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Showing posts from October, 2018

JUST FOR THE TASTE OF IT [133]

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Every so often, I will look in a shop that purports to sell American candy and drinks, or look online, to see if they have cans of Tab, the original Diet Coke, for sale. It has been over two years since I last tasted Tab, and over two years since the shop I bought it from had closed. A seller on Amazon is apparently selling two cases of twelve cans, imported to the UK, for nearly £60 – this is approaching wine prices, but unless I can find something for less, it may be my last resort. Is it the taste, or the thrill of the chase, that keeps me looking? It’s not just me – even in its country of origin, people are getting desperate. Stories have been running about the largest independent distributor of Coca-Cola drinks in the US, covering fourteen states, deciding to discontinue Tab. With what remains on store shelves, supplies are drying up, and the search for its delightfully bitter aftertaste – a result of sweetening with saccharine, instead of the smoother taste of aspartame

AND BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE TO FLY [132]

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...aaand time’s up. At noon today (Monday 22 nd October), the UK Government’s consultation on reform to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act ended – it was meant to end at 11pm the previous Friday, but a last-minute minute flurry of responses crashed the online portal – it had been open since 3 rd July. I answered its questions two weeks ago, later than I really should have, but with the discourse, or argument, over transgender rights having become what they have over the last year in the UK, I would be doing a disservice to myself not to say something. The proposed reform to the Act will update the process by which transgender people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, so their correct gender can be recognised in law. I don’t have any irons in that part of the fire anymore – in fact, this week will mark one year since I received my certificate. The first thing I did with it was to update work, then obtain an updated birth certificate – the system for this is run, oddly

AND PLAIN TO SEE THE FACTS ARE CHANGING [131]

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Memories are short. Instant access to information via the World Wide Web has only been available to the general public since August 1991, with mobile and broadband internet only becoming commonplace in the last fifteen years. However, if you had the right television, instant recall of news, sport and financial updates, TV and radio listings and even recipes, was possible as early as 1974, before the first home computers appeared. Look down at your remote control, and the remnants of Teletext will stare back, marking where the information superhighway begins. The world’s first teletext service was the BBC’s CEEFAX (“See Facts”), launched in 1974, following two years of testing technology developed by Philips, which had already launched the first consumer video recorders by then, and were readying what would become the LaserDisc and Compact Disc. The BBC had already been experimenting with “BEEBFAX” in the late 1960s, using TV transmitters to broadcast a page of information overni

EVERY DAY I WRITE THE BOOK [130]

Monday Is there any point to keeping a diary? You know what you did, and how you feel – is it for reference, or to confront yourself, or as a writing exercise? The last of these was my reason for having first begun a diary fifteen years ago, but also why it has petered out – I have other outlets for that sort of thing, outlets more than one person can see. I could do with a way to collate all those disparate thoughts you have during the week, those ideas that felt like a good idea at the timer, but they let you go before you remember to write them down. Tuesday So how did Ceefax work anyway? And why did my mind make me think of this? And why am I now entertaining this as a subject for a future article, instead of looking it up? Teletext is still a recent history for most – oh yeah, that’s why it’s a good idea. Wednesday Of course, today is when you actually started writing your diary, in the hope that, when you read through it as preparation for the inevitable autobiogra

I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME [129]

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“If you didn’t live in that time, you’re not allowed an opinion in my view.” “If you didn’t live in that time, you’re not allowed an opinion in my view.” “If you didn’t live in that time, you’re not allowed an opinion in my view.” This sentence has rattled through my head for the last week, because I have never heard anyone say something like this before. I also cannot think of a situation where you could get away with saying something like it. How do you respond to it? Am I allowed? When writing about why I don’t like chat shows [ link ], I came across an interview gave to the “Mail on Sunday” newspaper in 2016 [ link ], just as a book on his encounters with Muhammad Ali was published. Even if I wouldn’t have made a point of tuning in to “Parkinson” in the 1970s, if I had been around then, I probably would have if Ali, or Billy Connolly, or Peter Sellers, or Kenneth Williams was a guest – some people are worth hearing, even if they are mainly there to promote something