Friday, 14 September 2007

the pace of economic change

I've tried to sell this marvelous marketing image to a well-known purveyor of edible sandwiches but they seem curiously uninterested.

Webcam of the day:

Rarely in the course of human endeavour has anyone come up with a more worthwhile and fascinating use of internet technology -- many a happy hour can now be whiled away at work watching a 44lb truckle of cheddar maturing in a Somerset dairy.

Philip Crawford, chairman of West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers said:

"Some might say this is the most boring website of 2007, but our cheese is worth waiting for so it's better than watching paint dry - just"

Thursday, 13 September 2007

The Sick Society

I'm sick. No, really I'm sick, I've got a throat so swollen I can eat only porridge with some well cooked apple and I can only talk in whispers. It is probably laryngitis, glandular fever, foot and mouth, or all four. And it's certainly not a mere, common cold as of course, in this country we are expected to take lemsip superstrenghth and put in an 18 hour day if all we have is a cold.

So when I call my manager this morning, to do the phoning-in-sick bit, self-consciously dropping the tone of my voice to a low croak, I have to make sure not to use the "C"-word. Which is crazy really because since I'm now working through an agency, they are not paying me to spend the day at home in my jim-jams. And in fact it would be much more of a case of my short-changing them, if I crawled into work, infected all the permanent staff and only to give them 60-per cent performance. Readers would be directed to the wrong books, whole classes of children would be uninspired as I lack-lusterly showed them round on their first visit to a library, teenage hooligans would snigger as I sniffled my usually blood-curdling threats, admonishing them to desist from shouting, fighting and swearing.

And yet why do I feel guilty? This seems to be a psychological rather than ethical question. I can't help but feel a kind of shame that I'm writing this rather than lying in bed with a hot water bottle, ice-pack and thermometer between my blue-tinged lips. A berating voice in my head pronounces, "if you're well enough to be on your computer, your well enough to go to work." And I guess it's OK to read a novel, but if I start studying a difficult book for my philosophy degree course, is that tantamount to fraud. Would the same apply to watching a DVD of an early Bergman film as opposed to a daytime soap I wonder.

I guess the guilt has a social and economic purpose much like the ritual humiliation imposed on anyone who has the audacity to claim unemployment benefits. It makes sure that you can't enjoy your (however brief) period of leisure so much that you begin to think you might just get used to it. On the other hand, just as this treatment of the unemployed ensures that their self-esteem drops to a level when it's hard for them to find work, the prohibition on accepting the need for blameless rest and recuperation ensures that we take far longer to recover from illness.

Monday, 10 September 2007

The Singing Librarian

If like me, you've woken up feeling like death this morning, this clip of the mighty Andrew might cheer you up somewhat. Well, it did me.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

It takes two to know one

Well, half way through the tango workshop at Thomas More Hall this afternoon, I was thinking about sneaking out and going home. As we reached that stage, yes that stage where they actually expect you to string a series of movements together and remember them next time, I realized that I had gone way past the boundaries of my natural competence. I just couldn't make any sense of it and exhortations to imagine a box, or a figure of eight fell on deaf ears and reticent feet. However, by the final dance, I felt like I'd made some progress and claire even congratulated me a bit. It really does make a difference who you're partner is though. One of the women was so nervous I could feel her shaking while others (everyone was a first-timer) were completely natural, gave me helpful hints and didn't appear to mind as I steered them into other couples, tables, plate glass windows, etc.

I write this from the Albert Hall where fiddler Joshua Bell plays Ravel's Tzigane. The word, "haunting" comes to mind. I immediately cast it out. What does it mean? That it could be good background music for a horror flick? If I was watching it on telly, I would be able to tell you that his face is beaded with sweat, his entire frame tensed against the anguish of the music. But I can't, and as Bělohlávek brings in the orchestra I realize, that one of the red-coated stewards is giving me a dirty look and it's time to hide away my laptop before I get thrown out. Still, as Kaarina would say... bloody marvelous.