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Kids and spuds

1 and a half russet potato with sprouts. Slice...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had all three kids over at the flat for the first time on Saturday for a sleepover, including Niamh’s first ever visit.

She spent the first ten minutes running round all the rooms opening every drawer and cupboard she could find. Her favourite room was the kitchen.

Open drawer, open drawer, open drawer – knives and stuff, boring. Close them all. Open cupboard, pots and pans, meh. Open cupboard…

*gasp* “Potatoes!!!”

Close cupboard move on, come back to that one a minute later and…

*GASP* “POTATOES!!!”

Exclaimed in the kind of way that a two year old would convey the sentence “Holy shitsnacks! They’re STILL BLOODY THERE!”

Ah, for the days when a simple tuber excited me so.

BINKY? PRATCHETT’S HOURGLASS IS EMPTY… BUGGER

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorar...

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorary degree ceremony at Trinity College Dublin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man with a big scythe and mounted on an impossibly white steed arrived to pick up the soul of one Sir Terry Pratchett, aged 66 today. Pratchett, for those who’ve lived in a literary black hole for the last thirty years or so, was the genius behind the Discworld novels and all the history, back story and associated paraphernalia with the fantasy land he’d created.

I was introduced to Discworld by a handful of friends at school who latched on to them a little earlier than I did – Indy and Richard were the main guilty parties if I remember correctly. From reading The Colour of Magic I was hooked.

Annoyingly Terry Pratchett was a hugely prodigious author, chucking out a couple of books a year which made collecting his works quite pricey. On the other hand, they were almost without exception work paying for. Some of my favourite reads of all time flowed from his wonderfully creative mind, including Good Omens which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman.

What made his work stand out, to me, was the way he wrote rather than what he wrote. The fantasy world he created was as good as any other which flowed from the pens and keyboards of many an author but his humorous style was second to none. With a bevy of pop culture references in his novels (annotated guides appeared on the internet many years ago which I downloaded, printed and promptly lost while at university), there was an extra layer to the stories which gave them an extra level of re-readability.

What I truly appreciated about him, though, was his eagerness to engage with his readers. Along with Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett took to the internet with aplomb in its earlier days as a publicly accessible network and regularly posted on alt.fan.pratchett, a newsgroup on the old usenet system. I remember him asking questions about the physics surrounding someone randomly teleporting from one place to another, and the input from respondents was used in (I think) The Last Continent.

He regularly did signing tours and would sign anything and everything he was given… with a different quote in each. I attended two signings in one day in Leeds many years ago, between which I think he signed about 15 books I had. Each one annotated “Best Wishes”, “More Best Wishes”, “Son of Best Wishes” and so on. He added drawings and stamps to his repertoire as the years went on.

And then he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

One of the most active and creative literary minds of our generation was being eaten away from within. A more cruel punishment for a person I cannot imagine. Yet, despite this, he ploughed on. He still had stories to tell and no damn debilitating mental condition was going to stop him.

Utilising copious notes and voice recognition software to allow him to keep track of the plots while writing as quickly as possible, and with the aid of friends and family, his output slowed but did not stop. Did he need to write more to pay the mortgage? No. He wrote because he was good at it, enjoyed it an – most importantly – other people got happiness from something he did. And also to piss off the Alzheimer’s, a condition he called an “embuggerance”.

And now that creative mind has ceased to function. News was released some months ago that his daughter Rhianna would take over the Discworld when her father passed, and on her capable (trust me, I’ve read some of her stuff) shoulders that responsibility now lies.

Thank you, PTerry (sic). Thank you for seventy-plus novels of laughs. Thank you for being one of many people who engendered in me a genuine love for the written word and how beautifully it can be crafted.

Enjoy that final ride on Binky. Such a brilliant moniker that we named our last dog after him. I just wish your hourglass had been that bit bigger.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory: https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett/

Gay mojo

I Will Survive

I Will Survive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry for the lack of posts, but as I managed to post from my phone the other day I have no broadband at home until March 6th at the earliest. Which sucks. Hugely.

Anyway, I had a revelation the other day. One of those things that just suddenly comes to you. Pieces of a puzzle that I didn’t know existed appeared, fit together and *pow* a solution presented itself.

Gay people didn’t exist before the early 1970’s.

No, really, I have proof. Of a sort. OK, so it’s more of a theory but there’s a solid piece of evidence to back it up.

Back-story: for some reason I’ve found myself in two gay bar/clubs in the last couple of weeks. To the best of my knowledge I’ve never been in one before in my life, but having said that – in the case of the second – I didn’t know I was in a gay bar until a friend pointed it out to me. So I might have been in one before and been equally oblivious. The fact that the more recent one is, I believe, multiple award winning for its gayness and has posters outside saying this didn’t register at all before I walked in.

I also failed to notice – or at least attach any significance to – the plastic chandeliers. Or the “friendly” bar staff. Or the male couples.

Or the late 70’s / early 80’s soundtrack.

And it is on the latter that I will focus. You see, apparently all gay men like the classics of that era. Erasure, Ultravox, Carly Simon, Gloria Gaynor, ABBA… I sit in a bar like that and the only thing I think is “retro… what great songs these are from my childhood”. When in reality I’m – apparently – listening to gay anthem after gay anthem.

Let’s bring these facts together. I like them because they’re from a time when I was growing up and was exposed to them when they were first released. Gay men like these tracks because they’re famed in the gay world as gay anthems (sorry for the overuse of “gay” here), but why these songs? Why not older ones?

The answer? Gay people didn’t exist until around the same time as I was born. The progenitors of the gay movement are about the same age as me. Nobody particularly gay was born before the early 1970’s.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Mind you, I don’t find two men kissing to be particularly weird so what the hell do I know?

No broadband

BT Ireland logo (2005 - Present)

BT Ireland logo (2005 – Present) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So that put a stop to it. BT won’t be able to install broadband in my new place until March 6th and I’m not writing stuff up on my phone!

Abnormal service will be resumed shortly…

Today’s mojo post

English: Administrative Division of Bangladesh...

Bangladesh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looks like I’m managing a post every two days rather than daily, but hey it’s regular.

I wasn’t really sure what to post today, then my mind harked back to a talk I was having with Lindsay last night. Lindsay is Sean’s flatmate (Sean’s one of the talented writers churning out reviews and so forth on the Moshville Times *plug plug*) and we were having one of those random conversations that flows like a ball down a Pachinko machine. You just never quite know where it’s going to end up.

I think we were talking about the differences between countries, and one that always sticks out for me is India / Bangladesh. The former a country that’s predominantly Hindu (with a large smattering of other religions), the latter a Muslim nation. Both countries share a border and the difference when you cross that border is almost immediately tangible.

India is – to steal the tagline from their tourist advertising – incredible. It’s also an unusual country in that I hated it when I was there, but longed to go back once I left. It’s a tough experience to visit, especially on a budget, but ultimately the rewards are worth it.

Bangladesh is every bit as impoverished as the worst parts of India, there aren’t so many impressive sites (it’s a smaller country, for a start), but the feeling I got when I was there was much warmer; more welcoming. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I felt safer walking the streets in Bangladesh – even late at night – than in almost any other country I have visited. I even include my home nation in there.

And that brings me to the sideways jump in topic. Bangladesh is a Muslim country. The people there follow their beliefs in a faithful and well-intended manner. They look after their poor (reducing begging on the street), and welcome visitors to their nation. Nobody tried to rob or cheat us in our time there. Very much the opposite in fact.

Yet the knee-jerk reaction to the word “Muslim” from so many people, whole nations in fact, is to think of those events in 2001, videos of beheadings on the internet, attacks on magazine offices in Paris… all the actions of a tiny minority of extremists.

While I’m no fan of religion, this kind of treatment also extends to the Catholic church. A billion or so members worldwide and the entire religion is tarred by the vile brush wielded by a tiny number of priests and nuns who have abused children -and the small number of people further up in the organisation who helped cover it up for so long. What about the 999,999,000 other people who would agree that this is reprehensible and who you’d happily have round for dinner and babysit your own children?

Is it fair to judge a person purely on the company they keep; if they share the beliefs of another individual who does something reprehensible yet otherwise unrelated? I love heavy metal. Does that mean I’m as evil as Varg Vikernes who murdered one of his friends and burned churches down? It seems to have taken us nigh on seventy years to stop blaming every single German for WWII.

People should be judged on who they are and what they do. Not on the actions of other individuals with whom they happen to share a belief, a skin colour or a nationality.