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a competitive athlete passed this way

It was beautiful here today. Sunny, blue sky, high puffy clouds. Shirtsleeves weather. The nicest you could ask an October day to be. For all I know, though, this might be the last Summery day of 2014 — they’re predicting shit ‘n’ chips, starting tomorrow.

So we went to Sissinghurst for the afternoon. Stopped on the way and bought sammiches and hung out in the garden for a while. De-lightful.

On the way back to the car, under a horse chestnut tree — these horse chestnuts! But these are not as they fall from the tree. Nay, nay! These have been removed from the spiny outer casing, examined for flaws and tossed aside as unworthy.

Yes, that means the competitive Conker Season is upon us! This is when Brits (children, mostly) take horse chestnuts, drill a hole through them, thread a string through the hole and whale away at each other until somebody’s conker falls to bits. There’s more to it. Of course there is.

Like cheating.

The kudos of having a high-ranked winning conker is not limited to the playground and there have been many traditional ways of (illegally) hardening conkers before battling. Hardening methods include soaking or boiling the conkers in vinegar or salt water; soaking in parafin; partially baking them for about a half hour in the oven to case-harden them; coating them with clear nail-varnish; filling them with glue or simply storing them in the dark for a year (the shrivelled ones often seem to get the better of the young shiny ones). My favourite however is that described by two-times World Conker Champion Charlie Bray who says, “There are many underhanded ways of making your conker harder. The best is to pass it through a pig. The conker will harden by soaking in its stomach juices. Then you search through the pig’s waste to find the conker.” Yuk!

And grievous bodily harm.

“There’s no defence at all. When you’re playing, it’s natural to flinch when this thing is being swung at you, especially if it comes very close to your knuckles. The best thing to do is look away and think of England or something else.”

Make no mistake, it’s a deadly serious business. Good weekend, folks!

October 3, 2014 — 8:40 pm
Comments: 14

At last – your chance to own Vicky’s knickers!

A pair of Queen Victoria’s ample silk boxer shorts is going to auction. No reserve! They expect them to go for £1,000 to £2,000, but hoping for the best. The last pair to go on sale went for £10,000.

Also, some stockings and a chemise. Circa 1890.

Victoria was five feet nothin’. Those bloomers are 52″ around. And her chemise? Got a 66″ bustline.

Her Majesty’s smalls from his era have come on the market fairly often, reason being she willed most of them to her favorite servants. How would you put that, exactly? “Dear parlour maid. In recognition of your many years of faithful service, please accept this our third best pair of used panties.”

I dunno. Rich people are weird.

October 2, 2014 — 10:22 pm
Comments: 15

They’re just trolling us now…

Despite everything going on in the world today, the second most read article at the BBC News website when I checked the news this morning was this one: Tom and Jerry cartoons carry racism warning. It’s from Amazon’s streaming service (formerly LoveFilm) and the warning on Volume 2 is:

“Tom and Jerry shorts may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”

Emphasis mine, because of the staggering presumption of “wrong then.”

The problem, not surprising, is the character the Wikipedia article refers to as “Mammy two shoes” — presumably because she looks like the classic 19th C mammy character, and all you usually ever see are her legs.

I’m going to cry foul on anyone who calls her “the maid character” though. I’m sure I’ve seen every Tom and Jerry ever, and I recall *no* evidence she was not in her own home and mistress thereof. Thomas is clearly her cat, she’s dressed in the sort slobbing-around-the-house clothes I seriously doubt she’d wear to work. I think she makes herself a sandwich in one episode.

So this is racist because…she’s fat like Mammy? Because she talks like an American black person? Because she’s wearing slobbing-around-the-house clothes? Really, I think we have a right to insist class warriors tell us specifically what parts of this character are offensive. Because I think the answer would be far more racist than the question.

Oh, insult to injury — and I honestly don’t know if they’re flat-out trolling — this from the Telegraph today.

How the hell did we get to the point that a cartoon Siamese cat with chopsticks is some kind of deadly racist stereotype?

October 1, 2014 — 7:05 pm
Comments: 18

A mighty rumbling was heard throughout the land

Spotted at the store today (hence crappy cellphone pic). That’s, like, five bucks worth of beans, son!

I finally worked up the courage to say, no. Really. Thanks. I don’t want Heinz beanz with my dinner. Leaving Uncle B to buy those little teeny one serving cans that cost a relative fortune.

I think he wiped away a tear as we left this aisle.

September 30, 2014 — 8:05 pm
Comments: 24

I want one!

So we went into London to visit the British Museum on Friday. Friday is their late opening day; you can wander the galleries until 8:30. We hadn’t been in so long, this was our first chance to see the new atrium — a big ol’ glassed in Great Court that opened in 2000 (wow, has it really been that long?).

Uncle B is particularly fond of the Assyrian and Egyptian parts. The BM’s collection is outstanding and many of the exhibits are like old friends. Also, his awesome new camera. Me, I tend to head to the Viking and Anglo Saxon section, because racism.

We declined their special exhibit on the Ming Dynasty (£16.50). But I would’ve liked to have spent some time in the Far Eastern galleries. They’ve got a very good print of Under the Wave I’d like to see in person. Truth is, late hours or not, we just ran out of steam.

Do you ever get Museum Brain?

Oh, the sinister object in the picture was one of the best things I don’t remember seeing before. It’s big and iron and surely must be very heavy. The label on it says:

This iron rod from a woman’s grave in Norway may have been used in pagan magical practices. It resembles similar rods found in burials of women who may have been sorceresses (völur in Old Norse). The rituals involving such staffs are mysterious, but they may have included divination and the control of others. This staff was deliberately bent before burial, an act perhaps thought to remove its power.


September 29, 2014 — 7:31 pm
Comments: 13

Home safe. G’night!

Just got in. Too late for a proper post, but I didn’t want y’all thinking we got stranded in London or something.

I know it’s a Friday night — and a fine warm one, at that — but we could not believe how many young people were out in the pubs and bars. Every pub door had a crowd of, like, thirty kids spilling out on to the pavement, drinking and whooping it up. Most expensive city in the world in the middle of a global recession. Pff!

We had hoped for a proper sit-down meal in a nice restaurant, but it was not to be. All we passed were the aforementioned pubs, about twelve sushi joints (you couldn’t drag a badger into one) and about fifty Pret a Mangers. So we got a sammich at the station, because we’re classy like that.

G’night folks, and have a good weekend!

September 26, 2014 — 10:42 pm
Comments: 16

Saw this today. Went *SQUEE*

Well, this isn’t the one I saw. I nicked this picture off the Wikipedia article, which is curiously vague about whether they were ever used in US cars. I’ve never seen one, even in the movies, but Uncle B thinks they must’ve.

It’s called a trafficator. It’s an old fashioned turn signal. It’s a little semaphore dingus that pops out the side of the car and lights up. It’s adorable.

I’ve seen semiphore-style traffic signals in cartoons — placards that pop out the side of a pole — though I’ve never seen one in real life. But never seen a trafficator. You?

Oh, btw, we’re going to London for the day tomorrow. I’ll post if we’re back in time. If not — have a good weekend!

September 25, 2014 — 9:42 pm
Comments: 25

POW! right in the mouse finger

All through the Summer and into the Fall, I make a lot of what I like to call Cream of Shit from the Garden Soup. Basically, harvest a bunch of stuff, throw it in the pressure cooker with some herbs and olive oil, blend the shit out of it. I do add cream, but just before serving (the base soup keeps longer that way).

In aid of this souptastic activity, Uncle B bought me a powerful fancy-schmancy Bamix stick mixer. It’s Swiss, bitchez. Thing is awesome. Zero to suck-it-up-a-straw in no time flat.

I love the way the soup color morphs over the season as different things are harvested at different rates. Cool and green early on. Warm and red toward the end.

Today’s was a proper Autumn soup — the principals were tomatoes, carrots and red onions. A bit of cuke (see above) and potato for body. It was very nice. It was very red. It was slightly redder than it ought to be.

Yeah, that’s right. I cleaned the mixer without unplugging it and, um, oopsied. I’d just given it a good bvvvvt in soapy water and I was wiping off the blades when my left hand strayed to the buttons and…it bit me. Not stitches-deep, but deep. I leaked a lot.

And it’s my mouse finger :eek:

September 24, 2014 — 9:25 pm
Comments: 18

Duck fashion show

Because ducks. Because Aussies are crazy. And because I want to go play Mass Effect (I think I’ll finish it tonight).

No, I did not get a pee sample :eek:

September 23, 2014 — 8:44 pm
Comments: 10

Dear Diary: today a strange Icelandic woman fiddled my pee-pee

Poor Jack has been having…difficulties. You know…peeing difficulties.

We took him to the local vet this afternoon. She weighed him, squoze his bladder, examined his skin, listened to his heart and said, “you’ll need to get me a urine sample before I can tell you anything. That’ll be £44, please.” About seventy bucks. Sheesh.

To get this here urine sample, we have to isolate him in the downstairs bathroom with a litterbox full of little plastic balls overnight. Then, in the morning, when he has (please god) made pee, I have to suck it up in a pipette and run it in to the vet’s. I have a feeling he’s going to hit that bathroom like a cyclone and scream all night. I plan to drink a lot.

Picture is Jack in the bread oven. Uncle B took it yesterday with his fancy new camera. Here it is — half a meg’s worth of large and in color.

September 22, 2014 — 10:46 pm
Comments: 29