3rd Law Part 20 – black holes, dislocations, unforeseen effects and the structureless society

Now waiting for the Openreach engineer. It’s 9.32 and he is due sometime between 8am and 12 noon. The VDSL modem is kaput as ve say. No lights. No internet connection. Ach so. The first thing everyone asks upon returning to the house is “is the internet working yet?”. Non, nein, nyet, na, no.

It is if you use your cellular connection but that is when you notice how good our internet access is normally. It’s raining outside. Which seems appropriate.  I have lots to get on and do but everything involves going somewhere else and I have to stay here to babysit a defunct modem in case I’m not in when the engineer arrives which would not be good news.

I can’t see why I shouldn’t be able to log on to a portal to see where I am in the queue and what progress the guy is making towards my house. It would be a very friendly thing to offer.

I had considered today to be a job free zone but as the body slowly emerged from overnight shut down and systems rebooted a few tasks became evident. Tonight Johnnyboy is cooking us a barbecue style meal involving ribs, wings, tortilla chips and dips together with boston baked beans supplied by his mother, my very dear wife Anne. All the ingredients need sourcing, from Waitrose. All purchasing must in theory be complete by 12.30 which is the time the young footballer goes to play with his mates.

He has also just had a very good bit of news via a letter through the door this morning informing him of a vacant position as a carrier of daily newspapers to residences in the locale. This will involve a certain element of discipline hitherto dormant in the young lad. It means he has to get up at 6.45 am to go to the paper shop and pick up his literary load for onward carriage to the breakfast tables of Wragby Road.

There are several good outcomes from this newly imposed discipline. Firstly it will mean he spends less time on the Xbox in the morning. Second it will bring in twenty quid a week. Untold riches for someone who has only recently entered his teens.

The downside, and this is the bit that affects me, is that he has just tried to pump up his bike tyres in preparation for the 7am meet tomorrow with the round incumbent and the pump letteth all the air out! Now I have to get that sorted which probably means going to Halfords to get a new pump/valve but of course I have to baby site the modem. Scratch that. Just remembered a known good pump/valve combo in the car and it has worked, hooray.

The problem was going to be time. The lad has to be in Welton for the footy at 12.30. I have to be in the Morning Star for the pre match warm up at 1.30. The rest of the day should be considered a write off, starting that early. In one sense it is a good thing I now have this imposed period of inactivity. The third law book doesn’t write itself you know? It does really. The stuff just comes out. None of this sitting down and planning a structure – plot, characters etc. huh!

Could it be that the whole world is moving to a structureless position. We have “the cloud”. An ethereal entity not physically made of anything tangible that we trust is there but know not where. That certainly has the appearance of being structureless. We still have the order imposed on us by society but that order has been built up over hundreds, thousands of years even, of learning how to create red tape for the “benefit” of the whole.

Maybe the process of unravelling that structure takes a little time. Maybe unravel it will, somehow. The third law has unforeseen consequences. The speed at which everything happens means events happen so quickly that the forces of regulation and stability can no longer have sway. We already see that government struggles to keep up with the pace of technological change. Laws designed for an old world order no longer work. Copyright infringement in a world where millions of copies can be made at the click of a mouse, for example.

There surely has to be some structure. When I go to the Morning Star I stay on one side of the bar whilst Dave the barman, or whoever else is on, stays on the other side. He gives me beer, I drink it. I give him money. The money thing is going to disappear for sure, at least the hard stuff in the pocket. This brings us back to my VDSL modem because without the connectivity to make the electronic transaction happen I won’t be able to hand over my invisible cash and I won’t get my beer.

The dependency on connectivity and all things electronic makes our lives very vulnerable to total wipeout. Just as the music file can be copied at the flick of a switch, our online presence, entity if you like, can also be similarly removed. All backups of all the photos of us ever uploaded gone, kaput, as we have been known to say.

I’m going to insert what is known as a dislocation to the third law here. A dislocation is a time shift. A period in the flow where it looks as if there should be something there but it doesn’t appear to be. A kind of black hole but different. I’ve never known anyone escape the python-like squeeze of a black hole but the dislocation to the third law is a regular phenomenon that sees people emerge on the other side, unscathed if somewhat confused.

It is now 10.37. This hasn’t been a continuous writing session as you will recall that I broke to find the bicycle pump which may well have meant a dislocation but only a very minor one and  only visible to the trained eye.

The rain continues. I’d like to have added relentlessly to that sentence, at the end, but I’m not sure whether that would have been an entirely accurate description of the current state of precipitation. There are certainly lots of drops hitting the conservatory roof but they come from the sycamore tree above rather than the actual rain which is usually quieter unless it is if the tropical storm variety in which case it can be deafening.

That tree is toast btw. Our new neighbours have decided it is going and are looking for a sensible quote. I am in favour of this act of forrestial (new word) destruction as it creates a lot of shade and even more leaves and crap on the conservatory roof that then needs cleaning. It will also have the side benefit of generating lots of logs for the fire though in my experience sycamore is a rubbish burner. Not going to say no though.

We are almost at the end of this open fire season. Maybe a couple more fires but then spring should be in full sway. Not that that necessarily means it will get any warmer but psychologically it will mean that we will feel it wrong to have the central heating on, let along lighting the open fire. Ve shall see.

Oops there I go again. Lapsing into German. It isn’t as if I’ve been to Germany much but being born only 16 years after the end of the second world war I grew up with a lot of WW2 fighting in comics. “Hande hoch, Englander schwein hundt” etc. Couldn’t get away with it these days though I do seem to be trying hard.

We will definitely be having an open fire next Sunday as we have some friends coming round to help us eat a goose. V traditional. I have a Delia Smith recipe that involves prunes soaked in Armagnac. I don’t have any Armagnac in so will have to buy some and will inevitably consume some in a non culinary manner (ie drink it) and end up slumping in front of the open fire. Bless ‘im.

We don’t have goose very often. It’s expensive and doesn’t produce much meat though there is always lots of good fat left over for use in cooking roast potatoes. Nothing better, fair play.

10.56 and still no engineer. To be continued…

3rd law Part 19 here

part 21 here

3rd Law Part 19 – lowlife, postmen and Winking Owls

Sat in reception of Auto Windscreens listening to some funky music. At first I thought hmm, can they turn this loud stuff off but now I’ve changed my mind. It’s quite uplifting.

I’m here because some lowlife smashed one of the rear windows of the Jeep. The lowlife didn’t get in because they hadn’t bargained for the fact that the knob you use to unlock the door from the inside was broken on that door. I’ve never bothered getting it replaced because it doesn’t stop us from locking and unlocking the car. Hah.

We called the cops who came out straight away fair play.  Apparently there has been a spate of such break-ins in town. They know who is doing it. A bunch of junkies looking for something to steal and sell for peanuts to buy themselves a couple of fixes. Been in and out of prison. There was no evidence onsite at our house to say who it was so I guess the forces of law and order will have to wait until the next incident to try and nab em.

We have beefed up our perimeter defences. I won’t tell you what we’ve done – need to know basis. I’d have to kill you. You can be assured however that it doesn’t involve razorwire or vicious killer dogs patrolling between the fences and trained to attack silently and ask questions after. The mind races away here. Picture the scene.

Dog pounces, forces you to the ground by clamping its huge teeth round your throat, shakes its head to rough you up a little and when it thinks it’s broken your resistance, lets go. It then proceeds to interrogate you in a very business-like manner, enquiring as to the purpose of your intrusion into the Davies estates.

Upon hearing that you are the postman and checking out your ID it licks the blood that has started to flow from the wounds in your neck, backs off and lets you know you are ok to proceed.

No that isn’t what we have done.

We interrupt the flow of this story to say btw it’s Radio 1 playing. Not my thing. I’m not in the right demographic.

Coming back to the security stuff, had the postman had his black and white cat with him in the van it would have scared it witless (words modified to preserve the Universal Classification of this work should it ever get to being assessed by the British Board Of Film or whoever does these things these days.

I assume the postman must have been on foot and without cat. It isn’t practical to take your cat with you on a round if you are on foot as they tend to wander off in search of mice or butterflies (other insects are available).

I’m not a cat person. Not a dog person really either. I like the concept of owning a dog. The faithful retainer trotting alongside you obediently, sitting at your feet in the pub gratefully catching the odd cheese and onion crisp thrown for its benefit. I like all that. What I don’t like is the fact that you have to look after it.

Also what do you do with the dog when you go on holiday?

Puts the mockers on that skiing trip or the villa in Mustique doesn’t it? I guess one could leave it with the gardener or the estate manager, or the mother in law though she wouldn’t be much use. Complains too much. Would drive the dog up the wall. It would attempt to escape and try and find you which is going to be difficult if you are in Mustique though marginally easier if skiing, as long as it isn’t in Canada or somewhere like that.

In fact I haven’t been skiing for many years. Not since Bob Madge suggested we popped up to Aviemore in 1984 or 1985. This was a Thursday and after work on Friday afternoon we were headed northbound with someone else whose name temporarily escapes me but which I will let you know if I remember. George it was I think. So we set off on Friday afternoon for the mobile home we had rented in Aviemore. It is a long way from Lincoln and we got there quite late and were starving.

We had been recommended to go to the Winking Owl to eat but we couldn’t find it so ended up having some poxy pub meal which was ok but not as good as we would have had had it been the Winking Owl, apparently. The ironic thing was that as soon as we had eaten and moved on to the next pub the next pub turned out to be, the Winking Owl of course!!

The next day we spent skiing. The one thing I have refrained from mentioning is that I broke my leg skiing at the age of 13 on a school trip to Sapada in the Italian Dolomites. The consequence of this breakage is that my right leg has never quite been as strong as the left. Normally it doesn’t matter but on that day skiing in Aviemore I found that it was weakening and I was beginning to fall even more than normal. I figured that the safest thing to do was get on the drag lift to the top of the mountain and take the chairlift to the bottom. On the way up someone had to sit next to me because I kept drifting off to the right, my left leg now being muscularly dominant.

When we got to the top we found that the chairlift had been closed due to high winds! Nightmare! The only thing I could do was ski down to the bottom. At this point we must remember from my experience on the drag lift that I could easily go to the right but not to the left! So in attempting to ski down the mountain I found that I could zig but not zag. I ended up having to zig, fall over, turn around on my backside (being ever mindful of that “U”), stand up and zig again. This took me ages and was my last skiing experience apart from a short afternoon on holiday in the French Alps.

Radio 1 is getting a bit irritating btw. I don’t mind the music but the mindless inane rubbish between songs is hard going. Bring back Radio2 or Radio4, though not The Archers. I can’t stand The Archers.

At this point I’m going to change the direction of the conversation because it is in danger of getting too negative. I’m going to take us back in time again to another restaurant we were looking for. This one, whose name is definitely lost in the mists of time, was on the seafront in Haifa. We were in Tel Aviv on business, staying at the Intercontinental Hotel on the beach. Very nice.

The concierge had recommended the restaurant and said it was just outside on the promenade. Getting there all we could find was a closed kiosk. Definitely not the posh restaurant. Looking around us there was nothing in sight. Hmm.

Next thing we know is that an ice cream van comes along, music blaring. I flagged him down and the guy inside, thinking he had a sale, eagerly hopped up to serve us. Unfortunately for him I only wanted to ask where the eatery was.

He was a helpful enough chap and pointed to a spot a couple of miles along the promenade. I then cheekily asked if he wouldn’t mind giving us a lift. Glint in eye etc. No problem.

We piled in and had the surreal experience of riding along the Tel Aviv seafront in the back of an ice cream van. It wasn’t a particularly posh one but hey…

After a short while a kid ran out for an ice cream and we pulled over – right in front of the restaurant. Out we got, thanked him and went in only to find it was fully booked! You lose some you draw some 🙂

How about this – the car is ready. I’m off. Ciao.

3rd Law part 18 here

3rd Law part 20 here

3rd law part 18

This is one of those time has no meaning days. I have a jobs list but nothing that won’t wait. In one sense it doesn’t make sense to use the internet on a day like this. If time has no meaning it means you have a lot of it going spare. If I use the internet the third law will kick in and that time will have gone. Decisions decisions.

I did just pop out to the back garden for a kickabout with a football with our youngest. The garden has no chance really. It is littered with cracked pots and broken plants, bashed by ball. The lawn itself is in dire need of attention, lots of muddy patches and where there is greenery it is often moss. There is really no point in doing anything about it whilst it is still used as a sports field. Perhaps I should get the groundsman from the school over the road to come in and give it some industrial strength attention.

It’s a good phrase, “industrial strength”. Handy for lots of situations though I’m not sure I can quote an example here, other than the one I just did. It’s a bit like “fair play”. Useful, generally. I’ve made myself think here, wondering what other phrases come into the same category.



The pause for thought is represented by a couple of carriage returns, invisible but hopefully obvious. I’m afraid I can’t think of another such phrase though if I do I’ll burst out mid paragraph, a kind of metaphoric “Eureka”. Eureka is also a handy word but not a phrase and really only meant to represent the fact that you have discovered something unexpectedly.

You won’t see this but I am writing this bit at a desk in the TV room. It used to be my study but that went out the door when we got a TV. It might surprise you to hear that our oldest was thirteen before we had a TV in the house. I eventually bowed to pressure from a daughter about to go up to high school who was worried she might not be able to keep up with the TV gossip in the playground, although I don’t think they call it playground at “big school”. Playground is for kids.

Although I effectively lost my study it is quite handy to have a room that I can shut the door on and not have to put up with the rubbish they have on. It isn’t all rubbish but the vast majority is. I usually end up in another room on my laptop indulging in a bit of third law, or writing stuff like I am now.

Most of my writing is done on a sofa in the living room or in the kitchen or the conservatory (with Colonel Mustard and the lead piping). That bit in brackets is an in phrase for those in the know. It isn’t quite an eureka phrase and certainly not worthy of a shout out, in case you are analysing every word for the promised expression of surprise and discovery.

That expression may never arrive. I do feel as if I should be offering a prize for the first person to spot such an expression but I won’t because I’ll probably be inundated with emails and comments with “entries” none of which will be right and all of which will be expecting some kind of response. Not that I don’t like comments. I’m a pretty gregarious individual and like to engage with folk.

That’s my rule for twitter. I only follow people who are real people and who have something to say other than “buy my left handed widget”, “offers on left handed widgets” and “sale of left handed widgets ends at noon”. I don’t even know what a left handed widget is and seeing as I am right handed can’t see what possible use I could have for one unless it is something like a fork which I hold in my left hand using my right to manipulate the knife. I might be completely wrong here. It may also be that left handed widgets can also be used in the right hand in which case they are mislabelled, misrepresented and quite possibly miss sold, though not to me as I won’t buy one because I won’t be following them on twitter. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything through following a link on twitter. I do get a lot of my news through twitter mind you. Breaking news, you saw it first on twitter, hot action as it happens from first hand witnesses, unless that is it is just a simple retweet. In fact it is mostly going to come from retweets as I don’t know anyone who lives in a war zone and who is likely to be filling my stream with live action coverage.

I have been stranded in war zones on two occasions in my life. The first was on 9 11. I was at a conference in the USA. The whole thing fizzled out as the planes crashed on day one of the conference. Many of the attendees had not yet arrived and most who could, drove home leaving just the overseas visitors to spend a week around the pool and going out every night.

The second was during the July 7th bombings in London. I had been expecting to catch a train back north from Kings Cross that day but instead was “forced” to spend the whole afternoon in the pub, crashing out at my sister Sue’s place in Balham for the night. It was handy having a sister living in Balham (gateway to the South) but she lives in Cardiff now which is also quite handy for when you want to go and watch the rugby at the Millennium Stadium which I am wont to do every now and again.

I remember once staying with Sue in Balham after watching England play Wales at Twickers. Sue had been the “good Auntie” and taken Joe then aged three out in London for the day. Hamleys toy shop, that kind of stuff. It’s hard work looking after a three year old, especially when you are not used to it so when I got back from the rugby Sue was desperate for some adult company, a few glasses of wine and a meal. Unfortunately I had been on the pop at a corporate jolly all day and all I could do when I got in was collapse. Poor Sue.

Sue’s a violinist you know. When we were kids we used to play the sailors hornpipe together, her on the fiddle and me on guitar. We would repeat the tune playing the verses faster and faster until we could physically go no faster. Mam and day would be quite proud when they saw people stop outside our house to listen. We still do it as a party piece. That and “The Irish Washerwoman”. Fair play 🙂

Slipped that one in, the fair play. You can’t claim it as a new phrase though because it was in the original spiel on useful phrases. Spiel is also a very useful word but like Eureka, not a phrase. I might be being a little harsh on myself here insisting on the useful phrase being a phrase rather than just a word but there again rules is rules. If you make ‘em there is no point in breaking ‘em straight away though I know that “rules are meant to be broken”.  That last phrase by the way is not one of the useful ones. It is interesting enough but not in my book useful, and this is indeed my book.

It would be no different if it was my ball and we were playing football. If it’s my ball we play by my rules. Period. Full stop. I don’t really like the word period, it’s too American and I don’t know why I used it.

3rd law part 17 here

3rd law part 19 here