Monthly Archives: October 2012

Interesting times in Broken Barnet

Like Paul Atreides in Dune, I find myself infected with terrible purpose.  Not to create a universal jihad that compels mankind to break free from its self-imposed shackles, of course, but rather to help the local campaign here in the London Borough of Barnet to bring down our utterly corrupt, self-serving council.

It’s not just that they’re trying to institute an insane gamble (“One Barnet”) to privatise all our public services on 10-year contracts that can’t be renegotiated, based on a phoney “graph of doom”, or that this is being driven by officers rather than the elected councillors who are supposed to implement policy on an electoral mandate; nor is it that they’d charge me £26 for a simple letter stating that I’m on the electoral roll, a service other councils provide for free.

Sad, mad and bad

I hereby apologies (sic.) for nicking this picture from “Broken Barnet”

No, it’s their unflagging support for a thoroughly unpleasant man named Brian Coleman, a councillor who has done the following:

  • implemented “pay by phone” parking as a preliminary part of “One Barnet”, which now means people who want to park need to use a smartphone app rather than putting cash into parking meters, resulting in a massive decline for high street business;
  • set anti-terror police on a café owner because she put up a poster about him (the “explanation” being that she hadn’t included her details on it as required by law);
  • insulted members of his electorate, for example calling a Jewish man an “anti-semite” and labelling his critics “sad, bad, mad and a couple of old hags”;
  • refused to apologise for any of his actions, even when officially censured, until eventually sending a badly-written letter (“I hereby apologies”) to the man he called an “anti-semite”.

In addition, while everyone in this country is innocent until unless proven guilty, he has been charged with assault of the aforementioned café owner after she photographed him parking illegally in a parking bay outside her establishment.  Unfortunately, the useless boss of the Barnet Conservative administration, Richard Cornelius, who appears to be a fan of his rude and insulting behaviour (he can be seen laughing at the “sad, bad, mad and a couple of old hags” comment in this video) and has refused to censure him, steadfastly refused to suspend him on this occasion, insisting this would “prejudice” his trial.  Would he have treated a lowly employee (a “pleb”, if you will) with the same kindness?  It seems he’s incapable of doing his job by his own admission, as quoted in the Barnet Times:

I have found it very difficult to deal with because I know and like Brian. These allegations have come along and I’ve found it very difficult to handle.

So obvious is his bias that the central Conservative party had to step in and force them to suspend Bruiser Brian.  Hopefully the sad little man’s political career is now over (he’s already been dumped from a number of positions, such as member of the Greater London Authority and chair of the London Fire Authority), but since he writes a blog as well (in which he randomly capitalises words, for no apparent reason), I would welcome him to comment, if he is so minded.  I’m sure he’s got plenty of time.

Anyway, the cause of bringing down this shower (obviously in terms of legal grass-roots activism!) gives me purpose in life; I’ve lent them support on a couple of occasions, and help update the blog for BAPS (wash your minds out, it stands for “Barnet Alliance for Public Services”).  However, I’m not turning this into one of the Barnet political blogs, as there are already several — here’s a run-down:

Cold, cold, but hopefully not cold

Oh blast, it’s constantly cold outside and I’m coming down with cold #94 for the year (ironically the day after I had a nice stir fry for dinner, with plenty of vegetables — so you can’t say I’m not keeping healthy in spite of everything).  However, I’m hoping I won’t be cold emotionally, as I’ve now started attending counselling sessions: last night was the first, and they’ll continue for another five weeks (illness notwithstanding).  I’ll keep you guys posted on how I progress, what knots she helps me untie in the tangled mess of my mind (though a game of “Ker Plunk!” might be a more appropriate metaphor), and whether I’d recommend it for any of you, though I’m sure none of your problems are like mine.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  All our problems are unique, and we all feel bad at times (I was watching the classic video to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” before I went last night), and we can’t really give each other useful advice because none of us are professional psychologists and thus our best advice to each other amounts to nothing more than random flailing about in the confusing sea of life.  Or something.

Anyway, even though my problems in life include total regret of my post-school education up to this point (which I’m hoping to redress), chronic lack of confidence talking to women as anything other than human beings (as in, I don’t feel I’m actually “allowed”, in the legal sense, to chat women up) and general pessimism, I know other people have problems as well, some of them worse (e.g. losing their job, running low on money, discovering they have the big “C” etc.).  In fact, I found out recently that a really close friend had been depressed earlier this year, despite thinking they’d managed to find “paradise” in their life!  That’s why I want to talk to that person so I might have some understanding, because I don’t want it to always be about me, and I want to be there for my friends.

I once noticed that while my own problems seem to floor me with distressing ease, my friends’ problems leave me relatively unfazed… which sounds callous, but actually I think it’s more that I can think clearly and figure out a way to help them, or at the very least support them without falling apart myself.  Maybe other people’s problems distract me from my own… and I do need things to distract me from brooding, dark thoughts.

Anyway, enough of that.  I now have to figure out if I’m even going to work tomorrow, as my throat resists a mug of hot chocolate (I really should have stopped at Tesco for some Lemsip or equivalent, shouldn’t I?) — and I probably won’t be able to go climbing this week, unless it’s another false alarm, of course.  At least a sore throat is my only real problem tonight, and if it develops into a cough, I’ll end up like this classic character…

Dave-ros time

Hammer Time, over 20 years before “Gangnam Style”

Don’t worry, I’m still here… oh, you were worried that I’d be back with another unfunny post.  Well, sorry to disappoint you, then!  On Wednesday night I had dinner with a friend in New Malden (a long way to go), and on Thursday night I went climbing again (nearly didn’t happen, as I forgot to bring tracksuit trousers and there was no “Session”, but fortunately I was able to climb in my jeans, and there was another lone climber looking for a partner).  So after two evenings spent being sociable, it was only right to stay in on Friday night and do my own thing…

What did I do?  What was “Dave-ros time” on this occasion, I can’t hear you cry because you’re not within earshot?  Well, first of all I watched Wednesday night’s Watchdog.  Yes, I know, you probably don’t care, but I do — I always like to see the little guy (or girl) being championed against faceless corporations and cowboys.  I’ll probably be ranting about e-books in a future post, but suffice to say there’s no way in hell I’m ever getting an Amazon Kindle if they can go wrong as easily as portrayed in this show, with an Amazon employee having apparently admitted they’re built to last a year, if that… and then there’s the bloated, sexist car mechanic who deliberately doesn’t check fuses because then he might be able to fix people’s cars cheaply, and looks like his breath smells of Guinness…

What next?  I ordered pizza (with sides).  Yes, I know, I’m supposed to be healthy, but I didn’t fancy cooking — and to make matters worse, I didn’t even go to pick it up from Domino’s because winter is clenching its icy fingers around our hearts (and it’s not even November!) and it would get cold being brought back here.  And I do like their garlic & herb dip.  And it’s hot food, c’mon!

What did I watch while eating my food?  The very last episode of Lee & Herring’s This Morning With Richard Not Judy, from 1999.  Yes, I know, I keep going on about them, but that’s because I’ve been watching all their shows recently — I was watching Kenny Everett’s shows before that, hence why I kept mentioning him in the early blog entries.  But still (saying “still” doesn’t make it true), it’s a shame they only lasted two seasons and The 11 O’Clock Show on the other side got recommissioned — anything with Iain Lee in it deserves to be banished from existence (yes, including RI:SE, the awful replacement for The Big Breakfast… whaddaya mean, get over it, it was ten years ago?!).

For the rest of my evening I watched Have I Got News For You (amazingly, Conrad Black didn’t come to blows with Ian Hislop!), Russell Howard’s Good News (yes, I find him amusing, even if he thinks ninjas wield samurai swords), and anything else that was on and would amuse me.  I also played video games, but didn’t write anything here because I was chilling out, okay?  I’m not the one on trial here, and I don’t have to justify my actions to you… you plebs!

(Yes, I’m sure Andrew Mitchell regrets using that term to describe a police officer, when he knows it’s supposed to be used to refer to us normal citizens…)

Anyway, as winter, clenched, icy fingers etc. is still in force today (the wind chill factor seems to make it feel like it’s below freezing!), I’m staying in again — right now I’m listening to Tony Blackburn’s show on Radio 2, and wishing the house would warm up… the heating control (which has an LCD display) had crashed like a, like a… like an Amazon Kindle!

Generic update #94

Don’t worry, I’m alive, and although I didn’t visit the quack this morning, I seem to be a bit better overall.  So maybe it was just constipation after all.  What, you think the condition of my bowels is somehow an unfit topic for the Internet?  Well then, content yourself with the knowledge that I’m “all right” for now, and probably don’t have a peptic ulcer yet (but stay tuned, you might be pleasantly surprised… if the thought of my pain and misery gives you pleasure, you sick person, you).

Anyway, this is mainly to let you know that I’m still writing this drivel and will be writing a post in the near future about classical music.  It’s one of my “new things” to try, listening to the famous tunes and learning them so I can recognise them, thus making myself look clever; I’ll include in the list just how I know these tunes, for example the advert in which I first heard “Anvil Chorus”, or the sketch that forever made a certain tune known to me as “Grieg’s Piano Concerto by Grieg”.

But oh, you know who else used to listen to classical music?  No, not Hitler, an even more unsavoury character:

Viddy well, little brother, viddy well…

Oh, what fresh hell is this?

“…approximately 20 pounds of an impacted clay-like substance…” –Autopsy report for a man believed to have been Elvis Presley (but actually a body double)

This isn’t good: I’m hoping it’s just a stomach bug, or a lack of fibre (I’d eat All-Bran if it didn’t taste so damned foul), but there’s also the possibility it’s a stomach ulcer — I’ll have to ask the doctor quack tomorrow.  All I know is, since the weekend I’ve felt like I’m carrying a housebrick in my intestines, which means I actually feel some discomfort at the moment when I sit down, and it’s been getting worse today, with the (ahem) usual means not relieving it at all.

An ulcer?  But I’m only (only?) 35 and seldom drink, and it’s not like I do anything important at work, so how could I possibly have an ulcer?  Well, I do let things get to me (like today when the button came off my trousers, not long after I’d received a rather annoyed e-mail from my supervisor telling me I’d behaved in a “totally unacceptable” manner when dealing with a social worker — by which I think she means I wasn’t enthusiastic enough?), as you may have noticed — posting “What Really Grinds My Gears” posts is a form of stress-relief, so tough, you’ll have to put up with them for a while yet.

It’s also worth noting that a friend of mine at university, who was doing not only Geology but Astrophysics (as an undergrad), and frequently had to go to lectures for one during the break between lectures for the other, had to go into hospital for a stomach ulcer at the end of our second year at RHUL, though admittedly he drank rather more than me (as do 99.999% of students).  Maybe it’s H. pylori and not stress (or spicy food) wot causes it, but we’ll see what the doc says tomorrow…

Oh, and the reason I’m writing something tonight is that my computer class was cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances” (well, if the circumstances had been foreseen, they’d have given us more warning, right?), but at least I’m off to New Malden tomorrow to have dinner with a friend.  Good to get out of the Smoke once in a while, isn’t it?  Just hope I don’t feel a whole lot worse by then, as I’m sure my friend would be bitterly disappointed at being denied my radiant presence…

(And yes, of course it was a body double — Elvis works at my local Tesco, with Lord Lucan and Amelia Earhart!  But mum’s the word…)

The gathering darkness: or, Winter nights really grind my gears

“The good thing about these dark nights is that you can’t see how dark and horrible it is outside.” –Tony Blackburn

After what I went through in October 2011 to January 2012, you’ll forgive me if I feel a certain foreboding about the increasingly dark nights and dismal weather.  The Sun doesn’t even rise until after I get up now; the clocks going back will mitigate that, but at the same time they’ll mean it gets darker even earlier!  I guess I didn’t realise just how much I was depending on the summer this year for positive emotions, and now the winter is really closing in, I don’t even need to get into a depressive phase to feel… ugh.

However, I’m determined to live through this horrible time of year, because next May I’m hoping to go on an adventure holiday in America (but need to book it — along with flights!), and in June my (female) best friend is getting married — all I have to do is make it through the long, dark night of the soul.  How will I achieve this?  By making the most of any brief moments of sunlight that make their way through the clouds and mist that seem to have formed a dome over Britain at the moment.  And if all else fails, I’ll run away to the south of France for a break — I’m sure at this time of year it’ll still be reasonably warm…

In other news, my C++ class on Tuesday has been postponed.  While this means I’ve got one less bit of human interaction this week, it does at least leave me another evening free to hang out with anyone who wants to do so (not climbing, I went on Sunday with my mother and will be waiting until Thursday before I do that again!).  Then again, maybe I’d rather stay in the (relative) warm indoors… what do you guys reckon?  I never seem to get any comments any more that aren’t spam (see number at right), so please feel free to say something, criticise my humour, insult my intelligence etc. and let me know you’re out there, somewhere!

Videos wot have cheered me up: “Still Alive” from Portal

Those of you who have completed the video game Portal will know this song, the coda sung over the game’s credits by the psychotic supercomputer GlaDOS, after you’ve destroyed her and escaped (or so you think — there is a sequel).

It’s also kind of an anthem for me, because I am (a) still alive, despite my depressive phases and dark thoughts (which I’ve resolved to overcome), and (b) insane and planning to experiment on captive humans for my own twisted enjoyment (which of course makes me quite proud).

Suicide trains, misleading headlines and the Great Firewall of Britain

As I was struggling home this evening on the Northern Line (apparently someone got sick at Kentish Town, but fortunately it was only a short delay), I noticed all the London Evening Standard headlines around me said:


My first thought was “ah, the next phase in our government’s campaign to control what we can read and say on the Internet”, but fortunately, upon actually reading the article at their website (linkage), it turns out this is yet another one of those headlines that seems like a strong totalitarian opinion that “no-one could argue with”, but which conceals a fairly reasonable article.  To wit: removing material glorifying suicide, or bullying people into do it, is one thing, but people should certainly be allowed to discuss the issue and seek help.

However, how exactly does one “remove” material on the Internet that isn’t hosted in one’s country?  Unfortunately, increasingly the government du jour (which I say because Zanu-Liebore — sorry, “New Labour” — were pressing ahead with similar plans when they were unceremoniously booted out in 2010) want to do this by imposing mandatory web filtering on us all.  When it’s not “every Internet connection should be censored for adult material, unless the owner specifically asks for it not to be” (and how will that affect CRB checks, I wonder, as well as ISPs’ prices?), it’s “we want to censor this obviously offensive material that no right-thinking citizen could possibly want to see” (such as “extremist material” — but only by Muslims, not US Christian movements that claim “God hates fags”, I note).

And frankly, I doubt their motives in this case, and believe they’re exploiting public sympathy in order to implement measures that won’t stop future tragedies (remember the demands for an anti-paedophile button on Facebook, the same as the one which was already on MSN Messenger and didn’t save that poor girl?), but will enable them to tighten the metaphorical noose around all our necks.  They criticise China for its “Great Firewall”, but you can bet this would only be the thin end of the wedge, and even if they don’t ban (for example) websites critical of the government, a future government absolutely would.

In all these cases, concerned citizens should be taking responsibility for their own affairs — educating their children to keep them safe instead of demanding the government “make Internet porn go away”, and seeking help from professionals to cope with suicidal feelings.  I myself have been speaking to a free counselling service at work, so I won’t have to bore my Facebook friends with “depressing” posts (hi, Gabe, if you’re reading), and this means I won’t have to ask my family or friends for help they’re ill-equipped to give (especially when they have their own problems to cope with, often far worse than anything I can complain about).

Anyway, that’s all I have to say for this evening: although the weather today has been utterly, utterly miserable, and work has been vexing due to the annoyingly loud woman being annoyingly louder than usual (I really can’t stand people who laugh at their own jokes, as though they’re showing everyone else what to do), I’m keeping my chin up… we have a new, hopefully fully-working microwave in the house, so I can make popcorn tonight without worrying that it’s under- or overcooked!  And before that, pizza — with fake Quorn bacon defrosted in same gadget and put on top (yes, I’m a vegetarian, but those of you who didn’t come here through a Google search knew that anyway and had forgiven me).  Good night out there, whatever you are…

Onwards, but not necessarily upwards

Tonight I wondered if I had the strength to carry on, whether I could rise above my problems, or whether I should just give up and plunge back down to my nadir in miserable defeat.

And then I got to the top of the climbing wall, aaah!  Yes, your expectations were confounded and from thence the humour arose.  But to be serious (and to drop the Lee & Herring in-jokes) for a moment, I have been fine this evening, with no dark thoughts or miserable brooding.  And while I know it can change suddenly over something really stupid and insignificant, I at least took the first step and admitted it to a nice man over a telephone.

So anyway, tonight I went climbing in The Castle’s “The Session” (7-9pm on weeknights), and despite being a bit late due to the difficulty of getting a bus over to Arnos Grove, I had plenty of chances to climb as the Session instructor (a scary woman who recognised me from a previous Session) couldn’t herself climb, due to a painful wrist, so I didn’t have to do any belaying, I just climbed (clomb?) all night.  My arms hurt, but it’s a good kind of pain (for a change!), and best of all, I can impress my mother (who got me into it in the first place) this weekend with how much better I am since the last time we climbed (clomb?) together.

Nothing else to report, except a curious number of visits to this site by someone in America looking up some long and tedious sentence about the class system… isn’t anyone interested in overcoming depression any more?  Should I bring in more hits by using the words “puking pumpkin” again?