Tuesday 31st December
Navel-gazing special edition
Ah, New Year's Eve, that traditional time for taking stock of your life and making well-meaning resolutions that usually last until about a week after you get back to work. Of course, some of us aren't going back to work, but then again, I'm not making any resolutions so I don't have to worry about not keeping them. All the decisions about my immediate and medium-term future have already been made.
Anyway, why waste the chance for some introspective navel-gazing? After all every other blogger in the world is bound to be doing the fecking same. Well, that's the biggest reason of course, plus the fact that I'm not the sort to indulge in public navel-gazing - after all how many members of the public really want to see my navel? So instead here are some Big Ups, some Big Up Yours, and some Big Apologies for stuff that's happened in the last twelve months.
Big Ups to:
- Kev - hope you find a new job soon.
- John & Sue - great wedding, good luck for the future.
- Tim, Anne, Richard, Chris W, Jack, Chris A, Micky, Fiona - I shall miss the daily banter. Still, you know where I am, and I know where you live...
- Steve, Foz, Jules - see you all for Army2003 I hope.
- Eddy - great Christmas. fellah, only wish I'd stayed another couple of days.
- Everyone who was involved on the Spiderman film. My favouritest film of all time. Yeah, even ahead of Star Wars.
Big Up Yours to:
- Work - Nothing personal guys, but I've hated my job for the last nine months, possibly longer. It never stretched me and never made any use of the skills that I bought to the job in the first place. I'm glad I've been made redundant.
- BT - Once again making a convincing argument for switching to NTL.
- Scottish Power - Don't forget to mention that standing charge will you?
Big Apologies to:
- (there is only one). Lisa - I'm sorry for the way it all seems to have ended in a largely fucked-up manner, and I'm sorry for acting the desperate c*nt for most of the autumn. For what it's worth, it was worth all the while, and if I had to do the same again, I would my friend Fernando. I hope that one day we can talk again, but given my track record I'm afraid that might not be for a couple of years. Sorry.
Well, that's it for this year. Tomorrow, to get us off on the good foot, baby, the five questions that you should probably have asked yourself before you made your New Year's Resolutions.
Monday 30th December
Heyyyy!! I'm back!!
Actually I got back from London two days ago, but haven't been bothered about updating the site. Anyway, I had a great time in London. Spent most of it consuming vast quantities of alcohol, of course. Eddy cooked a delicious Christmas dinner, which showed that at least one of us has learnt to cook properly since leaving home. In fact Eddy did all the cooking and a damn fine job he made of it too. He also did a fine job of dragging out all the Xmas tunes you could possibly want to hear, including Easy E's Christmas song from a while back. "And an A to tha muthafuckin' K" indeed. And we spent a lot of time chatting and catching up with stuff, which was nice. I've already invited him to come to mine next year, although I'm not sure where that might be.
Fun with names, Part 739.
I was listening to the radio for most of yesterday and was intrigued to hear in the morning that "Wacky Baccy" had apparently won the Kenyan Presidential election with 69% of the vote. Good on them, I thought, I never knew the drug laws were so relaxed. Turns out that really the winner is Mwai Kibaki which is actually pronounced M-way Key-ba-key. Which is kind of a shame as the thought that a nation had voted to have marijuana as a president was quite amusing. Well, it made me laugh for a few minutes anyway.
Monday 23rd December
Woke up to the sad news that Joe Strummer died yesterday. Sad news indeed. Everyone knows of his sterling work with The Clash, of course, but more recently he'd had a bit of resurgence with his band The Mescaleros. They headlined the Saturday night of the Cambridge Folk Festival this year, but by the time I found out he was playing, it was sold out. I wish I'd gone now, of course. It would have been the only time I'd seen him live. Ah, more reflections once the news has sunk in. Or not as the case appears to be.
I'm off down to that there London (the big smoky apple) for a couple of days to spend Christmas with my little brother. I'll be meeting up with my recently-married mate John too for a couple of Xmas Eve bevvies. In "The Moon Under Water" on Tottenham Court Road, apparently. I'll be in there around 3pm if anyone fancies popping in to buy me a drink...
Merry Christmas to all my readers and hope you all have a grand time. Cheers!
Saturday 21st December
Winding down for the festive season
I went to work for the last time on Wednesday. Well, the last time at Convergys anyway. I certainly hope I get another job. Unless I win the Lottery, of course. It was off out to the pub for a final farewell with my colleagues. It was kind of sad, but very enjoyable too - although I think the half dozen or so pints I had helped with that feeling. Can't say I'll particularly miss the job, to be honest, but I will miss the people, and the regular income. Mind you, it shouldn't take me too long to find something else. So, I'm going to enjoy the holiday period (I'm getting together with my little bro' for a couple of days) and then throw myself back into the job market in the New Year.
There's not been much else worth reporting - my favourite non-Premiership team are marching on. A good victory in the FA cup at home to Mansfield followed by a hammering of non-league Doncaster Rovers in the LDV Trophy have been pleasant distractions in the middle of a decent run of league form which has consolidated Crewe's position in the top five of the Second Division. Hopefully they can keep this up and the teams above them will start dropping points, and they can gain an automatic promotion place back to the First Division where they belong.
I haven't updated for a couple of days, partly because I haven't had a lot to say and partly because I've been doing other stuff. Mostly mundane stuff too, it must be said. Nothing exciting, sadly. Rest assured, if I do something interesting, it'll be on here ere long.
Tuesday 17th December
Not suitable for children
Well, me old mucker Kev recently had his computer repaired and has been using it to browse the Internet for jobs and stuff. He's also installed some new firewall software and one of them "Net Nanny"-type programs so that he can be sure that his daughter doesn't accidentally turn up some dodgy porn sites whilst looking for Tweenies-related stuff. Amusingly, whilst he was surfing the Net using his daughter's access level, it barred him from looking at this site. My use of the word "hitman" in an earlier post was the root cause. It's "too violent" apparently. Which is strange as I think there are other things on here that should be more of a cause for concern - that attractive picture of me for a start....
The job hunting is slowing down a bit, mainly because not many people seem to be advertising any vacancies around the Christmas period. I didn't expect there to be a great deal to be honest, but I thought that after last week's spurt I might at least be getting some feedback already. Still, at least that gives me a chance to concentrate on more creative stuff. I've got one or two "projects" lined up that need to be completed over the festive period. Some of which may get rolled out here first, some of which definitely won't. So there.
Sunday 15th December
Still getting over the Christmas party
I went in to work on Friday, for the penultimate time, to hand over a load of work and print out a couple of covering letters and a dozen copies of my CV. It was a bit strange. Obviously people felt a bit awkward about the fact that I was still there, and I behaved like a twat on Tuesday night, apparently, which didn't help. Still, we had a last Friday visit to the Portland Arms, as a sort of farewell. Which was nice. I was also pleased to at least make sure that everything I was working on was properly covered for whoever has to pick it all up, although obviously I'd rather have been doing the work myself. Not that there was much chance of that, as the company have shut down my access to any of the sensitive sytems. Which is fair enough, I suppose - they don't want to run the risk of people sabotaging things - but still feels like a insult to my professional pride. I don't get the chance to complete the one major piece of documentation I was working on for the last couple of months because the company don't trust me. Hey, thanks a lot.
Anyway, if they aren't going to keep on paying me, which they're not, I did at least get one last free booze-up out of the company at the Christmas Party on Friday night. I wasn't going to go, but my colleagues persuaded me otherwise and Tim and his darling wife Julie picked me up and looked after me for the evening. Not that I needed much looking after once I'd got a few glasses of wine and champagne down me. Due to constraints of space we ended up on a table with Janice and a few other people from the Cambourne office, who were fine company, although it was a bit awkward as they don't yet know which of them might be getting the bullet in the New Year. I have to admit I was slightly "demob happy". Anyway, I got to chat to a lot of people, gambled and lost a large amount of pretend money, drank a large amount of wine (and there was a beer in there somewhere, I vaguely recall), danced (badly) to some crazy-ass disco tunes and found myself a rugby club to join should I stay in Cambridge. Yeah, it was that sort of night. Tim was strangely still willing to give me a lift home at the end of it and I found I'd managed to acquire a couple of bottles of wine. How did that happen? I don't really like the stuff, to be honest.
I fell asleep in a chair when I got home on Friday night/Saturday morning and felt very rough when I woke up at about 7.30 in the morning. I spent most of the day crashed out on the sofa, catching up with the films I'd video-ed the night before, trying to slowly rehydrate myself and catching up with the lost hours of sleep. I obviously didn't do that good a job as I've spent most of today doing the same. So the weekend has been pretty much a wipeout. Still, there's not a lot of job-hunting that can be done at the weekend, so I haven't wasted any "work-finding" hours. It's back to the grindstone for me tomorrow, trawling through the Internet sites, e-mailing and ringing agencies and drafting more covering letters. Hurrah!
Thursday 12th December
Not so much lost a job as gained an opportunity
What fun-packed couple of days I've been having. I'd forgotten how much hard work it can be to find another job. It's not just updating the CV and posting it on a few recruitment websites, there's the drafting covering letters, researching companies and generally making sure all the bases are covered to give yourself the best chance of getting a new job. Still, things are in hand already and for no apparent reason I'm quite confident that it won't take too long to find another job.
In amongst all that, I went out on Tuesday night for a few "farewell" drinks with some of my ex-colleagues in the Fort St George. I got drunker than I have been for some time, so I hope I wasn't abusive to anyone. Apologies if I was. Mind you, I was drinking for two, as midway through the evening, my mate, Kevin rang to tell me that he's been made redundant too. Obviously, it's a bit more worrying for him as he's got a wife and two kids to support. I hope it doesn't take him too long to find another job. I was also so drunk that I went to Tesco on the way home and bought more washing powder and kitchen rolls than I could possibly ever use, and a Christmas pudding. Well, at least I've got a gift to take to Eddy's for Christmas...
I spent yesterday not doing too much in the way of job-seeking as I had a bit of a poorly head. Instead, I crashed out on the sofa and watched Tomorrow La Scala, starring Jessica Stevenson. This drama about an operatic company staging a production of Sweeney Todd in a prison, with some of the lifers in the chorus, received a standing ovation when it played at the Cannes film festival earlier this year, and it's easy to understand why. It's fantastic. Best new thing I've seen on TV for a long while. I followed that up with ultra-violent French crime film Dobermann. Another great film, with a particularly nasty scene towards the end when one of the cops gets his face rubbed against the road at high speed. Nice. If you like your films gritty and your body counts high, this is for you.
And I've finally got round to adding the (rather) short piece of prose that came to me one night in a dream. It's called Widow's Pens and even though I channelled it, I've absolutely no idea if it's any good or not, so read it and judge for yourselves. Feel free to comment.
Monday 9th December
T, E, K, Technology, was demolition of Daddy
Well, another of my colleagues was made redundant today, so I'm not the only one from the department. Again, not a total shock and, given that they had other plans in hand, not too bad a deal for them either. Still, that's two out of twelve, which I suppose isn't too bad a body count considering the carnage that's going on elsewhere.
I have to say that my friends have been excellent and rallied round. There's been both the emotional support (Cheers, Tim, Richard) and the practical. I've got more sources of information than I know what to do with, including some very useful stuff on contract work abroad. To be honest, I'm probably suffering a bit from information overload. There seem to be almost too many options. So I'd better get started before my erstwhile colleagues decide that it's time they looked for something else and I have to compete with them too...Mind you, just because I've been a technical author doesn't mean I have to remain one.
Friday 6th December
Is it Giro Day, Tom?
Exactly two years to the day since I was made redundant from my last job, I shall be made redundant from the current one. I was kind of expecting it, but it's still not particularly pleasant. Mind you, it does help me maintain a fine tradition - I've still only ever left one job voluntarily. It's frustrating that I won't get to finish some of the stuff I was working on, particularly as it's pretty close to completion, but that's football, Brian. There's a load of things at work that probably need to be sorted out but they can wait. Tonight Matthew, I'm going to get exceedingly drunk.
On an altogether un-related subject - it's not often that I can think of something good to say about Cambridge City Council but this morning there were a few workmen around clearing all the fallen leaves off the pathways round the estate. True, the leaves had been there a couple of months and in one regularly-walked spot had turned into damp mush, but clear them they did. So there's now no danger of me slipping on frozen leaf mulch at any point during the winter. Of course, I might not actually be stepping outside my front door that much anymore.....
Thursday 5th December
A more orthodox approach to managing the head count
Well, in a move that surprised me only by it's pre-Christmas timing, the company have announced that there's going to be another wave of redundancies. As part of a cull of 950 jobs worldwide, 19 jobs will be going in the Cambridge office I work in. I don't know yet if I'll be affected as they only made the official announcement at lunchtime, but one way or another I hope they let people know sooner rather than later. At least a lot of people will still have a job, unlike the people at the Bristol office, which will be closed. They also announced that there will be a salary freeze for the majority of employees next year too. So all in all, things aren't looking too good.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the bride and groom...."
'Lady In Red' is apparently one of the most popular tunes for newly-weds to lead the evening disco off with. All I can say is that if you're at a wedding where they play the V/VM version, you'll either be having the greatest time of your life or surrounded by brain-eating zombies. Ah, my night out at the Bad Timing Xmas party had it all - pathos, bathos, doubt, laughter and Albert the fifth musketeer. Not quite, but close. It was more electronica, and featuring some familiar faces, but this time there were tunes and stuff. Proper music, at least till V/VM started. Any act that can take the stage wearing pig masks and open their set with a crazy, electronically-manipulated version of 'Here I Go Again' by Whitesnake are gods in my book. They basically mimed to their own recordings, but with their inflatable guitars, roses for the "lay-deez" and vinyl-smashing antics they were very entertaining. Check out their website, now perma-linked on your right, for a flavour of their sound and if they're appearing in a town near you, make sure you go to see them. Geniuses, the pair of them.
Tuesday 3rd December
He's no David Bailey
Well, I went up to Birmingham at the weekend, to see my older siblings and their families/partners, so took advantage of that to try out my new digital camera. And I can definitely say that it's slightly disappointing. The viewfinder is slightly off and doesn't show you quite what ends up in the picture, which is a bit frustrating. Also the pictures are all distorted round the edges in a kind of fish-eye effect, which isn't too bad if your subject is in the middle of the frame and you can crop the picture, but does rather ruin shots of large groups of people. Ally that to my un-photographer-ly eye and half the shots I took are unusable. But that's about normal for me. When I've tarted up the usable shots I'll stick them up on here. Probably.<.p>
Anyway, I had a really enjoyable weekend - I don't get to see the family often enough really, especially my older brother. Mind you, I have to book to see him in advance, and I'm not usually that organised. Oh, and a big "Thanks" to Young Chris, who gave me a lift there and back saving me a few quid and innumerable hours on the train. I'll get you a pint on Friday.
Envy me. For tomorrow night I shall be further expanding my newly-rediscovered love of electronica by taking in another night of "electro-pop" at The Portland Arms, this time at the Bad Timing christmas party which will be headlined by V/VM who excel at cutting up and reworking other people's tunes, but not in any way that the original artists might approve of. Download a few tunes off their website to see what I mean. Don't be surprised if everyone at work thinks you're a nutcase when they hear what you're listening to though. Expect a full NME-style review on the site on Thursday. If I don't get distracted by watching Witchfinder General on video, that is.
Friday 29th November
Baby's got a new thrill
Yes, I really did update my site at 6.30am yesterday morning. Mainly because I woke up thinking it was 6.20 and it was actually only 5.20 and by the time I realised, I was already awake and moving so I decided to do something useful with my time, rather than watching breakfast television or going to work. Up early again today (three days in a row - there must be something wrong with me) so it's another early morning update leaving my evening free for drinking beer and watching Robot Wars...
Tempted by the thought of £10 off I bought a l'espion digital camera. Well at only £29.99, it was rude not to. It's tiny - about the size of a matchbox. I had a bit of a play with it last night and it seemed OK for the price - not brilliant, but reasonable. I think that with a bit of practice I'll be able to produce pictures good enough for use on the website, and that is why I bought it after all. And I can use it as a webcam should I feel so inclined although, again, the picture quality is a bit grainy. Mind you, with most digital cameras starting at about £100 and going upwards, I think £30 for something that'll let me get some images on the web is a reasonable price. Of course, someone will now tell me I should have spent an extra £20 or so and bought it's big brother instead. Anyway, I'll see how I get on this weekend and give you the full SP on Sunday (or possibly Monday).
Thursday 28th November
An unorthodox approach to managing the headcount
I try to avoid talking about work on here, mainly because my job is not very exciting and if I don't find it interesting, why should anyone else? However, I have to share this with you, which was circulated at work recently:
"To ensure an end to the misuse of Company credit cards, effective immediately, any employee who uses Company credit cards for personal use will be disciplined or terminated."Well, I like a bit of discipline as much as the next man ("Beat me momma, eight to the bar") but termination? That seems a little extreme. And how do they terminate you? Does Arnie show up or the T-1000? Or do they have their own in-house hitman? I suppose they must have, as there's a freeze on hiring contractors at the moment. (Ho! Ho!) Anyway, I guess that's one way of reducing the headcount without having to pay redundancies, especially as it only affects senior management, who could claim enormous redundancy pay-offs. Of course, for junior staff, I expect they'll just randomly cull us if the next set of quarterly figures aren't up to scratch.
Tuesday 26th November
And £6.66 shall be the grocery bill of the Beast
I called into the Spar on my way home to pick up a few things and 2 pints of milk, two bags of Walkers Max crisps, a tin of Heinz Beans and Sausages, a packet of Bernard Matthews' Turkey Ham, a box of 12 Weetabix, a can of Red Bear energy drink, an apple and oat slice and a Twix came to the Satanic total of £6.66p. Mwahahahahahahaha!!!! You see, there is a reason why the website is in these colours...
Unfortunately, David McRae died of rabies (or more accurately European Bat Lyssavirus) late on Sunday evening, which rather finished off a morbid weekend for me. My good wishes didn't do him any good obviously. Kind of reminds me of the time my Gran died, on the morning I was due to visit her in hospital. So, clearly, if you get a "Get Well Soon" message from me, it's time to make sure your affairs are in order and your will is up to date.
Sunday 24th November
Probably still subject to The Official Secrets Acts
Sadly, it has been confirmed that David McRae has contracted rabies, albeit a rare strain. Obviously, my deepest sympathies go to Mr McRae, and I hope he is able to make a full recovery. But this has reminded me of what I was going to write about a couple of days ago - my life with the Thrill Kill Kult, er, no, my brief time as a civil servant with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), as they were known, gave me my first proper job for about nine years. I was working for the Animal Health section, in the "Disease Control" branch, which was basically responsible for issuing quarantine licences for anyone importing certain animals into the country, liaising with quarantine establishments, and dealing with Minister's correspondence on the thorny subject of quarantine and rabies. Occasionally we'd have some excitement - like someone being caught smuggling their pet into the UK, or a zoo wanting to bring in some leopards, or an anti-quarantine protest outside the front gate - but by and large it was a case of taking information and processing it to produce the quarantine licences (which are issued free of charge, by the way - the only people making money from this are the quarantine establishments). Anyway, there is a point to this and I'm coming to it. The whole purpose of our department was to issue licences under the terms of the Rabies (Importation of Cats and Dogs) Act 1974 to try to ensure that no rabid animals were imported into the country. So, anything that might be considered a vector of the disease had to have a licence and be quarantined for six months. (This restriction has since been relaxed under certain conditions.) Unfortunately, you can't quarantine wild bats or stop them entering the country. Therefore, you have to take additional precautions. These include ensuring that people who come into contact with bats regularly are vaccinated against rabies, and where people are bitten or scratched ensuring that they get effective treatment immediately. This combination of measures has helped ensure that there has not been a proven case of infection originating in the UK since 1902. And for all the rights and wrongs of the law, that's something that I'm proud of having played a small part in.
Now for something I'm not so proud of - I killed a toad yesterday. Partly by accident and partly by design. Let me explain. I was doing some work in the garden and the unfortunate creature was hiding under a piece of board. I trod on the board without even considering the possibility there might be something under it and crushed the toad. Burst it, I think would be a more accurate description, actually. When I lifted the board some minutes later and found the poor thing, it was actually still alive although obviously dying. I'm afraid I hastened it's death by whacking it on the head with a spade. I feel so guilty, especially as I try to avoid killing spiders and insects as much as possible. I buried it in a shallow grave, but I suspect some neighbourhood cat will be digging it up again soon and taking it home. Which'll be a treat for the cat's owner...
Finally, is it just me, or should Celebrity Big Brother be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act? Come on now - Les Dennis, Melinda Messenger, Goldie, Mark Owen formerly of Take That, Sue from Mel & Sue, and Anne Diamond. Where are the celebrities in that list? Mark Owen's done nowt since Take That split, Sue's currently advertising bread, Melinda's latest job is as lingerie model for BHS, and Goldie hasn't been the same since leaving Blue Peter. What? That's former drum-and-bass star Goldie, not Simon Groom's labrador? Whatta mistake-a to make-a! Still, I know which one I'd rather see having a crap on the lawn...
Friday 22nd November
Mork calling Orson
So much for the return to regular updates, although I offer the following pitiful explanations in mitigation. On Wednesday night I ended up out at the pub for a couple of hours post-work last night, saying farewell to Alison, who's deserted the company's leafy glades for greener pastures elsewhere. So, by the time I got home I wasn't up to updating the site, being more concerned with getting a bite to eat and retiring to bed.
Last night, as forecast, I called into bleepfest on my way home. I was unable to persuade Chris or Jack to join me, unsurprisingly, so had to face the "music" alone. First up, I have to apologise to Matt Rogalsky - not only did my phone go off during his performance, but right at the end of it my text alert sounded. I did try to make it out of the venue before the ringtone went (it was on vibrate + tone), and I'm not sure how many people noticed the text alert, but I still felt a bit awkward about the whole thing. Anyway, I unfortunately missed The Arbury Hum but there was no evidence to support Jack's theory that it was a man with a bucket of sewage and a large fan, recreating the smell of the sewage farm which drifts across that side of town. Then Matt Rogalsky was up with his soundscape/field recording piece. I missed the name of the next artist (I think it was Gamut) but he was quite interesting and at least did have some form of music towards the end of his piece with some distorted saxophone samples. Nemeton finished off the first half of the evening with another ambient soundscape. Think of the sound effects from Quatermass and you're probably just about there. The second half kicked off with Cos (again, see below) and Smash with Cos attacking his guitar again, only this time with a piano accompaniment. Give him his due, Smash can play the piano alright, and I found this more interesting. They were followed by Robyn the Kiwi poet. This was a complete contrast to every other act of the night. My only quibble would be that she could probably slow her delivery down a little and give the poems a chance to stand on their own two feet. There's no need for the slow deliberate declamation in a John Hegley-stylee, but if you've got something you've got to be confident enough to let it grab the audience. PDA was up next. She was using a handheld device to manipulate the sound sources. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at this from one of the palmtop orchestra. Last up were Darkroom who were second most musical act of the night. More ambient noise and some interesting use of the guitar, in a more traditional way. Overall, the night was interesting, intriguing and, in many ways, inspiring, but I can't say that it was thrill-packed, which is the kind of buzz I look for these days. Perhaps I'm just taking the wrong drugs...
I did promise to write a bit about my time with the Ministry of Agriculture and I still intend too, but you're just going to have to wait a bit longer for that. Hey, you've got a review of
bleepfest, what more do you want? Blood?
Tuesday 19th November
Release the bats
First up, congratulations to me old mucker, Kev, and his wife Kath whose second child, a boy, named Sam, was born at midnight on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Mother and child both doing well and I was surprised to find when I rang on Sunday that they are both back at home already. I am chuffed for the pair of them, although I could have done without Kev's text message at 3 a.m. I guess I should have remembered to switch my phone off when I went to bed.
I was interested to hear that a man in Dundee is being treated for a suspected case of rabies. The man is known to work with bats and is thought to have been bitten by one. Should he prove to have rabies this will be the first instance of human infection from an animal in the UK for a hundred years. Which is quite remarkable. There have been 20 recorded cases of humans infected with rabies in the UK since 1946, but all have been shown to have originated from outside the country. Having worked, albeit briefly (and I'm sure some of my ex-colleagues don't think I actually did any work), in the Quarantine section of the Animal Health branch of DEFRA (or MAFF as it was then) I still take an interest in this sort of thing. I remember that whilst I was there, there was a couple of panics about suspected cases of rabies and there was certainly a lot of pressure on to maintain Britain's "rabies-free" status, if possible. Not only did being rabies-free help enforce the quarantine laws, but won valuable concessions from other countries for the export of animals from the UK. (Actually, the quarantine regulations from the Ministry's point of view is quite an interesting subject and I'll try to expand on this tomorrow). Anyway, the good news for everyone is that actually catching rabies is quite rare, there have been no recorded cases of human-to-human infection (except in corneal transplants, strangely), and with prompt medical attention it can be treated. Although, as treatment consists of a series of painful injections in the stomach, it's probably best not to catch it at all. Don't have nightmares.
Sunday 17th November
Manchester, so much to answer for
Can't help feeling that there's a certain irony in the fact that Myra Hindley, who challenged the right of the authorities to keep her in jail for life, has died in prison, whereas her partner-in-crime, Ian Brady, is being force-fed in order to prevent him from dying. It's also been interesting to see the deep fascination that the Moors Murders exert on the public and media almost 40 years on. Apart from the usual outpourings from the tabloids there has also been some detailed analysis from the heavyweight papers. What was most surprising though was to hear on Radio Five Live that The Manchester Evening News plan a 28-page pullout for tomorrow's edition. I'd have thought that was a bit insensitive myself. Anyway, for what it's worth, there's a lot of material about the Moors Murders out there, and I daresay there'll be a few rushing out updated material to cash in, but the best book I've read about the murders is Beyond Belief by Emlyn Williams. (Williams also wrote numerous plays, including Night Must Fall and The Corn Is Green). I'm not the only one who appreciates this book, as Morrissey lifted a lot of things from it for 'Suffer Little Children' on The Smiths' first album. Not that you might necessarily regard that as a recommendation, of course....
On a less gory subject - following Wednesday night's electronica-based excursion, I was pleased to find that I had actually kept one or two of the flyers that I picked up whilst there, including the one for bleepfest on Thursday night. Well, it's on my way home and it's "free", so I think I'll probably be popping in. Might even try to drag Chris and Jack along with me. A word of warning to you though, if you choose to follow the links on that site, as I did this morning, once you get onto the the LEAPS site, you get stuck in their frameset, even when moving to external sites. I have e-mailed them to suggest that they use target=_"top" with their links to avoid annoying other visitors in the same way, but I don't suppose they'll have implemented that yet. Well, who has time to spend all day updating their site? Apart from me.
Saturday 16th November
Back from the intergalactic trip
Right, that's enough of neglecting this site for now. I'm determined to get back into the routine of regular updates, rather than the sporadic efforts of the last couple of weeks. True I haven't had that much to say recently, and I was out of the country for five days, which made updating the site impossible, but I really ought to be taking more care of this.
So what news do I bring? Well, on Wednesday night, rather than the early night I was hoping to have, being still somewhat tired from the Ireland jaunt, Chris persuaded me to take in an evening of experimental electronica with him at The Portland Arms. Very interesting it was too. The first act up (or at least the first that we saw) was Cos (who has another career in The Rude Mechanicals) and a friend and they were the best. They were a duo, dressed in hospital masks. They had a guitar on an autopsy table, that Cos proceeded to "play" with various bits of electonic equipment, including an E-Bow and what appeared to be a vibrator. And the other guy had a laptop and a Theremin. The noise would best be described as "electronic soundscapes" and there's probably a future for them doing soundtracks for low-budget British sci-fi movies. The second guy up, Cursor Minor, just had his laptop and a slideshow and we didn't even realise he was one of the acts - we just thought he was filling in between bands. Anyway, by this time, Chris and I and had had a few too many and ended up cheering every time the slides changed. Which got us a few dark looks from the rest of the audience who were just sat around stroking their chins in a pseudo-intellectual stylee. The evening was rounded off by Um who was just one bloke with backing tracks. He started off sounding like early Cabaret Voltaire/The The/Fad Gadget but didn't manage to sustain that promise. In fact he seemed to turn into the electro-pop version of the Barron Knights... Chris and I made our escape to the bar before he finished, probably much to the relief of the rest of the audience.
Thursday I took the afternoon off as I was feeling a bit knackered by the exertions of the previous evening. A bit? That was an understatement - I spent most of the afternoon dozing on the sofa in front of the telly. I tried to catch up with all the stuff that I'd video-ed whilst I was away, but apart from falling asleep halfway through each programme, I also found that some comedy-style interference had rendered everything I video-ed on Monday in a lovely black-and-white snow effect. Which made watching them a bit of an ordeal.
Thoroughly refreshed by my dozy day I found that I was surprisingly productive at work on Friday. Well, it could just have been the fact that I slept well, or it could have been the extra caffeine that I had. I don't usually drink tea or coffee at work, but with the aid of three cups of coffee I found that I didn't suffer so much from mid-afternoon tiredness. I think I might have to make this part of my regular routine...
Today I was hugely cheered to hear that Crewe had won away at Port Vale for the third time this season. Having beaten them in the Worthington Cup and then in the league, I feared that it might be third time lucky for the clayheads but a Dean Ashton goal five minutes from time ensured that it was the mighty Railwaymen who went through to the next round of the FA Cup. Hopefully, they can do as well this season as they did last, although I'd trade a good cup run for promotion at the end of the season. Come on you Alex!!!
Tuesday 12th November
All is revealed....
The reason there hasn't been an update since last Wednesday (see the Archive section if you missed it) is because I've been over the sea to Ireland to see my mate John marry his girlfriend Sue. And here is my tedious blog-cum-diary of the events, which is exceedingly long and the reason why there's nothing else on this page....
Thursday I set off very early in the morning to catch an early flight from Stansted to Derry. I was only half-awake, so the absurdity of having to fill out a form for the police before boarding the flight kind of passed me by. Because, of course, that'll really stop the determined terrorist - "Well I was going to blow up the plane, boss, but they made me fill a form in before I got on...." Arriving in Derry I was greeted by some atrocious weather - showers interspersed with heavy showers. This wasn't good news as I didn't have a waterproof coat and I later found out that my one pair of shoes weren't waterproof either. Arse. Anyway, rather than hang around in Derry waiting two hours for a bus I managed to negotiate the price of a taxi to Donegal down from £50 to €40, which was a bit of a result. I took advantage of checking in at the hotel early to get a couple of hours kip and then having a wander round Donegal (and a spot of lunch) before the other guests arrived. Once everyone had arrived and some of the essential business of the day had been concluded we all settled down in the bar for a few beers. There was me, John, Jon (the best man) and Jon P (an usher and fellow Crewe fan) all settled round a table. John ordered us some food and then decided he wanted some tomato ketchup to go with it. So I got up and asked the barman for "some sauces". What we got was some saucers. Cue general hilarity. It could only happen to me. A few more beers and eventually it was time for bed. I was sharing a room with Jon P, and unfortunately John hadn't warned him that I snore incredibly loudly. He didn't sleep too well. And had another two nights of it to look forward to. Sorry Jon.
Friday started with a "traditional Irish breakfast", which as far as I could see was the same as an English breakfast, but with white pudding replacing the baked beans. With a liberal supply of toast, it was enough to set me up for the day to come. Post-breakfast, I had a wander round the town, again, in the pouring rain with my sister, Crow, and her family. Back to the hotel and the afternoon was spent in the bar, enjoying civilised conversation and the antic's of Jon's two-year old son, Lewis, who's main activity was throwing beer mats in the air and shouting "Bounced Away!" Well, it was more entertaining than it sounds, believe me. I had dinner with Crow and family that evening and it was very pleasant, and served to confirm the fact that the Irish are very generous in their portion sizes. I was stuffed by the time I finished. I barely had room to cram a few more pints in afterwards....
Saturday was the day of the wedding. Jon (the best man, remember) had asked me to help out his wife Magda, who not only had Lewis to cope with but is also seven-and-a-half months pregnant. So I had something to distract me from the coming nuptials. In the end I didn't have to do much really, but I was glad to be of assistance. The actual ceremony was held in Castlederg which is Sue's home town, so we had a bit of a convoy travelling up there. The ceremony was nicely traditional, the bride looked stunning and I was enormously proud of my niece, Lilith, who was bridesmaid and looked very pretty. There was some distraction from the talkative kids behind us (despite the vicar asking specifically for noisy kids to be taken outside...) but it didn't spoil the occasion. And it stopped raining for a while. After the ceremony it was off to Harvey's Point on the shore of Lough Eske for the wedding breakfast and reception. Fantastic - more food and booze than you could shake a stick at. I don't know if it's different seeing a friend get married rather than a relative, but John made the first wedding spech that's ever made me feel emotional. Perhaps it was because it all came from his heart. Anyway, it was marvellous, and a few of us were "wiping the sweat from our eyes" (men don't cry). I also had some very good company on my table. Now I'm not usually very good at socialising, but we all got on really well, helped, I think, by finding that Ian and I were both Internet-ordained ministers. Later, when the dancing started, however, it was easy to spot the difference between John's friends and Sue's friends - Sue's friends were all on the dancefloor and John's friends (including me) were all stood around clutching pints and chatting. Anyway, it was great craic, as they say, and it was kind of sad when it ended.
Sunday was a bit of a let-down. Most of the other guests had transferred to Harvey's Point the previous day, and after dropping in to Sue's parent's were on their ways home. I said goodbye to the few people who were still at my hotel. Being without transport, I was a bit stuck. However, the weather was dry and sunny so I went along the Bank Walk along the coast from Donegal and spent a couple of hours just sitting watching the tide, the birds and the beautiful scenery. Another quick wander round the town centre and a bite to eat and then I retired to my hotel room for the afternoon with the Sunday papers. In the evening I had a couple beers and something to eat in the bar. And then retired intending to watch Sleepy Hollow. However the reception on the telly was pretty poor so I ended up watch The Bone Collector on local TV instead, which was rather tedious, to be honest.
Monday morning I had another large breakfast to set me up for the tedium of the travel back home. I had to check out by 12pm, which I managed, just. But then I had 7.5 hours to kill before I had to be anywhere near Derry Airport. I picked up some souvenirs in Donegal and then boarded the coach up to Derry. I got to Derry, got myself something to eat and parked myself in a pub for a couple of hours. I got a cab to the airport and arrived at just after 5pm. I still had another 2.5 hours to kill till check-in time, so I got a couple of beers and settled down to finish off Little Boy Blue by Edward Bunker. I managed this quite comfortably and started on Dog Eat Dog by the same author. The flight back to London was consideraby fuller than the flight out which was annoying as I had a couple sat next to me and couldn't stretch out. With the help of a tailwind we arrived back at Stansted early, only to be held up by air traffic control. And then there was a a wait as we had to file through the police check (more form-filling). I got back just late enough to miss the last train home, but fortunately there was still a coach to Cambridge and I hopped on that. At six quid, it was actually cheaper than the train, although not quite as fast. I finally made it back to my house at about 12.50 a.m., almost exactly 12 hours after I left Donegal.
Today I have mostly been doing my washing, catching up on my sleep and getting ready to go back to work tomorrow. And playing my guitar, which is probably the thing I missed the most. Apart from my vast collection of Crack Whore porn, obviously.
Wednesday 6th November
A time of sporadic updates
Having had a few nights out and a bit of time off, I seem to have gotten out of the habit of updating this site regularly. And I won't be updating again till next Tuesday, for one reason or another. Ah well I'm sure y'all can cope.
I went out last night to see the firework display on Midsummer Common, along with hundreds of other people. It was all very pretty and Lisa and Chris took loads of photos, but it was also surprisingly brief. The whole display lasted less than half an hour. Perhaps the council have trimmed the budget a bit this year. It seemed a bit much to me to have people standing out with buckets collecting money for the display. I certainly wasn't inclined to part with my cash for that.
Post-fireworks we all went to The Hotpot and there were no surprises as Micky went for the crispy duck to start and Lisa had the hot and sour soup. I surprised everyone by going for the shredded chilli beef rather than the usual sweet and sour chicken, but everyone scored when they guessed that I'd be on the beer and not the wine. It was the usual mayhem when there's a crowd of us in one place, with crazy conversations veering off at tangents and plenty of innuendo, and of course the volume steadily increasing. Until the bill arrived, when it went strangely quiet. At least Chris didn't tell anyone to feck off this time. A very pleasant night out indeed.
Right, I've got to go and do a million things for tomorrow. Next update Tuesday. Hope you can wait that long...
Sunday 3rd November
BBC2 are currently showing True Spies, a three-part documentary on how the UK Secret Services have been spying on their own citizens, in particular during the 1970's and 1980's. Hold the front page - "MI5 in Monitoring Political Activists Shocker!" Anyone who played any part in politics during those times can't fail to have been aware that their activities were under close scrutiny from the authorities. Even in sleepy Cheshire we had the CND'ers breaking into the Government bunker at Hack Green (now, I kid you not, a tourist attraction, complete with signs directing you to the "Secret Bunker" - I must take my camera next time I go back there) and the Hunt Saboteurs, both of whom "enjoyed" the close attentions of the police and other agencies. Anyway, what surprised me about the programme was not the fact that this stuff was going on, but the fact that I already knew it. I haven't seen anything in the two programmes thus far that I wasn't already aware of. True we'd not heard the agents' own stories before but they weren't really adding anything new. Is there anyone who didn't know any of this, or did I miss my chance to make a TV series because I assumed everyone else knew as much as I did?
Here comes the science bit
Well, I bet you're all agog to find out what I've been up to since Tuesday, aren't you? Wonder no longer as I recount the thrills of my life. I stayed in on Wednesday, but couldn't be bothered to update my site - I didn't really have anything to say. Thursday, it was off round to Sharron's for a Halloween party with a few workmates. It was good fun, the food was nice and there was plenty of drink and cake to be had. Friday, two of my colleagues left the department, so we had to have a couple of drinks (and loads of cake) to celebrate. Sarah's gone to a job closer to her home in the wilds of Rutland and Caroline's gone back to Canada. Was it something that I said? Good luck to the pair of you, anyway.
Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate I went out with a few friends for a couple of beers and a pizza before heading off to see 28 Days Later (more of which in a minute). Chris bought me a fantastic Rough Trade compilation double CD which has some great "whinging guitar bands" on it. Jack and Heather bought me a Spiderman figure, which makes me want to go and see the Spiderman movie again (currently my favourite film). Cheers guys, much appreciated.
And now - the Barry Norman bit. 28 Days Later is a good film. In fact it's a very good film. However, it's not the scariest film you'll ever see, which was the sort of thrill I was expecting. It has it's moments but I didn't get a feeling of sustained terror. Perhaps I'm just getting hard to please in my old age. There is some genuine gore and these plague-ridden "zombies" don't amble along like the classic zombies do, but show a turn of speed. Which is quite worrying. The other wryly amusing touch was the use of "Cambridge Primate Research Centre" in the opening scene. It certainly caused some amusement amongst the audience. Anyway, of the three "monkey-borne killer virus" films that I've seen I'd rank this as better than Outbreak but not as good as Braindead.
Tuesday 29th October
An inappropriate use of e-mail
Imagine my excitement on returning home from yet another hard day at the coal face of software documentation to find on my doormat an official-looking envelope, "delivered by hand to specially selected households". Wow, I thought, what have I been specially selected for? Imagine my disappointment when I opened it up to find that I'd been specially selected for this. Yep, a commerative Queen Ma coin offer. Whoop-de-fecking-doo!
I have managed to persuade a couple of people to come out on Saturday to see the film, so it won't just be me and the family-sized bucket of popcorn in the Warner Village. I just need to sort out a schedule for the day and Robert will indeed be your mother's brother.
Sunday 27th October
Blow wind, blow.
Wooh, it's a bit windy out there! Usually on a Sunday morning I amble round to Tesco to do my weekly shopping, but the strength of the wind out there persuaded me otherwise this morning. It didn't seem to be as strong as I expected but the data from this weather station in Cambridge suggests that it's really unseasonally windy. It has been strong enough to blow my neighbour's fence over and that's now blocking the passage between our houses, meaning that if I had a car I'd have to take a very circuitous route to reach it. That's kind of irrelevant as I can't drive, but you get the picture. Anyway, these winds are also causing mayhem elsewhere - at least five deaths so far, trains not running, roads blocked etc. Suffice to say, I've made my one trip out for today - to the corner shop - and I'm not going out again. Fortunately the forecast is that these weather conditions will only last for the day and clear overnight. I hope so.
I quite fancy going to see 28 Days Later. It's out next week and I was thinking of fixing up a trip to see it next Saturday, which is also my birthday. I'll have to see if I can make a block booking and persuade a few of my workmates to come along. Of course Changing Lanes also opens next weekend, so I might get more takers for that.....I also noticed that a new Adam Sandler comedy - Mr Deeds opens next weekend and I thought that it sounded familiar. It turns out to be an update of Frank Capra's Mr Deeds Goes To Town. I'll admit I haven't seen it in a long time, but I'm pretty certain that the Adam Sandler version will prove to be a pale imitation. Anyone care to bet against it?
Finally, I have to say that I was very disappointed by Jordan's new Break bars. The packaging promises "Breakfast In A Bar", but they're unlike any breakfast I've ever eaten in any bar. They don't smell of stale cigarette smoke, there isn't any fried food involved, and more importantly, there isn't a nice cold pint of lager to go with it. Hey, perhaps that's not the sort of breakfast in a bar they had in mind...D'Oh! Whatta Mistake-a to Make-a!
Friday 25th October
The Tedium of Illness
The doctor diagnosed a viral throat infection yesterday, which is kind of a non-illness really, but is still making me feel shite. Whilst I was in the doctor's I also scored me some new tablets for my gout. And the good doctor (as opposed to the evil one) also had a slight go at me about my blood pressure. As usual it's sky high and I haven't done much in the way of changing my lifestyle to try to reduce it. So I've got some new pills to try to sort that out too. Hurrah!
As anyone who has had to spend any length of time at home will know there's only so much daytime television you can watch without feeling like your brain is turning into cheese (although the fim Love On The Dole this afternoon was very good and there are the re-runs of Futurama). And I've pretty much downloaded all the CracK Whore mp3's I could ever need, so I've been terribly bored. So bored that I even did a jigsaw. A jigsaw that turned out to have two extra pieces in it. Which set me wondering whether there were actually 1000 pieces in the jigsaw, or just 998 and these two extra pieces allowed the manufacturers to claim it's a "1000-piece puzzle". And is there a very disappointed jigsaw fan somewhere with two pieces missing from their harbour scene at Seahouses? (I told you I was bored).
Also, I took a look at the meagre remnants of my book collection (the rest of which is awaiting me in my parent's basement) and realised that I've got almost a dozen books that I haven't actually read. Admittedly some of these are books I was given and wouldn't choose to read, but there was a time when I would have read just about anything regardless. So I've piled them up and will work through them. As an added incentive I'm not going to buy any more books until I've finished them.
And talking of books, I was listening to BBC Radio Five Live yesterday and Simon Mayo interviewed both Terry Pratchett and Yann Martel. They were both very interesting and gave differing perspectives about how, what and why they write. Sadly, they weren't in the studio at the same time, which would have been even more interesting, but it was still great radio.
Decisions, decisions. In the unlikely event that I feel like going out tomorrow, I'm spoilt for choice - The Edge Festival in Cambridge or the International Poetry Festival in London. I'm torn. I see that John Hegley is appearing as part of the festival, which gives me an excuse to put up my Hegley pastiche.
Last call for cheap Doc Martens shoes from Cambridge market! The shoe manufacturer has announced that it is closing it's UK factories and relocating it's entire production base to China. Whilst this will reduce their costs significantly, I bet it doesn't reduce the price of their shoes and boots. Which is a pain for me as their shoes are the only ones that ever last me more than about six months. I'd better stock up now.
Wednesday 23rd October
Tip of the Day
My advice for anybody assembling the news bulletins for Radio Five Live is: Try to avoid following a story about the Washington sniper with the words "In an new initiative to reduce crime the Government is targeting children as young as ten years old...." D'Oh!
I've been at home for the last couple of days as I've been feeling a bit rough. I don't seem to have a fever or anything, but I've been feeling completely knackered. I suspect this is just a hangover (as opposed to a hang-over) from my cold/sore throat thing that I've been carrying the last week or so. I hope so. Of course, having managed to get in to see my doctor tomorrow, I'll feel right as ninepence in the morning.
Monday 21st October
100 Great Britons, 2 Big Questions
Before I go too crazy, here's the list of the top ten "greatest Britons", as nominated by the great British public. (Well obviously, you can spot the flaw there straight away, can't you?) In some sort of alphabetical order (although it was interesting to note that Di was mentioned last on the TV broadcast last night):
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel
- Winston Churchill
- Oliver Cromwell
- Charles Darwin
- Diana, Princess of Wales
- Queen Elizabeth I
- John Lennon
- Horatio Nelson
- Isaac Newton
- William Shakespeare
1. How in the name of Satan's portion can anyone consider Princess Diana as one of the greatest Britons of all time?
Obviously this isn't a truly serious consideration of the movers and shakers who have shaped and advanced our nation culturally, socially or politcally, but even so. I'm almost speechless. Considering that Wordsworth (the poet, not the dog from Jamie and the Magic Torch) and Kipling (not only a great writer but he does make exceedingly good cakes) didn't even make the Top 100, how can people value any so-called contribution that Di made over those two? It's ludicrous. But then again look at the list. There are some fairly contemporary people in there, some of whom won't be there if they repeat this exercise in twenty years time. Heck one or two won't make it if they do it again in five years. But Princess Di in the Top Ten! No fecking way! Please vote for any of the others but her.
2. What in the name of Satan's portion has Anne Robinson done to her face?
I was somewhat peturbed by her appearance as presenter of 100 Great Britons last night. I can understand her decision to look a bit less ginger by dyeing her hair, but whatever she's had done to her face makes her look really strange. She seems to have had her eyebrows lifted, her chin sharpened and her cheeks replaced with shiny plastic material. Very odd. Of course I haven't watched The Weakest Link in a long while, so she might have been sporting this look for ages, but I found it unnerving. It was like the programme was being presented by a rather poor computer-generated image of Anne. Most disturbing.
Anyway, who's your greatest Briton, apart from me of course?
Sunday 20th October
Life, Love and Laundry
Time and tide waits for no man, apparently. And as you can see I haven't got a time machine that would allow me to add extra hours in the day so I can update this site more often. Thursday night I went to The Hopbine for a nosh and to say goodbye to Ian who left our department this week. And then on Friday night it was round Chris's place to watch the first series of The Office on DVD and drink a lot. I didn't actually drink much to be honest, as my gout is still quite painful. Anyway, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening with Chris proving to be an excellent host, as ever. Then I spent yesterday just pottering round and not doing much, which is pretty much what I've done today too. Yeah, my life has really been that exciting.
It's interesting to see that in the Republic of Ireland they've been holding a referendum on ratifying the Treaty of Nice, that would allow a further ten nations to join the European Union, whereas in the UK the public hasn't been consulted at all. Now, this maybe because our terms of membership of the EU are different to those of Ireland but it just highlights the differences between the government styles of the members of the EU. Let's face facts - when was the last time that the great British public was consulted/polled on matters concerning the EU? As far as I can remember probably back in 1973/74, when we first joined what was then known as the EEC. It seems that we're much more likely to be asked what our favourite single of all time or who was the "Greatest Briton?" Of course, this now makes me look like a Euro-sceptic, but that's not the case at all - I'm pro-European. And I want to be able to make my views known, or at least feel that I have in some way contributed to the great democratic process. That's not too much to ask, is it?
Wednesday 16th October
Caution: Do not exceed maximum recommended dosage
I woke up this morning with a very painful attack of gout. So painful that the first thing I did was to take one of my Indomethacin tablets. Unfortunately, these should be taken with food to minimise "gastric irritation" and I didn't have any breakfast, so it was straight off to the toilet about an hour later. By lunchtime my gout had got no better so I took another one. And then another. But with my sandwiches this time. Anyway, I'd now had three pills instead of the recommended daily dose of one. Bad move. Apart from all the other possible dangers, listed on this Warnings page one of the side effects is drowsiness. By the time I got to work I could barely keep my eyes open. I managed to do about fve minutes worth of work before packing it in and returning home. I was feeling thoroughly spaced out and the bus journey seemed to be taking place to someone else. Once I got home, I crashed out on the sofa and slept for almost three hours. I'm still feeling pretty knackered now and am just posting this and then going to bed. I won't be making that mistake again, no matter how bad my gout gets. Especially not now I've seen what the other possible side effects are...
Tuesday 15th October
Questions, questions, always questions.
Has Timothy Spall ever appeared in anything rubbish?
Well, a quick squint on The Internet Movie Database suggests that actually he has - Still Crazy and Rock Star being prime examples - but I can't think of anything I've actually seen him in that hasn't been utterly watchable. Over the past couple of nights on Channel 4 they've been showing yet another drama in which he plays an excellent part. The show's called Bodily Harm and if you missed it, find someone who video-ed or you'll have to wait till it comes out on Video/DVD. It was thoroughly excellent, although not a particularly uplifting experience.
Could Stagecoach Cambridge organise a piss-up in a brewery?
Given the evidence of the increasing irregularity of the service on the C1 route, I think the answer has to be NO. Tonight I waited nearly 40 minutes in the rain for a bus that is scheduled to run every 10. Then two arrived at the same time and the one that stopped was only going as far as the city centre. Which would have been totally frustrating if it weren't for the fact that the one which didn't stop only went as far as the city centre too. So I had to hang around another ten minutes in the city for yet another C1 to turn up to get me home. In all a journey that could take me 30 minutes on a bike took me 75. It's almost as if there's a conspiracy to discourage people from using public transport....
What do you think, Sparky?
Monday 14th October
Go, go gadget-phone!
Ah, the lure of 3G, the beauty of technology, the power of advertising. Well, maybe not the last one. Anyway, my team leader, Chris has got himself a fancy new phone. Not only is it all-singing, all-dancing and makes the tea, but it can also store pictures with the phone numbers, so that he can see who it is ringing him. He apparently spent most of yesterday downloading pictures in to the address book. Amusingly, he's used one of the "scary looking" pictures of me from Lisa's website (see elsewhere, not here). Anyway, I suppose this facility will prove useful should he ever lose the ability to read. Like after about 4 pints of cider....
It's short but sweet tonight - been working late and have got to go and grab something to eat before settling down to slob out in front of the TV for a couple of hours.
Sunday 13th October
Insert witty phrase here
Having received numerous "helpful" reminders over the last three months that my domain name registrations were "about to expire" (yeah, in November, thank you) I got round to renewing them today. At a bargain price of almost £45 for the the next two years. Actually, I've no idea if that's a bargain or not as I didn't bother trying to shop around and just went with my original hosting company UK2.net as it seemed less hassle. I've not had any problems with them so far (touch wood).
The problems connecting to the enetation site seem to have been resolved, so the comments pop-ups have been re-enabled, you'll be delighted to notice.
I missed Sarah's party last night as my cold has turned into a delightful hacking cough and I really didn't feel up to travelling up to Rutland. On the one hand I was disappointed to miss out, but on the other, when I woke up at about 3 a.m. this morning barely able to breathe and feeling like I was choking, I was mighty glad I hadn't gone. I managed to get over my initial panic quite quickly but, after a quick cup of tea and a good cough to clear my lungs/throat, I then only slept fitfully for the rest of the night. I even found myself getting up to watch the Japanese Grand Prix in the hope that that would send me back to sleep. True to form it worked like a charm and after the initial excitement and anti-climax of the start (I hate it when no one crashes) I dozed through till about three laps from the end. I hope I manage to sleep better tonight otherwise I'll be fit for nothing at work tomorrow (so no change there, eh?).
I was going to discuss the Slovakia vs England game today, but I think I'll leave it to those better qualified. Personally I thought it was a poor performance by England, no one looked like they wanted to take control of the midfield and they were lucky to get away with a win. That said, I wasn't too bothered by the result as my boys, Crewe Alex, had already secured the result of the day by winning 4-1 away at Stockport. Come on you Reds!
Saturday 12th October
"A scary looking mofo"
Who? Me? Well according to one of the comments here I am. And you know what? I was actually quite pleased to read that. It's a high maintenance look that requires a strict diet of junk food and lager and endless hours of not working out at the gym, so I'm glad to see that my lack of hard work is paying off. What's that you say? It's not a compliment?
Despite my marvellous cold I managed to drag myself out to the Milton Brewery. I was meant to go in August but missed out as I was unwell then too, so I was obligated to go this time. Our tour party was made up mainly of guys from Citrix, led by Micky's mate, Matt, and there was me, Micky and young Chris from Convergys and Chris dragged a couple of his housemates along. Milton laid on Electra, Minotaur and (I think) Jupiter on for tasting/knocking back in copious amounts. The tour was actually pretty interesting, although I must say that if you don't like spiders it can be unsettling. There are webs everywhere as the spiders perform a useful function in keeping the flies out of the malt. And as there are a lot of flies about, some of the spiders are enormous. But then as the alternative pest control method involves spraying chemicals everywhere, I suppose having spiders around is preferable. Another treat that the brewery laid on, as part of the buffet was Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce. This stuff is evil. I had a tiny smidgeon and my tongue and lips were on fire for about ten minutes, but one guy form Citrix had rather more and was literally crying. It was kind of worrying for a while. Anyway, a good time was had by all and I'd thoroughly recommend it. And I didn't have a hangover this morning, which was nice.
There seems to be a problem connecting to the site hosting my comments at the moment, so I've temporarily disabled them on this page, otherwise it will never load. I haven't done the archive pages though, so you might have trouble with those. As soon as I find out when everything is alright again I'll reinstate them.
Thursday 10th October
Oh, am I still ill?
Well, yes, although the floodgates of my sinuses have opened, which wasn't pleasant last night whilst I was trying to sleep, but does at least mean I don't feel like I've been smacked in the face, anymore. Still, unless things show a marked improvement overnight, I'm unlikely to be going to Sarah's party, which'll make me look like a bit of a c*nt, I think, but I really don't want to take risks with my health. I will be going back to work tomorrow though, as I'm starting to go stir-crazy at home. Already.
Good news - Lisa's photos from Jack's party are now online here so check them out and enjoy, although sadly there are none of the girl in the see-through top....
I seem to pick the worst times to be off ill - other people manage to time it for the World Cup or Commonwealth Games or something, but what do I get? The Conservative Party conference. I heard some of Ian Duncan Smith's speech today, and was singularly unimpressed. In one sentence he was telling the party that they had to stop looking backwards and then in the next he was harking back to the 1979 general election campaign. Make your mind up, man! Being an embittered product of the Thatcher years, I'm obviously biased against the Tory party, but even so I couldn't see anything in the speech that was likely to persuade me to change my allegiance at all. But then I'm not the target audience, am I? They've got to reclaim the disillusioned ex-Tories and the floating voters. Don't think they'll manage to do that either. (Hurrah!)
Wednesday 9th October
I'm a sick man...
...but you all know that. Also, I am unwell, having succumbed to the latest cold-cum-flu-thing that's doing the rounds of the office. I feel like someone has whacked me in the face because my sinuses are so congested and I'm running a bit of a temperature. I'm currently dosing myself up with Lemsip Max Strength ("It's not for wimps!"), vitamin C and Lucozade in an effort to get over the worst of this in time for the weekend's festivities - Milton Brewery on Friday and Sarah's party on Saturday. Currently, I'm hopeful that I'll make it. And now I'm off to watch The Simpsons on BBC2 to cheer myself up.
Tuesday 8th October
Last night I went to see a marvellous triple bill at The Junction. First up were Consumed - who are probably best known for their two contributions to the Fat Wreck Chords samplers (certainly to me, anyway). Happily they played both 'Dear James' and 'Twat Called Maurice', the latter of which had admirable vocal assistance provided by a couple of guys picked from the audience. It was fabulous punk/new wave stuff. Next up were the ever reliable Snuff. Top tunes, top entertainment, top performances, top band. Well, as if I hadn't enough fun, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were simply awesome. I have to be honest, of the three bands they were the ones I was least bothered about, but they simply blew me away. Their records might be a bit limp, but live they're a totally different outfit. Thoroughly recommended. The only complaint I could have was that once again the vocals for all three bands weren't quite loud enough. I thought it was just me at first but a couple of other people said the same thing. Also, I felt rather old when I recognised the music being played between bands - it was The Rezillos 'I Can't Stand...' LP, released in 1978 (although I bought my copy at a jumble sale some years later), which made it older than about 90 per cent of the audience.
As I mentioned briefly yesterday, my workmate Jack threw a party on Saturday night to celebrate his birthday. All the usual suspects were there and Chris and Lisa took loads of photos. I think Lisa's planning to put some up on her site, although I haven't checked, and obviously Chris had to delete all the good ones. Needless to say I looked devilishly handsome, as usual. We all got very drunk, as usual. And I shared a lift home with Micky, as usual.
Well, look at this - a whole day off and I still can't manage to update my site before tea-time. Well, this time I have a reasonable excuse. Inspired by a conversation with Chris on Saturday, I was enjoying The Fat Fakir's Film Festival. Actually it's a video festival, but let's not split hairs. I started off with Stigmata which was OK. It was a bit lightweight and not quite the film that the blurb on the back of the video had led me to believe. I was expecting more involvement from Jonathan Pryce as the "villain" and Gabriel Byrne to be under a bit more of a threat. And as for the claim that "It'll scare the Hell into you" well, nope. Not bad though and the video was refreshingly free of trailers. Anyway, I followed that with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. First up, I've got to say that those stunts might have looked awesome on the big screen, but on my telly they just looked a bit silly. Especially the running/leaping across the rooftops. Also, the film lost some of it's momentum when it suddenly switched to give us a twenty minute background fill-in segment. I think that could have been handled a bit better - maybe done as a flashback scene when the two lead female characters are talking. That might have lent a bit more credibility to their bonding as "sisters" too. Again, the blurb on the back of the video oversold the story - it was hardly a "battle against evil forces" more a battle against one bitter old woman and her naive apprentice/ward. I'd probably watch it again, but next time I'll fast forward through the desert scenes. Finally, I'm finishing off with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back which is being aired on terrestrial television this evening. Alright it is the "Special Edition" which isn't the choice of the Star Wars purists that I know, although it's still probably the best of the original trilogy.
Lastly - I've not had a chance to look at the comment mechanism yet - I'll save that for tomorrow night. Cheers.
Monday 7th October
Natalie Portman's Nipples of Truth
I did mean to update the site yesterday, but I got so drunk and stayed so late at Jack's party that I had to write yesterday off. There's some pictures of that somewhere, but sadly, Melanie made Chris delete all the pictures he took of the delightful young lady in the lacy, see-through top. More on this story tomorrow. Possibly.
I've just got back in from seeing another fantastic triple bill at The Junction, and I'll be reviewing that tomorrow too. As well as having a look at the problem with the comment thing fecking up e-mail addresses. Good job I've got the day off from work, eh?
Friday 4th October
Still wary of commenting about work here, but the trickle of people leaving my place seems to be turning into a flood. Of course, the recent redundancies might have made people more aware of others leaving, but this week it emerged that two more people from my own department are packing up and leaving too, making three in a very short space of time. Kind of worrying, don't you think? Especially as this means I might get more work to do.....(Actually, I hope I do, otherwise I'll start looking for a new job myself).
A new series of Late Night Poker starts on Channel 4 tonight. (Yeah, I know this is starting to turn into "Jim reviews the world" but bear with me). I love the game, especially the Texas Hold 'Em rules that they play in this series. And if you think watching people play cards is dull, you couldn't be more wrong. Although the under-the-table camera allows you to see what the players are holding, the great fascination of this game is the bluff and counter-bluff as they try to either win with nothing or trap people with good hands. And like any good sporting contest, you soon find yourself siding with some players and loathing others. Tune in, turn on and cash me out. Or something.
I read Tom Baker's 'The Boy Who kicked Pigs' this week. Well, I say this week, but in fact it took me little over an hour on Monday. Despite that, it's a fine book, a cautionary tale for children, indeed. It certainly deserves to sit alongside Roald Dahl's more gruesome children's stories. And is beatifully illustrated. If you've got a Fopp near you, it's worth checking to see if they've got this in stock. If not, come to the one in Cambridge and tell them the FatFakir sent you. They won't have a clue what you're on about, but it'll be worth it to see the confused look on their faces.
Whatta mistake-a to make-a! I was pleased to see that I'd got a few comments, finally, but somewhat less than pleased to see that I'd cocked up on the code front and in fact had the same set of comments twice. Arse! I hope I've managed to get things right this time.
Thursday 3rd October
It's been a while since I went to a gig where all the bands were excellent, but last night was one of those rare occasions. Of course, you can't really go far wrong with techno beats, metal riffs and shouty vocals, in my opinion, but even so...
The place was heaving - certainly fuller than I've seen it before. The Kennedy Soundtrack kicked things off. Their best songs were probably the first one and the last one, whose titles I can't remember (but then I am getting on a bit), but they were pretty impressive and I'll be looking out for them in the future. Taproot were up next. They were a bit more melodic than The Kennedy Soundtrack, but that's not a bad thing. During one song the lead singer wandered off stage with his radio mike, singing all the while. This confused me for a bit, but then I spotted him making his way round the back of the audience (and past me) unlike the "courting" couple about three feet away who were somewhat surprised, to say the least, when he attempted to force them closer together. And even more surprised when they realised who it had been after he moved on. Well, it made me laugh anyway. Anyway, Taproot did an excellent set and warmed things up nicely for the mosh-frenzy of Pitchshifter. It was mad, Ted. I was stood quite near the back and there were people moshing not more than three feet away. Unbelievable. Pitchshifter were pretty fantastic, although I would say that the sound mix was pretty muddy (it seemed to me) so some of the subletites of their recorded material were lost, plus the vocals weren't quite loud enough. Still, top metal action.
I decided to follow my new nu-metal tendencies this morning and bought Kerrang! this morning as it has a free CD on the front. For £1.80, it was bargain, especially as it features "Myself" by Taproot amongst other things. Ironically though after about track 12 ("Psychotic Break" by Jerry Cantrell, fact fans) my PC CD player started skipping and I've had to listen to it on the "piece-of-shit, second-hand ghetto blaster" that I paid £40 for five years ago, rather than the "state-of-the-art" PC that cost me about a grand and a half. Which is kind of annoying for a supposed "Home Entertainment" PC. On the other hand I did buy it from Tiny, so I suspect the CD player in the PC wouldn't have cost £40 if I'd bought that on it's own...
Finally, I've added this comment facility to my site - is anybody ever going to use it? Is it a sign that no one ever visits here? Is there anybody out there?
Tuesday 1st October
A pinch and a punch - first of the month
Cheap joke alert: The BBC were showing a programme about narcolepsy this evening. I would have watched it, but I fell asleep.
Last week I had a moan about the crapness of the BBC's scheduling/advertising policy, but I refrained from suggesting that it would only be a matter of weeks before Farscape was booted out of it's usual slot to make way for some minority sport or other. Well, feck me sideways with the Radio Times, if they aren't postponing next week's episode (the second half of a two-parter, by the way) to show some fecking dull snooker tournament instead. C**ts. Still at least they haven't reviewed the episodes on their site thereby spoiling any chance of enjoying it.
I'm wary of saying anything about work on here, but I do have to comment about what happened today. Our department head has left, which was on the cards for a while, but was announced today. And the way some people reacted you'd think the Wicked Witch of the West had just had a house fall on her (or was that the Witch of the East, I can never remember). Honestly, it was hard to tell if I was at work or back in the school playground. (We've all made that mistake though, surely? No? Just me? I'll get me coat.) Still I got a two hour lunch down the local Chinese restaurant out of it, and left work at a reasonable hour for a change, so I suppose I shouldn't complain too much.
Off to see Pitchshifter tomorrow night, so next update on Thursday, probably.
Sunday 29th September
Lazy Sunday afternoon
Well, there's another day wasted, pottering about, not really doing anything. I did get to Tesco this morning to do the weekly shop and I took the bike out round the airport, but that was about it. I haven't even started reading those books I bought yesterday. So, no new revelations to report yet.
I have updated Peter's Pit though, with the last instalment of the Torture Garden columns for Tripwire. If you've missed the previous two articles, there's a link to the archive at the bottom of the current one. All I have to do now is persuade him to let me have some more of his stuff and I'll be laughing. Or not, as the case may be.
I guess the problem that I have is that I'm not particularly disciplined when it comes to getting things done, preferring to procrastinate, and I only really get down to things when there's a deadline to be met. Whilst this isn't a good thing at work, it's an even worse thing outside of work, because I don't have many natural deadlines that I have to meet. Take this site for example. I've been meaning to sort out the animations required for the "Who's In The Bin" feature for ages, but haven't and still haven't got any closer to sorting those out. And I probably won't unless someone can come up with a deadline for me, with some form of incentive at the end of it. Preferably one involving lager and Kylie. Hhmmm......Kylie....*drool*
Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, being "indisciplined", or rather, lazy. Anyway, I've taken some advice from Peter Mann's latest column and have written down a few of my life goals. Admittedly, I did this a few weeks ago, and have stuck them on the back of my bedroom door so that I look at them every morning and every night. It does feel a bit strange to look at your life's ambitions written down though, and some days I could do with more useful stuff written on that list, like "do up trousers before leaving the house", or "don't forget to lock the front door before going to sleep" or even "put the rubbish out". However, written them down I have and set myself an artificial deadline of my 40th birthday to achieve those things. So, expect me to spend the next two and three-quarter years faffing about as usual, before I change everything in my life in the last three months. (Actually, I don't think I can lose that much weight in three months....) What are my life goals? Ah, you'll have to wait a while before I reveal those.
Saturday 28th September
Feet of Flames
No, not a reference to my fantastic dancing technique, but rather how I felt this lunchtime after a morning trekking round town. Having been suffering from an attack of gout for the last few days, I was relieved to wake up pain-free this morning. That soon changed after a couple of hours checking out the HMV sale. Sadly, there wasn't much in the way of music that I wanted to buy, although I did pick up Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Stigmata on video for less than a fiver each. I also picked up a punk compilation titled Kill All Hippies which promised 14 punk classics for the bargain price of £1.99. I should have examined it closer before purchasing for, as I discovered later, some of the tracks were not the original versions I was expecting. In fact, like those 60's compilations you always see cheap at petrol stations this should have had on it in small lettering "Some of these songs have been re-recorded by members of the original bands." It wouldn't have been so bad if the re-recordings were anywhere near as good as the originals. Whilst I can excuse The Damned's lumpen, Dave Vanian-less, live version of 'Neat Neat Neat', I have to say that the Steve Jones/Paul Cook revisitings of Sex Pistols classics 'Anarchy in the UK' and 'Pretty Vacant' must count as probably the worst versions ever. Even the "punk" band from school, who I saw on a night when the bass player was so drunk he couldn't even stand let alone play, did better versions than these. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
Anyway, feeling unsated by my visit to HMV I went to check out Fopp. This store has opened relatively recently in Cambridge, but seems to have a "pile it high, sell it cheap" policy for the most part. It's still quite expensive for more obscure stuff, but seen as you can't get most of that in the mainstream stores, you pays your money and takes your choice, I suppose. I took advantage of their policy and picked up The Ramones "It's Alive" Live CD and The Specials "Specials" CD for a fiver each. I also decided that it's time to start reading again and picked up the following:
- 'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac - I'm nearly 37 years old and I've never actually read it. Can you believe that?
- 'The Boy Who Kicked Pigs' by Tom Baker - who can resist a book written by a former Dr Who?
- 'Little Boy Blue/Dog Eat Dog' by Edward Bunker - two books for the price of less than one. I had the privilege of hearing (or rather, not quite hearing) Mr. Bunker read some of his own work at the No Exit Press 10th birthday party, so it's about time I owned some of his work.
All those cost me a mere £3 each, which by anyone's standards has got to be a bargain.Finally, I picked up tickets to see Pitchshifter, supported by Taproot and The Kennedy Soundtrack at The Junction this coming Wednesday (2nd October), and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, supported by the most excellent Snuff and upcoming Brit-punkers (yeah, I think I made that up) Consumed on Monday 7th October. I'm looking forward to both of those I can tell you.
Yeah, alright, I'm claiming that it's still Friday, because I haven't gone to bed yet, but technically it is Saturday. Well, anyway, what's been happening in the world_of_jim since Monday, I hear you ask.
Tuesday night my co-workers and I went to The Wrestlers pub for some beers and some splendid Thai food to celebrate our workmate finally finding a place to live in Cambridge. After spending most of the last three months either commuting from Birmingham or living in a tent (yes, a tent!) Chris The Younger has finally found a house. Anyway my top tip, garnered during the night out, is don't tell your boss that a dish is "quite warm" on the spice front when really you mean it's very hot. And then don't rub it in by laughing at their discomfort as they try to eat it. Oh yeah, and try not to spill your beer all over Jack. Sorry, mate.
Wednesday morning I had a splitting headache and had to use up some more of my holiday time to recuperate. I got some very sarcastic welcomes when I finally made it into the office after lunch. Wednesday evening pretty much the same bunch of co-workers and I went to play Laserquest. My top tip from that night out is - try to remember what colour team you're on so you don't spend five minutes shooting at your own team mates. D'Oh! I was somewhat disappointed that despite my apathetic technique, which involves just walking round the arena without making any attempt to hide, I failed to achieve the lowest score in either game. I must try less.
Last night I took time to recharge my batteries after the two nights out. I think it must be a sign that I'm getting older that I can't manage to go out for two consecutive nights without feeling absolutely knackered. To be honest, I have trouble with one night out during the week these days. Perhaps I'm just out of practice....Anyway, I think that's enough for now - more tomorrow, or later on today to be technically accurate.
Monday 23nd September
"I feel the Earth move under my feet..."
There I was, at 00:55 this morning, just minding my own business - surfing the web, checking the newsgroups that I frequent and downloading Crack Whore mp3's, when there's a tremor running through the house. At first I just thought it might have been a plane taking off or landing at the nearby airport. As everyone in the UK must know by now, it was actually the strongest earthquake to hit Britain for more than 10 years. Having been in the North West of England for the two largest 'quakes to hit Britain in recent times - the Lleyn peninsula quake of 1984 and the Bishop's Castle (Shropshire) quake of 1990 - this one didn't seem anywhere as dramatic, although it wasn't as strong and I'm slightly further from the epicentre than I was then. I think I'll always remember the 1984 quake as I was in hospital at the time and it happened during the day, so there were a lot of nurses and doctors running around checking that the patients were OK.
Days off from work are great, aren't they? There can surely be no finer feeling than waking up and realising that you don't have to get up and drag your weary carcass into the office. And having spent more than three years unemployed, I also appreciate the fact that I do have a job to take the time off from, especially in the current economic climate. The only problem is that the day always seems to go so quickly. After getting up late, going for a bike ride, pottering around for a bit and then slobbing out in front of a video for a couple of hours, all of a sudden it's 6pm and the day has almost gone and I haven't done half the stuff I was going to.Ah well, I'll just have to take some more time off.
I'll admit I haven't watched much telly recently - mainly because there's been very little that actually interests me - but I'm a bit puzzled by the BBC's attitude to publicising some of it's new series that are starting in the next couple of weeks or so. For example, on Radio Five Live they're constantly advertising the new "BAFTA'ed up" series of The Office which starts next Monday. And on the TV they've been flogging the life out of the fact that a new series of the tremendously over-rated (in my opinion) Coupling started tonight. But I haven't heard a thing about the new series of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, which began tonight, or The League of Gentlemen, which starts on Thursday. And indeed if I hadn't been at home today, and perusing the TV listings whilst I was bored, I would have totally missed the start of the new series of Farscape. Come on BBC - get your act to gether and let me know when stuff is on that I'll like and stop telling me about stuff that I don't. OK, rant over.
Sunday 22nd September
Well lookee here, I've finally got round to adding some sort of fancy-dan system for visitors to add real-time comments to the website. It's a big 'Free Time' Thumbs Up for enetation for allowing me (and indeed anyone else who wants to give it a go) to set this up for a big No Pounds and No Pence. I hope it works properly. If there's any problems do let me know, please. They do ask for donations and I'll be running this for a couple of weeks and provided there's no problems, they'll be getting some of my hard-earned cash.
There's another Thumbs Up for RyanAir who are having a free/very cheap flight sale at the moment. I've been a bit crap about booking my flights to and from Ireland in November but I finally got round to doing it on the weekend and the flights cost me just 1p each way (excluding taxes) and a grand total of £26.90. That's about half the price that it was before their sale. Of course, the saving I've made will probably be eaten up by the cost of transport to and from the airport at either end of my journey. Whatever it costs though, it's considerably less than the £350 that British Airways were quoting for a similar journey. If you want to take advantage of the RyanAir offer, you'd better get a move on as you have to book by Midnight GMT on Monday 23rd September. That's tomorrow.
It's a big No-Prize though for Tesco in Fulbourn who have got some of their Christmas stuff up already. Right next to their 'Back to School' display. Fantastic - you've only just got the kids back to school and already they're badgering you to spend money for Christmas which is, after all, only three months away.....
I picked up the Trojan Records 'Young, Gifted & Black' compilation CD last weekend and was amused to see that it included 'Big Seven' by the late Judge Dread - a man who by his own admission was neither young nor particularly gifted and was most definitely not black. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, but it just struck me as oddly amusing. Unlike the track which ably demonstrates his mastery of the single entendre.
Wednesday 18th September
Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about the fact that this is meant to be some sort of on-line diary-cum-blog and I don't update it very often, but then I only have to look at all the other "dead" sites out there and I feel better. And then again, this week I can't even claim to have been working on any new content or even any new features to put on the website, so what have I been wasting my time doing?
Well to be honest, I haven't been doing that much. Monday night I caught up with some of the stuff that I video-ed over the weekend and last night I watched Liverpool be resolutely second best against Valencia in the Champions League. They only lost 2-0, but it could have been so much worse. And then, tonight I spent an hour or so on the phone with my younger sister. It's always nice to spend time with her.
Anyway, I've got a couple of things almost lined up for adding to the site, and another featurette from Peter Mann for your delectation, so I might get round to putting those up on either Friday or Saturday. Hey, there's more football on the telly tomorrow night.....
Sunday 15th September
Oh, what a night!
Well, what a marvellous night out. It had just about everything - great company, good food, copious amounts of alcohol and even a decent club to finish the night off in. I have to say that cocktails at the Maypole has to be on everybody's agenda for a celebratory occasion. All cocktails a mere three of your English pounds in Earth money. We spent an hour or so in there and then it was on to Chez Gerrard to eat. The food was good and reasonably priced, coming in at around £28 a head including wine, but the service was dreadfully slow. We arrived at 8pm, and didn't get our starters till almost 9.30, and by the time we'd finished it was almost 11. Needless to say they didn't get much of a tip.
After the nosh, a hardy few of us made it to Alternation at the Kambar. Of course, I felt old because most people there were at least ten years younger than me. But they did at least play some music that I knew and none of your usual dance nonsense. Mind you, my eye was taken by a lovely-looking goth lady in a strapless leather dress. However, as I wasn't wearing all black, I doubt she noticed me (although how you can not notice a 20 stone man in a mustard yellow shirt, I've no idea...) Anyway, if anyone knows who she is - tell her I want my eye back as I'm having judging distances and stuff....
Anyway, Chris and David took plenty of photos, so if any appear on the web I'll be linking to them. (I would have included a link to Chris's website here, but he hasn't updated it for about a year.) And I've been feeling knackered all day, having not got to bed till 3.30am and then got up again at 8.30 this morning. So things haven't been done on here again. Ah, procrastination, the thief of time. Still, there's always tomorrow...
Saturday 14th September
Another night spent with my balls in the gutter.....
I am, of course, referring to my night spent 10 Pin Bowling at Strikes in Ely. Despite the flaming shirt, I bowled like an idiot for the first game - achieving the remarkably poor score of just 47. Yep, in twenty attempts I managed to knock over a mere 47 pins. I was convincingly last. Mind you, I put this down to the fact that I hadn't drunk enough - by the time we started the second frame, I was on my fifth pint and this time round I broke the 100 point barrier, pcking up two strikes on the way. That's still pretty poor, of course, but given that I've played the game less than ten times in my entire life, I'm not too bothered.
I managed to make it through Friday 13th without anything going disastrously wrong, I think. Of course, starting to surf the Internet after your boss leaves for the day and then finding he's come back and is standing right behind could be considered unlucky, but compared to the faux pas one of my co-workers made earlier in the day, that was nothing. Top Tip: Be very sure that the boss is not in the ofice when you say loudly that you thought they would have been on a programme called "Nightmare Bosses", which had been aired the previous evening...
Anyway, I've got to go and make myself beautiful for Chris's birthday night out. I'll report back tomorrow.
Wednesday 11th September
Well, after all that speculation on where my dream-state story came from on Monday, I received the latest issue of Fortean Times on Tuesday morning. And it contains a very interesting article on the 'hypnagogic state', which is that borderline state between sleep and wakefulness. It's written by Gary Lachman and there's also an interview with him on the website, in which he expands on the theme a bit, but also covers his experiences with magick and altered states. Interesting stuff and if you're at all interested in that sort of thing I'd urge you to check it out. It certainly helped me understand why I sometimes "hear" things and come up with strange concepts when falling asleep.
South Cheshire's finest football team - Crewe Alexandra - achieved a very satisfying win over near-neighbours Port Vale last night in the Worthington Cup. It's always nice to beat the Vale. Let's hope we can win there in the league too.
I had it confirmed today that one of my former colleagues, Helen B, is being made redundant from her job in Birmingham. Having shared the pain of redundancy with her almost two years ago, she has my every sympathy. Still, she's a very good technical author, a hard worker and a great person, so she shouldn't find it too difficult to get another job. In fact, I know she won't. You go, girl!.
I'm off out tomorrow night with a few people from work for a night of bowling and drinking at Strikes in Ely. In honour of the occasion, I'll be wearing my flaming shirt, and quite probably claiming that "Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be bowling for Jesus." or some such drunken nonsense. Perhaps I should shave my head as a tribute to Camper Van Beethoven's Take the Skinheads Bowling......?
That's it - more news Friday, probably.
Monday 9th September
"...old, grey, widow's pens..."
For a while now, I've kept a book beside my bed to write my dreams down in. Sometimes I scribble down a few lines of what I can remember, sometimes it expands to a page. Last night, well at 3a.m. this morning to be exact, I woke with an entire monologue (including the above phrase) in my mind and had to write it down. It took me an hour, I didn't get all of it, and it covers two and a half pages. I re-read it when I got in from work and I still have absolutely no idea where it came from. It's like someone else has written it and asked me to finish it off, to make it ready for other people to read. Perhaps there really is a creative muse. Perhaps it's better not to over-analyse the creative process. Anyway, I've had a huge pile of cheese on toast for tea and a couple of beers so if that doesn't get my imagination going, nothing will....
Sunday 8th September
Well, you'd think that having had a couple of evenings and the entire weekend to work on this site that I'd come up with something a bit more substantial than the update that has happened, but hey, it might not look much (as I tell the laydees) but you won't be disappointed. Sadly, you can't experience the full impact of my ability to turn my tongue sideways (a special treat for the laydees) by reading this website, so you might actually be disppointed. Sorry about that.New Stuff
- The second instalment from Peter Mann has been added, and you can read his take on the way comics have changed, but not people's perceptions, here. I've also archived off his previous column and there's a link to that at the bottom of the current column.
- I finally got round to updating the "Who is.." page. It's got a brand new picture and probably more information about me than is either necessary or wise. Still, if you want to risk it check this out.
- Previous postings on this site have now been archived into the two links at the bottom of this page.
- New link added to the official website of the best football team in South Cheshire. Look to the right and see if you can spot it...
It's Deadline Day at work this Friday, so we'll be rushing around trying to get the documentation finished for the next software release. I'll finish the one document that I'm responsible for way ahead of Friday, so expect to spend the rest of the week picking up work from everyone else. Which is always fun. There's meant to be a works outing 10-pin bowling at some point during the week too and our summer student, Ally, leaves on Friday and then it's Chris's birthday on Saturday, so don't expect a great deal of activity on here from me later in the week.
Anyway, enjoy what's here and I'll catch you later, Bill and Ted.
Wednesday 4th September
Blimey, what's going on? I've been feeling so tired for the last week or so, and I can't really put my finger on why. I'm not sleeping too well, but that's not that unusual for me. Anyway, I've done this brief update tonight, rather than the more extensive one I had planned and now I'll be off to bed.
Decided to pass on the The Rude Mechanicals last night. Despite the recommendations I had that they are a good live act and well worth seeing, I wasn't persuaded by the song samples on their site that they'd be my cup of tea. Plus I'd had another long day at work and decided to get home and try (unsuccessfully as it turned out) to get an early night. And it's not much fun going to gigs on your own. And I need to save money for this wedding in Ireland that I've got to go to in November. Yeah, it's just one excuse after another with me....
I found myself being somewhat irritated by Dave Gorman's Important Astrology Experiment on BBC2 on Sunday night. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is that annoys me, apart from the pointless "panel of experts", the same old props as his previous series ("Let's see what that's done to the graph."), the lack of true scientific method, his stupid beard and the fact that it's not funny. What next? Imagine this...
Dave Gorman's "Pork and Beans", in which I, Dave Gorman, see how many consecutives times I can say "Pork and Beans" in response to a series of questions before I get punched out. On Tuesday this week I had to catch a train to Scotland to see my namesake, Dave Gorman. I took my mate Matt on the train with me. We travelled 450 miles and every time Matt spoke to me, I replied "Pork and Beans." He punched me out eight times, and on average I said "Pork and Beans" 47 times before each punching. Let's see what that's done to the graph....."
Hey, look how easy that was, perhaps I should start pitching to the BBC comedy commissioners? Imagine I pitch 34 half-arsed, under-developed comedy ideas to the BBC and they accept 7. Let's see what that'll do to the graph...
Anyway, this page is getting too long and I can't be bothered to sort it out tonight so I'll stop here. I'll try to get round to further updates in the remaining nights of the week. See you on the flipside.
Sunday 1st September
Hurrah! Time for some updates and stuff! First up, I finally got some long-promised content from my bro-in-law. You can read his first comics-related article on this page. I've got two more articles from him, which are a bit less comic-centric, and these will go up in the next couple of weeks. These articles have already been published in Tripwire magazine, for more information see the links on the bottom of that page. If you've got any comments to make on "the Mann's" analysis of comics, you can e-mail them to me and I'll forward them.
Secondly, the Friday lunchtime pub conversation took a bizarre turn, as usual, this week and we ended up talking about giant squid taking over the Earth. Well, at least the water-bound parts of it. And we imagined them attacking punters on the Cam. Our summer student, Ally, knocked up a rather impressive depiction of such an incident. However, it does involve an octopus rather than a squid, so eventually I've come with my own imagining. Needless to say, it's crap. I'm a writer, not an artist... Anyway, you can see both pictures right here. The images are about 110KB in size in total, so if you're on a 56K modem they might take a while to download. Not too long though, hopefully.
Thirdly, I got my other set of Truckfest pictures developed, finally, and am in the process of scanning them in to build up a fabulous pictoral record of the joys that was my Truckfest weekend.
Fourthly, I spent yesterday afternoon picnicking on Jesus Green with some of my work colleagues. It was great fun, although I wouldn't recommend playing football against Caroline without some form of decent foot protection. I opted to play barefoot as that was more sensible than the steel-toecapped boots that I was wearing, I thought. I won't make that mistake again.
Fifthly, and finally, I've got a few bits and pieces of other stuff to put on here, and soon that stuff'll be ready, provided I don't get distracted by work, beer, or football. or seeing The Rude Mechanicals at the Portland Arms on Tuesday night.
Saturday 31st August
Spent most of this evening at work, for some bizarre reason. And then the rest of it trying to sort out some punting and giant squid pix, for reasons which will become clearer over the weekend. As a result the planned updates to the site haven't happened. I bet you're all crying your hearts out over that.
Anyhoo, I'm off out tomorrow day, but unless anything extraordinary happens, I'll be back at the keyboard on Sunday to implement at least 2 major updates for this site. Don't hold your breath though...
Wednesday 28th August
Just a quick update to say, dinner at the boss's house was great, I've got some more stuff to put on here soon, and I'm feeling really tired at the moment so am not updating this site in any major way tonight. There'll be more stuff, just as long as they don't keep insisting on me doing stuff when I'm at work. I tell you, I hardly even have enough time to download Crack Whore mp3's during my lunch hour any more....
Monday 26th August
What have I let myself in for?
I happened to mention to my older brother, Mark, that the ultimate aim in buying the new bike had been not just to get fit by cycling to work, but to get fit enough to do the London to Cambridge bike ride next year. My workmate Jack, and his wife Heather, did it this year, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the summer. And said it was good fun, but hard work. And it's all for charity. Anyhow, Mark has said that if I can get fit enough to give it a go, he'll come with me. Which gives us both something to aim for, although we're coming at it from different angles. I just hope it doesn't turn out like the last time we cycled anywhere together (more than twenty years ago) when I got numerous punctures in both front and rear tyres and ended up having to walk about three miles home. I don't fancy that happening just three miles out of London, it's a long walk home from there.... Of course, I've got a long way to go yet as I haven't even managed to pluck up the nerve to cycle to work. Still, the trips around the airport must be doing me some good - the regular trudge home from Tesco with the weekly shopping didn't seem half as arduous as usual.
My mate Kev was bemoaning the lack of extra stuff on the website and the fact that it takes about two minutes to visit all of it. Well, he's right, of course. So in the near future I'll be adding stuff for your general delectation and delight. I'll update the "About Me" page, there'll be a fantastic look back at Truckfest, including pictures, the report on Army2002 that I'm still working on, and some other shit. Heck, I might even finally get round to sorting out the merchandise. Well, I won't be going out much for the next couple of months as I'm saving up for my mate's wedding in November, so I'm going to have to do something with my time. Apart from surf for porn, that is.
The more astute reader may have noticed that I made a few changes to the wording under the banner and one of the links on the right. Well, after due consideration I put things back the way they were. Sometimes, instead of trying to fight back, you just have to walk away. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
I'm off out for dinner round at the boss's new house tonight. I must remember not to get totally drunk, throw up on her carpet or make a complete ass of myself. If I can manage that, I shall count the evening as a success.
Friday 23th August
My old mucker Kev came to see me yesterday. He's one of the longest standing friends I've got. He's certainly the longest-suffering, having been through thick and thin with me since we met at University (Well, it was only a College of Higher Education when we started, to be honest). Our friendship has survived a few traumas - me setting our shared house on fire, him making me go to Truckfest (twice), that sort of thing - but we don't get together that often anymore as he lives in Grimsby with his wife and daughter and I don't. Anyway, we went out to The Regal which used to be a cinema, but is now a Wetherspoons pub. Anyway, the beer is cheap and decent and the food is OK - you certainly can't knock it for 5 English pounds, including a drink. Plus there's usually some decent eye candy if the conversation lulls. Cheers mate, I had a good time - it's always good to see you, but try to come down the day AFTER payday next time, not the day before....
What else? Oh yes, I mentioned listening to CDs at work on Tuesday and my friend John sent me a list of some of the stuff he's been listening to recently. Normally when John talks about the stuff he likes to listen to all I hear is "Fuh, fuh, fuh, fuh, fuh, fuh", but it's fair to say that this time I knew some of the bands he mentioned. So here, for no better reason than to fill in some space, is John's current workspace playlist, with his own comments:
- Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo / Devo Live [2 LPs on 1 CD] - prompted by a swap deal possibility for Peter selling his Devo Best Of CD on Ebay (long story)
- Celtic Frost - parched with thirst am I and dying - rare & unreleased stuff by the best Swiss Metal band ever [Paul, playing a heavy riff is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman...]
- Moby - Everything Is Wrong - Moby mixes everyone else's remixes into two seamless mix CDs ranging from Hard Techno to Joyous Anthems to Quiet Ambience and New York Hard House to Groovy Acid to Melodic Trance.
- Orange Goblin - Time Travelling Blues - fond memories of Stoner Rock at The Foundry come flooding back...
- Tool - Lateralus - Is it Heavy Metal or is it Prog? Who cares? It is absolutely brilliant. I know the pieces fit...
- Joni Mitchell - Ladies Of The Canyon - It has Big Yellow Taxi & Woodstock on it.
Yes, I left the Joni Mitchell in there on purpose. Bite me.
Tuesday 20th August
I have been suffering for the last few days from the effects of getting a decent night's sleep and getting to work on time. This is probably the result of a lack of alcohol intake, which will be corrected as soon as I get paid. Anyway, my body is having trouble adjusting to having to eat my evening meal an hour earlier, as I'm getting to work on time and getting home a lot earlier than usual. If only I could summon up the courage to start cycling to work, I reckon I could save up to an hour on the commuting times. Plus, I wouldn't get hassled by mad people at the bus stop, as has happened to me a couple of times in the last week. Mind you, it does puzzle me - I'm a little over 6 feet tall, 280 pounds and shaven-headed, so why do they seek me out? Can they sense my kind-hearted nature or something? On second thoughts, don't answer that.
I don't know about you, but I'm finding that although I have loads of CDs, I only listen to a certain few of them. I think that's partly because my stereo is still in the box I packed it in to move to Cambridge and partly because I only really listen to stuff when I'm at work. (Obviously when you're working you need something that gets you in the right mood. Lately, I've been listening to The Smiths...) Anyway, the upshot is that occasionally you pull out something, think "I haven't listened to that in ages" and either, you realise why, or it's like buying a new album. Admittedly, The Shirehorses album fell into the former category, but recently I rediscovered the joys of Air's 'Premiers Symptomes', Moby's 'Play' and The Beastie Boys 'Paul's Boutique', amongst others. So go on, have a look at the back of the rack and drag out some of that stuff you never listen to. You never know, you might remember why you bought it in the first place. Unless, of course, you happen to be my little brother, who hasn't had to buy a new record in years thanks to being a music journalist. Jammy git.
Sunday 18th August
Anger is an energy
It's OK, I feel fine. Had a cathartic experience yesterday. No problems with grips on reality or life getting me down, or any of that shit. This is me breathing. I am centred in the me....etc.
Anyway, I tested out the cycle ride to work today. I was taking it very easy and still managed to get there in under twenty-five minutes. So reckon it'll take about half an hour, depending on the traffic, during the week. The only drawback to the route is that I have to cross the railway and the River Cam, which means bridges, and these are the closest things there are to hills in Cambridge. To be fair, the one over the Cam is fairly gentle, but is near the end of the route to work. However, the one over the railway is fairly brutal. Especially if you haven't been on a bike for five years, you're totally unfit and you weigh twenty stone (or 280 pounds if you're American, or 127 kilos if you're European). Of course, the fact that it takes a lot of work to get that much weight up a slope is balanced by the fact that once going downhill you pick up momentum much more quickly. Which is a bit of a shock to the smarmy git who overtakes you on the way up, only to have you whizz past him on the way down, leaving him trailing in your wake for a mile or so as he struggles to catch up and you curse yourself for not tightening up the brakes before you set off. Whatta mistake-a to make-a!
Actually, the other drawback to cycling to work on a Sunday was that I had to turn round and cycle home again virtually straight away. Work on a weekend? That'd be mad, Ted. Actually, I think if I had gone into work and sat down for eight hours or so, I wouldn't have ever got on the bike again. Still, the temperature will have to drop a few degrees and I'll have to put in a few more laps of the airport before I can start cycling to work on a regular basis.
I spent the rest of the day gardening and working on various projects. I 've got a few things on the go, that may or may not see the light of day on this site. There's a report of my Army2002 weekend, which still needs to be completed, (sorry it's taken so long boys, but I haven't forgotten), a couple of crime short stories and a twisted comic love story-cum-monolgue about computer geeks in love. And if I get any of those finished by next weekend, I'll show my arse in Boots window.
Friday 16th August
25 years on and he's still The King
"Wurlitzer one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go...."
Anyway, do you ever get the feeling that life is slowly prying your fingers loose from whatever tenuous grip you have on reality? I do. Or maybe it's just that I never had much of a grip anyway, I've just been fooling people all these years, and I've finally realised that fact. Or perhaps I just need more sleep. Ah, kill me now, I'm in Hell.
Wednesday 14th August
Not much to say today - things not too exciting in the Fat Fakir household for the last couple of days. At least the weather was nice today. So much so that when I got home I went out on the bike again. Just one more trip around the airport, but if I do that regularly enough, I might feel up to the challenge of cycling to work before too long. Not that I'll be able to put that off too much longer with the way my bank balance is looking - I won't be able to afford the bus at this rate.
I'm off out tomorrow night to meet Lisa's new boyfriend. Meeting in the pub first and then going to The Hotpot, which is one of Lisa's favourite restaurants. I'll put a quid on her ordering the hot and sour soup to start. Whatever else happens I'll be drunk, as usual. And I'm going to have to get my boss drunk too, as he's giving me a six-monthly review at 10 a.m. Friday morning. That'll be fun. Wonder if he'll take the afternoon off, again. Ah, beer - the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.
Monday 12th August
The Glorious Twelfth!
Ah, the weekend - a time to relax and take things easy. Or sit around bored out of your head when the weather and lack of funds scupper your plans. Arse. Did absolutely nothing memorable over the weekend. A couple of days that were further spoilt by Crewe failing to win at Northampton and Liverpool being resolutely second-best in the Community Shield.
Here's a bit of news I neglected to mention last week. The company I work for, Convergys, announced that they were making about 70 people redundant here in the UK. Whilst these cuts don't directly affect the department that I work for, we are part of the same division. These cuts have made everyone a bit jumpy, of course, and the global downturn in the economy hasn't helped any. If the telecoms market continues to bear the brunt of it, I wouldn't be surprised if there are some more redundancies in six months time. And, shocker, this also means the much-vaunted bonus scheme is likely to be worth feck-all come December. Ah, well, 'tis only money.
The Grouse season opened today. Must remember to nip out and blast the living daylights out of some defenceless birds in the name of sport tomorrow. Jeeves, fetch my blunderbuss.
Friday 9th August
It's not big. And it's not clever. Actually, I am.
Had another night out at the Comedy Marquee last night. Kicked off the evening with some top Thai food in The Hopbine and a few beers before heading off to the tent. Despite my best warnings, Chris got us a table right at front, with the result that I was sat about 3 inches from the stage. Still, I'd had a few beers, I was out with my friends, so I was in a good mood. The compere, Dave forgotten-his-last-name, came on and got off to a poor start, but Marty Wilson pulled it round and gave us probably the best set of the night. Unfortunately, we were then "treated" to the comedy stylings of Saul Bernstein. Pretending to be an ancient Jewish comedian is probably not the wisest move anyway, but things went downhill straight from the start. He had no jokes. There was tumbleweed blowing across where we were sat. But then, he picked on me for having the audacity to talk while he was on. Well, few men have crossed wits with me and won, and he's not one of them. His biggest laugh was when he asked me something, I ignored it for a minute and then said "Sorry mate, I was asleep." Equally amusingly, (although not for the audience) when he asked if I had a girlfriend, all the people on my table were going "Ooh, don't go there. No, leave it." I didn't get chance to respond myself. Anyway, you know you've done alright when people come up to you afterwards and say "You were funnier than he was." After that the compere knew he couldn't die on his arse as comprehensively as Saul, so he lightened up a bit. Rick Wright finished the evening off with some jokes and C&W guitar reworkings of popular songs, which were amusing, but not that spectacular. He then took some requests from the audience, and Chris managed to stump him by asking him to play something by Aphex Twin. And finally, in a moment of pure sadism, we managed to get the compere to bring Saul out for a bow at the close of the show. Marvellous. Mind you, I don't think we'll be welcomed back next year......
Wednesday 7th August
Devoted some of my spare energy from earlier (see below) to tidying up this site and sorting out Rad's Renderings. The cartoons have finally landed. Sort of. The second instalment of a two-part series is available for your perusal. And yes, it does depict a lab monkey having a Vietnam flashback. The first part explains the plaster on the monkey's stomach, apparently, but you'll have to wait a little longer for that. Still, the two parts also stand alone, so go and have a look. Now.
Had a good time last night. Well, in so far as a single man can have a good time without getting arrested, I had a good night. I went to the Comedy Marquee and was thoroughly entertained by Jack Russell, Mitch Benn and Tom Rhodes. Jack Russell is a Welsh hippy, and did bang on about cannabis a bit too much, but was vastly entertaining when he wasn't doing that. Mitch Benn and his comic songs went down a storm. So much so that he came back out to do an encore. Unfortunately, I missed the chance to get him to sign a copy of his new album for John, so I'll just have to fake it. He'll never know... And Tom Rhodes took a while to build up a head of steam, but once he got going he was hilarious. The compere, who's name escapes me, was good too although, being Scottish and ginger, he had to be. Anyway, I'm going again tomorrow night, with friends this time (yes, I do have some, honest), and if the acts are half as good it should be an excellent night out.
Woah, whatta rrrrush!!!
Went for another spin round the airport on my bike a couple of hours ago. Decided to try to get round a lot faster than I did on Sunday. The result, I did it in about half the time. And I'd forgotten about the great side effect of vigorous exercise - the endorphin rush you get afterwards. I was dancing round the kitchen whilst I was making my lunch, which is a great comedy image - 280 pounds of sweaty fat bloke, dancing and making sandwiches at the same time. Wow, I'm still buzzing even now. I daresay that as soon as the effects wear off, I'll fall asleep, but for now I'm off to devote this new-found energy to something more useful than this.
Monday 5th August
Ooh, me arse!
Finally got round to taking my bike out yesterday afternoon. The gentle 3 miles that I was expecting turned out to be nearer to 5. Fortunately I managed to get back before the rains came again. I still got soaked, but this time through perspiration. It wasn't too bad while I was riding, but once I stopped I turned into some sort of human fountain. Not nice. Today my arse feels like I've been sat on a razor blade and my knees are a bit stiff (ooh-er!) but otherwise I'm fine. Don't think I'll be attempting the cycle to work just yet though...
I'm off to the Cambridge Comedy Marquee tomorrow night to see the marvellous Mitch Benn, amongst others. My mate John got me a signed copy of his CD as a leaving present when I moved to Cambridge, so I'll be looking to get a signed copy of Mitch's latest CD as John's wedding present. I know - I'm so classy.
I was going to go to Northampton on Saturday to see South Cheshire's finest - Crewe Alexandra - open their campaign in Division 2, but it turns out my chances of getting a ticket in the away end are pretty minimal. Besides, knowing my luck, I'd only bump into Lisa and she'd think I was stalking her. Again.
Next update is due, Wednesday - I'll finally have the missing cartoons from Rad and I've got the day off, so I might take the opportunity to tidy things up a bit. Cheers.
Sunday 4th August
Well, yesterday's rain scuppered my plans to take my bike out for a test run, so I'm hoping it stays dry today. I'll be going for a spin round the perimeter of the airport, which will be about 3 miles or so, so that should plenty given that I haven't been on a bike for a good five years or so. I was going to have a test run out to work today, but I think that can wait till next weekend now.
And now the moment you've all been waiting for - my review of Men In Black II. Well, sadly, like a lot of sequels, it isn't as good as the first movie. It struck me as being a bit lazy. It doesn't really add anything to the whole MIB mythos (ooh, get him!) and the apart from one or two refinements the plot is the same as the first one - alien seeking something hidden in plain sight, Earth destroyed if it doesn't get it, blah, blah. Plus, the special effects didn't seem that special to me.Giant worm? Seen it done better in Tremors. Flying car chase? Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. And the finale, the climactic "saving-the-Earth" scene just kind of happens while you're waiting for a massive shoot-em-up. Of course, I was sat on my own and being detached and analytical, so if you take some friends, switch off your brain and just enjoy the ride, this is probably an enjoyable waste of 90 minutes or so.
My brother-in-law is, for his own entertainment, recording an album of Leonard Cohen songs done in various musical styles. Now I was thinking about this yesterday, and after a little experimentation, I've come up with a version of "First We Take Manhattan" (admittedly the only Cohen song I know how to play) in a Cramps/psychobilly-stylee. Now you'd just better pray that it never makes it out of my bedroom and onto CD. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
But if you're excited about the prospect of that, why not vist this discussion board (via a redirect at makeashorterlink.com) and download some of the mp3s on offer there? I can especially recommend "The Crusher" by The Novas - pure class.
Saturday 3rd August
Blimey, where does the time go, eh? Well, Wednesday night I was pissed off with work so decided to try to sort out the cartoons that Rad sent me. Without success, sadly, so you'll have to wait a bit longer for them.Thursday night I went to the Cambridge Folk Festival with Lisa and Chris. I got there ahead of the other two, having taken the afternoon off, and had plenty of time to wander round the site, which took all of 5 minutes, and get drunk, which took longer. The festival was much like any other with it's tat merchants, dodgy-looking food stalls and overflowing toilets. I reccied the Radio 2 stage where all the acts were playing that night, and it was in a rather small tent, which was full of people sitting down. I could smell trouble. When Chris and Lisa turned up, they grabbed a bite to eat and then went to stake a claim in the Radio 2 tent. Sure enough the tent was now rammed full of people standing where there was room and all the seated people couldn't see too well. Strangely, despite having sold an extra 500 tickets to Cambridge residents, no one seemed to have anticipated this situation, and there was no move to open up more of the sides of the tent so that more people could see. Anyway, Lisa could see nothing of Eliza Carthy and Martin Green, which was probably lucky. Sadly, I could hear them reinforcing all my prejudices against folk music. (Every cliche in the folk music book, apart from the finger-in-the-ear tuneless drone about a mining disaster.) Fortunately, in the break between them and Billy Bragg, (who we came to see) we were able to move further towards the front of the stage and get a decent view. Billy was excellent, although my irritation at his decision to sit down for his performance displayed itself in a shout of "Have a seat, Grandpa!" I don't think he appreciated that. But then, performers who sit down always irritate me for some reason. It's like they're not that bothered about the performance, I feel.
Friday night I was meant to go on a tour of the Milton brewery but a combination of the beer on Thursday night, cake overdose at work (two people leaving and a birthday, all in my department), and some dodgy scampi at lunchtime, left me feeling somewhat nauseous so I decided not to risk it. Just as well, as I threw up copiuosly when I got home. Nice.
Today, I will be mostly fixing up my "new" bike, which I bought off a colleague. He only wanted £10 quid for it, but I managed to argue him up to 20. Hold no, that's not right is it? D'Oh! Later, I'm going to see Men In Black II, so expect a Barry Norman-style review at some point tonight. In the meantime, if you're going out driving today - don't forget to take the car.
Tuesday 30th July
Just a quick update to say that I finally received some stuff from Rad to put on my site, but unfortunately it's in the wrong format. Some comedy Mac/PC incompatibility thing there, so I've got to sort it out before I can put it up. It's cartoons too, so I'll have to change the title of his page. Still, it'll be worth the wait, probably.
Monday 29th July
That's just mad, Ted
Here's a story from my weekend that will get you thinking about how fecked up the education system in Britain is.
One of my ex-colleagues decided after she got made redundant (along with the rest of us) that she'd like to go back to teaching. Well, why not? It's got to be more interesting than working with computers. And more rewarding, if not as well paid. Anyway, she was refused a place on a course to train as a German teacher on the grounds that, as a native German speaker, she'd have an unfair advantage over the rest of the intake. What!!?!?!?! You're saying that a German can't qualify to teach German, because they speak German? You're having a frikkin' laugh, aintcha? What next? Would-be drama teachers being turned down on the grounds that they're too camp already? PE teachers not being allowed to be good at sport? Hold on, that'd explain the state of the PE teachers at my old school....Anyway, it's just mad, Ted, and there's no other way to explain it.
By the way, you might have noticed that I sometimes have trouble getting the date right. That's not because I can't work a calendar, but because I never really examine the date too closely these days. All I know is that another week or month has gone by, and that time seems to be speeding up as I get older. There are never enough hours in the day any more. I tell you, sometimes I wish I'd starting writing this when I was young enough to stay up all night AND work the next day too.
Sunday 28th July
Well, first things first, I had a great time on Saturday night, the new catchphrase got a few outings and, as is always the way, the old ones got a decent run out too. It was great to see everyone who was there and a shame that not everyone could make it. (Yes, Helens B & C, I do mean you.) Obviously there's now the Christmas bash to look forward to, should I start planning that one now?
Secondly, I've got a new banner - better font and much better graphics, done for me by Paul who was lamenting my lack of design skills. But then, I'm a writer, not an artist. Anyway, he's tidied it up and made it look a lot better. Thanks Paul, I've added you to my list of links on the right.
Thirdly, I was looking at this site on Thursday and one of the sites they featured (and I'm sorry but I didn't take note of which one) had link to this page which contains a lot of useful information about how to make your website more accessible to people with disabilities. This obviously covers loads of things that I hadn't even thought about and fortunately there's a downloadable PDF available. It's mainly aimed at bloggers, but even the "old skool" handcoders, like me, can make use of the tips. I'll be working my way through that this week and implementing the tips on my site. And then adding an accessibility statement. I've no real idea of how much traffic I get, but I would like everybody to be able to see my site, even if they wander in here by accident.
Friday 26th July
No, I haven't been out having a life, I was knackered on Wednesday night, and Thursday night I went to see Austin Powers 3. I laughed like a drain throughout, but still came away feeling a little dissatisfied. Perhaps I was expecting a bit much. Anyway, check it out, make your own minds up.
Anyway, on to the subject of the day - Catchphrases. Everyone's got one. That little saying or phrase that you use everyday, even if it's only "y'know" or "Hiya, you alright?". And if you use it often enough people start to associate it with you. Now, over the years I've used a lot of catchphrases (not all of them my own, I hasten to add) with varying degrees of success, and here are a few that spring to mind:
- "I'd buy that for a dollar"
- "If [some event or other] happens, I'll show my arse in Boots window"
- "Great, mate" (said very sarcastically, for best effect)
- "We've all done that, surely?"
- "But of course, I was very, very drunk"
- "I'm easy" *wink*
- "Ooh, Humperdinck!" (That was a very short lived one.)
Anyway, I'm off to see some old friends-cum-work colleagues tomorrow night, and I was wondering which catchphrase I might be using. Possibly a combination of all of the above, but I think I'll probably go with my current personal favourite:
"....but it's OK, I'm not bitter."
There's some other stuff I'd like to mention, but that can wait till the next update on Sunday evening now. I promise it'll be quite interesting. Well, I found it interesting...
Tuesday 23rd July
Ah, how our memory plays tricks on us. I looked up the Elton number, because I wasn't sure it was right, and it wasn't. 'Song for Guy' wasn't released till about 1978, so it must have been 'Funeral for a Friend/Love lies Bleeding'. Must remember to check my facts, next time...
Very Proust, Ian
You can blame Lisa for this one, having mentioned how a certain song evoked a specific memory. I thought about the songs that do the same for me and here, in reverse order, are my top five musical madelaines....
5. 'Geno'- Dexys Midnight Runners. This one takes me straight back to late '79/early '80, dancing to this down at the Thursday night Under-18's disco at the Central Hall in Walsall. Me and Danny making small talk with the cool girls from school, who were surprised to see us anywhere decent. Having to leave early to get home. Arse.
4. 'Romeo & Juliet' - Dire Straits. I didn't even like ths tune when it came out, but my then girlfriend, Sarah, loved it. In fact, I soon sussed that I only had to put this record on and she was putty in my hand. Which makes me sound like a manipulative bastard, which I was. Needless to say, this was playing when we lost our virginity together. Yep, that's probably too much information.
3. 'Kids In America' - Kim Wilde. Another year, another disco. This time the Cheshire Cat, Nantwich. Given all the other great records that were out at the time, it's strange that this is the one that evokes the memory, but there you go. Dress shirts, peg trousers, Phil Oakey-style hair (which looked crap, surprisingly) and trying to be 'into' more obscure bands than your mates.
2. 'Germ Free Adolescents' - X Ray Spex. Saturday night in Liverpool 1986, watching Monique finish getting ready to go out for the night, while she plays this to put her "in the mood". Going out on the town, having a fantastic time and continuing the fantastic time back at her place.
1. 'Funeral For A Friend' - Elton John. Not a girl, and not a disco, but this one always takes me right back. I'm six or seven years old, sitting in the back seat of my Dad's Ford Cortina, with my siblings, car rugs over our knees, as Dad makes the long drive back from my grandparents in Yorkshire to our home in Bedfordshire. Travelling down the motorway late at night, with the lights of the towns and villages looking so beautiful and alluring, this was always playing on Radio 2, along with some other space-themed song I can only half-remember, and it always seemed to be the last thing they played before they shutdown at midnight. Even now, without the song, I'm back there.
If you've got any favourite memory-inducers, why not let me know and I'll post them on here or something. Cheers.
Saturday 20th July
Went to see Minority Report this morning. There was me and about half a dozen other hardy souls there, including the two kids who had been in front of me at the box office and tried to get tickets to see Resident Evil, but were refused on age grounds. By all accounts they saw the better film. Having read the original Philip K. Dick story, albeit about twenty years ago, I had a rough idea of what to expect plotwise, but the film was really well done and for once Spielberg didn't give the whole thing a terribly schmaltzy ending, or leave the ending open for a Minority Report II. Mind you, after the way he pissed all over the end of AI (which was actually mostly a Kubrick film) I suppose he had to make a decent film to get everyone back onside. Anyway, it gets the "Freetime thumbs-up" from the Reverend Jim. So go and see it.
While I was at the cinema I booked tickets for Austin Powers 3 and Men In Black II, so you can expect more film reviews in the near future. Sorry.
Friday 19th July
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now
For I have seen Scooby Doo: The Movie and it was truly awful. It takes all your cherished memories from the cartoon series and craps all over them from a great height. And worse, it features the abomination that is, was, and ever shall be, Scrappy Doo. Not even the knowing, ironic treatment he gets can redeem that. Let's face it, even Joseph Barbera said that he thought Scrappy Doo was a mistake. But it's not just the repellent Doo creature that ruins this film. Shaggy is permanently gurning throughout like some sort of acid-casualty, Sarah Michelle Gellar appears to have a "must fight like Buffy" clause in her contract and Scooby is given whole tracts of dialogue. What next, the unconvincing CGI-animation gets to play Hamlet? Give me a break. I happened to see the cartoon movie 'Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost' on Channel 5 and thought that was bad enough, but this is even worse. Avoid it like the plague.
I'm off to see 'Minority Report' tomorrow, so expect another reasoned, Barry Norman-style critique of that...
Wednesday 17th July
"Its like rai-ai-ain on your wedding day"
Ah, where's Alanis when you need to show her the true meaning of irony, eh? I spent yesterday evening at a Council focus group in which the main source of dicussion was the transport situation here in Cambridge. (Twenty of your English pounds for an hour and a half of chatting with half a dozen other people. Can't be bad.) Anyway, I argued that the buses have definitely improved since I first moved here, and then afterwards I had to wait an hour for a bus home after two successive buses failed to show up. It would have been laughable except for the fact that when the bus did finally show, it was absolutely packed with all the other people who'd been waiting an hour. Thanks, Stagecoach.
Monday 15th July
It's funny how some things can suddenly put your life back into perspective. Sport Relief on Saturday night bought home to me the fact that compared to people elsewhere in the world I've got nothing to moan about. I feel a whole lot better about my current situation. I think there are a couple of things I need to put right/make amends for, but by and large everything's fine in my world.
Went to the company's annual summer party on Sunday. The weather was fantastic, the beer flowed freely, and there was enough food to feed an army. As long as it wasn't a vegetarian army, that is. I got sunburnt, but that's nothing new for me - more than 30 minutes in the sun is usually enough to turn me lobster pink. The only disappointment of the day was that the great range of entertainments and inflatables didn't feature one of these. A big "Thank You" to Tim and Julie for giving me a lift and looking after me. I hope I didn't scare your kids too much! And if they start swearing, you know who to blame....
Saturday 13th July 2002
23:00Did the "helping move house" thing today. Fortunately, there were plenty of willing hands to help, so despite the enormous amount of stuff there was to move, it got done relatively quickly. The hot weather didn't help - I was dripping with sweat, and that's not a pleasant thing - but at least I got some free beer out of it. Cheers, Nova! Mind you, my back is killing me now.
Friday 12th July 2002
Not much to say today. BT came and repaired my phone line first thing this morning, and I uploaded the last update at about 9:45 this morning. Fortunately, didn't get any e-mail from Liz Hurley, so I expect she'll ask me next week instead, when I'll be skint.....
Anyway, I have tidied up this page a little bit, so that it isn't quite so long and unwieldy. I'm going to be out and about this weekend, helping someone move and attending the company's summer party, so expect more news updates, but no exciting new features. Sorry.
Thursday 11th July
I am fffffurrrrriousss!!!
I got home from work this evening to find that some brainless c**ts have pulled the external cabling for my second phone line right out of the wall. If I find out who was responsible, I'll kill 'em! Losing my second line means I have no Internet access, so I am writing this not knowing when I'll be able to post it. Also, I hope Liz Hurley hasn't e-mailed asking me if I'm free tomorrow night, again. Why does she never give me more notice? Anyway, BT have arranged for someone to come round tomorrow, but the best guess-timate they can give me is sometime between 8am and 1pm. Not really too helpful as I could have done with being at work then, but as the next appointment after that wasn't till Tuesday, I didn't have much choice.
It's always nice to have your faith in your own abilities and talents boosted, and several people have said nice things about my website re-design, which pleases me no end. I'm glad people like it and hopefully a few more people will start taking a look soon. The site has also started turning up in Google searches, which I think is a good sign. Perhaps that's just because I've included loads of sexual terms in my Meta tags, though!
That's it for now - there's more news to come, but it can wait till I'm calm and re-connected.
Wednesday 10th July
Hurrah! Only 15 days till I get paid again, and I'm already skint. Think I'll be staying in a lot and working on this website for the next fortnight or so. Maybe I'll even get the "Who's in the Bin" feature up and running! Don't hold your breath, though.
Tuesday 9th July
Had the misfortune of spending today at probably the dullest company meeting of all time. We learnt nothing new, except that the economic slow down in the telecoms sector is not over and that things will get worse before they get better. The reluctance of the President of our division to divulge 2nd Quarter results ahead of their announcement to the stock market doesn't bode well, whatever the reason for it. Not even a hint.
Spent most of the afternoon in text conversation with an ex-cow-orker, whose company has just announced a 10% staff reduction across the board. I really hope she'll be OK, but as she doesn't read this, that's probably a wasted sentiment.
Went for beers and curry after the meeting, but wasn't feeeling too excited about the whole thing, so drank more than I should, said things I shouldn't and nicked off early when Richard offered me a lift post-curry. He's a top man, Richard, despite his duck-murdering past....
Monday 8th July 2002
I spent a long weekend getting drunk with some good friends, in Salisbury. Which is why this site has only been partially updated - I've spent most of today catching up with my sleep and sobering up a bit in preparation for an off-site company meeting tomorrow.
I met up with Steve on Friday lunchtime and we travelled down from Waterloo together. Coopers Bar on Waterloo station has not improved one iota since I first went in there about six years ago. It's a dive. sadly the beer on the train was even worse - Stella (brewed in Luton) or Carlsberg. Still, needs must when the devil drives. We got to Salisbury at about quarter to four, checked into our hotel and immediately repaired to the bar, where Grolsch was on draught. Not brilliant, but infinitely preferable to Carling. *shudder* Foz arrived about an hour later, and the serious drinking started.
Steve and I ducked out at about 7pm for a "quick bite to eat" and returned three hours later having visited the scabbiest fried chicken joint in the Universe (Chick-O-Land - we should have known better. I certainly had cause to regret it later) and done a tour of some of the other pubs in the area. Fortunately, Foz had a fine time talking to the delicious barmaid, Vicky, and "Jimbo" (Julian) had arrived by then too. Having started on the G&T's at some point during the evening, I had to retire early, but the rest of the lads stayed up till the early hours.Saturday breakfast should have been a subdued affair, but we were still drunk, I think, and somewhat raucous. Time for a quick-ish shower and we were off to army2002. This was a fantastic display of weaponry and culminated in an awesome firepower display in the form of an all-out assualt using live rounds. The weather was fantastic too - we all caught the sun to some extent. The only downside was the traffic - we spent ages queueing to get on and off the site.
Returning to the hotel around 6pm, Steve and Foz went for a quick nap, while Julian and I settled down for a "couple of drinks". 8 pints each later, the boys had returned and we nipped out for a pizza. Unfortunately, by the time we got back the hotel bar was closing, so we settled for a couple of bottles of wine and three pints of Grolsch (for me) to take out. Quite how I managed to get them up the spiral staircase to my room is anybody's guess.Sunday was much quieter - the bar didn't open till 12. Steve's girlfriend Gill showed up not much after that and they left after one drink. Julian decided he was sober enough to drive by 1pm and left to meet his girlfriend, Which left me and Foz to knock back a few till closing at 3pm. We headed off to the station, and arrived back in Waterloo at about 5. There was some sort of security scare on which meant we were herded off the station for about 5 minutes. Anyway, this kind of killed off any further thoughts of booze, so we went our separate ways, and I got back to Cambridge at about 7pm. And went virtually straight to bed. I'm still knackered now. Fantastic weekend, chaps. Let's do it again, but not until my liver has grown back!
And I'm back! I have redesigned this site to get rid of the evil frames and to make it a bit more workable and t'ing. Yeah, I know some of this stuff hasn't actually been updated yet, but I'll get round to it, slowly, but surely. I'll be turning this into a blog of sorts, with occasional updates and stuff. And, yeah it's meant to be in black and red.
Anyway, there's a couple of things I have to get off my chest today, so you're just going to have to bear with me. Or click your Back button.
1. The current series of Big Brother has been pretty poor. I don't know whether I'd have found it more interesting if I had E4, but from what I've seen/heard the coverage on there has been pretty patchy too. Of course, all the stats from C4 say that this has been a big success, so what do I know? Anyway, that's not really my point, as I was musing the other day on what would happen if the housemates just refused to co-operate with the Big Brother team? Not the half-assed complaining they had last week, but a full-on, non-compliance fest. Would security throw them all out? And if you had to make Big Brother:The Movie, based on that same premise, who would you cast? I got as far as Vin Diesel, Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, and Jane Horrocks.Yeah, alright, maybe I haven't thought this one through.
2. Work. It might be a pain in the ass, but when it provides you with the means to have a great weekend away, on the beers, with some good friends, then it doesn't seem so bad. I was unemployed for a long time, and the worst thing about it was that for all the free time I had, I couldn't actually afford to go anywhere or do anything. If I hadn't had my guitar, I think I would have been bored to death. Now, of course, I have the means but not the free time. Ah, you just can't win can you?
3. Your dreams are meant to be the key to your psyche, or something. Well, what does this one say about me? Last night I dreamt that I was at home with a few colleagues when someone broke into my house, and we had to fight them off, and it involved hand-to-hand combat and bows and arrows. There were also some children involved, but I can't remember that part too clearly. I think they were part of a three-way fight. Anyway, I ended up co-operating with one of the original burglars against the kids. Anyway, the scenario ended with me and him walking away from the house, with a grudging respect but still wary of each other. And then I dreamt that it had all been a film and Hollywood had remade the ending so that as we were walking away, we hugged and became friends. And I woke up cross that that had happened. I think I was just telling myself that life isn't like the movies, but I could be wrong.....