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Can you hear the words?

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a few thoughts on the voices in your head…


Audio books are a conundrum for me.

They are an attractively packaged way to absorb a book. The words are broadly the same as in a printed or downloaded version, often abridged.

Why cut down? They reduce listening time for a not-huge novel to 10-20 hours rather than 30 or 40. A working week for some. Therein lies the nub of the problem, it doesn’t matter if it’s Charles Dance or Benedict Cumberbatch reading the book out and providing a nuanced voice to differentiate between characters’ voices. The problem for me is that it is too slowly delivered. I process a word and race for the next one which I need to carry on the flow. So why not speed it up? Making it 1.5x speed or more just makes it sound like Mickey Mouse is providing the reading voice.

So it’s too slow or too fast.

Either way, it’s relentless.

I sometimes dwell over a paragraph or re-read it in a book. That’s not possible with an audiobook without a great deal of haphazard fiddling with the buttons.

Relentless, like the tapping of the Master’s fingers…

It will keep coming until the charge runs out, and you wake up at 3 am five chapters on. The Voice is still going and you’ve no idea where in the book you lost consciousness.

I don’t know whether it’s a scientific Thing, but the words don’t seem to stick with me as much when I’m listening to them being read. It’s much easier to be distracted because there’s nothing right in front of you drawing you in. I am more absorbed in the pages of a book, paper or otherwise. (Some people can learn how to speak Swahili while listening to a tutorial tape as they sleep, so perhaps it’s the way my brain is wired.)

Why have audiobooks? Why are they so popular?

They give the gift of time.

When driving a car or gardening or doing something else active, an audiobook nearly allows the luxury of multi-tasking which, from my perspective as a male, is an alluring and usually unattainable prospect. But it comes at a cost. Keeping up with the story. Driving a car and listening to an audiobook, especially at a gripping bit, has to be one of the most dangerous ways of getting from A to B, when you want the gripping bit to be the tyres on the road. That Voice requires concentration and focus, not things one typically wants to divert from pointing a couple of tons of metal and plastic along some tarmac.

It’s a compromise, then. But sitting in a hammock on a lazy afternoon in the blazing sunshine and floating away to the past or the future or simply somewhere else without squinting at dappled pages and battling a wasp for a good view of the next paragraph is a wonderful thing, while swaying in the breeze.

It’s like having a radio station follow you around dedicated to telling you stories. A kindly nanny reading you bedtime stories. Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime on tap. It shouldn’t replace a book but, like most things, at the right time and in the right place, it can be perfect.

I am currently listening to The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter (main picture above). It’s War of the Worlds 2 with more tooled-up ETs. Like Independence Day 2 but set in Surrey. Bertie Wooster fighting off Martians. More likely, Jeeves fighting them off, having invented a fiendish secret weapon while spit-and-polishing some brogues. Unlike Wodehouse, there is strictly no humour in MoM, which is a shame, and there’s precious little soul. A little too much stiff upper lip for me. The pace is – like the audiobook – relentless, but at the same time also rather sedate. Only five hours to go, and I’m sticking with it.

What ho!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Martians, pah! Meet Dogzilla…
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How much is that in EUROs?

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the trials of supporting England at international tournaments…


The first Euro tournament was held before I was born: 1960 in France. Only four teams; the Soviet Union won it. No England, so no problem with penalties.

Spain 1964. England participated. Didn’t get very far, even with still only four teams…

I was 2 years old, so I didn’t care.

All the heart-ache was to come, the main (so far) being Italia 90, and Euro 96 in England. So, Euro 96: All to play for. That epic, mesmerising goal by Gascoigne against the Scots, that sensational win 4-1 against the Dutch, that gut-wrenching miss from the squared ball against Germany.

And of course the penalties, by which time England had got into the groove to be world-ranked 1 in losing penalty shoot-outs, having limbered up with that loss against the Germans in the 1990 World Cup. Football so nearly came home in Euro 96. I remember hearing the Germans singing that it had – annoyingly funny…Time for payback, Mr Southgate.

As a means of recovering from that trauma which EVEN NOW HURTS, this should reset your equilibrium if you are suffering too:

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

The couple of blips to our record on crashing out in spot kick deciders has had a couple of blips but I still head for the back of the sofa with a bottle of Scotch when it slithers around once more

Still, did I mention Gazza’s awaesome moment when the world slowed on it axis to make sure he didn’t stumble?

Phil Foden needs to earn his hair-style tomorrow!

Bringing things up to date, I have just finished watching North Macedonia (I must confess that I wouldn’t be able to point to it on a map) against Ukraine. Loads of fun. How the tournament has expanded and how helpful that it is being played during a hot spell when there’s nothing else but to stay indoors with a cold beer. I’m happy to pitch in…

Scotland tomorrow, then. Let’s not mess it up after beating Croatia. Let’s play direct, fast-paced, one-touch attacking football with the most promising team that we have had since 96.

Thank God we won in 1966. No penalties.

So much better with the crowds partially back.

Their noise can hide the groans and whimpers.

Maybe not the screams.

But I live in hope.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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The Cheshire Riviera

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the pleasures of a staycation…


We have just returned from our hols. An exotic Summer holiday, in Cheshire. At Knutsford, just inside the city limits.

We went for a week, stayed in a cottage which has a hot tub in the garden, so we were able to recreate Footballers’ Wives, without the naff haircuts or the whining. The cottage had everything that we needed, and three bonus alpacas, called Tom, Dick and Harry, who provided serene audience for our antics. Not that there were many antics.

Tom, Dick and Harry

A special place in my heart for Harry’s mullet, a sneaky homage to the Beatles?

Harry

There were also three chickens, mysteriously un-named: they were the Chickens With No Name. We called them Nugget, Dansak and Run. They were shaped like ambient tea cosies. We don’t have pictures of them, for data privacy reasons. They periodically and loudly trumpeted their displeasure to the alpacas about periodically being treated like the balls for alpaca polo. Those chickens were pretty chukka. The introduction of a grey cat called Mitzi made it like a strange petting zoo where none of the creatures were available for or in the cat’s case amenable to petting.

Our Offspring did their usual trick of surfacing at a brisk 1 or 2 pm, ready for a nourishing breakfast of sausage rolls and cider. In the meantime, we loafed on the outdoor furniture and vied with the alpacas for the glory of the Loafing Award. They still won as a group entry, which was a surprise since we had fielded the Offspring. Their teamwork was immaculate, like the England back three but with more positional awareness and better footwork. They followed up by proving to be very adept at Statues, too, so something to bear in mind when Creature Statues takes over from Breakdancing in the 2028 Olympics.

We patronised an ice cream shop, a honey emporium and Tatton Park (very flowery, which is as far as my knowledge of botany takes me).

  • Red flowers
  • Gunnera?
  • Tatton Park gardens

We visited friends just outside Liverpool and had a pub lunch with draft beer. And then went to a family get-together in Liverpool and drank more beer. I was not the designated driver, so all good.

This was all in the sunshine and over 20 degrees, all in a very pleasant episode of Being Somewhere Else Away From Our House.

Based on this, I’ve formed the view that staycations have a lot going for them. No jet lag, no exhausting twenty hour journeys for long haul, no PPE gear. A contrast to our previous hols to all sorts of places in foreign climes, but with much to commend it. I think we may have uncovered something…

I suspect that Ryanair will not be re-tweeting this.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Shadow puppetry for beginners
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Lily

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a trip down memory back roads in a work of art…


Lily is beautiful. She has a special place in my heart.

She has a swooping, V-shaped front, and gleaming green-and-white bodywork. And a pop-up roof. Marvelous.

Lily of the Valleys

We met many years ago when our Family trekked over to Pembrokeshire for an Escape to Nature in our version of the Mystery Machine. Camping. Board games. Rain. British holidays at their most alluring.

We collected Lily and got down to the serious business of grappling with a steering wheel the size of a dustbin lid and brakes which had a stopping distance of around two miles. Cornering required forward planning, The bed in the back looked comfortable., not that I was ever going to see it up close. The Boy and I were turfed out under canvas at the camp site, under the stick on awning that turned Lily into a caravan in the more exotic sense of the word. We forgot the Turkish delight and made do with Welsh cakes.

6:30 the next morning, the thrill of a night out under the stars was tempered by (a) the lack of stars all night because of the cloud cover; and (b) the detached edge of the awning wetly slapping me across the face as if flapped in the wind.

No matter.

We had conquered the challenges of sleeping in and next to a vehicle on a cliff-top. First-hand evidence demonstrated that the handbrake was well-made and functioning. After braving the hose-shower and the peculiarly unstable toilet tent provided by the site, we were done and ready for the next adventure.

In search of snacks

Managed chaos and discomfort, the joy of the outdoors. Freedom.

And we will do it again, these days subject to there being three bars of Wi-Fi and a buffet, but Hell it’s the thought that counts while starting to emerge from our cocoons. For us, Lily was, unknowingly, good practice for Lockdown.

Let’s hope we can all make our way back to the open road soon…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Open house

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Time travel for beginners

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, several steps back in time. Not sure what the main subjects of this post would have made of it…


I came across some family photos yesterday. The ones that really caught my attention were those of a couple of my uncles. Uncle Dave and Uncle Alf. Memories of their war exploits.

I was impressed by their quiet confidence, the feeling of duty being done that shone from the pages of the photo albums. The clear pictures, the whiff of invulnerability as they got ready to do their bit. Not in the Falklands, not at Dunkirk.

In the trenches of France, where Uncle Alf died on 8th October 1918.

Uncle Alf

Uncle Dave survived the First World War, he was way too old to serve in the Second World War, and died at a ripe and comfortable old age in the late 1970s in a two-up, two-down in North West London, Ford Cortinas and Rovers clanking past on the street splashing water over pedestrians’ flares.

Weird how that sort of thing can hit you when idling through family stuff, but it occurs to me that there aren’t many people around whose uncles fought in the First World War.

My dad was getting on a bit to serve in the Second World War; I arrived in the world when he was 52.

Alf was a rifleman in the London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), number 555636, his death – a tantalingly short time before the end of the war – is commemorated at the Terlincthun British Cemetery (Wimille), in the Pas de Calais, France, these pictures are all that I have found.

I believe that Dave was a batman to an officer. So much better if he’d been Uncle Bruce, but never mind.

He has the bandoleer and what looks like a tam o’shanter at the bottom left in the picture below.

I believe this is him again, in a formal photo pose, polished and gleaming in front of a no doubt painted backdrop of an idyllic garden scene:

Uncle Dave

It is at times like that that I wish I had sat my parents down with their old albums and marched them through the pictures to capture their fleeting memories and stories of past lives before they were no longer around and the stories retreated further away.

My reproduction of these pictures is my homage to all that, and a window back in time to a very different place.

I hope these pictures and these reflections stir some memories for you.

Best wishes,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Pagoda moments

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It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a Burmese moment… As a gentle warning, if you don’t like cats (and, in particular, Burmese cats) you may want to look away now.


In the interests of balance, I want to put the limelight on Pagoda. A brief moment on a lazy Bank Holiday…

Her full-on, no-holds-barred, knock-down-drag-out name is, as decreed by the all-powerful Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, is:

Karriewhitchit Aligrea

‘Pagoda’ works better when yelling at her not to rip up one of the sofas.

Chocolate Burmese.

Date of birth: 22 January 2015.

I was delighted to find out that her mother is Karriewhitchit Allthatjazz. Pagoda certainly shows off some syncopated moves when she shreds a rug.

I thought I would run through her main characteristics.

Bloody-mninded. She has right of abode on my chest when I am sitting down and wearing an acceptably comfortable item of clothing. Preferably a wool jumper. She is able to detect me anywhere in the house and home in on me with a purr the decibel equivalent of a large washing machine tackling student washing, or a small light aircraft.

Moving is not an option, otherwise her Bad Side comes out, together with the pointy bits of her, ready to act like a grapnel on the North face of the Eiger..

Unwavering. Whether it’s shoulder-charging the utility room door, dive-bombing the sleeping dog or trying to squeeze through the window shutters, she pursues her twisted goals with Terminator-like efficiency…

…She can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with, she doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and she absolutely will not stop… EVER…

Kyle Reese

Ravenous. Whether stalking her kibble, trying to eat her toy mouse, inhaling her Felix or, best of all, heisting the dog’s food, for one so small that cat has a BIG appetite. I always keep my finhers and toes moving while she’s around me. But wait, doesn’t that make me…LIVE PREY?

Purr…

Mad. ‘Nuff said.

MWAH_HA_HA_HA_HA

Elegant. (Evil.) Either. Both. See above.

Sleepy. She’s a cat, what can I say?

Extreme. Whatever she does is at the far end of the cat continuum.

I hope you enjoyed my acrostic moment above.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Golden moments

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It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, Retrieve this… As a gentle warning, if you don’t like dogs (and, in particular, golden retrievers) you may want to look away now.


Jasper’s Kennel Club, posh Sunday best, name is:

Boekelo Bilbo Baggins

Jasper for short.

He is, accordiong to the KC certificate, which provides the information without a flicker, a retriever (golden), colour: gold. His lineage involves ravening hounds called Cream Caramel and Treacle Tart. Those people on naming duty knew retrievers: they will eat absolutely anything. Fussiness is not a trait.

Jasper has evidenced a wish for a checklist of things since he came into the world in February 2015, all of which form the basis of the Retriever Parenting Manual for Humans:

A square meal. Well, any shaped meal. And snacks. Meals and snacks. As often as possible and…Just leave it at as often as possible. Preferably not of things that would poison him – there was the Yew Bushes Incident, where we uprooted several metres of yew beds to prevent him snacking on them. We were new to the match-the-lethal-potential-food-to-the-pet game at that point. The Christmas Cake Snacking Disaster is also fresh in our minds each Christmas, proving that a retriever can make short work of cake ingredients before being stomach-pumped at the vet’s as a kick-start to the festive season. Jasper’s feint before diving into the bowl was worthy of Cristiano Ronaldo (without the histrionics).

keep it coming…

Someone to hug (that includes all members of our household (after all these years, that also encompasses the cat). All cuddly toys count, too. In addition, over-excitement when friends appear, and helmeted motorbike riders with yet another Deliveroo delivery for the Offspring, and posties (not to chase in a cliched, so-last-century kind of way, but with a sophisticated eye to a stroke and a pat on the head from them. The posties’ quiver of terror would be such a disappointment. Retrievers primarily deserve type-casting on the grounds of greediness and soppiness.

Latitude to bark. Canine rights encourage a good bark, especially when it is someone who lives in the house and is stealthily approaching the front door with the evil intent of taking off their coat and making a cup of tea. And anyone else. As guard dogs go, retrievers are fairly discerning – as with their attitude to menus – but that deep, throaty sound from behind the door would intimidate most, even if they are bringing him a new toy. Barking is the accompaniment to Jasper’s other principal distraction from food:

Squirrel chasing.

Joy unconfined. And utterly futile. In equal measure. No matter, and no matter that if a squirrel lost its bearings and was caught in Jasper’s demonic clutches, it is 50-50 whether he would know what to do next. A game of fetch would not be off the table. Only a problem if it tried to snaffle any of his hard-earned food (that would include branches of trees and twigs that had fallen in the garden). Our daughter periodically brings up unfounded and malicious allegations concerning The Faceless Squirrel Mystery, where a squirrel was found…without its face. The crime was discovered in our garden many moons ago. As far as I am concerned, that is a lie and fake news, and I shall dwell on it no further (not least because it makes the cat nervous).

A good walk. Come rain or come shine – I draw the line at snow and ice. The jingle of the straps on his harness as I grab it from the hall cupboard alert him to the promise of a stride across hill and dale in all conditions, fearlessly squaring up to the dachshund from three roads away, ready to Frolic with Intent. And methodically nosing up to the darkest and dankest corners of our various routes, the darker and danker the better, to partake of whatever essences have been left for closer inspection. A connoisseur, potentially better employed at airports for bag checking if he would not eat lingerie and any secreted snacks from the luggage.

(In combination with a good walk) a resigned smile from his human when he has uncannily avoided all the bins on the circuit, and calculated and executed his very special homage to Nature the maximum feasible distance from relevant receptacles.

Working dog

Free-range. We have never trained Jasper. He has worked with us tirelessly in partnership to reach a reasonable accommodation on his needs, wishes and requirements. His instructions to us are clear and unequivocal. Try avoiding that gaze at any time after 4 pm (tea is at 5). Trying it on at random times after 1:30 pm is often worth a punt. The combination of starvation, pleading and stunned disappointment is worth a BAFTA.

A nice quiet place to have a nap/sleep/stretch out/snooze, all day long and all night long these days, subject to the other important things on this list. When I say all night long, I’m of course referring to until on the dot 7:00 am every day. Weekends are obviously not a thing with him. Breakfast is his most important meal of the day (apart from his other meal and anything else he can lay his slobbering chops on). That is followed each day by shamelessly settling down after his petit dejeuner for a constitutional doze, while I wrestle with my eyelids and the kettle for some coffee.

The above are in no particular order (aside fromm probably the food part).

Some pointers on our devilish feline next time.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Watch this space

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a Spring break, sort of…


I have been working on a new novel (recently completed the manuscript) and a non-fiction book, to add to my list of available titles, hence the slight break in blog posts.

We are getting ready for Jab 2, enjoying the re-invigorating weather and generally keeping busy, busy, busy…

Here’s to a warm and welcoming Summer and my normal blog-posting will be resumed shortly.

I’m thinking of re-vamping my site to spruce it up now that I’ve been at it over a year and posted 44 articles. When I get to 50, I’ll come up with something to celebrate that milestone…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Remember-member-member…

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a university sing-along…


I have news of an exciting scientific discovery. One of our Offspring has been identified as the next evolutionary step in Mankind’s journey, a fusion of Human and Womble to tackle all challenges that beset us.

(Drum roll)

But something changed.

Out of the product of the dry ice machine and the grinding, doom-laden industrial music (and some Taylor Swift): Something Emerged into the light (at around 11 am as usual) from behind a hillock of crockery and cutlery in its Nesting Place. A hillock tall enough to warrant investigation by the Ordinance Survey guys as a separate landscape feature.

Something that rocked our world.

What has been classified in the scientific community under the Taxonomy (nothing to do with stuffing badgers) Hierarchy as:

The Anti-Womble.

A creature that creates chaos in a 500 metre radius by the sheer focus of its awesome will.

Wearing a patched set of black bags and a necklace of used vodka bottles and glitter.

The Offspring came into the light and was fed pancakes before we shipped her back to the bosom of her Uni house now that the snacks box had been decimated and the vodka oceans drained at our Ground Zero.

The dark cloud of the Anti-Womble advanced on Uni in her Mini One – a vehicle of desolation and eight-months-old empty crisp packets – to re-colonise her Uni House, a site rich with uncovered areas of floor and rug ready to be bent again to the will of the Anti-Womble, harnessing the power and restlessness of a loaf of bread that had been lurking with intent in the dread bin for four months.

Emergency services have been alerted on campus in case there is a security breach where the Anti-Womble manifests in a lecture theatre to scatter around surrounding desks an empty Costa cup holder, cup and related detritus. Fear stalks Uni land.

And then, as with the best horror movies, there is a stirring in our attic, a sting in the tale.

There is another one, dragging itself from under the duvet.

Ready to strike, with still a week and a half left until Bin Day or, as it is known in our house…

The Bin Czar* vs Anti-Womble 2 : Judgement Day

Great to see a glimmer of the real world with that Delivery and the restriction changes.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

…you’re a Womble
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