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Topics - Gyppo

    'Damning with faint praise ' is rarely used in these days of extremes, where everything is either 'Wow' or 'Sh*t', usually backed up by some kind of irritating emoji symbol

    My milkman, who is an incurable optimist, often leaves free samples on my doorstep which his firm seem to think I will enjoy, and then be moved to add to my regular order.  I can't recall the last time this worked, but it was several years ago.

    Today I found a small bottle, with one of those irritating 'sports caps', for people who are comforted by sucking on a teat, or lack the intelligence or co-ordination to unscrew a threaded cap, hold it safely, drink, and then replace it, containing something called pro hydrate.  On the label it was described as 'berry flavoured'.  No specific berry mind you.  Just something vaguely generic.

    One of the many fashionable 'flavoured waters' presumably

    It is the most utterly inoffensive thing I have ever tasted.

    Even a glass of tap water has more flavour.

    It hardly even tastes of wet.

    But let's be fair.  Let's keep this in perspective.  If I was lying on The Ridgeway on a blazing Summer's day, waiting for rescue with a broken leg, it would be preferable to drinking  my own urine ;-)



  Is it just me, or is this modern world totally insane?  Okay, I've had a beard more or less non-stop since reaching eighteen, when it grew thick and fast enough not to be mistaken for simply 'missing a shave'.  So I'm not in the market for a razor.

    But, on today's Prime Specials there was this, which seriously blew my mind.

Braun Series Series 9 PRO+ Electric Shaver, SmartCare Center, Wet & Dry, 9465cc, Graphite 
Prime Day Deal 
-58%     £22499
RRP £539.99

Obviously the missing decimal point which makes it look as if it costs nearly twenty two and a half thousand pounds is an error.

But with a recommended retail price of £539.99 I am still shocked.  Even at the special offer prices I wouldn't be tempted.  It's only a few pounds short of the most I've ever paid for a fully functional and far more interesting second-hand motorcycle.

I bet my BSA Road Rocket produced even closer shaves too.  Just not every day ;-)

The Bar & Grill / Miss-read advert.
July 11, 2024, 06:58:34 PM
    I'm unlikely to ever buy a gaming keyboard, or indeed even an ordinary keyboard with illuminated colour changing keys.  But I still look at adverts and wonder why...

    Here's an example.

'The company's proprietary Easy-Shift
  • technology enables a second function layer on keys, allowing much more extensive customization options than traditional gaming keyboards. The keyboard's Smart Keys feature expands this with dedicated LEDs to indicate when secondary functions are active. The compact 65% form factor of the Vulcan II Mini saves desk space while retaining essential functions, like the arrow keys.'

    Without my glasses I miss-read the bit in italics, and my fertile brain leapt to the idea that this was designed to help utterly absorbed and hard core - demented?- gamers to evacuate their bowels without pausing the game.

    I don't doubt there are some gamers who would see this as a positive appliance of science.

The Bar & Grill / Ambiguous sentence construction.
July 07, 2024, 07:06:15 PM
From a book I've been reading.

'There were no cards, no food in Tupperware containers from neighbours in the fridge.'

    I think I'd be, a) seriously disconcerted if I had neighbours in my fridge, or b) a serial killer with storage problems  ;-)


The Bar & Grill / I feel like a murderer.
July 05, 2024, 12:59:15 PM
I feel like a murderer.

In the last six years
he's become unruly,
a damned nuisance
instead of a graceful presence.

Ripping up my paving slabs,
creating trip hazards for the unwary
and breaking down my fence,
shouldering it aside,
with slow hydraulic indifference,
into the shared alleyway

There are limits to my hospitality.
Some 'sitting tenants' just have to go.

In four days the executioner will call,
armed with his chainsaw
to reduce him to convenient bits,
with a stump grinder for the roots,
so the slabs can be re-laid, properly flat.

My Birch tree, too close to my bunglalow,
will die.
It is necessary,
but I still feel like a murderer.

The Bar & Grill / Here's a little oddity for you.
June 30, 2024, 09:55:46 PM
Apparently Iceland, the country not the frozen food store, has an unusual dating site.

They use a website called Íslendingabók before they get 'too serious'with someone in Iceland, to check whether you are related. The population is so small that people use the site to prevent accidental incest.


Here in the UK gypsy community they rely on the older people, who know - and remember - the hidden twists in the bloodline, to give a warning if the family links are too close.  Cousins can be acceptable, but if the girl/boy you fancy is an unacknowledged sister/brother from 'the wrong side of the blanket', someone will have a quiet word with your parents and tell them to warn you off.


The Bar & Grill / Odd word choice ;-)
June 26, 2024, 07:47:53 AM
I recently bought a new folding garden chair.  The sunlight over the last few (many?) years had rotted away the fabric on the original one.

I gingerly unboxed the thing and read the instructions, inevitably in very small print with a not particularly helpful diagram, which was also rather small.

'To open chair, first release the fuse on the arms.

What?  Is this chair boob-trapped in some way?  Will I need bomb-disposal skills to use it?

After I while I found the 'fuses', one under each arm of the chair, and realised anyone else would have called them catches, or latches.

Chair is now in use, and rather comfortable.  But I can see why people fall asleep outside and get sunburned.

All I have to do now is hope there's not an undocumented 'ejection mechanism', perhaps triggered by some random number of 'fuse' operations, which will catapult me over the fence to land in a bewildered heap in my neighbour's garden.


The Bar & Grill / This explains a lot
June 22, 2024, 01:53:54 PM
   If the thought of 'Tactical Voting' bothers you then perhaps this will ease your mind.  This is 100% true. 

   A friend of mine recently wrote to her electoral office asking what to do with her mother's polling card as the elderly lady has recently gone into a home.

   The answer, which may not surprise many of us, no matter which side we support in the political bullshit.

   No capacity is required to vote.

The Bar & Grill / "Ships that pass in the night."
June 20, 2024, 12:12:45 AM
Some people or images stick in your mind, even if you never learn anything about them or see them again.  Perhaps even because of their transient glancing impact with your life?

Here's one of mine.  Seen at a poetry reading.

Girl in the Spanish Hat

Sat three rows behind us,
looking like a spare wheel
to an obvious couple.
In the low lighting
of the tiny performance space,
above the cafe,
the etched straight line of her hat brim,
like a give-away gun barrel
against background greenery,
caught my attention first.

A poacher's eye always locks on,
spotting anomalies.

Then the rest came into focus.
the black hat itself, flat topped,
worn absolutely straight.
Dark eyes below the brim,
probably brown, but looking black.
Features alert, but not mobile.
Long straight hair, jet black,
red lips, but neat, not garish.

I turned back to watch the performer,
knowing I'd talk to her at the interval.
When the lights came back up,
she, and the couple with her,
had gone.  They weren't in the café,
nor there for the second half.

Did I imagine her?


The Bar & Grill / "Grandad? How does this work?"
June 12, 2024, 12:45:05 PM
   I bought a see through 'practise' lock and a basic set of lock picks some time back, for writer's research.  One of my characters I write about  is a skilled lock picker, and she's a locksmith by trade.  I have tried on several occasions but concluded I lack the feel, even though I understand the theory.

   The lock sits on my desk and occasionally I fiddle with it for a while, and my Grandaughter was fascinated to be able to see the pins moving inside the semi-clear case as the key moved in and out.  She loves to learn how things work.

   The other day she was fiddling with it and asked where the picks were.  So I handed them over, two simple picks and a torsion bar, told her the basic theory, and left her to play with it.  After quarter of an hour she seemed to lose interest, but went back to it later after tea and suddenly called out "I've done it!"

   I clicked it shut and told her to do it again, to try and remember what she'd done and how the 'rake' pick felt as it moved the pins.

   She succeeded a few more times but said she still wasn't sure why it had happened.

   I think if she keeps practising eventually her brain will click like the lock, and then she'll know what to feel for when she tries a different lock.

   As my daughter said "I think you've started something here.'

        The lass has  probably watched a few lock picking videos since then.  All I have do now is hope she stays honest.  She's never abused any of the important handful of self-defence things I've taught her, so she probably will.

   Like a lot of things in life, the skill itself is neutral, and can be used for good or bad.  It's down to the character/nature of the person using it.

        It was fascinating to watch her.  Like my youngest girl her face 'turns off' when she's really concentrating on something.  Ordinary everyday thinking and she'll frown or smile with the best of us.  But when she's really focussed she goes 'blank',

The Bar & Grill / Has Patti deserted us?
June 10, 2024, 01:05:08 PM
I notice that Patti (Spellchick) seems to have vanished.  Have the demands of Cross-Fit finally crippled her?  Has she gone mad and killed her Dick and been carted off to jail?

Does anyone know?

The Bar & Grill / O2 phone shop experience.
June 02, 2024, 06:50:28 PM
   O2 shop experience

   Went into the Southampton O2 shop to sort out my mobile connection.  Found I needed an appointment because they were very busy.  booked in and went off to buy a burger.  (That is another story in itself, for anither time.

   I'd already been to the eye unit earlier in the morning and it was a sunny day.  So my pupils were dilated from the hospital eye drops, and the world was both bright and blurry.   For all I know I may have looked a bit like some wild-eyed drugged-up street person.  Cammo Man with huge pupils ;-)

   O2 sent me a text and I went back to the little shop.  Saw a lovely young lady who sorted iy all out.

   When she swung the monitor around so I  could read through the contract and tick the various boxes It was a soft focus job,  readable, but...

   I couldn't find the bloody cursor.  Asked her to  point it out.  My home computer is set up to suit myself, and I've had a bright red and larger than normal cursor for years now.  The standard pale little bugger was almost invisible.

   The mouse felt all wrong too.  Mine is deliberately a bit hair-trigger, and I don't need to move it far to take it right off the screen.

   But between us we found a suitable tariff, seeing as the old one no longer existed.  Minimal data, because with my old man's voluntarily 'dumb phone' I don't use it for email or browsing.

   Had to smile when she asked if I minded them doing a credit check. Then told me they had to do it anyway.

   I told her there's no problems there.  I managed not to say they 'wouldn't find a nigger in my woodpile'.

   Probably took about fifteen minutes all told, and so much better than trying to do it over the phone, with background call-centre noises and dealing with a sing-song oriental voice which doesn't always play well with my shop-worn ears no matter how clearly the person speaks.

   The O2 shop is one of those open-fronted units within a large shopping mall, which in itself is a daunting prospect for people like me,  and there was a certain amount of 'swimming pool mish-mash' noise.  But face to face conversation was okay.

   One of the options offered was a spending cap, so I would never go above my limit.   But I didn't want that.  In family emergencies we just make the calls and take the time we need, and pay the bill when in comes in.

   Best of all, when I  got home, there was an email copy of my contract, which I can print off and put into a proper cardboard folder for quick reference when I need it.  Old habits die hard, and don't necessarily need to die anyway.  Plus the fact that, when the time comes, my family will know where to look to wind up my affairs.


PS: Later I looked at reviews for that particular shop and many of them were absolutely horrendous.  I am beginning to seriously wonder if I exist in an alternative universe to the unhappy folks who wrote them.
This is why.  Left click to enlarge

   A short story by John Mathewson  (My fiction writing pen name.)
   Copyright John Mathewson 2024

   When Joe Smith arrived at the Royal Mail sorting office the manager looked at his watch in over-acted astonishment.

   "You're early.  Only twenty minutes, but even so...  This will ruin your reputation."

   Joe just smiled and passed through the main hall to his sorting frame.  Over the last twenty years he'd acquired a reputation for always being late,  anything between five and twenty minutes, but he was a fast worker once he arrived and always left for his delivery on time.

   His managers didn't like it, but conscientious workers are worth keeping so his freestyle flexi-time became a matter of legend and wry amusement, rather than a cause for termination.    The newest manager was a bit sarky and referred to him as The Late Mister Smith, but Joe just grinned and did his job, always finishing on time no matter how bad the weather, or how heavy the mail load.

   He sat on his stool by the sorting frame and reached for the first bundle of mail.  He didn't feel quite right and couldn't quite get a grip on things.  Maybe he'd wait a few minutes, get his head together.

   Ten minutes later a policeman arrived and asked to see the manager.

   "Do you have a member of staff called Joe Smith?"

   "We do.  What's he done?  Shall I get him for you?"

   "We'd like his home address, Sir.  He was killed in a car crash on his way in to work this morning, about half an hour ago."


The Bar & Grill / Must be Summer.
May 19, 2024, 01:29:23 PM
I've seen my first fly of the season cheerfully buzzing around in my office.  Soon stopped him with a quick spray.

But either he's an exceptionally resilient Super-Fly, or they're working in relays because I've just seen another one.  So that's the end of leaving frozen food on the side in the kitchen to thaw out.  Time to be a bit more organised, to plan ahead, so sliced ham or chicken can thaw out overnight in the fridge.

I'll hang up a couple of flypapers as well, just in case they're literary flies and feel the need to read something ;-)

I could stalk around the bungalow with a giant spider on my wrist, like a falconer with his bird, but it would probably get motion sickness when I was typing.  The thought of spider vomit - considering what they eat - all over my keyboard isn't at all appealing.

Perhaps this will be the year when I finally get around to putting up some kind of insect screens?

I'm reminded of the joke about the extreme animal lover who couldn't bring herself to kill flies.  She'd just open the window wide, squirt them with spray starch, and watch them glide back out on stiff wings.


I am about to attempt a brain transplant for Marie-6, my long term old faithful computer.  (Cloning the entire system onto a new solid state drive.   If this goes well I shall doubtless be bouncing back in here to tell you all about it, and bore you witless with the glorious details of my shiny new toy ;-)

Should it go sadly awry I will still have Ye Olde Spinning Disc Drive ready to re-install as a recovery option.

If things go amiss I could be absent for a while.

    I had a notification from my Internet provider a few days back and scribbled a large print note about it on my scratch pad as a reminder.

   This morning I  read it, and thought, "I can't remember ordering one."

   The message?

   Virgin may be unavailable between 09:00 and 15:00 on the 8th of May.

   Who - or what's - that knocking on my door?
   Found a surprise gift on my doorstep this morning.  A sample free loaf from the milkman.  They deliver all sorts of other stuff as well, if you go on their web site and order it.  Even sacks of compost ;-)

   With the loaf was the following card.

   Picture below.  Left click to enlarge.


   Do you ever feel as if you're living in a computer game?

   If this is what your Milkie looks like then maybe you are.  A distinctly androgynous Milk-Person.  Pretty much ageless, gender-non-specific.  Only a few steps removed from a Lego-Person.

   Maybe you should check in the mirror.  See if you're really you .

   Encountering this smooth 'metro-sexual' creature was vaguely unsettling whilst I was only half awake.

   I've seen my milkman, he's a solid cheerful chunk, with a few tattoos.  He knocked on my door once, when delivering just after midnight, and saw my office light still on.

   "I thought you might like to know you left your keys in the door."  A very rare  consequence of having my hands full of shopping.
   I know there are some Female Milkies out there, often either sturdy rural types who helped their Dad in the family dairy business, and then took over when he retired, or tough and wiry little women that only a complete idiot would try to rob.

   But a 'Sims' figure at my door in the hours of darkness?

   Psychologically unsettling.  ;-)


The Bar & Grill / Eye Op Successful
April 27, 2024, 12:25:41 PM
Bones, a round for my fellow writers.

Following the check up I can say my eye op was a success.

The 'macular hole' has closed and my window frames and doorways are no longer pinching in towards each other.

There are still a few small floaters drifting across my vision occasionally, but nothing like the morning I opened my fridge and it seemed to be full of small fruit flies.

Another month of follow-up eyedrops still lies ahead, but after that, and a second follow-up check, I will be able to see my optician about new glasses, because the current prescription is old.  Although they work they're not quite right.

I am typing this without any major problems  and far less typos than two weeks ago.  Seeing as the text is no longer warping itself this is hardly surprising.

Not quite in the cliched 'puppy with two tails' territory yet, but probably a tail and a half ;-)

I had some truly weird visual effects for a few weeks.

Now the temporary gas bubble they pumped into my right eye has has dissipated  I have been passed as okay to swim or fly, which is a bit of a joke as neither of which loom large in my horizon right now.

One last thing...  When they gave me the Okay I phoned my daughter and told her I was going into town 'for a look around, seeing as I can now see better'.

Forgot to allow for the super-powerful eyedrops they'd put in to dilate my pupils for the retinal photography bit.  Walking along the hospital corridors, and then to the bus stop everything was very much soft focus and blurry.  (No wonder they tell you not to drive.)  Reading the bus numbers was like looking through fog.  I think I now have some idea what it must be like to be permanently  short-sighted.  Mind you, the fancy fountain at the front of the guildhall still looked lovely.

I dropped my sight seeing plans and went straight home instead.  Typed up a few notes, and went to sleep.


The Bar & Grill / Eye Op done. Now recovering.
April 11, 2024, 07:15:05 PM
Had my eye operation on the 8th.  Very interesting experience under a local anaesthetic.

Typing is currently a tedious and typo-ridden chore, requiring much correction as right eye is like seeing the word through water.

But this, they tell me, is normal for a while, and there were no complications.

As the pictures show I look like an Odinist who has taken things a bit too far.

The Pirate's Eye Chart was sent by a female cousin who shares the family sense of humour.  (Not sure why there's two copies of this, and can't be fussed to tidy it up.

As always, click to enlarge if you feel crazy enough.


The Bar & Grill / Another bit of 'Strange English'
April 03, 2024, 09:58:29 PM
I've recently bought a refurbished computer.  It came with a little thankyou card and a pre-emptive message ;-)

'Thankyou for your order.  Due to being extremely busy there may be a mistake whereby an order may receive a missing part.  We are sorry for the inconvenience.'


A wrong part maybe, but if you receive a part it isn't missing, even if its totally extraneous or unsuited.


It's got all the makings of fine computer though, and being a Dell, designed for rapid fixing in a busy office environment, it can mostly be dismantled without tools.  Later, when all this nonsense with my eye op is over, I look forward to setting it up properly, rather than the quick bodge job just to make sure it worked.