Can you believe that one of the defining moments of my life, and probably of yours too, was ten years ago today? The New Beans didn’t exist back then, so I didn’t record this for posterity as a blog post. The ten year anniversary seems like a good time to put that right.
Category: Things that I did
Fame at last
My job sometimes involves me being awake in the middle of the night and doing strange things.
One strange thing I’ve had to do lately is find ways of making phone calls to Australia on behalf of some people at the other end of the country. Normally, you see, OJ Borg does the overnight show on the wireless, and he has a mobile phone in Australia that he rings every day at 2.15am. He then has a chat with whoever answers it, and he asks them to give it to another random Australian in time for the next show. Lately, though, his phone system has not been allowing him to call Australia, which is a real disadvantage for a feature of this kind.
Our involvement in this madness – making phone calls to Australia in the middle of the night – has escalated steadily over the last month until it reached a point where they wanted to explain what was going on to their audience. So I was asked if I would mind explaining.
I didn’t mind, though I was very tired and not sure I was making much sense. That is why this happened.
Then, half an hour later, it was time to make the call. I didn’t say a lot because it wasn’t connecting and I was busy pressing buttons and checking things because I was very worried I’d done something wrong, but I hadn’t, it was just that the mobile phone in Australia had no signal.
My agent will handle all requests for signed photos. Also, I am now taking bookings for the panto season.
Before Christmas seems like an age away now. Do you remember what you were doing in December? No? Do you remember what you did yesterday? That’s a worry. You should get that checked out.
It was a fairly relaxed afternoon in the office and I was on my own as the time ticked towards the end of the day. Being chief morale officer in our team, a role I assigned to myself, I decided it would be best for some harmless mischief. I cast my gaze in the direction of the helpful list indicating the correct terms for the phonetic alphabet. Within a few minutes I had come up with my own and replaced it, expecting it to be mostly ignored as nobody ever seemed to use it.
When we returned after Christmas, I had largely forgotten what I had done… that is until my boss turned to me and asked if I was responsible.
“Responsible for what?” I asked, playing dumb. She had, apparently, noticed immediately and because of my reputation for zany behaviour I was clearly the culprit. Luckily due to it being silly, nothing was said about it. Everyone had a laugh. Ha ha!
“You almost threw me because you don’t have a daughter and this one here mentions one,” she said.
This was the sticking point.
This was the focus of most people’s questions and not the fact that I had made up three new words, referenced an album by Steps and a TV programme with Jack Whitehall.
Search engine optimisation
A couple of years ago I conducted a little experiment in what we hi-tech wireless abbab professionals call “Search Engine Optimisation”, or “SEO” for short. Some people in Silicon Valley just call it “S” now to be even more efficient, but I find that arrogant.
Anyway, the issue was that our very own Pouring Beans – arguably the place that people around the world should turn first when seeking information about beans, pouring or the decanting of legumes – was only third in Google’s search results when searching for the words “pouring beans”.
Standing in our way were a whole shady cabal of sly, underhand people whose nefarious aim was to educate young children, broaden their minds, focus their concentration and hone their hand-eye coordination. Under the cover of running Montessori nurseries, they had posted all sorts of web pages about an activity for little kids called “pouring beans”. Clearly those people were up to no good and had to be stopped.
In summer 2019 I made a post here on Pouring Beans, titled “Pouring beans”, at the unbeatable web address www.pouringbeans.com/pouring-beans, which was about the Montessori activity called “pouring beans”, using the same phrase we are all now tired of reading several more times in the text.
Three and a half years have passed and I am delighted to report that we are now, and have remained for some years, the top search result for “pouring beans”. Congratulations, everyone. We are a step closer to conquering the internet.
Searching for a Nightmare
“As he entered the room, the air grew stale and cool. It was abundant that the door had not been opened for a while and neither had any of the windows. Not that you could tell there were windows given how greasy and dirty they were. Thin streaks of light tried their best to illuminate the room only to greet indifference and a smell that could only be unwashed clothes and unwashed hair.
Towards the back of the room there was a doorway without a door leading to what looked like a small kitchen area. Small grunts could be heard, awash with fear and sadness. Part of him didn’t want to know what was going on in there.
He blinked. It was starting to take shape before his eyes. Along the left and right sides were a sofa and a bed respectively upon which figures covered in blankets, jumpers and hoodies, anything to obscure their features, sat huddled. They were visibly shaking; no amount of clothing could hide that. Hesitant but also inquisitive, he crimsonly approached the nearest character and pulled back the mauve hood that separated the two.
Eyes as big as spoons stared back. Bags of a similar size hung underneath. The skin was sagging and the features were difficult to look at even for the morbidly curious. Nonetheless, he was sure that he was in the right place.
“Lycos?” he asked, “Lycos is that you?”
There was no response. Either it didn’t understand or it wasn’t there, long gone into the stratosphere with the rest of the junkies and the winos.
The heavy-breather next to it was a malnourished AltaVista.
On the opposite side of the room Webcrawler was on his knees, licking a damp patch underneath the coffee table. Clearly a spill of something important to them. He could have smashed his head with a lamp and it wouldn’t have noticed.
Most of them were accounted for except the one he had been looking to find the most.
The grunting was still coming from the back kitchen.
He took a deep breath and peered around the corner. An old man faced away from him, his hands looking for something or someone. The pile of newspapers he sat on had nothing beside it. The kitchen stank of sex and shame.
“Did you want to ask me something?” the old man queried. “You can ask me anything. I want you to, I want you to ask me.”
He turned around and the drool was let loose from his mouth. It pounded the hard flooring.
“If you ask me I’ll make it worth your while. I guarantee.”
That was all he could stand and so, with the answers he had sought, he bounded from the bedsit and slammed the door behind him never to return.”
Orange / Lemon
Here’s a little story that will lift your spirits in these dark times.
At work I’ve been snacking on fruit to try and be healthier. Yes, I want nothing more than to tear into a bag of M & Ms every day, but we all know that that is wrong and is the start of the slippery slope to fat bastardom, something I am keen to avoid at all costs. The human body and its relationship with metabolism, which has been well documented, starts to get worse the older you get. Whereas previously I could eat somewhere close to a pound of mince in one sitting and be perfectly fine, if I tried that now I would spend the rest of the week locked in a toilet.
I bought a pack of oranges for the vitamin C. They’re always described as easy peelers but they’re a shit and a half to get into. Unless the definition of easy peelers is, “something that requires a sharp knife to get into” then you’re not getting into one without, well, a sharp knife that is unless you want your hands covered in juice and pith. The last one in the pack was weird looking, it was paler than the others and kind of resembled a lemon in a certain light. It also had strange green spots that looked like mould, but they were there when I first bought them.
The more I looked at the orange the less I wanted to eat it. I started asking people at work of they wanted it to which I was greeted with a resounding “no!” for some reason. A few days went by and still there was no desire to eat it. You know me, I’d eat a sewer grate if it was coated in jam. Was it the fact that it took several minutes to get into it that was putting me off? That oranges are a pretty weak fruit overall? Who knows but whatever it was it permeated in my mind and caused a few more days to slip past.
Eventually I stopped being silly and I ate it. By now people were sick of me asking if I wanted to have the orange. I left it on my boss’ desk when she was in a meeting and, when she returned, responded with, “WHAT’S THAT DOING THERE? I don’t want your bloody orange, Ian!” I, in turn, thought this was hilarious (#fittingin). On a quiet day when nobody was looking, I stripped it of its skin and chomped it in three bites. The unusual green spots weren’t mould, so I presume they were some sort of birthmark.
A joke is only worth doing if you’re willing to run it right into the ground. I took a photo before I ate the orange so I could eventually send this to everyone in my team.
They are gonna love me so god damn much.
Can’t Stop the River Force 5
Avenging bunged-up watercourses across the north east of England, the River Force 5 are on hand with their collection of sticks and poles to slowly move rocks and piles of leaves around, allowing the water to flow more directly and efficiently.
Now you too can revel in their escapades and benefit from their wisdom in this, their first non-fiction publication, Can’t Stop the River Force 5.
In this charming volume you will discover:
- Kev’s Sleeping Bag Deluxe
- The Grn
- How to deal with a gay issue
- The tale of Robert Flandersnoof
- Plenty of tug and tumble
You can, as ever, read it on our magnificent Books page.
Woodworking: working with wood
My birthday present this year was a two-day workshop using traditional woodworking tools to turn some freshly cut logs into a beautifully finished stool, complete with a hand-carved saddle seat. Yesterday I had the first day of the workshop, which was enormously enjoyable and satisfying. I’m going back next week to finish my masterpiece.
I sustained a number of blisters while using an axe, making these the most manly injuries of my life.
Anyway, I thought you would enjoy learning about some of the traditional woodworking tools that I used to work the wood.
This is a long blunt metal blade on the bottom of a big stick. You place it on a log and then smash it with a huge wooden club. Several such macho whackings will force it through the log and split it in two. This is highly enjoyable. If hammering your froe isn’t sufficiently noisy you can cast it aside and use an axe and a metal lumphammer instead, which will cause everyone’s ears to ring.
This is a sharp thing on a stick and you’ve seen one before. By putting a bit of wood on a block, and holding on to it with one hand, you can swing the axe at alarming speed towards the wood, and your fingers, causing bits to splinter off in all directions. If you are the sort of sturdy gung-ho chap who runs a woodworking course, you will do this with unbelievable force and precision, turning a log into a chair leg in a matter of seconds. If you are me you will spend ten minutes ineffectually chipping away at it while giving yourself blisters.
For obvious reasons the mention of this device terrified me, but once I had been coaxed back into the room I discovered that it is a wooden apparatus, sometimes called a woodland vice, that you sit on. By bracing your feet against a footplate, you pivot a bar down onto your piece of wood, holding it in place while leaving both hands free to tinker with it. The wood can be released, moved and held down again with great speed by using your legs. I much preferred this device to both normal vices and normal horses.
This item has a name in two parts. “Draw” refers to the action of pulling it towards you. It has two handles, so you can grip it in both hands, and you pull it forcefully towards your stomach. “Blade” refers to the fact that, mounted between the handles, is a foot-long very sharp blade which, as mentioned, you are pulling forcefully towards your stomach. You can use this to shave slices off a piece of wood, turning an ineffectually chipped-at log into something resembling a chair leg.
Once you’ve drawn your drawblade enough, you will have a roughly shaped piece of wood. To finesse its shape you can use a spokeshave, which is a little bit of wood, big enough to grip in both hands, with a razorblade mounted in the bottom. You use it in the same way, but get a much finer slice, enabling precision smoothing. It can also be used across the end grain to produce a surface as smooth as if you’d spent all day sanding it. I achieved a state of zen mindfulness while using this tool.
These tools vary between terrifying and precise. The axe was, for me, at the terrifying end of the spectrum until I met the adze. It’s like an axe, but with a longer handle, and its blade is curved and at right angles to the handle. You use it to carve curved shapes out of a piece of wood, and you do this by standing on the wood with your legs apart and then swinging the adze, with as much speed and force as you can muster, between your legs. Ideally you will hack lumps out of the wood without damaging your shoes or removing your own toenails.
Also this week, I used a hand drill to put a one-inch drill bit through a solid piece of ash. Next week I will have my first encounter with a travisher, which I expect will be used for extensive amounts of travishing, and I will then form a mortise and tenon joint using means I cannot yet explain.
I will, assuming I am successful, allow you to sit on the stool, and I will repeat to you the story about getting blisters.