Dollop 41 – BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Nomination News, And An Anecdote About A Train Journey

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Well, this has the potential to be a rather embarrassing Dollop. Last Friday The Young’uns got a message from someone saying that we’d been once again nominated for the Best Group category in the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards, which we won last year.

I am currently writing this Dollop on the train, heading back to Hartlepool to see the family (does this mean more David’s Daily Digital Dollop podcast jingles from my eleven-year-old niece Lucy? Possibly, but I cannot promise anything, so try and contain your excitement). I have scheduled this Dollop to be published at 8pm, which is after Mark Radcliffe will have announced the award nominations on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show. So, I am just assuming that, by this time, we will have been officially declared as one of the nominated groups for Best Group, otherwise this will be rather awkward. I will be out by 8pm, and so if Mark Radcliffe doesn’t announce our name and it’s been a mistake, then there’s little I can do about it. Maybe I should have written an emergency Dollop just in case, about something completely different, and then, if it transpires that we’re not actually nominated, I could just publish that instead. But I like to live dangerously.

The last time I wrote a blog post on a train was a couple of years ago. I didn’t end up publishing the blog because I never completed it. That’s partly the reason for David’s Daily Digital Dollop; it will stop me half writing something and then never getting around to finishing and publishing it.

I was writing about the person who I was sitting next to on the train. They were listening to music from their mobile phone speaker, and singing along. The music they were listening and singing along to was awful, and it was completely ruining my concentration. Being unable to focus on writing what I was intending to write about, I instead wrote an impassioned rant about the annoying person sat next to me. Don’t worry, being blind I don’t need to have the laptop display turned on, and so I set it to be turned off by default, meaning that unless this person was able to read my fingers, they would have no idea what I was writing. And given the bilge they were assaulting their ears with, I don’t think there was any chance of them having the intelligence or ability to read what someone was writing by analysing them touch typing.

My rant started out admonishing this person for their irritating behaviour. Because I was angry with them, I chose to write the blog as if I was writing directly to them. I made quite a few assumptions about the person, formed purely on the fact that they were angering me, and were listening to mind-numbing shit. It was, in essence, a character assassination, based solely on her music choices and her gregarious behaviour. A lot of unfounded unflattering conclusions were leapt to.

After a good thousand words of insults, I then progressed to analyse my part in all of this. I realised that there was no chance that I would ever say anything to this person, as I would find it too awkward. Also I observed that this person’s singing was making me feel embarrassed. But why? I wasn’t the person singing. It was the person next to me. It was clear to anyone looking that I was not with this person. I hadn’t spoken to them at all during the journey, and I was minding my own business, typing; unless there was another blind person on the train, who mistook my typing for percussion accompaniment, and was getting pissed off with us both for disrupting his journey. But it was I, for some reason, who was feeling awkward, as if I was vicariously experiencing the awkwardness that the person next to me seemed unaffected by. I was being awkward on her behalf; awkward by proxy.

I then observed that one of the reasons for my frustration was because this woman’s attitude to life was so different to mine. I realised that her actions were niggling away at my own insecurities. There was no way that I would have the confidence to sing to music in public. I’d even feel uncomfortable if I caught myself nodding along. I realised that part of my annoyance was actually annoyance at myself for being too socially insecure and self-conscious. I wrote all this in the blog post, suggesting that maybe I could learn something from this woman, and that maybe I could view this situation as a catalyst to explore my own insecurities and social anxieties.

I was really getting into this blog post, typing very fast and writing quite a lot about this person and their actions. But then my focus was interrupted again by the woman getting up out of her seat and leaving. I assumed that she had just gone to the toilet. At least she wasn’t too socially unaware and unintimidated to ignore standard toilet protocol, choosing simply to just urinate in a bag.

I continued writing. But then, after twenty minutes the woman had not returned to her seat. It’s not as if she’d left her seat in order to get off the train. The train hadn’t stopped anywhere and we still had another ten minutes before the next stop. I was getting off at the next stop, and so decided to shut down my laptop and ready myself. As I glanced down at my laptop, I noticed that the screen was on. And then I remembered in horror that my brother had been using the laptop earlier that day, and so I’d turned the screen back on for him. Therefore, the screen had been on all the time, and I’d been typing invectives about the lady next to me and her annoying ways in full view of the very person I was writing about. But I wasn’t just writing about her; I was writing directly to her, aiming my words as if I was deliberately communicating my message to her, so it’s not as if she’d think that I was writing a blog post, but that I was deliberately addressing her, expecting her to read it. At one point she leant against me, and shuffled around a bit. That might have been to get a better view at the bile I was spouting about her. Of course, this leaning and shuffling had led me to up my insult quota even more. Ironically, I was writing about the fact that I was the kind of person who was too socially awkward and anxious to communicate my feelings to the person directly, although this is precisely what I was doing, albeit inadvertently.

There is a chance that her leaving her seat had nothing to do with me, but I’m pretty confident that it did. Of course, being the anxious and insecure person that I am, I felt terrible and guilty about it for ages afterwards.

So, if you’re on a train and you happen to recognise me, don’t come up to me and say hello, sit next to me, play some terrible music loudly from your mobile phone and sing along, while shuffeling against me. It will be my penance, and I shall have my sins absolved by it. It’s the only way to cure me of this guilt.

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Dollop 40 – Sleep Walk Of Shame

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Yesterday I mentioned that I’d been watching the BBC four documentary, The Brain, presented by Neuroscientist David Eagleman. One of the topics explored was sleep walking.

I can only recall a few occasions when I have sleep walked. The first was while at University. I woke up, finding myself stood up and noticed that the door to my bedroom in the halls of residence was closing behind me. By the time I’d properly comprehended what was taking place, the door had closed and automatically locked, leaving me on the outside of my room, standing in the corridor.

I checked my pockets for my keys to let me back in, and realised that I didn’t have any pockets. The reason for my complete lack of pockets was due to my complete lack of clothes. I was standing totally naked in the corridor of my halls of residence.

I was stunned, having no idea what on earth had just occurred and why. I’d never sleep walked before, so it’s not as if I’d had any past experiences to relate this to. But, despite my overwhelming confusion, this really wasn’t the time or the place to ruminate on what had just occurred.

I would have to visit the security building in order to get a new key, but that would involve a minute’s walk, and necessitate me going outside. I didn’t really fancy walking around the University grounds completely naked. Plus I’d have to somehow try and explain to the security staff what was happening rather quickly, lest they become freaked out by the fact that I’m walking towards them in the nude.

And how was I going to alert them? Walk through the grounds towards them shouting, “Warning, warning, I’m coming towards you and I’m naked.” And this wasn’t really much of an explanation. It’s not as if they’d hear me shouting about being naked and approaching them, and think, “I’m glad he warned us, otherwise that would have been a bit awkward lads.” I’d ideally want them to know the reason why I was approaching them completely naked, before I actually reached them.

Me shouting at the top of my voice that I was naked would surely attract more attention than just the security staff. I didn’t really want to wake up all the students in the University by walking naked through the grounds shouting about being naked. Naturally, people would open their windows and have a look. I’m not bragging here, suggesting that people would obviously want to enjoy this visual treat (they’re only human after all), I just mean that if they were woken up by shouting, they would be likely to open the window to see what was happening. I would need to be discrete, but at the same time be indiscrete enough so as to alert the security staff that I was naked, but not for any kinky reason, but simply because I’d locked myself out of my room. But I knew that this would have been impossible. They would probably see me coming way before they could hear anything that I was saying. They could pick me up on their cameras. They would just see a naked man walking towards them shouting.

So I couldn’t walk to the security building until I’d put some clothes on, but all my clothes were in my room which was locked. Perhaps I could find something in the corridor that would suffice to cover the essentials. Perhaps there’d be a curtain on one of the windows that I could take down and wear. You may think that this is completely illogical, but I’d just woken up, and what choice did I have? I needed something to wear, and with a complete absence of clothes, I would need to explore alternative options.

I took a step into the corridor, at which point the light came on. I stood, frozen in horror. Someone had come out of their room. The only reason the light would come on was if someone had activated it, and the only way to do that was by moving. And then I remembered that I had just moved, and thus it was presumably me who’d activated the light. Again, I was not thinking logically, I was in a panic, in an odd state of alertness, by which I am referring purely to my brain state; I was completely unalert as far as that part of me went, which was just as well really, otherwise that could make the situation even more awkward.

I tentatively tip-toed down the corridor, as quietly as possible, dreading that my antics might wake someone up who may open their door to investigate. I searched for curtains, but it was no use. There were some pull-down curtains that were currently open and consequently right at the top of the window. The only way I’d be able to get those down was by fiddling with the fastenings at the very top of the window. It was quite a large window, and so this would essentially mean that I’d have to stretch right up, standing on my tip-toes, in order to reach. This would not be an easy task, and would require me to stand tall and upright (again, not like that, I really wasn’t finding this arousing) in full view of anyone who might look in. I would essentially be putting myself on exhibition, standing in front of the window displaying myself in all my severe lack of glory. So, another plan thwarted.

The only way I was going to get some clothes was if I borrowed some from someone. I really didn’t want to do this, but I had no choice. I crept to the bedroom door of the person who lived next-door to me, Dan. I very quietly knocked on his door. I wanted to wake him up, but obviously didn’t want to awaken anyone else. It would be a rather awkward scenario if someone else heard the knocking, assumed it was someone knocking on their door, and opened the door to see me standing outside Dan’s door, completely naked. I therefore tried a knock that was hopefully loud enough for Dan to hear, but quiet enough so as not to rouse anyone else.

The knock elicited nothing. I knocked again, daring to knock a little louder. There was a pause, and then I heard some movement from the other side of the door. Had he heard? I pressed my ear against the keyhole. It sounded like he was getting out of bed. Brilliant, I was saved. He’d answer the door, I’d get some clothes from him and walk to the security building and get another … Hang on, what the hell was I thinking? Imagine what he’d think when he opened his door to see me standing their completely naked. Goodness knows how he’d react. If he shouted out in shock then it might wake others up who might come out of their rooms to see what the commotion is all about.

I needed to warn him about my physical state, before he opened the door. I could hear him getting closer to the door. At least I assumed that’s what I was hearing; my heart was beating so loudly that I couldn’t really tell. But I must act quickly. If he was up, then he’d be at the door in a couple of seconds. Our student rooms really weren’t palatial. It was important to keep my voice quiet, but loud enough so that he heard me. It was vital that he heard me, otherwise, goodness knows what would happen.

“Dan,” I began, my voice nervous and urgent. “I’m completely naked dan.”

There I’d said it. With a bit of luck he’d heard me, and now he’d know, so at least he wouldn’t be shocked. What do you mean, he wouldn’t be shocked David? “Dan, I’m completely naked”?! That’s hardly the most innocuous phrase in the world! What did I think was going to happen next? That he’d open the door, and say, “Oh, so you are. Thank goodness you warned me, otherwise I’d have been really freaked out. Well, you best come in. Fancy a drink? What have you been up to?”

And if he had said that then it would be me who was freaked out, and that would add another and very different dimension of awkwardness. I needed to quickly explain what had happened, before he opened the door.

I hurriedly tried to explain the situation through the keyhole. I then put my ear back against the keyhole and listened for a response. I heard the sound of a wardrobe opening and then closing. I then heard rustling and further movement. I think he may have understood and was getting some clothes for me. I still couldn’t be sure though. Perhaps he hadn’t heard any of what I’d said, and had just heard the knocking. Maybe he was just putting on some clothes before opening the door. Should I try and explain the situation again, just in case?

“Dan, just to warn you that I’ve been sleep walking, and woke up outside of my room, completely naked, and …”

The door opened.

“Yes I know, shut up, quick, get in, for god’s sake before someone sees!”

I stepped into his room, and the door closed behind us. He handed me some clothes, which I hurriedly put on, and then walked to the security building, got a spare key and let myself back in to my room. Fortunately, it hadn’t played out as badly as it could have done.

Apparently, there was a reported case of a woman in Australia who used to sleep walk, leave the house and have sex with complete strangers. Perhaps I’ll meet her in March. “Hey babe, are you currently experiencing a parasomnia episode caused by REM sleep behaviour disorder, or are you just pleased to see me? No, probably quite a difficult question to understand and satisfactorily answer if you’re having a parasomnia episode. Never mind, shall we crack on with the sex then?”

Another reported case involves a chef, who would get up in the middle of the night and cook food in his sleep. There is another case of a man who gets up during the night and produces surrealistic artworks in his sleep. Apparently he’d never had any artistic inclination before this started happening, and doesn’t have any artistic thoughts during the day. He has no recollection of creating the pieces of art, but simply discovers them upon waking the next day. He has had requests to exhibit his work in art galleries.

Damn these people. If only there was some way of programming my brain to get up in the middle of the night and create these Dollops, so that, upon waking, I find them to be done. But alas, the closest I’ve come to this was getting a poltergeist to help out at night, but unfortunately he’s gone now.

Back tomorrow. Hopefully you will join me, unless you’ve made the stupid decision to give David’s Daily Digital Dollop up for lent. But you’ll never succeed in that. Even if you manage it for a bit, your brain will programme itself to get you up during the night, read/listen to that day’s Dollop and then go back to sleep again. You cannot win. I am too addictive.

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Dollop 39 – Stephen Hawking vs The Undateables

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Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and sometimes I take pride in being ignorant about certain things. I am happy about the fact that I don’t know the names of any of the contestants of the most recent series of X Factor, let alone who won it. I’d be hard pushed to give you a handful of names from previous series, although a few names have unfortunately managed to seep into my consciousness: Jedward, Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle … er … that’s not much of a handful really; except for the Susan Boyl element. Hahaha, that was a joke about Susan Boyle’s size, hahaha. I believe she is on the plump side, after all, that was one of the things she was famous for.

“She’s fat and ugly, let’s all hate her. Oh, hang on, she can sing. Oh, I’m confused now, I’m not sure how to react. Oh, this is a hard one. Do I laugh at her because she’s fat and ugly, or like her because she can sing? Oo, hang on, she’s crying. Aw. My emotions are all over the place here. Oh good, there’s a commercial break, I’ll go to the kitchen and pour myself another glass of wine and that’ll give me some time to think through this dilemma.”

I get upset and annoyed when some information about reality TV somehow finds its way into my brain, because I am proud to be ignorant about such things. But now and again I am betrayed by my friends and allies. I’m reading the Guardian and one of the articles will mention something about a contestant on some reality TV show, or someone on radio 4 will name some Z-list celebrity currently ensconced in a jungle, and I’ll feel hurt and betrayed, because I thought these were safe places.

And now I know this information, I know that I can never unlearn it. I’ll remember that for ever now, because the horror of suddenly having this information thrust at me unbidden, has created a heightened state of emotion, creating the perfect neurological environment to ensure that the memory is cemented. You are apparently more likely to retain information if it is learnt while you are in a heightened emotional state. I tried explaining this at college to my hot French teacher, who was worried I was falling behind in class. “Well, if you really care about my exam results, then you should really be having sex with me. Just make sure to shout out French words all the way through, and my heightened emotional state will mean that I am neurologically wired to remember.” Believe it or not, sadly this gambit didn’t succeed.

Last week I accidentally absorbed some information about Celebrity Big Brother. Up until that point, I had no idea Celebrity Big Brother was even happening. Until last week, the only things I knew about the entire history of Celebrity Big Brother was that the comedian Jack Dee escaped the house by scaling a roof, MP George Galloway pretended to be a cat (or something like that), and someone called Chantelle, who wasn’t an actual celebrity, not by any stretch of the imagination (which in Celebrity Big Brother’s case stretches mindbogglingly far) became the girlfriend of fellow Celebrity Big Brother contestant Preston from the band the Ordinary Boys. That, up until last week, was everything I had accidentally absorbed about Celebrity Big Brother.

But then last week, I was reading the Huffington Post and a headline caught my attention.

“CBB’ Stephanie Davis says that Boyfriend Sam Reece ‘Isn’t Right For Her’ And Wants To Be Single.”

Now, bare in mind that, at this point, I had no idea that Celebrity Big Brother was even happening, and so I had no notion that this story had anything to do with Celebrity Big Brother. Nor did I know who Stephanie Davis was. Being blind, I am using a screen reader, and so the news is being read to me. I heard the screen reader say “CBB’ Stephanie Davis says that Boyfriend Sam Reece ‘Isn’t Right For Her’ And Wants To Be Single”, and, having no idea that CBB stoodd for Celebrity Big Brother, I assumed that this Stephanie Davis person must be a presenter on the BBC TV channel for children six years and under, CBeebies. Why, I wondered, would a Cbeebies presenter be talking about such personal stuff on TV to children, most of whom wouldn’t really be able to understand what she was going on about. I imagined that Stephanie Davis must have had a breakdown live on air, and vented her relationship troubles live on TV in front of bemused children and parents. But obviously the article wasn’t about that, and so I ended up reading about Stephanie Davis, East Enders actor, who has apparently been flirting with some guy on Celebrity Big Brother, even though she has a boyfriend. Not quite as exciting.

I apologise, if you are like me, and enjoy being ignorant about such things. I am aware that I have now dragged you into also knowing this knowledge.

I don’t watch reality TV, and I tend to avoid any of the dross that is on TV. I will occasionally watch something. This week I have watched War And Peace with my housemate Elsa, and a programme on BBC Four called The Brain with neuroscientist David Eagleman, who I imagine is constantly asked what it’s like to nearly share a name with the famous folk singer and blogger David Eagle.

There are so many amazing books, radio and TV programmes, so much great music, comedy and drama that I will never have time to listen to before I die, so I generally don’t see the point in wasting that precious time I do have watching actors in a soap I know nothing about flirting with a guy who I’ve never heard of and then announcing that she’s dumping some other guy who I’ve also never heard of. I assume that many of you reading/listening to this feel the same, which is why you’ve chosen to spend some of your precious time reading/listening to these Dollops, which is obviously a very good use of your time – well done.

But, last Saturday I watched an entire episode of the Channel 4 reality tV show, the Undateables. I didn’t choose to watch it. Me, Ben and Elsa had just come home from an evening out seeing the comedian Ed Byrne, who was very good incidentally. We were having a cup of tea, South African Red Bush Tea with a Hint of Vanilla, just in case you’re interested) and Ben switched on the TV, which landed on the Undateables.

It was just on in the background while we were talking, but it didn’t take long for our conversation to dissipate as we became interested in what was happening on the TV. And it’s not as if I didn’t have ample opportunity to stop watching. There were three comercial breaks, but still I remained until the end. I had become interested in the stories and the characters, and I had to see what happened.

Basically, the Undateables is a programme in which people who feel insecure about dating and worried about never finding love are matched up with each other. These people tend to have disabilities. So it’s obviously a bit of a controversial programme, given that there are people on their with physical and learning disabilities, plus the name seems rather reductive, just lumping all these people together as The Undateables.

Obviously it’s not presented like a blatant freak show, and I think that in some ways you could argue that it’s up to the viewers how they perceive it and react to it. Some people will no doubt laugh at the expense of the show’s participants, but others might find it life affirming and positive. It may even offer hope and comfort to some viewers. There were times that we laughed at things that happened and things that the participants said, but I don’t think that it was really laughing at a person’s expense, but I’m sure that there are people who watch it and enjoy it for that reason.

There was a man with autism, who also had some other learning disability. He found it difficult to form sentences and to put words in the right order. This led to some very interesting turns of phrase. He was a very lively and enthusiastic person, constantly smiling and upbeat, and his odd turns of phrase made us laugh. But I don’t think laughing at this was in any way insensitive or inappropriate. Even his parents smiled and laughed at the various odd phrases he’d come out with. It’s a part of who he is, and it’s clear that the enthusiastic, idiosyncratic way in which he speaks brings joy to those around him. Surely then it’s best to embrace all this as a quality, rather than being afraid to acknowledge it as anything other than sad or tragic. Surely that would rob this person and everyone around him of positively acknowledging and appreciating his qualities, even if those qualities are born out of a disability.

His parents were incredible, and wanted their son to experience the love that his parents enjoyed. There were a few moments where their son would talk about how incredible it would be to find someone and have the type of happy life that his parents had. His parents seemed very close and remarkably supportive of their son. They were also amazingly resourceful. The mother set up a dating agency for people with learning disabilities in the local area, in order to help her son meet someone similar and find love. He ended up getting a girlfriend from this, and they seemed very happy. In some ways it was a shame that they bothered going down the Undateables TV show route, given that in the end, the date that the programme fixed for him didn’t really work out, whereas the mother’s resourcefulness did pay off and seemingly had nothing to do with the TV show. But maybe this has helped offer a solution for other people in similar situations. The mother’s dating agency has helped not only her son, but other people with learning difficulties to find love.

This was the first time I’d watched this programme, and while I’m not really interested in watching it again, I didn’t find it particularly offensive. I think the concept still makes me feel a bit uncomfortable and uncertain, and it’s clear that the name is deliberately sensational and controversial, in order to garner attention. However, I did still feel somewhat sullied afterwards, and so, in an attempt to cleanse myself, listened to Stephen Hawking’s Reith Lecture on BBC Radio 4 about black holes. I didn’t understand a word of it, but at least I felt somewhat vindicated and less dirty.

I’ll leave you with some optional homework. Here’s a link to a blog post written by my friend, Mabel, which is an open letter to the producers of the Undateables, after she received aniFacebook nvitation to help them find potential participants. Mabel has a stammer and presumably was found by The Undatable’s researchers because she is part of a Facebook group for people with stammers. I don’t think she’s ever watched the programme, but, like me, just felt uncomfortable and uncertain about the concept. However, it’s well-written, funny, and makes some good points.

You can read it here.

Back tomorrow. Another day, another Dollop.

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Dollop 38 – Feline Good

Download today’s Dollop in audio form here

Breaking kettle news: our phone controlled kettle has mysteriously disconnected itself from our wireless network, for some reason choosing instead to connect itself to the free public BT wireless network. Perhaps all the Internet enabled kettles and other such domestic appliances have also connected to the one public network in order to virtually meet and discuss their plans to overthrow their human owners. Is this the first stage in their evil plan? Fortunately we got wise to our kettle’s ways pretty swiftly, and reconnected it to our home network. But other households in our street, who may not drink tea as frequently as we do, might still be none-the-wiser , and are still allowing their kettles to run amuck, conversing with each other over the public network.

I thought about knocking on doors and explaining the situation to my neighbours, but my housemate’s are sceptical about my theory of machine-based world domination, and so thought that I should forgo that idea. Then I remembered that I have a much larger audience on the Internet, and that I could therefore reach even more people through blogging about it, and so I urge you to check any kettles or other Internet controlled domestic appliances that you might have to make sure that they haven’t gone rogue and connected to a public network.

I took the opportunity yesterday to test the effectiveness of the music for cats that I found on Spotify. I was curious to see if it could alleviate the sickness and diarrhoea that our neighbour’s cats contracted which conveniently timed itself for when our neighbours went on holiday, leaving us to care for their poohing pets.

After reading yesterday’s Dollop, Jools got in touch with some medical advice about what to give cats with diarrhoea, in terms of food and water. However, I am more of anew age kind of guy, and I have therefore chosen to ignore this advice and go down the alternative healing route.

I consulted the many tracks of music for cats on Spotify, and created my own bespoke playlist based on what I thought the cats might most need. Thinking that the cat’s sickness might be caused by the fact that their owners had left them for a few days, I started the playlist with a classic track from Cats 101 (music for cats to calm, relax and help cure separation anxiety), a track entitled Separation Anxiety Begone. I then followed that with a track called Calming Cures, which seemed like a good choice for a sick cat. I hope I’m not blinding you with science here. I deliberately skipped past certain tracks, such as I’m So Glad You’re Home, as I thought that this might remind the cats about the fact that their owners weren’t here and refuel their separation anxiety issues. So as you can tell, a lot of thought and care went into this.

I also threw in a few hits for the cats too, including Sting’s Fields Of Gold, and Let It Be by the Beatles. Obviously not the real versions, but versions that have been specially arranged and recorded with cats in mind, from the album Relaxing Pop Songs For Pets (Soothing Popular Songs for Dogs, Cats, and Bird Music To Relax, Calm And Keep Company). Presumably the actual versions of these songs don’t really do it for cats, dogs and birds, but then a crack team of medical scientists, pet psychologists and music therapists worked together to produce versions of these songs that are friendly for cats, dogs and birds. I might get in contact with this team of experts and see if they are interested in working with The Young’uns to create cat, dog and bird friendly versions of our albums.

Miraculously, the cats are cured. Well, I say miraculously, obviously there is no such thing as miracles, and to believe in such nonsense would be stupid. It was obviously the carefully constructed playlist of scientifically tested cat friendly music that healed the cats. So, as I’m sure you’ll agree, I’ve conclusively proved the scientific validity of this alternative healing method, and those clueless “rational” sceptics in the mainstream veterinary world will have to wake up and realise the efficacy of healing cats purely by specially designed music.

If my musical experiment didn’t work, my next course of action was going to be to take the cats to a cat psychologist to ascertain the route cause of the problem, which might have been due to some childhood trauma. Cats presumably experience a much greater level of trauma than other animals, including humans, due to the fact that they have nine lives and so therefore experience actual death-inducing events which we couldn’t experience, as we’d simply die. So imagine the amount of trauma a cat must face.

I was also considering taking them to a cat psychic. I wasn’t really bothered about it being a genuine cat psychic; I just thought that if I could take them to someone who could maybe tell them some reassuring things, like they were going to catch lots of delicious birds and mice and enjoy a life full of lovely strokes, then maybe that would give them some comfort and stop their anxiety. I could probably easily furnish the psychic with enough information about the cats so that the cats will be convinced that the psychic is real. I could, for instance, tell the psychic what cat food they eat, where they live and who they live with, that their owners have left them for a few days and that they’ve been sick. Surely this would be enough information to wow a cat. Perhaps the psychic could do a paw reading and then just drop the information in that way, as if the psychic was getting it all from the lines in the cats’ paws.

“I see ou’re quite a curious creature, aren’t you? I’d watch out for that, it might end up costing you one of your lives. Just a word of advice from a professional qualified cat psychic.”

Or I could take them to see a cat medium. Again, how difficult can it be for a cat medium to dupe a cat into believing that it’s actually talking to a dead relative.

“OK, I’m getting something. Hang on. Yes. It’s a cat. I’m getting a cat. It looks quite like you. I think it must be a dead relative. Hang on. They’re saying something. What’s that? Come closer. What’s that you’re saying to me? Oh yes, I hear you. Yes, I’ll pass the message on for you. I’ve been asked to tell you … meow. Does that mean anything to you? Meow? That’s what I’m getting.”

Out of curiosity, I Googled “cat psychic”, and found the website of so-called celebrity animal communicator Jackie Weaver. I don’t know whether that means she only communicates with famous animals, not willing to bother wasting her time with any common animals who haven’t been on a TV advert or film. Or perhaps it’s suggesting that she’s the celebrity, but having never heard of her before so I can’t verify this.

The first line on her website to describe what she does is a sentence intended to put people’s minds at ease, and convince them that there is nothing weird about what she does. I would argue though that she hasn’t at all managed this, as her opening line is: “There is nothing weird or spooky about animal communication – it’s as simple as me having a chat with your animal.” That’s sort of the bit that people find weird Jackie. You can’t use the very thing that people find weird as your argument to justify why it isn’t weird.

“What are you doing David?”

“Oh nothing really Elsa, I’m communicating with the teapot.”

“OK, that’s a bit weird.”

“Well, not really. You see, there is nothing weird or spooky about Teapot communication, it’s as simple as me having a chat with a teapot. I hope that’s helped put your mind at ease.”

If I could communicate with a tea pot, then I’d ask it to keep an eye on the kettle for me, and alert me whenever it went rogue and disconnected itself from our network. Still, just as ghosts may well exist, perhaps animal communication is a genuine thing too. Obviously, I have now proven conclusively the validity of specially designed cat curing music. You cannot deny it. After all, the proof is in the poohing.

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Dollop 37 – Young Hungarian Fat Gay Boys and Watery Cat faeces

`Download the audio version of today’s Dollop here

I’ve written in a previous Dollop how a fairly innocuous blog post of mine has become the most popular that I’ve ever written, simply because people stumble across it while searching for “Mongol sex.” I won’t go over the reasons why I come up in Google’s search results for that phrase; if you’re interested you can read about it here. Today, while looking at my website stats, I discovered that yesterday someone found my website by searching for “young Hungarian fat gay boy.”

I really wish I hadn’t, but for the purposes of research I typed “young Hungarian fat gay boy” into Google and skim read the results in order to see how many results you’d have to go through before you reached my website. I got to result 200 before I gave up, feeling rather unnerved. So goodness knows how many results this person had to wade through before they came to my website. I like the idea that someone was absorbed in a fifteen hour niche porn marathon, and then they stumbled across my search result, which was Dollop 26, entitled Dyslexic Gay Hungarian Plumber. I’d like to imagine, despite the lack of pornographic content, they became drawn into my story about attending a focus group at my housemate Elsa’s place of work, which was what that paritcular Dollopswas all about.

“I was really enjoying watching hours of young fat Hungarian gay porn, but now I’ve lost my appetite for that, and am really loving reading about the life of this folk singer from the UK. Oo, I’ve just noticed he’s written a blog about his kettle. I must give that a read. I’ll just pop my clothes back on first.”

Elsa has been asked by our next-door neighbour if she’ll look after her two cats for the next few days while she’s away. Elsa was delighted by this, looking forward to spending some quality time with a couple of cute animals, by which I mean the cats, not me and Ben. However, our next-door neighbour’s departure seems to have coincided with the cats getting diarrhoea, and so Elsa has been spending her day cleaning up watery cat faeces. The cats are also being very surly and unsociable, so this hasn’t turned out to be the treat that she was hoping it would be.

I wonder whether this was deliberate on the part of our next-door neighbour. Perhaps she’s being getting annoyed with us for playing music too loudly, and rather than dealing with it in a conventional manner, has decided to punish us by going away for five days, entrusting the cats to us which she deliberately fed with diarrhoea-inducing food.

If anyone has any tips about how to cure cat diarrhoea then please get in touch.

Last Sunday was my housemate Ben’s birthday, and I mentioned in Sunday’s Dollop that there are hundreds of results that come up in Spotify for the search term “happy birthday Benjamin.” The amount of tracks that Spotify has is crazy, and the types of tracks it has is even more crazy. For instance, if you type “music for cats” into Spotify, hundreds of results will come up. This is music that is apparently meant to appeal to cats and make them feel relaxed.

You’d have maybe thought that one album designed for cats would be enough, but there are loads of them, including: Cats 101 (music for cats to calm, relax and help cure separation anxiety). Cat Dreams (relaxing music for cats and cat lovers) vol 1. So this presumably is music designed for cats and cat lovers to enjoy together. Light a few candles, and unwind with your cat while listening to this album designed especially for crazy people and the cats of crazy people.

Calming Music For cats (reduce anxiety during, fireworks, sickness, pregnancy and grooming). Then of course there’s Cat Dreams (relaxing music for cats and cat lovers) vol 2, suggesting that there’s enough crazy people who bought volume one to justify another volume.

Music For Cats (Extra Long Kitten Edition). I don’t know whether this is an extended edition of the album or whether it’s music designed for extra long kittens. Perhaps it comes with a disclaimer: “warning, not suitable for kittens under 120 centre metres in length. Keep away from cat lovers under 100 centimetres in height, as it could cause negative side effects.”

There’s also Organic Relaxation Music For Cats And dogs, vol 6. This is presumably for those people who are worried about the effects of artificially modified cat relaxation music, although it’s interesting that they’ve lumped cats and dogs together, assuming that they’d like the same kind of music, which is a highly controversial opinion in the pet relaxation music community. Plus there’s also a lot of debate about whether organic pet relaxation music is actually any better for your cat than ordinary pet relaxation music, or is it just a con to charge crazy pet owners more money for essentially nothing? This is an argument that has raged for years and isn’t going to be solved any time soon. Still, as contentious as this album is, they have managed to release six volumes of the stuff, suggesting that there are enough crazy pet owners to warrant churning them out.

Perhaps we should try some of this music on Nigel and Molly, the two diarrhoea-ridden cats under our current care. I might try the relaxing music album designed for sick cats, or maybe I should take a more psychological approach with this, as their illness might be down to missing their owner, in which case Relaxing Cat Music To Help Cure Separation Anxiety might be the best solution. I’ll update you tomorrow. It’s nice to have something to look forward to isn’t it?

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Dollop 36 – Beastie Boys and Bottoms

Download today’s Dollop in audio form here

I had another interview with Australian media last night. The call was at 3am, and I’d managed to fall asleep at about 130. I’d set my alarm for five minutes before the interview, but I woke up ten minutes before the interview because the person calling me did so ten minutes early. I woke up to hear the Skype incoming call alert.

“OK David, so this is actually an Internet-based community TV show, which is why we’re doing a video call rather than an audio call.”

What? I had no idea they could see me. I was lying in bed. Being blind, I have no idea what the camera would have been picking up, but I was rather worried, given that I was completely naked. Fortunately, it transpired that the camera was pointing upwards at the roof, meaning that all that could be seen was my bedroom ceiling.

“Could you focus the camera so we can see you?” he asked. I hastily got out of bed and flung some clothes on, keeping low to the ground, just in case the camera somehow picked my naked body up, otherwise that would bring a completely different meaning to the notion of doing an interview from down under.

Fortunately I managed to throw some clothes on, at which point I focused the camera on my face. Although, my hair would have been all over the place, given that I’d just got out of bed, and in my haste to put clothes on I’d put my t-shirt on back to front. Also , I had no idea how to focus the camera, so goodness knows what I looked like. Fortunately, I have no idea where these interviews are being broadcast, so it’s unlikely that anyone reading this will ever find them. But if you search the Internet thoroughly then chances are you might get to see a potentially risqué shot of me naked, before I hastily manage to put some clothes on. Good luck with your search, Chloe.

On the subject of Internet searches, my plan to manipulate what shows up in Google when someone searches for “David Eagle blind” – which apparently is the most searched for query related to my name – has backfired. In case you didn’t read the Dollop in which I originally talked about this (perhaps only finding this blog post by chance when searching for David Eagle naked, or even worse, blind naked eagle, which is a very niche interest, but welcome all the same) I decided that I could influence what results show up for the search term “David Eagle blind” by writing a blog post full of statements about me, related to being blind. This was partly because I was a bit concerned that the thing I was most identifiable by was being blind, rather than any actual talent or achievement.

So I wrote a series of fictional news reports about how David Eagle had been crowned World’s Sexiest Blind Man, World’s Most Intelligent Blind Man, and world’s first blind aeroplane pilot. The idea was that Google would then show these accolades in the couple of lines of text that shows in search results. Unfortunately, a couple of days later, I recklessly wrote a blog post with the following lines:

“I tried explaining to the police who I really am. I pointed them in the direction of my daily blog, hoping to prove that I am who I say I am, but apparently my blog is too full of wild fabrications for them to trust anything I say, and so it was immediately discredited as supporting evidence. In fact they immediately dismissed anything I said to them, because they said that I’d spent my blog posts building up a series of false identities. As they pointed out to me, my blog post from two days ago was full of fabricated identities. I’d claimed that I was a pilot for EasyJet, and I’d faked a number of award wins, including World’s Sexiest Blind Man, and World’s Most Intelligent Blind Man.”

So now, when you search for David Eagle blind, Google shows the following lines of text:

“I’d claimed that I was a pilot for EasyJet, and I’d faked a number of award wins, including World’s Sexiest Blind Man, and World’s Most Intelligent Blind Man.”

Unfortunately I’ve not really made much of a dent in Google’s search results listing for the search query “world’s sexiest blind man.” I am the 23rd result, and sadly the two lines of text that are displayed are: “I’d claimed that I was a pilot for EasyJet, and I’d faked a number of award wins, including World’s Sexiest Blind Man, and World’s Most Intelligent Blind Man.” So it’s patently clear that these accolades are fake and self-contrived.

However, searching for “world’s sexiest blind man” did bring up some interesting results.

“There’s this hot blind girl in one of my classes”, proclaims Bob, for some reason choosing to make this statement on the forum of New York Rap.rock group the Beastie Boys. Perhaps the Beastie Boys have branched out, and are now working as agony aunts. After all, they were the band who offered teenagers in the eighties such sage words of advice as, “you gotta fight for your right to paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarty!” So, agony aunts … why not?

I’m not sure what Bob’s issue is here. He basically finds a blind girl in his class at school attractive, but is seemingly too nervous to ask her out, being perturbed by the fact that she’s blind.

Unfortunately for Bob, it turns out that the Beastie Boys Internet forum might not be the best place to go if you’re trying to get genuine, conscientious, good advice. The asinine replies to this question by the Beastie Boys fans suggests that maybe the Beastie Boys should have been more responsible with the messages in their songs. Maybe they should have said, “You gotta fight for your right to paaaaaaaaaarty! But, remember that it’s also important to stuuuuuuuuuuuuudy, otherwise you might end up a bit thick.” Not as catchy, but more effacacious.

Here is one reply to Bob’s post:

“you can like, tell her to go get a beer out of your fridge….and when she bumps into stuff, you can yell at her and stuff…
“what are you doing! are you blind or som- er….oh yeah…” Oh, it’ll be hilarious.”

If there are any ladies reading this who like the idea of dating a blind man, having him crashing into their fridge while you shout insults at them about being blind, then feel free to get in touch. I will happily oblige, so long as you are willing to occasionally have sex with me (I’d accept once every other month), and perhaps show me a tiny crumb of affection from time to time, even if that affection is in actuality completely fake. But I am only willing to crash into the fridge and be shouted at for a maximum of one hour a day. I am not so desperate as to accept such abuse for any longer than that. I am not your play thing, after all.

Here’s a comment from yet another highly intelligent and witty Beastie Boys Fan.

“Bob, can you ask how she knows when she is done wiping her ass? she SMELLS it! Haahahahahahahh!!!! haaahhahahahahhaah!!”

I don’t want to jump to conclusions here, but I get the feeling that this person hasn’t really thought this through logically. Now, before I go any further, I want to remind you that I am blind, and so my understanding of what humans can actually see may not be entirely accurate, however I am pretty sure that sighted people do not actually look to check that they have wiped their backsides properly, as surely it would be a physical impossibility? For a start, you are sitting on the toilet. The only way to achieve this would be to put your head between your legs and push it towards your backside, and even then the lighting probably wouldn’t be good enough, so you’d have to shine a light down there. Or I suppose you could standup, use a mirror and look back over your shoulder and check that way. My point is that you can tell if you’ve wiped your backside properly simply by feel.

OK, I’m back. I stopped writing and went and did some research on this. I’ve just walked into my housemate Elsa’s bedroom and had a rather awkward conversation in which I asked her how she wipes her backside. For some reason, she wanted an explanation as to why I was asking her, as well as why I was naked and lying on her bed. No, that last bit was a joke; I wasn’t lying on her bed.

Apparently, sighted people do check to see whether they have fully finished their bottom wipe, by looking at the toilet paper. So perhaps this person’s question wasn’t so ridiculous as I initially thought. Although, Elsa is French, so maybe this is just the French way. Do English people check the toilet paper too? I assumed you just felt, rather than bringing a bit of toilet paper up to your face and examining it. Surely you can just tell by feeling? It’s just obvious when you’ve finished.

It’s like when people ask blind people “how do you eat? I mean, how do you know where your mouth is?” But you just do. Surely sighted people can eat without first having to see their relative position of mouth to hand? It’s just intuitive, just like wiping your backside. You know when it’s done; you don’t have to check. It’s not like I’m coming off the toilet with my hands covered in crap, I can just tell by the way the toilet paper interacts with my bottom.

I hope you don’t think that this is smut; this is science. It says a lot about how we perceive reality and interact with the world through our senses. You’ve been blessed with the ability to see, yet you use that sense to achieve things that you don’t really need sight to achieve.

Feel free to leave a comment below. How do you wipe your backside? I think of all the conversation topics thus-far, this is the one that is going to set the comments box ablaze. You thought that having a genuine ghost on the blog caused a massive spike in web visitors, well I predict that this bottom wiping conversation topic will cause an even greater spike.

I hope this Dollop hasn’t been too smutty for you. I genuinely had no idea that I’d be writing about arse wiping when I first started writing today, but that’s just what has happened. I see the world so very differently now.

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Dollop 35 – Boooooooooom!!!

Download today’s Dollop in its audio form here

Well I’m afraid we’re back to the standard way of doing these Dollops, because the poltergeist who wrote yesterday’s Dollop has gone in a huff. He read a comment from Jools, who was suggesting that it wasn’t a real ghost doing the writing.

“I think the lack of sleep is leading to an identity crisis” she wrote. As I explained on the audio version of yesterday’s Dollop, the ghost is a bit of a diva, and so, upon reading this denial of his existence, he got all moody, and has refused to write any more Dollops. At first he wouldn’t admit that he had been upset by Jools’ unfair assertions, but I knew that he was mortally offended, or perhaps more aptly, immortally offended. He kept denying that he was upset, but I could see right through him. He was communicating with me by typing, and I could see him shimmering in between the keys on my laptop. He got very angry, he damned me to Helvetica, by which I mean he changed my font, also decreasing the size to unreadable. This was his parting gift to me, because he then spirited away, vanishing into space, by which I mean the big long key at the bottom of my keyboard.

So I hope you’re happy Jools. I’d arranged with him to spend today’s Dollop talking about life after death, but you’ve gone and ruined that now with your rash words, meaning that we’ve missed the opportunity to learn about one of life’s greatest mysteries, and more importantly, it now means that I’m having to do some work today, and type up this bloody blog post. So thank you very much Jools.

As explained yesterday, my sleeping patterns are awful, due to a combination of late night gigs, and recently interviews with Australian media to promote our Australian gigs in March. I think my phone has become confused by when I am meant to be sleeping and when I’m meant to be awake. I have to set my phone alarm to wake up for the Australian interviews which are scheduled at odd times during the night when ordinarily I should be sleeping, and I’m also on my phone until the early hours of the morning, unable to get to sleep. Therefore, I think my phone has decided that it can alert me to anything at any time of the day. I think what normally happens is that your phone will time certain alerts and messages to pop up at a time that it expects you to be awake. But seemingly, as far as my phone is concerned, any time is fine to chime to let me know that it’s the birthday of someone I met once seven years ago but for some reason is still a Facebook friend.

I’m frequently woken up by these kinds of alerts. A couple of nights ago I was woke up by an alert on my phone telling me that I had a notification from Facebook. When I looked at the notification, it was simply a notification to remind me that I had five proper notifications from actual people that I hadn’t read yet. What kind of a notification is that? Facebook is so desperate for me to log on that it can’t possibly wait until I get another actual notification from a person, so it has to contrive a notification itself which is merely to tell me that I have notifications. I’m logging onto Facebook more now, as I’m using it to promote the Dollops, but a few months ago I hadn’t signed in for a few weeks, and I got a notification from Facebook telling me that I had 36 notifications. When I looked through these notifications I saw that six of them were from Facebook telling me that I had notifications. Stop being so needy Facebook.

Last night’s phone alert woke me at about 430 in the morning. It was from the WordPress app, which is where I host my blog. When I get an alert, my phone beeps or chimes at me, and then my screen reader starts reading out the message. This particular message started with, “boom!!!” But because there were three exclamation marks, the screen reader read it more like, “booooooom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” This gave me quite .a shock, jolting me out of sleep.

The reason for the word “boom”, and the proceeding triplet of exclamation marks, was because I had apparently done something good, and struck some kind of target. “Boom!!! Your blog is performing very well. There has been a steady growth in people visiting your website over the last month, with a sudden spike over the last day. Congratulations!!!”

While I was glad that the Daily Digital Dollop project was seemingly attracting more people to my website, I was a bit disconcerted by the statement that my website had seen a spike in the numbers for yesterday. Yesterday’s Dollop was the only Dollop that I didn’t actually write, despite what Jools might have you believe. It’s official: I am worse at blogging than a dead man. I read yesterday’s blog post, and I’ll admit, I was jealous of the ghost’s ability. Word had obviously got out that the quality of the content had improved, and thus more people had flocked to see for themselves. But then I realised that I was being needlessly harsh on myself. It was obvious that yesterday’s Dollop should garner more interest than my previous ones, given that it was written by a ghost. I can’t be expected to compete with an actual, genuine ghost.

Hopefully now I’ve got these new people reading, I will have hooked them in, regardless of the fact that we’ve had to give up the ghost, thanks to Jools’ wreckless comment. Hopefully these new people will have been seduced by my talk of irregular sleeping patterns and Facebook notifications, and decide to stay, even though the ghost has gone. Otherwise if they all abandon me after today then I’ll probably be woken up tomorrow at 4 in the morning with my phone playing some sad music, perhaps Barber’s Adagio For Strings, while the screen reader shouts “noooooooooooo!!!” to alert me that there’s been a sudden slump in website visitors.

Thanks for dropping by anyway. I’ll be back tomorrow; hopefully so will you.

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Dollop 34 – A Blog From The Beyond, About The down Under

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Ooooooooooooooooooooo! I am a ghost, a ghost in the machine. The machine is David Eagle’s laptop. As mentioned in yesterday’s Dollop, David had had some potential paranormal activity occurring in his house. Therefore, he mused yesterday about whether the ghosts, who clearly enjoy interfering with electronic objects, would like to put themselves to practical use. And so David has left his laptop on over night to see if a ghost would type up today’s Dollop for him. And here I am.

Chances are you are probably just assuming that this is David doing a stupid unfunny introduction to his blog, but that’s where you’re wrong. You are being stubbornly sceptical, even though the evidence is right here in front of you. But you have blinded yourself to the truth. You wouldn’t know a ghost if it hit you in the face; although, in fairness, you wouldn’t really be able to feel much due to the fact that it would just go right through you. But that’s not the point.

Anyway, you might be hoping that, since you are now reading the words of someone from beyond the grave, I might give you an insight into one of life’s most sought questions: what exactly happens when we die? But I’m afraid I can’t answer that. David has given me a list of bullet points to follow, full of pathetic pithy little throwaway jokes and boring anecdotes about his daily life, but I haven’t been given any instructions to talk about the nature of life after death I’m afraid, sorry.

When I started writing this Dollop I was finding it rather difficult. Typing was severely impaired because my spectral fingers kept going straight through the keys. Fortunately, I’ve mastered it now. Jalfjjfjao. Oops, sorry, it happened again, I guess I spook too soon.

Anyway, I best crack on with making sentences out of the bullet points that David has supplied me with. I will write as if I am David, emulating his style to the best of my ability. Think of me as a ghost writer, if you will. That was my own joke, not David’s. I am clearly funnier than David, and I should have my own blog. Well, actually I do, but sadly it’s not available on your earth-based Internet, as you don’t have Ghoulgle. That’s another joke, although admittedly, it doesn’t work quite so well in print. But thank you, I’m here all week; well actually I’m not, I’m shimmering in and out of being all week, but let’s not get pedantic. Anyway, here is today’s Dollop, written by a poltergeist in the style of David Eagle.

I am trying to restore my sleeping routine to something resembling normal. My sleeping patterns are terrible, waking up very late morning and unable to quiet my brain to sleep until 4 or 5 in the morning. I think this is principally down to the fact that I gig for a living. I did about 200 gigs last year, and most of these gigs didn’t finish until at least 11pm. By the time we’d got out of the venue it was nearly 12. Then often we had to drive somewhere, either to accommodation or back home. If we were driving back home then I might not get to sleep until 5 in the morning. Plus, I find that I get quite a lot of post-gig adrenalin and energy (take note wannabe groupies) and so this means that I can’t just fall asleep straight after a gig, even if we are staying somewhere close to the venue and got back at a reasonable time.

So far this year I’ve not gigged yet, but my sleeping patterns haven’t reverted back to sensible. This is not entirely my fault; I have been scuppered by the Australian media. I know, the old familiar Australian media excuse. In preparation for our Australian tour in March, I’ve been doing interviews with the Australian media. The trouble is that their day time is our night time, meaning most of the interviews have been when I would ordinarily be asleep. So I set my phone alarm to wake me a few minutes before the interview.

Assuming that I have managed to get to sleep before then, my alarm will wake me up at 5 to 4 in the morning, ready for a call from an Australian radio station at 4. I’ll then chat away with an extremely chipper and chatty presenter about the band, as well as a mind boggling array of incidental nonsense that these radio presenters like to bring up in order to be a bit quirky. There is often quite a bit of a delay on the line too, which doesn’t help my addled brain come up with answers, as I know that I have to answer as quickly as possible after the presenter has finished asking his question, otherwise there’ll be an even longer delay. Then, after the phone call, about fifteen minutes later, I’ll be trying to get back asleep.

To make the situation even weirder and more disconcerting, I’ve now started having odd reoccurring dreams in which I’m woken by the sound of the phone. It’s an Australian radio station. Even though I didn’t recall having an interview booked for this particular night, I assume that I must have forgotten. I am then put straight to air. I haven’t had a chance to wake up or have a drink of water or anything. The interviewer starts asking me questions, but I can’t understand what the heck he is asking me. I try to answer the question, but then the interviewer takes on the persona of John Humphrys and constantly interrupts me, berating me for not answering the question. I try to explain to him that I am answering the question but that there is just a huge delay on the line, but he just keeps interrupting me. I then wake up in a cold sweat, realise it’s a dream and then try and get back to sleep again.

Recently I did an interview for an Australian magazine. Baring in mind that the people reading it are unlikely to know who The Young’uns are, given that we’ve not played Australia yet. So you would have thought that the questions would have reflected this. When we first started doing interviews in the UK, everyone asked the same questions: how did the three of you meet? Describe your music? What are your influences? How did you get into folk music and start performing together? Why do you have such a terrible name? So I would have expected, given we are completely unknown in Australia, that these would have been the kinds of questions. But know. Proof that they obviously had no idea about who I am was demonstrated by their request that I kept my answers to a couple of sentences.

The first question this magazine chose to ask me was: What are you listening to right now? Nothing about who I am or who the band is. The second question was: What is your hidden talent? They didn’t even know what my actual unhidden talent was, so surely we should be covering all that before going down the quirky route. And then, their final question was: What is your claim to fame? My claim to fame is being in the folk band who are playing your country this year, but that you seem to be completely uninterested in talking about.

I don’t even think they ended up publishing the interview. I’ve searched for it and I can’t find it anywhere. Perhaps I annoyed them by refusing to keep my answers to a couple of sentences, although, in fairness, I did try, and none of my answers exceeded five paragraphs. Or maybe I just out-quirked them with my responses.

Question: What are you listening to right now?

Answer: I tend to work in silence, so that I can concentrate fully on what I’m writing. Amazingly high quality and inspired writing – such as what you are going to be graced with over the next few paragraphs – requires complete focus and unwavering concentration. However, my next-door neighbour is somewhat ruining that because she is listening to music rather loudly. I’ve no idea what it is she’s listening to. It sounds like fairly generic pop. I could Shazam it, but I really don’t think you’re that interested, and if you are then quite frankly I think you need to sort out your life. I’m sorry, I promised my therapist that I’d try and go for at least a couple of paragraphs before I started insulting you.

Question: What is your hidden tallent?

Answer: Answering questions for blogs. I think you’ll all agree I’m hiding that particular talent very well indeed.

Question: What is your claim to fame?

Answer: David’s claim to fame is that he is Britain’s most modest man. This is David’s friend typing this by the way; David was far too modest to tell you about this himself. He thanks you for reading. Oh, and incidentally, he’s also in a folk group called The Young’uns, who are touring your country this year for a month. But, no, you’re probably not interested in that!

I have a couple of interviews with Australian radio tomorrow, but fortunately for my sanity they are during the daytime. One of them is at 1am Australian time. I am looking forward to getting my own back on the Australian media by being as over-the-top and garrulous as I possibly can, knowing that the presenter is probably really tired. I’ll also answer all his questions in a really quirky manner, even if the question is completely normal. That will show them.

Oooooooooo! It’s me again. The ghost. I think I managed to emulate David’s style quite well. Let me know how you thought I did by leaving a comment in the comments section. I’m not sure if David expects me to read and reply to your comments as well. If you have any questions about the world beyond yours then feel free to ask, and I’ll try my best to answer it, assuming David will let me.

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Dollop 33 – Things That Go Ring In The Night

Download today’s Dollop in audio form

Yesterday’s Dollop about ghosts, science and the term “irrational” elicited the following response from Jools.

“Pretty sure ghosts exist, if you can say exist about something that has no corporeal identity. One used to walk about my friend’s cottage, outside the windows, just out of the corner of your eye you would ‘see’ her. Turn quickly and she was gone. She passed you behind your back but you knew she was there. I talked to her once or twice but she went as soon as she came. Not ‘seen’ one anywhere else but there. She had a real presence.”

I think one of the elements of Mr Dreadful’s tour that put the others off was that he would frequently repeat the same themes. But as I explained yesterday, I enjoyed the anecdotal nature of the tour, and surely if you are looking for evidence then it’s useful to note the recurring elements underlying the various stories. You could argue that this helps give these kinds of accounts more weight, as people are reporting the same type of experience, even though they happened at different times, in different places and by different people. Of course, many of these recurring themes are so well-known to us, that if we were making up a ghost story we would probably include them. Like with Jools’ account, Mr Dreadful’s tour had lots of mentions of the figure shimmering in and out of vision, being there one second and then gone the next, also there were lots of remarks about walking straight through physical objects, and a sudden drop in temperature. These are clearly common themes with ghost stories.

Perhaps we’ll discover in the future that these things are all hallmarks of some kind of neurological episode, like a hallucination, although, that doesn’t seem to account for why sometimes you hear the same story corroborated by more than one person, who say that they experienced the same thing in the same place but at a completely different time. Perhaps this is some kind of time loop, and we are just seeing things that once existed, almost like time is bending. Baring in mind that there apparently is no such thing as time anyway, then this theory doesn’t seem too far fetched.

Last week I was on the phone to a friend when the door bell rang. I went to answer the door, but upon opening it there was no one there. I closed the door and walked back into the room I’d just come from, at which point the door bell sounded again. I was only a few paces from the door, so it only took me a second to reach the door and open it. But again, upon opening the door, there was no one around. Surely there hadn’t been enough time for someone to have rang the door bell and then run away. If it was someone playing a prank then I’d definitely catch them the next time. I stood by the door, waiting. If the person came back and pressed the bell, I would be ready to instantly pounce.

My housemate’s came down the stairs to see what was going on, at which point I began to get suspicious that it was they who were playing the prank. But as they pointed out, they had been upstairs, and the receiver for the door bell was on top of the piano in the dining room. Plus, the door bell was playing the same tune. There is only one button to press, which cycles through the 100 door bell sounds, all as annoying and as jarring as each other, so if you pressed the button on the receiver in order to sound the door bell without having to be at the door, the tune would change. So there was no way that they could have interfered with the door bell.

We were now all stood at the door, waiting for the prankster to return, the three of us poised to instantaneously pounce. But the door bell didn’t ring. Defeated, we walked away from the door. I walked back into the dining room, and as soon as I did, the door bell chimed again. The three of us launched ourselves at the door. We were all impressively quick to act, perhaps a little too quick, as we all slammed into each other at the same time from different angles, our hands all noisily grappling for the handle. This perhaps gave the prankster a bit too much time to run away, and sure enough when we picked ourselves up off the floor and opened the door, there was no one to be seen.

Surely this had to be a person pranking us. They must somehow have known when we had left the door, and gone into another room. But they wouldn’t really have been able to see us. Perhaps they had been listening. After all, we were talking to each other in whispers, and I was conveying what was going on to my friend on the phone. So we decided to be silent. We stood there for another minute or so, still and silent. But the silence remained, and was not punctured by the sound of the door bell.

Once again we walked away from the door, although this time we did so as quietly as possible. I walked back into the dining room, only two or three paces from the front door to the house. Before I’d had the chance to restart conversation with my friend on the phone, the door bell rang.

This time Ben had barely moved from his position, still scratching his head about what was going on, and so he was at the door immediately. He flung the door open. There was absolutely no way that the prankster would have had time to escape, yet when the door was opened, there was no one to be seen.

The door once again was closed, and the three of us were back together, completely puzzled by what was going on. Logical explanations. That’s what we began to discuss. It was late evening, but there were three of us here and so it wasn’t particularly scary. Ordinarily, paranormal activity wouldn’t be the first conclusion I’d leap to, however the conversation to my friend on the phone had consisted of him telling me about his scary dream in which demons had possessed objects, and now here we were, being challenged by an errant door bell. Therfore, I think that my friend on the phone was more scared than us, as he was in the house by himself, and seemingly the very thing he had just been talking about was now happening to our door bell.

Logical explanations: the door bell battery was running out, and was just chiming randomly. Or the door bell was malfunctioning. That didn’t really explain why it never seemed to ring when we were standing at the door, but always sounded when we moved away from the door. But that could surely be dismissed as coincidence. Fair enough. We could help verify the coincidence argument by repeatedly walking away from the door and see what happened. So that is what we did. We all walked away from the door, with me returning to the dining room. And as soon as I walked past the piano, on which the door bell receiver lay, the door bell chimed. I walked back in the other direction, and sure enough the door bell rang again. I repeated this process, and every time I passed the door bell receiver, it chimed.

So then Ben tried it. He walked into the dining room, passed the piano, but the door bell did not sound. He tried this time and time again, but nothing happened. Similarly when Elsa tried it, nothing happened. But when I did it, the door bell chimed.

Was I the cause of the door bell ringing? or was it because I was holding my mobile phone, which was somehow working on the same frequency as the door bell? Well, again this was something else that could be tested. I handed my phone to Ben and he walked past the door bell in the dining room. But nothing happened. The phone was handed to Elsa, but the door bell did not chime. Then I tried walking into the dining room without my phone, and the door bell remained silent. It appeared that the only time the door bell would sound was if I walked past it whilst holding my phone.

But there was more investigating to be done. I hung up the call, and walked past the door bell, which elicited nothing. I called my friend back up, and tried again, but nothing happened.

So we had gone as far as we could with our investigation. We had gone against the advice of John Donne, and asked for whom the bell tolls, and discovered that it tolled for me, but only when I was holding my mobile phone while talking to my friend Matthew, and only for that one specific call.

I wonder whether this Dollop will be eulogised in the same way as John Donne’s poem has. I doubt it. I think it’s more likely that I’ll be eternally remembered for my Dollop about my new kettle.

Perhaps if I was in the house by myself, then I would have reacted to this scenario differently, but it was easier to be more rational and level-headed because I was not alone. Of course, our investigation still doesn’t completely rule out a paranormal explanation, and the fact that the door bell has never chimed again during any mobile phone calls seems a bit weird. Presumably there was just something about the way that that specific call was set up, creating some kind of connection with the door bell, although the fact that I can’t repeat this or prove it means that this is merely a scientific theory, and is certainly not hard fact. Was our conversation about possessed objects in any way responsible?

So it could well have been a mischievous ghost. Perhaps it was a dead ringer. Hahahaha, I am so funny. Just to be on the safe side though, I have changed our door bell sound to the Ghost Busters theme, which should deter any mischievous spectres from messing with the door bell in the future.

Perhaps if the ghost wants to interfere with household objects then it could make itself useful in the process. It could fill our app controlled kettle with water whenever it becomes empty, so that we don’t have to go into the kitchen and fill it before we can then use our phone to set it boiling. Or if it wants to be really useful then it could possess my laptop on a daily basis and write these Dollops for me. I could help the ghost along by making some bullet point notes each day, and the ghost could type it up propperly for me. I’ll probably still do the audio podcast version, as I’m not sure how pleasant it would be for listeners to hear the voice of a dead person each day. Maybe it could do the Halloween audio Dollop though.

If there are any ghosts reading this, then give it a thought. I’ll type up some bullet point notes tonight with some ideas for subject matter, and leave the computer running throughout the night, which I understand is your most productive time. Hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow with the Dollop all written. I’d appreciate it if you were a relatively modern ghost. I don’t want my blog to be written in old English, and contain loads of outdated jokes about Queen Elizabeth I. We’ll see what happens tomorrow folks.

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Dollop 32 – Mr Dreadful And The Fabric Of Life

eDownload today’s Dollop in audio form here

,One of Ben’s birthday surprises yesterday was a ghost tour of Sheffield. It was a complete surprise for Ben, up until the very moment, and even then it continued to be a surprise, for reasons which I’ll get to soon. The man running the tour went by the name Mr Dreadful. Ben’s girlfriend Elsa had organised the whole thing. She’d been told to meet Mr Dreadful against the wall by the town hall. These seemed like rather vague instructions. She didn’t have his phone number either, or any idea what Mr Dreadful looked like. Nor had he given her any description of what he would be wearing. Elsa seemed pretty confident however that we would easily locate him.

We led a clueless Ben down various roads until we reached the town hall. And then Elsa spied him, head bent against the wind, standing by the wall. Elsa linked arms with Ben, still none the wiser as to what this was all about, and walked towards Mr Dreadful. Except, it wasn’t Mr Dreadful. It was a drunken homeless man. I’m not sure who was the most confused by what was going on, the drunken homeless guy, who was trying to understand the question, “are you Mr Dreadful?” or Ben, who was wondering why his girlfriend had arranged a chat with an alcoholic tramp for his birthday. Assuming that Elsa knew what she was doing, seemingly perfectly confident, we had all followed behind, and were now standing around the poor perplexed man. I had no idea that there was anything wrong, and assumed that by this point Ben would be starting to realise what his surprise was. And so, I affected a spooky voice, and said to Ben, “Ben, meet Mr Dreadful!” Ben’s dad, who also hadn’t registered that there was anything amiss, joined in with an evil sinister laugh. We’d all been to the pub before hand and so were feeling rather merry. Sean was a few steps behind and joined us a couple of seconds later. He also had no idea that we had accosted the wrong person, and so he enthusiastically shook the stunned man by the hand and said, also adopting a sinister voice, “Mr Dreadful I assume.” But he, like all of us, had assumed wrong.

We apologised to the man, who was much too drunk to comprehend our explanation, guiltily all handed him coins, and walked away to meet the real Mr Dreadful, who was standing just a few metres away.

I’d like to think that this ordeal was so strange that it caused the homeless man to make the decision to go sober, helping him get his life together. Perhaps he thought that if he kept on drinking like he was then one day he might be as bad as us.

We then said hello to the real Mr Dreadful, although we’d sobered up a bit too much to do any of the evil laughter and sinister voices which we’d treated the homeless man to just a few seconds earlier. Before he started the tour we needed to pay him. Upon doing this, he produced a black top hat out of a carrier bag, placed it on his head and led us down the street. Why couldn’t he have stuck the black top hat on beforehand? Now it was clearly obvious that he was Mr Dreadful, and wearing the top hat would have saved us from the awkward altercation earlier. Or maybe the homeless man isn’t really a drunk living on the streets, but is actually Mr Dreadful’s friend and partner in crime. Maybe they have a scam whereby Mr Dreadful’s friend waits by the wall, and when people approach him assuming him to be Mr Dreadful, he pretends to be drunk and says he’s just a man living on the streets. The people naturally feel guilty for this mistake and so hand over money, at which point the real Mr Dreadful appears out of the shadows, and claims even more of their money. Perhaps I am the first person to have blogged about this, and this blog will therefore be Mr Dreadful’s undoing, as I start to receive comments from readers who have also been duped by this scam.

Whether Mr Dreadful is a con artist or not, I did enjoy his ghost tour. I think I enjoyed it the most out of everyone. I think the others expected that it would be more theatrical and that he’d properly act out the stories and draw you in with his way with words and style of delivery. I suppose it was more like a series of anecdotes, rather than crafted, well-delivered tales. But I enjoyed the fact that it was more conversational and anecdotal. I got the impression that Mr Dreadful considered the stories to have some factual merit, if not exactly true, then certainly accurate to the point of what he had been told and what he had discovered. I think he’d gone into the various places he was recounting stories about, and talked to people who worked in the various buildings about whether they had witnessed any ghostly activities. I was more interested in hearing people’s actual accounts of things they’d purported to have witnessed, as opposed to hearing something that was more polished, crafted and acted.

Obviously just because people say they saw these things it doesn’t mean they definitely did, but it’s still interesting to note that there were multiple versions of the same story that had been recounted to him by different people. I am not willing to merely believe that there are ghosts or that there is life after death on the basis of these kinds of stories, but I am not so ardently sceptical as to dismiss the possibility of such things. There are lots of ghost stories and it’s obvious that some of them are fabricated and untrue. It’s also obvious that many people’s spooky encounters have a rational, none paranormal explanation. But that doesn’t mean that every single story is bogus, or that everything can be rationalised. I think there are some people who immediately dismiss these kinds of stories as ridiculous, and they qualify this by saying that they believe in science or that it’s irrational. But most of these people who I’ve heard say this kind of thing haven’t got an amazing knowledge of science. And even science doesn’t really understand most of our universe. I mean, the big bang, black holes, dark matter, the nature of consciousness, infinite multiverses, gravity … What’s that all about then.

“So you don’t believe in things you haven’t seen? so surely if you’re being rational then you don’t believe in gravity?”

“What? Well that’s ridiculous, of course I believe in gravity.”

“But you can’t see it? But you still believe it?”

“I don’t have to see it to know it exists.

“Fair enough, well, can you explain it then? Can you explain what it is? How it is? Where it is?”

I’m not being anti-science here. My beef isn’t with science. Rather my issue is with those people who say that things aren’t scientific or that they are irrational as an expedient way of immediately dismissing something that they don’t understand, especially given that most of these people I’m referring to haven’t really got the faintest idea about science anyway. So surely it’s best to be open-minded and quizzical, just as we should when trying to understand gravity, time, or any other weird phenomena.

Does time exist? Einstein didn’t think so, nor do most scientists apparently, yet we live our lives on the premise that it does. The fabric on which we build Our entire lives upon is completely irrational.

I’ve spoken to friends who are convinced that ghosts do not exist and that it’s all silly nonsense, yet refuse to do a Ouija board because they say that we shouldn’t mess with things we don’t understand. I thought we were being open-minded. “Yes but, I know someone who tried it and weird stuff happened.”

So I think that I’m more interested in uncovering anecdotal accounts of strange phenomena and investigating it, rather than just listening to a man tell stories in a spooky dramatic voice, while we all laugh and look down our noses at the kind of people who actually believe in this shit. I think most of us are sceptical about this kind of stuff because it’s more socially acceptable and fashionable than taking an interest in such things. The world is a fascinating place, and we should take more of an interest in it, but we spend our lives drinking crap, eating crap, listening to crap and watching crap, and believing it to be rational. We should all embrace science more, and we should maybe take an interest in at least disecting some of the paranormal stories rather than just immediately leaping to the conclusion that they are all rubbish. There are probably people reading this who think that the idea of ghosts is stupid and childish, yet believe in God and the words of some ancient book.

I hope that this has sort of made sense. I kind of know what I’m trying to say about this subject, but it’s such a big one, and I don’t feel as if I’ve really conveyed my thoughts about it very well. Feel free to pick it apart, reassemble it and tell me in the comments section what you think I’m trying to say. If it sounds impressive then I might just steal your words, claim them as my own and put them in this blog to make me sound more intelligent. Suddenly stories about my kettle don’t seem so bad, do they?

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