Monday, October 30, 2006

Does a scared reporter s**t in the woods? (Part I)

Hello all

Sorry for the shortage of posts. Nothing much been going on round here. I've been in touch with the outside world, but something inside me keeps saying that I should stay hidden until assurance reaches me that all is well in the world. Fat chance of that, I reckon.

However, it may all be about to change. This is what happened a couple of days ago....

----

I awoke with a start. It was just 4:30am, but my mind was unusually active. I thought of Dolores alone in our matrimonial bed, suffering alone without her long-term companion by her side. I imagined the Institute staff standing around with no sense of direction, no tasks to complete, no reports to file. I sensed the mood amongst the local wildlife, wondering why the man in the white coat was not coming to reduce their numbers.

My mind jumped then to Ravel, my faithful companion, body-guard, cook, scout, research assistant. I owe him such a debt of gratitude that I am almost tempted to give him a pay rise if we ever get back to the Institute....

The hut where we have been staying was very cold. Sited on the edge of a large forest, shielded from sunlight for most of the day, nothing but a log-stove for heating. I pulled the duvet over my face and tried to go back to sleep, hoping that when I re-awoke that Ravel would have put some logs on the fire and prepared my first cup of tea.

I did manage to fall asleep, and dreamt that I was running a marathon dressed as a postbox. Halfway along the course I was forced to make a toilet stop, but the postbox was so tight that the only opening was the slit at the top. I try to jump up and aim out of the slit, but disaster strikes as I lose balance and fall over, causing a huge pile-up of tired runners behind and on top of my costume. Someone yanks the lid off my postbox. It is Ravel, pulling me to safety, firing at the crowd to warn them away....

I awoke at this point to feel Ravel tugging on my sleeve and the sound of logs cracking in the fire. He was unusually animated, and insisted that I wake up. Rubbing my eyes, I saw that he was not carrying the expected cup of tea, but instead was holding a hunters cap, complete with ear guards and a badge proclaiming that Celtic are the greatest football team in the world. He pushed the cap in my direction and told me that he had found it whilst jogging in the forest.

The reason for his animation was clear. You may recall that 2 reporters from a local newspaper had been dispatched some days earlier to find me. They had returned to their boss empty-handed, only to be told that they must widen their search. They set off in completely the wrong direction and eventually went missing (supposedly). The newspaper (which I have been reading occasionally) claimed first of all that I had abducted the reporters, then that they had been killed by a puma that had escaped from a private zoo, then that they had eloped, and finally that they had faked their own deaths to claim on their life insurance.

As a bona-fide scientist with objective rationalisation at the top of my agenda, I was immediately sceptical of the whole story. The two reporters in question were well known to me, having made up several stories concerning my work and lifestyle to help sell their newspaper. I suspected that they were still in the newspaper office, and had simply latched on to my disappearance as an excuse for a story.

Until, that was, Ravel showed me the hat. I recognised it from a photo of one of the reporters.

'Where did you find that', I asked my eager young companion.

'Boss, I was jogging in the woods like every morning. I go maybe four and three thirds miles and see hat lying on the ground. There were footprints all around, like someone running in circles. I don't see anyone, only their shit on the ground where they make toilet, and eventually lose footprints in forest. So I ran quick back here. I think the reporters are here, boss!'

'Here?', I shouted, flinging the duvet off my pyjama-clad body and pushing my way past Ravel.

'Yes boss, here in the wood.'

'Oh, right. That's OK. I thought you actually meant...'

'Yes boss. We go find them now?'

'Er. I'll have to think about that, Ravel.'

'Tell you what for, boss. You eat breakfast, I find reporters. I bring them back here and we trade them for your safety.'

'Huh? Are you actually suggesting that we kidnap some newspaper reporters? Have you any idea what would happen if we did that?'

'Yes boss. The police would agree to our demands and give you clock circle protection before we let reporters go safe.'

I patted the young Bulgarian on the shoulder and smiled, saying, 'I think, Ravel, that you should learn a few more things about how things work in the UK. Maybe in Bulgaria you can do this kind of thing but...'

'True Boss, in UK it works also. I was...'

'I don't want to know Ravel.'

We ate breakfast whilst I formulated a plan of action. Half of me wanted to stay put and leave the reporters to find their way out of the forest. But my conscience was also at work, and telling me to find them, make sure they were at least safe.

Twenty minutes later we were out of the door and heading into the forest. Ravel was behaving like a professional tracker, padding along slightly bent to avoid low hanging branches, stopping occasionally to pick up broken twigs or rub soil samples between his fingers. I could swear I even saw him sniff the air on occasion, as if picking up their scent.

We had spent almost two hours in the forest before I felt that maybe this was a fruitless exercise. I had kept marking trees with some chalk so that we could find our way back, but had miscalculated how long we would need, and was down to my last 5mm of chalk. I told Ravel that it was time to go home, but he brushed away my concerns and shouted that he had heard something. I told him it was probably a bird, but he insisted he had heard human voices. Reluctantly, I agreed that we could search for a few minutes, and we headed deeper into the forest. My chalk ran out three trees later...

************TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!!!************

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Media attention

Hello all

The four walls of my little hideaway are starting to close in, and I fear I might be going a little stir crazy. This morning, I swore I heard a lark singing a Christmas carol outside my window, when in fact it was just Ravel whistling a Bulgarian folk tune as he performed his morning workout.

My strategy of hiding on the edge of a large forest to avoid elimination by forces unseen appears to have worked. Who-ever was calling the Institute to threaten me has not called since the day I ran away. What has happened? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm not planning to go back immediately though, just in case this is a ruse to lull me into a false sense of security.

You may have read on the main blog that the local paper released two reporters into the wilderness to find me. They returned empty handed, of course, for I am nowhere near the Insititute. Unfortunately for them, the editor was apparently dissatisfied with their efforts and sent them out again. I don't know where they are, and I don't care, so long as they don't stumble on my hiding place.

Ravel has been acting as lookout, guard, cook, cleaner and general companion. We have bonded during our time here. His English has improved considerably, as I insist on teaching him for at least two hours a day. Yesterday he recited the first three verses of Beowulf without dropping so much as a single consonant. I do feel, though, that my loyal research assistant is also beginning to feel a little isolated. He keeps asking me when we are going home. I tell him that we need to be patient. There are forces beyond my control operating outside my sphere of influence, or something like that.

J McC

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Are we chimps?

Hello all


There's not much happening here at the edge of the forest. The hideaway is doing its job of keeping me well away from civilisation, and Ravel is doing a sterling job of keeping us supplied with rations.

Some good news came in from Dolores recently. Apparently one of the charges against me has been dropped. The girl who unjustly accused me of sexual assault has withdrawn the charge after it emerged she has been enjoying the attention of many of the local village's male population. The embarassment is such, apparently, that she may have already left the village. At least I am vindicated on that one point, but I am still charged with asssault of Toby Hancock-Jones in Norfolk, and still hiding from one or more persons intent on extinguishing my life. My future life as a free and living man is still far from guaranteed.

I have a small television here, which helps keep me in touch with the modern world. One of the programmes I watched the other day was Horizon. Someone called Daniel Wallace had read that we share 99.4% of our genome with the chimpanzee. He wanted to know if, in fact, chimps were people too. I was so outraged by the programme that I have decided to write an open letter aimed at the producers.

--

Dear Horizon producers

Regarding last night's Horizon. I am afrida to say that after watching this programme I am so affected that I must write and tell you my thoughts. The hypothesis that 'chimps are people too' was preposterous to begin with, as there is a common notion that people=humans, and it was therefore very unlikely that anyone would agree with the presenter, Mr Daniel Wallace. In the end, he got so frustrated that he changed the question. Instead of asking the last scientist 'Do you think chimps are people too', he asked whether 'chimps are kinda like people? The response was still not what he wanted to hear and the programme ended with a wimp rather than a bang (although the bonobo-threesome was peculiarly entertaining).

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for science programming on the BBC. But that programme hit rock bottom in terms of content, idea and presentation. It was basically a vehicle for Mr Wallace to use his brand of slightly irreverant humour and make scientists look frumpy. But the problem from the outset was that he had no scientific background whatsoever. He admitted as such, but this was no excuse. He came across like a slightly excited school boy in each encounter, and we learnt very little about chimp behaviour.

Horizon, you should be ashamed. I understand that you need to engage the audience, but that was turgid (to use your own scoring system).

Disappointed of somewhere secret.

---

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Big ideas

Hello all

This post is in response to being censored by the Chris Evans moderators. It is exactly the same as I submitted to the comments box. Please add your own comments below this entry.

-----

It is I, McCrumble, declaring his own INNOCENCE from a secret location.
Great ideas....well, this wasn't my idea originally, but I am now in the process (albeit indirectly, as I am currently indisposed) of publishing my blog entries as a book, with the proceeds of sale going towards a worthy cause - namely the Matangini Project

http://www.matangini.org.uk

How about this for another great idea...

Ask Gordon Brown (or John Prescott, or David Cameron) to take the average UK wage (on a 3 year fixed contract), assume that they have poor/absent/deceased parents, no inheritance to speak of, a student loan, and tell him to try and buy and run a home (with mortgage income protection, insurances etc). Imagine the number of viewers that would tune into this hard-hitting (and ultimately tragic) reality programme. Throw in a wife on below-average earnings and a child to make the whole thing a bit more fun. He must also rely on public transport, and recyle 90% of his waste. For each ten percent under this target, he gets fined £50. After the three years, make him redundant.

cheers

J McC

flight through the forest

Hello all

I'm currently sitting in front of a computer running an internet tracing anonymiser, which means, hopefully, that no-one can trace where I am. Suffice to say it is somewhere remote and not easily reached by car. In fact, the car is nowhere near at all. Let me fill you in on what happened after we turned off the main road to evade Miron, Ravel's sinister brother.

-----

Miron was still on our tail a couple of miles later, which wasn't surprising really as there had been no turn off. I wasn't giving up hope though, because I knew of a forest about 3 miles ahead with enough roads and dirt-tracks crossing it to lose an entire convoy of baddies. The adrenalin was surging as I directed Ravel to drive faster. He kept trying to protest, but I knew that I had to remain strong of purpose and straight of thought. I would cut him down with a curt 'keep concentrating on the road Ravel!' each time he began to protest. Eventually he gave up and focused more on avoiding the potholes.

A few minutes later I saw the entrance to the forest. I could see Miron's car behind us, gaining ground, and knew that he would follow us into the woods. This was part of my plan. Once we had trees to offer some cover we could easily lose him. The place I wanted to reach was on the other side of the forest, three miles away.

At the last moment I told Ravel to turn right. He yanked the wheel sharply, forcing the car to lurch to the left as we left the tarmac and hit the dirt road. Almost immediately we were in dense forest on a long straight track. As we accelerated away, I glanced behind and saw Miron was almost upon us.

So the chase continued. I barked orders for Ravel to turn left and right as we sped through the densely packed forest. Row upon row of pine trees, tall and stiff, zipped past the car. The track was narrow and bumpy, and it was only due to Ravels' excellent driving skills that we avoided a crash. Equally up to the task, however, was Miron. We just couldn't shake him, and my planned exit point was growing ever closer. 'Faster!' I shouted at Ravel, my blood pumping and heart pounding.

'I no go any faster boss. I tell you this waste of time. I like fast driving but why we run away?'

'I've told you a dozen times. He had a gun.'

'No gun boss! I tell you fifty times it was not a gun.!'

'Did you see it Ravel?'

'No but....'

'I clearly saw a gun - turn left - and he was clearly taking it out of his jacket - turn right.'

Ravel managed the manouvre easily, changing smoothly down then accelerating away. Not that quickly, I thought, not quite fast enough to lose his brother.....'You're not driving fast enough!I said loudly, suddenly pricked by the notion that Ravel was deliberately driving slowly.

'OK boss. I stop car now. No point driving more. Miron is better driver. He spend many years driving in Romanian forests. He is a better driver than me. We will not lose him. If you are scared you stay in the car. I speak to him.'

'Ravel NO!' I shouted as he started to slow down. For a moment I was tempted to try and wrestle control of the car, but the trees were too close. We came to a gentle halt instead, and Ravel immediately left the car. Fearing the worst I locked the doors and slid down the seat as far as possible. If Miron took a shot at the windows I might be spared.

I heard Miron's car stopping behind us. His door opened, and immediately the two men started shouting at each other. I couldn't see anything, nor could I understand a word of what they were saying, but I guessed they were, in all probability, having an argument.

The commotion carried on for a good ten minutes. I remained motionless in the passenger side well of the car all this time, straining to listen for any escalation of hostilities and wondering whether Ravel was bartering for my life, or helping plan its end. My research assistant scares me sometimes, and I'm not afraid to admit it. It was all very different a few months ago, but the first appearance of Miron appears to have changed things. Nowadays Ravel is more sullen, seems less happy and more than a little insubordinate (note to self: book Ravel in for a therapy session asap).

Eventually I heard footsteps approaching the car. Were they Ravel's or Miron's, I asked myself. Moments later the answer was revealed as Ravel's face appeared at the window. 'Let me in boss,' he said.

'Where's Miron' I squeaked from my not-so-secret hiding position.

'He's going. He knows this forest also and is leaving us now.' As Ravel spoke I heard Miron's car starting. Moments later a high-pitched engine sound indicated he was reversing.

'OK, get in and tell me what happened' I said, instantly relieved that my life was no longer in imminent danger. I unlocked the doors, sat up and waited for Ravel to enter. He sat down and stared ahead in silence. I watched him for a few moments, unsure of why we weren't proceeding. He seemed deeply concerned about something. Eventually I asked what was the problem.

'OK, he tell me not to tell you.'

'Huh?'

'He tell me not to tell you anything. I have to do some things for him, that is all. He was not after you.'

'But he drew a gun!'

'He draw....what he draw?'

'I told you a dozen times. The gun. He was going to shoot!'

'No boss. OK, you were right. It was a gun. He took it out out because his phone was in the same pocket and was ringing. I told him you were scared like a cat underneath a bucket of water and that is why we run away like hens'

'I told you it was gun! Why did you not believe me? Huh?'

'OK boss, I thought he did not carry a gun in this country. It is illegal.'

'Correct, Ravel. Well done for absorbing this finer point of Scottish law. But next time please do not assume that your brother has anything less than total contempt for local laws.'

'Huh?'

'Oh never mind. I assume from what you said that he is going to leave us alone?'

'Yes boss. I will do something for him later. He leaves us now. And he say he leave your family alone also'

My eyes widened. I hadn't thought for a second about anyone else's safety. 'Dolores!' I exclaimed, whilst looking forlornly at my dead phone. Here I was, stuck in a pine forest with no communication to the outside world. I suddenly felt miserable. The adrenalin had been re-absorbed, leaving nothing but a feeling of emptiness and self-pity.

'Boss' said Ravel.

'What is it?' I replied quietly.

'The car not start.'

'Huh?'

'I think driving it break something. I check engine.' With that, Ravel exited the car and lifted the bonnet. Steam rose from either side.' Things broken' he said, 'And oil leaking. Car not going anywhere boss.'

There was nothing to do except abandon the car and start walking. The place I wanted to hide was about 2 miles away, and we reached it within forty minutes. It was somewhere I knew and had access to for research purposes. What exactly goes on there I cannot say for fear of compromising my position. Nothing nefarious, I assure you. No-one at the Institute knows about this place, as it hasn't been used since any of them joined. Fortunately I still pay the electric bills, so we have power. I have been in touch with Dolores and I think she understands why I need to stay here for a while. When the police offer me some guaranteed protection then I'll go home.

Probably.