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Friday, 1 December 2017

The Little Darlings

I don't blame the cats, my wife or me for last Tuesday's frenetic hour and half at our little bijoux abode in Walthamstow.

I had been to my monthly Poetry Group - we sit round reading our poems and the others critique them. The meetings are held in our local "The Old Rose and Crown". We have a side room from 7  to 9:30 pm and most drift off at the end of the meeting. A few of us true "artistes" continue talking over a pint or two as the clock winds round to 11 pm - except the landlord's a lousy time keeper. I left nearer 12 than 11 and made my way to our little cottage not 5 minutes from the pub.

Some background: We feed two of our neighbours cats, Pru and Esme. It is around Esme that this tale hinges. She is a delightful tortoise shell, with big appealing eyes and an even bigger appetite. We worry if she isn't at our front door first thing. She doesn't demand feeding. No miaowing or scratching at the door. You open the front door and she's there - starved, on death's door through lack of feeding. A plate of food is provided and it's head's down and she is so grateful. Unlike other cats I could name - not a hundred miles from our house - who insist on silver service and a doggy bag! That's Esme, she is so sweet and getting rather heavyweight but she can run like a sprinter.

Which brings me back to last Tuesday evening. As I was approaching our house, Esme spied me and came helter skeltering down the road to greet me. I hadn't expected the missus to meet me on my return so little Esme's greeting warmed my  heart. " Hold on, girl", I said, "Let me get in and I'll get you a plate of food." Which I did. I went into the dining room and picked one of the numerous plates of food ignored by our little prima-donnas. I went back out and placed the plate in front of a most appreciative Esme.

I said "Goodnight", locked the door and prepared for bed. To fully appreciate the horror of the next hour or so you need to know about our household and its routines. We have four cats. In order of seniority there's Billy Bongo, Silvo and the two twins Pixie and Dixie. Before the house can settle down at night we count them in and out. On Tuesday before my darling wife secured both the front and back door she knew she had all four cats in the house.Billy Bongo and Silvo were sharing the bed with the missus and Pixie and Dixie were downstairs. The count complete 'er indoors was able to slip under the bedclothes safe in the knowledge that the most important members of the household were accounted for.

Having fed Esme, I locked the front door again and headed upstairs, washed and slipped into bed next to my wife. As I was settling down to a good night's sleep the missus asked where was Pixie. There were three of the four but the fourth was not there. Panic enshewed. Pixie had got out. When I opened the front door to feed Esme Pixie had scarpered. I was seriously interrogated. Had I seen the suspect, did I shut the door between the lounge and dining room? Did you see Pixie?

Hunts around the house produced nothing. Frankly I thought, still in bed, that this wasn't a problem: she'd be in the house somewhere, I hadn't seen her when I fed Esme. "Exactly! That's why she's not in the house". The missus by now was dressed and with a torch was scanning the front and back garden and calling "Pixie, Pixie, Pixie" to no effect.

I was beginning to doubt myself. Maybe I had not seen Pixie and maybe she had got out while I was feeding Esme. After all I'd had 3 pints of beer. In an instant I was dressed and out of the front door with torch in hand. Up and down both sides of the road, flashing my torch in the neighbours front gardens and thinking the sweet life I'd known had ended. Nothing, not a sign of the little darling and so I reluctantly returned home.

As I opened the gate, my wife appeared at the front door. "She's in, she's upstairs." In an instant I was washed over with joy and happiness. " It was Dixie who pointed her out. I wondered why she was by the chest of drawers - well earlier she'd been around the front door so I thought she'd scented Pixie - outside. Anyway, there she was - Pixie, well her paw actually, poking out from under the drawers. She knew we were looking for her and nothing, not a sound!"

All four most important beings accounted for, night time was allowed to commence. In the morning all four cats were on the bed. I have never awoken so relieved.

Sunday, 26 November 2017


For the first time ever I have watched a whole series in one sitting. From mid-day to 4 pm I watched episode after episode of Netfix's "Mars". It was enthralling!

I signed up to the channel about a year ago and after binging on "Guardians of the Galaxy", I left it alone - I found much of the stuff not for me. Recently, however, it's had some really good stuff. "Good stuff" for me is Sci fi and fantasy and even tough I have "The Martian" on DVD, I watched it yesterday on Netflix. That's where I found out about "Mars".

I don't like mini-series normally and with this one I played the intro of the first episode and killed it, switching over to "Pointless" or was it "Strictly". This morning, with a fire lit and my body aching from too much work at the allotment the day before, I decided to give "Mars" a try.

I like the format. We began in 2033 as the first  human Mars shot was about to blast off and then we switched back to 2016 and before. This happened in each episode, when we learn of why we should go to Mars and the real problems that planet presents to us humans. Then we were there in 2033 onwards going through these problems.

There were problems a plenty, from accidents on the way, landing miles from the designated touch down. Total systems failure, trying to find a volcanic vent, deadly radiation levels, month long sand storms. Madness and mass death.

After numerous episodes of attrition, it looked as if this privately financed Mars mission was to fail. No permanent settlement - we were bringing them home. Except they discovered life - very primitive - but life nevertheless and the project was saved.

A parade of brains gave the lowdown on Mars and why we should go. Elon Musk featured heavily - 'cause without re-usable rockets you can't go to Mars and his ambition is to go there. He was very impressive in a non aggressive, non rampant capitalist way.

O. K you could pick holes in the science and sheer practicality of the project - mixed crews - love, sex and babies - that didn't happen, but I bet if you're millions of miles from Earth and thinking this is your new, forever home - sex will surface. Mega orgies?

Even so, it was a great series. I had me transfixed for 4 hours. Well done Netflix.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Visiting the Dark Side

Yesterday - Halloween - was  Dark Matter Day. All across the globe there were events celebrating the unknown and I attended two of them in London, in the afternoon at the Royal Astronomical Society (RSA) and in the evening at King's College London.

Frankly I was scandalised by what I learnt. Apparently scientists discovered that we'd been underestimating the mass of the universe by a factor of 5.  I don't know about you but if I'd been out by a factor of 5 in my job I'd have been out on my ear. But not scientists - oh no - not even an apology for suddenly discovering that the Universe was 5 times more massive that they'd told us previously. Imagine waking up one morning to find that your credit card balance has increased 5 fold!

I'm totally amazed by this. Why no statement in Parliament, why no Royal Commission into why the Universe is now 5 times more massive? Where's that  Department for Universal Heaviness - it could be headed by one of those useless Brexit ministers. Instead it's pushed under the carpet and we've been kept in the dark about Dark Matter.

It wasn't just  the RSA that blandly told us we're massively more massive than we thought we were. My alma mater King's casually informed the assembled audience that the universe was morbidly obese. That is, frankly a national, if not cosmological, scandal. Scientists, many who are even more intelligent than me, appeared not to be concerned. I'm no scientist, but if the Big Bang discovered it was 5 times more massive than it thought it was maybe it wouldn't have gone Bang. You see my point.

All this appears to me as a job creation scheme for theoretical physicists, mathematicians and computer programmers. Look, someone comes up with this idea about spinning tops (aka galaxies) and why they're spinning faster than they should be - maybe they were given an extra push early on? Then there's these great big magnifying glasses in the sky and something to do with radio waves from Radio Luxembourg a long time ago when Jimmy Saville spun the  discs. All of a sudden loads of post doctorate bods, on the dole, and thinking they might have to sign up with Uber, start theorising about Dark Matter. There you have it  - the Black Economy.

I won't talk about Dark Energy. It's all summed up in that great 1985 Dire Strait's hit "Money for Nothing". Great days. When Pluto was still a PLANET!!!