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caddyman has kindly added the rss feed associated with my new blog as a livejournal syndicated feed - budgies_perch.

So if you do want to continue reading my ramblings, and have them show up on your friends' page, just click here.
After nine years, I'm seriously considering retiring this blog. It's been the only blog I've had, but I feel in need of a new start.

I'm leaving the blog here for the moment, and I may return to it, or even cross-post from a new blog, but I need a break from Livejournal, I think.

I need a change.

Something new.

So, while budgie's squawks goes on hiatus, budgie's perch opens for business.

Not sure what'll be there, but it'll likely have a slightly different tone, once the introductory posts are out of the way over the next couple of days.

Thanks for everything, people. I'll still be watching...

But onwards and upwards, as they say.

budgie's perch: say hello.
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Offline for a while.
Not often I'm disgusted by things our governments (local or national) do. Disapprove of, certainly. Protest against, very very occasionally. But to actively be disgusted by? To think that whoever came up with this should not be able to look at themselves in the mirror without being ashamed?

No that's a rare thing.

So a round of applause, please, and a hearty well done to the Department of Work and Pensions for this, courtesy of the BBC:
Terminally ill people warned over possible benefit cut
Thousands of terminally-ill people have begun receiving letters warning them their benefits could be cut in April even though Parliament has yet to approve the changes.

Under proposals being scrutinised in the Lords, Contributory Employment Support Allowance (CESA) will be time-limited to 12 months from April 2012.

The changes will be retrospective.

So people on CESA for 12 months or more when the rule comes into force will have their benefit cut immediately.

[More in link]
Did you see that? "...even though Parliament has yet to approve the changes" and "The changes will be retrospective."

Disgusting. Our government should be ashamed of itself.
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Berated Nite Bulge?

From "Lee Budgie Barnett"

Well...

From Animated Anagrams

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OK, think you know your brain.

Think again.

Be prepared to go "naah... oh, hell, they're right."



Told you.
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The BBC 'news' piece suggesting that many parents want the return of corporal punishment ends by reporting that the survey asked which celeb would make a good teacher in the opinion of the respondents.

The real answer? Not one of them without decent training, and several years of it.

Teaching's not something you can 'stroll into' and succeed at merely because you're a celebrity. You're trained for it, and to suggest that just because you've written a book, shagged a footballer or appeared on TV, you can walk into a classroom and control a class or create a lesson plan or mark work properly is a lie.

And it's an insult to the thousands of teachers, teaching assistants and others who work in schools day after day, week after week, term after term, pouring their guts, their souls and their lives into teaching our children.
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Some friends of mine have Twitter accounts for things their children say, the most frequently posting of which, probably, represent Mitch and Clara Benn's children, @ThingsGretaSays and @StuffAstridSays.

Now my son is far too old for Twitter to have been around when he was a youngster. Instead, parents of my generation had Calvin and Hobbes to do it for us:

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I've recently removed a stack of people on Facebook, not for any "you've offended me" reason, but simply because I'm no longer in regular contact with them, and if I've not been in regular contact with them over the past year or so, it's unlikely I'm going to be going forward.

If there's anyone on here reading this who is also on Facebook, and thinks I've unfairly removed them, feel free to shout out. However, I don't think I've removed anyone who I'm in regular contact with.

I'm not convinced I'll do one here as well, since reading someone's blog is - to me - a quite different thing to being 'friends' with them on Facebook, and of course, on Facebook, unlike Livejournal, it's exclusively mutual. Here - and on Twitter - I can follow you without you doing the same. And vice versa.

With Facebook, however, "unfriending" someone automatically means you are both no longer reading each other's feed.
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Doing the rounds. I wish I'd written it though.

So, Sherlock and Doctor Who... what's the difference?



Here’s the Difference:

The Doctor Who photo features a tall, slender, rather alien genius-boy running alongside a medical professional who is smitten with him. The Sherlock photo... Oh. OH.



Yes, but Sherlock has a long coat which billows out behind him when he runs. The Doctor just ha- Oh. Never mind.

...

Yes but Sherlock wears tight fitting suits and is smarter than your average human. The Doctor’s just— Riiight...

...

Yes, but in Doctor Who, the medical companion risks death in an attempt to save the lead character from the clutches of an evil, psychotic genius. Whereas in Sherlock... um....  Oh...

...

Yeah, but the Doctor Who companion jumps on board to help the lead even though she knows almost nothing about him and trusts him to solve their current problem that wasn’t even an issue until he arrived. While In Sherlock... huh.

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How very long ago it now seems...

The Post-Zero Hour DC Timeline - cut for HUGE sizeCollapse )
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I wrote this ten years ago, in the week following 9/11, and posted it on the anniversary for the first five years. It's the first time I've stuck it up in half a decade, but I'm putting it up today. And, for the first time, linking to it from Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Some people on my friends list will have read it before. In some cases, several times. I don't care. For once, I'm freely admitting to self-indulgence.




11th September 2001, I was at work. In the UK.

I work for a company that's owned by the same guys on the other side of the pond that own the Weather Channel. So, I'm walking to the bank. I've got a float to pick up for one of my people who is off to Cyprus to do a film shoot. It's about five past two in the afternoon, British time. I'm just approaching the bank when my mobile rings. It rings with the Mickey Mouse Club theme tune, so I know it's Laura calling.

I answer it. "Hey, sweetheart."

"Don't say anything," comes the response. "Two planes have just crashed into the World Trade Centre. They think it's terrorist. PHONE IAN **NOW**!"

I think I've misheard. "What?" I ask.

She repeats it. I stand still in utter shock. I tell her I'll call back. And then I stand there.

Silent.

I notice that people are still walking around in London, chatting, smiling. I figure I'm one of the few people in the London streets that know.

Then, with trembling fingers, I start punching out the numbers of the direct office number of my best friend in the world.

I've known Ian since we were two years old. We grew up as much in each other's houses as we did in our own. We were each other's Best Men and each of us was the only person on the planet that knew that we were to propose to our respective girlfriends before they did. We've shared confidences, experiences, overdrafts, our lives.

He's the one person on the planet that I'm not related to by blood that if he phoned me at three in the morning and said "I need you here this afternoon" I'd drop everything and go running, no matter what else I had on.

And he works one block over from the World Trade Centre.

A lifetime's worth of memories flow through my mind as I punch out the numbers. Laura's advice was to phone now, since she knew that in short order the international lines would be solid.

The phone rings once. It rings twice.

He picks it up.

"It's me." I say. That's all I have to say.

"Hi," he says. That's all he says. That tells me more than I want to know. For Ian to answer with one word means there's trouble.

He tells me the situation. (Remember, so far, only the two planes have hit. Nothing else. No Pentagon. The WTC is still standing...)

When the first one hit, he was meeting with a colleague. They're on the 18th Floor of their building, three minutes walk from the WTC. They went up to the roof to see what had happened, what had caused that almighty BANG. As they got to the roof, they felt the heat blast and heard the second collision.

"I turned to him and said calmly and clearly, 'let's get the fuck out of here'," Ian said. So we did. "Look, Lee, I've got to let people know I'm OK. I'll call you later, but we're all fine."

I relaxed a bit. My friend was safe. At this time, of course, I hadn't seen the television pictures....

I went to the bank, collected the cash and went back to the office... as I walked in, I found out about the Pentagon.

A short while later, just as I was telling my boss about Ian, the first WTC collapsed, and my heart sank through my backside.

Ian!

Then the second one collapsed.

I tried to call Ian's mobile. The phone lines were busy...

It got worse... A report of the plane crash in Pittsburgh (it was first reported here as being in Pittsburgh, not outside it) and the senior management turned to look at the CEO, whose mother lives there.

My boss just said quietly, "everybody out of the room, now," as the CEO started dialling.

The rest of the day is now a blur. I remember phone calls to Laura and to various friends of mine, with mutual friends in America. I remember checking in on Warren Ellis's DELPHI Forum where all the New York lot were checking in and letting people know they were ok.

I remember getting the train home in utter silence. You could have heard a pin drop on the train. I've never seen so many people reading the evening newspapers. Even the Diana death didn't have this effect of sheer unadulterated hammer-to-the-guts shock. I can't get my thoughts off of Ian. Yes, I know that the building's collapsed inwards, but Ian's one block over...

I got home and as I walk in, there's a call on the answerphone just concluding. Laura had gone to bed. Philip was already in bed.

It's Ian! I call him straight back but it's an hour before I can get through the busy lines.

He's safe... Forgive me, but in that moment, I was more relieved that he was safe than I was for any other person.

As he was walking down the 18 flights of stairs, he heard this huge whirring and rumbling sound. He didn't know what it was... it was the collapse of the tower.

They got to the bottom of the building and found that they couldn't get out. Rubble blocked the entrance. They managed to get into the next building, a hairdressers, and out of their back exit.

He and his staff made it to a friend of Ian's on 40th Street. The friend, a few years back, was maitre'd of the Windows On The World restaurant.

After a while, Ian set out for home. The subways were stopped, so he walked...

Six hours later, he reached Forest Hills and his apartment.

That's when I spoke to him. After his parents and his in-laws, I was the next call he made.

He sounded shaken, but relatively sane. A damned sight more sane that I think he had any reason to be.

We talked trivialities. We both had CNN on and I remember it being weird that we were watching the same programme, the same images appearing on each of our tv screens, 3,000 miles apart.

Both of us not saying what was in our minds. That if the buildings had collapsed like trees, not inwards, I wouldn't have my best friend around any more.

The last 30 seconds of the phone call was the worst... both of us choking up. "Phone me tomorrow," I said.

"Lee," he said, "I'm thirty seven years old, we've been friends for 35 years, and I'm safe."

"It's because we've been friends for 35 years that you're going to do it, OK?" I asked, a lot harder than I intended it.

There was a brief silence before he said "I hear you."

"Ian," I said.

"Yeah?"

A pause. "I'm used to having you around. Watch your back."

"I love you too," he said.


We've spoken twice a day since Tuesday. The last 30 seconds of each call leaves me almost tearful.

I want to be with him. I want to hug my best friend. I want to raise a glass with him in memory of those who didn't make it, to the families who are now suffering.

To ask when the world stopped making sense? Well, that one I know. Around 8:45 am Eastern Time.

11th September 2001.

_____________________________________________________

Update in 2011: For understandable (I hope) reasons, I value Ian as a friend at the moment more than usual...
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"Last Monday I woke up and as usual on Monday mornings I began to ponder what I might talk about this time.

I was, you might say, out of touch with what they now call "the real world" after two weeks' absorption in the fantasy world of the United States Open Tennis Championships.

But first, as the anchormen say, the weather. I like to know if it's cool enough for me to venture around the block.

So first then I turned on the weather channel and within 10 seconds I knew, all too well, what this talk would be about."

Yep, Cooke knew precisely what he was going to talk about: Hurricane Erin...

That was Monday.

See what he did talk about in the days following 9/11 here.

And if, like me, you think that Cooke's Letters were always better heard than read, click here.
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Just curious, but given my lack of posting this year, and lack of responses (other than a dozen or so regulars) when I do post, given that I've something like 240 folks ostensibly following this blog, and more reading it via RSS or somesuch...

Who's actually reading this blog anymore?

Just shout out - and if you're not a member of LJ, identify yourself when you say "me"? Thanks. (I'm curious to see whether some people only read the blog if I tweet about it as well...?)

Also curious, but don't feel obliged to answer, how come you're following? A friend? Recommended and stuck around? Started at the time of the fast fictions?

(Yes, there are reasons I'm asking, partly to do with whether I continue any kind of blog, and if so, whether or not to shut this one down and restart elsewhere.)

Thanks.
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Every so often, xkcd absolutely nails it.

squawk at me


DISTRACTION CLUB #6

Guy Pratt from Pink Floyd joins The Segue Sisters, Mitch Benn, Kirsty Newton and Ivan Shepherd for the finale - ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL!

Yes, that IS Guy Pratt from Pink Floyd...

___________________________________________________________________________

The Distraction Club - London's only monthly music comedy night, first Tuesday in every month.

http://distractionclub.com
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Yes, I did eat today.

I ate this.

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It's funny how things go around; how connections you'd never expect to arise, do so, and in doing so, remind you of long distant days and events, far away kindnesses and moments.

I've been lucky enough to be friends with Neil Gaiman longer than my son's been alive; we 'met' each other on CompuServe's Comics and Animation Forum in mid-1995, and he's been a friend since. And although I've read pretty much everything he's written, and enjoyed it, there's one specific comic book that will always remind me of my late brother, who died in January 1998.

Yeah, told you there were connections. Mike.

It's Sandman #43, the third book in the Brief Lives arc.

A wee bit of explanation.

Shortly after Mike died, at the tragically young age of 38, I really wasn't much in the mood for comics. The family were still trying to make sense of what had just happened, and were still saying, in response to those who those who said "we don't know what to say", "no, we don't know what to say to each other either". Sure I read some comics, some old favourites, but I was just getting through the day.

At around this time, my closest friend, who'd emigrated to America three years earlier, invited me to visit, just to get out of the UK for a few days. It was with genuine gratitude that I accepted the invitation, and went over to stay with Ian and his family in Forest Hills.

Well, that gave me a problem of a different sort. Although I usually have no problem sleeping on airplanes, I knew that this flight would likely be different. I wanted to take something that I could enjoy reading, but was something I'd read before, but something that would take my mind away from the dreadful events of the previous couple of weeks. Sandman seemed perfect. I picked up the first collection and put it in my bag. Then I took it out... remembering the final story in the collection: The Sound of Her Wings, a nicely crafted tale, but one in which the character of Death shows her necessity in the cosmos. During the story, you see the deaths of several characters, characters that you only met for a couple of pages, but with Gaiman's and Dringenberg's skills, you actually cared about.

Hmm.

Even in the state I was in, I knew that was too close to home. Which wiped out The Doll's House as well, since the story was included there as well, for some reason.

So I grabbed my copy of Brief Lives from the bookshelf and packed that, as well as some others.

A few hours later, I'm on the aircraft, we're pulling away from the terminal, then we're in the air... and after reading the newspaper, I pulled out Brief Lives.

I'd forgotten how #43 starts, and I'd forgotten the character of Bernie Capax, a man of some 15,000 years of age. And how he dies in what he thinks is an accident, buried under a collapsed wall. His spirit, however, doesn't realise he's dead and he stands by the remains of the wall, in delighted surprise: "Not even a scratch." When Death arrives, he's, you'll forgive the word, crushed. Then, in an attempt to convince himself that he didn't do too badly, he says, "I did okay, didn't I? I got, what, fifteen thousand years? That's pretty good, isn't it? I lived a long time."

And that's when I remembered the next line, even before I read it. I didn't even know I was ready to read it until it hit me with full force.

Death smiles, holds out her hand, and replies:
You lived what anyone gets, Bernie. You got a lifetime. No more, no less.
Yeah. You know what though? It helped. I thought of what my brother had achieved in his thirty-eight years, and for a moment, just for a moment at that time, but later for longer, I was comforted by the line.

So, last night, I went to see Amanda Palmer in Brighton, thanks to the kindness of Amanda, who - as you probably know - is married to the aforementioned Mr Gaiman. Caught up with Neil outside the gig, and was introduced to several of his friends, very nice people who, some of whom astonishingly enough, knew of me from online activities and such things. The above story came up, for the first time in a long while. Connection.

Was very good to see Neil, even though I'd seen him a lot more recently than our usual gaps between meetings would imply, and also that he was suffering from a touch of what in the world of comic books pros and fans alike is universally known as "con crud"; I'm not sure what the equivalent for post Edinburgh Festival is.

However, the gig itself was wonderful. My former landlady (ok, for three days in Edinburgh, but I love calling her that) blew the place away, and I don't know anyone who was there (including Mitch, Clara and various mutual friends) who'd disagree. She played some new as yet unrecorded material which varied between good and immediate classic, and some old favourites.

Not entirely sure why the three very drunk people next to me kept on calling for Astronaut considering she opened the gig with it, but maybe they missed the opening numbers. I was, it has to be admitted, mildly disappointed that she didn't perform Vegemite, but that's just me. And without spoiling the surprise for anyone who's yet to see this mini-tour, all I can say is that all gigs should begin with a workout.

And everyone should have a bellydancing PA. It should be a rule or something. Just saying.

But connections. Remember I said about reading Neil's writings after we lost Mike?

For entirely different reasons, reasons I'm not about to go into here, I was thrown somewhat when a couple of the songs (songs I've heard performed before by Amanda, let's be fair) hit home far harder than I'd expected. Far harder.

Completely took me 'out' of the gig, and Amanda's such a powerful singer that I couldn't write them off at the time as "just another song".

Pow - right in the gut.

But even with those moments, the gig was perfect.

Absolutely Fucking Perfect.

Heh.

Sorry.
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Very, very soon, Apple will announce the iPhone 5.

How do I know this? Because I just upgraded to an iPhone 4.

To be fair, I hadn't intended to upgrade to the iPhone 4 - no, I was quite content to wait until the new model came out in what I then expected to be a couple of months, and now expect to be within days.

I'd gone to Enfield (with Laura and Phil) and was walking through when I saw the O2 shop and wandered in, curious about what deals they'd have. Oh yeah, they had deals, including one for this weekend only. Ignoring the insurance, I could get:

- a new 16Gb iPhone 4
- on an 18 month deal (which means I could upgrade to iPhone 6 in about 15 months)
- with 500Mb monthly internet usage (I currently use about 350Mb a month)
- 600 minutes (I typically use about 450),
- and 20 picture free messages included (I send about three a month)

...all for less than I'm paying now.

And since I've got an unused 8Gb 3G, and a 32Gb 3GS, O2 Recyle will pay me £229 if I send them to them.

Too good to be true?

Well, yeah, slightly - remember I mentioned the insurance? It's a tenner a month more. Still, even so, a superb deal, methinks.

So of course I signed up for it.

I haves me a new phone. My pressshous.
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Memeage!

100 questions, 100 answersCollapse )
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Today was in... interesting day, for all sorts of reasons; however, it was lightened by Laura and Phil giving me an unexpected birthday present, viz:



It's incredibly thin, and I barely know I'm wearing it. Swatch's are, apparently very reliable. I hope so, since Phil immediately snaffled my old watch for himself...
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The Whizzard of Ow

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There aren't that many radio programmes that I make space in my week to listen to, to the point where if I can't listen to them at the time, I'll download them, either via podcast or (if not available) via some other method, usually a torrent.

Either way, if I do that, I'll dump them on CD and listen to them later, in the car.

Obvious choices are The Now Show, The News Quiz, a couple of political programmes - particularly the Westminster Hour on a Sunday night, hugely misnamed since it's only about 35 minutes - and What The Papers Say.

And The Moral Maze. I'm not sure why this programme grabs me so much, since I'm not known for having great debates with friends, say, about the moral implications of this act, or that opinion.

However, I love this programme on Radio 4.

The premise is simple. One host, one controversial topic per week, four 'witnesses' with strong views, covering a spectrum of views of the argument... and four panelists who quiz the witnesses, seeking to test the moral views they hold.

It's simple to understand, simple to follow, and at times, genuinely superb radio.

Often taking their inspiration from the news headlines, the forty-five minute long programme is broadcast live, but without an audience (with one exception, to mark the 500th episode).

So, for example, in the week when The Arab Spring was at its height, the programme debated the morality of governments tolerating some dictatorships but not others. In the week when the man who murdered five prostitutes was convicted, they discussed the morality (or lack thereof) in prostitution.

Now, as I say, I have several of these on CD and while tidying up the other day, I found half a dozen programmes from 2009; I've been listening to some of them, and they're still as gripping.

The three I've listened to so far:

- Should your political views bar you from certain jobs? (re: the BNP membership lists revealing teachers were members)
- is it morally acceptable to place religious views over the law of the land?
- is suicide morally wrong?

I'm not sure when the next series will be broadcast, but when it is, I heartily recommend it.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

Tags:

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Exactly what it says on the tin - cut because it"s huge.Collapse )
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Was fascinated by this blog post this afternoon, highlighted by Ben Goldacre on Twitter: Once, twice, three times a headline, about reporting waiting times in Accident and Emergency departments in the NHS.

Little did I know at the time how relevant that would be, because I later spent some time there today.

Remember I wrote about last Friday in Edinburgh:
As I was leaving, however, I discovered the disadvantage of heavy rain... slippery pavestones. My right foot shot out, and the next thing I knew, I was on my back. I'm fine, just a bit bruised, but let's just say the painkillers aren't just for the foot at the moment.
Well, after a few days of relatively manageable pain, yesterday (yes, my birthday), my back started hurting badly. Well, to be fair, of course, it started hurting perfectly well, very efficiently in fact.

Suffice to say that I didn't sleep that much last night, and have spent most of the past 24 hours in great pain, even after taking my usual very strong painkillers. So I went to my local A&E; a few hours later (though much less than four hours) I was seen by a doc who examined me, pronounced that I had 'soft tissue damage' and prescribed some even stronger painkillers. Will let you know how that goes, but at the moment, not really going anywhere. In fact, not really doing anything other than going "owww" a lot.
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"I remember when the candle shop burned down. Everyone stood around singing 'Happy Birthday.'" ~ Steven Wright

So yeah, it's my birthday today.

My thanks to everyone for their kind wishes by text and email, and on Facebook and Twitter.

As I've mentioned before, the march of technology and its uses continues to astound me. Not much more than only a few years ago, most people might send cards, or call me. Then it became texts, and now the vast majority of my birthday wishes are on Facebook and Twitter. I wonder whether, in years to come, people will look back at birthday tweets the same way birthday cards are looked at now: fine if you're old fashioned, or it's family, but...

Also, I continue to find it amusing how many websites I'm a member of (or used to be a member of) that have sent me birthday wishes. I'd forgotten I had registered with some of their message boards until today when I got their emails. And it's quite sad how many of them are comics websites that I remember visiting regularly in the long ago, but haven't stopped by to read or post in years.

I started with a quote, so I'll end with one, an old favourite, from the great John Glenn who said:
For all the advances in medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday.
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A short story, published at midnight.

MIDNIGHT

I knew that it was midnight.

Though I carried no timepiece, I could tell that it was midnight, and I carried on walking.

Past what had once been busy shops, and what were now empty houses I continued my trek, walking.

Sometime before, I’d lost the need for sleep. Or had I? I no longer remembered sleeping, but sometimes, occasionally, I seemed to start suddenly as if waking from a light slumber. But the memory faded soon enough.

It was midnight.

I shifted the small backpack until it was more comfortable, and strode forward, kicking up dust with every step.

I slowed as I approached a large piece of rubble in my path, and then stepped around it. There was a brief moment of surprise at the lightening of the sky as the heavy clouds parted for just a moment and an unaccustomed feeling of warmth struck me before they closed again, and the world darkened once more.

A grunt of acknowledgement from my own mouth mildly surprised me as I rounded the edge of the building and saw the clock tower ahead, its hands permanently moulded to the clock-face.

The nuclear weapons had struck at precisely twelve o’clock, and every clock, watch, and electronic time-keeper had frozen at that moment.

I turned and looked behind me. Another town where no-one had survived.

What was that? A hundred and seven?

I paused at the town boundaries, muttered the usual regrets, and walked on. The next town was ahead, somewhere in the distance.

I knew I’d get there by midnight.


© Lee Barnett, 2011
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Writing this for self-explanatory reasons... Yes, I do this roughly once a year.

I know most people reading this already know who I am, and all, so you can skip the rest of this post if you'd like. But I seem to have attracted a few recent visitors to this blog.

So, a quick FAQ.
So you've decided to follow me on Twitter or read the blog. Thank you! I'll try to make the experience an enjoyable one.

So, don't take this the wrong way, but who are you? I just added you because [other Twitter user] suggested it
I'm Lee "Budgie" Barnett; I'm British; I live in North London. Together with Dave Gibbons, I ran the annual hypotheticals panel at the annual British Comics Expo from 2000 through to 2011.

I also write. I've written for radio, tv, the occasional comic book, an online novel, and several hundred 200 word slices of fiction as part of The Fast Fiction Challenge. A book containing 180 of these stories was published in 2009,a second volume was published in late 2010. Details here.

In June, 2010, I did last year's challenge and 150 stories in 150 days later, I concluded it.

"Budgie"? Why "Budgie"?
It's a story you used to have to get me very drunk to tell... but a while back, I revealed it: here.

Anything else?
Yes, I have a son; he'll be 16 as at November 2010. His name's Phil. His mother calls him "Philip". I usually refer to him as "Do your bloody homework." He gets mentioned every so often.

What kinds of things do you blog about?
Since the challenge has finished, the blog's returned to what it should be, a mixture of fiction, my thoughts on various matters important and unimportant, occasional links to other people's blogs or news reports, photos, videos... oh the usual.

What kinds of things do you Twitter about?
A mixture of utter nonsense, references to interesting posts - either on Twitter or their blogs - that other people have made, replies to questions, and occasional bursts of frustration.

You're not going to overload me with your Twitter posts, are you?
Oh, I hope not. Many of my tweets are replies to other people, so if you don't follow them as well, you're fine.

That's not all of them, though, right?
Well, no.

So you're going to follow me back, right?
Not always, no. I tend to follow people that I know for the most part. But engage me in conversation, comment on the blog, and it's quite probable that I'll add you. I'll usually take a look at your recent tweets though, and may not... If so, sorry in advance, no offence intended.

I'm new to this Twitter thing. What do you use to post from?
Well, sometimes I do it from the web, but I use a Windows client called twhirl if I'm posting from the PC or Twitter for iPhone, if I'm posting from the iPhone, or Twitterific from the iPad.

Are you anywhere else online?
Yes, I'm on Facebook, but again, I generally tend only to add people I know. Sorry.

So what's your Twitter account again?
You can follow me at @budgie. Or not. Your call.
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I think this is my favourite of Mitch Benn's songs at the moment:

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"There are two hundred stories collected in this volume. They are funny, they are thoughtful, they are romantic, they are frightening. To me, though, they are more than entertaining. They are inspiring."
- Wil Wheaton, from his introduction to volume two of The Fast Fiction Challenge.

It's my birthday this week, so let's have a sale. How does 50% off ebooks sound? Yeah, thought so. But only through till 23:59 next Saturday.

Any fast fiction ebooks purchased before next Saturday (20th) direct from me on budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk will qualify for a 50% discount.

That's volume 1 at just £1.99 and volume 2 at £2.50. Or £4.00 for the pair.



This was the challenge I issued on my blog:
Reply with a title (maximum of four words)
about which you’d like me to write a fast
fiction of exactly 200 words, together with a
single word you want me to include in the text
of the tale.
Five hundred stories later, here are two volumes of 180 (vol 1) and another 200 (vol 2) of the best tales.

Stories with titles like Why I Chose Insanity, Three Shades Of Yesterday, and Why Is It Orange? and words such as saturnine, cylindrical and azimuth.

Email me on budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and I'll supply the ebook in either .epub or .mobi version on request..

(Yes, of course the print books are still available at lulu.com, but I can't do anything about their prices...)

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And so it was Friday, my last day in Edinburgh.

Hadn't planned anything festival-related today - figured if I had time, I might see something, but I wanted to just enjoy the atmosphere of still being there if that makes any kind of sense. Yeah, I know, it probably doesn't.

Slept very well (again, I suspect the effects of the amount of walking I've been doing, combined with both late nights and distinctly fresher air than you tend to get in London combined) and woke up around nine. Had a hot drink and after checking my email, etc., set off for an appointment I was so looking forward to...

More than twenty years ago, I started work at a company then known as Keith Evans & Co, Chartered Accountants, later (and still) known as Dales Evans & Co. Limited, Chartered Accountants. I qualified while working there, I got married while working there, Phil was born while I worked there... and in terms of pure fun, it was probably the best job I ever had. Sure it was hard work, but my boss was superb - still a friend - and my colleagues were, on the whole, genuinely nice folks who I also on the whole genuinely regret losing touch with them over the years.

I saw my ex-boss not that long ago and while discussing "the old days", he mentioned that one of my ex-colleagues was now living in Edinburgh. He gave me her details, and when I knew I was going up for the festival, I dropped her a line.

Long story short (too late, methinks), we discovered that she lives about five minutes from where I was staying, so Friday morning, it was she who I was going to see.

Turned up at her house and her husband (an ex-client way, way back) opened the door. Took a second for us both to mentally subtract twenty-odd years from each others' faces, and then i was introduced to their three children, lovely lads. Very amusing, Tim explaining that I used to work with their mammy,..

And then Julie appeared. Have to say that she's aged far better than Tim or I. The next couple of hours were spent gloriously reminiscing, with stories full of laughter, fondness and disbelief that most of it happened the best part of two decades earlier. Old clients' names and histories were brought out, smiled at, and then the next story came along... Truly an enjoyable few hours, and I'm so glad to have got back in touch with them.

As I was leaving, however, I discovered the disadvantage of heavy rain... slippery pavestones. My right foot shot out, and the next thing I knew, I was on my back. I'm fine, just a bit bruised, but let's just say the painkillers aren't just for the foot at the moment.

Headed back into town for a while, managed to catch up briefly with Neil just before he went into Mitch's gig, so I could thank him and Amanda for everything and say 'bye'. Met up with Clara and the girls (and a friend of Greta's) for hot drinks (me and Clara) and ice-creams/milkshakes for the children, and then it was back to the house for stuffing everything into the overnighter packing, ordering the cab, and thence to the airport.

And sooner than it seemed, I was back at Luton Airport (I refuse to dignify it with its formal title) and Laura was kind enough to pick me up there.

And a short while later, I was home, back at the flat.

Still processing my feelings about the time away to be honest.

The one thing I know is that like San Diego Comicon, you return regretting who and what you didn't see.

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It's been nine years since I started this blog. Nine years you've been reading my drivel. I'm quite impressed with you all.

Well done.

It's certainly - by a huge distance - the longest I've ever kept any form of journal, be it personal or online. To be fair, this is the only blog I've ever had, but when I was younger, I kept a diary... for about the first two months of any year, before I got bored and gave up on it.

Nine years ago, after an invitation code (remember them?) from wheeler, I wrote:
13th August, 2002. 2:49 pm.

First Message
OK, I suppose I'd better kick off with a 'let's get started' message... I'll post more about me and mine whenever anyone specific gets mentioned. For the moment, all you need to know is that my name's Lee Barnett, I've had the nickname of Budgie for what seems like forever and I'm already wondering just how much of a mistake this is going to be...
3,288 days (and a shade under 5.000 blog posts) later, I'm still entirely unconvinced that I was wrong on that last bit.
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Another day with lots of walking around yesterday - I guess that despite being painkillered up to the eyebrows, that's quite healthy for me. Certainly I've lost just a tad more weight, so the belt has come in one more notch.

Didn't have much planned in terms of gigs on Thursday, but those I did fancy seeing seem to either have been sold out or the queues were massive. There were a number of plays that on another occasion I'd have gone to, but in my current state of mind, weren't for me. And a number of comedians that I did want to see, but as mentioned, I'd left it too late for tickets.

Among those I'd have genuinely wanted to see were Shappi Khorsandi, Paul Sinha, Meryl O'Rourke and Dave Gorman. Ah well, another time (another Festival?) hopefully.

I did get to see Best of The Fest, which, like Political Animal, featured ten minute showcases for acts. Of the five acts, one of them I'd seen (The Segue Sisters), three I'd have liked to have seen their full shows (Ian de Montford - comedy spiritualist, Gareth Richards - musical comedy, and Stuart Goldsmith - standup) and one cabaret act - Briefs - that I would have happily paid not to ever see again. Dire.

Superbly compered by Andre Vincent, another full show I'd have liked to have seen, I may have done this every day had I known about it. Seriously good hour.

In the evening, managed to hook up with a few friends from Scotland that I haven't seen in some years - a nice evening, telling old stories, reminiscing, and discussion of comics (the readable kind). A nice time.

Wandered back to the city centre afterwards and had a bite to eat before trying (and failing) to get into Comedy Countdown. Had a further wander, just soaking in the city (in both meanings, there has been much rain this week) before walking back to the house and to bed... Final day in Edinburgh on Friday. More to come.

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London!

I will be back in about six hours.

I do hope you've tidied up all the mess by the time I get back.

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Although I posted a couple of days ago that I was only in Edinburgh due to the machinations of Clara and Mitch Benn, and the kindness of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, I hadn't intended (yet) to specify the nature of the kindness, not until I'd left Edinburgh, but since Amanda (who is as nice as you'd expect) has mentioned it on Twitter, here it is.

I hadn't expected to come to Edinburgh this year, particularly given how late I'd left it to arrange things, but I got a message from Clara saying she'd asked, and received very positive responses... Yeah, she'd fixed it up for me to stay with Neil (an old friend) and Amanda (who I'd not yet met) for a few nights, should I want to...

Should I want to?

Neil is, as you'd expect, delightful company, and chatting with him about stories, the process of writing, and stories that never were, but should have been, is a delight. Amanda is as lovely as you could hope her to be, and I'll always be grateful to both of them for letting me crash by them.

Staying at the house as well is/are The Jane Austen Argument, an Australian duo, and their partners, and Tom, Jen, Ange and Adam are genial and genuinely nice folks to pass time with, solving the problems of the universe (and a few problems the universe doesn't know it has.)

Also lovely to see Holly again and to meet Maddy, if only for the first night I got there.

So yes, I'm staying with Neil and Amanda, and more considerate hosts you couldn't wish for...

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Slept fairly late on Wednesday - no particular reason, probably just catch up from the previous few nights, combined with a late night Tuesday. Could also have had something to do with the amount of walking I did on Tuesday, something I repeated on Wednesday, but much moreso.

The two main gigs I'd come to Edinburgh to see were planned for today.

At 3pm, at The Stand Three, Mitch was doing his solo show - this run is his first Edinburgh solo show in twelve years. Now I've seen Mitch do several gigs with his group The Distractions, the unfairly sexy and incredibly talented Kirsty Newton, and the gloriously talented (and apparently equally sexy, though he's not my type) Ivan Sheppard. But I've never seen him do a solo show, and I was determined to see it.

I wasn't disappointed. A couple of new (to me) songs and routines, but full of old favourites, the opening bars of which brought a smile to my face. A superb hour, with inventive ways of presenting the material. Certainly, his method of providing the backing track for Macbeth, which he accomplishes using an iPhone to produce a live repeating four or five tracks has to be experienced to be appreciated.

After the show, I met Mitch's parents - who are, as you'd expect, delightful, and then we all decamped to see Clara and the girls at the Benn home-away-from-home. Lovely to meet more of their friends, and make new friends myself.

Mitch is only doing another three shows this run, so grab it while he's still there. (Looking forward to the full tour with Kirsty and Ivan in November.)

Afterwards, I went for a couple of hours' walking and coffee-shop-ing, discovering more of the City.

Had a bite to eat, then met up with Mitch and Clara again at The Gilded Balloon for the second main gig of the day - The Segue Sisters in JAILBIRDS. A genuinely funny, sexy, musically superb hour or so. It's no secret that I love this act, and all three of the women involved. Haven't yet seen them and had a bad experience doing so. I'd recommend them in a heartbeat. Best way to describe them, I think, is "The Andrews Sisters sing Megadeath". Ok, they also sing songs made famous by Aerosmith ('Walk This Way'), the Doors ('People Are Strange'), ELO ('Mr Blue Sky') and Alice Cooper (a personal favourite - 'Poison'), but you get the point.

They've managed to turn a cabaret act into an excellent hour long show that just, simply, works. Very funny, with showcases for all three women. If you're in Edinburgh for the next couple of weeks, go and see them. You won't regret it.

Went for a drink with them afterwards, and just after midnight, headed for 'home'... the subject of the next post.

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Got to bed late on Tuesday following an evening spent with Clara and Mitch.

Hadn't planned much for yesterday evening, but they shanghaied me into a brief tour of Edinburgh, followed by dinner and then going to see Andy Salzman's Political Animal gig at The Stand. Very funny man. I've heard his material for years, on The Now Show and The Bugle podcast, but have never seen him live - he's very funny and a gentleman to boot. Was very pleased when I was introduced to him.

Also on the bill were Josie Long and two comics I'd not heard of before but whose shows I now want to see: an Irish comic named Keith Farnan and an American, Lee Camp.

Mitch was the final act of the night, and to my delight, he did Proud of the BBC - a rather faster version of the song, since time was running short.

Then back to the house, staying up chatting with some of the other people staying here, and to bed.

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Haven't posted here in a couple of months, and not regularly since February.

I'm still wondering whether or not to recommence blogging, and if so, what to write.

However, at the moment, my primary concern is getting ready to leave London. No, I'm not in fear of what's been going on the past few nights in London, the rioting, looting, etc., although it's getting far too close to where I live for even me to regard it with ambivalence.

No, due to the machinations of close friends Clara and Mitch Benn, and the kindness of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, I'm off to Edinburgh for a few days, in a few hours. Neil's a friend, but I've not yet met Amanda - looking forward to meeting her and Maddy.

I may blog from the festival. We'll see.

Anyway, have still been reading my friends' pages while I've been non-blogging, and hope you're all well. Especially you.

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