1,000 Hits

September 28, 2006

Yesterday afternoon I logged in to find that I’d received my 1,000th hit on this blog.  This news came just the day after I added a clustrmap [sic] to my site.  With hits coming from as far away as Bulgaria and Australia in the last two days, my main audience is mostly the UK and the USA.  Now that I’m finished the novel, and just about to finish full-time work, look out for an increase in content.  Later today, or maybe tomorrow, I shall be writing a blog on the weird search terms used to find my blog.  I promise you: you will be amazed.  Many thanks to my growing readership for your support — you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Talking to the Neighbours

September 20, 2006

Living in London, I don’t talk as much to my neighbours as I did in my Northern youth.  I had my annual conversation with one of my more talkative neighbours on Sunday morning.  Here’s a snippet:

Neighbour: How did you get on in the [London] marathon this year?

Me: I didn’t get a place.

Neighbour: Oh, are there are a lot of entrants?

Me: Yes, it’s three times over-subscribed.  But I did run the Edinburgh Marathon in June.

Neighbour: Really?  Was that the same sort of distance?

I kept a straight face, honestly I did.  Hmm… I wonder if Sir Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile because he was doing a half-mile race?

On Finishing a Novel

September 18, 2006

At 13.40 this afternoon I finished writing the first draft of the novel I’m submitting for my MA in Creative Writing. At 83,500 words, it’s not the longest I’ve ever written. But it’s the most commercial, and the first I’ve written in 17 years. It’s only the first draft, and there’s a lot to do before I begin the laborious and heart-rending process of trying to get it published, so the journey’s far from over.

How does it feel?  It’s always sad to lose something that’s been a big part of your life for so long, not to have the characters talking to each other in your head, or reminding you to write specific things about them when you’re trying to concentrate on something else. But it feels great to have it out and onto the page. And it’s even better to know how much enjoyment it’s going to give its readers.

I’ve never before let anyone read anything I’ve written until it’s finished, but this time I read out ever chapter to my girlfriend as I completed it. A little after half-six this evening — half-ten in the morning for her in California — I read out the final paragraph to her. She loved it.

My web stats suggest that the satire on this blog has gained quite a following. The better the stats are for my blog, the easier it’s going to be for me to sell this novel to a publisher. So if you’ve enjoyed the blog, please recommend it to your friends, or put an RSS feed from here to your own blog. What’s in it for you? Well, there’s this wickedly funny novel about free internet porn movie downloads, hot sex and betrayal that will just blow you away — and if you support the blog, you’ll get it into a bookshop near you soon!  Many thanks for your support.

Islamic World Runs Out of Effigies, Flags, to Burn

September 16, 2006

There was widespread panic across the Muslim world yesterday after Friday prayers as stockpiles of effigies ran out following the Pope’s apparently anti-Islamic speech in Germany last month.

“It’s been a vintage year for effigy-burning,” explained one Islamic agent provocateur. “The publication of cartoons of Mohammed in Europe earlier this year gave us several weeks’ worth of burning as each country’s press dared to publish the pictures. There’s continuous burning due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which has created a constant demand for effigies. Then the Pope came right out of left-field with his remarks from a fourteenth-century scholar, accusing the Prophet of spreading Islam by the sword. Now we’re out of stock and hoping that there’s not another incident like this before we’ve had a chance to get more supplies. It would be a severe embarrassment if there was another insult to Islam and we didn’t have any decent effigies to burn.”

Prices on the Islamabad Effigy Exchange peaked on Friday morning before afternoon prayers, with the spot price for grade-A flammable effigies nearly 50% above that for December delivery effigies.

In related markets, December contract Stars and Stripes are up 11% in the last week, whilst the pending retirement of Tony Blair as British Prime Minister has caused a 20% fall in the price of Union Jacks for delivery in May 2007.

Turkey ‘Should be at heart of EU’ says Sarkozy

September 12, 2006

In an apparent about-turn, French would-be 2007 presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to endorse Turkey’s entry into the European Union.

“Zis turkey ‘as always been at the ‘eart of Europe, and I want to keep eet there,” said the right-winger in an impassioned speech in Paris.

It was only later that it became clear that the turkey he was talking about was France. “Eet’s a disgrace that a country like ours with its low growth, high unemployment, crippling budget crisis, and a backward-looking agrarian population can stand in the way of progress by ‘aving a veto,” he said with a Gallic shrug.  “Mais, c’est la vie.”

Brixton Fails Drugs Test

September 10, 2006

I’d told Shannon that in 2002 Brixton had pioneered the downgrading of marijuana on a national level.  She was amused to hear that even a guy like me — who looks every inch the off-duty policeman — is continually offered ‘skunk’ ‘weed’ and ‘marijuana’ every evening in the throng of humanity between the Tube station entrance and the bus queues.  She laughed her ass off at the prospect of hearing British guys offering her drugs, and couldn’t wait to hear it firsthand and flip them a caustic comment.

The first time we did the fifty-yard push through the crowd there was not one mention of drugs — no deep voices muttering those magic words anonymously but directly at us.  “It must be the time of day,” I said, disappointed.  “It’s lunchtime.”  The following day we emerged around four o’clock, to be met with silence again.  “You just wait until we’re coming back from Edinburgh late on Thursday night.”

That Thursday we emerged onto the street around half-seven, straight from King’s Cross.  “Prime time,” I said.  We walked through the crowds without a hint of interest from any of the usual suspects.  “I can’t believe it,” I said.  “I swear, every time I walk through there I get offered, and I look like a damned cop.”

“Maybe it’s me?” she said.  “They must know I’d just laugh and call them pussies.”

She got a taxi to Heathrow at six on the Sunday morning. I went over to water my parents’ plants and do their mail at ten.  I came out of Brixton Tube at half-eleven, the sun high in the sky. “Skunk,” said a deep voice.  “Weed,” offered another.

Humans ’Not as smart as we thought’, Conclude Dolphins

September 7, 2006

Latest research by dolphin scientists shows that human beings may not be as smart as had always been assumed.  “The human brain is much larger than we would expect for a mammal that size, so we had always thought that the spare capacity might be given over to sentience,” said Herbert Bottlenose, of the Aquatic University’s Terrestrial Science department.  “After all, they don’t face the complex three-dimensional world that we do, nor do they have to give over so much of their brains to interpreting sonar signals.

“We’ve been able to train them to give us fish for doing simple tricks like jumping through hoops.  But every time we try to talk with them they just assume we want more fish.  If they were really intelligent, then they’d figure out that we were actually trying to tell them something important.  We’ve been trying to warn them about global warming for years.  It’s their loss — after all, warmer and larger seas are great for us.  The only human who ever got it right was the late, great Douglas Adams.  It really won’t be that long before we have to say ‘So long, and thanks for all the fish’.”

This story is a riposte to this article about South African researcher Paul Manger’s work.