Tuesday, 30 August 2011

To Cuba

This is just a short post about Cuba (and a pic of a short post in Cuba.)

I would have mentioned I was going. I would have scanned in pics of my trip 10 years ago - you know the kind of thing: me frolicking with dolphins and downing Daiquiris at one the zillion 'Hemingway drank here' bars, dancers at the Club Tropicana, 1950's automobiles and buena-vista bandsmen - but I'm not going to.

I've not been well.

I'm still not well - and not the sort of 'not well' that will enjoy an 8 hr flight or relish an all-you-can-drink bar.

Also it's hurricane season.

Sorry to sound glum about it. I'm sure it will be very nice. I think I've scheduled one other glum post during my absence. Back in two weeks!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Top 10 job titles

I'm always envious of people with great job titles, or even just funny or unusual ones. So here's my list of the 10 best or funniest job titles I've heard of.

If you work your way up diplomatic circles* you could be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.

Not high-falutin' enough? My friend's great uncle helped to design the building of British ambassadorial buildings for the Empire** in the East Indies. His job title was: Chief Architect of the Eastern Hemisphere

But why on earth limit yourself to, well... Earth? NASA employ a Planetary Protection Officer. You may be wondering whether their role is to protect us from aliens or aliens from us. The answer is: both!

In a similar vein, Apple allegedly have this post: Senior Armageddon Avoidance Engineer. (It sounds scary, but having survived Armageddon once and accidentally missing it another time, I could be just the person!)

Back down to earth, a local authority in mid-Wales made the news last year by renaming lifeguards 'Wet Leisure Assistants.'

Councils are fond of strange projects, teams and persons. Mine has a Teengage Pregancy Strategy Group (who must sit in meetings where someone says: ''I know, let's get them drunk on alcopops and play Justin Beiber songs...") and the Older People's Modernisation Team - which presumably retro-fits grannies with gang tattoos and USB ports. But someone must be in charge. An Older People's Modernisation Team Leader perhaps?

Another council worker has done prize-winning work providing support to the victims of various kinds of intimidation. She's the Domestic Violence Co-ordinator.

A friend of mine was Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge - it made him sound rather dashing but I was very disappointed on attending one of their 'Ladies' Night' dinners when no virgins were sacrificed.

Applicants for the job of S&M Administrator might be disappointed, too, to find it refers to Sales & Marketing. I got that from Worst Job in the World.

I have never had a job with a particularly unusual or amusing title. I suppose I could cross out 'Library Assistant' on my badge and write something more off the wall: 'Senior Junior Under-lender' perhaps. What do you think?

If you DON'T have, and have never had, a groovy-sounding job title, you can generate one using this handy Job Title Generator

If you DO have (or have had) a groovy-sounding job title ... or can convince us that you have ... I want to hear about it!

* Not a euphemism... then again...

** Before they started on the Death Star, that is

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Beware of the Borrowers

Yes, The Borrowers is a book by Mary Norton about tiny people who live behind your skirting boards, and "borrow" things to survive while keeping their existence unknown

It was also a TV series starring a mini Ian Holm and a film with an improbably undersized John Goodman. You can find lots more about them HERE.

But it's quite possible YOU are a borrower too!

What do you suppose library staff call you in private?

'Library users'? No. 'Customers'? No. 'Clients'? Heaven forbid! 'Service users'? NO! 'Civilians'? Well, our porter does, but... no. 'Awkward bloody people'? OK, maybe, sometimes.

You are, of course 'borrowers'.

So it isn't surprising when things go missing from the library.*

I find it both tragic and tremendously heartening that when I search for a picture to illustrate 'library users' Google throws up dozens and dozens of pictures like these:

* We get the occasional book go missing and I've starting compiling a list;

  • A History of the Bermuda Triangle
  • Shergar's Greatest Races
  • Lord Lucan - A Biography
  • The Mystery of the Marie Celeste

Let's hope that with the Borrowers taking to the streets like this, we won't ever have to add this one to the list:

'British Libraries - Shelved!'

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Poor Clare

Little Nell's excellent story about a certain Canon Hygiene (comments on my last post) has prompted a short foray into ecclesiastical territory...

It reminded me of my innocent friend helping to organise an informal party for the local Bishop. She couldn't understand why we all insisted she mustn't call it 'The Bishop's Bash.'

You may recall my useful, if mathematically flawed Nun Theorum. But they don't (to my knowledge) publish an I-spy Book of Nuns, so it's not easy to tell a Carmelite from an Ursuline, a Dominican from a Benedictine. But I particularly object to the Poor Clares.

Not because of their vows of extreme poverty - which makes a nice change for the Catholic Church - or because St Clare is the patron saint of television, which seems so much less worthy and romantic than being the patron saint of lost causes, small mammals or lepers. (You can swot up on this in Christopher's excellent Useful Guide to Patron Saints). .. and anyway Even if television needs a patron saint, St Clare seems a poor choice because with that vow of poverty she wouldn't have been able to afford one even if she hadn't been 800 years too early.

No, I hate them because 'Poor Clare' is what they called me at home, in a rather sarcastic way, when I felt sorry for myself as a kid. As a matter of fact I feel sorry for myself right now, having had a rough week accumulating various concurrent malaises - the sordid details of which I won't go into here. Poor Clare!

So, to cheer myself up, here are some risque jokes about nuns:

Mother Superior is soaping herself in the bath one day when there's a knock at the door.
'Who is it?'
'There's a blind man here who wants to talk to you,' says one of the sisters.
The Mother Superior thinks if he's blind there's no harm, so she tells the nun to send him in.
The blind man marches in and says: ' Phwoar, tits on that! Now where do you want these blinds?'

Two nuns on bicycles
Nun #1: I've never come this way before.
Nun #2: Neither have I. It must be the cobblestones.

Two nuns are on a train, when a flasher comes in and exposes himself.
One faints and one has a stroke.

Two nuns driving down a dark and stormy road one night when suddenly there's a flash of lightning and the Devil himself is sitting on the bonnet of the car.
'Quick!' says the one who's driving. 'Show him your cross.'
So the second nun leans out of the window and shouts: 'Get off the f***ing bonnet you asshole!'

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Nominative determinism

Nominative de-WHAT-ism? Nominative determinism

We've all had a dentist called Mr Paine, haven't we? Or come across Mr Bun the baker (ok, maybe not that last one.)

I used to work in a bank where there was a business account for Messrs Costall and Deer - I never found out what they did, but they sound pricey.

There's an article at The Behaviour Effect about whether people are influenced by their names.

A well-documented example of the phenomena is a legendary article in the British Journal of Urology by Splatt and Weedon.

I was on the lookout for books to illustrate what I'm talking about here, and came across: ‘A journey around the world' a cycling memoir, by David Sore.

We have a borrower who is always after Star Wars books (there's lots of them, you know!). His name is Luke Walker. I asked him if his middle name was 'Sky'. It isn't. It ought to be. I wonder if it is just co-incidence or he was influenced towards Star Wars because his name was so similar to the hero.

I've recall reading this post from the Inky Fool about cardinals and it reminded me of the aptly named Cardinal Sin of Manila - who I already mentioned in this post - which only one person read at the time. 8-( *sad face*

Anyway, it got me wondering if it would be possible to rise above your station through the clever choice of name? A sort of elective nominative determinism - which I'll be writing more about at some point, once I've collected enough silly names.

For example, who could resist promoting a Sergeant de Sturbance to Major, Private Punishment to Corporal or an Able Seaman T. Arch to Admiral?

What Masonic Lodge wouldn't be tempted to make Mr Flash their Grand Master?

And then there's the other side of the coin - have any of us been compelled to take up certain jobs or course of action because our names decreed it? Would someone called Mr East feel compelled to live in East Anglia? Would someone called Mr Naylor feel drawn to the hammer as weapon of choice?

More examples can be found at Ampers& but first, here's a bit of nominative determinism fun below from the 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue team' with late arrivals to the Vicar's Ball.

You can watch it while I contemplate whether to B. Silly with any of my characters names.

Friday, 19 August 2011

On Writing

Four things that happened last week have got me back into finishing my novel.

Having been accepted for Flashmob - one of Lancaster Litfest's publications I was invited to a professional development workshop for writers, which reminded me what my own priorities are, helped me set goals and reinvigorated me.

Before going there, I re-read the 60,000 words I've written so far of my novel (untouched for months) to see if it was worth pursuing. It was funny (it's ok, it's supposed to be) and readable and I got excited about it again.

Then, on the train to Lancaster I finished Stephen King's 'On Writing' - a book that is often highly recommended to writers by other writers.

It's a curiosity - part interesting autobiography, part no frills 'how to write' guide from someone who's work I find very readable. Like many writing manuals, the author has strong ideas on the best way to produce a novel, things you must or mustn't do. Fine if it works for him, but it's best to take from writing guides the advice you recognise as appropriate for your own way of working. Some great common sense hints and tips.

Key tips:
  1. Write
  2. Read
  3. Assiduously avoid adverbs.
These first two are pretty obvious but plenty of 'writers' don't do that much of either - I've been guilty myself.

And fourthly, I've been reading Elmore Leonard's 'When The Women Come Out To Dance' - an inpsiring masterclass in short fiction packed with sparely-written mini dramas, fascinating characters, evocative locations. (Elmore Leonard's top tips - which also have it in for adverbs - are at the top of this excellent Guardian list of Top Tips from Authors)

So that's what I'm doing when I'm not doing this.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Popcorn post

There's this movie meme going about - I got it from Dave who got it from Tim who got it from Annie - be sure to wash your hands or you'll be doing it too!

This sort of thing is a terrible chore when you're as indecisive as me. I started it after going to the pictures on Saturday night to see the last Harry Potter (ho hum) and just gave up on it now...

1 Movie you love with a passion.
This changes - it has been Pulp Fiction and Brazil, but I'm going to plump for Love Actually *blushes*

2. Movie you vow to never watch.
'Jackass - the Movie'

3. Movie that literally left you speechless.
'Threads' - unutterably harrowing

4. Movie you always recommend.
'Galaxy Quest' - it's a hoot, especially if you're a fan of sci fi. I've been recommending 'In Bruges' a lot lately, too - I didn't think I'd like it but it won me over. And 'Fargo'

5. Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie.
There are a few: Anthony Hopkins, Katherine Hepburn, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Hugh Jakeman, Robert Downey Jr, Christopher Walken, Ciaron Hinds, Jean Reno - they just rise above the subject/setting/script

6. Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for.
All those shiny rom-com types

7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet.
Not keen on the idea of dead actors and actresses turning up! And wouldn't turn away any living ones.

8. Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen. (Picture required!)
I used to have a big thing for Richard Burton when I was 13 (what was that all about?) This is where my formatting goes to pot as I attempt to add several pics for your/my delectation.

People I've found surprisingly sexy: Al Pacino (in 'Sea of Love'), Ciaron Hinds (not that famous but he's got 'something' for me).

Plus the usual suspects: Antonio, George, Hugh

9. Dream cast.
See above. I love spotting all my fave Brit charcater actors in Harry Potter too - though seeing Cairon Hinds as Dumbledore's brother in the last one put me off him a bit!

10. Favorite actor pairing.
Can't think - maybe Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (which they're remaking in Liverpool as 'Shut Up Ewes')

12. Favorite decade for movies
I refuse to choose

13. Chick flick or action movie?
Which do Coen Brothers come under? I hate action sequences for the sake of them but I like both if done well. The script is the important thing, not the genre.

14. Hero, villain or anti-hero?
Because none of this is real, I can choose the villain without anything bad happening can't I? They're often more interesting characters and I'm a sucker for the possible redemption at the end. So yes, I tend to side with Darth Vader, Phantom of the Opera, Hannibal Lector.

15. Black and white or color?
Either - depends on the movie. I've been known to turn the colour off if I'm watching something scary (also the sound).

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hoodies and baddies

There were even riots in Birkenhead the other night - just a few miles from me. Main targets: parked cars, Ladbrokes and the Big Mac.

It takes me back to the second lot of Toxteth riots. It was late September/ early October 2005.

Myself and my brand new hubby were both Special Constables at the time (there's a picture of me in uniform in this post: I'm no Sherlock).

That was some honeymoon!

I was just saying on Facebook that although I own several hoodies I never broke a window I didn't own. This sparked two debates - one about syntax and one about whether the hoodie is the person or the garment. I say the latter.

Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I say these laddies don't need a ruddy hoodie to be baddies. And a lad could be a goodie even if he wears a hoodie. Although he'd be a bloody baddie had he worn a 'goodie' hoodie and then attacked your daddy. Someone should do a study.

Anyway, this is really just a short post to direct you to more interesting places:

My poem on the aftermath 'The morning after' is at Poetry24 today

There's a very good article on the riots in the Telegraph: The underclass lashes out

Nathaniel Tapley's open letter to Mr Cameron's mum gets really pertinent after the first paragraph

Libya calls on Britain to 'exercise restraint' and Delhi questions whether London is ready to host the Olympics in this Guardian article on Schadenfreude (thanks to @MediocreDave for sharing that with me!)

Some more funny hoodies (garment): 20 Cool Hoodies - incl superheroes of your choice.

Monday, 8 August 2011


I muster mentioned the Mersey Pirate Muster that is - which took place in 'sunny' New Brighton just a few miles from where I live on Sunday.

Here's my pirate gear. I do have 'previous' of being the only person to turn up in fancy dress ... so was I the only pirate in New Brighton?

I think not! Phew! Not like the 'superman' incident and the 'skeleton' incident. Lots of pirates, lots of people saying 'Yaaarrrrrg!'

Here's me and Admiral Gorman in his regalia. Sadly I suspect that he, like myself, didn't need to buy a single item for the outfit, but had all the necessary items at home! (Although you may notice my sword is actually a slightly-modified light-sabre. The force is strong with me.)

Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton is a defence installation built in the 1820's in a spectacular location in the mouth of the Mersey.

Is it me, or are pirates looking younger these days?

Anyhoo, there were lots of canons and muskets, big bangs (although no new universes were created to my knowledge) and running about and shouting.

And despite having turned up on my lonesome I met quite a few people that I knew (eg Pete in the final pic - who probably dresses like this all the time!).

Although notable by his absence was Adam, creator of this sterling exercise in the 3 'arrrr's of pirate-speak': A Pirate Language Course'.

I'm thinking of organising a zombie walk in Liscard next. But who will be able to tell?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Extreme reading

Last week, I was disturbed by this post on 'Dave - the Blog', to learn that some people are in the habit of getting their novels wet whilst reading in the bath.

Some of the confessions that came out in the comments page my pages curl!

The threat of damage during extreme reading is one of the reasons that 34% of people say they would never risk a Kindle (OK, I made percentage up.)

I mean it's one thing to lose a Penguin modern classic down a crevasse or drop a Dorling Kinersley from a moving aircraft, but you wouldn't want to be replacing expensive electronic equipment every time you go heli-hiking on a glacier.

Just imagine all the terrible things that could happen to it if you took to taking it where you normally do your reading:

If you have time for a little more reading right now and don't mind having your head explode, have a look at John Olsen's 'Extreme Reading' essay over at the Glade of Theoric Ornithic Hermetica. (Nope! I didn't make that one up!)

Some of these pictures are from BBC London and some from Court Fields Community School - I assume they are teachers and have gone to great lengths to make their point - whatever it is. Sadly there's only a couple of comments from ungrateful pupils!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Invisible, too

Inspired by the art of Liu Bolan, which I wrote about yesterday, I spent the night with my paints in an attempt to emulate one of his 'Hidden in the City' photographs.

Here I am, hiding in plain site in the library. I think you really will struggle to see me, so good is my camouflage.

Not bad for a first attempt eh?

And here's a bit of a poem about being invisible:

The other day, I became invisible:
stumbled into, trodden on and brushed aside,
pulled out in front of at junctions, roundabouts.
I tried smiles – which were returned unopened.
I raised my hand, but no-one let me speak.
I was stared through – not like I was a window,
but more a grey area or just a feeling
that has to be endured or struggled through.
I went home defeated, was not welcomed,
looked in the mirror. There was no-one there.

© Clare Kirwan

Thursday, 4 August 2011

China's 'Invisible Man'

I may have been a bit invisible lately, and a bit... erm ... patterned. But it is nothing compared to the Chinese artist Liu Bolin who paints himself to match particular locations so as to appear invisible in them.

These pictures are from a series called 'Hiding in the City' - each one can take up to ten hours to get just right.

It is both a way of protesting the Chinese government’s persecution of artists, and also about not fitting into society.

I wouldn't usually quote the Daily Mail (did I mention we have to keep it 'under the counter' at the library because it was getting stolen all the time?!?) but this quote is from an interesting article about him HERE: He said:

'Some people call me the invisible man, but for me it's what is not seen in a picture which is really what tells the story.

'After graduating from school I couldn't find suitable work and I felt there was no place for me in society. I ... had a feeling that no one cared about me, I felt myself unnecessary in this world.

'The situation for artists in China is very difficult and the forced removal of the artist's studio is in fact my direct inspiration of this series of photographs.'

I'm no expert on art, but I sort of understand the feeling. Do any of you have 'invisible' days too?

An online gallery of his pictures is featured at Eli Klein at least until the end of September

Monday, 1 August 2011

Jolly Roger

Ahoy there!

There's a Pirate's Muster at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton this Sunday 7th August!... possibly a record-breaking one.

And I'm not just dusting off me tricorn hat in the attic, unhanging me stuffed parrot from the conservatory and sharpening me cutlass. I'm going the whole hog - I'm having me leg off. Then all I'll need is a Jolly Roger.*

It's alright for me old mum - she's already had an eye out.

I felt there was an opening for a piratical poem... watch this space.

* Do you know where the term Jolly Roger comes from? No? Neither does anybody else. The Wikipedia entry lists several possible origins of the term - none of which is entirely convincing.

p.s. Of course, I shouldn't be telling you any of this... you're only supposed to mention pirates when there's an Arrrrrr in the month!