Monthly Archives: January 2005


Getting from Swansea to anywhere in the Midlands isn’t the easiest of tasks. It’s a journey I do about three to six times a year, and it’s a pain. I’ve tried the M42 (now with added ‘why not use the hard shoulder as well?’ madness), bits of the M40, the M1, the M69, the A46. It’s a nightmare of scary five-lane junctions springing from nowhere, of turn-off-this-road-to-stay-on-it idiocies, and generally bad junctions. I’ve tried everything…

…well, nearly everything anyway. Everything except this novel route. It was Microsoft who asked you where you wanted to go today. I didn’t realise their way of getting there was quite that imaginative.


A brief notice, for those in the UK near any form of digital television right now, that BBC Four are about to start showing the excellent Huw Edwards series Bread of Heaven, looking at the history of religion in Wales. It was received very well when it went out here at the end of last year. You might like it too.

(Edit: Well it’s too late now – and unusually, the first episode isn’t getting repeated. Still, the website is well worth a look.)


This entry is dedicated to all those who don’t quite think things through.

A note for Conservative politicians. When participating in an otherwise pedestrian debate on the BBC’s charter renewal, do try not to go off on one about a children’s programme, enjoyed by thousands of your constituents’ kids, solely on your knowledge of the games on its tie-in website. It’ll only make you look stupid and get you talked about on Newsround.

A note for garage owners. When a computer programmer phones you asking for a replacement key for his car, please don’t tell him that it costs £23.50 in labour charges ‘just to tap a few codes into our machine’. But if you do, subsequently telling him that the car will first have to be put on a ramp, a few panels removed and wires plugged in will make said programmer a lot happier and groovier about showing you the money.

A note for signmakers. How difficult is this set of events to understand?

  1. Fans steal signs from village made famous by comedy programme
  2. Signmaker offers to replace signs to get some free publi out of the goodness of his heart
  3. Fans steal signs again
  4. Return to step 2, unless signmaker is now bankrupt

Hmm, yes, thought so.

For that matter, a note for comedy scriptwriters. When appropriating mildly obscure (but not that obscure) villages for your own purposes, it helps a bit to check how they’re spelt. This goes double if you want to stand a character next to a fake village sign in the opening titles. Getting it wrong means Welsh-speakers the world over will laugh at your inability to copy words out of a road atlas. It’s two ‘d’s, one ‘f’, Lucas and Walliams: see me at the end.

A note for wibloggers. When compiling lists of this type, do make sure that you have more than four items to begin with, otherwise you’ll look as though you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel by the end of your post. If you’re in this situation yourself, the way out is to blame the end of your ‘tea break’, a concept so fuzzy no one will care to argue with you, even if that break does happen to be at a quarter past six in the evening.


Another year means another Banished Words List from the Lake Superior State University. I’m only too happy to rid ‘webinar’, ‘carbs’ and ‘blog’ (as opposed to ‘weblog’) from my vocabulary, but what worries me about these lists is all those dead words, with nothing suggested to take their place and carry on The Natural Evolution of Language. At the same time, there are other modern phenomena which deserve words of their own. Shouldn’t words be created to encapsulate their definitions? Of course they should. Definitions like:

  1. (adverb) A way of complaining about an event or happening in such a way as to draw maximum possible attention, publicity and/or popularity to the event itself. The phenomenon caused by this behaviour is currently known as the ‘St Tibulus effect’, but that may have to change.
  2. (noun/compound noun) A name for the sorts of items that you’re never sure whether they’re good value or not, and so are quite willing to pay anything between £1 and £5 for them. Examples: candles, wrapping paper.

  3. (adjective) A description of the mild feeling of disappointment caused by tuning in to I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and finding it’s ended its run and has been replaced by Just a Minute.
  4. (superlative adjective) A description of the black, icy feeling of doom caused by tuning in to I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and finding it’s been replaced by Quote Unquote.
  5. (noun/compound noun) A name for the generic description of smells found on toiletries, specific enough to let the manufacturers colour their wares a certain colour, but not so specific as to stop them being able to create the fragrance from any old chemicals they find lying around. Examples: Sea Fresh (blue), Herbal Green (green).
  6. (noun/compound noun) A name for the type of graphic found around fire exits and extinguishers, designed to be understandable by speakers of any language, but which turns out to be equally incomprehensible for all. These invariably consist of a person (or persons) and an arrow, artfully combined by someone who spent three years at design school learning how to instil the right level of bafflement in people that could be running for their lives.
  7. (adverb) A way of holding a conversation such as to reveal the minimum possible amount of information about yourself, your activities or your opinions, but get as much detail of the other party’s life out of them. (“…and so we went to Scarborough.” “Oh, so you went to Scarborough last summer?” “Yeah, we did. It was good, because…”) This technique is also used by bad writers of bad soap operas, in those scenes that ‘move the plot along’.
  8. (noun/compound noun) The protocol, possibly unique to men’s toilets, where if there are less hand dryers than people waiting to use them, the person at the front of the queue must always be seen to leave the room with his hands dripping, and only those at the back of the queue can be allowed to go through the full drying cycle.
  9. (adverb) The way in which hands are washed as meticulously as possible in such cases, in order to avoid at all costs having to be at the front of the queue. This obviously does not occur if there are fewer sinks than people waiting to use them, in which case an analogous situation to the previous definition applies.
  10. (adjective) A word to describe a person that, on being faced with two parallel queues, decides to stand in the middle of them, making it impossible to join any queue with any degree of confidence.
  11. (noun/compound noun) A weblog entry that promises much, but which turns out to be nothing more than a lame, if unwitting, rip-off of something done much better over twenty years ago.

(I haven’t bothered to think of words to match these definitions, of course – that’s your job…)