Monday, June 30, 2014


My uncle's funeral took place last Tuesday. It was a relatively small affair; about forty attended - no tyre kickers as he would have put it. As was his wish, he was buried with his garden shovel, which he'd had for decades. I got a bouquet of flowers delivered to my aunt who rang me at the weekend. I don't know how long she'll stay at the new house.

I’m worried I’m going to fall out with Kevin and we’ll end up not talking to each other. I’m amazed we haven’t fallen out already. After five months with a complete stranger living with me 24/7 (he might as well be), it’s almost inevitable.

On Saturday I stood for 3¼ hours at the entrance to Countdown with Tom, raising money for Autism NZ. People gave generously – it was pleasing to see. It must be the rock-star economy putting more money into everyone’s pockets. I must make sure I vote for Team Key (ugh) at the upcoming election so that the rock star doesn’t crash and burn. I think I’ll have a hard time voting for anybody. The difference between this year’s collection and the 2012 one was significant though; logically you’d expect an Autism collection to be more dependent on the economy than, say, a collection for a child cancer charity.

I couldn’t face staying at home on Saturday night, and luckily I didn’t have to. I went to the Carter Observatory with a few other people and managed to see Saturn through a 100-year-old telescope. It was an impressive sight, even if I couldn’t make out the reds and browns, and Saturn’s many rings appeared as one thick band. I 'd like to go back there and learn more about eccentric orbits and so forth, especially given the name I use when I post this blog. The more you think about the universe, the more mind-blowing it is. OK, so the universe is expanding. But what is it expanding into?

We had the second penalty shoot-out of the World Cup this morning, as Costa Rica finally did for Greece. I maintain that shoot-outs are crap. Exciting crap yes, but still crap.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Shoot-outs: rights, wrongs, solutions

After watching one this morning, here is a fairly brief version of what I think about penalty shoot-outs in football. If I'm honest, I don't think much of them.

1. They're high drama. It's hard to deny this.
2. They're over quickly (good for TV companies I guess)
3. They give goalkeepers a rare opportunity to become heroes.

1. They're nothing like the actual game of football - that's my biggest problem with them
2. The burden placed on one player is too great
3. Play before the shoot-out is adversely affected (both teams are happy to "play for penalties")
4. They happen too often, and in the biggest tournaments (it's quite hard to win the World Cup without resorting to one somewhere along the way)
5. Players are expected to score - part of the beauty of football is that goals come at a premium.

Sensible, feasible solutions:

1. Hold the shoot-out before extra time, with the outcome of the shoot-out coming into play only if the scores are level after extra time. That should solve number 3 in the "bad" section above, as one team will be forced to attack. It also partially solves number 2, as a player who misses a penalty has a chance to make amends in extra time. It won't solve number 4 - you'll actually get more shoot-outs - but I'm OK with that as the shoot-out wouldn't directly decide the game. If they ever do change the current system, which isn't that likely in the near future, I think this is the method they'll employ.

2. Extend extra time. They're highly-paid professional athletes. Why do they have to stop playing football (as I know it) after 120 minutes? Why not continue for additional 30 or even 60 if necessary, and perhaps allow more subs in that case? With the prospect of penalties pushed back, simply playing additional extra periods should solve both 3 and 4 in the "bad" section.

3. Remove players from each side at regular intervals. Pretty simple really. Fewer players, more space, more chance of a goal. Think of rugby sevens.

4. Replay. For the final only. Prior to the final, a replay could put the whole schedule out of whack, but for the final itself, why not?

5. You could combine any or all of the above, and for domestic competitions, such as promotion play-offs, there are other criteria you could use. If a promotion play-off finishes in a draw after extra time, rather that use penalties, the team who finished higher in the league should be declared the winner.

Friday, June 27, 2014

In my face

It's the weekend, but so what? I don't really want to see anyone this weekend, not even Kevin. Especially not Kevin. It wasn't long ago that some of my weekends were people-free, if you don't count the market, and I was fairly happy with that. Now there's someone around, and in my face, all the bloody time.

Yesterday I had a performance review at work. I didn't think I'd have one so soon. I did a lot better than I expected; I haven't produced or achieved anything there for weeks, but my boss didn't seem to care that much.

We're getting the wobbles here in Wellington again. Two earthquakes yesterday (although I didn't feel the first one) and two others that I've felt in recent weeks.

Tomorrow I'll be collecting for Autism NZ for three hours at the new(ish) Countdown at the end of my street.

The group stage of the World Cup has been completed; I don't think anyone can complain about a lack of excitement. The States surprised many by making it out of a tough group. Australia didn't win any games but won plenty of friends with the way they played (and scored one of the best goals). It's funny how American and Australian sporting teams (and fans) can be almost intolerable in the events they excel at, but very endearing in sports like football. Some of the images from the match between the USA and Ghana were of pure joy.
Uruguay also made it, as one of three teams to qualify despite losing their opening game. They'll have to play the rest of the tournament without Luis Suarez, who got a well-deserved ban that could easily have been longer. I couldn't believe Uruguay's population was only 3.4 million - that's less than New Zealand.
The football has been excellent with none of the ball-related problems that dogged the last World Cup in South Africa. The refereeing could have been better, but offsides are quite hard to get right and until they use technology to make those decisions, game-changing mistakes will be made.
I hope the knockout stage is as good as the group stage, and please not too many penalty shoot-outs (more about them in my next post).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Part two of the fruit series

In this episode (!) we talk about satsumas. I’ve eaten two today – it’s hard to eat just one. Of course people don’t use the word satsuma over here, which is a shame, because it sounds so squishy and juicy when you say it. Mandarin, which is the preferred term in NZ, doesn’t quite have the same effect. Around Christmas time in the UK, we ate boxes of the things. My brother was the biggest satsuma consumer – he’d usually eat the peel too – and we’d all know about it afterwards (and promptly vacate the room). Because they’re so easy to peel, and divide nicely into segments, they’re great for kids. They’re obviously firmly cemented in British society, for there exists a football team, some way down the pyramid, who play in orange and are known as the Satsumas. Here’s one of their match reports from 2000, written in Comic Sans; it makes following a non-league team sound way more fun than supporting Man City or Chelsea or whoever. (There are also at least two teams known as the Tangerines, but that nickname doesn’t have nearly the same level of awesomeness.) Click here for the post about persimmons. I don't expect this fruit series to last very long.

That leads me on to the World Cup (again, I know). During a dull moment at work (there have been quite a few of those lately) I was following the final matches of Group C. Colombia had already qualified for the next round, leaving one of the Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece to take the second spot. I would have been happy with either Japan or the Ivory Coast making it, but please not Greece. Colombia were beating Japan comfortably, so the match between the Ivory Coast and Greece was a straight shoot-out. The African side just needed a draw; the Greeks had to win. With the score at 1-1, Greece were awarded a last-minute penalty which they duly converted to book their place in the last 16 at the expense of the Ivory Coasters. Greece managed to qualify despite scoring only two goals in their group games and letting in four – the same record as England, who finished bottom of their group. I don’t know what makes Greece so unlikable in football, but whatever it is, they won’t care. Talking of unlikable, Luis Suarez should get a very long ban, if not a lifetime ban, for biting that Italian player, if that's actually what happened.

My flatmate had a check-up yesterday on his backside. He found out that he has an anal fistula and will need more surgery. He wasn’t in a good mood when I got home. I do feel sorry for him sometimes. “Fistula” is a nasty word, isn’t it? It’s the same length as “satsuma” and even has some of the same letters, but somehow it sits right at the other end of the word-niceness spectrum. I guess the meaning probably doesn’t help.

Joe Bennett has written a couple of interesting pieces lately. There's this one about multinational companies and the people who "work" at them, and this one about those extremely unhelpful people you get at information desks at UK railway stations. Oh god. Why are they always so deadpan? I still remember a few years ago asking someone at Leicester when the next train to Peterborough was. She wasn't far off the computer-says-no woman on Little Britain. "Twenty-one twenty-four," she said, or whatever it was. What? That's over three hours away! At least look like you give a damn that I'll be stuck in this hole for ages. By contrast I found the Italian information-desk people, usually women, to be very helpful, even though my Italian wasn't exactly brilliant. Train travel was a lot cheaper in Italy too.
Mum only found out on Monday night that her brother had died. I'm surprised it took them that long to get to a computer, even in a fairly remote part of the Dordogne, as they knew he was in a bad way. According to Dad she was beside herself, as you can imagine. I still wish I'd gone to the funeral.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Feeling bad...

I'm feeling a bit guilty about not going to my uncle's funeral, which takes place tomorrow. It seemed like an awful lot of expense and hassle to get down there - several hundred dollars and time off work.  But tonight I saw a curved TV advertised for ten times the cost of those last-minute flights, and maybe in the grand scheme of things it wouldn't have been so much. It's strange - when my other uncle died four years ago, there was no real suggestion that I'd be attending his funeral. I think I misjudged things a bit this time. I'll order my aunt a bouquet of flowers - that's the least I can do.

As strange as it might seem, those bloody board games on Saturday have a lot to answer for. If it wasn't for those, I wouldn't have missed an important call, I'd have had more time to organise things, and maybe I'd be down south right now. I didn't enjoy the games that much - the pizza we had in Kilbirnie between our two games was clearly the highlight for me.

Both Spain and England made a quick exit from the World Cup; we're now half-way through the matches. Spain at least have their huge successes of the past six years to fall back on. Not so England, who from what I saw, didn't actually play that badly. What's a real shame for England is that this happens to be (so far at least) the best World Cup in many people's living memory, and they were bundled out with three weeks and forty games still to go. Germany's 2-2 draw with Ghana was fantastic in the second half; the match between Portugal and the States (also 2-2) sounded almost as good and even more dramatic. It's nice to be getting some draws at last; draws tend to keep things "up for grabs", making the last round of group games more interesting.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I was going to write something profound about satsumas and the World Cup, but that will have to wait now. Yesterday afternoon I'd only just arrived at Tracy's place to play board games when my phone rang. It was my aunt. My uncle had passed away in the morning. What was I supposed to say to her? He went downhill very quickly. It was only in early April that I saw him doing up their new house in Hampden. I sent him a card, knowing things were deteriorating fast, and it only got there yesterday morning.

My uncle turned seventy in March, having been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the beginning of last year. He was a good bloke, a typical Kiwi bloke you might say, who lived in South Canterbury all his life except those last few months - for some reason, even though his days were probably numbered, he got a bee in his bonnet about moving. Perhaps it was psychological: moving house is something you do when you're thinking about the future, so maybe he was trying to create a kind of pretend future that didn't really exist.

He knew his local patch like the back of his hand: every stream (he was a keen fisherman) and every slope of Mount Peel. He never really travelled, with one big exception. In 1999 he and my aunt (his third wife, although they weren't yet married) stayed a few weeks at my parents' place in the UK. They also went to Ireland. My uncle, who loved to share anecdotes back home and was generally quite vocal, was noticeably quiet. Away from his stomping ground he had nothing to say.

The funeral is on Tuesday. I don't think I'll make it. If Mum and Dad were home I might well have done. Mum has now lost two of her three elder brothers: her eldest brother, Dan, died in 2010.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's got to end some time, Kevin

I got an email from Dad basically saying, jeez, I hope you didn't upset your flatmate when you said you wanted him out by Christmas. It's funny that both my parents seem more concerned with his well-being than mine. I took him on for the extra money, not out of the goodness of my heart, although I think I have been pretty good to him - I've given him a lot of leeway (probably too much, partly because his past made me a bit wary). He has it pretty good here, with all those cooked meals (OK I'm not that good a cook) and all that housework that magically gets done, often when he's still in bed. He has the whole place to himself when I'm out, and has almost free rein on the TV and whatever the hell else he likes. His classes are a ten-minute walk from here. It's all very convenient for him and I can perfectly understand him wanting to stay. But...

The World Cup continues to excite and surprise, not that I can watch much of it. I did catch some of this morning's game between Brazil and Mexico; the Mexican keeper was in inspired form. I still have my booklet from the 2010 tournament, with all the results filled in. The group games from four years ago look a bit dull now; some teams (um, England?) operated entirely in binary, with every game finishing 0-0, 1-0 or 1-1. I'd written in some notes from my hotel in Bali - "Channel 13 (reception awful) or 8 (not much better)" and names of countries in Indonesian that I'd picked up. Ivory Coast was "Pantai Gading", Greece was "Yunani", New Zealand was "Selandia Baru". Watching the action in a foreign country, and not having complications like work or flatmates to contend with, made the whole thing more interesting.

Warning: if you don't like maths or logic or tennis, or probably all three, please ignore the next paragraph.
Last year I promised to do a hypothetical calculation based on the Wimbledon qualifiers, and post the result here, so twelve months later... Qualifying for the men's singles at Wimbledon (which is going on now) involves winning three matches: two best-of-three-setters and a best-of-five. There's no tie-break in the deciding set of any match. The question was, how dominant do the servers have to be to make a best-of-three, on average, last longer than a best-of-five? The reason why that is even possible, in any situation, is because you're more likely to reach a long third set than a long fifth set. If you make that final set long enough (and you do that by making both players demons on serve), the greater likelihood of reaching the final set in a best-of-three starts to outweigh the fact that you've played two fewer sets to get there. If you assume that both players are equally dominant on serve, and their dominance is constant throughout the match, it turns out that we need the final set to last, on average, 14 times longer than each of the normal (tie-break) sets. That might sound ridiculous, but to achieve this the server "only" needs to win 86% (or more) of points. That's a very high percentage obviously, but you might expect it to be higher. The average length of a no-tie-break set rises steeply once you get above 80% of points won on serve. By the way, if both players are winning less than 14% of service points (and I've certainly played matches where it's felt that way!) that would do the trick too.

A guy at work is due to become a father next month. So at work today they had a baby shower (if that's what they call it when it's the father). I ended up spending over thirty bucks on this event, which is quite a lot when you don't really know the bloke. And it meant you had to talk and mingle and all that tricky stuff. And I realised that there's at least an 86% chance that I'll never have kids.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My boss, and some World Cup crackers

It was good to go on a training course last Monday and Tuesday, because it meant I was busy. The main thing I learnt was how much there is to learn. The program we use has capabilities that seem almost endless.
My boss is one of those people who sends emails at 2:46 am, complains (boasts?) that he didn't get to bed till four, chain-drinks coffee all day, and always has several dozen urgent unread emails on his phone. I'm not impressed, nor am I particularly sympathetic. There are other people in the office, including me, who are willing to help him, but other people are all muppets. He's a smart guy, but he's deluded about his own importance and that of his work. (As I wrote last year, perhaps a certain level of delusion is healthy.)

Yesterday I took Julie to have a look at some apartments. She needs to get out of that rest home in Newtown that she's in now. It's a pretty awful place and it has a rather creepy black Siamese cat called Speep, which isn't a very nice name. After looking at the apartments, which I don't think Julie was interested in, we had a coffee. Two songs from my favourite album came on in quick succession, one on my car radio and one in the café, but Julie talked all the time, dammit, about this or that person who said this or that. I told Julie that rehashing all of that isn't helping anyone.

The World Cup kicked off on Friday amid plenty of negativity and cynicism. Brazil won the opening game, but were given a helping hand by the man in the middle, succinctly dubbed Referinho after the game. It wasn't a good look. I saw the FIFA "fair play" flag and thought, yeah right. But since then we've been treated to some remarkably open and exciting football, with goals coming at the breathless rate of 3½ a game. Half the teams have now played their first match, and all but two of them (Cameroon and Greece) have scored. Unusually every game has had a winner, and even more unusually, half those eight winners came back from a goal down. I've watched three games so far. Holland's 5-1 win over defending champions Spain was a joy to watch, not that I've got anything against the Spanish. Towards the end I was willing Robben, who seemed to be everywhere on the pitch, to add even more goals. Costa Rica sprung a surprise with their well-deserved 3-1 win over Uruguay this morning. Then, in the same group, England lost 2-1 to Italy despite (I thought) playing pretty well in an excellent game. The Costa Rica result doesn't help England's task in getting out of their group; they may well have to win their next two games. Kevin watched part of the England–Italy game; he regaled me with tales of his exploits on the football pitch - this surprised me because I find it hard to imagine him doing anything remotely sporty. I must say I really like the "vanishing spray" the referee uses for free kicks. It keeps the defensive wall the required ten yards from the ball, and stops the attacking side from stealing ground. A very simple and effective innovation.

It'll be interesting to see the teams from the bottom half of the draw over the next three days. Bosnia anyone? How about Iran (who, I seem to remember, beat the USA one time)? In fact I just saw this on Wikipedia about that match in 1998:
They crushed the united states in a stunning second goal, ending the tyrant rain with 2-1 loss. The Iran vs US game was predicted by Max Lowsen II (First King of Camelot) as being the "Da Best Goal". Er, what?

Last night I spoke to my parents. It was Mum's 65th birthday. They seem to be enjoying themselves; they're going to France on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

World Cup memories etc. II

I spoke to Kevin and made it fairly clear that his tenancy will end this year, not next year or the year after. That means it'll probably be six months before I get my own space back, and that's a helluva long time.
Mum and Dad are in the UK and fly to Bordeaux early next week. Dad is really enjoying the sights and sounds of St Ives and Cambridgeshire. There's a lot more life there - human and non-human - than in Geraldine. I'll give them a ring on Saturday, on which day Mum becomes eligible for a gold card. That's hard to believe. She still seems fortyish to me.

The World Cup is now just hours away. I wanted to arrange a tipping competition for work, something simple where you just put in $10, pick eight teams in advance, and get points based on how well your selected teams perform. I'm normally hopeless at organising anything, but something like that I could comfortably manage and would actually enjoy doing. Then I thought better of it, realising there is virtually zero interest in the World Cup around the office. It could have been an embarrassment if, say, only three people entered including me. And what if I'd won? In Auckland these sorts of competitions ran all the time. I did reasonably well, even in the rugby ones, despite (or maybe because of) my lack of rugby knowledge.

In my last post I said 1990 was my favourite World Cup. That's got a lot to do with England's performance and being a kid, but perhaps it was the last competition where football (in the UK at least) was a working-class game, instead of the money-making machine it's become since. The 1994 World Cup in the States wasn't bad at all, and it got plenty of coverage back home. England weren't involved, but Ireland were, and they caused an upset by beating Italy in their opening game. There was one big black mark on the '94 competition however: the Colombian player who scored an own goal was shockingly murdered on his return home.

I've read some online comments about past World Cups, and most agree that 1998 (France) was better than 2002 (Japan and South Korea). For me it was the other way round. In '98 I'd had way too much of all the England hype and I wasn't too disappointed when they were knocked out. Plus I was in the middle of my A-levels which I knew I wouldn't do very well in. The motivation wasn't there. One of the highlights for me was Jamaica making it. By contrast, in 2002 I finished my university final exams on the eve of the tournament, and after months of intense study and high-pressure exams I could watch the games entirely guilt-free. Senegal's win over France in the very first game set the tone nicely (Senegal were like the new Cameroon); there were upsets galore. England negotiated their group of death, then beat Denmark comfortably, then faced eventual champions Brazil, and with a bit of luck... The only real downer was some dodgy refereeing which helped South Korea reach the last four at the expense of Italy and Spain.

The 2006 tournament in Germany promised a lot (the hosts beat Costa Rica 4-2 in the opening game) but didn't seem to deliver much, even if Togo and Angola added a bit of colour. I quite enjoyed 2010, mainly because of what I was doing (travelling for some of it) and New Zealand's performance - it's a cliché but they really did punch well above their weight by drawing all their games. This one will be interesting for sure, with so much non-football stuff going on behind the scenes. England play Italy on Sunday in, as far as I see it, a brand new stadium in Manaus, in the middle of a rainforest, where there's next to no interest in football. England's second match, against Uruguay, is in Sao Paulo, which according to Google is 1670 miles from Manaus. It sounds like unnecessary burning of fossil fuel, and an equally unnecessary logistical headache.

At least this time the World Cup will be played in a (mostly) hospitable climate in a country that actually cares about the game. If it really takes place in Qatar in eight years' time, heaven help us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

World Cup memories etc.

Rik Mayall has died at the age of just 56. What a shame. I was a bit too young for the Young Ones, but I did watch Bottom, a lot, and he was absolutely hilarious. Like him I once came off a quad bike, although I didn't fare nearly as badly as him. I rolled it and couldn't move from underneath it. This was on my cousin's farm in 2004.

Last weekend, as usual, was tiring even though I didn't do that much. On Saturday I met up with that woman and we went for a drive around the coast, north of Porirua where she lives. We "clicked" better this time, but I don't know, she's still one of the 98% (at least) of people I find scary after any length of time.

Last night we tried a new game called Fallen Lands. It had a fairly low goblin quotient and was therefore more my cup of tea than some of the stuff I've tried (endured?) recently. The game panned out unexpectedly, as I struggled to gain territory early on, and ended up with fewer territories than both the others. To everyone's surprise, including mine, I was the winner. I beat Tracy by one point. Spending less money to acquire territory proved decisive. After that relatively short game, we played Timeline. Tom and Tracy talked about Neal Stephenson's books at length, and Tracy, who wanted me to jump on the bandwagon, lent me Quicksilver. It's 900-plus pages and fairly heavy subject material; I hope she doesn't want it back for a while.

So Rafael Nadal is French Open champion ... for the ninth time. That's just crazy - nobody wins nine of anything, not on the men's side anyway (Navratilova won nine Wimbledons). I wish I could have seen the women's final between Sharapova and Halep. I see a score of 6-4 6-7 6-4 and I just know it must have been a good match. Sharapova's three-set record is phenomenal.

Another World Cup is almost upon us. It's hard for me not to have World Cup memories when I come from the so-called home of football. In 1986 I was six and ideologically opposed to football; I paid no attention to any of the games. I remember the unusual-sounding names of Uruguay and Paraguay, which I'd never heard of before, and getting excited because apparently someone had won a yellow car. I watched lots of game shows as a little kid; winning a yellow car seemed perfectly plausible. The 1990 competition in Italy was the first time I'd ever properly watched football. It was probably Pavarotti that did it for me, as well as England's run to the semi-finals. They scraped past Cameroon in the quarters. Just the word Cameroon sounded exotic and colourful. In the semis England lost to Germany on penalties and Gazza (a.k.a. Paul Gascoigne, who the whole nation had gone crazy over) was in tears. In reality there was a lot of dull, defensive football on show in Italy, but the English squad arrived back home as heroes. Surely next time they would win it. Of course the next time they didn't even qualify, and it's never been the same since.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Limbo land - and the NHS

Work is starting to get a little frustrating. My boss says he'll come over in ten minutes to discuss something or other, but it always ends up being at least an hour, and then he'll only spend a few minutes with me before attending some vital meeting. Most of the time I'm left in limbo land. I am getting to know about the drainage networks, but as for actually using our systems to do work relating to the networks, I feel almost completely clueless. And most importantly, I'm spending too much time doing bugger all. In my contract it says my salary might be negotiable after three months. Well I'm half-way there already, and if I ask for a raise in another six weeks they'll think I'm having a laugh. The good news is that I'm going on a two-day course next week, which may (or may not) help me understand one of the programs we use.

During one of my "bugger all" periods at work this morning I read this article on the Guardian site. It's an absolute must-read. The bloke who wrote it (and a book) is the same age as my grandfather (Dad's dad) would be if he were still around. The article illustrates what a difference the NHS has made to millions of people in the UK, from someone who remembers all too vividly what life was like before it: if you became seriously ill and couldn't afford health care, you died. The NHS isn't perfect, but the proposed alternative, where people lucky enough to have money can effectively jump the queue, is surely a huge leap backwards.

Mum and Dad left Christchurch yesterday morning on their eleven-week voyage; alright for some. They'll be taking in the UK and France, and are also going on a Nordic cruise. They're currently on a stopover in Singapore. I emailed the Guardian article to him - I knew he'd be interested - but told him not to read it yet because it's too depressing.

When I walked home this evening I realised I didn't want to go home (which no longer feels like home) but didn't want to be at work either. I was quite happy being in limbo land.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The simple things...

May - the Month of the Persimmon - is over, which means it's four months since Kevin arrived. I've eaten more of the sweet orange fruit in the last month than ever before. In fact I'd never had one before I moved to NZ. I cut them into four and usually (but not always) scoop them out with a spoon. Before coming to NZ I'd imagined "persimmon" was pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, but here they put the accent on the first.

Yesterday was the first day of winter, but you wouldn't have known it. What an absolutely stunning day it was. I didn't need anybody else to be able to appreciate it. This is what the beach at Seatoun looked like:

When I was in a café at Seatoun I saw an article in the paper about the popularity of retro technology with young people. Cassettes, typewriters, Polaroid cameras... fair enough, they've all been replaced by something (I guess) better. You can get digital Polaroids now. But wristwatches? Seriously? The clock on your mobile phone isn't an adequate replacement in my view.

For some reason that article made me think of teletext. It's well and truly been supplanted by the internet, but it was cutting-edge in its day and very convenient. There was none of the double screening that people resort to now. The BBC's version of teletext was called Ceefax and started way back in the mid-seventies, though its heyday was the eighties and nineties. I still remember some of the page numbers now - football was 302 and it was update minute-by-minute during games; the exchange rates were on 241, Mum's favourite page. The 400s were the weather pages, famous for the pixellated Lego-like maps. There were even games you could play, one of which was called Bamboozle. Sometimes a "page" was in fact many pages, and I'd have a knack for getting page 17 out of 21, when I really needed page 16, which meant I'd have to wait maybe ten minutes for it roll all the way back round. But back then I usually had a spare ten minutes. My grandma got a teletext-enabled TV long before we did (we were always a long way behind with technology) and for my eighth birthday she arranged a "happy birthday" message to be displayed for me on Oracle, ITV's teletext service. I miss teletext - there was something comforting about it (there was a real person on the other end), and it's a reminder of a simpler time. It went for good in late 2012, at the final switchover to digital TV.

As I said, yesterday was such a nice day that I didn't want it spoiled by any people, but as promised I saw Julie at her rest home. She did her best to spoil the day and make sure I absolutely never ever see her again, but I said I'd try and find some serviced apartments for her to move to, and that improved matters. She needs to get out of that place fast.

With it being a holiday, the autism group didn't run today. Instead they ran a games afternoon. We played Upwords and Bananagrams and other similar games - more up my street than some of the stuff I've been playing lately.