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Friday, February 05, 2016

Comic Cuts - 5 February 2016

Attempt Number Two.

I'm writing this to an accompaniment of chainsaws as one of the trees just outside the ex-garage that I call an office is chopped into little pieces. This is attempt number two to write this opening as the guy operating the chainsaw managed to cut through his own wire. It didn't trip the fuses but there was a lot of swearing that had me thinking the worst and that paramedics were going to find it difficult to get along the passageway between garage and fence now that the tree was horizontal and not upright. But it wasn't a limb, only a wire that was severed.

It has been quite a lively week compared to my normal dull and tedious existence. Over the weekend I managed to get the Harry Bensley book almost finished—I've broken the back of it now and it just needs a day's work to tidy up a couple of things and write some copy for the back cover. I'm hoping that I can do this on Sunday and get the ball rolling on getting a proof copy printed.

Monday I was back on Hotel trying to catch up with the endless stream of mail that people send in. The junkiest of junk mail—I'm talking here about my work e-mail, not my Bear Alley e-mail address!—tends to come in over the weekend and I'm tempted sometimes just to highlight and delete anything that arrives on a Saturday or Sunday. Trouble is, you never know what might turn out to be interesting or useable, so I have to go through every mail. Opening mail and reading even only the first paragraph takes time. If there's an attachment or pictures, that can double or treble the amount of time you spend on it. Multiply that by 200 and add the 70-or-so mails that are dropping into your in-box throughout the day and it's easy to see how you can get to the end of a day without actually writing anything or even subbing any copy.

Tuesday rolled around and it was another trip to the dentist. I've one more scheduled visit (next week) and that will be it for a little while. At some point, in a few month's time, I've got to have root canal work on one tooth and a crown fitted, which is going to involve six visits. I'm not looking forward to it.

Wednesday was a pointless but fun work meeting. Pointless because we'd already run through everything that we needed to during the previous meeting, but fun because we just sat around and chatted. We'll be saying goodbye to one of our team at the end of the month, which is rather a shame as we get on well. The good news is that it's maternity leave, so she'll be back in six months.

Which brings us back to this morning and an early start made on some repairs that have needed doing for some months. The tree that is being taken down has always caused problems. It has grown too close to the fence, pushing the garden fence over. It has spread its branches over the fence and over the neighbouring garden in one direction—they've chopped it back in the past, but I'm sure it was still an annoyance. It's in the other direction that I'm more concerned. There is a small, plastic-roofed area at the back of the (former) garage, described without a hint of irony as "the conservatory" by our landlady but in truth it's a utility room with a leaky plastic roof.

The "leaky" is the problem. Part of the problem at this time of year is huge clusters of berries weighing down the branches and resting on the plastic roof. Firstly, it cuts out all the natural light to my office and I'm sure this is one of the reasons my eyesight has been getting worse over the past year. Secondly, it weighs down on the plastic and opens up gaps where the old seals have rotted or been damaged. Trickles of water seep in and when it rains heavily there's a steady drip, drip, drip from the corners of the roof.

Now that the tree is gone, the roof panels will eventually be resealed and I won't have to lay towels down on the floor any more during rainstorms!

To cap off this week of getting stuff sorted, I managed to sort out my problems logging onto HMRC's website and, tomorrow as I write but today if you're reading this on Friday morning, I'm off to the opticians to get my new glasses. All 360 quids worth. Plus £25 for the eye test! Thanks, Boots Opticians!

Random scans. I've managed to pick up a handful of SF Masterworks (and one Fantasy Masterworks) recently, which I'm more than happy to share with you. The artwork on the original series is gorgeous. I'm not so keen on the later issues and re-issues where the publisher manipulated and reversed-out colours. Like a fool I sold off copies that I used to own and only started picking them up again in the past couple of years. I probably have about thirty of them, so still a long way to go.


Ace O'Hara ep.68

Friday, January 29, 2016

Comic Cuts - 29 January 2016

I had something of a jaw-dropping moment earlier this week when I went for an eye test. I've been struggling with small print for a few months now and decided that I'd need to sort it out after Christmas. So I paid a visit to Boots Opticians on Saturday and booked an appointment for Monday morning. All very efficient and the people doing the eye test were great.

My eyesight has got poorer, although it's in line with what you would expect with age. As a lifetime wearer of glasses I was expecting this and fully expecting to have to buy new glasses.

What caught me off guard was the price: my new glasses - one pair of varifocals - will cost me £360! Oh, and the eye test is £25 so that will be 385 quid, please!

I shit you not. My glasses will be the third most expensive thing in the house that I own behind my computer (bought in 2011 for £985) and my laptop (bought in 2006 for £974). The new washing machine we bought in 2014 cost £250 and the blu-ray player was £219.

A new blu-ray player costs less than two-thirds the price of a pair of glasses! How the hell did that happen? Wasn't opening up the market for opticians meant to bring the costs down? All I can say is that Boots Opticians certainly saw me coming.

And they wanted the money up front, which I didn't have on me. Again, kudos to the staff on duty at the time who allowed me to pay £140 deposit. We'll find out whether I've bought a pig in a poke when I go back on February 5th to pick up the third priciest thing I currently own!

The whole experience was perhaps cursed from the moment I thought of it on Saturday. I was doing my tax returns on Friday and wasn't expecting to be troubling the exchequer to much this year; in fact, I might be due a rebate, which (in part) is was what prompted me to finally get my eyes sorted. I could, I thought, put the rebate towards new glasses. As we were heading out Friday evening, I left the final steps until Sunday to sort out.

Punching in my income and outgoing figures into the online returns website—which at first wouldn't accept my i.d. and password, although I thankfully managed to prove who I was so I could complete the form—I got to the end. Yes, I'm due a rebate, thank you very much, although it turned out to be £15. I can add this to the £11.50 I'm due to receive in PLR in February and pay off the eye test with enough change to buy a... no, wait, probably not enough to buy a coffee!

As for the rest of the week, I was ploughing through mail that had built up last week, catching up on over 200, which I managed to get down to 10 by close of play on Wednesday. I'm writing this Thursday evening having spent much of the day with my Mum, although while I was waiting for her I managed to put a bit more time with the Harry Bensley book, which is now almost finished. I finished designing a second family tree page—compiled as following the intricacies of his family life on the page can be quite confusing without a road map—and have rewritten the ending to take in some new information about his wife.

With luck and a good tail wind, I'll get back to designing the book at the weekend and will keep my promise to have the finished product published next month.

In honour of my expensive glasses, our random scans this week all have the word "glass" in the title. Not very imaginative, I'll grant you, but it makes for an interesting little collection and certainly it lives up to the "random" part of the title I give these columns.

The column header this week is a shot of the Moon, taken on January 19th. It's the first time, thanks to my new camera, that I've been able to take a picture of the Moon that actually shows some detail. We have another "Supermoon" in November, although there are other interesting phases of the moon earlier in the year, including Super New Moons in early April and early May, plus a Blue Moon in late May and a Black Moon in October. (Details can be found here.) With luck I might manage to get some pictures... although I suspect they'll be relatively poor pictures.