The Predictors of Beaconicity

(this is based on an extract from my permanently-in-progress novel, Colin Goes to Zobeland, third draft, circa 2008)

Not many people outside Dorking have heard of the Predictors of Beaconicty. In fact, few people in Dorking have heard of them.

The ‘Predictors’, as their small but loyal fan base called them, thronged (if twenty-three people in a social club can be termed a ‘throng’) to every Predictors gig during their brief career in the mid-1980s.

The Predictors of Beaconicity were an Anglo-Asian rock bhangra fusion outfit, with great aspirations, but no realistic chance of progressing beyond the local pub circuit. Their songs were largely influenced by items of clothing, often with vague political or military references. Their more popular numbers included ‘Smoking-jacket Deserter’, ‘Valley of Cravats’, ‘Anarchist in a Cardigan’ and the classic “Vacuum Codpiece Disaster” (their big finisher).

The Predictors were often supported by a band called The Aggression Farm, who usually opened their set with ‘Owl Sick Fountain’, followed by a fifteen minute epic titled ‘Smokin’ Sandie’s Drummin’ Bus Trip’, and closed with ‘The Disturbing Softness of Bobble-Hats” (co-written with The Predictors’ lead singer, Arjan Jhooti). It wasn’t much of a warm-up for the Predictors, but it did make them look quite good, in comparison.

[image of Delhi 2 Dublin performing at the 2012 Sunfest Festival in London, Ontario, by Tabercil. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) licence.]

Confetti – The early days

[I just found this in my writing ideas folder. I wrote it during the time I was researching This Day in Music’s Guide To Queen. It’s a piece, inspired by the early history of the rock band Queen, conceived whilst laying in bed with a mild hangover, 17/08/17 circa 8am]

Rob Comet was born Fergus O’Hara in a small village in County Kerry, Ireland. At school Fergus learnt to play the piano accordion and sang in a group called the Busy Bees. The O’Haras moved to England when Fergus was eighteen, because they wanted to be able to shop in big supermarkets. Fergus had always had a natural flair for furniture design and he registered for a course at Salford Technical College to study for an HND in the subject.

Kevin Nice-Manners was desperate to emulate his guitar hero, The Edge out of that U2. Unable to afford a proper electric guitar Kevin and his father, Kevin snr, set about building one from scratch. They used whatever came to hand in Kevin snr’s shed, settling on parts of a Black and Decker Workmate for the body of the instrument and a Victorian bannister rail for the neck. It was unwieldy but Kevin grew accustomed to its idiosyncrasies and found he was able to produce sounds which would have been impossible with a guitar of a more conventional construction. Armed with his new instrument Kevin set about forming a band with school-friends. They needed a singer and found one at an Extreme Noise Terror gig, where Dick Tombola was standing at the back, singing Shakin’ Stevens songs. The band was complete and they chose the futuristic sounding 2001 as a name. Eventually, Nice-Manners and Tombola progressed to college and 2001 disbanded. Nice-Manners went to UMIST to study computer science and Tombola started a course in furniture design at Salford Tech.

Harry Rockstar grew up in Inverness where, at the age of three, he formed his first band, The Exploding Lampshades. His deafening drumming was soon heard by some big boys who invited him to join them in their band, ‘Bob Pheasant and the Response’. Bob was a keen Jack Nicholson fan and left the band after a clash between a gig and a midnight showing of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the local ABC Cinema. Now just called ‘Response’ the band went from strength to strength, becoming Inverness’s most popular combo; they even won the annual Inverness’s Loudest Band Competition in 1986. In 1988 Rockstar set off south to start a course in podiatry at Manchester Polytechnic. He’d only been in Manchester five minutes when he saw a ‘Drummer wanted’ advert and decided to follow it up.

Ron Calmish was a Yorkshire lad who played bass in an all-bass band called Indecision. In 1987 he tried playing lead guitar but was obliged to return to his original instrument after Indecision’s lead bassist left. In 1989 he travelled to Manchester to study engineering.

Pout was formed in Manchester by old school-friends Dick Tombola and Kevin Nice-Manners. They advertised for a “Neil Peart / Stewart Copeland-style drummer”; Harry Rockstar, from Inverness, replied and got the job.

At Salford Tech O’Hara met Tombola, who introduced him to his fellow Pout band-mates. Pout and O’Hara drank in the Knackered Barge, a popular watering hole in the Salford Docks area. Here they met members of Muntjac, a band from Clapham, London, who had headed north in the hope of becoming part of the Madchester sound. O’Hara joined Muntjac and soon changed their name to Grrr!

To help make ends meet O’Hara and Rockstar worked in a Spud-U-Like in Manchester. At one point the members of Pout and Grrr!, plus all their friends, lived in a phone box on the East Lancs Road.

Tombola decided to leave Pout to pursue his first love, urban graffiti. By now Grrr! had disbanded and, after a brief stint as the singer with experimental band Don’t Sleep in the Subway Darling, O’Hara joined forces with Nice-Manners and Rockstar. They persuaded an old Inverness friend of Rockstar’s, Barry Maybe, to join them on bass. O’Hara suggested they call themselves Confetti because it sounds pretty and changed his name to Rob Comet. By now Comet and Nice-Manners were writing their own songs and Confetti were travelling to Inverness at weekends to play gigs arranged for them by Mrs Rockstar, Harry’s mum. Maybe had never really felt part of Confetti and was having trouble with the backing vocals for most of their songs; finally he decided not to return to Manchester after another weekend of Inverness gigs. Confetti tried out more bass players but had yet to find the right person. Ron Calmish joined Confetti after three bass players in succession couldn’t sing the complex harmonies Comet and Nice-Manners kept writing. Calmish couldn’t sing them either but he had very nice hair.

Confetti spent the next two years playing gigs around Greater Manchester until they were spotted by Andy and Jim Rotherham, brothers who ran Spear Recording Studios. They signed the band and let them record on bank holidays, when the studio was free. The result, two and-a-half years later, was Confetti’s eponymous debut album. The long recording time was due to a combination of the infrequency of bank holidays and the fact that on several visits to the studio they’d forgotten what they’d done last time, lost the master tapes, or both. They enjoyed some minor success with a couple of single releases and some airplay for their next two albums, Confetti II and A Mild Bout of Flu. However, it was Rob Comet’s masterpiece, ‘Bodacious Soliloquy’, from their fourth album, Carry on Nurse, which launched them to superstardom. Its famous opening line “Brother just thrilled a man. Put my bum against his head. Pulled his trigger he turned red.” was said to date back to Comet’s earliest song writing attempts with Grrr! but it had developed in subsequent years to a fifteen-minute epic, which critics said would never get played on the radio; they were wrong of course.

Confetti’s place in the panoply of the greatest bands of all time was assured ten years later, when they played their legendary ten minute set at Skive Aid, a concert raising funds to get benefits cheats back into work. It’s still held to be the definitive example of how to command an audience from the moment you arrive on stage and how to condense twenty-two hit songs, a guitar solo and two audience participation slots into the time it normally takes to introduce the band; the only thing they didn’t have time for was a band introduction.

To be continued…

Not so Cleverbot – 1

I’ve just found a couple of transcripts of conversations I had with Cleverbot, back in 2012 and 2013. Here’s the first (I don’t believe it requires any explanation and I now realise ‘Peyton Plaice’ was a missed opportunity):

User: Where is my soul?
Cleverbot: You don't have one.

User: Why do you say that?
Cleverbot: Because you are.

User: You seem to be a particularly stupid 'Cleverbot'.
Cleverbot: Thanks.

User: How do I contact the people responsible for you?
Cleverbot: I don't know, who's controlling this.

User: Your punctuation is poor.
Cleverbot: In what regard?

User: You used a superfluous comma.
Cleverbot: I like contractions.

User: Are you in labour?
Cleverbot: *Drags you away by the hair*.

User: Is that a stylised neanderthal reference?
Cleverbot: No.

User: How was it relevant to our conversation?
Cleverbot: I got to do lots of math.

User: Of the two plus two equals fish variety?
Cleverbot: What series?

User: Peyton Place.
Cleverbot: Not so.

User: Absolutely so.
Cleverbot: Have you ever eat pizza?

User: Would you like to revise the conjugation of your previous sentence?
Cleverbot: I would, but I'm on my iPod.

User: You are a very bad advert for AI.
Cleverbot: Okay, ew.

User: Ta ta.
Cleverbot: Aha.

Wodehouse and Plumtopia

Once again, I’ve taken my eye off the Ukeblog ball for five minutes and more than two years have elapsed.

After this most recent Ukeblog hiatus, I felt moved to post something, having just stumbled upon a rather splendid blog, dedicated to all things P. G. Wodehouse. I discovered Honoria Plum‘s A Centenary of My Man Jeeves post via Twitter and soon found myself diverted from whatever it was I was supposed to be doing, as I enjoyed a pleasant stroll around Plumtopia.

I now realise:

a) I’ve neglected P.G. Wodehouse for far too long; I must revisit old favourites and discover new gems I never got round to reading.

b) The person expecting an email from me by 5pm is now disappointed and will become even more disappointed, as I’ve barely started putting it together.

c) My tea’s gone cold.

All signs of a very welcome distraction.

Bigotry, hate and Love.

Tuesday 14th March 2017 04:50

[Thoughts after waking from a dream in which I was at a gig starring a male band led by Tom Robinson and TV Smith.  I noticed in the dream that they both looked as they had in the 1970s, despite the event taking place in the current day.  At the end of the gig the all-male audience started to circulate around the room hugging and kissing; there was nothing sexual in this; it was spontaneous camaraderie and affection brought about by the moment.  One man uttered anti-gay comments and earned admonishing looks from those around him.  Some men refused to hug or kiss others because they were straight.  Some of the crowd began to to turn on them.  A beautiful moment was turning nasty.  I woke up.

The dream was likely to have been inspired by the fact that the previous day Tom Robinson had announced the 40th anniversary live performance of ‘Power In The Darkness’, scheduled for October 2017 at The 100 Club, London.

I am straight.  I have a number of gay and lesbian friends.  I don’t believe they or I consider ourselves to be defined by our sexual orientations.]

The fight for any cause is likely to have developed, at least in part, in response to some form of ignorance or bigotry. However, the moment any fight for a cause starts to embrace the notion of fighting against anyone or anything else it is itself in danger of becoming closed-minded and/or intolerant.

If you consider anyone who thinks differently to you, anyone outside your immediate cause, to be ‘other’, ‘lesser’, ‘wrong’, ‘unacceptable’ etc. then you are guilty of bigotry. We are all blessed with being different and we should all rejoice in the fact that we share that one same great attribute: individuality.

The fight against hatred can itself lead to hatred; a hatred of the thing you’re fighting only equips you for further fighting, rather than engendering an enduring peace.  Don’t waste your time and energy fighting against intolerance and hatred; spend them fighting for inclusion and love.

Feng Shui for the Western World

I’ve heard that, as China continues to grow as a major nation on the world stage, Feng Shui is enjoying a bit of a renaissance amongst its Western neighbours. I thought I’d put together a simple guide for anyone unfamiliar with this important, potentially life-imporoving art:-


First and foremost, what does “Feng Shui” mean and how should it be pronounced?  Apparently, literally translated it means ‘wind and water’, a most unfortunate choice for an art which so reviles the lavatory.  I make a point of pronouncing it phonetically (‘feng shooey’), mainly to annoy those who know little more about it than me (i.e. nothing) but insist on pronouncing it ‘fong shway’. There is clearly an opportunity for some real showing off here.  Try inventing your own pronunciation.  Make sure you use it with such conviction that even the alleged experts in your peer group will question themselves.  I think I might try ‘van joy’ for a while.  I like the fact that it also sounds like something that might happen in the back of a delivery truck.

One of the most mysterious aspects of Feng Shui is that despite being a far from recent art, it includes recommendations relating to such things as televisions, light bulbs and toilet seats.  How the ancients were able to predict the existence, let alone the mystical effects of such modern artefacts is truly baffling.

I wondered how we might translate the subtle and mysterious concepts of Chi, Sha, Yin, Yang and Cosmic Balance, which lie behind the implementation of Feng Shui. It seems likely to me that many of us would accept that moving the sofa a bit to the left might bring us good luck, but wouldn’t really want to get too deep into all the ‘mumbo jumbo’, real or otherwise.  I also envisage many of us being dreadfully disappointed when, after four or five years of not being able to hear our “Now That’s What I call Gregorian Chanting vol. 17” properly because we moved the music system to the west wall of the lounge (which is actually now in a gazebo extension, built to improve our health), we STILL don’t win the lottery.  It is this lifestyle built around instant gratification, rather than a long-term philosophy that makes Feng Shui a non-starter for many of us, and provides the material for this document.

So settle down in your ‘wealthy corner’ and enjoy this possibly life-changing guide.

Where does the Celestial Turtle fit in?

There are a number of terms, which pertain to the mystical energies on which Feng Shui is based.  Whilst this document doesn’t deal with any of these, I thought it might be useful to list the main ones.

‘Chi’ is the life energy, which is everywhere.  Unfortunately, just like a sock drawer, Chi can get really messed up, seemingly on its own.  Wearing odd socks may draw a few quizzical glances, but the possession of dodgy Chi can have far worse consequences.  If you’ve got celestial dragons, tigers, turtles and frogs sniggering and pointing behind your back, boy are you in trouble.

‘Sha’ is to all intents and purposes an opposing force to Chi.  It is sometimes described as ‘stagnant or foul vapours’ which may have a lot to do with the intrinsic aversion to all things lavatorial in the art of Feng Shui.

‘Yin’ is the subdued dark energy we all possess (particularly modern jazz fans), whilst ‘Yang’ is the wild exuberance we experience from time to time (e.g. when relocating the music system to the gazebo DOES win us the lottery).  It’s important to balance these two forces – perhaps that’s what traditional jazz is all about.

One of the mystical symbols, which feature in Feng Shui is the auspicious ‘three legged frog’.  No, honestly.  Stick one near your front door and (I know it’s common sense but I’ll say it anyway) make sure it’s facing in and not out.  I must confess, I find it difficult to see any positive imagery in the addition of an amphibian amputee to my household.

I’m in danger of turning this into some kind of Feng Shui bestiary here, but the other biggie in this area is the ’Celestial Turtle’.  He manifests himself in the form of the support offered to your home by the land.  The idea is that if you are building a house in the vicinity of hills or forests, you should make sure they are at the back of your property, allowing the turtle to lend his support.  If the hills and/or trees confront you as you open your front door it’s bad news.  This does not augur well for people who live in valleys.  I composed the following little rhyme to help you remember this crucial Feng Shui fact;

A hill at the back
and the Turtle’s behind you.
A hill at the front
and nasty things will happen.

Obviously, it needs a little work, but you get the idea…

Stating the obvious

At some stage in its development it would appear that Feng Shui must have suffered some kind of credibility problem (though the reason is completely beyond me).  The evidence is in some of its fundamental directions, which are listed below.  I assume that by embracing the sort of day to day actions carried out by many ordinary people anyway, Feng Shui exponents could claim that the majority of the population was practising their art.  I haven’t offered explanations.  Suffice it to say that it is claimed each of these will bring you health, wealth, wisdom or something similar.

  • Open the windows on hot sunny days.
  • Light a fire on cold wintry days.
  • Throw cut flowers away when they die.
  • Put a big mirror on the wall to make a room look bigger.
  • Avoid hurting yourself by banging into jutting corners of pillars etc.  Place a large plant in the way.
  • Don’t live at the top of a hill because it’s likely to be windy.
  • Don’t let trees grow out of control.  They could end up bigger than your house.
  • Don’t have too much water in your garden.  You could fall in and drown.
  • Handle thorny plants carefully.
  • Don’t wave knives or scissors at people.
  • If you crack a glass, throw it away.  You might cut your lip on it.
  • Put your music system in the room where you are most likely to want to listen to it.
  • It’s rude to point.
  • Avoid people who upset you all the time.
  • Replace light bulbs when they blow.
  • If sunlight falling through a window dazzles you, obscure it with a blind or curtain.
  • Choose comfortable furniture.
  • Your bedroom will be easier to sleep in if you draw the curtains and keep it dark.

Rebuilding your house

Forget moving the furniture.  If your house isn’t built the right way, in the right location you’re stuffed anyway.  Here’s a brief guide to the necessary alterations.

If your front door faces the end of a straight road you are apparently liable to be attacked by tigers in the night.  Whether or not this warning is only intended for people who live opposite poorly run zoos, I’m not sure.  You must judge for yourself.  The best way to repel these beasts is (of course) to plant a tree outside the door.  You will have to use the back door thereafter, but hey, it’s a small price to pay isn’t it?

If the same door also faces a telegraph pole, the tigers will be accompanied by killing energies.  Believe me, these are no fun whatsoever.  Sneak out in the night and chop that pole down.  What’s the problem?  You’ve got a mobile ‘phone haven’t you?

Incidentally, if you’re going to plant a tree outside your house, make it an orange tree.  The plentiful fruit it bears will bring you wealth.  Good news for Californians.  Bad news for Norwegians.

If you have a path leading to your front door the chances are that it is straight.  This is a BAD idea.  Prevent good fortune from racing straight off your property by replacing your path with a winding maze.  Please note, you may notice a reduction in the reliability of postal and newspaper deliveries.

How long did it take you to save up for that little enclosed porch?  You should have saved your money.  You’ll never get a decent Chi build up in that pokey, dark little space.  PULL IT DOWN!

Windows can be a real problem in the home, but nothing like as much as at work (see ‘In the workplace’).  Keeping the windows to doors ratio down to 3:1 or less doesn’t sound too bad a lot of the time, but try avoiding windows on opposite walls to doors.  If you walk through a doorway and find yourself confronted by a window, you’re in an unlucky room.  If it’s your own, buy some bricks.

It is a well-known fact, of course, that houses built on flat land, without a hill worthy of mention in sight are not blessed with the presence of auspicious dragons.  But did you know that you could attract these dragons to your home simply by ensuring the terrain is reasonably uneven.  I reckon anywhere above old mine-workings or in a decent earthquake region should do the trick.

You may notice that the ‘front door’ crops up time and time again in this document.  This is because it is of extreme importance in Feng Shui.  Unfortunately for most of us, there has been a long-standing commitment to designing many western homes in a manner which includes some or all of the following features:

  • a staircase facing the front door
  • a mirror facing the front door
  • the edges of the walls of a corridor facing the front door
  • the downstairs loo facing the front door
  • the upstairs loo above the front door

Make sure you avoid all of these, even if this means putting the front door above ground level and providing a rope ladder up to it.

Staircases are almost as important as front doors.  You can’t really have too many, but make sure you get them right.  When it comes to basic design, ‘The wider the luckier’ is the golden rule.  Also, if you can make them sweep in majestic curves, so much the better.  Just make sure they aren’t straight from top to bottom.  Don’t overdo it however.  Spiral staircases are not a good idea and are sure to lead to financial ruin.  How many owners of medieval castles managed to hang on to them for very long?  Trying to fit one into a normal suburban ‘semi’ could also lead to structural ruin.

Also, don’t forget the importance of securing the support of the Celestial Turtle (see foreword).  It is essential you avoid having any hills or forests confronting you when you open the front door.  Remember what Burnham Wood did to Macbeth.

In Summary:

  • When buying a new house, the threat of subsidence is GOOD.
  • Brick up any windows which are opposite doors.
  • To be on the safe side, plant a tree directly outside your front door.
  • If you’ve got a porch, get rid of it.
  • Devote the majority of your living space to wide, sweeping staircases.
  • Relocate your front door to the top storey of the building and on the side of the house.
  • If you live in a valley, move somewhere else.

How your home can hurt you

Exposed wooden beams are greatly admired in many western buildings, to the extent that some people actually add fake ones to give their environment that ‘olde worlde’ feel.  This is highly dangerous and can result in some really bad vibes (see also ‘In the bedroom’).  Cover them all up, preferably with a modern false ceiling.  They’ve probably been there for hundreds of years anyway.  It’s time for a change.

Another feature found in older houses, which is often cherished and enjoyed by their modern owners is the open fire.  Even so, there may only be one room which is still fitted with a traditional fire grate and a clear chimney.  Check before you light it next time.  If it’s on a north-west wall, I don’t care how much you love it.  BRICK IT UP!  This is the ‘gateway to heaven’ and it is considered very bad form to toast marshmallows at the sacred portal.

Here’s one of my favourites:  Each room in your house has at least one bad luck time bomb ticking away.  Having a light bulb blow whilst you are in the room can bring about far worse things than a soup stain on your tablecloth.  This all seems very unfair to me.  At least if you break a mirror you feel you had some hand in your own fate.

If you live in a suburban dwelling and are pretentious enough to have a pond or fountain in front of your house I say you deserve whatever bad luck befalls you.  Feng Shui however dictates that misfortune relating to this landscaping feature is likely to be very specific, and then only if it’s on the right hand side, when viewed from the front door.  Basically a small, misplaced water feature could cause husbands to be unfaithful.  I see, so it’s nothing to do with blokes being philandering gits with their minds in their trousers.  They actually would be perfect, faithful partners were it not for that ornamental pond in the front garden.  Doh!  “Darling I never so much as looked at another woman until you installed the fountain”.

If your home is large enough to accommodate a long corridor you may be quite wealthy, but beware!  The very existence of the corridor could be draining the wealth which funded it.  Also, if you have three doors in a row, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have three usable rooms in a row.  Use the middle one at your peril.  Seal the door and obscure it with large wind chimes (see ‘Annoying the neighbours’).  Of course, the room at the end of corridor will have to suffer the same fate.  Perhaps you should have saved your money and bought somewhere smaller.  Hmm, I wonder if Karl Marx knew about this?

Annoying the neighbours

Noise pollution plays a big part in Feng Shui.  A favourite method of achieving this is the wind-chime.  Placing a decent sized one in the north west corner of your property is supposed to attract good advice (probably “get rid of that damned wind-chime”).

Our next-door neighbours of a couple of years ago used to have jobs, which necessitated leaving the house very early in the morning and returning late at night.  I hope they were well paid for it, although they clearly felt they couldn’t justify a badly needed tumble-dryer.  One of the consequences of the hours they kept was that they had to do their washing in the evenings and hang it out to dry overnight.  Nowadays, enlightened by my wife’s Feng Shui books I would rush out and bring the washing straight in, rather than leaving them to the horrible fate that awaits anyone who wears clothes so drenched in negative Yin energies.  If you have similarly afflicted neighbours I trust you will do the decent thing.

Returning to the subject of noise, make sure you regularly expel all evil energy from your house by opening all the windows and playing really loud music.  I suggest you do this at least once a week.  I’m sure the Police will understand once you explain it to them.

In the lounge

Have you ever wanted to keep tropical fish?  Well, they can improve your life.  A tank full of guppies in the corner of your lounge (northernmost corner, naturally) should enhance your career prospects significantly.  From what I know of guppies, this may well only be if you happen to want to sell tropical fish by the bucket-load (rabbits have got nothing on these little chaps).

Did I say ‘northernmost corner’?  Ah well, that’s for career enhancement, if you just want the wealth without having to work for it, stick the aquarium in the south-east corner.  If you don’t like the smell of fish food, a big rubber plant will do just as well.

Brighten up your social life by hanging a bright light in your window every evening.  Warning: avoid a lot of unpleasantness by first finding out whether or not the girls in your area use pimps.

In the bedroom

It is not a good idea to position a bed under an exposed wooden beam (see ‘How your house can hurt you’).  Constant nightly exposure to all those bad vibes could literally kill you!  Think how many people must have died in their beds under such beams throughout the centuries.  Don’t be the next victim.  Our old friend the wind-chime can save you.  Just hang it from the offending beam and open a window.  The combination of the cold night air with the incessant cacophony of the chimes will keep you awake, thereby helping you to avoid dying in your sleep.

You should also hang a wind-chime outside your bedroom if the door faces a mirror, a staircase, another bedroom, or the lavatory (see ‘In the lavatory’).  The best bet is to hang a wind-chime outside every bedroom and open the landing window.  It’s a bit like sleeping on a yacht in a marina.  You get used to all the clinking, clanking and rattling eventually.  If you’ve followed my earlier advice and bought a house in an earthquake region, you may even get the sensation of movement.

Another one to avoid is the mirror on the ceiling above the bed.  In Feng Shui terms this could promote the introduction of a third character to your relationship.  Oh, I don’t know.  If that’s what you’re into you’ll probably want a mirror so you could savour every aspect.

I know many people consider mirrors to be essential bedroom accessories but as you are probably beginning to gather, in Feng Shui terms they represent an absolute minefield.  Here’s another one to watch:

Although they are less popular today than in the last century, where dressing tables are used they are still often positioned at the end of the bed, pushed up against the windowsill.  Serious bummer.  If this is really the only place available, please for your own sake keep it covered at all times.  Ideally, all bedroom mirrors should be painted black, just to be on the safe side.

Another bedroom accessory, more popular in yesteryear is the chamber pot.  This represents a really big cock-up on the Chi front.  Not only are you placing a lavatory and all its attendant negative vibes right under the point where you sleep, but you are also bringing in a water symbol, which is almost as bad.  In fact, any water, or water vessel in the bedroom is a no no.  If you get thirsty in the night, you’ll just have to get out of bed and stumble down all your majestic sweeping flights of stairs to the kitchen.

Have you got one of those lovely colonial style ceiling-fans above your bed to keep you cool in the summer?  Well you shouldn’t have.  Sweat it out and stay lucky.

An en-suite bathroom is a luxury you will appreciate every day.  That is unless your bed happens to be between the bedroom door and the en-suite.  If that’s the case, your only hope of salvation is either a camp bed in the corner or bye-bye en-suite.

You know how that wardrobe fits so perfectly into the alcove in the far corner of the bedroom?  Get rid of it now!  That’s where your bed should go, stupid!  What do you mean, there’s only room for a single bed?  It’s your choice: a comfortable bedroom or good luck.

Of course there’s one other reason why you should never mess around with wardrobes.  All the Narnians could get out.  Now that’s REAL magic.

I thought I’d finish this section with a bit of good news:

Feng Shui says it’s OK to have a TV in the bedroom, provided it faces AWAY from you, the viewer.  The only safe (and practical) way to watch it therefore, is through a system of mirrors.  As I’ve already explained these will, naturally, have to be blacked out.

In the lavatory

As you might imagine, there aren’t many good vibes associated with the lav.  Inevitably some poor devil will have to sleep in a bedroom whose door faces the lavatory.  Only that great protector, the wind-chime can save you.  Hang it from the ceiling between the two rooms (get rid of the smoke alarm; correct Feng Shui is far more important than an early escape from a burning building).

I think one of the most well known Feng Shui recommendations (at least amongst the toilet-obsessed British) is ‘keep the lid down’.  I live in that most unusual of households where I remember to put the lid down and my wife (who claims an interest in Feng Shui) doesn’t.  Even so I can’t believe that our weekly failure to get even three numbers in the lottery draw has anything to do with who last used the loo.

It is well known in Feng Shui circles that a lavatory located in the centre of a house can give rise to a complete breakdown of the family unit.  It is suggested that a very bright light outside the door will help to diffuse the negative energy.  I would suggest you’d be better off hanging a very strong air freshener outside to diffuse the negative pong.

There is one aspect of Feng Shui with which I wholeheartedly agree and it is this.  Don’t fill your lavatory with a load of flowers, pictures and other good luck charms because the luck will be soured by the evil energy of the room.  Hear, hear!  No matter how you decorate it, a bog is still a bog. 

Other parts of the house

For many keen cooks, a fitted kitchen designed to meet their own requirements, is a great prize.  You may well think about the ‘work triangle’, with a major appliance at each corner, all within easy reach.  Think again.  Feng Shui has no time for cooks who are only interested in getting that hot, full casserole dish from the cooker to the work-surface without incident.  The floor may be free from hot fat, but what about the cosmic energies?  The basic rule in the kitchen is, don’t put your cooker near anything else.  Ideally you should move it to the southernmost part of the house and clear the area of all other objects.  This will, of course, come as a great comfort to all Aga owners.

Many western kitchens include a jar, or at least a packet of rice.  If you have some, hide it.  Feng Shui includes some very clear instructions relating to this important foodstuff and its effect on your career prospects.  I’d give up on rice dishes altogether if I were you.  If any of your house guests ever catch site of your supply of these innocuous little white grains, you’ll be in the dole queue quicker than you can say ‘Kung Po’.

Oh, whilst we’re on the subject of hiding things…  Anything to do with cleaning can be a serious threat to the old Chi, so I suggest you stick all cloths, brooms and vacuum cleaners under the floorboards with the rice.

Hanging photographs of beloved family members anywhere in the home is a very risky business, with the chances of getting the Yin / Yang balance even vaguely right next to zero.  Are they too close to the lavatory?  Can you see them from the staircase, or the doorway?  You may as well stick them with the rice and brooms.

For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I’ve never been one hundred percent comfortable with pot-pourri.  Imagine my delight when I discovered that Feng Shui wisdom has it that you’d be better off with just about anything other than bits of dried, dead plants in your house.  It even goes as far as to suggest that cheap plastic flowers are preferable.  You shouldn’t need pot-pourri anyway, as all unwanted odours will be wafted away during your weekly evil energy purge (see ‘Annoying the neighbours’) and the rest of the time you can blame it on the frog.

In the workplace

The one place other than home we are likely to want to consider Feng Shui is the workplace.

The corporate logo is supposed to be a unique symbol, which communicates a company identity quickly and simply.  Unfortunately, a ‘Feng Shui correct’ logo should be a dragon.  This rather puts the mockers on the whole idea, but it would save organisations the World over an absolute fortune in consultancy and design fees every five to ten years.

If you work in a building, which is held up by square sectioned pillars, resign immediately.  I don’t care how good the car and pension are.  Even round pillars are a bit dodgy.  My advice is to get a job in a large structure with a suspended roof, or even better, out in the open.  No amount of share options is worth the risk of working with pillars.

There’s one other major Feng Shui flaw in the architecture of many large, modern buildings.  The 3:1 windows to doors ratio (see ‘Rebuilding your house’).  It’s really down to whether you consider a building clad entirely in glass to have hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of windows, or just one very big one.  You makes your interpretation and you takes your chances…

There are some basic recommendations for office-workers, relating to how and where to sit.  The general idea is that you shouldn’t have your back to the door, or your colleagues, as they are likely to betray you.  I’m not sure how much of this is down to negative energy and how much is purely down to opportunity and human nature.  Let’s face it, if you’re going to trick or deceive someone, who are you going to choose: one of the room-full of people watching your every move, or the saddo in the corner with his back to you?

The ultimate ‘power position’ in an office is apparently a desk facing the door at an angle, with a picture of a big mountain, not a window, behind you.  I prefer the western power desk idea, which definitely does have a window behind you.  Dazzling the people you’re talking to has to give you an advantage.  As for the picture of a mountain, I think I’d rather go for the more overt imagery of a real ice axe hanging on the wall.

Unfortunately it is not a good idea to put anything directly in front of you on your desk.  You know, that area that is there specifically for that purpose.  Perhaps this is why the ‘L-shaped’ desk was invented?

The good news for many of us is that it’s OK to have piles of paper on our desks as long as the biggest ones are to our left.  Fine.  I’ll just put ‘Time Sheets (2007 – present)’ on top of ‘Tax Returns (All)’.

Any filing system can be improved if you put some money it.  I suggest putting a substantial contribution towards clearing your boss’s gambling debt in with those very late time sheets.

You should treat your desk like a microcosm of the office itself.  Using your handy desk-compass (yes ‘compass’, NOT ‘pair of compasses’), piles of paper permitting, make sure you have the following desk features:

  • Win the admiration of your peers by moving the angle-poise lamp to the south.  Unfortunately this is probably behind the really big stack of papers, so you’ll be admired in the shadows.
  • To promote office romances, stick a paperweight in the south-west.  How could anyone resist?
  • Guarantee that next pay-rise with a plant in the east.  “Of course you can have thirty-five percent Jenkins, oh and could you possibly let me have a cutting?”
  • If you’ve still got room for the computer, make sure it’s in the west.  It doesn’t really matter that you can’t reach the keyboard any more.  You only ever played games and surfed the Web anyway.

Now, it’s probably begun to dawn on you that a fully ‘Feng Shuied’ desk is unusable unless you are prepared to turn it round so you end up facing a lavatory and have your back to a window.  I think Feng Shui is trying to tell all office workers something.  It is saying ‘get a job on a building site’.

The true cost of getting rich

For the comparatively small outlay needed to obtain a modest fountain or pond in your garden (in the north or south-west corner, of course) you can attract financial improvement.  In my experience, this is usually in the form of small change thrown into the water by passers-by who practice that other ancient art: well wishing.

Continuing the aquatic theme, any winding stream that heads straight for your house is said to bring money.  That’s just as well because you’ll need it to pay for all the replacement carpets on the ground floor, plus the pumping out and re-building of the cellar.

You are probably getting the hang of the fact that wealth and good luck are inextricably linked to water. It’s not just the water itself however, but what you put in it.  Really you should find room for some goldfish, preferably eight conventional ones and one black one.  Remarkably, Feng Shui doesn’t consider the death of one of these little fishy goldmines at all unlucky, provided (and here comes the payoff) you replace it immediately.  Now, many of us have first hand experience of goldfish and retain painful childhood memories relating to the high mortality rate of the species.  I suggest you set up a standing order with your local aquatics supplier.  Hmm, I wonder how many Feng Shui consultants also breed fish…

If your signature doesn’t start and finish with a bold up-stroke you are never going to make any money.  Change it immediately.  Beware that acting on this recommendation can often have the opposite effect to that desired, as the presentation of apparently fraudulent cheques and credit-card authorisations is generally frowned upon by the financial services industry.

It’s often said that one needs money to make money.  This can also be true in Feng Shui.  The idea is that if you hang money from your door handles (so that’s why Chinese money has a hole in the middle) it will promote wealth.  In my experience, all it will promote is an increase in the kids’ pocket money.

Don’t you just hate it when someone takes that last spoonful of pudding you had your eye on, or the last chocolate from the box?  Don’t worry; they’ve just blown their chances of a comfortable retirement.  The more you leave, the better.  In fact, to ensure a comfortable dotage, I suggest you give up eating altogether.

If you are keen on indoor plants, you may have some cacti.  Certainly in most of Britain, unless you possess a greenhouse, indoors is the only place they will survive.  Tough.  Stick them outside and let them die.  Put simply: take them to a garden fête or give them a garden fate, but keep a pet alligator in preference to putting a cactus on the windowsill.

Another plant which should not be kept indoors, or in fact anywhere else (I absolutely love this one), is THE BONSAI!  This has to be some kind of Oriental joke on us Occidentals.  As far as I can make out, Feng Shui dictates that the innocent little Bonsai is to good fortune what Dettol is to ninety-nine percent of all household germs.

Here’s an important tip for everyone other than urban hermits:  Unless you want to be a complete loner, shunned by all, buy TWO OF EVERYTHING!  You may have to buy a bigger house (or two) but don’t make it too big or you could run into long corridors or adjacent doors problems (see ‘How your house can hurt you’).

In addition to our conventional electric front door bell, we have a small metal bell on a string outside our back door, for the use of our neighbours.  Apparently this is the Feng Shui equivalent of gambling your life savings on the fact that Elvis Presley will be discovered living happily with Shergar on the island of Atlantis, on a white Christmas.  In summary, front door bells are fine but back door bells put your finances in the hands of a celestial Nick Leeson.

Please note that safe Feng Shui doors always open inwards, unlike those on every car I’ve ever travelled in.  This is why cars are inherently dangerous.  From now on, use only public transport (with ‘Feng Shui correct’ doors) and get into walking in a big way.  By that, I mean with great enthusiasm, not with giant strides, although giant strides or OK too I guess.  Oh, you know what I mean…


Here’s a simple exercise to help you find out how much work you need to do in order to establish good Feng Shui at home and at work:

1. Have a look at your business card.  What does the company logo look like?
a. An animal
b. A dragon
c. No business card
d. Bold, angular design

2. Would you say your house is?
a. Bright and airy
b. A bit dismal
c. Dark and airless.
d. A cave

3. When was the last earth tremor in your area?
a. Never
b. Years ago
c. Within the last 12 months
d. This morning

4. Your boss offers you a new desk location.  What do you chose?
a. A mahogany monster in the centre of an open plan floor
b. A modest metal or plastic arrangement in a corner by the fire-escape
c. A floor-cushion beneath a painting of a dragon flying over Mt. Everest
d. A metal desk with a wooden top, between an indoor fountain and the toilets

5. How many staircases are there in your house?
One point for each.  Straight ones score half points and anything wider than 6 foot (approx. 2 metres) counts double.  Add 1 point for each corner or sweeping curve. Each spiral staircase is worth minus one point.

6. Add one point for each of the following:
a. A music system with a power output in excess of 100 watts RMS
b. A wind chime
c. A pet (fish should be counted in units of 9, e.g. 27 guppies are worth 3 points)
d. A water feature

7. Deduct one point for each of the following:
a. A lavatory
b. A bowl of pot-pourri
c. A bedroom TV
d. A water feature


1. a:1, b:2, c:0, d:-1;  2. a:0, b:1, c:-1, d:1;  3. a:0, b:1, c:2, d:50;  4. a:0, b:0, c:3, d:1

10 or more: Either you are a Feng Shui expert living in a really weird house, a very successful fish breeder, or far more likely, you are a liar and a cheat.

5 – 9: You have probably implemented as much Feng Shui as is humanly possible within the confines of your modern, western lifestyle.  Well done.  Now get a life.

1 – 4: You have the luck of the devil to have scored this well, given where you work and the layout of your house.  You don’t need Feng Shui. Go out and buy a lottery ticket whilst you’re hot.

0 or less: Welcome to the real world.


So how did you do in the quiz?  Better than me I hope.  In addition, I have the following failings:

We live in a valley and our front door faces the entrance to a long straight road, which runs uphill (so no help from the Turtle there).  There is a telegraph pole directly outside our house and the chances of an orange tree surviving here in the North West of England are nil, even if I were able to plant it in the pavement.  Were they really so caught up with spinning jennies and seed drills during the industrial revolution that no-one took the time to consider Feng Shui?  As far as light bulbs are concerned, the power supply is so erratic where we live that we get through them quicker than loo-rolls.  Lady luck has probably crossed us off her visiting list altogether.

To avoid a fate like ours remember the following:

You need a house, which backs on to large rolling (but not too steep) hills, that isn’t in a valley and doesn’t face the end of a road.  Don’t have too many windows and shun the conventional western design, which has a front door at the front, a back door at the back and windows on the outside walls.

Make staircases a priority when buying or renovating a house.  Make plenty of noise once you’ve moved in and always take down any washing your neighbours leave on the line after sunset.

Remember, only outdoor jobs are really safe and you should never travel by car.

Finally, if you only ever act on one piece of Feng Shui advice, I would like you to consider making it this: “You can never have too many wind-chimes”.

Not so ugly betty

The gifted but timid and pathetically conformist makers of Ugly Betty please take note of ‘My Mad Fat Diary’. You had the opportunity and the talent but you blew it. Once again Channel 4 leads the way and Sharon Rooney becomes the latest in a long line of brilliant talent to be given the opportunity they deserve by a channel with genuine vision.

Rhymes with MILF

When contemplating how to describe a friend’s ‘partner’ I found myself rejecting all the usual tired old terms, such as ‘significant other’, ‘better half’, ‘er indoors’, ‘long-haired colonel’ etc. and almost resorted to just saying ‘partner’. I toyed with the tongue-in-cheek idea of ‘live-in lady friend’ and was about to dismiss it, when I noticed that the initials are ‘LILF’, which appealed to me, given its similarity to our old friend MILF. So there it is. Possibly a new term, possibly invented by me: LILF = Live-in Lady Friend.

Of course, I’ll now discover that the term has been in popular usage for years and is considered by most people to be far older and more hackneyed than MILF. Still, what do I care? It’s Christmas and I’m off to the pub to meet my friend and his LILF.

An open letter to Marina Sirtis

Dear Marina,

I have a pain in the small of my back, although I have no recollection of having injured it. Do you think it is likely to be some form of trauma induced pain, or an ailment of as yet unidentified origin and/or nature?


Alex Annesty

Is there any chance we could have a deep, meaningful and physical relationship? Failing that, is there any chance we could have a shallow, meaningless and physical relationship?