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The Daily Mumble September 2003 Archive

next monthOctober 2003, England,  UK

September 2003 was the month that Joseph had been waiting for for some time. At last, he was to become a student. Aside from going back to school, there was plenty of other excitement in his life, in the form of giant pigs, Milton Keynes (Oh Yeah baby!!) and giant sunflowers. Read on to find out more...

September 2003 Highlights: another Philippion loveletter, responsibility at work, I want to fall in love like they do in the movies, loo of the year awards, Milton Keynes: The UK's answer to Disneyland, the destruction of the planet, I'm a student!, Streets Alive 2003, Autumn, Childishness, My sister's had a baby!...

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Monday 1st September 2003 - 22:25(BST/GMT+1) In my bed, Bristol, England

Those of you who follow the Mumble on a regular basis may remember my mystery fan from the Philippines. He spied my name and address in a magazine about a year ago, and has been sending me letters, postcards and bookmarks ever since. I have only ever written to him once, to thank him for his first letter. If you take a peek at The Daily Mumble June 2003 Archive you can see what he said in his last letter to me...

Yesterday I received another card, bookmark and letter. When reading the following extract from the letter bear in mind that this guy is essentially a complete stranger who seems to have a healthy imagination!

" is Sunday, I'm relaxing. I will just lay on the sofa and take a nap but if you were here and we decided to nap - we would probably do so on the bed massaging - I just feel it would be very pleasant if you were here today..."

What is this guy on?! You know what the card says on the front below the picture of pink roses?

"There are places in the heart reserved for those too special to forget"!

Well, that's it then, I'm sold. I'm off to the Philippines tomorrow. He's obviously the one for me...

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Friday 5th September 2003 - 08:54(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

teddy in bed

I've woken up feeling all melancholic and wanting to hide in a big fluffy wooly jumper that is much too big for me, which I don't have. The nearest I've got is my Camden Town jacket thing, so I'm wearing that.

I haven't been in this space for a while, feeling lonely and sort of bleak. I know why it's happening, I know what's triggered it and I know that it will pass. There's a very good friend of mine who is feeling very lonely and isolated, and I've got sympathy pains.

Last night I had the strangest dream about someone who I haven't seen for 9 years. She'd become the boss of the convent down the road from where I live (which doesn't exist). HHmm, I did remember much more but it's slipping out of reach.

My office job has changed a lot since last week when our manager left. No longer is it a case of simply sitting in front of a computer, putting my headphones on and daydreaming. The thing is, our manager has not been replaced. We now have to answer to the Big Boss in London, a lady who, well, if I tell you that her nickname amongst the staff who've been working there for years is Cruella, I'm sure you'll understand.

My two colleagues have taken a great disliking to this woman - not due to personal experience though - but purely due to what other people have said about her. Now, in my book, sure, listen to other people and heed their warnings, but at the end of the day don't you think you should give everyone a chance before condemning them? That's what I decided to do anyway, and so when she talked to me, rather than become defensive or aggressive as the others did, I listened (and kept the "stupid woman!!" thoughts inside my head). As a result of this, she naturally found me to be the easiest one to deal with, and so now all communication between our team and head office goes through me. When work comes in, I'm the one that knows what to do with it and why, and who should do it. When the work is done I'm the one that sees that it gets to the appropriate recipient.

Sadly, this means that I now have responsibility, something that I've successfully avoided since being in charge of waking Stewart up to make breakfast in Hokkaido (Japan) last summer. Now I'm the one who has to stay at the office until 6pm whilst the others bum off at a more decent hour, and I'm the one who has to worry about whether my phone's ringing when we're having an extended lunch break over at the pub. I don't want to be in this position - but the only alternative is for us to have a very unpleasant relationship with the people who can say whether we have a job next week or not (our contract states that only one week's notice is required either way). In many previous jobs I have found myself unconsciously adopting management roles, not by choice, but simply because I make a lot of effort to keep all parties happy.

I find it very difficult to stomach my colleagues being bitchy to Cruella. Yes, she is a pain in the ass, but at the end of the day there's enough conflict in the is world as it is, so a little compromise here and there is no bad thing.

do i sound all high and mighty?

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Saturday 6th September 2003 - 00:54(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

feeling better tonight. had a very busy day with my friend buying bamboo plants, over four hundred quids worth of japanese bamboos! i drove a big transit van today. first time ever, was a bit scary at first. drove into a hedge in tesco's car park. filled the transit with the bamboo and drove east for about three hours, until we arrived in the most extraordinary place i've ever been to in the uk. i only saw it briefly from behind the wheel, but already i can tell its more disney that tokyo disneyland.

It's 1am. i'm watching moulin rouge. it's a great film. i would have liked to have made it. as it is, i didn't. It made me want to fall madly in love at the beginning. i always used to sing your song, i thought i was quite good but recently i've realised i actually have a very bad singing voice, and even more recently i've been thinking that i'd like to have singing lessons. i'd like to be a singer, solo or in a band, don't mind which. it will happen. what other ambitions do i want to share with you tonight?

sometime, not now, but when the time is right, i want to fall in love like they do in films, with someone completely out of reach, high above my station. There would be a torrid period of time involving lots of singing, misunderstandings, close-ups of tears of joy and sadness on cheeks, butterflies, laughter, silent non-direct smiles and soaring hope. This could last for weeks, even months, until it all finally climaxes with a dramatic nail-biting scene in which I discover that she's been seeing someone else. I can't bear the deep piercing stabs of jealousy, and so pack a few clothes in my rucksack, oh, and my digital camera and laptop so I can keep the mumble updated, and head for the airport, destination: iceland to seek out bjork. But no, wait, the man who answered the phone when i called her at 7am wasn't her secret lover, it was the postman who, 5 minutes earlier had rung the doorbell as he had an extra large parcel for her from her sister in New Zealand, which needed a signature. Just as she was signing for it a bit of toast that she'd been eating got lodged in her windpipe, and this coincided with the blind dog (who'd just woken up) running into her legs in a bid to bite the postman. She collapsed, and was knocked unconscious by the head-on-shoe rack routine, although fortunately the fall dislodged the toast from her windpipe at the same time. The postman acted quickly, and called an ambulance, but as soon as he put the phone down it rang, and he answered only to be verbally confronted by a strange man asking him who it was. "No, really. I AM the post man...."

From her hospital bed she rings me, to tell me what has happened to her that morning, and could I come and visit her in hospital. Well, I can't bear to talk to her so intense is the pain, and simply say "I'm on my way to heathrow, I can't take it any more."

Seconds later she's discharged herself, popped into tesco for a pack of frozen peas and is in a taxi to try and catch me before I take off. The next scene (following a couple of me feeling really depressed and tearful in a crappy little coffee shop by gate 23b) sees her having to buy a ticket to get through the the departure lounge, and then having to actually board the plane to find me. I'm just putting my rucksack in the overhead luggage thing above my seat in the back row, when I look to my right, sensing someone standing at the other end of the aisle. It's her, she's there, and I know in that moment that she is totally in love with me and i am totally in love with her and that is all that matters in the whole wide world. we run down the aisle towards one another, throw our arms around one another and twizzle round (by the emergency exit so we don't hurt anyone), whilst the other passengers all stand up and clap, cheer and let off indoor fireworks that they smuggled past security when boarding.

We move to a beautiful fairly isolated cottage in a national park, and live long and happy lives together, have two children who we love dearly and send to a steiner school.

Ultimately though, our happiest times are those precious moments just before sleep when we are holding one another and feeling so indescribably happy. Indescribably happy to feel so much, to feel so filled with joy, so at peace, and so warm through and through - those feelings that come with true love.

My story that I have described above may have already begun, but I don't know it yet.

I'm a real romantic at heart. That's why in the past i have fought so hard for the sake of love. it really is the absolutely ultimate high. what other "thing" can fill you with such joy for every second of every day? Admittedly Hagen Dazs Green Tea Ice Cream comes close, but it melts when left out the freezer for more than 5 minutes and loses its exquisite texture. Love doesn't defrost when left out of the freezer, no. it positively thrives. Mind you, it doesn't do too well IN the freezer as the body that it is filling tends to go quite stiff and cold.

i have been very fortunate in love in the past. i find that i tend to assume that the best times are over, and until i fall in love again that assumption will not change. there's a song in the charts at the moment, elton john i think it is, "are you ready for love?". there's times when i sing along with enthusiasm to the next line ("yes i am, oh yes i am"), and there are times when I fink "no i'm not ready, i'm not ready for love", but i've just decided that i won't bother thinking either anymore, as love doesn't change its nature depending on your mood. if you are not already in it's warmth then love will strike regardless of what your head and even your heart say.

hmm. post moulin rouge though i do wish i'd brought teddy with me to milton keynes.

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Sunday 7th September 2003 - 22:02(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

gggrrr ggrrrr I'm feeling really peed off with singletonhood tonight. It's not fair, I see all these happy couples walking down the street and i wonder "how did they meet?" and "why isn't that me?". Yes it's true, I've really enjoyed being single recently. No-one else to worry about, just me, me me. But, there's these times, such as tonight, when I want to share my thoughts and feelings with someone, and cuddle and be looked after and snuggly. humph.

i made a video this morning. It's called "milton keynes - roundabout city". If you've got broadband internet connection check it out here.

Teddy?! Teddy, do you mind if I join you?

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Monday 8th September 2003 - 19:19(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

We kick off tonight with the results of the


This is to certify that the attendant team at thecentre:mk has been awarded a 2003 Attendant of The Year Award for providing a high level of commitment to a vital public service.


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Monday 8th September 2003 - 19:19(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

My mum and dad have surely grown the tallest sunflowers in the history of the world ever.

They are literally 4 metres tall! I could hardly believe it when I saw them, they had stems like trees and heads bigger than mine.

(nb: I wasn't actually deep in the heart of the Herefordian countryside in my wetsuit yesterday, I've just added my sexy self for comparison's sake).

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Tuesday 9th September 2003 - 10:45(BST/GMT+1) At the office, Bristol, England

John and I have been feeling a little homesick for Japan lately, so this weekend we headed off to a disused mineshaft where we knew of a few transit vans growing on the walls. We picked a nice one, and to our delight found that it was absolutely packed with hundreds of pounds worth of Japanese bamboo trees.

monkey in the jungle

Step two was to manoeuvre the van across the country to Milton Keynes. I've never driven anything bigger than a large car before so it was dead exciting being behind the wheel of this monster. Apart from reversing through a hedge in a supermarket car park and unwittingly riding the curb down the A49, it all went fine. Oh, except for the bit where I decided to see what happened if I pulled the lever by the side of my seat. I was driving quite fast at the time ; I didn't pull it far but the reaction was intense - I was propelled forwards and upwards as if I'd been in an ejector seat, leaving me with my knees clamped to the wheel and my nose precariously close to the windscreen. Took me ages to get it back down, whilst the van swerved across the carriageway into the path of an oncoming fly. Sorry fly.

Milton Keynes is a mad place. In all my years in the UK I have never seen anything like it. City of roundabouts. City of trees. City of car parks. City of parks. City of deserted cycle and bridle paths. City of underpasses. City of invisible pedestrians. City of regimented estates.

Built in the early 1970's, it is Europe's largest "New City". Forty years ago it was nothing but a small village, the grand union canal, swathes of beautiful English countryside and a huge blueprint. Enter the bulldozers. Everything was leveled, changed beyond recognition. Ancient woods were replaced by tree lined car-parks. Hawthorn hedges by roundabouts. Reality was stripped away and in its place a new virtual reality appeared. A Truman Show city rose from the clay: everything was designed down to the tiniest detail, including the Milton Keynesites to be: this house for a wealthy family of four, the one next door for a single mother - in this way a culturally diverse environment can be created.

A big effort was made to develop the spiritual side of the city too. Land was generously given away to communities such as Camphill and the Quakers. Not far from the centre you'll find a Japanese temple, home to Buddhist monks, and just over the ridge from that a peace pagoda.

In all I spent two days with John in Milton Keynes, exploring the nooks and crannies by bicycle. If anyone had ever suggested I go there just for the sake of it I would have laughed at them... but now I feel very differently. It's basically England's answer to Tokyo Disneyland. Ok, so the roller coasters aren't quite as fast - but the roundabouts more than make up for that - check out my video and you'll see what I mean! It's one big man-made playground, there for our pleasure and convenience, and to be used however we want to use it.

getting a backy
in my rocket on my  way to mars
the maze
going for a test drive

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Friday 12th September 2003 - 23:45(BST/GMT+1) At my parent's house, Herefordshire, England

i watched a Japanese anime (animated film) this morning. Produced by the award winning Studio Gibli, it told the story of a racoon community who lose their natural mountain habitat to a new town development.

The story can been seen throughout the world being acted out in reality. Bulldozers ripping up the natural vegetation, other big machines rolling behind them laying down tarmac and concrete.

It's a common sight, something that most of us are used to, but how often do we really stop and think about it? I like to think of myself as being pretty environmentally friendly. I recycle all the waste that I can, most food that I eat is organic, I don't own a car and I cycle almost everywhere. I don't move much when at my desk so the automatic lights go out, I don't run the cold tap whilst brushing my teeth, I pee in hedges when I get the opportunity to do so without scaring others, I try to support small local shops that stock locally sourced produce, I write letters to supermarkets to urge them to ban GM foods, I steal unwanted stationary from the office which has the old company logo on and is headed for the bin, I hitch hike, I financially and physically support Friends of and the Earth and the Soil Association.

But, how can I justify living in a city like Bristol that was once natural woodland filled with wildlife? Even worse - how can I justify loving a sprawling city such as Tokyo, and how can I have such a passion for all things Japanese when the Japanese people treat their environment with such little respect?

These questions do bother me, and especially today with the images of road killed raccoons in my head. Driving home tonight in my sister's car I thought how terrible it would be if I was to hit someone and kill them. Then I thought, wouldn't it be bad if I hit an animal and killed that? Well, yes, it would be bad, but I could live with it. But hang on a sec, how I can I possibly justify an argument that says that human lives are worth more than animal lives? Life is a gift. No one and no thing has the right to take another's life. So if animal lives and human lives are equal in value, what gives me the right to eat meat? Why should a pig have to die just so I can have a nice piece of crispy bacon for breakfast? It's just wrong.

As I entered the last mile of the journey home tonight I decided to return to vegetarianism. Then...

Screech of tyres skidding on tarmac.
Burning rubber.
Transfixed by the glare of my lights.
I felt the bump as the back wheels hit two rabbits.

In the memory of those two rabbits and the many animals that have been killed so that I could eat their flesh, I declare tonight that I am finally doing what I should have done a long time ago: I'm becoming vegetarian again.

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Friday 12th September 2003 - 23:45(BST/GMT+1) At my parent's house, Herefordshire, England

I made a joke about the Welsh language tonight. That was a mistake.

The girl that I was talking to went absolutely mad. She didn't realise that I was joking. She shouted, she said "how dare you..." Even when I told her that it was just my form of humour she didn't calm down. I went so red. I apologised profusely, but she wasn't having it. "You're such a racist! How dare you attempt to label the Welsh language and people as being culturally backwards.. So you think that any language except English is totally unnecessary and nonsensical do you?..." In a totally apologetic and non-defensive manner I tried to point out that not only have I been living abroad for the past few years, but that I also speak bad German and camp Japanese, as well as being able to say "thank you" in Korean and "I love you" in Russian.

She eventually calmed down, and over a plate of crackers and cheese unspoken indirect apologies were made.

I've since learnt that there has been quite a lot of anti-Welsh "humour" in the media lately (similar to the age-old and widely recognised anti-Irish humour). This has apparently sparked some kind of international debate, which of course I'm completely out of touch with as I don't have any contact with radio, television, newspapers, magazines or little birdies. It then turns out that this girl whose wrath I had the pleasure to endure is a local government project manager dealing with the media on a daily basis - that would explain a lot.

Lesson: racist jokes made at the expense of nations close to home such as Wales, Scotland and Ireland are now joining the ranks of racist jokes made at the expense of the Germans or South Africans - i.e. they're a no-no. My American readers will be pleased to know that they still hold their position at number 1 when it comes to us thinking of which nations it is politically correct to make fun of. With a muppet like Bush as your president you can hardly blame us, it's just too good a comic opportunity to miss.

hee hee!

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Tuesday 16th September 2003 - 18:40(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

I'm a student!
boku wa gakusei desu!

Yeah, it's finally happened. The day that I have been waiting for for the past 5 months has come. I've become a student.

Finally I can get into the movies for half price, I can get 10% off at HMV and 50p off every pint at my local pub. I can look at signs headed "Student discounts available" and actually feel encouraged to read on. I can wear my tie-dye t-shirts with pride (shame about the logo that reminds me of my office from where the plain versions were "borrowed"), I can hang out in parks and smoke. Not because I want to, but because that's what everyone else around me is doing. I can get my first 50cc Honda and cover it in green and yellow stickers, buy a helmet and attach a pair of ears to the top. I can do mad things with my hair (well, it's currently the longest it's been since I was a teenager, does that count?), oh, and best of all I can get into Evolution on a Tuesday night for their mad foam party, join all those first-years who've never been away from home before and are behaving outrageously 18-year-old-ish.

I enrolled at Bristol City College yesterday morning. It was fairly painless, involving the filling-in of a form and the handing over of £249. There was a welcome speech, an explanation of our timetable and a guided tour of the campus which dates back to the mid-19th century. Way back then it was an orphanage. You can tell, what with the high windows and cracked walls. The smell that hits you as you climb endless stairs to your lecture room is a crossed between NHS and old age.

I've never experienced such a multi-cultural environment before. Today, walking through the canteen I must have heard more than 5 different languages being spoken, and that's not counting the numerous local Bristolian dialects (which I really don't understand). There's people of all ages studying there, although admittedly the majority fit into the under-20 age group. It's a bit of a culture shock for me, as I now find myself face-to-face with people what don't speak proper, right, an fink is wicked ta smoke an be laaad. I've felt quite upper-class, looking down upon these youths who have "obviously had underprivileged childhoods", victims of fashion and popular culture, more concerned with their outward appearances than inward feelings. Yeah, they're young, they've got time to learn. Oh dear, I sound like such a granny.. still, tell it like it is, that's what I try to do and that's how I feel.

These aren't the people on my course though: we're all "mature students", age 24 up. I went to a psychology"taster" class today in which we discussed some research on personal space carried out in the 1970s. It involved fixing cameras in a row of public urinals, and seeing how long blokes took to pee under different conditions. They "proved" that it takes men much longer to pee if there's someone standing at the adjacent urinal. Now of course, through experience I've always known this, and although I don't have any inferiority complexes I'd actually assumed that this was not a common thing. Tonight I can relax safe in the knowledge that the majority of men in Western cultures find it takes longer to pee if there's someone else nearby. Incidentally, the study was discontinued when questions were raised about the ethics of having cameras pointing at people's willies in public loos.

Our lectures don't start until next Monday, so until then I won't really have a feel for what it's all going to be like. I'm really pleased with my timetable though: I can fit all 13.25 hours of classes into Mondays and Tuesdays. This will allow me to work three days a week and give me weekends free for the homework. In addition to the basics (Core Maths and Study Skills) I've chosen Psychology, Sociology and Cultural Studies as my course subjects. These three should prepare me nicely for my four year degree course in Japanese that starts next autumn.

Anyway, I must get on. My part-time evening course in Japanese at Bristol University starts on October the 8th and I've got an awful lot of revision to do before then.



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Sunday 21st September 2003 - 11:34(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

in the lounge
Streets Alive 2003
powder paint tranforms  the  grime of tarmac into a beautiful expanse of street art

I had such a good day yesterday. Such a good day in fact that at one point, when standing in a street full of merry people with a pint in my hand, intensely enjoying the sound being produced by a local band playing in the back of a mini beer truck, I actually pressed the world's Pause pause button and in the silence thought, "boy, I'm really having a good day! This is the meaning of life!" (If you would like a similar experience, please press the pause button in the previous sentence. Please note, feelings of true happiness and moments of enlightenment are not guaranteed).

Streets Alive should not be an annual event. Streets Alive should be how it is everyday. The roads are closed to cars, carpets are unrolled and sofas brought in to defy the double yellow lines. Artists appear on every corner, armed with brushes, buckets of powder paint, jokes, stories, mouths of burning paraffin, drums, guitars, trumpets, huge pink pigs, olives, abilities to wildly misinform, red noses, film and sound equipment, urges to stick to the backs of strangers and bark like dogs, poetry and flapjacks.

It was so delightful to see this public space being used to cause such amusement. There was a strong theme of humour running through the streets, giving the whole area a distinctive proud-to-be-english atmosphere. A communal celebration of our ability to cut through any ties of "normality" and celebrate the ridiculousness of life.

A case in point: The MisInformation stand.

At first glance you might think that this was a genuine information stand; they were so serious with absolutely straight faces at all times. ...until you noticed the ridiculous nylon wigs that the women were wearing, saw a map of the middle east with Iraq and Iran outlined and labeled as the Euro Zone, and listened to a couple of the announcements that they periodically made:

"Bristol City Council is pleased to announce that some new job opportunities have just come up for those over the age of 65 here in the town centre. We're looking for some 65-year-old plus ladies with experience who can start immediately. So, if you're looking for a career change please do come and fill in an application form for these pole-dancing positions".

"Today we're giving away 10,000 Tesco Club card points (supermarket loyalty reward point thingys) all day, simply present your Tesco Club card and we'll credit it immediately."

This was clearly a joke, but to my amusement, seconds after the announcement was made a lady approached the desk and handed over her club card. The man at the computer took the card and asked her to please wait a moment as he called the Tesco head office to authorise the transaction. Picking up the phone (with no line attached), he began his imaginary phonecall as the woman waited and listened. he reeled off the numbers, thanked the imaginary person on the other end and replaced the receiver.

"There we are madam, all done for you. You now have 10,000 club card points which can be redeemed at their Glasgow Branch"

Those of us listening burst into laughter, but the woman still didn't twig.

"Glasgow?!! But I don't live in Glasgow!!"

"Oh, really madam? Do you not go shopping in Glasgow sometimes?"

"No, I don't! It's a 10 hour drive from here, of course I don't go shopping in Glasgow!"

She was now getting quite angry.

"Ah, I see madam. Well, I do know that you can get some very cheap flights to Glasgow from Bristol..."

And so it went on. The woman never realised that it was a joke. She kept on checking the sign by her head that read "MIS-INFORMATION", and glanced at the notice declaring that all information provided was entirely fictitious, but still didn't get it. She was a little lacking in her British sense of humour department it would seem!

This giant pig, sleeping in the main street, also caused quite a stir. I really don't know what was going on inside, but whatever it was it certainly caught the attention of everyone who queued up to suckle.

note their little piggy tails!

Tony Stiles, the Roving DJ, really had me laughing. He was just so silly! Rather than explain his act I'll just point you in the direction of the video that I made. It's over here. If you haven't got broadband I'm afraid you'll just have to use your imagination or be patient.

the headless powder-paint artist

There's been lots of street parties in Bristol this year. Our household was invited to two in fact, one for the street in front of the villa and one for the avenue behind.

Before I moved here, whenever someone told me of the huge street parties that were held nationwide in 1977 (?) in celebration of the queen's Silver Jubilee, I tended to think what an impossibility that sort of communal celebration would be in the 21st century. But I'm inclined to think differently now. I've seen it happen. I've been a part of it. It's all such fun, and I hope that more and more towns and cities hold events like these where we can all let our hair down and celebrate the absolute ludicrous wonderfulness of life.

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Sunday 21st September 2003 - 17:22(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

My dad was a headteacher for many years, and had a sign on his door at school with words announcing the fact.

Now he's retired. Mum has him well trained. He knows his place.

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Sunday 21st September 2003 - 17:26(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

This summer has been the UK's hottest for many years. It's been dreamily feel-goodish with the average temperature resting amongst the high 20s and low 30s. The usual British cry of "What else do you expect? This is England!" uttered when visiting foreigners comment on the weather has been said in jest rather than defense. Italian style flesh exposure has been in, ponchos out (or in depending on which way you look at it).

This week has seen the arrival of autumn. The leaves have started to fall, just a few mind you, not like in the Monty Python sketch where you see a mass leaf suicide. Early mornings have seen the mist sweeping down Stanley Avenue bringing Charles Dickens in a top hat with it, who I must say looks a little skinny after all these years of not eating much. I've had to wear a sweater and nostril warmers when cycling to work to protect my tender flesh (and nostril hair) from the crisp morning chill.

It's perhaps this sudden drop in temperature that is responsible for conjuring up within me feelings of melancholy and nostalgia, tinged with sadness. It takes me back to the last time I felt this chill in Europe - a bleak industrial scene witnessed from the seventh floor of a Milanese tower block, the feeble sun casting its cool rays through the mist and fumes of the city.

Every year is the same; I am taken back 12 months by the Grand Galactic Autumnal Time Machine.

It's not just melancholy and sadness though; there's a distinctive excitement in the package too. When my lungs feel that cold air for the first time, when the woodlice living in my hair wake up finding their legs frozen together, I can't help but smile. The day is completely new, fresh, not just a repeat of similar ones in weeks gone by. It reminds me that change is around us in every moment. I feel empowered, and laugh with happiness.

No other change-of-season has the ability to do this. No other transition (autumn/winter winter/spring spring/summer) has the element of surprise, the ability to execute its program in 12 hours or less. Summer wakes up late to discover that Autumn spiked its vodka and orange the night before, and has now claimed the throne, guarded by an army of giant yellow oak leaves wearing acorn helmets and bearing sturdy twigs as arms.

There's nothing that summer can do, but take a trip south to where the climate is more suitable for bikini-clad seasons.

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Monday 22nd September 2003 - 16:22(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England

I've been going through a very childish spell recently. It manifests itself in two ways:

1) I walk around the house clutching teddy. I talk to him a lot and I huggle him at night.

2) I add "-ificated" to a lot of adjectives. e.g "I'm cold" becomes "I'm coldificated". I'm tired becomes "I'm tiredificated".

Occasionally I stretch this to verbs too: "How did you get to work today Joseph?" "I cyclelifificated."

This whole "-ificated" thing stems from when I was in Japan, I'd often add a y (an "e" sound) to words to make them gentler ("I'm tiredy" / "I'm coldy").

I feel safer as a child.

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Monday 22nd September 2003 - 21:23(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England


My first proper full day at college is over.

How was it? Mixed. But overall good.

My first lecture this morning was in a little known attic, far away from all the noise and rabble of the main campus. That was Cultural Studies, which was absolutely nothing like what I thought it would be like. It's not really the study of cultures, native and foreign, but more, a study of the texts that flow between us humans as we communicate. Texts such as written words, films, photos, pictures, songs... all kinds of media really.

It was a bit chaotic, but there was a nice group of students. Oh, except for one woman who's about 40-years-old, very big and butch, doesn't know when to listen and ensures that everyone hears her views on the subject first. She really upset our space, and at the end of the lesson verbally attcked one girl who'd suggested that we start the class a little later in the future, going on to slag off her clothes having dismissed her idea as "bloody stupid" (The rest of us later agreed to the contrary, so now I don't have to get up until 9am!). Unfortunately, this woman is also in my tutor group, so I get to spend about 4 hours with her every Monday.

Tonight's psychology class was great. I can't work out whether this is due to:

a) the subject

b) the fantastic, highly amusing and engaging tutor

c) the lovely little bunch I'm reading with

d) the fact that the campus is free of the daytime hoards of teenagers

e) a combination of all of the above

But what does it matter, I loved it in any case. THAT was what I was expecting college to be like.

And now, if you'll excuse me I must get on with my study of Japanese Kanji characters, that is, after I've mused over the question of why I didn't get any emails or SMS messages today.

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Wednesday 24th September 2003 - 22:44(BST/GMT+1) In my room, Bristol, England


It's just amazing. Jessie gave birth about 3 hours ago to a lovely baby boy who weighs about 8lb and is apparently the most adoreably beautiful baby on earth! She did it without any medical intervention too, her husband Danny and our sister Emma delivering him at home, with the midwife arriving a little while later.

This is the closest I've ever been to someone during the process of them having a baby, and I know that this happens everyday, but it really does seem like a complete and utter miracle. I'm so so happy and delighted and smiley about it all, and I can't wait to see him on Saturday when I visit.

Congratulations Jessie, Danny, and the little one. :-)

I'm Uncle Joseph!

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