Sunday, December 05, 2004

Signing On

So I finally decide to call the council and sign on.

It’s been several years since I did such a thing, and I’m pleased to note that I’m not actually going to be trying to deceive (mislead perhaps) anyone this time. I really am looking for work, and aren’t trying to avoid council tax or anything.

I consult the good old yellow pages. You see, I don’t have internet at home any more. So, I’m out of practice. I look up Job Centre.

It tells me to me to look at Employment Agencies and Local Government and Government. Hmm, I start to remember why we developed the internet.

Employment Agencies was useless, as you’d expect, as was Government,
both local and not. I checked Council, but that wasn’t useful either.

Eventually I find a number in the front under ‘useful numbers’.

Hmm.

I dial the Job Club Plus, or something. The cheerful man from
the ‘east’ of England didn’t know London, but he did look up the
nearest job centre for me. I had told him that I wanted to sign on.

‘Seven Sisters Road’, he says, ‘do you know it?’

I do.

‘Oh no, hang on,’ he adds, ‘no, that’d closed. They’ve moved to
Holloway Road.’ He gives me the address.

I ask for a telephone number.

‘Oh, just use the old Seven Sister’s one,’ he tells me, ‘I’m sure
they’ll have redirected it.’

They haven’t though and it just rings forever. I picture a lonely
phone in an empty office, surrounded by dismantled desks and rubble,
ringing forlornly.

The next day I take a trip to Holloway Road and discover that the
office is closed. I peer through the window at the empty office full of dismantled desks and rubble, and sigh deeply.

There is a number on the door, the same number I called the day before. I call it again, from a phone box to save cash. It takes a long time to connect.

Calmly, I explain what happened.

‘Medina Road,’ says a new man, ‘it’s a Medina Road in Finsbury Park
now.’

‘I see.’ I say.

‘But, for that office we make an appointment over the phone. We can do it now if you like?’

We do. Name, age, date of birth, address, phone number…

‘We don’t have a phone. I’m in a call box.’ I say.

‘Mobile?’

There is a pause. A telling pause. I don’t want them to have my
mobile number. Imagine, the job centre calling you on Sunday afternoon to ask what you’re doing, or to offer you a job in a fish and chip shop on Monday.

Now, I’m never a liar. So, what I mean next is, no, not for you I
don’t.

I say, ‘No.’

He says okay.

At that moment, my mobile, in my pocket, which just before going into the phone-box, I had turned up to max-level ‘Outdoor’ setting, so I would hear it, decides to go off. It’s the wife, as it’s her personal ring, ‘Supergirl’.

It’s very, very loud. I fumble for it and turn it off, eventually…
Silence on the line.

‘You can um, answer that if you want.’ He says.

‘Ah, no, I’m, um, fine,’ I tell him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Chemist

Something that has been playing on my mind was the visit when we picked up the notorious stain. We were out in the countryside and decided to pop in on some relatives (theirs, not mine) and met an odd Czech man called Tom who grew a lot of chillis and even had some chilli jam/jelly which he made me try.

Anyway, he was staining the front doorsteps of his porch, well, had just finished, which we spotted when leaving. My mother-in-law exclaimed, 'oh, how lovely!', meaning the colour. Within five minutes Tom has banged a lid on the pot and put it in the boot of our car whilst bemoaning the fact that you couldn't buy creosote in Canada.

'In my home country, everything is painted with creosote,' he tells me, 'when I was growing up our garden had very high walls, all painted with creosote and topped with razor wire.' I looked confused at this and he clarified - 'To stop people stealing the flowers.' Very reasonable.

Now I think back though, I think I have a memory of him saying something like, 'This is a mixture of linseed oil and some other things, it is very good.' Now, add to this fact that there is no linseed oil on the number #81 tin, and the fact that he is a chemist by trade, and you have a home-made stain in a thirty year old tin....

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Three Kings

The first big pub night since our return. Venue: The Three Kings in Farringdon. This is an old haunt from out last life in London, and I have memories of standing outside in the street on warm summer evenings, sipping Guinness in the road. The pub is so small that there are never any seats, I reflect as we take the tube there.

A series of slowly awakening memories stir as we exit the tube and I remember the station - the dual stairs that lead up, a pointless redundancy, I always think. Then the streets outside. I thought I'd have to call for directions, as my mind was blank as to the details, until we walked along the street. A map slowly was retrieved from my spider-web brain and we followed it to the pub without incident.

Rounds. I'm having trouble with rounds somehow since I got back. I always feel like I'm in the middle of a pint when someone buys a round. So I'm unable to buy more than one round before the same guy is buying me more beer. I don't remember rounds being so tricky for the first 12 or so years of my drinking life in England. I suppose it is how a tourist feels when obliged to join in with the odd system. I made myself feel better by buying the 11 o'clock half pints at the end of the night.

I find that I'm still in the habit of drifting off into space during conversations, so used to, am I, not understanding the French that they are normally conducted in Montreal. Of course, drifting off during an English conversation just looks plain rude, or as if you're bored to death. None of which is really true.

A few pints of Old Speckled Hen. Mr. Beer pulled a peculiar face at this choice and sucked in air between his teeth.

'I can't drink that, it's too strong. It gives me the shits.'

'Really?' I say, sipping it carefully.

So I'm drunk anyway, but so is everyone else. Mr. Fish pulled out his thesis and showed everyone some interesting quotes, explaining what a neo-Marxist was, as compared to a plain old full on Marxist. From what I gather, neo-Marxists don't demand a revolution exactly, but just generally like to criticize current government policy from armchairs (or barstools). Of course, I'm probably wrong.

I, in turn, drunkenly explain the difference between England, Britain and the UK, as one of the Quebec drinkers didn't know (and nor did anyone else, so it seems). After my explanation, May, the schoolteacher amongst us says,

'Yes, but what's your country then?'

Good question.

The night draws to a close and people wander off to nurse hangovers-to-be.

On the way home we purchase outrageously expensive falafels from a gaff on Stroud Green Road (it shall remain nameless) which was truly, truly awful. The wife, a mayonnaise lover if there ever was one said,

'It almost put me off all mayonnaise for life, the stuff on that.'

At home, apart from the falafel, there was a terrible smell. Much cupboard opening and sniffing was done in order to find the source, but to no avail. It was a truly awful smell, which only served to further the misery of the falafel. We never actually found what the nasty smell was, and the next morning it was gone. To give you an idea (though, it is impossible to describe), it was like a cross between burnt hair, beeswax, old curry and semen. Just imagine.

On other fronts, I'm finding that I can't stop talking English now - asking in shops how much is this, what's that, how does this work, what's the time, is that the 134 to Crouch End? Etc. In Montreal I'd tend to stifle such questions due to the inevitable conversation that would ensue with the Francophone pulling pained faces as I spoilt their beautiful language. The kind of face you'd pull if forced to listen to white noise, at full volume, at 4am.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Finally back

Back. Finally back. After three years away, and seven countries later, we arrive at Heathrow at 7am, after leaving Montreal at, oddly, 7am. I've watched, and god only knows why, a Harry Potter movie, and drank a few Gin and Tonics. I'm feeling rather tired as I stare out at the drizzle and grey clouds.

We pass through customs without too much of a problem. One man had begin to question me about what I've been doing for the last three years, and was getting suspicious, eyeing our oversized suitcases with some anticipation. I was starting to sweat, knowing that my suitcase had taken three days to pack like that, and that no way would I fit everything back in if I removed it now (an entire computer was lurking there, amongst other things). Luckily, an unlucky African man wandered into customs at that point, looked scared, and then tried to walk back out, a move which prompted almost all the customs officers in the area to pounce on him. My customs official thrust my passport back into my hand, and waved us away. We vanished quickly.

A train ride, staing at BBC on a TV, and the drizzle and grey clouds, then a black cab to Finsbury Park. The driver, a cheerful man, told us all about the Royal family, obviously mistaking us for tourists, he drove us in ever increasing circles, all over London on our way there. I was too tired to protest.

Beck was at the flat, ready to greet us. The flat is big and empty. When we unpacked our suitcases, after Beck left us, we realised just how little we brought with us. A few bits of clothing, some bathroom things, a lot of towels and sheets, and nothing else (except for a sewing machine and computer, of course).

So, I wanted to make a note of all that I found odd on my return, so I wouldn't forget later as things started to look normal again.

Changes

Wet. Yes, it is rather wet isn't it. The sky is always grey and threatening to drench you. Strangely though, since arriving we've only seen rain once, but the roads and pavement have been saturated the whole time.

Leaves. The trees still have leaves here. These things are long gone in Montreal.

Wind. There always seems to be wind blowing here. The trees move. In Montreal, I've come to realise, it is hardly ever windy.

Grey. To be honest, I was imagining it to be much greyer than it really is. The last time I spent any period away from the UK was in India, and upon my return I thought the colour had drained from the country. This time things looked a lot better.

Money. The money (notes that is), however, did look a little pale. And different. Maybe they've changed it?

Damp. The wife used to refer to the English cold as Humid. I have since explained that we only ever refer to humidity and weather when talking about a steamy rainforest. It is damp though. Having been brought up on this moisture-laden weather, I find it easier to handle than Canadians, who find that it penetrates them to the marrow and causes them much misery, no matter how many layers of fleece they wear.

Cold flat. Our flat is chilly. All flats in London are chilly, and even houses (unless they are your parent's or have a roaring log fire in them). Even with the heating on full-time, there is an air of damp coldness every morning. In Quebec they have to endure minus 40 degree winters, so their heating is super-efficient. They find our flats and houses unendurable, I think.

Hot water. It isn't very hot is it? And we have to turn it on in advance. The water in Montreal comes out of the tap at temperatures that cause second degree burns. I'm not simply moaning here, it's true, and even in the poorest of apartments this is true. I think it's the harsh winters that makes this such an essential there, but less so here.

Radio Stations. Hundreds of them. Most of them playing some kind of R n B or Garage type of noise. Good choice, but I find I spend more time scanning than listening.

Shops. We arrived on Sunday and everything was closed. This came as a bit of a shock.

Tubes. My, those platforms are narrow aren't they? I found myself standing with my back to the wall a lot. Then, on the news later, we saw a psychopathic man caught on CCTV trying to push people off the edge.

Beer. My god, bitter tastes good doesn't it? And beer seems to have remained about the same price as when I was last here. It is actually cheaper to drink here than in Montreal. No, really.

Traffic. Fast cars, narrow roads, on the left. We almost got knocked down several times in our first day. We have also been training ourself to look before crossing junctions, and to walk behind cars waiting to pull out. If you try this in Montreal the drivers start to panic and may even try and reverse to encourage you to walk in front of them.

TV. There are more adverts than 3 years ago. 100% sure. And more often too. There still seems to be a bewildering amount of snooker being shown.

Mobiles. We got mobiles the next day. They're the same price as ever, but in colour and tiny. We also managed to get them up and running in the pub within 10 minutes. Quite a feat.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Stained

Out, damned spot. And so on. I know it seems like all I ever talk about is my bloody decking saga these days - the job I'll be doing in Hell for all eternity, no doubt, but here it is again. Take heart though, it should be over soon.

So, today I arrive bright an early, as it's a sunny day for a change in these days of incoming winter. I sweep the deck and open up my stain tin, only to notice (make that remember) that it's almost empty. Never mind, I think, I'll go and buy another afterwards...

So, I stain away, doing about six foot square and then run out. I extract $100 from my mother-in-law, which is, I must confess, a large sum, but I did give change. And away we're off to RONA, a kind of Canadian B&Q, which is a kind of English, ah well, you get this idea - a DIY store.

I have cunningly written down everything written on the tin, in French and English, to assist in getting another, as I can smell trouble. I search the aisles for about 15 mins without luck, I'm searching for 'Behr' products, and they don't have any.

'Non.' Says the sturdy looking assistant. 'Behr? Reno Depot'. And turns and swishes away.

A fifteen minute drive to Reno Depot, where I suspect I'm well known due to the many, many hours I've spent wandering around the place looking for things and refusing to ask for help. I mean, the place is enormous, it has taken me months to map it out even.

But I know where the stain is, as I've seen in when buying the stripper (kind of ironic eh?). I can't find the product. I'm looking for Number #81.

I approach an elderly assistant, so elderly that he has the right to be insolent to me and I merely smile back.

'Bonjour monsieur, vous avez... cette... ummm... vous parlez anglais?'

He eyed me and literally spat, 'un peut!' Then, 'et vous - vous parlez français?'

'A little!' I tried to spit too, but it doesn't work so well in English.

So, he looks at the paper I offer him like I've wiped my arse with it already and laughs, 'Number 81! Ho ho ho!'

I don't share the joke. 'So you don't have it then?'

'Oh no monsieur, they stopped making that years ago.' At this he actually goes to turn and walk away.

'Is there anything else similar?' I ask, and he almost wobbles his head, a-la Indian style, and walks me to my choices, stopping on the way to balance a heavy can of paint on a shelf, precariously, above an old lady's head.

He sells me a tin called 'Red', when what I wanted was Redwood / Red Cedar. I suspect the match won't be perfect, but what choice do I have?

Back at the ranch, I apply the stain, it looks a little different but not too bad. The mother-in-law comes out to look. She agrees that it looks the same. I'm pleased.

But it doesn't look the same when it dries... oh no. It's dark brown, and the old stain is bright red. Oh bollocks, I muttered, walking up and down to look at it in different lights.

There's also another problem - I neglected to read the tin this time, foolishly assuming that it would be the same in application, but no, oh no.

Apply one coat. The old stain was two.

Paint each plank length to length to avoid 'lap' lines. The old stain didn't care.

Sure enough, there are 'lap' (I assume that's short for overlap, saving the use of four letters) line all over the place.

I decide to fix it in the spring.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Sawdust

There’s sawdust everywhere. It’s in my hair, under my nails, in the fabric of my clothes, in my nose, my ears, between my toes, and generally settled in my lungs. Not the nice kind of sawdust that you plunge your hand into to grab a prize at a lucky-dip, oh no, the finer kind, the dust and airborne kind. Yes, another day with unlikely sanding machines.

When I met my mother-in-law today she informed me that we were going to hire equipment form another vendor. This struck me as suspicious - had the last people said something about the sander and she had just not mentioned it? As it turned out, she had decided to change as she didn’t want to see me bending over for another five hours with a belt sander, so she had another thing in mind, something she had seen used by workmen in the past - the upright sander.

Imagine a vacuum cleaner, but more severe.

So, another burly, overall-clad, condescending man later, we hauled an extraordinarily large and heavy sander-vacuum-cleaner into the boot of the car. It was very, very heavy. As is (now) usual, the man had shown me how to load the sanding paper onto a large roller in a casual, non-informative way and curtly dismissed us.

True to form, we couldn’t work out how to fir the paper - it involved three screws (which previous renters had mangled terribly), a flat metal bar, and a large cylinder. After some faffing about we managed to mount the first roll. The plug was so old and battered that it kept falling out of the wall, so I had to employ some masking tape in large amounts to secure the connection.

On goes the machine.

It’s not as loud as the belt sander, surprisingly. I lower it to the wood and it makes an angry, snarling, ripping, shredding, end-of-the-world type of noise and spits the sanding sheet out onto the decking, in tiny bits.

We mount another sheet, using a different technique. I lower the revving machine and the same thing happens. We discuss the problem, she seems to think that it is due to nails, so I hammer all the nails soundly further into the wood, although they aren’t proud (so to speak). The next attempt is a little better and I manage to strip wood viciously for about ten seconds before the sheet rips to shreds. We decide that it is due to the uneven wood ends and to stick to the centre of the planks for now. The next sheet mounts tightly, having got the technique right, finally, and I manage to sand for about forty minutes without a problem.

It all went rather well in the end. I got better and better, and I had no more ripping sheets. My mother-in-law retired inside, obviously satisfied that I wasn’t going to destroy the machine.

Anyway, four hour later and most of the decking is smooth and lovely. The edges still need to be done with a belt sander, as do a few patches where the wood is uneven, but it’s a good job.

Anyway, we take the hulking sander back to the shop and wait for half an hour as burly overall-clad men ignore us until we finally get to pay. My mother-in-law mentions that we’ll be back to hire a belt-sander to finish the edges. What? Says the man, Didn’t you use the edge attachment?

What edge attachment?

Well, they are supposed to supply with the machine and add-on which allows you to sand edges next to walls and corners.

Sorry, he said.

The saga continues.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Montreal Decking (1)

Decking

My mother-in-law decided that it would be nice to have her patio decking ‘done’, and what that means is that I’ll be doing it out of the goodness of my heart. Anyway, not content with a new layer of paint, she decides that it would be nicer stripped down to the bare wood and tinted, or stained. This plan was encouraged by my troublesome wife, who agreed that it would be lovely. Okay, not too traumatic so far. The decking is about 17 foot by 10 foot and raised off the ground by about a foot and a half. There is no access underneath, and no way of taking it apart in any way (just in case you are thinking about it). The first problem is that the planks of wood are all set apart by about half an inch, not flush together. So, bright blue paint is all down the sides of the planks, and highly visible.

Solution 1: The paint stripper.

Suggested by my father (who has extensive experience of stripping paint off various surfaces). He said, paint paint-stripper down the sides, then scrape it off with a blade. ‘Should be easy’, he says. It might be worth pointing out here that I was never concerned about the surface of the decking, as I always thought I’d just sand that off with an electric sander. Okay, so I buy a few litres of some super-decking-stripper-without-the-pain from the local hardware store that says it’ll strip a couple of football pitches, or some other equally blatant lie. Anyway, I follow the instructions and succeed, eventually, after hours of backbreaking scrubbing (which the product claimed I wouldn’t have to do), in revealing the yellow paint under the blue, and a few patches of wood. The sides of the planks stubbornly clung to their paint though, resisting all attempts to brush it off. Suffice to say that I ran out of product half way through and started swearing.

Solution 2: Improved strength paint stripper.

Not for the faint hearted this stuff. Guaranteed to contain chemicals that dissolve concrete, or your hands, on contact. This product claimed that I would merely have to hose down the decking after application and watch the paint wash away - absolutely painless, just ensure all pets are indoors type of thing. Anyway, it didn’t bloody work and I ended off scrubbing like hell for hours on end, and getting a similar effect to the first product.

Solution 3: Leave the whole thing half done for a number of weeks in the hope it will go away.

It didn’t.

Solution 4: I had a brainwave.

I cast my mind back to woodworking at school and remembered a tool that we used for just such purposes as removing layers of wood in awkward places - a ‘rasper’. I started to check out all the hardware stores in an effort to find one, but was always out of luck. I had no idea how to say ‘rasper’ in French and my attempts to explain always led to plain old files (which didn’t work, as I had tried this in a moment of desperation already). So, I forgot all about it for a week until I saw a rasper, accidentally whilst buying some carriage bolts somewhere. I rushed (well, maybe not) to the decking and spent three hours rasping away. It worked quite well, produced copious blisters, and quite a good result. The problem was that three hours of work only covered about one tenth of the planking sides. Another thirty hours of the same activity didn’t sound too good to me, and in fact made me break out in a cold sweat.

Solution 5: Ignore the sides and just do the top.

This is my mother-in-law’s idea actually, along with my wife. I think they suspect that the snows will arrive before I finish the sides, which would be bad news for the decking. So, I agree that I’ll just sand the top and tint it, then rasp sides and top up the tint, as and when I have time - perhaps over the next several years. I pointed out (and still do) that you’ll be able to see yellow and blue paint on the sides of the planking, but my mother-in-law claims that she can’t, which is nice of her.

The Sanding Machine

Now, my mother-in-law produces this bit of paper, cut out of the local newspaper, which reviews a new machine for stripping wood ‘without pain’. The actual title was something like ‘Stripping without pain’. I was sceptical. There was a picture of a man, smiling, actually smiling, as he stripped wood off a plank with the new and funky machine, which employed magic, or something equally dubious, to achieve its unbelievable result. Anyway, there was no putting her off, so we set off to the local ‘outils location’ (or whatever) shop, where we would rent tools from burly, condescending types in overalls.

Turns out that they didn’t have the new super-magic-without-pain machine, and the chief (or chef) of the shop actually sneered when shown the article. He said he’d tried one at a trade fair, and that a belt sander was quicker. I’m still confused as to what this magical machine does that a normal sander doesn’t, perhaps throwing a flame or something. At this point I should mention that we did talk about heating guns and scraping tools, but I dismissed it as being longer, or equal in length to the rasper.

Anyway, we took a belt sander. He eyed me and said, ‘Do you know how to use it?’ I had to bite my tongue, as it was about to say, ‘of course’, and instead moderate my reply and say, ‘I haven’t used one of these before.’ Emphasising ‘these’ so he was aware that I’d actually used a sander before in my life.

With a flick of the wrist and slight-of-hand, he mounted a belt in place and locked it down tight, without me seeing.

‘Like this’, he said.

‘Okay’, I lied, ‘no problem.’

He went on, ‘When you start it, the belt will go this way, turn this knob until it comes back this way, then when you start to sand it will go this way, turn the knob to make it go this way. Keep it in the centre.’

‘Right.’ I said. How difficult could it be?

Half an hour later and I’m sanding the decking. When I started the machine, I twiddled the knob and corrected the wobble, then twiddled it again when sanding, and it was all going terribly well. I did a plank, then another, then another. Great. My knees started to hurt, I stood and did another, my back started to hurt. I began to suffer, and did another and another. So after about 4 foot square I was dead and couldn’t hear anything. My mother-in-law insisted on going out to buy me earplugs.

The sanding started to get harder and harder and I realised that the belt was wearing down, so I unplugged it and pulled up the release lever, which relaxed the two wheels that the belt sat on. The belt slipped off okay, and the new one slipped on fine. I pushed the lever back and was quite pleased. Poised to start again I was dismayed when the wheels whizzed round and the belt stayed stationary, flapping a little. I unplugged and examined the mechanism. The belt was too big for the wheels. Damn. I took the old belt and put it on and that was too big too. Okay, the belt was the right size and I was stupid, perhaps. It took me a good ten minutes to realise that turning the mysterious knob that controlled the tilt of the belt also lengthened the distance between the wheels, stretching the belt (curiously, it did this whatever direction you turned it in). The knob was a mystery to me. Anyway, the belt was on.

When started, it shot off the side, like an elastic band. I re-applied it and furiously turned the knob to make it slide in the other direction, and it did, and stayed there, refusing to return to the middle. I stopped the machine, unplugged it again and reloaded the belt. Turned it on and it shot to the side and refused to move. I turned the knob one way about ten turns, nothing, the other way about ten turns, nothing. Well, the band was turning, what did it matter if it was skewed to one side, I reasoned?

I sanded for perhaps ten minutes when I noticed the hole appearing in the top of the metal sheet covering the band. I watched in fascination as it opened up and started to gape wider. I stopped the machine, unplugged it and examined the mechanism. The belt had eaten through the metal all along the side, and also some plastic. My heart sank. Was that really me? Could the sander really eat itself like that? What the hell would the burly, condescending overall-wearing guy say when we took it back? ‘What the HELL have you done to my sander!?’

I showed my mother-in-law and explained that there might be serious consequences upon return of the rented item. She shrugged and asked if I could continue with the decking?

So, I sit down for a serious study of the appliance. I take off the belt and notice that the front wheel is sitting at an odd angle, explaining the reluctance of the belt to move to the centre. I lock the mechanism and it straightens a little, but not a lot. I twiddle the knob. Nothing happens. There are no more controls apart from on and off. I examine the knob, it seemed to be connected to a little rod that hovered meaninglessly in the air. Twiddling it simply seemed to rotate it. On a whim I kept turning it in one direction for a long time and watched it descend slowly until it hit the wheel and then pressed against it, changing its angle. I swore and cursed my stupidity once again. I had obviously unscrewed the knob too far in one attempt at control, and since then it had no effect whatsoever.

Control re-established, I sanded for five hours in the day, getting between a third and a half done. Tired and groggy, I was going to finish at 4:40pm, but decided to push on until 5pm, making a round number. As if in a dream, with heavy hands and aching back I started to sand the last fateful plank of the day. Half way along I heard an odd buzzing noise and stopped to have a look what it was - an unlucky wasp maybe? No, of course not. It was the power cable of the sander. As if I hadn’t inflicted enough damage on the poor machine, I had also now sanded off the outer casing of the power cable. Revealing, rather dangerously, the inner wires.

I packed up an had a shower, warning my mother-in-law that they might be unhappy with the sander when she takes it back. She seemed unconcerned. Perhaps with a few hundred dollars worth of bill, she will become more so.

Sawdust

So, there’s sawdust everywhere. It’s in my hair, under my nails, in the fabric of my clothes, in my nose, my ears, between my toes, and generally settled in my lungs. Not the nice kind of sawdust that you plunge your hand into to grab a prize at a lucky-dip, oh no, the finer kind, the dust and airborne kind. Yes, after another day with unlikely sanding machines.

When I next met my mother-in-law she informed me that we were going to hire equipment form another vendor. This struck me as suspicious - had the last people said something about the sander and she had just not mentioned it? As it turned out, she had decided to change machines as she didn’t want to see me bending over for another five hours with a belt sander, so she had another thing in mind, something she had seen used by workmen in the past - the ‘upright sander’.

Imagine a vacuum cleaner, but more severe.

So, another burly, overall-clad, condescending man later, we hauled an extraordinarily large and heavy sander-cum-vacuum-cleaner into the boot of the car. It was very, very heavy. As is (now) usual, the man had shown me how to load the sanding paper onto a large roller in a casual, non-informative way and curtly dismissed us.

True to form, we couldn’t work out how to fit the paper - it involved three screws (which previous renters had mangled terribly), a flat metal bar, and a large cylinder. After some faffing about we managed to mount the first roll. The plug was so old and battered that it kept falling out of the wall, so I had to employ some masking tape in large amounts to secure the connection.

On goes the machine.

It’s not as loud as the belt sander, surprisingly. I lower it to the wood and it makes an angry, snarling, ripping, shredding, end-of-the-world type of noise and spits the sanding sheet out onto the decking, in tiny bits.

We mount another sheet, using a different technique. I lower the revving machine and the same thing happens. We discuss the problem, she seems to think that it is due to nails, so I hammer all the nails soundly further into the wood, although they aren’t proud (so to speak). The next attempt is a little better and I manage to strip wood viciously for about ten seconds before the sheet rips to shreds. We decide that it is due to the uneven wood ends and to stick to the centre of the planks for now. The next sheet mounts tightly, having got the technique right, finally, and I manage to sand for about forty minutes without a problem.

It all went rather well in the end. I got better and better, and I had no more ripping sheets. My mother-in-law retired inside, obviously satisfied that I wasn’t going to destroy the machine.

Anyway, four hours later and most of the decking is smooth and lovely. The edges still need to be done with a belt sander, as do a few patches where the wood is uneven, but it’s a good job.

Anyway, we take the hulking sander back to the shop and wait for half an hour as burly overall-clad men ignore us until we finally get to pay. My mother-in-law mentions that we’ll be back to hire a belt-sander to finish the edges. What? Says the man, Didn’t you use the edge attachment?

What edge attachment?

Well, they are supposed to supply with the machine an add-on which allows you to sand edges next to walls and corners.

‘Sorry’, he said.

The saga continues.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Decking Day

Today was a decking day. A day where I wrestled with wood that really means me no harm, but is causing me some anyway. I'm stripping down the decking and planning to stain the lovely natural wood a nice colour and leave it like that. Presently it is a nasty blue colour, who knows what the previous tenants were thinking?

Anyway, I went to my local hardware store and was assured by a too-young-to-know man that this large plastic container of acidic stuff would strip off all my nasty latex paint in no time. The instructions seem to go along with this, reading, 'Leave to soak for 15 minutes and then rub gently with a brush, the paint will come off.' Hmm.

Well, surprise, surprise, the paint doesn't come off. Some of it does, after heartbreaking rubbing, scraping and hosing (for hours), and reveals the coat of nasty yellow paint under the blue. The reasoning behind painting the thing blue becomes clearer now.

So, I would just use a large sander to buzz the whole thing clean and nice, and I will do that, but the planking is about half an inch apart all the way across, so there is paint in the gaps which would look terrible if I didn't remove it. This is why I bought the paint stripper, I thought it would help (my father suggested that it would).

Now, one eighth of the decking is semi-stripped and displays blue, orange and wood. The sides, the inaccessible sides, display the same levels of paint.

Oh, strength, do not desert me.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Risk

Cause

Risk per 1 Million people

% Chance of death in a year

1 in every how many per year deaths

Smoking 10 cigarettes a day

5000

0.5

200

Heart disease

3400

0.34

294

Cancer

1600

0.16

625

Car accidents

225

0.0225

4,444

Flu

200

0.02

5,000

Work accidents

150

0.015

6,667

Home accidents

110

0.011

9,091

Murders

93

0.0093

10,753

Leukemia

80

0.008

12,500

Nasty Falls

68

0.0068

14,706

Car vs. pedestrian collisions

42

0.0042

23,810

Drowning

36.5

0.00365

27,397

Fires and burns

29

0.0029

34,483

Lung cancer from passive smoking

20

0.002

50,000

Inhalation and ingestion of objects

15

0.0015

66,667

Poisoning by solids and liquids

11.5

0.00115

86,957

Guns, sporting

10.5

0.00105

95,238

Railroads

9

0.0009

111,111

Eating beef on the bone

8.3

0.00083

120,482

Civil aviation

8

0.0008

125,000

Poisoning by gases

7.35

0.000735

136,054

Pleasure boating

6

0.0006

166,667

Electrocution

5.3

0.00053

188,679

Tornadoes

0.6

0.00006

1,666,667

Floods

0.6

0.00006

1,666,667

Lightning strike

0.5

0.00005

2,000,000

Venomous animals and insects

0.2

0.00002

5,000,000

Aircraft falls from sky

0.1

0.00001

10,000,000

Nuclear power plant leak

0.1

0.00001

10,000,000

Pressure vehicle explodes

0.05

0.000005

20,000,000

Meteorite hit

0.00001

1.0E-09

100,000,000,000

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Another party

Ah, another party, and one I remember this time. How novel.

The party is supposed to start with a game of football in the park at 4pm, leading onto lengthy shower-queues at the party venue, followed by drinking large amounts of alcohol whilst eating BBQ.

The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that, so a thunderstorm appears and flashes great bolts of lighting as it throws down sheets of rain.

We sit inside our house, at 3.30pm, and look out of the window. We have the lights on. We decide not to go to the football, and instead just turn up for the post-match party.

So I drink just one beer before we leave, at about 7pm. We take a bus, and then walk. The rain has stopped, and though there is a damp chill in the air, it is pleasant. We meet Leaf in the area, and enter the party with him.

Pristine, pearly white walls shout their non-smoking origins, in a tidy, comfortable lounge, African style voodoo masks adorn the walls, but not in a scary way. It's the kind of apartment that looks tidy, and not in need of a glass of red wine on the sofa.

New people, all interesting. I just brought six beers, in an effort to not drink too much and / or stay too late. Interesting strategy.

There is a BBQ after all, and we watch Bjork cook sausages until they are blackened and charred. Consumers stare at their plates, prodding their elongated charcoal with forks, in a forlorn manner.

MC explains to me, 'It is how Germans cook meat, apparently. Every time he cooks meat it is like this. He's always saying, "I don't think it's quite cooked enough.." and then blackens it.'

In the end, others are sent to seize control of the BBQ and sausage browning. There are sighs of relief. It is Bjork's birthday, so I suppose he should be allowed to burn the meat if he wants to.

Once the variously-shaped bits of animal have been consumed, and the blood soaked up with bread, the drinking begins in earnest. There is a lot of beer in the fridge, so much so that a great deal of it waits patiently outside for its turn to be chilled. But in the end it all vanishes, of course.

No shots in sight. I'm very glad.

'I was bought a bottle of whisky,' Bjork tells me, as he lights his cigarette, outside, with a new zippo. He points to an ominous bottle of single malt, on the shelf, high above the milling crowd.

'Ah.' I say.

'Maybe later, we can have a small glass?' He suggests.

'Ah.' I say. 'Maybe not, I don't really drink spirits any more, especially at parties.'

'But if it is the end of the night, and your last drink before you go home?'

He is the devil, and I listen to his bargain, as all lost souls do.

'Hmm, perhaps,' I concede.

The wife finds me and asks me, too many times, if she is red in the face.

'No, why?' I ask.

It turns out that there is a 'famous person' at the party. Famous in Quebec, that is, as I've never heard of him. I ask not to have him pointed out. I don't want my behaviour modified by knowing. In fact, I take a perverse pleasure in knowing that I'll probably talk to him and not know that he is supposed to be famous.

I drink more beer and lecture people about how to give up cigarettes, as I smoke outside.

I wander around inside and watch people dance to cheesy 80's anthems, screaming and shouting their hearts out.

I smoke some more and talk about how hard it is to learn French in Montreal, and how easy it is to learn English (in English).

I then spend a considerable amount of time with Xena, extracting all the English words from the French magnetic poetry on the fridge, and then making nonsense phrases out of them:

'Metal bras excite' and so forth.

I finish my beer and go to the depanneur to buy 2 more bottles, and another bottle of wine for the wife. At the time I'm don't contemplate that perhaps two bottles of wine is a lot to drink

Back at the fridge, drinking, I talk to a pretty girl whom I had noticed earlier showing off her cleavage to her girlfriends. She is surprised to hear that I'm married. She looks disappointed, and thinks about this for a moment.

'Can I French kiss you then?' She asks.

I think about this.

'No,' I say, 'I think my wife would be upset if you French kissed me.'

'Hmm.' She says, and thinks some more. 'Maybe at another party then?'

I think she is missing the point.

Suddenly the fridge is empty and the whole world is looking for beer. I spy a bottle, unopened, hidden away behind some boxes, and take it, free of guilt as I do so.

We stay for another fifteen minutes and then leave, not, for once, the last people to go. And, thankfully, without a glass of malt whisky for the road.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Party of Leaf and Xena

I wondered for a while if I should, in fact, write a review of this party, mainly because it didn't end so well for me, personally. But, life is life, and it does deserve a write up, in reality. I also took no pictures during the evening, but I've had some sent to me since, and so I'll use one of them... I'm sure Karloff won't mind.

The error of my judgement on this day can perhaps be traced back to the two pints I drank at 4pm in Grumpy's Bar after a day of shopping downtown. I was waiting for the wife at the time. After receiving a phone call to the bar from her (amusing image of the barmaid holding up the phone and shouting my name), I then went to meet her and Marty at the Barbare.

When I arrived they were already a few bites into burgers, so I ordered a cheese platter, as I thought it would be quick to prepare. I ordered a beer - a 5 a 7 special of some alcoholic orange liquid.

The cheese platter was obviously designed to be shared amongst several friends. There was a huge wedge of Camembert, a mountain of cheddar cubes, and a large slice of goat cheese. When I finished, which I did, I sat back and my stomach shouted angrily at me for filling it with so much dairy, on top of three pints of beer.

I felt a bit odd from this point onwards in our story, dear reader.

We returned home, to relax and change, and I drank a rather nasty bottle of Milwaukee Dry, which happened to be in the fridge. This beer always makes me feel strange, and often brings on stomach cramps or burning sensations. Anyway, beer is beer, I reasoned.

Feeling a little tired, I decided to have an espresso before leaving, but realised that we didn't have much coffee left. No problem, I thought, I'll top up the coffee with cocoa powder and make an espresso-mocha.

Hmm.

Well, with added sugar, I thought it was great, though the wife wasn't convinced, and in fact pulled an odd face when she tried it. Anyway, I drank it all down and proclaimed that I felt great.

I only had six beers with me to take - Belle Guelle - and had bee told by Xena that there would be plenty of Gin and Tonic if I wanted more later at the party. The wife took a bottle of red wine.

Time passes. We arrive.

Very jolly beginning it was too. I talk to a lot of people, and drink a beer. Good atmosphere, plenty of laughter, this is the part of the evening that everyone recalls clearly the next day.

Then Xena arrives with a tray of shots. Vodka perhaps.

I pull a face. I have been avoiding shots since they were linked to my blackouts in the past.

'Ooh, I don't know,' I say. But I'm talked into it - just one to celebrate various things that seemed like they needed toasting, desperately, at that moment.

'Okay,' I say, 'just one.' And descend into murkiness. 'But,' I add, seriously to Xena, 'don't let me drink any more, eh?'

'Sure,' she says, and wanders off to ply spirits on more people.

So, suffice to say that during the rest of the evening, it was never long before a tray of shots was thrust under my nose for sampling. And, worse, I would often help Xena finish the last few on the tray before she went to create something new.

'What goes with Gin?' She would ask, desperate to make new and more interesting shots for the masses.

So we spend a lot of time on the roof, as we can smoke there. To get there you have to travel in the lift/elevator each time, then walk through darkened corridors and up spooky, gloomy steps. There are a few stumbles. Of course.

I'm having fun at this point in the evening, and have had, perhaps four or five of my beers. One of my final memories of the night is X's (who's name I shall not mention) girlfriend telling a large crowd of people how she shaves his balls.

'I can't stand that hair!' She cries.

'Well, we've all been there,' I say, and the men in the group thoughtfully nod.

Then it's all over. A few flashes, but no real memories. I wake up the next day, in bed.

I have managed to re-create the rest of the evening from various sources:

Downstairs I'm drinking strong German lager that someone has given me, slurring, and swaying. My wife sees this and brings me some water, which she thinks will do me some good. I'm of the opinion that it won't do me any good, and don't want to drink it. She is insistent, and I become excited in my refusal. This escalates into me tossing my empty beer bottle onto the table - the ultimate 'no' symbol.

I am manhandled into a small room, as I'm now considered a threat to society. And there various people come in and try and make me drink water, as I sit on a small chair, alone. I become more and more agitated as I perceive the world massing and conspiring against me, all of them wanting me to drink water, that I don't want to drink.

Then the wife begins to shout at me. She told me later that this once worked for her - when I was drunk, she shouted at me to pull myself together, and I did. However, this time, it did not, and I remained resolutely drunk. Then an idea came into her head - perhaps a slap across the face, like on the TV, would do the trick. Kind of shock me into sobriety?

She tells me that she is going to slap me.

I fix her gaze and say, 'Go on then.' But, I can't help imagine that I meant it in the sense of, 'no, don't.'

She tells me three times that she is about to slap me, and then wham! She lets rip.

A second later I have hurled a cup across the little room, and it has smashed into many bits. At least I took out my anger on an inanimate object, and not a live thing, I later thought.

We leave soon after, at 4am or so. The wife is upset with me, for some reason.

In the morning I'm simply told that I threw beer bottles around and smashed a cup against the wall.

'What?' I say, 'why would I do that?'

'I don't know,' said the wife.

During the evening I also managed to break my antique gold watch, the 1960 Longine Grand Prix. That watch is precious to me, so that when I saw the top fall off, in the bathroom that morning, and the little second hand bent into a 'U', I could have almost cried.

New resolution: No more shots.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Hi, I'm Ralph...

In a fit of boredom, you may want to type "Hi I'm X" into google, with the quotes, using your name as X, and see what comes out. Here's a selection of the other Ralphs in cyberspace, introducing themselves:

Different :
Hi, I'm "Ralph".. I'm a satin, red, pied longhair. I'm a real sweetie &. I'm pretty mellow & laid back, but I still like to run in my exercise wheel, at night. [link]

Deluded :
Hi! I'm Ralph the Elf. I'm pretty low on the tree at Santa's Workshop so this Christmas I was sent down south to Silicon Valley to do lobby duty at one of those indistinguishable hi-tech firms. [link]

Factual :
Ralph Cuseglio: Hi, I’m Ralph. I am 27, and I sing. [link]

Forceful :
Hi, I'm Ralph Tiff, your host and guide to the stars. You've wandered into my little corner of cyberspace and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let you leave without being entertained. [link]

Excited :
Hi! I'm Ralph and this is my first ever web page! [link]

Cryptic :
"Hi, I'm Ralph, NH6PY." [link]

Welcoming :
Hi! I'm Ralph Budelman. We invite future and existing customers to travel to Bangalore, India and visit us. [link]

Mundane :
Hi! I'm Ralph from Orlando Florida. I'm a long time enthusist of tradtional music including the music of the British Isles, the Canadian maritime Islands, Brittany. Heck, there's really not much tradional music of European origin that I don't like. [link]

Confused :
"Hi, I'm Ralph. Which ship are we on?" [link]

Religious :
Picture yourself walking up to Jesus, shaking his hand, and saying, "Hi, I’m Ralph. What’s your name?" [link]

Cracked :
Hi I'm Ralph, what I do is I say that person's name three times not out loud, in my head. Ralph, Ralph, Ralph and it is in there and it makes all the difference in the world when I part from that person and I can say Hey - take care RRRRRRRalph. [link]

Undead? :
"Hi, I'm Ralph. What's your name? Nobody here tells me anything."
Jim gaped, working his mouth, but no sound came out. Liv was more vocal - she opened her mouth and screamed at the newcomer. [link]

Suffering from Sunstroke :
Hi, I'm Ralph, AKA the Swollen Head, (I maintain that Baldness is a sign of intelligence, and I am the smartest man alive.)Bla Bla Bla, that's what I do, and crack the wip on these two... bla bla bla and ho hum de de, when I go out I have to pee. bla bla bla and bloobidy do, if I eat a donut I have to poo. [link]

Wouldn't we all? :
Hi, I'm Ralph. I come from Poland, there this hobby (TTTT) is unpopular, and I would like to change..[link]

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Ike's Party

Okay, here's the deal. If someone tells you that they're having a cinq-a-sept party in Montreal, don't believe them, and certainly don't arrive at 5pm. 5 a 7 is the time in Montreal when cheap drinks are had in many bars around town, to attract the after work drinkers, but the term is now used to generally denote an afternoon, or early evening drinking session, also with the implication of cheap or interesting drinks.

So, we're invited to a 5 a 7 party, which, as we're leaving the house, I notice has been changed to 5 a 9 party on the English invite. Odd, I think, I wonder why.

Just the week before the host, Ike, had told me that it would indeed be a brief party.

'Yeah, we'll drink there for a few hours, then all go out.'

'Okay.' I say.

So, we're the first to arrive. Ike looks surprised to see us at 5.30pm. He is, in fact, still cleaning the apartment. We try and leave to come back later, but he'll have none of it.

So we reluctantly enter and proceed to poke around all his empty rooms and examine his furniture and music collection, as one does.

I crack open my first beer. Now, Imagine, I think we'll be home by 10pm at this point.

It gets to 7pm and there aren't many people.

'This is it, Ike.' I joke.

He looks confused, then says, 'No, most people will come soon, or around 8pm.'

Then the truth comes out. The party will be all night, the only reason he says 'start at 5' is to ensure that people come for 8. If he said 'come at 8', then people would come at 11, and cause a small riot with the neighbours.

'Ah,' I say, seeing clearly.

So, we go out to buy beer at Provigo, for the long haul.

Provigo is amusing – it is a taste of the future, and good example of the general stupidity of people.

I will explain.

There are about six 'automatic' checkouts where you can basically scan all your own food, weight your fruit and veg, pack it into bags and pay with cash or card into a mechanical slot.

So what's stupid about that? Well, for one thing, there are hoards of staff there to 'help' people use the system, as no-one understands it. I mean, it talks to you and complains if you do things 'wrong'. So, if there are people there to help you use it, what good is having it at all?

The second, important point here is that people are volunteering to do what people are normally paid to do – work as a checkout clerk for 10 minutes. Why would you do that? Wouldn't you rather give the job to a student who needs the money?

Anyway, I digress. I end off buying 'President's Choice' lager, which was awful – truly bland and watery. If that's really the beer that the President drinks then I'll be mightily surprised, I can tell you.

I use the 'real-life' check-out clerk.

Back at the party, it's swinging. There are cartoons projected on the walls; loud music; people dancing; people talking drunkenly about the nature of relationships between men and women; people talking drunkenly about the future of the modern society given more and more immigration; and there are even people telling the same old stories to the same old people, but the recipients are either too polite, or too drunk, to mention it.

I notice all this, as I'm on my new diet of 'just beer', to the extent of even shunning the tequila shots on offer. This is, in fact, the first time in my entire life that I have refused tequila. It is quite a liberating / mortifying experience, let me tell you.

So, on my 'beer only' diet I observe the party in a way that I never have before – from the perspective of a merely drunken person. I remember almost every word of every conversation, and even recall names and faces today. Quite amazing, in fact.

So then the dancing starts. I sit and create a masterpiece of a playlist on iTunes for the dancing enjoyment of the tequila-sodden masses, which is listened to for two songs and then overwritten by drunkards who imagined that they knew better than me. No, 'm not bitter. No, not at all.

It was marvellously chaotic – which was, incidentally, the topic of another conversation had during the evening I had with Xena, during the course of which I even said something terribly clichéd like this:

'Yes, but Asia isn't really chaotic, everything works, just more slowly, in the west we look at their system and call it chaos, but it isn't really – it's just perspective, you know, our society could function like that – it could work!' And so forth... (You get a good idea about my drunken conversations now. Perhaps, as I mull this over, it is better to forget the next day after all?)

Leaf corners me and asks me to play football the next day. He knows I can't violate my own rule of never-arrange-anything-especially-sports-when-drunk, but tries anyway. I think he is ambitious, but already has at least 5 names on his list.

And, all too soon, as I'm sitting outside smoking a cigarette, the whole world leaves en mass, and there are just six of us left. The fridge, which was so full of hundreds of beer bottles, is suddenly empty.

Just minutes before this I had a lengthy discussion with someone on the ethics of beer stealing at the end of parties – you know, when your supply of beer has gone and you're almost sure that someone must have had one of yours, so you take a bottle that isn't yours to retaliate... A vicious circle, that.

So it's that time. I sip at a very small glass of wine (not really wanting to violate the 'just beer' diet) and then we take a cab home.

At 4.30am we're crashing blindly around our apartment in the dark, swearing, and looking for the light. I'm shouting, very loudly indeed, rather unpleasant things about our house-mate, who obviously turned everything off before going to bed.

'Shhhhh! He'll hear you.' Hisses the wife.

'F**cking good!' I shout, then calm down.

Today I saw Qbert in the lounge and told him that I was cursing him at 4.30am last night.

'That's funny, I thought I heard you shouting something about me...' He says.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Ambassade

I don't normally date reviews as I like them to be, ahem, timeless, but in this case, I think it is important, as this bar has just opened. Otherwise, if you read this in six months time you might wonder what on earth I'm talking about. It is August 2004.



So, down a side-street, next door to the 3 Brasseurs in the Latin Quarter is L'Ambassade, a new bar which hasn't even gotten around to mounting a sign with the name of the bar yet. To glean this information you have to peer at the chalkboard outside.



You can tell it's a bar though, as rather loud techno music is blasting out and people are cheering and whooping inside. There is also a crusty looking chap balanced on the chalkboard, doing yoga type postures, rather shakily. He's either calmly drunk, or excitedly stoned. Somehow he manages to not break an ankle, as we walk by and inside to meet Mary and PVC.



The pub is long and very thin. There is a walkway on one side with some tables on the other. The absence of tables opposite the bar signifies the area where people jump up and down and shout (dancing, I think it's called), and on the bar itself, next to a lot of pint glasses and water, is a pair of decks and a DJ spinning his stuff.



The music is great, kind of funky, very danceable techno. It is busy inside, however, and very loud. The girls can't spot Mary and PVC, so they beckon me to return outside with them. We stand on the street.



'What are we doing?' I ask.



They don't know. Shall we wait inside? Will we stay? Is it too loud? Where are Mary and PVC?



Eventually we go back inside and buy drinks after a bit of a battle and wait.



As I wait for the wife at the bar, I roll a cigarette. A man walks by, then pauses and looks at my half-rolled fag.



'Is that weed?' He says.



'No, just tobacco.' I tell him, and wave the drum packet at him.



He frowns, 'Because if it was weed, I'd have to arrest you!' He laughs, too loud.



I smile and make a ha-ha noise.



He hasn't finished - this is a joke, it seems: '... Arrest you to smoke it with you!' He laughs again and walks upstairs to where another floor will be next month (so we're told).



We take a position near the door, in the walkway. I look around. The décor is still unfinished. The walls are bare and new plaster is visible in places.



Ah, Mary and PVC arrive. The look instantly unhappy at the venue. PVC spends less than a minute inside before going next door to the 3 Brasseurs. Mary stays whilst we finish our drinks, and is set upon by an odd man:



He holds out his hand and says, 'Weigh my ring.'



'What?'



'Go on, weigh my ring.'



She does, lifting his hand lightly. He seems happy.



'Heavy isn't it?' He says.



'Oh, yes.' Agrees Mary.



He wanders off.



Tina turns to me and tells me that this place used to be a water bar.



'A what?' I ask.



'A water bar.'



'What the hell is a water bar?'



'A bar that just sells water.'



I think about this, then ask, 'Did it work?'



Well, obviously not, as the place is now a beer bar. What an idea - a bar selling only water. Perhaps in a desert, but not in Montreal.



Facts



1. Address: Next door to 1660 Rue St-Denis, Montreal

3. Map Link: View

4. Nearest Metro: Berri



Keywords: areadowntown metroberriuqam

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Great Wave off Kanagawa


This is a thing of beauty.

A two hundred year old, hand carved, block print from the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. I picked it up on a greetings card last year, and never sent it, as I couldn't stop looking at it, and, in the end, decided to frame it and hand hang it on my wall instead.

Take a moment to examine it, it is called “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”:

http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hokusai/great-wave.jpg

Van Gough, Degas, Lautrec, and Monet were all influenced by Hokusai's prints. I imagine them staring at this little picture, as I do now. I like the fact that this little boat and wave has inspired great artists to produce wonderful things.

So, the other day in the launderette I picked up a magazine called 'The Bitch' which is a feminist-oriented publication. In one article, it berates men in general, and a male-dominated advertising house in particular, for using women's bodies to sell a music system. It published technical and account support numbers of the advertisers and encouraged outraged women to call and complain to the poor harassed clerks on the other end who had nothing to do with the advert at all.

Anyway, I get to the back page and what do I see?

Yes, it's the 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa' used in some advertising.

And what thing of beauty is it advertising?

Well, a G-Spot wand of course - made from clear glass or plastic, it curves along the Hokusai's wave. The man in the boat now appears to be peering at this huge monstrosity in the ocean, as one would stare at a sea monster.

I tried to remember the name of the company responsible so I could publish their telephone number and encourage you to call and complain – you could have asked them to stop using beautiful art to sell dildos... but I forget it. I'm fairly sure it's the 'E Glass Archer' though (“Microwave, Freeze and Dishwasher safe!”), you can take a look at it here:

http://www.sextoysauction.com/E-Glass-Archer.htm