Monday, 27 February 2017

Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise

Have you noticed that life, by its very nature, is linear.  There are some that say that it's more 'wibbley-wobbley' than that - But those people are often certifiable and you should shun them.   

But life, for the vast majority of us, bimbles from one thing to another like a heavily pregnant hamster, banging into things and generally biting jagged chunks out of the furniture with rodenty abandon.  You can look backwards sometimes and think "That was lucky" if... Erm... if you're lucky, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it's pretty much 'Yesterday I went to the shops.', 'Today my dog stole all the Camembert out of my artisanally made and ethically sourced sourdough sandwich.'

But there are a few times, a few beautiful gems hidden amongst the razor-edged broken glass strewn highway of my daily life that shine like the very lighthouse of home port to an overworked and mimsy-hungry seaman (easy now)

Here is one such relatable saga, it ends the day before yesterday... But it started some weeks ago, during a bout of Norovirus-induced generic stomach-flu like illness. I had it for a week and I didn't eat during that entire time - I drank weak orange squash made with boiled water. I tried to eat a boiled sweet once, but that triggered a bout of 'stomach upset' that would have caused a Haddock to embrace Buddhism. It was awful - I lost a stone in weight (you need to remember this, it's important later on).

Another thing you need to bear in mind is that it's not my payday until next Friday... Very important, almost as important as the previous fact, in fact.

Ok, so knowing these facts, we can fast-forward to last week. The Dandymobile, my faultless steed, my surreptitious breeder of Marmosets, has a 'tell' to let you know that her battery will require replacement in the near future.  It's a buzzing noise that happens between turning on the ignition and starting the engine, something like a pump, or a fan under the bonnet somewhere probably, I know not what it is - This is where the more mechanically minded of my loyal readership should feel free to jump in with suggestions as to what this might be, and how they would like to mend it for me for free. But, for the time being, we should just agree that this is a 'thing' with a purpose - It's purpose in this case is to remind me to buy a new battery in the near future.  I had planned to buy a battery once I had been paid. I think you can follow my reasoning, right?

On Saturday I drove the Current Mrs. Dandy to the Post-Office to claim a package that required a signature, or was too wide for the letterbox or some-such tomfoolery.  Upon our return to the car, it refused to start, I figured that I'd touched one of the footpedals during the starting procedure (this sometimes causes the car to refuse to start for half an hour or so if the battery is in bad shape) so I walked the 500 yards to the nearest branch of a popular tyre and battery replacement company that are known for being 'Quite expensive'. They very cheerfully said that they would be more than happy to replace my battery for £100. (remember, it's not payday until next week and I still need to buy food and fuel).  I tried the motor factors across the road (the same motor factors as detailed in this story) and they quote me £70 just to supply the battery.  So, I figured that I'd go back to the car, wait for it to successfully start and drive it to get its battery replaced.

But it didn't start, not even after I'd waited for another hour... 

I'd suggested to Mrs Dandy that she get the bus home, as she had things to do, and that I would get the Dandymobile sorted 'somehow' on my own. She left and I sat there and thought, and thought, and thought. My first thought was that the car would magically just start if I closed my eyes and turned the key whilst asking it nicely... It didn't.  Then I thought that the only thing for it was to push the car, on my own, the 500 yards to get the battery replaced. But then I remembered that I would need both hands to push the Dandymobile - and, (this is where your memory gets tested) I realised that that would be problematic because I needed one hand to hold my trousers up - Remember that sickness bug and all the weight I lost? - Well, my belt was on the last hole and I couldn't get it tight enough to stop my trousers falling down whilst I was pushing the car... I was going to buy a new, smaller, belt once I'd been paid. This issue was compounded because, as you all know, I don't wear underwear of any kind, ever. Not even when I'm kilted.

So, my third and final thought was to phone the garage that normally does my MOTs and suchlike, to get them to recover me and replace the battery. So I called them and spoke to the owner, who's a great guy, and explained my problem. He said that the recovery truck was out currently, but I'd be their next call as I was such a good customer.  We've heard of this garage before too... It's where THE QUATTRO is usually tethered.

It was an hour before the truck arrived and on its arrival, the recovery driver suggested that he should use his special clip-on battery thing to see if he could scare the Dandymobile into life.  But it didn't work, so then he offered to bump her around the corner using the starter motor (you know how a car lurches forward if you start it in gear? that.) and winch her onto the back of the truck. The car jumped forward a couple of feet every time he turned the key and on the second such attempt, the engine started as if nothing had been wrong in the first place.

"I don't understand what happened there," He said. Well, I say 'he said' - he kind of buzzed, because he had some sort of electrolarynx because my life is on average 500% weirder in most ways than yours. Then he asked me if I'd like him to follow me to the garage just in case. but I said no, and that he was very kind, but as the Dandymobile started, she should be OK now. In hindsight, that strikes even me as foolish bravado now.

However, I drove to the garage without incident, parked up and turned off the ignition without thinking.  The owner was standing in the open doorway of the workshop and favoured me with a sliding facepalm with added headshaking finish, such as one you would give to an Ice-dancer who had performed a routine worthy of six perfect 10.0s before setting his tights on fire as a protest of some kind and sinking through the surface of the rink without a trace.

I opened the bonnet, and he looked at the battery. A confused scowl crossed his face... "Is this one of ours?" he asked. 

"Of course, you exclusively do all the work on all my cars." I lied in reply. He held up his index finger to silence my tirade of falsehood and rang his battery supplier.

"Well, it seems you're in luck - The battery is still just under warranty, so we'll replace it free of charge for you.  All I'd ask is that you make a cash donation to the 'We helped you out of a tight spot, so I'll contribute towards the cost of your Christmas Party benevolent fund.'" - So I gave him the cash I'd got out to pay the driver for recovering me. and an hour later, I was on my way.

Effectively, I saved a potload of money, the week before payday, because I'd been sick as a dog weeks earlier, and that meant I couldn't push my car to the garage for fear of my trousers falling down...

What are the chances?

Well, with me, probably 50/50 as it goes.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Spiky, Shape-changing Pinecones of Death

Tomorrow, Saturday the 18th of February, is the third Saturday in February - and we all know what that means.

It means that it’s Enzo Ferrari’s birthday… And Yoko Ono’s… And John Travolta’s…  It’s also the feast-day of St. Colmán of Lindisfarne who probably invented mustard or something (I didn’t really look into it that closely if I’m being completely honest – I’m trying to do like 300 things at once today) amongst other things.

But the real reason that we’re interested here at The Chimping Dandy – and therefore, the reason that you’re interested is that it’s World Pangolin Day. Pangolins – They’re literally the greatest thing ever. They have all the intrinsic parts required to be the best, cutest, most heart-warmingly twee bundles of keratin scaled, acid-pooping ant-eating machinery that has ever walked this, or any other, Earth.

But, you don’t need me to tell you that, right? We’ve covered pangolins in the past to the point where they’re not a complete mystery… We have, we did that here… Didn’t we? I thought we had. Remember, I told you that Neil-Patrick Harris had read the blog? Look, just read that post – You’ll be glad you did. I’ll wait here.

OK? Are we all up to speed now? Scaled anteaters, of the order Pholidota, no teeth, long tongue, and four legged but walks on two… Generally considered to be one of the most internationally trafficked animals that currently still exists (but only just) because, you know, They’re pretty tasty and some people, in some parts of the world think tearing them to pieces, grinding up their scales and swallowing them will sure cancer, or magically make your milk ‘come in’ if you’ve just had a baby.

(For the record, it won’t. And you’re a backwards imbecile if you think it will. In fact, just go the whole hog and shoot yourself repeatedly in the face if you believe that it will – All you’re doing is making this amazing animal even more endangered)

As of today, six of the eight species of Pangolin are classed as ‘Threatened to extinction’ whilst the other two are ‘Critically endangered’

So, what should you do on World Pangolin day? How should you celebrate it? Well, a good start would be not eating a pangolin – But I’m guessing that’s going to be pretty easy for most of us (And yes, I understand that they’re a valid staple of people who share a biome with them – But I’m not sure that those people read the blog as such) Then you could ‘Like’ the World Pangolin Day page on Facebook. Maybe draw some pictures of Pangolins? Bake biscuits and/or cookies? (In the shape of Pangolins, but not using pangolin as an active ingredient) Write a poem? Express the very idea of pangolinicity though the medium of interpretive dance? You could look at videos of them doing cute stuff of YouTube (other video sharing sites are probably available) and try not to 'Squeeee' too much.

You could go to your local museum if they have a pangolin on display and have an impromptu party, or you could take an outline of a pangolin with you and have a tasteful and well behaved vigil around it if they don’t have one of their own. Remember – Be courteous to your local museum, they’re generally great people – I know the people who work in the Nature Gallery in my local Museum (In Derby, in the UK) certainly are. Maybe your local Zoo has an animal adoption scheme and you could put some money towards a pangolin’s upkeep? Although, now that I come to think about it – They don’t do very well in captivity – Maybe you could adopt an Aardvark or something and just tell people it’s a pangolin – I don’t know, I’m not an expert. Just an excitable amateur.

But the main thing, the best thing you can do is think. Realise that there’s yet another animal out there that’s losing its grip on life because of our stupidity. And it’s a cute animal, so you’ve got no excuse not to help it – I could understand if it was some flesh eating worm or something, who gives a crap about them, right?

But it’s not… look…

Bloody brilliant aren't they?