(Answer at the bottom of the page.)
We had fun last weekend. And when you read "fun" please read it as if sarcasm is visibly dripping from the type and pooling at the bottom of your computer screen.
If you have a memory better than a goldfish and you wandered through these parts of the world wide web about seven months ago, you'll know we were having some problems getting the house insulated. We went to three companies, were measured up twice and whenever we got close to getting the work done, the company supposed to be doing the job had their funding cut.
Having discovered that grants are still available for this kind of work, our landlady thought she'd try again. About four weeks ago we were measured up again by another company. This time it looked very promising because they did a risk assessment check and we had to sign all sorts of coulourful forms. We were given a date (Monday, 17 June) and a time (morning, between 8:30 and 12:30) and all we needed to do was to arrange to have someone come around to remove the plastic roofing slats on what our landlady calls the conservatory and what we call the laundry room – a lean-to at the back of the garage/office which means part of the outside wall of the house is now inside. And they need the plastic roof slats removed because they're not safe enough to walk on and they need to drill holes high up in the actual wall.
The first problem we had was getting someone around to remove these plastic sheets. The usual handyman guy is on holiday so the job went to somebody else who proved impossible to get hold of and, when I mentioned this to our landlady, she said "Well, he sounded a bit pissed when I talked to him." Turns out he'd taken our phone number down wrong and, when I eventually got hold of him, he insisted on calling me Richard.
Problem two was that when he said he'd phone back ten minutes later, he didn't. Nor did he phone back the rest of the day or the next day. And I couldn't get hold of him on the number I had been given. Again, messages were sent via the landlady who assured me on Saturday that everything was OK.
Finally we come to Monday. The guy due around at 8:00 am to remove the roof doesn't turn up. The guy doing the loft insulation turns up at 8:15 and makes a damn good job of stuffing the roof full of insulation. A job well done. He finishes at 9:00 and I phone the chap about the roof. Finally get through to him at 9:15. He tells me he has passed the job onto someone else and they should have been around on Saturday to assess the job. Didn't he come round? He'll try to track the guy down and find out when he's due.
9:30 am. The guys doing the walls turn up but can't get their massive front wheel drive van down the driveway. There's a discussion about maybe parking at the top of the drive, but it's a blind corner marked out with double yellow lines. So, no, they can't do that. They leave. The company who have sent them will call me when they have figured out what they can do... which is, basically, to send a smaller van!
Eventually I get a phone call from the company to rearrange the job for next Monday. And after that, I hear from the guy who was supposed to sort out to roof who tells me there was a misunderstanding. Really? Ar you sure incompetence isn't part of the equation? After all, you couldn't get my name right or my phone number right. You didn't have the sense to phone back to get the right number to make arrangements. And when you did get the right number (because I phoned you and gave it to you), you never called back. Not ten minutes later. Not ten hours later. And if it had been up to you not ten days later, probably.
Now that I've got that off my chest...
Ask me how I'm doing on the next Bear Alley book... go on... ask.
I'm doing OK. The various elements are all coming together. The main index is almost complete; I have contents for annuals (except one spin-off), so I'm almost ready to do the creator index and title index. I'm busy writing up the introduction which, with notes, has just tipped 20,000 words, although a good chunk of that is a breakdown of each strip by storyline. I have my feelers out as far as Denmark, Greece and Italy seeking information.
You'll notice that one of these photos is not nearly as good as the others. Which company do you think has gone out of its way to spoil the pleasure everyone is having with these magnificent beasts? Step forward Williams and Griffin. Artist Jenny Leonard has produced an absolutely gorgeous giraffe, which Williams and Griffin has hidden away. Marks & Spencers have theirs in the entrance to their shop, which is bad enough. To get to "Jungle Jenny" (pictured above) you have to go to the third floor where the giraffe can be found at the back of the restaurant. It's impossible to photograph because you would be interrupting people's meals, as I was when I snatched the hurried shot below. You can't even get a decent head on shot because you're shooting into the light.
This is the most contemptuous, wrong-headed treatment I've seen meted out to these fabulous creatures. They're meant to brighten up the town centre and generate interest in the zoo. They're not for cynical exploitation, forcing people to walk through your shop; and think for one fucking second about the schoolchildren (and their parents) who have been running around town trying to photograph as many giraffes as they can. Oh, and I forgot to mention that these misanthropic bastards have also placed one of the smaller giraffes in their children's department?
You see, Williams and Griffin, what's happening now is that you're getting bad publicity for your shitty treatment of what is meant to be a fun way to publicize Colchester Zoo and raise money for conservation through Colchester Zoo's wildlife charity, Action for the Wild. If I was Colchester Zoo or artist Jenny Leonard I wouldn't be very happy that a shop has hijacked their giraffe for its own greedy, grasping ends.
Tomorrow I'll be taking a peek into the life of Captain Edric Vredenburg to see what I can discover. And after that it's a terrifying void as my powers to see into the future have deserted me.
Answer to 'What Would YOU Do?': There is only one thing the fighter pilot can do. Sweeping down out of his dive he flies alongside the V.1., maintaining the same speed. Then, he gently manoeuvres his wing-tip under the wing of the deadly bomb. With a gentle pull on his stick, he turns his plane away, his wing whipping the V.1. over. Its delicate gyro-compass thrown off-course, the bomb hurtles earthwards, to explode harmlessly in open countryside.