Tag Archives: Barking

Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012 – chicagotribune.com

A quick review of the long and illustrious career of Facts reveals some of the world’s most cherished absolutes: Gravity makes things fall down; 2 + 2 = 4; the sky is blue.

But for many, Facts’ most memorable moments came in simple day-to-day realities, from a child’s certainty of its mother’s love to the comforting knowledge that a favorite television show would start promptly at 8 p.m.

Over the centuries, Facts became such a prevalent part of most people’s lives that Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said: “Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.”

To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of theU.S. House of Representatives are communists.

Facts held on for several days after that assault — brought on without a scrap of evidence or reason — before expiring peacefully at its home in a high school physics book. Facts was 2,372.

Well written, and right on the button. I’m actually rather surprised that Facts’ close relative, Reason, isn’t also on life support as I write.

Privatising our roads will be a terrible deal – just as it was for the telecoms and water industries

Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. In which case, going by his speech yesterday on overhauling Britain’s roads and airports, David Cameron is mad.

I don’t usually do personal, or rude. But if the prime minister really, truly thinks he can do what his predecessors have done over the past couple of decades and not cop precisely the same woeful mess that they did, then he’s bonkers. Gaga. A few Pret sandwiches short of the full picnic.

Strip away the novelty of a prime ministerial speech devoted to, um, tarmac and what the Tory leader proposes is pretty much what we have heard over and over, from Thatcher onwards. Every British prime minister of recent memory has turned to private businesses and investors to build and run hospitals, schools and tube services. Now Cameron wants them to take over our motorways and trunk roads, too.

via Guardian.co.uk

I can find no words, so I won’t even begin to write any.


Give Queen a new royal yacht for diamond jubilee, says Michael Gove | UK news | The Guardian

Michael Gove has brushed aside Britain’s economic problems to propose the public donate a new royal yacht to the Queen as a mark of respect during this year’s diamond jubilee celebrations, according to a confidential letter to fellow ministers.

In the letter, which has been sent to Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary and minister overseeing the celebrations, and to the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, Gove at one point comes close to suggesting that Britain’s dire economic climate means that a large-scale celebration is required to lift the country’s spirits.

The education secretary writes: “In spite, and perhaps because of the austere times, the celebration should go beyond those of previous jubilees and mark the greater achievement that the diamond anniversary represents.”

The Liberal Democrats privately expressed surprise at the proposal, which is likely to cost at least £60m, at a time of national austerity.

What? What? WHAT?

Of course, I am forgetting. They’re all completely barking. They just say this stuff because they can’t help themselves.

Full story at The Guardian. Read it and weep.

BBC News – Snowdon ascent in 4X4 car was ‘impulsive’

Craig Williams, I salute you. You are man enough to try to admit to and explain your actions, even though you can’t really explain why you did what you did.

I can’t find it in myself to condemn your actions—indeed a part of me rejoices that there are still people out there in this benighted country willing to take the risk to do such things. Although there will be expense and some danger in retrieving your 4×4, no-one was actually hurt in this escapade. I think you will take your punishment on the chin, and may your impulsiveness continue!

Three stops beyond Barking


If you follow my ramblings with any level of alacrity you will note I’ve been considering putting the world into the Asylum. If this has confused you, dear reader, worry not.

You see, I am a Douglas Adams fan. Adams died in 2001, at the painfully young age of 49. Yet, his words still echo down the years, at least for me they do. I miss the fellow, even though I never met him in real life. I just adore his writings, his published works, and his finely-tuned sense of the absurd. 

I first made his acquaintance in the late 1970s, when the BBC was airing something called the The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You may have heard of it, but don’t worry if you haven’t. The radio series spawned a book, then some more books, some more radio series, a television series and — finally — a “major motion picture”. 

Douglas wrote many things in the Hitch Hiker’s universe that were patently meant to be absurd or surreal. He was writing a fiction, yet somehow along the way, the real world has fallen into step with what he wrote.

It’s absurd to think this is so, surely?

Well, for whatever reason, I feel the world in which I am existing now is not the real world any more. At some point around the turn of the millennium (two ells, two ens) I awoke in a subtly different universe to the one in which I’d been living up to that point. 

The differences were very subtle. The sun still rose in the east. Days were about the same length. The sky was still blue, when the clouds let it show. I wasn’t a different age, or living in a different country. It was, to all intents and purposes, the same universe in which I began my journey through life. 

As the new millennium (two ells, two ens) drew on, however, the disparities began to show. George W Bush had narrowly squeaked into the White House, and soon after somebody decided to take out the World Trade Center by flying jet airliners into it. Everything’s been going steadily downhill since. Sacred personal freedoms have been eroded more and more, in the name of security, yet we managed quite happily when some Irish freedom fighters were actually blowing shit up — and some of it not far from where I grew up. We just carried on as before, just being a bit more careful about lonesome packages and loitering near litter bins. 

These days, we’re perilously close to living in an Orwellian dystopia. We’re in a so-called War on Terror (without the vowels, if you’re George W), but it strikes me the terrorists have won if I can’t go about my daily life without being spied on, stopped for being a photographer, or having to virtually strip naked before being allowed onto an aeroplane.

I’m sorry but, what the f…?!

As the news media get ever more sucked into the world of Newspeak, nonsense “reality television” and no-name celebrity fawning, I have come to the conclusion that Adams’ character of John Watson, from “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”, first published in 1984 (how apt), was right all along. 

I won’t bore you with the whole back story, but let’s just say that Arther Dent (the main narrative character of the Hitch Hiker’s series) has found himself on an alternative Earth where the dolphins seem to have vanished. Trying to find answers to this disjunction in his timeline, Dent and his lover Fenchurch, head to the US west coast in search of John Watson, Wonko the Sane.

‘Your wife,’ said Arthur, looking around, ‘mentioned some toothpicks.’ He said it with a hunted look, as if he was worried that she might suddenly leap out from behind the door and mention them again.

Wonko the Sane laughed. It was a light easy laugh, and sounded like one he had used a lot before and was happy with.

‘Ah yes,’ he said, ‘that’s to do with the day I finally realized that the world had gone totally mad and built the Asylum to put it in, poor thing, and hoped it would get better.’

This was the point at which Arthur began to feel a little nervous again.

‘Here,’ said Wonko the Sane, ‘we are outside the Asylum.’ He pointed again at the rough brickwork, the pointing and the guttering. ‘Go through that door,’ he pointed at the first door through which they had originally entered, ‘and you go into the Asylum. I’ve tried to decorate it nicely to keep the inmates happy, but there’s very little one can do. I never go in there now myself. If I am ever tempted, which these days I rarely am, I simply look at the sign over the door and I shy away.’

‘That one?’ said Fenchurch, pointing, rather puzzled, at a blue plaque with some instructions written on it.

‘Yes. They are the words that finally turned me into the hermit I have now become. It was quite sudden. I saw them, and I knew what I had to do.’

The sign said:

Hold stick near centre of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion.

‘It seemed to me,’ said Wonko the Sane, ‘that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a packet of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane.’

It wasn’t the toothpicks, or the warnings on take-away coffee cups about hot liquids, or the packets of nuts with warnings about containing nuts, that convinced me the world had lost it. It’s a whole variety of little — and larger, it has to be said — things about everyday life, the actions of those around me, and the general aptitude for the “civilised” human species to royally fuck up everything it touches these days that has convinced me the world has actually gone insane. I am working on building the Asylum, but I’m having a little difficulty in finding a suitable calming location for me to live outside it.

Since finishing that last paragraph, I discovered the term “Dagenham mad”. As anyone who knows the District Line will note, Dagenham is three stops beyond Barking. It’s only that I don’t really like that part of Essex that prevents me from opening the Asylum on the District Line, three stops beyond Barking. It would be rather appropriate, don’t you think?