Thursday, 18 September 2008

Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Katharine Hepburn in 'Bringing Up Baby'...

I had a conversation with a friend last year about lives as movie genres – he kept imagining himself in a zombie-horror film and once found himself in a late-night garage trying to decide what provisions he would grab in an escape/survival scenario.

For me, it would have to be a screwball comedy – one of those 1930s films with clever, fast-talking women and be-suited men getting into scrapes, improbable coincidences and never knowing where a leopard or Cary Grant will appear from next. (Interesting Cary Grant fact: he allegedly haunts a club in Rottingdean.) Exhausting perhaps, but endlessly exciting and rather glamorous.

So – how about you then? Vote now......

Monday, 15 September 2008

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!” (And fireworks, parsnip soup and knitwear)

Watch this space, for soon there will be bears. First I must find them though, so in the meantime here is my list of things that are good about autumn. You might (and probably will) disagree. You might even disagree that it is autumn at all yet, deluding yourselves that it is “late summer”, but if every season is three months long, then we have to be in autumn (September, October, November) now, so that winter (December, January, February) has Christmas in it. You may yet disagree that seasons have to be regimented into three month blocks, and/or that a season has to start on the first of the month - you may be following the Irish calendar, for example. Still, whenever you think it starts it is (or shortly will be) upon us like a big warm snuggly jumper.
(NB Clearly this only applies to the northern hemisphere, and, given the weather-related assumptions, coldish bits of the northern hemisphere.)

1. Food
This would probably be first on my list of best things about any season, but autumn food is particularly fantastic. This is, after all, a time to prepare for hibernation. It is also a time where you don’t have to worry too much about getting your thighs out in public (see 2 below). I’m thinking tea and cake, soups, stews, pies, roasted things, apples, pumpkins, chickpeas, blackberries, parsnips, beans and lentils. My current favourite cold-weather recipe is this (the chickpea one). Yum.

2. Clothes
Lots of them. Tights and jumpers and scarves and hats and gloves and jeans and shirts and coats and socks and boots and cardigans and pyjamas. I did read somewhere once that black opaque tights were like oysters, in that they shouldn’t be worn in a month without an R, although oysters should never be worn, and I don’t advise eating tights either. This summer, however, black-tight-wearing has been pleasingly acceptable, maybe because the weather has been less than scorching, but mostly I think because of the footless tights thing. Still, enough of the floaty, summery, hotpanty season, hello to knitwear. Which leads me on to…..

3. Knitting
I don’t knit in the summer, not if it’s hot anyway. Last autumn I knitted some of these, having been given some rather excellent wool for my birthday. This autumn I am knitting a long overdue present. And probably some more wrist-warmers.

4. Autumn/Winter pubs
...are Victorian, probably red, wooden, warm, maybe with a fire and sell proper beer. In Brighton and Hove, see the Cricketers, the Great Eastern, the Constant Service or the Greys.

5. Gigs (not festivals)
Indoors, warm, dry, beer, easy access to toilets, going home after – mmmmmm. Having said that I appear to have no gig tickets lined up at all. Tsk. I would like to see Cajun Dance Party but they keep playing when I cannot see them. Any suggestions gratefully received.

6. Fireworks
Although not those set off during daylight hours and selected for their decibels, rather than aesthetic appeal. I absolutely love fireworks though. I used to have a program where you could click on a black screen and randomly coloured and sized fireworks would explode, but now the nearest I can find is this. Still, the real thing is much better, in a duffel coat and with a sneaky hip flask preferably.

7. Trees
Because they look like this.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Leave your comments here (as long as they're nice)

Readers! (Reader?)

This is all new to me and I've been tinkering cautiously with the settings.... I can't find a way to retrospectively allow comments on older posts, but feel free to add your thoughts on pub cricket and rain here. New lists to follow soon.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

If the universe is expanding and contracting in an infinite cycle, is there a time and place where I’m a particle physicist?

A friend once told me that at every stage of his science education his teachers revealed that what he thought he knew as solid scientific fact was in fact an oversimplified version and that the truth at each new level was more interesting and much more complex. Having given up physics at 14 and chemistry at 16 I’m now horribly aware that I mostly can’t remember what I used to know, and also that it’s probably not entirely accurate anyway. Take atoms for example. I thought I knew this: protons, neutrons and electrons right? Protons are +, electrons are – and whizz around the outside and neutrons have something to do with isotopes. I think. Or rather I thought. I did vaguely know there were quarks and other exotic bits of stuff but just found out there are in fact 16 particles in the standard model, including the excellently-named charm quark. I’ve been looking for a book/website/very patient person to explain all this to me for years and finally, there are all sorts of things out there. This is mostly thanks to the imminent switch-on of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which is the world’s biggest particle accelerator, built to recreate the conditions in the immediate aftermath of the big bang. This is all exciting stuff and may lead to the identification of the elusive Higgs boson (the “God Particle”), which is a particle that has been predicted, but never actually spotted and which is important for explaining why things have mass. I think.

Anyway, here is a list of websites that explain it better than I can, and for those of us who, in this dimension at least, are not particle physicists….

1. The Guardian’s interactive guide to what it’s all about
Which is excellent, with a snazzy interactive guide and some fantastic pictures.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research. There have been suggestions that smashing up subatomic particles to see what bits emerge isn’t a great idea, as it might cause black holes to be created which could suck the Earth in. This would not be a good thing. In the Guardian’s Big Bang Machine supplement, Chris Morris (of Brass Eye fame) says “There’s a website where some health and safety nut has calculated that Cern could be 18 times more lethal than death.” Still, CERN are pretty confident, a legal challenge against them in the European Court for Human Rights having been dismissed, and they explain why here. They're doing a live webcast from 8.30 on 10th.

3. Prof. Brian Cox explains things
My new favourite TV scientist. This is just great.

4. Large Hadron Rap
And if that’s a bit much, here’s the same thing explained in less than 5 mins in rap form…..

5. New Scientist lists
Lists - ha! New Scientist thinks the world won’t end on 10th September, and proposes the top 5 best and worst things that could actually happen.

6. The Big Bang, Oxford
The Big Bang is also a sausage and mash restaurant in Oxford, who are celebrating the CERN experiments with a special “Swiss-Franco inspired sausage ring served over a simple creamed mash” followed by “a Black Hole chocolate dessert doused in custard”.

Monday, 8 September 2008


Fortunately this isn’t quite as topical a, erm, topic so far this week. Still, it’s only a matter of time I expect so here are some types of rain:

1. Purple rain

Which has to be the best surely…. as endorsed by Prince / The Artist himself. Of course if such a thing really occurred in nature it’d be like living in a Ribena advert, which isn’t what anyone would want, especially since they’ve become less about cute round berries frolicking and going “woo!” and more about the violent ends suffered by the poor wee things en route to the bottling plant.

The lyrics don’t appear to shed much light on this meteorological weirdness, although there is a suggestion that it might be about heaven, as well as a relationship….. Maybe it’s time to revisit the film, which I saw on New Year’s Day once and laughed lots. I suspect it may not be that funny watched alone and sober though.

2. Sideways rain

More musical precipitation, as encountered in “Meet Me At The Pictures”, which is on the forthcoming (completely excellent) Mojo Fins album. To hear this in the meantime, you should see them live. You really should, because they are marvellous.

3. The rain in Spain

Does it fall mainly in the plain? Really? That would be convenient. Although “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the Galician-Portuguese border and parts of Northern Navarra” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it… or the same usefulness for elocution lessons. It would be true though.

4. Torrential rain

This is about as dramatic as rain gets, as reported by the Met Office, and is somewhere above “spits and spots”, “a light sprinkling of showers” and the unimaginatively-named “heavier rain”. Descriptive, but for a more thorough system of classification you should check out this.

5. Dramatic rain
If only this happened more in real life….. When there is thunder lightning and rain of the, for example, 9:8:6 variety to accompany moments of crisis it’s like being in a film. A dramatic film. Perhaps in a big dress with a small waist.

6. Acid rain

Which I’m sure we don’t hear about as much as we used to. Is this because it happens less now? Or just that it happens less in Northern Europe? Or is it that people are more worried about the over-arching issue of climate change? Hmmm…..

I’m pretty sure there’s more to be said about rain. Do send suggestions and I’ll revisit this later. When it’s raining, probably.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Pub cricket

We had a lovely time in Cornwall and played, among other games, a fair amount of pub cricket. There are quite a few variations on this, but the basic idea is that you/your team score points for pub names which have legs (e.g. the Duke of Norfolk) and go out if you pass one with no legs (e.g. the Six Bells). We played it by sides of the road, so you score for pubs on your side, with both sides playing simultaneously therefore. Does that make any sense at all?

Some people play a stricter version where you can only score a maximum of 6 points, as in the real thing, but we had an unlimited possibility of points. I should add that unless otherwise specified a plural counts as only 2 entities - e.g. the Waggon and Horses = 2 horses = 8 points.

According to Wikipedia the best pubs for cricket are the Million Hare and the Twenty Churchwardens. Truly those would be good spots. Sadly, the Million Hare has been renamed, but the Twenty Churchwardens looks like it is real and still there - divert your journeys via Swaffham accordingly. A special mention to the marvellously named Three Ferrets in St Ives, passed on foot so unscored by us.

So, the best-scoring pub cricket pubs in Brighton & Hove are:

1. The Geese Have Gone Over The Water
Possibly....... Of course, if we're talking actual geese here, then this scores 4 (2 geese as there's an unspecified number). However, according to the rather excellent, "The pub's name refers to sixteenth century Irish history when the nobility, artists and poets of Ireland fled to escape English rule. This period is also known as the "Flight of the Earls"." Potentially a lot of legs right there, but still contentious scoring as the numbers aren't really specified. Back to wikipedia, which warns against confusing the flight of the earls with the flight of the geese, which refers to "the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on October 3, 1691 following the end of the Williamite War in Ireland. More broadly, the term "Wild Geese" is used in Irish history to refer to Irish soldiers who left to serve in continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries."
So there you are. Probably you'd be pushing your luck to argue for several thousand points for this one, especially as I think its current name is just "The Geese".

1. (Again) The Lion and Lobster - FOURTEEN POINTS
For a lobster, as we learned at the Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, is a decapod.

2. The Hare and Hounds - 12 points

3. The Waggon and Horses
- 8 points

4. The Horse and Groom - 6 points

5. The Three Jolly Butchers - 6 points

...and as far as I can see that's IT for more than 4 points. Any others??