fatfakir's blog

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

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Friday 31st December

What else can you do when life is unstable?

Ah, you lucky people - less than a fortnight since the last one and here's another fatfakir update for you. Not that this will be a particularly substantial update. I did actually write a lot for this update on my laptop, but then found that I didn't have a floppy disk to transfer it to and neither have I had chance to try out the Wi-Fi card near a hotspot, so I couldn't upload it either. So you'll have to put up with this, rather rushed, post till I get my act together.

This year, for the first time in a long time, I spent Christmas with my younger sister, Liz. I know I'm living with her at moment, but I could have gone elsewhere for the festive season. I did have offers you know! Anyway, I stayed in Nantwich and had a really good time. The kids (Daniel and William) scored it big time on the present front and I managed to do quite well out of it myself. I got a couple of "executive" toys, so you can expect me to be wasting time with those in the New Year rather than working. I also scored the complete series of The Office on DVD and a handful of Carry Ons (Spying, Screaming, Dick, Behind, Henry - all good stuff). Liz knocked up a substantial Christmas dinner and much fun was had by all. The boys got a PS2 from their Dad and I think I've probably played on it longest so far. Well, Simpson's Hit & Run is just so addictive. Mind you, I think Daniel will be getting a PS2 Memory card or two for his birthday - I hate having to start from the begininng every time... Anyway, just to get us truly in the festive mood even the weather joined in and it snowed on Christmas Day for the first time I can remember in a long time. And it wasn't just a light flurry, this was a good inch or so deep once it settled. Sadly it didn't really settle till late in the day so it wasn't till around 8pm that we got outside for a quick snowball fight and a test run for Daniels's new remote control all-terrain vehicle. I do have a couple of pictures of the snowfall, but again, they're on my laptop so you'll have to wait for those.

The other exciting thing I managed over the holiday period is to visit my old mate Kev in Grimsby. This involved a six-hour journey by the delights of public transport. I had to get a bus to Crewe, a train to Manchester Oxford Road, walk to Manchester Piccadilly, get a train to Scunthorpe and then a coach from Scunthorpe to Grimsby. It's not exactly the easiest of journeys in the best of circumstances but the addition of engineering works on the railway turned it into a bit of a nightmare. I really ought to learn to drive... Anyway, I arrived in Grim at about 2.30pm and it was straight in to the Yarborough Hotel for a couple of pints to refresh myself after the arduous journey and then a trip to the cash machine and a quick pint in Pepys Bar, which was as rough as it's always been. Then, after a quick spin round to Kev's house to drop off my bag and freshen up, it was back out for beer, nosh, beer and more beer. We revisited some of the places that we used to drink in when we were students (The Barge, Tap and Spile, Lloyds Arms, Lincoln Castle) and popped in the Walkabout, which is one of about a dozen new pubs that have appeared in Grimsby since I left. It might have been that we were in the wrong part of town but most of the pubs were quiet. Alright, it was mid-week, but we were virtually the only people in the Walkabout and the Lincoln Castle, and the pubs by the Walkabout were pretty empty too. Not that that stopped us from getting fairly well smashed. We ended up in the curry house after the pubs shut and carried on boozing in there. Not that that was a good idea - I fell asleep whilst we were waiting for a taxi. Surprisingly, I didn't feel too bad the next day although I did feel a bit queasy. However, a bit of a stroll down the promenade at Cleethorpes and a healthy fry-up did the trick and I started to feel almost normal again by the time I had to leave. Fortunately for me, this time I was only travelling as far as Doncaster, so didn't have to suffer too much on public transport.

And that's it for now - hope you all have a jolly New Year's Eve. Don't get too drunk celebrating the arbitrary changing of the date, will you? I'm off back to Nantwich later on today and may or may not be off round the town tonight, depending on what my sister is up to. And on Monday will finally get a chance to use my new season ticket for Crewe Alex as they host Preston North End. (I would have gone to see them at home against Burnley on Boxing Day but the snowfall led to the cancellation of that game.) My New Year's resolutions are to update this site more often and to find somewhere to live. What are yours?

Sunday 19th December

According to Hoyle, all cards on the table

Well, less than week to go till Chrippy-Chrippy-Chrimbo and I'm as excited as something that isn't excited at all. For some reason I just don't feel very festive. I think it's probably because I've hardly had time to contemplate the forthcoming festive season and have only just got round to doing my Xmas shopping. Normally I spend about three or four Saturdays wandering round the shops and wondering what to buy and then get everything in a rush on Christmas Eve but this year I've been gadding about so much that I've not had time for the usual aimless browsing. Ah well, I'm sure I'll be more jolly by the end of the week.

I ought to be jolly - I've been out and about for the last few weeks, catching up with some old friends and making some new ones. A couple of weeks back I went down to Cambridge. On Saturday afternoon I met up with Tim, Julie and their family, Jack, Heather and their new sprog, Rebecca, Chris A and Chris W for a few drinks in the the Fort St George. Uncannily, they had an appropriate guest beer on. (Yep, I've just half-inched those links from Jack's site.) The afternoon-slash-evening was a lot of fun, catching up on old times, swapping the war stories of work, that sort of thing. There are a few pictures of this momentous event here. The following day (Sunday) I trekked out to the wilds of Suffolk for the christening of my good friend Richard's son, Jozef. The small village of Kirtling is served by a bus every Tuesday and Thursday so I had to get a taxi out there. Fortunately, Richard had provided some decent directions and when we did arrive in Kirtling and got a bit confused, there was a a man standing in the road, who gave us directions. The service, which was Roman Catholic, was not too long and (fortunately for me) didn't feature any hymn-singing. (Not that there's anything particularly wrong with hymn-singing, but I'm not much cop at it.) Then it was all back to Richard's for nosh, drinks and chats about obscure bands. It was all very enjoyable and I couldn't help feeling that may be I shouldn't have left it so long before going back down south. I'll have to fix up another tour of duty in the near future.

In an attempt to confuse as many people as possible, this month's lastfriday wasn't held on the last Friday of the month, as that would be New Years Eve, but on the 17th which was the last Friday before the festive season gets truly underway. I managed to make it to Burnz' place for a few pre-match drinks this time. There was time for a few beers, a blast of Nucleus Roots and a listen to a remixed 6ft Midget track. It was also an excellent opportunity to show off my new hobby - pipe smoking (more of which later). We arrived at the Civic late enough to have missed the pop-punk experience of MYBE, but not late enough for the local chavs to have gone to bed. There was at least thirty or forty of them hanging around outside. Fortunately the prescence of some beefy bouncers was enough to discourage them from making any trouble. I was called a "mosher" on the way in, which has to count as one of the most useless insults I've ever heard in my thirty-nine years on this planet. Certainly not one that called for any Lee Van Cleef-style pipe action before sorting out said lout. Shame. Anyway, second band on were the pop-party-punk antics of Chuck. Top entertainment from a great party band. Well worth checking out if they're playing anywhere near your area. (And I see they're playing in Manchester in January, so I might have to check it out.) Third act on the bill were Fights. Deservedly got a good reputation and they rocked da house. Last up were Rattlesnake Remedy, who are garnering a healthy following and some critical acclaim. I have to admit they're a bit too 80s Heavy Metal for my liking but they are good at what they do. Before the time ticked away too far, it was off to The Ferryboat Inn for a few late-night jars and the talking of large amounts of inconsequential tat. I staggered off home at about half two in the morning very much the worse for wear. Still, it was a very good night indeed. Happy Christmas you crazy guys!

As mentioned earlier I have taken up the filthy habit of pipe smoking. It's a hobby really and one that was inspired by my purchase of a comedy pipe whilst I was in Cambridge. I liked it so much I deicded I had to get a real one so I have. Unfortunately, as a bit of a smoking novice, I don't really have a clue what I'm doing and for the first few days I could only keep the thing lit for about thirty seconds at the most. I went through almost an entire box of matches one evening desperately relighting the blasted thing every minute or so. Well, I think I've got the hang of it now and can keep it going for a good three or four minutes. And the pipe. Oooh no, missus! Sadly no pictures are yet available of me in full smoking action, but there might be some in the New Year.

And speaking of the New Year, there may well be a few more frequent updates soon, as my brother Mark has lent me a laptop. I've just bought a Wi-Fi card for it so I'll be lugging it around Nantwich and Warrington trying to find any Wi-Fi hotspots for uploading my site updates. There are, of course, plenty of websites listing Wi-Fi hotspots but the nearest I've found are all in Crewe. Don't hold your breath waiting for these miraculously more frequent updates then - much as I'd like to I can't spend every night sat in a pub in Crewe just to surf the web...

Finally, as promised, click the link to find some pictures from my Grandpa's 90th birthday bash. I can't take any credit for them - they are all the work of my 10-year old nephew, Daniel. I just scanned them in and stuck them on the web for your delectation and delight. Or something.

I was going to mention my works Xmas party, but to be honest it's not that interesting. All the good stuff apparently happened when I was too drunk to remember.... The house band The Dawes (*groan*) were very entertaining and there was a free bar, which accounted for the general drunkenness. And I found out that one of my colleagues went to see Tom Waits twice on his recent tour - he stumped up the dosh to buy tickets on eBay for both the London and Berlin gigs. And he saw him in London in 1987 too. I can't tell you how jealous I was to hear that. Ooh, the pain! It's OK, I'm not bitter....

And that's it. I'm out of here. I've got loads of files to transfer to my new laptop, a bunch of presents to buy and wrap and a whole load of other things to be getting on with. And it's nearly lunchtime. I'm sure there's a few things I've forgotten to waffle on about, but that's life. Until the next time - enjoy the festive season and don't overdo it on the port and mince pies. Toodle pip!

Sunday 28th November

An alarm bell ringing

End of the month so time for another sporadic update, although I suppose if the updates are always at the end of the month they're not really 'sporadic' but more 'infrequent'. And despite the gap of four weeks since the last update, I'm struggling to think of anything original to say.

Still, I've never let that stop me before, so let's get the most recent stuff out of the way first. Today (Sunday) there was a gathering of the clan Lawrence to celebrate Grandpa Coe's 90th Birthday. (Before you start - he's my Mum's Dad, hence the different name.) It was also my nephew William's birthday (he's not 90 though) so it was a double celebration really but, as William has a lot of birthdays to look forward to, the focus was on Grandpa. Rather than host a house party or anything we all went out for lunch. My older brother, Mark, and his partner Kate came down from Leeds and there was a rare guest appearance from my younger brother Eddy. Yep, the notoriously unreliable Eddy even managed to get there. On time and everything. Grandpa had a good time and seemed to be putting his food away with relish despite his earlier protestations that he'd lost his appetite. It was good to see the old boy enjoying himself. I did take my digital camera to get a few pictures but in typical Jim-fashion it packed up after only three shots. I'd had the feeling I ought to put new batteries in it but it seemed OK when I tried it out in the morning. D'Oh! Oh well you'll just have to wait till I can scan in some of me nephew's photos in instead.

As usual Friday night was spent at lastfriday but due to some "comedy" capers (setting off two hours late, a four and a half hour journey cross-country and then waiting for a non-existent bus from Conisbrough) I didn't get there till nearly half past eight. As a result I missed out on the pre-match drinks (Apologies to Burnz and Burnz' Mam - hope you didn't really tidy up on my behalf) and also missed Fire Escape Routine. So first up for me were Atraiou - a local band building an impressive reputation built on solid riffing and well-crafted rock. Plus the fact that the lead guitarist looks like Jack Black. Their multi-layered stuff sounded pretty good liveand will probably sound pretty good on record, but I can't help thinking the success of another band called Atreyu might prove a hindrance. Mind you, I don't think they were impressed by my suggestion that they should change their name to Tenayshus D... They were followed by Defenestration - a metal-screamo band with a solid reputation and an impressive list of past gigs. This was the penultimate date on their farewell tour. Apart from wondering if the female singer "makes those noises in bed", my overwhelming feeling was that listening to this made me realise just how good No Names Mentioned were. Not long after they'd finished a bout of chav-related aggro broke out and in the confusion that followed I didn't see headline act Mendeed at all. Arse. As a result of the fracas I wasn't up for the planned post-match drinks either, so more apologies to Burnz and his mam - I'll be round for the Xmas gig though and I've booked the day off so perhaps we might finally get that pre-match drink...

Whilst there are drawbacks of living a fair distance from work, one of the big pluses has been that I've been able to get along to see my favourite football team - Crewe Alexandra - on a much more regular basis than has been the case in previous years. I've been to more home games so far this season than I've managed in the previous half-a-dozen. Admittedly, I haven't been living less than five miles from the stadium since about 1987, so that's tended to limit my attendance. Yeah, part-time supporter, that's me. But I've been a long-term part-timer - I remember the days of the old Fourth Division, attendances of around 1,000 and dismal 0-0 draws against the likes of Rochdale and Hartlepool, although I'm blowed if I can tell you who was manager before 'Super' Dario Gradi. Anyway, I seem to have acquired a "lucky" shirt. And apart from the fact that I'm lucky I can get a shirt to fit me these days, it's been there to see more than it's fair share of wins and draws. In fact, apart from the expected defeat to Manchester United in the Carling Cup, it's seen only seen wins and draws. The lucky streak started with a 3-0 win against Watford, followed that up with a 3-1 win against Brighton, the defeat to ManYoo, a 2-2 draw against Leicester (on my birthday) and last week's 4-1 win against Gillingham. The disappointment of only managing a draw against Leicester was alleviated by the fact that my sister got the Crewe stadium announcer to send me birthday wishes during the pre-match announcements. Yay! Cheers Liz! Anyway, having looked at the fixture list, my shirt probably won't be doing duty again till Boxing Day as I'm away for the next three weekends. Sorry about that Crewe fans. And if you happen to support a team that's coming to Crewe after Xmas, it's no good trying to bribe me not wear it. Although you can try if you like.

Usually at about this point I waffle on about what CDs/DVDs/videos/inconsequential shite that I've acquired in the last month but you're probably getting bored of my displays of materialism and wondering why I'm not addressing the bigger issues such as the US Election, the encroachments on civil liberties threatened by recent Parliamentary Acts or a feasible solution to the Middle East problem. Well, to be honest, if I was updating a bit more regularly I might, but I'm not, so I don't. So there. Anyway, I have acquired another stack of CDs all of which are by or feature bands that just about nobody but me, my mate e-laine and half-a-dozen other hardy souls have probably heard of. Let's just say that it's a big thumbs up this month to Bad Brains, Napalm Death, The Chameleons, The King and Hellcat Records (for their excellent Give 'Em The Boot compilations) a mixed reception for Trustkill Records sampler and a definite thumbs down for The Smiths tribute album on Sore Point Records. and it's a double thumbs up (Paul MacCartney-style) for Simon Goddard's excellent book The Songs That Saved Your Life which gives you all the information you could possibly need about all the songs The Smiths ever wrote. If you want to get it, make sure you get the revised edition (like what I have) as this includes loads of extra stuff from Johnny Marr. Highly recommended.

One thing I've learned is that if you want to entertain young children during a car journey you can't go far wrong, by singing alternate lyrics to whatever popular tune happens to be on the radio. The kids' favourite of the moment is my take on Anastacia's 'Sick and Tired'. Apart from corrupting the opening line to 'My ass is on the line' I mangled that chap's "gwarly warly" lines to: "You're standing there all girly-girly/I'm sitting here with me Curly Wurly". Well, they'll laugh at anything. I did have a notion to put down a few more of my alternate lyrics but unfortunately time has mitigated against it. I could, of course, have just claimed that I'd misheard the original lyrics but let's face it there are more than enough websites dedicated to that "phenomenom".

And sadly, I'm spent. Time and tide wait for no man and I've got to upload this, check it's OK, correct any errors and get my stuff ready for an early start in the morning and it's way past 10pm now. Guess I'll be trying to get a kip on the train then. There'll be an earlier update next month, possibly including photos from my trip to Cambridge, the works Xmas party and lastfriday, but don't hold your breath.

Sunday 31st October

Nestling in green nowhere

Hhhm, where to start? There's a few things to write about, as usual, but I'm not sure what order to put it all in. I think I'll start with everyone's favourite subject - BEER!!!! (Alright, it's my favourite subject.) Quite coincidentally, me old mucker e-laine sent me a link to this small, specialist, beer shop in Nantwich. I say coincidentally because I'd actually visited said beer shop (Barleycorns) a few days before and purchased a selection of beers for a Saturday night taste-arama. And here's a brief rundown, with a few tasting comments. (Yes, I was sad enough to make notes whilst I was drinking..)

As part of the Saturday night taste-arama, you may be interested to know that the beer was accompanied by some McCoy's Flame-Grilled Steak Flavour crips and performed whilst watching Repo Man and Series 7: The Contenders. I'd forgotten just how great a film Repo Man is - Harry Dean Stanton, The Circle Jerks as a nightclub band, an Iggy Pop theme tune and The Untouchables as a scooter gang, plus Emilio Estevez being quite good and one way-out ending. Series 7 probably suffered in comparison. It was alright but I wouldn't choose to watch again in a hurry. The pseudo-game show thing didn't really work too well for me and for a look at a camera crew following someone killing other people you're better off watching Man Bites Dog.

Socks, rugs and sausage roll. Yep, it's time for the monthly lastfriday review. Except this time it's going to be short and sweet. Mainly because I'm afraid I got verrry, verry drunk. It was all the fault of them pesky 6ft Midget guys, honest. (Mind you, I got my own back by not turning out to see them play last night. I was feeling too rough.) I can only vaguely recall D-Rail (pop-up heavy site) and P>S>P. Which is a bit frustrating as I'd heard P>S>P were very good and I know that D-Rail are excellent live. Still, I do remember the two preceding bands. The Miramar Disaster were second on the bill. I thought they were OK although the songs seemed frustratingly short on melodies and hooks. Perhaps that was a consequence of the sound mix. They were a bit less heavy than I'd expected too - I certainly wouldn't have called them 'sludgecore' on that performance. Moving on - opening the proceedings tonight were Here Is The List of Your Dead Friends, who have risen from the ashes of No Names Mentioned. The mighty NNM were a pretty phenomenal live act so I was expecting good things from these guys. They put on a great show and certainly got the crowd moving, if only to dodge out of the way of a swinging guitar or two, but something didn't seem quite right to me. It was like they weren't quite the sum of their parts, if you know what I mean. Maybe it was the venue, the sound, the dynamics of the band or the songs themselves but there just seemed to be a bit of a spark missing. That indefinable "something" that separates the good from the great. Perhaps it's too early to judge. I'll put it down as a bad day at the office and drag my lardy arse out to see them again.

On a lighter note, so to speak, here's a comedy picture courtesy of the Dearne Valley Weekender - the free paper for the Conisbrough/Mexborough area. It's the Duchess of Gloucester opening the Dental Centre at the Montagu Hospital. It looks like the dental centre isn't the only thing she's opened....

comedy picture that you can't see
"Ooh, 'ave you 'ad the canteen cabbage too, dear?."

Here's a thing. How come the blessed Repo Man and the not-so-blessed Series 7 are rated 18, yet the Ring trilogy (which I picked up on DVD for a mere twenty of your Earth quids) are all rated 15? That don't make no sense to me. It's OK for the under 18s to scare themselves witless watching Japanese horror yet they can't watch the considerably less scary but infinitely more sweary Repo Man? Strange.

Thinking of Japanese Horror films, one of the gems that I acquired recently was The Grudge. Like Ring, it's low on gore but long on creepiness. I watched it alone one night and had a disturbed night's sleep afterwards. In the Hollywood tradition they've remade it, although it's been directed by the same guy and produced by Sam Raimi so there's a fair chance that it's true to the original. Can't imagine Sarah Michelle Gellar getting bumped off though. I'll have to find time to see it at the cinema if I can.

Excited by your job? Enjoy the work? Looking for more responsibility and a favourable annual appraisal? I'm here to give you the benefit of my years of experience and tell you the five things not to do to ensure that you get ahead in the office rat race.

  1. Don't turn up drunk. Fairly obvious really. There are occasions when it's acceptable to be slightly under the influence at work and a hangover at work is tolerable if you can be productive. Rolling into work after an all-night bender and a whisky breakfast is not. I won't make that mistake again.
  2. Don't make your colleagues cry. Not even the ones who deserve it. Ah, it's easily done - a bit of misjudged banter, an inappropriate joke at their expense, a well-aimed barb at their apparent inability to complete the simplest of tasks and suddenly it's time to put the kettle on and indulge in some serious backpedalling. Even worse when it's your boss you've upset. Oops, there goes my Christmas bonus....
  3. Don't scare your boss with your evil laugh. We all love it when a plan comes together but try not to go over the top by laughing like some sort of crazed evil genius. And refrain from accompanying said loud and long "Mmwwaahaahaahaa-ing" with phrases like "Soon the world shall see my powers!" Especially not in an open-plan office with your senior management sitting no more than twelve feet away.
  4. If your boss is learning a second language, don't mock their accent. Remember, your one-week exchange trip to France or Germany may have be a great learning experience as part of your childhood but it hardly qualifies you for the job of head coach at Linguaphone. Plus you're likely to get found out during that day trip to Calais when you find yourself having to explain to the non-Anglophone Gendarmerie that you and your colleagues were simply indulging in a bit of horseplay and meant no disrespect to the good citizens of France....
  5. Ambition is good. Naked ambition is not. You might want your boss's job, but try not to make it too obvious. Constant undermining them to senior management just makes you look bad. If anything, they'll have more sympathy for whoever has to manage you, with your attitude and persistent carping. Softly, softly, catchee monkey.

And there you have it - five simple things to remember on the days when you'd rather be having your fingernails pulled out with pliers than be at work. Who says I never tell you anything useful? Oh, right. Fair point.

I've bought more CDs than you can shake a shitty stick at in the last month or so. Well, a guy's got to have a hobby and I haven't got Internet access at home at the moment. They've mostly been excellent but with one or two clunkers in there. Most obvious clunker is REM's 'Around The Sun'. I'll admit that it has started to grow on me a bit after repeated plays but it's a pretty downbeat record. Probably their bleakest since 'Up' and certainly the least accessible since then. The Beastie Boys' 'To The Five Boroughs' is a bit disappointing too. It's not a bad album but if you've got more than one of their other albums you'll probably have heard some of these tunes before. And in a fine example of how memory plays tricks I picked up Human League's early 'Travelogue' album recalling how excellent and groundbreaking it was at the time. Now it sounds a bit thin on tunes and rather dull in comparison to the earlier 'Reproduction' which I bought at the same time.

On the other hand I've also picked some fabulous records that I think everyone should own. Starting with the most off-the-wall - Vivian Stanshall's 'Sir Henry at Rawlinson End'. A bizarre rambling narrative interspersed with comic songs, this is the stuff for which Stanshall is rightly famous. Appearing normal by comparison William Shatner's 'Has Been' is a revelation. We're all familiar with his singing "style" but here he's surrounded by a coterie of sympathetic musicians who work with his limitations rather than against them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't but when it all comes together as on 'Common People' and 'You're Gonna Die' and 'Real' it's quite spectacular. Last of the great albums is Tom Waits' 'Real Gone'. Abandoning the keyboards for this album, it's actually no great change in direction given the number of guitar-based tracks he's done before. This is like an assemblage of those tracks reshuffled and re-worked and twisted into new shapes. All the things you'd expect from Waits and brilliant.

Finally, to bring things full circle, my old pal e-laine, who sent me the link to the beer shop at the top of this entry, also sent me his First Five, which actually turns out to be a First Six if you count the CD single. Anyway, here it is in all it's unexpurgated glory.

I now have this enduring mental image of e-laine in his pixie boots and grandad shirt, with a bit of a mullet, getting on down to the groovy sounds of pompous stadium rockers U2. Priceless.

Sunday 26th September

Sheltering in a Skin Storm

A comparatively short gaps between updates, you lucky people, because my life has been jam-packed with excitement which I have just got to share. Alright, maybe not jam-packed, but busy at least, so even if there's no excitement, I do at least have something to tell.

As I'm sure you'll recall, I had plans to go and see Morrissey in Liverpool. I went and he was very entertaining. Very droll. The set list was fairly similar to the Move festival set, with the order re-jigged and a large part of the set taken from the current album. Which is only right - that is what he's promoting. He opened with 'How Soon is Now', which was fantastic and also played 'November Spawned A Monster' and 'Now My Heart is Full' in place of 'No One Can Hold A Candle To You' and 'Such a Little Thing...' from the Move set. My mate Muzz was a little disappointed that he didn't do 'Interesting Drug' but that was a minor complaint. We were sat up in the balcony, but despite that, weren't actually that far away from him. I certainly felt that I was closer to the stage than at Manchester. Top entertainment, although the support band, The Dead 60's, weren't up to much. They were meant to be a ska band (I read somewhere) but they sounded more like The Clash in their punk/reggae years.

It being nearly the end of the month, it's time for the usual lastfriday review. I have to start by confessing two things - one, I wasn't originally going to go to this gig and two, I got a little bit drunk, so my recollections may not be a true and accurate account of events... First up were The Darwin Theory, who were pretty damned good. Probably the best opening act the Civic have seen, I'd say. Truth be known they were meant to be higher up the bill but their bass player had to be somewhere else later in the evening so they opened the night instead. I was so impressed that I bought their CD, but was less than impressed this morning to find that there's nothing on it! Bah! Anyway, next on the bill were Nash. I'll admit that they're not quite my cup of tea and they did suffer in terms of comparison with what was a quality line up, but I thought they did well enough. What I think they're really lacking is a decent frontman to hold the centre of the stage and let the rest of the band get on with what they're best at. Although I could be wrong, as I spent most of their set in the bar (Bad Jim!) with 6ft Midget, amongst others. cheers guys. Moving on, third up were Disarm who were pretty much the reason I turned out. They were launching their new CD, so I had to show my support. They sounded excellent - the recent bout of gigging that they've done has obviously done them a power of good. A performance that I think they can be proud of. And the good news is that the CD sounds equally good. Visit their revamped website and see if you can get your hands on a copy now. Last on the bill were Laruso, who I thought sounded a bit under-powered last time they played the Civic. No such problems this tme round despite their apparent reluctance to take the stage. I missed the full impact of most of their set though as I was chatting in the bar (Bad, bad Jim!) but I could still appreciate why they're getting the attention that they are. I bought their CD too. It's quality. Get hold of copy before you have to pay thirteen quid or so in HMV for their album. Next month's lastfriday is a Halloween Hardcore special, so that should be thrash-cum-fancy-dress-tastic, mate. Not 'arf.

Of course, what you've all been waiting for is my report from Truckfest North West. It's a weekend show dedicated to commercial vehicles, with some entertainment thrown in. There are in fact several Truckfests in various locations each summer, so if you're curious you can probably find one near-ish to you. Kev and I usually go to the Peterborough show but that wasn't possible this year so we had to settle for the Haydock Park show. The weekend didn't start well - Kev managed to drive past me twice when he came to pick me up from Newton-le-Willows railway station. Ah well. We got to the Truckfest site not much before 7pm and put up Kev's gazebo, which wasn't an easy task as he didn't have any instructions and the poles weren't labelled - we managed to use the roof poles to put the sides together, then had to dissemble everything to put it right. It was getting dark when we came to pitch our tents. I'd had a trial run through in the garden earlier in the day and was pretty certain it'd be simple but I failed to take into account the additional difficulties imposed by being wet, cold, hungry and pissed off. So it took about half an hour rather than the fifteen minutes I expected. Still, once that was up, Kev got his stove on the go and cooked us up some tea, then it was off to the bar to "enjoy" the disco stylings of DJ Gary Wayne and pay over the odds for pints of beer and get totally ripped-off for a short. Then it was time to stagger the twenty yards or so back to our campsite and drink some more booze, not forgetting to have a couple of shots of rum, which didn't do me any good at all. Saturday morning dawned dull and wet. The rain didn't encourage me to get out of my warm, dry, uncomfortable tent. I struggled out around 9.30am. Kev had been up for a bit and had already had the kettle on. He boiled it up again and I made myself a cuppa. First crisis of the weekend - no sugar. Fortunately, I am a man of some resource, so I went and nicked some from the burger stand on my way back from the toilet. Kev knocke dup a fried brekkie, which was to prove invaluable in sustaining us through the rest of the day. A quick can of lager and then it was off to see the sights. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures as the batteries went in my camera and the replacements that I bought proved to be absolutely feckin' useless (I might as well have just chucked my quid on the floor). We did see The Kangaroo Kid and the Backdraft Wheelie Fire Truck go through their paces in what passed for the main arena. They both have websites, so look 'em up. The Fire Truck was being filmed for a Channel 5 show due on your screens later this year. They also filmed the Bigfoot vs Incredible Hulk monster truck face-off, which was a bit disappointing. The limitations of the arena meant they couldn't run side-by-side and were restricted to trying to get "big air" going over the cars. Anyway, we had a wander round the site, which was a bit poorly laid out - obviously the place is actually a horse racing track rather than a purpose-built showground but there was a lot of going back and forth and having to backtrack to find our way from one display area to another. There obviously weren't as many trucks on display as at Peterborough but there did seem to be more vintage trucks, which I actually like to see. By late afternoon we'd had enough and headed back to the tent for tea. After tea we went to the entertainment tent to stake our places for the evening's entertainment. We got there a little early (around 6.30) but even so DJ Gary Wayne was already promising the imminent arrival of Jim Bowen at "Truckfest North East". Someone finally told him, after about the tenth time he'd said it, that it was actually Truckfest North West. Anyway, his constant reassurance that Jim Bowen would be on stage shortly led to us re-naming said celebrity Jimbo When?. He finally arrived on stage at about a quarter past eight and dived straight into a revival of Bullseye. Kev forgot our entry form so we didn't have a chance of getting picked. Arse! Anyway, Jim was very funny, one of the couples was absolutely clueless about what was going on, and the lucky winners won .... wait for it .... a speedboat! Fortunately, it was a model speedboat stuffed with cash rather than a real one. Jimbo When? was followed by a Blues Brothers tribute band who were alright. And Kev had his evening considerably enlivened by being molested by some 18 year old bint. Ooh, I could start to not like him. Once the bar shut it was back to the tent for more beers and some Pot Noodles before retiring for a fitful night's sleep interrupted by rain showers, winds and toilet visits. (On the subject of toilets, I heard a few people complain about the state of them, but on the whole I thought they were better than the bogs at Peterborough - at least they were cleaned and checked regularly.) Sunday was another grey, wet day. We emerged, from our separate tents I hasten to add, blinking into the daylight, feeling the worse for wear. Bacon butties and a cup of tea worked their magic restorative powers and off we wandered for a last look round the site to buy souvenir-cum-gifts for our respective families. I managed to take some pictures, but only of the monster trucks, which you can see on my Truckfest Picture page We also got to see Jimbo When? in the main arena, although we missed Kerry McFadden as we were packing up at the time. We left the site at about half past two, Kev dropped me at Newton-le-Willows and I got back to Crewe for about half past four. I know that when I say I'm going to Truckfest, people look at me as if I'm mad, so I don't suppose I should let on that we've agreed to go again next year - not sure which venue, but it might be the mid-summer shows in Edinburgh or Sheprton Mallet, when the weather might actually be nice and warm. Should we go will someone be kind enough to remind me to take an inflatable mattress next time, please? Thank you.

In other news, I know that Marilyn Manson is pretty much irrelevant these days and seems to have become a bit of a figure of fun, but I noticed that he's released another electro-pop cover version. After the rocked-up retreads of 'Tainted Love' and 'Sweet Dreams (are made of this)' he's done the same with Depeche Mode's classic 'Personal Jesus' (although it doesn't need much rocking up, it must be said). I'm guessing it's for a film or something. Anyway, just for fun I thought I'd introduce the Marilyn Manson 80s Electro-pop Cover Suggestion Box: Just click on the link (if you can see it) and enter your suggestion in the comments box. Leave your name and the best suggestion will get a special no-prize. I've started the ball rolling by suggesting 'Being Boiled' by the Human League, which is a fantastically simple four chords and overdue for a bit of heavy metal revisionism.

I mentioned in my last entry that I fancied seeing Tom Waits play his first London gig in like 17 years or so. Predictably, I failed to get through on the ticket hotline and it transpires that tickets sold out within about 30 mins or something. Equally predictably, you can find plenty of chancers flogging their tickets on ebay. Well, I still really want to go but I'm not prepared to pay more than a hundred quid over the face value to some spiv who clearly doesn't want to see Tom but has spotted an opportunity to make a fast buck. If I can get a ticket to see him abroad I'd rather pay the extra for flights and accomodation than give my hard-earned to them scalpers. Twats. Anyway, to make up for the disppointment of missing out on Tom I went a bit crazy on tickets for REM's tour next year and am going to see them in Sheffield, Manchester, Hull and Nottingham. So, their new album had better be good and they'd better put on a decent show otherwise I'm going to be mghtily disappointed. I'm going to have to start saving now to cover the travel costs. Curse you, extended credit card limit!!!

And that's the way the world is tonight. I'll be back towards the end of October, if not before with the usual mix of shite and, er, more shite. Till then, do up your trousers and keep your shoes clean.

Sunday 5th September

Folk in Hell

I'm sure this has been done elsewhere but I can't be bothered to Google for any other instance and, quite frankly, I don't really care, so here's a quick meme-style list thing which is inspired by a conversation I had with my boss:

Your First Five

Currently listening to Hayseed Dixie - Let There Be Rockgrass. It's hilarious, although the best track is one of their own - 'I'm Keeping Your Poop'.

As forewarned in my last diary entry, I went to see Chumbawamba (Acoustic) at the Nantwich Civic Hall last Saturday night. Of course, it was part of the Folk Festival so I should have known what I was letting myself in for. First up, I was dismayed to find the hall laid out with tables and chairs. I haven't sat down at a gig for twenty years and I wasn't about to start then. Secondly, the audience consisted mainly of the sort of middle-class liberal-types that get on my wick. Thirdly, the support band, Waking The Witch, ought to be renamed Annoying The Fakir. It was as if someone had told them all the things I dislike about folk music and they'd tried to incorporate all of them in their set. Alright, they didn't stick a finger in one ear and drone on about a mining disaster but they did just about everything else. There was droning, there was the dirge-like pace of every song, there was retuning of guitars (and making a big show of it), there were attempts at "keeping it real" and there was tweeness in the shape of a song about accidentally running over a badger. Gah! And as if my dander wasn't up enough, once they'd finished the compere-cum-comedian felt it necessary to fill the interval between the bands by delivering the worst set I've heard in ages. The guilty man, Roland Gent, was terrible. Sadly he didn't quite die on his arse as one bloke at the front thought he was funny but apart from that the silence was deafening. After that Chumbawamba could have come on and sang their shopping lists and gone down a storm. They didn't though, they gave us a surprisingly good mix of original stuff, old folk songs, and covers in a folk-stylee. I'm not sure 'Bank Robber' by The Clash worked but 'New York Mining Disaster' by the Bee Gees was surprisingly effective. Sadly, there was no 'Tubthumping' inna da folk-stylee, but there were some other Chumba numbers. The one thing that did surprise me was how many of the songs they performed that I knew. Perhaps this means I'm a closet folkie. Or more likely it's legacy of having a form teacher at Junior School who used to teach us a new folk song every week. Whip jamboree, whip jamboree, with your pigtail, sailor, hanging down behind.... Anyway, that was the extent of my involvement with the folk festival. I decided against getting dragged in further, just in case my inner folk singer came out of the mahogany closet carved by oppressed Peruvian peasants under the rod of the wicked white landowner.

As part of alleviating the tedium of the folk festival I did have a plan to visit as many pubs as possible (see below) but decided that as my alcohol tolerance seems to be getting lower and lower these days, it probably wouldn't be a good idea. Well, not that weekend. Mind you, I'm not ruling out trying it one day. And the pub crawl.

I've noticed that one or two of the links round here are turning up '404' messages as the pages/sites they point to appear to have fallen off the Internet. So I've been round doing a bit of tidying, including updating earlier posts to take account of the disappearing pages. Well, I say "earlier posts" but actually I just mean the one from 1st August, where the British Blonde Society and Shatner links have been amended. The Chas 'n' Dave website link has been removed as that's disappeared. If the "official" Chas'n'Dave website was any good I would have linked to that, but it isn't so I haven't. I have however left the No Names Mentioned link up even though they've split up just because I miss 'em. *sob* I ought to point out that most of them now play in another band - Here Is The List Of Your Dead Friends - but I've yet to see them live so there's no link to them yet.

Fun with pictures parts 356 and 357 - Here's a couple of things for your delight. First up, it's not really a picture at all, its a PDF, so you'll need the Adobe Acrobat reader to view it (sorry about that) but for those of you still wondering why I'm going to Truckfest I believe this leaflet explains it all. Jealous now, aren't you? Anyway, second up, something I noticed when trying to log in to my hotmail account the other week. It's a diet ad for TVs/TGs, or perhaps I'm making too much of the positioning of Bill Phillip's name there....

This afternoon-stroke-evening I went to the DiaTribe all dayer at the Charters Arms in Rotherham. It's one of the rare times that me being in this part of the world has coincided with a gig by 6ft Midget, so I had to go. I was hoping to get there early and nip off in the early evening as triple concerns of getting my washing done, getting this page updated and being in a fit state to get to work tomorrow were taking precedence. Still, after a few beers that lot went out of the window. I turned up late enough to miss A Future Regret and one other band and caught sets by Penknife Lovelife and Fire Escape Routine. I then spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around with 6ft Midget and missed whichever bands played between times. The Midget guys finally got to play at about 7.30pm which was a bit of a delay from the original 4pm start time. In the meantime the pub had run out of decent beers, well, most beers, to be honest. I ended up drinking cider. *shudder* I took loads of photos, of which about half a dozen are decent, but the lateness of my return from the gig and the amount of beers that I've consumed have prevented me from uploading them this evening. I'll have to do it next time. [Monday update: I've uploaded some pictures now, which you can view on my 6ft Midget page. It's a hefty download although I've minimised the picture size as much as possible. Probably not for those with dial up access.] Them Midget guys were very entertaining and are the first band that I've seen organise a game of Musical Chairs in the middle of their set. There were songs for everyone, provided they were drunk, but you can never accuse them guys of giving it less than 100 per cent. I look forward to seeing them again sometime.

Finally, here's a tearful tale for you. I'm going to see Morrissey in Liverpool on Thursday night. No, that's not the tearful bit. If you must know, I'm taking my mate Muzz as he doesn't get out much and it's pretty close to his birthday so it's a present. And it's the best sort of present because not only does he get to enjoy it but so do I. Anyway, the tearful bit is this - Tom Waits has announced that he'll be playing in the UK in support of his forthcoming album. It's his first date in the UK since 1987. Unfortunately, he's only playing one date - November 23rd at Hammersmith Apollo - tickets for which go on sale at 9am this coming Friday. As a result of the trip to Morrissey I'll be in Liverpool, nowhere near the Internet, at that particular time, so my chances of getting a ticket are somewhat less than my chances of winning the lottery whilst shagging Kylie Minogue. I've programmed the NME Ticketline into my mobile and tattoo-ed a reminder on my hand but I'm not holding out much hope. So, if you do fancy seeing the Tomster and you get lucky enough to get tickets, don't forget your old friend, the fatfakir, will you? Hey, if you get too many you can always sell 'em on eBay....

Sunday 22nd August

Offshore Documentation Platform

It's been a fairly quiet three weeks for me. I spent the first two weeks of the month commuting from Nantwich to Warrington by public transport because the guy who usually gives me a lift was on holiday. Surprisingly there was little in the way of "comedy" cock-ups. The train from Crewe to Warrington was 40 minutes late one morning and the evening train back was half an hour late once, but other than that everything ran pretty much on time Even the delayed evening train caused me no inconvenience as I arrived at the station in time to catch a different delayed train to Crewe. Heck, even my trains over to Conisbrough on Friday night all ran on time so perhaps I've shaken off my rail travel jinx. I doubt it, but that's because I don't believe I'm jinxed but that the railway system in this country is pish poor. Let's see how I get on getting back to Nantwich tomorrow.

Thinking of getting poor service, I decided that I'd finally spend a bit of the new money on my credit card t'other week and buy my sister, Liz, a new fridge/freezer. She's put up with me for the last four months and she deserves a reward, plus her old one is reaching the end of it's life - the seal is going on the freezer door, the fridge door is a bit dodgy and the poor thing can't cope when the weather gets a bit humid (the fridge, that is, not my sister). So I told her to find one she liked and I'd pay for it. (Obviously, there were some constraints - it had to fit in the same space in the kitchen, for a start, which ruled out any of those lovely American-style fridge/freezers, sadly.) Anyway, off she went for a look and settled on this lovely Zanussi ZX99/5SI from Comet. Of the two fridge/freezers she had in mind this was the one she liked best, so off we went to buy it. We should have known it wasn't going to be straightforward, especially as we found ourselves standing around for a good twenty minutes waiting for someone to take my money. And it's not as if we were lurking in a corner at this point - we were stood by the fecking till! But, it's OK, we finally get someone's attention, order the blasted thing, arrange a delivery time and pay extra to have someone install it, plus an extra "non-profit" charge for Comet to remove the old fridge/freezer too. So the hundred quid discount turns out to be more like sixty, but, hey ho, that's bearable. Anyway, come delivery day and the fridge/freezer arrives early in the morning BUT, the driver starts to hassle Liz to sign the paperwork, doesn't even bother unpacking the fridge until prompted and then says he can't install it as it has to stand for six hours. As if this hasn't got my sister's back up enough, there's a big dent in the freezer door. So, yay for her, she refuses to accept it, tells the man to put it back on the van and bring her old fridge back in. No sooner has she done that, she's on the phone to Comet Customer Services to give them a piece of her mind. They promise to ring back in the afternoon, which they do, but unfortunately for them by this time Liz has noticed that the deliveryman had broken the hall lampshade when bring the new fridge in. Oh dear. Let's just say it'll be at least another seven years before she gets anything from Comet again as they gave her bad service seven years ago too. Still, the shiny new fridge should be re-delivered this coming Saturday, so look out for more comedy capers....

Speaking of Saturday, I'm off out on Saturday night to see Chumbawamba, who are playing in town as part of Nantwich Folk Festival. Yep, Nantwich hosts a Folk fest, as well as a Jazz fest. It's a swinging town, man. Normally, I'd avoid folk music like the plague - you should try everything once except incest and folk music - but Chumbawamba aren't really folk. I just hope they don't decide to sit down on the job, so to speak, otherwise I might have to heckle. Anyway, if you have a snoop around the folk fest website, you'll see there's a listing for the pubs and restaurants of Nantwich. Now, by my reckoning, 22 of those pubs are within fifteen minutes walk of each other. The Oddfellows and the Boot and Shoe are probably the furthest apart. Curshaws and the Three Pigeons are the closest - they're next door to each other. Anyway, let me just re-iterate that - there are twenty-two pubs all within a fifteen minute radius. And I've drunk (and been drunk) in all of them at one time or another, but never all in the same night. Hhhmm, now there's a challenge... Anyway, you'll probably find me in the Red Cow on Sunday and the Bowling Green on Bank Holiday Monday, simply because there's not much else to do in Nantwich that weekend.

And whilst we're on the subject of drunk and festivals, to attend one Truckfest can be considered unfortunate, to attend two looks like carelessness and to attend a third suggests that you're the sort of spotty geek who likes to talk "big rigs", lift axles, haulage capacity and the best places to eat when driving from Derby to Dresden. Well, hey look, that's me in the corner. I'm off to Truckfest NorthWest in about 4 weeks time. Handily, this is the same weekend that Crewe play Leeds Utd at home and V/VM play a rare gig in Liverpool. Damn. Me and my mate, Kev, will be camping out (as opposed to camping it up), eating crap food and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. We might look at some trucks too. Ah well, expect night-time temperatures to plummet into single figures and there to be unseasonal fog and rains of fish in the Haydock Park area that weekend.

Having got myself a lovely new external CD-RW drive three weeks back I thought I might go crazy this weekend and burn a few more of my mp3s to CD. How wrong I was. Instead I installed CDex and have had merry fun ripping my Bonzo Dog Band 3CD box set to mp3 instead. Yes, now instead of simply inserting the CDs and pressing Play, I can spend more time launching each track individually. (Yes, I know you can build playlists but I haven't got round to that yet.) Not quite sure why I did that, but now I know that I can I might rip a bit more stuff and then, once I get broadband, I can join the millions of other people illegally sharing music over the Interweb....

Finally, a big Woo Hoo! for Lisa, who recently announced that she's expecting a baby. Pop over to her site and make fun of her having to get all responsible and stuff. And there's a a Woo Hoo! too for stroppycow who's put a link to this site on her own. She probably did it ages ago but I 've only just noticed. Cheers, me dear, if you look on the left there, you'll see I've reciprocated. I'll wipe it up later.

Sunday 1st August

The One and Only Billy Shears

Have you ever started doing something because you thought it was a good idea and you had a bit of spare time to do it in? And then realised that the reason you hadn't done it before was that it was a gigantic pain in the ass? Keeping my PC infection-free is like that. Of course, I'm using the dreaded Windows98 OS and IE as my default browser, so I deserve everything I get, right? Probably. But I still find myself amazed at the ease with which my system can be compromised without my knowledge. In between shaking my fist and cursing Microsoft loudly, I often think that if any of the companies I've worked for had released software that was as buggy and insecure as Microsoft's, they'd have gone out of business a long while ago. (And then I remember the component program whose Delete button erased all the records in the database rather than just the selected one.....) And what prompted this latest bout of despairing? I finally got round to installing some spyware detection software - Spybot Search and Destroy to be accurate. Having basked secure in the knowledge that the detection script at doxdesk hadn't detected any parasites, I didn't think I needed it, but you can never be too certain, can you? So having detected and removed 86 instances of Spyware, I'm now a litle less complacent.

My ex-workmate, Jack, had a bit of a muse about his preferred browser, Firefox, a couple of weeks ago and how he'd tidied up his page's HTML to make it comply with W3C standards. Good on ya, mate. I ought to do the same. (This page currently is currently compliant (Yippee!), but I can't guarantee the rest of the site is.) I really ought to because, as a technical author, I ought to be as rigorous about my personal standards as my professional ones (only in a writing sense, of course, but yeah, maybe I ought to have a shower on the days I'm not working too...). However, as long as 90 per cent of the world are using IE, I can get away with sloppy coding because IE still displays it "correctly". (Hey, perhaps they think like that at Microsoft, too...) That's really no excuse but that's going to be the way it is for now. If you do view this page using anything other than IE, I'd be grateful if you could let me know if it looks terrible. Of course, if you're not using IE, you might not be able to see this text or the layout feck-ups might have sent you fleeing screaming before you got this far...

And talking of crappy software - my PC came pre-loaded with a version of Nero. Now despite uninstalling and re-loading the software and fiddling with various settings, I've never had any success burning music CDs with it. In fact, I've not had much joy with it at all, as it keeps failing at various times with a variety of non-specific error messages. I finally gave up a fortnight ago, after spending nearly all day trying to burn a CD without success, and decided that the constant reference to a SCSI/IDE problem meant that it must be a hardware problem. WRONG! As I found out yesterday, having spent 70 on a replacement external CD-Writer, it was the bloody software. Again! Having installed the accompanying CD-burning software I got perfect results first time using my own internal CD-Writer. Arse! So, does anyone want an Iomega CD-Writer, USB 2.0 (and 1.1 compatible), boxed with all the leads and everything, never used, for say 50 quids?

Changing tack, here was another entry for my own, unofficial, "Disappointing URL of The Year" competition - http://www.britishblondesociety.co.uk/calendar/. It sadly doesn't appear to be there any more (or at least wasn't when I last checked it). The British Blonde is a breed of cow, if you really must know.

Fans of good music may be disappointed to learn that William Shatner has a new album due out in October, apparently. Fans of bad music, like me, will be delighted. And fans of bad music who can't wait will be even more delighted to know that they can download The Kirkster with Joe Jackson covering Pulp's 'Common People' and many other treats from here - Shatner - Has Been. Subscribers to b3ta.com will have seen this already, but I don't care - everyone in the world ought to hear this. Maybe not more than once though.

As it's the end of the month, it must be time for the lastfriday review, surely? Yep. I'd been looking forward to this night for a while as it was going to be the first chance I had to catch up with the phenomenal No Names Mentioned. Imagine my disappointment then when I find that a) they're not playing and b) they seem to have fizzled out in a wave of apathy. What a waste. Come on guys, get your thumbs out of your asses and get back to doing what you do best. Don't make me come down there to sort you out.... That said, there was still a decent enough line-up. First up were Disarm side project Superc*nt 5000. What a racket. Certainly not as focussed or as brutal as Disarm can be but then I guess that's the point. The sound of a band having fun. Following that were A Future Regret. I thought they made a promising start with the first two numbers sounding very Placebo because the guitars weren't loud enough in the verses, but then they turned their guitars up and went a bit rawk, which was not my cup of tea. I started to notice the rougher edges. Still, they provided comedy moment of the evening when the lead singer's guitar-twirling move went badly wrong and his guitar hit the floor instead. That said, if I'd been able to play like that when I was that age I might have carried on being in bands instead of retreating to the safety of my bedroom. (No one ever says you're crap if you don't play live...) Third up were Faith In Chaos. I'd heard good things about them and they didn't disappoint. Proving that you don't need a lot of chord changes, a dozen riffs per song or even to play at a million miles an hour to be effective, they delivered a powerful set. It helps, of course, if you have a front man who can deliver, despite the band's rather static on-stage demeanour. They also won the Best Cover Version no-prize by banging out a hilarious 'You're the One That I Want' from Grease. I laughed out loud. Closing proceedings were Series 7. They were full-on hardcore from the word go. They won points from me for their use of samples and having a laptop (an Apple of some sort, tech fans) on stage to launch them from, but they lost points by distracting me by having the singer's trousers on the verge of falling down almost from the start and making me wonder if I could persuade their bass player to be Kim Deal to my Frank Black in a Pixies tribute band - I'd only need a Joey Santiago and a David Lovering then... Anyway, they were loud, good and the set was surprisingly short. But then, it was very hot and no one had heard them before, so the short, sharp shock was the best approach. Dead, dead good. The only downside of the night was that the attendance seemed to be down on the usual numbers but then with No Names Mentioned not appearing, the summer holidays and 6ft Midgets playing elsewhere that night it was perhaps only to be expected. Still, I managed to catch the last bus home so that was a result in itself!

Limping a little further back into the past, last Wednesday (28th July) I took my nephews to the Nantwich Show - the annual gathering of the farming folk of Nantwich and South Cheshire, based around a long-established Cheese Festival. My sister, Liz, or her husband would normally take the kids but Liz has knackered her knee and can't walk very far, and the estranged husband was working, so I volunteered. First stop was the falconry display which involved too much talking and not enough demonstration to be satsifying. Plus, the pictures I took didn't come out too well. Then there was time for a wander round the site, a ride up to 12m in an industrial platform-thing (great views but a little too wobbly for my liking) and then off to the main arena to see The Kangaroo Kid performing stunts on his quad bikes. I saw him at Truckfest a couple of years back and he was a bit disappointing then but this time he delivered the goods. Using a radio mic he kept up a constant stream of banter whilst performing some impressive stunts. The jumps were the best - just clearing the roof of a tractor, then turning it front on to the ramp and clearing both it and a car parked lengthwise on the other side. The kids certainly enjoyed it. After he'd finished we went to take a look at the International Cheeses. Incongruously, in the midst of the displays of the finest cheeses from round the world there was a table dedicated to processed cheese. Yep, the sort of plastic stuff that isn't really cheese at all. Don't believe me? Lookee here! Anyway, once the kids had got tired of looking at cheese (after about 30 seconds, to be honest, but I made them walk all the way round the exhibition) we headed home via the toy stall. Needless to say, that was where they showed the most interest, but then they are kids. "From birth to five you're learning, from five to ten you're playing, by the time you're fifteen you're never wrong, you turn around and it's all gone. Your Childhood.". On passing the Young Farmer's Club marquee I momentarily thought that I ought to see if there was anyone I knew in there but then I remembered that anyone I might remember would now be in the Middle-aged Farmers' Club...

This sharp reminder of the passing of time did cause me to recall that, as far as life-changing events go, it's now twenty years since I was diagnosed with cancer. Testicular cancer, if you really want to know. These days it's entirely curable if caught early enough and the recovery rates are very good. Back then, the recovery rates weren't so good and I left it far too long before confiding in the doctor. I can't recall the date exactly, but I remember the "Great Quake of '84" happened whilst I was in hospital and that was on Thursday 19th July, according to the statistics. So I would have been on the operating table on Monday 16th or Tuesday 17th. To a large extent it doesn't matter - I was ill a long time before that - but if we're counting, that's a rough date for the first official diagnosis. Perhaps next year, when it's twenty years since the end of my treatment, I might share some stuff about it, but I don't feel like doing it now.

Right, that's the public navel-gazing out of the way. My good friend Richard and I having been having a regular correspondence about the classic British horror films that BBC1 have been showing late on Friday night/Saturday mornings. For most people the words "British horror" probably conjure up images of the more dreadful Hammer movies, so I'd imagine people have been giving them a miss (especially when they note that the star is, say, Patrick Mower - the poor man's Gareth Hunt) but there have been some surprising gems on display - Satan's Slave, Psychomania, Theatre of Blood, to name but three. Anyway, if you really want to know what the film is like don't go by the two line review in the paper, look it up at The British Horror Film site - a scarily complete archive of every British horror movie ever made. I can't recommend this site enough - it's the IMDB of British Horror.

I had a couple of other things I was going to mention, but to be honest, I think that's enough for you to be going on with. So that's yer lot for this update. Next update, sometime, somewhere in summertime.

Sunday 18th July

I am old enough to be your postman

It is I, Leclaire. Back with yet another in the series of sporadic updates as my house-hunting efforts come to naught and so I'm dependent on being in sunny Coni to update the old site. Actually, I'm sure that if I made a bit more of an effort I could find a way of updating more regularly, but this sporadic stuff suits me at the moment.

Well, there's only really been three major events in my life in the last three weeks - the family gathering two weeks ago, the Move Festival in Manchester last weekend and the opening of Spider-Man 2 this. So which do I start with? Hhmmm, tricky. I'll start with Move, I think

The Move Festival at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester isn't really a festival in the true sense of the word - there's no overnight camping, no hippies, no mud, no holes in the ground masquerading as toilets - but more a series of one-dayers at the same venue. To give the place a feel of a festival the beer was overpriced piss (Carling and no other) and there was a wide range of takeaway cuisines to attempt to get food poisoning from. Anyway, let's go through the days one at a time....

  1. Thursday 8th - the day I saw the least of, having chosen to work instead of taking the afternoon off. Having got a lift into Manchester, I checked into my hotel (The Princess on Portland), had a shower, got changed and headed off. I arrived just in time to catch the last few bars of Jimmy Cliff's set, which was a bit frustrating as I'd wanted to see him. It also meant that I'd missed The Stranglers (not that bothered about them since Hugh Cornwell left) and Ozomatli, who I'd never heard of. No loss. Sadly it did mean I had to put up with Ocean Colour Scene who were as tedious as I expected. Or at least they would have been if I hadn't retired, disgusted, to the bar after only a couple of their songs. They still sounded tedious from out there though. The clock ticks round to 8.45 and it's time for one last wee and then back into the arena to take up position for the headliners Madness. Unsurprised to find I'm not the only shaven-headed, middle-aged, fat bloke in the arena. Madness are brilliant from the opening blasts of 'One Step Beyond' right through to the closing chords of 'Madness', which rounds off the second encore. Obviously enjoying themselves, Suggs is joking with the audience, the band are all grinning throughout and everyone is dancing. Even me. They play all the hits, except 'Cardiac Arrest', 'Michael Caine' and 'Ghost Train', throw in old song 'The Fear' and even the recent hits 'Lovestruck' and 'Johnny the Horse' are rapturously received. They encore with 'The Israelites' and 'Night Boat to Cairo' and then come back out to do'Bed And Breakfast Man' and 'Madness', sending us all home happy. And, quick check of watch, it's only just after 10.30pm. It still takes an hour to filter through the Metrolink station and get back in to Manchester city centre. I crash out, tired but happy.
  2. Friday 9th - A long lie-in and a decent breakfast followed by a soak in the bath and I'm ready for a morning wandering the shopping emporia of Manchester. Lunching in a Wetherspoon's up the road from the hotel, I take the opportunity to ring the boss and point out that I'm in the pub having a leisurely lunch and some decent beer. She's not impressed. After lunch and a bit more window shopping, I freshen up and head off to Old Trafford once more. I arrive in time to have missed Longview and, unbeknownst to me at the time, The Cranes. So first band of the day for me was Keane. Live, they're not much different from on the record, although the disadvantage of the big screens did mean that you could really see what strange looking people they are. Still, they put on a decent enough show, played the hits, "rocked out" with 'Bend And Break' and kept people reasonably entertained. Unlike Elbow, who despite the goodwill of large parts of the crowd, played a set of such unrelenting, plodding, ordinaryness that I was driven back into the arms of my good friend, the bar. Mind you, that was a very good place to watch all the goth girls go by.... I made my way back into the arena for the night's headliners, The Cure. Now I'm no short bloke, so imagine my delight in finding myself stood behind a man who must have been 6' 5" at least. I edged my way round him to stand at his side. Now anyone under 6 foot tall stood behind us couldn't see. Ah well. Anyway, The Cure packed in a fantastic mix of old and new stuff and sounded great and looked as if they were enjoying it. This was (so far) their only scheduled date in England, and the first time they'd played in Manchester in years, so I think Robert Smith was somewhat surprised by the reaction they got. Sadly, due to the festival restrictions they only played for about an hour and three-quarters (a more "normal" set might weigh in at two and a half hours or more, apparently) but it was a great hour and three-quarters. The only complaint I heard was that they didn't play 'Friday I'm In Love', what with it being Friday and all, but I was more than happy. I didn't even mind the crush on the Metro back into town.
  3. Saturday 10th - A hectic morning as I had to check out of one hotel, get the train to Nantwich to drop off one set of clothes and pick up another and then get back to Manchester, check into another hotel, (The Palace) and get out to Old Trafford for 4pm. I didn't quite make it. I arived at Old Trafford in time to catch end of The Stands tedious rock/pop offerings. I'd missed 22-20s but according to the stoned bloke just inside the arena, I hadn't missed anything special. Saturday was the worst, weather-wise, which was probably because I didn't take my coat that day. There was a brief shower whilst former James frontman Tim Booth was on. But I didn't really mind that because, in the middle of a fantastic version of 'Sometimes' (slowed down, with spoken verses) I sudenly found my eyes were leaking. It's a good song anyway, but this version made it sound so tender, so wistful and so heartfelt that I couldn't help it. Soft git. Anyway, this was the only James song in a set culled from his solo album, which I'm now very tempted to buy. After Timmy, Goldfrapp had a good go at warming up the audience, but even the gorgeous Alison herself was wearing a coat for most of their set. I'm still not convinced that Goldfrapp's success doesn't have as much to do with her penchant for strange, sexy outfits as it does with their Giorgio Moroder-style '80s electro-funk. That said, I'd give a pound to see her abuse a Theremin in that manner again. Ooh, saucy! Next up, the band that a large number had come specially to see - Pixies. Little more than an hour from Black Francis and friends, largely culled from the first two albums and with virtually no between-song banter with the crowd. Absolutely fantastic. Apparently, it was raining while they were on, but I don't think anyone noticed. There's been some sniping about Kim Deal having put on weight, but she still looks hot to me. On the other hand, Francis is getting up to my proportions these days. All I need to do is shave my beard off and find some other talented lookey-likeys and I'm sure there's a fortune to be made as a Pixies tribute band... Not sure who's idea it was to make The Stereophonics the headliners, but it must have made sense to someone. It certainly didn't make any sense to the couple of thousand of us who legged it rather than have to suffer the tedious Welsh tossers. Sadly, due to congestion at the Metro station I had to listen to the first couple of numbers before I could escape. At least I didn't have to look at them. I didn't realise how wet I was until the euphoria of seeing the Pixies had worn off back at the hotel. Slept well, a happy man.
  4. Sunday 11th - Decided to skip the hotel breakfast at an additional 15.50(!) and lazed in the bath for an hour or so before heading over the road to the local Spar to pick up some nosh. Wandered round Manchester centre for a couple of hours before heading back to hotel to chill out in front of the British Grand Prix. Nodded off about five seconds after Schumacher, M, took the lead. Headed off to Move early, determined not to miss a single act on the last day. James Maker formerly of Raymonde kicked things off with a largely unremarkable set. His guitarist has a disturbingly close resemblance to former England 'keeper David Seaman. Very off-putting. At about the same time Mr Maker was on, The Beta Band were doing an acoustic set in the VH2 tent. I managed to catch the end of it. Sounded very good. Back on the main stage The Ordinary Boys were doing their best to kick-start a Jam revival. The biggest cheers in their set were for '(Little) Bubble' and The Specials cover 'Little Bitch'. It seems to me that when they stop being angry young men and concentrate on knocking out a tune they can be very good indeed. And the guitarist ought to refrain from spitting on stage - most unattractive. I wouldn't recommend getting their album on the strength of this performance, however '(Little) Bubble' is on the b-side of their current single, which is worth getting for that alone. (Or just download it from the Internet or something). Next up, the Beta Band, already warmed up from their acoustic show and apparently determined to push the sound system to it's limits with didgeridoos, dogs barking and all other sorts of musical weirdness. They surprised me - I'd kind of written them off after their first couple of EPs - but I think their music was perfectly suited to the early-Sunday-evening, chilling out vibe that was going on. Following them was the more visceral, in-your-face glam-rock of the New York Dolls. Seminal band of the 70s they may have been, but the two remaining original members - David Johanssen and Sylvain Sylvain - were both looking ravaged by time. Much like some of the audience stood next to me, who spent half their time calling for 'Trash' and the other half skinning up. There was a cryptic reference to bassist, and Mormon, Arthur 'Killer' Kane not being present because he was singing in church, but he'd pulled out from this gig at the last minute as he wasn't feeling too well. Sadly, no one, not even he, knew how unwell he was and he died of leukaemia two days later. RIP. Moving swiftly on to cheerier things - Morrissey. Headlining the fest and playing his second gig in Manchester in as many months, he was in a playful mood. Warming us up with a selection of his favourite tunes (Pony, Jobriath, Nancy Sinatra, etc) he strolled onto the stage with the words "Good evening Weatherfield. I am a local boy made... bad." The back curtains opened to reveal MORRISSEY spelled out in red bulbs a la Elvis in the Comeback Special. He then launched into 'Don't Make Fun Of Daddy's Voice' which was the only song I hadn't heard before. Then there was 'Shakespeare's Sister' and then, oh damn it, here's the setlist:

    • Don't Make Fun Of Daddy's Voice
    • Shakespeare's Sister
    • First Of The Gang To Die
    • How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?
    • Let Me Kiss You
    • I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday
    • The Headmaster Ritual
    • I Have Forgiven Jesus
    • All The Lazy Dykes
    • Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference
    • There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
    • Subway Train (into) Everyday Is Like Sunday
    • The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores
    • No One Can Hold A Candle To You (A Raymonde Cover)
    • Rubber Ring
    • I'm Not Sorry
    • encore: Irish Blood, English Heart

    In between the songs he was enlightening us with a few "history lessons" about his time in this part of Manchester. He used to work near the cricket ground and where the B&Q is was the Rockhard Club where The New York Dolls were due to play in 1972 until the untimely death of drummer Billy Murcia caused them to cancel. He reserved most of his vitriol for his old school, slating both it and the teachers, especially the headmaster, before launching into 'Headmaster Ritual'. Between songs he was throwing sweets into the crowd and generally having a good time. Three times he changed his shirt and every time it ended up thrown into the crowd. In short, he was brilliant. The only downsides to the performance were the lack of encores (due to the curfew) and the fact that every time I looked at Boz Boorer, I kept thinking of Roger Whittaker (fortunately he didn't do any whistling). I accused Morrissey of having waning powers in an earlier post; on the strength of this, I take that all back. Fantastic. I want to see him again. Now.

On Friday and Saturday night there was footage from the Move festival shown on ITV. I taped it, in the vain hope that I might see myself on film, or see something interesting that I'd missed. But I was unlucky on both counts. Mostly I found myself being irritated by Mike Maclean, who fronted the programmes, and frustrated by the fact there weren't more bands on (No James Maker, no Cranes, no Ozomatli, for example). I think you might be able to spot me in the crowd for both Tim Booth and The Ordinary Boys because I was near the front and I'm definitely somewhere in the middle of the heaving masses for The Pixies, Madness, The Cure and Morrissey, but so are hundreds of other people. One interesting thing I did glean from the programmes was that The Cure chose to play on Friday with Keane and Elbow, which shows how astute they are - get two boring bands on ahead of you and by the time you come on, people will cheer anything remotely lively... And in case you're wondering The Ordinary Boys single is called 'Talk Talk Talk' not 'Take Take Take' as it was credited.

Anyway, as if seeing Morrissey wasn't enough excitement for one month, yesterday I went to see Spider-Man 2. I only managed to fit in three viewings (one of which was free, too) before time and tiredness forced me to give in and return home. The first time through, at 9am, I was blown away. I was back in full-on soft git mode. The fight scenes are fantastic, in fact all the CGI is great. Alfred Molina makes a great Doc Ock. Kirsten Dunst is truly beautiful and you get to see her nipples through her dress again. Tobey Maguire and Rosemary Harris are on top form, and even Uncle Ben puts in a surprise appearance, as does someone else, but I can't tell you who without spoiling the end. There's some nice cameos too - John Landis, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi. There's plenty there to feed a third instalment even allowing for the fact that only a true comics buff like me would know that old one-arm, Doctor Connors is destined to become The Lizard at some point in the future.... I have to admit that I was still thinking this is the best movie I have seen in ages, and better than the first, on the third viewing when I started noticing one or two incosistencies in the film. Still, there's nothing that should spoil your enjoyment. Get out and see it now. Now. Go on. Go!

What? You're still here? Well, there's just time to tell you that I did take some pictures at the Move fest, but I've left my camera back in Nantwich so I can't upload any at the moment. And if you want to download some Morrissey stuff, there's a bunch of on this site, just follow the morriseysolo link at the bottom of the page. (I've downloaded a load of stuff that I'll be burning to CD for a friend).

And that's about it. There's no news from the family gathering that I want to share here - not because it's "too personal" but just because it's dull. What else? Oh yeah, I got my credit card limit increased by a whopping two grand this month. Which was a bit of a surprise as the last time my credit limit was raised was about 4 years ago when they put it up by a mere 300. You'll be pleased to know that so far I've resisted the temptation to blow the money on a Spiderman outfit or, indeed, anything at all. I suspect I'll need to call on that facility when I finally find somewhere to live. Er, there's probably some other stuff but I'll be damned if I can think of it now. I'm off to my mate John's next weekend for a bit of a drink-cum-barbie to celebrate his birthday and then I'll be back the weekend after for the lastfriday gig. I'm quite looking forward to that one, I can tell you. Cheers!

Saturday 26th June

Too Much Effort

Here it is, another of them sporadic bulletins from the fatfakir. I know how much you guys have been missing me, so I thought I'd take the chance offered by an unscheduled return to Conisbrough to spew some more random shite on to the Interweb.

First up is a 'shout', as I believe the kidz say, to Burnz, who's representing 6ft Midgets and e-mailed me to say how much he enjoyed the site. He must have enjoyed it - he spent 8 hours trawling through it. I didn't know there was that much toss on here to wade through. So, "Big Up" to you Mr Burnz and I hope the gig went well last night.

Sticking with a musical theme, I've been out wasting my money on CD's again. (Yeah, I know I should be downloading them from the Internet, but they frown on that sort of thing at work - so no more crack whore mp3s for me till I get Broadband at home.) I've actually mostly been wasting my money on music mags with free CD's attached - MetalHammer and Terrorizer mainly - but when you get the chance to visit a cut-price store you have to make the most of it. So, recently I've bought the following:

Anyway, whilst I was in said cut-price store (the name of which escapes me, but it's near the KFC in the middle of Birmingham) I also went a bit crazy in the DVD department. Cheap DVD's you can't beat 'em, even if, like me, you don't actually own a DVD player. So I had to buy the following:

Finally, some words of advice for the crisp aficianados out there. If you're tempted by Walkers new "Mediterranean" range, don't. The Greek Kebab flavour taste like a meaty, minty ashtray (and believe me, I know what that tastes like!), the Feta Cheese flavour taste like a cheesy ashtray, and the Tomato and Basil flavour taste like a tomato-ey ashtray. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. And they seem to have changed the flavour of their Cheese & Onion crisps again. Does anybody out there have any recommendations for decent crisps?

Oh yeah. Look out, Clodhopper are coming. Watch this space.

Tuesday 1st June

Pinch, punch, first of the month

Flippin' heck, it's June already! Where does the time go? One minute you're lazing around on the dole and the next you've spent nearly three months working in a new job. How did that happen?

To finish May off, I went to lastfriday er, last Friday. Like (apparently) most of the crowd I went to see Disarm, who seem to be getting better and better to me, although I must admit I had my beer ears on by the time they came on. They were ably supported supported by Taylor Shop Dummys who weren't really my cup of tea, but charmed me by finishing their set with a song called 'Cupboard of Doom', and A Destructive Issue from Leeds, who showed why they're getting a bit of attention at the moment. Disarm seemed to be on top form as usual. Once they'd finished though, large numbers of people left, which must have been a bit disheartening for bill-toppers GU Medicine and is something I always find a bit puzzling. I know the last bus from Mekki leaves quite early and that some of them youngsters need their beauty sleep, but why not see at least something of the last band before you go? It's not like it costs any more money... Anyway, I can't tell you if GU Medicine were actually any good or not because I'm afraid I was very, very drunk and spent most of their set spouting shite to anybody who'd listen. So, apologies if I was rude to anyone and I won't be around again till July, so you'll have to wait till then to whack me one....

My sharper-eyed readers may have noticed that the hyperlink to Snuff's site, which used to be on the left there, now leads to a holding page, which is a bit of a disappointment. I'm hoping this just means that they're re-doing their webpage and have not split up, again. Anyway, I've had a dig around for alternative sites but haven't been able to find anything up-to-date or relevant. So I've removed the link pending the return of their website or the appearance of a viable alternative. If you're hanging out for Snuff-related information you can check out their page on the Fat Wreck website or just do your own Google search. In the meantime why not check out the new links to lastfriday or No Names Mentioned instead?

Friday 28th May

A fitting tribute

You've all doubtlessly seen some variant of the statistic that say that say that due to the exponential growth in the number of Elvis impersonators, something like one-third of the world's population will be an Elvis impersonator by 2010. (In which case, why didn't Arthur C Clarke include any in the novel 2010? He predicted loads of other stuff...) Anyway, I went looking to see if I could actually find any real statistics that gave any indication that this is the case. The best I could find was this slide from a Chronic Disease Centre presentation, but even this isn't backed up with any traceable sources. And the key phrase in all of this is "exponential growth", because, if you stick the numbers into a simple compound interest formula (like what I did) they suggest that there'll only be 100 million Elvis impersonators by 2010, a mere 1.43% of the poulation. All of which is pretty much a side issue to the real point, which is to draw your attention to the godlike genius of Ellyvis. Utter comic brilliance.

Sunday 16th May

Music, Music, Music.

Hey, lookee here, two updates in a weekend - it's almost like the old days. Make the most of it though, you groovy feckers, as there won't be another update for about a fortnight. Today I shall be mostly talking about music.

One of the more pleasant aspects of regular work is that come payday you can spend some of your hard-earned on whatever you want. And I like to spend my hard-earned on music. Mostly back catalogue stuff (as opposed to "back of the catalogue, triple-X rated" stuff) I'll admit, but I have been known to purchase the odd contemporary release. This month has been no exception, and here, to bore you to tears, are a few potted reviews of what I've bought recently.....

Morrissey - Irish Blood, English Heart. The first single from the great one's imminent album. It pains me to say it but the best thing I can say about this is that it's alright. It's not brilliant, it's not duff, it's just an average Morrissey record. It hasn't got me panting in anticipation of the album - maybe I was expecting too much. Mind you, I've always felt that Morrissey is on dodgy lyrical ground when he strays from the personal to the political. If you missed him performing this on the Jonathon Ross show on Friday night, he'll doubtless be doing it again on 'Later...with Jools Holland' this week. Set your video for that, but don't make a special effort to watch it.

The Streets - A Grand Don't Come for Free The return of MC Pikey, only this time instead of spending three years making a record in his bedroom he's turned out a 'concept' album in about half the time. And it shows. There are some great tracks on here - 'Fit But You Know it', 'Could Well Be In', 'Dry Your Eyes' - but there are also too many tracks that sound the same. That said, he's still way ahead of 99% of British rap/hip-hop acts. Check this out, then buy 'Original Pirate Material' to see what all the fuss is about.

No Names Mentioned - Osiris Dismemberment Plan (demo). Blistering. Finally, Mexborough's finest post-posthardcore-core ensemble have an mp3 up on the web. Head to pure volume.com to download this rough mix. Play it loud and get some friends to mosh along for a flavour of the NNM live experience. Then get your arse down (or up) to lastfriday in July to see them do it twice as loud and twice as full-on. Miss it and miss out.

The Libertines - Up The Bracket As recommendations go, an endorsement from a friend with a long and troubled history of mental illness is probably one you'd treat with caution. Do as I did, throw caution to the wind and treat yourself to the indie guitar stylings of The Libertines. A rare treat amongst the dreck of today's indie popsters. If you want a reference point - think 70's new wave meets 80's indie with 60's pop sensibilities thrown in (The Only Ones meet Cud and the ghost of Gerry And the Pacemakers, for example). Quite fabulous, in a "where have I heard this before?" sort of way.

The Only Ones - Why Don't You Kill Yourself? (The CBS Recordings) Talk of the devil... Rightly famous for 'Another Girl, Another Planet', unfairly unfamous for anything else. Assembled here for the first time are their three albums on CBS plus the first single and assorted other bonus tracks. I've not really had time to listen to this in it's entirety but I'd say that it's probably not the best compilation of their stuff to start with. If you've never heard of them, try to find the 'The Immortal Story' compilation rather than diving straight into this. Otherwise sit back and spot how many of these tunes The Libertines appear to have ripped off...

The Psychedelic Furs - All Of This And Nothing - A compilation of The Furs "greatest hits". Presented in no particular order and including the biggies - 'Pretty In Pink' and 'Love My Way' - and the essentials - 'President Gas', 'Sister Europe', 'Dumb Waiters', 'Imitation of Christ' and 'Heaven'. I was a bit disappointed as I remembered 'President Gas' as being a bit more pumped-up and muscular than it is on this compilation, but apart from that this is excellent.

The Fall - Totally Wired/Bend Sinister/The Frenz Experiment/458489 A Sides As far as I'm concerned, you can never have too many records by The Fall, so I took advantage of the fact that none of these were more than six quid to bolster my Fall collection. Totally Wired is a Rough Trade compilation which bears an uncanny resemblance to a couple of tapes that my mate Charlie assembled for me back in the 80s. Bend Sinister and Frenz Experiment are two proper albums from the mid-80s. And 458489 is a singles compilation. I normally wouldn't have bothered with it but it features 'Oh Brother', which is one of my all-time favourite Fall tracks of, er, all-time.

Er and that's about it. I was going to write about the Eurovision Song Contest, but I'm running short of time and, let's face it, it was as shite as it always is. At least this year the UK entry got some points. I was amused that Turkey's blatant attempt at not winning, by fielding a ska-punk band, briefly looked in danger of backfiring. The one thing that did annoy me though was that the percussion was far too loud on most tracks and the vocals far too low in the mix. Sometimes, when the artists wandered off-key, that was a blessing, but mostly it was annoying. However, as a final thought from the post-song entertainment, I think that the Turks did get one thing right - their national dance involves scantily-clad women shaking their bits. What have we English got? Morris dancers. Where's me passport?

Saturday 15th May

It's a curse

Here's a tip for you, readers - if you ever have to make a journey by rail and you happen to see me getting on the same train, just get off again and wait for the next one. I know that I don't seem to have the best of luck with public transport but lately things seem to have escalated. It's getting to the point where I'm seriously starting to think about learning to drive...

Twice in the last three weeks I've caught the 18.17 from Warrington Central to Sheffield and on both occasions my journey has been marred by feckwittery of the highest order. On the first time the train was delayed outside Manchester for twenty minutes by a freight tran reversing into a goods yard. And then, as if being stuck in the vestibule of a packed train was not enough, when we got to Manchester yet more people got on, including one daft woman with a collapsible pushchair, which she unloaded but didn't bother collapsing before leaving it in the vestibule with me and half a dozen other people. Not only was I having to stand all the way to Sheffield but I could barely move because of this fecking pushchair! Thanks a lot, you dopey cow. Just to top things off, we arrived in Sheffield 15 minutes late to find that all the information screens were down and there were no staff around to ask either. Nice one. Compared to this journey, last night's journey which I spent sat on a tip-down seat outside the toilet and featured a 25 minute delay at Manchester Picadilly, caused by a bout of train rage when the guard refused to let a chap bring his bike on board (on the not unreasonable grounds that there was no room for it) and said chap refused to leave the train until the police were called, seemed not too bad, but I still managed to miss my connection at Sheffield, which was irritating to say the least.

Mind you, given that my journey to see Kev a fortnight ago took twice as long as it should have after the train was held up by a broken-down freight train on the track in front of us at Barnetby station, arriving at my destination a mere twenty minutes late seems almost like being on time. This time a journey of just over one hour took well over two with most of the time spent sitting on the train literally twenty yards from Barnetby station. If I'd been planning to get a connection there and missed it, I'd have been furious. As it was, I was trying to get to Grimsby and managed to arrive a mere hour late. Thanks a lot.

To be fair, on the few occasions that I've had to travel by train to work, the trains have all run on time in the mornings. However, this has to be counter-balanced by the fact that the return trains from Warrington Bank Quay to Crewe always seemed to be running late. The high (or possibly, low) point being the night the 18.44 was announced as running 30 mins late and the station announcer advised that passengers to Crewe should catch the 18.53, despite the fact that this too was flagged up as running 30 mins late..... OK, my train's late, but I can catch this even later one instead. I don't think so.

Right, having got that off my chest I think that in future I'll only write about my train journeys when they go well. So, you won't have to put up with any more train-related nonsense for a good few months, I should imagine...

Monday 3rd May

Parting the cat's fur

For those of you that may have noticed that my site has fallen off the web for the last few days - good for you. Bad for me though, as whilst I was away Virgin.net closed my account. Well, they actually closed it on Saturday, and if I hadn't had 947 e-mails waiting for me to wade through on Friday night I might have been able to do something about it. Unfortunately, Mailwasher kept crashing under the sheer weight of processing that many e-mails and by the time I'd managed to delete enough spam to make it function, it was past midnight and my account was disabled. I did spot a couple of warning e-mails from Virgin in amongst the spam but was unable to download them in time to do anything about them. Bollocks. So, driven by this, I finally got round to doing what I should have done a long time ago and actually paid for some webspace. Hopefully, everything works OK and you can continue to enjoy your fatfakir experience, but I did this in a hurry so it might not be perfect. (And if you happen to have my virgin.net e-mail address, you'll have to change to use my hotmail address for now until I sort something else. Unless, of course, you're one of the people who sends me spam, in which case you can feck right off!)

Last night (Sunday) I went to Sheffield to see Disarm supporting Johnny Truant. On what initially promised to be a long night, there were three other bands on before Disarm hit the stage. First up were Divide, who I thought were heavy enough but not fast enough. However, they do have a couple of excellent songs - the penultimate one they played, in particular, was a belter. Next up were Bring Me The Horizon, who upped the pace, got the crowd moving and put on a good show. If I was being harsh, I'd say they lacked a bit of variety and the singer needs to extend his range a bit but I can't say I didn't enjoy them. So, two down, three to go. Nausea were next. And despite the fact I only saw them a little over twelve hours ago, I'm struggling to remember anything about their set. I don't think I'd recognise a single one of their tunes if they came up and slapped me with a wet fish. Ah well, can't have been that good then. Finally Disarm took the stage. Excellent, probably one the finest performances of theirs I've seen - they sounded pretty tight, the new song (Awake in China?) sounded pretty good and a good time was had by all. I'm looking forward to their new EP. Last up, were the "big boys" Johnny Truant. I have to congratulate them - they managed to take all the elements of an exciting musical sound and turn them into something tedious. Monster riffage - check. Supercharged drums - check. Screamo vocals - check. Occasional guitar-wankery - check. Any sort of decent tunes - che... oh, wait, no. I'll admit that I thought their singer was a bit of a twat (frankly, I don't give a toss if it's taken you 11 hours to get here or 11 seconds, just get on with it) but even so they were dull. Dull. Dull. I might be biased but I'd say Disarm ruled last night. Good work fellahs.

Disappointing URLs No.32: Beaver Furniture, sadly not home to an interesting collection of adornments for the female genitalia but makers of traditional English Oak furniture. Shame.

What else have I been up to? Well, let's see - I went to see my mate Kev on Saturday. We spent the afternoon in Cleethorpes getting very, very drunk, although with our usual comic timing we managed to arrive at the Cleethorpes Beer Festival about twenty minutes after it closed for the afternoon. Given the sales job Kev was giving it (he'd been the previous evening) I didn't miss much anyway. Not that I'd have remembered much about it anyway.

A fortnight ago I went to Birmingham to catch up with some old colleagues from JBA. It was a decent night out in the Garden House, only marred by the fact that we'd not managed to get hold of everybody that should have been invited and that some of those invited never turned up (Mrs B!). A good time was had by all, I think. After the night out I spent the next day or so catching up with my sister, Crow, and her family, who I haven't seen for about a year or so. They've sold their house and moved into a swanky apartment. And my brother-in-law has decided he's got too many guitars so he gave me a very nice Norman B20 12-string acoustic with a case. Cheers, Peter! I'll be back in Brum in a couple of weeks to babysit for Crow and Peter while they take part in the Moonwalk so I'll be looking to blag some more stuff (only kidding!).

What else? I've been to see Crewe play a couple of times. I saw them against Rotherham in a dire game which was notable only for the fact that it was the first time in about five years that I'd seen Crewe get a point at home. Admittedly I've only been to a handful of games at Gresty Road in the last five years but you'd think I might have picked a game or two that Crewe would win. I also saw Crewe against Crystal Palace, which was another disappointing defeat - conceded two sloppy goals, got back in the game and gave away a soft third one almost immediately. I took my nephew/godson, William, to this game. He got a free ticket as a member of the Junior Alex and I only had to pay a tenner. It was William's first experience of live football and he enjoyed it, apart from the result. The weather was fantastic and the atmosphere was good. And on the way back William was given a quid by a drunk Man Utd fan at the bus stop, so he had a great day. Of course, if he's to become a regular Crewe fan then I reckon seeing them lose on his first visit is the sort of character-forming experience he needed.

Whilst I'm still in Nantwich (the house search begins in earnest this week) I've mad a couple of frays in to Shoot The Moon Records, which is the record shop I mentioned below. So far, I've picked up a couple of Blancmange LPs, a Robyn Hitchcock LP I'd never heard of, and a couple of MC Tunes singles. Now all I need is a record player to play them on. D'Oh! I can report though that if there are any gaps in your collections of records by Man or The Enid, then Shoot The Moon is the place to be. didn't find any YaHoWah 13 though.

Er, and that's about all the news that's fit to print at the moment. Oh, congrats to my mate Lisa who announced her engagement a while back. If you feel the need to validate your forthcoming nuptials with any sort of pseudo-religious mumbo-jumbo, the Reverend Jim's rates are very reasonable, although the inflatable church isn't. And more congrats to my brother, Mark, who has moved into a new house in Leeds. For a simple blessing, I think you'll find I'm the cheapest...

Right, that's it. I'm off again for another few weeks so don't hold your breath waiting for another update. Hopefully it won't take as long this time and I'll have somewhere to live so the updates will be back to their usual tedious frequency. Cheers!

Sunday 28th March

Bands, Beer, Birds and Bother

Hey, hey, hey, I'm back! Bigger, louder and a little more random than before. As you all know, I've been off in Warrington, where I am now gainfully employed as a Technical Author for Martin Dawes Systems, working on the documentation and online help for their DISE covergent billing software. The documentation set is relatively new, so there's lots of work to be done, not only on producing it but looking at the hows and whys of production - the tools, the standards and the editorial process. Not exactly thrilling if you're not so inclined, but I find that sort of thing really interesting. So, thus far, it looks like the job's a good 'un. Of course, I can't really say anything else as I made that rookie mistake of letting my boss know my website address. D'Oh!

Actually there is one thing I don't like about work and that the 6.30 start every morning. I'm currently living with my sister in Nantwich (more of which later), which is about 40 miles or so from Warrington. Fortunately, I've managed to find someone in the company who lives just a couple of miles up the road and he gives me a lift in and back. However, in order to avoid the worst of the traffic we set off at about 7.15. On the other hand this also means I get to leave before 5 in the evening, so am usually back home in time for The Simpsons. And given that the alternative to getting a lift is a two-hour journey by bus and train, I don't suppose I should moan. It's just that, having not worked for a while, I'm finding that I get home, have my tea and fall asleep in front of the telly by about nine o'clock. Ah, it's a hard knock life.

Enough with the moaning already, I hear you sigh, what about lastfriday? Well, it was almost certainly the last one I'll work the door at and probably the last one I'll be able to get to for a while. But it was definitely the best of the lot so far - the place was packed, the bands were excellent and everyone seemed determined to enjoy themselves (although some people obviously "enjoyed" themselves a bit too much...). Taking the chairs out of the hall definitely made a difference to the atmosphere and it was good to see a moshpit developing. Good work fellas! First up were those leading exponents of post-man-pat-core, No Names Mentioned. I wasn't able to give them my full attention, thanks to those inconsiderate gits who wanted to come in whilst they were on, and standing by the door is definitely not the best vantage point, but they seemed to start slowly and get better. No matter, they were still bloody enjoyable. Now hurry up and get some mp3s on your website guys, so the rest of my friends can hear how good you are. Next up were Kid Conspiracy, who built on the foundations laid by NNM and were very good indeed. So good that not only did we get lastfriday's first crowd surfer (nice one!) but I was moved to invest three quid in their CD. And this despite their guitarist's resemblance to Paul Scholes. Check them out. After the glitch of their appearance at The Fez club (see January's archive) Disarm were back on top form. Everything sounded good to me although, again, outside influences prevented me from giving you my undivided attention. And finally, the late Abdoujaparov who, thanks to a traffic jam on the motorway, didn't actually arrive at the venue till ten o'clock turned and didn't get on stage till nearly ten to eleven. They were very entertaining - Les knows how to work a crowd - and a lot of very patient people who had turned up to see them and stuck around had a very good time. Sadly, I had to leave before they finished but I'll be checking them out again in the near future. Top band. congrats to all involved on putting on another splendid night's entertainment - here's hoping there are many more. Oh, and a big "Hello" to Paul, who accused me of being Bubba Ray Dudley. Thanks chief, haven't heard that one for a while!

Good news for those who have a vested interest - I finally picked up my new spectacles on Friday afternoon. I wore them out of the shops and was in a whole new world for a while as I got used to them. Sample pictures are now available on my Spectacles page. God, I'm so handsome! Well, maybe not, but they are a marked improvement on my old ones.

Living back in Nantwich has it's surreal moments. Like finding out that there is no longer a dedicated newsagents in the town centre. Beddows has long been shut, I know, but I was surprised to find that the Beam Street one was closed too and is now home to a wedding dress shop. With neither the supermarket nor WHSmith opening before 8.30, I can't get a paper before I go to work. Not that I necessarily want one everyday but it would be nice to have the choice. The other thing about the town is that somethings have changed quite considerably - there's now an Aldi superstore where the council depot used to be, and new housing estates are spring up all over the place - it's surprising how much things have stayed the same - Zak still runs the Market Street chippy, the pubs all have the same names (except The Talbot, which has been The Frog & Ferret for the last few years). It was also surprising to find that Nantwich is now home to a record shop. Given that for a long time Woolworths was the only place to buy music, this is big news to me. I was somewhat put off by the display of 70's prog rock albums in the window, but will be spending some of my day off checking the place out and will report back on my findings.

The one great thing about living in Nantwich is that I can get to see my beloved Crewe Alexandra play a bit more often than I have in the past couple of years. That said, the only gane I've got to so far has been the home game against Cardiff which was spoiled by the wind and lost to a comedy goal, when a speculative cross-cum-shot rebounded off the bar, struck the keeper and went in. Basically, the sort of thing you'll see on "Nick Hancock's Own Goals & Gaffes IV" in a couple of months. Arse. Of course, they then managed to comfortably beat the clayheads of Stoke in a game I didn't go to... Ah well, there's a few more games to get to before the end of the season.

Some of you may remember that a while back I mentioned the sort of games that we used to play in the car to while away long journeys. It doesn't matter if you don't, I'm going to waffle on about it now. Anyway, one of the games I mentioned was to try to spot the names of obscure villages that sound like actors from a bygone era. On my daily commute I pass by or through some likely candidates, but during the course of my travels, I have expanded their imaginary biographies somewhat and drifted off the point a bit too. So, for your delectation and delight, I give you:

And that's all the news that fit to print in the world of the fatfakir at the moment. Apologies if there are any speeling mistaikes, that I've missed but I've had to do this in a bit more of a hurry than I expected. So I haven't had chance to add the lovely favourites icon that my brother made for me, for example, and I'm sure there was somethnig else I was meant to mention on here that I've forgotten. Anyway, I still haven't found anywhere to live yet, and won't get paid by work for another three weeks, so I'm not sure when there'll be another update exactly. Sooner rather than later, I hope. In the meantime, don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Sunday 7th March

The brie Fi ate is sour

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye, although I'll be gone by the time you read this. I'm off into the wide blue yonder to start work and will be living in a place with no Internet connection, so there'll be no updates for a while. At least not till I've either sorted out a place to live, or found a decent Internet cafe in Nantwich (not holding my breath on that one), or I've got my feet sufficiently under the desk at work to spend all day blogging and downloading crack whore mp3s..... If there's any important news, those of you unfortunate enough to have my mobile number can try that, the rest of you will have to leave a comment here or try the Hotmail account listed on this page. Actually, I will be back in sunny Conisbrough in a couple of weeks or so, so you won't have to wait forever for your fix of FatFakir. I'll definitely be back for March's lastfriday gig, as that line-up promises to be a cracker - No Names Mentioned, Disarm, Kid Conspiracy and Abdoujaparov. What more could you want?

(Yeah, alright Lisa, I know you want Peter Andre, but we can't afford him. Not anymore. Could have got him for 30 and a couple of cans of Special Brew before Christmas, but not now. Ooh no, "I'm too big for Mexborough" he says, Wants fifteen grand, doesn't he? And a separate dressing room for each of Jordan's breasts. Well, I'm sorry Pete, but if that's your attitude, the deal is off.)

Friday 5th March

I'll give you my skin

The big news over the last couple of days has been the airing of the Princess Di tapes on US television. I've absolutely no time for the woman - I didn't like her when she was alive and I've grown to like her less since her death. I think I'm especially bitter because the Crewe match on the afternoon following her demise was cancelled "as a mark of respect". As this was one of Crewe's rare appearances on SkySports and I'd travelled up to London to watch the match in the pub with my brother, I was more than somewhat dischuffed. And then there was all that fecking palaver over her funeral and the bleedin' wall-to-wall coverage - I swear there was no alternative on either TV or radio that day. Plus, given that the woman has been dead for six and a half years, there doesn't seem to be a day go by when she isn't in the news. Come on people, get over it. Anyway, in amongst all the usual toss about what she said or did and how Chazz wasn't a very good husband, there was one revelation that did make me smile - apparently Chazz wasn't too happy that Harry was both a boy and had red hair. You can just imagine him there at the bedside saying in that strangled voice of his, "Oh god, it's a boy. Mummy won't be pleased. And, ugh, look at that - he's a ging-er. Ging-er! Ging-er!" Of course, the conspiracy theorists have suggested that James Hewitt might be the real father, but I don't think they've considered those other two members of the Royal Family with ginger(ish) hair - Prince Edward and Fergie. I might be wrong but if comes down to a choice between the tights-wearing ponce who left the Marines to work for Andrew Lloyd Webber or the diet-crazed fun-loving jolly-hockey-sticks publicity monster, I know which one my money would be on and it's not Eddie.

'Twas a sad day down at Mexborough JobCentre today as I signed off, a mere nine months after I first signed-on there. Like all my dealings with the JobCentre, it wasn't as straightforward as I expected. Despite the fact that I was signing-off, they still wanted to interview me as it was the end of my weekly signing period and there was something that the "QST team" wanted to see me about, apparently. Anyway, both the people that I should have seen were unavailable, so I ended up leaving them my mobile number so they can get in touch if needs be. I expect I'll get a call at about ten o'clock on Monday morning, just as I'm in the middle of a "meet and greet" at work. (Have I mentioned that I've got a new job yet?)

And finally, it's "Good News!" for the Cambridge posse that read my blog-cum-webpage. Set the date in your diary and be prepared to avoid the Corn Exchange like the plague, for on Monday 5th July that nabob of naivety, the idiot of the outback, the bungle in the jungle, Peter Andre will be performing all his hit and, quite possibly, the soon-to-be smash 'Insania' (Do-do-doo, come on and do the conga. Do-do-doo, Insania.) Be there or be safely at home knitting coats out of dog hair. Or something.

Thursday 4th March

Walking down Madison

Well, I spent yesterday wandering round the mean streets of Warrington. I checked out the route from the train station to the bus station, the bus route to work and the varied delights of the town centre. The one thing I didn't manage to do was check out the range and prices of properties available to rent in the area. I managed not to find most of the estate/letting agents that I had in mind to visit and I didn't find any properties that I was particualarly taken by. Perhaps I was just looking in the wrong place. Hopefully my new work colleagues will be able to offer me a bit more advice next week. I also have to say that the bits of Warrington that I saw were a bit short on comedy names except for, obviously, Cockhedge Shopping Park and Locking Stumps. And sadly, there were no houses to let on Thynne Street, which was a shame because I think the tagline "Fat Bloke on Thynne Street" would have been a good one. BTW, I did take my digital camera with me, but I only took a few photos and they're not very interesting, so I've deleted them already.

The one aspect of my trip out that did pleasantly surprise me was that I had virtually no troubles with public transport. Usually, if I go anywhere, I end up waiting ages for a bus or my train is delayed or some other minor catastrophe befalls me, but yesterday was virtually perfect. In the morning, I arrived at Conisbrough station about a minute before the train arrived and everything went smoothly from there - I made my connection at Sheffield and got a seat, despite the fact the train was packed, and arrived in Warrington on time. The Warrington buses all ran to schedule and I didn't have too much hanging around waiting for one. And when I decided to head home, I found that I had a three-quarters of an hour wait for the next train from Warrington to Sheffield so decided to catch a train to Manchester, where I had only a couple of minutes wait for a train to Sheffield. Sadly, things went a bit pear-shaped when I got to Sheffield as the connecting train (the 16.24 to Doncaster, fact fans) had been cancelled so there was another long wait for the next one. I decided to get some beers in for the wait, but then changed my mind and nipped over the road to the bus station and caught the bus home instead. Which not only got me back earlier, but also stopped in the village so I didn't have to worry about walking up the hill from the station. And I got back in plenty of time to watch Liverpool beat a bunch of no-hopers from Bulgaria in the UEFA Cup. Result.

Tuesday 2nd March

She's a little lighthouse

You know, having acquired a digital camera you'd think I'd take it everywhere I go, just in case the opportunity arises. But no, I left it at home instead. Which today was not the right thing to do.

Firstly, I went off to purchase some new spectacles. The first new pair of spec's in about five years, to be honest. Well, if your sister and your brother's girlfriend (that's two separate people - we're not complete yokels) both tell you that you need some new glasses then you've got to think that maybe they're right. So, off I went. Anyway, the trouble I have is that I am sooooo short-sighted that I can't really tell if the glasses I'm trying on look alright or not. This has been the cause of some disasters in the past - I once had some big plastic-framed glasses that I thought looked great when I tried them on and looked absolutely terrible when I could see them in focus. What I ought to have done today was take the digital camera and get the assistant to take some photos. At least then I'd have had a "sneak preview" of how they were going to look instead of depending on someone else's judgement and my fairly fuzzy, non-corrected image of myself. To be fair to the assistant though, she was very helpful and we concurred on the two pairs that I ended up choosing. For the record, I ordered some fairly small rectangular ones and some small round ones as a second pair. I'll not get them for a couple of weeks, so you'll all have to wait till then to see the new, improved, 21st-century, handsome Jim.

Secondly, on the bus back from town I saw something which I can't believe I haven't noticed before. Perhaps it's a new venture, that can be the only explanation. Anyway, coming out of Doncaster, heading through Balby towards the A1, there is, on the left-hand side of the road, a car valeting operation. This car valeter offers a thorough personal service and is called Mr Hand Job. I swear I'm not making this up! Funnier than just the name of this place though was the site of three or four lads all washing cars in the company uniform - bright blue fleecy tops bearing the legend "Mr Hand Job" in six inch high yellow lettering on the back. I couldn't help thinking that they probably never go out on the pull in their work clothes....

Finally, I realised that despite having lived in Conisbrough for about ten months I've not taken any pictures of the castle and today would have been a perfect day - the sky was clear, the sun was shining and the castle looked great. Ah well, I shall have to hope that the weather is as good later in the week.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) I'm off to Warrington for the day for a bit of a recce of the town before I start work there next week. I'll be checking out the pubs, the bus routes to the office, the pubs, places to live, the pubs, the shops, the pubs, the leisure facilities and, of course, the pubs. And I think I might just take my digital camera with me. I'm having to go for a look-see because the three people that I know who used to live in Warrington have all moved out/on in recent times, much to my surprise. So much for my "friends in the area"! I've got an early start in the morning because I'll have to set off back by 5pm to have any chance of getting home to watch Liverpool versus Levski Sofia on the telly. Expect a "comedy" update on my misadventures on Thursday.

Sunday 29th February

Consume Corrupt Crash Corrode

Another Leap Year passes without some young lady proposing to me (as opposed to the lady of dubious virtue who propositioned me, but that's another story....). Ah, well there'll be at least another 7 or 8 Leap Years before I'm ready for my grave, so there's still time. Anyway, I've got plenty of other stuff to bore the pants off you with, er, I mean, write about.

Friday night saw the second lastfriday event at the Mexborough Civic. It was another packed night. First band up were Odium whose collective age seemed to be somewhat less than mine. Well, not quite, but for a bunch of young kids they can play. Their set was, apparently, all covers, but I didn't recognise some of the songs so I can't vouchsafe that. I do have to say that, personally, I wouldn't be encouraging people to cover songs by The Darkness, but they didn't do a bad job of it. Anyway, it was a decent debut and I'd encourage them to stick at it. Next up were Sillibus and I thought they delivered the goods even though everything was going a bit pear-shaped. None of them seemed too happy to be there, the set ended in a shambles and I think they'll all admit they had an off night, but they still entertained me. Headliners Laruso have been causing a bit of a stir, but on that performance I was left wondering what all the fuss was about. There was certainly none of the attack and bite of the tracks on their website. I know they suffered a bit with p.a. problems and quite a few people left after Sillibus finished, but it wasn't the blistering live set I'd been lead to expect. Still, they did have some of the widest, flappiest trousers I've seen in a long while. Anyway, I'm prepared to give them another go and will try to catch them live again in the near future. Next month's event should be a cracker and I'm really looking forward to it now - hope that my new job won't prevent me from attending.

Saturday night I went up to Leeds to see my brother, Mark and his partner, Kate. They've just moved back to Leeds for Kate's new job. (You see, not everyone in my family is associated with low-lifes. Most of them, but not all...) They're currently living in a swanky apartment close to the railway station. It's very nice but does have the drawback that the demolition crew start work on the building next door at about 5 o'clock on a Sunday morning! Anyway, we went out for a very nice meal at the Shabab restaurant on Eastgate and we got one. It's actually ages since I've been out for an Indian but I can thoroughly recommend that one. Very nice indeed. And as an added bonus I managed to blag a digital camera off my brother. Well, I say blag but actually he just gave it to me, there was no blaggery involved. So you can expect an outbreak of pictures on this site in the near(ish) future. Cheers bro'!

Regency House Party - surely this would have been better if they'd set it in Crinkly Bottom and called it Noel's Regency House Party? Picture the scene: "Forsooth, Sir Neil of Morrissey, is that not that tiresome bore, Mr Blobby?"
"I fear so, Mr Chegwin, and he is accompanied by that midget backgammon player, Lord Noely of Edmonds. I'll wager that before the night is out we shall see fair maidens in the gunge tank."
"Forshame. Mark you though, that this week we have been spared Michael Smythe Esquire's Ye Whirlywheel Challenge."

If Channels 4 and 5 merge, are they going to become Chanel 9? "Bono estente. Thetathetathet thetathetathet tetatetatet, Chris Waddle." etc, etc.

Number Two is Number One - Peter Andre's 'Mysterious Girl' has hit the top of the charts. It actually only got to Number two on its original release but obviously you don't need to sell so many singles these days. I was in HMV on Friday and they had a stack of singles on display by the checkout. As I paid for my purchases (Down By Law (widescreen) and Lord of the Rings (for my Dad) on video and a Relapse Records sampler, fact fans, reviews later) I picked one up, only to put it down in a hurry when I saw that it only had two mixes of the song on it and was 1.99. "Tempting," I said, "but I'm waiting till he releases 'Insania'" For some reason the guy behind the counter didn't find that amusing. No sense of humour some people.....

Finally, for all you electronica freaks out there, you might like to know that Australia's finest, Toecutter, is on his way to these shores for a brief tour with Planet Mu stalwarts Shitmat and Sickboy. Don't worry if you can't make it along to any of the gigs, you can enjoy webstreaming of Tuesday night's Cambridge performance thanks to 209 Radio. It's bound to be hip, hot and happening. Or possibly hot, hell and horrendous. Be there or be somewhere else.

Wednesday 25th February

Ning Nang Nong, Cows go bong

In amongst all the dashing about trying to find somewhere to live and trying to raise a bit of spare cash to tide me over for my new job, I've found time to look the sort of spam that I've been receiving on my home account. I've been trying to refine the message rules that I've set OE to apply, so that if I can't access my account for any length of time (for example, when I start work) I don't have too much spam to wade through when I can come back to it. It's not very easy or effective, so I ought to install a proper spam filter, which I may well do. I've been looking at Mailwasher because it's free - does anyone out there have anything good/bad to say about it? It's all a bit depressing but, for your delectation and delight, here's a list of the types of spam I've received in the last week:

I've probably missed one or two sorts there - most of my spam seems to arrive over the weekend and I've long since deleted all the shite I got this weekend. I did once transfer all my spam to a separate folder for a week, rather than deleting it, to see how many messages I actually got and in seven days I received 1165 separate pieces of spam. Despite tightening up my message rules, I'm still deleting 15-20 messages a day. Arse!

Sunday 22nd February

Just a stranger on the bus

Thanks to mighty generosity of Burger King, I got to take my nephews to see Looney Tunes - Back in Action on Friday. Well, it wasn't that generous I suppose - the offer was one free child's ticket with every adult ticket. Anyway, I have to say that actually the film wasn't that bad. In fact, if you like the Looney Tunes cartoons, you'll probably enjoy this film. And if you don't, you can either spend the entire film wondering if that really is Steve Martin playing the bad guy, or just play 'Spot the Cameo'. The film doesn't stray too far from the tried and tested values that made the original Warner Bros cartoons so enjoyable, so there's plenty of slapstick and sight gags to keep the kids happy, but there are also plenty of in-jokes and homages to keep you interested. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a damn sight better time-waster than some of the films I've had the misfortune to see.

Praise the Lord, 'tis, National Pub Week! Well, technically it started yesterday, but I couldn't be bothered to update my site yesterday - I was too busy. Anyway, here's my list of alternative events for Pub Week.

Friday 20th February

We'll be the pirate twins again

I'll say this about my nephews - at least having them to stay gets me out of the house. On Tuesday we (my Dad and I) took them to The Funhouse in Doncaster, which is basically a converted factory unit with a play area for the kids at one end and a load of tables and a canteen at the other for the parents. I had a look at the array of nets, ladders, slides and the like on offer and thought the boys might get tired out after an hour or so. Anyway, five hours later, we're dragging two rather reluctant boys out of the building and off home for tea. Admittedly they did have three of their cousins to play with and they don't see them very often. And I had a good time as it allowed me chance to catch up with a couple of my cousins; I don't see them very often either.

Wednesday we had a brief run out to the castle for a quick look round and a game of football in the grounds. It was freezing in the wind though, so the kids weren't too keen on standing around looking at stuff. We were going to have a walk round the bottom of the castle but the recent wet weather had rendered the path very muddy and slippery so we abandoned that idea and decided to head home before it got any colder.

Yesterday we went to York for a day out. Well, it was more like half a day by the time we got organised and out of the house. We decided to use the Park & Ride service into York rather than try to find a parking space in the city centre. That turned out to be a good idea, although we did have a bit of trouble finding a space at the Park & Ride site! Anyway, the bus dropped us off by Clifford's Tower so we went up there first. It was a bit steep in more ways than one. Still, the views from the top are worth the effort if not quite the cost. From there we made our way to the York Castle Museum, where we saw the social history displays and some of the costume displays, but didn't get quite as far as the armoury. We also saw a traditional Punch and Judy show, which was very amusing. As time was ticking on (it was almost 4pm) we went off for a bite to eat and a wander down The Shambles, which, as far as I could tell, are a couple of narrow streets crammed with shops selling overpriced, "tourist" tat. Anyway, none of the things we did were actually on the original plan, which had been to visit the Jorvik Viking Centre and see some of the other attractions of the Viking festival. Well, the Jorvik plan was scuppered because we couldn't pre-book, having left it a little late, and then we simply ran out of time. We did see some people dressed as Vikings though as they strolled past Burger King whilst we were having lunch. The kids didn't seem to upset at missing out though and Dad has promised to take them back during the Easter holiday.

This afternoon we're off to the cinema to see Loony Tunes Back In Action - be still my beating heart. Expect a sneeringly derogatory review later. Mind you, I think it'll be the first time that I've been to the cinema since I moved here, so perhaps I won't be too scathing.

Monday 16th February

Slave to the parasites

Never one to resort to something new when I can trot out any old piece of tat, National Chip Week give me the chance to roll out this parody piece that I wrote about 4 years ago. I haven't updated it for a couple of years, so some of the jokes might be a tad dated. I might have done something about it if I hadn't only found out about Chip Week this morning. Also, I'm helping look after my two nephews during half-term and, whilst them pesky young kids are great fun, they do rather restrict my access to the old Internetto. Still they don't stop the old creative juices flowing, if you'll pardon the expression, and I've got a few ideas up my sleeve for a similar piece for National Pub Week, which starts on Saturday......

Friday 13th February

Unlucky for some?

So, apart from the fact that today is my Dad's birthday, what is it that's meant to be unlucky about today? It's certainly not been unlucky for me. Not only have I been out for a free lunch but I've also had three free pints and been offered a Job! Woo hoo! (I also bought my lottery tickets this morning, but I'm not expecting my luck to change there.) This does mean that, sadly, I'll be packing up and moving to Warrington in the near future, but on the other hand it also means that I'll be getting paid a decent wage, living on my own and not having to put up with my parents! Double Huzzah! More details to follow, possibly, but that is all for now. I'm off to purchase a big bag of beers to celebrate!

Thursday 12th February

That Hellbound Train

I was off on my travels yesterday - all the way to sunny Birchwood, in fact, for an interview. I wish I'd known that it was going to be that sunny all day as I wouldn't have bothered taking my coat (That was Mistake Number 1). On the way there my train from Manchester to Birchwood suffered an electrical fault that delayed it by some twenty-five minutes and the walk from the station was a bit of a nightmare (That was Mistake Number 2), so I arrived at my interview all hot and bothered. Not a good start. Anyway, the interview went OK, I think, but I can never tell with these things. I got a taxi back to the station and arrived in plenty of time for my train (due at 5:06pm) and there the real nightmare started....

The train to Warrington arrived at Birchwood at the same time as my connecting train from Warrington was due to leave, so I decided to go via Manchester instead. Thirty minutes later the train to Manchester arrived, roughly on time, and off I went. I had to stand all the way and I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly some six minutes late, but just in time to see a train to Sheffield pulling out of the station. Then, having walked all the way from Platform 13 to the main concourse to find out when my next train was due, I found I just about had time to buy a soft drink before I had to go all the way back to Platform 13. Anyway, my train to Sheffield arrived some 8 minutes late at Manchester and some 22 minutes late in Sheffield, two minutes after my connection to Conisbrough had left. So I had to wait another 20 minutes for the next train which, irony of ironies, had come from Manchester - I could have sat in the bar there for half an hour and had a couple of pints had I but known! Anyway, even that train managed to be eight minutes late on arrival in Conisbrough, so I didn't get home till 9pm. In all the journey took an extra hour and a half, which is by no mean the worst extended journey I've ever had (the twelve and a half hours to get from Leicester to Crewe will take some beating) but the combination of minor delays and missed connections was extremely frustrating. Gah! It took me about an hour to calm down once I got home.

Sunday 8th February

He's thick but he struck it rich

Only in America Dept. - Case No 1435672359784/2 Exhibit one. It's self-explanatory, your honour. Now, I appreciate that there are some people out there who may have a much stricter moral code than I do, but surely suing Janet for exposing herself on national television is just taking the proverbial? Mind you, if this case is successful I might sue Jordan (as opposed to 'Sue Egypt', which is a Captain Beefheart song) for the psychological trauma caused by exposure to her grossly over-inflated breasts every night on I'm A Celebrity....Get Me Some Publicity. Am I the only one to find them repulsive? I wouldn't have minded so much if she'd turned out to be a nice girl but she only served to remind people of how ugly relentless self-promotion can be.

'Tis, of course, Valentine's Day this forthcoming Saturday and you'll all be pleased to note that in the run-up to this most romantic of days, this week has officially been designated National Contraceptive Awareness Week. So you've all got a week to bone up on the subject before the big day. Which, amusingly, also happens to be National Impotence Day. So you'll have spent all week thinking about contraception only to be confronted by one of the best contraceptives of all. How romantic. Incidentally, it's also a leap year this year, so all you ladies will be able to propose marriage on the 29th of the month should you so desire (that's fatfakir[at]hotmail.com, in case you'd forgotten....).

Finally, because I can't be arsed to spend all my time looking these things up for you, here are ten interesting facts from the BBC. And a guide to the fads of the 70s and 80s (courtesy of my mate elaine) which should ensure that you're as prepared for this year's 80s revival as it is possible to be. Enjoy.

Wednesday 4th February

Definitely becoming nympholeptic

My old mucker, Richard asked me about my favourite films t'other day. And I found it quite easy to name nine great (in my humble opinion) films but then started struggling a bit to complete the top ten. And on reflection I realised that there were about ten other films that I could have named that I like just as much. So, I thought about it a bit more and decided that Ten Films You Must See was probably a bit hackneyed, and besides, if you went to see any of those films and didn't like them, you'd only blame me. So here's a mix of the entertaining, the scary, the curious and the downright obscure, also known as Ten Films That I Like At the Moment:

So there you go, there's a few films for you to mull over/disagree with/rush out to find at Blockbusters. I think I could probably have picked about ten other films of equal worth - there's nothing by Dario Argento and nothing black-and-white, for example - but I'd be happy to watch those ten if I were confined to bed for a couple of days.

Sunday 1st February

So much for January

Where does the time go? One minute you're making your New Year's resolutions and then before you know it you're having to plan who to stalk for Valentine's Day....

Last Friday @The Civic kicked off, er, last Friday. There was a very encouraging turn out to see three young, local(ish) bands, for not very much money. First on stage were Same Old Same, who were making their debut and a pretty decent debut it was too. There are one or two things they could have done better, but those'll come with time. Next up were +RiTALiN+ who were much better than I expected from their soundcheck. Finally, Empathy rounded things off with a very-well received set. I have to confess that I missed some of it as I was in the bar talking to Ritalin's manager at the time, but what I did catch was very good. (Incidentally, if you check out the lastfriday photo gallery, yours truly features on the far left of the crowd scene.) Overall, a pretty good start for the new venture. February's line up is currently, Odium, Laruso and Sillibus, all of whom should deliver plenty of loud, fast rock. And then check out March's killer bill - No Names Mentioned, Kid Conspiracy, Disarm and Abdoujaparov (see elsewhere for relevant links) - if you come along and none of those bands excite you, then you must be dead.

Now, some of you may remember that in the early 1990's the Tory government allowed a lot of Polytechnics to become Universities. Quite what the logic behind this was escapes me now, but I'm sure they had a good reason. Anyway, what it meant to me was that the College of Higher Education that I started my degree course on, became a Polytechnic the year I graduated and became a University a year later. The name of this august establishment? Humberside Coll, er, Poly, er, no, the University of Humberside. I later returned to the University of Humberside to study a post-graduate diploma course, which I did not complete, sadly. (I failed one of the units and couldn't get the funding to re-take it). And later still the University moved to a new purpose-built campus in Lincoln and has renamed itself the University of Lincoln. Anyway, I mention this because my old alma mater has been in the news recently, because it's Israeli franchise operation has been awarding degrees fraudulently. Of course, it's kind of old news really as the fraud first came to light in the late '90s, and the University severed ties with the Israeli company operating the franchise, but the police have just concluded their investigations. The company involved, Academion, seem to have just set up shop anywhere and sold the degrees. In one instance, they even set up a franchise office in a petrol station. And to think that I spent all that time studying when I could have just spent my grant on a return flight to Israel and well-placed bribe. Of course, now I've told you all this, you're going to start wondering just how valid my Fisheries Studies degree really is...

Thursday 29th January

So much for winter

I woke on Wednesday morning to a smattering of white stuff but, once I'd cleaned myself up and got dressed, I was disappointed to find that the promised blizzard conditions had not materialised in my part of the world. There was some something of a fierce snowstorm in the middle of the afternoon, but it had mostly disappeared by late evening and what did remain on the ground had pretty much melted by this morning. Conditions were worse elsewhere in the country, but there have been no massive snowdrifts, no reports of traffic jams on the main roads, no train delays and not even a comedy news item about ducks finding the pond frozen. Despite being a bit cold (well, duh!) it's actually been rather sunny round here, which is all a bit disappointing. Eeh, these winters aren't like the ones we used to have, when snow would lie on the ground for a couple of weeks or so, schools stayed open and PE lessons would consist almost entirely of cross-country runs because the sports field was frozen. Actually, I do remember a couple of winters at college when we had snow for a week or so, which would be about ten years ago, but I can't honestly remember any extended cold spells since. Well, the winters were always cold when I was on the dole, but that was because I couldn't afford to have the heating on for much of the day, rather than anything to do with the weather......

And isn't it ironic that schools are closed for the day, yet 90% of the vehicles that do the school run appear to be SUVs? The one time you really need the 4-wheel drive and instead it's stuck on the drive....

Hhm, I typed this entry up at about 10 o'clock this morning and have been having some minor FTP difficulties ever since so that I've no idea what time I'll actually be able to update - it's 16:45 as I type this I still haven't been able to connect. I wouldn't mind but I know the problems not up my end. Given that I also can't connect to any newsgroups after about 6pm and don't seem to be able to post to them at any time, I kind of wonder what I'm paying my ISP for....

Monday 26th January

Watergate doesn't bother me

Eeh, I don't get out much these days, what with me gout and being on the dole an' all, but I managed to go out on Saturday night. I got on the magic bus and went to the Fez club in Sheffield to see Disarm. They were meant to be supporting Fony, who are getting a lot of press attention at the moment, but they pulled out for reasons best known to themselves. Anyway, the bands that did play were:

And whilst I'm banging on about rock music, I may as well let you know that I'll be manning the door at the Mexborough Civic Hall this Friday for lastfriday@civic, a new monthly rock night, featuring live bands, on the last Friday of every month in fact. This Friday +RiTALiN+ and Empathy are booked to play. I'm not sure who's booked for February (I think No Names Mentioned were, er, mentioned), but in March there's Kid Conspiracy, Disarm and Abdoujaparov, who are Fruitbat from Carter USM's new band. Anyway, for the rest of this week I'll be practising saying "Not tonight, son, not in those trainers."...

Thinking of Kid Conspiracy, have you noticed how many other bands there are at the moment with Kid in their name - Kid Rock, Kid 606, Kid Symphony, Kid Dynamite, Ugly Kid Joe, The Kids from Fame, Kid 'n' Play, MC Our Kid, Rich Kids, Eddie Kidd, the Skids...

Lastly on a "Rawk" tip, this week I have mostly been listening to the free Earache sampler given away with February's issue of Metal Hammer. It features some classic cuts from pretty much most of the label's artists and previously unreleased tracks by Deicide, Decapitated and Lunaris. All top stuff. Makes the other cover CD sound pretty tame by comparison, but that's probably because it is...

Wednesday 21st January

Crushed by the wheels of Industry

Let's start off with some good news - it's Happy Birthday! to my brother and my nephew. And yes, those are two separate people. Both born today a mere 31 years apart. Sadly, my nephew won't read this site (I could do with more vistors) but I have sent him a card so he should be happy. I've sent my brother a card too, (honest, Mark), but it might not have arrived yet. And there was twenty quid in it, so the posties must have nicked it if it's not there now...

Of course, you can't have pleasure without a bit of pain (as I like to tell the laydeez) so it's 'Commiserations' to my best mate Kev, who has been made redundant today. There's never a good time to get laid off, but at least you got Christmas out of the way. Not much consolation, I know, especially when you have to go through the grind of updating your CV, signing-on, etc. Anyway, here's hoping you find another job soon.

Finally, for today, some strange news. According to this EE Times story, security officers could soon have lie-detector glasses. Which, given the notorious unreliablity of current polygraph technology, is not necessarily a good thing. To be honest, I thought this might be a hoax, but it's nowhere near April 1st yet. Or perhaps it's a cunning piece of double-bluff - announce the introduction of a new piece of technology and then equip all airport security officers with new, hi-tech-looking sunglasses and hope that any potential terrorist buys it. Well, perhaps not, but in these days of "increased security concerns", I just can't help being cynical. And whilst I'm being cynical, is this bloke perhaps ripping people off? Could those security cameras "disguised to look like lamps and ornaments" actually just be lamps and ornaments? Maybe 'Aye', maybe 'No'. There are, obviously, issues regarding the ubiquity of the surveillance camera and its effectiveness but to start seeing them everywhere, even in the frame of a picture ferchrissakes, suggests a level of paranoia far surpassing my own. But then again, how do you know I'm not watching you right now?

Friday 16th January

Is that Liza with a Zee?

Good news for all you cycle fans, particularly those who love dodgy '70s styling and wobbly steering - Raleigh are re-launching the Chopper in April. Strictly in a limited edition, though. And with the potential-nadger-crushing gear lever moved to the handlebars for safety reasons. I used to own one of these beasties in the mid to late 70's. In fact, I failed my Cycling Proficiency Test on it at primary school, so that must have been around '75 or '76, but I don't remember having it when we moved to Walsall in 1977, although I might have done. I certainly have fond memories of the "idiosyncratic" (i.e. downright dangerous) handling that took a bit of getting used to. I used to start off in first, get a bit of speed up and then whack it into third and hope I never had to change gear again as taking your hands off the handlebars was about the most dangerous thing you could do at speed. Compared to that, pulling wheelies was a piece of cake. Anyway, in case you've missed it, the Chopper's return has not been without a bit of controversy, at least according to this Times Online story. I have to say that if you'd asked me who invented the Chopper, you'd have got an innuendo-laden reply of little value, but in this case I'm inclined to accept the British Design Council's view rather than the Stalinist-revisionism of Raleigh. Of course, the real good news in all of this is for owners of original Raleigh Choppers, which will surely now soar way past the 400 mark that some models are already fetching.

Tuesday 13th January

Still trying to contact Fireball XL5

Well, I wouldn't want to be accused of spreading a conspiracy theory, but don't you think it's just a little coincidental that the British mission to Mars failed just ahead of the "successful" landing of the American probe? Of course, any sane person might point out that the Americans spent 457 million dollars on their landing craft, which happens to be the size of a golf buggy, whereas Beagle 2 cost about 35 quid and is made from 3 dustbin lids. Funny though, all that money and the Americans still can't convince people that they aren't simply recycling pictures of the Australian desert. Capricorn One, anyone? Perhaps that's where the Mars Express mission went wrong - they actually went to Mars.

I was musing the other day on the likely future of the Internet given that it's likely that at some point in the future you'll be able to access the thing through your telly, thanks to Sony's 25-year plan to turn the PlayStation into the WayStation (and yes, I know that was the rumoured name of MS's X-Box replacement). Fortunately for you, dear readers, whilst I had several ideas I couldn't bring them together to form a coherent argument, so instead here's what my three main points were:

  1. Why do you think Sony and Microsoft both got into the games console business? These are not companies that are short of a bob or two and need to make some extra cash. These are companies with large amounts of money and large amounts of influence. These are companies that are thinking very long-term. And at some point in the near future, whether it's Sony or Microsoft or someone else, someone will put all your home entertainment requirements into one box - satellite/cable TV, Internet (Broadband or Wi-Fi), CD player, DVD player, digital radio, games, the lot. (Of course, you'll lose the "redundant technologies" - tapes, video, vinyl). There are already people out there building an Internet browser that will work with a digital TV set, so what does that tell us? It's coming and soon. OK, I've plugged my WayStation in and I'm ready to enter the brave new world. Except, of course, that for a while it'll be pretty much like the brave old world, only you can access the Internet from the comfort of your sofa rather than from an office-style chair in the spare room. The Internet isn't going to look much different, and thanks to the handy keyboard attachment you can access your e-mail and fill out webforms just like you would from your computer. Marvellous!
  2. Who controls the content that is delivered to the new WayStation? For TV and Digital radio that'll be down to the usual suspects. As for the World Wide Web, well, you've got an Internet browser so you can surf to wherever you want, surely? Not necessarily. Besides, even if you could find all the mp3's or open source software you could dream of, how are you going to save them? You won't be able to use the WayStation hard drive, will you? (Of course, you'll still be able to find all the porn you want - there's far too much money in that business to censor it.) But my point here is that eventually, whether you like it or not the vast majority of the content that you receive through your TV will be controlled by one or two sources. So we all end up seeing the world as Omnicorp wants us to see it, not as it actually is.
  3. And then I was trying to make a point about what might the future hold for "ordinary" internet users, but it all became a bit confused, because there'll be more access to the Internet but that access might be restricted. Plus computers aren't going to disappear, so people will still use them to access the Internet. Ooh, I wish I could have thought of a way of briniging it all together. Perhaps I should have had a couple more bottles of Fiddlers Elbow?

Anyway, this fine example of "computers not going away" is all over the Internet so you can't have missed it but, according to the BBC amongst others, Microsoft is to extend it's support for Windows98 for another couple of years. Which is good news for people like me who don't want to, or can't afford to, install XP. Mind you, I used to like Windows 3.1 and if I could emulate that on my desktop I'd be quite happy...

Saturday 10th January

Another bleedin' taste test

Finally, I've felt well enough to partake in some of the exotic ales that I received in my Christmas stocking. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I'm not really a Real Ale drinker and, despite the comedy potential, I'm not a bitter drinker. (Although I am bitter and a drinker....) To be honest though, if there's alcohol in it, I have been known to drink it. Still, I think it's only fair to appraise you of the following excellent bottled ales that I consumed yesterday evening:

  1. Marston's Old Empire India Pale Ale - a revival of the traditional Burton IPA, this has all the characteristics you'd associate with a classic IPA - light golden colour, strong hoppy aroma and a rich malty taste. At 5.7% ABV it's no retiring wallflower of a beer either, this baby packs a kick and no mistake. The only thing that spoils it is the lack of an official webpage.
  2. Marston's Double Drop - a new one to me and, apparently, a revival of the "ancient" technique of dropping the fermenting beer from one vessel to another. A nice golden-orange colour, with a good hoppy aroma, this looks clean and fresh and has a relatively light taste. I suspect that if you were to find this on draught anywhere it might not be so nice, depending on the skill of the cellarman. However, in bottles from Morrisons (the supermarket) it tastes great. Oh, and 5% ABV, fact fans.
  3. Wychwood Fiddlers Elbow - A small description of this beer can be found on this page but they lose points for requiring a Java-enabled browser (mine isn't anymore). Another light golden brew, made using wheat malt. It has a definite floral aroma and a tangy, almost-burnt taste in the mouth which dissipates leaving a fruity aftertaste. Surprising and very nice. At only 4.5% ABV, that's definitely one you could stay on all night.
  4. Ruddles County Ale - the only one of the four beers that has its own web page and the most bitter-like of the four. dark amber/brown in colour with a distinctly bitter aroma. It has a bitter taste with a hoppy, fruity aftertaste. I have to admit that I've had this on draught in several places round the country and it's never been quite this good. (Perhaps because it's bottled at source and you can't feck it up after that, unlike draught beer.) Definitely worth checking out if you're not familiar with it already.

I have to say, without trying to sound pretentious, that any of the beers that I have sampled above (and, indeed, many of the other beers that I have mentioned in previous reviews) could be considered as excellent substitutes for wine, should you not happen to like the stuff. I have never liked wine (despite my ability to knock it back if there is no alternative) and would always choose beer ahead of it. I'm sure the great beer supremo, Michael Jackson, has some hard and fast rules about what to drink with what meal but as a general rule of thumb I've always found that "drink what you like most on the menu" works well.

And another thing - someone bought me a Budweiser gift pack (four bottles and a pint glass) for Christmas. Now, we all know that "Bud" is currently advertising itself as King Of Beers but as far as I'm concerned the phrase King of Soapy Piss would be more appropriate (although I did "force" all four bottles down me). I'd like to pretend that this only applies to Bud brewed in the UK (we have the worst brewing laws, I think) but if anything the US-brewed stuff is even worse. Yeah, I know I'm a lager snob (in so far as that's possible) but even Carling doesn't taste like someone dropped a couple of bars of Imperial Leather in the fermenting vat (someone might have let their cat pee in there though...). I'd almost rather drink bitter than drink Bud, I think.

Woo Hoo! Check out the trailer for Spiderman 2. It looks awesome and I can't wait, despite my reservations about the way they've treated the Doctor Octopus character. Unsurprisingly, Eddy and I had a long discusson about the first Spiderman movie during my Xmas visit. We both agreed that for all its faults, Spiderman wins and Peter Parker loses, which is how it's almost always been in the Spidey universe. Whilst I wait for the second instalment, I'll have to content myself with the official Spiderman 2 website. Heh, Spiderman, website, that's funny.

Wednesday 7th January

Reading the Encyclopedia of Jazz

Following a moment of inspiration and a few hours of perspiration I've updated all the "journal" pages on the website to share a similar look to the index. I've done this because I want to start implementing a more uniform look and feel to the blog part of the site. This also gives me something to build on should I suddenly decide to change the layout of the pages on the site, which is something I've been considering. It might not happen, of course, as there's knack-all on the site apart from the blog at the moment. But at least the foundations are there. Oh, and I've added a couple more external links - one to the Gods of Cockernee pub-rock and the other to a former Rutle. Can you spot them? There might be some more links added later in the week, depending on how bored I get.

Monday 5th January

The Glorious Twelfth Night

At last, the 1948 Show. Er, no. At last, the update I should have done this time last week. Still, I do have a valid excuse although you probably don't really want a detailed report on the viral infection that we all suffered from last week. And, yes, it was an infection, not food poisoning (gee thanks, doc.), as it took us down one at a time. Anyway, enough of that - on with the show.

Much to my parents' chagrin, I legged it on Christmas Eve, down to that there London to spend some quality time with my little bro', Eddy. He had to work till mid-afternoon, so we arranged to meet in a pub opposite his flat in Bethnal Green. Unfortunately, that pub was shut, so I had to nip into your typical East End boozer. It was packed full of "geezers and their birds". Fortunately, I'd cut my hair earlier in the week, so I didn't look out of place. Unfortunately, the place was packed so I had to prop my bag up against the bar and stand by it as I waited for the boy. Whilst I was waiting I realised that the jukebox was playing a medley of Christmas songs by Elvis, causing me to mentally kick myself for not including anything by the King on my list of essential Chrimbo tunes. What-a mistake-a to make-a! Also whilst I was waiting for the Edster, I was offered a mince pie by a very kind old lady, who may or may not have been Old Ma Kray, but I had to refuse as I don't like them. Anyway, Eddy finally turned up and we had a couple more beers and then headed off for something to eat. A quick wash and change at his place later and it was off up to Shoreditch to meet up with his mate, Pete. I wouldn't say it was deserted in Shoreditch on Christmas Eve, but there were tumbleweeds blowing down the street and the strip club bouncers looked even more bored than bouncers usually do. Still, we found a decent boozer and settled in for the evening.

Christmas Day dawned bright and early, but we all missed it as we were still asleep. Rising in the late mid-morning instead, Eddy knocked up a fry-up for the three of us (Pete had stopped over). Very nice it was too, although it was only at the point that the fry-up arrived that I remembered having a kebab on the way back from the pub the previous evening. No wonder I wasn't feeling that hungry! After breakfast there was the traditional Morecambe & Wise Christmas Special on telly and the traditional exchange of gifts before we headed out for the even more traditional beers on Christmas Day. First we sampled the atmosphere in yer actual East End boozer - which was even more packed than it had been on Christmas Eve, and then we went to a free house for some delicious Czech lager, where we met up with Richard, one of Pete's colleagues. From there it was back to Eddy's for the traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings (so it's a good job he's a decent cook) and champagne. After chilling out watching some DVDs we had a game of Ghettopoly. It's Monopoly set in "da 'hoods" of L.A., basically. The train stations are all liquor stores, the utilities are replaced by Da Crack House and Da Porn Store, and Jail is replaced by the Emergency Room. Anyway, despite the constant yucks supplied by the Kreme of Sum Yung Gai Massage Parlor and the distractions of Hip Hop Honeyz on the DVD and Gangsta rap on the stereo, it really did just turn out like any other game of Monopoly. We called it quits at 2 a.m. after it became clear that Pete was going to win whatever deals we cooked up between the rest of us. Eddy then managed the near-impossible and managed to book a cab to get Pete and Richard home, and for less than the traditional arm-and-a-leg-at-this-time-of night-guv'nor.

Me and Eddy spent Boxing Day chilling out in front of the telly and working our way through the ridiculous amount of cans of beer that we had apparently bought on Christmas Eve. Never got round to smoking those cigars though.... And did anyone else think it particularly sad that Channel 5 had the best line-up that night, even though it consisted almost entirely of thirty-year-old repeats? Or perhaps it was just that we were sad?

I headed back oop Narth on the Saturday, managed to spend a couple of days with my nephews, before being struck down on the Tuesday last week. Having spent three days oscillating between bed and bathroom, I felt well enough to get up for a few hours on New Years Day. Since then I've been slowly recovering my strength, having not eaten for those three days. I sincerely hope nobody else has the misfortune to suffer from this lurgy, I really do.

Anyway, it's a New Year, New Me, so it's enough of the moaning and back to the grind of finding a job and sorting out just what I really want to do for the rest of my life. Well, that shouldn't take long, should it!

Thursday 1st January 2004

Happy New Year!

Just a quick update to wish all you festive frolickers the best of the new year and hope that you get whatever it is you want. I would regale you with the crazy tales of what I got up to down in that there London but I've been laid up in bed for the last two days with a rather unlovely gastro-enteric viral infection. It's not been pleasant, trust me. Anyway, in a couple of days, when I feel fully recovered I'll fill you all in. On the details of my trip to London, that is. In the meantime, to start the year off on a nostalgia tip, why not check out the very acme of the singing-kitten genre at rathergood.com. Cheers!