maps, which by the time they arrive only consist of a few clouds, so if they weren’t pointed out to you you’d probably not even notice them.  I’m not much of a fan of period dramas, so a movie set mostly in the 1930s and 1940s isn’t the sort of thing to really excite me.  The chances of there being many big explosions, spaceships or gratuitous violence felt slim.  Then again, any film with Ryan Gosling in is worth checking out.  James Garner’s in it too, who was already old even when I was young.  So anyway, okay, this is actually a great film, with the most romantic/tragic ending it’s probably possible to have.  As  a fan of Thomas Hardy, I’ve always had a soft spot for relationships that get fucked-up by families, class, money, etc.  This film delivers a classic Hardy class-barrier storyline, rich city girl and poor country boy; (sounds awful doesn’t it)?  Fact is, this film doesn’t really do anything very much else and it certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but what it does do it does really, really well.  In fact the only part that felt a bit weak was the Mother’s ‘revelation’; it did feel a bit of a plot contrivance rather than something that fitted into the overall narrative.  As a romantic period drama, this does deliver; and yes, it is, especially the ending, tissue-friendly.

Recommended for true romantics.  In the perfect world, we’d all end up with our first loves forever.  (Aw, see, I can be romantic too.)

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?  I have to give this to Lon Hammond.  He just goes to prove that even if you’re handsome, a war hero, successful, attentive and an all-around nice guy, you don’t always get the girl.  Being a good loser is badass and he manages here to be a top bloke about everything, when he probably had every right to be really, really pissed off.

The Notebook on IMDB (7.9 / 10)

Pan’s Labyrinth: 4.0 Stars

Pan's Labyrinth - Front Blu-ray Cover (UK)I got six new light bulbs this week.  This might not seem much of a big deal, but to me, after living in a perpetual twilight for the last month or two, is nothing short of a miracle.  The fact that I paid over £70 for them shouldn’t be allowed to dilute the effect of the spontaneous celebrations that have been breaking out throughout Cactus World to mark the occasion.  I now have light in my kitchen that doesn’t back away in fear when threatened by a candle, and a lounge that doesn’t has a less welcoming glow than a lump of plutonium in your bed.  Low energy light bulbs?  For £70 I expect them to be so efficient I actually receive payments for supplying electricity to the national grid every time I use them!

2006  –  Certificate: 15  –  Mexico

This is a brilliant film.  It’s original, interesting, childlike and innocent, yet grown-up and horrifying.  I watched it on Blu-ray and it sounded great and looked wonderful.  The only reason I haven’t given it a higher score is that I never quite connected with the main characters in it.  Even at its most intense, it did feel like they were playing a secondary role in supporting the movie’s feel and atmosphere.  In a different film I’d probably be moaning about how one dimensional they were, but in this case it doesn’t seem to matter; in fact their simplistic, goodness vs evilness helps to focus the mind on the textual elements of the film.  I’ve no idea what I just wrote means, but it sounds great to me!  It’s a wonderfully dark, genera-mixing and unique film.  Go watch.

Recommended for people that like the concept of horror nursery rhymes.

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?  Mercedes dealing with Captain Vidal.  He was a seriously arrogant asshole with an inferiority complex and a whole take-away of chips on his shoulder.  Dealing with people like that is always badass.  The Joker look suited him.

Pan’s Labyrinth at IMDB (8.3 / 10)

Another Disaster Hits Cactus World…

Easter CactusYet another disaster has devastated Cactus World.  I was in my bedroom a couple of days ago when all of a sudden I felt the Earth move, but not in a good way.  A crashing sound in the lounge followed by an ominous rumbling similar to how I imagine the Gates of Hell would sound if being opened (without the support of a can of WD40), is not a good thing to hear.  I quickly switched on the TV to my favourite Cactus World news channel, CW1 News, to try to find out what had happened.

A few weeks ago, the Easter Cactus in Cactus World produced The Flower.  In fact I wrote about it here, it being such a once-in-a-lifetime event and all that.  Well news was soon coming in of a disaster of cactusclysmic proportions.  (Did you like how I altered cataclysmic to put cactus in it?)  Obviously overtaxed by its recent efforts, the pot holding the Easter Cactus had become detached from the ceiling of Cactus World and plummeted to earth.  Emergency services were quickly dispatched, but the pot had fallen into one of the most inaccessible places in Cactus World, behind a speaker and a lamp in the corner of the room, which hampered initial efforts to reach it.  When they finally arrived at the incident zone, the rescuers were met with the sight of the pot, upright, but with most of its soil missing.  More critically, there was no sign of the Easter Cactus anywhere, although some mangled sections of it stem were spotted lying about.  However, satellites supporting what was quickly becoming a full-scale emergency, quickly spotted that the Easter Cactus had been entirely separated from its pot and was hanging precariously from the top of the speaker.  Once found, highly trained paraplantmedics were quickly airlifted to the incident zone, but had to carry out a full pot transplant at the scene.  It seems too early to tell what the long-term consequences of this are, but in the immediate aftermath, estimates from people who’ve visited the scene have described the horrific sight of seeing around 30% of the Easter Cactus having been ripped from the main body of the plant and parts of it lying around all over the place.  Experts are suggesting that there will now be a glut of baby Easter Cactus plants for Cactus World to share with its neighbours and friends over the next six months.

Despite this disaster, officials has expressed relief that the pot actually landed the right way up.  The gully into which it fell is heavily crisscrossed by power lines and other services that support about 75% of Cactus World’s entertainment industry.  A large amount of dirty water and soil in this area could have devastated TV, music, DVD, Blu-ray and cable services for weeks, had it got into what are technically known as “the wrong places”.  Given the incident zone’s inhospitable and inaccessible location, along with ongoing concerns about the safety of the area due to dirty wet soil and anyone nearby getting understandably depressed about the mess and the damage to the Easter Cactus, cleanup teams have not yet been dispatched to sort out the mess and it remains officially off-limits to visitors.

To try to reassure the general public, the authorities have issued a single picture of the Easter Cactus, resting peacefully after its pot transplant.

Right now I’m listening to “3 Minute Hero” by Sonic Boom Six.

Happy Easter!

Easter Cactus FlowerEaster has come late to Cactus World; (about six weeks late, to give some context to this statement).  Preferring to eschew the dubious values of stuffing ourselves silly with overpriced and over-packaged chocolate, the citizens of Cactus World prefer to take a more traditional and dare I say it, a more cerebral view of the event.

First spotted as a small, red bud, by Cactus World’s top scientists a few weeks ago, my Easter Cactus has now produced its first ever flower!  At the age of, (well the sort of age that polite society suggests that you don’t ask houseplants what their real age is), this one’s magnificent bloom has been casting a wonderful, scarlet tinted hue across the skyline all day, on what is also the sunniest and warmest of the year so far.  Pretty well the entire population of Cactus World has visited The Flower today; I myself have been several times to gaze in awe at it.  To protect The Flower from well-wishers, who might inadvertently damage it in an attempt to take pictures or smell it,  an official photograph has been issued by the authorities, which I’m pleased to be able to reproduce here.  An official statement has also been released, to the effect that The Flower has not produced any especially discernible scent. 

No one knows exactly how long The Flower will last, but calls for 22nd May to be made a National Holiday have already surfaced.  The best news is, of course, that there’s a second flower bud developing, so hopefully another will appear soon.

Right now I’m listening to “Fall Into Place” by China Drum.

It’s Back!

The Amplifier is back!  (Yes, it had to be sent away to get fixed, so I’ve been too depressed to write anything here recently and thus share the distress and abject misery this has caused me.  Take my word for it, it’s a dark place you don’t want to go.)  The sound of guns being fired into the air in celebration has been echoing around Cactus World for hours; (well I’m sure it would have been if anyone in Cactus World actually had a gun).  And despite it being outside the guarantee period, those kindly people from Onkyo did the repair for free.  This puts it on the same level as Samsung; great after sales service but crappy, unreliable products.

However, before I get carried away, I do need to mention that I haven’t actually plugged all the millions of cables back into it yet, so I haven’t seen it working since it returned; I don’t want to get too excited quite yet, just in case you know what happens.  Nevertheless, I’m planning an action-packed evening in tomorrow, playing with cables, getting annoyed with cables and then in all likelihood swearing at cables, before settling back to watch a (hopefully) good film and drinking (probably) too much wine.

I have to leave home at 6:00am tomorrow, to go to a place that’s so far away even the Starship Enterprise has probably never visited it, just to deliver a training course in tree identification.  Why do people what to go on a course like that?  It’s easy; it’s just the big things that grown in the ground that really hurt if you run into them.  How hard can that be to learn?  You tend to remember what they’re like once you’ve done that a few times.  I should really have gone to bed by now, just to give me time to actually get some sleep before I have to get up, but as I’m the party-animal-live-fast-die-young happening dude that I am, I thought I’d have a late Friday night and stay up until at least 10:00pm!  I truly understand what John Lydon meant when he said, “I am an anarchist”!

Right now I’m listening to “Whuoackah” by Plastic Skanksters.

Wave of Despair Engulfs Cactus World

For anyone that doesn’t know, the entire population of Cactus World worships an entity known as The Amplifier.  Less a sort of god and more an omnipotent source of sound and entertainment, it’s a doorway to another existence and lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Cactus Worlder.  It oversees all we do; it touches ever part of our lives.  It’s our spiritual leader, our guide, our philosophy.  (In political terms it might be considered a self-perpetuating, charismatic, oligarchy.)  Simply put, The Amplifier brings life to lifelessness, enlightenment where there was only confusion and replaces chaos with hope.  It’s commonly understood by all to give reason for existence in Cactus World.  Yeh, it’s pretty important.

Like Doctor Who, The Amplifier occasionally regenerates into a new form, more powerful than any of its predecessors, bringing with it new wonders for the population of Cactus World to marvel at.  I’ve personally experienced just two of these regenerations and they’re a time of fear and expectation in any Cactus Worlder’s life.  The first of these took place in the mid-90s.  The last one took place on 26th January 2010.  (Remember this date, as it’ll become especially important later on.)  Although saddened by the departure of its previous incarnation, the population partied on like it was, em, 26th January 2010, as The Amplifier took its place amongst us, spreading its love and 7.2 sound for all.  We thought it would be many, many years before something like this happened again and ‘special taxes’ were raised that the entire population has been gladly paying ever since, to secure The Amplifier’s place in Cactus World; indeed, we still have a couple of years of these to pay off.

However, a wave of despair has been sweeping Cactus World today, following confirmation of the news that The Amplifier, (which goes by the name of Onyko TX-NR807) is sick.  My understanding is that if it’s switched on, none of the sound modes engage and no sound comes out of it.  This can only be rectified by switching it off and on again loads of times and even then it gets stuck in one mode.  In addition, its networking capability has become inoperable.  Now remember that date?  Well it’s 2 years and 13 days ago.  Sadly The Amplifier came with a 2 years and 0 days guarantee.  Cactus World’s most brilliant minds and scientists have been busy today, discussing this issue with that other bringer of truth and life, known as The Computer.  They have discovered that it is an illness that The Amplifier in its present form frequently suffers from.  We don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I expect to hear an announcement soon.  All the talk on the streets tonight is what happens if The Amplifier ‘has to be sent away’.  The nightmare scenario of there being no Amplifier in Cactus World is not dissimilar to the idea of there being no air.

Right now I’m listening to “Innuendo” by Queen.

3rd World War to Reduce E-mail Backlog

I spent all day in my office today. I attempted to reply to e-mails all day. Based on today, it will take me over three months to answer all the additional e-mails I get in that time, along with the backlog already sitting in my in-box. Unfortunately I have to do other stuff too, so I’m actually projecting a 3037 completion date.  (This also relies on an assumption that there’ll be a Third World War at some point, which will disrupt things quite a bit but significantly reduce the amount of incoming e-mails I get and other stuff I need to do for quite a while.  It also requires me to live to an age of at least 1074.)  I’m a modern day Nero, answering e-mails as Cactus World burns.

You’d think there was more to life than this, but actually, there isn’t.  Weird, isn’t it?

Right now I’m listening to “Love and Money” by the Network (which is basically Green Day incognito).

Classic FM Rocks!

One of the sadder aspects of my life is my apparent addiction to loyalty points, online questionnaires and product surveys. My reasons for this relates to the facts that you can earn money or vouchers for doing most of them, (around £900 worth last year in my case, to help eek out my poor, charity worker’s salary), along with the fact that I like the idea that a survey of (say) 2,000 people, will mean my Cactus World-view will be statistically magnified to represent a far higher proportion of the population than just, em, one. (Or more likely I just get statistically cleansed from the data entirely.) I also enjoy saying that ‘this’ newest design of air freshener, or ‘that’ latest version of a cold remedy, is simply marketing spin, an attempt to sell a more expensive, non-vegan, power-sapping, oppressive regime supporting, over-packaged, exploitatively marketed and entirely unwanted or unneeded product to the masses, who’re already quite happy with what they currently use anyway.  So basically what all this means is that I do them as I’m greedy and I want to socially engineer the planet’s population in such a way that one day everyone will live in Cactus World.

One of the things I’m involved with is the Classic FM Listeners’ Panel. Now don’t laugh, I do actually listen to quite a lot of classical music. I know nothing about it, (other than its got violins and stuff in it), but I do listen to it. So every once in a while I get to listen to some bits of music and say what I think of them. This generally goes along the lines of, opera – “I hate it”; slow song with lots of strings – “it’s okay”; fast song with lots of brass – “I like it”. (See, I said I don’t know anything about classical music.) However, my insightful and valued views have managed to win me £1,000 in a members’ draw. This is an unprecedented win, (surpassing the £400 worth of Selfridges vouchers I won for something or other several years ago; bought my first DVD player and DVDs with them actually ). The fact that I never listen to Classic FM isn’t something we need to consider right now, but if anyone asks me what my favourite radio station is, I know what I’ll be saying. (But that’s a question for another survey on another day.)

In these fiscally difficult times, this has bought a great deal of cheer to the population of Cactus World, who can now step back a little from the abyss and their own Greek Tragedy. I will be able to postpone those trips to the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. After much soul-searching, the population have decided to use this money to make the directors and share holders of American Express a little less happy, by paying off the balance on a credit card, thus depriving them of the disembowelingly huge interest rate payments from me that they’ve become accustomed to using to keep themselves supplied with new golf clubs and expensive wine.

Right now I’m listening to “Saturn 5” by the Inspiral Carpets.

Skanking Flu Pandemic Hits Cactus World!

You read about this sort of stuff on the Internet or see it on the TV, but you never think it will actually happen ‘here’. But it does. The last week has seen a pandemic sweep across Cactus Word, one that had infected every single one of its inhabitants with a terrible illness that even now, Cactus World’s best scientists and researchers have failed to identify, (because they’ve all been sick too silly). So for clarity, let’s just called it Skanking Flue, as it’s become known ‘on the streets’. It has what can only be described as ‘mild(ish), cold like symptoms’, but does in fact feels 1,000 times more intense to those suffering its effects. And let me point out right here, right now, that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the common cold, seasonal flu, or Man Flu, or any of those things. The resemblance is entirely superficial. However, the good news is that I feel as if I’m starting on the long road to recovery, but it was touch and go there for a while.

It’s strange how just one thing can virtually destroy a civilised society. Let me give an example. As a result of the pandemic there were huge food shortages in Cactus World. Supplies of rice, tofu, onions and garlic, along with most other foods, were entirely depleted within days; whilst the discovery of an almost full packet of pasta caused what I can only describe as a near riot in my kitchen, as I greedily grabbed it from the cupboard shelf, spilling much of its contents onto the floor, much to Penny’s disgust. What can I say? Starvation drives people to this sort of behaviour and I was desperate. International travel was banned too and I was forced to work from home for two days, to save myself the gruelling, long-distance trek into the office.

Last week, just prior the arrival of the pandemic, I went to not one, not two, but three ska/punk/reggae gigs. (And I’d like to point out that going to these and the sudden and mysterious arrival of Skanking Flue in Cactus World are entirely unrelated.) The first saw the truly wonderful Skints supporting the rather excellent Bedouin Soundclash at the Camden Koko (capacity 1410); whilst the following day saw the rather excellent Bedouin Soundclash supporting the truly wonderful Skints at Nambucca on the Holloway Road (capacity a somewhat overstated 300; I doubt the room with the music in it can take any more than 100). The third gig saw the even more awesome Dirty Revolution (which released 2010’s best album “Before the Fire” that you should go buy now) supporting the wondrous Slackers at the Islington Academy (capacity 800). Whatever your taste in music, it has to be said that bands like this are nearly always great live and thus worth going to see, even if you’ve never heard of them before. Comparing this sort of thing with the almost universally dreadful dirge that is modern indie rock and chart R&B, brings to mind a Borg Cube and a dead fruit fly.

In a not unrelated way, I have also been blessed by the availability on YouTube, of a brief shot of me attempting to dance at the recent King Blues gig at Koko. (It’s all just a bit too much like trying to maneuver an oil tanker for my liking.)  Despite every gig I go to now seemingly being filmed by someone, somewhere, I rarely manage to see myself, as despite a claimed height of 6 feet and 1 inch, I’m always surrounded by people who are even taller than me. (As an aside to this, for a few seconds I thought my luck had changed at this gig, when I felt someone grab my hand. Sadly it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, as in the crowd she thought she’d got hold of her boyfriend’s hand. Oh well, back to reality.) Anyway, YouTube. I was, I have to say, rather disappointed to see not the suave, sophisticated dance-floor guru that I imagine myself to be, (the guy “women want to be with and men want to be” kind of person); the sort of cool dude who can combine the best of White indie/punk moves with the cool of Caribbean reggae and ska rhythms, in an entirely convincing and respectful way. Instead I got to see a rather bald, fat bloke in a black t-shirt being flung across the most pit and trying not to fall over, in an entirely undignified and dad-dancing way by, a person or persons unknown. Go check it out around the 2:05 mark.

Finally, my telly has been fixed! Well done Samsung. It can’t apparently make reliable TVs, but it’s great at getting them fixed when they do break down; I guess it gets a lot of practice.

Right now I’m listening to “Lonely Man of Spandau” by the Angelic Upstarts.

Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale Comes to Life

Right about now I’m wishing I owned a gas mask. Why? The Mother in Law’s Tongue on the window sill has decided to flower. This common indoor plant, hardy and innocuous enough, which we’re all used to seeing in offices and receptions areas etc, hides a dark secret within its soul. When the sun goes down, its flowers release a scent of hypnotic power. It draws all towards its sweet nectar, man and beast alike, as the heavy perfume overcomes all inhibitions, rational thought and self-determination, sending those who seek its wisdom in a sleep that lasts 1,000 years zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………

Well okay that’s not all entirely true. But it does however have a seriously powerful smell at night that quite frankly would give any air fresheners silly enough to challenge it a good slap. My entire flat stinks of it at the moment. It’s not that it’s got a bad smell or anything, but it does feel like I’ve got a can of Tesco Value air freshener and sprayed it directly up my nose. It’s serious quite overpowering and I am just a little worried that if I go to sleep I really will not wake up for 100 years, a bit like Sleeping Beauty; (although the similarity probably ends around about there).  It’s also making my throat and nose feel weird.  Penny’s in an odd mood tonight too; personally I think she’s been sniffing it a bit too much.

And here is a photo of the beast. Sorry about the slightly weird look of it, but I had to take it by hacking into a US spy satellite and borrowing its camera for a few minutes, as there’s no way I’m going to risk getting close enough to it to use a normal camera.

Mother in Law's Tounge

Mother in Law's Tongue

You think I’m exaggerating things? Ha! You have no idea what I’m dealing with here!

Anyway, I bet you’ve never even seen one with a flower before.  It doesn’t happen very often.  Then again, this is Cactus World, where nothing is ever quite like it seems; and, after all,  I am the horticultural equivalent of Superman.  (Please ignore all the rubbish you might have heard about these plants needing to be neglected to flower; that’s just rumours put about by jealous people who can’t manage the magic I can.  In fact, you virtually have to agree to marry one before it will even consider flowering; and yes, that’s a bit of an awkward issue that I’m going to have to deal with later.)

Right now I’m listening to “buried alive” by Visqueen.

Flower Blesses Cactus World, Penny Meets Nemesis!

Despite evidence to the contrary, life for the population of Cactus World isn’t always doom and gloom. Yesterday, Cactus World was blessed with the appearance of a new cactus flower and one of its community minded citizens was on hand to record this momentous occasion.

Behold! The Flower:

A cactus flowering in Cactus World, on 21st May 2011

Cactus Flower

Sadly, today it’s looking somewhat limp.  (Please inset your own penis joke here).  However, there are reports coming in of not one, not two, but three flower spikes on the Mother in Law’s Tounge approaching Cactus World.  Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, Penny has faced her nemesis, The Puppy Shaped Door Stop!  Again, one of Cactus World’s brave citizens was around to record this epic battle, which shows Penny heroically fighting a piece of string, which the cowardly Puppy Shaped Door Stop is apparently using as cover for it own nefarious plans, whatever they may be:


Penny Meeting Her Nemesis

Right now I’m listening to “Underwear Goes Inside the Pants” by Lazyboy (or Lazy B if you prefer).

A Smorgasbord of Cactus World

Don’t you just hate it when some pretentious person with zero emotional intelligence, wants to appear posher and cleverer than they really are, by using expressions like, “a smorgasbord” of something or other? I do.  It’s stupid isn’t it? Who do they think they’re fooling? I just wanted to say that. Anyway, it’s been a while since I wrote anything here, so as a catch up on life in Cactus World, here’s a potpourri of what I’ve been up to…

Had a big row in the local Ford garage for 15 minutes, as I queried a bill of nearly £700 for work that didn’t solve the problem that the car was in there for in the first place. It’s justification? Well, the work needed doing anyway and they thought it would solve the problem. This was after it failed to ring me to discuss the issue last time I was there and raised the same concern. What’s even more annoying is the fact that when I’d first taken the car in with the problem (several visits previously) I’d told them what I thought it was, which is what it turned out to be in the end; a ten minute repair rather than three visits and a bill for around £1,000. But what do I know, I’m just an ignorant, moronic member of the public who knows nothing about cars? So anyway in the end, they suggested if I wasn’t happy I should write to them. Well done Fucking Ford’s, where customer service is clearly not a speciality; or indeed is a basic understanding of cars either. I will never, ever spend a penny with Ford again. Now officially classed as Spawn of the Devil. An interesting aside to this was that for the first time ever, when my car had been serviced (which is why it was there this time), I was rung up and told a driver would drop it off home for me. I can’t imagine this was for any other reason than they didn’t want me in the showroom again, pointing out their shabby lies.

In an effort to turn myself into the physical Adonis (that I really ought to be) and realising that over the past few months I’ve taken less exercise than I had been previously (and have consequently become a bit of a fat slob), I’ve started to walk into work again. (The horror of realising I’d spent £30 driving to and from home and work the previous month probably also had an impact too, as well as the guilt trip I get for adding to the size of my carbon footprint in this way.) We moved offices last October and the new one is further from where I live. So this fact, being very busy at work and the winter weather, had all colluded to ‘force’ me to drive in. So Monday last week, psyched up for the adventure ahead, I stepped out, alone, onto the streets of Reading. Nearly 50 minutes later a sweating, wheezing, half-dead husk of a man turned up at his office, barely recognisable as the person who had started the journey all those minutes ago. There wasn’t even a big welcome or a brass band waiting for me either, what a swizz. You know that film about that guy who has to cut his hand off to escape being trapped up a mountain, 127 Hours? Well, expect a similar effort about my epic journey, to be released around Summer 2013, entitled of course, 50 Minutes. To make matters worse, three men walked past me on my journey, leaving me to cough and splutter in the dust as they zoomed past me. Needless to say, this humiliation has had a profound effect on my mojo. Actually it wasn’t so bad and I did it again last Thursday too. It’s nearly a five-mile round trip. I went the wrong way coming home both times too; my sense of direction isn’t all that great…

Penny news. Penny is fine. I do have two bits of Penny cuteness to report though. Firstly, in a wilful act of physical vandalism associated with my walking to work, I decided I also ought to go back to doing some sit up and press ups too. In my first attempt for some time to do this, (when even getting on the floor took a great deal of effort), Penny came over and rolled around on the floor next to me. I thought that was very sweet. She was either trying to encourage me or (and this is more likely), thought it was some sort of new and rather incomprehensible cat friendly game that I was playing just for her benefit. Secondly, I was watching Red on DVD recently. (This is a film about a man who has his dog killed by some thugs and the consequences of his search for justice; it’s very good and well worth watching.) Anyway, at one point there’s a cute puppy on the screen. Penny likes to sit on my lap and watch films with me, although her taste in films isn’t apparently quite the same as mine so she generally goes to sleep. In this case however she saw the puppy and jumped onto the floor and started rolling around like a little kitten right in front of the TV. Now if anyone doesn’t think that’s extremely cute, then you are truly a heartless and unfeeling being.

I’ve had a leak in my bathroom. (By which I mean a leak in one of the walls from above, rather than a colloquialism for using the toilet.) Actually this is very boring. Anyway, it’s been fixed and the smell of damp dogs in my flat has slowly receded as it dries out. I await the redecorating being arranged by the building owners…

I’ve loved this hot weather recently. I’m a summer person and a morning person. There doesn’t seem to be a way to extend the mornings, but the recent good weather has been very welcome in Cactus World. I celebrated it by not going out into it over the two, long weekends we’ve had recently. But I can assure you, it looked lovely out of the window!

One of the most important highlights of life in Cactus World, is of course the flowering of a cactus. Last week saw two, huge, pink flowers make an appearance on my window sill. Sadly lacking an extra Bank Holiday to celebrate this momentous occasion, I was at work both days so came home to see just a rather collapsed version of them; (they only really last a day). So no photos I’m afraid, but it was a small, special highlight all the same.

I’m reliably informed by my electricity company that the average electricity bill for a one bedroomed flat is around £20-£25 per month. I work for an environmental charity, have low energy light bulbs everywhere and generally try my best not to consume too many resources. I don’t use the cooker every day, put the immersion heater on perhaps twice a week, don’t leave lights on all over the place and normally take showers rather than baths. I only heat one room in winter and I’m out most days at work. My monthly electricity bill is £63! I’ve just changed my tariff to one of those that comes with all this smart meter monitoring stuff, to see why this is the case. (Of course, I’m secretly hoping to discover that the bills have been wrong and will thus get a huge refund.) News to follow, as I investigate the crimes of the environmental criminal that I have apparently become. Guilty or innocent?

Finally, I’ve have been to a number of brilliant gigs recently. Fishbone and Random Hand at the Camden Underworld; Capdown, Random Hand and Dirty Revolution at the Camden Underworld; the Stranglers at the Hammersmith Apollo; the Undertones at the Islington Garage. Lots more too; it’s actually been a really good run of gigs, most satisfying, despite the many bruises and the partial black eye I managed to suffer. The Undertones at the Garage was probably the best. It’s the best I’ve seen the band since it reformed around ten years ago; the place was packed too. The good news is that it’s playing a gig in a pub called Powers in Kilburn in June; there’s only 100 tickets available. The bad news is that that’s exactly in the middle of the two weeks I’ve booked of annual leave, so I now have to rearrange my holiday to take this gig into account; but it’s worth it.  One small downer about the Fishbone gig was that I managed to lose a credit card, a debit card, my Oyster Card, my Rail Card, my Rail Card Pass, my train ticket home and £45; which left me with about £2 in my pocket.  I wouldn’t normally have all that lot with me either.  By some miracle I managed to find my train ticket on the floor afterwards, so at least I could get home.  That’s the first time I’ve done that at a gig. It was very annoying!

Right now I’m listening to “Let Me Go” by Rancid.