fatfakir's blog

Heart of Gold. Nerves of Steel. Knob of Butter.

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Tuesday 23rd December

19:40

Isn't that Ruby Tuesday you're singing, Sir Cliff?

Christmas is coming. The shops are getting packed. In keeping with tradition all the Christmas songs are crap. Well, apart from that remake of Mad World obviously. Hhm, perhaps the world is finally ready for my acoustic-guitar-only remake of See You by Depeche Mode... Anyway, I was pondering on the greatness or otherwise of previous Christmas singles, and decided that these were the only ones worth putting on your stereo this yuletide:

Well, that's it for now - I've probably missed a couple of really excellent tunes there, but I don't really care. If you've got some yuletide faves you think everyone ought to listen to, why not let me know?

Well, I solved one mystery, dear readers. I now know what sort of crazy-ass company takes on staff just before Christmas. The sort of crazy-ass company that:

  1. Is rapidly expanding.
  2. Is subject to seasonal variations.
  3. Employs a large number of agency staff, and
  4. Has a high staff turnover.

And I'm not proud to admit it but I have become part of that staff turnover. Well, it didn't take very long to realise that me and call centre-type work weren't made for each other - I don't particularly like using the telephone at the best of times. And, quite frankly, I'm not prepared to put up with even occasional abuse for the grand sum of 6ph (which is actually more like 4ph after deductions). To be honest, if I had had the chance to think about it, I wouldn't have taken the job in the first place, but I was asked on Tuesday afternoon if could start Wednesday and under pressure said 'Yes'. (So if you want to get me to do something for you, dear readers, ring me at the last minute and tell me that I'll be doing you a great favour and I'll more than likely agree. Even if the job involves killing your neighbours.) Anyway, it's back on to the great job market for me after Chrimbo and try to find something more suited to my talents.

I'm off to see my little brother in that there London, tomorrow. I'll be in the capital for a few days, chilling out with the Edster, enjoying a relatively smoke-free environment and consuming vast quantities of ale and food. So, have yourselves a merry little christmas and I'll be back with an update at some point after the weekend.


Thursday 18th December

21:20

How did that happen?

What sort of crazy-ass company takes on staff just before Christmas? Well, there goes my leisurely pre-Chrimbo build up and restful festive period because, almost without trying, I got myself a job. Nothing special, just working in a call centre, and for the grand sum of 6ph, but there's no cold calling. It's not the world's best job, but it does at least pay more than the dole. Just. And if it doesn't encourage me to get back in to a proper job, nothing will.

Anyway one sad casualty of this newly-unwanted employed status was yesterday's update. This was going to be filled with witty and amusing facts about the centenary of the Wright Brothers first powered flight, and a wry comment on how the Americans are also celebrating 50 years of Playboy magazine, whereas we Brits are raising a glass to 50 years of Radio 4's Brain of Britain quiz. Sadly, you'll all just have to make your own jokes....


Sunday 14th December

21:00

False Memory Syndrome

Well, I failed to get myself a ticket to see The Fall play in Sheffield on Thursday night - a lack of funds and the logistics of getting back home after midnight defeated me. Instead I decided to nip out on Wednesday night to see Disarm play at Disraeli's in Rotherham. They were ably supported by Age of Consent (a covers-only band featuring members Disarm) and No Names Mentioned, who are always an entertaining proposition live. Despite the rather flat atmosphere and the bemusement of the regulars, who obviously weren't expecting an evening of heavy metal, all three bands pulled out decent performances and were well worth the trek out to Rotherham. Cheers guys.

A lot of people have said to me "Jim, we know that you got a degree in Fisheries Studies, worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and had a brief career as a technical author, but you're quite old now, so what did you do before you studied for that degree?" Well, I've always been reluctant to talk about it but I think sufficient time has passed now for me to reveal the truth. It's a long story, so I've set aside a special page for it.

Phew, we can all sleep safe in our beds tonight as that threat to the security of the free world, George Bush, has been discovered hiding out in the White House. Er, wait, no, I mean, Saddam Hussein has been discovered hiding out in a cellar in a town near Tikrit. Apparently the U.S. forces have already subjected him to a DNA test to confirm his identity, which is just as well as Saddam is known to have about about a dozen lookey-likeys. (Typical though, isn't it - you and I might have to wait up to a fortnight for the results of a DNA test, but the former President of Iraq gets his results in a couple of hours...) Nice to see that the US Army let him have a shave and a haircut - I wonder if they're now going to ship him off in chains to Guantanamo Bay? And call me cynical, but is it just coincidence that he was captured before Christmas, but not "too near" Christmas, if you get my drift? And do you really think we'll find out where all those weapons of mass destruction are hidden now? Sadly, I don't think the arrest of Saddam is likely to change the situation in Iraq all that much. It certainly won't stop the suicide bombers, for example.


Wednesday 10th December

13:30

It's Here!

Well, apart from me brother, Mark, you've obviously all got too much else to do than to bother checking this site out on a regular basis. Ah, I remember that feeling, back in them far-off good old days when I used to have a job to go to... Anyway, despite the (lack of) feedback I've decided to implement the re-design anyway. Doubtless, I'll now get a flood o' complaints about the text disappearing or the hyperlinks displaying in an unexpected manner. Well, it should look alright in any browser, except Netscape 4.6, which I know does funny things to my hyperlinks. And now, if you're using any screen resolution other than 1024 x 768, you should be able to resize the text so it's readable. There are some things in the stylesheet that are still defined in point sizes, but I never use them so it shouldn't make any difference. Of course, if you're using a browser that doesn't support stylesheets, the only difference you'll see is that I've moved all the links to the same side of the page. I like it, I think you will too.

Was it just a bad dream that I was having last night or are ITV really showing Robbie and Ronan, Together At Last - a one hour special featuring the great vocal talents of Robbie Williams and Ronan Keating performing a series of duets - this Christmas? They can't be, can they? Well, if they're not, then I'm off to Granadaland to pitch this idea. It's a sure-fire winner, even if it was a nightmare. Remember where you read it first.


Friday 5th December

16:00

Hold the (new) front page

I've been messing around with the CSS for this site in order to improve the look and feel of your browsing experience. Yes, I do think of you, dear readers, but not always in such a good way. Anyway, this time however, I've decided that I don't like the underlines on my hyperlinks and I ought to make some concessions to those of you who might have higher screen resolutions or some form of visual impairment that means that you'd like to enlarge the text on screen. So, I've fiddled around a bit and changed a few things. However, I've only managed to test it with IE6, Opera 5 and Netscape 4.6. It works OK with IE and Opera but not with Netscape - something to do with that version not supporting CSS properly, and my own CSS not being perfect. (And yep, I realise this page doesn't display properly in Netscape 4.6 either, although I am trying to fix that, and probably making it worse....) So, if there's anyone out there using a later version Netscape or Opera, or using Mozilla or any other browser, or indeed anyone who just wants to take a look, you can no longer find my new front page here as I've moved it. It's not entirely finished - I'll be moving a few things around, changing the order of my external links and tidying the HTML up a bit more, but that's the general look and feel that I'll now be going for. All feedback gratefully received, and if you could leave any comments here, rather than on the test page, that'd be much appreciated. Thanks.


Tuesday 2nd December

16:00

Oi! Eavis! No!

Smashing bloke that Michael Eavis. Oh yeah. Smashing. Every year selflessly giving up his time and his land so that the young people of today can experience the delights of a rock festival. Not forgetting his sterling work in giving New Age travellers, crusties, hippies and the great unwashed somewhere to congregate so that the rest of us don't have to put up with them. And don't forget his unintended leg-up to the forces of free enterprise, who used to charge you ten quid to get under the fence and would then sell you some dogshit disguised as dope and rob your tent while you were out trying to score some proper drugs. Oh yes, champion of free enterprise and bringer of mud, music and notoriously poor toilet facilities to the masses, Michael Eavis is a top man in my book and always welcome in my local. BUT if I was to read in my newspaper, and on several websites, that he was planning to book Sir Paul MacCartney, Prince and Oasis to headline next year's festival, I'd have to say "Oi! Eavis! No! This motley collection of faded rock stars trading on former glories - none of whom has released a decent album in the last five years - smacks of a cynical marketing ploy, designed solely to draw in the white, middle-aged, middle class folk, all desperately trying to re-live the rebellious youth they never had! This year's parade of "Greatest Hits" merchants was bad enough, thank you very much, but you're turning Glastonbury into the Ben Elton of festivals! One minute you're sticking it to The Man and giving the mainstream the finger and the next you're jumping into bed with bleedin' Paul "Macca" MacCartney. Next thing you know, Prince Harry will be popping up stageside wearing a "The Darkness" T-shirt. Stop! It! Now!"

That "user-friendly" web prescence of the Microsoft empire, msn.co.uk, has a handy guide to some of the Worst Chat-up Lines but unfortunately they've missed a couple of my favourites:

Sadly, I can vouch for the fact that none of these actually work. Well, not for me anyway.

Finally, I'm grateful to Richard who has sent me this link for all your Ya Ho Wha needs. Well, it would be if they stopped taking drugs long enough to actually update the site with anything other than that slightly spooky front page. Damn hippies! Still, check out 'The Three Worst Things' at the bottom of the page. Wise words, mate.


Thursday 27th November

19:30

Just what the world needs...

...another Leeds United fan. But never mind, instead CONGRATULATIONS!!! to John & Sue on the birth of their baby daughter, Katy Jane, who arrived at 12:48pm today, weighing a healthy 7lbs 10 oz. Here's hoping she has Sue's looks. And Sue's fashion sense. And Sue's taste in music, etc. etc. I trust all your mates will be rushing online to Nippaz With Attitude to buy some gear for the new arrival. Or perhaps picking up a few CDs from Punk Rock Baby. Or perhaps not, but it does at least give me an excuse to trot these two old favourites out. I shall be celebrating the baby's arrival in the more traditional "wetting the baby's head" manner, although as this will coincide with another dismal Liverpool performance in Europe, I'd be drinking the beer anyway.

I see that details of the England Rugby team's victory parade have been released. The parade, on Monday 8th December, will sart at Marble Arch at noon and end at Trafalgar Square at 1pm. Well, it's a while since I've lived in London but, I'd be surprised if doesn't take nearly an hour to do that journey anyway, even allowing for Red Ken's Kongestion Charge having thinned out the traffic. Actually, if I remember rightly, there are a few decent pubs in and around the area. Hhm, I might have to see if I can get a cheap ticket down there so I can refresh my memory. Mind you, not only have I got a week or so to plan a trip to Londinium, so have any dedicated terrorists...


Sunday 23rd November

22:15

Cham-pee-oh-nez! Cham-pee-oh-nez!

Well, not quite the crushing victory that I had hoped for, although my predictions about the scrum were spot on. I was disappointed that England didn't score more points in the first half but I didn't think they were ever in danger of losing, despite Australia somehow managing to get back in the game in the second half. Andre Watson didn't have his best ever game as referee - he certainly looked like a bit of a "homer" after half time - but fortunately England were good enough to win despite that. It was a shame that they didn't get the tries that they deserved, but somehow that last-minute-of extra-time drop goal seemed an utterly appropriate way to win. It'll be interesting to see how many of the senior players decide to retire but, given the levels of fitness and conditioning that they have, virtually all of them could carry on for another couple of seasons at least. Oh yeah, and I confidently predict that it will be less than a week before some Welshman or other is claiming that because they outscored England by three tries to one in the quarter-final, the Welsh are actually the "moral" world champions. Which is, of course, absolute tosh, but I guess you have to seek comfort where you can find it. Anyway, bring on the Six Nations, I say! Gad, I'm almost inspired enough to start playing again. Almost.

Expletive-laced karate game anyone? That crazy guy at My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable has come up with a game based on the cartoon strip, that can be found here. The gameplay is a little basic but it's loaded with those ass-kicking karate phrases we all love so much, and is probably not work safe. You wouldn't want the boss reading over your shoulder, methinks.

I've been a bit puzzled over the last week or so by my new Fall CD, The Real New Fall LP formerly 'Country On The Click' The track listing seems to be at odds with the actual track order. Well, rather than this just being some sort of cunning Mark E Smith plan to confuse the listener, it turns out that the first batch of CDs was pressed (or burned or whatever) with tracks 6, 7 & 8 in the wrong order. So, Open The Boxoctosis #2 actually comes after Janet, Johnny & James and The Past #2 instead of before them as listed on the CD cover. I should, I suppose, be saving this CD for posterity and buying myself a corrected version to listen to, but somehow I doubt this is going to sell in large enough quantities to make that worth my while. Even my Aztec Camera single with two labels on it is probably going to be worth more...


Tuesday 18th November

22:30

"But if there's a flood, we'll all be saved."

Well, Saturday night might well have been alright for fighting, according to that there Sir Reginald of Dwight, but it's also a damn fine night for having a reunion with people that you haven't seen for fifteen years or so. Well, it was for me this weekend just gone. As part of the Nantwich Baptist Church 10000th Anniversary celebrations (or something) there was a reunion of alumni of their Friday night youth group, known as the YPF. This here Young People's Fellowship has been running for about 40 years, apparently, so alongside all my contemporaries there were people older than me and some younger. Scarily, children of my contemporaries were on hand to dish out soft drinks, serve the food, and, joy of joys, lead the singing after the meal. Anyway, it's a big HELLO to (deep breath) Ros, Lydia, Karen, Muzz, Ian, Adele, Chris, Tim, Mandy, Juliette, Rachel, Ellen, Steve, Pat and anyone else who heard me waffling on about this website and has decided to take a look. Feel free to use the comment mechanism-cum-link thing to leave me a message/some abuse. I've set up a small photogallery of old photos of some of those people (the ones I could find pictures of, basically), which you can find here. It was almost like the old days, except we didn't play volleyball beforehand, although some of us did slip away to the "library" to "take a few books out" at 10pm. Or rather, nipped off to the pub for a couple of swift ones before closing. It was nice to catch up with all the old faces, even though I felt a bit embarrassed to have to tell people that I'm unemployed, again. Still, the look on their faces when I told them I'd become an Internet Reverend more than made up for that. And luckily for me, Adele, Ian's wife, is a registrar, so if you fancy getting married by the Reverend Jim in Cheshire, I now know who to get to do all the official paperwork...

As I predicted a while back, the four semi-finalists for the Rugby World Cup were England, France, New Zealand and Australia. I take no credit for that - simply naming the four most consistently good rugby teams of the past few years is not rocket science. I did think South Africa might give New Zealand more of a game in the quarter-finals, but I didn't think they'd win. The two semi-finals this weekend were compelling viewing. In the first, Australia raised their game considerably to beat New Zealand, and in the second England rediscovered something of their earlier form in beating France. It's true that the rain was more to England's advantage, but I also think it was to Australia's advantage that the Kiwi forwards had given such a mighty effort against South Africa the previous weekend. Personally, I don't think Australia has the scrummaging power to match England for 80 minutes (thus speaks the man who only got into Grimsby's 4th team because they didn't have a 5th team....) and if Steve Thompson gets his throwing right, the Aussies shouldn't get a sniff at the lineout either. That said, they do have a potent back three, so England have to make sure that they don't get the chance to counter-attack too often. Mind you, I also think that Larkham and Flatley can be a bit suspect in defence, especially if the big men are charging at them, so expect England to attack down those channels. If you were to ask me now for a prediction, I'd say England by 10-15 points, but I'll settle for 3-nil win courtesy of a Johhny Wilkinson penalty in the last minute, thank you very much.


Thursday 13th November

19:20

Land of tolerant saints like me, with good word for everybody

I've been bad, and that's official. The Benefits Agency have stopped my Jobseekers Allowance for six days because I "failed to apply" for a job. Which might sound harsh but is as nothing compared to the original sixteen week sanction that they applied. Thankfully through the appeals process I was able to reduce that to six weeks initially and then to six days. I'm not entirely happy about that six day sanction but, having spoken to the appeals adjudicator, I don't think there's much chance of getting it reduced any further. Besides, I've already served the suspension.

The job that I failed to apply for was one that I found on the Jobcentre database (or Jobpoint as it's known), and was for a Job Club Leader for the company that was running my Job Club. I was interested, if only to find out how much they were paying the duffers. Anyway, whilst I was signing-on, I asked the lady on the other side of the counter to ring up for a job application for me, and that was where I made my fatal error. No one told me, but I was now virtually obligated to apply. Well, I got the full job description and application form and decided that I couldn't match my skills and experience to the job requirements, so I didn't apply and thought no more of it. Until I received notification that my benefits would be sanctioned till the end of January 2004, that is. Anyway, after much to-ing and fro-ing between me and the job centre and the appeals department things have now been resolved, although next time I find a likely opportunity on the Jobpoint, I'll make sure I do all my own legwork.

I've been celebrating this small victory of the dark forces of bureaucracy by splashing out (ooh-er, missus!) on some new CDs and a couple of videos. Well, it would have been rude not to buy the videos as HMV have a load on offer at 2 for 10. And to be honest, is it really worth paying almost four times as much for a DVD full of extras that you're only going to watch once or twice? I certainly don't think so, so was more than happy to pick up 8 Mile and Donnie Darko for a mere fiver each. Two excellent films for me to own forever for about the same price as seeing them once each in the cinema? It's got to be a bargain. In fact, I did wish I'd had a bit more cash on me as they also had Repo Man, Scarface, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Suzy Sucks Sweden IV on offer. Alright, that last one wasn't on special offer. Or in HMV.

The real reason for going into HMV in the first place though was to pick up the new Fall LP, or rather The Real New Fall LP formerly 'Country On The Click' as it's known. I have to say it was 12.99 well spent. Mark E Smith is on top form and backed by a band as good as any he's ever had. A big 'Freetime Thumbs Up' from me. I also bought The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips as they were practically giving it away in the sale. It's a thing of beauty and contains some fantastic tunes, but is a little too melancholy and slow-paced for me to fall in love with it forever - I like my melancholia leavened with a little bit of upbeat pop. I was inspired to buy it because I happened to hear them do three songs on Janice Long's show on Radio Two the other night (Ego Tripping, Yoshimi Battles The Robots, and one whose title escapes me) and I remembered that my younger bro' said that Soft Bulletin was a better album. Actually, I suspect he might have told me that the album before Soft Bulletin was actually the best, but it was a long time ago and I can't remember too clearly. Anyway, it was still very much worth buying.

Does anyone round here remember Emu's Pink Windmill? No, it's not some bizarre sexual implement, but a children's TV programme that used to star Rod Hull & Emu and Grotbags the Witch. Rod and Emu used to live in a pink windmill (hence the title) and were constantly thwarting Grotbags plans to make everyone unhappy. Anyway, whenever the doorbell rang, Rod, Emu and the kids would form a conga line and dance towards the door chanting "There's somebody at the door. There's somebody at the door." I only mention this because lately the chant "There's nobody at the door" has become commonplace in my house. And why? Because when the kitchen light is switched on, the doorbell goes off. This was vaguely amusing when it happened occasionally, but now it happens EVERY BLEEDIN' TIME! A combination of cheap doorbell (from the Pound Shop in Mexborough) and bodged connection has led to this state of affairs. Heaven help anyone who tries to ring the doorbell at the exact moment the kitchen light is switched on - they'll be standing on the doorstep for a very long time waiting for anyone to answer the door...


Monday 10th November

00:50

On The Road with Jim Kerouac

The long hot days of summer had already begun to fade and the chill of a delayed autumn was descending on South Yorkshire when K came calling with his wild idea for a road trip. He had in mind to call in to a few quiet spots, charm the customers and then move on, and he was looking for a navigator. Too bad he picked a man who can't drive. On the other hand, he was guaranteed witty banter. Bored by the fruitless effort of applying for jobs and with work on my book stalled, I was enthused by the prospect of getting out of town for a couple of days and I decided to take up his offer.

I woke early on Wednesday morning, with a couple of hours to spare before K was due to pick me up. I decided to use the time to iron a few shirts and check on my e-mail. I figured I had plenty of time to do that and have a shower. I failed to account for the Dad factor. The old man seemed to be intent on annoying me personally by occupying the bathroom for more than a hour and quarter during the exact time I was reckoning on using it. Fortunately, he left me enough time for a quick shower and shave, but my mood was considerably dampened.

K arrived almost exactly on time and after a brief stop at the paper shop for essential supplies, we set off for the mean streets of Ripley. As we hit the motorway, K turned up the radio and sooon we were digging the crazy sounds of Ken Bruce. Man, that cat can rap. He was laying the smack down on the news like there was no tomorrow. And he was spinning the tunes that were just like us - very much in the middle of the road. It was a gas. We hit Ripley with time to spare and cruised the town looking for some action. There was none. While K went to do his thing - schmoozing the cats and charming the ladies - I checked out the papers. K blew back, having done the business and we rolled out of Ripley, heading for Measham and K's next gig. Funny how easy it is to get lost in a one-horse town. Time was still on our side, though, and we made our destination with plenty to spare despite some entertaining detours. K did the business with his usual aplomb and we blew out of there in time to get some lunch. We were looking for the Little Chef - we'd got some vouchers and that cat owed us a free lunch - but he was nowhere to be found. We ended up having to deal with the Burger King to get the necessary. Still, needs must when the Devil drives.

After lunching on a couple of greasy burgers and fries we headed west for the promised town of Birmingham. The district of Birmingham known as Smethwick, to be more accurate. We were on safer ground here - I had a reasonable knowledge of the town from my time there and I'd brought my A-Z just in case. We hit the outskirts of Birmingham late in the afternoon, just as the traffic was beginning to build. So we got off the expressway and took a short cut through Lozells. We ended up sliding right past the scenes of one of the best days of my life - The Hawthorns, where I once saw Crewe Alexandra beat West Bromwich Albion by five goals to nil. Ah, happy days. Anyway, once K had finished up his business in Smethwick, time was ticking by and we were both feeling tired and hungry. So we decided to go straight to Shirley to check into our hotel. We got caught up in the rush hour traffic and so the journey took longer than anticipated, and by the time we got there I was ready for a drink. Pausing only to freshen up after checking in, we hit the main drag in Shirley. And went into both pubs. We had a look in a few of the shops, although they were mostly closed. We ate dinner in the Saracen's Head, dining well on mixed grills. While we were eating the C-Man popped in to say hello. He didn't stop long as he had a pressing engagement elsewhere. Besides, we were already well on our way to being drunk. As we reached the limits of our alcohol tolerance, we retired for the night, in order to be fresh for the second leg of our road trip the following day.

Thursday dawned grey and dull. Truly autumn was now upon us and the icy blasts of winter will surely follow soon. Plus my head was a bit sore. Skipping the "delights" of breakfast we dressed and headed back out to the strip. K needed to pick up some souvenirs for the family and I was on the look out for some cheap tat. Both our needs were satisfied in the Pound Shop. K picked up some toys and I got a mini-radio and a set of juggling balls, all for a pound each. And for those who might want to get a bit kinky, but not spend a lot of money, the shop also had two sorts of handcuffs and whips in stock, again at a pound each. I wish I'd bought some now.

Leaving the world's cheapest S&M store behind, we set off for the wooly wilds of Coventry. Home of the Specials and apparently in possession of a mighty fine City Centre ring road. We don't know, as our encounter with the outskirts of Coventry was enough for us. Admittedly I made the rookie mistake of sending K off to the right on a roundabout rather than the left, but I managed to get us back on track. We found the venue and K went in to do his stuff. I chilled in the car, listening to Ken Bruce and doing the crossword.

On his return, K and I set off for the frozen north of Sheffield, resolving that this time we would find Little Chef and get our free meal. We ad to go off the beaten track and probably drove further than was strictly necessary, but by 12 o'clock we had tracked down our prey. Wolfing down the all-day "Olympic" breakfast we started to feel human again. As we were slowly sobering up and having plenty of time to kill, we took it easy as we trundled up the M1. We hit Sheffield with about an hour to spare. And then got lost. Not totally lost - we were roughly in the vicinity of our destination - but unable to find that last gig. A couple of calls home and some vague directions from the old man got us pretty close to where we needed to be at. The K-ster finished up his last bit of business and that was it we off back home. The road trip was virtually over. There was still time for some of my infamously vague directions but even these didn't really delay us. K dropped me off at home and headed off to the bosom of his family. The road trip was finally over. It was time for me to settle back into the routine, dreaming of the day the road will call me back again....


Tuesday 4th November

19:00

"It's quiet today, maybe too quiet."

Well, the nephews have returned home taking their sound and energy with them. After the joy of a relatively quiet Halloween, we went to the firework display and funfair at the Earth Centre on Saturday night. They enjoyed the funfair, especially the stalls that offered a "prize every time", allowing them to accumulate a stack of stuffed toys and plastic tat. They also saw one of the best firework displays, I've seen in a long time. Set to the story of Snow White, interspersed with musical passages, it was a brilliantly staged display, which climaxed which a stunning series of intertwined starbursts. Very impressive. The kids thoroughly enjoyed it. Then on Sunday we all went out for lunch, before the nephews headed off home. Once they'd gone, I revelled in the peace and quiet in the house and fell asleep in front of the telly. However, on Monday morning the house seemed strangely empty and the day felt rather flat. Still, it's only a couple of months till Christmas and they'll be here again, waking me up at some ungodly hour and asking for sweets or if they can have a go on the Playstation....

Nobody uses the phrase "political correctness gone mad" in this news story, but I'm surprised that the play's author hasn't. Mind you, his portrayal of asylum seekers as unwashed, dole cheats is particularly odious, but then I suspect that the closest most of Okehampton has ever got to an asylum seeker is seeing a picture of one in the Daily Mail.

Elf-based game for Christmas, anyone? You might have already seen this one but I hadn't till today. Obviously, I found the name of it mildly amusing (my dad's name is Frank), but it is also diverting fun for about ten minutes. Perfect for those of you with limited lunchtime access to the Internet, for example.

And thinking of limited lunchtimes, anybody in Cambridge a week on Thursday, might consider taking some time out to see Michael Moore, who's making a promotional visit in support of his new book. He's doing a brief tour, so if he's sold out in Cambridge, you might be able to catch him elsewhere. See here for more details.


Friday 30th October

18:30

Happy Haunting!

Wahey! I've them pesky nephews a-visiting and we're decking the halls with boughs of, er, cobwebby stuff and generally making the house look a bit grim for Halloween. Well, a bit more grim than it normally does. Luckily for me though, we're not going trick-or-treating, so I won't have to spend the evening traipsing round the village in the rain. In order to treat the kids, Granny is cooking some "scary" food, Grandad is carving out some pumpkin lanterns, and I'll be getting out my Evil Dead videos....

Earlier this week, we all went to the National Railway Museum in York. We set off a bit later than intended (surprise, surprise) but had a stroke of good fortune when we got there. As we pulled into the car park, the cars in front of us were being sent off to the overspill car park. However, as we got to the front of the queue, a car came out of the car park freeing up a space for us, and we were let in. Result. The kids had been before, but there was still a lot that they hadn't seen, and even though we stayed till closing time, we still didn't see everything - there's The Works and the Balcony Galleries still to be seen, and I didn't get to climb on Mallard (*sob*). In addition to the trains, there was also a mini-funfair. Well, just a helter-skelter, a traditional 'gallopers' roundabout and a fairground organ, to be honest. And there was a film crew shooting some footage for a travel-related Antiques Roadshow feature to be shown on BBC4 some time early next year. I was sorely tempted to interrupt the piece-to-camera with some "comedy" mobile phone antics, but decided against it. After all, I don't want to find myself appearing on 'It'll be Alright On The Night 25', or whatever edition they've got up to. Anyway, I give the Railway Museum a massive 'thumbs-up', especally as it's free to get in. And if you can get in the car park it's only 4.50 to park all day. So, that's a right bargain and no mistake guv'nor.

Yesterday we had a quick dash round the Magna Centre. Definitely not free - a hefty 28 for two adults and two children. Still, as I've said before, the kids enjoy it. At the moment they've got a Myths and Monsters exhibition on, featuring animatronic models of such beasties as a chimera, a cyclops, a dragon and a unicorn. All "life-size" and very impressive. Unlike the rest of the centre - there were quite a few of the exhibits that weren't working, and not all of them were signed as such. Also, some of those that were working were clearly in need of a service. It seemed a bit shabby to me, especially given the size of the entry fee. Anyway, it didn't stop the kids having fun, which I suppose is all that really matters.

Tonight we're doing the Halloween thing, then tomorrow we're off to a firework display and bonfire at the Earth Centre. Then it's out for lunch on Sunday with other assorted relatives before the kids head off home and I can return to my quiet, contemplative, not-getting-up-before-8-a.m lifestyle.

You might notice (or you might not) that my comments mechanism, aka OarIn, has been a bit flaky recently, and might be so for a short while longer. My brother, who generously runs/hosts OarIn for me, is currently transferring the domain to a different ISP, so once it's been moved, hopefully it will be a lot more stable. Not that you lot leave any comments anymore, you bastards! It's OK, I'm not bitter...

Finally, here's this season's essential accessory for the fashionable woman about town. Or is it just an amusingly-named bit of tat? Still, if you do wear these, at least everyone will know that they do match. Now, let's see them work these into The Archers...


Thursday 23rd October

19:00

Surviving on fresh air

Hhmm, it's been an interesting week, dear readers. Perhaps luckily for you, I can't go into details, but suffice to say that the need to find paid employment has suddenly become much more pressing. So I've been concentrating on that rather than on finding weird and wonderful stories and sites on the InterNetto (like the Internet only much cheaper). The end result, of course, is that I've not got much (ooh-er!) to update this site with.

I suppose I could discuss the Rugby World Cup, but my comments from last Tuesday still stand - the only teams that are capable of winning this tournament are England, New Zealand and France. And I've called the winner of each game correctly so far (although Fiji almost tripped me up against the USA). To be honest, I've started to get bored with the mis-matches. Whilst there's some interest in seeing the minnows take on the bigger teams, unlike in football there's no chance of the minnows springing a surprise. Take tomorrow's South Africa vs Georgia game, for example. It'll be hard work up front for the South Africans and the Georgians will be competitive at the scrum and line-out but South Africa should still win by about 70 points. So I'll catch the highlights rather than bother watching the game live. Still, at least this weekend there should be some decent match-ups - France vs Scotland, Wales vs Italy, Ireland vs Argentina. You'd bet on France, Wales and Ireland winning those games though. I'd prefer to see Italy and Argentina win but I think they're not quite strong enough to get the result. Which is a shame because if Argentina win, next weekend's Ireland vs Australia game becomes a "winner-take-all" match with the loser missing out on the quarter-finals. It's only taken a fortnight, but this tournament is threatening to get interesting.

My nephews are coming to visit for a week from this Saturday - I hope they like rugby, because I'll be making them watch a lot of it... And when we're not watching rugger, I'll either be looking for a job or out with the boys, visiting some local and not-so-local attractions. Hopefully this time we'll be able to get to the National Railway Museum in York, which we didn't get to in the summer. Otherwise, it'll be the usual round of Magna Centre, Conisbrough Castle and Earth Centre (for the fireworks display). Don't worry though, I'll find time to up-date you with our fantastic days out.

Has the Dollar:Pound exchange rate slipped dramatically whilst I wasn't looking? According to this story the current exchange rate is about three dollars to one pound, but the last time I looked the dollar was trading at about 1 dollar to 60 pence. Are the curency markets really in that much of a state of flux or has someone cocked-up at Yahoo!?

I've still not got round to scanning those family photos for one reason or another, and I won't get to do that next week, unless I can persuade the nephews to help me out. I suspect that what little daytime use I get out of the computer will be spent helping the kids out with their homework, so maybe I can can do a bit of horse-trading with them. Anyway, I'm off to get a couple of days sleep so I can cope with them pesky kids...


Thursday 16th October

23:50

With my reputation?

I don't know where people might have gotten the idea that I like a drink or two, but three people independently e-mailed me this news story today. Whilst obviously this is great news as it spells the end of "fizzy piss masquerading as lager", it's non-news, really. Come on, when was the last time you saw Hofmeister or Kestrel on draught? And another thing, I take issue with the assertion that UK brewers watered down their lagers as they thought the British drinker couldn't handle it. The simple fact is that, just as today, beer was taxed according to it's alcoholic content (see here for current taxation rates), so stronger lager would have been more expensive than the traditonal bitter and in those days of less disposable income, price-sensitivity was much more of an issue. To some extent it's still an issue, why else do you think some lagers are classed as "premium beers"? Clue: it's not because they're decent beers. Yep, it's because they've got a higher alcohol content and attract a higher rate of duty. Anyway, good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. Now if we could only persuade the British brewers to adopt the German purity law, they might actually come up with a lager worth drinking...

And another thing, if lager was introduced into this country as a result of British holidaymakers enjoying the taste of the foreign beers on holiday, why is it that on the few occasions I went abroad during the 1980s, the pubs sold English piss, er, beers? Well, they didn't in Germany, obviously, but everywhere else they did.

Taste test - I might as well continue the beer theme. My mate Kev bought me some beers back from his summer holiday. Beers from the Country Life Brewery located at The Big Sheep in Devon, in fact. So, as I'm all out of decent imported lager, I gave them a whirl. I started with the Country Bumpkin - a bottle-conditioned, dark ale and 6.0% ABV. It's very nice. A bit cloudy, but nice. Next up, Wallop. Only 4.4% ABV, but a nice light golden colour and very refreshing. I finished the night off with Sam's Medium Devon Cider, from the Winkleigh Cider Company. (A search for which turned up the amusingly-named but unfortunately defunct, www.fannycolas.com). Not quite in the White Lightnin' league at only 6% ABV, but much tastier - more apple-y and sweeter. As ciders go, and I'm no aficianado, one of the best I've had. Thoroughly recommended, as indeed are the other two beers. Next time you're in that part of Devon, check out the brewery, you're unlikely to be disappointed.

Regular readers might have noticed that this site appeared to fall off the Internetto on Tuesday, and there's been some disruption in the past. As far as I can tell these outages have been entirely down to server problems at UK2.net. I use their re-direct service to point to my free web space on Virgin. For future reference, or if you just want to look at my source code (ooh-er missus!), if I fall off the net again you should still be able to find me at http://freespace.virgin.net/slim.lawrence/index.htm Of course, if Virgin's freespace servers fall over as well (as appeared to happen briefly) I won't be there. And you won't even think about using that alternative until next time the fatfakir.com link fails, and then it'll be too late, because you haven't made a note of it and you can't access my site to find out what the alternative address is...


Tuesday 14th October

21:30

Resurrecting the Mohole Project

The original Mohole Project was an attempt to drill thorough the Earth's crust to the mantle below, in deep water of the coast of Mexico, which was abandoned in 1966 due to spiralling costs. In order to keep the costs down, I'm planning to start in my cellar with a pick-axe and a shovel. I'll also need a couple of long ladders and a bucket system for removing the soil, but I reckon I won't need to invest in those till I've been going for a couple of weeks at least. I'm at a bit of a disadvantage as my house is at the top of a hill, but I reckon my lo-tech method will prove much cheaper and is less likely to frighten the Morlocks who, as we all know, live at the centre of the Earth. Downward into the 19th Century!

Tip of the Day (No. 3659): When choosing a new notification sound for your Inbox, try to choose one that does not scare the Beejasus out of you every time you receive new mail. For example, I have a wav file of Papa Lazarou saying "Hello Dave" which plays every time I receive new mail and for some reason this file seems to be louder than every other wav file on my system. Thus, I am startled by it every time it plays. Every bleedin' time. I've run it through Soundprobe to make it quieter, but it still makes me jump.

Sport, sport, masculine sport, equips a young man for society. Although in my case it seems to equip me for the anti-society, but I think that has something to do with the amount of alcohol I drink whilst watching it. I really ought to start playing rugby again - at least I'd have an excuse to be wandering the streets with my trousers round my ankles singing "Four and twenty virgins"... Anyway, I've enjoyed a full weekend of the old sporting action. The Rugby World Cup has been as predictable as I, er, predicted - you could pretty much name the winner of each match beforehand and the only interest was in how many points they would score (and I think that pattern will continue - so far I've scored 100%). That said, England, New Zealand and France have been the only teams to have impressed me so far. England were the most controlled of the sides, New Zealand put a lot of points past a decent side (albeit a side that expected to get beat) and France put in a solid performance aganst a team they could have had trouble with. I'm still not convinced that South Africa have got the game to beat England and Australia's scrum creaked so badly against Argentina that I'm sure all their other opponents will be looking to exploit that. The other Home Nations all won, although the Welsh will probably be the happiest about the manner of their victory (sorry Lisa) and the Scots most worried. However, I still reckon the semi-finalists will be Australia, New Zealand, France and England. And if that's not the case, I'll show me arse in Boots window.

I was pleased to see England's footy team manage the draw they needed in Turkey, although once again it was the actions of a few mindless thugs off the field that caught the headlines. Admittedly they'd only just gone off the field for half-time, but even so. Anyway, that's England through to the European Championships next summer. If only I had a job, I could think about saving up to take a trip out there....


Thursday 9th October

22:30

And now the screaming starts

Why is it that amongst all the furore about Arnie being elected governor of California, everyone seems to have forgtten that Britain has already elected former Olympian, Sebastian Coe and noted actress, Glenda Jackson into Parliament. If I have to read another "Could it happen here?" article I shall scream. Oh, and "hats off" to The Guardian, who include Anthony Hopkins in their list of possible suspects for the UK despite the fact that he's recently taken up American citizenship. Good to see that the BBC doesn't have a monopoly on sloppy journalism.... Anyway, given that his Predator co-star, Jesse Ventura has already been elected Governor of Minnesota, I'd put a few quid on one of his other co-stars running for office before too long. And just because he's now the Governator, don't think you'll escape his crappy movies - 'Joe's Last Chance' and 'Around the World in 80 Days' are still in post-production. Finally, I have to say that Mrs Arnie, Pam Shriver, was looking a lot better than she did at Wimbledon this year. Funny though, I always thought she played for the other side....

Signs that you are going bald: Number One - It's a sure sign that you're going bald when your mother says that she thinks you've been "over-zealous with the clippers on the top of your head" despite the fact that you haven't had a haircut for about six weeks. Ta, ma. Not only I am apparently unemployable, but I'm also a bit of a slaphead. Self-esteem. Wherefore art thou, self-esteem?

Tis apparently National Poetry Day today. Which isn't actually that interesting, I suppose, but does give me an excuse to update Poetry Corner with some tedious scribblings. To be honest, I have missed the Poetry Challenge, somewhat, so I think you might be seeing a few more regular updates to the Poetry Corner in the future. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Oh, yeah, don't expect too many comprehensible, or regular, updates in the near future - the Rugby World Cup starts tomorrow, and I'll be concentrating on that for the next few weeks.


Sunday 5th October

21:00

Slightly more stressful than delivering bread

Congratulations (and jubilations) to Tim and Julie, who haved moved house this week. Confusingly, despite moving t' Over Road, they still live 100 miles away. Which is probably a joke that only makes sense if you happen to come from t' Yorkshire. Anyway, hope it doesn't take too long to sort the new place out. Mind you, as long as you've got the essentials - kettle, TV, toothbrush, beer and porn - you can sort the rest out later. Hhhmm, I think that list probably solves a few of the mysteries of my life.....

Well, apart from the fun of completing the poetry challenge and buying two new CDs, this week has been fairly tedious. Job Club was as unexciting as always. ("The first rule of Job Club is: You do not talk about Job Club. The second rule of Job Club is: You do not, er, no, it's no smoking in the resource room.") And I still haven't got round to scanning in those family photos. I'll have to try to do that this week, although I've got a few other things that need sorting out first.

Finally, here's a link you've probably all been sent already (courtesy of b3ta.com) - Tom Baker swearing. Rght click on the link and select "Save Target As..." to save it to your PC, or click on the link to stream it via your preferred streaming application. Definitely not work safe, so don't play it over your speakers in the office. Basically, it's a load of outtakes from a voice-over session for Symphony furniture. And very, very funny, albeit full of profanities. I'm now thinking of changing my name to Symphony....


Tuesday 30th September

22:45

Good News!

Or bad news depending on your point of view. The Poetry Challenge is over. Not an unqualified success I have to admit - the intention was to update every day and I certainly didn't manage that. On the other hand, I produced a new piece just about every day and over the course of the month have written more stuff than I have in the last three or four years. How much of it survives any length of time is open to debate, but there are a few pieces that I'll rework and tidy up, and possibly develop. And there are one or two pieces I can live happily without ever seeing again. Anyway, I enjoyed it, even if you lot didn't, and to celebrate you get two poems for the price of one.


Monday 29th September

18:00

A bit more than post-hangover fallout

Well, I can only apologise for the lack of an update for the last week or so, but I've been suffering from some sort of "delightful" gastric complaint. I have been like unto the camel - passing through the eye of a needle. But that's probably more information than you really wanted. I've also been completely knackered, so unable to drum up the necessary enthusiasm for updates post-Friday's Poetry Challenge piece. Anyway, I'm feeling almost fit again now, so on with the show.

Good news for stiletto-wearers everywhere, and not just the ladies. As reported here, and elsewhere, the latest research shows that the wearing of high heels can actually provide some protection against the development of osteoarthritis in the knees. As usual, being overweight is actually the bigest contributory factor in the development of osteoarthritis in the knees. So I'll still have to lose a few pounds before I can wear those thigh-boots again....

Just when you thought it was safe to let AutoUpdate handle all your browser security concerns, comes news that MS's last patch for Explorer didn't work properly. Fortunately, I've already disabled ActiveX in my browser, or more correctly set the browser to prompt before running any ActiveX controls, and then I only allow them to run on a couple of trusted sites. Of course, as the article points out, the irony is that you need to ActiveX controls enabled to access the Microsoft Update site and, in my experience, make any use of Microsoft's site at all.

Currently on the stereo - Natural History by I Am Kloot and the Pixies' Doolittle, both of which have been out for ages but I never got round to buying on CD (I have Doolittle on tape). To be honest, they make a much needed change from the free CD's from the Sunday papers. Actually, I don't mind the classical music compilations as they make good background music, but the contemporary stuff is pretty much terrible. The worst offender is, I think, the Daily Express's "Essential 70's Collection" - a 4 CD set with each CD comprising 8 70's tracks that you vaguely remember and 12 (count 'em, 12!) "new 70s-style" tracks from Tight Fit Records, which all sound the same and probably made by the same two blokes under a variety of pseudonyms. Anyway, that's getting off the point a bit. The I am Kloot album is very good and I've been meaning to buy it since my brother played it to me at Christmas, and as it was in the sale at HMV, I finally did. (I might have to venture to Fopp! in Sheffield to see if I can get their new one for somewhat less than HMV are charging for it.) They (Kloot, that is) are poppy and in a similar vein to The Coral, although without the organ and the sea shanties, and some of it is very reminiscent of "Spike"-era Elvis Costello - you know, when he turned pop and collaborated with Paul McCartney. If you don't know about the Pixies by now, you never will. Must say that I'm both excited and worried about talk of a Pixies reunion. Excited because it means I might get to see them play live and worried because they might be rubbish.

I've still not scanned those family photos yet, by the way. I might get round to it later in the week. Once I've done the important stuff, like looking for a job, finishing off the Poetry Challenge, that sort of thing.


Tuesday 23rd September

16:40

Last night I dreamed I was dreaming of you

Did I say Monday. Er, I meant Tuesday. Actually, I meant Monday, but somehow managed to not find the time to do the update before Kev arrived. So onwards with this somewhat belated bit of bloggery....

Well, "somewhat unexpectedly" my brother Mark and his partner Kate called in to see me on Saturday morning. They were on their way back home from Leeds and it was actually a coincidence that they were in the area at the same time that the parents weren't around. Anyway, at Kate's prompting, I dragged out the family photographs and we had a jolly old time perusing those. We even found one or two that I'll be scanning and putting up here for general hilarity.

On Saturday evening I took myself off to rainy Mexborough to see No Names Mentioned and Disarm at the Boy And Barrel public house. When I got there the place was rammed, which is always a good sign. Even if the average age of the crowd did, in the landlady's words, "make the place look like a youth club". I note though, that she was perfectly happy to sell most of them beer. So happy in fact that they ran out of lager towards the end of the night. Anyway, despite my somewhat delayed arrival (more of which later) I hadn't missed anything as there'd been a problem with the PA, so neither band had yet played. Once things were sorted out, and the pub jukebox turned off, No Names Mentioned gave us a blistering set of good old-fashioned thrash metal. Loud, fast, heavy. Very enjoyable indeed. As you know, I've had a bit of trouble describing Disarm, mainly because I'm not that hot on the various metal genres, but on the basis of the set they played on Saturday, I'd be prepared to say that they're very good. A solid set of tunes and a well-balanced set was made all the better for being cranked up in front of an enthusiastic set of fans. Very impressive. And very enjoyable - probably the best live gig I've been to this year. Mind you, I haven't been to that many. Anyway, they get the big "FatFakir Thumbs Up." Certainly deserving of a wider audience.

Now, as some of you may know, I don't usually have much luck with public transport. Perhaps I ought to learn to drive, but then I'd have to decide between drinking and driving, and I'd drive and then decide to have a drink and end up losing my licence for drink-driving. So why go there? Anyway, I don't have a lot of luck with buses, especially. On Saturday night I left my house in the pouring rain to catch the bus to Mexborough, and the scheduled one didn't turn up. I thought it might have been running a bit late, so I hung around, besides the next one was due in twenty minutes or so. The next one didn't show up either. A bus did finally turn up once I'd been waiting an hour and was on the verge of giving up and going back home to call a taxi. So, instead of arriving in Mexborough at quarter past eight, I got there about quarter past nine. Still, no harm done fortunately as the bands hadn't played. Post-gig, I realised that I'd missed the last bus. Still, I thought I had time to get the last train. Nope, I'd missed that too. I briefly contemplated sleeping on the station but decided to try my luck getting a cab instead. Could I get one? Could I feck! So I walked home, three sheets to the wind, and huffing and puffing all the way. It only took me about an hour and a half - it's about five miles or so, with some nice hills, especially at the Conisbrough end. I feared that my legs and back would be giving me grief on Sunday, but if they were, they were being drowned out by the grief I was getting from my head, and stomach. My foot is a bit sore, but otherwise I've had no adverse reaction to my long trek.

So having spent Sunday recovering, I had to spend Monday tidying up, as my old mate Kev came over to see me for the evening. His Uncle Malc used to own a DIY-cum-gardening shop on the Doncaster Road, just outside Mexborough, so we had a trip out to see what had become of it. It's no longer a shop, but has been converted into a house, or possibly two flats. On the way back we stopped off for a quick pint in The Pastures, but sadly, local celebrity Paul Shane wasn't there. So it was back to mine for some more beers. I cooked dinner, rather slowly it must be said, and then we went out to my local, The Alma, for more beers and, in Kev's case, a few Southern Comforts. Then back home to talk shite and drink more beers. Same sort of thing we used to do when we were students, really. Only this time, I didn't set the house on fire....

Sadly, it turns out that although Super Dario is pretty super, he still needs a bit of maintenance every now and again. I refer, of course, to the long-serving Crewe manager Dario Gradi who has, according to this news story, had a heart valve replacement operation. It was apparently a scheduled operation, although for obvious reasons, no one outside the club was informed beforehand. Things seem to have gone well and I wish the great man a speedy and successful recovery and the best of health for the future.

Finally, you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you should never pick your friend's nose.


Sunday 21st September

21:00

Another bloody hangover

Feeling a bit delicate today, so have merely updated the Poetry Challenge page. Will be giving a full update tomorrow, including a review of Saturday night's gig. Ooh, my poorly head/stomach/arse. I'm off back to bed.


Friday 19th September

22:00

Alone Again Or

Wahey! The old folks have gone off on holiday leaving me home alone for a while! So it's off to the chippy for lunch every day and the offy for tea. No tidying up, no getting dressed, no need to bother even getting out of bed, no doing the washing up. In fact, no nothing if I don't feel like it. Except, of course, I've got visitors a-coming, so I've got to tidy up, get dressed, etc, etc. It's a tough life...

True to form my parents managed to completely faff about before setting off on their holiday. Their intended mid-morning departure turned into a mid-to-late afternoon departure. I'd decided to not go to Job Club until they'd set off - I foolishly imagined that they'd be gone by lunchtime and I could then get a peaceful afternoon concentrating on looking for a job. Anyway, by 1pm, they were no closer to departing, so I left them to it and headed out. Turns out that they didn't leave till about 3.30pm. Which meant they didn't reach their Devon destination till about 9pm. So that was the first day of their holiday wasted. Still they'll be a way for a while now, so I don't have to worry about them one iota.

As part of my temporary footloose and fancy-free lifestyle, I'll be popping out tomorrow night to take in the melodic rock stylings of Disarm at the Boy & Barrel pub in Mexborough. They'll be supported by No Names Mentioned and a "Special Mystery Guest". I'm looking forward to it and you can all look forward to the review here, whether you like it or not.

Erm, if you reverse backwards in your car, does that mean you're actually going forwards?


Tuesday 16th September

17:50

Broadcasting a joyful noise

Forgot to mention yesterday (and how could I forget this?) that I went to see Crewe Alexandra in action on Saturday evening. They took on the not-so-mighty Rotherham at their Millmoor ground. A ground where Crewe have not been defeated since 1969. Needless to say, that sequence remains unbroken, despite the fact that I bumped into my old friend Monique. It was very nice to see her and see how much her kids have grown. It was also nice to see her Mum and Dad, albeit only briefly. It's been a couple of years since we last met and even longer since we've both been at an Alex away game where they've won. Anyway, despite this potentially disastrous conjunction, Crewe were mostly the better side and deservedly won through a Dean Ashton penalty and Richard Walker toe-poke. The ref had a dreadful game however and we were all surprised that he awarded the penalty given the amount of shirt-pulling and pushing he was prepared to overlook elsewhere on the park. Still, it was a win. I have some fairly unpleasant memories of visiting Millmoor from back in the late 80s/early 90s, and as far as I could tell the only thing that has changed in the last 15 years or so is the cost of getting in. That and the fact that the pub on the corner of the roundabout is now a lapdancing club. Anyway, it cost an unlikely sixteen quid to get in, which I thought was taking the proverbial, but then I used to think a fiver was far too much to pay. I am planning to go to see Crewe at Sheffeld United on 11th October, but as that's the same day as the final round of qualifying matches for the European Championship (including, of course, England vs Turkey) I suspect it may get postponed.

Spoof website of the week - has to be Angle-Grinder Man, surely? This superhero of the streets is allegedly the UK's first "vigilante cum subversive superhero philanthropist entertainer type personage" Well, full marks for the use of the word "cum" in that construction, but no marks for forgetting the all important hyphenation, which would have rendered this a contender for the "Hyphenated-cum-phrase Top Ten". I think that pretending your real name is Dick Splash does give the game away somewhat - especially when a quick Internet registry search suggests that it's Alan. Unless, of course, the website owner and Angle-Grinder Man are two different people..... Mind you, if I find out this is another Channel 4 spoof, I'll be straight down to their headquarters on Horseferry Road to register my complaint in the strongest possible terms.


Monday 15th September

18:15

Gratuitous sexist nonsense

Here's a news story to gladden the heart, possibly. According to this source everybody's favourite ex-Changing Rooms star, Linda Barker, will be modelling underwear, all in the name of "charidee" of course. But if you prefer something a bit younger, then perhaps this news that ex S Club 7 bird, Rachel Stevens, is to work for Pretty Polly might be of more relevance. And for tha laydeeez, there's always The Sun's Superhunks. Calm yourselves!

And whilst we're marking the passing of Thora Hird, across the pond they're burying Johnny Cash. There was a tribute to him on BBC2 last night, with performances culled from his appearance on Later... With Jools Holland. As these performances were taken from about ten years ago, he looked in remarkably good health, but apart from Jools Holland looking about 12 years old, there wasn't that much to date the performances on, so his appearance in the video for Hurt, which closed the show, was a bit of a shock. That and the fact that the Man In Black was covering a Nine Inch Nails song and making it his own. Anyway, it was the passing of Mr Cash that inspired Norman Wisdom Blues. I was going to write a Coronation St-based pastiche of San Quentin but I couldn't get any further than "Stan Ogden, you've been living hell to me". Which is probably good news for everyone.

A while ago Kate was suggesting that I gave out some Internet searching tips. Well, I don't think there's any great secret to it, apart from the use of a decent search engine and the application of some common sense (as I think I stated way back in August when railing against those complaining about "blog noise") but here goes:

  1. Use Google.co.uk. In my experience, this turns up more relevant results than google.com for some reason. Which is slightly puzzling as it theoretically runs on the same search engine. Perhaps that's just my perception...
  2. Use as many keywords as possible. Obvious really, but the more specific you are the fewer search results you have to wade through. On the other hand, you don't want to be too specific, so avoid using "" marks round your search criteria unless you're looking for that specific phrase. And the Google search engine limits the queries to the first ten words anyway....
  3. Ignore any search results which include the words "ringtones", "mp3s", and "free downloads" more than once in the summary. And results where your query string seems to have been shoehorned in amongst other irrelevant phrases.
  4. Use the above tip and also apply a bit of common sense to the summaries and URLS of your search results - www.xxx.com won't turn up information about that Vin Diesel movie, for example.
  5. Make sure you've got plenty of time. Be prepared to follow a lot of links. And don't be afraid to follow a link off a search result site. You might have to go down a few blind alleys before you find the right results. For example, I was looking for some technical information for a newsgroup the other day, and it took me a couple of hours to turn up the relevant information.
  6. Do lots of searches. The more you do, the more you'll come to recognise the shit from the shinola, as I believe the saying goes.

And that really is the secret of my "success". Nothing more exciting than that. Of course, most of that can be applied to any search engine, but of all the ones I've tried Google is the one I like most. Now, of course, equipped with that information you'll no longer need me to dig out the tales of the weird and wonderful, so I suspect it'll just be me reading this in the future....


Thursday 11th September

23:20

"The plane, boss, the plane!"

I know it's not right, and I'm sure that in this post-9/11 world it'll attract hate mail, but I have this mental picture of Tattoo and Mr Roarke from Fantasy Island on the viewing deck of the World Trade Centre, and whilst Mr Roake is enjoying the view, Tattoo is looking the other way and anxiously trying to attract his attention. Well, if I had any belief in the concept of Hell, I'd be declaring that I'll be burning there for that. Come on now, someone else must have already thought it surely? No? Just me? Ah, well, I'll get me coat.

Poetry Challenge has been updated again. I'm still updating it every day, but usually around midnight. I hope that more people than just Kate are enjoying the poems - some criticism, constructive or otherwise, would be appreciated. Mind you, if you all think they're rubbish, that'll just make me more depressed and stop writing altogether. Doing the poems has at least given me something to distract me from the tedium of trying to find gainful employment. Of course, in my dreams, I'd like to receive an e-mail praising my talent and offering me the job of Poet Laureate, or possibly just poet-in-residence somewhere. Heck, even the offer to publish my poems somewhere with a wider readership than this website would be nice.

Now, as anyone who's followed this site for any length of time will know, I'm no great film buff. In fact, I'm not even a haf-decent film buff, (trash is my speciality) but it has to be said that Triumph of the Will is still a powerful film even now, almost seventy years on. That's not an endorsement of the Nazi party, but more a testament to the vision and genius of Leni Riefenstahl. Described as "artistic genius, political nitwit" Leni, who died this week, undoubtedly produced one of the masterpieces of "spin". Whether or not she intended it as such is open to debate - she was certainly influenced by Hitler personally, but later developed a long standing enmity with Goebbels. But if you want to know what made the National Socialists so attractive, watch this. And I haven't even mentioned the homo-erotic subtext... And if that's your bag, man, the best way to watch the film is to turn down the soundtrack, put on a Laibach album and march round the living room wearing your leather trousers...

And thanks to e-laine (and Radio 5) for pointing out that David Blaine's attempt to spend 44 days in a box doing nothing pales into insignificance when compared to Emile Heskey's 4 years...


Monday 8th September

23:00

Worth a thousand words?

Well, that's what they say a picture is, but given the latest two additions to the site, I'm not so sure. first up there's a semi-amusing picture of Lawrence Dallaglio. Semi-amusing in an Austin Powers-stylee that is. And to mark his 28th birthday yesterday, here's an amusing picture of my younger brother demonstrating that style and fashion sense run in our family.

Poetry Challenge has been updated today. I updated yesterday too, but not until nearly midnight and I couldn't be arsed updating this page at the same time. So you'll just have to check that page every day to see if there's anything new there. Mind you, I am updating late at night at the moment, so you'll not see anything new during the day, but you know what I mean, surely?


Saturday 6th September

23:00

Confessions of an amateur poet

Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, this doesn't involve any 1970s film-style revelations about the number of "birds" that have been "gagging for it" this week but rather the "revelation" that the rather busy day I had yesterday, travelling hither and yon, put paid to any update. By the time inspiration struck I was too knackered to bother logging on. So I thought I'd save it till today, but still haven't managed to update at a reasonable hour. I'll try to do better tomorrow. Anyway, you can check out Friday's and today's offering in the usual place. That is all.


Thursday 4th September

19:00

I'm never trusting Channel 4 again

How could they do this to me? My ideal challenge and it turns out to be a hoax! At least I wasn't the only one who was duped. Sadly though, Lapdance Island isn't real. I am heartbroken. It turns out to be part of a series. Ah, look at the website and find out for yourself.

And while we're on the subject of television, I see that BBC2 are now including a little banner in their station idents (as I believe they're called) proclaiming it to be "Channel of the Year". When did this happen and who on earth is responsible for such an award? Oh, wait, it appears to be these guys. The Media section of The Guardian newspaper, in fact. And BBC2 appears simply to be "Terrestrial Channel of the Year", rather than "God of All Channels" as the ident implies, although I couldn't find a single word about this year's winners on the Guardian media official site. Cheers for that, guys.

And having seamlessly linked to online newspapers, here's an article by The Times leading sportswriter which ought to give you pause for thought. Perhaps the language is a bit strong, but the sentiment is certainly right. Not that the former Eastern Bloc countries weren't doing the same thing more than twenty years ago.... Ah, the more things change, as they say.

Finally, having had a bit of correspondence with their manager-cum-webmaster-cum-dogsbody, I have to correct an erroneous impression that I may have given of Mexborough-based band Disarm. I described them as "nu-metal", but having downloaded their recent mp3s from www.disarm.info it's plain to see that they're not. But they are recommended if you like that Lostprophets/Taproot melodic rock vibe crossed with Napalm Death-style growling. Anyway, sorry lads. Hey, at least I didn't call you "stoner rock"!

Oh and don't forget to check out today's offering at Poetry Challenge - I was going to save that one till the weekend, but was struggling for an alternative to use today. Ah, it's a man's life in the poetry army....


Wednesday 3rd September

20:20

More likely to be hit by an asteroid

No major update of the site today - some more computer problems are demanding more of my time than should be necessary. Hopefully, a quick clean-up and a defrag should sort things out - it usually does - although knowing my luck my PC is about to expire just as I've finished paying for it.... Still, you lot can at least read the current entry at Poetry Challenge. Back tommorrow. Possibly.


Tuesday 2nd September

22:30

Better late than clever?

I could do without computer-related problems distracting me and people ringing me up to ask if I'm available for work or interview. Perhaps then I could get my poem written early in the day. Still, the droids you are lookng for can be found here: Poetry Challenge. I'll probably do full blog update tomorrow, but don't hold your breath.


Monday 1st September

18:15

Pinch, punch, first poem of the month

Blimey, this has turned out to be a bit more time-consuming than I thought. Still, the first of this month's poems is available for your delectation and delight. Yep, you're going to have to go to Poetry Challenge to read it. That is all.


Sunday 30th August

22:00

One Poetry Challenge I'm bound to win

The other day I was discussing what to do with my life with an old friend of mine. I said that I wouldn't mind spending more time working on my poetry and getting it sorted out, and said friend pointed out that, although I talk about my poetry a lot, he's never seen any apart from that John Hegley pastiche. Which is a fair cop. So I went looking through my stuff to see what I could find to post on the InterNetto, and not only could I not find much (although I suspect there is some still to be discovered amongst the boxes in the cellar) but what I did find I wasn't too happy with. (Except for the song lyrics that I've written, but they're not getting an airing without the tunes to back them up. It's all about context, man.)

So I think that it's about time I knuckled down to write some more. And to that end I have set myself the task of writing one poem a day during the month of September. Of course, I'm using the term 'poetry' in it's loosest sense - it's more like light verse or doggerel really. Obviously this is going to be a bit of a challenge as I can't find inspiration to update this site every day, so finding poetic inspiration will be doubly difficult. Anyway, possibly at the risk of making things even more difficult for myself, I'm open to suggestions for subject-cum-themes from you, gentle reader. Of course anything along the lines of "Government as an oligarchical hegemony" or "Superstring theory in quantum mechanics" will be ignored, thank you. Anyway, I usually log on first thing in the morning, so you never know - make a witty suggestion in the morning and I might just be able to come up with something before the end of the day.

Anyway, I've put the link to Poetry Challenge (as I've decided to call it) at the top of the links on your left, so it's easy to find. You can check there every day to see what I've written, but there'll also be a small announcement on the site when I update every day, as well as all the usual shite that I like to blather on about. I'll probably archive the poems off at the end off each week, depending on the file size, but if I do, I'll let you know where to find the old stuff. Helpful, aren't I?

Finally, to get us in the mood, I've added two fairly recent efforts to Poetry Corner - 'My Dead Canadian Girlfriend' (short version) and 'One Summer on Sunday'. Enjoy. Or don't.


Thursday 28th August

17:10

Music Special

Eeh, it seems like everyone's at it these days. Remixing tracks by Elvis that is. Not very hard on the heels of JXL's funked-up (I said FUNKED) A Little Less Conversation here comes Paul Oakenfold's remix of Rubberneckin', a track from Elvis's 1969 film 'Change Of Habit'. You can download it from here, although, on the low speed connection at least, you have to put up with Paul O himself spouting some bollocks about the origin of the track before you get to the remix. I daresay those of you with a bit more technological nous will be able to download it and then edit out the Oakenmeister. Still, it's too funky to miss out on. Go get it, kids.

Loathe as I am to agree with Chris Moyles, I do have to concur that Scooter "tribute band" Moped are very funny. A bit of a one-trick pony perhaps, but one trick that's done well. Check out their website (click on the cuppa when you get there). Then download either Clokchs or Imagine, which are the two best tracks IMHO. You can give the others a spin if you want (Sweet Child O Mine is pretty funny too) but I think you'll have got the joke by then.

And here's one of the guilty men behind Moped - Diffusion. This site features his "day job", so to speak, which appears to consist mainly of cutting up samples from popular television and welding them to dance beats and breaks. Now where can I get a job like that? Anyway, there's enough stuff here to keep you amused for a while - The Sweeney remix and Bargain Hunt Booty get the "Free Time Thumbs Up", in particular. And the serious stuff, the actual proper remixes, are pretty good too. Plus, he wins extra Fat Fakir bonus points by generously telling everyone else how they can do it too. Nice one. I'm off to download AcidXpress and spend the next few days mixing my old Hi-De-Hi! samples with some funky dance beats.

And finally, if it's vocal cut-ups that you're after, or indeed musical manipulations of any sort, you could do far worse than check out the sound page of the Evolution Control Committee. Home of the infamous Rocked by Rape Dan Rather cut-up, of course, alongside the patriot-baiting Bush Speech (corrected) and the spoof moon landing recording. Check it out, but don't blame me if some of this isn't work safe. Incidentally, does anyone know what chest size 4XL US is equivalent to, only there some ECC workshirts in that size on cdstreet.com for only 13 bucks and I'd be very tempted if I knew they'd fit me. Come on Eels, you've got one - what size is yours? And the shirt?


Sunday 24th August

23:30

Knock up your women and children?

Are you married to a Welshman? Do you work with one? Or more? Have any of their wives mysteriously managed to "walk into a door" over the weekend? Well, according to this news story there may be no mystery to those bruises that Taff's wife has been seen sporting recently. According to these figures, incidents of domestic violence increase eight-fold when Wales lose to England at rugby union. Given that the Welsh team have just received a record pasting by England's 2nd XV, perhaps that figure will be ten-fold this weekend. What's more alarming is the evidence that incidents quadruple when Wales lose to anyone, and double when they win. I bet the women of Wales pray for a draw every time their team steps out on the park. Of course, one shouldn't take too much notice of a "quick and dirty" survey, the results of which form one paragraph of a more detailed report, but it is a bit of a headline-grabber isn't it? Mind you, I'm sure you could produce similar statistics about the Scottish or Irish rugby teams, or the English football team, because what it's really all about is that where alcohol consumption increases, incidence of violence increases in general. Well, DUH!

As you all know, I'm now attending a Job Club. Well, how much confidence would you have in an organisation that can't even manage to send you what you ask for? I only ask because Personnel Evaluation Consultants, who run my Job Club (and several others in the South Yorkshire Area), are currently looking for staff and I rang them up to ask for an application form. Well, they've managed to send me a letter and all the job descriptions, but have forgotten to enclose the relevant form. Nice one. I could put it down as a "Friday Afternoon Foul-Up" I suppose, but it doesn't inspire confidence in their organisation. Anyway, I'll ring them up on Tuesday and get them to send me the form, then go to the Job Club on Wednesday or Thursday and ask them to help me fill in the form. With all their experience of what the job entails they should be able to help me put in the right sort of stuff. Sorted. Ah, I'm already looking forward to it being my turn to shout "Okey-cokey, pig-in-a-pokey! Good Morning Jobseekers!"

And is it just me or does that Linda Barker look a bit "Sally-staring-eyes-breadknife" in those Currys adverts? I certainly wouldn't want to wake up in the morning to find her wielding those scissors at the end of my bed. I'd be checking to see if I still had the same number of body parts as when I went to sleep....


Wednesday 20th August

16:30

The sound of one hand tapping....

Ouch! How on Earth did that happen? I went to bed on Monday evening in reasonable health and in possession of a full complement of pain-free limbs and I woke up on Tuesday feeling like I'd broken my wrist. I haven't, of course, as it surely would have swelled up and been painful to touch, but it definitely feels like I managed to sprain it during the night. So, I'm having to manage one-handed at the moment, which wouldn't be too bad if it wasn't my left-hand that I'm having to manage without. Being left-handed this is something of a drawback. Actually, today isn't as bad as yesterday and I can do a bit of typing, although I'm still having a bit of difficulty opening bottles and carrying heavy things. On the upside, a few well-timed grumbles of complaint have managed to excuse me from household duties. Probably the most annoying thing is that I can't even blame the demon drink as I haven't touched a drop since last Friday night.

Long-time sufferers, er sorry, surfers of this particular spot on the Interweb will know of my inexplicable fondness for the output of V/VM. Well, I'm mentioning them again because I have uncovered two more tracks on their site that you simply must listen to. First up, their super-slo-mo version of Chris De Burgh's Lady In Red can be downloaded from here. I have mentioned it before, but it is simply awesome. And secondly, thanks to a bit of copyright theft (how unusual) you can download a version of the old Chas'n'Dave hit Snooker Loopy. However, it's a version by Dutch (I think) band De Strangers and sung entirely in foreign. Anyway, go here and download 'Snooker Loopy (Original Mix)' for some surreal laughs. Incidentally, if you want to sing along to this you can get the lyrics here. Enjoy.

A while back I was moaning about not being able to automatically spellcheck my files before uploading them. Well, I've since discovered that I can do that, and a whole lot more, using Adobe GoLive. Hurrah! On the other hand, it also indents all my code and leaves it looking a bit of a horrid mess. I realise that this doesn't actually affect anything, but I like my source code the way I wrote it, thank you very much. I've had to spend some time removing the extra tabs that GoLive inserted. Still, at least t automatically closed all those paragraph tags for me....


Friday 15th August

23:30

I started something I couldn't finish

Bloody Hell, what a day! Well, first thing this morning I got a set of forms in the post relating to my claim for Jobseekers Allowance. Strange, I thought, I'm sure I filled in these forms a couple of weeks ago - I'll ring the DSS and find out what's going on. Sadly, their number seemed to be permanently engaged. So I filled in the forms and took them in with me when I went to the Job Centre. Turns out I did fill the forms in a couple of weeks ago and they had them there in the office but they were unable to process them as I had returned them too early! WHAT!?!?!? But you wrote to me telling me that I needed to get these forms and return them as soon as possible to ensure that my claim was treated as one continuous claim and that I didn't lose any benefits! What they should have told me was to fill in the forms but not return them until the right date. So I wasted a morning filling in a duplicate set of forms, which were promply shredded after I had re-signed the original forms to say that my circumstances were still as declared. After all the rushing about I did last week this was more than mildly irritating. And then to cap that, my 15 minute train journey from Job Centre to Job Club became an hour-long journey after a signal failure held us up for 45 minutes, less than 200 yards from Doncaster station. Arse! Good job I wasn't going anywhere important.

Last week doxdesk picked up a parasite on my PC, this week my anti-virus discovered a Trojan. And my PC has crashed more times in the last fornight than it has in the last two years. I'm beginning to regret updating my versions of Explorer and Outlook Express. (Although I really ought to get round to updating my RealPlayer...) It can't really be a coincidence, can it? Plus the fact that Windows Critical Update informed me of at least one new download or patch every day last week. I'm starting to feel like that old Greek hero, er, Shushyface, or whatever he was called, who was destined to forever have to roll a giant ball up a hill only to have it roll back down again when he reached the top. Sisyphus, that was the geezer. I am forever doomed to be applying patches and downloads to my MS software only to discover virus infections or security breaches every time I think I've finished. Still, at least my creaky old Windows 98 installation isn't vulnerable to this MSBlast infection. Yet.

My ex-cow-orker, Lisa has linked to a story on The Register about "blog noise" on Google. This is basically, people complaining because of the way that blogs can skew Google search results and return too many "useless and irrelevant" sites. "Oh, Google just turns up too many blogs when I want proper information." Well, refine your search, set Google to display more results per page, look at a website's URL before you click through, and stop whining. Anyway, to me this seems akin to asking the librarian to index the library and then blaming the index for the contents of the library. You know, you can apply a little common sense and filter the information yourself by not clicking on the links to blogs! It seems to me, that in this Now! Age, people aren't prepared to actually put a bit of effort in and expect a bit of software to do it all for them. When I was a student and searching the library for relevant information for my dissertation (The development of shelterdecks on British trawlers under 10m in length since 1970, if you must know) my library search returned something like 37 pages of relevant books and I had to wade through that lot. If only I hadn't given up on page 4... Anyway, over on Lisa's site I suggested we should make every third Friday of the month International Blog Noise Day and that every blog should devote itself to one particular topic, just to firk around with Google a bit more. My initial suggestion was "blog noise", but that's so yesterday and besides Lisa trumped it (so to speak) with Lapdance Island. Ooh, it's like Heaven and Hell combined! And yes, I've got my application in.


Monday 11th August

21:30

Definitely Sinister

I give you fair warning that Wednesday is International Left-Handers Day. Yeah, I know that just about every cause has a "Day" now (although White Lightning doesn't, but then every day is a White Lightning day for me now....) but as one of the 13% of the population who is sinistrally gifted, this is one I'm putting my not inconsiderable weight behind. So on Wednesday, I'll be joining in by doing everything left-handed. So, no change there. Oh wait, I play my guitar right-handed, so I can't do that on Wednesday. Hhm, perhaps I can "designate my personal space as a LEFTY zone" Ah, I've already done that too. Oh well perhaps I'll spend the day listening only to songs by left-handed musicians. So, that's a day of Mozart, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Glenn Gould, Hendrix, Bowie, Dick Dale, Kurt Cobain, Michael Stipe, Isaac Hayes, and, er, Sir Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins and Billy Ray Cyrus. On second thoughts, perhaps not. And that list started so promisingly.... Anyway, why not celebrate Left-Handed Day by sending one whole English pound to your favourite left-handed blog writer? And if you can send me a pound too, that'd be great.

I have finally managed to work out how to download pictures from my digital camera to my PC, but only after I managed to lose yet another set of pictures - this time from my weekend visit to see my younger sister. The weather was lovely (apart from the storm we passed through round Stoke-on-Trent on the way there) and I thought I got some decent pictures of my nephews playing in the garden. However, looking at this picture of a Hibiscus and this one of a mystery plant that my mother is growing (anyone know what it might be?), I suspect that the pictures might not have been all that good. To be fair, I knew the picture quality wouldn't be all that good - I only paid £30 of the camera and it's the size of a matchbox. And I have managed to download photos from it in the past and they were OK at best, but I never intended to use them on the Interweb. Ah well, I suppose I'll just have to splash out on a decent camera when I finally get a few quid together. Or perhaps I should just set up a begging site at www.buymeadigitalcamera.com (and yes, that domain name is still available).

Just how much would you trust an Internet address that you saw graffitied on the side of an underpass? I ask because on my travels from Conisbrough to Nantwich on Sunday, I saw www.wincashprizes.com scrawled on just such an underpass on the way through Stoke. Part of me reckons that it's got to be a scam, designed to draw in the unwary, and yet part of me thinks it might be worth checking out. Anyway, I did a bit of research and the domain has been registered by Network Solutions and there's just a holding page there at the moment. Still, I don't think I'll ever be checking back to find out when the page has been updated.

Yes, you can have free legal advice for just the price of a phone call!*

Well, that's bound to be the pitch if ICSTIS get their way. There'll be a rush of lawyers and accountants out to offer you their services "free" over the phone. But if you do the maths, a maximum charge of £75 works out at about 15 minutes. Now, how quickly do you think these people will work out that the best approach is to cap the length of the phone call at 15 minutes, and then recommend a "proper professional consultation with one of our recommended advisers" at whatever extravagant rate they charge these days. Mind you, at four calls an hour, and £75 per call, that's a healthy £300, and even if you allow for costs, that's a nice little earner. Perhaps I ought to get into the legal advice business once I've run my digital camera scam.

*Calls charged at £5 per min. Maximum call charge £75. Maximum call length 15mins. Other charges may apply if calling from a mobile phone or callbox.


Friday 8th August

13:40

Why do you whisper, green grass?

Sad to see that one of Britain's greatest comedians came to the end of the road last week. I refer, of course, not to Bob Hope but to Don Estelle. Little Don, who recently appeared as a zookeeper in The League of Gentlemen, was better known for his portrayal of Gunner "Lofty" Sugden in the long-running hit series It Aint Half Hot Mum, but he made his first TV appearance as an extra, playing darts in the Rovers Return on Coronation Street. Anyway, Don himself has a website, but it hasn't been updated since June 2000, and sadly won't be in the future. There is something profoundly poignant in listening to his personal introduction though. You can also listen to samples of him singing and reading extracts from his autobiography (not both at the same time, obviously). And if you're interested in his 1975 hit "Whispering Grass" you can download a scratchy version of it in Real Player format from this site.

I shouldn't laugh I suppose, but this local news story had me sniggering like a schoolboy. It is, sadly, a serious story about the theft of road signs ruined by both the name of the road and the unfortunately-named pensioner quoted in the article. Just try not to think of the phrase "I saw Arthur Laycock up Butt Hole Road".....

I don't suppose this will ever be a plausible excuse to use in the world of computing but you could always give it a try, I suppose. I'd certainly be on the lookout for any network administrators who suddenly started wearing big, flappy trousers. "Yeah, I'm sorry the system crashed, but my trousers accidentally caught on the reset button and I fell over...." Or maybe not. Worth bearing in mind though, I think.

I spent yesterday afternoon in the delightful surroundings of Brodsworth Hall. Which was a very pleasant contrast to the wasted morning at the Job Club - they've retyped my CV for me ("to give it a bit more white space") and it now contains half a dozen spelling mistakes..... Anyway, Brodsworth Hall is a splendid Victorian manor house, which has some fabulous gardens. Of which I took a few pictures. Admittedly mainly close-ups of some of the more interesting specimens, but pictures nonetheless. I was somewhat relieved to get home without my digital camera resetting itself and was looking forward to downloading a few here for your delectation and delight. Sadly, the program I was using to download the pictures to my PC crashed in the middle of the download, and crashed my PC completely, thus consigning my pictures to the ether. It's a curse, I tells ya! So, no happy pictures of my day out. Still, it was a nice afternoon out and the gardens are rather impressive, especially the fern dell. If you're ever in the area, you should check it out.


Monday 4th August

23:15

Lying on your bed reading Beanos

One my ex-co-workers, Jack, has included this interesting link on his site to an Estate Agent who are, apparently, flogging off some of the MoD's unwanted nuclear bunkers. Sadly, these are all merely small emergency shelters rather than the huge underground bunkers of popular film. But it did cause me to recall Cheshire's own "secret bunker" at Hack Green, just outside Nantwich. Just about everyone over the age of about twenty-five in Nantwich and the surrounding area must have been down to look at or even trespass on this supposedly secret site at one time or another and CND used to target it at least once every six months. Now it's a tourist attraction. And yes, it is even signposted "Secret Bunker". Ah well, at least I'm not likely to be arrested next time I'm in the vicinity. Or does the statute of limitations not apply when it comes to Crown property?

I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here. I noticed on Saturday that my PC processor was running really slowly when it was cnnected to the Internet and that the lovely red light on the front that indicates the disk is being read was almost permanently on. I ran System Monitor and it was showing that processor usage was running 100%. Well, that was definitely not right. I checked my firewall and that wasn't showing any unexpected programs connecting to the Internet. So, I disconnected and ran my anti-virus program but that didn't show up any signs of infection either. Curious. Mind you, I didn't pay for either my firewall (ZoneAlarm - highly recommended) or anti-virus (AVG Free - not so recommended). Anyway, in a moment of inspiration, I re-connected to the Interweb and surfed on in (via Google) to doxdesk's parasite page which immediately detected that I had a dodgy ActiveX control installed. The sort of ActiveX control that allows remote access to your PC, in fact. Anyway I followed the instructions to remove it and order was restored to PC. Phew! Hopefully I haven't lost any critical data - I don't store passwords or financial info on my PC - but only time will tell. I've updated my browser and beefed up my security a bit since then, so hopefully I won't get caught again. Touch wood.

Finally, whilst it's nice to be recognised for the excellence or otherwise of past achievements, I don't think that anything on this site can be what anyone looking at ISAs Today is really after, could it? Maybe - I was Number 15 (with a bullet!) on their list of Procurement Officers web pages. Do you think I should tell them?


Friday 1st August

23:20

Definitely not celebrating 'Yorkshire Day'

You sports fans and seekers of trivia may remember that at the end of the last football season, Doncaster Rovers chairman John Ryan, turned out as a substitute in their last game of the regular season. I mention this because I went to see his team play top Scottish team Livingston in a pre-season friendly on Tuesday night. I wouldn't have gone normally, but my cousin Robert, who was the fourth official for the evening, invited me (and my dad). So I got in free, had free drinks and nosh in the VIP Lounge and a seat in the Director's box. Sadly, Rovers couldn't oblige with a win - going down 4-2 in an entertaining game which featured a very dubious penalty decision in Livingston's favour. The result was not entirely surprising as Livingston are in the Scottish Premier Division and Doncaster have just been promoted back in to Third Division of the Football League after an absence of about five years. On the basis of their performance on Tuesday, I'd say that Rovers are good enough to stay in the Third Division, but not quite good enough to be challenging for promotion. And that's about all the forecasting I'll be doing this season, apart from making the fairly safe prediction that Liverpool will finish above Leeds again. Ah, the fatfakir - sees all, knows nowt.

Culinary Journeys, part II - having braved the Indian-style kebab pizza (see below), I'm journeying further into the world of crap food this week and have already tried out Pataks Filled Nan Bread. (Unfortunately, the Pataks website is a bit flaky and uses frames, so if you want to see what I'm on about you'll have to go to the product index page and select the product from there.) These were nice, if a bit on the small side, but suffered the same fate as any other bread/pastry thing reheated in the microwave in that it went a bit dry on the edges and soggy in the middle. And the filling dropped out of the side. I've only seen these on sale in farmfoods so far, at £1 for a box of two, which seems like good value to me, but if anyone's seen them elsewhere at any other price I'd like to know. Overall - nice as an occasional alternative to a sandwich, but not the sort of thing you could eat at your desk.

Anyway, I've bought some other strange/shite food, so look out for more news from the freezer cabinets of doom (aka farmfoods) soon.


Monday 28th July

18:15

"I'd like some Top Totty, please."

I spent a rather marvellous day out yesterday with me old mucker, Kev, at the Sandtoft Gathering. This is basically an open day at the National Trolleybus Museum. Unlike all the other open days of the year though, this one featured a beer tent. So having tasted some of the ales on offer (Crop Circle, Waggledance, Top Totty, Dragonslayer, Spitfire, Batemans XXB, Jennings, and Burton Dark Mild are the ones I remember...) we had a wander round the site and a ride on a trolleybus. As most of the buses on display had been withdrawn from service before I was born, it was a new experience for me to ride on a trolleybus. I have to say that, apart from the quietness of the electric engine, it was pretty much like being on any other bus - right down to the lack of legroom and the strange personal habits of my fellow passengers. The day was also enlivened by the "comedy" announcements coming over the PA. There wasn't anything funny about them per se, but the announcer had a rather idiosyncratic delivery style and the unfortunate impediment of any making any "S" into "Sh", which, after a couple of pints, Kev and I found hilarious. "Absholutely hilarioush", in fact. Well, I'm easily amused, as I like to tell the ladies. Anyway, I did take my digital camera and take some pictures but, true to form, it reset itself before I got home, deleting the dozen or so pictures that I'd taken. So you'll have to look at the pictures on the Trolleybus site and imagine that I'm there. Just think of a fat bloke in a blue shirt, flicking the "V's" from the top deck, and you'll be pretty much spot on.

Never one to disappoint a lady (well, there was that one time, but I had been awake for almost 48 hours and was exceedingly drunk....) I've added a link to the rather wonderful TV Cream website in my Links column. And, Kate me dear, I have travelled far and wide on the old Information M25 (I haven't got Broadband), trawling through the sites dedicated to the under-whelming indie band of the same name and a surprising number of sites offering "ringtones", to bring you not one, but two Belle and Sebastian sites. First up, here's a lovely episode guide courtesy of those nice people at memorabletv.com. And here's one with a few more pictures and the theme tune, by the wonderful people at Little Gems. That's a rather marvellous site - they even have a page on Bleep And Booster, which used to be one of our Mark's favourites, although I'm sure he won't own up to that now! And if you're after more TV themes, try this handy TV Theme Finder site, which also features some very nice wallpapers for your PC.

Intriguing food ahoy! You know, a while back I was talking about Dinner Kebabs - pitta breads, stuffed with savoury fillings, to be reheated in a microwave. Well, knock me down with a feather if Pataks (who's website appears to be permanently down) haven't come up with something similar - folded Nan Bread filled with Chicken Tikka Masala. And yours for only 1 from your local Farm Foods store. Which is where I also got a Pataks Chicken Tikka Masala pizza (very tasty) and this lovely Indian-style Kebab Pizza. Luckily, they included the words "Serving Suggestion" on the front, as otherwise I'm sure I'd have had a case for suing them for false advertising. The only way I could have got my pizza to match the one on the box would have been to add about half a pound of mozarella and a similar amount of kebab meat. But then again, what did I expect for only a quid? Anyway, despite the shortfall in the topping department, it was actually quite tasty - a mix of curry sauce and kebab meat and cheese (surpisingly!). I might well be tempted to get some more. So stay tuned for more adventures on the seamy side of takeaway food and ready meals!


Thursday 24th July

22:00

Is that the best you can do?

Let's play a word game. Rearrange the follow words to make a phrase or saying: "of" "big" "time" "my" "waste" "fat". Have you managed to work it out? Well, once you've spent a morning down at the Job Club, er, Job Search Programme, I can guarantee that you'll get it. Especially if you've spent that morning in a small, hired room that has none of the facilities or comforts of home. You know, how is spending a morning in a place without a phone going to help me? And don't get me started on the "helpful" advice sheets that I got given. Writing a letter? Tip One: Use a black pen. Jesus! Why didn't I think of that? And all this time I've been wasting my time using my computer. God, that must be why I haven't found a job. And nothing to do with my spiralling lack of enthusiasm, no siree Bob. Anyway, not only are there no phone facilities to use, there's no Internet access, limited use of a laptop (with no printer) and a portable photocopier. Apart from the copious supply of the local papers and a kettle for tea and coffee (free of charge!) there's absolutely nothing of any use to the "executive jobseeker" like me, and to be honest, not much for anybody else. So I'm bailing out of the Mexborough branch (Sorry lads) to attend the Doncaster one, where at least they've got facilities comparable to my own. Perhaps they might have someone who'll give me a bit more encouragement too. Or failing that, some sort of Pauline Campbell-Jones/Cathy Carter-Smith character ("Good Morning Jobseekers!") to take the proverbial out of. Hhm, perhaps I just want the moon on a stick.

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed a bit of a change to my Links column on the right, there. Right there. I think it looks a bit better now, but then I'm no designer, so what would I know? I've added links to the Corrugated Iron Club and Readers Sheds and an old favourite of mine, that I've been meaning to add for ages - Pylon of the Month - which sadly seems not to have been updated since December 2000. Still worth a visit though.


Monday 21st July

23:40

Leather elbows on a tweed coat

I'm a fool to myself, I suppose, but I've allowed myself to be annoyed by this story about Mojo magazine's top 100 Greatest Guitar Albums. I mean, I know full well that Mojo's strapline should be "It's like punk never happened" and it is staffed by the sort of pretentious muso-loving types that irritate the pants off me, so I shouldn't be too surprised if anything they write annoys me. Yet annoyed me it has. Because, if you're going to list the "100 Greatest Guitar albums", then why only rank the Top Twenty? Are the other 80 all much of a muchness, or the top twenty that little bit better? Rank them all or not at all. Of course, I'm also irritated by some of the choices - 'The Bends' is a better guitar album than say 'The Smiths'? 'Exile on Main Street'? It's not even the best Rolling Stones LP. No Captain Beefheart in the Top Twenty? Sadly, last time I checked the Mojo website (no, I'm not linking to it) didn't have any further info on their criteria, so I suspect that, much as it pains me, I'll have to buy the actual magazine to find out more. Rest assured that if I do, there will be a thorough criticism on this site. Yeah, I bet they're trembling in their boots already.

Well, I'm sure my last boss would probably say that they had trouble getting me to work my full complement of hours, but I can guarantee that not even they could complain if I didn't manage to fulfill the quota for this job. 370.5 HOURS!!!!! - there aren't that many hours in a week are there? Er, no. In fact, that number of hours equates to almost 15.5 days. That's nearly twice as long as The Beatles credibility-stretching love song 'Eight Days A Week'. Now I'm as prepared as the next man to love someone eight days a week, but work for someone for fifteen and a half days a week? Not for that money, mate.

I'm trying desperately not to turn this site into some sort of online homage to the comedy misprints and rude vegetables of That's Life. So you missed out on the advert for the 80's Disco (dress optional) in the South Yorkshire Times, but I couldn't help uploading this rather marvellous misprint in an advert in my local free paper, the Dearne Valley Weekender. You see, things aren't so "deer" up North. In fact, that's one "h-elk" of a bargain! And yes Esther, that really is the name of the paper and not the bangin' hardhouse rave event that I was at last weekend. Sorted! Hey, Cyril, got any salmons?


Thursday 17th July

20:45

"Of course I still love you, I'm just, er, protecting myself from prostate cancer"

Sometimes you can sit in front of the computer for ages wondering what to write about and other times inspiration is to be found close at hand, so to speak. Take this interesting story, for example. Yes, my male friends, the key to reducing your risk of developing prostate cancer is to "bash the bishop" a bit more regularly. So there you go, the perfect excuse to indulge in a "five-knuckle shuffle" as soon as your partner is out of the way. Guilt-free self-love for all. The maximum protective effect is apparently derived in your 20's, but you can't "backdate" that protection by trying to catch up now, and you're liable to break something trying anyway. "Sorry boss, I can't do any typing. I've got wan...., er, I mean, writer's cramp." Anyway, I daresay that the members of the Cancer Council Victoria will be pulling together to produce a larger sample for any future survey to verify their results. Probably.

By the way, if you haven't visited the TV Cream themes page yet (see the link below) I urge you to hie thee hence and check out the long version of the Rainbow theme music. Strange.


Monday 14th July

20:30

Liberty X, Fraternity Of Man, er, 'Baby Come Back' by The Equals

I'm sure my French readers, of whom I have none, will be pleased to note my subtle reference to the slogan of the French Revolution and the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. Of course, my French readers will also be highly displeased to note that I once said "If God had meant us to swim the Channel, he wouldn't have put France on the other side." But I was only joking when I said that. Or was I?

Jumping on the Internet well-wishery bandwagon, here are some cyberspace-based Congratulations! to Jack and Heather, who are going to become proud parents in a small matter of eight months or so. Ah, the sleepless nights, the crying, the constant demands for food and the perma-smell of sick - and that was just the conception! Seriously, I hope it all goes well for the pair of you.

According to this report fast foods can be as addictive as hard drugs. Something to do with the way that high doses of sugar and fat alter the brain biochemistry in a similar manner to drugs. Which is, of course, good news for all those fatties who want to blame someone else for their own failure to eat a balanced diet. (As opposed to fatties like me, who know full well that an unhealthy diet, consumption of large quantities of alcohol and a lack of regular exercise are what made us the people that we are today.) But it does make me wonder how long it will be before the Government sees fit to put out a Public Information Film warning us of the dangers of fast food - "Yeah, I do the odd cheeseburger now and then, but I can handle it" - and Grange Hill attempts to revive it's flagging fortunes by releasing a cash-in single. "Just Say No (To MacD's)" perhaps? And then there'll be the wheezing bloaters on Tonight with Trevor MacDonald, or Trisha, going on about how they had to steal to support their 10-Bargain-Bucket-a-day KFC habit. And it's only a matter of time before we get Chris Morris persuading half-witted celebrities and politicians to speak out about the dangers of the latest drug on the streets - "Dairylea". Oh, hold on, they actually used to advertise those processed cheese triangles with the slogan "Kids will do anything for Dairylea". Did they know something they weren't telling us?


Wednesday 9th July

13:00

Home Alone!

My parents have gone to Bridlington for the day, with my Granddad, as part of an organised trip, leaving me Home Alone! (As opposed to either "a homeowner loan", which is the sort of financial offer I can only dream about, or Homo Alone, which is a rather disappointing porn film. Probably.) So after I've finished sabotaging the stair-lift and rigging up the flour-bomb booby trap on the catflap, I've got the day to myself. Wahey! So here's a quick update before I nip off to spend the rest of the day in a beer-induced haze, looking at Interweb erotica, or maybe chilling out in front of the Tour De France coverage on Eurosport.

First up - looking for a new hobby? Trainspotting just not doing it for you anymore? Stamps no longer the thrill they used to be? Well, why not get into the joys of corrugated iron? Yep, that staple of allotment sheds, trampy outhouses and dodgy-looking farm buildings now has it own website, here. Thanks Mark for sending me that. Now I know how to while away the long summer days till I get another job....

And thanks to Kate who sent me this link to the Theme Tune repository on the simply awesome TV Cream site. I'll be downloading stuff from here for days. Sadly though, there's no theme tune for The Singing Ringing Tree, which was probably the scariest thing ever shown on children's TV till the arrival of Timmy Mallet. Still, if you want to re-live that childhood trauma, or just want to find out what I'm on aboot, you can check this worryingly complete fan site. And please, don't have nightmares.....


Monday 7th July

12:30

Childish giggle ahoy!

If you've got time, it might be worth nipping out to the newsagents today to take a look at the front page headline of The Times newspaper. Or you can check out it out here. Don't bother reading the story, just look at that headline and chortle away merrily. Ah, if only That's Life was still on the go - I could have sent that to old Cyril Fletcher to read out in that campy way of his.....


Sunday 6th July

17:45

"Take off that brassiere, my dear..."

Ladies and gentlemen, a moment's silence please, to pause and reflect on the death of the soul legend, Sir Barry of White, the so-called "Walrus of Love". (Of course, compared to me - the Leviathan of Love - he was just a lightweight). And whilst we're at it, let's have another couple of moments of quiet reflection for two other greats who have gone to that great party in the sky - Katharine Hepburn and Freddie Blassie. Everybody knows Hepburn, of course, but can you name the four films she won Oscars for? Come on, it's bound to come up in a pub quiz near you in the near future. Well, don't say I never helped you out, because the films are Morning Glory, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?, The Lion In Winter and On Golden Pond.

Fewer people know who Freddie Blassie was, sadly, but he was one of the most enduringly popular US wrestlers, who also found time to release two LPs ('King of Men' and 'I Bite The Songs' from which the single 'Pencil Neck Geek' was taken) and appear in My Breakfast with Blassie - Andy Kaufman's spoof of My Dinner with Andre - which earned him a mention in 'Man On the Moon' by REM. So now you know.

I went to Conisbrough's version of Glastonbury yesterday. Well, not quite. I went to the Three Communities Scarecrow Festival down at the Earth Centre. This is held in aid of the Bluebell Wood Childrens Hospice, and features a scarecrow parade, free entry to the park, live bands, food and various stalls and attractions. It's basically a large scale village fete, to be honest. Well, anyway, I went along to see the live bands, having been somewhat starved of live music since moving up here. I should have known what to expect, having seen them billed as "local youth bands" in the programme. They were all about twenty years younger than me and very much in the nu-metal mode. I managed to miss Capsual Corp who finished just as I arrived. So I got to see the presentation of prizes for the scarecrow competition instead. One of the winners was a very impressive 8ft tall costume, which did actually look a bit scary. (I did take a few pictures of the scarecrows later but my digital camera threw a wobbly and erased them. Arse!) Then after a lot of faffing about 6ft Midget took the stage. They were a bit more late-period Ash than nu-metal but not bad for all that. And they dedicated a couple of songs to Barry White. They were followed by Empathy who were definitely nu-metal, also dedicated songs ot Barry White and might have sounded better if they'd kept their guitars in tune and concentrated on playing rather than slagging off their ex-drummer. The nu-metal didn't stop once Sillibus took the stage and the whole "nu-metal fest" was rounded off by Disarm who threw in some Napalm Death-type vocal stylings but then ruined it all by having a drum solo. Fortunately, they didn't follow it with a bass solo or hours of interminable guitar-wankery. Overall, I felt very old - well I must have been at least twenty years older than most of the audience - and whilst I was entertained I didn't get the feeling that any of these bands were going to set the world on fire. Entertaining but not innovative. Hhm, think I might have to start spending a few nights hanging out in the music venues of Doncaster.....

Well, I was going to mention the tennis, but to be honest, it's been dire since Henman got knocked out. And besides the Tour De France has started. Now I can look forward to annoying my parents by constantly switching over to Eurosport to catch the live action, or insisting on watching the highlights on ITV2, despite the fact that the last time I raced anyone on a bike was about 24 years ago, and given the number and steepness of the hills around here, my bike isn't likely to come out of the garage.


Saturday 28th June

21:30

I am not at home to Mr Fitness

Yet another "great" British tradition has already kicked off this weekend - the Glastonbury festival. I can tell you now, that having seen REM on BBC3 and BBC2, I've seen just about everything I want to see. I wouldn't have minded seeing Inspiral Carpets and The Polyphonic Spree, I suppose, and Durutti Column are playing, which would have been interesting to see, and had I gone, I would have missed Julian Cope as he was playing at the same time as REM, though obviously not on the same stage. Or possibly even the same planet. But by and large the line-up seems to be very dull. Or perhaps there are more bands I detest on the bill this year. Sunday's main stage line-up, in particular, seems to be designed to encourage everyone to piss off home early - Sugababes, Macy Gray, Feeder, Manic Street Preachers, Moby. I wouldn't cross the street to see these people, let alone pay 105 for a ticket and then spend three days being ripped-off, rained-on and pissed-off beforehand. And have to put up with all those weekend eco-warriors. Gah!

As I mentioned on Tuesday, it's Wimbledon fortnight. Whilst this has caused a surprising outpouring of vitriol against the sainted Lord Henman of Plucky Loserton (a village near Oxford, I believe), it is also a fine source of innuendo and smut for the filthy-minded, like me. For example, one of my friends told me he'd had a bet on Chanda Rubin to win the Ladies title, to which I made the obvious reply that I had already "spent my wad" on Jennifer Capriati. And, of course, the commentators on the BBC unwittngly add to the fun. Today, one was heard urging Younes El Aynaoui to "take Agassi all the way", and earlier this week John Barratt (I believe) declared of Gustavo Kuerten "I've always admired his length." Throw into the mix the usual guff about balls, lobs, and what have you and there's almost the making of an amusing article for a blog.....


Tuesday 24th June

10:30

Tribes, Twats, and Tennis....

Funny how time seems to pass by quite quickly even though nothing's happening. The lack of interesting incident and a somewhat limited time spent surfing the Interweb mean that my updates are becoming somewhat more sporadic and probably less interesting. And today's update will be no exception.

I spent Sunday at the annual Lawrence family gathering. This traditional event allows the far-flung extended Lawrence family to get together once a year to catch up. Well, to be honest, most of the other parts of the family see each other more than once a year but the "Gathering" is the only time we're all in one place. (If anyone has any desire to wipe us out (as opposed to 'wipe us down') you just have to find out when and where next year's gathering will be.) This year, we all congregated at cousin Michael's place near Stratford-on-Avon. Anyway, it was a pretty decent day - interrupted only by one thunderstorm, which lasted for about an hour - and pretty much all the family were there. It's always nice to see the rest of the tribe and catch up with what everyone's up to, and because I don't get to these gatherings that often, it's always a surprise to see how much the kids have grown. And, of course, "Uncle Jim" is always in demand when there's a game of football on the go. Fortunately this year there wasn't too much football and the kids spent most of the time playing amongst themselves. I took my digital camera with me and took a few pictures that I was going to put on this site, but unfortunately, I accidentally deleted them in the car on the way home. Arse!

I was first up in the house again today, and had just settled in to update the site at about 8.15, when there was a knock at the front door. It was the police (the local constabulary, rather than the rock band), who wanted to take a statement about the damage to my car. I was confused for a moment, then I realised that they were talking about my Dad's car. Turns out that last night some drunken youth smashed the windscreen of my dad's car and another car on the street. Said youth had been arrested and had pretty much confessed so the police were taking statements and finishing up their paperwork. Now my Dad (who's a pensioner) has to sort out his insurance and get the windscreen replaced (although he seems to be more interested in his book at the moment) all because of some drunken idiot. If I ever get my hands on him....

In other news - hurrah, Wimbledon is here! Break out the over-priced strawberries, the slightly rancid cream and the warm, flat champagne-like drink! Time for us loyal Brits to cheer on Timbo Henman and that Canadian fellah. Let's hope they can find some inspiration in the performances of the England cricket and rugby teams and advance to the latter stages of the tournament, although don't hold your breath. Mind you, with Lleyton Hewitt out of the way already,there's a fair chance that "our Tim" will lose in the semis to some unfancied Croatian instead of a top player....


Wednesday 18th June

22:00

How much?

What's the least amount of money you've ever spent on a taxi? Alright, now discount the times when you haven't paid because someone else has. And the times you've taken a taxi in some far-off country where ten quid was the equivalent of the monthly wage. Basically, what's the least you've ever genuinely spent on a taxi in the UK? I only ask because today I had to take my Granddad to the dentist because my Dad's car broke down. Well, we managed the walk down the hill to the dentist but there was no way that we were going to manage the walk back up. It's fair enough - he is nearly 89 years old and the hill is pretty steep (if it was at the end of a stage of the Tour De France it would be described as "sorting the men out from the boys", it's about 1 in 5 at it's steepest and averages out at 1 in 8). I think I would have been out of breath myself, and whilst I'll admit I'm not fit, I am fifty years younger. Anyway, my Dad didn't manage to get his car going in time, so I arranged a taxi to take us back. Alright it wasn't much more than a five minute journey, but when she said the price, I had to ask again. How much was it? A pound. One whole English quid. I couldn't believe it and paid two quid to be sure. A Pound? Once, when on the razz in Birmingham, I got a cab to go half as far and ended up paying three times that. And it'll cost you more than that just to get into a taxi in Cambridge. Mind you, I am "up North", where big bottles of Becks (710ml) cost a mere 1.49, and you can go down t' pub, drink 10 pints of t' bitter, 5 Gin and tonics and a Babycham, before going to t' chippy and having pie, peas, chips and gravy and a kebab and then getting t' trolley bus home, and still have change from a tenner. Eeh, it's Jim up North.


Tuesday 17th June

17:30

Anyone seen the electro-clash scene?

Having taken a while to settle in and get my cash flow situation sorted out, I've now decided to start looking about to see what sort of a music scene there is in these here parts. And the answer is "Pretty much none. Well, none that has an Internet prescence, at least." Most of the local sites seem to not to have been updated for a six months or more. That said, Laconic do sound rather splendid in a 10,000 Maniacs-cum-No Doubt-stylee. If you've got a speedy connection (i.e. you're at work), check out the streaming of 'Summer's Here' and 'Follow' on their website. Otherwise you can download them from Vitaminic. On the other hand if you don't like their songs, why not check out their games? They've got a version of Asteroids, redone as Amoebas and a D&D-based thing. Neither of which are earth-shattering, but do while away a pleasant minute or two.

I also found Disarm, who win points for having a sense of humour, but then lose them all for being nu-metal/rock, not updating their website and trapping you inside their frames when you follow offsite links. Fortunately, one of the bands that they link to (Empathy) still has an active site and that has links to all the current sites, including Disarm's new one. Anyway, they are apparently playing at Mexborough Civic hall this Friday, so I might be popping along. But then again, I might not. That's how I'm living these days.


Thursday 12th June

21:50

Hoist the Jolly Roger!

Heave ho, me hearties! And away we go on an Internet piracy mission. I don't know how many of you remember The Mary Whitehouse Experience, but for those who do and spend their evenings wistfully recalling how David Baddiel was once funny, unlike Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis, and wondering whatever happened to Rob Newman, I bring you good news. You can download pretty much all of the four radio series from this site. Now, I can't condone copyright theft, of course, but you don't have to download the stuff. There's a bit of information about the shows on the site but you might have to visit some of their linked sites to fulfill your Mary Whitehouse Experience trivia requirements.

Ah, summer's here - the birds are singing, the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the neighbours are playing their stereos at top volume into the early hours and my hay fever has kicked in. And, of course, with the summer comes the summer holiday. Back when I were a lad, going on holiday generally meant everyone piling into the car early in the morning and travelling for what seemed like an eternity to some coastal resort or other. Actually, that's not true. I don't think we ever really went on holiday that often - I can only recall the trip to Cornwall and the caravan holiday in Reighton. (I particularly remember Reighton as the walk to the beach went past a sewage outfall pipe. Which was nice.) Anyway, I'm sure we must have played some games or other to pass the time on these journeys but I can't recall them either, although I do remember my Dad always used to want us to play "Sit down and shut up!". All of which preamble is only to encourage you, gentle reader, to play Stars of Stage & Screen should you be out motoring during the summer. It's quite simple, all you have to do, is keep your eye out for any road signs that point to double-barreled town/village names which could also be those of actors, and then to create a brief biography of said actor. For example, on the A14 out of Cambridge, heading towards Huntingdon, there is the small village of Hemingford Grey, who, as we all know, was a distinguished character actor who starred in several productions at the Old Vic in the 1920's. And those of you passing by Tiverton should look out for Stockleigh Pomeroy, who played Moriarty opposite Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes in 'The Sign Of Four'. Well, that's two for starters, so go and find your own.

Then again for the more gutter-minded, like me, you could always look out for rude place names. Whilst you might be surprised to find you have to visit either the Orkney or the Shetland Isles to find a Twatt, this summer you could be spending your time sniggering in a Carry-On stylee as you drive through Assington, Pant, Bell End, Dogdyke, Cock Green, Wetwang, Belchford, Hampton Wick, Cwm and Staines. You could round things off by spending some time in the decidedly post-coital Cwm-y-glo. Of course, I shall be spending my summer down at Beaver Green, although I suspect I'm in for a disappointment. And no, I haven't made any of these up.


Monday 9th June

15:30

"Don't stop moving to my funky, funky shorts..."

Well, I have survived a week of being "Uncle Jim", and survived it without resorting to shouting or threats of physical violence, although it was a close run thing. Especially as they liked to wake me up at about 7 every morning by jumping on my bed. The nice thing about having my nephews about, apart from the fact that they're fun, is that we got out and about a bit. Well, having been in Conisbrough for a while, it was probably time that I saw more of it than the shops and my parents house. On Wednesday we went to the Magna Centre. This former steelworks has been turned into a "Science Adventure Centre", featuring exhibits on Fire, Air, Earth, and Water and an impressive reconstruction of the steel manufacturing process known as The Big Melt. Of course, the kids weren't that interested in the science bit but loved the play areas, especially the Water pavilion and the adventure playground outside. We also saw the robot display whilst we were there, but that was a bit of a disappointment, to be honest.

On Saturday we went to the Earth Centre. The irritating website, with it's Flash-heavy menus and stuff, isn't really representative of the actual site - it's much better organised. We had a good day, although once again the kids were more interested in playing than learning, but then they had been before whereas I hadn't. Anyway, whilst they were playing on the pirate ship, under the watchful eye of their Grandad, I had a wander round the site, taking in the acoustic arena, the sensory trail, the yurts, the Earth galleries and the waterworks. We rounded the day off with a couple of rounds of Adventure golf (like crazy golf but with less fun and more learning). Grandad threatened to get a bit "competitive Dad" as he was instructing Daniel on the finer arts of putting ("No, not like that! Give it here I'll do it myself!"). Fortunately he didn't quite go that far, but it was close.

Sunday we went to Conisbrough Castle for a game of football in the grounds and to watch the Three Shires Society re-enact a medieval tournament. We all liked the swordfights but were less than keen on the dancing (surprisingly). And I managed to kick the football into the road, which, as the castle is built on the top of a large steep hill, involved a helter-skelter chase to catch up with it before it went into the main road at the bottom of the hill. Fortunately, no one had a video camera - 20 stone of fat bloke tearing downhill at top speed is not a pretty sight. And neither is the same fat bloke sweatily staggering back up the hill after successful completion of his mission. Anyway, we all had a grand time and it was a rather sad moment when they had to leave. Although the house is thankfully much quieter now.

Did anyone else watch 100 Greatest things about Morrissey? Cue Davina - "And, the Number One Greatest Thing about Morrissey is (dramatic pause) HE'S AN ENIGMA!!! Over to you, Bono." Cut to scruffy looking Irishman, "Ah, to be sure, and begorrah, the greatest thing about Morrissey is that he's an enigma. Top of the morning to ya.". Alright, it wasn't quite like that, but you get the picture. To be honest, I'm a fan but I wasn't sure who this documentary was aimed at - there were no revelations for the fans, no product to promote (he was without a record deal at the time) and the live clips they included indicated that his performances are on the wane. Not promising stuff. It's interesting that his gigs sell out despite the lack of new material and publicity, but let's face it, the Rolling Stones still fill the arenas and they haven't recorded anything worthwhile since the Sixties. But there were the slightly unexpected shots of his house off Sunset Boulevard and his open top Jag, which all suggest that The Smiths back catalogue is still earning him a pretty penny. And I like the way the Mike Joyce court case was swiftly brushed aside - "A grave miscarriage of justice." - as the ruling went against him. Anyway, the good news is that the Mozster has recently signed a new record deal, and will be recording a new album as soon as possible. Hurrah!


Monday 2nd June

13:30

The lull before the storm

I've finally managed to put most of my stuff into the cellar, although I've got a few boxes that still need sorting up in my bedroom. At this rate, I'll have just managed to get things straight in time to move back out again. Mind you, I've had to tidy up a bit as my sister, Liz, and her two boys are coming to stay for a few days, so we need the extra space. And it'd be nice to actually eat at the dining table for a change. Anyway, there's a fairly full itinerary planned, I think, and them lads are "chockfull o' beans", so don't expect another update before the end of the week, and expect me to be moaning about being exhausted when I do update. Ah, it's tough being an uncle...

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that the Earth failed to stop spinning on it's axis last week and that the magnetic poles have not reversed, despite the dire warnings on this site. Mind you, I should have investigated the site a bit further before I served it up for your delectation and delight. The Pole Shift site takes a lot of its information from Zeta Talk, which is a website run by a middle-aged American lady who receives telepathic communications from extraterrestrials from the Zeta Reticulli binary star system. And if that's not enough to set off the alarm bells then a brief look at the site, with it's multiple hyperlinks to definitions containing even more hyperlinks, ought to do it. Or perhaps the theories about Earth having a dead twin on the opposite side of the Sun, dolphins communicating telepathically and spontaneous human combustion will do it. Even as a regular reader of Fortean Times, these sound a bit crazy to me.


Thursday 28th May

10:00

"Here are the results of the Croatian jury..."

The Eurovision Song Contest has thrown up some memorable winners in history over the past forty years or so - Sandie Shaw, Lulu, Sir Cliff of Richard (although he didn't actually win, did he?), Abba, Brotherhood of Man, Bucks Fizz, Johny Logan, Nicole ("Papa?") - but surely there can't have been many more fascinating events than this years? Even before the grand event go under way the following had occurred:

Of course, with all the kerfuffle over the Irish entry being plagiarised, it's hard to see how they missed the following - Turkey's (winning) entry was basically Holly Valance's 'Kiss Kiss', Bosnia's entry used the tune to 'Sex Bomb', Israel's tune could have been on Ricky Martin's last album and the Estonians seem to have only recently discovered the piano-based pop of Joe Jackson.

Of the performances, only Austria seemed not to be taking it seriously, and I had that marked down as an early contender for "Null points". To be honest though, a lot of the tunes were fairly forgettable, which is how it should be, and only the truly interesting stuff stuck in my mind for any longer than it was on the screen. I tipped Germany for a top 3 finish with their S-Club singalong, but I think it was undermined by the scary-looking singer. And, of course, the Greek bird in the Miss Whiplash outfit got my full attention, although sadly her sub-Cher-style ballad wasn't quite up to the same standard as her outfit. I thought the Belgian entry, which was a pleasant 'Ofra Haza meets Enya'-style tune was the best song, but that it didn't stand much of a chance. How wrong I was. Mind you, we all agreed that Jemini's performance was the worst of the night with both the duo and their backing singers choosing an interesting range of pitches to sing in before they all ended up about a semi-tone flat. It was a performance that got what it deserved. As for the rest, well, Turkey were probably the best overall and might have a brief flirtation with the charts but, apart from the already famous tATu, I confidently predict that we'll never hear from any of this year's entrants ever again. Famous last words...

One of the fine things about moving to a new place is the chance to mock and snigger at any longstanding traditions, before succumbing to their charms and finally embracing them as part of your own heritage. I'm pleased to report that an early contender for this honour, although I have arrived too late to partake, is the Tittlecock Fair. And that's the name of it, not a Carry-On style description. This Good Friday tradition stretches back a long way and used to attract thousands of people to the town. Sadly, these days it appears to be held in a pub car park and attracts about a dozen. Still, there's always next year's event when I can find out for myself if it rivals Cambridge's Strawberry Fair. I'm willing to bet that there are a lot less hippies in Conisbrough...


Saturday 24th May

19:30

It's Jim up North

Well, this is the first broadcast from a new location, so here goes. I packed up my troubles in a LDV van on Tuesday. Thanks to Richard, Young Chris and Tim for helping us load my large organ (ooh-er!). I didn't finish loading up till about 6.30pm, although matters weren't helped by the arrival of the landlord who then proceeded to clear the garden and start cleaning and tidying the house whilst I was trying to pack stuff away. Still, that might save me a deduction for cleaning and gardening from my deposit. Anyway, it was gone 10pm by the time we got up here, and then there was plenty of traditional "Lawrence family faffing about" with the unloading and stuff so it was nearly two in the morning before I got into bed. Given that I'd spent Monday evening having a few farewell drinks at the Cambridge Beer Festival, I was feeling somewhat exhausted. I've taken it easy for the last few days and have been slowly transferring stuff from the pile in the dining room to my bedroom or the cellar, as appropriate.

I finally managed to sort out the old Interweb connection yesterday evening and having waded through the spam, job offers (not), and usual tat that clogs up my Inbox, it seems that I've missed virtually bugger all. Or as it's cyberspace perhaps I've missed a virtual bugger all? Obviously, I might have missed some interesting developments in the land of cyber-erotica, but I'll have to wait till my parents are out of the way before I can check that...

Did you know that you can combine ! and ? into one punctuation mark? I didn't, so I'm grateful to John for pointing me in the direction of the Interrobang. I haven't worked out how to display it in my browser yet, and all my HTML reference books and notes are still in boxes somewhere in the house, so I might not get round to doing it for a while, but feel free to make use of it yourselves.

Right, I'm off to enjoy the Eurovision Song Contest.....


Monday 19th May

13:00

"You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold'em...

...Know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money when you're sitting at the table. There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done." Ah, the words of the immortal Kenny Rogers. Well, sung by him anyway, but actually written by Don Schlitz, fact fans. Which is kind of beside the point because, gentle reader, it's time for me to pack up my tent and move house. Having spectacularly failed to get another job in the last four or five months, I've had to bow to the inevitable and am moving out of Cambridge, to live with my parents for a brief spell. I'm chucking all my stuff into a van tomorrow and tootling off to the wilds of South Yorkshire. Hopefully this will only be a temporary measure whilst I get myself back on my feet. No offence to my old parental-type parents, but I don't want to have to live with them for any longer than necessary.

The good news is that I'll still be able to connect to the Internet from the family home, mainly due to the fact that I'm currently connecting through an ordinary BT line. There'll probably be a brief cessation in hostilities, er, I mean, updates whilst I sort that out, although the local library has Internet facilities so I'll still be able to check my Hotmail account and read the comments people might post on here, if that's the case. It shouldn't take more than a week to sort things out though.

So it's "Cheerio!" to Cambridge. Farewell, my ex-cow-orkers. So long, Junction and Corn Exchange; Adieu, expensive beer; Au revoir, Portland Arms; Auf wiedersehn, Beer Festival; Good riddance, Stagecoach's lackadaisical approach to timetabling; TTFN, the leafy parks and open spaces; Toodle pip, cheap records from Fopp. Look at that, I'm leaving town and I never even said 'Goodbye'....

Mind you, if this site is right, perhaps now is the time to head to the hills...


Friday 16th May

12:25

National Week of "Whatever!"

Well, I knew that it was National Sandwich Week this week, but as me old mucker e-laine helpfully pointed out, with the aid of this BBC news story, it's also been National Condom Week, National Balloon Week, National ME Awareness Week and National Samaritans Week, amongst other things. Apparently May and October are the peak times for the various 'Weeks' so, whilst National Chip Week in February had little or no competition, this week's 'Weeks' have had to try a little bit harder, and quite obviously not succeeded. Anyway, I feel like entering into the spirit of things, so I declare next week to be 'National Buy Jim A Beer Week'.

In a brief moment of clarity I decided to run my website through Bobby (the online accessibility tool, not Mrs B's husband). I knew there'd be a problem with the Comments mechanism not having a HTML link - I keep meaning to add the relevant code but never get round to it. And I wasn't surprised that it objected to my forcing external links to open in a new window. So I did a bit of reading and found that, for some web users, this opening of a new window interrupts the flow of their browsing experience and prevents them from using the Back button to return to my site. So I've taken all the offending code out of the blog bit of this page and will be slowly removing it from the rest of the site. So from now on, if you want to follow a link in a new window, you'll have to right-click on it, or do whatever the non-Windows equivalent is. There's a few other things that I need to sort through to, so you might see one or two changes around here in the near future, although hopefully they'll be transparent if you're using Netscape or IE.

Here's a couple of things that I meant to include when I was waffling on about Birmingham on Monday. First up a little musical tribute to the greatness of Birmingham. And here's where you can watch Baywatch in Brum. You need Windows Media Player 7 or above to see it though and as I'm still in the middle of downloading an upgrade (only 40 minutes to go), I haven't had chance to look at it yet. Apologies then if it's either rubbish or not work safe. Anyway, I fully support the Birmingham:It's Not Shit campaign.

If you watched 'Have I Got News for You' last week, you might have seen they featured a story about a mysterious "superhero" roaming the streets of Tunbridge Wells. Sadly, it turns out to have been a hoax, originally perpetrated on the local paper, which soon went global. See the full story of it here. Of course, I knew it couldn't have been true - my brother would surely have reported on such a phenomenom. Unless he was involved. Anything you care to tell us, Mark?


Monday 12th May

20:30

"Here's one I made earlier. It's covered in bling!"

I spent a long-ish weekend up at my sister Crow's place in Birmingham, babysitting whilst she and husband Peter participated in the Playtex Moonwalk. And whilst it's tempting to volunteer to be a marshall on the event next year, the thought of spending the night on a comfy sofa in a nice warm house with cable TV sounds much more appealing. Anyway, congratulations to Crow and Peter, who finished in some discomfort and a time of around six hours or so. And raised a fair bit of cash for charity. Also, congrats to Heather and Lisa, who did the half-marathon walk. Check out their blogs to see how they got on.

One of the things I noticed whilst I was back in Birmingham was how much things had changed since I left. The reconstruction work on the Bull Ring and the indoor market looked pretty close to completion and looks quite impressive from a distance. (It might be shite from close up, of course). Also, a lot of the bars on Broad St seemed to have changed their names. My old work-based haunt, The Rat & Parrot has become Picasso's, for example, and, shockingly, Ronnie Scott's ("Hhhm, Jazz. Nice") has closed and has been replaced by a pole-dancing club. And I don't mean old gents with unpronouncable surnames and big moustaches, toasting Lech Walesa, reminiscing about the old country and performing folk dances. (Ooh, there's a comedy sketch idea, right there. "Hang on Steve, I thought you said this was a pole-dancing club. Where's the women?") Of course, there's always been money in selling sexual fantasies to young men, so I shouldn't be too surprised, I suppose. Perhaps though, as sex clubs become more mainstream, the jazz clubs will go underground. Mark my words, one day Soho will be filled with brightly-lit doorways populated by scantily-clad women inviting you to take in "a live Sax show" or "some hot Be-Bop action" and then charging you 450 for bottle of non-alcoholic champagne. So, not really much change there...

Not much news on the old job front, I'm afraid. As I feared, the telephone interview that I had wasn't good enough to score me a face-to-face interview. The feedback was that I did not have "the depth of software-based experience possessed by other candidates". Which kind of surprised me as I don't remember there being many questions about my software-based experience. Well, if there were, I obviously didn't do a good job of answering them. Hhm, Jim in "Underselling himself" shocker! It's OK, I'm not bitter. Anyway, I've still got a couple of things on the go at the moment, so it's not quite yet time to apply for a job in MacD's. Almost, but not quite.


Wednesday 7th May

17:25

I'm dysfunctional... get me out of here!

I'm grateful to amusing exploit that you can use to crash various Microsoft products, including IE. If you click through to the advisory article on Secunia, they've thoughtfully included an example of the code that you can copy and use at home, which is probably slightly less dangerous than clicking through to the test site. I thought that it was the terrible code that caused the crash rather than the use of the actual word 'crash', so I tried inserting different words in there and always got the same result. It turns out that it's the 'input type' bit that causes the crash. And, more amusingly I've found I get the same result if I remove the 'form' tags, so now I can crash my browser with just three lines of HTML! As I'm not running Windows XP (I'm keeping it 'old skool') this just closes my browser with an 'illegal operation' message. I'd be interested in the results if anyone else wants to give it a whirl. It'll either confirm that I am 'King of useless HTML exploits' or that my browser is well and truly broken....

Chacun a son gout - whichly, roughly translated, means "to each his gout". And I've got mine back again. As always, it returns when I least require it. It is, of course, largely self-inflicted - a couple of days of an unbalanced and minimal food intake supplying the necessary ammunition for my body to ambush itself. It's been sort of building up since last week, but I thought I'd gotten away with it when I woke up pain-free on Sunday morning. Anyway, I've stocked up on the old anti-inflammatories and should, hopefully, be as right as rain in the next 48 hours. If not, I'll be hobbling round like an old man....


Sunday 4th May

22:45

"May the Fourth be with you, Luke"

Yeah, yeah, I know I've used that joke already. Sue me. Actually, don't, as I haven't got any money so you'd be wasting your time and mine. Anyway, it's an "oldie but goodie". And I like it, so there. And it gives me an excuse to update the old blog, depsite the fact that there isn't that much to report.

I had a telephone interview for a job on Friday morning. That is, the interview was on Friday morning, not the job. And it wasn't really an interview for the job but a screening interview, as the company contract out their HR function, so the agency screen and select applicants for a final face-to-face interview with the technical bods at the company. And I had to ring them, rather than the other way round, so I was a bit resentful of that. Added to that minor irritation, I don't think it went that well, to be honest. I could have been a bit more technical with some of my answers and I could have prepared a bit better. I ought to have anticipated the "What's your ideal job?" question, for example. I waffled a bit about "producing documentation for a wide range of end users", whilst all the time thinking that really my ideal job would involve a minimal amount of work, a maximum amount of beer and all the supermodels I could eat. And a huge salary. But not a huge celery. That'd be mad, Ted. Ah, well, they said they'd let me know towards the end of next week. At which time I'll hopefully hear something about this other job in Hull that I've been put forward for. Because if I don't, I'm not sure what I'm going to do when the money runs out.

I went to Heather's Purple (birthday) Party last night. Very enjoyable it was too. I got nicely drunk, had lots of enjoyable conversations, and caught up with some ex-colleagues. And had a debate about Sean Connery's inability to play anything other than Sean Connery. Not quite sure how we got on to that, as we'd been discussing X-Men 2 earlier. And as an extra bonus, the taxi home cost me less than ten of your English quids. Result. And a 'Big Up' to Jack, who was celebrating obtaining permanant residency status by wearing a fetching pair of Union Jack boxer shorts. Nice.

In case you missed it, tickets for the Cambridge Folk Festival went on sale today. I daresay there'll be a piece in the local paper tomorrow about the riots at the box office and the people who have camped out in the street for days, etc. According to yesterday's paper (telling yesterday's news) in order to keep punters entertained whilst waiting at the box office, not only were Caffe Mobile handing out free coffees but "festival musicians" were also going to be performing. I somehow doubt that these guys will actually be playing at the Folk Fest, although I will, of course, be gutted if it turns out I've missed a rare street performance by Julian Cope......Anyway, if you can't be arsed clicking through the official site, the important news is that Roddy Frame is appearing on Thursday 31st July (12 for Cambridge residents. Otherwise Full Festival ticket holders only.) and Julian Cope is playing on Saturday 2nd August (34 for everybody). If I had any clue as to where I might be come those dates, I might be tempted. Of course, I could always go for the full festival ticket and just camp it up, er, camp out for that weekend. Except for the fact that I don't really want to see any of the other acts on the bill. Besides I've got a few other things I think my money would be better spent on. Ah well, never mind, eh?


Thursday 1st May

22:50

Set critical faculties to 'Stun'

I went to see X2 today. You might know it better as X-Men 2, but according to the classification certificate and the opening credits, it's actually called X2. So there. Not that that made any difference to it's chances of defying the law that sequels are never as good as the first film. (There are, of course, a few notable exceptions - Empire Strikes Back, Godfather 2, Naughty Nympho Nurses 5 - but this isn't one of them.) The plot has more holes than a Swiss cheese, the dialogue is a bit ropey at times, and the story doesn't really go anywhere. Apart from Magneto escaping from jail, revealing a bit more about Wolverine's past, and (SPOILER ALERT!) one of the main characters getting killed, that is. But the 'Mutant Massacre' that the first film seemed to be setting up never materialises. Perhaps they're saving that for the third film. This one is 'Human Massacre' - Dead mutants = 2; Dead people = lots.

Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler is amusing, and fairly close in characterisation to the comic book version, albeit somewhat camper. The irritating thing though is if, as he declares towards the end, he has to be able to see where he's teleporting to, how does he get into the locked Oval Office or manage to save Rogue? And, while we're on the subject of irritating things about the film - why don't the X-Men try to get Iceboy (or whatever he's called) to freeze the lake? And why does Colossus only get a cameo appearance? And why doesn't the school have an intrusion detection system, despite the fact that it has a jet plane under the basketball court and a super-powerful telepathic enhancer in the basement? And why does Hugh Jarse, er, Jackman seem determined to underplay the Wolverine role? (He needs to be a bit more "Alan Rickman" with it, I feel.) And why does Patrick Stewart seem to be playing Charles Xavier as Capt. Pickard in a wheelchair? I was waiting for him to say "Make it so, Number One" all throughout the film. And who is choosing Brian Cox's roles for him? This is the second film I've seen in recent months where he doesn't make it to the end credits. At least he makes a more substantial contribution this time.

Anyway, X-Men 2 doesn't get a recommendation from me. The lack of plot advancement is what really kills it off. There's an adventure, a crisis to deal with and all that, but at the end of the day, nothing seems to have changed because of it. It's alright if you liked the first one and does kill a couple of hours or so, but it's not going to be winning any awards in the near future.

I'm more excited by the forthcoming release of The Hulk, a trailer for which was shown prior to the X-Men. Although, I obviously had my pedantic hat on when I noted that, even if you did possess sufficient strength to pick up a tank by the gun barrel and fling it like an Olympic hammer, you wouldn't be able to as the barrel would bend, if not snap, and the turret mountings would shear due to the weight of the base of the tank. Still it did look fairly close to the comic book depiction of The Hulk, as opposed to the TV version, although I doubt we'll hear him shouting "Hulk smash puny humans!"

The other trailers were for films that promise much but probably won't deliver. First up was Anger Management starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler. It's about a lawyer (I think) who gets sentenced to an anger management course. But the twist is that Jack's the anger management therapist and it's Adam who needs the counselling. Given that I've only ever seen one decent movie with Adam in it (The Wedding Singer) I'm not holding my breath for this one. The other trailer was for Bruce Almighty, which has the amusing comic premise that one of life's losers get the powers of God for a week, and the hilarious consequences of that (parting of the red soup, for example). Having God played by Morgan Freeman seems a good idea and the loser, Bruce (of course) is played by Jim Carrey. Which could be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint, but sadly the prescence of Jennifer Aniston (as his wife) virtually guarantees that it'll be bad. Come on, name me one decent film she's been in. Apart from 'Leprechaun', that is.


Monday 28th April

16:50

Papal Bull....

There's always one that spoils it for the rest of us. There was I happily using my Papal reference when gong for job interviews and this idiot has to go and blow the gaffe. Mind you, what did he expect for 50 quid? A decent one costs at least three times that. Er, so I've heard, apparently. Of course, if he was such a friend of the Pope, why didn't the old pontiff just fix him up a job with the Catholic church in Wales, instead of making him apply to a telecomms company?

Mind you, the Pope has just beatified the monk responsible for the invention of cappuccino, so who's to say if he's still got all his own marbles? See here for the full story. Of course, he's not been beatified for the creation of an over-rated, over-priced beverage, but rather in recognition of the other miracles he's supposed to have performed. Still, I'll bet he'll become promoted from "Friar Cappuccino" to "Saint Cappuccino" before long. Interesting to note that this Pope has beatified more people than all his predecessors in the last four centuries combined, isn't it? Do you think that, like A Levels and GCSE's, the pass rate is getting higher as the tests become easier these days? Perhaps, in the future everyone will be sainted for fifteen minutes.

Well, I went to see my old mate's band on Wednesday, as foretold in my previous diary entry. It was great to see Ben and catch up on old times, and pleasing to learn that, like me, he still plays some of those old Lost Onus numbers. Mind you, I bet he does it much better than I do. Sadly, I was so excited that I got rather drunk and hence only have a vague recollection of Bushbaby's performance. Ben did dedicate a song to me, but I've no idea which one it was. Ah well, perhaps I'll pop down to London on Wednesday night to catch them again. Might have to stay bit more sober this time though. And remember to copy those old Lost Onus tapes for him. That'll make him sorry.

I spent most of this weekend in a bit of a daze after my little smashers, Crewe Alexandra, managed to secure promotion to the First Division. To some extent it was by default as they only managed to get a draw at QPR, but other results went their way, with Bristol City unexpectedly losing at Chesterfield and Cardiff failing to beat Wigan. Well, I'd forecast that Crewe would get a point and that Cardiff would only draw at home to Wigan, but I was expecting Bristol to win, meaning that Crewe would need to draw at home next week to make sure of promotion but for once, things went our way. Hurrah! I can now start planning all those away trips that I'm not going to be able to make next season....


Wednesday 23rd April

10:45

Cry God for Harry, England and St George!

Yep, it's St George's Day today. As is the tradition, there'll be no great celebrations, no public holiday, no pub promotions, no nothing. It's almost as if the English are embarrassed at having a patron saint. True, the flag of St George has been the rallying symbol of the English football hooligan for a long number of years, and has also been misappropriated by the racist elements of society, but given that St George himself wasn't English, there is a certain amount of irony in that. Anyway, I think it's a fair indication of the state of the English psyche that there is a reluctance to clebrate their national saint's day. However, I intend to rectify this today and shall be marking the day be indulging in some traditional English pursuits. In the morning I shall be out hunting and shooting members of the lower classes. I shall follow that with a quick burst of Morris Dancing before lunch (fish and chips) and then spend the afternoon drinking Watneys Red Barrel and Double Diamond in a dismal spit-and-sawdust pub. If the weather is fine, I shall also be strolling around the town centre topless, proudly displaying my tattoos, beer belly and man-breasts, Suitably refreshed, I shall venture out in search of curry (chicken tikka masala, of course) before heading to the Man on the Moon pub to see Bushbaby (my mate's band) on tour. Hopefully at the end of the night, I'll still be pissed enough to pick a fight or two. Ah, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war...


Monday 21st April

20:10

"I laughed like a drain"

That's probably the sort of movie strapline that Eddie Murphy would kill for, but certainly not the one that producers of risible British musical Julie and the Cadillacs would be pleased with. Full marks to Channel 5 for scheduling this turgid tosh on Friday night/Saturday morning - the dead time when only freaks like me or monged-out clubbers were likely to see it. Apparently, this film went straight to video, but it should have gone straight to Hell. Terrible acting from a cast of largely unknowns, ludicrous Beatles-era rags-to-riches beat group storyline, and the most plodding of 60s-style songs, all combine to make this one of those films that you wonder how it ever got made. Surprisingly, although there was a soundtrack album released to accompany it, none of the songs even so much as troubled the charts. If you ever want to know why the British film industry is in such poor shape, watch this film.

"It's like Breaking Glass, but set in the 60's. Stars? Yep, I've got Toyah and Victor Spinetti signed up already. Thora Hird'll do a cameo. And so will that bloke that used to do the Blue Riband ads...."
Terrible, truly terrible, and not even in a "so bad it's good" way. Avoid at all costs. It makes Absolute Beginners look like a work of genius.

Easter? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again. Well, that's not quite true. I'm sure that if I was working I'd have taken a few days off to see some relative or other. But I'm not, so I had to stay at home to save some money. I did think about going along to the Anti-Huntingdon Life Sciences march in town on Saturday for a bit of light relief, but I don't really have any objections to animal testing. So I was kind of stuck for something to do. Fortunately, I've still got my PC, so I've been playing around with Director and surfing the old Interweb. Ah, it's all go, go, go in my house. At least, it's given me a chance to charge my batteries, so to speak, before making one last all-out assault on the old job market.

There were a couple of notable deaths over the Easter period - John Paul Getty II and Dr Robert Atkins. Getty was, of course, the philanthropic Anglophile billionaire, who gave away millions to various worthy and good causes. Strangely, for all the good that his money did, most of the news bulletins seemed to concentrate on his "eccentric" love of cricket. Still, it's sad that he's died, although obviously I'm hoping to be mentioned in his will... On the other hand, there's absolutely no chance that Dr. Atkins will mention me in his will. As is blindingly obvious, I've never followed a diet plan in my life. Atkins originated the low carbohydrate/high protein diet that seems to have been popular again recently. Although not in my house.


Wednesday 16th April

12:10

Move along, nothing to see here

Well, what an unexciting week - I haven't been anywhere interesting, seen anything exciting or even bought any new records from Fopp (my favourite shop, don't you know). I've tidied up the back garden a little bit, worked on a little project of mine and taken advantage of my copious free time to learn a bit more about Macromedia Director. Oh, and I had a job interview, but I haven't heard anything back about that yet. And I got one piece of seriously bad news, but I'm not going to share that.

In between pottering around in the garden and house and looking for another job, I have of course been surfing the old Interweb in search of interesting things to bring you. So here are some robot cartoons for your delectation and delight. And here's some not particularly recent news on the lawsuit between the rest of The Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra. Obviously there are two sides to every story and this side doesn't do Jello any favours. Worth checking out if you're at interested in the Dead Kennedys. Sadly, they've cancelled some of their gigs in the UK, including the Cambridge one. East Bay Ray needs some time sitting by the fire with his pipe and slippers or something, allegedly.

On the subject of former "punk rawk" legends taking it easy, it's been nice to see the smiling face and monstrously large neck of Henry Rollins on Full Metal Challenge on Channel 4. It seems a bit incongruous to see the former Black Flag frontman on mainstream television, but if you like cars and extreme engineering the prog is a bit of a laugh. They could probably do with more action and less talking, but it's not that bad a way to waste an hour on a late Sunday afternoon.

Er, that's about it then. There probably are one or two other things I should mention but can't think of them at the moment. Oh well, back to the job sections of the papers for me then...


Thursday 10th April

13:45

Pondering the importance of "branding"

In these days of corporate image and "web prescence", a lot of companies seem to be going out of their way to stamp on websites that they feel are trading on their reputation in some way. The most famous of these is, of course, Stelios Haji-Ioannou,the owner of easyJet, who is laying claim to just about every easy(whatever).com/co.uk site on the grounds that they're trading on his easyGroup brand. And why not? Anyway, bearing that in mind, here's one site that probably ought to be shut down as soon as possible, but won't - Lastminutesermon.com. You might have already seen it flagged up in this Guardian article (where it's (amusingly) linked as lastminute.com), but I only heard about it on the local news a couple of nights ago. I'm sure lastminute themselves aren't going to lose any sleep over it, but I'm surprised their lawyers haven't had something to say about it....

I got the albums that I'd ordered from cd-wow, this morning, (along with a rejection letter for a tech authoring job in Letchworth) and was somewhat irritated to find that these are "copy-controlled" and won't play properly on my Windows CD Player. There's a hugely irritating 5 second pause at about 9 seconds into each track. The CDs do have their own player, fortunately, which does the job, although it's pretty light on features, which is a pain in the proverbial. I have read elsewhere that this player doesn't deliver very good quality sound, but as I've only ever been running MS's own CD player, I can't say I've noticed any difference. (I haven't tried it out with the headphones on yet though). Anyway, I'm going to have to nip off to the newsgroups to find out how to copy these albums (for my own personal use, as I am legally entitled to do) so that they play back through my choice of software not the one forced upon me.

And what are these albums? Well, Melanie C's newie, which to be honest I might not bother copying or possibly even listening to again. Well, alright, I might give it another couple of goes to see if it grows on me, but I'd be surprised. It suffers from a lack of tunes, pace and energy. Dull and bland. Perhaps the Spice Girls re-union might not have been such a bad move, love. The other one is Placebo - 'Sleeping With Ghosts'. That's pretty good, although some of it seems a bit tame compared to the live versions. I think it needs a couple more spins though before I can definitely say whether it's as good as any of their previous outings. So that's most of the rest of the day booked up, then. Heaven knows when I'm going to be able to fit in some time for looking for a job....


Monday 7th April

22:00

"You don't remember The Style Council?"

Sometimes you just have to get out of the house. And I spent Saturday night having a marvellous time with some marvellous people over at Philippa's house. The long-suffering Tim and Julie gave me a lift out there and surprised me by turning up a bit earlier than I expected. (No offence, guys!). Anyway, I think we all had a smashing time - I know I did - including a rather animated alcohol-fuelled discussion on the musical output of Paul Weller and whether his later stuff is/was as good as his early stuff. Throw in the good food and the constant supply of beer and you can see why I was as happy as a pig in the proverbial. And I didn't even feel hungover the next day. Tired, but not hungover. Anyway, you can all come round to mine when I get a job. Yep, everyone's invited.

Good news everybody - Cambridge folk fest have announced this year's line-up. Well, they've announced who is playing but not yet when. You can check out the listings here. Of the all the artists listed thus far, I only want to see Julian Cope and Roddy Frame, and knowing my luck they'll be playing on different stages at the same time. Hopefully, they'll have some listing of who's on when before the tickets go on sale on May 4th. (Hey, isn't that a Jedi greeting? "May the 4th be with you, my young padawan" Sorry, I'll get me coat.)


Friday 4th April

22:00

Slow news day

Not much to report really, as there's not been that much happening of note in the fatfakir househould. Tim came round on Wednesday to watch the game of two halves, three G&T's and a white wine for the lady, that was the England vs Turkey match. The first 35 minutes of the game weren't great but from then on England looked the better team. The second-half performance was capped by the BBC choosing to show a close up of David Beckham after he'd scored the penalty, at the precise moment that he was directing a few well chosen words at one of the Turkish players. It was something along the lines of "Fecking pussy. Feck off, you fecking winker" and for good measure he blew a few kisses at him too. Top sporting behaviour, the England captain! Not. Still, they won, which was the important thing. More worrying was the pre-match violence and the racist chants (which we didn't hear on the BBC) during the game. I hope the FA sees sense and decides not to accept it's allocation of tickets for the return fixture in October. The last thing we need to see are England "fans" fighting running battles on the streets of Turkey.

How annoying is this? As you regular readers will know, I bought Royksopp's 'Melody AM' CD recently. On visiting Fopp today, I found that not only are they now knocking out for 3 less than I paid for it, but they're doing this on the 'enhanced' double CD version of the album. Gah! Still, they're charging 12 for Placebo's newie so I've ordered that from cd-wow.com for 8.99 before they get banned from trading in the UK (cd-wow that is, not Placebo). The other thing that briefly caught my eye in Fopp was the large pile of books titled Shaky. Sadly this is not the autobiography of the Welsh Elvis Presley himself - Sir Shakin' of Stevens, of course - but a Neil Young biography. What a disappointment.


Wednesday 2nd April

17:30

More than just a leitmotif

I notice that Russell Grant failed to predict that I would go to see a band that totally rocked last night. Instead of veg-ing out in front of either TV or PC, I was instead grooving on down to the nancy-boy glam-rock of Placebo. I turned up at the Corn Exchange at about 7.30pm and seeing the size of the queues outside, I nipped off for a couple of beers, figuring that the queue would die down in a while and the support band wouldn't start till about 8-ish anyway. Well, I was right about the support band and wrong about the queue. I didn't get in the venue till about 8.30, by which time The Faint were finishing their set. They were "alright, but a bit samey" according to the girl in the seat next to me. I was a bit disappointed to miss them as I've heard mixed reports and wanted to judge for myself. However, Placebo made up for that by delivering a pretty much perfect set - a fine mix of new and old stuff, and well balanced between the slower and more upbeat material. They opened with 'Bulletproof Cupid' and a dazzling light display whilst the band was in darkness and then followed that up with 'Allergic (To Thoughts of Mother Earth)'. After that my grasp on the set list gets a bit shaky. There was plenty of new stuff mixed in with tracks from the previous three albums. There were a couple of things I was surprised they played - 'Lady of the Flowers' for example - and a couple of things I was surprised they didn't - no 'Nancy Boy' or 'Brick Shithouse'. They did a gorgeous slow version of 'Teenage Angst' which blew me away. And they finished the second encore with a rock-solid version of 'Where Is My Mind?' by The Pixies, which even had me up and "rocking out". Which must have been slightly worrying for the rest of the balcony...

I've only a couple of minor quibbles, apart from the terrible manner they were dealing with the queue. First, why was everyone so young? They made me feel sooooooo old. Oh wait, I am. Secondly, I appreciate that you were enjoying the gig, love, but I didn't spend 16.50 on a balcony seat so that I could spend the evening staring at your arse. Don't get me wrong, it was a nice arse, and in other circumstances I'd pay good money to stare at it, but that wasn't on my 'To Do' list for last night. If only I'd had the foresight to swap my balcony ticket for a standing one - I'm sure at least one of the touts ouside would have done that deal for me - I could be moaning about staring at the back of someone's head instead... Anyway, top night out and I'd thoroughly recommend it, if it wasn't for the fact that the rest of the tour is pretty much sold out.


Tuesday 1st April

09:15

Sshh, don't tell anyone.....

...but I not only did I actually buy a lettuce yesterday, I have also eaten some of it. Admittedly, I had to smother it with melted orange chocolate and fresh cream, but I did manage to find a way of incorporating greenery into my lunch. Yes, I realise this is going to ruin my reputation somewhat, but don't worry, gentle reader, it was only some lettuce. It's not like I've started eating fruit and stuff. Oh, and I lied about the chocolate and cream - I'm saving those for the carrots.....

I noticed something else a bit strange whilst I was in Tesco buying my lettuce (No, I really did buy a lettuce. What do you want, pictures?) Now, I'm not a particularly big fan of cheese these days but I do enjoy some occasionally and one brand that I like is McLelland's Seriously Strong Cheddar. (By the way, if you visit that site, don't click on the X. There is, in police parlance, nothing to see here.) Anyway, in Tesco you can buy the 250g block for 1.63 and the 500g block for 3.45. There's a special no-prize for the first person to spot what's wrong with that picture. Yep, it's 19p cheaper to buy two 250g blocks rather than one 500g block. In fact, at the moment it's 95p cheaper as Tesco are doing a deal where it's 'buy two for 2.50'. Before anybody starts, I do understand the concept of loss leaders, so that deal doesn't strike me as unusual, but from what I recall, it's always been cheaper to buy two smaller packs than one large one. Perhaps I ought to write to Tesco and find out what the deal is with their pricing policy.

You know, I'm beginning to feel like Dirk Gently, Douglas Adams' holistic detective (yep, he wrote stuff other than Hitchhiker's Guide), who regularly read his horoscope in the paper despite the fact it was purposely written to annoy him. Old Russell Grant this week seems to be having a pop at me with the opening of this weekly forecast:

You're endlessly comparing yourself to others, and of course you're coming out on the losing end.
Well, what are you trying to say, Russ? I don't measure up, so to speak? Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough! And while we're on the subject:
Something smaller than yourself, a child or possibly an animal, will come to you seeking comfort and solace and you can allow yourself to get close to them.
Let's face it - you're pretty much on a winner there. There isn't that much that is bigger than me. So, I'll be on the lookout for anything smaller than a mountain gorilla that looks a bit downcast, shall I? Actually I shouldn't really have a go at dear, old Russ as he has at least been a bit more accurate than some others, such as Mystic Meg, for example, who forecast a pay rise for the week I was made redundant...


Sunday 30th March

18:00

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

In one of the most exciting one-sided games I've seen in a long time, England beat Ireland to win the grand slam in the Six Nations. Ireland had a chance or two early in the game to cross the England line, but England's defence was up to the task and after half-time the Irish struggled to get out of their half. England stretched their advantage from 13-6 at half-time to 42-6 at full-time and at no time did their try-line seem to be under threat. Obviously this was a fantastic effort by the entire side, who all wanted to win by as large as a margin as possible. There was something to watch from the start to the finish.

Unlike the football team the previous evening, who seemed to be more than happy with a 2-0 win over the third-worst side in Europe. A side who, on average, concede four goals per game. Still, if England beat Turkey on Wednesday and manage to qualify for the European Championships in Portugal in 2004, the fact that they didn't put a hatful past Leichtenstein is going to seem rather irrelevant. I hope.

Yesterday I went to a book sale at my local book warehouse, Galloway & Porter. I thought I'd get in there early to avoid the rush, but how wrong I was. It was worse than getting caught in a bunch of pensioners at the local jumble sale. I tell you, I've played in games of rugby that were less violent. I'm sure there was even a fist fight at one point over a Javascript reference book. I was after some street maps (unfortunately not available cheaper than in their city centre store), and some computer books. I got a couple of decent reference tomes for Dreamweaver and Director for two quid each, and some other stuff for a pound apiece. I was especially pleased with my purchase of Miranda Sawyer's 'Park And Ride' because I look forward to the expression on my brother's face as I give that to him. I'll believe a book can fly - straight out of the window and clear across Bethnal Green, hopefully. Heh!

Anyway, I got back from the sale just about brunch time on Saturday. So I decided to indulge myself in a 'Breakfast Kebab' - bacon, fried egg and tomato ketchup stuffed into a pitta bread. Hhmm-mmhhuumm! Absolutely delicious. It was inspired by the BLPs - Bacon, Lettuce and Pittas - that my brother knocked up for me over Christmas. If only I'd pushed it one stage further - I'm sure there must be a market for 'Dinner Kebabs'. Stew, Spaghetti, Sausage and Chips, Bangers and Mash, etc, all stuffed into a pitta and simply re-heated in the microwave. Surely there must be a way of doing that? Go on Findus, Birds Eye or DalePak - I'll sell you the idea for the simple sum of 1p for every 'Dinner Kebab' that you manage to sell. Hey, I'd go for it...

Right, I'm off to watch The Black Hole on Channel Five


Friday 28th March

22:00

Built for comfort

Mothering Sunday is rapidly approaching. And whilst I disagree with the concept - dreamt up by card merchants and confectioners in an attempt to boost sales, no doubt - I've had to do something to make up for not remembering my mum's birthday. (Hey, I forgot my dad's too, five days later, and he was 65 this year. D'Oh!) So I've sent the tackiest card that I could find in Tesco and will be giving the old dear a bell on the Sunday. Obviously, I'll be doing that early - I don't want to miss the rugby and I'll be too pissed afterwards, whatever the result. Besides, having spent an hour and a half on the phone to her yesterday, I won't need to be on the line for long....

As everyone knows, it's not in my nature to look on the bright side, so sometimes things happen that take me by surprise. I applied for a job early in the week and received a letter from the company on Thursday morning. Judging by it's slimness, I was expecting the usual "Thanks, but no thanks" form letter. Instead, it was a surprising and pleasing, "Thanks for your interest, we'll let you know." Now, how many companies are doing that these days? Hardly any, in my experience, and most recruitment agents that I've dealt with haven't even bothered getting back to me after the initial contact. Which is all a bit disheartening, especially as I didn't expect it to take this long to get back into gainful employment. Ah well, there's still another six weeks or so before the money runs out. Perhaps I should have gone for that part-time job at the sex shop....

Tip of the Day: If you're sat in the kitchen, reading the newspaper, waiting for the kettle to boil for your cup of tea, make sure you remembered to switch the kettle on at the wall. Otherwise, you'll be waiting a long time. Or, like me, you'll finish the newspaper, check the kettle, realise it's not switched on and curse loudly. And then curse some more when you get back to your PC to find that you've lost your Internet connection and that it takes three attempts to re-connect to your ISP. Arse!


Wednesday 26th March

21:30

The power of auto-eroticism, er, auto-suggestion

One of the few delights of having the Cambridge Evening News delivered is that I get to read my horoscope for the following day. As it comes straight from the pen of the mighty Russell Grant, I tend to take it very seriously. Here's today's:

Scattered energies could prevent you from being as thorough as you'd like. It's simply too difficult to concentrate on one project right now. Busy yourself with a variety of tasks as a means to stay engaged. There will be plenty of time to attend to big jobs later.
Well, I read this last night and thought, "Hhmm, might have a bit of a strange day tomorrow then." And I did. I haven't been able to concentrate on anything particularly for more than about fifteen minutes. I haven't done any work on the one big project I've got lined up at the moment. I tried running my website through the HTML validator at the Worldwide Web Consortium website and even though there are 29 errors on the index page and it is "Not Valid Transitional 4.01 HTML!", I couldn't concentrate long enough to fix them. I've actually read a couple more chapters of the gi-normous tome on HTML 4 that I bought about three years ago, but couldn't be bothered to put the lessons into practice. I haven't done any Photoshopping yet either and I also decided against going to the cinema as I didn't think I could concentrate long enough. Mind you, I did do some washing, pay some bills, get a bit of shopping in and tidied up a bit, so the day wasn't a complete loss. Mind you, Lord Russell of Horoscope was a bit out on this point:
If the phone is ringing off the hook, resist the temptation to answer it. Review your messages later and return only the calls that are important to you.
My phone hasn't rung at all today, In fact, I've been checking to make sure that it isn't just 'off the hook'. Ah, he did say "if" though, didn't he? Now, what's in store for tomorrow?
Social activities involving children could give you a new lease of life. Lately, you've been so focused on your own emotions that you've forgotten what it's like to be footloose and fancy-free. Let some young people be your role models between now and late April. Be more carefree and you'll find it easier to come up with creative solutions.
Well, I'm not too sure what the last half of that means, but one thing is for sure - I'm off to the park tomorrow to play footie with tha kidz! Wahey!!!


Tuesday 25th March

21:45

Is the Internet over?

I'm only asking because we're five days into Operation Accidental Death or whatever they're calling it and my Inbox has been positively underwhelmed with bad taste jokes, links to half-assed Photoshoppery and the like. Just one joke, no comedy pictures and, sadly, not even a report of someone trying to sell that downed Apache Helicopter on eBay (and they could have thrown those pilot's helmets in free too...). What is the world coming to? Oh, hold on, I think I only need to watch the news to see that. Well, I daresay someone will prove me wrong in the next twenty minutes. Still, I'll be having a go at doing some dodgy Photoshoppery myself over the next couple of days as I need to have some familiarity with that program for a job that I applied for. Watch this blog. "They're sending in the ground force? Where's that picture of Titchmarsh, Dimmock and the other one? What's that? The B-52s are over Bagdhad? Oh, this is too easy..."

I was delighted at the weekend to see that "my little smashers", Crewe Alexandra, managed to sneak past Luton Town by four goals to nil. It was an important away win as the season heads towards it's conclusion with Crewe and Cardiff City are tussling for the second automatic promotion spot from Division 2. This might seem like small beer compared to the Premiership or The Champions League, but to the smaller clubs getting to the First Division is just as important. Crewe had five seasons in the First, getting relegated at the end of the last one and to bounce straight back up would be great. I reckon it'll all be on the last game of the season - at home to Cardiff - though, and that'll be a bit of a nail-biter. Might have to think about trying to get a ticket...


Friday 21st March

23:30

I just need 48 hours sleep and a complete change of blood

So me old mucker Kev came down for a visit yesterday. He starts a new job next week, so this was possibly his last chance to get down to see me for a while. And he'd just had some bad personal news, so he was in the mood for a few beers. In fact, he started without me - having a few drinks on the train on the way down. It's alright though, reader, I soon caught up. Anyway, I went to meet him and decided to set off in plenty of time as I'd heard that this anti-war protest was disrupting the traffic near the railway station. And good job I set off early - it took nearly 55 minutes for the usual 20 minute journey. Still, I was only a minute or two late. We decided against trying to get back to my house and then back into town given the state of traffic and decided instead to go straight into town. As we made our way into town we encountered the protesters, who had moved from the War Memorial to block one of the main junctions on the edge of the city centre. We couldn't help looking at our watches as we passed and commenting that the kids could go home as school had already finished. "You know the bell has gone. Now you're just wasting your own time." Harsh, I know, but fair. Anyway, we took up residence in a pub where we could keep an eye on the proceedings at a safe distance. It all seemed to be fairly, er, peaceful and the police were content to manage things from a distance, as far as possible./

Anyway, once the peace protesters dispersed, Kev and I ensconsed ourselves in The Regal to enjoy their low-priced beers and value-for-money curry offer. In fact, we enjoyed their beers so much that we found ourselves drinking jugs of cocktails instead. Not a good idea. Especially when I decided that a couple of "double shooters" were in order. Yes, we were drunk. Very, very drunk. Quite how we managed to get a taxi home is a bit of a mystery. Needless to say, we were both feeling rough this morning, although I felt a lot better once I'd thrown up. And then felt a bit worse when I realised I'd left the front door unlocked all night. Idiot. Anyway, I managed to get Kev on to his train home and came back home for a quick cup of tea and a bite to eat before heading out again to sign-on. I nearly fell asleep whilst I was waiting in the Jobcentre but managed to stay awake enough to get home and crash out on the settee. And now I want to sleep, I'm a fully-fledged member of the Wideawake Club. Arse.

One of the side effects of the onset of the attack on Iraq was that the BBC decided to split it's coverage of the Liverpool vs Celtic UEFA Cup tie between BBC1 and BBC2. Having set my video some five hours before kick-off last night, I missed the first half, which got switched to BBC2. I was pretty annoyed (as Tim could tell from the level of swearing in the texts I sent him). My humour wasn't improved any by Liverpool managing to lose 2-0. I watched the second half when I got in last night and, fuelled by the alcohol I had consumed, spent most of the time shouting at the telly in impotent rage. Good job that it was only a game, eh?


Wednesday 19th March

17:40

Uninspired? What was I on about?

I made a list of things to mention on this site last night and realised that there were actually a lot of little things that I could have written about. But first, I have to say that I made the decision to change my radio station this morning, in a vain attempt to cheer myself up. I re-tuned to Radio One. After three hours of mope-rock, half-assed R'n'B and dire bubblegum pop, I was starting to sound like Edward Woodward at the end of The Wicker Man - "Oh God! Oh Christ! Jesus! Jesus!". Main offenders? Avril Lavigne, Coldplay, P. Diddy and some dirging tune about "getting over it" that was getting heavy rotation. Still I thought I'd stick it out (ooh-er!) for the day, but once Chris Moyles started I had to turn it off. Imagine the worst self-indulgent excesses of Chris Evans crossed with the dullest elements of Steve Wright and his posse and then multiply it by ten and you're about halfway there. Tosser. So I retuned to Radio Two and having managed to go three months or more without hearing a Simply Red tune, I get two in the space of about an hour and a half. Thanks a lot. I think I'm going to have to check out Radio Four...

I was momentarily excited by the advert on the back last week's Cambridge Weekly News for SKA Karate. Great, I thought, that sounds ideal - the perfect marriage of martial art and upbeat West Indian soul songs. Sadly, on closer inspection, it turned out that SKA stood for the Shotokan Karate Association. Ah, my hopes were dashed. No chance of me learning how to do the one-inch punch whilst skanking along to the sounds of "Liquidator" or the like. Hhmm, perhaps I ought to establish my own dojo....

Operation Liberty Shield - Is it just me or does this sound like an episode of "Sex And The City"? You know, the one where the "girls" go to an upstate restaurant and one of them suddenly remembers it's her time of the month. And, oh my god, she's forgotten her sanitary towels. Cue frantic search for nearby drugstore/market selling said Liberty Shields, possibly underpinned by Dr Alban's 'It's My Life'. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm just making a leap too far.

I realised that I haven't droned on about anything that I've bought from Fopp! recently. Apart from Spiderman, that is. And that's just the greatest movie ever made. So for your reading pleasure, here's a quick summary of the three new-ish albums that I've purchased:

If you haven't managed to read my excellent Listen To This, finest album ever think-piece, then shame on you. And if you have read it and think that some of those albums I've picked are a bit poor, then you want to see some of the "classic albums" on this list. Alright, their criteria are somewhat different, and who ever wrote the blurbs for each LP needs some lessons in pop history, but they have included some absolute dross. Thank god, someone round here has got good taste, eh?


Tuesday 18th March

22:00

Sadly uninspired

Not having the dubious pleasures of work to distract me, I seem to spend most of time time working on my PC (looking for jobs and typing up letters - not just surfing the web!) and listening to the radio. Or more accurately, listening to Radio Five Live. Which is usually OK. It's not as high-brow as Radio Four and covers sport better. Lately though it has mutated into Radio War On Iraq. Not that it in any way holds a position on the war (strictly impartial, the BBC, don't you know) but it is reporting in excrutiatingly minute detail all the things that are and are not happening at the moment. All of which is pretty depressing. And seems to be sapping my creativity and inspiration. I'm sure I had a couple of other things that I was going to put on my site on Sunday night, but now, all I can think of is this.

Actually, does anybody out there know if there's a tool that I can use to spellcheck my site? Because I type this out in Notepad (keeping it real for the kids), there's no way to check the shite that I churn out without cuting and paste-ing it into Word (or some other word-processor) and using the spellchecker in that. I do read it a couple of times before posting it, of course, but I do occasionally miss things and usually only notice them when the original post has been up for a day or two. Still, all adds to the fun, eh?


Sunday 16th March

21:15

Let joy be unconfined

"After all why should she be confined? It's not like she's done anything seriously wrong. I think six years in the cupboard under the stairs is punishment enough for breaking a plate. Don't you, Dad? Go on, let her out. Go on Dad. Go on."

Er, well, maybe not. Anyway, can you tell that I went to see Harry Hill last night? He was great. The first half of the show he came out on his own and gave us his warped version of a stand-up routine. Interwoven with a shaggy dog story about his nan's death were subjects such as beards, Jesus as a duck, dogs in space, insults associated with wearing glasses and giving your teeth names. And a hilarious performance of a joke in semaphore. He was joined for the second half of the show by The Harrys and it took on a more musical bent. We were also joined by Stouffer (the cat) and Gary (his son) in both real and puppet form and the Martial Arts Badger. And a member of the audience in the Hamster outfit for the closing song. Fantastic entertainment and well the worth the price of admission. Oh, and if you're going to shout stuff out, please try to be more entertaining than the twat sat about four rows behind me...

For the sake of my sanity and the peace of the neighbourhood, I decided against watching Comic Relief on Friday night. Instead I set my video and watched it on Saturday morning. Well, now I know how long it takes to fast-forward through a 180 minute tape. At the moment I'm struggling to remember a single enjoyable moment. There were plenty of memorable moments - French & Saunders' Harry Potter spoof being worse than expected, Ruby Wax and Jo Brand doing the Cheeky Girls song (*shudder*), Vic & Bob's "magic" act being greeted by virtual silence - but very little in the way of enjoyment. Actually, that's not quite true - I did enjoy the "University Challenge" segment on BBC2, although quite why that had to be interrupted twice for the "this is why we're doing this" films is beyond me. Are people's attention spans truly that short? Would they really forget in the space of ten minutes? Ah, but it is all for "charidee" and that's what really counts. Hey, only two years to go till the next one....

I've been reading 24 Hour Party People by Tony Wilson, which is the book of the film of the same name, written by the real-life central character and based on the screenplay. It's a fantastic read, told in a series of anecdotes which, whilst not necessarily true to the events, are definitely true to the spirit of the times. Wilson does set the record straight over some of the things that have dogged him over the years, but this is no straight autobiography. The timeline of some events are jumbled and some things are left out entirely, but this doesn't detract from the story. In the end, it's all about a bunch of mates doing what they really believed in. Inspired by punk's DIY ethic, they took the ball and ran with it. It might have all ended in tragedy, but along the way there were some fantastic times and some fantastic music. And it all makes a fantastic story, albeit one with some caveats. There's a point late on where Wilson uses the phrase "Je ne regrette rien" and then says that actually there is one thing he regrets, but there are clearly events throughout the entire story that are sources of regret for Tony Wilson - the death of Ian Curtis, the split with Martin Hannett and (later on) his death, A Certain Ratio's musical progression, the Hacienda's failure, the fanboy infatuation for the Happy Mondays and, at the end (and somewhat surprisingly), not signing The Smiths to Factory. Let's face it though, even if three-quarters of this book isn't true, the overall story should stand as a fair warning to any fanboy who thinks they can make money out of the music industry.

It's War, and we're all going to die

I've tried to avoid going on about this because, I'm just writing a blog, not a political tract, but...

So George W. Bush and Tony Blair would like us to believe that Iraq and it's "weapons of mass destruction" are a serious threat to the safety of the entire First World. Because, of course, it was weapons of mass destruction that caused such devastation of 9/11, and then there was all that Anthrax through the post.... Of course, I'm being sarcastic. There has yet to be definite evidence from the UN Weapons Inspectorate that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the Anthrax attacks were perpetrated by American citizens. And most of the western world sold them such weapons during their protacted war with Iran, but hey, just maybe they used those weapons during that conflict? (By the way, did you know that chemical warheads have a limited lifespan?) Anyway, we should really support the Americans in their revenge-cum-bloodlust-driven pursuit of any legitimate target in their "War On Terror", because, if it wasn't for them, we'd all be speaking German. It's true, honest. No, I'm being sarcastic again. Now, I'm a peaceful guy - I always favour the diplomatic solution over the use of force. Sure, I've been known to use the threat of aggression, but it very rarely escalates beyond a threat, because I'm prepared to wait to get the results I want. Are some of our leaders prepared to wait? Seems not. And when Britain's cities don't seem be safe anymore, perhaps you might want to think about who is really responsible for that...


Friday 14th March

12:15 & updated 17:15

"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

I doubt that most of the audience were even born when Johnny Rotten uttered the above line at the end of the last Sex Pistols gig (at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, 1978), but those were the first words that sprang into my mind at the end of last night's hugely disappointing Pitchshifter gig. If they were on stage for more than 45 minutes, it wasn't by much, and there were no encores. The whole affair was done and dusted by 10pm. Even the venue staff seemed surprised by the early finish. OK, it was the first night of the tour, they did suffer some minor technical problems, and the antagonistic attitude of some boneheads in the crowd didn't help, but even so, this was shoddy. Especially as they seemed to have picked support band Elviss specifically to make themselves look good. The worst thing was, they didn't seem to care. Which was particularly ironic given their comments here. Were they just fulfilling a contractual obligation? Compared to the last time I saw them this was horrible. Add to that the fact that their website made my PC crash, twice, this morning, you can understand why I regard them a little less fondly than I did yesterday.

Whilst searching through the Jobsearch pullout in the local paper I was intrigued to see that "The XXX Zone" (Cambridge's premier adult store) were advertising for a part-time assistant. I was tempted to apply, especially given the staff discount, but the pension scheme wasn't up to much. Now, if it had been a full-time job....

Despite the fact that I'm on a limited budget and shouldn't be spending any money, I couldn't resist getting Spiderman on DVD when I was in Fopp t'other day. It is absolutely brilliant, from start to finish and is definitely one of my all-time favourite films of all-time, mate. Yes, we can argue about the way they mucked around with the comic book history and we can nitpick over the continuity errors (Peter's magically-repairing lamp, for example) but, taken as a whole, it is a thing of beauty to be cherished forever. By the way, did I mention that I like this film?

Is it really two years since the last Comic Relief night? Gawd, these things seem to come round faster every time. Yes, once again readers it's time that we all did something wacky in the name of "charidee". And hey look, they've even got an "amusing" website. Of course, I shall be spending the evening in full-on curmudgeon mode, shouting "Make me laugh then, you twats!" and the like at the screen and switching channels every time one of the presenters says "Of course Comic Relief is not just about having a good time, as this film reminds us..." Not that I'm against giving to charity per se, but for me Comic Relief has become synonymous with the with the sort of self-publicising acts of giving to charity ("Look at me! Look at me! I'm wearing a funny wig and sitting in a bath of custard! And I've raised twenty quid for charidee!") where the ego of the donor is as important as the donation. It's not often that I'm inclined to agree with The Bible, but in Matthew 6 v2 (look it up) there are some wise words, mate. You know, you can give money to charity without the aid of a red nose and you don't even have to wait for the telethons. OK. Here endeth the lesson. Next time: Resisting the temptations of the flesh - why bother?


Wednesday 12th March

17:45

Shouting at the screen

I know that there's only so much ground that you can possibly cover in 90 minutes of television but Jonathan Meades recent three-part series annoyed me to the point of shouting at the screen as he trotted out various over-simplifications and generalisations. The history of British cooking and food is actually a rich and interesting subject and to attempt to condense it into three 30 minute bite-sized prgrammes is bound to fail to do the subject justice. He did make some valid points about the industrial nature of food production in the UK, the loss of regional variations to the diet and the influence of class on the national diet, but like every other point he raised these were never dealt with satifactorily. It was almost, and I hate to say it, the food equivalent of those "I Love the 70/80/90s" pop music programmes. "Deep-fried Mars bar? Yeah, you weren't Scottish if you hadn't eaten one of them. We used to collect them and swap them in the playground....etc, etc." Or perhaps I missed the point and the idea of this series was to leverage any future series that Mr Meades wants to pitch to the BBC? A kind of showreel, if you will. Or is there a companion book that we ought to be buying? Or is this just the kind of irritating pop-culture analysis that he specialises in?

Never mind the mindless moaning, I've sorted out a few nights entertainment for myself involving industrial beats, big-collared comedy and nancy-boy rock, although not all at the same time, sadly. Tomorrow night, I'm off out to catch Pitchshifter on their farewell tour. Then on Saturday I shall be chortling away (hopefully) to the comedy stylings of Harry Hill. Finally, on Tuesday 1st April, I shall be digging out my lacy top, PVC trousers and black nail varnish as I take in the androgynous splendour of Placebo. Hhmm, the beats, the rhyme, the noise, as I believe some rap outfit or other once said.


Monday 10th March

11:00

Godspeed you Blair Emperor!

Saturday night, it was party time to bid a fond farewell to Jack's mate Blair, who is returning home to New Zealand, after a working tour of Britain. I gave him some traditional items of English culture to take back with him - a novelty dancing willy, a book of toilet humour and, of course, a Carry On video. I bet they'll provide minutes worth of fun for the folks back home. Anyway, good luck to you, mate. Don't be a stranger.

Sad news - Barry Sheene has lost his battle against cancer and died in the early hours of this morning. He was a hero in our house when I was growing up and his battles with Kenny Roberts were the stuff of legend. One of which spawned the Murray Walker's famous "And look at that, Sheene is waving at Kenny Roberts" comment, as Sheene passed Roberts and quite clearly flicked him the V's behind his back. Who'd do that sort of thing today, eh? Sheene was also known as 'Britain's Bionic Man' after he had numerous pins inserted in his legs and one arm after a horror crash at Silverstone. Even a stint on ITV's "Record Breakers"-clone Just Amazing with Kenny Lynch and Suzanne Danielle couldn't dent his reputation. Ah, the world is a slightly sadder place without Sir Barry of Sheene, and we should all raise a glass to him.

Thank God for the video recorder, eh? I had a brief moment of panic yesterday when I realised that the Pitchshifter gig and the Celtic vs. Liverpool match are both on Thursday night. Then I realised I could set my video (Thanks Channel 5!) to record the match while I'm rocking out to the industrial beats, and then watch it "as live" when I get in. (It'll be a particularly poignant rocking out too, as this is Pitchshifter's last tour.) Anyway, now I just have to hope that no one texts me with the result while I'm out....

Loads of people, well, two people have asked when I'm going to restore the comments mechanism. Well, it will be back ere long, as I've got an alternate host of them now, for the grand cost of no pounds and no pence, and we just need to set it all up right so that it'll run properly. It's not that I didn't want to pay Enetation the 10 they wanted, but I got a better offer. So if you can just be patient, things could be sorted out by the end of this week.


Thursday 6th March

20:15

One 'Ring' to rule them all

Now, you've got to be a fan of any film that gives a couple of your mates a sleepless night, surely? And Hideo Nakata's Ring certainly falls into that category. So I was somewhat dismayed to hear that it was being re-made in Hollywood. After all, they don't have a great track record in that department. Well, I have braved The Ring and I have to report that they've done a pretty good job. They've changed the back story round a little bit to make it more plausible for US audience and there are a couple of extra scenes, but it's pretty much a straight re-tread. I'd also have to say that some of the climactic scenes aren't done quite as well as the original, in my opinion, but maybe that's because I knew what to expect. Still, it's well worth seeing, though probably not late at night. Personally, I prefer the original and am surprised that the Cambridge Picture House hasn't taken advantage of the remake to show that. Or have I missed it?

You know you're overly immersed in pop-culture when you're watching a film and during a couple of scenes, pop songs suddenly start playing in your head. For the record, those tunes were Horse Overboard by Microdisney and Little Lighthouse by The Dukes of Stratosfear (who were XTC in disguise). Anybody who watches The Ring will be able to spot the scenes these tunes popped up in.

Also, whilst I was waiting for the film to start, I was subjected to probably the most ludicrous advert I've seen for a long time. It features the divine David Beckham and his team mates in a Western-style showdown-cum-shootout, replete with long, leather, duster coats adorned with their names and numbers. Surprisingly, Becks is no Clint Eatwood, but the whole thing is absolutely fecking terrible. I'm almost tempted to stop drinking Pepsi (the product they're endorsing) in protest.

Do you feel lucky, punk? Do you think that you can do anything to influence the amount of luck in your life? Are you superstitious? ("Writing on the wall!" - Stevie W) Why not pop along to The Luck Project and help these interested people in their quest to determine how superstitious ("Writing on the wall!" - Stevie W, again) the population of the UK is. They also have some other stuff about luck on the site and a competition. You never know, you might get lucky...


Tuesday 4th March

21:20

Welcome to the Mardi Gra Experience

I tell you, you just can't trust anyone these days. You hang your Salvador Dali painting on the wall of the prison and some cheeky monkey half-inches it. According to this news story a piece by Dali, donated to the Rikers Island prison when illness forced him to cancel a visit, has been stolen and replaced with a crude copy. Strangely, the piece had actually been hanging in the prisoners' dining room until one of the inmates threw a cup of coffee at it. Presumably it was a bit more difficult to steal from there.

Anybody thinking I've spelt Mardi Gra wrong - I've done it on purpose. Have a quick Google on "Welcome to the Mardi Gra" to see what I'm on about. Only remember to include the inverted commas in the search box, otherwise you'll get this site in your search results and it's definitely not work-safe. So, don't go there. Girlfriend. And if you can't be bothered to look it up - I'm not telling, so there. No. Talk to the hand, etc.

Was God an astronaut? Well, that was the question posed by Erich von Daniken in his 1968 work Chariots Of The Gods. Taking what was an unorthodox look at the archaeological evidence at the time, von Daniken, posited the theory that the human race had been visited by extra-terrestrials in the ancient past. Obviously over the years, he's refined his theory and mellowed in some of his beliefs, but he's still searching for the answers to the questions of who, what and where is God? And remarkably for a man who was ridiculed for much of his early career, he's now responsible for the creation of a theme park near Interlaken in Switzerland. So, from 24th May you can join in the fun at the Mysteries Of The World Theme Park. It looks like it'll be quite interesting, so if you're in the area, why not pop in? I would.


Friday 28th February

22:05

Tales of the Unexpected

So there I was on Wednesday eveing, watching The Simpsons at the end of another long hard day looking for work, when my phone rings. "What idiot is ringing me at this time of the night?", I wonder. Hey, that was no idiot but my older brother, Mark, who'd been in Cambridge for a presentation and gave me about twenty minutes notice before coming round to see me. If I'd had a bit more warning, I'd have tidied up and cooked something nice for tea, but as it was, it was nice to see him, albeit for a somewhat limited time. It cheered me up no end. Mind, if he'd given me a bit more notice, I think I'd have only taken advantage by making him take me out to eat in central Cambridge, as Cherry Hinton does lack a high-class eatery, unfortunately. And I definitely wouldn't have shaved my head.

Hey, does anyone know how I can make some money out of the fact that Peter Greenaway's editor sort of agreed with my list of essential albums? Actually, I know he isn't a regular reader of the site, sadly, but Mark got him to take a look at the list, and it's nice to know that your brother thinks enough of something you've written to recommend it to someone he knows and that that someone has something positive to say about it. The other thing, of course, is that now having that connection, I can bore people stupid at parties talking about my six degrees of separation from just about any movie star you care to name. Jack, you might want to keep me away from the booze and/or the young laydees next weekend.....

My comments mechanism appears not to be working at the moment, and I suspect that's because I've been using it for ages without paying and they're getting fed up. I'll have to sort myself out and pay enetation something in the next couple of days, but until I do, there'll be no comments link. Sorry aboot that.


Tuesday 25th February

22:40

How could I have missed this bit of news?

Why did no one tell me it's National Pub Week? I'd better get out there and do my bit for the cause. Of course, I'm going to have to make up for missing the fact that it was National Chip Week last week and I failed to trot out the usual tired old parody piece that I've been circulating to workmates for the last few years. You can have a look here if you want to know what you didn't miss. Anyway, I'm going to have to work on a similar piece for this week now. Ah, it's all go here.


Sunday 23rd February

19:40

I am the King of rock and roll, completely

I've finally completed my "think" piece on the albums that you should all be listening to. You can find out just how culturally unaware you are here. I thought long and hard about what to include and what to omit, and for a while I did make a conscious effort to balance it up, but then I realised that this is my game and my rules so I can include what the heck I want and if you don't like it you can post your comments here.


Saturday 22nd February

21:00

Returning to normality...

...after about a week of feeling pretty poorly, although my ear is still not right, so I guess it's back to the doc's for a check on that this week. I am, of course, attributing my recovery to the fine food and fine company that I enjoyed round at Anne's house on Wednesday night. It was a very enjoyable evening with some ex-co-workers and respective partners, marred only by the fact that I couldn't actually drink any alcohol. Still, there's always next time...

I haven't been up to much else this week - mainly sleeping and feeling ill - so there's not much else to report. I called in to The Portland on Friday lunchtime to catch up with the rest of my ex-co-workers, which was nice. I've done a bit more work on my "essential album" piece, and I'll be working on it again this weekend, so it may see the light of day ere long. Oh, and I spent an ill-considered amount at Fopp, as per usual. I finally cashed in my winning lottery ticket and promptly blew the lot, and then some, on a stack of CD's and The Wicker Man and Battle Royale on DVD. I just hope my PC can actually play DVD's otherwise I'm going to feel a little foolish.


Tuesday 18th February

22:15

'Tis the season to be poorly...

My lovely ear infection has been joined by a very heavy cold-cum-flu-type thing that had me curled up on the sofa shivering under a duvet for most of Sunday. I felt quite bad, but a couple of days of copious fluids, multi-vitamins and hot drinks seems to have got me past the worst of it. Sadly, it has left me feeling rather lethargic and, therefore, not feeling like updating this site. So I haven't. I've been sort of working on the draft of my "essential album" piece, in between naps on the sofa and trips to the shops for more Lucozade and paracetomol, but it's still not ready yet. Hopefully, I'll feel up to finishing it off tomorrow and posting it, but it's more likely to happen on Thursday as I'm off out tomorrow night and I need as much rest as possible. Also, I have to sign-on on Friday, so I'm going to have to apply for some more jobs. There are a couple of possibilities that I need to look into tomorrow as they may not be around much longer. Anyway, that's about all the news that's fit to print, except to say Happy Birthday to Sir Bobby Robson (I know he's a big fan of mine...)


Saturday 15th February

20:10

Is it free? I'll take two then.

I have to admit that I'm not a great consumer of the music press, but I am a sucker for the free CDs they give away every now and then. I've always been keen on that sort of promotional bribery, probably because so many publications used to do it in the early '80s. I've got flexi-discs from Smash Hits, singles from the NME and Sounds and cassettes from gawd-knows-where cluttering up my house to this day. Of course, more recently, it's been the free CD that tempts me. That said, I'm not that indiscriminate - there has to be something on there that I think might be worth listening to. I've never been tempted by anything on the front of Mojo, for example. Recently Kerrang! have managed to lure me, although the fact that my PC seems to dislike their Best of 2002 suggests that I should have consulted it first...

Anyway, I bought NME yesterday for the first time in years because it has a free CD with it. Whatta mistake-a to make-a! For a start the "paper" itself seems to have lost whatever critical faculties it used to have and seems to have become a toadying parody of itself. It's not a serious paper but a music comic. Perhaps that's just a reflection on the shrinking market and dwindling influence of the music press, in that now the NME need the record companies on their side rather than the other way round. At least it does still have a great gig guide. This is rather getting off the point as the CD is what I actually wanted to write about. It's a promo for the NME Awards and as such features all the usual suspects that have been touted as "The Next Big Thing" for the last year or so. Anxious to discover what I was missing, I tuned in, turned on and nodded off. All I can say is, you know things are bad when a 26-year old Clash track is one of the best things on there. Alright, I like The Clash, but even so. Here, for your delight, is a rundown and critique of the tracks on said CD:

  1. The Hives - Main Offender Lively punk/new-wave style opener from a band I like what I've heard of, so far.
  2. Ash - Envy Let's face it, Ash should have been preserved in amber after their 1977 LP, never to record again. They'll never make anything as good as that.
  3. The Datsuns - Supergyration! Tedious 70's style cock-rock. Might still be fashionable in New Zealand, but has no place in the western world. (Sorry about dissing your homeland. Jack)
  4. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Screaming Gun I am obviously taking the wrong drugs. This bunch sound like some bad Doors/Free cross. Wasn't this on the b-side of "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum?
  5. Ryan Adams - Nuclear Manic Street Preachers without the Welsh accent.
  6. The Coral - Wildfire Not the best track on their album, but probably a fairly representative selection. It's Niagara-era Inspiral Carpets, though.
  7. The Streets - The Irony Of It All If it wasn't for the fact that I feel like I'm listening to MC Pikey, his album would be top of my list of things you have to listen to.
  8. Radiohead - Morning Bell Amnesiac Thom Yorke and Co surprise no one with another chiming, clanging dirge.
  9. The Polyphonic Spree - La La I suspect they're just hippies in robes, but at least they're tuneful. I'll investigate the album if it's going cheap in Fopp.
  10. Oasis - The Cage A complete dirge, from start to finish. Even worse than their current Songbird single
  11. Doves - Darker They used to be Sub Sub you know. Now they're trying to be the Stone Roses...
  12. The Vines - Sun Child On the basis of this track, Golden Palominos anyone? No? Syd Barrett then?
  13. Coldplay - 1.36 I ought to be pleased at the sound of Coldplay "rocking out", but this is terrible.
  14. The Libertines - The Delaney If you don't remember the guitar-jangle pop of the '80's (and The Brilliant Corners in particular) this may tickle your fancy.
  15. The Clash - Complete Control 26 years old and still knocking most of the competition into a cocked hat. RIP Joe.

Anyway, tomorrow, hopefully, I should be telling you which album in the entire world from the last fifty years you ought to be making your friends and anyone else listen to. I'm still actually drafting the piece so it might take slightly longer.

And in order to appease the assembled masses - last weekend I went to London to see my mate John, we spent Friday night at the Battersea Beer Festival, where I was outdone in both the fattest and most beardy categories, but not in the fattest beardy category. Saturday, Russ joined us, we watched the Liverpool game and then we went to see Crewe play at Brentford and were rewarded with a 2-1 win for Crewe which did involve a fair amount of luck. Afterwards we went drinking in Ealing with a couple of John's friends. I got fairly drunk, proved my ability at pool and cheated like a bastard at table football. Sunday, I got up at lunchtime took in the Manchester derby and the Newcastle vs Arsenal game and then, thanks to Sue giving me a lift, headed back home. I had a great weekend and it was nice to see some old mates again and some new mates that I hadn't seen since John's wedding.

Right, now I'm off to celebrate England's win over France in the Six Nations rugby. I may not have played rugby for a couple of years, but I haven't forgotten the art of celebrating. I've got the funnel, all I need is someone to pour that Guinness up my arse....


Thursday 13th February

22:30

The government lied to us, again

All our work has been in vain. Despite the fact that more than 390,000 people declared their religion to be "Jedi" on the last Census form, the government will not be recognising it as an official religion. According to this news story Jedi followers will be officially be classified as "atheist". Hey, just because it's only been around for 26 years and has no written creed doesn't mean it's not a religion, does it? After all the early Christians were persecuted for many years before the Gospels appeared.... Alright, it's a tenuous link. Perhaps if George Lucas claimed that he'd translated it from some sacred scrolls using special spectacles from God, which he's subsequently mislaid. Ah no, the Mormons have done that one already. Anyway, apparently 1.9% of the population of Cambridge are Jedi followers, but that can't be right because surely they'd all be employed on great salaries as doormen in the town centre. Cue the Jedi mind-trick - "This is not the pub you are looking for. Go on your way in peace." Ah, maybe not. Still, I'll be off to the official Census site tomorrow to try to find more statistical anomalies for your delectation and delight.

According to this news story today, a Bangladeshi man has been arrested at Heathrow after arriving on a flight from Colombia with a live hand grenade in his luggage. You've got to wonder how they managed to miss that at the baggage check. Or perhaps they just thought it was a novelty talc dispenser - I had one back in the '70's. I wish I'd kept it now, although the talc was fairly horrible. There was also a grenade-shaped aftershave bottle in circulation at the same time, I seem to recall, although it was a lot less realistic looking as it was made out of glass. Ding Dong! Avon calling!

In amongst all the doom and gloom about the impending loss of British soldiers lives in Iraq as they get bombed by the Americans, again, there's always a story that makes me laugh. Today, it's this one. Bio-terror toys for kids, my ass! As today's chemical spill alert at the Cambridge Science Park (source) serves to remind us, the Fire Brigade deal with a large number of different incidents, not just fires and cats stuck in trees. And what's more most of those incidents aren't terror-related. For flip's sake people, get a grip.


Tuesday 11th February

16:00

Dizzy, my head is spinning

I did mean to update on Monday morning after my weekend in that there London, but whilst I enjoyed the Battersea Beer Festival and seeing Crewe win away for the first time in three or four seasons, I was plagued by the eruption of an ear infection. Now, this is making me feel slightly dizzy, which makes concentration difficult and adds a whole new fun dimension to using the Green Cross Code - "Look left, look right, look at the ground whilst you try not to fall over...." Fortunately, it's in my "deaf" ear, so my hearing hasn't been affected too much. Anyway, I've spent most of the last couple of days not moving my head too much. The other drawback, of course, is that I can't drink alcohol if I want the antibiotics to work properly. Damn!

Anyway, you'll have to wait a couple of days for the "Essential Album" piece, or indeed anything else interesting. Sorry.


Thursday 6th February

23:00

Get you titters out

For the last week or so I have been enjoying (if that's the right word) a CD by Frankie Howerd called Get Your Titters Out. It's a curious amalgam of some of his earlier recorded songs and some "dance" tunes that feature his vocals. It's very strange. One moment he's dueting with Margaret Rutherford on a comic version of Nymphs and Shepherds and the next he's exhorting you to "raise your titters, raise yours titters, get your titters out" to some moronic Eurobeat. Sadly the CD doesn't include his sparklng version of Je T'Aime with June Whitfield, but I've got that on mp3 already. Still, all in all I think it was probably a better purchase than the John Bird reads the speeches of Idi Amin CD that I was also considering at the same time.

Things are still a bit slow on the job front, although I've had a couple of calls this week regarding possible opportunities. Of course, I should really get off my fat arse and get on with seriously looking for a new job, but until the cash situation gets a bit tighter I'm not actually that bothered. I can survive another couple of months before things start to go pear-shaped. Of course, as my younger brother pointed out, the sooner I get a job the more money I can blow on a big toy for me. So, anyone know of any jobs that I could do?

Finally, a thought for the weekend and beyond. If you were suddenly King of Rock'n' Roll, what's the one album that you'd make everyone in the world have to listen to? It doesn't have to be the best, the hippest, the most influential or whatever. Heck, it doesn't even have to be any good as long as you can justify your reason for making people listen to it. Unless your only reason is to scare the beejaysus out of the listener - I've already lined up some albums to do that. Go on, tell me, I dares ya.


Wednesday 5th February

20:50

Curse you, God!

Of course, it's not really God's fault. Nobody's fault but my own, but I feel like blaming someone. Having woken up on Monday morning with an attack of gout, which left me hobbling round the house for most of the day, I was pleased to wake on Tuesday pain-free. A situation which lasted amost all day until, coming out of the bathroom on the way to bed, I managed to smash my foot against the door frame. Ow! Argh! Still, I thought the pain would soon subside and that I'd be OK. Sadly I was wrong. The pain caused me a disturbed night's sleep and when I woke up this morning my little toe was all swollen and a nice purple-ish colour. Fortunately, there only seems to be bruising and the swelling has gone down, but again I've been hobbling round like an old man. Gah! Ah well, serves my right for being clumsy, I suppose.


Tuesday 4th February

23:30

"Accrington Stanley? Who are they?"

Milk? It's what Ian Rush drinks. Remember the adverts they used to show when you were a kid? Any that really stick in your head? Inspired by my reply to Tim's comment (see below) and a conversation in the pub with Eddy and his mates when we were moving house, here are some of the adverts that I remember from when I was a kid. Obviously this will make no sense whatsoever to anyone who didn't live in the UK in the 70s and 80s, and probably won't make much sense to those who did.

Watch Out, there's a Humphrey about! - a weird and wonderful campaign run by Unigate to promote milk. The premise was that the Humphrey, basically a red-and-white striped straw, would drink your milk if you didn't get to it first. The slogan was turned into a jaunty jingle, if I recall correctly, which went something on the lines of

Watch Out. Watch Out. Watch Out. There's a Humphrey abou-ou-out!

If you know what's good for you, you do - Weetabix, obviously. For a brief period in the 80's promoted by a gang of anthropomorphic skinhead Weetabix complete with boots, tight jeans, braces and white t-shirts. Token girl member, Trixie (or somesuch) differed only in the fact that she had some hair. The basic precept of the ad apparently being that either you eat Weetabix or this gang of thugs is going to come round and kick the living daylights out of you. Briefly they were the National Front of cereal. Not a smart move.

No one can eat three Shredded Wheat - Ah, the sound of a challenge. Shredded Wheat ran with this idea for years - no one can eat more than two. More than two and and you'd turn into some sort of sporting superman, hence the appearances of Ian Botham and Peter Shilton, amongst others, in their ads. Of course it wasn't true, as my older brother Mark and I proved one Saturday morning when we demolished a catering-sized pack of the things between us in a crazy challenge. Our parents weren't impressed either.

I'm a Secret Lemonade Drinker - Fabulous, musical adverts for R. White's Lemonade. "I'm trying to give it up, but it's one of those nights" Featured desparate dad creeping downstairs in the middle of the night to get some of that tasty beverage. Later versions featured the wife sneaking downstairs and then Ronnie Corbett, for no apparent reason. Enjoyed a revival in the 90s and most people over the age of 25 can probably sing the entire song.

Hold on there, Bald Eagle - The Texan bar was a chocolate-covered nougat thing that took about an hour to eat. The nougat was so tough, you could have filled teeth with it. Was promoted with a series of cartoons featuring a Lone Ranger type facing calamity and having a Texan bar as his last request. It took so long to eat that the Indian war party or Mexican firing squad or whatever lost interest in killing him. "Time sure goes slow when you're chewing a Texan bar." And by God, it did.

Book Early - Long before the slick campaigns that holiday companies use today, they used to let actual businessmen promote their own products. Fred Pontin wasn't entirely daft, as he got a slick sidekick in to do all the hard sell stuff first before he'd deliver his catchphrase to camera replete with cheesy grin and thumbs-up. Back in the old days though, the broadcast schedule wasn't quite as tight as it is today (we still had a dozen or so commercial channels operating their own schedules on a common network) so the ads could occasionally run longer than scheduled. On one such occasion it was Fred's ad that was had to fill the overrun and the final ten seconds or so featured Fred desperately trying to hold the pose. Sadly unsuccessfully. The sight of smiley uncle Fred turning into grumpy, pissed-off uncle Fred put me off Pontins for life.


Saturday 1st February

18:45

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Which, as far as I'm aware, is Chinese for Happy New Year. Today being the first day of the new Chinese Year. The Year Of The Sheep/Goat, depending on which interpretation of the Chinese zodiac you prefer. The Fat Fakir prefers the Sheep, if you'll pardon the expression. According to the forecast, not an auspicious year for Snakes like me to make dramatic changes in any area of their lives, but my social life will hold "many new and interesting connections". Wahey, can't wait! Anyway, if you want to check out your Chinese horoscope for the forthcoming year you can do it here. They've even got a link so you can find your sign, if you're not sure, but anyone born in 1969 might find it a bit confusing. And if you're feeling more culturally inclined, there's also 7000 Years of Jade at the British Museum. Thankfully nothing to do with the pig-faced, thick-as-two short-ones "star" from last summer's Big Brother...

I've spent a while trying to dream up an amusing sentence or two to introduce the next link that me old mucker Tony sent me, but I don't think there's anything I can say that would do it justice. Anyway, if you've ever ridden a motorbike and want to take your very last ride in style then you can definitely do worse than check out the Motorcycle Hearse. Cheers Tony, that's one for the Link list on the right - I only hope you weren't trying to tell me something when you sent it...

Well, as everyone in the universe must know by now, there was a bit of snow and the whole country ground to a halt. I made light of the fact in the last entry (see below) but it took Tim about 18 hours to get home. Sorry to hear that, mate - hope you've thawed out now.


Thursday 30th January

23:00

Carry On Snowing

"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but your tits are so delightful. I could play with them all week and so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
Yes gentle reader there's been a bit of snow falling round these parts today. No snow actually round my parts, that'd be mad, Ted, but this must be the first time my garden has seen two inches since I gave up nude sunbathing....and it's not the first time my back passage has been clogged up with white stuff, either. Ooh, no missus! You musn't! Well, that's enough of the smutty jokes for now. As I started out saying, there's been a bit of snow falling today. In fact it seems to still be snowing. Or maybe it was just the wind blowing the residual snow out of the trees. It was hard to tell. Predictably, all major transport routes and methods were affected. Poor old Tim texted me about two hours after he left work to say that's he only just got to the outskirts of Cambridge. Not bad for a journey that only takes thirty to forty minutes to complete it's whole distance. Not that he had a great deal to look forward to when he got home (apart from the family, obviously) as they were suffering a power cut at the same time. Hope everything's OK mate.

Anyway, it does seem strange that people get caught out every time we have some severe wintry weather, I thought, but then I realised that this is probably the heaviest snow fall I've seen myself for a few years. So everyone who, like me, expected a thin smattering of flakes and the occasional flurry was taken by surprise. This isn't the English snow we've come to expect over the last few years. Mind you, it must be a slow news day in Cambridge when the weather makes the front page of the local paper. Still, I look forward to spending tomorrow wrapped up nice and warm on the sofa with a copious supply of tea and biscuits watching yet more tragic tales of people struggling to and from work. I'll be thinking of you all. Actually, no, I won't. I'll be thinking of whether I can afford to turn the heating up a bit, whether I should nip out to get some more milk before Bargain Hunt or after and whether the duvet or the sleeping bag are more appropriate for my afternoon nap in front of the telly. Ha! Ha!

17:15

Just like Leila Khaled said

Good news electropop fans and lovers of all things 80s! At this very moment in time the RadioWaves03 festival is all set to go ahead, sometime in August at a venue to be announced, but there are some acts already booked, so you can look forward to hearing some of your favourite OMD tunes covered by bands you've never heard of. Or maybe you can't. Neither the RadioWaves03 or the Unofficial OMD sites have been updated since November, so maybe it's not on. Or maybe the hosts have just been off partying since Thanksgiving. Who knows?

And whilst we're on the subject of festivals - there's a little over three months to go before you can book your tickets for the 39th Cambridge Folk Fest. It's a-happening at the end of July/begining of August this year. Don't bother visiting the website just yet though as there are no details of who's playing available. Of course, once the full list of artists is available you and your festival-going friends could run a sweep on who'll pop their clogs before next year's fest. Ah, if only I'd backed Joe Strummer and not Billy Bragg...That's wishful thinking for you.


Tuesday 28th January

23:15

Eight Mile high

I went to see 8 Mile this afternoon. And why not? I can't stay in staring at four walls and a computer screen all day every day till I find a new job - I'll go stir-crazy. Anyway, it's a very enjoyable film and I don't even think you have to be in to Eminem to like it. Eminem himself is very watchable, he has fine support from his homies, the bad guys are BAD, and Kim Basinger still looks great even with no make up on. The plot isn't actually up to much - it's like the rap version of Rocky, except Eminem doesn't get the girl. Well, alright he does, but not in a big Hollywood-schmaltzy way. But, as I said, Eminem is extremely watchable throughout and the set pieces and set-ups are done well. Plus there's a sense of humour running throughout this film, so it never disappears up it's own ass, which it could have done. The only thing I could say is that either every one else in that film is about 6 foot 5 or Eminem is a bit on the short side; not that there's anything wrong with that, I aint no "dwarfist". Still, whatever you think of rap or Eminem, the climactic "battle" scene features some great and very inventive name calling. All in all, it gets the "Free Time" thumbs up in my house.

Do you think that at some point in the future, everyone you know will have been on television? I was watching Ground Force on BBC1 last night, purely because it was coming from my home town of Nantwich (well, it's not really my home town but I did live there for about 8 years, which is almost the longest I've lived anywhere). Anyway, the Ground Force team built this garden for a member of a gang of friends, most of whom I didn't recognise, except one for one who was friends with my sister at school. Of course, they've both long since gone their separate ways. So, Liz, I tip my hat to you as you join the list of people that I know who have been on the telly. Admittedly, two of those were on Crimewatch, although one was a policeman so at least he didn't mind being on there...

Having been disturbed by reports of the police shooting a man outside The Flying Horse in Clophill (which is probably my real home "town" as I lived there for about 9 years) I looked the place up on the old Interweb. Imagine my surprise to find that this site is actually for a Belgian electropop band. And imagine my further surprise when I find that there's also a band called Deadmans Hill...although they don't seem to be too active at the moment. [Deadmans Hill is just up the road from Clophill and was the scene of James Hanratty's crimes] Anyway, as far as I remember, and the evidence confirms, The Flying Horse is just at the entrance to the village off the A6 and we (my family) used to live at the other end of the village near the Rising Sun pub. Well, we lived in Tanqueray Avenue (which is much closer) for a few years before moving to the other end of the village, to be honest. I seem to remember that there was also The Green Man pub not far from the Flying Horse, and that was the pub my mum used to play darts for way back in the '70's. Sadly, they don't seem to have a website. Ah, Bedfordshire, so near and yet so far. Sometimes I wish I could drive, just so I could get in the car and go for a quick spin round my childhood haunts. Perhaps I should fix up to spend a weekend there whilst I'm still moneyed and unemployed. Mind you, I'm sure that'd be a complete mind-fuck, walking streets that I haven't seen for 25 years....


Saturday 25th January

02:30

I taught him everything he knows, of course....

Ah, the good old Internet - not just there for the nasty things in life, like crack whore mp3s. For a while, I've been occasionally dropping in on the Bushbaby website. You see, I used to play bass in the guitarist's first-ever band, and in his second-ever band too, briefly. That first band, Lost Onus, split up nearly twenty years ago due to the usual musical differences and whilst we've all gone our separate ways, Ben is the only one to be still playing music today. So, from a distance I've been following what he's been up to. And I'm looking forward to seeing him on tour at some point, whether it's in Cambridge, London or elsewhere. But first, a brief history lesson...

Late in 1982 (or was it '83?) Ben and his friend Muzz were talking of doing some music together. Like most teenagers, I suppose. I was taking my first tentative steps in music at the same time too and tried to blag my way in on the action despite the fact that I could barely play the bass guitar and didn't actually own one. Well, they fell for the charms of a slightly older man and I was in. So we had a band, Lost Onus, but no songs, no drummer and no gigs. Well we got roped in to supporting another friend's band (mainly, I think, because everyone else refused) but we still had no songs and no drummer. So we hurriedly wrote some songs - well Ben wrote about a dozen and I contributed two and we put them on tape for our first drumer to listen to before the gig. I still have that first tape. I'm hoping it might be worth something one day, although some of the stuff on it probably shouldn't be allowed to see the light of day ever again.

Anyway, the first gig wasn't a disaster so we did a few more, getting through various drummers, with Ben and Muzz doing the songwriting duties between them and me occasionally contributing. As time went on we did more of Muzz's numbers and fewer of Ben's, which was part of the reason we broke up. But for a couple of years we were "the undisputed kings of the Nantwich scene". Not that there was that much of a scene (although at our second gig we supported Aquilae whose guitarist/vocalist was the now internationally famous comedian Ben Miller). And that was another of the problems - always playing to the same old faces. We eventually split late in the summer of 1985 and for a while I worked with both Muzz and Ben on separate projects. But the dream was over and we went our separate ways. Muzz went to university in Huddersfield, where he had a nervous breakdown, Ben went to Bristol and carries on being a rock god to this day, and I've ended up as a technical author in Cambridge. Who'd'a' thought it, eh?

And now I think it only fair that I pay tribute to all those daft enough to play drums for us in our brief career:

If anyone recognises any of the above names and knows where they are now, why not get in touch and I'll come along to play them that original demo tape and scare the living daylights out of them. "The Way" *shudder* - even I think it's terrible and I wrote it!


Wednesday 22nd January

23:50

Getting Back into That 80s Groove

Well, I was intending to go to see Raving Seahorse, er, sorry, I mean Raging Speedhorn this evening but I went on a bit of a shopping spree this afternoon and ended up spending nearly fifty of your Earth pounds on CD's, and decided that I'd rather stay in and listen to them than spend my night in a shed bemoaning the fact that the vocals aren't loud enough and feeling old as I realise that there are kids there not much older than my nephews. So what did I buy? Well, I'm glad you asked, but you might not be...

As mentioned above, Dead Kennedys are on tour again. Well, not quite. Klaus Fluoride, East Bay Ray and DH Peligro are touring as the Dead Kennedys but Brandon Cruz is doing the vocal duties. Following a a bitter and protracted lawsuit between the Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra, I suspect there is no chance that they'll ever appear on the same stage again. The official Dead Kennedys website makes no mention of the dispute, but does provide a full listing of their tour dates if you fancy popping along to wallow in nostalgia and bemoan the absence of Jello B. (I just hope they manage to do 'Kill The Poor' better than my former band, The Elephant Men, once did.) On the other hand the Alternative Tentacles site includes coverage of the dispute on the Jello biography pages including the non-endorsement of the current re-issues of DK stuff on Decay Records, and a brisk dismissal of their live album. Methinks this one will run and run.

Finally, my mate John sent me this link which has nothing to do with any of the above but is very amusing. It's a classic example of a someone poking fun at the establishment in a manner guaranteed to confuse them. To be fair, both Alan Curbishley of Charlton Athletic and Keith Cooper of FIFA join in the fun. Take a look. No soccer knowledge required.


Tuesday 21st January

20:00

Ooh, I'm still feeling a little stiff (ooh-er!)

At somewhat short notice, I went off over the weekend to help my younger brother (Eddy) and his girlfriend move house. No problem I thought, that'll be a couple of van loads to shift and I can be back home in time for the Premiership highlights on Saturday night. Ah, how wrong I was. It took two days and four van loads and we still didn't move quite everything. It also didn't help that he's moved to a third floor flat in a building with no lift and a trans-dimensional space warp in the stairwell. There were too many stairs for the number of floors we had to climb up. After the second trip I was pretty exhausted but fortunately we called it a day then. On Sunday we were all feeling sore and tired but there were another two van loads of stuff to move and it had to be done. By the time we took a break after the first van load I'd developed the kind of thousand-yard stare more normally associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Anyway, some food and drink was all we needed to finish the job and by 7pm on Sunday night we'd got everything into the flat. I definitely needed a few beers after that and stayed at Eddy's for a second night. All my muscles stiffened up even further and I had considerable trouble getting out of bed. I finally returned to sunny Cambridge on Monday morning. Sadly, as I'd been overly optimistic in my estimation of the scale of the undertaking, I'd not taken a change of clothes with me, so I must have smelled pretty bad by that time. Still, I got a seat to myself on the train and that's never a bad thing.

Once I got back home, I decided that a good long soak in a nice warm bath would be in order. And it would have been a lovely treat if it hadn't been for the fact that no sooner had I got into said bath than I was bombarded with telephone calls from my landlord. Great. For about thirty minutes it was like being in a rather poor 70's sitcom, as every time I went to get back in the bath the phone went again. Gah!

My ex-co-worker Jack links to this article on his site and I'm afraid I just had to lift it. So if you've already been to his site you can skip this. It's a review of High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher; which is a book about America's love affair with the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). It does make some valid points but kind of undermines itself about five paragraphs from the end with the assertion that increasing immigration is the reason for America's driving habits getting worse. Quite frankly, this is racist nonsense. Apart from the fact that it's not only "poor nations" where driving habits are bad - anyone have fond memories of trying to negotiate French or Italian city centres? - the implication that it's the bad "foreign" drivers who are to blame and not the lax licensing system is frankly ludicrous. I certainly hope that this isn't a point that is made in the book. It really does undermine some of the more cogent arguments. Well, see for yourself.


Friday 17th January

16:30

Good thing I don't have a job to go to...

...as I wouldn't have made it yesterday. A combination of half a dozen cans of lager and half a bottle of gin gave me the worst hangover I've had for ages. I obviously overdid the lottery win celebrations as I had to spend most of yesterday crashed out on the sofa recovering. The thumping headache didn't subside till late in the afternoon and, because I was feeling so rough, I decided not to venture out to take in the folk-rock fun at The Portland.

Following the clamour for more Una Stubbs-related nonsense on this site, I went off on a web search for suitable material. Surprisingly, for such a well-known actress there's actually not that much about her on the old Interweb, but you can find on this site another scurrillous rumour about the alleged Cliff-loving one. Also here you can find some jokes at the poor lady's expense (as well as a lot of jokes about Lionel Blair). There's also a picture of Una on the www.celebrity-upskirt.co.uk but I'm not linking to that - mainly because it's nowhere near as interesting as you might think.

Er, I was going to write something else, but I've completely forgotten what it was. Ah, well, if I remember later, I'll update.


Wednesday 15th January

23:00

You might win a little but you'll never win a lotto!

Wahey! In a little over five years of playing the lottery I've notched up my fourth individual win, bringing my total winnings to 204 for an approximate outlay in the region of 1000. Not a brilliant return on my investment, but probably no worse than if I'd put a grand in the FTSE100 at the start of this year. Anyway, tonight I am 84 richer than I was this morning. What a nice feeling. Hopefully this is precursor to me scooping the jackpot on Saturday night....

Not much news on the old job front. Well, there is some news on the old job front - the next wave of redundancies at Convergys were announced today. This wave was announced at the same time as I was given the heave-ho, but as more than twenty-five people were being made redundant in one business area they had to go through a consultancy period. Sadly once again some decent people got the shove, so my commiserations go to Janice and Alex. For what it's worth I don't think either of you will have trouble finding other jobs.

I haven't made that much progress on finding another job. I'm kind of reluctant to get back in the water, as it were, especially as I'm enjoying my time on the beach. Sadly though, economic necessities dictate that I need to find a means of supporting myself. My mate John sent me details of these jobs and I'm quite tempted by the Promotions Assistant/Office Manager job. I think the salary might not be that great and I'm not that familiar with many of the bands on the roster, but it's the kind of job I wouldn't mind doing. I probably should have applied for it ten years ago, of course, as I think my age may now count against me, but I might still give it a go. I'm going to sleep on it and see how I feel in the morning.

Lastly, I'm going to go out tomorrow night. Apart from the fact that I'm getting a bit stir-crazy from staying in the house all the time, I feel the need to spend my lotto winnings on a ticket to see Raging Speedhorn at The Junction and there are some psychedelic-folk-rock-cum-alt.country bands playing at The Portland Arms. If any of them are any good I'll let you know and provide links on here - except for Of Montreal whose website is hosted by angelfire.com and always down for "excessive bandwidth use".


Monday 13th January

23:45

Say Cheese!

Ah, marvellous. Always let them see you smiling as you die, I always say. Alright, I don't. In fact, I don't even know what that means, but it's just a bit of a preamble to the fact that Tim and Jack both sent me these pictures (about 70KB, if you're daft enough) of me from the Christmas party, which have been posted on the Convergys intranet. Isn't it ironic? Or just a sad reflection that no one looked too closely at my hands in either picture? I neither know nor care. All I do know is that it cheered me up no end. Might not do the same for you though.... Anyway, I've also now swapped my profile picture for that lovely one of me and my cheeky grin.

Eeh, it's expensive registering as unemployed. It cost me thirty-three of your English quids today to go up to the Job Centre and hand over the requisite forms. It wasn't the actual getting to the Job Centre that was too expensive but the visit to Fopp afterwards. As ever, they're piling it high and selling (most of) it cheap. Their punk and metal stuff seems relatively pricy but they have a better selection of stuff than anywhere in Cambridge, I reckon. Minutemen CDs, anyone? Anyway, I bought the following - none of which Richard would approve of:


Sunday 12th January

15:10

NWA shot my hamster!

They did, I tell you. I only listened to Straight Outta Compton twice but that was all it took to persuade me to get a gun and blast the defenceless rodent to kingdom come. So, Mr R.S.P.C.A., Mr Rolf-to-tha-H-to-tha-A(rris), it's not me you should be prosecuting, but them. No, of course I'm not using them as a convenient scapegoat. Mind you, it's easier (and cheaper) to blame gangsta rap than it is to address the real issues.

Interestingly, although gun crimes have increased dramatically in the last year, the official crime figures show that your chances of being the victim of crime are about the same as they were twenty years ago. And, as further analysis of those figures here shows, gun crimes account for just 0.03 per cent of the total offences in the UK. Of course, the increase of gun crime combined with the fall in other offences does make it slightly more likely that you might be involved in a gun crime, but the fear of that threat seems to far outweigh the likelihood of it actually happening. Please, don't have nightmares.

And now for something completely different, as some comedy ensemble or other once said. Need more Carry On film info? Then check out this site for more stuff than you can shake a stick at. Cheers Kev for that link - I've also put it in my list of favourites on the right there.

And here's another new link which leads to a fantastic site containing My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable - a cartoon strip series based on karate; My New Filing Technique Is Unstoppable - filing-based office humour; and Get Your War On - post-9/11 humour, red in tooth and claw. All probably not work safe, especially if you're working for an American-based corporation. Personally, I've been a fan of the ..Fighting.. strip since I first encountered it in Bizarre magazine (definitely not work-safe) a few years back and I was delighted to find it all available on the old Interweb. And now I've shared it.


Friday 10th January

20:50

Where does the time go?

Blimey, you go out enjoying yourself for a couple of minutes and all of a sudden three days have passed. Good thing I don't have a job to go to anymore - I'd never have time to fit everything in....

On Wednesday I went to the Job Centre to collect the requisite forms and make an appointment to register as unemployed. I should have done it before Christmas but I really didn't want to face it - having been unemployed before I know what a soul-destroying place the Job Centre can be. Plus the terms of my redundancy were quite generous so I don't actually need to rely on state benefits for a while yet, so there's not much incentive to sign on. Still, if they want to give me some extra cash, then who am I to refuse? And after having to wait three-quarters of an hour before seeing a clerk for two minutes and collecting the forms, if they don't give me some money I'll be a bit miffed.

After leaving the Job Centre I called into ex-work to pick up my redundancy cheque and had lunch with a couple of ex-colleagues in one of my favourite Cambridge pubs, The Portland Arms. I'm not entirely sure why I like this pub, after all it does have a bit of a rundown air to it, but the staff are friendly, the beer is always decent and the food is fairly good too. Plus they put on a wide range of bands on in the evening. If it was located about three miles closer to my house, it'd be perfect.

Me old mate, John gave me a ring on Tuesday night to tell me that he'd picked up a Rutles album for me in the HMV sale. Bolstered by this news and the fact I'd just put a large amount of money in my account I called into the Cambridge branch of HMV on Wednesday afternoon. I was immediately put off their sale by the fact that one side of the sales rack had been filled with absolutlely no regard for alphabetical order, and I couldn't be arsed to spend an hour looking through it in case there was an MC Tunes CD going cheap or some similar bargain. So instead I picked up the latest Fat Wreck Chords sampler CD, a Golf Records sampler CD and Man On The Moon, the Andy Kaufman biopic, on video. I haven't gotten round to watching the video yet, but I have listened to the two CDs and as far as I'm concerned they were excellent purchases. Of course, if you dislike ska-punk (Golf) or American punk (Fat Wreck) you'll probably hate both.

A rather more long-standing (or should that be long-suffering?) mate, Kev, came down from Grimsby to see me yesterday. As he also doesn't have a job at the moment, we went out for a large number of beers. We weren't too adventurous in choice of drinking venues, I'm afraid, spending the entire night in The Regal, but they do food, the beer is cheap and there's always a lot of totty to ogle, so it suited our sad old man purposes. You can always guage how the evening is going by what you're drinking, and whilst it looked bad when Kev had a coffee after his curry, we finished off the evening sharing a jug of "Monster Reef" cocktail, or "Green Slime" as Kev christened it. I don't think any of the laydeez were impressed but by then we didn't care. We got back home in time to buy some more food, gin and a bottle of tonic from the Spar and I fell asleep as Kev watched Blade and Carry On Screaming, neither of which he'd seen before. This morning I cooked up a fairly full English breakfast for the pair of us before sending him on his merry way back to his wife and two kids. And his appointment at the Job Centre. I then crashed out to recover on the sofa for most of the afternoon. (Oh hold on, that sounds like we're having some sort of clandestine gay affair but we're not - he's not my type. And he's a crap shag.) I think I should have been using this afternoon to apply for some jobs but I felt as rough as a badger's arse.


Tuesday 7th January

22:30

TV programmes you'll never see...

Inspired (or perhaps not) by a brief drunken conversation with my little brother over the festive period, I've come up with a list of a few programmes that you might wish to have seen instead of the dismal fare you were offered and a few that you definitely won't see on your screen in the near future. Yeah, TVGoHome will probably do this a lot better, if they ever get round to updating any time soon. Anyway here we go:

I think that's enough for now. Happy viewing.


Monday 6th January

23:50

Age of Innocence

If only we'd known then what we know now. My second favourite TV channel, five (as I believe they're now known), showed Thunderbirds Are Go! the other day. This is, as any fule kno, the Thunderbirds movie. Apart from the now dated Animatronics and the implausible life forms on Mars, it also featured a fantasy scene set in the Swinging Star nightclub on the Moon. Nothing too remarkable about that but the house band were The Shadows, whose puppet Hank Marvin looked more lifelike than the real thing, and who were backing one "Cliff Richard Junior". Yep, that's right, son of the late Sir Cliff. Of course the film was made in 1966 when Cliffie was still a-dating the laydees so perhaps it seemed plausible back then.... Nowadays Cliff has apparently gone into semi-retirement and concentrates on overseeing the wine production at his vineyard and releasing the occasional piece of God-bothering blather, er, I mean, his traditional Christmas single.


Friday 3rd January

20:45

Tip of the Day (Slight return)

Should one of your colleagues return from the United States of Whatever bearing the gift of a bottle of Samuel Adams Triple Bock please take a moment to read through the Tasting Notes instead of simply pouring the contents into a glass and taking a great big swig. Should you go for the big swig approach, don't be surprised if it feels like your face is about to explode.

The Triple Bock, an ale brewed with maple syrup, fact fans, is that rare breed - a beer that must be sipped. And not in the bad sense. At a mere 17.5% ABV it's one of the strongest beers around, and certainly the strongest beer I've had for a while. And I decided to toast the New Year with it. Once the blood vessels in my face had settled down after the first initial big swig I settled down to work my way through the rest of the glass and very nice it was too. Thick, dark, fruity, woody and maple syrupy (unsurprisingly) and definitely a beer that you need to take your time over. Cheers Mickey, it was very much appreciated. And should you be off to California at any time, I'll let you have the bottle back as you can get a cash refund on it.


Wednesday 1st January 2003

20:30

All is quiet on New Year's Day...

It's certainly quiet in my house - that last-minute run to the off-licence for more beer had the predictable outcome. Too much booze consumed and I've been feeling rough all day. I've only got myself to blame. Still, reclining on the sofa all day, drinking tea, has given me a bit more time to consider what to write today. Not that that's any guarantee that it'll be interesting...

I was surprised to learn that almost 17% of people who make resolutions manage to keep them for more than a month. I didn't think it'd be that many, to be honest, as most of the people I know make unrealistic resolutions and then don't change their behaviour patterns to accomodate these resolutions. Still, why make resolutions to change your life only at New Year? If there's something you want to change you can decide to change it at any time. But given that most people seem determined to only make their life-changing decisions at the New Year, here are five questions that you maybe should have thought about last night:

  1. Why am I resolving to change this aspect of my life?
  2. Why now?
  3. What incentives have I got to keep this resolution?
  4. How can I measure my success in keeping this resolution?
  5. What other aspects of my life need to change to help me keep this resolution?

Bleedin' obvious questions really, but at least asking yourself these will help you understand a bit more about why you're making the resolution and what you have to do to keep it, rather than abandoning it by the middle of January. Personally, I made a number of "New Year's Resolutions" about three months ago. I'm still in the process of figuring out the hows and whys of how to achieve a couple of these but I now have a sort of life-plan that I am working to achieve. And this is the first time in my life that I've actually had some direction, rather than drifting along on the currents of chance and fortune. Soon the world shall see my power. Mwahahahahaha!!