Wednesday 20th December
"Tonsilitis or Christmas? You can't have both."
Apologies for the lack of update before now but I decided to put in some work on one or two of things that I always keep talkng about doing and never quite get round to. I realised that the reason I never get round to doing these things is that there's always a lot of work involved and, frankly, I've got enough work to do at, er, work, thank you. The last thing I really want after a day slogging away at the coalface of User Documentation is to spend another three or four hours of my evening working on my computer. It's especially disheartening when you realise you've spent all week working on something and it's still not ready for a puublic unveiling. However, the last couple of weeks have not been a total waste of time and those couple of projects I've worked on will start bearing fruit early in the New Year, or possibly sooner, depending on how exciting a Christmas holiday I have. Stay tuned for further developments.
I have managed to catch up with some of my listening over the last fortnight or so though.So here's a quick run down:
- The Fall - Words of Expectation (BBC Sessions) - A sort of Best Of the BBC Sessions double CD offering. Includes an impressive early session I hadn't heard before and some good stuff from 1996 but nothing from the years between 1981 and 1996. Strange. If there's anyone out there who hasn't bought my a Christmas pressie yet and is wondering what to get me, well, The Fall - Complete Peel Sessions still hasn't made it into my record collection yet. (You can't blame a guy for trying, surely?)
- King Tubby - Father of Dub A scantily-documented box set containing some three-and-a-half hours of dubtastic reggae. Fantastic music for having on in the background when you're re-writing someone else's documentation. Surprising high point being 'Dub Experience' (on the Crucial Dub CD) which sounds awfully like Dario G's recent dance re-mix of 'Ring of Fire'. Irie, I think.
- Various - 12" 80s More nostalgia than you can shake a stick at in the form of 37 cuts from the decade that saw the world and his wife put out a 12-inch remix of their single. Bit of a mixed bag - some of these efforts are splendid (Soft Cell, Aztec Camera, Grace Jones, Yazoo, in particular) and some of them are blatantly jumping on the bandwagon (Curiosity killed The Cat, Hipsway, Blow Monkeys, I'm looking at you). Still worth checking out if you can get it on the cheap, especially if you've got a rainy Sunday afternoon spare to listen to it.
- Editors - The Back Room Oh dear. Alright, it was only a fiver in the sale, but I was expecting a bit more than two-and-a-half decent tracks. No denying the brooding magnificence of 'Munich' and 'All Sparks' but nothing else apart from the last track 'Distance' has stayed with me. Mind you, I have only listened to it once - perhaps it's a grower...
- Husker Du - Land Speed Record Barely twenty-six minutes long and sounding like it was recorded in a bucket, this is a primal blast of early 80s US punk from one of the most influential bands to emerge from that scene. Whilst the sound quality is atrocious (I've heard better on myspace) there's no denying the power and ferocity of the tracks here. Their later work lacks some of this fire but does have better tunes. One for the fans, as they say.
Finally, I'm indebted to those nice people at Caustic Truths who e-mailed me to let me know that I had been included in their weblinks listing as a result of my association with Fat Wreck Chords, who they've just featured in their print magazine. As my only association with Fat Wreck is that I've bought some fo their product and have linked to them on here, I was a bit suspicious. Of course, all they've done is Googled for all the sites that link to Fat Wreck and harvested them, then e-mailed the webmasters of those sites to check out their listing and "hey, check out the rest of our site while you're here" Thus increasing their web traffic and possibly gaining some new readers. Well I, for one, see through their scam and am not going to give them the oxygen of publicity.
Oh, wait. D'Oh!.
Tuesday 5th December
Rocking with Rita, you sure can't beat her
You'd think someone would have made sure there were enough hours in the day to do stuff, wouldn't you? Well, someone obviously hasn't as once again I've ended up with a pile of DVDs, CDs and books that I haven't had time to watch/listen to/read. Alright, it's partly my fault in that:
- I bought the stuff in the first place
- I spent most of last week out of the house, and
- I spent much of the weekend asleep
but even so, you'd think someone would have ensured there were twenty-eight hours a day at the weekend or something. Come on, it's not too much to ask, is it?
Anyway, at the risk of turnning into some sort of Late Review-style bore, here's a few of the things I've thrown good money at in the last fortnight:
- Tom Waits - Orphans. For the first time in a very long time, I've paid more than ten quid for a CD. Alright, it is actually a triple-CD set, but even so the price tag of the best part of thirty quid really put me off. On the other hand, it does contain new songs by Tom as well as stuff I've only got on tape or downloaded from dubious sources. Only managed to listen to it all the way through once so far, but the third disc does seem a bit of an anti-climax compared to the first two. Perhaps it's a grower... That said the first two CDs are worth the price of admission alone. If you see this at the twenty quid mark, it's a bargain.
- Lee Perry -The Ultimate Upsetter. A compilation of Lee's work both as an artist and as a producer. Well, actually, mostly as a producer, to be honest. Plenty of sterling stuff here though, including Susan Cadogan's magnificent version of 'Hurts So Good'. If I didn't have that already it would have been worth the (reduced) price I paid for it for that alone.
- The Buggles - The Age of Plastic. Conclusive proof that everyone has one hit song in them or over-looked electropop gem? Well, I have to report that despite the presence of decent tunes such as 'Elstree' and 'Clean, Clean', it is clear that 'Video Killed the Radio Star' is truly The Buggles magnum opus. The rest of the album struggles to match it and sadly suffers in comparison.
- Ian Dury - Reasons to be Cheerful. A 'Best Of..' rather than a proper album, which includes all the hits, but also some stuff from his time in Kilburn and the High Roads, a couple of post-Blockheads tracks and a few live numbers. Another one picked up cheap in the sale and well worth it.
- Hayseed Dixie - A Hot Piece of Grass. Another offering from the kings of rockgrass. Fewer covers and more original material but this is still an enjoyable romp through rock in a hillbilly-stylee.
- Vivian Stanshall - Teddy Boys Don't Knit. Viv in 'making proper album!' shock. Includes a song I saw on telly when I was about nine or ten and have remembered ever since (albeit it some of it wrongly). Absolutely fantastic stuff here, from a man who, it was claimed, tended to reject songs if he thought his Dad wouldn't be able to whistle them.
- The Fall - The Light User Syndrome. One from the second Brix era. Overlooked by many, including me, but surprisingly good - an equal to the last two releases certainly. Check-ah it out, chiselers!
- The Simpsons - Sing the Blues. I picked this up cheap and was a bit disappointed about how dated it sounded. But then it is dated -this is about 16 years old! Yes. The Simpsons have been around for that long and yet Bart is still only ten years old...
- Viv Stanshall -Sir Henry at Ndidi's Kraal - A companion piece to his 'Sir Henry at Rawlinson's End' album. Suffers a bit in comparison to that meisterwork and doesn't have the leavening jollity of the musical interludes on that album either. Worth hearing for Stanshall's wonderful way with language but buy the other LP first.
- Eazy-E - Eazy-Duz-It. A re-issue of an early LP by former member of NWA and the first gangsta rapper to own up to having AIDS, Eazy-E (or Eric to his Mum and Dad). Heare he sets the tone and the blueprint for much of the gangsta stuff that followed. Produced, of course, by Dr Dre. Worth checking out. Comes with Eazy's "Christmas" EP as bonus tracks.
So that's quite a few CDs I've picked up in the last couple of weeks or so. I have to admit that I did purchase a few of these off that there Amazon and then I had a bit of splurge at the weekend when I was in Fopp in Manchester (and I bought some CDs...) but I've also picked up stuff at Woolworths and Sainsburys. Anyway, despite my best listening efforts, I've still got these to listen to:
- Visage - Visage
- The Fall - Words of Expectation (BBC Sessions)
- King Tubby box set
- 12" 80s - a box set of 80s 12-inch singles, surprisingly.
- Editors - The Back Room
- Husker Du - Land Speed Record
Ah well, at least I can listen to them on the bus/train on the way to/from work, unlike the folowing DVDs which are all waiting to be seen:
- Lawnmower Man
- FX Murder By Illusion
- THX 1138
- Morrisey - Who put the M in Manchester?
- The League of Gentlemen, Series 3
I guess I know how I'm going to be spending my time off at Christmas...
Anyway, last Friday I went up to Manchester to see Miriam for a curry and a few beers. We dined at Akbar's, sadly not owned by either Admiral Ackbar or even Akbar and Jeff, but in fact an offshoot of the famous Akbar's of Bradford. They were obviously very busy but even so we didn't have to wait long for a table. Miriam pulled the old "oh dear, I've forgotten my money" trick when we were at the bar. Anyway, the nosh was great - Miriam had some vegetarian stuff and I had meat samosas followed by chicken dopiaza. Very nice indeed. We decided to share a nan bread and it was good job we did as it was huge - must have been a couple of feet long at least! After stuffing our faces we headed off for a few beers, ending up in the Kro Bar till the early hours. I felt a bit rough the next day, but not so rough I couldn't spend a small fortune on tat in Fopp (see above)...
That's about all the news that's fit to print - not much to say about the football really, certainly not if I want to finish and upload this before the end of the week. There have been mixed fortunes for Amanda Huggenkiss in the pub quiz. One winning week followed by one disappointing one, the low point being a pointless, post-result, disagreement about whether Lisa Stansfield or Gracie Fields was a more plausible answer to the question 'Which famous singer was born above her grandmother's chip shop in Rochdale?' Even if we had managed to get it right (it was Gracie Fields) we got a subsequent answer wrong and would have lost all our points for the round anyway. And i think that's about all I can think of for the moment. It's enough to be going on with, I'm sure.
Sunday 19th November
One mile, roughly speaking
Put on your drainpipe trousers, drag out your brothel creepers and dust down your drape coat - the Ted revival is coming. Don't worry though, you don't need a big quiff and a flick-knife for this Ted revival, just a slightly twisted sense of humour, because I'm talking about Ted Chippington. Obscure 80s comedian who had a brief brush with fame, including an appearance on 'Pebble Mill at One', and who's deadpan delivery and lack of obvious jokes ran contrary to almost every other comedian around at the time. Since cited as an inspiration by a host of comedians, including Stewart Lee. I had the good fortune to see Ted a few times in his heyday. Probably the most memorable occasion was at Cloud 9 in Manchester when he was second on the bill to Big Ed and his Rockin' Rattlesnakes and the opening act was an acoustic punk outfit called The Old Men, who were led by Mancunian artist Edward Barton. Top entertainment all round. Anyway, Ted did a sublime version of 'Rocking with Rita' which later appeared on his 'Man In A Suitcase' album. So, as one of the audience singing along, I'm part of the Ted legend!
Anyway, the Tedster is very much alive and kicking - he's even got his own myspace site. Well worth a visit. As is this Indie site, indie-mp3.co.uk, which has a few bits of vintage Ted for your delight. If that's not enough check out the Frankosonic link too. I'm indebted to my mate, Ian who was "a good mate of Ted" and pointed me in the direction of these. My interest in Ted was initially re-kindled by the news of Tedstock - a benefit gig in aid of a 3-cd retrospective of Ted's material. The line-up looks pretty good, although the fact that Ted will not be performing or appearing does undermine it a bit. I'll still be seeing if I can get a ticket or two though. Of course, my more immediate concern is seeing if I can get down to Wolverhampton on Friday night to see him perform at the Little Civic.
Last Saturday's North West Counties League cup encounter between Nantwich Town and FC United of Manchester unfortunately went the way of the visitors. It wasn't a great game, with Nantwich fielding an under-strength team, and the weather didn't help things either. Fortunately, I was too drunk to care much - I met Tim at about 11.30 in the morning and we drank through to kick-off. To be fair, he had the right idea and carried on drinking through the match. He didn't miss much. We had a few more beers after the match, which definitely wasn't a good idea. I ended up in the back of a pub playing pool with some Welsh FC United fans, before falling asleep in the local takeaway. Not entirely sure what happened to Tim...
Things went from bad to worse for Nantwich yesterday when they were knocked out of the FA Vase at the first time of asking. Having had a bye into the second round, they came unstuck against Shildon. Ultimately, Nantwich paid the price for not playing much football - the first half was dire and if Shildon's strikers had been any good they could hve been three or four up. As it was, Nantwich went in ahead through the only bit of football they managed to play. Shildon's inept striker then levelled things halfway through the second half and added an unlikely but well-taken second. Having looked unlikely to hit a cow's arse with a banjo in the first hour, he started looking likely to score with every touch. Ironically he scored his second just after Nantwich's best spell of the game. With time running out things were looking bleak till Andy Kinsey curled home a beautiful free-kick to take the game into extra time. Shildon then profited from a poor corner clearance, which was returned with interest into the top corner to put them back in front. They then conceded a soft penalty to let Nantwich level the game. In the second period of extra time Nantwich conceded a soft free kick which was pumped into the area and a looping header across goal restored Shildon's advantage. Nantwich piled on the pressure at the end and had a spell of five or six corners but just couldn't make them count and Shildon deservedly ran out the winners. I have to say though, apart from the goals, there was very little football being played and it must be one of the worst seven-goal thrillers I've ever seen. I'd be very surprised if Shildon make it to the final.
My little smashers, Crewe Alexandra, in the meantime, slipped tamely out of the FA Cup at Bradford (no surprise there) but registered a second away win by turning over a poor Brentford side by four goals to nil. Hopefully, they'll be inspired to repeat that sort of perfromance at home to Chesterfield this weekend and against the Vale in the Johnstone Paints Trophy next week. Of course, they won't, which inspired me to come up with this, based on their website's current campaign.
Bad news at the pub quiz this week when, having romped home winners last week, Team Amanda Huggenkiss suspected the fix was in. Probably wasn't, although as we marked the winning team's answer sheet, we were suspicious of the numerous crossings out and the change of handwriting for the last round... To be fair, although we were at full-strength numbers-wise we probably weren't at the top of our game for various reasons. A decent haul of 49 points just wasn't enough to match the Gruesome Twosome's impressive 52. Not as impressive as our previous best of 55, of course, but still impressive. Anyway, there's always next week to look forward to. And as Rob said, it's not the winning that counts but the feeling we could have won by more... Can't complain really, though - we had a decent nosh out of winning the previous week.
Sunday 5th November
Reads our roads without a map
It's official, I am now a pub-quiz-a-holic. I realised it myself this week after I got a text from Charlie telling me he wouldn't be able to make it for our regular rendezvous at the Cronkinsons Farm quiz night. I was quite depressed at thinking the whole enterprise would be off but fortunately Charlie's brother Rob came through and saved the day. We couldn't rally any other of our less regular team-mates but undanted we took on the challenge. For the second week in a row we blew it in the final "Wipe Out" round, scored no points from a possible 15 and finished with a disappointingly low 38 points out of 60. That was still enough for joint second place though, so no disgrace there, but also no prize either. We have been tending to do the quiz every other week due to work and other commitments in the team but lately we've been there every week. Not done too badly out of it either - a couple of bottles of champers and a free meal for two. And the "comedy" prize of a crayon. Of course, it's not the winning that counts but the getting there early enough to grab a table to sit at, instead of having to stand at the bar all night.
In other news - it's been a mixed fortnight for me footy-wise. There was the enormous pride and ultimate heartache of watching Crewe Alexandra take Manchester United all the way to the last-minute of extra-time in the Carling Cup, followed by hearing the news of their disastrous performance at Rotherham. A dire performance in winning on penalties mid-week at Rochdale in the Johnstone Paints Trophy didn't bode well for yesterday's clash with local rivals Port Vale. Especially as the Crewe injury list is getting longer every day. With a squad of 38 you'd think they'd be able to cope with a few first-teamers getting knocks, but the truth is that they could cope with three of four absentees but not seven or eight. Against Manchester United there were seven first-team regulars unavailable due to injury and a further five squad members also unfit. Factor in the one player out due to suspension and the seven youngsters out on loan and that's about half the squad unavailable. To make matter worse Dario bought in a couple of players on loan and both of them got injured in the Carling Cup game. Fortunately one has recovered and rejoined the team for the weekend but it looks like the other won't be returning to Crewe.
Anyway, as I said, with Crewe's poor form and lengthy injury list I was fearing the worst in a game most Crewe fans would have marked down as "must win" as soon as the fixtures were announced. Well, to be honest, even though Crewe weren't all that good Port Vale were worse. Although not as bad as the referee. Maynard was bought down for a blatant penalty and he booked the lad for diving. And then booked the Vale keeper too! Poor. At least he got the decision right for the penalty that he did give in the third minute of injury-time. Luke Rodgers keeping his nerve to beat the keeper again when ordered to retake it. Not a great match although Crewe were the better side. Maynard scored a good opener in a the middle of decent spell from Crewe in the first half. Abbey equalised for the Vale before half time after Crewe failed to clear a corner properly and gave him time and space to pick his spot from 25 yards out. The Vale had a couple of chances in the second half but Rodney Jack was causing them all sorts of trouble at the back and Crewe maybe should have scored before they did. Can't complain at a win over the Vale though. The only downside was seeing Maynard stretchered off with a hamstring injury. Looking forward now to our re-match with the Vale at the end of the month in the Johnstone Paints Trophy. If they can't beat our reserves, how will they fare if we can put out our first-team?
The other big footy match to look forward is next Saturday's clash between Nantwich Town and FC United of Manchester. Having already lost to United in the League early in the season Nantwich will be looking to extract their revenge in this League Cup clash. (North West Counties League Cup, that is). My ex-workmate Tim is coming down for the tie, so we'll be meeting up for a few beers beforehand and possibly afterwards, depending on the result!
The makers of cheap compilation CD sets have obviously come up with some strange marketing voodoo that makes me think they're worth buying when I'm in the shop. The voodoo clearly only works in the shop as once I get them home I realise that that's another fiver wasted on a load of shoddy re-recordings or live versions of the original hits. It doesn't happen to me often, but this weekend I bought two of the worst I've ever bought, I think - Experience the 80s and Happy Hippie Hits. In fairness Experience the 80s lives up to it's name - it's tawdry, a bit tacky, promises a lot more glamour and riches than it delivers and is generally a triumph of style over substance, much like the 1980s were. It features re-recordings by the original artist or one or more members of the original group and some live recordings. The most blatant rip-offs here are Limahl redoing the Kajagoogoo hits and live recordings from ELO Part 2 (the post-Jeff Lynne incarnation) but there's also an All About Eve live recording (bad enough in itself) that feature two minutes of the band bantering with the audience at the end of it. There's also a re-recording of Heaven 17's 'Temptation' which must have been done by Carol Kenyon as it features about 30 seconds of the original verses and 7 minutes of her wailing. In contrast Happy Hippie Hits features a load of Sixties stuff, mostly West Coast pop of the psychedelic era. There are at least some original recordings here, although they tend to be of obscure artistes (exceptions being Jefferson Airplane and Van Morrison). Mind you, most of this stuff has been recorded so many times, not hearing the original versions doesn't seem so important somehow. Anyway, if you see either of these compilation sets for sale anywhere, avoid them like the f-in plague!
Tuesday 24th October
Having trouble understanding Jane
Apologies for the lack of updates in the last fortnight but there's been so much going on I haven't had much spare time to get round to it. Or is it that I haven't been doing anything so there's nothing to report? Well, let's see how long it takes me to write this update...
Important stuff first, I think. I've blathered on a few times about my new job and last week I finally started it. It's going well so far although I haven't actually done any work yet. I have had my hands on the software and had a bit of play with it and expect I'll be getting started on something this week. I better had, I think, because if I don't I'll start falling asleep at my desk with boredom.
In between jobs I had a week off and took advantage of that to catch up with my DVD collection. I've bought a fair few films recently and not had chance to watch them all. So, here they are, in no particular order:
- Oldboy - Top quality vengeance movie from Chan-wook Park. Nicely done and with a fairly downbeat ending. Oh-Dae Siu gets kidnapped and held prisoner for fifteen years. On his release he's given five days to find out why. It's pretty dark throughout really. None of the protagonists come out of it looking good. Worh watching, but not one for the squeamish.
- The Descent - Pot-holing horror fest, with all-girl cast. Some of the scenes are definitely not for the claustrophobic, but apart from the novelty of the setting, this is bog-standard horror fare. In fact, it's Return of the Living Dead. In a Cave. Even the "surprise" ending isn't much of a surprise.
- The Time Machine - Mike from Neighbours (aka Guy Pearce) stars in this surprisingly good adaptation of the HG Wells story. Having not read the original story in at least twenty-five years, I've no idea how many liberties they may have taken with the source material, but I don't think it matters. This stands on its own merits. It's not a work of earth-shattering genius but it is a good story well told. Oh, and Samantha Mumba is pleasing eye candy. Definitely worth checking out if you can find it cheap on DVD.
- The Last House on the Left - Wes Craven's first horror movie and banned for a number of years. Always cited in any discussion of the crackdown on video nasties during the early 1980s. Pretty tame by modern standards and surprisingly moral. Probably caused a stir due to the female nudity as much as the gore. Not much to write home about these days, although it's always good to see the bad guys get their comeuppance.
- Night Watch - Epic-themed Russian horror. Down the ages the forces of Good and Evil have kept an uneasy truce. Having fought each other to a standstill, they now police each other and curb the excesses of each side. However all this is about to change with the arrival of The One. The ultra-powerful Other who will choose either Good or Evil and tip the balance between the forces. The two sides struggle to entice The One to join them, with the fate of mankind hinging on His decision. Great film although the ending hints that there is a sequel out there. Hope there is.
- Versus - More epic horror, this time from Japan. There are 666 portals to the other side and one of them is in the Forest of Resurrection. It is here that an escaped prisoner finds himself facing up to a foe he last fought five hundred years ago. But before he can get to the final showdown he has to rescue the damsel in distress and bump off a load of goons. In fact, he has to bump them off several times - it's not called the Forest of Resurrection for nothing. Can't say who wins without spoiling things but there is a neat sting in the tail to this one.
- The Last Horror Movie - Kicking off like a typical teen slasher movie this sudenly veers off with the uninvited appearance of Max, our anti-hero, who has "taped over the rental video you are watching". Which doesn't really work if you're watching a DVD you bought from Morrisons. What follows is a low-budget serial killer version of Man Bites Dog. It's Max taking you on a journey through his various apparently motiveless and random murders. His trusty assistant films it all. Of course, the point of the film is that we enjoy watching fake horror, but what about when it's real? If you keep watching the film, you'll end up in it, because Max has followed you home and is lurking outside... Of course he isn't, because it's clear from the footage that he's left enough forensic evidence in at least half a dozen places to link them to each other, even if not to him. But then the film isn't about police competence. Interesting and occasionally uncomfortable but ultimately unsatisfying.
- Tenebrae - Dario Argento horror-cum-thriller classic. Peter Neal jets off to Rome to promote his best-selling novel, Tenebrae, and his arrival sparks a killing spree, with the murders apparently based on those in his book. As the Police struggle to catch the killer, Neal starts his own investigation. Top quality, convoluted suspense-filled horror from the Italian master. Occasionally spoiled by the over-intrusive synth soundtrack, but that's worth putting up with. Plenty of suspects, plenty of deaths and a false ending to boot. Top notch stuff.
- Memento - Mike from Neighbours, again, as a man suffering from short-term memory loss and trying to piece together the evidence to find the man who killed his wife. The film starts at the end and works backwards. Well, I don't know how confused Mike got but I was finding myself a bit bewildered halfway through and had to rewind to check I hadn't missed anything. Even so I think I might have to watch it again. Very well made. The backwards narrative hangs together well and even as we go back in time things still make sense. They make a different kind of sense when you get to the end of the film though.
The other thing I was holding out for was the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. Obviously, in the absence of a Doctor Who series, the BBC have been bigging this up for the last couple of weeks. It's obviously paid off as the viewing figures on BBC3 were apparently a record for a non-sport event on a non-terrestrial channel. A surprising 2.4 million tuned in for the first episode, and most of them stayed on for the second episode (2.3 million, in fact). I think next week will be the acid test, though. How many of those who tuned in will be coming back? I think I will be. Despite being a Doctor Who spin-off this is aimed at a more adult audience, with the strong language and sexual themes signalling this pretty obviously. But is it any good? Well, yes and no. It's well written and plotted but some of the characters are straight out of the sci-fi nerd stereotype handbook, for example. Enjoyable hokum, would be the best phrase to describe it thus far, but I'll wait for another couple of episodes before I offer a definitive judgement.
Last Saturday night, after watching a lacklustre Crewe side slip to a last-gasp defeat at home to Blackpool, I went with my mate Ian, and his son Ben, up to Manchester to catch the Icicle Works on their 25th Anniversary tour. To tell the truth, only Ian MacNabb was actually in the Icicle Works 25 years ago and a cynic might suggest that he was simply cashing in on the name to generate himself some cash. Anyway, the original purpose of our trip had been to have a lads night out, but two of our party never made it. Muzz had long been a doubt and was sadly still unavailable, and Tim dropped out at the last minute. Despite that it was a good night out. Ian is always good company and the band were pretty good. They did rely on the crowd karaoke effect a bit, which always annoys me, because I've paid to hear the band, not the assembled throng (although I haven't actually paid Ian for the ticket yet). Also, they seemed to have chosen a set-list to please themselves rather than please the audience. That said, they played most of the songs I wanted to hear, so I can't complain. The only real downside to the gig was that due to the crapness of public transport, we had to leave before the end of the encore to make sure we got the last train home. Once we got back to Crewe it was off to Nantwich for a nostalgic curry in the Indian Ocean Ian and I used to end up in there on a regular basis when we were a lot younger. I did think I should have gone for a biryani, for old times' sake, but I knew I'd not manage to eat much of it. I had a chicken tikka dupiaza with a garlic naan bread, if you must know. All in all, a top night out.
Still haven't managed to mention either my adventures watching Nantwich Town and Crewe Alexandra, or my new found hobby as a pub quiz bore and this entry is spiralling out of control. If I don't stop and post something I could still be writing this next week. After all I started this on Sunday afternoon... Anyway, I'm off to watch my beloved Crewe Alexandra aganst Manchester United in the Carling Cup tomorrow night and then pub quizzing it on Thursday so I might round to posting again at the weekend. Bet you can't wait.
Tuesday 10th October
The waters saw you and writhed
Hey, at last a little bit of downtime for me, although to be honest, I've not had that much time so far to kick back and relax. After leaving MDS on Friday it was home for a kip and then out to the Big Cheese school reunion. To tell the truth the turn-out was a bit disappointing. There were one or two people there it was good to catch up with though and the bar was open. And true to my "old skool" self, I got hideously drunk, managed to make a complete arse of myself by falling over on the dancefloor, pulled precisely no one and chucked up twice when I got home. Talk about a flashback!
Saturday, struggling through the fog of a hangover, I had to go up to Crewe Alexandra. Two reasons - the first being that as a result of having my picture taken at a previous home game and published on the club's website, I am the lucky winner of a signed Crewe team print, as per this website article. And before you ask, no, that's not Gary Roberts in the picture, it's actually Ryan Lowe's nephew. The second was, of course, to watch Crewe pull off a great escape and come back from 3-1 behind to beat Gillingham 4-3. To be fair, I didn't know that was going to happen before I set off and given the way my stomach was feeling, if I had known, I might have stayed at home. The excitement of it all didn't do my hangover any favours. On the other hand, the adrenaline rush was soon countered by watching the England team draw disappointingly at home to Macedonia...
Whilst at the match on Saturday, I was asked how old the photo on my About Me page is, as "I'd never have guessed that was you" Well, the one there was only from about 5 years ago, and I didn't think I've changed that much... Anyway, just for you Kerri I've updated it with one from about 20 years ago. Haven't changed that much since then, have I?
As my more regular readers may have noticed, I don't seem to have written much about music recently. Partly this is because my life has been taken over by football and partly this beause even the CDs I've have bought recently haven't really been worth writing about. (That and the fact I didn't want to own up to having bought an Aha compilation. Oh, damn!) Come on, anyone care to name a recent album that's been worth buying? Anyway, I have recently acquired some cutting-edge Doom-Folk, which it has to be said is quite enjoyable. Alas, I can say no more as I've been sworn to secrecy but hopefully I will be able to reveal all before Christmas. If I don't, then someone remind me please.
Monday 2nd October
I am on the home stretch now, enjoying my final week at MDS. There's still the Style Guide that needs finishing and a change to the latest Release Documentation but those should only take up the next couple of days at most, so I should be able to have a fairly relaxed last day on Friday. I hope so - I don't really intend doing any work and would like to get slightly drunk at lunchtime, if only so the embarrasment of making a leaving speech just washes over me. On the other hand, if I'm a bit sloshed I may say something I regret...
My Departmental Manager finally got round to trying to persuade me to stay last Friday. Fairly obviously as a result of my exit interview. Trouble is, he didnt really have anything to offer me. It was all "jam tomorrow" and I've got fed up of waiting for it. Still, he did plant enough doubt in my mind to make me take some advice on whether I'd done the right thing. I have to admit I am leaving behind a pretty solid team and leaving them at the point just when they can start doing all the things I've been pushing for over the last two and a half years or so. On the other hand, I need a new challenge, I need to get back into the habit of writing User documentation and I need to stretch my technical skills by getting down to the nitty gritty of implementing Help systems.
As I don't run this site for commercial gain and don't really have that much interest in how people find me or even who visits me, I don't look at my website log or stats very often. Last week though I did have a look at my log file and noticed that, apart from a large number of spiders that crawled across the pages, there were a couple of repeating hits where somone had linked to an image hosted on my site. Ah, hot-linkers, you cry! Indeed, a couple of myspace.com-based bandwdth bandits. I decided I should visit these cheeky young scamps and give them a right old telling-off. First up was Christopher, who actually wasn't directly responsible as one of his myspace buddies had posted the kebabpizza picture from a couple of years ago. Still, I think he was fair game. Can you spot the replacement? Second up was Amanda - more annoyingly, she's linked to one of Eddy's Koko Snacks cartoons. That's an Eddy Von Lawrence original, young lady. However, I can't do anything about that one really as she died, peacefully from a drug overdose, last June. Of course, I toyed with the idea of sending "a message from beyond" by changing the image but decided against it. She seemd a bit of a tortured soul, so I think I'll let that one pass...
Finally, if you're not doing anything interesting on Friday night, I am assured it is not too late to get your tickets for the Nantwich social event of the year - the Big Cheese school reunion. It doesn't matter if you never went - just claim to be "Jackie's cousin, you know, left in the fourth year when I got pregnant". Not sure that'll work for you blokes though...
Monday 25th September
My proposed jaunt to London was cancelled at the last-minute as The Notoriously Unreliable E.D.D. had to work all weekend so wasn't available. I could have gone down there anyway, but I really didn't fancy mooching round London on my own for the day before going to a gig on my own and going home on my own. Not that I haven't done all of those things before (some, sadly, more frequently than others) but when you're looking forward to spending some time with your brother, they're not attractive alternatives. So instead I spent the weekend mooching around at home, tidying up, taking stuff to the recycling bins, that sort of thing. The one benefit of tidying up is that I found a couple of CDs that I bought a couple of weeks ago and had forgotten all about.
Hey, it was easy to forget about the CDs - I bought a new guitar at the same time have have spent much of the last fortnight trying desperately to get it in tune. Apart from the fact that I had to get the screwdriver out and tighten all the tuning pegs, I also managed to snap what is nominally the G string when attempting to tune it the first time. I ought to point out here that the guitar is a mini one that cost me just under 13 quid from the cheapo publishing store The Works. It suffers from the fact that the frets have absolutely no relation to the frets on a proper-sized guitar, so where you might expect a string to be in tune with the next at the fifth fret, this guitar is in tune somewhere around the fourth. The first fret apopears to have an interval the same as the second fret on a normal guitar. As a result I've given up trying to get a conventional tuning and am trying to tune it to a chord. I almost had it tuned to Fmaj the other night but something's slipped out of tune since. Even if I do manage that, there's no guarantee I'll be able to make use of it, except maybe as a comedy prop in a video, so that's thirteen quid down the toilet.
I noticed the other day that either my mate Jack types in really neat sentences, counting every word, or he uses a tag to justify his text. So last night I fannyed around with the CSS for this site for a bit and after several goes managed to find which tag I needed to change. I could have just looked at Jack's site but hey, that's cheating right? It was simply a matter, or so I thought of adding the
text-align attribute to the TD tag. Then I realised this did funny things to the table cells on the left with the links in. Nothing terrible just a noticeable respacing of the text (surprisingly). A quick check of my site code and a look at the CSS and I realised that all I needed to do was update the TD.left class with a different text-align value and Bob would be your Uncle. Of course things are never that straight-forward and somewhere along the line I managed to lose the background clour for the left-hand column. I've managed to reinstate it but I'm not sure it's exactly the same colour. Fortunately I seem to have been using the td.left class for a while so the changes filter through the site nicely till you get back as far as Summer 2004. I'm not entirely convinced this will improve your user experience any, but it looks a bit neater now, doesn't it?
Finally, because it seems to be becoming compulsory, a quick mention for Crewe, whose reward for knocking out Wigan is a home tie against Manchester United in the 3rd Round of the Carling Cup. I would be getting all excited but we drew them at the same stage of the tournament just two years ago. A United "reserve side", costing somewhere in the region of fifty million quids, ran out 3-0 winners on that occasion. I'm hoping we can get a lot closer this time round. I've already had a few enquiries about whether I can get tickets but for those of you who can't get there in person on Wednesday 25th October, the game is also being shown on Sky Sports.
Wednesday 20th September
Too many clues
So much to do and so little time. And no, I'm not talking about all those unfinished documents I've got lying around at work... Just kidding. Anyway, I seem to have tons of things to do at the moment and not enough time to do them in. For example, I bought a newspaper on Saturday and I still haven't had chance to read it. Lord knows when I'll get round to the Sunday papers. Mind you, its all my own fault - if I'm not out enjoying myself, I'm either catching up on my sleep or childminding. Last week I was out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week and Friday night I decided to catch up on my beauty sleep (yeah, I know, I've got another hundred years to catch up on). Take this latest web update as another example - I started it on Monday night but realised I wasn't going to finish it before I needed to get to bed so have finally got round to finishing it off today.
Before I blather on about the rest of the crap that I've been up to, I have to give a big shout out to Crewe Alexandra, who knocked Wigan Athletic out of the Carling Cup last night. It wasn't exactly a steamrollering performance - we gave Wigan more than enough chances to score - but we created enough chances of our own and took a couple to send the pie-munching Premiership poltroons out of the competition. The noise around us as Nicky Mustard (aka Maynard) put the second one away in the last-minute of the game was incredible. Hard to believe there were less than 4,000 there.
Earlier in the week, by way of quiet contrast, Crewe beat both Cheltenham and Millwall at Fortress Gresty Road.(or as I suppose it ought to be properly called Fortress Alexandra.) A week yesterday they were in action against the mighty hordes of Cheltenham. They were, of course, victorious. By the small margin of three goals to one goal. They followed this up with a battling defeat 1-0 of Millwall on the Saturday afternoon. To tell the truth it was a scrappy performance, not helped by a terrible display by the referee. He was rubbish. To be fair, he was rubbish for both sides, but rubbish nonetheless. Still, that made it five wins in the last six games and the defeat of Wigwam means it's now six out of seven. If they can keep this sort of form going, they must have an excellent chance of being top of the table come Christmas.
Last Wednesday night, by complete contrast, it was round the corner to watch my other smashers, Nantwich, against the not-so-mighty hordes of Congleton Town. Having earlier knocked them out of the Cheshire Senior cup the omens were good but Nantwich don't seem to be playing that well at home at the moment. And struggled to a 2-2 draw. It was slight contrast to their performance on the previous Saturday when they beat Silsden 3-1. Still they're still managing to pick up wins away from home so must have a good chance of finishing inthe top four or five at the end of the season.
And last Thursday was a momentous evening when, for the second time, myself, Charlie and his brother Rob won the quiz at the Cronkinson Farm pub. We scored a storming 55 out of 60 and only underperformed in one round when we failed to recall that The Swinging Blue Jeans had a hit with 'Hippy Hippy Shake' and that the song 'I Could Have Danced All Night' featured in My Fair Lady. This time I contrived to win a bottle of champagne, which is still chilling in my fridge.
So as you can see, it's been a pretty hectic week or so, even if it did mainly revolve around football. Well, there's not been anyone on at The Limelight that I wanted to see recently and I haven't been out to catch any bands locally. Perhaps I ought to get my ass in gear and get out a bit more...
Talking of getting out a bit more, work have started looking for my replacement. You know what's really galling about that? The fact that htey're apparently prepared to pay more than £25k per annum to replace me, but not prepared to offer me that to stay. (I realise some of you Southern types might be snorting over that paltry amount, but that's the rough market rate in the North West. Feel free to let me know if you have any vacancies offering significantly more...) In fact, they probably could have offered me less and I'd have stayed but that's not the company way - they won't be held to ransom like that. Ah well, their loss, not mine.
Talking of replacements, I have seen one CV on which the applicant has included the URL of their website. Fair enough, I suppose, if you're particularly proud of it or believe that it enhances your application or both. If that's the case then you'd better make sure you self-censor it pretty heavily to avoid anything controversial or likely to offend. In fact, if you're applying for a Technical Author role it's probably a good idea to have a basic grasp of punctuation too. Of course, I exempt my own site from this rule as I don't give the URL on my CV and it doesn't turn up in the first 20 pages of a Google search on "Jim Lawrence". I'm afraid at this moment in time I can't include a link to said individual, but I will add it at the appropriate time.
Tonight, Matthew, this posting has been powered by Stella Artois and Sheffield Stout - a heady mix of Mathers Black Beer and Lemonade. Can't help thinking I'm going to have a sore head in the morning. Still, only two more working days this week and then it's off down to that there London to meet up with Eddy and pop out on Saturday night to catch Disarm playing at Bar Monsta, supporting Dirty Rig. Be there and be square. It's the new cool.
Friday 8th September
Take this job and...
...offer it to someone else. Yes, for only the second time in my working life I have resigned from a job. The interviews I mentioned in earlier posts turned out to be successful and I have been offered and accepted the post as Technical Author at Galleria Retail Technology Solutions Ltd, or simply Galleria to you and me. As sole Technical Author I'll be responsible for creating the User Documentation and Online Help for their software, pretty much from scratch. So, it's more responsibility and the opportunity to really stamp my own ideas on a documentation suite. Which was pretty much the job that MDS sold me two-and-a-half years ago. Sadly, that never materialised for one reason and another. Even so, I found it a very difficult decision and will be sad to leave. On the other hand the new challenge is exciting. daunting but exciting - I'm going to have to stretch myself and learn some new stuff along the way, but I also get to do it my way. Anyway, anyone got any good RoboHelp tips? Apart from, Don't, obviously...
Tonight Matthew, I am drinking Mead. Specifically, Harvest Gold Mead. Whilst browsing the shelf of some of the more obscure spirits and wines available in Morrisons, I noticed an unholy trinity of drinks there to tempt me. There was the Mead, Scotsmac - a blend of mature British wine and Scotch Whisky (Hhhmmmm, nice!) and Mather's Black Beer - concentrated malt liquor. All at 3 quid or less. I figure the Mead has got to be the lesser of three evils, with it's delicious honey-based flavour. It's a bit too sweet for my liking to be honest, but it's not too terrible. Don't think I'll swapping my regular lager tipple for it though. If I can face it I reckon I'll try the Scotsmac and report back.
Last Saturday I lined myself up a Feast of Football - three games in one day. Alright, one of the games was on telly, but the other two were as live as live can be - Crewe vs Huddersfield and Nantwich Town vs Deeping Rangers. The day started off well with Crewe beating Huddersfield 2-0, dipped a bit when Nantwich contrived to throw away a winning position and lost 2-1 and then picked up again when England thrashed Andorra as expected. To make up for Nantwich losing I won ten quid on the lottery, so all in all it wasn't a bad day. This Saturday will be exciting in a different way - I'm looking after my nephews overnight as my sister is off to see Robbie Williams in Leeds.
I was going to include a couple of links to other bars I visited during my trip to Cleethorpes but the ones Kev supplied me link to places in Thailand and Boston. Well, I know we had a fair few beers that day but I'm pretty certain we didn't end up in either of those establishments...
Monday 28th August
Do you like my neolithic clock?
Well, I was going to do an update last weekend but I ended up having one or two drinks too many in an attmept to drown my sorrows after Crewe's dismal 0-3 defeat at home to Bradford, that I spent all of Sunday recovering on the settee watching bog-all on the telly. Don't ask me what was on though - I can't remember.
Anyway, following that defeat I wasn't really looking forward to the football element of my midweek trip to Grimsby. I was, however, looking forward to the seeing my old mate Kev and drinking lots of ale elements. I set off bright and early and thankfully avoided any comedy capers on the train (there's more about those later though), arriving in Grimsby around lunchtime. It was round to Kev's to drop my bag off and then straight up to Cleethorpes to begin the afternoon of drinking and larking about. We started off in the "Smallest Pub in the World", which is a converted signal box at the Cleethorpes Light Railway Kingsway station.
It really is small - there were two people already in there and when Kev and I went in that was about it. There was hardly enough room for the barman to get by us so he could serve us. Fortunately the weather was quite good so we sat outside in the beer garden, from where the above picture was taken. Kev enjoyed a couple of pints of 4 Dirty Noses and I had a couple of pints of Fugelestou Ale's Marsh Mild. Very nice. Anyway, they're still waiting for Guinness World Records confirmation that it is the world's smallest working pub, but if they don't get that it may be of some comfort to know it's the smallest pub I've ever been in.
From there it was into the heart of Cleethorpes and a chance to drink in some of the trendy new places that have opened up recently. There has been a lot of development in the town over the last couple of years and it seems to be revamping its image. Anyway, we wandered along the seafront took in a few bars, including a stop off in the ever popular Willys, before heading into Market Square for a curry. We followed this with a relaxed drink in O'Neills before strolling off up to the match.
Well, I have to say that Grimsby aren't the same team as the one that made the play-offs last year, having lost a dozen players and their manager, but then Crewe have lost 13 players since being relegated. However, the introduction of Varney and Maynard up front for Rodgers and Higdon changed the way that Crewe played and, with more pace and more direct running at the defence, they looked much more of a threat than they had on Saturday. Lowe, Vaughan, Otsemobor, Varney and particularly Maynard gave the Grimsby defence all sorts of trouble and we were unlucky to be going in only one goal to the good at half-time. It was a good gaol though, with Varney's through ball being excellently controlled by Maynard before he slotted it past the keeper.
The second half was more of the same, with the Crewe side growing in confidence against a Grimsby side that was struggling to string anything together. For all our possession though we didn't score again until the 75th minute, with Varney breaking down the right and pulling the ball back for O'Connor to blast home from the edge of the penalty area. At least that's what the local paper said the following day - I missed it having decided to go to the toilet a couple of minutes earlier when Grimsby had a goal-kick. I was just coming back into the stand when the celebrations started. However I did manage to capture Crewe's third goal - a Ryan Lowe penalty in the last minute, after the ever-busy Maynard was tripped from behind.
So it finished 3-0 and Kev said that that was the first time he could recall watching Crewe win. To be fair, he hasn't seen Crewe that often and when he has we've usually been rubbish (the 1-0 opening day defeat in Grimsby a few years back and the 7-1 thumping at Hull being two I can recall). So, cheered by that, we went back into town for a couple more beers. And I have to say that it didn't seem very far from Cleethorpes to the stadium on the way there but on the way back it was twice as far! We were both knackered by the time we got back to O'Neills. A couple more beers, a burger and a taxi home rounded off the evening.
Wednesday morning I wasn't feeling too bad - a cup of tea and a quick wash and I was ready for round two. We started off with brunch in the Wetherspoons in Grimsby before going up to Cleethorpes for a few beers before I had to get the train home. I had originally planned to leave early evening an get home late-ish but I had to set off a bit earlier as I had a job interview on Thursday morning.
Yes, a job interview. A second interview in fact, having already had a first (surprisingly) the previous Friday. I wasn't really looking for a job - there's plenty of things to do in my current one to keep me occupied and interested until Christmas/New Year and possibly beyond - but this opportunity arose and there aren't many many good opportunities in the North West for Technical Authors. Anyway, the first interview went well - I got some really good feedback - but the second one included a writing test on a piece of the company's software and I wasn't too happy with what I wrote. I think I could have done better. We'll have to wait and see now - I should hear something back this week. I have to admit I'm currently in two minds about the job. Yes, I would like it as it's more responsibility and the definite chance to make my own mark and control the look and feel of a documentation suite. On the other hand it's more work and fewer holidays. But I reckon I'm getting ahead of myself- I haven't even been offered it yet. I think I should concentrate on getting my head down at MDS, finishing the stuff that needs finishing and prove my worth to the team and the company. We've got documentation that needs to go out of the door on Friday and there's still a lot to be done, for example.
On a related subject, I haven't moaned about the trains recently. Mainly because I haven't had that much cause to use them. However in the last two weeks of July, Ian, who gives me a lift to work, went on holiday to Cyprus. Yeah, I know, how dare he? So I was stuck using the trains for that couple of weeks. In the morning things were fine - I could usually get the 8.14 from Nantwich and connect with the 8.35 from Crewe to arrive in Warrington for about 8.50 allowing me to get to work for about 9.00. One morning the 8.14 was delayed by 53 minutes so I had to get a bus to Crewe instead but still managed to make it in for around 9.30. However, in the evening the trains from Warrington to Crewe were always delayed by ten minutes and thus never coincided with a train from Crewe to Nantwich. In fact, for much of the second week the 17.53 arrived in Crewe just in time for me to see my connection pulling out of the station. Which meant a ten minute walk up the road and a wait for a bus, adding an extra 40 minutes on my journey home. Better still though, were the comedy capers I had after my first interview on Friday 18th August. I had arranged an early interview, so that I could get into the office by 10.30 and still leave on time having worked some extra hours earlier in the week. The interview went fine (see above) and I was at Crewe in plenty of time for the 9.50 to Warrington. The weather, it has to be said, had turned particularly nasty and the train was already slightly late when it pulled into Crewe. Still, it wasn't too delayed and I thought I'd still be able to get away from work on time. How wrong I was. As we pulled through Winsford the train slowed and stopped. It transpired that a lightning strike had knocked out the signals and we were stuck till things were fixed. Arse! We were, in fact, stuck for two hours. I was so late into work that I had to take a half-day holiday instead of making up the hours. To make matters worse, Ian's car had had some electrical problems and he hadn't made it to work, so I had to go home on the train too. Still, I made sure the journey wasn't too painful by having a load of beers and a curry with Tim, one of my colleagues, before I got a late train, and then a taxi, home. This tale does at least have one upside - Virgin Trains have offered me a full refund on my journey. Woo hoo!
Alongside my little smashers, Crewe, I have been doing a bit of glory-hunting in watching Nantwich Town. They won their Cheshire Senior Cup game against Congleton, 3-1, and last Saturday (26th) I saw them beat Ramsbottom United 3-1. I'll be popping round the corner to see them play Atherton LR tomorrow night and I hope to include them in my own personal Feast of Football next Saturday, when the staggered kick-off times mean I ought to be able to see Crewe at home to Huddersfield (k.o. 12.15), Nantwich at home to Deeping Rangers in the FA Cup Preliminary round (k.o. 3pm) and then back round to my house to watch England v Andorra on the telly (k.o.5.15).
One final piece of news - the beard is back. It's come back largely by default. I didn't change my shaving habits particularly so a goatee-shaped patch of stubble would develop during the week and then I'd shave it off at the weekend. One weekend I didn't shave it off and then all of a sudden I'm at an interview with a bit of a beard. Well, I can't shave it off for the second interview, can I? And then I had my photo taken at work with it so I can't shave it off before I meet the M.D. as he won't recognise me, will he? Ah well, maybe I'll get rid of it again next weekend....
Monday 14th August
Carrying a glowstick and a small loaf
In a dull moment last week I was pondering the nature of the fakir and wondering how I, as the self-proclaimed fatfakir, conform with the ascetic nature of the holy men. Well, truth be told, I don't. I can't be said to be denying myself anything or challenging myself physically or even performing simple street magic. So, I'm pretty much a fraud on the spiritual front. On the other hand I do get to indulge my love of Carry On-style humor and call myself a fat f*cker without too many people taking offence. So that's Ok then.
I don't like to mention work on here too often, mainly because the world of work is terribly dull but, also, people I work with read this blog. However, here'a development that some of my ex-colleagues might find interesting - our department have recently purchased AuthorIT and are in the process of moving all our documentation and online help over to it, away from the combination of Word, Dreamweaver, Notepad and HelpBreeze that we currently use. We undertook a fairly extensive evaluation of the Authoring tools on the market and decided against Arbortext Epic on the grounds of cost and complexity and against Robohelp on the grounds of redundancy. (I'd like to make the point here that we made this decision a good six months ago...) So the choices after that were fairly limited - we had no particular liking for Framemaker and wanted to put everything into a single source tool if possible. Author IT looks right for us but it does have one or two interesting quirks. The way you define bulleted lists is counter-intuitive, for example. And the native editor isn't really WYSIWYG. But once you've wrapped your head around that, it's fairly straight-forward. I think we'll still make errors in chunking up our documentation into the right size to be properly re-usable, but I think once we've got it up and running properly it should prove a really good tool. Anyone with experience that says otherwise, please speak up now.
With the Football League season well underway, I decided against making the trip to Scunthorpe at the weekend to see Crewe, instead favouring Nantwich at home to Glossop North End. Another wise decision on my part - Crewe scraped a 2-2 draw despite leading twice, but Nantwich strolled off the park 3-1 winners. Not only was there some decent football but I bunmped into my old mate Ian, who was there with his kids. I still haven't managed to win the raffle since my visit for the Buxton game though. I reckon I'll be a fairly regular attendee at Jackson Avenue this season - they have quite a few games when Crewe are away and they're only round the corner so the evening games are no trouble. In fact I'll be round there tomorrow night for the Cheshire Senior Cup tie against Congleton Town. Don't worry though, I'll be getting my Crewe Alex fix next week with the home game against Bradford on Saturday and a trip to Grimsby for the Carling Cup game a week tomorrow.
Tuesday 8th August
Partying like it's 1982
Well, I promised a review of Crewe's opening game of the season and here it is. Despite the day dawning dull and grey, it was actually quite warm and the day brightened up as the kick-off against Northampton approached. Arriving at the ground in plenty of time, I got a programme and a Golden Gamble ticket and made my way nto the Air Products stand concourse. I have to admit that it was probably the emptiest I've seen it half an hour before the game. Possibly everyone knows the prices have gone up by ten pence... Still, I don't mind not having to elbow a dozen or more people out of the way in order to get a pint. Said pint duly consumed it was off to my seat in plenty of time to see the teams run out. Coca Cola have some daft competition on to measure the sound of the crowd when the teams run out. Add my voice to the roar but somehow don't think we'll be challenging the likes of Nottingham Forest or Bristol City. The game kicks off. All the talk on the message boards before the game was of our solid new defence and a probable lack of goals from the front men. Crewe surprise us all by creating a number of chances straight away. Billy Jones has a shot from distance that the keeper gets a hand on. From the resultant corner the ball goes up in the air and drops invitingly for Ryan Lowe to volley into the top corner from the edge of the area. 1-0 after 7 minutes. The lead doesn't last too long as Northampton find space down the right and the winger has time and space to pick out McGleish in the middle. 1-1. Fortunately Crewe aren't thrown by this and continue to create chances. Good work down the right by Higdon and Rodgers gives Lowe the time to take the ball to the by-line and whip in a cross which Vaughan nods in to the back of an empty net. 2-1 Crewe continue to create chances with Rodgers guilty of missing a couple of fairly easy ones. I just get the feeling that he's trying too hard - he's getting into the right positions but not putting them away. He does get the ball in the net but it's rightly ruled out for offside. Crewe's profligacy proves costly just before half-time, when a defensive mix-up gifts Kirk the chance to level the scores. 2-2 The half ends and I've got mixed feelings. Pleased to see the number of chances we're creating but concerned that we're not putting them away and that the defence looks brittle on occasions.
The second half kicks off with Crewe on the back foot and looking very lethargic. Ten minutes of half-assed clearances from defence, misplaced passes in midfield and general hesitancy has the Fatfakir shouting "Wakey, Wakey" as we concede yet another needless corner. Thankfully Crewe slowly snap out of the torpor and get back in the game. They start creating a number of chances and Lowe, Rodgers and Higdon all miss the sort of chance you'd expect them to score. To be fair to Lowe, the Cobblers' keeper makes probably the best save of the game to deny him from a header. With about ten minutes to go Dario takes Rodgers off for Maynard (or Micky Mustard as my nephew dubs him). The decision is not greeted with approval as most of the crowd have been baying for Higdon to come off. To be fair to Higdon he's probably had as good a game as ever in the target man role. He still needs to learn to turn and chase once he's won the flick-on and probably needs to gamble a bit more on where the ball might go, rather than reacting to it, but he's been involved up front and comes back to make one or two important defensive headers too. Micky Mustard bustles about and puts the defenders under pressure and Higdon finally gets the ball in the net only for it to be disallowed for a foul. Couldn't really see anything from where I was -it looked a good goal - but then all the action is happening down the other end of the park from me. Well, almost all the action - there's still time for Quinn to test out Ben Williams in the Crewe goal a couple of times. On both occasions Williams makes fine saves to deny Northampton the win. The final whistle blows and the joker in the DJ booth immediately spins Shania Twain's 'That Don't Impress Me Much.' Kind of sums up the mood around me. Personally, I was pleased to see that with Lowe and Vaughan sharing the free-kick and corner duties we've managed to get away from simply pumping it straight to the opposition keeper, and Lowe particularly had a storming game. I also think we can score, even though the attack is relatively inexperienced. I'm a tad worried about the defensive lapses though and wonder if the return of Cox will steady the ship. Kempson played well but Baudet panicked at times and Otsemobor was guilty in the run up to the second equaliser. Billy Jones didn't have one of his better games either. Still, last time we played Northapton on the opening day of the season, we got a draw and finished second in the league that season, going back up to the Championship at the first time of asking. And in light of tonight's 3-1 defeat at Doncaster, I'll cling to that omen for a while longer.
Sunday 5th August
Wider skies of blue
Yeah, alright, it's a bit later than planned, but I failed to take into account how knackered commuting by train every day would make me feel and the fact that my knackered shoulder tends to discourage updating the blog as I can't do more than about an hour's typing without feeling some discomfort. And I went to see Crewe's opening game of the season yesterday, but I'll blog about that tomorrow. Anyhoo, that's the pathetic excuses out of the way, here's a potted review of my adventures at the Acoustic Festival last weekend...
The weather having threatened to break all week finally showed signs of turning as Saturday morning dawns grey and dull. It's still quite warm though, so I decide against taking a raincoat. I also decide to have a substantial brunch before departing. It proves to be a good move as the catering outlets are charging the usual festival prices. More shocking though are the bar prices - £2.80 for a 330ml can of Stella! I didn't really look at the price/size ratio when I ordered one but after that first one I was on the Guinness, still £2.80 but at least that was for a proper-sized can. The festival site is set up so that the main bands are playing in two separate marquees, with the running order such that you can move from one tent to the other and not miss a thing. Unless, of course, you want to see any of the acts in the Octagon Tent, which is actually just a gazebo with a few benches in front of it. There's also the usual assortment of tat merchants you get a festivals and a few fairground rides for the kids. Despite the occasional shower the day goes well - the rain mostly happening whilst the bands were on. One minor irritation though was the lack of decent lighting on site once it got dark and the fact that they shepherded everyone out through the one small exit, meaning there was a lot of congestion on the way out, which is not what you want when you've got three kids with you and it's dark. With a bit of forethought they could have put up some lighting and also filtered people out through the wider entrance/exit a bit further down the site. After all that, here are some brief reviews of the acts that I saw on Saturday:
- Ed Tudorpole - In a typical Eddy fashion he comes on about twenty minutes late, although this isn't his fault as the crew have been making some last-minute adjustments having only had 24 hours to assemble the stages, lighting and mixing desks. He's worth the wait though - comic banter, knockabout songs, amusing stories and a special acoustic version of 'Swords of a Thousand Men', which has the crowd in stitches. The kids, particularly, loved him and in 'He's Got a Moustache' he's got a song that'll keep kids entertained forever. If the Tudorpole is playing round your way I can heartily recommend you make the effort to see him.
- Eric Faulkner - Having skipped the folk-lite musings of Virginia Haze in favour of a wander round the festival site, it was back in to the Cheese tent for the former Bay City Roller. It's OK though, he's not bitter. Much. In between sniping at former band mates and record labels he delivers a solid set of old Rollers classics and acoustic favourites. He's also the first performer of the day to rely on the crowd singalongs to pad out his songs and set. Very enjoyable though.
- Ian McNabb - first of the performers I watch in the Mornflake tent. Surprisingly popular and the tent is packed for the former Icicle Worker. He has, of course, produced a large body of work since the Icicle Works split, but sad to say that none of them are ringing in my ears at the moment. Again he relies on the singalong to pad out the set. Still, he gives us 'Hollow Horse', 'Understanding Jane', 'Evangeline' and 'Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)', all of which are great, but the rest are sadly disappointing.
- The Animals & Friends - Having skipped the indie-folk toss of Ezio and the jazz-folk of Pentangle it's back to the Cheese tent for The Animals. Actually, The Animals original drummer, John Steel plus Mickey Gallagher (who once filled in on keyboards for a week or so after the departure of Alan Price) Peter Burton (once of the Mindbenders, on bass and vox) and Johnny 'Guitar' Williamson (a jobbing blues guitarist). More a blatant cash-in on the revival circuit than a genuine Animals re-union. They still played a number of the classics from the 60s plus all the expected Animals hits. Trouble is, Peter Burton's Americanisms started to grate after a while. He might actually be American for all I know but he sounded more like a Geordie pretending to be American. The band were actually pretty good but the fact that it isn't really The Animals up there undermines the experience.
- Dennis Locorriere - Moving out of the Cheese tent we end up near the back of the Mornflake tent whilst the voice of Dr Hook does his thing. Have to say I hadn't been too bothered about catching him, but by god I'm glad I did. Time hasn't diminished his voice, and he could sing the phone book and it'd sound great. He didn't take himself too seriously either, sending himself up on occasion. He seemd to be going down great although it was difficult to see from where we were. Played all the Dr Hook hits and finished with a superb rendition of 'Sylvia's Mother'.
- Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - We skipped the delights of Elkie Brooks in order to secure a good position to see Steve. Kicking off with Here Comes the Sun' and 'Judy Teen' his set promised much. Sadly, he doesn't seem to have written too many good tunes since sacking the original Cockney Rebel. He also relied heavily on the singalong most notably when he forgot the words of one number mid-song and launched into 'Mr Tambourine Man' instead. (Of course, we should have responded by singing along in William Shatner-style, that would have freaked him out.) The middle of the set was pretty turgid stuff but he saved the day with a few good numbers and a storming version of 'Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile)'.
Despite feeling knackered after all the walking around of the previous day I set off in plenty of time in the morning, making a detour via the supermarket, where I stock up with lagers to avoid the exorbitant bar prices. There are no bag searches on the gate and it becomes obvious that most people have made the same decision. In contrast to the previous day I spend about ten quid on site as opposed to more than forty. Yes, I even managed to resist the temptation to buy a ukulele... I also took a folding chair, which was both a blessing and a curse. I enjoyed the sitting in it, I didn't enjoy lugging it from tent to tent. All in all though, another top day, which also featured the following:
- Cheshire Chord Company - a 78-strong women's choir, based in Warrington, and known for their acapella version of the Kaiser Chiefs' 'I Predict A Riot'. They gave us a good mix of barbershop standards and pop songs, including the aforementioned 'Riot'. Not the sort of thing I'd normally go out of my way to see but their version of 'Lady Madonna' was oddly affecting.
- The Blues Band - Paul Jones (ex-Manfred Mann) and assorted pals churn out a decent enough set of blues standardas and R'n'B classics from the '60s. It's good stuff but yet no different from the sort of thing you can see equally talented guys playing in the back of your local boozer for five quid or less. Yes, these guys might have actually written one or two of these numbers, but if you're too far away to see them properly and the sound isn't that good then it could have been anyone up there.
- Mike Peters - The former Alarm front man has obviously dragged all his mates from Rhyl down for the day. The tent is packed. He doesn't disappoinnt, delivering a charming set of old and new stuff and being generally quite likeable despite being Welsh. The fan club insist on singing along and he makes the most of it. Sadly, my nephew Will decides he needs a wee about two songs before the end and I have to take him. I can hear the strains of '68 Guns' wafting over as I wait for Will to finish washing his hands.
- 3 Men + Black - An irregular pick-up band featuring the vocal talents of Pauline Black (ex The Selecter). This time the three men are Eric Faulkner (who obviously has no home to go to), Roddy Radiation (The Specials) and Nick Welsh (Bad Manners). Eric's a late replacement for Stranglers guitarist JJ Burnell, who is still stuck on the motorway. Sadly, we're stuck up the back of the tent (eating fish and chips) and the sound isn't that great. Still they deliver some great acoustic versions of old ska classics and Pauline Black's voice sounds great. I think I'll have to try to catch these guys playing again.
- Chumbawamba (Acoustic) - It's the same guys as played at the folk festival a couple of years ago, as opposed to the full band. They get the audience to singalong, but doing parts of the choruses, rather than the full-on karaoke that some of the others have employed. They almost alienate the audience with an ill-judged remark early on but thankfully the guy realises he's blundered. A good mix of traditional songs and teheir own compositions in a set that flew by.
- Glenn Tilbrook - The former Squeeze front man gets his acoustic guitar out and suddenly them old bittersweet songs have a new poignancy. Makes the puzzling claim that he and Chris Difford didn't get on for most of the time they were in Squeeze. The band were together for more than twenty years, so he can't have disliked him that much, can he? Still, he delivers and 'Up The Junction' in particular sounds as fresh as if he'd just written it. Sadly I can't stay till the end as the Cheese tent is filling up in anticipation of the next act and I need to get in to help lay claim to our space.
- Hayseed Dixie - Undoubtedly the draw of the day, if not the weekend. The tent is absolutely heaving and people are looking for any bit of spare space near the front. Having sent Roger in an hour earlier we've got a good postion in the middle. It's just as well as the sides are being filled by people standing up. Of course, by the middle of their set Hayseed Dixie have pretty much everyone standing up and jigging about a bit. Except for the old couple in front of us who, strangely, only stand up and dance when the band play relatively slow number 'I'm Keeping Your Poop In A Jar'. They are pretty much a one-joke band - heavy metal covers in a hillbilly style - but it's a good joke and they do it so well. They even chuck in a storming version of Green Day's 'On Holiday' preceding it with a hilarious tale of how they were asked to mime it on Top of the Pops. For me, they're the absolute highlight of the weekend.
- The Stranglers - Sadly, after the High-energy clowning of Hayseed Dixie, the Stranglers were always likely to be a bit of an anti-climax. To be fair, they weren't bad but the downbeat nature of their music and performance wasn't doing it for me. so I headed off to beat the crowds.
Overall, it was a pretty good weekend. I didn't really get to see any of the bands in the Octagon tent except in passing (taking Will to the toilet, usually) but The Band From County Hell sounded pretty good in a Pogues-style and my sister said that Jan Graveson was really good on Saturday night. The bar and catering prices were a rip-off but with no bag checks on the gate it was easy to bring in your own booze and nosh (Roger bought in fish and chips on Sunday, for example). It'll be interesting to see if they're a bit more strict next year. I think the organisers also need to think about the positioning of the Octagon tent - it was too close to the Mornflake tent and so there was a bit of cross-pollination between the two in terms of sound. I think there were enough marquees still up from the Nantwich Show that they could possibly have made more use of those, positioning the Octagon acts a bit further away, perhaps. The other thing I'd think about, if I was organising it, would be making optimal usage of the two main tents by having more acts on and forcing people to choose between the two tents. Glastonbury (and plenty of other festivals) have one main stage and then a number of satellites and I think they should go down this route. Make the Mornflake the main tent, have fewer top names but they all play there, the Cheese tent becomes a lesser lights stage and the Octagon then used for breaking acts. The only other thing I could moan about was the fact that Tom Hingley was advertised on the posters but we never saw him on the actual bill. Sandi Thom was also advertised but thankfully she pulled out. To be honest, if it hadn't been on my doorstep, it's not the sort of festival I would have gone to, but I'm already looking forward to next year.
Tuesday 1st August
When the weather breaks
The prescription sunglasses finally worked last weekend when the weather duly broke on the weekend of the Acoustic Festival. Not that it mattered - a good time was had by all. A report will be appearing on here on Thursday, all things being well. There'll also be a Nantwich show summary and some other stuff. I spent a couple of hours working on my BT rant today but that's still not finished. I suspect BT will have ceased to exist before I finish it. Of course, once I've got that out of the way, there's all the other web projects that I want to do that I still haven't gotten round to...
Sunday 23rd July
The heat is on
Being a fairly unfit, fat bloke, I don't really cope with high temperatures too well. My cooling systems seem to go into overdrive once the mercury gets above 25 degrees (Centigrade that is), and I become even more lethargic than usual. So you can imagine how well I've coped with the recent heatwave. It's been made worse by the fact that my new pad has a south-facing aspect so my bedroom has been trapping in that heat all day whilst I'm at work. As a consequence it's about 5 degrees warmer in my bedroom than outside. I can't leave the windows open while I'm out, for obvious reasons, and leaving the curtains shut all day seems to have a negligible effect. I've tried moving into the back bedroom but that seems to be almost as warm. I think I might have to sleep in the bath if this carries on. And it might - even the fact that I've bought some new prescription sunglasses seems to have had no effect on the weather.
Actually, I hope the good weather continues as this week I'm off to both the Nantwich Show/International Cheese Festival and the Great British Acoustic Festival. The Nantwich show is always interesting and this year the TV legend that is Keith "Cheggers" Chegwin will be there. The Acoustic Festival is a new thing, being held in the same grounds as the Nantwich show, so if the weather breaks we'll be walking round in mud and cow dung all weekend.
I've finally got the picture pages sorted out - it took slightly longer than expected as I had to resize all the images to make them small enough to fit on the page and not take about six years to download. Take your pick, there are Miscellaneous pictures or Family Gathering pictures to look at.
Following England's disappointing exit from the World Cup (let's not talk about it, eh?) I've thrown myself a bit more vigorously than usual into the pre-season action. Thus far I've taken in:
- Nantwich v Crewe - About half the Crewe squad, including some triallists, made the short trip to Jackson Avenue. (The other half went to Quorn.) Crewe dominated the first half without creating too many chances but deservedly went ahead when Higdon seized on a defensive error and pulled the ball back for Rodgers to knock it in. After making a number of changes at half-time Crewe seemd a bit more disjointed in midfield and Nantwich were more in the game. Triallist Bas Savage then went down in stages for what looked like a soft penalty. Luke Rodgers duly despatched it. And another decent move involving Rodgers and Savage set up new boy Lowe for a fairly easy tap-in. Still Nantwich carried on taking the game to Crewe and got a deserved consolation late on.
- Crewe v Southport - A warm, sunny Friday evening and rather more beer than I'm used to, means that I can't tell you much about the game which finished as a 2-2 draw. I can tell you it was nine quid to get in and that I managed to knacker my shoulder by failing to negotiate some railings whilst trying to get to the pub. (I fell backwards rather heavily) Anyway I was still drunk by the time I got home on Saturday lunchtime...
- Nantwich v Stafford Rangers - Hey, it's just round the corner from my house. Stafford had about three shots in the first half and scored three goals. They had more chances in the second half but couldn't add to their tally. Nantwich scored their usual consolation.
- Crewe v Liverpool - A sell-out at the Alexandra stadium for the first time in ages. Sadly, it was full of Liverpool fans,but fair play - they turned out to see a Liverpool squad still missing their World Cup players (Stevie G, Kewell, Crouch, Alonso, etc). One decent bit of skill from Robbie Fowler - a neat backheel as he drew the defender - gave Craig Lindfield the space to put one in the top corner. Liverpool had a few more chances in the first half but good goalkeeping and decent defending kept the score at one-nil. For Crewe, Luke Rodgers looked the most likely to score and his pace troubled Hyppia. In fact, Luke was unlucky, I thought, not to get a penalty in the first five minutes. The defence looked really sound, especially Billy Jones, who had Craig Bellamy in his pocket throughout the second half, until he was forced off through injury. Higdon gave a much improved performance as the target man and the midfield looked steady enough, although Bell and O'Connor will certainly be looking to get back in there once they get fit again. Lowe should maybe have done better with one good chance in the second half but having controlled the ball on his chest beautifully couldn't get his volley the right side of the post. Of the subs, I thought Ben Rix looked useful - busy and prepared to put a foot in - and Nicky Maynard looked very lively up front, causing the Liverpool defence all sorts of problems. Luke Varney came closest to forcing an equaliser, with the defence scrambling the ball off the line. Liverpool were disappointing and I shouldn't imagine any of the missing World Cup stars would be too worried about their places based on that display. As far as Crewe goes though, it was actually quite encouraging. The back four look solid, the midfield are a match for almost anyone in terms of skill and we've got at least one decent striker and a replacement on the bench. The two things that concern me are that the midfield are a bit lightweight and will get knocked off the ball too easily (ah 'twas ever thus) and that Dario's insistence on playing with a target man will limit the amount of goals the side can score.
There's still a few more games to go before the season proper starts but the Crewe v Wolves game is on Wednesday and I think that after trekking round the Nantwich show the last thing I'll be up for is a trip to Gresty Rd. I might go and watch Nantwich at home again on Tuesday night though...On the other hand I could stay in and try to finish off my BT Rant page - it's turning into an epic....
Monday 17th July 2006
Back for good
Funny isn't it? You'd think that after waiting more than two months to get my phone line installed and get back to the point where I can update my website, I'd actually have something prepared to post as soon as that joyous day came. Well, no, it's more than four hours after the BT guys finally finished the job and I'm still typing out stuff. Anyway I've finally got myself sorted out after all the delights of moving house, transferring my worldly goods over from my parents' house and plugging into the phone network. All I need now is to get my self Broadband and Robert is your mother's brother. Incidentally, I did start writing about the "comedy" capers I was having with BT but it started to take over the page, so I've hived it off and once I've completed it there'll be a link on this page.
So here's that long talked-about update and to kick off the new-improved, possibly more regular updates, I bring you possibly the biggest news you can think of; something that many of you have waited years to see, and probably one of the most momentous things to happen to me for a long time. Yes, after almost twenty years I finally got fed up of my goatee beard and have shaved it off once and for all. To be honest, it wasn't really the beard that I got fed up with but the tell-tale spread of the grey hairs in it that were making me look old before my time. Coupled with the fast-thinning hair on the top of my head, it wasn't a particularly good look, especially as I'm only 28.... So a couple of weeks ago I shaved the damned thing off. There will be pictures to follow once I've downloaded them from my camera, although they're possibly not safe for work or small children.
Outside of shaving my beard off there have been plenty of other things going on. As mentioned above, I've finally managed to move out from my sister's house. I'm now renting a small, two-bedroomed, terraced house on the other side of town. It's slightly further from the town centre than I would have liked but does have the advantage of being Number 69 ("dude") so there's plenty of juvenile comedy capers to be had in inviting people round for a "69 Party" and the like. Anyway, I've settled in OK so far and have moved most of my stuff over from my parents' house. I haven't actually managed to finish unpacking it all. In fact, most of it is piled up in the spare bedroom, so don't be in any rush to stop by. However the important things are all unpacked and when I get more than ten minutes spare I'll sort the rest out. Possibly sometime before the start of the footy season, but don't hold your breath...
There's also a couple of old news stories that deserve some coverage. The first being the revival of an old love affair with Nantwich Town. Admittedly, I wasn't interested when they had nothing to offer but post-Christmas last season they started a run in the FA Vase. (Way back in the '80s I used to pop along to Jackson Avenue to watch Nantwich, usually on weekends when I didn't have enough money to get to Crewe and back. One of my school mates, Pete Prince, ended up playing for them but I think he was still giving it a go at Blackpool when I first started going.) Anyway, as I may have mentioned before, having been drawn away in the early games they finally got drawn at home in the fourth round against Buxton. I dragged my nephew, Will, along, not expecting too much, to be honest. It was a game that had everything - a well-taken goal, a missed penalty, some sterling defending and a mass punch-up about five minutes from time. And I won a bottle of whisky in the half-time draw. Nantwich scored against the run of play in the first half and then conceded a penalty, which was well saved. In the second half Buxton threw everything at them but couldn't score. Their fustration grew and some of the challenges by both sides were robust, to say the least. Their frustration boiled over about five minutes from the end when the Nantwich chairman held on to a ball for a throw-in and a Buxton player ran twenty yards to remonstrate with him. Well, I say remonstrate but actually he just whacked him in the face. In the ensuing melee there were plenty of punches thrown. Once the ref calmed things down he sent off the Buxton player, the Nantwich captain and sent the Nantwich chairman to the stand. Never mind, Nantwich held on to make it into the fifth round. They were again drawn at home against Pickering, who were actually higher in the league than Buxton. The weather conspired against Nantwich the first time but the game was on the second time. This time Will decided he didn't fancy the cold weather, but Roger, my sister's boyfriend turned out. Will missed a cracker - a goal in each half and, if anything, an easier game than the previous one. All of sudden Nantwich were in the semi-final - a two-legged affair with possibly only one stronger side left. Unluckily, it seemed, Nantwich drew that side - Cammel Laird, fellow travellers in the NW Counties league and strong favourites having beaten stronger opposition on their way through the competition. The first leg was away and Nantwich came home with a one goal advantage, again slightly against the run of play. The second leg saw an almost complete turn-out for the clan Fakir - me, my sister, her boyfriend and one of her two kids (the non-footballing one spending the day with his Dad instead). Once the Cammel Laird centre-half had got in a muddle with his goalkeeper over a long ball and allowed Blake to nip in and tap in a simple first, the result was never in doubt. Two up by half time (three on aggregate) and running out four-nil winners on the day, Nantwich were suddenly and unexpectedly in the FA Vase final. Well, of course, I have to go to the Final. I end up getting tickets for the whole clan Fakir. So Saturday 6th May we all headed off to St Andrews, Birmingham to see the boys take on the mighty Hillingdon Borough from the South East Counties league or somesuch. We weren't the only ones - around 3,000 made the trip and I had the great pleasure of bumping into quite a large number of old friends and acquaintances. The statistics suggest that the game was fairly even but the evidence of my eyes was that Nantwich were always in command. The first goal came after only 14 minutes. The second - a decent strike from 18 yards - soon followed and after half hour Nantwich were two up and cruising. At half-time the feeling was that the game was in the bag. Well, that was one of the feelings. The other feeling was that they should have opened another bar or had more staff on or something as there was no way that 3,000 thirsty and hungry Nantwich fans could get served by the inadequate facilities provided by Brimingham City. Anyway, Hillingdon came out in the second half determined to get back into the game and for 15 minutes or so they were the better side. Fortunately, Nantwich regained command and killed the game off with their third, and Andy Kinsey's second in the 68th minute. Unfortunately his goal was followed by the sort of comedy incident that will surely make it on to Question of Sport's 'What Happened Next?' Running towards the ecstatic Nantwich fans, Kinsey whipped off his shirt and threw it towards the crowd. As he did so, he managed to dislocate his shoulder. As he was lifted on to the stretcher and carried away to the treatment room the referee booked him for taking his shirt off. Sadly, Kinsey was unable to continue and was substituted. Despite the game clearly being beyond them Hillingdon still took the game to us and were rewarded with a late consolation (technically the first goal I'd seen Nantwich concede in more than twenty years, although that only covered about 4 hours of playing time).Unbelievable! Little Nantwich Town had won the FA Vase! The town went crazy - there was a commemorative pull-out section in the local paper, and an open-top bus tour and civic reception were arranged. I had made up a song for the Final itself and, in it's slightly adapted form, I now offer it for the general consumption (to the tune of 'The Laughing Policeman'):
We might not be the best team that you have ever seen
We might not have knighthoods or dinner with the Queen
But you can take your Premiership and shove it up your arse
'Cos we are Nantwich Town and we've won the FA Vase!"
Of course, Nantwich's winning ways contrasted sharply with that of my true little smashers, Crewe Alex, who were shipping goals at the rate of about three a game for much of the season. The curse that I obviously inflicted on them by buying a half-season ticket in December showed little sign of being lifted. The rational argument would state that selling our leading goal scorer without bringing in a replacement, failing to bolster a leaky defence and playing a largely non-tackling midfield are the real reasons for Crewe's decline, but I know that it's just because I bought a season ticket for the first time in ages. True, Dario did finally plug some of those gaps in the team for the last couple of months of the season, but by then it was too little, too late. The inevitable happened and we were relegated for the second time in five years. And with all of the loan signings walking away from the club in the summer, followed by some senior professionals, things aren't looking too hot for the forthcoming season either. To be fair, we've signed some decent central defenders, we've kept our full-backs (although Billy Jones is wasted at left-back in my opinion) and there are plenty of options in midfield, but once again we look lightweight up front and that is going to cost us. I've yet to see anything in pre-season that convinces me Dario had found the answer to the striker problems, although admittedly, I've only seen two games and I'm afraid I was verrry, verrry drunk at Southport so don't recall too much of the actual match. Perhaps I'll be able to be a bit more positive after Saturday's friendly against Liverpool.... (I did think about a comprehensive review of the end of the season here, but to be honest, I don't want to re-open old wounds.)
Despite all the footy-related nonsense in my life, I haven't been neglecting those occasional forays into the world of rock'n'roll. I've knocked off a few gigs so far this year, although admittedly not as many as I would have liked. In no particular order, they were:
- Morrissey - live in Grimsby, surely a miserablist's dream? Especially as his new album didn't seem that much cop. But no, the weather was nice, I bumped into a couple of old mates, the music was great - the new stuff definitely sounding better live - and even my mate Kev was impressed.
- George Thorogood - in a sneaky bit of role reversal Kev dragged me along to see one of his favourite bands, rather than me dragging Kev out (REM, Morrissey). Sadly, George turned out to be no better than some of the blues bands you can see playing in your local pub for three quid or less. I'll admit I had a few beers too many and nodded off for a bit, but I couldn't see what the attraction was. To be fair, Kev wasn't that impressed either.
- Disarm supporting Robin Black - first up I dragged my sister and her boyfriend up to the limelight in Crewe to see my old mates on a tour supporting Canadian "superstar" Robin Black. Despite the fact there was only about twenty other people in there both bands put o a top show. The second time I went to see the two bands was down in London at the Camden Underworld. I made a bit of a rookie mistake in not checking what time the event started so when my brother and I rolled into the venue at about 8.30 everyone except Robin Black had been on. What sort of rock'n'roll Saturday nght is that? Turns out the venue chuck everyone out early and have an indie disco on from 11pm till late on a Saturday. There's obviously more money in that. We went to the after-show party, but even that was a bit pants.
- lastfriday - I finally bit the bullet and made it back for the 13th May gig to see FONY, Left Side Brain, Datyura and A Future Regret. Sterling efforts by all concerned I seem to recall althought I think I enjoyed Left Side Brain most of all. I was slightly biased against FONY as they pulled out of a Sheffield gig Disarm were playing at a couple of years ago.
- Travelling Blues Band - as part of the Nantwich Jazz and Blues festival at Easter, the redoutable Charlie Thomas (who I work with) and his mates (who I don't) played a set at the Shakespeare pub on Sunday afternoon. As the following day was a Bank Holiday this was a perfect excuse for getting down to some rock'n'roll sounds and then spending the rest of the day getting horribly pissed. Which is what I did.
I have, of course, acquired more CDs than can possibly be healthy and, suprisingly for me, a rather large number of DVDs. I won't go to the tedious length of listing them all here otherwise I'll have no material for the next update. That should be this forthcoming Thursday unless anything happens to put me off. Oh yeah, there should also be some pictures and next time I'll try to include a few more hyperlinks to interesting stuff for those of you that like that sort of thing. And I'll correct all my spelling mistakes. For now though, I think you've got more than enough to be going on with.
Saturday 27th May
Yeah, I know
Apologies for the lack of update in the middle of May. If you feel it has affected your enjoyment of this site in any way please feel free to claim compensation from BT, who can't seem to reconnect a telephone line to save their lives. I especially love their joined-up customer care policy in which one call centre guy will constantly reassure me that their engineer will call me (on my mobile) to confirm his provisional appointment, and then another call centre guy will emphatically deny that that's the policy when I miss said appointment because, without the expected confirmation, I go to work instead of waiting in on the off-chance. Gah! It's no wonder they have trouble retaining their customers - they can't even handle new ones! Anyway, you'll be delighted to learn that it'll be another ten days before the BT engineer returns so if you're lucky you might get a proper update just before the World Cup kicks off....
Thursday 4th May 2006
The merest smidgin of an update to apologise for not having more frequent updates. I have been rather busy over the past few weekends and so haven't been able to get back to my parents gaff to do my updates. I've been following both Crewe and Nantwich's footballing exploits, bought a couple of rubbish CDs (Morrissey and Placebo, I'm looking at you), worked on a couple of projects and been to a couple of gigs. By the time I do my next update, I'll have seen some more football (including a trip to the FA Vase final with Nantwich Town), been to some more gigs and have moved house. Yes, two years after I came to stay with my sister "just till I get myself sorted", I've finally got myself sorted. Pop back mid-May to get all the news.
Sunday 5th March 2006
A quick splash and dash
Hey lookee here, I've not quite fallen off the Internet yet. Plenty of time for that to happen. Anyway, circumstances allow for an update slightly earlier than anticipated. I would have got round to it sooner, honest, but my weekends have been largely occupied with better things to do. No, really.
It's been a quiet start to the year on the gig front - I've only managed two so far. Mind you, both of them were crackers. First up was a trip up to Manchester to take in the psychedelic soft-rock of Robyn Hitchcock, backed by Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin. Comedy capers with trains from Crewe to Manchester (I had to go via Stoke!) meant that I got there a little later than planned and luckily missed the nu-folk sounds of support act 18th Day of May. I had a bit of fannying about to find the venue - the Academy 3 is located upstairs in the Manchester Unversity Students Union building and not the most accessible venue I've ever been to. Still, all the faffing about was swiftly forgotten once Robyn and the "boys" hit the stage. They were fantastic. True, I didn't recognise a lot of the early songs but then it is nearly twenty years since I last saw Hitchcock play live. It was a joy to hear a couple of Soft Boys numbers in there, especially as he was joined by former bandmate Morris Windsor who, despite his uncanny resemblance to John Sessions, does have a marvellous voice. I was slightly surprised they didn't throw in an REM cover but I didn't feel the set lacked anything anyway. After about an hour and a half and a blistering encore it was all over and I was left regretting not having booked to see him elswhere on his brief tour. I'll definitely have to keep an eye out for future appearances.
The second gig I went to was Nazareth at The Limelight in Crewe. I'll admit the hoary old Scottish rockers wouldn't normally be on top of my list of people to see but my sister's boyfriend is a bit of a fan so he got tickets. Having said that, I do know a couple of their songs and am especially fond of 'Broken Down Angel'. Well, we suffered a bit of the support band and then piled down the front for Nazareth. The Limelight itself isn't that big so we were quite close to the front. And yet, still quite close to the bar. Anyway, Nazareth were excellent. Like most bands their age there's only a couple of original members left - the singer and the bass player - but that doesn't really matter when the band are as tight as this. They played all the familiar songs (more than you'd expect), chucked in a couple of more recent ones, had a "comedy" moment when singer Dan McCafferty pretended to play the bagpipes and bought the house down with a rousing singalong of aforementioned 'Broken Down Angel' at the end of the encore. And, continuing the lookey-likey thing - the bass player (Pete Agnew) looks like comic actor Lionel Jeffries and singer Dan McCafferty looks a lot like Freddie Starr's dad. Still, if you get the chance to see these guys, don't miss out - top rocking entertainment.
Still things look like picking up on the gig front in the next couple of months - both Disarm (supporting Robin Black) and Hayseed Dixie are coming to the Limelight, as well as a Kraftwerk tribute band, the Nantwich Jazz and Blues Festival takes place over Easter, and I'm seeing Morrissey in Grimsby on Star Wars day (May the Fourth be with you). And in the summer there's UB40 in Delamere Forest and George Thorogood in Manchester to look forward to. And I might even get the time to make a few Civic gigs.
The other thing that has been taking up my time is football of various flavours. Mostly, of course, it's been the frustrations of watching perennial strugglers Crewe Alex. Following the depressing defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, I forewent the pleasure of seeing us dumped out of the FA Cup at Preston but decided to take my nephew, William, to his first ever away game at Derby. The journey there wasn't great but we did meet up with a couple of other Crewe fans (father and son, Paul and Luke (I think?)) so at least we both had someone to talk to. Which was just as well as Crewe managed as inept performance as I've seen for while and were thoroughly beaten 5-1. Mark Rivers had all the mobility of a rock and the rest of the team weren't much better. Still Vaughany did score an excellent consolation goal from about thirty yards out. Then there was the home game against Plymouth. The Alex were up against it virtually from the start when the referee awarded Plymouth a penalty in the second minute, for a foul only he saw. The ref, Mr D. Drysdale, was absolutely useless and it was no surprise to find later that Dean Windass of Bradford got a five game ban for abusing him after one game, or that Mike Newell of Luton made some particularly pointed criticism of the same ref after one game (Preston v Luton, I think). Anyway, Crewe battled but conceded a second just before half-time and left themselves with a mountain they couldn't climb. I skipped the Watford away match as the Battle of Nantwich re-enactment was on, and my old mate Davey Dole was in town for a few birthday beers. It was a routine 4-1 defeat for the Alex anyway. February started with an encouraging 4-3 defeat at home to Reading To be honest, Reading always looked to have another gear but becoming the first side to put three past the Championship leaders this season was no mean achivement. The side built on that with a solid performance away at Wolves, coming away with a point. I went to that but didn't take William, who was disappointed to miss out. On reflection I wish I'd taken him, but I was expecting another regulation thumping. Sadly, the momentum seemd to be lost against Ipswich on Valentines Day night. Despite taking the lead, the confidence seemed to evaporate once Ipswich equalised and then vanish completely when they took the lead. Another disappointing defeat, although a better performance than some, and we were rapidly going adrift at the foot of the table. Still, a home win against Brighton and solid point away at Sheffield United have narrowed the gap between us and Brighton to just two points. And we're now just seven points behind Sheffield Wednesday who are just above the relegation zone. It looks increasing likely that it'll be three of the bottom four that go down and as Crewe still have to play Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall at home, we've got every chance of pulling off a great escape. I still think we need to win all the remaining home games (Southampton, Coventry, Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff, Millwall), win at Hull and get some points at QPR, Preston, Crystal Palace and Leeds to do it, but it's not impossible. I'm taking it one game at a time though. If we don't beat The Saints next weekend, I think it'll start looking very difficult. Not that it looks like a stroll in the park right now, but the introduction of Madjid Bougherra seems to have strengthened up the defence and there's some decent competition for places in the midfield and up front. So maybe, we're going to have a decent run, for a change, and pull off another great escape. Just maybe...
With Preston managing to progress to the 5th round of the FA Cup, Crewe's game away at Preston was re-arranged leaving me and, indeed, every other Crewe fan with a blank Saturday. So what better way to spend that day than by actually supporting my true local team, Nantwich Town? Last time I went to see Nantwich play it cost me a quid to get in and a former schoolmate, Peter Prince, was turning out for them. That was about twenty years ago, maybe a bit less. Anyway, Nantwich were at home to Buxton in the 4th Round of the FA Vase. The kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes as an unexpectedly large (in terms of numbers not size) crowd turned up - mostly Crewe fans with nowt better to do (I certainly recognised a lot of the people there), although Buxton bought a large following. The attendance was considerably larger than the usual 90 or so who turn up week in, week out - 971, the official figure. There was a great atmosphere and the game had everything - good counter-attacking from Nantwich including a well-taken goal somewhat against the run of play, plenty of opportunities for Buxton including a missed penalty, and a host of rash challenges and late tackles as frustration crept in to the Buxton side. The tension finally boiled over about five minutes from time when the Nantwich chairman held on to the ball by the dugout, prompting a lot of pushing and shoving and a mass brawl as one of the Buxton players punched the chairman in the face. The guilty player was sent off, along with the Nantwich captain and chairman. Buxton threw everything forward but were denied by a last-minute goal-line clearance and Nantwich were through to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. And to make the day complete - I won a bottle of whisky in the half-time raffle! I'll definitely go again. In fact, I would have gone to the quarter-final game, against Pickering Town, yesterday but it was called off due to a frozen pitch, which is why I'm here. The tie is due to be played next weekend now and I suspect that with Crewe being at home on the Saturday, Nantwich will be pushing to get it played on the Sunday instead. I hope so, because I'll be able to make it, if that's the case.
The other football flava that's been occupying my time is my nephew's Under-9s team, The Knights. They play at the Crewe Alex Soccer Centre in Shavington on a Sunday afternoon. I've been to most games this season and have been impressed with the way that they've improved. Admittedly they've recently been playing teams a lot closer to their level, but they've only been playing together for about 18 months or so. Instead of losing on a regular basis they've now started winning on a regular basis, which is good. In fact, they were in with a chance of going top of their division this week depending on how other results went - the Knights won, but there are a couple of other teams on about the same points. I'll let you know when I find out.
And on a final football note - I took my sister, Liz, her boyfriend Roger and my nephew William up to Anfield on Wednesday night to watch England play Uruguay. Well, I met them there actually, but I paid for the tickets. Not being too familiar with Anfield I booked seats in the top tier of the Centenary stand. (Hey, last time I was there you could stand on the Kop!). I won't being doing that again, apart from the number of stairs we had to climb to get to the top tier, we had to climb loads more to our seats - we were five rows from the back. I nearly got a nosebleed, we were so high! And then William became afraid the stadium would collapse (he is only 8), so he wasn't enjoying the game that much. And was enjoying it even less when Uruguay scored. Fortunately, as you all know, Crouch and Cole (J) popped up with a couple of late goals to steal a win and send us home happy. Which was just as well because it took us ages to get home. Arriving at the car, we found the traffic all round was gridlocked and going nowhere fast. So we went to the chippy and then sat in the car eating our suppers and waiting for the roads to clear. Whilst we were waiting it started hailing, and then snowing, and within about ten minutes the ground was covered. We finally started out journey home at about 11pm (the match having finished around 10pm and it taking a while to get back to the car). It took more than an hour to get to the M62 and it was almost 1am when we got home. Can't say I felt like going to work when my alarm went off at 6.30 the following morning. I knew I should have booked that Thursday off...
And that's about it. Just time to let you know that I have since been in touch with my old mate Ben from Bushbaby (see entry below). He's confirmed that they've split up. He's now busy running his landscape gardening firm and setting up home but still finding time to play in a band. More on that when it transpires.
Once again, I'm sure I've forgotten something and I still haven't had chance to complete the two projects I was working on at Xmas - at this rate they'll be out of date - but you'll have to wait. I'm no closer to moving house and that now has to take priority. Once I've got a pad of my own and Internet access I can concentrate on the trivial stuff. That's enough for me - I'm off to get my tea and watch Antiques Roadshow... Oh yeah, I was going to say something about work but decided against it. Mainly because it's not that interesting.
Tip of the Day - If you're driving home later, don't forget to take your car.
Wednesday 4th January 2006
Digging the new breed
I've finally got round to doing some tidying up on the site. I've corrected one or two spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (although this post has probably introduced some new ones) and removed some of the old or broken links and added two new ones. So, it's farewell to the following:
- Bushbaby - not been updated for over a year and now seems permanently broken. Where are you, Benny?
- Pylon of the Month - another ghost site, which hasn't been updated for 5 years.
- Readers Sheds - we've all got the joke now, haven't we?
- Corrugated Iron Club - see Readers Sheds.
- Motorcycle Hearse - Likewise.
- Bizarre Magazine - As a mature, responsible adult, I'm sure I shouldn't be encouraging you to look at such filth. Especially not at work.
- lastfriday - finally got round to updating it to the Mexborough Civic site instead, although you should still read the forums to keep up with all the gig news.
And it's a big Hello to:
- Muzz - Under the guise of Andrew Timothy Novelist, my old mate Muzz has joined the blog world. Leave him a comment to encourage him to write more.
- Robyn Hitchcock - a welcome return to the psychedelic-pop pedlar, who I've ignored for too long.
- Miriam - my boss, so I'd better put a link here to stand any chance of a decent pay rise...
On the subject of links, I note, with some sadness, that V/VM Test Records are closing down. Sort of. Basically the guy behind it has had enough and is slowly downloading stuff from the archives for you, me and everybody to download. Some of it is bound to be unlistenable and some of it is bound to be brilliant. All of it will be free. Not sure if the chaps will be doing anymore gigs, but if they are try to get along to see them. Provided they're not in their Belgian New Beat incarnation...
New Year's resolutions - did you make any? I didn't. Mainly because I seem to have a lot left over from last year (and the year before) that I didn't seem to manage, so I thought I'd try recycling those - learn to drive, write a book, record some of my music, win the lottery, lose some weight, shag Kylie, appear on the front of the Daily Mail dressed in my mother's bridal veil, that sort of thing. So, in lieu of a list of things I have no more than a vague intention of doing, here, in no particular order, are my personal highs and lows of last year:
- REM at Hull KC Stadium - soaked to the skin, a few beers worse for wear, good company and probably the best of the performances I saw.
- The Fall on my 40th Birthday - A glorious shambles and yet somehow brilliant. Exactly what I wanted for my birthday.
- The Wedding Present, British Sea Power, The Tears at Leeds Festival - there were plenty of good things about the Leeds fest, but of the bands I targeted seeing these three were the best.
- Fiona joining MDS - it's always nice to help out a friend, especially when that friend can help you further your own agenda.
- Meeting up with Davey Dole - the kind of blessed coincidence I needed that night. I hadn't seen him for far too long.
- London getting the 2012 Olympics - I managed to miss the actual announcement but saw it "as live" in a hotel in Nottingham two hours later. I was so excited I nearly opened the mini-bar. Fantastic news and not just for London.
- Crewe at home to Coventry, last day of the season - needing a win to have any chance of staying up, we're a goal down at half-time and talking of trips to Hartlepool, Chesterfield and Port Vale. A dramatic turn around sees Higdon and Steve Jones scoring to preserve our Championship status. Cue the celebrations.
- The Pixies at Leeds - along with missing out on the "free" beer at the end of the riot, The Pixies were the biggest disappointment. I might have expected too much but, compared to their performance in Manchester the previous summer, there was too much guitar-wankery and not enough energy.
- Getting my face smashed in at lastfriday - wrong place, wrong time and no fault of the venue. It wasn't the assault that was disheartening but the Police's indifference. Still, at least I've got a nice, macho scar by my left eye. The more observant will have noticed I haven't been back since.
- Fiona leaving MDS - I never expected her to stay long but it was still a disappointment when she announced she had found a proper Technical Author role at proper wages. Especially at a time when I'm feeling particularly down about the job anyway. Still, I wish her all the best.
- Crewe losing at home to Preston - hard to pick one game out of a depressing string of results, but I have to say that this was the only one that almost got me leaving the ground at half-time.
So that was the year that was. This year there'll probably be more of the same music and football-related capers. I've already booked my first gig of the year - Robyn Hitchcock in Manchester at the end of January. I've got a spare ticket if anyone's interested. I thought either Charlie or Muzz might be interested but sadly neither of them are.
I try not to mention work on here, for several reasons. Firstly, it's work - everyone's got a job and has to suffer the minor irritations that go with that. Secondly, people from work read this blog, so I can't go slagging off my boss, Miriam, without her finding out. (Not that I would.) Thirdly, most of what happens at work is incredibly tedious and possibly only of interest to any other Technical Author who reads this (about half a dozen colleagues past and present). Come on now, how many people want to know why Javahelp looks crap or why DocBook is rubbish for doing Online Help? You do? Well, Javahelp looks crap because it uses Sun's own helpset viewer, the development of which appears to be bottom of Sun's priorities. You can, in some circumstances, use Oracle's helpset viewer instead but that's not much better. And if you have to produce Javahelp you'll already know that it's worth looking at something other than RoboHelp X5 as an authoring tool. As for DocBook, well, it's an XML schema designed for producing printed documentation. There's no fancy tri-pane layout available so whatever you write appears in a single pop-up with no navigation to and from other topics other than hyper-links. Also, without proper XML authoring tools and access to the schema you're pretty much working in the dark about how your work will look in the finished application. I might be doing it a disservice but from my experience, if a developer ever suggests using DocBook for Online Help in an application, you should slap him/her repeatedly round the face till they come up with a proper solution. Especially if you're working in a department where Dreamweaver 4 is considered cutting edge...
Anyway, the point of my mentioning work was not to fill you in on the finer points of JavaHelp or vent my spleen over DocBook. It was just to have a moan about some of the irritations of my job. The major one of which is the fact that despite being Technical Authors (a recognised industry job title) and being responsible for maintaining the Online Help, Release Notes and (nominally) User Guides, we still seem to have to justify our existence. Plus the fact that other departments are producing work which normally would be done by the Technical Authors. Still, this year I'm not letting that get to me. In fact, given the company's apparent lack of interest in printed documentation (except when the customer complains, of course), I'm beginning to think that we should move our focus away from that and towards providing updated and comprehensive Online Help to our end-users. Besides, experience delivering Help is a more marketable skill than font-fondling in Word or Framemaker, don't you think?
One of the other irritations of my job is that the IT department have recently installed St Bernard's iPrism web filtering solution, so that people can't "accidentally" surf onto a porn site. Or myspace.com, b3ta.com, wwe.com, or even, apparently, one of the knitting sites that my boss Miriam visits (although I think that might have been the one with the instructions on knitting your own sex toys...) Oh no, I've used the word 'sex' so I daresay this site will be blocked at work next. To be fair, if you try to access a blocked site you do get a page displayed that allows you to request access to that site but I doubt that many people actually ever use it. Why bother? Computer will probably say 'No'. I guess I'm just irritated by the fact it was introduced without announcement and that it blocks access to some of the more amusing/interesting sites I like. Still, it doesn't block access to the major timewasters like The BBC, or Crewe Alex, so I shouldn't really complain, should I?
As far as my little smashers, Crewe Alexandra, are concerned, 'tis probably best to draw a veil over 2005. A grand total of six wins in the calendar year, more than 100 goals conceded and in the bottom three for much of the time. Despite the woeful defence and the fact that none our regular strikers can hit a cow's backside with a banjo, I still can't help feeling that the current performances are somehow my fault. It had been 16 years last December (2004) since I'd had a season ticket and as soon as I bought one the team embarked on their worst run in that many years, if not more. Yes, I know that since I bought my ticket the club have sold their best striker, failed to strengthen the defence, signed half a dozen strikers who can't score and employed some bewildering tactics, but still part of me thinks it IS my fault. I'm almost tempted to send back my season ticket in the hope that the team's form will miraculously improve. What's even more frustrating for me is that once again we're not playing teams that are significantly better than us. Away from home it may be different but apart from Wolves, Sheffield United and Preston, there have been very few games where we were worse than the opposition. And yet, we've managed only three wins at home this season (Burnley, Luton and Leeds), drawn games we should have won (Leicester, Derby, Watford, Hull) and lost games where we should have got at least a point (Stoke, Norwich, QPR). Given another eleven points from those games the league position would look a lot healthier. Not safe by any means but at least in with a chance of being safe before the end of the season. As it is, we now have to win at least 8 of the remaining 18 games and get a few draws to have any chance of staying up. I thought there were 8 winnable games there, but yesterday's depressing defeat at Sheffield Wednesday was one of those. So, given current form, I'm not hopeful of actually getting those wins.
As you regular readers will know, I don't have a place to call my own at the moment. One of the advantages of living a rootless life is that I don't pay council tax at either of my nominal places of residences. One of the disadvantages is that I can't vote either. Nor can I update this site on a regular basis. Another disadvantage is that when I do make the occasional visit to South Yorkshire, I invariably spend large amounts of time uploading the various patches and updates for my computer that I've missed since my last visit. Normally, this is a tedious time-filling chore. This time, my anti-virus update killed my PC. On rebooting to complete the installation, the boot up stalled with a DOS message "While intializing device CONFIGMG" and that was as far as it got. I tried reboooting and got an interesting list of boot options, the only one that was of any use being the old Safe Mode. Sadly, in Safe Mode I couldn't connect to the Internet to try to diagnose my problem, so I ended up uninstalling my AV software. I had no problems booting up after that, except for a lack of Virus protection. Having had a quick scan of the old Interweb I noted that, unsurprisingly, I was not alone in having this problem. And nor had it arisen recently. So I was doubly chuffed that neither Microsoft or my AV provider had bothered to fix the problem. Or even warn me about it. Still, problem solved and my AV stuff is all up-to-date now.
And that's about all there is to tell. I had a fairly decent Xmas, thank you, although it was somewhat spoiled by having to go into work between Xmas and New Year. (Don't worry I'm not about to harp on about my holiday allowance being screwed, again). This year I mainly got useful or edible presents (the sort I like best) so won't be joining the e-Bay community anytime soon. My first priority this year is to move out of my sister's house. Where I move to will largely depend on whether I get offered another job (I interviewed for one just before Xmas), but move I will. Honest. And I was going to do a rather radical re-vamp to the site to include a couple of things I've been working on, but things haven't progressed as quickly as I wanted this week, so you're going to have to wait a bit longer for those. Sorry. See you all next time.