Monthly Archives: September 2015

Well that didn’t work

All night my mobile received e-mails, every few seconds telling me that a spider had spun its web across my IPCamera’s lens, or that the moon was shining, a dewdrop had formed, a stray cat had twitched it’s whiskers, or a man in a blue striped jersey was climbing through the bathroom window. Useless!!!. Eventually it crashed my server and my website went down. As I know so many of you are eager for your daily dose of my pearls the website is now restored and I have turned off all the webcams alarm reporting functions until I have figured out how to mollify it nervousness. Is that the right word? I have never used it before and it looks odd.

More Marge

Here is a link to one of the ‘Margecams’ currently being tested. Choose the middle or bottom option. You have been sent a username and password

The car-boot sale was excellent. I bought nothing but strolled about without sitting down for a good long while. I have concluded that standing still is actually the trigger for pain but it may be that I have a pain killer that acts on the nerves and that is probably helping a real lot.

Since returning prototype 1 of the telephone is complete and working. It is a bit of a gaffer job at the moment but it communicates successfully with the computer that now knows when someone passes Marge, when someone enters her (hmmm), when they pick up and whether they choose to speak. However the consequence of this knowledge is not spectacular, as she does precisely nothing. At one stage she responded by launching into ABC by the Jacksons, but I decided that might set something of a high bar for me to attain later – so for now, she remains mute. Anyway nothing very fancy but a good start given the untested combination of technologies. Reliable it is not! particularly as it is currently powered by a 4.5 volt battery attached by two crocodile clips. My plan is to just leave it running for a few days and see what crashes, I shall pop in and out from time to time pretending to be a patron, hopefully not the first and last. I have replaced the picture of my voice with a blank canvas as my voice is not inhabiting the space yet. It will be back on Christmas Eve.

I still cannot decide what to do with any utterances made by clients. In this version of the phone they must expressly choose to talk by pressing a button, bit like an intercom. I have not made this feature up. Quite a few handsets were equipped with press to talk buttons, specially those systems designed for GPO technicians or locations like mines oil rigs etc. Not as far as I know in telephone boxes but then Marge is no ordinary telephone box. It makes conversation much cleaner and structured which of course would help the computer were it ever to attempt any speech recognition or whatever. I am tempted to throw these utterances into the air like bubbles but that sounds both pretentious and a bit hurtful for the bubble makers. I will think on.


My body is like my phone box. At each stage in the very long restoration and rebuild process I find box and body are either in harmony or clashing. Except, of course when “Marge,” as it is henceforth to be known, chooses to throw me from her lofty tower while I attempt to untangle (paint) her red tresses. That was more than dissonance, that was attempted murder.

At the moment all the bits of Marge and my body are ringing nicely. Not exactly sounding as they should, but not clashing. For example the prototype telephone (the actual Bakelite thing) can now send and receive sound, very scratchily. (That’s because the purist in me refuses to modernise the internal components, the carbon granule transmitter and the magnet with a metal skin-like actuator as receiver) – similarly I can sleep through the night scratchily (first time last night). Picking up the receiver currently sends a confusing message to the computer that the receiver has been put down. Not a serious problem, literally crossed wires, and in the same way I occasionally forget how many of the different drugs I have taken. This not a serious problem either as my dosage is now in steady decline so the odd crossed wire doesn’t count. Like my body the various cameras and sensors Marge relies on to give voice either over react,  – last night an alert was triggered, I think, by a leaf brushing Marge’s body flirtatiously, or under react, because of the low  sun in the morning the camera can’t see a thing and Marge didn’t respond when a very large red post van parked next to her – perhaps she wouldn’t grass on a fellow red-post-GPO-type-thing. Likewise my bowels, yes I am obsessed, either respond to Allbran as if we’re something to hold on to and preserve like a childhood stamp collection or something to be spat out as speedily as possible, like that mouthwash dentists prescribe that burns your gob. Don’t you agree it really does? Chlorosyl or something like that. Did you know it also turns your teeth black if you use it too often. More research needed in  this area perhaps?

Today there’s the promise of a sunny car boot sale a few miles away. Lovely Maria will have to drive me (she’s not a big fan), but once there I can test my standing up powers. I got up to about a solid hour before the accident so we will see. The carboot is good exercise. It involves walking, standing, kneeling and bending. When your flexing powers pack up there are a couple of those fairground type stalls that sell breakfasts and you have the pleasure of spooning your sugar into your tea from a mug of pre-used spoons standing in a grey/brown liquid (other people’s dregs). None of us complain. We all put up with it. Funny that? I guess if you didn’t like it you wouldn’t really like the car-boot sale ethos. Old stuff mainly sold by oldish people, some scammers, some virtually giving stuff away to make space in their new Barrett burrow, fairly rough people who project a non Corbynite persona, mixed with Henry’s and Jemimas, (who frankly do the same – where is he going to get support) load and loads of dogs, the odd rare ferret, – they don’t smell good and are not mad about being patted, (or is that just Yorkshire). My accent stands out cos it’s not Yorkshire, not posh, just southern. All this voice work makes me doubly aware of what a singularly unattractive one I have. No I am not fishing for reassurance it really is a mean, sexually ambiguous Australians voice. Cos of the voice I think some people see me as an Arthur Daley – southerner on the make. I really do wear the hat (for the sun actually) but maybe I should drop it. Anyway re the refreshment stall – It’s a comfy, if windy, scruffy, smelly sitting place. You know it’s windy because any empty chair is instantly blown over to lie in the litter. Come to think of it the whole thing is quite post apocalyptic, the last eatery before the nuclear winter.

So off I go. First of all Maria is kindly bringing me croissants in bed. There’s a culture clash.

Cold turkey – it’s real and not good at all

These posts are not in chronological order. A few days before the announcement of the birth of the phone box I mistakenly tried to speed up my reengagement with a not so ‘early-Pink Floyd inspired-world’ by dramatically dropping most of my pain killers. The back pain had really got so much better and as you know I was eager to get to Maplin. I thought I could make do with just one three times a day, exceeding the hospitals expectations and hopefully getting their praise and admiration for my fortitude – and for almost a day I felt ok – then wham – first I thought I had the flu – then I seemed to be overtaken by complete lethargy, could not be bothered with anything not even the box – then disproportionate self indulgent despair, which to be honest I kept quite, but it was eating at me from the inside out, aggressively  consuming the sense of well-being that has been propping me up. The world turned horrible. Then I read the back of the packets and heeded the advice of my lovely wife – slowly, slowly, slowly – so here I am first thing in the morning happy as Larry and back on five a day – phew. Only interesting development is that despair in life is replaced by despair in dreams- I woke up having had what seemed like five hours of coming to terms with my own mortality through consultation with a shop assistant at Wilkos who said I was irresponsible not to be concentrating on growing potatoes for my wife and family as I was sure to die very soon. So advice, don’t disbelieve the warnings of withdrawal symptoms from prescription drugs – I thought it was a load of old ‘Trainspotting’ nonsense and that I was too tough to pussy foot around with that sort of health and safety crap, do read the instructions that come with the drugs and do worship at the temple of the pharmacists who make life and pain so much better so easily. As you may have gathered my continuing state of relative incarceration has revitalised my blog writing. Send me all your news please and plant those potatoes.

The phone box is born and babbling

Not in the way I hope it will eventually but in a way that I find  immensely satisfying. Probably at least two months behind schedule but that couldn’t  be helped. By now my intention was to be back at work teaching and dreaming of ways in which my students projects could in some way relate back to its magnificent isolation and ruddiness. Oh what opportunities they have missed! Actually that’s not true. As it has always been conceived as a symbol of me- ness I should not fall into the trap of sharing and risk tainting the project with otherness. I have found this discipline rather difficult. To turn off the desire to be successful, to have your work admired, to be loved professionally is something that has been lodged in my guts since I started in theatre,  leaving it out as an ultimate  goal has felt weird.

Every person who has strolled by the box (all very approving btw, ahh nostalgia and iconic, modernist design)  and has got beyond complete bemusement as to its intended use, has asked, not necessarily in so many words, “will it be interactive” – meaning “will I be able to play with it like a computer game, will I be in charge? Will there be a screen?” To which I answer “no”, partly to avoid the inevitable disappointment when they try it and it fails to live up to Disneyland or GTA or even making a sand-castle and mainly because IT IS NOT, or rather no more so than a classical opera audience might interact with a performance — sit, in this case, stand and listen, or not, and stare out the window, or not, but don’t expect to have any < I mean any effect on the performance at all. HA! I suppose that’s not entirely true either as the box has a very simple means of knowing you are there, namely you have answered the phone or picked it up expecting to make a call.  – Now I realise I need not have bothered with that either, after all it’s still a performance even if there is no audience. On the other hand if I have a story to tell I do need to be able to start at the beginning not to be encountered mid flow by someone sheltering from the rain or taking a piss. Still – HURRAHHHHH! I am so sick of interaction. The presumption of audiences (users) that they matter! What interests me, a little, is the degree to which they are bound to think that in some way or other they are having an effect, after all just as with any other telephone they can choose to talk back. It’s just when they do, the only person listening will be themselves. All phones have a circuit that ensures you hear your own voice through the earpiece, I have forgotten what it’s called but Roger will know. Without it you feel semi detached. Another way of looking at is as the antithesis to the IPhone – a phone you can’t carry, you cannot make a call from, interact with and unlike Siri it doesn’t listen to you or know where the nearest Pizza Express is.

Below you will find in no order, the front, the inside, the incomplete telephone, the incomplete electrical connections, the box at night, and the dedication to my aunt who financed the lot. The fairly scary image was a snapshot I took – single take, of my ‘voice.’  I have yet to complete all the connectivity although the bare bones have been tested and work, the composition itself isn’t started although the words are, the grass needs to be repaired, Maria has plants to plant and I have some not terribly taxing programming of the various sensors and the audio system. The physical electrical tasks have meant a lot of soldering and worrying about electrocution. The box has both heating and cooling to try to keep the components from packing up in mid winter. Needless to say I do have to keep an eye on leaks, as electrocuting patrons would be be uncool.

It will speak on Christmas Eve.









Boy I am in a grump.

Hopefully Julie and Ricky and coming to find things in our lofts but if they encountered me now they might go off the idea. Yesterday I got a major bollocking at the hospital, had to stay behind after school to see the registrar all because John the nurse was absolutely horrified that I was driving and they almost kept me in overnight after he misread my blood pressure which seemed to indicate that I was barely alive. The registrar was a beautiful gentle Malaysian woman, who at first seemed unruffled but even she was concerned once the enormity of the dose of pain killers I was taking was revealed to her. Both were somewhat comforted by the fact that I had failed to take my last two doses while at the hospital, in part to avoid detection and in part because I forgot to bring them along. Anyway the result was that I am now on a reduced consumption of pain killers from a peak of 26 per day to 15 and one particularly nuclear one has been dropped all together. I can feel the withdrawal already or at least I can imagine it. Luckily the Daily Express, all that was available in Costa during the two hour wait for my results, reminded me that Gabapentin, the dose of which had ironically been increased, can induce suicidal feelings and feelings of despair – thus during the journey home I was on the edge of my seat wondering if I would suddenly feel the urge to plunge my Volvo into the Ouse. Knowing Volvos it is probably equipped with flotation chambers or oxygen masks so that would have been embarrassing.

Anyway despite a all these efforts to destroy myself, my bloods have remained stable, my consultant is unconcerned, Jon my nurse, is secretly pro Corbyn, loveable if a lousy taker of blood pressure, my beard is off by accident, Arthur assuring me the clippers did a number one, they don’t they do a number minus one, I am a bit confined to bed again, mainly due to mood but a little to do with side effects of coming off the frigging things and a cold. My telephone parts have not arrived. I am learning Arduino. I am happy.

Lost my Mentos

I just drove all the way to the petrol station and back again. I had planned to drive to Maplin but that seemed over ambitious once I was on the road so I bought some Mentos at the petrol station( which I have now lost, I accused the cat of sitting on them but haven’t the heart to move him form his comfy spot) and came home. Tomorrow I have the dentist which is about the same distance and involves a long, if not entirely stress free, rest in a comfy chair in between drives, so I am confident of a waste less journey. Waste is in fact part of the problemo. Basically my guts are more like a short term very shoddily built crib for spring lambs at the moment. It is ironic given that my hospital stay was in part to dislodge the meteorite stuck up my arse that I now have the opposite problem. Fortunately my dentist is a friend and has seen my orifices in various states of decay (Scuse the pun) so yet another malfunction of the Newell life sustaining system will not be surprise.

I am writing this because my failure to get to Maplin means I cannot complete the communication system for the phone box. One of the last remaining structural jobs. I really do hope it will be finished by this weekend. So I am writing my Blog lying on my back with the fire lit in the company of the imoveable cat, willing eBay to deliver the parts by tomorrow. In terms of my project I have been significantly slowed down by my drug enduced state of euphoric delirium, my visits to the toilet, my reluctance to stand on anything higher than a low heeled slipper, my energy levels which necessitate a break about every 45 mins of about 45 mins, the fact that I cannot really stretch, turn, bend or perform any of my previous Olga Korbuts and that some of the remaining jobs are extremely unexciting and I keep hoping Maria or someone will do them. EG Cleaning 80 odd glass panes. But as the end is firmly in sight I am very proud of it. Once completed I will circulate photos for you all to collect and stick in the commemorative album I assume you are all assembling, together with a link to a webcam that shows a view from inside the box looking out. eg a screen of red framed steamed up dirty glass panes. I would love to wax lyrical about the technological achievements so far but I only know of two of my readers who would have any appreciation and they are both much cleverer than me and do this sort of thing in a weekend. I will say one thing however, the decision not to try to do everything wirelessly but instead to have 20 strands of copper cable traversing the flowerbeds was a good one . The one and only wireless component has not only been a nightmare necessitating a wireless signal the strength of Jodrell Bank but also the most expensive and least productive piece of technology, namely the IP Camera referred to above. How wonderfully reliable it is to send sounds and data through wires rather than fresh air particularly when the recipient is a cast iron box seemingly impervious to everything but the rain and wasps.

My obsession with my ‘Sistine Chapel’ means I have stopped almost everything other than essentials and as I say some of those have stopped of there own accord. I no longer read anything other than component catalogues or early GPO manuals. I have a classic called telephony from 1947 on order. I hope this will explain how the button a/b box worked. I don’t watch telly without my mind wandering and wondering whether one can transmit midi through CAT5 cable – very easy as it happens KENTON converter. The hens are left unpatted, I haven’t bought a lighter in months and even the car boot sale cannot lure me from my red temple.
That said the Corbyn Victory has been a source of genuine joy to me. Charlotte Church’s words said all I want say about the feeling of relief to hear a politician talking about the things that politicians should talk about. Namely things that help eradicate the obscene global inequalities we all seem to blithely accept while pottering with our historic phone boxes. I really hope labour don’t cock it up particularly as I have rejoined and it costs me £3.99 a month. I remain a convinced anarchist but proper socialism (like we have on offer now) seems like a sensible stepping stone toward a society where government is no longer necessary as a method of regulating power once power has been distributed evenly and fairly.

As you are all aware I can laze about putting the world to rights because I am not back at work mainly because of the driving issue. Fortunately I have begun the process of cutting back on the main sedating drugs for the last day or two and the pain has not come back. I have been told to do this slowly which is frustrating because you can probably tell I am getting fed up with not being able to get to Maplin. I am now pretty neurotic about falling over so I walk like a very old man who has lost a threepenny bit and is retracing his steps – very slowly and looking down. I must admit I do do feel really old, but again I think that is the effect of the drugs that deliberately induce geriactisim.

My lovely wife grows younger and more gorgeous everyday mirroring my gradual rot and decay. She has a lot to endure particularly her periodically slipped disc which gets slipped back in but means neither of us can risk lifting anything heavy or doing the twist as we so frequently used to. She has started directing Dido and Aeneas at the school aka “Made in Chelsea’ which I think is a fab idea as the piece is 50 minutes of yawning followed by 3 minute of total heartbreak and certainly needs an antidote to the sophomoric (not the intended word but I will leave it – wonder what it means) baroque la di dah. Her mum is pretty good but should be even better once she has her pacemaker fitted. The boys and the girl are all thriving. Avani starts her Masters course next week, George seems to be getting a lot of work and I think they may be planning to get a place of their own. They have come back from Italy confirmed Italophiles. Arthur has been experiencing London driving for the first time. I think he is a bit shell shocked but loves his new location in Lewisham, actually pretty near Greenwich park so a big step up from Stratford.

Bored now

Charlotte Church hits the nail on the head


Charlotte Church the singer on Jeremy Corbyn. Spot-on in my view.

“The inverse of Nigel Farage, he appears to be a cool-headed, honest, considerate man, one of the few modern politicians who doesn’t seem to have been trained in neuro-linguistic programming, unconflicted in his political views, and abstemious in his daily life. He is one of the only politicians of note that seems to truly recognise the dire inequality that exists in this country today and actually have a problem with it. There is something inherently virtuous about him, and that is a quality that can rally the support of a lot of people, and most importantly, a lot of young people. With the big three zero on the horizon for me, I don’t know if I still count as a ‘young person”‘. What I can say is that for the first time in my adult life there is a politician from a mainstream party who shares my views and those of most people I know, and also has a chance of actually doing something to create a shift in the paradigm, from corporate puppetry to conscientious societal representation.”