The Book of Wympi – Chapter 1

  1. Lo, I came of age and my father said unto me, “Wympi, my son, you must seek that which I failed to find.”
  2. I was filled with great joy and spake in reply. “O! My father, it is done.” And I yielded unto him the TV remote.
  3. But my father was unsatisfied and replied unto me, “O! My son. That which you must seek is obscured by greater mysteries even than those of the TV remote. You must journey to a distant land and seek the Mighty Chef.”
  4. I trembled, though I knew not who the Mighty Chef was, for His greatness was manifest in my father’s words.
  5. And I spake boldly, for I knew this was my duty, “O my father, pray tell where this Mighty Chef is to be found.” But my father was filled with sadness and spake in his anguish and sorrow, though it rent his heart, “O my son! I know not of the land in which the Mighty Chef may be found.”
  6. Then night came and my sleep was troubled with a terrible dream. In my dream, I was visited by a humble waitress who spake unto me and said, “Wympi, on the morrow you must leave this place and journey to a far off land. There you will know no-one and you will be unknown to all men.”
  7. And the waitress looked down upon me and said, “But in that far off land shall ye find the Mighty Chef, even in his great house, which is called the Dutch Pancake House.”
  8. “And you must beseech of the Mighty Chef instruction in the making of the Flapjack and the Pancake, yea and the Chocolate Thick Shake.”

Xerxes the viola – a music fact-chain

  • The theme music to “Eastenders” (a BBC soap opera on UK TV) is based on an old Hungarian folk song, “Barka macskák történik a sajt” which, literally translated, means “pussy cats are made of cheese”.
  • The famous BBC Maida Vale Studios were, until 1938, a Barnsley Corporation Slipper Baths. Arnold Pelmet (later Lord Pelmet, of Dado), anticipating the formation of the British Broadcasting Corporation by several decades, and the need for studios in Maida Vale by even longer, had the slipper baths dismantled and moved to London in 1887. Listeners to early BBC transmissions from the studios could often hear the splashing of dedicated bathers, who continued to make the journey from Yorkshire for their weekly ablutions, until the bathing areas were drained, following complaints from the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
  • George Orwell referred to Barnsley’s many slipper baths in his book, “The Road to Wigan Pier”. George Orwell (real name, Anthony Lynmouth Blair), wrote many songs, most of which were awful, although “Look out Mrs, I’ve got my clothes pegs!” enjoyed a brief popularity between the wars. George’s writing, however, inspired many songs, including “Sex Crime (1984)”, by the Eurythmics and “Aspidistras Can’t Really Fly”, by Non-existent But Spoilsports Nonetheless.
  • ‘Eurythmics’ is an anagram of “Cue my shirt”, the title of a popular radio programme, broadcast by the BBC during the Second World War. It starred Jimmy Clitheroe, as a seventy-three year-old schoolboy, whose shirt performed in amateur dramatic productions, in the fictitious village of Henley-on-Thames. Sadly, for those keen on developing the concept of fact-loops (see ‘Fact chain’ below), “Cue my shirt” wasn’t broadcast from the Maida Vale Studios.
  • The Dave Stewart, who recorded a cover version of the Lesley Gore hit, “It’s My Party” with Barbara Gaskin, is a completely different person to the Dave Stewart with the same name, who formed the Eurythmics with Scottish diva, Annie Lennox. The identical names came about as a result of a mix-up at an agency, which specialized in providing stage names for up and coming pop stars in the 1980s; Call yourself Dave Stewart Ltd. has since gone out of business. In an ironic coincidence, both Dave Stewarts were christened Max Xerxes.
  • ‘Xerxes’ is a good name for a viola.

Fact-chain:

A ‘fact-chain’ is a list of facts, each of which contains an element from the previous fact in the list, apart from the first fact, which, because it’s the first one, can’t have a preceding fact. Of course, you could say that each fact contains an element, which is featured in the following fact, but then you’d have a similar problem with the last fact in the list. One solution to this would be to ensure that the last fact in the list contains an element, which is featured in the first fact, but would that really be a ‘fact-chain’, or a ‘fact-loop’? Also, although the author isn’t aware of the term ‘fact-chain’ being used in this context before writing this post, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he is the originator of the term. Why have I switched to referring to myself in the third person?  Oh, I’ve stopped now.

How to replace the battery in a Yamaha DX7s

Ooh,  I didn’t do much blogging last year, did I? Oh well, to start 2010, here’s a post, which is completely out of character with all previous ones, in that it’s factual and might actually be of use to a few people.

After around twenty years faithful service, the battery in my Yamaha DX7s finally gave up the ghost at the end of 2009.  I decided to replace the soldered-on battery with an easily accessible battery holder. I also wanted to ensure that the whole process was non-destructive and reversible, with no requirement to drill, cut, glue or modify any part of the DX7s.

Yamaha DX7s battery replacement with a battery holder

Here’s a link to a document I produced, detailing the whole procedure with text and images: How to replace the battery in a Yamaha DX7s

Ageing and Andrews

I’ve been thinking about age recently; I’m approaching another landmark birthday.  As one gets older, landmark birthdays are separated by more years but seem to come with increasing frequency.  Generally, as they age, men lose hair where they want it and grow it where they don’t.  They spend less time washing their hair and more time washing their faces – my thanks to a man named Andrew for that last observation.

“A man named Andrew” sounds like a title for a western.  I wonder what others there might be in the series: “The Magnificent Andrews”, “A Fistful Of Andrews”, “For A Few Andrews More”, “Pale Andrew”, “The Good, the Bad and the Andrew”, “The Wild Andrew”, “Pat Garrett And Andy The Kid”, “Andrew Cassidy And The Sundance Kid”, “The Outlaw Andrew Wales”, “Andrew”, “Andrew Rides Again”. Of course, there are also the classic old TV westerns: “Shotgun Andrew”, “A Message From Andrew”, “Flowers For Andrew”, “Sentenced To Andrew”, “Old Andrew’s Sister”, “Cannonball Andrew”, “Hopalong Andrew”, “The Lone Andrew”.

Phew, I think I’ve got Andrews out of my system now. And westerns.  Perhaps I should turn to music for a change of pace and a bit of light relief; something by the Andrews Sisters, perhaps?

Predictions for 2009

Finance:

  • Sterling weakens further and the pound sinks to parity with the Zimbabwean dollar.
  • In a completely unexpected move, the Federal Reserve recommends that the USA join the Eurozone.

Sport:

  • FIA regulations restrict Formula 1 cars to human only power and the World championship is won by a previously unknown tap dancer from Kidsgrove.
  • In response to the continuing credit crunch and declining pound, Lord Coe announces that the 2012 Olympics will be held in the back garden of a Mrs Nellie Pardue of 29 Bramble Way,  Croydon. It is hoped this move will reduce the overspend to around £14bn.

Music:

  • Eligibility for the download chart is restricted to finalists from X-Factor, Pop Idol and Big Brother. No-one over the age of eight notices.
  • It is discovered that Osama bin Laden has been making fake video broadcasts, in which he claims to be Ringo Starr, hates Liverpool and doesn’t want anything to do with his fans. The prank only comes to light when the real Ringo makes an impassioned plea for anyone to get in touch with him; even Sir Paul McCartney.

Technology:

  • Windows version 7 early release is made available. All features of previous releases, including the text editor, calculator, e-mail client, web browser and the ability to run applications are now only available in an add-on entitled “You’re stuffed without this pal – Live!”, expected to cost $99. All familiar menus, options and general features have been moved into illogical and difficult to find groups, which reflect the way Microsoft believe their users think, having not bothered to ask them. The new operating system requires a 3 gigahertz quadruple core processor, 8 gigabytes RAM and 500 gigabytes free disk space. It takes a mere twenty-five minutes to start up and is capable of running MS Word at nearly 50% of the speed Word 1.0 ran on an IBM PC with around one thousandth of the raw computing power, back in 1983.
  • Nintendo release Wii Yum, using a special food tray controller, with built in sensors – the Wii diet dish. Wii Yum allows players to measure food intake and play amusing games, whilst dieting. Amazingly, Nintendo appear to underestimate demand and only ship a dozen units to each continent to cover the first six months sales.

The birth of Scoffle

Scoffle started in mid 1950s London. Teenagers, as they were becoming known, were developing their own cultural identities through rock and roll music, dance and other ideas imported from their exotic and distant American cousins. Although it would be many years before the term ‘fast food’ found its way into popular parlance, the hamburger was already finding favour amongst the newly empowered Youth on both sides of the Atlantic. It was only a matter of time before a fusion of the terpsichorean and epicurean occurred.

The poor “washer-uppers” of London’s myriad cafes and coffee shops soon started using the implements of their trade, as substitutes for the unattainably expensive musical instruments used by the jazz and blues musicians, who influenced what was to become scoffle. In 1955 a down and out plongeur, named Terry Dagenham, assembled a band, which was to set the blueprint for all scoffle combos thereafter. Terry, who chose the stage name “Lenny”, was quick to see the musical possibilities of a piece of string stretched between two waitresses, and it is he who is credited with being the first to carry a rhythm by striking a steel draining board with a knickerbocker glory spoon.

Many other scoffle legends were to emerge over the next five years, including the incomparable Cheryl Croydon and her “Milk-shake Mamas”.  Cheryl and the girls will be remembered for the enigmatic “Two espressos after sunset”, the heart-rending “No starters for table nine” and the epic “Fifty covers before midnight”.

It is Lenny Dagenham however, who was the undisputed king of scoffle. He became as famous for his novelty songs (“Does your relish lose its flavour in the ice-box over night?” and “My old man’s a waiter”) as for his more serious compositions (“Rock Island Diner” and “Seven golden burger buns”).

Unfortunately, the scoffle boom was short-lived and, as the sixties started to swing and the British public started to develop more sophisticated tastes, eschewing the coffee bar for the Chinese restaurant, the hits even dried up for Lenny Dagenham. In 1961 Lenny teamed up with Cheryl Croydon for the innovative “Shake, rattle and spring roll”, featuring Cheryl on chopsticks, but it was not well received by scoffle purists and didn’t threaten the charts.

Scoffle was gone, but no forgotten. It is believed that, prior to forming the Beatles, John, Paul, George and Ringo had all played in scoffle bands – maybe – and scoffle continues to influence song-writers and musicians to this day – probably.

Lenny and Cheryl are no longer with us, but who can honestly say they can order a cup of tea and a slice of toast, at their local greasy spoon, without remembering them?

Kitchen sculptures, oil and oats

I tried to make some porridge this morning; I hadn’t done this since last winter and I was in a hurry. I looked at the instructions on the side of the box, expecting to see something along the lines of “Add one cup of oats and two cups of milk, per person, to a large bowl. Microwave on full power for four minutes”; I didn’t have time for the far more aesthetically pleasing saucepan method, although, as it turns out, this approach would have been quicker, and easier to fix when things started going wrong.

For some bizarre reason, the well known manufacturers of our favoured brand of porridge have decided that their instructions didn’t present the sort of challenge any self respecting porridge eater would expect, nay demand. The “X cups of oats to Y cups of milk” approach has been replaced with “Add 340ml of milk to 45g of oats”. For how many portions? Will this feed one small child, or will it expand, once heat is applied, to an amount sufficient for a ravening football squad?

I scoured the box for further clues, but there were none. I’d have to find some kitchen scales, so I could weigh the oats, and a measuring jug, so I could add the required amount of milk. After much banging of cupboard doors and slamming of kitchen drawers, I’d succeeded in creating a sort of modernist sculpture out of all the items I’d chucked about, in a frenzied attempt to locate the scales and measuring jug. If I’d had the time to admire my inadvertent creation, I might have called it “Egg-cup with saucepan, blender and crewit”. But I didn’t have time and I swept the unstable structure to one side, to make way for the weighing and mixing of the long overdue porridge. As the pile of implements settled into a new shape, the tiny funnel I use for filling my hip-flask fell to the floor and rolled under the cooker, where it remains amongst a sea of fluff, punctuated by the occasional dessicated – formerly frozen – pea. Now I was really cross.

Based on my supreme ignorance of the subject, I guessed that 45g of oats would be for one person and added 135g to the bowl, allowing enough for myself and two hungry children. I realized my mistake too late; 135g is an awful lot of oats. I decided that I probably only needed half the amount. I couldn’t just waste 67.5g of oats, so I decided to return them from whence they had come. The box design allows a small square pouring hole to be opened via perforations in the cardboard. Returning a not inconsiderable amount of oats through this orifice was clearly not going to work. In a moment of inspiration, I tore a sheet of kitchen towel from the roll, folded it in half and then fashioned it into a crude, and slightly too floppy funnel, the end of which I positioned over the opening in the oats box. I grabbed a handful of oats from the bowl and emptied it into my makeshift refilling device. Around fifty percent made it back into the box, the remainder scattering itself over a surprisingly wide area and adding a snow-like enhancement to “Egg-cup with saucepan, blender and crewit”. I persevered and finally reduced the amount of oats in the bowl to a level I deemed appropriate. All I needed to do now was add the milk. The measuring jug was next to the sculpture and glistening in a way a clean measuring jug shouldn’t. It was also surrounded by a rapidly expanding pool of extra virgin olive oil. The last rearrangement of “EC with S, B & C” had not only consigned my valuable little funnel to a dusty grave, but had also dislodged a bottle of oil.

I grabbed the jug and attempted to clean it with my kitchen towel funnel. Take it from me, you don’t want to mix porridge oats and olive oil. The sudden increase in the level of lubrication, brought about by the unholy union of oats and oil, caught me by surprise. The jug slipped from my hand and fell the short, but fatal distance to the stone flagged floor. A traditional, stone flagged, country kitchen looks great until someone like me tries to prepare a simple bowl of porridge in it.

My only option now was to estimate the amount of milk required. I poured enough in to cover the oats completely and placed the bowl in the microwave. After four minutes cooking on on full power, I’d managed to create a congealed mass, which could be removed from its container as a single, bowl shaped, lump. In a larger size, I suspect it would have made a very hard wearing trampoline. I didn’t have the time, or fortitude to start again, so I just added more milk to the trampoline and attempted to mix the two together.

“I suggest you have extra syrup with your porridge this morning kids.” They eyed me with suspicion – normally I lecture them on the damage such concentrated sugar can do to their teeth. We chewed our way through breakfast in an uneasy silence. My relief at them departing to clean their teeth was short lived; as they attempted to achieve any sort of brushing motion in their porridge cloyed mouths, I turned to face the bomb-site, which had been a kitchen a mere half hour earlier.

I will spend this morning tidying the kitchen and will then set out to purchase a measuring jug. If I’m feeling brave, I may fish around under the cooker with a piece of bent wire, in the hope of retrieving that precious little funnel.

Tomorrow we’re having muesli.