I chased a thief out of our kitchen tonight.

I was sitting in the front room typing on our shiny new laptop just after 10 pm when I heard a funny noise from the kitchen. At first I assumed it was a cat (ours or someone else’s) – this would hardly be unusual! But it sounded odd so I went to look and found a stranger in the kitchen. Young, white, wearing a white tracksuit top1. I yelled at him and he legged it out of the back door, around onto the drive and out onto the street. I saw him disappear around the corner but it was dark, wet, I was wearing socks and I’d tripped over something on the drive. Common sense reasserted itself and I gave up!

Turns out the thing I stubbed my toe on in the drive was his push-bike, which I (perhaps stupidly) carted back into the kitchen and locked the door. Janet and Anna had been upstairs but Janet was pretty shocked when I told her and immediately rang the police. An officer came around within 10 minutes, during which time we tried to work out what if anything was missing. Finally Janet spotted that my work briefcase was gone – and I’d seen him holding some sort of bag as he exited our drive. As far as we can tell that’s all he got. In the grand scheme of things it could have been a lot worse – we’re often both upstairs, and all sorts of kit including the laptop would have been lying around.

All told it was over in about 15 seconds but it’s still really annoying and fairly shocking. The police took my statement, took the bike to fingerprint and tomorrow they come to do more forensics and take my prints for reference. I did get a look at the thief and said I’m prepared to ID him, but whether I could actually pick his picture out in practice is another matter. The police officer was incredibly professional and supportive and I can’t speak highly enough of the initial support we’ve had.

Needless to say we’ll be making sure to lock the back door in the future, even if we’re in and up and about. It’s more the principle of the thing – to have an intruder in your home, to think what might have happened, and worry he might come back. Fortunately he can’t have seen much so won’t know what’s in the house to steal and hopefully there’s no incentive for him to come back. Thieves are complete bastards, really.

1Shops at Chavs R Us, basically.

Injury to felines

We had a bit of an adventure yesterday when we found an injured cat in our garage.

After I got home last night I looked out of the kitchen window and spotted a grey and white cat with its collar hooked under its armpit, something that happens to our cats occasionally and severely hampers their movement. I dashed outside and saw its tail disappear into our garage through a hole in the door (must get that fixed!) Janet and I found the cat cowering at the back of the garage behind the lawnmower, and it quickly became clear that it was in a bad way. The collar was a nasty red plastic one and it had rubbed the skin raw under the leg, removing all the fur in a large area which was red and evil-looking. The poor thing must have been in agony.

Intrepidly donning a pair of chunky gardening gloves I managed to grab the hissing beast and desperately tried to remove the collar while it struggled and bit me frantically through the gloves (which proved fairly useless at resisting cat fangs). Finally Janet cut the collar off with scissors, at which point the cat settled down a bit and we managed to get it into one of our cat boxes.

Then we rang around every local vet we could find, all of which were shut. One answerphone directed me to a 24 hours vet helpline, which in turn sent me to the RSPCA, who gave me a log number and told me to, er, find a local vet. Finally we got one that was open til 7 pm and kindly agreed to stay open long enough for me to get there with the injured cat. The RSPCA log number means the vet can claim £60 + VAT, and ring if they need to ask for more money. According to the RSPCA this makes for much more cooperative vets!

Then I came home, slathered my bloodied finger in germolene, and Janet did some “Injured Cat Found” posters which we taped-up in nearby streets, pub and shop. I was still a bit worried to be honest. The wound looked like it was many hours or days old, and although the Vets took the cat in last night they couldn’t treat it properly til this morning. Also the cat could have been miles from home and the owner might never be found.

Thankfully Janet took a call today from someone who saw our poster and recognised the description, and we’ve just had a call from the vets. The owner has collected the cat, Megan, and it should make a slow but full recovery. Apparently it’s been missing since July, when it was being looked after by a friend of the owners during a holiday, and went missing. (Oh the guilt that friend must have felt!) They haven’t seen it since.

All told that put paid to most of last night and I have a sore finger for my troubles. Cats mouths aren’t the most hygienic things so I’m keeping an eye on the finger but so far it doesn’t seem infected.

Phew. I’m very relieved, and the owner has passed on their thanks. As Janet says, we’d want someone to do that for our cats, so it’s only fair we do it too.

Oh bugger

Bugger. We don’t have a good history of having Tom McRae gigs cancelled on us. This was just posted by Tom McRae on his forum (abridged version below):

“I’m very sorry to have to tell you all that the release of the new album and subsequent tour has been delayed until next year.

Due to circumstances I couldn’t really control – and a last minute record deal being offered, which I desperately needed but wasn’t expecting, I have been asked to reschedule the tour to early next year.

As you are all aware the industry is in turmoil right now, and while I was preparing to throw yet another record out there unassisted, only for it to vanish instantly like the last 3 – it looks now as if a label wants to champion it after all.

This is obviously still a gamble, and who knows if it will ultimately change anything, but I owe it to the songs (which I hope you’ll think are some of the best I’ve written – when you get a bloody chance to hear them) and I think I owe it to many of you, who have been urging me on with your support for many years.

If you can bear with me just a little longer, I’ll have more news, and some hard facts about the new dates. I think we’re looking at February now, which gives the label a chance to promote the record before and during the tour. There’s even talk of a single going to radio – so it seems I’ll have to adjust to working with crazy optimists for a while. But none of this gets you closer to hearing the new songs or seeing them performed by the amazing band I had put together. For that I apologise again.

I’m also going to look into ways which I can begin to make this up to you somehow in the short term, maybe I can do the odd solo show here and there, or ask to let you hear a song or two from the album – I’ll let you know how I get on.


Fantastic news about the record contract, obviously, and wish him every success. Ah well. We’ll get to see the gig (and hear the new album) eventually. Fingers crossed!

I say, dash it all it’s Bones in the UK

We just watched the two-parter season opener of Bones. Set in the UK. Oh yes, you know what that means.

Not any UK, of course, but that very specific one populated by red telephone boxes, London monuments, double-decker buses, Dukes, “Gentlemen”, Butlers and ‘Scotland Yard’ detectives. Janet successfully predicted that it would be all tied up with royalty before it even started.

Two of the young characters are named Cyril and Vera. Cyril’s favourite food is Eels. Every scene takes place in a stately home of some sort, except the ones with Michael Brandon as an American ex-pat which take place in a gleaming skyscraper. Every single actor, even the British ones, and regardless of their character’s background, have that particular “I shall do my utmost to accommodate you, detective” cut-glass accent that only exists in US dramas. Except the rough salt-of-the earth types who all sound like Dick Van Doike. Beer is served in pint glasses with handles, all the cars are boxy and twenty years old, and everyone is terribly concerned about class. At one point someone said “discombobulated” like it was an authentic bit of English slang. It was like watching Three Men and a Little Lady.

If you’re actually British it all adds up to a fantastic drinking game.

I shouldn’t mind really. For an alleged drama, Bones has a sit-com approach to characterisation. Even its forensics team talk in ridiculously formal, technical ways for no good reason. People suddenly become really dense or really perceptive as the plot or comedy punchline dictate. It’s a dumb, amiable show. Being set in the UK just makes it grate that little bit more than normal. 🙂

Broadband woes

Anyone got any idea about this one?

Our broadband has been absolutely fine since we had a BT engineer come and update our master socket and lay a new extension cable a few months ago.

But suddenly, even though the router reports being connected at speeds of between 3Mb and 4MB, every broadband speed test reports 128 Kbps or very close to it. (In a reversal of the normal position we can upload on the speed tests at a little over twice that rate!) Web pages seem veeery slow.

I’ve swapped to a different router with the same result. I’m a bit perplexed.

EDIT: BT’s speedtester Best Effort Test:
Your DSL connection rate: 4480 kbps(DOWN-STREAM), 448 kbps(UP-STREAM)
IP profile for your line is – 135 kbps
Actual IP throughput achieved during the test was – 123 kbps

So I’m thinking something has caused BT to re-profile our line as REALLY SLOW. If so, I think I’m right in saying it’ll improve after 72 hours if our sync speed stays high. I think.

EDIT 2: Yay! All fixed and speeds back up to normal. Apparently if there is a large percentage improvement in ADSL sync speed BT will revise your speed upwards in 5-6 hours instead of 72 hours. I have to assume this is what happened today, since the connection was moving like a broke-legged donkey until lunchtime and has now sprung into normal speeds again.


Yesterday we had no internet access.

We arrived home to find that some random contractor had dug metre-deep holes into the grass verge at intervals all the way down our street. For no obvious reason.

We went inside and discovered that we had no internet connection. Also the phones didn’t work, but mainly we had no internet connection. Suspiciously, we went back outside and peered into the hole in front of our house. In the hole were several huge tree roots, a manky looking sewer pipe, and two frayed ends of telephone cable separated by a couple of centimetres.


Our neighbour had already reported the ‘fault’ to BT, so there was nothing more to do except curl up in a ball and wait for morning get on with our busy lives. Janet played Oblivion. I decided to use this opportunity to finally get around to watching my Transformers movie DVD.

During the following two hours and twenty minutes of hokey comedy, moronic plotting, tedious characterisation and gigantic robots repeatedly failing to kill Shia LaBeouf, I silently plotted the death of whoever dug that hole.

City Link again

City Link suck.

Yet again we wait for a package that never turns up. Yet again the sender tells us that the courier has faithfully tried to deliver the parcel on several occasions. Yet again no-one rang to tell us when the delivery would be, and no cards were left telling us they’d tried to deliver.

I don’t understand how this company stays in business. They’re employed to do one thing and one thing only – deliver parcels. It’s abundantly clear that they don’t bother to do this unless you’re standing on the doorstep with your arms outstretched as they pull up to the kerb. Since their staff can’t be bothered to leave a card, this essentially generates an endless loop of failed deliveries until the parcel gets returned to sender. (Either that or they can’t find our house; I’m not sure which is more damning).

Without a card we didn’t even have the consignment number to track the parcel on their website. Having now got the consignment number from the sender by telephone, the website states that we were left a card twice in the last two days. Uh huh. Now we either have to pay another £6 for them to redeliver (fat chance) or collect it ourselves on Monday.

Grr. I know I should be used to this by now but it’s that particular combination of incompetence, laziness and deceit that drives me crazy.

Of glass houses and stones

We got home today and decided to let our forlorn and head-coned cat out for a walk in the garden (having just learned from the vet that she can’t have the cone off until next Monday. Por cat).

There in the garden, however, we were immediately distracted by the big heap of glass next to the greenhouse. Oh yes.

Cut for more photos and dubious forensic investigation

The internet is broken again

Gah! I keep getting emails from my ISP telling us we’re x amount over our website’s daily bandwidth allowance, and as a result our entire website has been taken down (or ‘archived’) until I apologise and agree to play nicely.

Some of you may remember the incident in which Dan Hartland ate our website after I naively hosted a large video of him on the Gadget show (now to be found here instead.) It’s like that.

Except, it isn’t. I’d love to be that popular, but without Dan’s special brand of internet charisma working for us there’s just no way our humble site of photographs is exceeding 250 MB of traffic a day. (Even allowing for the fact that I store all my LJ files and pictures there.) After checking our webstats we do indeed seem to be below 250 MB a day, despite emails telling us we’re up to 150MB OVER that limit.

I’ve raised it with the ISP who responded as follows: “We have seen a few reports of sites being archived for going over the bandwidth allowance when it appears they haven’t. I have added your account to the open problem so we can check and confirm this further so the alert may well be in error.”

So, okay, maybe if they knew it was happening they could have let everyone know, but that’ll do in a pinch. Or it would, if we hadn’t received yet another email this morning, and if our site hadn’t been archived yet again. Once more we seem to be within our limit, and it’s very frustrating. We do keep resisting moving from because I don’t want the hassle of changing our website’s domain, but I’m seriously thinking about getting it hosted elsewhere.

EDIT 24/2/08: “Dear Mr Clark, I have restored your site. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, this problem should be fixed now so hopefully it won’t happen again.” Hurray!

Pond life

As mentioned we’re creating a pond at the moment, turning a patch of scrubby garden non-entity into a nice little water feature and, potentially, home to the occasional newts and frogs that visit our garden. So far it’s occupied the best part of the last two weekends and it feels like it’s taking a very long time to come together. There are a number of learning points emerging from this exercise:

1) Pond liner is composed of purest evil and refuses to lie snugly in a hole no matter which way you fold it.

2) Swearing at pond liner accomplishes little but feels good.

3) Pebbles may lie there blinking sweetly at you in a Miyazaki-type way, but no matter how many times you wash them they’ll still turn your water a muddy brown colour.

4) My back still hasn’t recovered from going “oh bugger-aieee-twang!” last year.

5) Water simply can’t take a hint, even when you patiently explain where you need it to go.

6) Ow, my back. This one is worth mentioning twice.



Our small three-legged cat Pixie sniffed suspiciously at the cat litter tray this morning and refused to enter it–and with good cause because it was a filthy and smelly affair, so I helpfully changed the litter for her.

Whereupon she stepped into the middle of the tray, turned around once, and emitted what can only be described as a horizontal jet of urine from her hind quarters which travelled a good two feet without losing momentum and sprayed up against the wall. This continued for quite a long time.

When the torrent subsided Pixie pawed the pristine cat litter in front of her a couple of times, sniffed it to check that, yes, amazingly it hardly smelled at all, and happily trotted off with the certainty of a job well done.

Behind her a vast pool of cat wee slowly advanced across the kitchen tiles, and I started grabbing hand-fulls of kitchen roll.


What a great conclusion to a great two-parter for the original CSI tonight. I prefer the show when it’s more about the science but this was exactly the right way to push the characters in a more dramatic direction – by making it all about the case. Some really nice performances, great little moments, and a far cry from the cartoonish mystery-by-numbers approach that the other two CSI shows are taking.

In other news, why when I bite my lip once (which is painful enough) am I then condemned to bite it several more times the same day? Ow!

Don’t make me put you on The List

Things that annoy Iain1, Volume 1, Chapter 2:

Dear diary

2) Idiot documentaries that assume you haven’t seen or retained anything before the last commerical break, and waste achingly long minutes recapping the things they explained in great detail not five minutes earlier. And they do this after every single break. It’s like one of those “Previously on the first half of Tru Calling” things that would insult the intelligence of a Sky One viewer.

Come to think of it, this documentary was on Sky One, which would probably also explain why it was the most low-brow and salacious documentary on the Roman Empire that it’s possible to imagine. But it’s not just this one. I’ve noticed an increasing trend on all documentaries to assume that the audience has the mental reasoning capabity of a Celebrity Love Island viewer.

(Spinning off on a different tack, hurray for Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica ditching the spoilery “This Episode”-style credits sequence!)

1Don’t worry, there won’t be many more of these. Hardly anything annoys me. I’m like a mild mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper, only without the silly underwear.