Sunday, August 29, 2010


Trips to the V. E. T.

Greebo, the elder of our two cats, was not feeling well. Funnily enough, she seems always to be the one in ill health; our other cat, Stimpy, is as healthy as a horse and could probably survive being steamrollered with no more than a mild headache.

The source of Greebo's discomfort was a swelling in the tear duct of her good eye which, apart from being quite sore, must really have been ruining the remainder of her view.

We stuffed the wretched cat in a picnic hamper and took her off to see the vet.

The vet sucked his teeth and told us there was no choice but to have the cat anaesthetised so he could cut open and drain the swelling. Not ideal for a 17-year-old cat.

I was rather hoping she could go under the knife there and then, but he wanted to get home for his tea and anaesthetic also requires the cat to have an empty stomach.

He sent us away, enjoining us to return the next morning with an unfed cat. I then had to spend ages in the waiting room while he printed off the required consent forms.

"I don't know what's taking him so long," said the receptionist with a nervous smile.

"He's probably googling the cat's symptoms," I suggested uncharitably, in the sure knowledge that nobody was going to be putting a knife anywhere near my face.


We returned the next morning to drop Greebo off.

"Has she been starved overnight?" asked the receptionist. I gave her a look.

"Why, yes," I said. "And we've mistreated her this morning."


Happily, the vet didn't take out any of my glib comments on the cat and she was none the worse for her operation. The lump has been removed from her tear duct and she now has a cool pink scar next to her eye that makes her look like she's been roughhousing with some other cat.

More importantly, she's much happier and once again has perfect ten-ten vision.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010


The Girl with the Relative Clause: Stieg Larsson outtakes

...And back to the usual flippancy here on Trashed Elbow.

Every time I go in a bookshop these days, I find myself irritated by the Stieg Larsson novels. I should be clear that I haven't read any of them - my dad read one once and told me it was naff; that was good enough for me.

What irritates me is the off-the-shelf, formulaic titles: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.

It did give me pause to wonder: which potential titles did he consider before discarding? Which ones didn't make the final cut?

Here are some of my ideas:

  • The Girl with the Pencil Moustache

  • The Girl Who Talked to Strangers

  • The Girl Who Ran with Scissors

  • The Girl Who Shared Needles

  • The Girl with the Adam's Apple

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The book ends

Summer is here and with it unpaid leave. I am reduced from days (count) to time (non-count).

An amount of time (or a number of days) ago, the family gathered in darkest Kent to commit the grandad's ashes. A new tree at Sidcup Golf Club has had its roots invigorated by Maurice Langley Court, 24th September 1918 to 29th January 2010.

Of course, the grandad was such a noted hypochondriac that the tree in question is probably going to spend the rest of eternity worrying about dutch elm disease and irritable knotholes.

I had the honour of chauffeuring the urn, which did give me an inkling of a hideously inappropriate gag in which I threw sherbet round the inside of the car, then hopped out covered in powder at the golf club and dramatically announced that Grandad had been no end of trouble.

The things one thinks.

Seeing the dates of my grandfather's life etched on the plaque by the tree was a more solemn moment: birth and death like a pair of bookends. It's when you see something like that written down that you realise it's for good. The old boys from the golf club broke into a chorus of "For he's a jolly good fellow". It was one of those moments I think I'll always remember.

The mum handled it all bravely, announcing at the end that she'll never some back to South London. Devoted son though I am, that did give me one or two creative ideas about where her ashes might go after the hang gliding accident on her 127th birthday.

Best she specifies someone else be in charge of that.


There were geese, thanks to the presence of a small lake at the club. I sidled over to this gaggle and bade them a quick 'boo'. They didn't bat an eyelid.

I suppose I just have an enquiring mind.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Unlikely cover

Ben Folds covers Bitches Ain't Shit


Saturday, August 14, 2010


The monster marathon looms

I'm running a marathon on the 3rd of October. It's not something I intended to go on about too much on this blog but I seem to be spending a lot of time plodding around North London in my trusty Asics Gel Guano that would otherwise be spent blogging so I suppose it's as well to let it pay its way a bit.

Edwin and I dared each other into signing up for the Loch Ness Marathon back in March; we were still high on testosterone and ibuprofen from him running the England Kilomathon and me running the Silverstone Half. It's a much smaller affair than something like the London Marathon: the competitors are given a lift out of Inverness to the southern end of Loch Ness and run back into town along a lovely, scenic (hilly) route.

I've never run a marathon before but it's always been on my list of stuff to do: write a novel, spend a night in a cell, run a marathon. From October 4th, I can finally devote my attention to that novel.

Most of this week has been spent sorting out transport and accommodation for our adventure. Actually, the accommodation hasn't been sorted yet – I was meant to do it yesterday but I refused to do anything on Friday 13th. Despite only going out once all day, I managed to convince myself I'd lost my phone. I hadn't.

Not unnaturally, I'm wondering how long it's going to take me to run the 26-odd miles into Inverness. I've focussed my training more on speed than endurance – as I pointed out to Ed, I don't mind collapsing and dying after 20 miles, so long as it hasn't taken me six hours to get there.

The Runners' World site has rather a handy race time predicty thingy: you enter one of your recent race times with your target distance and it pulls an estimated time out of its bottom, based on some clever algorithm which involves a lot of brackets and italics.

I have my doubts about the accuracy of this system, so I designed my own clever algorithm for pulling a projected race time out of thin air. Ready? Here it is:

target time = recent time X (target distance km / recent distance km) + (target distance – recent distance as minutes)

For example working out a 10k time from a 5k time, you double the time (multiply by 10k over 5k) and add 5 minutes (10k minus 5k). Simple? Simple.

Like the Runners' World race time predicty thingy, my system is a little suspect when it comes to predicting times for a distance shorter than sample data. Using a recent 5k time, the algorithm declared that I should be able to take about a minute off the world record for the 1500m. It also told me that I'd struggle to complete the 100m within 24 hours.

If anyone wants to offer me a six-figure research grant, I'm sure I could hone it a bit.


This is what I've got to look forward to.

I love the bit where the bloke in the schoolgirl uniform comes into view and the commentator starts going on about charity runners: why does it necessarily follow that just because someone's running in drag they're therefore raising money for a good cause?

He could just be a filthy, degraded pervert who happens to enjoy endurance running.

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Monday, August 02, 2010


Putting it nicely

The news was running a bit about access to the sex offenders' register. (Access as in who can read it, not how to get on it.)

It was the usual business: parents worrying about shady blokes living on their street, Sarah's Law and so on.

A spokesperson was saying his bit about the potential consequences of the register being available to laypeople.

"If sex offenders are known to people other than the police or registered carers..."

He paused here. I leaned forward, interested in how he was going to euphemise the next bit.

"...They may have their houses burned down."

So much for euphemism.


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