Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Your author relaxing at the weekend

I've always been interested in hobbies, and why people enjoy doing things that others find incomprehensible. When I was living in Sydney I attended the 2005 World Stamp Expo (and here's how I got on) - not because I'm fascinated by philately, but because I fail to see the interest in collecting small sticky pieces of paper. But a lot of people do, and very happy it makes them (until Roger from down the road flaunts his rare Armenian 50 Spongle first edition with the King's head back to front). Others find it thrilling to write down train numbers in a book, collect jaunty teapots, or run along canal towpaths until they vomit (you know who you are). Me, well, I like playing computer games (amongst other things).

After typing that I somehow feel a need to counter it by saying that although I admit to it, I'm not a wild-haired recluse with questionable hygiene and social skills (well, not after I've had a cup of tea in the morning). I'm not sure what it is about these kind of hobbies that lead people to offer some kind of qualifier when they reveal them, but being a 'gamer' is something I tend to feel slightly embarrassed about. I would certainly never put it on my CV, for example. In any case, my tireless work at the orphanage tends to take up too much room. Computer gaming is seen as an anti-social thing to do, and the standard image of the bespectacled nerd is often used with regard to people who claim to know anything about them. As my friends will attest, I know absolutely nothing about computers - but I do know how to plug in a joypad.

Over the last weekend I spent four days in a converted Chapel in the South Derbyshire countryside with a large group of friends. We weren't there to go hillwalking, fishing, or any other pastime which can be equally sniffed at by others - no, we were there to play computer games. A LAN (local area network) event is where a group of people bring their PC's, or in our case Xbox 360's (or in my case, nothing but a hopeful smile), connect them up with various multicoloured cables and a bit of swearing, play games against eachother, and eat a lot of Jaffa Cakes. I'd been to a few before, and yes, I do enjoy them. I grew up in the 1980's when computers were just coming into the public eye, and I challenge any lad born from 1975 onwards to admit to not having an interest in computer games at some point.

Of course, very few of them travel hundreds of miles to meet up and play them all weekend with people they see once a year at most - but then I'm sure some people travel hundreds of miles to attend classic car conventions, or spend hundreds of pounds importing guitars to add to their collection. Horses for courses and all that ;) I'm not afraid to admit I had a great time, catching up with the guys (as they almost always are). Playing a game in your flat is all well and good, but when you can play the same game in a large room against several friends who are there to shout abuse at you is far far better. It's like going to a book recital instead of reading in your house, or a concert instead of listening to a CD. Only with Jaffa Cakes, as I said.

So we swapped tales about what we'd been up to since the last meet - I had a fair few, of course - had a barbecue, drank a fair amount of cheap lager, and watched car after car after car drive past with England flags flapping from the windows. Oh, and played games, of course. From the sublime Project Gotham 3 on the 360 (which I am playing in the photo above), to the ridiculously brilliant Sunset Riders. I managed to play all kinds of different games, some of which I will certainly buy - like the awesome We Love Katamari - just check out the website (it's Japanese), some of which I won't, because I got a chance to try them out. We managed to squeeze in the England game - unfortunately - and also some award-winning fish and chips, which apparently in Belper they have with Mint Sauce. Wierd, no? It works, though. All in all it was a great weekend, and I'll be looking forward to the next time we meet up in 2007. If liking computer games enough to travel that far to play them makes me a geek, then hey, I'm a geek. What's your poison?

Friday, June 23, 2006

One-way trip to the vet

"Listen love, I've got something to tell you"

A while ago I introduced you to the delights of the ICD-10 'Causes of External Injury' code list from the World Health Organisation. The book is used regularly in my office when trying to find the exact medical diagnosis for various types of cancers and so forth. Also on our dusty bookshelf lurks the similar SNOMED codebook, which stands for the ‘Systemized Nomenclature of Human and Veterinary Medicine’ – or at least it does if you ignore a few words here and there.

I was idly flicking through this weighty burgundy and pink tome (published by the College of American Pathologists and the American Veterinary Medical Association), when I came across the section devoted to diseases and illnesses of animals. There are the usual suspects, such as BSE (code DE-3B130V), 'beef measles' (DE-65202V), and the unpleasant sounding 'contagious pustular acne' (DE-12610V). So with apologies to animal lovers everywhere, it’s time for another list...

- sudden death syndrome of feeder cattle (DF-D0021V)
- blackhead disease in turkeys (DE-50922V)
- mild disease of sheep (DE-22740V)
- contagious agalactica of goat (DE-15846V)
- greasy pig disease (DE-12240V)

Of course, plenty of these ghastly horrors affect the commoner species of domestic animals – although 'Mild disease' doesn’t sound too serious. I doubt any country-wide mass livestock burnings result from that. 'Contagious agalactica' sounds like goats are spontaneously assembling space rockets and blasting for the heavens. And can you imagine trying to catch a sow to treat it for 'greasy pig disease'?

- chronic wasting disease of captive mule, deer and elk (DE-3B130V)
- epidemic diarrhoeal disease of infant mouse (DE-35724V)
- San Miguel sea lion virus disease (DE-35430V)
- poison pod poisoning (DD-971A0V)
- wart hog disease (DE-32730V)
- turbot herpes (DE-32222V)
- sparrowpox (DE-31716V)
- wet crab yaws (DE-15522)

OK – deer and elk, fair enough – but mules as well? Why not moose? Or donkeys? Or does CWDoCMDaE (as I believe it's commonly abbreviated) only strike if mule, deer and elk are enclosed together? It would explain why you never see them in one field. I can't even begin to speculate as to what the San Miguel disease is – the only sea lion-specific ailment in the SNOMED book. And turbot herpes – I promise you, these aren't made up.

- Frounce (DE-53150V)
- Zwoegersiekte (DE-36220V)
- Pizzle rot (DE-12634V)
- Farcy pipes (DE-11B10)
- Fistulous withers (DE-11026V)

Being a medical-type book, there are plenty of archaic-sounding nasties inside. Personally, I think Fistulous Withers sounds like a Bond villain rather than an illness, but there you go. I definitely wouldn't want to catch Pizzle rot – just thinking about it makes me want to cross my legs. And didn't Arthur Askey used to play the Farcy pipes?

- pale bird syndrome (DE-35512V)
- Congo floor maggot disease (DE-71401)
- giant intestinal fluke infection (DE-60450)
- Swamp Cancer (DE-5A020V)
- snuffles in rabbits (DE-13160V)
- old dog disease (DE-33970V)

“I’m sorry farmer Giles, but your chickens have been struck down with Pale Bird syndrome,”
“Ah. I thought they were just white.”
“No, sorry. And see these maggots in your pigs? Congo floor maggot disease. There’s no cure, I’m afraid.”
“Bugger. That’ll teach me to import African pig carpet for them to lie on.”
“Hmmm. Also in the lower field I found hundreds of giant intestinal flukes – I think your cows may have succumbed.”
“No, no, I’m breeding them. We turn them into sausages. They are quite robust.”
“I’ll say, I had to fight them off with a stick. While I’m here – your swamp-fed sheep will need radiotherapy, your rabbits have called in sick, and your sheepdog has started reminiscing about the war.”
“Oh bother. Still, at least I’ll get extra subsidies, eh?”
“I’m afraid not. We’re incinerating your farm. From orbit.”

Monday, June 19, 2006

The DUaB Guide to...hostelling

Home sweet home

Seeing as I'm careering wildly towards the start of my third decade, I think it's only right I should use this mouthpiece to offload some of my long-found wisdom. After all, blogs are a great forum for espousing opinions - but I guess you can also use them for important stuff people might want to read, rather than my favourite type of pie (and anyway, we all know what that is). So with that in mind, get ready for the first in a series (possibly) of Down Under and Beyond Guides - this one aimed at my globtrotting regulars - how to hostel

- The key thing to remember is the 'Ladder of longevity' - in a shared dorm, the guys who've been there for the longest are the top dogs. When you arrive, there will be only one bunk left - up in the corner by the draughty window/undimmable safety light/curious mould. That will be yours. As soon as someone leaves, the others immediately steal their superior matresses/pillows, meaning the new person always has the worst combination. This is standard, and can only be solved by nicking a better spot for yourself when it becomes available. Or fighting.

- Always get up early to avoid the queue for the showers, or shower at unpopular times like 2am. You won't have to wait, but the water will be cold and you need to be quick with the towel as you'll be a bullseye for insects. At least this means you won't have to run the wrath of sleep deprived Dutch girls waiting in line the next morning. Or you could not shower at all, in which case you'll probably get a better bunk faster too, as your dorm mysteriously empties. Also, if you are the first person in the shower in the morning and the floor is surprisingly sticky - best not to think about it too much.

- The best bed to pick is the bottom bunk furthest away from the door. Only children prefer top bunks, as all that clambering about on a kitchen table-sized wobbly mattress can only end in tears. On the bottom you can store your stuff without anything falling off, and when the grouchy cleaner comes in you can quickly push your pile across the floor under someone else's bunk, and shake your head in sympathy at your mucky cohabitant. Oh, and never loudly announce "Right! Let's get pissed!" before jumping from the top bunk, as it can lead to a broken ankle, a hospital visit, and a sheepish expression.

- Never leave anything important lying around in a dorm, it just isn't worth it. Of course, if you're backpacking you won't have anything of value anyway that you can't keep on you at all times. If I was near my old hostel in Kings Cross and needed the toilet, I used to wander in and use theirs - even when I was living on the other side of Sydney. Nobody ever questioned me.

- If you come back from a trip out and find a new person's belongings on a bed, have a quick look to find out who you'll be rooming with from now on. Nametags, types of clothes, brands of guidebook - all give useful clues as to their nationality/gender. If you find a Harry Potter novel, or the Da Vinci Code, throw it out of the window. You can always blame that Canadian bloke in the corner.

- Try not to get back from a night out and remove your contact lenses minutes before a group of drunken Swedish girls return from a foam party and decide to have a shower. I can't stress this highly enough.

- Be prepared to encounter 'backpacker bores' - travellers that constantly try to one-up you with fulfilling anecdotes about their pointless adventures. Have a few outlandish lies ready, to throw at them when they start droning on about helping deliver a baby yak halfway up the Anapurna Trail, or something. "Yeah yeah, that's fascinating. I had to spend a couple of weeks in the mountains too recently. Just outside Rome - the Titularses - do you know them? No? Lovely spot, the dew forms so fast you can almost drink it off the vines. Views for miles along the valleys. Course I was only hiding there 'cos of what I did to the Pope."

- If you come in late at night, the unforgivable sin of dorm living is to turn on the light. Your fellow dormers will much appreciate your courtesy, and prefer drunken stumbling, crashing noises, and swearing to dazzling light, drunken stumbling, crashing noises, and swearing.

- If someone wearing sandals reaches for a guitar, leave the room.

- If in a dorm in a remote and dusty part of Australia, don't investigate that odd-looking hairy black insect-thing hanging in the corner. It can probably kill you. Don't try and scare it off by holding a cigarette lighter in front of a can of deodorant and pressing the nozzle. That will certainly kill you.

- If struggling to find a place in a dorm in Vienna, don't answer "Oh, cool" when told the only available place is an all-female hostel. It won't lead to an invitation.

- Be prepared to answer the same questions on countless occasions - your name, where you're from, what your route was through SE Asia, etc etc. Always mix it up a little each time to keep people on their toes - "Hey! Are you Marcel? The German guys in Room 3 said you found a great circuit to Angkor Wat. I'm going there in July - any tips?" "Marcel? Sorry, my name's Hector. I've never been to Angkor Wat. Oh, if anyone from the Royal Navy comes asking about me, tell them I went to New Zealand"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Vlamingh Humpback story

Cape Vlamingh, Western Australia

I've always had a pretty good memory, one way or the other. It certainly comes in handy when I'm caught on a bus with nothing to do, or walking home from work with nothing to think about. I'm always able to recollect part of my travels, and can picture fairly closely what it looked like at the time - the buzzing neon of Akihabara, the creeping heat of Sydney in December, or whatever. It means I never get bored, as I can drift off and think about somewhere I've been - which to me is the very best thing about travelling, building up this huge memory bank of sights and sounds that I can call up when I need to.

With that in mind, the other day I suddenly found myself thinking about whales. Not the rainswept Geography fieldtrip to Carnarvon when I was at college - the large sea creatures I'd never seen until I was in Australia. I did try to see them before, but heavy weather torpedoed my attempt at Kaikoura in New Zealand - one of the most famous whale watching locations in the world. In the end, I managed to see truly wild Humpback whales in the far, far Northwest of Australia - near the remote town of Exmouth.

At Cape Vlamingh there's a lighthouse that looks out over a broad earthy bay housing the Harold Holt Communications Station, established by the US to track Soviet submarines in the Indian Ocean. At the end of a long day of snorkelling and sunbaking (as the Australians call it) we rolled up the hill to take in the sunset. Bus driver Steve produced a battered box of cheap wine and a stack of plastic cups, and we toasted another successful afternoon. I was idly gazing out to sea, when I saw something dark grey splash out of the water in the middle distance. Someone else saw it too, and we both said at the same time "Ooh! Was that a...?" seconds before a Humpback Whale vaulted out of the sea and thumped back in a soundless plume of foam.

Very soon, everyone was eagerly watching as the whales launched themselves spectacularly out of the ocean every half-minute or so. We were so far away that I could hold my thumb and forefinger an inch apart and they weren't obscured - but in many ways it was much better than point-blank whale-watching aboard those intrusive boats. Here nobody was hassling or pressurising them, they were leaping about in the late afternoon sun purely for the hell of it - and had no idea we were watching.

Steve turned to us and said something like "It's a pity they're so far away and we can't see them, eh?" whilst casually leaning against a large copper telescope. I pointed it out to him, and by his reaction I don't think he had even noticed it. So he rolled a dollar coin into the slot and enthusiastically twiddled the focus dial for a while, before swearing and standing upright again. "Bloody thing's broken! The one time someone needs to use it, and it doesn't bloody work!". He thumped it a couple of times, before noticing a brass plate screwed to the top, with a contact phone number etched on. "I'm bloody ringing that".

"G'day mate", he said "I'm standing here at Cape Vlamingh trying to look at these whales jumping out of the sea, and the telescope has swallowed about five bucks of my money". He paused for a moment. "Ah, right. So you're the bloke that fixes it, yeah? Are you in the lighthouse?" We all turned expectantly to look at the lighthouse. "You're in Broome?" [three days drive up the coast] "Bugger mate - the whales are all over the place down here. Can't you send a helicopter or anything? Hello? Hello?"

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fu├čball hat angefangen!

England expects, Scotland doesn't...

"So have you been outside enjoying all this sun?" asked the checkout girl in Waitrose yesterday afternoon. "No, I've been sitting in my pants in the dark watching football all weekend, and this is the first time I've left my flat" I replied. Well, I didn't really - I lied to her face and told her I had (I don't feel half as bad lying to the Tesco staff as I do Waitrose - I think it's all the besuited 'managers' standing around like Casino pitbosses, making everyone feel guilty). In truth I was actually wishing she'd scan my stuff through quicker, as Mexico v Iran was kicking off soon.

The World Cup has started! The office sweeps have been conducted (I pulled out Brazil in ours), the wallcharts are up (I have two - it isn't a World Cup without a wallchart), the curtains are closed, and the non-football watchers are out pretending they're having fun whilst secretly wishing they had an excuse to sit in their pants drinking beer in the afternoon. It's one month every four years when the most popular sport on Earth takes centre stage and a global audience of something like 300 bazillion people tune in to see the excitement, flair and staggering haircuts that are a part of the beautiful game.

For us Europeans, this tournament in Germany gives us games at decent times of the day - for the 2002 finals in Korea/Japan the kickoffs were all over the place. As it happened I was in Australia when those games happened, and watched the final that year in a pub in Northern Queensland with a Gecko crawling about on the ceiling above us. For the 1994 finals I was in Spain, and there was a considerable rivalry between our largely British campsite and the neighbouring Dutch campers. Seeing as England didn't qualify for those finals, we supported everyone else - especially if they happened to be playing the Netherlands.

The England flag is also missing...

That brings me nicely to the subject of living in Scotland but supporting England. It's always been an interesting experience, as a noisy majority (but of course not all) Scots loudly cheer for any team playing England, the 'auld enemy'. I was emailed a photograph of the Scottish flag at the English border, which has been mysteriously joined by the flags of Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago and Paraguay - England's opponents for the group stages. Some pubs in Edinburgh give out free drinks in England lose, and as Scotland didn't qualify for Germany, sports shops have been doing a brisk trade in Trinidad replica shirts.

Mind you, unless alcohol's involved, I can take most of it - like our aforementioned office sweep which had the special rule whereby if you drew out England and didn't want them, you could put them back and pull out another team. This could have led to a heartaching conflict for the Scottish supporter - the natural dislike of cheering for England against the possibility of winning money - but as it happened the bloke who picked England was Irish and decided to keep them. Likewise our office fantasy league has produced some interesting team names 'I hope England get stuffed', being the pick - although 'Peter Crouch's High Balls' is my personal favourite.

Anyway, back to the game itself. As I write this, we're barely 1/5 of the way through the tournament, with over three weeks of diving, playacting, and speculative shots fired over the crossbar to look forward to (Italy's first game is tonight). The shops will continue to run out of booze (not uncommon up here as it happens). I used to work in a Spar warehouse, and to a man the staff there hated football tournaments as they had to work twice as hard to cope with the beer orders. I'm going to miss my first game today as I'm at work - sadly Japan v Australia, which holds particular interest for me of course. But as of 5pm I'll be back in front of the matches, rooted to the sofa. I should say - if you thought I was completely vegetative over the weekend only watching football, I did vary my day slightly - I watched the Grand Prix too...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Spot the difference

Alrighty, a quick housekeeping post before the weekend's potentially large report concerning a certain football tournament which begins tomorrow. But I'll say more about the World Cup then - in the meantime, some important (yet uninteresting) news!

Firstly, the eagle eyed DUaB regulars might have noticed a slight change in some of the photos for the posts below. This is due to me accidentally stumbling across something called Macromedia Fireworks on the new PC that appeared in my flat when I was in London. It means with a bit of clicking and dragging, and a fair amount of swearing, I can turn the pixellated photos of old into sharper images of the same size - or even crop them to make prettier images. I've put a couple of examples below, with the new improved version above the old image as seen on DUaB previously. Over the next few weeks I'll be going back over the archive and transforming the photos - exciting!

Secondly, it appears I might be going to Scandinavia in July for a few weeks, Inter-railing through Sweden, Norway and Finland. Yep, you read that correctly - Inter-railing. I'm still in my 20's, I think it's allowed (our choice of Scandinavia has nothing to do with the Norwegian entry from Eurovision, by the way). It should be a final swangsong for my backpacking days - although I might be going to Vancouver for New Year, so my voyages will continue. Which brings me neatly to another link appeared on the right there, called 'My Life of Travel'. It's a travel-writing blog ring, and so far I've just copied my short travel bursts from DUaB to MLoT. Over time I'll be going over them and re-writing them with more flowery language and longer words to make me look smarter, and so forth. So something for you to read when that Switzerland v Togo World Cup match just doesn't capture the imagination...

New photos above old...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Leaving on a jetplane

What's your vector, Victor?

Like most of you I imagine, I was keenly reading Al Gore's tips on how to be Greener last week, and was unsurprised that Flying less was on his list - second only to RETAKE WHITEHOUSE, I think. Like most jetsetting politicians, Gore flies around regularly, to promote his flying less agenda - which he squares with his conscience by offsetting emissions by giving money to pygmies, or something. I was thinking about this in the departure lounge of Heathrow's Terminal 1, and wondering whether I should do something about it. As regular DUaB readers will know (and I'm working on the secret handshake), I fly quite a lot - like my knee-breaking three 12hr flights in four days last year (Tokyo>Sydney>Seoul>London).

I'm just old enough to remember when flying was fun - before these days of terrorism and planetary collapse. When flight attendants were stewardesses, and pilots gave you a jaunty salute as they went into the cockpit. Or maybe that was just Airplane and it never really happened. Going on holiday was made even better by the excitement of getting on a plane, it made you feel more special than being stuck in traffic on the M6 in the rain, anyway. Now the flight has ceased to be part of the enjoyable start of the holiday and has become something to be endured and suffered through - the holiday only starts when you get out of the airport at the other end.

Not that I've had any bad flying incidents to make me this jaded - and I even survived an emergency landing after a plane I was on developed a fault with the undercarriage. We were diverted from Cardiff to Nottingham East Midlands, and I remember looking out of the windows at the fire engines pelting to the runway thinking it was pretty cool - until realising they were pelting there for us. It was all a precaution, of course. Oh, and I was on a flight to the Canary Islands when a fight broke out - but again that was before these days of 'endangering the aircraft' and shoe bombs and the like, so the cabin staff prised them apart (it was a husband and wife). They were arrested by the Guardia Civil when we landed, however.

So I'm always expressly charming to cabin staff, as it's a horrible job I would not want - having to be nice and polite to people for hours at a stretch. If they can't, they get sent to work for Northwestern Airlines, I think. On a Boston-bound flight water started pouring out of the bulkhead onto our seats, and after minutes of button pushing, one of them sauntered down to us and curtly asked us what the problem was. "Oh, it always does that" she said. "It will be worse when we land", before wandering off to get us a pile of paper napkins to wedge in the hole.

When you get there it can be bad too - I once got all the way to Sydney before the airport announced my name over the PA system to say my luggage had been left in Edinburgh. I had to wait three days for it to be expressed over, with only the clothes I was wearing to my name. I only had one pair of socks - those long anti-DVT ones - so I built up a few years worth of immunity before my stuff arrived. Also I really object to being photographed and fingerprinted in the US like a criminal - but what can you do? Show any kind of dissent and it's off to Guantanamo. Customs officials over there are the worst I've encountered too - in Australia they are always cheerful, Tokyo extremely polite, but I've been grilled in the States by men who seemingly do it just because they can. I guess that serves me right for arriving on a night-flight from Amsterdam. I'm just glad I don't have an Arabic name.

Anyway, despite all that my experiences haven't been entirely bad or I'd never leave the country. If you want a fun airline atmosphere, take a Friday night flight to Dublin. The one I was on a few years ago was like a night out in a bar combined with the last day of school - I think only the pilots were sober (or at least I hope so). Another great memory - and also alcohol related - was on a Malaysian Airlines plane from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney (I've been asked this before, but Malaysian are without doubt the best airline I've ever flown with). It was the first time Edd or I had been over the Equator - ironic considering where he now lives - and the steward, who was a burly bloke called Raheem with a curly moustache, somehow found out, or guessed, and gave us a free beer and an ice-cream to celebrate. We had no idea what time it was, but enjoyed the treats as we watched the tiny plane symbol on the guidance map blink over the white line dividing the hemispheres...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

London calling

Forget beefeaters or the Houses of Parliament, nothing says 'I've been to London' like a drunken self portrait taken on the tube. After an acoustic music night at a Tapas restaurant in Turnpike Lane, I managed to snap a few photos of myself on the last Picadilly Line train. In case you're thinking I've suddenly become some kind of exhibitionist, I of course looked around to make sure nobody else was in the carriage. Taking photographs is second only to talking to people you don't know on the list of Tube no-no's. We are British, after all.

I don't care how old you are - Dinosaurs rule. Simple as that. It explains why the only part of the Natural History Museum you have to queue up for (apart from getting in), are the boney lizards like this one. Like all men, I had a dinosaur phase when I were a lad, and it was fun walking around looking at the youngsters open-mouthed as they excitedly tried to take it all in. It would have been even more fun if they'd let me get to the displays to push the buttons to make the models roar. Little bastards.

This is the monument erected by the people of Great Britain - after much controversy and expense - to the actor Anthony Daniels, for his timeless performance as C3P0 in the Star Wars series. At least that's what it looks like from a distance, as when you get closer you find out it's really to Prince Albert and so is far less exciting.

Kew Gardens in leafy South London is home to millions of plants and flowers and trees - and also the largest Victorian glass building in the world (this isn't it). When the weather's nice, it's a pleasant stroll around the gardens and through the sweaty greenhouses. Sadly the experience is let down by the £11 entrance fee - Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens is free (and far superior in my admittedly florally ignorant opinion), and the fact that every 60 seconds a low-flying plane rumbles overhead en route to nearby Heathrow. A bit rich seeing as how I travelled to London, I know, but it's not as peaceful a place as it should be.

Under cover of darkness, Andy and Grant belt out some classics from their heaving back catalogue at an acoustic night. After the aformentioned impromptu gig at a Spanish restaurant in North London, this was at a more traditional muso event underneath a pub in Farringdon. They are extremely hard to pick out in the blackness, but Grant's on the right next to the drum. Andy is on the left hidden by his hair, as ever. You can go here to listen to some of his music. If you do, you'll see what the above photo would have looked like had I turned the flash on.

The 'Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain' in Hyde Park, which was exceedingly controversial when it opened. A circular ribbon of water, it runs around a loop on the banks of the Serpentine in Hyde Park. When she died, it became a 'Where were you when you heard?' moment. I can distinctly remember where I was - in our local waiting for the Liverpool Newcastle match which they cancelled as a mark of respect. She didn't get much respect from the Sherwood regulars as a result, I can tell you. The fountain is impressive - but only in a technical way. Kids can paddle in it, which she would have liked, but it also traps rubbish and sucks water out of the water table when it could easily be recycled. It just doesn't serve as a memorial in any way - it just seems pointless and a waste of money. Maybe intentionally.