Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Choirboy And The Ballerina

Joseph the choirboy with vicar Michael Burley of Burley.

Ellie the ballerina, she's so sweet.
I'm Sorry

I would like to apologise for the slave trade.

Despite the fact that it all happened hundreds of years before I was, and that as far as I can discover not a single one of my distant ancestors was in any way associated with this vile industry, I would like to say how sorry I am.

Whilst I'm in the mood for apologising, I'm sorry for transporting all those poor folks over to Australia, it was a harsh punishment often for very minor crimes and I fully accept that many of those people transported should have been left here in the UK. Especially the ancestors of Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting.

The Highland Clearences were a rather nasty thing as well, all those poor Jocks being kicked off their scratty patches of moorland, that was just mean, and I'm sorry.

I think we might have been a little hasty in declaring war on Spain after Captain Robert Jenkins ear got cut off, to be fair, before Jenkins turned up at parliament with the damned organ pickled in a jar, nobody had actually seen any dastardly Spaniards wielding blades in the general direction of Jenkins bonce and the whole fracas seems to have kicked off because one man's barber spent the previous night on the rum.

I think we're probably due an apology from Israel for that nation's vile treatment of the late Jesus Christ, come guys, own up and say sorry.

Or not perhaps, because it's all bollocks trying to apologise for things I did not do and had no control over.

Perhaps if our esteemed leaders were to apologise for something, and I am sorry I ever professed support for this, it would the the 'war' in Iraq, up to 650,000 people have died and we must bear a measure of responsibility for it.

Further back in history, but still well within living memory, perhaps further apologies are due to the people of Kenya for acts of violence and extreme repression verging on genocide committed by our troops at the time of the Mau Mau Rebellion.

Mr Bliar seems to be tapping into the cult of sorry, but for what purpose, he didn't do it, every single person involved has been dead for nearly two hundred years.

Perhaps in about the year 2205, a British Prime Minister will be apologising to the people of Iraq.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Menu Sir ?

The menu at a riverfront restaurant in Singapore, you can't get any fresher than that.
Art ?

This was on the river in front of the opera house in Singapore, I can't decide if it it a work of art or has some practical purpose. These Southern hemisphere types like their musical structures in odd shapes, you would all recognise the opera house in Sydney, but look at this weird thing from Singapore....

Giant durian ? Monstrous pineapple ?
Australia, Gloriously Non PC

Sadly, I didn't take any pictures of Nigga Butter, Abo Bitter or Thieving Gypsy Bastard Clothes Pegs.
It's A Brit Thing

(Stolen from Fluos)
Why They Hate Us

Just go and have a look as this brilliant little photo pastiche over on Sad Old Goth.

Of course, you could quite easily substitute the UK for the USA in that series.
Book Review : The Farm - Ricahrd Benson****

Richard Benson grew up on a farm in the Yorkshire Wolds. His parents had just enough land to earn a living for themselves and their three children, the work was hard and long, but fairly paid in the end.

As Richard grew up he could never quite fit in on the farm, clumsy and uneasy with livestock, he became a good pupil at school and eventually went to university and became a journalist. In the time it took for Ricahrd to become his own man, life was changing for his parents and the brother that had stayed on to work with them.

The rise and rise of the supermarkets was sounding the death knell for thousands of small farmers, as meat prices plummeted and only farms working on a vast scale of production could make a profit, many smallholders found that their beasts were raising less money at auction than they had spent on feed to fatten them up.

It is this scenario that Benson describes, he comes back to the family farm where his stoic father and tearful mother expalin to him that they will have to sell the farm. It seems that the only way to secure any kind of financial future is to sell off the farm buildings for conversion into holiday or retirement homes.

This isn't a story where the prodigal son returns home and turns around the family fortunes, against the multinational seed corporations and factory scale pig farms there is almost nothing that can be done to save the farm. Instead they raise money as best they can, selling the buildings, holding a heartbreaking auction of livestock, tools and equipment.

There is redemption of a sort to be found though, Richard becomes closer to his family, especially his brother, and all is not quite doom and gloom. Theis book though makes a powerful and engaging statement about the effects the supermarkets and our own food purchasing have on people in the production chain.

A few notes from The Farm....

In 1939 there were approximately 500,000 farms in Britain, today there are about 19,000

Four companies (Tesco, Asda-Walmart, Sainsburys, Morrisons) account for about 70% of all food sales in the UK.

On average, a farmer receives about 7.5p for every £1 spent on food, fifty years ago this sum would have been nearer to 50 pence.
Shania Twain sings AC/DC

Here on You Tube

I think this song works quite well as a country song.

(Thanks to my Scrobbler friend Chickuwasie)

And she's certainly easier on the eye....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Last of The Great DJ's

That's it then, the last of the men who helped to shape my taste in music has shuffled off this mortal coil, John Peel, Tommy Vance, and yesterday the great Alan Fluff Freeman.

Fluff did three years or so on the late night Saturday Rock Show, plus DJ'ing at some big festivals.

We were coming home from Monsters Of Rock one year, Fluff was presenting the Rock Show and he played a live 20 minute version of Pink Floyd's Crazy Diamond, when the song eventually finished he said "I've been drinking rather a lot tonight and can't be bothered changing the record, so here are Pink Floyd again."

Top bloke, at least he'll be in good company.
Book Review : Freakonomics - Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner****

Economist Steven Levitt sees the world from a slightly different angle to the rest of us, and with the help of journalist Stephen Dubner he looks into various topics that you may not have considered as economics, and that you may not have thought were linked at all.

What do estate agents and the Ku Klux Klan have in common ?
Why do most drug dealers still live with their mums ?
Does what name you give your child affect its chances of future prosperity ?

Levitt's findings make for tremendously entertaining reading. I was enthralled by the chapter on drug dealing economics and the inherent risks of the business, and similarly by the lists of names given to black and white children. If your name is Jazmine, Destinee, Angel or Heaven then the chances are that your parents had rather less education than the parents who named their offspring Lucienne, Sander, Glynnis or Sacha.

There are more similarly offbeat investigations, such as how legalised abortion has affected the crime rate, and, what is more dangerous for your child, a gun or a swimming pool ?

All the research and studies were conducted in America, but it still makes for intersting reading. The authors also write a blog.....

Freakonomics Blog
...But Only One Dumb Animal To Wear It ?

I'm usually right behind whatever green crusade the Independant is trumpeting about this week, but Sunday's front page investigation in to the UK's resurgent fur trade was hardly a revelation.

The Indy has a photo parade of rich and famous women all wearing various kinds of 'cruel' fur fashion, sorry, but does the Indat think that telling us that rich/famous people are stupid, shallow, thoughtless fashion victims really counts as news ? I would have thought it just an exercise in stating the obvious.

For each fur clad celeb the Indy gave a cruelty rating for their choice of dress.

Nicole Richie appears in public with various dead things draped around her. Nicole Richie ought to be shot, come the glorious and bloody revolution both her and her vacant pal Paris Hilton are amongst the first against the wall. As dumb as she is already, the fur hardly makes her any more stupid.

The Indy was moaning about her wearing a rabbit fur coat, we surely don't need to save the rabbits now do we ? There's millions of the little buggers. This photo shows her wearing, well, to be honest it looks like roadkill. Is Nicole stupid enough to wear roadkill if somone told her it was trendy ? Yes.

Miniature sex siren Dita Von Teese wears a mink and chiffon coat thingy. Look, she married Marilyn Manson so she's hardly top of the taste tree is she ? I quite like this one actually, it suits her image, and anyway mink are evil, vicious little buggers, far better off skinned.

The lovely Keira Knightley wears a karakul lambskin. The Indy worked itself up into a real sweat on the cruelty factor here. Apparently to get the softest skin a man sticks his hand up a sheeps vagina into the womb and peels the unborn lamb alive with a rusty razor, no really.

Sophie Dahl, I liked her better when she was real woman sized rather then her current child/waif weight. She's wearing white mink and fox, which are presumably tortured to death in order to make the fur brighter.

Lastly, fo' shizzle, it's Snoop Dog, it's a fashion disaster of bilbical proportions, his style consultant is Stevie Wonder.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Minutes Pass So Slowly at 3am

Insomnia again, it kicked in right after we got back from holiday and last week I thought it was just a jetlag type reaction to the flight back from Australia, but now I have been wide awake in the small hours for 5 strait nights, it's a bugger.

I think insomnia affects people in different ways, some folk just can't get off to sleep when they go to bed. That isn't my problem, I sleep just fine when I first go to bed, but it's like my brain has a little internal alarm ticking, and at around 3am, bing, I'm awake, wide awake.

Sometimes I just lie there, but I can't stop myself from thinking, after a while there is just too much going on in my head, too many thoughts, too many ideas being mulled over, old problems being rehashed, past experiences being re-lived, so I have to get up and do something to try and put my brain to rest.

For an England cricket fan, insomnia would seem to be ideal just as the Ashes are starting, great, an excuse to be up all night watching cricket. But as the nights wear on you get more and more tired, you really don't want to be up and watching tv, or reading, or doing anything, you just really want to be back in bed, asleep, but you know that's not going to happen.

Sometimes during these periods of early morning early morning sleep loss I com to and realise that I have been just standing still, staring off into nowhere for minutes on end, at other times I am all too painfully aware of every passing second. Your eyes seem drawn to the clockface as the minutes march by, counting down to the time when you would be rising if you had a normal night's sleep.

There is nothing productive you can do in these periods, I feel exhausted, dissasociated, not quite connected to the real world. Then when the day starts proper you are aching or sleep. Sunday in particular was a hard day, I'd had a bit to drink the night before, almost no sleep for four nights, and a fairly busy lunch to work, it was quite a struggle.

Today I feel a little better, I went to bed early, dropped off to sleep at about 8.30pm, but come 2am, bing, I'm awake again. Still, 5 1/2 hours is the best I have managed all week.

I've spent half the afternoon at the gym today, I've cut way down on my coffee intake, I'll try not to eat too close to going to bed, it may work, or it may not. My insomnia comes and goes, I never know what has really triggered it, or when it will end, but when it does end, it ends suddenly, I'll go to bed and sleep through and the problem will vanish for months, even years.
Keep Them coming Back

I was much amused at the gym today, the Christmas Challenge is pinned up on the wall, in Week 1 the challenge is to burn off units of calories equal to mince pies, whilst downstairs in the cafe, the special of the day is coffee with......mince pies!
Book Review : Death In The Afternoon - Ernest Hemingway***

Hemingway is yet another of the great writers that I have never read, I'm quite keen on seeing a bullfight and when I saw this paperback languishing in a second hand shop I snapped it up.

This book will tell you pretty much everything you would ever want to know about the traditions and mechanics of bullfighting, and about the men who undertook this risky occupation in the years up to 1930 or so.

Hemingwa was obviously greatly taken with the spectacle of the bullfight and had strong, and well informed, opinions about the event. Death In The Afternoon provides a guide to the uninitiated from the basics, where to see fights, how to buy tickets, through to the event itself with an exhaustive glossary and descriptions of terms, movements, styles and individuals.

Hemingway must have caused a storm when this book was published, his opinions on some fighters are shocking, if he considered a matador 'cowardly', if you can call any man a coward who would take on an angry bull in single combat, he would write that such a man would be better off killed rather than continue to disgrace the ring. Although there may have been a few matadors happy with Hemingway's description of them, there must have been many more who would have happily run him through with a banderilla after reading his scathing thoughts.

Bullfighting was a much more dangerous profession in this era than it is in the modern day, but even so Hemingway mourned the breeding of small, less dangerous bulls which he thought had taken much of the true honour and bravery out of the fight. The men who had instigated this bredding of smaller animals, the matadors themselves, were obviously of differing opinion.

This book did no shy away from the controversy of bullfighting, included is a chapter with gives the opinions of a number of people on seeing their first (and often their one and only) bullfight. Hemingway does ask though that people give the bullfight a chance, the only people he is totally dismissive of are those who attend a fight fully intending to walk out after the first death.

The deaths of men and horses in the ring is given plenty of space as well, also horse lovers would not be happy with Hemingway's couldn't care less attitude about the horses (and sometimes about the men). Bullfighting in this age was obviously an intensively dangerous occupation, even the very best matadors seemed to suffer regular and dreadful gorings, deaths in the ring were common, and the careers of many of the finest fighters were ended by bulls.

Also included are some articles concerned with death in many forms, and some rather strange 'discussions' Hemingway has about bullfighting wit an imaginary old lady, the last chapter lists at some length all the things that Hemingway thought should have been included in an exhaustive work about bullfighting but couldn't be bothered including.

I enjoyed Hemingway's forthright writing style, and the bravery he showed both in voicing his opinions and in the research he did, he did some training in the ring with bulls with blunted horns but quickly realised he had not the speed, style or grace required to fight bulls, and he admits this.

An interesting writer, I'll be on the look out for a copy of the The Old Man And The Sea, anyone have a spare one ?
The Masterplan is working....

Ashes 2005, England lose 1st test by 239 runs, go on to win series.

Ashes 2006-7, England lose 1st test by 277 runs.......

Seriously though, I think we will bat better than that, but I am a little concerned over the state of our bowling.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

100 Best Sci Fi Novels

A list from Phobus Entertainment, whoever they may be....

1 Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
2 Foundation by Isaac Asimov
3 Dune by Frank Herbert
4 The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
5 Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
6 Valis by Philip K. Dick
7 Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
8 Gateway by Frederik Pohl
9 Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl
10 Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
11 Cuckoo’s Egg by C.J. Cherryh
12 Star Surgeon by James White
13 The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick
14 Radix by A. A. Attanasio
15 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
16 Ringworld by Larry Niven
17 A Case of Conscience by James Blish
18 Last and First Man by Olaf Stapledon
19 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
20 Way Station by Clifford D. Simak
21 More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
22 Gray Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith
23 The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
24 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
25 Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock
26 Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
27 The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
28 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
29 Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley
30 The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
31 The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
32 Slan by A. E. Van Vogt
33 Neuromancer by William Gibson
34 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
35 In Conquest Born by C. S. Friedman
36 Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
37 Eon by Greg Bear
38 Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
39 Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
40 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
41 Cosm by Gregory Benford
42 The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. Van Vogt
43 Blood Music by Greg Bear
44 Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
45 Omnivore by Piers Anthony
46 I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
47 Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
48 To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer
49 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
50 The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold
51 1984 by George Orwell
52 The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl And Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
53 Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
54 Flesh by Philip Jose Farmer
55 Cities in Flight by James Blish
56 Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
57 Startide Rising by David Brin
58 Triton by Samuel R. Delany
59 Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
60 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
61 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
62 A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
63 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
64 No Blade of Grass by John Christopher
65 The Postman by David Brin
66 Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
67 Berserker by Fred Saberhagen
68 Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott
69 Planiverse by A. K. Dewdney
70 Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward
71 Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh
72 Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
73 The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein
74 The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
75 Forever War by Joe Haldeman
76 Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison
77 Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky
78 The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
79 The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
80 Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
81 Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
82 Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
83 Upanishads by Various
84 Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
85 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
86 The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
87 The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
88 Mutant by Henry Kuttner
89 Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
90 Ralph 124C41+ by Hugo Gernsback
91 I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
92 Timescape by Gregory Benford
93 The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
94 War with the Newts by Karel Capek
95 Mars by Ben Bova
96 Brain Wave by Poul Anderson
97 Hyperion by Dan Simmons
98 The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
99 Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch
100 A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Only 30! Ther's clearly a lot wrong with this list then. No Stephen Baxter ? Peter Hamilton ? Maybe I would have scored much better on the slightly more obscure 100 Best Space Opera's list.

Any suggestions for great sci fi titles missing from this list ?
100 Books To Read Before You Die

Why do they say before you die ? It's not like you're going to do much page turning after the grim reaper calls, but I digress, here's a list from the BBC's 2003 Big Read survey....

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Hmm, I think I've read 30 from that list, and that's only because the list is quite heavy on lightweight fantasy (Pratchett etc).

Here is an alternative list the The Gruaniad came up with...

1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
The story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza has entranced readers for centuries.

2. Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan
The one with the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair.

3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
The first English novel.

4. Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift
A wonderful satire that still works for all ages, despite the savagery of Swift's vision.

5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding
The adventures of a high-spirited orphan boy: an unbeatable plot and a lot of sex ending in a blissful marriage.

6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson
One of the longest novels in the English language, but unputdownable.

7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
One of the first bestsellers, dismissed by Dr Johnson as too fashionable for its own good.

8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
An epistolary novel and a handbook for seducers: foppish, French, and ferocious.

9. Emma Jane Austen
Near impossible choice between this and Pride and Prejudice. But Emma never fails to fascinate and annoy.

10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
Inspired by spending too much time with Shelley and Byron.

11. Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock
A classic miniature: a brilliant satire on the Romantic novel.

12. The Black Sheep Honore De Balzac
Two rivals fight for the love of a femme fatale. Wrongly overlooked.

13. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal
Penetrating and compelling chronicle of life in an Italian court in post-Napoleonic France.

14. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
A revenge thriller also set in France after Bonaparte: a masterpiece of adventure writing.

15. Sybil Benjamin Disraeli
Apart from Churchill, no other British political figure shows literary genius.

16. David Copperfield Charles Dickens
This highly autobiographical novel is the one its author liked best.

17. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff have passed into the language. Impossible to ignore.

18. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
Obsessive emotional grip and haunting narrative.

19. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
The improving tale of Becky Sharp.

20. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
A classic investigation of the American mind.

21. Moby-Dick Herman Melville
'Call me Ishmael' is one of the most famous opening sentences of any novel.

22. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
You could summarise this as a story of adultery in provincial France, and miss the point entirely.

23. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
Gripping mystery novel of concealed identity, abduction, fraud and mental cruelty.

24. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
A story written for the nine-year-old daughter of an Oxford don that still baffles most kids.

25. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott
Victorian bestseller about a New England family of girls.

26. The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope
A majestic assault on the corruption of late Victorian England.

27. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
The supreme novel of the married woman's passion for a younger man.

28. Daniel Deronda George Eliot
A passion and an exotic grandeur that is strange and unsettling.

29. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky
Mystical tragedy by the author of Crime and Punishment.

30. The Portrait of a Lady Henry James
The story of Isabel Archer shows James at his witty and polished best.

31. Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Twain was a humorist, but this picture of Mississippi life is profoundly moral and still incredibly influential.

32. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson
A brilliantly suggestive, resonant study of human duality by a natural storyteller.

33. Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
One of the funniest English books ever written.

34. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
A coded and epigrammatic melodrama inspired by his own tortured homosexuality.

35. The Diary of a Nobody George Grossmith
This classic of Victorian suburbia will always be renowned for the character of Mr Pooter.

36. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy
Its savage bleakness makes it one of the first twentieth-century novels.

37. The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
A prewar invasion-scare spy thriller by a writer later shot for his part in the Irish republican rising.

38. The Call of the Wild Jack London
The story of a dog who joins a pack of wolves after his master's death.

39. Nostromo Joseph Conrad
Conrad's masterpiece: a tale of money, love and revolutionary politics.

40. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
This children's classic was inspired by bedtime stories for Grahame's son.

41. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust
An unforgettable portrait of Paris in the belle epoque. Probably the longest novel on this list.

42. The Rainbow D. H. Lawrence
Novels seized by the police, like this one, have a special afterlife.

43. The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford
This account of the adulterous lives of two Edwardian couples is a classic of unreliable narration.

44. The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan
A classic adventure story for boys, jammed with action, violence and suspense.

45. Ulysses James Joyce
Also pursued by the British police, this is a novel more discussed than read.

46. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf
Secures Woolf's position as one of the great twentieth-century English novelists.

47. A Passage to India E. M. Forster
The great novel of the British Raj, it remains a brilliant study of empire.

48. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
The quintessential Jazz Age novel.

49. The Trial Franz Kafka
The enigmatic story of Joseph K.

50. Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway
He is remembered for his novels, but it was the short stories that first attracted notice.

51. Journey to the End of the Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine
The experiences of an unattractive slum doctor during the Great War: a masterpiece of linguistic innovation.

52. As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
A strange black comedy by an American master.

53. Brave New World Aldous Huxley
Dystopian fantasy about the world of the seventh century AF (after Ford).

54. Scoop Evelyn Waugh
The supreme Fleet Street novel.

55. USA John Dos Passos
An extraordinary trilogy that uses a variety of narrative devices to express the story of America.

56. The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
Introducing Philip Marlowe: cool, sharp, handsome - and bitterly alone.

57. The Pursuit Of Love Nancy Mitford
An exquisite comedy of manners with countless fans.

58. The Plague Albert Camus
A mysterious plague sweeps through the Algerian town of Oran.

59. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
This tale of one man's struggle against totalitarianism has been appropriated the world over.

60. Malone Dies Samuel Beckett
Part of a trilogy of astonishing monologues in the black comic voice of the author of Waiting for Godot.

61. Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
A week in the life of Holden Caulfield. A cult novel that still mesmerises.

62. Wise Blood Flannery O'Connor
A disturbing novel of religious extremism set in the Deep South.

63. Charlotte's Web E. B. White
How Wilbur the pig was saved by the literary genius of a friendly spider.

64. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
Enough said!

65. Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis
An astonishing debut: the painfully funny English novel of the Fifties.

66. Lord of the Flies William Golding
Schoolboys become savages: a bleak vision of human nature.

67. The Quiet American Graham Greene
Prophetic novel set in 1950s Vietnam.

68 On the Road Jack Kerouac
The Beat Generation bible.

69. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Humbert Humbert's obsession with Lolita is a tour de force of style and narrative.

70. The Tin Drum Gunter Grass
Hugely influential, Rabelaisian novel of Hitler's Germany.

71. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
Nigeria at the beginning of colonialism. A classic of African literature.

72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
A writer who made her debut in The Observer - and her prose is like cut glass.

73. To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
Scout, a six-year-old girl, narrates an enthralling story of racial prejudice in the Deep South.

74. Catch-22 Joseph Heller
'[He] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.'

75. Herzog Saul Bellow
Adultery and nervous breakdown in Chicago.

76. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A postmodern masterpiece.

77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Elizabeth Taylor
A haunting, understated study of old age.

78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carre
A thrilling elegy for post-imperial Britain.

79. Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
The definitive novelist of the African-American experience.

80. The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge
Macabre comedy of provincial life.

81. The Executioner's Song Norman Mailer
This quasi-documentary account of the life and death of Gary Gilmore is possibly his masterpiece.

82. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller Italo Calvino
A strange, compelling story about the pleasures of reading.

83. A Bend in the River V. S. Naipaul
The finest living writer of English prose. This is his masterpiece: edgily reminiscent of Heart of Darkness.

84. Waiting for the Barbarians J.M. Coetzee
Bleak but haunting allegory of apartheid by the Nobel prizewinner.

85. Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
Haunting, poetic story, drowned in water and light, about three generations of women.

86. Lanark Alasdair Gray
Seething vision of Glasgow. A Scottish classic.

87. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
Dazzling metaphysical thriller set in the Manhattan of the 1970s.

88. The BFG Roald Dahl
A bestseller by the most popular postwar writer for children of all ages.

89. The Periodic Table Primo Levi
A prose poem about the delights of chemistry.

90. Money Martin Amis
The novel that bags Amis's place on any list.

91. An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro
A collaborator from prewar Japan reluctantly discloses his betrayal of friends and family.

92. Oscar And Lucinda Peter Carey
A great contemporary love story set in nineteenth-century Australia by double Booker prizewinner.

93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera
Inspired by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, this is a magical fusion of history, autobiography and ideas.

94. Haroun and the Sea af Stories Salman Rushdie
In this entrancing story Rushdie plays with the idea of narrative itself.

95. La Confidential James Ellroy
Three LAPD detectives are brought face to face with the secrets of their corrupt and violent careers.

96. Wise Children Angela Carter
A theatrical extravaganza by a brilliant exponent of magic realism.

97. Atonement Ian McEwan
Acclaimed short-story writer achieves a contemporary classic of mesmerising narrative conviction.

98. Northern Lights Philip Pullman
Lyra's quest weaves fantasy, horror and the play of ideas into a truly great contemporary children's book.

99. American Pastoral Philip Roth
For years, Roth was famous for Portnoy's Complaint . Recently, he has enjoyed an extraordinary revival.

100. Austerlitz W. G. Sebald
Posthumously published volume in a sequence of dream-like fictions spun from memory, photographs and the German past.

I have read just 12 from that one, good grief, that seems a bit paltry. It gives me a few ideas for books to look out for though.

I have just read Shantarm by Gregory David Roberts, a gorgeous, sumptous novel that deserves to be on any 'best 100' list, full review will follow.
Book Review : In Cold Blood - Truman Capote****

I've grabbed a few of the modern 'classics' in order to broaden my reading experience, the first one I picked, Jack Kerouac's On The Road was bloody awful, and so In Cold Blood, purchased at the same time, languished on my shelves for some months before I picked it up.

This is a much better book though, Capote exhaustively interviews everyone involved with the brutal mass murder of a family in rural 50's Kansas and then recreates the events that led to the crime, the crime itself, and how the murders affected the murderers and the community.

Capote tells the crime and its fall out as a story, slowly building up the characters of the doomed family and their almost conscience free killers. He does not dwell on the murders themselves in a glorifying fashion as many true crime writers seem to, but takes you deeply into the day to day lives of all the people involved.

This is a sad and disturbing tale, the two murderers seem so comfortable with their crimes, so blase about what they have done. In researching their backgrounds we might expect to find all the things that we know makes up the psyche of a killer, the poverty, a miserable and abused childhood, poor education and lack of opportunites in life, but whilst one of the boys ticks all the boxes in this respect, the other just seems to be a normal boy who simply chooses to do evil, this is the uncomfortable truth that Capote confronts us with.

Capote's research assisstant for this novel was Harper Lee who had won acclaim acclaim with 'To Kill A Mockingbird', perhaps that should be the next on my classics hit list.
Book Review : The Voyage Of The Sable Keech - Neal Asher***

Asher returns to the world of Spatterjay in this sequal to 'The Skinner', but apart from making a few quid, I don't know why. I'm a big fan of Neal Asher, but I have to admit I was a bit dissapointed by this effort.

I think the reason I couldn't really enjoy this novel is twofold, firstly, it is rather similar to the previous book set on Spatterjay, and second, I really couldn't get into the driving character, walking deadman Taylor Bloc.

Asher still does some things brilliantly though, his never sated wildlife creations are fantastic, from the hammer whelks, the whirling prill and the humungous whelkus titanicus, this novel crawls with a multitude of hugely dangerous beasties. And as if the various forms of hungry death available on Spatterjay were not enough, someone has managed to import another of Asher's monstrous creations, a Hooder, onto the planet, let the blood and mayhem begin then.

For me, the sequences with Spatterjays biofauna worked better than the plot itself, which picks up al the threads seen in the first book, Sniper gets a bigger drone body, dead people seek resurrection, Prador kill everything that crosses their alien path, Old Captains do, well, pretty much whatever they want to, who could stop them ?

I loved the elongated chase sequence as the giant whelk seeks revenge for it's consumed brood, but Taylor Bloc's search for truth and viral rebirth wasn't as compelling.

This is still a fair sf novel, but check out 'The Skinner', 'Gridlinked' and 'Line Of Polity' to read Asher at his best.
Australian Cuisine

What is going on here ?. You may well ask. Are you expected to clean the windows in Australian restaurants ? No, this is what you get when you ask for vinegar to go with your fish and chips. I must admit to being a little sceptical and had to spray some on a plate before I was convinced on the contents.

To drink, Victoria Bitter, it's not bitter, it's not even nice. They do fabulous wine down under, but they can't brew ales to save their lives.

Looking across the city of Perth from King's Park. I quite like Perth, as cities go it's not bad, I mean it's certainly no Paris, London, Barcelona or Rome, but the Australian youngsters havn't done too badly for themselves.

Queen Victoria seen through the (Bird Of Paradise ?) flowers in King's Park.

The thing I really didn't like about Perth is the architecture, now there are some nice looking houses, the high rises in the city centre are nice eough in the sunshine, but commercial architecture seems to be uniformly "Hey Bruce, let's build them all square and boring, and put a big sign on the front". I know it's a young place, but surely some of their architects could have a quick trip around the interwebnet to see what buildings look like in really pretty cities.

We went to a couple of restaurants, including a quite fabulous Chinese which had all the external and internal ambience of a packing shed. It's a pretty enough place, especially in November when the the city turns purple as the lovely Jacaranda trees explode into bloom, yet many places have no windows.

I saw lots of Asian girls with white boyfriends, but hardly any white girls with Asian boys. Most Aboriginies seemed to be distinctly second class citizens, although I only saw a handful of the real Australians.

Otherwise, I loved Perth, the area where we stayed, Cottesloe / Peppermint Grove was home from home, it was just Ilkley / Middleton in the sun, with all the lovely little shops, cafes and fine food shops but without the pretensions. I enjoyed eating in restaurants where we sat on plastic garden style or formica tables, cutlery arrived wrapped in a paper serviette, but the food and wine were great. I like this, more emphasis on the food rather than the peripherals.

Boat sheds on the Swan River.

Lunch in King's Park, lovely.
What Is He Thinking ?

As Australia amass a lead of several thousand runs in the first test, why on earth didn't Punter enforce the follow on, england were already reeling, McGrath was on the form of his life, he could have had it all wrapped up by the end of day three.

Perhaps the Strayan authorities have chucked Punter a bung to ensure that the match goes to a fifth day thus ensuring that thousands more pints of bloody awful VB Bitter and Carlton Mid Strength Second Hand Urine are consumed.

What Australia really needs are some more German and Belgian immigrants to teach them how to brew a decent lager.

Anyway, my prediction for the rests of the test (only slightly tongue in cheek), Punter bats on until mid morning when England are forced to the field chasing a total of around 800. Strauss and Cook suddenly transform themselves (well not suddenly obviously, more like achingly slowley) into clones of Geoff Boycott and bat for six hours each whilst only racking up 136 runs between them, a sudden flurry of wickets mid afternoon on day five sees Matthew Hoggard coming to the crease, he blocks away until stumps are pulled and the Strayan press indulge themselves in an orgy of bloodletting concerning Punter's tactics.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Boo, Hiss, It's The Fun Police

First off, well done Australia, they were nothing short of fantastic on day two.

The Australian authorities at Brisbane though are a different matter, petty, small minded and cowardly they are. The Australians have decided that the Barmy Army were giving too much support to the England team yesterday, so when the thousands of England fans arrived for the second day of the test they were somewhat bemused to find that their block allocation had been broken up and that fans had been scattered all around the ground in two's and three's.

These are people who have spent thousands of pounds to fly across the globe and support their team, it's a bit piss poor when after all that organisation, time and money spent, you turn up and find out that you're not allowed to sit with your mates.

The Barmy Army had also brought a trumpeter with them, this morning he was ejected from the ground for playing, draconian ? Why didn't they just ask him to stop playing ?

So that's the Australians this year, warriors on the pitch, hiding behind mummy's skirts on the terraces, who would have thought that all those big, brave Strayan blokes were afraid of a bit of English chanting and singing ?

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Looking across the rainforest to the docks, the temperature and humidity was a bit of a change for us Brits.

A man made beach on Sentosa island, complete with passing oil tankers, the water looked clean enough though. In fact, Singapore is a tremendously clean place, the airport, the hotels, the streets, the taxis, all sparkling clean. Chewing gum is illegal and littering attracts a 1000 dollar fine.

After a nourishing lunch (on my own, jet lag having claimed the other three) I walked down the river through Singapore, this is the Alkaff brdige, painted by local artist Pacita Abad.

The riverside sculpture 'First Generation' by Zhang Huachang shows five little boys gleefully jumping naked into the river.

Oh yes, you shouldn't visit Singapore without trying a broth made from various unidentifiable bits from a pig's insides.

The Raffles Hotel, aka tourist trap, we had a round of drinks, including the sugary/awful Singapore Slings (Brian wisely steered clear and had a lager) that set us back the same amount as dinner for four including drinks cost us at a restaurant later in the night.
Ashes Day One

Not going entirely to plan, that little hamster fella's a bit good with the bat.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Sabre Toothed Grizzly Sharktopus

I don't mind admitting that I'm a bit scared of sharks, and that my slight fear of all things Selachimorphic often keeps me out of the water, especially in Australia, sometimes in Whitby, and once or twice in Ilkley Lido. They are scary buggers though arn't they ? All muscle and big hinged jaws, you know they have umpteen rows of pointy teeth that all angle backwards into their mouths, all the better for dragging you in, and eating you.

I was watching a documentary the other night about tigers, it goes almost without saying that I'm scared of tigers too, 12 foot of high speed, clawed, fanged hot death, eek. The thing that really worried me though is that apparently tigers can swim, they can bloody swim!, and not only can they swim but they actually enjoy doing it. So there you are, running like Linford Christie through the jungle with a tiger at your heels, you reach the riverbank and even then you're not safe because as you plunge into the piranha infested river (and by the way, who isn't afraid of piranhas ?) becuase the ruddy tiger follows you in, and eats you.

Grizzly bears, they're huge, they can swim as well, they can run at speeds of up to 35mph so you can't really be sure of geting away from one even if you do beat it to the bus stop, especially if it's one of those bendy buses. The only obvious thing to do if you can't outrun, outswim or outbus the creature is climb a tree, but here's another problem, bears can climb trees. All except the really big bears, they just knock the trees down, and eat you. That's frankly terrifying.

Finally, there's octopodes (and yes dear wordsmiths, the OED does accept that as a recognised plural). I'm not actually frightened of octopodes, not living up here in the moorland river valleys anyway. Whenever I'm on a boat there always exists a thought at the back of my bran that the Kraken might be more than just a myth, but apart from that, no real worries. It's their problem solving abilites that should have you worried though, they can escape from locked aquariums, they demonstrate logic based problem solving solving abilities. If the Kraken does come for you, it's no use hiding in your cabin, the thing will just pick the locks, and eat you.

Now imagine, a mad scientist in the pay of unscrupulous powers (the Labour Government for example), developes an uber powerful bio-weapon, you can't outrun it, you can't outswim it, you can't fight it and you can't hide from it, it is the Sabre Toothed Grizzly Sharktopus, fear it, I do.
It Came From The Sea

There you are girls, form an orderly queue now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Homeward Bound

Well that's it, I'm sick of the endless sunshine and the stunning sunsets, the bountiful seafood served by smiling Strayan babes, the lakes of quality wine and the frosted glasses of lager (note to Australians, it isn't beer, it's lager, no matter what colour you make it), the scantily clad early morning running girls, the laughing kookaburra's in the trees behind the house, the white beaches, the kangaroos and koalas, I'm sick of it all.


I am however nearly skint and so have to return to the kitchen grind so I can earn enough shekels to come away again next year. So it's back to falling leaves, frosty mornings and dark early nights, the hills (there are no hills here, it's just a huge flat place) with their bracken and gorse and heather and babbling brooks and bleating sheep, fog on the moors, mist in the river valleys, haunting birdsong on rainy hilltops, howling gales and horizontal sleet on Ingleborough. And most importantly, friends and family, I'm really looking forward to seeing J&C, P&C, Kevin & Liz and all the brothers in law, Dad and Shirley and of course all the children and Robyn and the team at work.

See you all soon folks, we're headed back for Dear Old Blighty.

Monday, November 20, 2006

News From The WACA, Some Good, Some Bad

OK then England fans, the bad news first, Adam Gilchrist was on awesome form, smashing a record breaking 135 from 91 balls as West Australia powered on to make 340 in their innings. Queensland struggled at first, losing 4 quick wickets, then picked up in the middle, but were beaten by 81 runs as a string of quick wickets went towards the end.

As regards other Strayan test (and fringe of test team) players, Langer made 51 and looked comfortable, Hussey struggled to 9 and was out, Symonds looks out of form with both bat and ball (he conceded 5 consecutive 4's to Gilchrist in one over), Johnson bowled ok, Hayden was out cheaply for 16.

It was a good day's cricket though, high points were Gilchrist, and then a moment of high comedy between Langer and Hogg when both men ran in for a simple high catch, then both men left it to the other fielder and the ball fell on the grass between the two.

The ground was buzzed all day by planes warming up for the Red Bull Air Race that took place yesterday, noisy buggers.

We went up the Swan Valley on Saturday to visit a few wineries, and sample a few wines, then yesterday we had lunch inside the Little Creatures Brewery and sampled a few beers. I'd tell you that the two weeks hasn't all been glorious sun and alcohol, but that would be a lie, see you all soon.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Case Of Cyclist's Arse

We took the ferry over to Rottnest Island yesterday, hired bicycles (no vehicles are allowed on the island) and rode around the island all day, it would appear that my arse is somewhat wider than the seat of the average mountain bike.

The island is sandy, vegetation is not dissimilar to the dryer Mediterranean landscapes, scrub bush and wind blown trees. The seas are clear and stunning sapphire blue. Rottnest is famous for having an indigenous species of mammal, the Quokka, a type of small kangaroo about the size of a big rat. I also saw snakes, big lizards and numerous small hawks, but didn't catch a glimpse of any of the 200 odd Ospreys that are supposed to inhabit the island.

Mum and Dad in law hired a tandem, I have pictures, no sniggering at the back now.

Today we are off the the WACA to watch Western Australia vs. Queensland, there should be about 8 of the Strayan test side playing so it should be a fair match.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Don't Panic vers.453

Poor Marcus Trescothick, it's difficult to see the lad playing again at the highest level after having to leave a second tour (he came come from the previous tour to India) due to a re-occurence of his mental illness.

It would be a shame if the bloke who smashed South Africa for 180 all around the Wanderers when England beat SA early last year, was not to play again. He is said to be well liked by his team mates, if a little quiet and contemplative.

The World's Greatest Living Yorkshireman (copyright G Boycott) launched a furious written assault on the ICC blaming them wholeheartedly for turning cricket into the year round money circus that it has become and saying that the pressure to constantly perform at the highest level will take its toll on more players in the furute (and who knows, they might even turn to illegal drugs or refuse to play all together).

For Trescothick this is a tragedy, obviously he has returned to the game too early, perhaps he should not have returned at all. For England though it shouldn't be a disaster, we have good batting in depth, if we can persuade them all to bat well on the same day or two. If we had lost Flintoff or Anderson or Harmison then our chances in the Ashes would have been much reduced, without Trescothick the middle order will have to stiffen up, but we can still win.
Calling The Running Girl

AKA Lurker's Bird.

So that I didn't return from my holidays too overfed and porky, I've kept up with a bit of exercise. I've got no access to my preferred form of getting out of breath and sweaty (especially now Mrs YS is too sunburned to touch), the rowing machine, so I've taken to running (or plodding perhaps) first thing in the morning.

Now, Lurker's Bird may remember (or due to an excess of alcohol, she may not), but during a conversation down the pub, we sort of dared each other to do the challenges we had done this summer. Thus, I would have to join L's B and about ten thousand Geordies jogging around Toon in the Great North Run, and she would have to get her hiking boots on and get up the Three Peaks with me no matter what the weather.

Well I reckon I can shed some more weight and get fit enough for the run by next Autumn, so if she can find me a place on the run, I'm in! See you atop Ingleborough then !
Whale Watching

Now here's something you don't see in my neck of the woods, Humpback Whales migrating down to their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic.

We set out, along with fifty or so other eco-tourists, on the good ship Aussie Warrior, in blazing hot sunshine at 9am from Hillary's Harbour (Hillary himself was nowhere to be seen).

The boat powered out into the Indian Ocean which was relatively flat, and within the hour the crew had found us our first whales. A mother and calf, surfacing and blowing together, producing a v-shaped spray of moist air from their nostrils, then gently curving back under the surface. Perhaps the noise from the boat's engines spooked the mother as after their second surfacing the pair dived deep and away from the boat and we didn't see them again.

The boat pressed on for a while, ships from the Strayan navy were on manouvres around us, we'd passed the halfway stage and were heading back for the harbour when a second pod of whales were sighted. Three or four adult males broke surface, blowing sheets of moist air from their lungs (they can dive for about 45mins, the spray is produced when their moist, lung warmed air is driven out and condenses in the cooler air on the surface) and displayed their broad tails before diving again.

The males didn't dive too deep and we kept pace with them for half an hour or so as they appeared and dived again. There is something quite wonderful about whales, the boat had microphones in the water and we could hear their eerie, mesmeric communications as they moved around us, their grace and obvious power is impressive whilst their long and complex song points to intelligence beyond our limited understanding.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


The Strayan authorities are running tv adverts here for over 30's to retrain in engineering, catering and other industries, hmmm, I'm a chef, Mrs YS' background is in engineering, I might be tempted to stay.

Let's review some salient points.

Temperature here - 25 C +
At home - bloody freezing

Weather here - sun, sun, and then some more sun, but with a delightful cooling breeze in the afternoons.
At home - pick any three from wind, gales, fog, sleet, driving rain, snow, blizzard, fear, fire, terrible floods

What happens at 7am every day here - hundreds of stunning girls go jogging along the beach in skin tight running shorts
7am at home - it's dark, cold and raining, people are getting into several layers of clothing before venturing outside

Politics here and at home - MP's fiddling expenses, making dodgy mobile phone deals and interfering with little boys

Are there any downsides to emigrating ? Of course if we were to lose the Ashes, which we won't of course, but hypothetically if we did, I might have to start killing people. And football, like the Americans, the Oztralians are a bit confused about football, over there they think it's some weird rugby variant played by men wearing shorts which appear to have been painted on, I imagine its a big hit with the bigt moustache crowd.

What do you reckon then ? Should I stay ? Should I phone Robyn and tell her she's been promoted on a permanent basis ?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sharks, Stingers, Box Jellyfish

Of which the good Lord has seen fit that none have come in contact with me yet. Those that know me well know that I have a pressing fear of sharks, somewhat odd in a mountain climbing Dales lad, I mean we don't get any aquatic beasties larger than a stickleback in the streams up here, but event the thought of sharks fairly scares the pants off me.

Despite that, I've been swimming in the Indian Ocean today, the beach was white and stunning, the water warm and clear, the babes hot and plentiful (hey, Aussie babes really like running about in tight sportswear early in the morning, I may have to emigrate), the dangerous wildlife non-existent.

I wasn't overly happy at the prospect of swimming when we went for dinner last night at a local chippy and proudly displayed was a kayak with a mammoth bite taken out of it. 'Man Survives Shark Attack' screamed the yellowing headlines in the newspaper pinned to the wall. But today the water looked so inviting, with breakers crashing down on the shore and producing that low level rumbling thunderous sound, that I had to get in.

Mrs YS was most amused, especially when a particularly large wave swept me off my feet and sent me tumbling head over heels through the foam.

We've been further North to see some limestone rock formations called the Pinnacles, on the way we saw Kangaroos and Wallabies and Emus in the wild, and tomorrow I'm doing a barbeque for the family and plan to be grilling most of the species we saw jumping around yesterday.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pig's Stomach Soup

We're safe and well here in sunny Perth, flights were good and everything went to plan and on time, pig's stomach though ? Back to Singapore.....

After flying though the day and night we arrived in Singapore at dawn, we pottered around for a while before the rest of the party, Mrs YS, Mum and Dad-in-law, all retired for an afternoon snooze, leaving me to my own devices in a foreign land. First thing then, lunch.

I went for a buffet style lunch at the hotel restaurant, this looked to be a Chinese buffet at first glance but turned out to serve a variety of Asian foods. The first steaming bowl of stuff on the buffet was clearly labelled as Pig's stomach soup, oh well I thought, when in Rome.

Actually, it tasted much better than I might have expected, fiercely peppery, slightly porky, and with thinly cut strips of the aforementioned porcine intestines bobbing around in the bottom. Pig's stomach tastes, and has a texture vaguely similar to tongue.

Emboldoned by this first course I returned for a starter selection of tempura, various unidentifiable (even after eating) vegetables in batter with a selection of brightly coloured, er, things, to try with it. Feeling pretty adventurous I went for a dollop of the minty green pea looking stuff, a spoonful of the light brown paste and a touch of the virulent red puree. These turned out to be, fiercely hot wasabi paste, hot enough to require a whole beer just to rid myself of the burning sensation, the brown paste was pureed ginger with salt (good grief, another beer please waiter) and pureed chilli, which is fine as that was about as hot as i was expecting it to be.

Lunch progressed though bean curd in crab sauce, satay mutton, grilled cuttlefish and a variety of jellied dessert thingies none of which I could actually put a name or distinct flavour to.

I spent the afternoon walking along the river in the sultry heat, sweat pouring from me, had a quick dip in the rooftop pool and then gave everyone else a prod to rouse them for evening drinks and dinner.

For drinks we went to the long bar at Raffles (aka Huge Tourist Trap) where a round of drinks for four cost me about 70 Singapore dollars, it's a rip off and the sugary sweet fruity Singapore Sling just ain't my thing.

On then to Chinatown, a stroll round the night markets, and dinner in a small restaurant packed to the gills (or intestines) with locals. After much persuading the waitress reluctantly allowed us to purchase a whole bottle of beer each rather than sharing one (do me and Brian look like alcohol lightweights ?) and a splendid dinner for four cost only a fraction more than the round of drinks at Raffles.

Landing in Perth yesterday we were greeted by the relatives and enjoyed a splendid al fresco family dinner at Paul & Barbara's Peppermint Grove mansion. Some of us rose early today and went walking on the beach, later we plan to look round some markets and have a barbeque tonight, holidays are great.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cricket, It's All About Timing

Just saw this over on Cricinfo.....

"The prize is the opportunity for one winner to accompany the drinks carts during one of the scheduled on-field drinks carts (sic) at the final match of the Champions Trophy. The draw will take place on 30 November."
A thrilling prize on the official Champions Trophy site ... perhaps the excitement would be greater were it not for the fact that the draw takes place 25 days after the final.
Australia Bound

That's it, I've been caught stealing a loaf of bread, or coveting another man's sheep, and for penance I must spend two weeks in (hopefully) sun drenched Perth on the Western side of Australia.

We are having a stopover in Singapore on the way, then it's two weeks of sun, wine, seafood, wine, taunting the locals over their loss in the last Ashes series, wine, taunting the locals about their forthcoming defeat in this Ashes series, wine etc.

We are taking Mrs YS's Mum and Dad with us, the relatives we are staying with are all on my Mum-in-law's side of the family.

It seems to have been a long summer season this year, with even less time off than usual, so I have been really looking forward to getting away.

Chef Robyn is in charge of the business and I'm sure she will do well, also many thanks to Brother-in-law Mk.4 (Chris) for doing the house/club sitting for us, cheers folks.

I should manage the odd post or two whilst I'm away and I should be back in Blighty, sleek and suntanned, on the 22nd, cheers cobbers, I'll chuck another roo on the barbie for you.
£75m, Pollocks

The picture above may, or may not be, the Jackson Pollock painting recently sold by David Geffen for truly obscene amounts of money, and here lies the nub, many of Pollocks 'works' were pretty much the same, his action paintings for which he is most famous are all very slight variations on the same theme.

This is of course a popular and long running argument about the art world, is an item art just because the artist says it is ? Or just because a lot of arty / media types are very, very gullible indeed. On the one hand I applaud the man who can persuade a fool to part with good, hard cash to display an empty toilet, or a reconstructed garden shed, or a pile of bricks, just because he gives it a suitably pretentious name. On the other hand I despise these so called artists for their almost complete lack of any artistic talent.

Quite often my friends come round with a bit of paper containing some fairly random looking but colourful scribblings, 'Look' they say, 'Natty / Kayleigh / Joseph / Ellie has done a picture for you'. That's nice, I will respond, with a slightly puzzled smile, what is it ? The good thing about kids paintings is that they don't give them unnescessary names, the picture usually isn't 'Complications of modern life in white #465', it's something that may not be obvious to the viewer from looking, but to the kids it is most defintely a tree say, or a bonfire, or their Mum and Dad, or (as is displayed on my kitchen wall at the moment) the swimming pool at the local gym, complete with a thin person and a fat person, although I still say the whole work looks more like a manatee, or a whale.

I've got nothing really against Pollock's action paintings, they're sort of alright to look at, but the idea that a painting like this should be worth over seventy million pounds sticks in my throat. You could do some serious good in the world with that amount of money, but to waste it on the lazy paint dribblings of a disturbed alcoholic, that just doesn't seem right.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Rising From The Ashes

Earlier this moor Ilkley Moor caught fire, and burned for some days leaving a damaged swathe of land covering roughly 500 acres.

At the time everything seemed gloomy, our local paper, the Ilkley Gazette, reported that the moor would take 20 years to recover. This seemed odd at the time, after all, it is moorland, which does burn off from time to time, indeed, moorland is deliberately burnt off in the winter to encourage new growth.

Obviously a summer burn is going to do more damage, and in the area near the old peat pits the fire went deep and may have burnt out seeds and roots, but generally nature recovers. After all, it's not as if we are talking about a forest, then you could imagine that it would easily take twenty years to return to its former glory.

This week, the Gusset reports "Moor is showing signs of recovery", oh really ? So if the moor is recovering naturally, as it was always going to do, what is going to happen to all the monies raised by the summer festival concerts which were supposedly going to help with the restoration of the moor ?

Thursday, November 02, 2006


If you listen to music on your PC (or iPod or similar) and you don't Scrobble, why the hell not ?

Scrobbler has updated this week to give loads of groovy new features like the Upcoming Events link, add yourself to gig listings for bands that you are going to see and it shows a list of like minded folk also going to the gig, make new friends, get a date, it works a little like or MySpace but is much more music orientated.

Want a sexy goth nurse like mine showing your latest listening ? Then get scrobbling. You can talk about music (endlessly), involve yourself in groups both musical or not, I'm leader of Born in '67 and Leeds United, and a member of Christian Hard Rock & Metal, UK punk, Yorkshire UK, Muse and It's All About The Lyrics amongst others.

Come and Scrobble, you can find me here.
Don't Read Any Further (If You Are Rebecca's Mum)

I've noticed that some of the girlies edit their MySpace comments when I add stuff to them, this may be because....

1) They don't want old pervs telling them how sexy they look

2) Their Mum's might read their page

Sadly though, due to the awesome power of the interwebnet, I am able to steal their sexy pics and put them on here.....

Woo hoo, chefette Becca in a dress! Looking sexy girl!
Darkness Falls

So Justin has left The Darkness and presumably the band are no more, shame, I loved his wildly over the top showmanship.
Iron Age Pig

This sounds interesting, a taste of how pork used to taste, I love pork and I think I'll order half a pig when I get back from holiday.

Blackface Regional Meats
The ASBO Badge Of Honour

So it looks like Nu-Labour's big anti-social behaviour initiative, the Anti-Social Behaviour Order, or ASBO, has failed.

A study by the Youth Justic Board has shown that more than 50% of kids with ASBO's regularly break the terms of their 'social contracts', and some street gangs even make gaining an ASBO a sort of entry test for their members.

One policeman said about exclusion zone ASBO's "You are inviting little Johnnie Smith to... run over the imaginary line and then run away from the police," he said.
"You've actually invented a game for the kids to play."

And of course nobody wants to start fully enforcing ASBO's and sending people to prison because with the hundreds and hundreds of new laws that Nu-Labour have enacted since coming to power, the prisons are full to bursting already and prisoners are already being kept in police cells, prison barges and Constable Harman's potting shed.

I do think I have an idea which might help. If some fine upstanding members of the community, golf club stewards for example, were allowed to patrol the night time time streets toting a tazer and cattle prod, I'm fairly sure we could sort out all this anti-social behaviour tout suite.

"Oy Scrote, you just spat on the pavement!"


"Oy Scrote, what are you doing ?"

"I'm eating a Big Mac mister."

"IN ILKLEY ?!!!!!!"


"Oy Scrote, what are you doing ?"

"I'll have you know I'm not a scrote, we're the Uppingham / Sedbergh / Giggleswick 1st IV rugger team here to start our half term world tour, arf arf, come on boys, let's get pissed on Crystal and throw canapes at the poor people."


The unseasonal weather seems finally to have ended, the golf course is white over with ground frost this morning. Tonight I shall be launching large amounts of armaments at the neighbour's cats, then two more days at work and we're off to 'Straya, wahey!