Thursday, 30 December 2010

Ice breakers.

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In which our hero goes canoeing on the Exeter canal and, in the space of a mere 5 hours, manages a width.

It transpires that The Dagnall, who you may remember from the incident when I tattooed his eye a few years back, is off for the whole winter break, whilst I slave over a hot Dell, & Is getting restless at home. In an attempt to break the mundane routine of spending time with his lovely wife and adorable son, presumably by way of spending time with In order to juxtapose that Idyllic home-life against my ugly mug, Invited me to come out with him In his canoe. I readily agreed. Sadly we had entirely different activities In mind.

No, It's not going to be one of those stories, you bloody pervert.

Anyway, the entirety of the canal and the river In Exeter have been covered with a thick layer of Ice. Very thick. Thick enough that I was confident enough to go ice skating on the overflow with my children. Thick.

See? It's thick. I have been pumping my friend Iain's yacht whilst he is away in Barbados and of late it is simply a solid hull of ice. (Here is Iain - he is the chap in the lower image, being hauled out of the water as his boat sinks beside him).

The river has cleared now, for the most part, but the almost stagnant canal still sports about a 4" thickness throughout, with the exception of the swing-bridges, where it is clear for a few yards.

This in mind, I am envisioning going ice breaking, but The Dagnall seems not to know of the iciness of the canal and has his heart set on paddling. This nearly scuppers my evening at the offset, but fear not, trusted reader, for the night was much fun.

After some arguments and a bit of going the wrong way, we set off to the Countess Weir swing-bridge at about half six. It was only once we arrived that I realised The Dagnall's confusion about the solidity of the water in the area and he was all for calling our expedition off, but I was having little of that and began smashing the ice near the bank with a hatchet. This was considerably harder than I foresaw. Ice which is 4" thick does not smash, it merely allows the blade of an axe to pass through it on the 4th or 5th blow. This was going to take some time.

On my own, wet of socks and tiring of arms, I was beginning to make up entirely new swear words to curse The Absent Dagnall when lo, he returns triumphant with a stainless steel length of pipe, like a heavy scaffolding pole around 4' long. With this we should be able to make some progress, no?

No. Well, not much. With My Lordship in the rear, holding us steady with an axe in the ice, and The Dagnall smashing away at the solid mass ahead of us, we manage to travel around 20' from the bank before he is exhausted and I am cold. We return to the bank feeling dejected, but I am not one to give up easily. Pure British Mindedness is bloody important, you know.

Whilst The Dagnall is having a wander around, looking for some wood to build a fire with, I go for a walk along the bank and out onto a jetty. It is slippery and a bit dodgy, but then I find my way under the swing bridges and sight clear water, so I return with a compromise. Peradventure a bit of a paddle in the open water will placate matters? I have, you should note gentle reader, absolutely bugger all intention of leaving tonight without making a passage through the ice, but at this early juncture I fancy that it is too soon to start pushing matters.

We hoist the canoe out of the water and place it upon the ice, upon which The Dagnall begins dragging me across the surface. Because the ice is floating it moves with my weight a little and, if I am honest, this is nothing like as exciting as I had hoped for. Much more 'dragging a legless dog through gravel' than 'midget face slide'.

So, sliding around on the ice is right out then. I get out and we tow the canoe across the surface to the bridge. This involves walking out into the canal on beams in a manner pretty much designed to make my mother shout 'STEPHEN' in the screeching manner of mothers everywhere, who tend to resort to using their husbands names for their children in times of real stress. None of the evening has passed by without stress, to be fair. The times when we have not been in danger of falling through the ice and drowning are by far fewer than those where we have, but that's the point, no? Anyway, I digress.

View Ice breaking. in a larger map

We paddle around a little in the water before striking out under the bridges to see what we can find on the other side. A quick scouting out of the river shows that the current is far beyond our capabilities this evening (well, we could go downstream quickly, but we'd have to walk back and we are seventy years old between us, so that's just not happening). We get up some speed before we suddenly come to an abrupt, ice-fuelled halt which almost capsizes us and so we stop for a wee between the bridges.

That's the thing about icy water, you see, it shrinks your bladder to the size of the combined brains of the EDL, which makes for numerous comfort breaks. Back in the canal we venture back to the far bank and onwards downstream to the main body of ice.

The ice is thinner here and I am able to just smash it with the scaffolding pole, breaking out a large area of water around us, but it soon thickens and we return to using an axe to cut a path. This is not going well, but again, there's no giving up on these things.

I soon develop a successful, but ultimately painful technique. I smash the scaffolding pole through the ice as far ahead as I can reach, then lever it back and forth, smashing both the top of the ice on my side of the puncture and the bottom of the ice beyond the holey fulcrum. The downside to this being, of course, that when the far tip of the pole finally breaks through, I punch the ice will the full force of my rapidly swelling fist.

Having cut a line of this nature on either side of the canoe, I then give it some welly and break off the central square, before pushing it down, under the canoe, moving forwards 3' and beginning all over again.

This is clearly less than refreshing and I am soon wet and tired. Additionally, at this stage we have a long wooden pole supporting a gas lamp hanging from the front of the canoe and, for fear of coming over all Ratty and Mole, it features the twin qualities of being quite beautiful, in a tranquil, countryside kind of manner, and utterly in the way.

Being the sensible chap I am, I soon counter this issue by implementing a 'splash and smash' manoeuvre, causing hazing to the glass of the gas lamp and eliciting some mild expletives from The Dagnall, who owns the lamp, yet understands the inevitability of the incident. Sorry Dangall.

A brief inspection of the damage is as good a reason for a break as any, so I begin breaking out a more narrow channel and engineer a situation where we are wedged into the ice flow and can hold ourselves steady using the handle of a hatchet with the minimum of fuss. We need to relocate the lamp amidships and also could do with some sustenance ourselves. This is not easy work.

Wedged in, as we are, we unload the wood from the bottom of the canoe, piling the pieces of plywood onto the ice beside us. Fire and ice are not natural companions, yet we still press on, placing a few lengths of four by two (two by four for any Americans out there, not the cloth we used in the army with our rifle pull through) directly against the ice, with a platform of ply upon them and the fire basket straight on the ply.

What does an Englishman do when stuck fast in the middle of an ice flow in a canoe? We made tea, what else?

Once we had the kettle boiling on the fire and some crisps inside us, the world became more peaceful and more painful concurrently. My bruises and cramps started to ache, but I cared less about it. By the time we had boiled the kettle a second time and had four mugs of tea between us, I was more than ready to continue opening the breach. The question was, where had it got to?

In order to make our way along the narrow channel I was breaking, it was necessary to push the blocks of ice which I cut free from the main sheet down under the canoe or beneath the solid ice in order to leave us clear(ish) water to pass through. During our tea break, however, much of this ice had floated up from wherever it had lain and our path was nothing more than cracked ice where the slabs had resettled in some sort of auto-completing jigsaw puzzle. That solved the problem of 'on or back' for us anyway.

I hadn't got but a few yards when the ambulance arrived.

Now an ambulance is not something one wants to see whilst being overtly intrepid. The brave ladies and gentlemen of that particular profession have to deal with the result of misadventure on an all too regular basis and, it is fairly safe to say, they view acts of utterly unnecessary bravado with an element of disdain. The average paramedic is wholly of the opinion that climbing mount Everest is all very well for your professionals, but that they really would be a whole lot better off staying in with a nice cup of tea. Not too hot, mind.

It was therefore not without some anxiety that The Dagnall and I watched their approach. For approach they did. Ill-content with merely parking up beside the canal, the ambulance crew turn their steed towards the canal and pull up (with a slightly worrying crunch of gravel, of the kind seemingly designed to make silly canoeists believe that they may well just brake too late and end up in the frozen channel) with their headlights blinding us.

By now we have the gas lamp (in a poor state of repair) hanging amidships, so I am utterly retina-free by the time I manage my third blink and this is all a little authoritarian for my liking, however the situation was not all that bad. Beyond a little judgement on our characters we had nothing to fear. The conversation went a little like this, although you have to imagine my half-frozen Lordship continuing to break ice all through the exchange:

"Are you all okay out there?"
"Yes thanks, we are doing this on purpose."
"Are you not frozen?"
"No thank you, we had a nice fire and a cup of tea, just back there" I motion backwards with my scaffolding pole, highlighting the site of the camp-fire, so recently abandoned behind us.
"Haven't you got anything better to be doing?"

I have to admit that I was a little put out by this, after all, what could possibly be better than an ice-breaking expedition across the canal? I was, however, acutely aware that in this era, where reading the Daily Mail is still not an offence which carries a sentence of even a little incarceration, a bit of bitching at a copper could have my mug on the front of the Star, after an idiot ambulance driver tries to save someone who is in very little peril. Certainly not even as much as he desires.

"If we were not out here, breaking our way through the ice in the middle of the night in a canoe, we would be forced to remain at home with our horrible wives."

I have always found that the derision of the opposite sex, coupled with the use of a term of manly endearment, works wonders when dealing with public service workers (regardless of their gender). "Mate" I add.

This does the trick and, a few minutes of chatter later (during which I continue working, seeing as I can, in the light of their ambulance halogens, the large break where The Dagnall had first set out) they drive off, leaving us with an ominous 'see you later, then boys' to remind us of the situation which a cut or pierced hull would land us in.

I make good use of their short stay to mark out my path a little with some flung chunks of ice, which flitter across the surface as would spittle on a wood-burner. and we reach the bank in another twenty minutes of so and are able to rest.

Now, we never quite made it to the far bank and I am keen to manage a full width, so after a much deserved rest, I convince The Dagnall that he needs to take us back across. This proves almost too difficult to complete - getting the canoe into the tight passage from a position of floating around in an open lagoon is nigh on impossible, since the canoe is bounced back into the bay with ever ice strike, but eventually we are in and with The Dagnall pushing down the floating ice with a paddle and I propelling us along with the hatchet, we make admirable progress across to the opposite bank, where the thin ice we encountered earlier is weak enough that we are able to drive our way through and The Dagnall picks a piece of foliage to mark the occasion.

That is about it really. We return to the bank where the car is situated, load up, warm up (I make use of the Passat's heated seats, although I generally eschew them with zeal), return the length of scaffolding to its home in the fence (I dearly want to keep this as both a useful tool and a memento, but it is not mine to have) and return home for a cup of tea and glory.

A worthwhile use of my time and no mistake.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

I am on BBC3 on Monday at 8:30pm

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I will be naked, farting in a bath.

Here is what I will look like.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

An interesting morning

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On my way in this morning I decided to stop at the garage. Garage is a strange word and I may dwell on it later on. My van is abhorrent. Perhaps the least attractive vehicle on the road today.

Not that bad, I suppose, maybe I exaggerated a little, after all a colour coded bumper, whilst unattractive, may be to some people's taste and is hardly that offensive, eh? Let's have a look at the front.

Oh my God, what is that? AAGGHH! Kill it with sticks.


Anyway, now that we have got the ugliness of my van out of the way, I am having some problems with her at the moment. She is surging a little when climbing hills and generally misbehaving, with a little yellow light to tell me that the garage (yes, yes, I'll come to it. It isn't really very interesting anyway) need to take a gander at the innards. They had a go and replaced the drive-by-wire throttle sensor, but it has been to no avail and nothing is improved (including my bank balance - it cost almost £200 for no gain), so I thought to myself 'I know, I'll pop in on my way past and see what they can manage'.

What they can manage is to see my car today, so I am writing this whilst walking to work, which is a lot further than I would have hoped for, but such is life. I was just passing the back of the recycling centre now and the scent of fresh dew on moist mattresses is delightful. No,not delightful, that other one. Shit. Anyway, I am walking and it is not the natural state of the My Lordship, being more suited to the recline.

Now for the bit which is mildly interesting. Not very, mark you, just mildly. If you are after a good yarn then today wasn't the day to arrive here. As I am passing under the railway bridge, I notice a lorry looking rather lost. The driver is adopting an air of subdued confidence, but I am not fooled, the artic is having no fun at all, blocking the road and twitching its wheels in concern.

As I watch a bus pulls up and the 'driver' (I have never been particularly fond of bus operators, they tend to run bicycles over for sport) begins conversing on the topic of directions. As I approach it becomes increasingly clear that the bus driver is sending the lorry down a very narrow, long, double parked, residential and generally arse dead end. One which will take the lorry a good 40 minutes to reverse back out of.

Given that the lorry is looking for Colas (which largely burned down recently) and that, from where the bus driver is sitting there must be all of 10 yards to the large sign at the Colas gate which, helpfully, bears the legend 'COLAS', I am a little surprised by the level of gittishness available.

For clarity, Colas is here: and, if you turn around 180 degrees, the lorry is where the white van is at the junction. Bear in mind also that this is not Manchester or London, this is Exeter. The bus driver knows for certain that the directions he is given lead to a dead end.

I intervened and pointed out the sign, saying "Are you looking for COLAS?" and, upon receiving the expected affirmative response, continued "It's just there, by the big sign that says 'COLAS'". I was thanked and wandered on. It is getting close to me being late for work, I must hurry.

Have fun!

Oh yes. I said I'd say something about the word Garage. It's not that interesting, please feel free to leave now. I Pronounce garage in three different ways, depending on the meaning:

  1. I buy petrol in a garage, pronounced 'garridge'.

  2. I have my can repaired in a garage, pronounced 'garrardge'

  3. I park my car (or rather do not, since I do not have one) in a garage, pronounced "g'rardge"

I did say it was dull. I need to get a shift on if I am to arrive at work before 9, I'll publish this later, by which time you will have read most of this already on twitter. Cheerio.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Infographics - the end of a love affair?

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When I first started seeing infographics I loved them. From chortling at the chucklesome 'Venn That Tune' book in Rick Astley's toilet to lusting after the VW camper in the Red Riding Hood infographic video (which you really should watch, if you haven't already).

When Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted I was in love with infographics. As a pedant, the volcanoes Vs. Planes infographic was a delight as it was not only informative, beautiful and topical, but also horribly wrong. We pedants commented in our thousands and eventually, after three more iterations, a corrected version was released. our relationship couldn't have been better. But then things went awry, leading us to where we are today.

'What can have caused such a dramatic split?' I hear you eagerly enquire. Well, I shall tell you. Yes, I do have to, now shut up and listen.

In the beginning we had some lovely designers producing some innovative work. such people as Flowing Data, Information is Beautiful and QRarts were making information into something we wanted to look at and to learn from. Sadly, everyone wanted to look at them, they became excellent link bait and, as so often happens, every traditional PR agency who want to pretend that they can do ePR jumped on the bandwagon and ruined it.

Where I had been salivating over the quite wonderful Drug Deaths piece in the guardian, I was suddenly faced with adverts, even infographics in adverts for infographics. Now I actually believe that a few diagrams are a wonderful thing, but there is such a thing as overkill.

So, what happened between infographics and me? How did things go so badly wrong? Let me explain through a medium I know you will understand.

In summary: My red pen colours in better than my blue one.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Gin-online, well, erm, online.

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So, it is fairly well documented that I am a fan of the almighty gin. Who wouldn't be?

I like to quaff Bombay Sapphire, seep sloe gin, gulp Plymouth, swig Larios, mingle with Tesco Dry London, stick with basic Tanqueray, embroil myself with some No 10, decucumberate a Hendricks, mix myself up a Ginness, delight in an Oxley cold distilled gin, prepare some blueberry gin or simply lounge around with some Pimms, dressed as a Pirate.

But drinking gin is only the beginning of understanding and, let's face it, Wikipedia is about as reliable as a donkey's overdraft, so I have been left to my own gin tasting devices. Until now!

I now see that tells me all I need to know.

So, a blatant plug for a resource I am not involved in, and I am off for a gin.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Solving the oil spill one idiot at a time.

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So let me get this absolutely clear; In protest that BP (who produce oil, which does have negative effects) use some of their profits to fund arts, some children threw molasses (a product which has had its own share of spills - at the pavement outside the Tate. [Video below the fold].

I suspect that BP will be severely damaged by this action, whereas the low income cleaners will be uplifted and gratified that their dictatorial and oppressive employers have suffered this blow.

I particularly enjoyed the aggressive way in which the lead protester threw his molasses directly at the young staff member, clearly a cog in the well oiled corporate machine which is BP. You can tell he is a wrong 'un, he is wearing a yellow vest.

May I suggest targeting Transocean with some Nivea or perhaps poorly cement up the doors to the Halliburton buildings next? That would show them.

This seems like misguided, poorly considered low level vandalism, akin to throwing eggs at houses on Halloween.

The original post can be found here.

[UPDATE: Turns out that the molasses will not scrub off and some form of oil based detergent will be required. Go protesters!]

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

An open letter to Nestles

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The 'knitted by nanas' campaign is excellent. Funny, clean and enjoyed by everyone. Sadly, it does not at any point or anywhere within the websites or, more relevantly, on the boxes, mention the fact that shreddies are not actually 'knitted by nanas'.

Sadly, whilst I like the campaign, I am left with a child who refuses to believe that shreddies are not actually made by old ladies who knit each square. I try to teach my children the truth whenever they ask questions, but I have found a brick wall here, where their age is such that they do not fully understand advertising and do understand small-print.

The argument 'If they were not really knitted by grandmas then it would have to say so on the box somewhere' is a valid one and one which is being used as evidence against me and, when I think about it, this is true. The box explicitly states, without caveat, a manufacturing process which is fabricated.

The thin end of the wedge which ends with dried turd being sold as organic, hand-rolled processed cheese? Probably not. Annoying when trying to explain things to children? Slightly.

All I ask is for an asterisk and an explanation in a tiny font.



Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Rusty bodies.

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So, Loxlee loves cars - I cannot say I share his enthusiasm, but what do I know? What I do like is cheap viral videos with bugger all real content and a lot of fun.

In his most recent post, this young Capri driver (yes, seriously) has been covering the PPC in the Park campaign for 2010, which are slightly less offensive than last year's "Burn your share of the oil while there is some left" but still sort of shows a touch of tits and, at the end of the day, Manley loves breasts.

Here are the videos:

Only one tit in this one and he's driving a Rover.

This one has tits!

You'll have to go to his site ( if you want to see last year's banned commercial, because I regard anything the ASA say with the utmost respect.

I am not sure that they have quite pulled it off, but it is good, clean, low budget fun and, frankly, is better than the video we made so, well, hats off to them.

Friday, 9 April 2010


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I got given an iPad today.

So I naturally got naked in the office and played with it.

Sadly there is no redtube, as it has no Flash.

Also it is made of pine.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The cheese is a lie!

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Chef Daniel Angerer has declared in his blog that he is making cheese with 'Mommy's milk'.

This is strangely interesting.

What I find most unbelievable about this is that cheese needs milk which is easily dehomogenised. Human milk is not. The production of sheese (that is to say, cheese made from human milk) is not viable since breast milk can not curdle, because the protein content is much lower than, for example, goat's milk.

I have tried. I had more success with Yoghurt and I have cooked two very nice placentas but human milk simply will not curdle.

After doing some more research, what this appears to be is normal cheese, made with a higher protein milk, with human milk included with it. Essentially this would be normal cheese with a human milk flavouring.

In his blog, the chef suggest that the rennet is creating curds from the mother's milk, but I am unable to replicate this - I have asked him if he can confirm that he is actually turning the human milk into cheese or whether he is simply adding it, but my comments are not being published and I am receiving no response.

Right now my knowledge, experience and experimentation suggests that it must be the latter. As such, I feel that this is basically a bit of link bait which, whilst it has worked, is basically based on a lie.

I look forward to contradiction with gleeful anticipation.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Flickr fun.

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I use Flickr a fair bit, but I have been playing with and found this image, tagged 'Manley', of a man, apparently having a poo.


As you know, I am easily pleased.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Manley Snapper

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I love Manley Labs products, but this photograph of their snapper made me smile.


I should stress that I am in no way affiliated with Manley Labs, although anything they want to send me free would be greatly appreciated.



Sunday, 3 January 2010

A busy day

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In which Grandma falls ill, Ben goes missing and our hero is exposed momentarily to Jamaica ginger cake.

So, I crawled reluctantly from my pit at an hour which can safely be categorised as late. Matthewparker had called around with the intention of borrowing a megaphone in order to alert a large number milling athletes, who were about to embark on 6 miles of what any sane man would consider torment, of the presence of flood-water on the route. Matthewparker successfully on his healthy way, bullhorn at the ready, I rose and bathed the children.

We had taken a short stroll, following breakfast, so I was ripe for a snooze, but was cajoled by a trio of baying female offspring into playing Super Mario N64. In fairness to the daughters involved, I quite possible require a greatly reduced quantity of pleading when children's activities involve a joypad. Certainly I would take less readily to a game of hide-and-seek.

Anyway, their race completed, the Parkerboglus returned triumphant and we had quite settled into a normal Sunday sort of tea and cake affair, when my father, hereafter referred to as 'Old Man', calls me up on the telephone and informs me that his wife, my mother (Grandma from here on in), is being bungled into a helicopter with the express motive of winging (or perhaps blading, I could not decide) her off to the old hospital as soon as was practical. Obviously there was nothing for it but to get to the centre of medical excellence which is the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (Wonford) and pronto.

I arrived to find that I had preceded the chopper by some margin and there was some essence of anti-climax as I wandered up to the heliport and I found myself rather lounging against a pale, listening to the gradually amplifying whirr of the Devon Air Ambulance.

Once the bird had landed the crew seemed reluctant to acknowledge the fool on the ground, presumably the spectacle of a slow local waving at the flying medics is not an unusual one, but I happened, by pure chance, to be wearing a hoody which The Dagnall had given me, which bears the simple legend 'MANLEY' upon the left breast in gold seriffed lettering. It was to this that I gestured and, after speaking to the patient, with some gesturing which I clearly read as referring to my shoulder length hair, I was summoned to assist in the removal of Grandma from the flying machine.

I felt quite useful, since the porters had not arrived.

Anyway, before too long I was off, with Old Man and Little Helen having arrived, so I was off home. Grandma was a hole in the heart baby and, when you grow up with a mother with a tricuspid valve replacement you get used to the occasional high drama every few years.

Next up Ben was missing - he set out on a half cross-country, half road ride several hours before, but had not yet returned. This was worrying, since it was icy and unpleasant out and a lot of drivers were being skittish in the way that they seem to do when nearing the end of a long weekend.

Once again we were into the van and off to find Ben. I fully expected to see him zooming down a hillside in the other direction, grinning like a fool in his gay abandon, but the possibility remained that he had taken a spill on the ice or just had a bad puncture and was pushing his way back to camp. In this evening's temperatures that could be a serious matter. But no.

Ben turned up at his abode when we were not 3 miles out from town, so we were able to get home and have still more tea.

Something to do, even something unpleasant, like carrying a stricken Grandma or driving out to find a beleaguered Ben, takes one's mind off the real worry, the health of a relative or the welfare of a friend.

Happy new year.