The Infamous Thornbush Incident

I've told this story many times before, but never set it down in writing. I thought this was the time to change that.

The story is set in my Freshers' Week. The beginning of the week was your standard, run-of-the-mill Freshers' Week - roll up, unpack, meet housemates, find the bars, etc. I'd never been that much of a drinker before Uni, but I'd got drunk now and then. "But this is Freshers' Week," I thought. "Let's really go for it.". So I did.

And for the most part, this worked out fine. I passed the days with admin stuff and exploration of my new habitat, and my evenings with socialising and drinking. I found this a satisfactory state of affairs, on the whole. Until Wednesday.

It started like any other evening: me and several of my new friends installed ourselves in Woody's, our local watering-hole. The drinking commenced, and continued. In the hour leading up to last orders, I fell into the drinker's folly: the Withnail-style "More booze!" quest. Last orders rolled around, when my new friend Maike and I agreed to get a bottle of wine and go back to my place to split it.

My memory is hazy at this point, but we went back to mine and split it. This takes us up to about midnight. From then on I have a complete blank spot, with no idea what I did until 4AM, when I found myself sitting in a thornbush with no clue how I got there. I believe I was talking to the thornbush, which proved a little one-sided.

I sat there jibbering to the bush for a little while, before deciding that it would be a good idea to leave its company. I then struggled for around 10 minutes trying to leave the bush, which was hard - thorn bushes have thorns everywhere! Who'd have thought? Finding somewhere to put my hands that didn't result in them getting pierced proved to be impossible, so in the end I just forced myself to get stabbed as I clambered out.

So I left the bush, climbed over the small barbed-wire fence in front of me, and fought my way through the small patch of trees. I was then standing in a grassy field, lit dimly by moonlight. It did not look familiar. A helpful little voice in my head was audible, saying "Turn right - that's the way home.".

I ignored this voice, and turned left.

Leaving the field via a small prickly alleyway, I found myself confronted with a road. Again, disturbingly unfamiliar. My sense of direction is generally quite good, but it seems that when inebriated it bites the dust fairly quickly. I wandered off in the direction that I thought would leave me home. I covered quite a bit of ground, it turns out. After walking for about 20 minutes, I encountered 2 older women walking their dogs. The dogs are just a guess, as I have no recollection of them, either, but unless they were as drunk as I was there's no other explanation for them to be out that early.

I fell into the drinker's folly number 2: trying to seem more sober than I am. I think I startled them, as I was only in a T shirt and trousers, and covered with bleeding scratches, so my pretence of normality was fatally flawed.

"Excuse me, ladies, could you tell me whether this is the direction back towards Park Wood?"
"Erm, that's the bit of the University, isn't it? Are you alright?"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes... I'm fine. Parkwood's not really the University - it's a little bit outside of it, I think."
"Well, love, I'm not really sure, but I think it's back the way you came."
"Hmm. I think I'll continue on the way I'm going. Thank you, though!"

Having parted company with these slightly scared women, I wandered on a little further before coming across another small path. More thorns, more stinging nettles, and so on. My sense of direction temporarily returned to me, whispered "This way!" and disappeared again. I fought my way past nettles, brambles, mud, and darkness until I found myself standing on the edge of a plowed field. Again, completely unfamiliar. I needed backup.

Fumbling in my pockets brought my mobile phone to my hands. I paged through my address book for a saviour, a saviour at 6AM: Emma! At this point I still thought she was the most fantastic woman I'd ever met (thank you, alcohol!) so rescuing me from a field some 200 miles away from her should be easy.

"Emma, it's dark, it's 6AM, I'm drunk, I'm standing in a field... and I'm scared!"
"Eurrgh... Can you remember how you got there?"
"Kind of."
"Go back the way you came."
"Hmm. Nah, I think I'll keep going this way."
"Alex, go back to the road, and back the way you came."
"I think I like this way more. Bye"

You know, someone called me stubborn the other day, and I didn't believe them? Anyway, I skirted around the edge of this field, terrified I was about to get both barrels of a shotgun from an angry farmer. I came to a small plank laid across a brook, and crossed it. I wandered up through a field, and came to a main road. Later reconnaissance showed that I passed through someone's back garden, but at the time this didn't concern me.

I crossed the road, and made my way into Blean Woods. I then wandered round there for an hour and a half. I did try and get to sleep on a stile, but it was too cold and I was shivering. I also tried to call Emma again, but my phone battery had died. Eventually I made my way out of the woods, and wandered back along the road. I asked some bin men which way it was back to the University, and they looked at me as if I were something they'd just scraped off their shoes. But they pointed me in the right direction.

I also stopped into a very posh school opposite the Uni, and got someone there to point me back in the right direction. I made it back to my new house, and went for my back pocket - the home of my housekeys. Nothing.

It was now 8:30AM; somewhere in the past 8 hours I'd lost my house keys. Standing there, trying to marshall my thoughts into a solution for this latest challenge, I heard a sweet, sweet sound from the window above me: The Microsoft Windows start-up sound. My housemate was awake!

"Martin..." I stage-whispered. "Martin!" I repeated. He briefly stuck his head out, disappeared, and seconds later the door was opened and he let me in. He was an absolute star - of course, my door was locked, so he took me up to his room and offered me tea. Somehow I managed to explain what had happened, and how I was without my keys. He'd clearly been paying more attention than I had, as he knew that the admin office was already open. I thanked him and wandered off into the breach once more.

I pulled off drinker's folly #2 a little more successfully, this time, and got a housekey out of the admin office without too much trouble. I guess Uni staff see this kind of stuff all the time. I wandered back to my room, tugged off my clothes, fell into bed and passed out until 3 in the afternoon.

Appalling CDs

We've all done it. Mistakenly bought a CD in the belief it was something worth listening to. And then you get it home, and find out the horrible truth: there was a damn good reason why it's on sale at such a low price. This page exists because I wanted to post a warning online for others for the first disc listed, but it turns out Amazon claim the rights to all reviews posted. Fuck 'em; I like my copyright to stay assigned to me, thank you. Hence this page.

I find you very attractive - Touch 'N' Go

Yes, yes, yes, I should have seen the warning signs. They had a single hit several years ago, and the CD is titled with the most memorable vocal hook from that track. But everyone on Amazon said it was great, and I could listen to that hit single, so like a fool I coughed up 5 pounds and ordered it.

Alas, after the first 30 seconds of listening, reality sunk in: this album is complete dross. It's bland, samey crap. If you don't already hate synthetic pianos, guitars, drums, and horns, then you will after this. It tries to be edgy and sexy, with its psuedo-naughty lyrics, but fails with its complete lack of any interesting musical constructs and poor sound quality. If the tracks had any "bite" to them, with a well-rounded sound and prominent bassline, it might just be listenable. But no, they're dull, flat, and lifeless.

It really is a case of "Would you?" re-worked 12 times. Unless you're the Beta Band, there is no excuse for sampling your own tracks. Whoever decided that a samba remix of the aforementioned hit was a great idea, complete with MIDI samba whistles (you'll find them on channel 10, in the standard GM drumkit - come on, buy yourself a decent synth), should be committed. It would be easy:

"What grounds do you have for requesting this individual be placed in the care of the state, specifically a padded soundproof room and a straightjacket?"
"Your honour, I present as evidence the following remix."
The tape is played to a court, which sits in silence with looks of ever-growing horror and distaste on their faces.
"Take him away. And fetch me an ear-syringing kit and a bottle of scotch."

Trust me: Your ears do not deserve this. I think I'm going to give it away to someone I hate. Go and buy yourself some decent dance music, if that's what you're after, or if you're after the " contemporary, common jazz" that the Amazon reviewers seem to think it is get yourself a Lemon Jelly CD. It's far funkier, has a better beat, and won't make you wish you were born deaf.


A few months ago, I had occasion to really examine my thoughts and opinions about music. I've always been clear on what I like, and what I don't like, but I had to put my finger on why. It's harder than it sounds - why do you like what you do?

This all started when I was with Libby. One of the sticking points of our relationship was music; basically, I'm not a fan of what gets played on local radio. Which boils down to pop, commercial, and R 'n' B. Libby is. It sounds like a really trite thing to have disagreements about, and in a way it is - but music is a massively important part of my life and a very pervasive part of our culture. What do you play in the car? Or when relaxing? A timeshare option isn't really that great, as it means that half the time one of you is not enjoying their environment.

Anyway, the question was often asked: why don't I like local radio? And it's a hard one to answer. On the surface it's quite easy. I've done my tenure in a convenience store, and as such have spent at least 9 hours a week for about a year listening to local radio. Often more. It wasn't so bad when I figured out I could put anything I wanted over the store's PA, but it's still a lot of time listening to the radio. You listen to a local radio station in the UK for 5 solid hours, and you'll find a lot of the material repeats. Listen to it for 4 or 5 hour stretches 2 or 3 times a week, and the music quickly becomes repetitive.

But surprisingly, this isn't what got my goat about the music. It turns out it boils down to a simple difference of what Libby and myself listened to music for: I listened for the music, and Libby listened for the lyrics.

This is a massive difference, although it might not be immediately apparent. Fundamentally, people listen to music because of the emotional effects it has, and we were taking our meanings from different places. Libby could listen to and enjoy Celine Dion, for instance, because of the lyrics, and what they said. But I'm not a fan of her voice, and the underlying music isn't that great in my opinion. So I would be unable to find enjoyment in Celine, whereas Libby could. Interestingly, Libby really was just about the lyrics; instrumental pieces didn't interest her at all, whether it be the modern delights of Mike Oldfield or the classical wonders of Beethoven, Bach, etc.

But that's not just it. It isn't just that I couldn't take my joys in the lyrics of modern music; there is something about it that repels me. And it took me a while but I figured it out. It's this: The manufactured quality of it.

Music to me is kind of a two-way street. Listening to a piece of music isn't just about the music itself; it's about the person who wrote it, and the person who played it. A relationship-like bond forms between you and the perception of the musician. Take the song "Sex and drugs and rock and roll" by Ian Dury and the Blockheads. When I listen to this song, it's not just about the words in the song, or the guitar links behind it. It's about the people performing it, and their writing. It's Ian Dury making a statement, telling a story about a belief of his. And over an album, or a set of albums, you get an impression of the people who wrote the music, what they thought, what they felt, and how they changed over time. You form a relationship with the artists, and get to know them to an extent through their works.

Contrast this with the commercial music today. It's not written by the performers. It's generally not written by one person, either. It's put together by a group of people, as a complete work of fiction; the emotions and stories behind it aren't real. And that genuine quality is something that matters to me. I just can't enjoy a love story that was written by a committee of ghost-writers aiming to tug on heartstrings.

Other bits and bobs annoy me about modern music, but they don't merit as much discussion. Things like a lack of subtlety; I like some subtle detail and variation in my music. Which is just me being anal, but I like to hear little twists, slides, etc. that I just don't catch in commercial stuff. Which might be partially down to the fidelity of where I'm listening (bursts from the radio compared to CDs or minidiscs), but I think it's also lacking in a lot of places. I'm also not a fan of most of the ideas and values portrayed, simply because it's not something I can relate to or enjoy.

So there's a bunch of reasons why I don't like commercial music. Pick your favourite.

Student Kitchens

[Note: Since this article was written, I've moved on from the kitchen discussed below.]

I'm developing a real dislike of student kitchens.

I am not by nature a tidy person. My room pays tribute to that. You can generally tell how busy I am by the state of my room, and I'm busy a lot these days. However, I have a low mank factor. I don't mind mess, as such, as long as it's my mess. And as long as it doesn't cross the boundaries from "messy" to "unhygienic". However, student kitchens - and my kitchen in particular - trips out my mank factor.

My mank factor is my way of referring to the point where things make me go, "Ick". I'm not particularly squeamish, but there are some things I don't like to do. Like fish old food out of the sink (trips the mank factor), or take out the bins (doesn't trip the mank factor). The mank factor is the point where I say, "I'm not doing that.".

But returning to kitchens. The problem with a student kitchen is that it gets used a lot more than a family kitchen. Your standard family kitchen gets used a few times a day; an evening meal is cooked there by one parent, and breakfast may be prepared by 2 or 3 people. Lunch is probably bought, or prepared in the mornings. Contrast this with a student kitchen; you've got 4 or 5 people, who will (generally) be preparing meals independently of each other. And there's a chance people will be in during the day, so you might have lunch to contend with, too. Plus you haven't got someone who has the established position in society to keep the kitchen clean (the mother). I'm stereotyping here, I know, and I'm all for the emancipation of women. Get over yourselves. I'm not saying I'm right, I'm saying it happens.

As previously mentioned, I'm not the tidiest person. However, I have some habits that I thought were fairly standard components of a decent upbringing. These include:

  • When you take something out of a wrapper, throw the wrapper in the bin.
  • When you spill something, mop it up.
  • If you use some crockery, cutlery, or other kitchenware, wash it up.
  • If you make some food, wipe down the work surface afterwards.

I'm not a kitchen nazi. The first 2 points I'd probably expect to be done immediately, or fairly soon (we're talking minutes here). The 3rd point isn't so bad; I try and wash up within 24 hours, but have been known to stretch. I think 24 hours is a good time to aim for. And as for the final point, it can be waived occasionally, but if you're leaving visible crumbs then clean them up.

Basically, it comes down to this: I can't see any reason why someone else should be expected to clean up after me. I can't see any reason why I should expect someone else to do it. It's nice to find someone's done my washing up; it's nice to find someone has cleaned up when I've been lax. But I try my hardest to keep the kitchen neat and tidy, and clean.

Some people I live with, though, don't do this. At all. And it's come from 2 places I didn't expect. One person who I worried about turned out to be brilliant. They'd spent the past year living in halls, which means they'd had catered accomodation and a cleaner once a week. But it turns out they're great; they wash up, hoover, tidy, take the bins out, etc. They're not perfect, but they're as good as can be expected. I would not expect them to do more, and are (in the field of "upkeep of the household") superb. Another member of the household, though, had the same background, and isn't nearly as good. Actively bad, I'd suggest. My theory is that their mother cleans up after them at home, which would explain most of the behaviour. It's nothing major; they wash up after themselves, kind of (there's a subtle but important difference between "washing things up" and "getting things wet"), but don't clean up spills, crumbs, and bottle tops. And I can't get my head around it. If you've just peeled off the top of a bottle of milk, surely your first instinct is to throw it in the bin?

A tangental point here; just because you're hardly in, doesn't mean you're never in or that you never use the kitchen. If you're making yourself breakfast in it, and a bedtime drink, it means you're using it twice a day at least. So you have an equal responsibility to at least run some kitchen towel over the surfaces now and again, I feel.

Another housemate is having trouble adapting to the influx of 3 new housemates, I think. Last year they lived here with others, and cooked for them every night. In return, they never did any washing up. Which seems fair to me. However, with me being vegan, and another housemate hardly being here, they generally only cook for one other housemate. Why should that guy have to wash up every bit of crockery and cutlery the offending housemate produces? More importantly, why should I be expected to wash up things? I don't mind helping out, and generally do a drying-rack's worth regardless of whether I made the mess or not. To be fair, this housemate doesn't annoy me quite so much, as they keep the bathroom clean, the lounge clean, etc. And that seems like a fair trade-off. But it still seems unfair on the other guy.

All the people I live with are adults, and all the people I live with are students. There are certain qualities I expect people to have developed by this point. One relevant one is taking polite requests and criticisms without throwing a strop over it. If I say "If you spill something, could you wipe it up, please?" I think it's over the top to have "I can't deal with this right now!" yelled at me. I can't think of a politer way to raise an issue; it's abstract, timeless question. A simple "yes" and maybe a "sorry" and I'll be on my way. There's no element of immediacy, or specific events. Likewise, if I say "Bob's gone away for the weekend, do you think you could wash up your saucepan from your meal? I don't like washing up meaty saucepans." a grumbled "Well I don't like fishing long hair from the shower" isn't an appropriate response. It almost stands, apart from all of us in the house have at least shoulder-length hair, and I haven't gone near a block of meat for 2 years, whereas they're in close proximity to long hair every second of the day. You have the facts, ladies and gentlemen: derive your own logical fallacies.

The other thing I expect people to have developed is the realisation that the universe does not revolve around them. Everyone in the house is busy; all of us have mental health issues, I think. Generally just depression, but it still counts. Ask any psychiatrist, psychologist, or doctor. Anyway, the occasional bout of uncleanliness is allowable - we all have deadlines, and we all get overwhelmed with things. But it's not a constant "get out of housework free" card. It's the height of arrogance to presume that what you do is important to the point of expecting others to clean up after you. At least your mum or dad has parental obligations to you, but I'm not your mother. I'm up to my limit of business, all things considered, but still make time to wash up and tidy. You should too.

So, to summarise: Clean up after yourselves. Your parents aren't here to wipe up after you any more, and even if the people you live with aren't complaining they're probably seething on the inside. Don't abuse the goodwill of others just because you have a life, as they do too.

Photography on a budget

  1. Introduction

    Let's face it, photography can be a pretty expensive hobby. Cameras aren't cheap, and nor are lenses, and there are so many. And then you get film and tripods and filters and so on and so on. Like music, all the equipment can be seductive. But in general, I can't afford it. So, here's an article with hints and tips on photography on a budget.

  2. Buy stuff second hand

    You really don't need the latest Nikon to get started with photography. In fact, you'll learn a lot more if you pick something older. I do all my film photography using a Praktica Super TL. This is a fully manual camera, and its light meter in the viewfinder is the only concession to luxury on it. This makes it more of a challenge to shoot with at first, but it means you get more control, more satisfaction, and learn much more. A second-hand, manual camera, will set you back anywhere between 40 and 100 pounds depending on where you buy it. The lens is more important than the body, so get a good prime lens on the front of it and you'll have the raw materials to take some great pictures.
    Charity shops are great resources, too, mainly for books and props. I've got a big hardback book ("The Book of Photography" by John Hedgecoe) for 4 pounds, and a couple of others ("1000 Photo Tips" and "Practical photography") for a pound altogether. You can also find blankets and sheets, bits of material, clothes, and accessories like hats etc. too. The cheap bookstores can be interesting as well - I've got a history of photography and a bok of Eugene Atget's work from my local cheapy store.

  3. Buy in bulk

    It's worthwhile buying your film in bulk. I get mine from MX2 online, which works out around 2 pounds per roll, for 36 exposures. It's a larger up-front expense, but if you're going to buy 10 films in the next 6 months or so, then you might as well save yourself some money in the long run.

  4. Shoot in black and white

    If you shoot in black and white, you can develop it yourself and then scan the results into your PC, or just make your own prints and enlargements. This might be a good option for you if you've got easy access to a darkroom - say, are near a college or go to Uni, or there's a friendly photographer in your neighbourhood.

  5. Don't shoot in black and white

    The flipside is that black and white film tends to be more expensive, and costs lots more to develop as nowhere keeps the machines to develop it. Buying C-41 process black and white film (which means it can be developed in the same chemicals as colour film) might be a way around this, but I haven't tried that yet.

  6. Borrow stuff

    Loads of people enjoy photography. Use their stuff - borrow lenses, tripods, backdrops, and so on. Just make sure you take good care of it. Oh, and use your local library. The selection of photography books might not be huge, but there's almost certainly a book in there that can teach you something new or improve your photography.

  7. Improvise

    Yeah, it's nice to have pro stuff, but sometimes it's just not possible. A large sheet makes a good backdrop, and can transform your front room into a makeshift studio. Use some halogen desk lamps instead of the pro photo lights (you'll need quite a few, and will have to shoot in black and white to minimise the effect of colour casts). A tall stool can take the place of a tripod or a light stand, if you're careful. Yeah, your results might not be perfect, and you'll have to experiment. That's part of the fun.

  8. Barter

    Trade your skills for things you want. You might not be able to pay your models, but maybe you can cook them a meal, or mow their lawn, or pick up their groceries, or babysit, and so on.

  9. Conclusion

    It's perfectly possible to photograph on a budget. Hopefully these tips will have given you a place to start. Drop me an email if you've got your own tips to share.

Without me

So I've got this stalker friend named Keeny, who followed me from college to university. Well, I might have followed him, in the strictest sense, but it's my site and I'll be the pioneer if I want to. Anyway, he sent me the following demand, and suggested I put it on my site. As he'll a) probably regret it in the morning and b) have no excuse to ramble on about how he's not on here, I have posted it for all to see.

Dearest Alex

I have finally had a proper read through of your qwebsite and found thast there is no direct mention of me in any of it, not weven in the writings section. I request, nae demand at least a passing reference in at least one section. I know this may sound needy but you know what, I don't care. I also know that htere are a numbwer of typos already in this document, but I can't be bothered to correct them. And yes I have been drinking. I will now save this and go get some more VODKA.

Wow I hate Mungos on a friday night, it takes soooo long to get a drink. Anyhoo where was I ? Oh yeah, neediness. Is that spelt righjt? No, probably not. I think the main problem with the elderly of today is their selfishness. I got a very pointed letter from a more "mature" member of my sdtreet, complaining about raised noise levels the previous night/morning. She (Dorothy) made it very clear that the letter was written sometime around 3AM and that it was RAP music that was being played from a CAR. I would like to point out now that I had nothing to do with this, and in fact I was woken up by the very same disturbance. But it did raise an intreseting point. . . I'm not sure what this point was, but I can tell you I was bloody pissed off by it. Who the hell does she think she is, lumping all students in the same category; as trouble making alcohloics?????? I can't afford a car anyway. I would also like to point ouit that this very same Dorothy rented her house out to students the previous year, so she shouldd know what to expect, and it's a bit late to start phucking complaining.


  1. It is expected
  2. Everybody else is drinking
  3. It's really cheap

Why do the older people critisise the young anyway? Maybe because it's expected of them as well. I mean, all the other old people critisise the young, and at the end of the day, it doesn't cost anything to do. Maybe complaining is an alcohol substitute for the elderly, after their livers have collapsed and died. Or maybe I've runk too much. He he he; runk!!!! I've been writing for a while now. You really shouldn't let your lectures get in the way of your education. . I had this dream a couple of nights ago where everything ws covered in frost, but it was a very sunny afternoon. I decided to take my shoes off and run around in it. Then I woke up and my feet were cold, as they were hanging out the end of the duvet.. I think student life is like that, your brain just making up things that fit the situation, without really working out what the hell is going on. I wonder if i will think the same things of student life in 10 years time, as I do now???


The meaning of life is as unique as the person it belongs to. To propose a blanket meaning of life for everyone is to negate life's very purpose. Each individual must discover their own meaning, their own reason for being. It may be to become a famous movie star, it may be to become a caring and respected member of society, it maybe to become a pizza eating, larger swilling couch potato; each is as valid as the first. As long as a person is comfortable in their own meaning, then they are truly a complete person.

I though of this while I was in the shower.

Yours Sincierely, Eddie the Cheese!

P.S. 'NADS!!!!

P.P.S. Maybe you should put this on your webgiste as n example of the evils of alcohol??