Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Uncle Eric And The Long Arm Of The Law - Part One

Based on Uncle Eric's many shady dealings it is surprising that there were not more close encounters with the boys in blue. In fact there were only two (notable any way). The first of these was the infamous obstructing of justice story ($75 fine), and the second was the 'great dart match' ($0 fine but several really grumpy people).

'Landlord found guilty of obstructing justice' , the local newspaper proclaimed. Yes, you guessed it, some one had pissed off Uncle Eric, and so in true Eric style, revenge had been extracted, unfortunately for Uncle Eric the chosen victims had been members of the 'Thames Valley Constabulary', and so had the ability to fight back. This was a situation where Uncle Eric acted without fully considering the problem.

The Horse and Harrow as mentioned in a previous post, is (or rather was, because they have since moved the road) was situated on the main road towards Wallingford. It's exact location is at the bottom of a long curving hill. The posted speed limit is 45 MPH, and no one ever took a blind bit of notice of this. For this reason the boys in blue decided that the parking lot of the Harrow would make a perfect spot to sit in their Panda cars (police cars for us on this side of the pond) and nab errant motorists.

This is back in the days when the police were really cracking down on the 'drinking and driving' crowd. Well it does not require Mensa membership to work out that if there is a cop car in your parking lot, would be customers (victims) do not stop. They go to a hostelry that does not have cars with blue lights mounted on the roof, and a really fetching color scheme, parked in the parking lot.

Uncle Eric was furious, but somehow managed to fight off the urge to get his shotgun, instead taking a deep breath decided that diplomacy might be the best method of resolving the problem. Outside he goes, knocks on the drivers side window, policeman winds the window down, and Uncle Eric starts to bargain (at 150 decibels). "Will you get this fucking pig wagon off my property". I am sure that in retrospect this was not the best approach to take, but, oh well.

The upholder of law and order, politely tells Uncle Eric to 'go fuck himself'. A short discussion ensues concerning the question of the policemans parentage, and the uncomfort level that could be expected from having the radar equipment rectally mounted. Uncle Eric turns around and storms back into the pub.

Fifteen minutes later Uncle Eric is seen driving of up the hill in his Ford Cortina estate (station wagon), and returns about 20 minutes later, making sure that he is not breaking the 45 MPH limit, for even he has worked out that the guy sat in the parking lot would love nothing better than handing out another ticket, specifiably to him.

Policeman Plod had had a very productive hour pulling in motorists every 10 mins. Suddenly all of the drivers appeared to be conforming to the 45MPH limit. In fact PC Plod sat there for another 2 hours and did not stop another car. Uncle Eric seemed in better humor, everyone assumed that having verbally abused the policeman justice had been served. Things were about to change.

Uncle Eric was sat in the bar watching the police car with interest, and giggling like an orgasming banshee. Suddenly he spots another police car coming down the hill, it puts on its blinker, slows down and enters the parking lot. The two policeman have a quick discussion and then enter the pub. They invite Uncle Eric to join them in the Panda car, Aunt Flo is looking on questioningly, wondering what the hell he's done now. Seeing as Uncle Eric only weighs about 140lbs dripping wet, it surely would not take two of them to arrest him
for the minor verbal skirmish that happened a couple of hours ago.

All was revealed, Uncle Eric had taken a chalkboard with him on his excursion, he errected it about 1/4 of a mile up the hill, and written a warning to motorists that 'The damn pigs have a radar trap round the corner'. The police had no doubt who was responsible, particularly
because in his haste to perform this community service he had used a chalkboard emblazoned with 'The Horse and Harrow', instead of one of the generic boards. So a 50 pound fine, and bound over to keep the peace. Police 1 Uncle Eric 0.

This proves to only be a short setback, Uncle Eric will be back.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Uncle Eric And The "Sweet" Beer.

Let me begin by giving a little background. Uncle Eric had more than a passing resemblance to the elder Steptoe, of Steptoe and son. For you folks residing in the yewess and other exotic parts of the world this translates as follows. Approximately 5'4" tall, 140 pounds, 50 million years old, 49 million of which were spent in a fish smoker. Face all wrinkled and rather than an impish grin, an evil leer. Exactly the sort of person that you have told your young children to avoid.

Wilfred Bramble - Steptoe

Uncle Eric was the owner of the "Horse and Harrow" a fine drinking establishment in darkest Oxfordshire. The pub being located on the main road between Didcot and Wallingford assured a steady supply of unsuspecting victims. After a close encounter of the Uncle Eric kind few would venture back. The local's on the other hand flocked to watch the antics. For the most part the regulars were spared special treatment.

One fine Saturday lunchtime Uncle Eric is tending bar and holding court on the subject of 'them bloody commies' , 'or 'hem bloody tories' , or whichever group was currently annoying him. This could be homosexuals, the local Didicoy population, (yes I know, whats a didicoy?, its an old Berkshire slang term for a gypsy) who he was formally convinced were stealing his livestock, or some other minority that had caught his fancy.

Anyway a car pulls into the parking lot, and out emerges a sour looking gentleman. This dour creature shuffles into the bar scowling at all and sundry (there were about 7 or 8 other patrons). He takes a stool at the bar and demands a pint of bitter (type of beer for you
merkins). Uncle Eric has taken an instant dislike to this guy. The tension begins to mount, the locals can smell blood. It has taken no more than a minute for this interloper to annoy Uncle Eric.The guy takes a couple of slugs from the glass, puts the glass down,slowly scans the bar, stands up and then declares, "I'm going to the toilet, no one drink my beer because I've spat in it". And off he goes to relieve himself.

He comes back after a couple of minutes, sits back down and resumes scowling at the audience. Long minutes pass,he picks up his glass and takes a long pull of finest Morlands bitter. Puts the glass down, and declares to Uncle Eric that the beer has a sweet after taste to it. The fun begins. Uncle Eric explains patiently that while the guy was out taking a leak everyone in the bar had also spat in his beer. The scowl changed to worry, to a look of shock and horror. The victim races to the door, barely making it out into the parking lot before throwing up. That needless to say was the last time that victim was seen in the "Horse and Harrow".

Ahh, how I miss him, a star indeed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Introduction To Uncle Eric

It is not unusual for a family to have a 'black sheep'. For the Barrett's it was without doubt my glorious Uncle Eric. Oh he never robbed banks or committed acts of violence, he just skirted the law a little bit, maybe played in the dark side on occasion, he was what most would call a lovable rogue. His base of operations was a county pub The Horse And Harrow. It was from here that he launched his master plans.

Oh don't get me wrong, he was not aiming for world domination, he merely was eking out an existence. A visit to Uncle Eric's was always an adventure. One day I dropped by and he said Simon I have something to show you, hop in the car. The journey was short and very off the beaten track. My good uncle showed me his new project. Pheasant farming was not something that I knew a lot about, and discretion told me not to inquire. “these are real pheasants” he explained, “they taste like wild ones”. There is little doubt in my mind that Uncle Eric and some of the local poachers had been hard at work to collect this wonderful selection.

On another occasion, a Sunday in the early 70's my father discovered that a neon strip light in the bar was not working. Back in those days there were no Home Depot's or WalMarts, in fact the only places open on a Sunday were pubs and churches. My father asked me if I would take a spin over to Uncle Eric and see if he had a 4 foot fluorescent we could borrow. Uncle Eric listened to my request, grabbed his set of keys and took me to the rear part of his property. He did not have one or two sheds, but rather something akin to a small industrial park. “it's in here” he pronounced, and with that a nameless and featureless shed was unlocked.

Inside were hundreds of florescent strip lights, complete with fixtures and fittings. Youth got the better of me and I asked where he had got them from. Not missing a beat he explained that they had been salvaged from an office tower undergoing renovations. Even by Uncle Eric standards this story seemed a little unlikely. The units must have been taken down with great care, cleaned meticulously and the original installer had had the foresight to keep all of the original packaging material. Also in what can only be viewed as amazing this installer had used the same tape as the manufacturing company to reseal the boxes! Of course I put the entire episode down to pure coincidence.

Uncle Eric was small in stature, in fact in the family some called him Jockey Barrett, although I doubt that the reference had much do do with horsemanship.

One thing that I am sure about is that he was not much of a womanizer. A story brought out at drunken Barrett family get together's involved Uncle Eric's wedding day to Florence, or Aunty Flo as we called her. Dressed in his Sunday best, Uncle Eric survived the actual wedding ceremony, but the reception got the better of him. Two days later he was found still wearing his suit and sleeping peacefully on the top of a hay stack. Now thats what I call a hangover!
My suspicion is that it was the glass of champaign after the toast that caused it.

Uncle Eric finally gave up The Horse And Harrow at West Hagbourne. Age and failing health caught up with him. What shocked me most was the rapid decline following his retirement. I know that this is unscientific, but it was as if he had lost the will to live. All he needed was just one more con, one more opportunity to stick it to the man and I know that he would be with us today. Sure he would be in his 90's, but he would still be terrorizing the local police and unwitting travelers!

No one could doubt his great business acumen. I think I was around ten or eleven years old, my father was talking to Uncle Eric about the pub business. Mini skirts were all the rage, Uncle Eric had found the perfect way to capitalize on the trend. It was only at the weekend that he could justify having a barmaid, but to maximize profits he put the most expensive beers on the bottom shelf!

I will say this, of all of my uncles and aunts, cousins, and other family members Uncle Eric was always my favorite. It is with reverence and true love that I offer these quick glimpses into the world of Uncle Eric.

I heft my glass to a great man!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A New Venture

As is life was not busy enough Jan and I have decided to head out on a new project. We came to the conclusion that there are not enough web pages around, the internet needs more :)

We are starting up yet another News and Reviews site. It is still in the very early stages of development but we have high hopes for Why the funky name narwo? well it stands for News And Reviews With Opinions! And we have lots of opinions. We will be actively seeking out writers for this project, so if you are interested in being in on the ground floor of the next CNN :) let me know.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

An Update From The Trenches

I have decided to take a few hours off from the giant hamster tread mill that I seem to be on. Time to sit back and smell the roses. It has been quite the week, though in reality it was just another week.

Lets see what I did. Well we had our regular Sunday radio show, and true to form a caller dropped another atom bomb that flew around the internet faster than Obama printing bailout money. So, a good deal of Monday was spent in dealing with the fallout. This is becoming a regular Monday mission.

Somehow, and I am not quite how I managed to read a couple of books this week.

What were they thinking?
- this is a look into the world of sports, and the mistakes people make.

Google Speaks - An unofficial look under the skirts of the Google company.

What You Are Turning Me Into - A depressing look at the world of street drugs.

Reinvent Your Enterprise - A look at big business.

Take The E Out Of Ego - A rather curious self help book.

Rumor & Qix
- A science fantasy adventure.

Wow, even by my standards six books in a week is a lot! Actually it will be seven, I am most of the way through Cocaine Memoire.

As for music and movies, that is all a blur. I know there were a couple of reviews, and a couple of interviews, but I'm damned if I can even remember who with :)

The one thing that I do know is that everywhere I look I see 'stuff' still in the shrink wrap. The piles are reaching demonic proportions. Even worse, most of it was unsolicited, it just arrives!

The other problem are the cases that Jan and I are following, they seem to eat up great swathes of our time on the phone. Anyone that thinks the world of Journalism is fun needs a psychological evaluation! It is time consuming and frustrating. You find yourself awash in material that for one reason or another you cannot print. Confidentiality and legal aspects all weigh in, it becomes a quagmire in no time at all.

Oh crap tomorrow is Sunday, the cycle repeats........

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Sorry that I have been so delinquent in writing on here, the days just seem to fly by. My wife Jan and I do actually have a life outside of playing. That life somehow has got us involved in three serious court cases. They have consumed our waking moments for several weeks. In fact it got so bad that Jan pointed out that is I didn't get my head out of them we would not be able to pay the bills.

Jan and I live day to day, I'd love to say paycheck to paycheck, but it is not true. We carve out an existence with $50 here and there. Plowing two people into a 16 hour a day investigation for a week has cased a huge problem. We have had to back off a little, just to pay the bills!

So folks, it is not that I have deserted the blog, I have just been more concerned with actual events rather than my idiocy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Todays Kids.....

It is Easter break, and we are hunkered down. For the most part Jan and I lead a pretty quite life. Yes I review Punk and Heavy Metal, but the volume is always kept down.

We live in a rather spacious duplex, and for most of the time it is peace and tranquility, our neighbors are hard working folks, and whole days go by without even seeing them, they both leave early for work and get home late. They do have a couple of kids, but they never seem to be around. My guess is that the kids spend the weekdays somewhere else.

Well, here we are on the Monday after Easter, we are swarmed with kids in the 3 to 8 range and there is absolutely no adult looking after them.I counted 8 of them. Just running wild, where are the brains of the parents?

The famous joke about telling a kid 'to go play in the traffic' takes on new meaning. Some idiot left them a gas powered childs 4 wheeler. I saw at least 3 close encounters with real vehicles.

This is beyond my comprehension of stupidity!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Simon Hits Brit TV Paydirt

There is not much I I miss about the UK, and I certainly have no intentions of returning any time soon. However I did enjoy some of the TV programs, there are some excellent series that have cropped up over the years. I recently discovered a company here in the US that specializes in packaging these classic and contemporary programs on DVD. The name is Acorn Media.

Some of the recent items I have vied include the classic John LeCarre screen adaptions if Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, and Smileys People starring Sir Alec Guinness. The rambunctious Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Night Mares, The Cadfael Collection, and Agatha Christie's Poirot. All great viewing. I liked them so much I have put a banner up for Acorn, check em out, they have lots of great stuff. Just click on the ad.

Oh, and I am too lazy to add links to the reviews, but if you plug 'title' Bloggernews into google you will find them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My New Best Friend!

I swear that some people have no common sense. We live in a duplex and a family with a couple of young children live next door. They are very nice people, very polite, and about the only bad thing I have to say is that on occasions they play the music a little loud for my taste, but that tends to happen when the parents are MIA. They have a new house guest, I believe it is the ladies younger brother.

About a week ago I spotted something odd early one morning. There was a puppy at the back of the house, it looked well fed, but appeared to be only a couple of months old. It was incredibly shy, and ran away when I tried to get near to it. I guessed that it belonged to someone in the neighborhood and it had somehow got out. The following day I saw the same thing. Now this was really odd!

On day three I noticed a food and water bowl outside my neighbors back door. Later that day I saw the brother with the dog, ah problem solved.

OK, now the damn puppy has adopted me, I can't step outside without getting attacked by this little fur ball. I happen to like dogs so it is not a problem, except getting your toes bitten at 6:30 AM.

Here is the issue though. The property has no fence around it, and these people just leave the critter outside, they are gone everyday from very early, till quite late in the evening. If this puppy is 3 months old I will be amazed, it has no collar, in fact I am quite surprised it has not taken off and got itself run over.

Oh, and our lease specifically states 'no pets'.

All in all I class this whole thing as the very apex of irresponsibility.

These is no doubt that I have spent more time with the darn thing than the owners, after all, I spent several hours outside reading every day.

I don't even know its name, yet I am its best buddy.

I hate to say this, but it is only a matter of time before something bad happens to this cute little puppy. You should only have animals if you are prepared to look after them.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Plane Crash On The Hudson River

I am not usually a fan of those chain mail jokes that do the rounds on the Internet, I generally do not even open the email, I just put it straight in the garbage can. For some reason I did open this one. No words are required!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Simon In Print!

Not in a million years did I expect this....

About a year ago on a slow news day I wrote an op-ed piece about a new Temple that had opened in Canada. It cost $40 million to build, and my contention was that it was a waste of money. $40 could finance a good deal of low cost housing, which would be a lot more useful than an ivory tower of worship. Needless to say this article resulted in an amount of hate mail. This of course was the whole point of the exercise, to create dissension.

Yesterday I received an email from a publisher seeking my permission to use the piece in a soon to be released school text book. Get this, it is for a course on religion!

So as of May/1st a bunch of British school kids will be reading my Perls of wisdom hahahahaha

Saturday, January 17, 2009

(Mis)Adventures In Reviewing

Occasionally I venture into product reviews, I don't do it often, and it tends to only be techy type gadgets that have something unique about them. I recently saw a press release for an ultra small external hard drive, the thing was barely bigger than a pack of cigarettes yet could hold 320 gig of data. Better still it appeared to be very flexible, it can be connected via USB, Sata, or Firewire.

I decided that I wanted to play with one, so sent off for a review unit. The PR people were very helpful and told me a unit had been ordered for me and it would be shipping shortly. Fed Ex delivered it on Thursday, and two minutes later I had it in my hot little hands.

The bigest challenge was determining which computer to try it on first. I run a Linux box, and I have had a few hiccups in the past with USB so my first attempt was on an old IBM Thinkpad. I pugged the unit it and absolutely nothing happened! I was not totally surprised, I am pretty certain the Thinkpad is USB 1 and the drive specifically stated USB 2, plus it runs Win 2k, and that may be an issue.

OK, on to the next computer, I decided to hook it up to my linux system and cross my fingers. I plugged it in, and..... absolutely nothing happened. Well once again I was not hugely surprised, I have a IOGEAR media player/hard drive that also does not seem to like Linux.

Oh, don't worry there were still plenty of other computers laying around!

The third attempt would be the proverbial charm, my wife runs a Win XP system with USB 2, this time the unit should bolt right up! So I persuaded Jan to give up her computer for a couple of mins so I could hook up the drive.

I plugged it an and..... nothing happened! Well now I am confused. The company making this gizmo make much of the fact that the unit is easy to open and you can stick in whatever sata drive you want. In fact the box even contains a small screwdriver to get at the ridiculously small screws.

The tech inside me needed to get a peek inside, maybe I could spot the problem of why it wasn't working.

It took no time at all to figure out the problem. There was no damn hard drive in the unit!

I fired off a quick email explaining that it was kind of difficult to review this item, and the following morning a very apologetic company rep called me and told me that a new unit was being sent out asap.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Whats New In Barrett Land?

Actually it has been surprisingly quiet by my estimation, although I am sure that to regular folks what we class as normal would be classed as anything but by regular folks!

As I survey what most people were call their Living Room, you know TV, stereo, couches, etc, I see all of those, plus a large table that is covered on computers, two desktops and a laptop, two portable DVD players, and the worlds most expensive alarm clock! On the floor I see two more computers and monitors, and box after box of stuff in my to do pile.

When we left Canada, I also left hundreds of CD's and DVD's with my daughter, it appears that it is taking me no time at all to amass a new collection. The mail man doesn't even bother with the mail box most days, he just pulls up in front of the house and honks his horn, a sure sign that more stuff has arrived. UPS know me so well that a package was addressed incorrectly, the guy knocked on the door and said, "address is wrong" but I realized it was for you!"

None of this is new, you move 2000 miles and it is all shades of deja vu.

What is interesting though is I have connected with a PR guy who reps a lot of prog bands from the 70's. Prog rock is one of my favorite genres, and I have had some great access to some great bands. In fact in early 2009 I am hoping to get to talk to Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep).

If you want to check out some of the interviews take a look at my profile on BTR.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Got This In The Mail...

The email simply read 'Can You Spot The 44th President'?

Too Funny!