Over the last couple of weeks, the work environment here has become much less pleasant in a huge number of ways. Some are small ways, like the removal of pot plants, and some are large ways, like a huge quantity of additional paperwork which has to be gone through for things that I could previously have given approval to myself. It looks as though power and control is being reined in, to a particular select group of people, and this may be true. It may leave many of us feeling disempowered and angry, and it may or may not leave the company in a stronger, leaner position.
It's change. Change always shocks, and you can either ride with the change or fight against it. I've tried fighting, but I prefer riding. This is the first time I've seriously thought about walking away.
Round about now, we're going through the Eugenics Wars. You probably haven't heard about them because they've been covered up. But the name to look out for is Khan Noonian Singh. He's going to be big.
In twenty one years we'll have the slightly controversial reunification of Ireland. This is completely unrelated to the Bell Riots, which are going to happen in the same year. Or the events might happen the other way around. But they're both going to happen. Believe me. But anyway, fifty years from now the third world war is going to break out. That's going to be messy, you know.
Sixty years from now, we'll make first contact. However, the first aliens we meet will be boring and not great at partying.
See, loads to look forward to!
Miro. I'm a fan, I must admit, but I can see that he's not to everyone's taste. But I thoroughly enjoyed the Fundacio Joan Miro, and I like their web site. From there, we headed further down the hill, though, first for a brief visit to the Palacio nacional de Motjuï¿½c, which was actually incredibly awful.
Right at the bottom of the hill, at the back of a patch of waste land, just beyond the portaloo, however, is Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion, as demolished in 1930. Apparently it was rebuilt in 1986, but I prefer to believe that it's the same building but that it fell through a freak fold in the fabric of time and space, or something.
You only have to walk through the space to appreciate its importance to 20th century architecture. Despite the fact that it's utterly impractical that it could ever be used for any real purpose beyond the ceremonial, you can see ideas, you can sense ideas, and you can sit down and have a little rest. The building plays with the ideas of barriers - between inside and outside, between liquid and solid, between different materials, between museum, park bench and retail outlet.
I didn't take any pictures of the waste land outside, though.
Eurovision - why did the UK fail to get a single point?
Was it political, as suggested by the song's writer?
Was it the poor quality of the song? I don't think so, although the song wasn't great. It wasn't bad though?
Or could it have had something to do with the singing, which was a little pitchy?
(Note to readers who haven't seen Fame Academy - a little pitchy is the new way of saying indredibly embarrassingly flat).
Whatever happened to Channel 4?
It is - to be fair - the channel that I probably watch most. Because it's full of programmes aimed at the arse-end of my personality. The part that likes to gloat. My life is better than their life. My house is nicer than their house. My boyfriend is better than their wife. And so on and so, in a sense, forth.
Two highlights of the current schedules typify this.
In For God's Sake, Tidy Up, a nicely dressed young man goes to people's homes, gets them to paint their walls and put their ghastlier items of furniture in to storage. This program is won when the contestants make a profit on the sale of their house, or when the audience decide whether or not the presenter is gay.
In How Dirty is my Home? two cleaners come in to a home and clean it. It's half an hour of housework and sarcasm. It's like Trinny and Susannah, cult stars of Yes, your bum DOES look big in that, only with rubber gloves on. I mean to say, half an hour of cleaning and tidying, and that's entertainment?
I wonder what's next?
Keith Talent was a bad guy. Keith Talent was a very bad guy. You might even say that he was the worst guy. But not the worst, not the very worst ever. There were worse guys.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
I read London Fields because a whole load of my friends are reading it. As a challenge, or a bet, or something. And then we're going to discuss it.
Even as I'm writing this, Mr Twinky is sitting next door with a mug of tea and a copy of this book.
So, rather than give away the plot too much, I'll start by giving some other people's comments from amazon.com first.
It's not as bad as those comments would suggest. The first forty pages are pretty much unreadable unengaging tosh, true. After about page 100, though, it really does get a lot better.
100 pages into a book, you should be emotionally involved with the characters to some extent. I wasn't. I didn't really care one way or another about them. But I hated Amis. Which, I guess, is a valid response. It's a shame, though, because the rest of the book gets a lot better.
Until the last ten pages or so, which are mashed together on a low budget, and kept in place with string. There's a huge build up, and the book doesn't deliver. But I did find myself going back and reading the beginning again.
Personally, I blame the editor. Amis proves himself easily a competent writer, and just as deserving of plaudits as, say, Terry Pratchett. It might be easy to miss the fact that the first chunk of the novel is distressingly bad tat if you've read it twice because - and this is the scary thing - it does get better on a second reading. And I did read it twice.
So - a curate's egg. Good in places. Made me laugh out loud. Made me want to throw the book against a wall. I didn't run naked through the streets of Dublin yelling about my wasted hours spent reading it, but then I suspect that's just as well.
We didn't spend long at the fort at Montjuic. The day was warm and hazy, and once we'd seen the view... there wasn't much else to do except buy a small bottle of wine and wander downhill.
There used to be a fun fair here. It's gone now, and even the cable car doesn't stop there any more. It's just a mess of concrete, a sign that once there was something there. And there's a car park.
Without any knowledge of the funfair, the car park makes no sense at all. It's just a series of roads, really, carved into the hillside. I like to picture the Barcelonois driving up the hill of an evening, sitting in parked cars, watching the sunset, cruising and picking up trade. Or perhaps not.
A little below these serried ranks, we paused for our lunch - fresh meat and cheeses bought in the market. I took some pictures of flowers. Some families walked by. The pace of life was slow and gentle, and Saturday morning drifted away into Saturday afternoon.
I'm currently milking my sports injury as best as I can. I'm getting no sympathy - and I certainly don't deserve any - but as I limp through the office with an evil grin, I am forced to reflect on the irony of it all.
Bizarrely, I'm not a great sportsman. Despite my efforts to visit hotel gyms when I was an itinerant troubleshooter, and despite my alleged assertion that "locker rooms are great places to hang out and meet new friends", I've always been more fond of drinking than sweating, and more keen on walking than running. Even watching sport bores me intensely. And that includes the great sports like diving, gymnastics, and shove ha'penny.
I had a good line that I used to use. I used to say that I didn't do sports in an effort to avoid sports injuries. And now I end up with one anyway, largely due to the fact (which I will admit I was warned about) that everything in Barcelona is incredibly far away from everything else.
I can't get another sports injury ever. It would just leave me completely gutted. I'd be wailing. I'd be gnashing my teeth.
I wouldn't be jumping up and down, obviously.
First stop last Saturday was the market. La Boqueria. A giant, yet intimate space, just off La Rambla.
It's a market like a market should be. Covered, but airy, packed, but clean. Clearly set out, so there is a fruit area, a cooked meat area, a fish area... and what a fish area it is. It's the sort of place that would put any British or Irish fish monger to shame. A great tourist attraction in its own right. If only we'd been on a self-catering holiday, we'd have bought the place up. But instead, we just bought enough for a picnic. And then we went for a walk.
Barcelona's Metro is a complete con. Oh yes, they tell you that there are trains that can take you anywhere in the city, but they don't mention that the trains are around three miles from the entrance to the station, so that you're walking for half an hour before you can get one. Oh no. So we went for a really really long walk. Then a train ride. Then a really really long walk. Then a trip on a funicular railway, that kind of reminded me of what the Peak Tram would be like if they cleaned the station, ripped all the seats out of the trains, and if it only went half way up to the peak. We had to get a cable car the rest of the way.
It's all just like China, really. Except it feels safer.
From the cable car, I get my first view of the Sagrada Familia, and I'm immediately awed by the scale of it. It dwarfs everything around it and dominates the sky line. As I pause for breath, I realise how tightly I'm holding on to the side of the cable car, breathe deeply, and try to relax.
And finally, the last, and possibly the uncanniest of the uncanny. Bubblicious.
Able to inflate himself to four times his original size, Bubblicious is sought after by those who are into that sort of thing. While he may seem innocent enough, it is rare to survive an encounter with him due to his amazing expansive properties.
At heart though, he is truly sweet. Perhaps overly so. And he comes in four flavours.
Let's start with the first good thing about the trip to Barcelona. An armpit.
I can't remember which flight it was - there were so many, after all. I can't remember the name on the badge of the flight attendant involved. But it was British Airways, he was possibly Spanish, and he was wearing a short sleeved shirt. Every time he reached overhead, be it to close a locker, or to indicate which way to panic in the event of an emergency, I got a glimpse.
Up the sleeve.
Into the hairy hollow of his arm pit.
I think I've mentioned before, but I find the sight of a gentleman's armpit to be uncannily arousing. A stolen glimpse even more so. And it's not a desire thing. I had no urge to bury my face in it and inhale, for instance. No whim to tickle him irrepresibly. Not even a thought of smearing him all over with honey and leaving him staked out in the desert.
But nonetheless... armpits. Very, very odd.
With his distinctive taste of bergamot, Earl Pyotr Grey is perhaps the most uncannie of the X Men. Born into the English aristocracy, he fought against the system from within. Due to his mutant superpowers of his taste and his unnatural aversion to milk, he was largely one handedly able to overthrow the Weimark republic, and bring freedom to Balham.
His tragic association with his partner, and later wife, Eileen Grey, was to end with a cataclysm previously deemed unimaginable.
For a while it seemed ideal. He was a tea flavoured aristocrat. She was able to disguise herself as furniture. Together they solved mysteries. However, over-exposure to the radiation given off by Angela Lansbury led to a nasty accident, and the two found themselves fused into a single body. Part man, part woman, part tea-flavoured table.
This sorry state of affairs ended when Eileen turned to the dark side and tried to take over Ikea. Disturbed by his wife's sudden megalomania, Earl Grey took his own life rather than let her evil spread across the world.
[Based on a true story!]
Unusually, not a mutated human with banana-related powers. Banana Moussaka was originally a banana, artificially mutated through exposure to the radiation falling out of a heated debate on whether eggplant was really called aubergine. And what it had to do with eggs anyway. Or auberges.
With the power of song, the lucky number four, and the catchphrase "Whoops, there go your trousers", and her dress sense that veers towards tight fitting tin foil, Banana Moussaka may not be the most interesting of the X Men, but she has a reputation as one of the oddest, and the most promiscuous.
Lucky Number: Four
Lucky Colour: Pink
(thanks, again, to Mr Twinky)
When Lady Stella DreamGiver, who had the mutant power to help people overcome insomnia, was exposed to the energy from the great crystal of Bombalurina, she mutated still further, and Lady Shitstealer was born.
For a while, she would sneak into people's homes at night, unaware that she was no longer giving them pleasant dreams, but was in fact taking the shit away from them. After three months, though, she had noticed the smell. It took her a further two months to trace it, by which time she was suffering from extreme social leprosy.
Shunned by her fellows, she walked the streets of the world, looking for acceptance but finding none. Eventually, she turned her back on society, becoming the social pariah that she is now. Forever doomed to walk the world, with the stench growing gradually ever stronger. One day, she expects that she will have stolen all of the shit in the world. And at that stage, she hopes, she will find peace.
Mutation Strength: 4, except Tuesdays
Ick Factor: Extreme
(thanks, again, to Mr Twinky)
Florimel MacNamara, a native of Nottingham, was born with mutated sweat glands in her nose, which secrete a compound called plant steroids. As a result, she became worshipped by a small cult of nutters who would follow her around, licking her nose in an effort to lower their low-density lipoprotein ("bad cholesterol").
She was saved from a travelling medical circus by Minge, with help from a young man called Pete - who was later to join the X Men himself, as 'Action Liposomes'.
First appearance: The Interminable X Men issue 245
Most recent appearance: The Interminable X Men issue 246
Created By: Unilever and Fong
Cholesterol Level: Low
After the stresses of the last few days, and given that - on average - my lunch hour lasts for fifteen minutes, today I took an hour and a half. I probably couldn't afford it, if I'd thought about it. My time would be spent more productively at my desk, perhaps. But because I had to go to the post office to pick up my new modem, I was out of the office. And I walked back to work.
Ninety minutes. On my own. With little apart from the music of Ian Broudie to keep me amused and happy. And it was glorious, and it was sunny. And it's improved my mood enormously.
It also gave me a chance to change my shirt in to one which didn't smell of coffee. But nobody said anything when I got back to work.
When Jessie Spoggis of Walthamstow spontaneously exploded on her sixteenth birthday, her parents knew that there was something special about her.
As she grew older, she learned to control this mystical power, and took on the name 'Mrs Dynamighty', which she later shortened to avoid confusion. Now hse is among the most repsected of the X People, largely due to her uncannie ability to grow explosive adamantium awards from her hands, and to cause minor explosions through her boom-vision, or through igniting her wind.
First appearance: The Whimsical X Men issue 372 (August 2001)
Created By: McAlmont and Butler
Uncanniness Rating: 7.5
Mutant Factor: 7.51