Daily Archives: Sunday, 26th Sep 2004

Knees Up Mother Earth

Robert Rankin is, of course, completely Dagenham[1], and has been for quite some time now. Well, strictly speaking, he’s more Brentford, but you know what I mean. He’s been writing some of the funniest, oddest, most unclassifiable fiction around for a long time now. A typical Rankin book is likely to feature the impending end of the world, talking sprouts, unlikely inventions, copious quantities of alcohol, Elvis, Evil Forces, pre-decimal currency, and running gags that even I wouldn’t attempt to get away with. All good fun, and all highly recommended.

You could start at the beginning with The Antipope which is the first in the legendary[4] Brentford Trilogy in which we first meet such characters as Neville the part-time[5] barman and the even more legendary Pooley and Omally. Later books include the fictional detective Laszlo Woodbine and many more weird, wonderful and downright odd characters. But to be quite honest, you could pick up any of the books in any order and not really miss anything. There is something of a cumulative effect as the gags pile up, the situations become more and more unlikely and the silliness reaches unprecedented levels. Very good for reading on the train, provided you don’t mind getting funny looks from all the people who are wondering what you’re laughing at.

Anyway, here we have the latest Rankin novel, Knees Up Mother Earth, billed as the seventh novel in the Brentford Trilogy[6] and also the second novel in the Witches of Chiswick trilogy.

Set (as is generally the case) in Brentford, it sees the return of Pooley and Omally and their associates. There’s an evil conspiracy to release an ancient evil power[7] that is buried under Brentford football ground, which for reasons that make sense[8] in the context, can only be defeated if Brentford win the FA Cup[9]. With a rather unusual team….

It’s all very silly, and makes remarkably little sense. I loved it. Rankin is one of very few authors whose books I’m prepared to buy in hardback as soon as they come out. If you haven’t read any of his work yet, either get this one, or maybe pick up a paperback of one of the earlier ones.

[1] Three stops past Barking[2]
[2] Old joke[3]
[3] This site might help if you don’t get it
[4] Legend in its own (liquid) lunchtime, most likely
[5] But ever-present
[6] Who says trilogies should be limited to three books?
[7] In addition to Cthulhu, who’s hanging around….
[8] In as much as anything makes sense in a Rankin book
[9] Some kind of ritual sport thingy, I believe. I really wouldn’t know.

Another new toy

Just bought myself a new laptop. I wanted to get a very portable, small, lightweight one, but didn’t want to pay the full price for something I’d only be using part of the time. After looking around a bit, I found out that Toshiba now sell factory returns, refurbished and ex-demo kit on eBay. Buying this kind of kit can be a great deal – you get computers that are “as new”, thoroughly tested by the manufacturer and with a warranty for much less than normal retail prices. The eBay approach is interesting – it saves the supplier from a lot of expensive marketing, and gives them a bigger profit margin than if they sold through an intermediary. It’s good for the customer, because (depending on how many people are interested at the time) you can get a serious bargain, provided you’re sensible enough to decide on a maximum price and not get lured into a bidding frenzy.

My first attempt was to get a rather tasty Portégé A100, but I was outbid at the last minute (it went for just £20 over my self-imposed maximum, but who knows what the other person’s maximum bid was?). I wasn’t too worried, because there were a couple of perhaps tastier Portégé R100 models due to end just minutes later. I was just beaten on the first, but got the second for my maximum bid of £750. This isn’t actually the current model, as it comes with a slower processor and a 30GB disk rather than the 40GB now supplied. But as neither of those factors are really an issue for me, I’m quite happy. Had to phone Toshiba on Monday to pay and arrange delivery. Naturally, delivery was attempted while I was in London, but I was able to get it delivered to the office on Friday, so that wasn’t a problem.

Toshiba

Now, I’d seen pictures. I’d used a ruler to see how big it would be. But when I got it out of the box, I was still totally gobsmacked by its extreme slimness and, well, prettiness. It’s gorgeous. It feels reassuringly well-built, though. The 12″ screen is bright, sharp and clear. Performance (once I’d upgraded the memory with an extra 512MB from those nice Crucial people) is more than adequate. It works nicely on my wireless LAN.

Natuarally, with something this small, there are compromises. This model doesn’t include a CD or DVD drive[1], which helps keep the thickness down[2]. The standard battery only lasts for two hours, but there’s a larger four-hour battery included which neatly clips onto the base. This makes the back end a bit thicker (but still very thin), and helpfull angles the keyboard when the Tosh is sitting on a desk, which is pretty nifty.

While I was in the spendy mood[4], I got a new Logitech Cordless Mouse for Notebooks to go with it. It’s a perfectly nice slightly small cordless mouse, with a small USB dongle (there’s a cradle thingy with a cable that you can use if you prefer), which comes with a neat zipped pouch to carry it in. Nice touch.

[1] No floppy either, but who uses those these days?
[2] And I’ve managed to find a CD-ROM for it on eBay[3]
[3] Only likely to be used if I need to reinstall from the bootable recovery CD – I’m installing software by sharing the CD and DVD drive on my main PC
[4] I get them now and then