Tuesday, June 28, 2005


There were traffic delays last night on the way home, caused by three out of four lanes being blocked by a multiple pile-up involving a truck and at least five cars. The damage didn't look that bad; the cars appeared to have been shortened rather than wrecked, so I had the luxury of being able to get angry without having to feel really sorry for anyone.

As some of you already know, tailgating is one of my pet hates. It's worse than purely aggressive driving, somehow, although I'm not all that keen on that kind of stuff either. It's the sheer bloody stupidity of it that gets to me. Sometimes I watch cars in the next lane travelling twenty feet apart at ninety and my scrotum takes on the texture of corduroy.

How can they drive so close, so fast, and yet be so relaxed? What goes through their heads, I wonder? (Apart from the tailgate of the car in front, potentially.) I need Libertybob's Mindiacs to get behind the prominent eyebrow-ridges of those pointed little skulls and let me know how they think, but in the meantime I can only guess:

(1) "I'm driving a BMW M3, and not only have I been blessed with great teeth and fairly large genitalia, I also have reflexes on a par with a cross between a striking cobra and Ralph Schumacher. And my car has great brakes. And if I drop back any further then another car will cut in front and I'll have to drop back even more which means that I'll actually be going backwards. Probably.

(2) "I'm driving a Volvo, which as everyone knows is not constructed out of Coke cans flattened out like ordinary cars, but rather from the stuff they use to make flight recorders in aeroplanes, and therefore capable of withstanding an impact equivalent to hitting the ground at six hundred miles an hour, so rear-ending a Fiat Uno at eighty is no big deal. For me, at least."

(3) "I'm driving a Range Rover, which means that I'm an imbecilic thirty-year-old blonde with nice tits and the ability to suck the chrome off a trailer-hitch, which is why my husband has rewarded me with this huge vehicle. As it's twice as high and three times as heavy as anything I'm likely to hit I'll probably be safe. So far this year I've already been involved in four serious accidents all of which were my fault, but due to my husband's immense wealth I'm immune to prosecution."

Anyway, these people are obviously far too stupid to work out that they're driving dangerously without help. Obviously if I had my way then ideally I'd like to have them killed, because let's face it, nobody's going to miss them. However, I'm all too aware that, due to my childhood being spent in Belfast, many of my views are seen as inhumane, so I'd compromise and settle for a forward-facing speed-sensitive distance sensor which makes an irritating noise when you're driving too close for the speed you're doing. (Some people might argue that many cars are already equipped with such a device, but not everyone has a wife or girlfriend.)

Oh, hi Soozie. Ow.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Wah-ooo! Squirrels Of Surrey (2)

We have to give some thought to both positioning and timing. Lily The West Highland Terrier is a dog whose grip on reality is fragile at the best of times, as she demonstrates each time she tries to bite an aeroplane on its way into Gatwick, believing it to be Small, Slow and Near rather than Big, Fast and Far Away. If she's confronted with a helpless squirrel in a wire cage she'll have some sort of excitement-induced seizure, particularly if Soozie and I are both at work and unable to intervene. We decide that if we position the trap on the (flat) garage roof then Lily may not notice.

The other thing is that I don't like the thought of the squirrel being trapped in the cage from eight-thirty in the morning until six-thirty in the evening while we're away from the house, even if the little bastard almost killed my wife, so we agree that we won't set the trap until Monday morning, because I'm working at home then so I'll be able to give the captive rodent my immediate attention. (Note to self: check if squirrels are rodents. They're definitely not fish, insects, birds or lizards. And not marsupials either. After that it gets trickier.)

Seven a.m. on Monday morning I bait the trap with peanut butter and pistachio nuts and put it on the garage roof. I go up to my office and start working. After about half an hour Soozie comes in. "We've got one," she says. "and he's not happy."

I don't know what I expected, really. I suppose I thought that the animal would be sitting quietly looking sulky and waiting to be allowed a phone call to its lawyer or something, but what I see when I go down and look at the cage is this frantic ball of fury hurling itself against the wire mesh, and attacking it with its teeth. It's already covered with blood and getting more hysterical by the minute. I decide I have to let it go straight away, but I'm determined to get at least some value for the £15.99 I paid for the trap, so I put on a pair of gardening gloves in case the squirrel tries to maul me, and put the cage in the car.

I drive to Redhill Common and park. Parents and young children are walking past the car on their way to St. John's school, and I have to stand in front of the car boot so that they don't see that I have a blood-soaked animal in a trap. The sight of a burly bald bearded man with a guilty expression loitering near a school causes the parents to look at me with deep suspicion. When they've gone I hurriedly grab the trap and walk into to the edge of the woods, open the door and watch the squirrel streak off into the trees without a backward glance.

I get back to the house. Soozie's just about to leave for work. She looks at the empty trap which still has blood and pieces of squirrel-lip all over the wire. She looks at me. We can't use the trap again, can we?" she says. "No, Soozie," I reply, "we can't."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wah-ooo! Squirrels Of Surrey.

We've been having trouble with squirrels recently. Actually it's Soozie who's having the problem, as she's the real gardener in the relationship. I only like the kind of gardening that consists entirely of reclining on a sun-lounger with a beer, while Soozie embraces what I have come to call Full Contact Gardening, which involves a lot of heaving heavy sacks about, digging and nurturing things. She loves the little plants she raises and gets upset if they fail to flourish.

Anyway, due to some mysterious shift in the balance of nature in the Redhill area, this year we have lots more squirrels than usual and they have become emboldened to the point of insolence. At some point I fear they may begin to feast on human flesh, but so far the little bastards have merely developed a taste for running along our fence and flinging themselves onto the hanging baskets, where they wreak havoc.

(Interesting word, "wreak". It only gets used together with the word "havoc", and "havoc" only gets used with "wreak". You don't say "where they do havoc." The only other time we use "wreak" is in its past tense, as in "wrought-iron". But I digress.)

Back to the squirrels. I don't know why they like the baskets, but the end result is that they dig up all Soozie's baby petunias, exposing their little infant roots and killing them. In principle Soozie's kind to animals, but in practice if those squirrels were a fraction slower there'd be a pile of furry carcasses from one end of the garden to the other. We can't get them. Nobody I know owns a gun, and actually Im not sure I could do it - a clean kill would be all right, I suppose, but the thought of winging one and having to listen to its whimpering death-throes doesn't do a lot for me. In any case I have a strong Belfast accent and people who sound like me have ended up in a police cell with a black bag over their heads for a lot less than waving a shotgun about.

One morning a couple of weeks ago I was at work and Soozie phoned. "They've done it again." she squealed piteously. "And I had an idea and I thought that if I put chilli powder round the baskets it would make the squirrels sneeze and put them off so I sprinkled the powder but I was so upset about my dead petunias that I was crying and I rubbed my eyes and I had chilli powder on my hands and it went in my eyes and it really hurt and my eyes were watering on top of the tears and I had to drive to work and I couldn't see properly and I could have been killed." She paused to take a breath. "I COULD HAVE DIED BECAUSE OF A FUCKING SQUIRREL!"

So at the weekend we buy a "humane" squirrel trap. It's a wire mesh box with a spring-loaded door connected to a little plate inside where you put the bait, the idea being that the squirrel's weight trips the spring and the door shuts. Then you take the trapped squirrel for a long car ride and release it indignant but unharmed. This assumes that the average squirrel has a poor homing instinct and therefore will be unable to hitchhike back to your garden in a couple of days. Anyway, who'd stop their car for a squirrel? Nobody, that's who, not even if it was heavily pregnant.

to be continued...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Old Bass Players Never Die. Right?

After many long weeks I have a little spare time to write something. I feel under a little pressure to make it good, not having written anything on here for so long, but I'm not going to let it worry me too much.

It's about 6:40pm, and I'm in the office. I'm still here because I'm going to meet up with a friend for a beer at 8:00pm and I live too far from the office for it to be sensible to go home first. I could fill the intervening time with corporate warrior stuff, but bollocks to that, frankly.

I'm meeting Joe (the friend) at The Red Lion. Joe's an interesting person. He's a great guitar player. He plays left-handed, and for a reason. Joe used to play right-handed. Did everything right-handed I suppose, although I did't know him then. Then, when he was in his early twenties, Joe suffered a severe brain hemorrhage, severe enough to significantly affect the motor function on the left side of his body. He recovered, but the dexterity of his left hand was permanently impaired, and he could no longer play the guitar. Rather than decide to give up playing, Joe taught himself to play left-handed, which I think is interesting because it proves that the skill is not in your fingers, but in your head.

There's a band playing at The Red Lion tonight, the Grapevine Blues Band. A few years back, when I was between bands and they were looking for a bass player, Grapevine were quite keen for me to join them. It didn't get as far as the audition stage, so they might not have hired me anyway, but I told them I wasn't interested. The reason was that Grapevine are quite a successful outfit. They all have day-jobs, but they quite often do mini-tours, when they head off to Italy or Holland for a few days, playing in blues clubs.

The realisation that after years of wanting to do that kind of stuff I had reached a stage in my life where I found the very idea of it exhausting made me profoundly depressed, but then, as some of you know, I am of a melancholy disposition.

Hey ho.