Saturday, 30 August 2008

Chicken Feed


I apologise for the manner in which you have recieved this note. However, I'm desperate. Please take the time to read it, and then if there is any goodness in your heart, I'm sure you will help me.

I apologise as well for the dreadful handwriting.

The only way for you to understand what's going on is for me to start from the beginning.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I went for a job interview. It was for the post of Professor of Technology at the Rambling University. To be honest, I'm not really qualified, but I went because I wanted to see what kind of place would have a name like that. Now I know...

It's basically a farm. There was a hand-painted sign for the University, and a piece of paper pinned to it with a big arrow said "Interviews This Way". There were some construction workers, building an extension on the old farmhouse.

I found myself in a waiting room. Actually, it was a makeshift laundrette, with about 10 washing machines and dryers, all going. The only thing that was missing were the weird people you usually find in such places. I'd have to remember to point this out, and suggest that they find some. There were some chickens wandering around, though. "Nobody here but us chickens.", I said. Sometimes I crack myself up.

After what seemed like an eternity, a door opened and a woman's face appeared, saw me and said "Come in, y'all." I looked round, but there was still just me, unless she meant the chickens too. I went in.

She was a young lady, and the name thing on her desk said "T. Rambles, Vice Chancellor". There only other thing on the desk was a glass containing a spare pair of teeth. "I might need them soon.", she explained, adding in a whisper, "Its my thirtieth in a few days."

She took me for a tour of the farm. This mainly consisted of looking at the children's rooms, their play room, and by the time we were finished I had a full run down of all their routines and so on. Then she took me to a large stone "barn", as she called it.

"This is where you'll be staying". I just stared at her open-mouthed. "Once the extension's done, we'll probably be able to find you space in the house", she reassured me.

"But we haven't discussed the job at all." I protested.

"Oh, you've got the job.", she smiled, "Professor". She led me back to the house, where I was given a hearty lunch. I decided I ought to leave, but Mrs Rambles was very persuasive, plying me with coffee, cake and beer.

It seemed only polite to help her with the children that evening, then I was led back to my "room" in the barn. As I lay on my bed, I started to have a very bad feeling about all this. I decided I'd leave, and head for the nearest sign of civilisation.

Before I could get to the farm gate, however, I felt someone poke me in the back. With a gun? I turned round, very slowly. In the dark, it was difficult to make things out, but I couldn't see anyone. Then I looked down. A dwarf was standing there with a very large pitchfork. No wait, it was a gnome. And he looked nasty. He was also made of stone. I made a run for it...

...and was tripped up by another one. They were all around. All alive and trying to stop me leaving. I was marched back to my barn.


So, I'm a prisoner. Kept around so I can look after the Rambles children. Who are very nice. As are Mr and Mrs Rambles. The food is very good. As is the wine. I'm well and comfortable. As long as I don't try and leave, and then I'm offered pitchforks. Sharp ones.

I've tried everything. I've offered to do the school run (all right, I didn't really think they'd fall for that one), I've tried to bribe builders, but they just took my money and laughed at me. I'm at my wit's end. Mrs R is in complete control of the gnomes. Maybe she's a robot. Do robots lose their teeth at thirty? I've no idea - I wish I'd paid more attention in my classes at college.

This is my last, desperate attempt to contact the outside world. If there still is one - I'm beginning to wonder if it was all a dream, and if I've always been on the farm. I'd have put a message in a bottle, but there's no river, or sea here. Then I had an idea. If I put a message in a capsule, and made one of the chickens eat it, it might end up in an egg.

So, again, I apologise for spoiling your breakfast. I hope you managed to read my writing, and PLEASE, PLEASE, HELP ME. This is my only hope...

The above note, believed to date from the early twenty-first century, was discovered in 2208 during recent building work at Rambles University, West Virginia. Chemical deposists around it suggest that it had been covered in a pile of excrement, probably from chickens.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Wordy Wednesday

Back to Normal

I went back to work yesterday, after a week off, plus the bank holiday. I suspect that no-one noticed I'd been away, anyway. Cypriot Telly has come back on the internet streaming, so I'm back to getting my daily fix of the news. In some ways, it's nice to be back to normal, but I did enjoy my holiday.

A Proud Moment

They showed highlights of the Olympic Closing Festival on the news the other day, including Boris Johnson waving the Olympic flag complete with a London bus. A proud moment for Britain. I think it's great that he is getting world-wide coverage, as this will surely help him become US President, which is the next logical step after Mayor of London. He'll even be guaranteed some votes - I'm sure Jean Knee will support him.

All Geek to Me

We're used to seeing stupid USB devices, but the USB fridge has to be one of the bad ideas - i.e, one you can almost believe someone might actually use. Complete with blue LED lighting effects. Are geeks really this sad? Or are these things bought by their mothers, desperate to find a present for the nerd who has everything? Presumably he already has a real fridge? The main drawback with this device, is, of course, that you can't fit a normal can of beer in it, never mind a four-pack. Hopeless...

Slimming and Beauty Tips

I know that slimming isn't a subject usually found on my blog, but I've found some really good ways to look better. First, we find out how to lose weight, and then, my favourite of the two, how to look like a model (at least that's what they say). Forget dieting, or exercising at midnight.


The characters in any fiction that might happen to appear on this blog are entirely fictional, and any similarity to real people is entirely an amazing and incredible coincidence. I am not now, and never have been, involved in any murder plots, so please don't waste your time arresting me for any, or suing me. I don't have any money anyway.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Criss Cross

"Το τρένο πήγαινε αγκομαχώντας." The train moved fitfully. It was one of those trains that seemed to stop at every insignificant station, even though no-one actually got on at any of them.

Not that I was paying much attention. I was too busy engrossed in the thriller that I was reading.

Someone entered the carriage, and sat down opposite me, the tip of his shoe hitting mine.

"I'm sorry."

"That's okay". I went back to reading my book, which was getting more exciting by the minute.

"Where are we?"

"Texas", I answered vaguely, and looked up.

The stranger was in his late 40's, with a moustache. He seemed, well, a bit creepy. But friendly enough.

"Good book?", he asked.

"Yes. It's a thriller. 'Strangers on a Train'"

"I saw the film. It was very... interesting, don't you think?"

"Oh, definitely, though the book is quite different."

"But it still has the same idea? Swapping murders? Criss Cross!"

"Yes, of course."

"You know, it's funny, but I have a murder to swap."

"Really?", I asked. I thought it was best to humour the poor fellow.

"Oh, yes", he answered, leaning forward conspiratorily.

"A few years ago I agreed to kill someone. It sounds stupid, but I was younger, and probably drunk. Anyway, this chick was working with me in a fast food joint in Chicago. She was okay. A bit shor..., erm, not tall, but okay. She had this fear of growing old, and she asked me to kill her."

"And did you?", I asked, smiling.

"Well, she asked me to kill her the day before she turned fifty. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm not so sure now."

"Well, no-one wants to commit murder."

"Oh, I don't mind that, just, I'm worried about getting caught. I mean, she might have told someone about our agreement, and I'd be the first person the police would suspect."

"If I were you", I advised, "I'd forget about the whole thing."

"Well, that's where you could help me."

"What do you mean?"

"No-one would suspect you. You're not involved with her, like I was. You could do it. I'd be out of town, and so I'd have an alibi. In return, I'll whack someone for you."

I was speechless. Mainly because I couldn't think of anyone I'd like murdered. Not that I thought for one moment that he was serious. Then I had an idea.

"You could rob me."

"Rob you? That's crazy."

"No, I take out a huge bank loan, say £100,000. I leave the cash in my flat and go for a vacation, to Chicago, maybe. You steal the money, I claim it on my insurance, pay back the loan, and you mail me the cash later. Then I'm £100,000 better off."

I said all this jokingly, so I was rather shocked when he said, with a deadly serious voice, "Okay", and handed me a card. Not with his name on it, but with a woman's. Bianca someone or other. Along with an address. Presumably this was the girl he'd agreed to murder.

There was also a date on the card. 10 November 2022.

I looked up, but the man had disappeared.

I didn't know what to think, and I'm still worried. If I go to Chicago and do away with this Bianca person, it'll be terrible if he doesn't keep his side of the bargain and get me my £100,000. On the other hand, if I don't go, I might be in the flat when the creep breaks in.

Life is full of dilemmas...

With apologies to Patricia Highsmith, Alfred Hitchcock, and Bee

Sunday, 24 August 2008

This Week's Special Deal!

As you know, all my posts are original, and I never steal, erm, I mean I'm never influenced by other blogger's ideas. So of course it's entirely coincidental that this post comes after a similar one by Chris Wood.


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Version 2 will be EVEN BETTER!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Money for old Rope

There's a daytime TV programme in Britain called "Cash in the Attic". The TV people go round to someone's house, and go through their stuff, trying to find things that they can sell at an auction or a car boot sale. I'm not sure why, but I quite like the presenter, Lorne Spicer:
What always amazes me is that these people have so many antiques in their houses. Not usually Ming vases, or Picassos, but 50-100 year old ordinary stuff, like toys, or ornaments, or whatever. Perhaps I'm just not old enough to have accumulated such things, but - an art deco fruit machine??? The expert reckoned they'd get a few hundred for that, and in the end a middle-aged woman bought it for £500.

The other thing that amazes me is that other people will pay money for all this. They had an old Steiff teddy bear on the show this morning. It's old and threadbare (pun alert), but if it's a rare model it could go for thousands. (it was valued at £500-£800).

Unfortunately, I don't think Lorne would be very interested in searching through my things. The most ornamental objects I have are on my mantlepiece, pictured at the top of my blog. The busts of Bach and Beethoven were bought at TK Max, circa 2000, and the clock is a modern radio-controlled one in an old style.

The clock is a good example. You could get an antique one, but it wouldn't be in such good condition, and it wouldn't be so accurate. So, I'd rather have the newer one.

Anyway, they estimated around £1800 for this guy's tat, and he actually made £4100 (the threadbare bear went for £2200). Not bad for a day's tidying up round the house. Maybe I should have a closer look at my rubbish after all...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Welsh Wordy Wednesday

Today Helena and I along with my mother, sister and Helena's two cousins, went to Wales to visit the Welsh National History Museum.

You have to be careful when you go to Wales. Firstly, the signs are in Welsh. This is an odd language where they have names like Pwlllmaddgggogogdodddddd, or something. Secondly, if you take the wrong road they charge you a fiver to get in. I'm surprised that anyone bothers going to a country where there's an entrance fee. They don't charge people to get out, though. I'm not sure why that is.

Anyway, we managed to dodge the toll fee by taking one of the less congested roads. This was built by someone who obviously didn't have a spirit level. Or maybe it's just because Wales has hills and valleys and stuff. In any case, we probably travelled as far vertically as horizontally, if you see what I mean.

When we got there, the natives were friendly. They let us have a look at their houses:

They weren't all this old-fashioned. Here's the farmhouse:

There is a small "village" with some shops:

And I had to take this picture for Tracy:

We travelled on a cart similar to this one. It was surprisingly quick and comfortable:

There was a house of the future, but it was too ugly for me to post pictures up. It had grass growing on the roof. This seems like a great idea, except that the roof was curved. How are you supposed to mow it? It also had solar panels, and heat pumps. It didn't actually look too bad. As long as you stayed inside it.

Anyway, we had a great time. Helena and I stopped and had a meal at Frankie and Benny's on the way back, before I hastily put together this post (my two-hundredth). If you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the Welsh/English border, I'd recommend heading for this museum. It's a great day out. Even in the rain.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The March of Progress


This evening I was typing a comment on Kat's blog when Helena came into the room. I looked round at her and continued to type. She was surprised that I could still produce coherent text without looking at either the screen or the keyboard. Okay, coherent might not be the right word for my blog comments. Correctly spelt, maybe. Most of the time.

This is because I learnt to type when I was a child. At school they taught me useful things like reading, and writing, and counting, and French verbs. At least they tried to teach me French, but either they failed to do this, or I failed to learn.

You could also learn to type, although that was mainly girls, doing something like "office studies". My sister did that and is a lot better than me. And has certificates to prove it.

My father was taught in the Army, on old Teletypewriters. These only have the letter keys, so he used to put his fingers on the "F" and "H" instead of the "F" and "J" which are marked on modern keyboards. Our little fingers rest on the ";" key - which of course, didn't exist then.

My mother learned from a second-hand typing course that one of her friends lent her. I've no idea why she wanted to (boredom, perhaps?), but I had a typewriter as a child, and loved to type things, so I went through it as well. It was a bit more difficult on a typewriter, since you had to not only hit the keys harder, but also to hit them with a consistent pressure.

This was all in the good old days when offices looked like this:

Nowadays, they're completely different:

Plus ca change... (If I'd payed more attention in French lessons, I'd know what that means).

The main difference is that in those olden days only typists typed. Everyone else wrote or dictated. Nowadays even the boss types. And yet they're still teaching people to write. Why is that? Wouldn't Helena be better off learning to type instead?

I mean, who writes these days? My handwriting is pretty much illegible, but that's fine since no-one but me has to read it (and I'm not good at this, so I try to avoid it where possible). I remember very well when I was about 14, and my English teacher complained about it. I remember him saying "Maybe one day computers will take over and people won't need to read your writing, but that's not going to happen soon, so you'd better improve."


This was in the mid-80s. Ten years later when I started working in an office they were just bringing in computers on everyone's desktops. And retraining all the typists to do other things.

I had this discussion with a colleague. He doesn't think that people should be taught to type. He points out that keyboards are a lot bigger than typewriters, and also you have to keep moving your hand away to use the mouse. I try and use the mouse infrequently. It's evil. It gives you RSI.

I hope Helena follows the family tradition and learns to type (my maternal grandmother was a secretary), as whatever else happens in our rapidly changing world, the keyboard seems to be here to stay.

Oh, and as far as SMS is concerned, maybe they should replace it with morse:

Friday, 15 August 2008

Still Life

I've shamelessly stolen the idea for this picture from Catscratch...

It's Friday and I'm off work for a week (Helena's coming to stay). I'd hang around and write a long involved post, but I've only about 40 pages of my book left to read (I still haven't a clue whodunnit), and that beer's going to get warm if I don't drink it soon, which would be a waste, I'm sure you'll agree.

Enjoy your Friday evening!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Wordy Wednesday: Not Playing

It occurred to me, as I went for my 15-mile run (to wind down after a strenuous workout at the gym), that the British Olympic Selectors had let the country down badly be not picking me to compete in the decathlon. Still, when the next one comes, I will be at my peak physically and mentally...

Don't worry, I'm not on anything - I've not even started drinking yet. I know you're used to being able to take my blog as gospel truth, but the above paragraph is of course completely made up and false, apart from the bit about them not selecting me. Unless they decide to make sloth an Olympic sport, I'm not likely to get picked either, and even then I suspect I wouldn't be a world champion at it. Those people who sit around and get so fat that they have to get people to knock down walls and winch them around if they need to go anywhere would be getting all the medals. If they could work out how to get them to the stadium.

Thousands of years ago, the Ancient Greeks had a big competition. They used to gather every four years, strip naked, cover themselves in olive oil, and participate in sports such as running marathons, throwing the discus, and wrestling (the olive oil was particularly useful, making it harder for your opponent to rip sensitive parts of your anatomy off, or gouge your eyes out).

The whole thing probably looked ridiculous, and so it didn't really catch on anywhere else. Until a couple of thousand years later, people decided it had actually been rather a good idea, and decided to revive it. Luckily, they'd invented shorts by then.

Anyway, I'm sure that the whole spirit of competition and stuff is great, but personally, sport isn't my thing, so I won't be participating in the great viewing marathon. Although, in addition to their athletes, Cyprus has sent this chap to Peking:

He's one of their champion pianists, and he will be playing at a concert during the Olympics. I suspect, however, that they won't interrupt the swimming and basket ball for live coverage of the piano playing.

Talking of live coverage, my favourite TV channel has had to stop broadcasting on the internet for the duration of the games, due to legal issues. They will apparently still be on between 6 and 7.15 my time so I can get my usual fix of the news, but yesterday they didn't remember to turn the streaming on until half-way through.

Another non-participant is my favourite newsreader, who in addition to having weekends and public holidays off, also appears to get leave, presumably for her summer holidays. Not that the other newsreaders aren't perfectly good at their jobs, it's just not the same.

In order that the athletes are able to breathe in Peking, they've closed down all sorts of industry, so a lot of the people presumably aren't working. I hope they still pay them.

Oh well, in a couple of weeks it will all be over, and everything and everyone can start working again...

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Mind Like a... em... you know...

I've just finished eating salad. The salad contained tomatoes that were so ripe that I had to eat them as soon as I got back from the supermarket, otherwise my fridge would look like a school science fungus-growing project.

The salad was okay, but it was lacking a certain, you know, em... Well, it had lettuce, tomato, celery, spring onion, olive oil, vinegar, humous, but alas, no feta, because I forgot to get it at the supermarket.

I've just had my hair cut this morning, so maybe I'm like Samson, except it's my memory that's gone, not my superhuman manly strength.

If your memory's functioning better than mine, you may remember that I bought some environmentally friendly reusable shopping bags. Guess what? Two of these are in the car, as yet unused, whilst the three I bought the other day are in the cupboard, where I put them the other day. Ooops. I've now added a special wine carrier bag to the pile in the cupboard (that's another 45p).

I still think I'm doing okay, though, because although I ended up using some of the environmentally bad plastic bags for my shopping, I've paid 75p towards the ozone layer by buying those better bags. A bit like these people who jet around the world emitting tons of carbon dioxide and then atone by paying for more trees.

This morning three crime books arrived from Greece. Since I've got a child-free weekend, and since Bee's laid down the gauntlet by saying that she's going to read 700 million pages of her novel by COP Sunday, I'm going to see how far I get with mine (I'm about 1/4 of the way through "Night Bulletin" by Petros Markaris). The only problem is that I will have to look up words in the dictionary, because I keep forgetting them.

I've got it... "Mind Like a Sieve". (wish I could remember how to spell it)

Friday, 8 August 2008

Number Theory

One man deserves the credit, One man deserves the blame, And Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name!
- Tom Lehrer

I wasn't a very good student at university. I didn't work anywhere near hard enough, and didn't get very good grades. Nevertheless I did get my maths degree, and I still have some books on my bookshelf with titles such as "Elementary Differential Geometry", "An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers" (the classic work by Hardy & Wright). One day I might read them. Who am I kidding?

I also have a book which I may have mentioned before entitled "The Penguin Dictionary of Curious Interesting Numbers". I haven't read that either, and the definition of what constitutes "interesting" isn't exactly the same as most people's. For example, Emilia Kenevezou's phone number would be of interest to many of us. Instead we have entries such as "139854276 - Equal to 11826 squared." To be fair it goes on to explain that it is the smallest pandigital square. Maybe that's not interesting so much as curious?

Anyway, the reason I'm bringing all of this up is because of 8. The Dictionary has over a page devoted to it, and it mentions useful facts, like if you multiply any triangular number by 8, you get one less than a square.*

It doesn't mention that this is a lucky number for the Chinese. I am, of course, referring to the fact that the Olympic Games started today, 8/8/8, one of those rare days where even Americans manage to write the numbers in the correct order.

In Cyprus, and presumably other countries, they've have a lot of extra civil weddings today, with one couple tying the knot at 8:08 am. Spare a thought for those poor men who will have even less of an excuse to forget their anniversary.

Of course having studied numbers, I can't get at all excited by these "special" ones. After all, it's not really 8/8/8 but 8/8/2008, where the year is counted from some arbitrary point in history that wasn't even when Christ was born, and the months and years aren't much better.

As a C programmer, I'd have had a year 0. And a day 0 and a month 0, come to that, so it should really be 7/7/2007. But they didn't have zeros when they invented dates.

Here 888 is the teletext page for subtitles. If bingo went up to 888, then presumably it'd be "three fat ladies". In 888 days, it will be the 14th January 2011, and Harrods will just be starting their Christmas shopping campaign.

However, I'm looking forward to 9/9/9, because I'll have an easy day.

I'll be able to reuse this post.

Talking of the Olympic games, I saw the highlights of the opening ceremony on the news. I'm sure it was all very impressive, but it apparently went on for four hours. I imagine that the poor people in that stadium were suffering from "Spectacle Fatigue", not to mention piles...

*Because triangular numbers have the form: n(n+1)/2, and 4n(n+1) = (2n + 1)^2 - 1

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

(not so) Wordy Wednesday

Clement Weather

Today's been reasonably nice and sunny, after 2 days of dullness and rain. I suppose that this is our rather weedy share of the typhoons and stuff that have been ravaging Northern Europe. Not that I'm complaining.

I was disturbed to hear about a storm called Edward, that is apparently somewhere near Texas. I hope that Jean Knee has got herself (and her computer) securely tied down.

NO, NO, NO!!!!!

I know everyone complains about how the shops are starting their Christmas campaigns earlier every year, but the sight of Father Christmas in a bathing costume outside Harrods on the news this evening made my blood run cold. They're really taking the piss.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Green is the new Orange

I had to go shopping yesterday. I needed a new electric razor (I seem to manage to trash them at the rate of about one a year), and as I was down to my last ready meal, I decided I might as well get some groceries too.

Today, due to this clever foresight, I am not sitting here bearded and starving, but in addition, I am also now the proud owner of some green plastic bags, which cost me the princely sum of 30p:

Orange is the New Green

Now, I know exactly what you're thinking. The obvious question. What on earth am I doing parting with good money for green plastic bags? Or were you going to ask what is so green about these particular ones?

To answer your second question, these are "bags for life". The idea is that you use them every time you go to the supermarket, so that you don't have to keep using the free disposable ones, and they don't end up in a landfill somewhere. When they wear out, you get free replacements.

Which still leaves the first question. I'm not exactly Mr Enviromentally Friendly, and 30p is 30p. Well, the answer is that it's all Helena's fault. I was complaining at the weekend about how weak the free bags are, and she said that I should buy some of the better ones, that they didn't break, and you could reuse them. She said her mum thinks they're great and is always buying them.

"What's the point of that?", I asked, "she must keep forgetting to take the ones she already has back to the shop, which is exactly what I'd do. No, I'm going to stick with using the free ones."

Whilst I was packing my shopping, Helena went off to another till and bought a couple of "bags for life". She loves having her own money, as it gives her the power to ignore me when I say "no". I put them in the boot, and forgot to take them to the shop with me yesterday. So I bought three more, and the five should be enough for most shopping trips.

I still have my doubts. Even if I remember to reuse them, they will weaken, probably without me being able to tell, until one day one of them will break, knowing my luck with something like a bottle of whisky inside it. I wonder whether the shop will give me replacement shopping to go with the worn out bag?

I'm also worried about all those unemployed bag makers, and what on earth they're going to find to put into the landfill sites. I'm not sure that these green people have really thought this through, and something bad won't happen. Still, in the meantime, I'll make an effort. If I remember...

Friday, 1 August 2008

Who Needs Sleeping Pills?

Last night, I woke up at around 1.30 am, and I couldn't get back to sleep. This isn't unusual. Sometimes I get up, lie on the sofa in the lounge, and turn on the TV, usually without the sound. This is about the only time that I see any British television, and by the looks of things I'm not missing much.

We have five terrestrial channels. Two of them are run by the BBC, the state broadcaster, and the other three are commercial channels.

So what did my viewing choice look like? On BBC1, they had the weather. Because the only weather reports I normally see are about Cyprus, this should be of interest, right?

If it was any other channel, then maybe, but unfortunately the BBC weather report is (in my opinion) really awful. Once upon a time, the weather used to look like this:

How it looked when I were a lad...

They've made various enhancements over the years, generally involving computer graphics, but the basic idea of a map with symbols hasn't changed. Until recently. Now, in a desperate effort to waste licence-payer's money, they've got some 3 dimensional thing that whizzes over areas of the country. This means that instead of seeing a map of the country which you can look at to find out what's going to happen where you live, most of the time you're watching the display zoom over places you couldn't care less about.

On BBC2 late at night they go to the BBC's 24 hour news channel. At the particular time I tuned in, they had, wait for it, the weather. Being presented by someone else.

I watched a bit of both, but still didn't see what they were predicting for here. Consequently, I spent the day carrying around a coat I didn't need.

On ITV they had some kind of track racing. Cars going round and round and round and round and... This is real edge-of-the-seat stuff. Lots of cars, pretty much going at the same speed driving round a track, with about 0.000004 of a second between the leader and the guy taking up the rear. And with only 149 laps to go! I'm glad I don't bite my nails - I'd have probably chewed my fingers off...

Channel Four had Big Brother. It's one of these reality shows. They take some of the most self-centred non-entities to be found outside of the Political arena, and imprison them in a large "house" wired up with cameras. And then show it live. I don't know if this reality is the same as the reality of your life, but personally, mine isn't that interesting. Anyway, at 1.30 am most of them are asleep.

Channel Five had one of those so-called "phone in" competition things, which the powers that be haven't quite got round to banning. There is some kind of impossible question. In this case "What comes after White". For example, White House, White wash, White rye, or whatever. There are a number of answers with cash values, and if you guess one of them you win the money.

There are always a couple that go early on, and for the rest of the night you can watch and they won't have any right answers, so they're probably really unlikely or obscure.

Even if you guess one, only a small proportion of those who phone in actually get picked to go on air, and all phone calls cost £1, or something. So it's just a way to get money out of stupid people. Most of whom can't afford it.
Anyway, I couldn't bear to watch it even without sound, since the "presenters" are basically salesmen/women, who are persuading the weak, gullible, incredibly drunk, or whoever to phone in.

All this TV viewing did the trick, and I was asleep within minutes...