Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Tarantula’s Toup

I gave Bolly a fluffy tarantula for her birthday and it was a big hit.
Like all self-respecting spiders, it had lots of legs and a fluffy bit in the middle. But yesterday, the fluffy bit fell off. It was a wig. The tarantula was bald.
Boll was shocked at first, but she’s started playing with the bald tarantula now and is ignoring its embarrassing hairpiece.

the toup

Sites That Go Bump in the Night

Is it me, or are they birthday cake candles?
I have a habit of reading series of books backwards by mistake. And the same sometimes happens with blogs and websites. I once became a big fan of a granny in the USA who did a daily blog and read it avidly in one go, but in the wrong order. Finally, I reached the present and found an entry written by her son ….. saying she’d died. I felt as if I’d lost a friend.
I wonder what percentage of the internet consists of inconsequential stuff written by the dead.
And I must admit I’ve no idea what will happen to my ‘web presence’ (as they call it) when I’m no longer here. Or the stuff on my computer – some of it password-protected. My diary for instance. I’ve not written it for posterity or publication. It’s just a sort of aide memoire for little me.
The good news is that the clever internet people have started to think about this. So on Facebook, for instance, you can have ‘memorial status’, allowing friends to write tributes. And most of the email providers have policies about allowing posthumous access to passwords and/or actual emails. This normally involves having to provide a death certificate and proof of family connections.
There are also several websites allowing you to prepare yourself for digital death.
DeathSwitch (‘Don’t die with secrets that need to be free’) was set up by an American professor and provides a full online legacy service. You can even make sure you have the ‘last word in an argument’ according to their publicity. Love it. Once you sign up, DeathSwitch sends you regular emails which you have to reply to. If you stop replying, they contact your designated ‘verifiers’ to check whether you’ve died or just got bored with the whole thing.
LegacyLocker provides a similar service and even allows you to speak from the grave by recording goodbye videos. Do they censor them I wonder?
MyDeathSpace is a sort of MySpace for dead people, with content added after death – by the living.
MyWonderfulLife (‘Let your angels know where all your stuff is’) allows you to leave instructions, letters, memories and so on. You can also write your own obituary, choreograph your own funeral and design your own headstone. This is to help your family and friends (aka your ‘angels’). There’s even an ‘angel bootcamp’ for them on the site.
GoneTooSoon is also a memorial site, where people can create shrines and light online candles for you after you’ve gone (and no longer have an aesthetic say in the matter).
I think this is all good stuff, and could prevent a lot of stress. But – as with writing a will – I’m hesitant about signing up, as I intend to live till I’m at least 150 and don’t want to tempt fate.


the pet section of gonetoosoon

A Novel Recommendation

I’m reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson at the moment (Pulitzer Prize 2005) and it’s so good, I keep re-reading sentences and writing out quotations.

As Mr Appleyard wrote in The Sunday Times, ‘The sentences seem to have been there forever, waiting to be discovered. I’m not saying that you’re actually dead if you haven’t read Marilynne Robinson, but I honestly couldn’t say you’re fully alive.’

Gilead is a small town in Iowa. In a little wooden house, an elderly preacher, about to die, writes a letter to his young son, for him to read after his death.

The preacher’s one of those rare literary characters who is good and thoughtful and tries to see goodness and beauty in everything. But he’s haunted by uneasy thoughts about one of the characters in the book, which adds a nice twist.

In the letter, he shares memories of his eccentric family and life in rural Iowa, and insights about life. He also describes what he sees as he’s writing – his young son playing with his cat Soapy and so on.

It shouldn’t work as a novel, but it does.

Here are just a few philosophical snippets from the last couple of pages I’ve read –

It is one of the best traits of good people that they love where they pity.

Light is constant, we just turn over in it. So every day is in fact the selfsame evening and morning.

Creating proofs from experience of any sort is like building a ladder to the moon. Don’t look for proofs. Don’t bother with them at all. They are never sufficient to the question, and they’re always a little impertinent, I think, because they claim for God a place within our conceptual grasp.

I wonder what Richard Dawkins would make of this. I’d love to get him and Marilynne together.

Griff Rhys Jones in Hertford

Griff with Cadbury the Labrador
If only BBC1 had told me. Griff could have popped in for a cuppa and Cadbury could have played with Boll.
Griff Rhys Jones’s excellent Rivers series meandered along the River Lea the other day and visited Hertford, filming within an inch of the Peacock house.
The programme covered the canalisation of the river in Hertfordshire by Elizabeth I’s pal Lord Burghley (‘a river in corsets’).
Griff and Cadbury the dog also learnt about local flash locks – where the water simply rushed through in a torrent, with the poor boat thrashing around on top.
They visited some local maltings and discovered that barley from the banks of the Lea is the best in the world.
And they chatted to a couple of chaps fishing for crayfish in Hertford. The river in Hertford’s full of crayfish, which I find quite frightening. Apparently, they’re mostly American signal crayfish and we’re supposed to be fishing for them, as they’re a threat to our indigenous ones. They’re the grey squirrels of the crayfish world.
According to this month’s Country Living, they’re partial to a banana, which you should dangle on an old bicycle wheel for them to cling to. But, as far as I’m aware, most Hertford crayfisherpersons tempt them out of the water with bacon.
The BBC refer to the Lea as the Lea with an ‘a’. But it’s also spelt Lee with an ‘e’. The Lee Valley Park, for instance, uses the ‘e’. All very confusing. I reckon someone needs to make a decision on this, as the 2012 Olympics are taking place right next to the Lea/Lee, 19 miles south of here (opposite my friend W’s flat). They need to decide on a single spelling – not just for googleability, but for all the poor editors of sports programmes around the world.
And it’s not to be confused with Hertford’s other three rivers – the Rib, Beane and Mimram.

under Folly Bridge, near The Old Barge

Griff shoots a weir – the new weir under the bridge between Hartham Common and King’s Meads

my pet Hertford coots make a cameo appearance in a cute cutaway shot – note the BBC logo … yes, they really are on TV

2012 Olympic Stadium from W’s Flat

Please note that the flamingos aren’t real. No flamingos were harmed during the making of this photograph.