Sunday, May 18, 2008

happy birthday to me, is it?

Hello all

So I just checked and found that my i-friend Kim Ayres has degraded my blog down to his 'sporadic and AWOL' list. Ho hum. Deserved I suppose, given that I appear to have given up blogging. This is not entirely true of course. It is simply that my audience began to dwindle to such a low figure that I began to question why I was blogging at all. Now I am fully aware that one must blog in order to be blogged, so to speak so yes, it is partly my own fault. But when I look at the output of my i-friend Mr Gorilla Bananas, who regularly gets 50 comments per blog post, I think I'm maybe just shouting into cyberspace, and no-one can hear me type.

Dolores reminded me yesterday - on my 34th Birthday - that I hadn't mentioned the blogosphere for some time. Whether this was intended to press my blogging button, or simply to indicate she was aware of the situation I'm not sure. I smiled, and said that I had more important things to worry about. For example, at the moment, I am desperately trying to raise the spirits of my loyal companion Ravel, whose ambitious scheme of selling wooden football trophies to the Chinese became a victim of its own success just last week.

It was all going well. Despite my reservations, Ravel did manage to negotiate a contract with a firm in China that specialised in shipping football memorabilia to fans in the far east. His perfect facsimilie of the Jules Rimet trophy was sold through their website, and within a week of signing the contract he received an order for ten trophies. The capable young man shut himself away in his workshop (a shed he constructed from some scaffolding planks off an "abandoned" building site, apparently) and set to work. One week later he was packing the trophies into their box, just as the next order arrived. This time it was an order for twenty trophies. He again entered his shed, and asked only that we push food and water under the door (he had constructed the shed in a hurry and had mistakenly sawn the planks for the door somewhat short). Dolores took charge of the catering, and I was told to occupy myself away from proceedings. This, I was told, was 'to prevent too many chefs ruining the food'. I did try to point out that any business enterprise requires a team with complementary skills to proceed. My wife asked 'have you ever watched The Apprentice, Joseph?' before turning her attention to the banana and chickpea mush she was making for both No.3 and Ravel.

Left to my own devices on the first day of this new contract, I took a walk around the hamlet. It was a beautiful, sunny day and many people were out in their front gardens. We are well established here now, and several people said hello as I passed. A few more shut their doors as I approached for reasons I couldn't initially fathom. It was only when I reached the local pub that it dawned on me that that these were the people who benefited from the presence of the cult up at the Manor house (see blogs passim). Still, I figured, if 50% of the hamlet like me, that must make me 375% more popular than I was in the village up in Scotland, where my only friends out of a population of 1500 people were a butcher and a vet. Ratios are good, sometimes.

Anyways, it only took me half an hour to walk around, including a half pint at the pub, and I was back in time for lunch. 'Anything I can do to help?', I asked as Dolores washed up Ravel's bowl.

'How about walking the route backwards whilst wearing a blindfold - that should keep you occupied', she said pithily. I mulled over the idea for a few seconds before rejecting it on the grounds that I was likely to cause myself an injury. 'Nothing that a walk to the nearest hospital and a couple of nights under observation wouldn't fix, I'm sure', she retorted.

Sensing that perhaps my wife wanted me out of the way for a prolonged period, I resolved to go and visit my friend (and former marketing manager) Dr Booth over in Cambridge. I phoned and invited myself for a few days. Mark was worried for a short while that things were bad again between myself and Dolores. 'Oh no', I reassured him, 'she just gets like this whenever something important is happening. She seems to think I might, er, upset the applecart or something. Better if I just stay away really. At least until the whole thing with Ravel settles down into a routine.'

Mark was very busy at work with writing a grant application. I wondered if I might help, but he said he had it all under control and suggested I play the tourist around Cambridge. This wasn't a bad idea - I've visited a few times but not spent much time in this scholarly capital. Looking at the various options I had the choice of visiting 31 colleges, punting on the Cam, taking an open top bus tour, listening to dozens of talks at various venues, watching the university cricket team get smacked by various county sides on warm-up matches (the students start and end their season somewhat early due to the structure of the teaching terms). There were a few concerts etc but none really appealed. So I decided to tour the colleges. I figured if I managed 5 colleges a day that would keep me going for the week, when I would return home to find everything under control.

After about the tenth college on the first day, I was getting a little, well, bored. Now, I'm not taking anything away from the colleges with that statement. They are all superb examples of scholarly architecture, with a multitude of attractive courtyards and gardens and olde-worlde covered bridges to admire. But at the end of the day, they are places of study, not entertainment, and once I'd seen ten of them, I figured I'd pretty much seen them all. I asked Mark again if I could help on the grant application. Perhaps, I suggested, he might need a research assistant?

'This really isn't your thing, Joseph', he said over dinner. 'Its not about parasites I'm afraid. I'm moving into diabetes. Sorry.'

'I can learn...', I said, but there was no real hope of getting any work. I've been out of the academia for a few years now, and as Mark explained, times have changed. There isn't much room for old school people like me. The effort required to put a grant together has quadrupled in recent years. There is no room for taking on a risky prospect - and that's exactly what I would be.

Somewhat despondently I left Cambridge and went home. Ravel was still in the shed, chiselling away day and night. Dolores was less than pleased to see me, I have to say. 'Just stay away from Ravel', she told me in no uncertain terms.

Now, three weeks later, I wish I had interfered. Perhaps I could have stepped in to negotiate better terms with the Chinese firm. Maybe I could have taken on the role of understudy, carving the basic shapes whilst Ravel added the finishing touches. Maybe I would have checked the website to see the back-orders piling up and phoned the firm to reassure that Ravel could deliver. Who knows. What I do know is that we are now being sued for breach of contract, Ravel's trophy has been copied and is now on sale again but is being sourced elsewhere, and Ravel is blaming himself for once again plunging us towards ruin. I keep telling him to not take things so hard. We still haven't recovered from our last ruination - this one won't make much difference. He smile weakly when I tell him this and pats me on the shoulder. I smile back, but behind the smile I'm more than slightly worried. You see, I finally got some insurance money from the fire at the Institute. This means I have an asset. Lawyers love assests, I know that for certain.



Gorilla Bananas said...

Welcome back, Dr Joe. I don't see any problem with Ravel being sued. He is surely a sole trader with few assets to his name. I wonder if any local radio stations would invite you as a guest. These academic types might enjoy learning about another discipline.

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

Hi GB. Unfortunately Ravel is still under contract to myself. My assets are therefore in the firing line, unless you know different.

Anonymous said...

It is indeed a pity Ravel did not get his wooden sculptures copyrighted.
However you could withdraw all your assets claiming to have a gambling fetish. Book a trip to Las Vegas and claim to have lost the lot.

Anyway can't wait to hear what happens next.


Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

Coco - or should I say - Plum, I'm not sure Dolores would approve. Thanks for the idea though. I'll put it to her and see what she says.

Kim Ayres said...

Ah, you have returned! But it will require more than one post every 3 months or so to move out of the Sporadic & AWOL category.

Moose said...

And happy birthday...

I myself had a happy birthday to me moment this week...watching an old episode of House in German, drinking a bottle of beer and faling asleep on the lounge floor until 2.30am was a new way for me of "celebrating".

Shame I missed you while you were in Cambridge...we could have gone drinking and met some Polish girls. Maybe you should visit Frankfurt. It'll get you out of the way for longer and the beer is very good. There are also Polish girls here...just not as many as in Cambridge.