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All fiction, no Science

I’ve long been a fan of Science Fiction and if I see a new sci-fi film advertised, I’ll often make a point of going to see it.

I recently saw a film called Io, advertised on Netflix.  Being one of the two  moons of Jupiter that it has been suggested could support life (Europa being the other, of course), my ears pricked up immediately and so I read the synopsis and thought it worth a shot. So, Mrs Masher and I sat down with a beer and pizza in the week, and we watched it.

It was absolute rubbish.

Nothing to do with Io at all! It was about a young woman who stayed behind on a dying earth whilst everyone else buggered off to colonise the titular Jovian satellite. It was tediously slow and had a rubbish ending that left more questions than answers. If you get a chance to catch this on Netflix, I can highly recommend… that you don’t bother.

Similarly, we have just finished watching The First. This was an 8-parter shown on Channel 4 last year and has been sitting on the TiVo, just waiting for the right time to watch it.  Billed as the story about the first manned mission to Mars, I had high hopes that it would be an enjoyable series with lots of serious sci-fi in it.

But no.

It too was rubbish.

It was actually more about the personal problems of the crew in the build up to the launch, rather than any actual science.  The actual launch happened in the last episode and we see them starting on their journey… and then it ends.  Nothing about the danger and drama of actually landing on Mars and what they might find and how will they get back. None of that.

It was just Sean Penn showing off his muscles whilst he deals with his messed up daughter.

And what was the bit with the telephone guy? I didn’t get that at all.

There you go: I watch this rubbish so that you don’t have to!

TW3

Grasscuttingcarcleaningbatterychargingphotographing,

Springcleaningteadrinkingfoodshoppingmotorbiking,

Dogwalkingfilmwatchinggatefixingweatherlovingwhataweekend!

Ding

Our microwave oven died on us yesterday, so when I went up to do the weekly grocery shop, I had a look to see if that had anything decent to replace it with.

And they did. A Sharp one that ticked all the boxes and was reduced in price from 80, down to 55, down to 48 quid. “I’ll have some of that”, I thought and put it in my trolley.

I just happened to be near the DVD section and Mrs M had asked me to keep an eye out for the Marvel film, Venom, as we had missed it at the pictures. I never found it, but three others ended up in the trolley: 2001: A Space Odyssey (a classic); Amadeus (one of my all-time favourites) and the Bladerunner sequel (I’ve just finished re-reading the first one, so it was a serendipitous find).

I decided I would buy this lot first and then come back for the food shop, as there wasn’t much room in the trolley.

I found an empty till (unusual) and heaved the microwave onto the conveyor belt, along with the DVDs. The young chap  – Colin, according to the badge pinned to his jacket – scanned it all in and gave me a price.  “No, no, no”, I said, that’s wrong.

“Fifty-five pounds for the microwave; five pounds for…”

“Let me stop you there. The microwave is forty-eight pounds.”

He re-scanned it: “Well, it comes up as fifty-five.”

“Maybe it does, but it said it was marked down to forty-eight, on the shelf.”

He held his hand in the air and another young chap – Nathan – came over. Colin explained the problem.

By now, a bit of a queue had formed and so Nathan suggested that Colin should just put through the DVDs and he would sort out the microwave price issue. With that, he picked up the box and – staggering under the weight – carried it back over to the kitchen section.

I turned back to Colin, who was stabbing his fingers all over the touchscreen and was looking confused. “Is there a problem?”, I asked.

“It won’t let me remove the microwave.”

There was an audible sigh from the queue and I could feel their eyes burning into me, because this was all my fault, obviously.

Colin held up his hand to try and attract a supervisor. I held mine up too, in the hope it might help. Everyone in the queue looked around for a supervisor, but there wasn’t one to be seen anywhere.

“Sorry about this”, Colin said to me.

“Sorry about this”, I said the queue behind me. The old boy directly behind me gave a pained grimace and looked down sadly at his pint of milk… the only thing he’d come in to buy. By rights, he should have been and gone by now.

Eventually, a supervisor responded to Colin’s frantic waving. She tapped on the screen a few times with her magic fingers and suddenly I was able to pay for the DVD’s.

Which I did.

At which point Nathan returned. “It’s forty-eight pounds”, he said.

“I know”.

He looked at the queue behind me and seeing that I had just finished up, he said “Come with me and I’ll put it through a different till”. The relief from the queue was palpable.

He sat at an empty till and scanned the box. It came up as fifty-five quid.  He tapped his screen a couple of times and scanned again, but again it came up as fifty-five quid. He looked puzzled and had another go.

Thinking this was an open cashier, an old woman pulled in with her trolley and started putting her stuff on the conveyor.

“Sorry”, said Nathan, “I’m not open”.

She scowled at him and took the stuff off the conveyor and back into the trolley.

Nathan went back to puzzling over how he was going to sell me this microwave oven at the correct price.

Another old lady, spotting the empty conveyor belt, rushed over and started to empty her trolley on to it. “Sorry”, said Nathan, turning towards her, “I’m not open.”

“It doesn’t say that it’s closed”, said the old lady.

“What?”

“It doesn’t say that it’s closed. You should have a sign saying that it’s closed”.

“I only opened it for this gentleman”, said Nathan, nodding his head in my direction.

She looked at me with distaste, as she put her groceries back in the trolley. “Who are you then, the bloody king of Sainsbury’s?” she harrumphed, and then she waddled off to try and find a till without a humongous queue.

Nathan finally figured out how to re-price the microwave and I quickly paid and headed out the door.

It must have taken about twenty minutes to buy this one item and  in doing so I was made to feel guilty for causing such a long hold up.  And on top of that, I was pilloried by an old lady.

My final ignominy was when the alarm sounded as I went out the door, because the box still had the alarm tag thing on it.

Fortunately, the alarm wasn’t loud enough to wake the security guard from his slumber.

Where ya bin?

Toward the end of last year, the local council announced that they would be reducing the bin collections.

Our black bin – the one for general waste – would now only be collected fortnightly.

This – they said – was in an effort to encourage people to recycle more.  This thinly-veiled excuse was obviously to try and cover up that they just needed to cut back on collections, to save money.

Our green recycle bin is only collected fortnightly, as it is, and is usually chock-full by the time they come to collect it, so how we are supposed to get more in there, I don’t know.

And now the black bin is just as full. More-so, actually.

The only reason the lid shuts on it (well, nearly shuts), is because I have to climb into the damn thing on a weekly basis and jump on all the rubbish to compact it all down.  I just know that one day, a bin-bag will burst and I’ll get a slipper full of old tea bags and baked beans and shit!

And the glass bin is only collected once a month.  Each Friday, I find myself wondering which bin it is that has to go out… I have no idea! I usually end up peering across the road to see what the neighbours have put out.

It’s all a bit rubbish, really.

Curry Night

I was out on the slosh, last night, so my head is a little woozy this morning.

It was the regular monthly get-together of the BT (Class of the Eighties) Curry Night, at our local Weatherspoons.

Always a good night, but I never make it every month. By the time I get home from work, I usually just can’t be bothered to go out again. But, as I have a couple of days off this week – just using up my annual leave allocation – I had no excuses.

And last night, in addition to the regulars, we had a couple of new faces… well, new old faces.

Firstly, there was Wobber. I don’t know why we call him that, as his name is Roger, but he’s been called Wobber for as long as I can remember (most of the engineers at BT answered to a nickname – including myself, which is where the moniker for this website comes from). This was the first time I’d seen Wobber since 1994 and – unusually for me – I recognised him straight away… despite him having lost all of his hair and now bearing a remarkable resemblance to Wilson Fisk.

And then there was Ralph. Again, first time I’d seen him since I left in ’94. I never used to mix it with Ralph as he was a bit older than me and was always one of the cool kids. But I’ve always held him in high regard, not least because I fell off my motorbike on the way to Bletchley Park for a training course, early one cold and slippery November morning, and I met Ralph (a fellow – and far more experienced – motorcyclist) in the motorcycle parking bay. My bike was pretty bent up, but during his lunch-break, he straightened it out for me, enough that I could ride it home. I’ve always been grateful for that.

There were about a dozen of us there last night, but only four still worked for BT.

The fact that we still get together so regularly, amazes me, but also pleases me greatly.

Not So Close Friends

It used to be that I had plenty of friends that lived locally.

But, people move on, don’t they?

There was my mate, Dave, who I’ve known for years and years. But, he decided to ‘up sticks’ one day and, after a few years of travelling around the country, he has now settled on the Norfolk coast. Bloody miles away. We used to go down the pub together on a weekly basis, back in the day, but now it’s just Christmas cards and the occasional phone call.

My old buddy, Mike, who lived in the next road to me – and who I met through us both being members of the Goon Show fan club – decided to move house quite a while back. He and his missus ended up in Cornwall. Bloody Cornwall! He used to be a five minute walk away, but now it’s a five hour drive!  I used to spend hours around his place, but now it’s just Christmas cards and the odd email between us.

Dave and Graham were good mates who I met through work. But they also decided to move house. One went from Watford, all the way to Tewkesbury and the other from Hemel up to Northamptonshire. OK, Northants isn’t such a bad trek, but it’s still twice as long to get to his gaffe than what it used to take and, as such, we don’t see each other nearly as much as I’d like to.

My mate, Alan, who I met via the radio (and who likes to leave silly comments on this here blog), used to live only a mile or so away, but a few years ago, he moved as far south as he could go without falling into the sea. We talk once a week on the phone, but it’s not the same as the long natters over several cups of tea, that we used to have.

And then, there is my eldest and dearest mate, Paul. The best man at my wedding and a friend whom I love like a brother.  He deserted me and fucked off to Gloucestershire some years ago, when he met a bird! We see each other maybe once a year, now.

I’m starting to wonder: was it something I said?

Simon

There’s a bloke that lives somewhere near here. Not sure where, exactly, but I often bump into him when I’m walking the dog.

He’s a little – and it’s probably incredibly politically incorrect to say this, nowadays – simple.

He’s a perfectly nice chap, but he does like to talk… which is fine. If you have the time.

Unfortunately, his topics of conversation are pretty banal, so I find it difficult to talk with him for anything longer than a couple of minutes.

But he likes to chat and so I try to be friendly and chat back, when I have the time. Which I don’t always have.

Of course, if he sees me now, he’ll make a beeline for me, knowing that I’ll converse with him.

A couple of weeks back he did this, when I really didn’t have the time, and in order to get out what he felt he needed to say, he walked alongside me for about five minutes, as I walked the dog… even though it was in the opposite direction to the way he was originally going!

Last night, I bumped into him again. His opening gambit to me wasn’t “Hello” or “Good evening”, but rather: “Have you tried that fish & chip shop up by the Old Moat House?”

“Er, no”, I said.

“It’s very good. Mind you, that one over by the sports pub is alright, as well”, he said, pointing in completely the wrong direction.

“Yes, I know”, I said. We talked about chips for a minute or so and then I tried to get away, as it was getting dark and I needed to get the mutt exercised. “Well, I’d better…”

“Potatoes can be expensive.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I grow them on my allotment. But when you add up the cost of the seeds and the chicken fertiliser, it can get expensive.”

He continued to tell me about how his carrots seem to grow better in moister soil… or something, I wasn’t really listening anymore.

“Anyway”, I said, taking a step past him, “I really must be gett…”

“It squeaks really loudly”

“What does?”

“My bicycle chain. I’ve put WD40 on it, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference”, he said, with a glum look.

I quickly explained the vagaries of WD40 and how it’s better to use proper oil, especially on a chain, and then I went on to explain how it was more likely to be the pedal crank than the actual chain, because chains don’t really creak, and then – before he could get a word in – I said my goodbyes and quickly walked on.

And then, I wondered why I felt bad.

If this had been any normal boring person, I’d have been pleased with myself for getting away from him, but because he wasn’t quite the full ticket (non-PC, again), I felt like I was being rotten to someone with a disability.

Society has really fucked up my sensibilities.

Hooray!

At last, we can rejoice!

A few years ago, some ne’er-do-wells moved into the close.

Awful people.

Right from the start, they got on everybody’s nerves, by taking up all the available parking with the inordinate number of vehicles they owned.

And the really loud garden parties that went into the small hours.

Regularly.

On weekdays.

Who has a late-night party on a Wednesday, for fuck sake!

And then there was the drug dealing (that we all knew was happening, but which the Police were never able to prove)

And the violence (one of them ended up in gaol recently, for violent assault).

When the For Sale sign went up last year, there was a silent, but palpable excitement that buzzed round the close.

“Have you seen the sign?”

“Yes! Isn’t it great!”

But then the sign came down again and we all went into a sulk.

But then it went up again and it was followed not long after by another sign that said “SOLD”.

My God, we nearly had a street party!

But then the sign came down and we all silently cried into our beer, once more.

But, then it went up again.

This time, we didn’t get our hopes up… there’s only so much heartbreak that thirty-six people and  four dogs can take.

But, they’ve gone: the house is now empty and we are all overjoyed.

Of course, new people will move in at some point and it’s always daunting getting new neighbours but, whoever moves in CANNOT be any worse.

Hopefully.

Dog Toy

Saber is very good at chewing her toys to destruction.

It’s what she does.

Whatever she gets, she will chew and chew and bite and bite, until it eventually falls apart. This usually happens within several hours to a few days, but has been known – depending on the hardness of the toy – to be as little as just a few minutes.

A lot of the toys contain a squeaker, and I think perhaps the noise is what drives her to destroy it… maybe she believes she is killing some small animal, I don’t know, but either way it’s a blessed relief once the squeaker dies or falls out.

But, the toy in the picture is a rubber Christmas cracker.

With a squeaker.

And the damn thing is bloody indestructible! She’s had it for weeks now (it was a Christmas present) and it still shows no sign of giving up.

She looks both upset and bemused, when I take it away from her – as I often do – because we can’t hear the telly over the noise of this damn thing squeaking out its defiance.

Next year, she can have a real mouse or a guinea pig… one or two squeaks and then it’ll be silent!

Food, glorious food

We went out last night, for a meal.

It was my niece’s 18th birthday, so about thirty of us gathered together in this restaurant for a big birthday dinner.

It was meant to be a surprise, but of course, she recognised all the cars in the car park.

We’d not been to this particular restaurant before – in fact, it’s only about five miles away, but I never even knew it existed.

It has quite an impressive menu, featuring gastronomical delights from Italy, Mexico, America, India and – of course – Britain.

Now, when it comes to choosing from a menu, I’m not one for hanging about. I’m not one of the “I really fancy this… but that looks nice too. Oh what shall I have?” brigade.  If I take longer than one minute to pick something, then I just get annoyed with myself.

Because it’s all nice, so just pick something for chris’sakes!

But this time, it must have taken me a good five minutes. I was REALLY annoyed with myself. But I think it’s because there was TOO much choice.

I’m quite partial to a Chicken Jalfrezi and I love a well cooked, proper Lasagne.

Chimichangas are delicious and there are times when only a burger will do, of course.

So what epicurian feast did I plump for, from this exotic and eclectic menu?

Gammon, egg and chips.

And it was bloody lovely!

 

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