Archive for the ‘Special Occasions’ category

Switched On

October 12, 2007

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Whenever you watch commercial television, it seems you’re never too far away from some not-very-funny daytime presenters telling you to take the necessary steps to gird yourself against the impending digital revolution.

As you’ll no doubt be aware, the analogue signal is going to be switched off. Just like that. To my mind, it sounds like an act akin to switching off someone’s life support machine. Whump, and they’re gone. The one scrap of comfort is that it’s not happening for a little while, except if you live in Whitehaven, Cumbria (let’s see a show of hands). In Whitehaven, it might have already happened. I would wager that a fair unprepared handful of the Whitehaven population are now wondering why nothing happens when they press their respective On buttons, the poor saps.

Why is this happening? Apparently, it’s because things are going to be digital from now on. In order for the digital signal to have sufficient welly, they have to switch the analogue one off. That’s the long and short of it. This is a weird situation, I think. It’s a bit like someone deciding that oxygen should be removed from the air in order for them to pump something else into it, and that we all need to install synthetic lungs in order to continue existing.

Truth be told, I’m an analogue type of guy struggling to keep abreast in a digital age. But, after a few timely promptings from Mrs H, I realised it was time to get organised in time for The Change.

A Freeview box was an appealing choice, so one sunny afternoon, we acquired one from Curry’s and took it home to make a start on it. Everything was plugged in, but interesting and informative digital programming was far from forthcoming. At some point in the proceedings, I ventured outside and realised that our roof lacks an aerial, and that the cable protruding from our living room wall was simply a dormant piece of Telewest hardware, albeit one which (quite by chance) provided an excellent analogue signal.

After a brief experimentation with an old-style wire loop aerial through which we got one or two channels (which remained on screen only as long as I stood in a very specific spot in the middle of the room) I decided that a second trip to Curry’s might secure us a digital aerial.

Even having acquired and installed one, the much-anticipated torrent of digital goodness remained firmly secured behind some impenetrable technological dam. I made my third pilgrimage to Curry’s in order to return all the hardware in a fit of pique. Actually, I was very polite and sheepish about it.

I have long resisted the option of asking Telewest to provide our telly, since I anticipated inordinate cost, not to mention the social stigma attached to having more than five channels. But with a heavy heart I made the call.

For reasons that were never totally made clear, our cheapest option turned out to be the most abundant. Thus we found ourselves in possession of the mythical, 120-channel ‘XL’ package. We gave it a spin last night, and were most impressed (my own excitement levels were bordering on the inappropriate). Not only can you choose between 120 different programmes currently showing, but you can, at any moment, watch anything that has at any time graced the televisual airwaves. More or less. Imagine my delight to discover that I suddenly had unfettered access to the third series of Father Ted.

So, you’ll understand if the blog is a bit quiet from here on in, although, to be fair, my frequent hiatuses rarely draw much complaint these days. And you’ll also excuse me if I take me leave for the moment: I’m off to watch the latest episode of Dog Borstal, followed by a pentuple bill of Location, Location, Location.

It’s Vanished!

July 27, 2007

Wednesday was a momentous day for me. ‘Twas the day, against all odds, that I submitted my thesis. So, those of you who have always wondered ‘just what is the role of self-efficacy, locus of control and intellectual ability in guided self-help for depression, anxiety and stress’ need only make your way to this 96-page tome.

The final print took place on Tuesday. Inevitably, having printed the required three copies, I found a mistake on page 6 which, when rectified, threw the entire document out of kilter. But we got there in the end, at the sad expense of a few good-sized trees.

Wednesday took me, stumbling and deranged, into the bindery of the Edinburgh University library. The route to the bindery takes one through the basement, where every piece of electrical equipment that has ever been under the auspices of the university is discarded at the end of its tenure. There are mountains of monitors, computers, and all sorts of gubbins lying about. There are probably one or two moldering academics in there as well, somewhere. When you get a few layers down.

Those who have been following my hapless course into the world of magic would be most impressed, in that I managed to pull off an impressive trick without being aware of it. Let me tell you about it in the style of a instructional magic book:

The effect: the performer prints three copies of a 96 page thesis, and places each in an A4 envelope. These he places in his bag and takes home. The following day, he selects a spectator from the university bindery. The envelopes are then removed from the bag, and the three copies of the thesis placed on a flat surface in full view of the spectator. The front page of one of the copies is seen to be missing. The bag is shown to be empty. The performer should direct the spectator to make an extra photocopy of the missing page through the use of some finely judged-patter. The performer then leaves to submit two copies of the thesis, which are chosen at random by a further spectator in the clinical psychology administration office. The performer later discovers the missing front page at the back of the copy he has retained in his possession.
The method: I have absolutely no idea.

Anyway, despite a few hiccups, it’s in. I have decided not to look at it again until the deadline in a week’s time. I don’t want to notice some mistake I could have changed if I’d had the time.

Let the good times commence.

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Chuckles Vision

June 24, 2007

What’s the easiest way to invigorate a film, TV or literary franchise? You know the scenario: there comes a time when a good idea is strained to breaking point. For ideas that were initially mediocre, this point can arrive even sooner.  Thank you for bearing with me for the past six months, but I think the time is ripe for introducing a new character into this tragi-comic opera.

And so, without further ado, may I introduce you to Chuckles Hutchison?

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 A fine specimen, and one whom I hope will prove a worthy inheritor of The Hutchison Monologues, in time. And of course, you can expect that the latter days of my own tenure at the ‘Logues will be peppered with Chuckles’ nascent adventures.

Everything’s Beachy

May 24, 2007

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I’ve been meaning to dedicate a little post to Fraser’s 30th birthday party, but haven’t quite found the time. Or rather I have, but have chosen to spend it on other things.

I’ll recapitulate. You’ll remember the context of my ill-fated stumble into that Morningside barber last week: I was trying to find something suitably Hawaiian / Caribbean to wear to Fraser’s do, but wasn’t having any luck. One of my fellow party-goers had contacted the man himself in order to get the precise detail of costume requirements, and was told ‘Hawaiian…Caribbean…it’s all the same! Girls in bikini’s was my thinking’.

Anyway, we were eventually organised. Ross and Mrs H both voiced some misgivings about my wearing shorts; as a concession to Mrs H, I agreed to wear jeans on top (and thus look like I was wearing a nappy) until I got there. To quiet Ross’s concerns, I assured him that these particular shorts were possessed of an adequate internal netting to prevent any embarrassing relevations during the evening. So all was well.

Bidding fare-thee-well to Mrs H, Ross and I headed West. After a protracted detour around the outskirts of Glasgow (note: when on the M8, exits can appear on the right) we made our way down Sauchiehall Street, and parked up a dark side street. As I tried to free myself from my jeans in as subtle a manner as possible, Hugh Grant came inexpicably to mind.

We negotiated the tempestuous West Coast conditions (for which we were more-or-less as ill-dressed as it is possible to be) and found ourselves inside the venue. There was a noticeable lack of bikini wearing going on (amongst the ladies at least) but Fraser didn’t seem too disappointed. He was on especially good form having experimented with fake tan to preposterous, trans-racial excess.

A couple of photos should suffice:

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The Persistence of Memory

April 20, 2007

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I love Salvador Dalí. He is probably in my top five, as artists go. This is probably his most well known painting, though not one of my personal favourites. I thought I’d pop it in anyway. Have a look at his other paintings here.

I was in St Andrews the other day. Mrs H’s father has just retired (read all about it) so it was decided that we all go to St Andrews to get a family photograph. The task was entrusted to Peter Adamson, and a more amiable gentleman you would be hard-pressed to find.

It was interesting to walk around in St Andrews. It’s the sort of place where progress happens slowly, if at all. For the most part, all the familiar shops and haunts are still in their respective places. But now, walking down Market Street, I see no one I recognise. There was a time, of course, when one could walk the same route and be sure to be greeted by friends and acquaintances. But now the faces are blank.

I walked past The Coach House, where I used to live. The landlady’s grandchildren were outside in the garden. They look quite big now. They didn’t look up as I passed.

Towards the end of the morning, we found ourselves down on the West Sands, and we had a few snaps taken by the Elephant Rock. While I was there, I recalled a lazy afternoon on said Rock, a good five or six years back. I sat on the Rock with a couple of friends, just talking. There was nothing that needed to be discussed, but there was no pressure to be elsewhere. It was one of the last days we spent together in St Andrews. Somehow, it was a day that seemed to represent all that was good about being a student there. So much so, we decided to immortalise it, and our existence in it, by adding our signatures to the Rock.

The front door key to my parents’ house in Oxford was pressed into service for the purpose. When I got home to Oxford a few days later, it didn’t work. I never told my parents why.

Anyway, when we were there having photographs taken, I looked for my signature again. It had vanished, scoured away by a few years of gritty wind, and with it the last piece of evidence that I had ever been there at all.

I was just about to leave, when something caught my eye. The handiwork of one of my companions remained:

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As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15-16).

It seems, however, that you can leave a lasting legacy. You just need to press quite hard, and use the right implement.

Paraskavedekatriaphobia

April 13, 2007

Did your workplace seem a little deserted today? It may be that a proportion of your colleagues were suffering from a dose of paraskavedekatriaphobia, a specific phobia of Friday the 13th. Look it up on The Phobia List (which is quite diverting in its own right, actually).

A handful of worthy fellows once decided to do some analyses of various data in order to see whether we really should be concerned about this particular convergence of day and date. I’ve just finished reading the very interesting (well, quite interesting) article in which they set out their various findings. The most amusing thing is that this article, far from being gleaned from the depths of the Fortean Times or Sunday Sport, came directly from the austere pages of the British Medical Journal. The next time you’re leafing through, you might care to take a peek at:

Scanlon, J. (1993). Is Friday the 13th bad for your health? British Medical Journal, 307, 1584-1586.

Their findings suggest that between July 1990 and July 1992 there were consistently fewer cars on the Southern section of the M25 on each Friday the 13th relative to those counted on the Fridays beforehand. Given this slight reduction in traffic volume, it is strage that the number of hospital admissions due to road accidents was significantly higher on each Friday 13th than on the preceding Fridays, based on data collected in the South Thames region over a similar period.

What are the possible explanations? Is it a statistical fluke? Does anxiety about Friday 13th affect our driving? Is there some other factor that increases the accident rate without having anything to do with Friday 13th? Or is Friday the 13th just an unlucky day?

Questions, questions. But happily, not the kind over which to lose sleep.

Nighty night.

Summery Gifts

March 4, 2007

Hello. I’m in Inverness at the moment. I might well drop a post or two about what went on here. If you’re good.

In the meantime, a brief post will need to suffice. As I write, Jamie is engrossed in the Bob Dylan / Bryan Ferry documentary on Channel 4. Soon it will end, and he will be demanding of my attention once more.

As I made my way to Waverley Station on Friday morning, the bus trundled past an Ann Summers. Confession time: I have never frequented an Ann Summers store. As far as I can see, it’s a bit like La Senza, but altogether more intimidating. The promotional posters in La Senza (you will recall) tend to portray semi-clad but nonetheless benign-looking ladies. The one I saw in Ann Summers was of a sultry, fully clothed and bespectacled woman with a remote control in her hand. What’s the message here? No explanation was forwarded, nor could any sufficient one exist.

Anyway, the point. There was another poster in the window urging me not to forget Mother’s Day. The implication, I assume, was that I could buy a suitable gift for my dear matriarch within the premises of the Princes Street Ann Summers.

Based on what little I know of Ms Summers’s wares, and the nature of most mother-child relationships including my own, is this something that actually happens? No wonder there’s so much intergenerational hostility about.