Birmingham goes coastal

Welcome to my new five star coastal golf resort in the heart of tropical Birmingham

I recently heard a news review item on the BBC in which a reporter put forward the notion to the interviewee that something he had said was quite untrue. The reporter, however, being mindful of his place, didn’t call what he had just been told, “a lie”.  No of course not! Instead he suggested that the information given was “not quite right”.

The interviewee, however, knew exactly the point that was being made and stated, without fear of contradiction, that what he had said was not a falsehood, but instead an “alternative fact”, adding “you have your facts and I have mine.”

I pondered on this for some time and it made me realise that this new reality really does open up on a whole new world. For example, if this catches on, everyone can get a Grade A in any A level they want, since their answers, although quite different from the examiner’s own answers, can be classified as simply “alternative facts”, and thus, perfectly right. 110% marks all round!

Therefore in this brave new world everyone sees the world in a different way, so everyone can have their own alternative reality.  Exams are irrelevant, and thus so is schooling.

Thinking on this further I realised that, as always, the British government was way ahead of the game, for I remember quite clearly reading that when Andrea Leadsom was appointed Minister of State for Energy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change she marched into her new offices on day one, called her senior departmental staff together and asked, “Is climate change real?”

Obviously if the answer had come back “no it isn’t, minister” then she could have put her feet up and looked forward to an annual salary of £103,937 (or as the government’s own website helpfully tells me “an annual salary of £103,937 per annum”) for doing nothing other than saying the matter had been dealt with and thank you for the swish office.

So pleased must she have been to be working in a ministry with something real to deal with, that when she moved on and became Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 14 July 2016, she immediately went out to speak at a farming conference whereupon she told her rather astonished audience that farming was an industry “that has been around as long as mankind itself.”

One can imagine Sir Humphrey (if one has an imagination that stretches back as far as the “Yes Minister” series on BBC TV – but if not think of a long suffering civil servant who has actually been educated at some stage in his life) replying, on vetting the proposed speech, “up to a point, Minister.”  Or to put it another way, “I believe the first 4.99 million years of humans on the planet were rather more hunter-gathered orientated minister, but I am sure the conference will get your general drift.”

But given that we now have no absolute facts, only alternative facts, no one picked her up on the issue, and she went on stage and appeared a little, well, foolish.

And anyway, if any of farmers at the conference knew that that industry wasn’t quite that old, as I am most certain they do, the minister might well have replied that these were just details, or to put it more bluntly, their version of the age of agriculture was a mere “alternative fact.”

It was while still contemplating this point that my eyes strayed upon an advert for Himalayan sea salt.

Now geography was never quite my strongest point but I think I have a fairly clear notion that the Himalayan mountain range runs from Pakistan to Bhutan and to the best of my knowledge doesn’t at any point end up with a beach.

I decided to pass on that question largely because I am pretty sure that Bhutan is the closest bit of the range to the sea and it still looked a couple of thousand miles from the ocean on my office atlas.

But one does, of course, like to be certain before committing oneself in an article so it was at this point that I checked on Tripadvisor.  After posting my request for information on where the best beach holiday might be in the Himalayas I got several terse comments that I should try Thailand instead.  And it does seem, from checking on the map, that Bhutan and indeed the whole mountain range is separated from the sea by rather a lot of India.

Investigating further I found that the salt in fact comes from the Khewra mine, and yet more searching via Tripadvisor told me that it is to be found not in Bhutan at all but in the Punjab Region of Pakistan. Apparently it is the world’s second largest salt mine and draws in a quarter of a million tourists a year.

Eventually when I wrote back in and asked how I might take in the Himalayas and the Khewra mine at the same time one Trip Adviser reader suggested that the Khewra mine is around 200 miles from the Himalayas and provided a number 18 bus route with a journey lasting 14 days.

At this point I decided not to book a ticket but satisfied myself with the notion that the Himalayan sea salt is neither Himalayan nor from the sea, which leaves its real name as, well, “Salt”.

But then I decided to ask for help from another source: New Scientist magazine whose editors, it seems, themselves had investigated this issue some little while back.  According to their researcher the salt in question was probably laid down 800 million years ago in a sea that was gradually evaporating, so it could still just about be called sea salt.  Unfortunately at the time this sea existed there were no Himalayas as they were only formed 55 million years ago.

Thus I can conclude that Himalayan sea salt is what the Americans now call an alternative fact, and so it is perfectly ok. Following on from this I have decided to advertise the Admiral storage facility as a five star coastal golfing resort.

I shall, however, still be very happy to receive, and store, all sorts of things since as a five star resort we always look after our customers’ every need.

I never finish

It is sometimes difficult to know where to start, how to stop, and most of all how to send it.

I have discovered that I have at least three customers who are collecting the unveiling story of the presidency of Mr Trump in the US, but are putting it on printed sheets of paper, rather than holding their work on digital technology, for fear of their arrest if digital technology is used.

I guess a lot of people have known that in both the UK and US national security is taken very seriously, and so every email and every stored set of data on a hard drive is constantly open to government inspection.

For this reason, it is suggested in some contemporary spy movies, spies have reverted to sending secret messages by Royal Mail because no one has time to intercept letters any more, since they are all too busy reading emails.

This in turn causes a problem because Royal Mail is, in fact, ROYAL Mail and so by carrying spying messages Her Majesty is implicated in treason against, well, herself.

It seems that this matter started to hot up a little when the USA national security adviser Michael Flynn, resigned after just 24 days on the job.  As part of his speech of resignation Mr Flynn said that he wasn’t aware that his phone calls with Russia would have been recorded.

Now this has caused quite a bit of debate among those people who follow such matters not so much because the national security adviser didn’t know that the Americans tapped phone calls emails to and from Russia, but rather that he hasn’t watched any James Bond movies, or indeed any of the Bourne films, where they do this sort of thing all the time as a matter of course.

Of course, the formal story is that the administration of Mr Trump has made a wonderful start and the revolution that he promised is going very well.

And that really is the trouble, because to say this on an email is potentially very dangerous, since it will be copied and seen and could be interpreted as, well, anything.  As a result my customers are using manual typewriters and storing their notes with Admiral.

But that now raises another problem: it is getting rather hard to find manual typewriters.

And that is before we consider a further particular problem with what is going on here, because no one can quite decide if this story (that the national security adviser didn’t know that the Americans tap Russian emails and phone calls when everyone else does) is funny or, on the other hand, grounds for arresting the man for treason (which giving away state secrets on the phone to a member of Russian intelligence actually is).

Now without knowing that, how does one actually know anything?  Is my writing this to you an attempt at a little bit of humour and a way to encourage you to use Admiral, or is it treason that could get me and, come to that, you (because you have read it this far) shot.

Fortunately, at the moment neither Mr Trump nor his entourage nor his allies have done very much about any of this information sharing malarky.

But I am told by those who study such matters that what the President has started to engage in is what is known in the study of linguistic mathematics as “fractal talking” and this is making our job of following his intentions more difficult.

Fractal talking occurs when a person starts talking about one subject (say world peace or international trade) and then chooses one element of that subject (say building a wall to keep your neighbours out) and then goes into a lot of detail about that element.  Then the speaker, rather than going back to the central subject (world peace or international trade) goes into more detail about the wall, such as what it will be made of (for example, bricks and cement).  Then instead of going back to the subject of the wall (or come to that international trade) he/she starts talking about the constituent elements of cement.  Then…  well you get the idea.

Now there is a point in all this which links the leader of the free world in the White House with fractal talking. Because the more fractal talking that one does the more it deflects from anything else. Everything becomes a muddle, nothing gets done, and, in the end, business as normal.

Commenting on the phenomena of Fractal Talking recently, New Scientist magazine noted that reading a transcript of Mr Trump’s speeches is like “unpacking a bewildering series of Matryoshka dolls.  Now a Matryoshka doll is a Russian “nesting” doll, and Russia is a country that may or may not record everyone’s emails and…

There is apparently a point to all this, in that a President is a busy man and finishing sentences is a time-consuming activity.  Indeed why should anyone waste time finishing one sentence when that time could be better spent starting another?

It was out of this thought that I hear that the US administration has now ruled that full-stops are Un-American and should be replaced by semi-colons;   Or as the popular t-shirt says “I never finish anythi”

Bob Dylan, lost rivers and other fascinations

Why having enthusiasms can be good for you but getting in too deep may not be the best idea.

I must admit that I rather like people with enthusiasms.  Not because I share their interests necessarily, but because a person who is enthusiastic about something can often be more interesting than a person who goes through life without being singularly engaged in anything beyond the norms of family life.

Of course, there can be a downside too, because some people who have hobbies or interests which really dominate their lives can become so engrossed that they think everyone else should be interested.  And then, even when you have indicated that although you can share a moment learning about lawn mowers or walking holidays in North Korea you have got other things to do, they still go on and on and on and …

Well you know the type.

But, of course, most people are much more considerate than that – and indeed I have on a number of occasions found that people I have known for some years turn out to have enthusiasms or interests that they have never previously revealed.  These are the people whose conversations I enjoy – the people who are seriously knowledgeable about something, but who are considerate of others and don’t want to push their enthusiasm onto everyone else.  They recognise that not everyone is going to be interested.

I thought of this, this week, on discovering that one of my customers is using Admiral to store a massive collection of materials about Bob Dylan – the singer-songwriter who recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature. They have pictures, programmes of concerts, original newspaper articles – all the sort of thing a fan might collect.

What I found interesting in talking about Dylan was what I always find interesting when I discover someone’s passion: the realisation that out there in the big wide world there are hundreds of thousands of people brought together by this one enthusiasm.

Often they know each other, meet up, exchange ideas and thoughts on the internet, split into sub-groups, have arguments…   there is a whole sub-cultural world going on beyond my daily life, never particularly mentioned in the mass media, but just existing in the background.  Incredibly important in creating a varied society and culture, but not noticed until one day the media suddenly decides to do an in-depth analysis, which invariably turns out to be utterly trivial and doesn’t give a real insight into these people’s interest in something that passes the rest of us by.

But I digress.  My customer really knows about Bob Dylan, goes to see a concert of his at least once a year, has all his albums (apparently Dylan has released 60 of them – 49 if you discount the live albums), and knows a huge amount about the man, his life and his music.

Now that may all seem a recipe for profound boredom if Dylan is not your cup of tea, and indeed I was ready to be bored, until I discovered that “Wheels on Fire” sung by Julie Driscoll and used as the theme music to Absolutely Fabulous, was written by Dylan.

From there we went on to other compositions that I never associated with Dylan and slowly I began to see that I should have been less ready to judge that Nobel Prize without knowing a little bit more about the man and his work.

Now I am not going to go on and write pages about Dylan, but I would throw in one thing to prove my point.  Dylan apparently has also created a range of iron sculptures which are currently on display in an art gallery in London.  And that is what I am writing about – finding out through an enthusiast something that one might otherwise never know.

By way of contrast let me introduce another client – one who is interested in lost rivers.

I didn’t even know there were such things as lost rivers, but apparently during the urbanisation process rivers get diverted, pushed underground, mixed in with the sewers and so on.  And, apparently, in every city there are people who study such things.

Indeed in London (where, I recently learned from one of my customers who is primarily an expert on the lost rivers of Birmingham, but has studied the lost rivers of the capital also) there are 14 rivers that have now vanished.  And some enthusiasts have linked some of these with the sacred rivers of Roman mythology.  Which I know is weird, but some do take this seriously.

Now I must admit that at this point I started to get a bit confused.  But once again I learned something – that collecting old maps of the river systems from centuries back is another enthusiasm some people have.

And here’s another twist – because this is where things get strange.  Just as some people are so fixated on Bob Dylan that they travel all over the country following his tours, other people are so interested in lost rivers that they actually want to go into them and follow their course under the city.

However this is phenomenally dangerous for multiple reasons.  It seems these rivers are not controlled, so you can get flash floods as the water finds its own level around the underground system.  Also there really are creatures living in these waters that you might not want to meet.  Not monsters, but animals that can deliver a nasty bite or sting that you really would not want to experience.

So I conclude that enthusiasms are good, and help us diversify our lives – but too much engagement in one line of interest can turn it into a fixation.   Which I know is not a very deep insight into the world, but it seemed of interest when I thought of it.

Admiral Self Storage Ltd
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


When it comes to the origins of names, I can on occasion remain unconvinced.

A while back I wrote a note about how sometimes the names of my customers reflect their areas of interest.  A typical example being Mr Walker who stores with Admiral a set of very old maps that were issued in the early days of the Ramblers Association.  We also have in store a set of notes on the treatment of aches in the knee joints of elderly patients, prepared by Dr Emma Payne.

But I was not prepared for a note which appeared in the Christmas edition of New Scientist, kindly lent to me by a reader of my occasional ramblings, which pointed out that the book “London under London: A subterranean guide” was written by Richard Trench and Ellis Hillman.

That I must say seems awfully hard to believe, but on the other hand New Scientist is a highly reputable journal – and so I went on reading with interest.

And thus it was that elsewhere in the journal I found a particularly interesting piece about Buzz Aldrin, the second man to stand on the moon, and an astronaut (or StarMan as the Daily Mail has been known to call him) from the Apollo 11 and Gemini 12 missions.

Although now in his mid-80s Dr Aldrin is still active in science and recently went on an expedition of Antarctica where, sadly, he was taken ill and rushed into the medical facilities on the hospital in Christchurch New Zealand.  The senior medical practitioner who attended the venerable Dr Aldrin was Dr David Bowie.   Also known (if you are familiar with popular music) for his composition “Star Man”.

Such oddities are, of course, part of the rich tapestry that is our language, and with 7 billion people now on the planet there is no doubt that by pure chance some such connections are going to crop up occasionally.

But with over 6,000 languages in the world it is important for us to make sure that we do tend to say what we mean and mean what we say.  And if we are what our name says we are, that can be helpful in getting through the basics.

I reflected on this when I was offered a copy of Modern Agricultural Science and Technology by one of my customers who was also depositing materials in the Admiral Storage Facility and had joined in the conversation. Over a coffee he directed my attention to a headline from the said august journal which read, “Manuscripts with no enough English standard will be rejected before scientific evaluation”.”

And I think we can by and large agree that this is not a bad idea.

After my customer had left I returned to my pondering of surnames, and it was still on my mind a couple of days later when I was visited by a customer whom I have got to know rather well over the years and who has collected together details of football as it was played in England in the 1930s.

I mentioned to him my recent fascination with names and we spoke for a moment on the topic of how many players of the modern game were called “Ball” or even “Foot”.  Then, having a moment to spare, we looked with interest at the names of players from his period of interest to see if any carried a family name that related to the game which they played at the highest level.

Of course, having a name that reflects our profession was not the only way our surnames originated – Mr Smith was of course originally the name for the village blacksmith, but other names are harder to trace, but still have an origin – if not in terms of a job then at least in terms of a place of origin.

But I wanted to take this further so I chose the surname Bastin (a 1930s footballer who was a star both of the 1st division and of the England team of the era) and I was told it was originally given to people from Sebastia (a village in Palestine) or as a name given in honour of Saint Sebastian, an early Christian saint and martyr.  My customer assured me that the gentleman in question was born and brought up in the west country – but clearly someone somehow had brought the name across from afar.

That seemed quite odd, so I tried another England footballer of the era.  Hapgood. Obvious explanations for the origin of the name coming from words like “good” and “happen” failed to cut any ice with the growing number of people in the office who had joined in the discussion, and so we were forced to visit Google.

The website told me the name is of Old German origin (by which I think they mean the language now known as “Old German”, not some old German fellow who happened to be wandering around) and it derives from the personal name “Habgood”.

Now this is where Google gets a bit besides itself in my opinion because it then says (and I will go back to the start and quote it exactly lest you think I am making this up) the name is:

“composed of the Old German “Oppo, Opo, Opi, Hopi” meaning wild, plus the obscure second element “gaud” good.”

So Mr GoodWild.  Or Mr Wildgood.

I remain, at least for the moment, unconvinced, although fortunately for trade this has not stopped Admiral being open for business in the new year as it was in the last year, and the year before and the year….

Admiral Document Storage
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


The end of the world?

How do we know that the end of the world has not already occurred but we were too busy to notice?

I am forever taken by the fact that around me stuff happens. Lots of stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. And by and large I don’t know anything about it until someone drops into the Admiral Storage Facility and tells me about it.

Since I started writing these little notes about my life at the Admiral Storage Facility, more and more people have dropped in, I am very pleased to say, and many of them have paused for a few words, sometimes even over a cup of coffee.  As a result I have been told more and more things about more and more stuff.

Now this is very helpful because it means that I am never short of a few words to say when a less loquacious person drops in and conversation lulls.

To give an example, I was told recently that at my local university they have a set of machines that measure events in the atmosphere. The sort of events that give us anything from red skies at night to the aurora which you can see if you are brave enough to face the freezing cold of northern Scandinavia.

And last week these machines gave readings that were apparently off the chart.

Now that might sound like a good thing, with the most wonderful red skies at night and that sort of thing. Indeed I was expecting my customers who store photographs with Admiral to be rushing over in the morning with a new collection of shots for us to hold for safe-keeping.

But it turns out it wasn’t such a good event after all. The spike in activity that the machinery spotted was so big that it wasn’t just a wonderful red sky, but rather a red sky to end all red skies. Literally.

The people who would have survived a red sky like that would have been members of the governing elite who had direct access to underground bunkers, equipped with enough food and drink (not to mention a few exercise machines) to keep them out of harm’s way for a couple of years.

After which they could creep out and start arguing about how to rebuild civilisation.

However, since you are reading this, the fact is that the doomsday predicted by the team at the university has not occurred.  And this in turn means either a) it did happen but not in the universe you inhabit, or b) it didn’t happen at all, and the university’s machine got it wrong.

Since then I have made enquiries and I am reliably informed that the latter is the most likely explanation – but this of course raises the issue, “what caused the ‘red alert’?” if I may call it that.

The magazine New Scientist finally came up with the answer telling us that the source of the disturbance that caused the red alert was “caused by university staff mowing the grass on a sit-on mower”.

But then I had pause for a further thought. The New Scientist report finished there, but it struck me, this is December. Who sits on a sit-on mower to cut grass in December?  Not many people largely because a) the grass doesn’t grow in December and b) the ground is often wet, which means something as heavy as a sit-on mower is liable to dig up the ground or create a certain amount of mud.

Of course, maybe the university has a mini-climate all of its own, but I doubt it; I have after all been to the university and indeed all over the city.

So there is only one explanation, and this takes us back to my earlier presumption. The multi-universe theory is true. There is one reality in which nothing happened, another in which a gigantic flare spun out from the sun and wiped out all overground life, and another in which it is summer all the year round in the university precincts, and the grass really does need mowing in December.

Although this sounds bizarre it might not be as fanciful as you might think, for on consulting Google on the issue I was directed to an article with the headline “Global elite prepare for imminent solar storm apocalypse: thousands flee to underground Antarctica bases”.  And yes I know the word should be “Antarctic” but the “a” is added in the article, so I have left it in as I like to be accurate about such items.

Of course, at this point the phrase “conspiracy theory” may come to mind, but on checking further I found that the Daily Express had just two years previously run the story “Apocalypse NOW: Killer solar superstorm could destroy Earth at ANY MOMENT, scientists warn.”

This started to worry me, until I read a little further in the Daily Express story and noted that it told me, “Ashley Dale, member of international task force SolarMAX set up to identify the risks of a solar storm, said, ‘Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online’.”

And it struck me, in the event of the total collapse of civilisation I am not too sure that paying online would really be my biggest concern.  For myself I think not being burned alive and then subsequently being able to get food and water would be the issue of the day.

However there is good news in all this. There has been no solar flare or any geomagnetic activity on a scale not seen before.  I can say that for sure because you are reading this.  (If you are not, then I am talking to myself, but I feel sure that can’t be right.)

Thus I have the proof that all is well with the world, and can therefore wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year from all at Admiral, and be certain that we shall all get back together for more jolly chit chats in 2017.


For those who belong

“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up”*

Here’s a thought.  The one weapon that I have when trying to attract customers to the Admiral Storage Facility is language.

Yes, of course design and pictures can play a part, but design has far less ability to draw pictures in the brain and stimulate the mind than mere words.

Words can take us anywhere within a trice.  “A horse goes into a bar…” is obviously the start of a silly joke, but even so those six words create images – different images for each person in fact.  What sort of bar?  What sort of horse?  What era?  Who else was there?  Any other horses? Were the horses being ridden?  Only you can tell.

So I can use the phrase “The garage got flooded” and I don’t even have to tell you about what was stored in the garage or why I should have stored it with Admiral.  It was flooded, you assume I had something of value in there, and you can imagine the disaster.

Language is the way we communicate most of the time.  OK, I can show you pictures of the Admiral Storage Facility, but in essence the key point is that your stored items will be safe, secure, and dry.

The problem is that everyone wants to use pictures these days because it is easier to take a picture (often a very tedious and dull picture) with the mobile phone than it is to string a dozen words together.

Hence Facebook.  Facebook loves pictures (preferably of cats and dogs) and doesn’t really like words too much.  Try advertising on Facebook and you will see what I mean when their regulations come along.

But the world should not be like this. Words can be fun. Writing can be fun. Writing because you like the feel of the words pouring out of you can be fun.

OK, some of the writing that we store at Admiral (particularly the legal stuff) isn’t fun, and of course we are happy to store pictures as well as writing, but my point is that we are moving into a world where writing is seen to be not something we do.

But we should all try writing more, in my opinion.  Writing humour, writing adverts, writing threatening letters, whatever takes your fancy.

Now if you really want to have some fun, go back, remove a word or three from anything you have written, and put in something else.  Suddenly everything changes direction.  Play games.  Take words at random from the dictionary.  No one will understand what you write, but then, I’ve lived with that for years and it hasn’t affected me.

Do anything you want, but for goodness sake do not give up on writing.  Writing should be as much a fun thing to do in your spare time as watching TV, going to the football match, playing tennis, listening to music or throwing stones into the sea.

Writing should be inventive and not pored over too much.  It should not be treated logically, pulled apart, or judged by the same criteria through which one might judge a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or the ingredients list that is to be found on a tin of bake beans (“Contents: beans, baked”).

Writing should enter the mind of the reader and then be dissected, desiccated, and quite possibly drowned in a bottle of wine.

Writing allows us to indulge in frippery, and as such it should slap the reader around the face in order to grab attention (or at least give a tickle up the little finger) and then take the dear reader on a journey within the likes of which it really doesn’t matter if the reader falls asleep or not.

It was indeed with such thoughts in mind that I got on a Eurostar train and read the terms and conditions of their wi-fi service.  This told me that I agreed, at my own cost, to defend and protect the wi-fi service of Eurostar and all its offices, employees and directors, against any costs, damages and legal costs, resulting from any damage claims made through the use of the wi-fi service which may have violated the rights of any third party or any law.

So I chose not to use the wi-fi, since to do so would mean that if a man in Russia claimed that an email sent out via that wi-fi system by someone other than myself had caused him to drop a hammer on his toe, I would be guilty of aggression, and I would have to pay to defend the case and pay all costs.

That isn’t quite what I meant about using writing creatively, but I hope you see my point.

Or maybe not.

*G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Admiral Self Storage Ltd
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


Chuckling, in a knowing sort of way

If someone says “a screaming comes across the sky”, they’ve either been reading a big book or have remembered a list of clever opening first lines

I recently read an article that suggested that novel reading is in decline.  Although I also read another article that says that teenage reading is simultaneously growing and declining.

Perhaps the long and the short of it all is that reading is changing, just like everything else in the world, and we should just accept that change happens, and leave it at that.

I also read a commentary from a very serious American news source that said that the amount of supposedly factual material published on the internet which is palpably untrue is now greater than the amount of material that is obviously true.

But, of course, that story might not be right.

However, it is strange to think that the amount of reading might be going down in an era in which it is easier than ever to bring one’s writing to the world.  For whereas in the past one might have to persuade a publisher to take one’s work for a magazine or book, one can now write a blog, publish via Kindle, or indeed self-publish and sell on-line.

All of which made me think about the novels I’ve read.  I’ve no idea how many, but there are certainly quite a few.  And then I got to thinking about first lines of novels, lines like “A screaming comes across the sky,” from Gravity’s Rainbow.

I love that line, and I think of it today because aside from reading an article that says people are not reading books any more, I also just read a blog in which an American lady reviews someone else’s list of 100 best opening lines of novels and then makes her comment on each one.  In this list the “screaming” line quoted above comes third in the top 100.  The reviewer, however, was unimpressed.

Her objection was something to do with whether “screaming” is a noun or an omnipolitical juxtaposition or something – I sort of lost the will to live after a few words.

And from there my thought turned to the notion that:

a) the poor lady would never have the pleasure of reading the novel which many others have found to be one of the great works of the 20th century,

b) if reading novels is in decline then literary critics probably need to take a lot of the blame,

c)  the moment one learns English, complications set in.  Which is also the first line of a novel – in this case “Chromos” by Felipe Alfau. The book includes a whole range of characters who defy the wishes of the author in terms of what they do.  They then proceed to write their own stories, and start to take over each other’s roles.

Now for me Chromos is a book based on how life ought to be.  A book that tells us that we are free of the chains of the past and of our own situations, and so we can take on whatever role we feel like having.  (OK it doesn’t just say that, but it does say something like that along the way, and that’s the bit that appealed to me.)

Which is part of the point of literature.  Literature allows anything to happen.  Good innovative film-making, be it for TV or for the movies, can also do that, but literature has the benefit of allowing the reader to take the writing at his/her own speed.

So if we are giving up on reading, we are giving up on one of the prime ways of not only having a jolly good time, but also improving our own lives and making us think.

I myself have thought about writing a book called “Novel reading for beginners” but I suspect the sort of people I want to read the book wouldn’t read it because they don’t read books.

But still I would say, if you don’t have room for all your books, you don’t have to throw them away.  You can store them, and then in five years time open up the box and surprise yourself.  Or leave them for your children to discover, after you have passed on, exactly what sort of books you read.  And if they are shocked it won’t matter because you will be looking down from on high, chuckling in a knowing sort of way.

Admiral Document Storage
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125



A radio station for your dog

How Noel Edmonds has reshaped the vision of our relationships with our pets.

Following our recent report on a dog collar that can take the animal’s barking and whimpering (and indeed any other noises the animal chooses to make) and then send you a text containing a translation of what the dog was attempting to communicate, a certain level of disbelief was expressed.

Indeed among some of the clientele of Admiral Storage Facility the view was expressed that this might be nothing more than just a fanciful tale that I made up to keep readers entertained.

This line of thinking I must resist, and fortunately for me proof that it was not a mere fanciful thought on my part, aimed at filling another entry on my blog, was not hard to find.

For in the following days I was offered the news that Mr Noel Edmonds has a service via which he will phone your pet and offer it advice on living.

A special website has apparently been set up by the star of Deal or No Deal and other such programming events, to arrange for suitable appointments to be made.

It appears that Mr Edmonds is now happy to chat about any subject, whatever your pet is interested in, and indeed whether they are mammals, fish, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, or anthropods.

The website offering the services states, “So I want to make these precious chums feel important and appreciated. It’s amazing how a simple brief phone call can pick up the spirits of the most dejected hamster, the most stressed goldfish and the most neurotic cat. Please allow me to call your pet and offer positive words of appreciation and motivation.”

(Actually there are some grammatical errors in the original which I have tidied up, but you can get the gist of what is being said from my rendition, I hope).

This is the same Noel Edmonds who claimed in 2014 that he was part of a consortium which was planning to buy the BBC.  He also said that he didn’t have a TV licence, although TV licensing authorities said he did.  It appears, though, that the bid has not come to pass.

Looking at the case history of Mr Edmonds I wondered in fact if I could discuss with him the possibility of storing some items with Admiral, since his range of interests (and thus I imagine his storage needs) are extensive.

He has been seen over the years as an ambassador for positivity and a campaigner against (or was that in favour of – I am not sure) electrosmog, as well as offering a yoga mat that cures cancer.

And it was while I was still contemplating these deep questions of reality (and their storage implications) that I read that he has also set up (or is currently setting up – the media was not clear on the subject) a digital radio station for animals.

Now this latest venture isn’t perhaps quite as bonkers as it might seem, because it is perfectly possible to set up a radio station on the internet for a very limited cost. If one could then have a series of programmes that soothed and calmed the animal audience, their owners might be well pleased with this and thus tune in regularly when leaving the pet all alone at home.

But in such ventures there is nevertheless a need to make the project financially viable no matter how modest the costs.  And so a certain level of advertising is required.

However, since the audience to the channel is going to be of the animal kingdom (presumably by and large excluding human kind) only the animal listeners will hear the adverts.

Which brings me back to the notion of having translation devices, not just for dogs as I mentioned recently, but for all animals, so that when they make their tweeting, barking or other sounds, these translate what they are saying, including “Please nip down to the Pet Store and buy me some Pet-A-Lot” (or whatever it is that animals eat these days).

Given Mr Edmonds’ new found animal interests I suspect he will also be interested in (or indeed may even be the owner of) Simply Naturals – an organisation that has produced “Sizzling Minerals”.  Their current website advert says (and honestly I am not making this up) “Our prehistoric Plant Minerals are not the same as cheap metallic minerals of often found in shops.  Plant minerals can be absorbed almost 100% by the human body.”

Now minerals are solid, naturally occurring inorganic substances.  Some of them are ok, some of them, like asbestos are best avoided, and many of the others (like amethyst and rock crystal) are not really recommended as food supplements.

Perhaps a clue to the fact that there is something wrong with the science here is the fact that we are told that dinosaurs “were able to grow to enormous sizes because the minerals and nutrients were available in the soil.”  I think perhaps we should leave that one alone.

Anyway, back with Noel Edmonds I do notice that he has written a book called “Cosmic Ways to Change Your Life”, and I trust that he has stored the original manuscript of said volume in a safe place. If not, I would be happy to welcome him to Admiral, give him a quick tour, and place the volume in safe storage at a very competitive price.  As long as I don’t have to listen to his animal radio station.

Admiral Document Storage
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125



Free parking, now!

How the WhatsYapp dog bark translation unit led to the discovery of an infallible parking space finding device.

I am told by two of my customers who kindly share information with me on what they store in the Admiral Storage Facility, that included among their papers is a copy of their memoirs, and the diaries they used to create them.

This seems to me rather fine; a way of preserving one’s own life story for future generations, and I must say I wish one of my ancestors had done that for me so that I could have read their thoughts, their events, their lives, in their own words.   From which point I began to wonder if I ought to be preserving such detail from my life for other members of my own family.

And it was while I was in such contemplative mode that I stumbled across a piece in my local newspaper that said that a pet store in our area had recently started selling dog collars that incorporated “WhatsYapp” a device that translates your dog’s barks and associated noises into English.

What’s more it then delivers the translation to whatever device you nominate as a text message.   Thus the dog barks, your phone buzzes (or whatever it does) and you get a message from your dog.

This in turn led me on to the notion that perhaps, if I had a dog (which I don’t) and if I attached the WhatsYapp collar, I could then copy each of the comments my dog made and turn it into a dog diary.

Indeed such a publication could become a best seller, and although I have now been told that this has been done before I think my version could outdo them all since it would be based on the actual real live sayings of my dog; if I had one.

Of course, there Is the alternative of putting the collar on a teenager, and getting the resultant grunts translated, but I rather think the dog would have more to say.

It was while I was contemplating just how much your average dog might bark in the way of interesting conversation (and thinking also that it would have to be interesting if I was going to head for the best sellers’ market with this project), that I began to think about what other new strange developments I might also offer.

Top of the list (since I was driving into the city and looking for a place to park, was a device which for the moment I decided to call ParkBark in which an application on my phone would locate any parking space near me that was available, and then send me a live voice message to tell me where to go.

Now I wouldn’t be getting a bark, I appreciate, for with the difficulties of driving around large car parks looking for a space I would need clear instructions in your conventional English if I was to find my destination,  but it would still need a name that would grab everyone’s attention. It was the mere fact that I couldn’t find such a name while driving round in circles looking for the parking space (which the car park I had entered had assured me were indeed free at that moment) that led my drifting mind to ParkBark. I feEL sure something better will turn up later.

Anyway, on this occasion I was unable to find any of the supposed 42 free spaces that the electronic board proclaimed, as I drove round and round, but my mind did turn to the brother of a friend of mine who one evening over a meal had told me that he could always find a parking space by visualising it ahead of his arrival.

He would think of his chosen parking area, think of the space, fix it in his mind, and then it would be there. What’s more, he said that by using this technique he would always turn up at the space just before other motorists spotted it, thus not only finding somewhere to park but also having the enjoyment of the one upmanship that motorists so often find a central and indeed essential part of their daily lives behind the wheel.

This led me (as I travelled the outer reaches of the car park one more time) to the notion of calling the program the Space Race – an original title I thought.  (Parking space – the race to get there – I am sure you follow my thinking.)

Clearing my mind I tried to imagine what the outer rim of the far side of the car park looked like, but found to my annoyance that the image would not come, probably because I had never really noticed it before (which explains why it often takes me an hour or two to locate my car when I return to wherever I left it.)

Completely stumped by the experience, and without the solace of having a dog to bark at me and having my phone interpret the woofs, I instead thought to myself “there will be a free space next time around.”

I kept repeating that mantra, toured the concrete hell one more time, and came back – to find lo and behold a parking space!

Immediately phrases flooded into my head. “The thinking man’s car park” sounded good. “Think Park” was a good shorter version. So was “The Park Lark”.  None of these quite sounded right, but I determined to think them through while walking from the car park to the Admiral Storage Facility.

It was only when I relayed my experiences and conclusion to my colleague (who I must admit had looked increasingly worried during my exposition) that I discovered the flaw in my new found business operation.

“That’s all very well,” he said, “but how are you going to make money out of a thought process?”

“We could maybe put the idea in a book,” I said after pondering the problem, “and sell that.”

“It will be a rather slim book,” he replied. And I have to admit that is true. But us entrepreneurs are never put off by mere details, and I am sure I will find a solution which will allow me to take the business plan to the bank for funding.

Meanwhile, perhaps I may assure you, Admiral has plenty of car parking space close by.  And if we don’t, just phone ahead and I’ll think a space up for you.

Admiral Self Storage Ltd
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


Admiral takes on pre-cognition temporal delusion and wins. Or loses. We are not sure which.

If you are a regular reader of my ramblings you will know that I never cease to be surprised at what is kept by our customers in the Admiral Storage facility.

Of late I have found that a significant number of our customers are starting to keep hard copies of work that is also stored on computers – not just as a backup of a backup, but also as an extra protection against anyone copying their work.

A typical ploy is to claim that although the work looks similar to that of another person, it was the other guy who did the copying. In short they copy you, but then claim you copied them.

Having a copy of original material sent via recorded delivery to yourself with a very clear date on the package and the package sealed and unopened is one part of the defence mechanism against idea thieves.

This is the process that one company has gone through during its process of working on facial recognition software for cats and dogs. Not, I hasten to say, so that cats and dogs can recognise each other, but so that their owners can recognise lost pets once they are found.

The problem, it seems, is much greater than that of handling issues relation to the facial recognition of people. There is something in the brain of most of us (not all as it turns out) which codes our brain to recognise and remember what people we know look like.

Incidentally, if I may divert for a moment, there is a medical condition called Prosopagnosia, also known as “face blindness”, which is the inability to recognise faces.  It is a genetic condition (although it can arise as a result of brain damage) and so cannot be cured. Because it is rarely written about (only 2% of the population are thought to have it) it is a case of a disability relating to not recognising, which is itself not recognised, and so people with prosopagnosia tend to be thought of as stupid, or deliberately pretending not to recognise someone, in order to avoid them.

Anyway, back to the 98% of the population without prosopagnosia… this overwhelming majority of people can recognise people faces, but it seems not dog faces.

Now the owners of dogs and cats will often tell you that they can, of course, recognise their own pet, and phrases such as “I would know him anywhere” are commonplace in this regard.

But what they tend to recognise is the full animal, its behaviour, its movement, and indeed the animal’s recognition of the owner (in particular the owner’s smell) rather than vice versa.  In short the animal moves towards the owner and the owner, recognising the basics of the animal’s appearance, and accepts the animal as his/her pet.

Thus all the software systems used for facial recognition systems of humans failed to allow humans to recognise their pets not because the system was wrong, but because humans are not programmed to recognise individual dogs and cats.

So my clients decided to work from a totally different approach and got pet owners to register large numbers of pictures of their pets which can then be used through some clever software processes to flash through on the screen quickly, thus giving a simulation of the essence of the cat or dog, which the distraught owner is more likely to recognise.

The whole process is now copyrighted, trademarked and protected in various other legal ways that I had never heard of, and all the details of that process, along with pictures of thousands of pets are logged on paper, posted to us, signed for by us and stored as proof, if ever needed, that the whole work on the approach was done by our clients first.

A nifty way of using the system.

Except that there was one problem left.  None of us has been able to find a name for protecting an idea which might be stolen and then presented as having been thought of beforehand.  Our suggestion for a name (pre-cognition temporal delusion) has so far not met with much enthusiasm.

But we are, after all, a storage facility, not a name inventing facility.

Admiral Document Storage
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125