Sunday, May 31, 2015

The British Pipe Band Championships 2015

Well, it was a good ride while it lasted. Our season is now effectively over.

Yesterday was the British Pipe Band Championships, which once again were held in Bathgate. This year they had moved to a new venue, but that made little real difference - I got on the bus and didn't worry about it. And it was a great day - bright and sunny throughout... though it did get a bit cold later.

We went, we got tuned up, and then we played. Everything to that point was fine, and when we came off I was reasonably happy - I actually thought it was our best performance of the year. But the pipe major was NOT happy. He pulled the pipers aside and basically went straight through us. He'd obviously heard something I had not, though I'm at a loss as to what it is.

The rest of the day was the usual waiting, which was eased by a halfway-decent book and also by listening to the Scottish Cup Final (Falkirk lost - boo). And then, after far too much waiting, we went for the march past.

We came last. Out of fourteen bands we came 12th and 14th for piping, 13th for drumming, and 14th for ensemble. So, a pretty dire performance on all counts. As I said, the pipe major must have heard something I did not.

But it was on the journey home that things went most wrong. The pipe major and one of the parents had a big shouting match in the bus, and then there were extensive rumblings of discontent. It doesn't look good.

Alas, this result basically means the end of the season. We were already near-certain to be dropped back to Grade 4A, between not doing at all well last year and only attending three of the five Majors. With this result, I don't see how we can avoid the drop. Which, truth be told, may be no bad thing, though coming back up will be exceptionally difficult.

(Though right now I'm not convinced we'll even make it to the end of the season...)

Anyway, that's that.

#26: "Pathfinder: Forge of the Giant God", by Tim Hitchcock

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Update on Goals

The end of May brings us the 150th day of the year, so it's time for another update on goals. We're now nearly halfway through the year, so this update should give some idea on how things should end up.

  • Weight: Gah! This has been a total disaster, still. No progress.
  • Books: By day 150, I should be 24.6 books through my reading for the year. I'm therefore now very slightly ahead of schedule, having completed book 25. I'm also up-to-date on all the sublists, with the caveat that this month's Pathfinder didn't arrive until Thursday. Still, I'm expecting to finish that before the end of the month, remaining on target. So that's going well.
  • Games: Still right on target: five sessions done after five months. However, I'm planning to miss a couple in June and July, but hope to catch up in the last third of the year.
  • Work: Still on target.
  • Band: This goal is actually done - one of my students played his first competition at Dunbar. Huzzah!
  • Super Secret Goal #4: I'm reliably informed that the roof has been fixed, though I remain concerned every time it rains. There are a few small bits of DIY that need to be done, and a redecoration, but things are going well.

Everything seems to be going pretty well, with the notable exception of the weight goal. I have to make sure I have some real progress to report for the next update in July.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Experimental Cookery 2015 #21: Creamy Pancetta Pasta with Mushrooms & Parmesan

As I mentioned the other day, LC is currently cat-sitting for her parents. I've therefore been left alone, and one of my responses to this was to take the opportunity to have a meal with mushrooms in. LC does not like mushrooms, and as a consequence I seldom get to have them, and so now was my chance.

This meal turned out to be more of an adventure than I'd expected. On Sunday, after arriving home, I headed out almost right away to Tesco, where I bought all the things for this meal. Including cream. This evening, while gathering those ingredients together, but thankfully before actually starting the cooking, I looked in the fridge and... no cream! Where could it be?

Well, I searched high and I searched low. It wasn't in the main fridge, nor in the backup fridge. It hadn't accidentally been left in the shopping bag. Somehow, it had disappeared.

So, I had to go out and get some. And, heading out to the car I realised where the cream was: it had fallen out of the bag into the car, and had been stewing there ever since. It was not a pleasant thing.

I got new cream and returned to the cooking. Ten minutes later, I had a meal to eat. It was quick, and easy... and I'd done all the prep work before heading out.

The meal itself was nice enough, but not exactly the best thing ever. It was basically another take on Carbonara, only with mushrooms and bacon instead of chorizo and egg yolks. Oh, and fancy pasta, though I'll probably just use the rest of that up when next I have Carbonara. So, anyway, it was a winner, but not one that would trouble the Nominated Nine. And not something I'll be agitating for LC to try - I suspect she'll be quite glad of that last!

I have no idea what's on the slate for next week. Something not involving mushrooms, no doubt!

(Oh, yes: this one came from Lorraine Pascale's second book, "Home Cooking Made Easy". A good book, though not one I use too often.)

This Week's Mug: This week I'm using the second "Big Bang Theory" mug. It's very similar to the previous mug in construction, but with a different design - this mug has the "atom symbol" that they use in scene breaks in the show repeated twice in green, plus a "comic strip" style set of quotes from the characters in the middle. Alas, the mug is printed very slightly out of focus, so it's actually not very legible.

#23: "Vanity Fair", by William Makepeace Thackeray (a book from The List)
#24: "The Bell Jar", by Sylvia Plath (a book from The List)
#25: "Doctor Who: How to be a Time Lord", by BBC Books

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Complete and Unabridged

I've been reading "Vanity Fair" for several weeks now, on and off, and am getting towards the end. Indeed, I hit the three-quarters mark at the weekend, and was looking forward to powering through the last 170 or so pages over the first few days of this week.

Yesterday, I had particularly set myself the target of reaching page 572, thus leaving exactly 100 pages to go. So, I looked forward to around that point to determine where exactly the chapter break fell so that I knew where I was going to...

Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered that my copy jumped from page 531 to page 582! It then had a block of 50ish pages and then jumped back to page 582!

Luckily, it being an old book the text is available online, and so I was able to track down and read the missing chapters that way, and as a consequence I read right across the 'gap' and so am that bit closer to the end. Still, it was a traumatic ordeal.

(I'm not absolutely convinced that the text I found online was itself complete and unabridged, as the hardcopy does at least claim. But at this point I'm not too bothered - even if incomplete it was enough for me to feel no need to go back and check.)

A Mister E

Can anyone explain to me why we persist in using honorifics? That is, why do we still address correspondence to "Mr Vader" rather than just to "Steph/ven D. Vader"?

Apparently, the use of an honorific is a mark of respect, as indeed the term 'honorific' would imply. However, anyone who has been either a teacher or a school pupil must surely know that one can quite easily imbue mister with tones of the utmost contempt.

And, yes, there are a few cases where something might be lost in specific cases - namely where someone has a 'special' honorific, such as "Lord Vader". But that's easily solved - just use a special honorific if indeed the person has indeed earned that honorific.

But for the rest of us, all they add is hassle. Especially when addressing women: is it Mrs, Miss, Ms, or indeed Mx? (And how does one even pronounce Ms? And while the use of the wild-card in Mx is quite clever, shouldn't it really be M*?)

It's not like "Mr Vader" really identifies me all that clearly: I have three brothers all of whom are equally Mr Vader, and I have three nephews who in time will likewise be Mr Vader. (Dad Vader being one of those people with a 'special' honorific.) So, really, you still need at least my first initial, at which point you might as well just use my full name.

(And "John Smith" is hardly going to be better identified as "Mr John Smith"!)

In theory, I suppose, there's marginal value where a couple share the same initial, in which case you could have "Mr S Vader" and "Mrs S Vader", where simply addressing to "S Vader" is unclear. Alternately, though, you could solve the problem using "Steph/ven Vader" and "Someone/else Vader"... or is that a crazy thought?

Of course, mostly this is motivated by sheer laziness - typing LC each time is just far too much effort, where using just C would be much more convenient...

(Incidentally, in case you weren't sure, my surname isn't really Vader. But when choosing a stand-in surname I only had two candidates. The other being Prime. And 'D' is a more believable middle initial than 'O'.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Experimental Cookery 2015 #20: Harissa Chicken with Bulgur Wheat Salad

This week's "Experimental Cookery" comes once again from the Hairy Dieter's "How to Love Food and Lose Weight" (the white cover). As I've mentioned before, it's a great book. (And one of the best things about it is that the meals neither taste nor feel like diet food - I don't recall having ever had a bad one, and I've always felt pleasantly full afterwards.)

This meal was much like #18, in that the chicken was first smashed flat and then cooked quickly in a pan. The key difference was that it was brushed with harissa paste before the second and third flips to get the desired coating.

The salad was an interesting one, in that we hadn't had bulgur wheat before (and this meant that I was using two new ingredients for the first time). This turned out to be much like couscous, in that it basically just needed to absorb lots of water. It was then tossed with lots of salad ingredients.

Alas, I should have added plenty of pepper to the salad but forgot. Oops!

The meal took considerably longer to prepare than I had expected, but wasn't at all difficult. The result was rather pleasant, although much less hot than I had expected. I also think it would have benefitted from more time for the wheat to dry out before serving - I might be tempted to cook that up earlier and use later.

It was another winner, but again doesn't trouble my top nine. I'll definitely do it again, if only to use up the rest of the bulgur wheat!

I'm not sure what's going to be next. The book had a mini-series of three chicken dishes in a row, hence the past few entries, but that's now ended. Though... LC is cat-sitting for a few days next week and so I'll be alone. Perhaps I'll take the opportunity to do something with mushrooms...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dunbar Highland Games 2015

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, the Dunbar Highland Games are considered the 'real' start of the season by many bands. Anything prior to this competition is, effectively, a pre-season friendly, but this is the one where people want to put down a marker for the season to come - this is when things get real.

I had been rather apprehensive about this competition all week, as the weather forecast looked pretty horrible. Fortunately, as the week ended the weather shifted, and it turned out that the day was mostly sunny with a few showers (that didn't hit us). But it was very windy indeed.

We performed twice, once in the Grade 4 (four marches) and once in Grade 4A (march/strathspey/reel, or MSR). The latter is our actual grade, so that's the one we really care about. Just as well, really.

We got ourselves set up and ready to play, and all was looking fine. We marched to the start line, and started our first performance... and it was pretty terrible. It started far too fast, and got faster from there. Plus, there was a lot of bad blowing, which meant the drone frequency wasn't constant and some of the high notes weren't right. All in all, a bad performance.

There was one redeeming feature: one of our young pipers got his first outing at a competition, which was good. And, incidentally, completes that part of my goal. Huzzah!

The second performance was rather better, in that we didn't play so fast, it was much more together, and the blowing was rather better. Unfortunately, this one was hit by three specific, and really quite bad, mistakes - the sort of mistakes that happen, and there's nothing you can do about them, and they're unlikely to happen again in the same way. So, a much better performance, but...

Then there was the traditional wait for the march past. At one point there was a suggestion it might be rained off, but that didn't happen. Instead we waited, then we went, and we didn't win anything. A big shock, obviously.

In the Grade 4 contest we were 8th overall, out of 15: 5th and 7th for piping, 12th for drumming, and 5th for ensemble. So, a solid mid-table result, and probably better than we deserved. But good enough to suggest the season might not suck.

In the Grade 4A contest we were 4th overall, out of 5: 2nd and 4th for piping, 4th for drumming, and 4th for ensemble. That was a somewhat disappointing result, but also a fair one. And given the specific issues, hopefully suggests we'll do better other times.

All in all, it wasn't a bad day, though it could have been better. The big test comes a week on Saturday at our first Major of the year, at Bathgate. We'll only play once at that one, in the Grade 4A contest, and we're hoping to be up close to the prize list. Which, sad to say, is a big ask.

This week's mug: I'm running short of mug anecdotes now, so there will only be a few more entries in this series. This week's chosen mug is a white "Big Bang Theory" mug, one of two, which has the guys on one side and Penny on the other. This was a Christmas present a year or two ago. It's fine, but not exactly my favourite!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

24 Revisited

I watched the very first episode of "24" last night, having finally started on a re-watch of the whole series (that may well take me four years to complete). To be honest, it was a bit of a shock - it's amazing just how far TV has come in 14 years! But it was also quite amazing how different the show was - Jack started off being fairly happy, the ticking clock wasn't quite so in-your-face, and the show was actually fairly slow to get started. It just wasn't the same frantic race that later series became.

Plus, of course, everyone involved looked really young!

Anyway, it will be interesting watching the whole thing gradually unfolding again, all the twists and turns, and especially the evolution of the format.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Experimental Cookery 2015 #19: Easy Crispy Chicken

Finishing out week 19 of the year, I have another Experimental Cookery. Once again, this comes from "The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight" (the white cover).

This was an easy meal to make - toast some bread, grind to crumbs, mix with some herbs and parmesan, then coat the chicken in flour, yoghurt, and the crumbs, and then bake. I served it with some of the same potato wedges that went with the previous meals.

It was a successful meal, and very filling despite being billed as diet food. I do think there was perhaps too much cheese in the mix, and it could do with some more herbs, but that's just a matter of fine tuning. I expect we'll definitely have this again. It's still not in to top nine though!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


One of my students is competing in the Stirling Mod on Friday, and I had intended to go support him in this. However, last night LC and I were discussing the possibility of going to the theatre this week, and eventually settled on seeing Dara O'Briain at the Edinburgh Playhouse, also this Friday. It wasn't until just after she'd confirmed the booking that I realised I'd been planning to be elsewhere.


What was worse, though, was that it then turned out that I had neglected to mention my intention to go to the Mod to LC. I genuinely thought I had done so, but it turns out not.

Oops again. Also, sorry LC!

Anyway, the end result is that we're going to see Dara on Friday. My student will just have to manage without - in truth, our other tutor is going to be setting him up to play anyway, so my role would have been purely ornamental anyway.

Besides, it's worth considering that the band is currently taking too much of my time and concentration. I'm going to need to keep an eye on that for the next few months, given how busy the competition season is likely to get.

I'll let you know how the show is.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Experimental Cookery 2015 #18: Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip

I managed to sneak in an extra Experimental Cookery last night, thus bring me back on target for the year. Though I've also come to the realisation that I'm running out of material for the series - it looks like I've pretty much exhausted both "Jamie's Italy" and "Chinese Food Made Easy", and several of the other books I have provide only fairly slim pickings. So we'll see; I may retire this series early.

Last night's dinner came from "The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight" (the white cover), which is a great book. The meal took a little over half an hour to prepare from finish to end, and really wasn't difficult - the wedges cooked in the oven, the dip was a matter of stirring some ingredients together, and the actual cooking of the chicken involved putting it in a pan and turning it three times. Done.

The result was excellent - very tasty and quite filling. So, no complaints there, and I'll certainly make it again. (It didn't crack my top nine, though!) Following the disappointment of the duck, it was good to get back on track here.

This Week's Mug: Speaking of series coming to an end, I'm getting towards the end of my mug rotation - I think I have three or four left to use so might not make it into next month! This week's mug is a Transformers one - it is a sturdy white mug with Optimus on one side and Bumblebee on the other. Alas, these are the 'movie' versions of the characters, not the 'real' ones, but it will do. However, this mug was previously assigned to hot chocolate duties, so I'm betraying my own system by using it for coffee this week! I received this mug as a Christmas present several years ago, when it came packaged with a sachet of hot chocolate mix and mini marshmallows, hence it's role assignment.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What Next For Labour?

Last one about politics for a good long time, I promise!

Probably the big issue for UK politics for the next five years, more important than the EU referendum, is the question of how the Labour party are going to respond to this defeat, how they're going to rebuild, and what they can do to stop the Tories in 2020. Because otherwise, we're going to be looking at Tory rule for a very long time.

But before they can go too far, Labour have to work out just why they lost. Because if the answer is one thing, the response goes one way; if it is another, then the response is quite different.

I think, but am not certain, that the problems are threefold:

#1: Jim Murphy is almost right

In his speech after the defeat, JM commented that the SNP had cost Labour votes outwith Scotland. This is wrong, but it's almost right. In truth, the SNP couldn't take any votes from Labour down South, for the simple reason that they weren't standing. But the threat of the SNP almost certainly did cause some people to vote Tory.

(But the nuance is important - it doesn't actually matter how Scots voted; even if every single Scot had voted Labour instead of SNP, it would still have looked like we were going to send 50 SNP MPs down to Westminster, so the threat would still have worked. And it will work next time, too.)

#2: I was wrong

My big objection to Labour, the reason I'll probably never vote for them again, and indeed the reason I dislike them even more than the Tories, is their move to the Right under Tony Blair. And, in particular, their rejection of a principled position in favour of triangulating to capture votes in middle England.

The problem is that Tony Blair and his team are right - there's no point in taking a principled position if you don't have power. In order to do anything useful, Labour must first win an election, and in order to win that election, Labour must win in England. Scotland might add a few MPs here and there (but don't count on it), but if middle England demands a right-of-centre government, then that's what they'll have - be it the Tories or a Blairite Labour.

#3: The Wrong Man for the Job

But it's also the case that Ed Miliband simply couldn't beat David Cameron. In fact, he was defeated by a bacon sandwich.

No, seriously - that one image was the end of his hopes of being Prime Minister. Because, stupid as it is, what we want from our leaders is that they're tall with good hair. Ed Miliband may be a perfectly nice guy, he might be a complete genius, but in the court of public opinion he's not the man for the job. Sorry Ed.


I don't like to say it, but the future's Blairite. In order to come back with a winning proposition, Labour need to do a few things:

Firstly, they need a new leader. Someone tall and polished, with clear speech and refined manners, and someone who absolutely won't scare middle England. Chuka Umunna seems to be the media's preferred candidate, and also seems to be Tony Blair's choice. And he's probably as close to being the right man (person) for the job as anyone.

Secondly, they do indeed need to move back to the right. Not, as Tony Blair inaccurately says, the "centre ground", because even under Ed Labour were already on the right. They need to move further that way, and towards the Tories. And they absolutely must find someone, somewhere, with a rock-solid understanding of economics as Shadow Chancellor. (And if they don't have someone, then they need to make an interim appointment and send someone off to become an expert for a couple of years. Make no mistake, though - by the time of the next election they need someone with impeccable credentials in that role in order to win.)

Thirdly, UK Labour need to quietly but firmly push Scotland out of the door. There are, again, two reasons for this. Firstly, Scotland has rejected the Blairite approach, so the strategy Labour would need to win back Scotland is very different from the one in the rest of the UK, and that won't work. Secondly, as long as Scotland looks like sending a bunch of SNP MPs, the Tories have a great big stick to batter Labour with. (And unless the SNP implode spectacularly or Scottish Labour produces a Messiah, Scotland will look like sending a whole bunch of SNP MPs.)

Incidentally, it's worth noting that the Tories are just better at this politics lark than the rest of us. They know that a strong SNP operating in the UK is a potent weapon for them to use to hold power. So expect to see David Cameron picking lots of high-profile but symbolic fights with Alex Salmond over the next five years, and indeed publicly losing a few. Further, expect to see Scotland being devolved greater and greater responsibility for itself within the UK, but stopping short of Devo-Max/Full Fiscal Autonomy. (Frankly, I think the Tories would be quite happy for Scotland to leave - provided it doesn't actually happen while they're in power. David Cameron won't want to go down in history as "the Prime Minister who lost Scotland"... but if it can be arranged such that that blow hits just after Labour's next PM takes office, so much the better.)

Problem is, I'm not sure even that would be enough - I suspect the next Tory leader will be the inexplicably popular Boris Johnson, and I'm not sure any Labour leader could beat him.

Dear Media: About Voting Reform

One of the big talking points since the General Election has been about voting reform. Surely, when UKIP can get so many votes and one seat, and the Greens can get so many votes and one seat, and the SNP can get 50% of Scotland's vote and all but three seats, the system is clearly, manifestly unfair and must be changed?

Dear Media: please stop. Just stop it.

Yes, the voting system is rotten. Yes, it's manifestly unfair. But it won't be changed.

And the reason it won't be changed is quite simple: the Tories have a majority and they're in favour of First Past the Post. And for obvious reason - it very much favours them!

We have a government, therefore, that really doesn't want to change the voting system. Plus, they have a cast-iron excuse for not doing so: we had a referendum and they say that closed the issue for a generation. (That the referendum was on AV specifically isn't going to budge them.)

For a minimum of five years, there is no chance whatsoever that the voting system will be changed. So why are we even talking about it?

Competition Season Starts: Kinross Highland Games 2015

Yesterday was the start of our competition season. It was an event I'd been looking forward to a little, and dreading in equal measure - last year's season was really quite brutal, but the progress we've made over the winter has been good, so...

Anyway, Kinross is a good warm-up event. For many bands, the 'real' start of the season is Dunbar (next week), so this was almost a pre-season friendly, a chance to go and play when things were a bit less busy. Plus, it's a good location and not too early a start.

The weather has been miserable for much of this past week, but yesterday was definitely an exception. There were a couple of showers, but at all the important times it was hot and sunny. That definitely helps.

We were entered in two competitions: the Grade 4A contest and then "playing up" in the Grade 3 contest. The organisers this year had chosen to make the normal Grade 4 contest a strict Grade 4B one, which meant we weren't eligible. (This was probably a wise decision - if the grades are set correctly, the other approach means that a Grade 4B band shouldn't have much of a chance in their own contest, which doesn't seem right.)

So we went, we played, and it actually went well! This was of course rather disturbing, but there it was. Then we had a short break, then went and played again. And that went well too, although we didn't actually have a chance in that one.

Then there were a couple of hours of not much happening, during which I had a rather nice burger, I finished my book, and I finally got back to reading some (a little) of "Vanity Fair". And then it was time for the March Past.

We came fourth out of seven in Grade 4A - third in piping and fifth in drumming - which meant that we very narrowly missed out on one of the three prizes. And we came eighth out of nine (eighth and eighth) in Grade 3. But since we never had a chance in that one, we didn't really mind.

So, all in all a good day. Hopefully, the rest of the season will progress in much the same vein!

#21: "Firesoul", by Gary Kloster
#22: "D&D: Monster Manual", by Wizards of the Coast

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Done and Done

As is my wont, I went and cast my vote just before leaving for work. Ever since moving to Falkirk, in either my previous flat or the current one, I've never been more than a street away from the polling place, so it has always been easy. So for me it's all over now until the results come in.

My plan for tonight is to get a fairly early night and then to get up a little early. There's no point in watching the election night coverage until the results start coming in in numbers, as until then the talking heads actually have very little to talk about. And while I have some interest in potential "Portillo moments", not enough to warrant staying up. There will no doubt be a compilation video on YouTube at some point. (And if I didn't stay up for Avengers, I'm certainly not going to for Mr D. Alexander...)

If things are indeed as close as the media and the polls think, even those last few seats may be key in seeing the shape of things. So, I'll get up for those, rather than staying up for the early ones.

My one big hope, as with the referendum, is that the process is completely fair and is seen to be completely fair. The second last thing we need is serious allegations of fraud... the last being actual fraud. But as long as it is indeed fair, I suspect we'll be able to muddle along somehow, whatever the result may be.

Do please vote today, regardless of which way you lean. The higher the turnout, the better the result reflects the actual will of the people, which can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Experimental Cookery 2015 #17: Crispy Duck

This week's meal comes, once again, from "Chinese Food Made Easy", by Ching He-Huang. It was a meal that I was somewhat looking forward to, but also somewhat apprehensive about - Duck has proved to be one of the meats I just don't seem to be able to get right.

The meal seemed easy enough - the meat needed scored and then marinaded, then fried on one side and then baked for a few minutes while the sauce was made. What could go wrong?

Alas, it turned out the answer was, "plenty". Instead of being nicely browned, the skin turned out to be burned to a cinder by the time it went into the over. The sauce refused to thicken properly. And then when she tried it, LC's immediate reaction was, "are you sure this is cooked?"

Well, it was cooked. But that's about the best that can be said of it. Neither LC nor I really enjoyed the meal, and so once again duck turned out to be a crushing disappointment. A shame, really.

(I think I'm going to have to make sure to try duck next time I get a chance in a restaurant, to see how it comes out. That way, at least I know what I'm aiming for!)

This Week's Mug: I'm currently using a mug marked "Holland". I have in fact been to Holland, on a BB trip many years ago, but this mug was actually purchased in Schiphol airport on my way back from Germany (and yet I don't have a mug from Germany itself - didn't really think that through). Anyway, it's a rather nice mug, but deceptively small, which means my coffee inevitably has too much milk relative to the hot water. Which is certainly interesting.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Tell Me The Odds!

I wonder what odds you would get for a bet that neither Ed nor Dave will end up as Prime Minister as a result of this election?

Scenario: On Friday we have the result the polls have predicted: a hung parliament, Tories as the largest party (just), Labour second, SNP third, others much smaller. A Labour/SNP deal could form a minority government, but no other sensible arrangement will give anything stable.

At this point, Ed Miliband comes out and makes a statement: He concedes that the Tories are the largest party, he notes that only a deal with the SNP can stop them, but he's sworn not to make such a deal. Therefore, he's going to phone David Cameron to discuss with him how they can make a Tory minority government work, for the good of the country. It's a shame, but he sees no alternative.

At which point someone steps forward, apologises to Ed, but says that the country just can't survive another Tory government. Therefore, for a good of the country, Ed will have to go. And so Ed is removed, someone else becomes Labour leader, that person makes the deal with the SNP (since it wasn't them who ruled it out), and we go forward.

(I won't speculate on who that 'someone' might be. It really wouldn't be fair.)

If not, my money's still on a Tory minority government or even, just perhaps, a Tory/Lib Dem minority coalition (but that's unlikely - if they're already in a minority, why not go it alone?).

#20: "William Shakespeare's Star Wars: The Phantom of Menace", by Ian Doescher (better than the film, though that's not saying a lot...)