The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Archive for June, 2007

You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

Posted by Exile on June 28, 2007

But sometimes, you do.

I have been saving hard for a few months now. Apart from the normal savings account for the holidays and stuff, I have been squirreling money away to get myself something I have wanted. I worked hard at it, went without stuff and finally, yesterday, I went out and bought myself a new watch.

Not any old watch. Years ago I had a Seiko automatic wristwatch. Somebody stole it from me. It was a great watch. It wound itself up. It was accurate. It was stylish. And even in 1977, it was expensive. I have missed it for years. All that changed yesterday. Now I am the proud owner of the new Seiko Arctura Kinetic Perpetual Chronograph.

Weighing in at 175 grams, it is heavy. The wristband is solid steel. So is the watch case. Beautifully polished and smooth to touch, it sits on my wrist perfectly. Self winding is merely a phrase now. This watch self charges a quartz crystal, which is powered up merely by the movement of my arm. It will sleep for up to four years and will then right itself after a minimum of being moved from side to side which begins the charging system. It will then run at fast forward to the correct time, date and year. How anyone can build all that technology into something as comparitively small as a wristwatch is beyond me. I admire fine mechanics and the workmanship that makes this thing tick (even though it is silent) is, for me at least, astonishing. Waterproof to ten bars pressure and shockproof, it will last me a lifetime. I will never need to buy another watch. Unless someone steals this one. (Anyone doing so would be risking me hunting them down and doing them untold damage.)

snp009p1.pngA thing of beauty is a joy forever. I thought I might just share the pleasure of seeing this thing with everyone out there. So here is a picture of my new watch.

Impressive, huh?

So was the price!

€700.-

But that isn’t important. What is important is that I bought something for myself for a change.

It isn’t often that I do that.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

High Voltage Bullshit.

Posted by Exile on June 17, 2007

There are adverts on the TV that make my blood boil. A recent spate of adverts for energy saving electrical equipment has really got me going. They start, predictably enough, with someone coming into a hardware store and asking for a light bulb or a refridgerator or the like, and being told the prices of two different, but identical, items. “I’ll take the expensive one” says the guy/lady. He or she then gets given the opposite of what he or she has demanded. “But that’s not the expensive one”, he/she declares. “No. But it will be.” comes the reply. The indication being, that the cheap item uses more energy.

This is crap! Bullshit. Madness. How unintelligent can it be? The thing that uses least energy is more expensive to buy. How bloody stupid can that be? And why? Why does the most economic machine or item or whatever have to cost more? Something is seriously wrong here.

I am not one hundred percent convinced that global warming is man made. I am convinced that it is a reality. I am also convinced that any saving of our limited energy resources is a good thing. No matter how we do it. But holding everybody to ransom in the hardware store is just about shy of criminal.

If our governments are so tied up with global warming, then they should ban the production of cheap, energy guzzling electrical equipment and only allow the sale of economic equipment. Or they should reverse the pricing by law. Or offer taxation benefits for the buyer, at the point of buying, to induce them to buy the most economic item.

This is why I have a hard time believing the man-made global warming scenario. This is why I don’t believe the “save energy” campaigns. I took it seriously once, along with a whole community of citizens. We saved so much energy by insulating our homes and buying the economic stuff, at personal expense, that the power company had to increase its prices to cover its costs. We ended up paying more for using less. We went on paying more for less forever after. We never recovered our costs, as we were promised we would.

If the government is telling me to save energy and save the environment, then why aren’t they doing something to encourage me, and others, to do something about it?

Someone, somewhere, is bullshitting me blind. I know it. I can smell it.

Posted in Rant | Leave a Comment »

A Close Shave.

Posted by Exile on June 16, 2007

I use a razor almost every day. Because I have to shave almost every day. I have been doing so more or less since I was sixteen when my father first put the open razor in my hand and said “Now draw it gently down your face and keep your hand steady “. I’ll never forget the feel of that super sharp, newly stropped razor on my skin or the intense fear that came with it.

I bought my first razor the following day. Not an open type but one of those with a screw off top and a blade which had to be inserted, exposing two cutting edges, one on each side of the razor. I used it for years.

Technology improved. Suddenly I found myself using a plastic affair with two parallel blades in a plastic disposable head. Now I didn’t have to change blades every week. I could just clip off the entire head and put a fresh one on without risking to cut my fingers.

That technology was improved again. Now I shave with a razor with three blades in one head. It doesn’t shave me any better than my old razor did but hey, it’s a cool design and my wife borrows it once in a while to get her legs all smooth and shiny. She buys her own blades.

Now the thing is, that one can only take this so far. I mean, we have gone from one blade to three. How much closer to the skin do we have to go? Apparently, a lot closer. The new thing Gillette is peddling has five blades in one head plus a seperate “trimmer blade” on the flip side of the head. Why? What’s the point?  One blade is enough to shave with, so why on earth should any man, even with a beard as tough as mine, need five blades?  Where do we stop this madness?  I can see the day where the new razor will have twenty seven blades in a clip on head that takes two men to lift and requires a resident surgeon to perform the job. Not merely shaving you, it will remove a layer of skin to keep you baby-faced for life. Not so much a razor, more a facial carpenter’s plane. I need shaving. Not being scraped skinless to the bone.

I long for the old days. Once, a long time ago, I returned home from active service to south east England. Having six months wages in my bank account, I was a pretty rich young man. I decided to take some down time before going home to my parents place and shot off to London for a long-needed weekend of relaxing debauchery. Booking into the Hilton, I had a great weekend of booze, good food and nightclubs. Before checking out, I decided to look in on the resident barber. Haircut and a shave please. Hot towels and the open razor treatment. I have never been so well shaved in my life. Watching that barber strop the blade brought back memories of home and my seemingly distant youth. I made a point of going to the barber every weekend for years after.

Shaving has gotten to be a daily chore. It should be a pleasure. The barber shops are gone now. The gentlemen’s salon died a long time ago. Nobody uses open razors any more. Try to buy one. All but impossible. And I wouldn’t trust a woman at the local coiffure to shave me with anything, let alone a four inch long, lethal, piece of surgical steel that is honed to a tee. Even if she could find out how to strop it and had a doctor’s certificate saying she wasn’t suffering from PMS, particularly on the day that I was there.

Damn. I miss the barber shop.

Posted in Rant | Leave a Comment »

You Don’t Have to be Big to be Brave

Posted by Exile on June 12, 2007

I am fascinated by birds. Always have been. They are the freest of creatures. They migrate thousands of miles under their own steam, can live in the harshest conditions and are not bound to the earth as we are. Every year I look forward to spring and put up boxes for them to nest in and I follow them from the confines of my living room. A good thick hedge round the unspoiled back of our garden ( well, I call it a garden!) provides nesting space for blackbirds and thrushes and the like. Our patch gets busy in the spring!

Our washing machine lives in the cellar. I occasionally use it without my wife knowing. She is protective of her beloved washer and she doesn’t like me fiddling with it. There is a window in the cellar, at ground level, it looks out over the front of our garden, where the bushes are. On one of my washing machine capers the other day, I saw a baby blackbird desperately trying to get in through the glass. Obviously this youngster has no experience of glass and was banging his beak relentlessly against it. Maybe it was the reflection of the garden that fascinated him. I don’t know. But I decided to help him. Off to the garden then, and catch me a baby blackbird. My intention was to put him up in one of the bushes, out of harms way.

As I got to him, the hen bird, who had been in the bushes all along, saw me approach her youngster. She immediately dropped to the ground, chirping madly and trailing a wing as if it was broken, she tried to distract me away from her offspring. I turned to face her and then she did something totally unexpected. She flew directly up at my head. This caused me to do the natural thing. I closed my eyes, turned my head away from the sharp beak coming at me and threw my hands up in front of my face to protect myself. I felt the displaced air from her wings as she “peep-peeped” her way past my head.

Had I been a creature looking for a feathery meal, this manouevre may have cost her her life.

Looking down after this attack, I could see the youngster scurrying into the bushes beside me. The hen bird, on the other hand, had now turned and was coming back for another aerial assault on my head. After two sorties, I decided to leave. I was obviously causing both creatures some stress and I was obviously not wanted in that particular part of the garden. Back then, to the washing machine, harried all the way to the door by a chirping mad blackbird that was dive bombing me continuously and mumbling about bloody crazy blackbirds not knowing what was good for them and I was only trying to be nice and whose garden is it anyway…?

Hers, apparently. Blackbirds are notoriously territorial.

Down in the cellar again, I looked out of the window. There she was. Triumphant, she stared at me from the ground beneath the bushes with her youngster in tow. Mother and child reunited and the big ugly animal banished back into his stone nest, where he belongs, as far as she is concerned.

I couldn’t help but admire her courage. Would you attack something so much larger than you are? Think about it. She weighs probably no more than 100 grams. I weigh 100 Kilograms. She stands five inches high. I am six feet tall, in my socks.

But, despite the physical differences, she made me defend myself, saved her youngster and, as far as she knows, drove me off. That is indeed bravery. I find it absolutely admirable. She has my undying respect. I will not be interfering with her family again.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Renewal.

Posted by Exile on June 9, 2007

I have a good selection of tobacco pipes. Not a large collection by any standards, but I have about sixty pipes and they are all in good condition. I keep them that way by constant care and maintenance. I polish them, ream out the bowls, draw a cognac soaked pipe cleaner through the mouthpieces once in a while and place them lovingly in their cupboard when I have finished smoking them to dry and recover. I believe in looking after my friends.

As any pipe smoker will tell you, one has pipes and then one has one’s pipe. You get to have a favourite. It is never bitter or sour, burns evenly and always to the bottom, is easy to hold in the hand or between the back teeth and just seems to fit you, almost like a part of your body. I have two such pipes. They are identical in design, made by the same manufacturer and are now about 20 years old. You wouldn’t think so to look at them. I have looked after them. This was confirmed for me the other day. I decided to get the old bakelite mouthpieces replaced with the newer acrylic material that mouthpieces are made of today. I drove to the original pipe makers with my two favourite pipes and presented him with them, explaining what I wanted done. He couldn’t believe the condition they were in and was highly impressed. “You haven’t smoked them much”, he commented. “Only once or twice every day since I’ve had them”, I replied. He was shocked, or pleasantly surprised. “Wow. Then you really have looked after them well”, he said. Much to my satisfaction.

I got the guided tour round the factory. He showed me all the processes involved in pipemaking, the briar blocks that get fashioned into pipes, the machining, the hand finishing and polishing, and the factory museum. Handsome old pipe models in their original showcases. Some of which I have, most of which I don’t. A collection representing fifty years of pipe manufacture. I spent almost an hour with the pipe maker discussing the art and beauty that comes from a thing so simple as a tobacco pipe.

My pipes came back to me by post today. The old mouthpieces were included in the package, with the new mouthpieces fitted to my pipes. They look wonderful. See the picture here. The pipes, newly polished with coal black mouthpieces, look wonderful. The new mouthpieces are slightly longer than the originals but that only improves the look of the pipes. It’s like having a new pipe all over again. Except they aren’t new. They are my old and trusted friends that have come back after a break at the pipe spa. Refreshed, renewed and ready to pick up where we left off.

I’m looking forward to my evening pipe and glass of scotch. It’s good, seeing old friends again. I missed them.

Posted in General, Kapnismology | 1 Comment »