Thursday, July 29, 2010



I have been struggling a bit with superstition recently. For one thing, I've been training myself to step on three.

In case anyone doesn't know, the cardinal rule of pedestrianism in England is "Don't tread on three", where there are three manhole covers laid out in a row. Should you tread on all three of them, great misfortune will surely befall.

Although, perhaps erroneously, I don't consider myself a superstitious person, I noticed I was being rather scrupulous in my observance of the unwritten rule. To put an end to this, I'm deliberately treading on three this week. It's worth noting that whatever misfortune befalls is unlikely to be as dire as the consequences of my continually veering to avoid manhole covers on crowded London streets.


In other omens, I took my lucky turtle out of my wallet the other day to find that his head had snapped off.

The lucky turtle was given to me by a Japanese student; I was told to keep him in my wallet and he would bring me money. His grisly decapitation may go some way toward explaining my current poverty.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Holmes truths

The Beeb have foisted a new incarnation of Sherlock Holmes upon us: the imaginatively titled Sherlock (Sundays, 9pm-ish).

To commemorate this momentous occasion, I'd like to share a few of my favourite bits of Holmes-style wisdom. Not bits of outstanding deductive brilliance, sadly, but merely examples of him being snide and gittish to his long-suffering sidekick, Dr Watson.


I was about to make some remark to him when I raised my eyes to the lighted window and again experienced almost as great a surprise as before. I clutched Holmes's arm and pointed upwards.

"The shadow has moved!" I cried.

It was, indeed, no longer the profile, but the back, which was turned towards us.

Three years had certainly not smoothed the asperities of his temper or his impatience with a less active intelligence than his own.

"Of course it has moved," said he. "Am I such a farcical bungler, Watson, that I should erect an obvious dummy and expect that some of the sharpest men in Europe would be deceived by it?"

The Adventure of the Empty House


"The cipher message begins with a large 534, does it not? We may take it as a working hypothesis that 534 is the particular page to which the cipher refers. So our book has already become a LARGE book, which is surely something gained. What other indications have we as to the nature of this large book? The next sign is C2. What do you make of that, Watson?"

"Chapter the second, no doubt."

"Hardly that, Watson. You will, I am sure, agree with me that if the page be given, the number of the chapter is immaterial. Also that if page 534 finds us only in the second chapter, the length of the first one must have been really intolerable."

"Column!" I cried.

"Brilliant, Watson. You are scintillating this morning."

The Valley of Fear

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Friday, July 16, 2010


Practice what you teach

"Guys, if you're going to stand about swearing can you please bugger off outside?"


Best thing is, the students weren't even swearing - they were just struggling a bit with pronouncing the word 'sheet'.

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Monday, July 12, 2010


Path of flowers and beasts

The World Cup is finally over, so I can stop moonlighting on the World Cup Blogcast and get back to writing here. Hurrah!

In other sports news, the world of sumo has gone to hell in a hand basket (note: this may not be news to those of you who don't rely on Trashed Elbow as your sole source of sumo information).

The sport has been hit with scandals revolving around gambling and Yakuza, leading to the suspension of a couple of high-profile wrestlers and an enormous knee-jerk reaction from Japanese broadcasters NHK, who have decided not to air the current tournament.

The gambling scandal included ozeki Kotomitsuki getting sacked for betting on baseball. This is illegal in Japan and unlicensed betting generally involves some contact (direct or otherwise) with gangsters. It is also believed Kotomitsuki was being blackmailed for money. Osaka's Goeido is another who has been suspended.

(I suspect pro baseball players probably place illegal bets on the sumo all the time without getting rumbled.)

Meanwhile, there has been much furore about Yakuza getting ringside seats at sumo tournaments, apparently hoping to appear on TV and thereby give solace to their comrades in prison.

Were I banged up inside, I'm sure I'd be delighted to see TV coverage of my workmates cavorting around at the sumo instead of hatching plans to bust me out. In any case, sumo is off the air, which surely amounts to punishment for all the regular fans?

Needless to say, the suspension of all the Japanese talent does little to raise hopes of a home-grown grand champion any time soon.


Hanamichi: (lit. path of flowers) the wrestlers' path to the dohyou (raised ring) in sumo

Kemonomichi: (lit. path of beasts) the underworld

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Thursday, July 01, 2010


Not a mornings person

I awoke to the gentle sound of rain on the window and had an idea: With Glyn staying over and Sam Green at home for once, why not run out for a morning game of football?

Of course, we were all terribly hungover and I'm not a mornings person these days.

As we struggled into our respective kits, Glyn was enthusiastically describing a local council initiative for midnight football matches in Northern Ireland.

"It's about getting youngsters off street corners," he explained.

"Have they done anything about getting your mum off street corners?" I asked. He let this pass.

Sam Green, meanwhile, was worried about our lack of goalie gloves:

"I've got some wicket keeper gloves upstairs but they've got webbed fingers," he said.

I couldn't help myself.

"So's your mum."

Sam also let this pass; we were all terribly hungover and I'm not a mornings person these days.


Disclaimer: my mother is a saint.

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