England fans, complimented for their good behaviour in South Africa, return to Old Blighty swathed in disappointment, dejection, abject misery, disillusionment, and debt. But most alarmingly some divots, like this bozo, are returning with vuvu-flipping-zelas. This wazzock has seven of the infernal devices! Let's hope this is merely a passing fancy and these wretched hooters do not make an appearance at English football grounds. Otherwise, the National Health Service Accident & Emergency clinics are going to have to employ a lot more proctologists.
We don't have any migrating swifts in this part of Old Blighty but we do have blackbirds. In fact there are a few domiciled in the hedge at the back of our garden and I am enjoying listening to them singing. There's one chappie who seems to choose a time when all the other birds have gone quiet and he sits up there and warbles away, extemporising and generally noodling like a proper noodler practising for his noodling exam.
Also present at Xorg-Intergalactic HQ Park and Gardens: the inevitable pigeons; chirpy sparrows; a curious robin; shy blue tits; and the accursed magpie. There's rumours of a red kite in the neighbourhood but I have yet to observe said beasty.
Addendum: Blackbirds are not, of course, tuneful all the time especially when they are feeding the fledglings. A fair bit of screeching has been going on. Moreover, there seems to have been some kind of territorial dispute which involved much flapping and hedge-bothering.
Well, there's a lot of disappointed Greeks around the world. It was unlikely that they would have beaten Argentina but they could at least have given it a go; the Argentinian's defence isn't all that great - their strength is in attack. Yer man Samaras isn't a bad player and if he'd had some support from midfield he might have got somewhere. OK, so we can appreciate a solid defensive performance and effective man-to-man professional performance but what's the point when you know at the outset that to progress further in the tournament, you have to win?
That was truly dreadful. Woeful. Pathetic. Not only did the players fail to get themselves going but Mr Capello got his team selection and tactics all wrong. Wayne Rooney was rubbish; Emile Heskey was not good enough; Gerrard and Lampard fizzled out into nothingness; and they all looked like they just didn't have a clue. But it is Mr Capello who should own up - he should have substituted Rooney and Heskey after twenty minutes and brought on Crouch and Defoe then rather than with only ten minutes to go. Blithering idiot. Of course, as a result he's now faced with the even more difficult choice of whether he should stick with his line-up or be bold and change it from the outset, for a game which they must win. Well, duh! Talk about adding pressure!
Having said all that, it is not unusual for England to under-perform against 'inferior opposition' so although disappointed and depressed one is not actually all that surprised. What is more alarming is that Germany fluffed a penalty in their match. Whatever next?
That's all I needed. One of the neighbour's children has somehow acquired a vuvuzela doodad and has begun honking it this evening. Here's hoping the little honker makes himself go deaf, or blind, or away somewhere.
I had a brainwave about these vuvuzela thingies. What FIFA should do is arrange for some different ones to be made, which play different notes, and which people can exchange for their existing ones for free. If they were to make them so that they played the notes of, say, C, E and G, then at least we'd get a nice triad type chord instead of the monotonous B flat drone currently being produced. And you never know, you might even get some random tunes generated.
If you are thinking of replacing some of your old LPs with CDs, or catching up with some that you missed, check out the reissue sets from Sony/BMG Original Album Classics. Some are 3 CD sets but most are 5 CD sets, and are generally £11.99, which at £2 8s 0d per album is excellent value. Jeff Beck, Santana, The Allman Brothers, The Byrds, Carole King and many more. Hotcha.
The latest Xorg-Intergalactic works outing took place last Friday with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery to attend one of their workshops. Accompanying FabMary and myself was Susannah of the Chamberlain clan. This was a drop-in drawing session where for a couple of hours an accomplished artist provided handy tips on how to draw portraits. The session was led by a very lively lady who was filled with enthusiasm for her subject and helped a group of cack-handed scribblers to achieve some measure of success in copying a portrait of Charles the Second. He had a big nose, and no mistake. I enjoyed the experience immensely and had my first ever go at doing a chalk drawing - not bad for starters but I need to make my outlines bolder, apparently. If you're in London of a Friday evening, get along there (it's free) but be early coz the sessions are limited to thirty people.
Beforehand, we had a bite to eat at Ed's Diner in Rupert Street. This was jolly spiffing - genuine American Fifties high-fat junk food, with an old-fashioned Rock n' Roll jukebox. I consumed what they call a 'Chilli Dog Combo'. A frankfurter hot dog with a dollop of chilli con carne, plus chips, onion rings, coleslaw and half a gherkin; all for the princely sum of £8.25. And an endlessly refillable mug of filter coffee for £1.75. Highly recommended, but not too often unless you want to end up like a tub of lard and die prematurely of a heart attack!
Mumblings continue about the new Adidas ball being used in the World Cup. Apparently it lifts itself when wellied too hard. Some have even been saying it is unpredictable and consequently makes life difficult for goalkeepers (thank you Robert Green's mum.) But you can't fail to have noticed that Germany have scored four goals with it so perhaps the ball isn't so much of a problem. Or maybe that's because the Germans have been practising with the the ball since January. (Note: Adidas is a German-based company.)
Whatever, let's hope James Milner and his chums have also been practising with it.
It's all looking very familiar. A couple of dull opening games. England under-achieving in a nervy start and giving away a stupid goal against inferior opposition, and injuries to key players. Germany being under-estimated and turning out to be just as organised and disciplined as ever, producing quality when it's needed. Greece being rubbish. Argentina relying on three or four wizard players. Italy defending cautiously. Mad Africans. Inconsistent referees and complaints about the new ball. Crap coverage by ITV. And I could live without those vuvuzoola thingies that drown everything out. Harumph. But it usually gets better with the second set of group matches when teams realise they've got to do something about the mess they're in. Here's where Fabio Capello earns his £6 million a year!
Jeff Beck in (mostly) quiet and reflective album shock!
After quite a long gap, Jeff Beck has a new album out 'Emotion & Commotion' which features him playing with an orchestra and some guest lady vocalists. There are some typically flashy and noisy moments on it but for the most part it has a sort-of-classical feel to it. Recommended! Here's a promotional interview with The Man Himself.
And so, as the sun sets sail in the west and the ship sinks over the horizon, we near the end of our extended sojourn on the Isle of Aphrodite.
Isle of stupid builders, more like! We've just about reached the point in this here project where I had hoped (rather optimistically) we might have been by the end of April. Never mind, after much argy-bargy, here we are and there you go. We've had a final meeting with Sid James and Kenneth Williams (builder, architect respectively - Carry On Blundering) from which I absented myself as I can no longer stand to be in the same room as t'builder. El Presidente very nobly handled the negotiations and has left the architect with a five-page, fifty three point memorandum of areas in which various Cypriot digits need to be extracted. There was meanwhile a frantic flurry of activity yesterday as t'builder tried to get things done before we leave, in the hope that we might pay him some more money. No chance, Monkeyface! It still ain't finished! We await the architect's directions in this matter.
At the moment, we have the electrician here doing a job that the builder forgot to tell him to do yesterday. This has been a fairly typical occurrence. However, at least the air conditioning has been restored to the existing building so El Presidente's ancestors will be able to breathe of an evening when they are here in a couple of weeks' time. Mysteriously, a massive load of ready-mixed concrete has been delivered and is parked on the back veranda upstairs. It's in a huge metal container, about two cubic metres I guess. I have no idea what this is for, unless it's the stuff needed to finish off the drains on the ground floor, in which case there's going to be a lot of running up and down stairs with buckets.
I was sitting on the balcony yesterday evening reading quietly when an alpine swift swooped past me, about one metre away. Swish. So I sat for a while and watched him and his mates enjoying their evening swoopageness, and it struck me after a few minutes that you don't hear or see the swifts in the morning. They don't begin to appear until after morning coffee; eventually by about an hour before sunset they have taken over the sky. They disappear again when darkness falls. I wonder where they go and what they're doing?
Meanwhile, at dusk the bats appear. They fly much lower than the swifts and their pattern of flight is quite different even though they too are catching insects. Being much lower in the air there's no thermals for them to glide on, I suppose. But they nevertheless avoid hitting the buildings.
The plumber was here for most of the day sorting out the multifarious pipes criss-crossing the roof and dangling over the side of the building. These should have been incorporated into the roof space but weren't (see entry for 20 May). So they are being put into conduits and at least made to look a bit more tidy - it has been deemed impractical and prohibitively expensive to remove the roof and do it right. Moreover, some of the pipes are under the concrete floor of the new flat because they were brought into the building at the wrong point. Ho hum.
So all this activity meant that the water supply was turned off for the day, but when he left us at tea-time the plumber assured us everything was back to 'normal'. Not so. El Prez went into the shower and found no water at all coming out of any taps. So she phoned the plumber "Try turning the valve on the tank" he says. Nothing happened. Eventually he agreed to come back and check it out. After about an hour of fiddling about up and down from the roof he discovered his error - he had connected the water for the existing flat to the new flat upstairs. Aha.
Meanwhile, he has not been able to finish work for the new flat because the builder hasn't done the necessary for fitting the water tank in place; finishing a wall or two, grouting floor tiles and so forth. So the plumbing adventure continues.
There's a nice piece of sarcasm written by Mark Steel in today's Independent, in which he lets rip at the Israelis over their attack on the aid convoy heading for Gaza.
Whether you are pro-Palestinian, pro-Israeli or are are just fed up with the whole lot of them, I don't see how this attack by Israel can be justified. It wasn't a surprise; they knew who was on board and that they weren't armed; and that they were only carrying 'humanitarian aid' - not weapons. So why send in an elite commando force, armed to the teeth, in a dramatic helicopter-launched trigger-happy assault? Maybe somebody has been watching too many Hollywood macho movies.
Someone should be put on trial for this. And the irony is that Israel's action will only serve to further polarise the situation and recruit people to the Palestinian's cause. Addendum: The Greek Cypriots have a different angle on this, arising from their distrust of the Turks. They question why the Turks, who have rarely been known to help anyone except themselves, should want to get involved in a 'humanitarian aid' operation. It seems the flotilla originally intended to embark from Larnaca but, because the Cyprus Government is involved in delicate negotiations with the Israeli Government over drilling rights in the Mediterranean, permission was refused. So instead the flotilla embarked from Famagusta which is in the Turkish-occupied territory and an 'illegal port' i.e. not officially recognised by any country except Turkey so no ships except Turkish ones ever call there. The Greek Cypriot view is that Turkey wanted to encourage the use of Famagusta in order to help render it de facto a legitimate port.
Chapman was idling along Grafton Street in Dublin one day, musing on the vast array of expensive designer-wares being offered for sale. He raised his eyebrows at a shop window containing nothing but handbags, all with their labels on the outside. "Perhaps they forgot them and had to add them later", he ventured. He encountered an emporium of dubious women's clothing which acclaimed itself to be haute couture for the aficionado, but averted his eyes lest he be tempted to impure thoughts. Imagine his startled face, however, when but a few yards further along he came abruptly to a halt in front of 'Keats & Co: Ornithologist's Requisites and Supplies. Purveyors of Feathered Friends to The Gentry.'
Beads of sweat emerged on Chapman's forehead as he pondered the significance of this unexpected and alarming development in the world of commerce. Keats had hitherto not been one for trade, considering it beneath his calling as an intellectual and philosopher extraordinaire. Chapman feared the worst but he knew that ultimately he would have to enquire of The Great Man sooner or later or face the consequences of a diatribe against his inclination towards indifference. He stepped across the threshold of the boutique to the accompaniment of a tinkling bell above the door.
"Ah, Chapman, my good fellow!" enunciated Keats. "Good to see you have joined the throng of twitchers and fellow-travellers beating a path to my door in search of the necessaries. What is your pleasure?"
Chapman blushed. He had not intended a purchase, merely an explanation. He ummed and arred for a second or two and shuffled nervously.
"I sense some uncertainty," Keats continued, "Perhaps I can elucidate a little. You see before you a man hitherto reluctant to dirty his hands with the workings of Mammon. But I am on a mission! We must encourage our fellow man to take more than a passing interest in zoological affairs, particularly where the feathered varieties are concerned. Not only do they provide a vital link in the endless ecological firmament but, if domesticated, they can be a companion to the lonely and disabled. Why, imagine John Silver without his parrot to console him in his dejection after being outwitted by Jim Hawkins!"
Chapman's eyebrow raised itself skyward. "Yes, a lonely and disabled wretch indeed. And I see you have some parrots here in your shop. These are for sale, I presume?"
"Most definitely. They have been exciting much interest amongst the locals who are unused to the flying denizens of the tropics. Down here by your kneecaps" Keats pointed, " We have the psephotus haematonotus, or red-rumped parrots and up there by your shoulder, psittinus cyanurus, the blue-rumped variety. Both are very fine specimens but you should be aware that the blue fellow will cost you more in the long run."
"Oh, and why is that?" queried Chapman.
" Ah well. That's because they are on higher perches," explained Keats.
Chapman grimaced and, fuming, exited the premises.
Some say Socrates was an awkward old cuss. But he devised systems of logical argument which were taken up by Plato, and further defined and formulated by Aristotle. All clever stuff which has formed the basis of doing philosophy ever since. Modus ponens is a very common rule of inference, and takes the following form: If P, then Q. P is the case. Therefore, Q. If you want to get technical you could express it like this:
I confess that I find all this a tad mind-boggling at times. I read it through and I think to myself 'Ah, yes. I see.' Then about half a second later I'm thinking 'Erm, what was that again?' Whatever. I have nevertheless managed to figure out this much, and I'm convinced it is logical, valid and sound - as prescribed by Yer Man:
If the building work is a mess, then the builder is a useless idiot.
The building work is a mess
Therefore, the builder is a useless idiot.
The builder is Marinos Konstantinos.
Therefore, Marionos Konstantinos is a useless idiot.
We have had not a few problems with this here building project, several of them pretty basic involving the failure to follow a plan and/or use a tape measure. But what has made it almost impossible to deal with has been the mental condition of the builder. He is a nutter.
To give you some idea of the tense nature of our dealings with this nitwit, presented herewith is my first attempt at what I'm told the youngsters of today call a 'mashup'. It features the sounds of the builder doing his nut after being questioned about some of the series of incompetencies committed by him and his employees.