Tuesday 7th December
Anyway, as I was just saying, who is looking forward to the World Cup, hey? I bet England are going to do really well... Well, seven months have just flown by and once again I've made zero updates to the old webshite. Not that I haven't done stuff, although most of it is in the past now so totally irrelevant. However, in order to maintain my multiple web personae and to justify paying a fair few quid in hosting fees, I think I'll indulge meself, if you don't mind. So what have I been up to? Well, as mentioned in my previous quick and dirty post, I've started a new blog, specifically about football. Mind, if you've visited it recently, you might notice that I'm almost as good as keeping that up to date as I am this site... At least on Sick, Sorry and Sober, I have the deadline of games coming around so have some motivation to update on a regular basis. Admittedly, it hasn't quite lived up to my own expectations, but that's mainly because I haven't managed to do quite as many away trips as I was hoping to do. I'll try to do more post-Xmas but obviously, I've got Chrimbo to worry about first.
What else? Well, I've been playing around with my latest toy - a USB Cassette Converter. I talked about getting one ages ago but finally got round to blowing some cash on one. It's been a bit of a mixed success, to be honest. Firstly, I had to install iTunes in order to use it, which annoyed me, but at least I haven't had to actually set up an account. Secondly, the auto-detect function doesn't work reliably and if the gap between tracks is small, or a track has pauses in it, the software gets easily confused and you can end up with several tacks joined together or one track split into several parts. I had particular problems with the b-side of Kraftwerk's Autobahn album and both my Fugazi cassettes. Thirdly, despite my best efforts, I always seem to end up with 8 seconds or so of silence at the start of the first track on a tape. And fourthly, and the biggest annoyance of all, the software apparently saves the tracks with names and titles in iTunes, but behind the scenes, the tracks are all labelled 'tempxx.mp3' (where xx=a number). So I'll have to rename all the files if I want to make any use out of them other than play them on my PC. I have downloaded Audacity, which was free, to do that, but as I created a fair few tracks before I realised, it's quite a big job. One that, surprise, surprise, I haven't got round to yet. Anyway, once I've done all that, I can box up the cassettes and stick them in storage, so that I can repeat the entire tedious process when my PC dies... For all my moaning, I do now have a version of Johnny Burton's 'Polevault Man' that I can listen to on a regular basis, which is excellent.
I have also been doing some work with my guitar recording software. Have finally got to grips with recording something and then being able to record myself playing along to it. The results weren't a startling success, you'll be shocked to learn, but I am at at least now a tiny bit closer to recording something worthwhile, which is the ultimate goal. Still not quite managed the trick of keeping time with a drum track, but I couldn't manage that when I played in a proper band... Got a few days holiday left to take before the end of the year yet, so will be using them to continue my adventures in modern recording.
Talking of music, it was with some disappointment that I learned during the autumn that Sgt Wolfbanger had parted company with their lead singer. Not in a Beatles-stylee, where Dan started taking his bossy new Japanese girlfriend along to recordings and rehearsals and letting her interfere, irritating the rest of the band and causing rancorous resentment, but more in a Beautiful South-style gradual parting of the ways as one member of the band realised he wanted to go in a different direction to the rest. (Just for the record, as far as I'm aware Dan doesn't have a Japanese girlfriend, bossy or otherwise...) Anyway, Dan has got a new project on the go and was, last I heard, still looking for musicians to form a full band. The rest of the Wolfbangers are apparently going to be re-emerging under a new name. Keep your eyes peeled.
And talking of bands that no one should ever try copying (which I wasn't), I went away to Bridlington the other weekend to see the legendary Status Quo. I didn't go on my own but went with me old friends Kev and Stevie Stripe. Well, I say went with, but in reality we met up (and parted) at various points along the way. Steve decided to drive from his home near Rhyl and meet us in Bridlington, whereas I arranged to meet Kev in Hull for a couple of pre-match beers before taking the train to Brid. My journey was not without the usual complications - my direct train from Manchester to Hull was cancelled, so I had to go via Huddersfield and arrived at Hull a little later than planned. Still there was time for a few beers in our own private bar in the Royal Station Hotel. Alright, it wasn't our own private bar because there wasn't even a bar in the room, but there was just me and Kev in the Prince of Wales Bar. We had a couple of beers and then hopped on the train to meet Steve. We arrived to find that the forecast snow had actually arrived in Bridlington. As had Steve, who setting off early due to the warnings of poor weather, had had no trouble whatsoever and been waiting for us for a couple of hours... We waded through the snow to Steve's car and headed off to our accommodation. I'd found us a cheap apartment, thanks to laterooms.com, but wasn't expecting anything too spectacular. Well, we were pleasantly surprised. The Spa Holiday Apartments were pretty good. We had a lounge, dining room, kitchen and bedroom with en suite on the ground floor and a second bathroom and bedroom up the back stairs. All self-contained. Not that we made immediate use of the facilities, because we had a quick change and headed out for more beers and something to eat. Steve was keen to catch up on the drinking front and Kev and I were keen to re-visit some of the pubs we went to last time we were there. First stop for me and Steve was the New Inn, which was opposite MacD's, where Kev went for something to eat. The pub was empty apart from the camp barman and an old drunk (no, not me this time). It was, however, warm, cheap-ish and had a pool table. So we whiled away a couple of hours before staggering on. Won't bore you with too many details of the night's pub crawl, mainly because the details are somewhat hazy, but one thing that did stick in everyone's minds was the large variations in price of beer across the pubs of Brid. It wasn't a simple difference of a quid or so from pub to pub but in one pub we paid almost ten quid for three pints but an hour or so later we were paying just over five quid for a round. We ended the night in The Pavilion which, last time Kev and I went, had been full of tourists and had attractive go-go dancers. Out of season, it was hosting a pub quiz and not very lively. And cold. We finished up our beers there and slipped and slid back to our apartment. Saturday morning, we weren't really up and at them, but we didn't do too badly. Kev knocked us up an excellent fry-up to set us up for the day. After a bit of faffing about, we were off for a few gentle beers to while away the day before the Status Quo gig. We took a bit of a detour to the Spa, venue for the night's gig, to check that the band had managed to get through the snow. They had indeed, and we even saw Francis Rossi on the phone in an office. We also met a nutter in a combat jacket who had been hanging around waiting to get the band to autograph his Status Quo book. There was a hairy moment when we thought he might invite himself along to the pub with us, but luckily we managed to ditch him. Ironically though, if he'd tagged along he could have had a drink with the not-so-famous members of Status Quo like we did. Well, I say 'had a drink' and 'with' but in truth we just happened to be the only two groups in the lounge bar of The Albion at the same time. And we were too polite to actually talk to them. Anyway, after our pub crawl it was back to the apartments to pause for breath and to get changed. With the venue being only round the corner, we decided to dump the warm coats and stuff and risk the two minute slither in jumpers and t-shirts. Which was wise, as it was boiling inside the venue. Anyway, we missed the support band due to getting ale in the bar and, after some confusion, found our way downstairs and got a decent viewing position. And when Status Quo hit the stage, they didn't disappoint. Very entertaining. Played a mixture of the familiar and stuff that sounded familiar. Not sure I'd go and see them often, but I wouldn't object to going again. Unfortunately things went a bit downhill after the gig, quite literally. Kev went sliding over as he came out of the gig, and then I went base over apex on the way to the pub. No damage done in either case, except knocks to pride, of course. More drinks consumed and no falls on the way home, completed a very good day. There was more snow on Sunday morning, and after a reviving cup of tea, Steve decided to head off early in case things deteriorated. We had to give him a push to get him out of his parking space, but I assume he got home OK apart from that. Kev and I had a lunchtime train to catch, so wandered in to town for some brunch and a pint before going home. as you can see from the photos, there was considerable snow on the way home and our train to Doncaster was delayed by just enough time for us both to miss our connections. We spent a very cold hour on the station waiting for connections before the final parting of the ways. All in all, a good weekend, and pictures available on flickr in my Bridlington 2010 photoset.
Another thing on my To Do list was lose some weight/get fitter. Well, I'm delighted to announce that that bit of my plan is actually going quite well. I'm doing more walking and picking up the pace when I walk anywhere. Also, on a fairly regular basis, I go out for a long walk up around Bickerton Hills with my old friend Charlie. It's a good workout for me, a good work-out for Charlie's dog and, until last weekend, appeared to guarantee that Crewe would avoid defeat at home. Alongside the extra exercise I've tried to start eating a bit more healthily - more vegetables, less lard, that sort of thing. The overall result is that since the summer, I've lost about 17 pounds. Not an incredible amount but definitely a noticeable amount.
Finally, it will come be no surprise to you to learn that I've indulged my DVD habit fairly extensively over the last few months. I'll spare you the tedious blow-by-blow reviews, but here's as complete a list as I could come up with:
- Re-Animator - Classic 80s horror based on a HP Lovecraft short story. Mad scientist works out how to bring dead back to life, unfortunately the dead don't like it. And why would they? Surprisingly good although, obviously, it does have excellent source material to work with.
- League of Gentlemen Series 2 - Having got Series 1 and Series 3 (both cheap at the time I seem to recall) I thought I ought to complete the collection. Especially as I wanted to lend the DVDs to my nephew, Thought it probably best if he had all three series to watch.
- League Of Gentlemen Christmas special - Definitely completing the collection here, with the Christmas special issued between series 2 and 3. fills in a bit of backstory on some of the characters but probably not essential viewing.
- League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse - Post-series 3, the League of Gentlemen team venture into the world of film and find themselves at odds with their creations as the characters escape into the real world and confront them in order to force the team to carry on writing their adventures.
- Coogan's Run - Early sketch series in which Steve Coogan played a different character every week. Some hits (Paul Calf, Gareth Cheeseman, the Crump Brothers) and some misses (Ernest Moss, Mike Crystal, The Curator).
- Paranormal Activity - supposedly true horror film about a couple haunted by a poltergeist or something, who take to filming their house at night to see what's going on. Like you do. It all ends badly.
- Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle - The ever-excellent Stewart Lee's now not-so-recent six-show stint on BBC2, still available on DVD. Excellent, if you're a fan of dry, cutting sarcasm. Contains the punchline "A comprehensive study of its causes." I did feel slightly uncomfortable though when he suggested that no one needs a Planet of The Apes box set....
- I'm Alan Partridge, Series 1 - Steve Coogan's erstwhile TV chat show host, now working on Radio Norwich and living in the Linton Travel Tavern, but still dreaming of a return to television.
- Death Race 2000 - Another classic, this time from 1975. In a post-apocalyptic future, David Carradine and Sly Stallone, and assorted others compete in the Transcontinental Road Race, killing members of the general public and trying to avoid being killed by the anti-government rebels. Carradine, as the anti-hero Frankenstein, has his own agenda to stick to too.
- Funland - dark, comic thriller set in Blackpool. Actually, there's not much that is comic in it - it's mostly dark and slightly grim. Murder, incest, estranged families, blackmail, corruption, a mis-matched couple from Stoke and some very dysfunctional people all feature in this tale of cross and double-cross as several interested parties search for a valuable treasure hidden many years ago.
- Escape From New York - In a post-apocalyptic future Kurt Russell, as anti-hero Snake Plissken, must venture in to New York, to rescue US President, Donald Pleasance. Not the most difficult of assignments, you might think, apart from the small fact that New York has been turned into a giant prison-city and is home to the baddest, meanest criminals in America.
- Edge of Darkness - the original TV series with Bob Peck, NOT the crappy film version with Mel Gibson. Bob sets out to investigate the death of his daughter and uncovers a lot more than he bargained for. Top quality conspiracy theory stuff.
- White Noise: The Light - "sequel" to effective EVP-based horror 'White Noise' that has absolutely nothing to do with EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena - the recording of "phantom" voices on electronic equipment. Look it up.) and plenty to do with Near Death Experiences (NDE, look it up, again, that's what Wikipedia is for). Turns out that being able to save people's lives isn't as fun or rewarding as it's cracked up to be.
- Hammer House of Horror TV series - From the studio that bought you all them classic horror films between 1955 and 1980, also managed to churn out a few TV programmes for ITV in the early 80s. These were largely horror-based but with a twist (a bit like Tales of the Unexpected, the early ones anyway, that were written by Roald Dahl, and not the later ones that were totally obvious). They were also made on the cheap and so the same sets and locations appears in a number of these. All good fun, although very tame compared to today's horror films.
- Zombieland - Woody Harrelson and assorted others gang together to find sanctuary in an America plagued by a zombie apocalypse. They head off to an amusement park. It's a comedy.
- The Lost Boys - another classic from the 80s. Vampires, sibling rivalry, the Frog brothers, murder, death and a good dollop of humour. If you haven't seen this, you need to stay in more.
- Dead Snow - one of the other not-so-recent slew of zombie Nazi movies. This time set in that there Norway. A party of students head up into the mountains to celebrate the end of their exams (or something) and end up battling hordes of zombie Nazis. It doesn't go well.
- Spiderman: The Cartoon Series 1, 2 & 3 - we had a couple of competitions running at work during the World Cup and I managed to win the Prediction League and come second in the sweep, so scooped around forty quids. A large part of which I promptly blew on these old Spiderman cartoon DVDs, that were going for three quid each in Morrisons. I had a brief moment of doubt when I got home, thinking I may have been able to get them cheaper online, but I was OK - saved myself more than 50 quids compared to the online price. Woo! Hoo!
- The Hamiltons - Sold like it's the sort of torture porn you get in Hostel or Saw or something, but in fact, a limp disappointment of a film about a family of drifters who need to drink blood to survive, or something, and bore the tits off us before murdering a couple of local girls and moving on to the next town.
- Silent Running - Classic 70s sci-fi with an eco-friendly message. Bruce Dern stars as the man charged with preserving the last plants from Earth on their journey to Saturn. When ordered to destroy them, our Bruce rebels and comes up with a plan of his own. Only, back in the 70s Hollywood still allowed you to get away without a glib resolution and everyone living happily ever after...
- Starship Troopers - sadly not an extended version of Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip performing their one hit from 1978 ('I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper', fact fans, and available on youtube for all you dads out there...) but Paul Verhoeven's excellent 1997 sci-fi movie. Much more than the dumb space-war shoot'em-up I was expecting. And all the better for it.
- Benidorm - Series One - To be fair, for an ITV sitcom, it's not bad. In fact, it's quite good. Yes, the English abroad are an easy target, but you've got to make the characters and situation realistic. Plus, it's filmed on location. (Unlike, say, Duty Free which had implausible characters, unbelievable situations and was filmed almost entirely on a set in Leeds.) I was pleasantly surprised. Think I'll have to see if I can get the other two series now.
- Kick Ass - Last and by no means least, Kick Ass, Probably one of the lamest superheroes ever, but he gives it a go and soon starts making a difference. He attracts attention of both the good and bad kind and soon finds himself up to his neck in it. Luckily he manages to sort things out, save the day AND get the girl. Quality but, like re-Animator, had quality source material to start from.
As well as buying all that shit, I did do a few other things during the summer. I took my nephews on our annual pilgrimage to the Nantwich Show and International Cheese Festival. The weather was slightly better this year and the ground was drier. It still rained on us but the preceding weeks had seen less rain so the grounds were relatively firmer. There certainly wasn't the sort of slippy, slidey mud round the entrance there had been the previous year. And this year, I managed to buy my tickets before the day, saving myself a fair few quids. You can see some highlights of the day in my Nantwich Show 2010 photoset on Facebook. One of the other things I did was take in the the Nantwich Transport Festival. Plenty of cars on display during the day, but I photographed a lot of them the previous year, so limited myself this time to new or interesting exhibits. The obligatory Nantwich Transport Festival photoset is available on flickr. And while we're at it, I also took a few photos of Conisbrough Castle last time I was over there. Again, my nephews feature. Can't even remember what we were over there for - might have been a World Cup game or something. Anyhow, you can see the pictures in my Conisbrough castle photo album on Facebook. I did do a few other things over the summer - the annual family gathering, the MDS Rail Ale Trail outing, a trip to Grimsby and the Nantwich Beer Festival - but fortunately there aren't any pictures of those to annoy you with.
Er, and that's about it for now. I have bought some new (to me) albums recently, but I think I'll save them for my next update. Which should give me an incentive to do another update before I forget what I've bought. I'm also planning to go out on Saturday night and see Swim Into Scarlet for the first time in ages, so might include a review of them. Don't hold your breath though!
Quick and Dirty
Friday 1st October
Hello! Apologies to anyone who has accidentally clicked here as a result of my sponsorship of a race at the Crewe ASi race night this evening, because I haven't updated this site in ages. I'm trying to get round to a proper update but it's taking a while. In the meantime you can follow my latest musings about the state of Crewe Alexandra at Sick, Sorry and Sober.
Ostapazuzalum, that was the magic word
Saturday 5th June
Borag Thungg, Earthlets. It's been a while. at least this time I have a reasonable excuse. The untimely death of me mother kind of put a stop to most thoughts of fun and jollity, and even to updating this crappy website. Of course, death is inevitable - along with taxis it was one of Benjamin Franklin's two certainties (Mind, the cab companies of the 1700s must have been much more reliable than their modern counterparts because it's been my experience that there's no certainty about when a taxi may arrive...) - but it's never welcome and in this case was slightly unexpected as me mum had been making a decent recovery. Unfortunately, she had a setback, then stopped eating and finally caught pneumonia, which finished her off. I was with her at the end and she didn't seem to be in any pain, just slowly slipped away, which is how it happens with pneumonia. Have to say, I was a bit all over the place post-death but have been a bit more together since the funeral. Not that I've ever really been that together, obviously....
Anyway, amongst the more depressing stuff, there's also been some slightly less depressing stuff. Mostly watching my little smashers, Crewe Alexandra, who rounded off three seasons of disappointing under-performance by finishing in their lowest league position in almost 30 years. The season as a whole was one of consistent inconsistency. Having ditched Gudjon Thordarson after 10 league games, the board turned back to Dario to bring some stability to the ship. Which, to be fair, he did up to the turn of the year. Then, a disastrous team selection for a game at local rivals Macclesfield, knocked their confidence and thereafter the only thing consistent about the Alex was their inconsistency. Matters weren't helped by leading goal scorer, Calvin Zola, having a few weeks off, Byron Moore missing the last third of the season and Bailey and Schumacher bothing having spells on the sidelines, but then Crewe demonstrated their ability to shoot themselves in the foot by collapsing spectacularly at Morecambe on Good Friday. From 3-1 up and with Morecambe down to ten men, Crewe missed a penalty and slowly crumbled. They conceded a second goal three minutes from time and then two more in injury time to lose a game that they had been in control of at the 70 minute mark. That pretty much put the final nail in the coffin of the season and apart from a win at fierce rivals Port Vale and a thrashing of Accrington Stanley, there wasn't much else worth talking about. We finally finished 18th, which is the lowest finish we've ever managed under Dario. Although the football has been disappointing, there have been positives to take from the season. Our strikers have started to show signs of improvement, with Zola, Donaldson and Grant all notching double figures. Ashley Westwood and Matt Tootle have emerged from the background to become integral parts of the first team in their debut seasons. And Harry Davis made himself a regular on the bench despite still being part of the Academy. If, and it's a big IF, Dario can find us a decent centre half and a left back, we should be in good shape for a better challenge next season. That's what I hope anyway.
Haven't been out to watch much live music in the last couple of months, to be honest. Mostly due to depression, obviously, but also due to the fact that I seem to be a bit short of cash. hopefully that'll be sorted sooon, but more of that later. Anyway, the one gig I have attended was The Fall at Keele University. The gig was in support of their sparkling new album "Your Future, Our Clutter". Can't remember the name of the support band, unfortunately, but they were entertaingly diverting. And then The Fall hit the stage. You can never be sure what you're going to get but that night, they were brilliant. MES stalked the stage, apparently indifferent, constantly chewing, occasionally referring to lyric sheets and generally fiddling with onstage equipment. The band were rock solid and largely indulged MES' amp fiddling with grace and good humour. MES' apparent indifference thawed during 'Chino' when there was a brief attempt at stage diving from some of the younger, more enthusiastic members of the audience. From then on the gig went up a notch. MES lasted the whole set, extended 'I've Been Duped' with some keyboard fiddling and gave us a pumped-up encore of 'Sparta FC'. Top notch and thoroughly recommended.
It occurred to me, re-reading my last posts, that I haven't bored you with a list of the cheap-slash-rubbish DVDs that I've purchased in the last few months. I did say I was trying to avoid buying stuff but I just cannot help myself...
- Trumptonshire Boxset - every episode of Chigley, Trumpton and Camberwick Green in one handy box set. As attractive as that sounded when I bought it, I must admit I haven't got round to watching any of them yet.
- District 9 - quality apartheid analogy featuring insect-like aliens who, having crashed on Earth, can't get away. When the authorities decide to forcibly relocate them from their settlement, one man uncovers a secret that has far-reaching consequences for him and the aliens. Strangely moving.
- The Host - a strange mish-mash from South Korea. A mix of monster movie, horror story and thriller. A mutant beast from the sewer goes on the rampage and when one of it's victims turns out to still be alive, her family try to rescue her, despite the best efforts of the authorities.
- Dr Terrible's House of Horrible - Steve Coogan's delicious skewering of the worst excesses of the old Hammer House of Horror TV series of the 70s/80s. Six Hammer-style stories, each book-ended by a few words from Dr Terrible. Not a success when originally aired but worth seeking out if you can get it cheap, like I did.
- Planet Of The Apes Boxset - All the Apes movies you could wish for - Planet, Beneath, Escape From, Conquest Of and Battle For. Features plenty of appearances by Roddy McDowell (father of Andi, fact fans) who either had a monkey suit fetish or strangely never had any other work when the Apes guys came calling...
- Moon - much heralded feature directed by Duncan 'Son of Bowie' Jones. Features Sam Rockwell as a lonely worker of the dark side of the moon. Looking forward to going home at the end of his three year tour of duty, he has an accident that changes everything. Turns out he's not alone after all... If you haven't seen it, this is worth checking out.
- FM - the blurb "all six episodes the hilarious ITV2 comedy" on the back cover should really have told me what to expect. It's The IT Crowd, set in a radio staion with Chris O'Dowd playing the same character and boss Jen being replaced by boss Jane. The only difference is that the sidekick is now a bit of a stud and has a glamorous past, rather than being a total nerd. Oh, and that there notably fewer laughs in each episode of FM...
- Drag Me To Hell - Sam Raimi's horror flick, which is actually quite effective. It's a pity though, that you can spot the twist coming a mile off.
- Saw VI - the law of diminishing returns begins to strike the Saw franchise as I find myself not giving a toss about the set up, blase about the victims and ultimately irritated by the constant shoehorning in of flashbacks to connect the latest killer back to Jigsaw.
- Early Doors Series 1 & 2 - not a purchase but a gift from a top man. Proper character-based humour from Craig Cash and Phil Mealey. Set entirely in a pub in the Manchester area and featuring the regulars, staff and a couple of dodgy policemen. Doesn't rely on easy slapstick or clever wordplay and contains such warmth that only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved by it.
- Black Snake Moan - Samuel L Jackson definitely not ordering a black snake on his muthafuckin' moan. Here, he's a blues guitarist who scrapes the local bike off the road and helps her break her drug habit and find herself again by chaining her to a radiator... We've all done it, surely?
- In Bruges - Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as hitment holing up in Bruges after a botched job. Colin's not the touristy type, so he's not having a lot of fun. Brendan is the touristy type but his fun is spoiled by learning that he'll have to bump off Colin at some point. Colin starts having fun when he meets a lady (and, along the way, a racist dwarf) but Brendan's fun is severely curtailed when the boss show up to do the job himself. It all ends badly.
A couple of weekends ago my sister Liz and her hubby took part in the Weaver Wander. It's an annual event run by the Rotary Club which consists of a 100 mile round trip for classic and sports cars and also a static display of the same on the local park. Some people do just the Wander, some do just the display and some crazy foo's do both. Last year my sister took part in the static display and this year they did the Wander and the display. With the Wander starting from Nantwich town square, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to get my camera out and snap away. As a result there's about a 100 or so photos in this Weaver Wander photoset on flickr. Enjoy.
In work-related news, you'll no doubt be delighted to know that the Free Fridays are no more. And you'll doubtless to be unsurprised to learn that I managed to do precisely none of the things I imagined I do on my spare day. (Apart from the long lie-ins and slobbing around - I did plenty of that!) And that's disappointing, on the other hand, I'll be quite glad to have that missing 20% of my salary back. It'll mean I can afford to go out more than once a month AND should have money enough to buy important stuff - booze, my Crewe season ticket, them cheap and nasty DVDs that I've been missing out on... Although, obviously I should take care not to go mad come payday. As for the loss of the free day, well, now that the footy season is over, I've got Saturdays and Sundays mostly free till the beginning of August. And there's always the evenings to do stuff in, of course, and that's a lot more viable now that summer is here and I don't need to wear three jumpers, a pair of gloves and a woolly hat to keep warm in my house.... The only real drawback to the end of Free Fridays, apart from the end of the long lie-in obviously, is that I'll have to re-think all my holidays AND book a day off for this year's MDS Rail Ale Trail. Mind, I've not got many other days off booked, or indeed planned, between now and the end of the summer, so I'll probably hold on till the footy fixtures come out and then start booking days off around Crewe's away trips. Yes, I know. I'm a sad man.
Yvonne Sheila Lawrence
08/02/39 - 23/04/10
A montage of pictures of my mum, who died recently. Rest in peace mum.
I am brave, I persevere
Monday 5th April 2010
Alongside my Things to Do List I had planned to have 'Friday film festival' - spending the day catching up with a number of my DVDs that I haven't got round to watching yet. Sadly, circumstances have been against me for the last few weeks so those DVDs remain unwatched. In the meantime, of course, I've managed to acquire a few more and have some more on the way so the backlog is building up. At this rate I might have to take some extra days off just to get through them all!
I have, though, made a start on my 'To Do' list. You'll be pleased to know that I got my old PCs out and tried to get them to boot up. No joy with either, I'm afraid although I haven't got a keyboard or mouse for the older one so that probably doesn't help. I had spent a few hours trying to find them, gave up thinking I could use the ones from my newer broken PC and then found I couldn't. Arse. Not that it really matters - there's nothing I want on the older PC so I'll be trying to re-use as much of that as I can to get the newer one working... Having had a good shufty on the Net, I'm now prepared to try swapping out the power supply units when I next get a spare few hours. So if this update doesn't get posted you'll know I electrocuted myself in the process... Mind, I'm not sure when I'll next have a few spare hours. My weekends all look full between now and mid-May and I've got a few other things to do on my free Fridays at the moment (Film Fest, Jazz Fest, Day at The Races, washing, ironing, sleeping...). That said, I have also made some tentative steps in the re-design of my website. I've got a proper front page in the making and have worked out what I want on the site itself. so I haven't been totally slacking off. Honest.
Oh, and I have taken some tentative steps towards getting a bit fitter. Not only am I popping the old pills (see previous entry) but the fitness referral from my doc has come through and I've got a whole range of options to choose form - sessions in the gym, swimming, Tai Chi - but the one that appealed to me most was the "Sit and Be Fit" classes. Yep, sitting in a chair and moving a bit, that suits me! Mind you, the way my blood pressure is soaring, despite the pills, I don't think they'll even let me do that at the moment...
Talking of a day at the races, I'm no gambling man but, in preparation for the forthcoming works outing to Uttoxeter races, I followed the form at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and tipped a few horses. I only started on the second day and I didn't go as far as actually putting money on them. (I firmly believe you should only gamble with money you can afford to lose, and I can't afford to lose any at the moment.) Which was just as well because I would have been a fair few quids poorer by the end of the week. I didn't pick a single winner, managing only four placings out of the 22 horses I tipped. Even in the Gold Cup, which was meant to be a two-horse race, I couldn't pick the winner. Mind, at least I tipped Denman, rather than Kauto Star, who fell. It wasn't a particularly encouraging start to my new sideline as a tipster, but then I wasn't alone in not picking the winners - only the bookmakers went home with more money than they started with. (No change there!) Even so, I'll not be giving up the day job just yet.
Anybody who has been checking me out on Facebook will also know that me ma has given us all a bit of a scare recently. She ended up in hospital with what turned out to be fractured vertebrae. That's bad enough but, given the state she was in when she was admitted we were fearing the worst. As were the medical staff who put her through a whole heap of tests. She's on the mend now, although still in the hospital while they feed her up and get her back sorted. I have been over to see her a couple of times (a round trip of some 210 miles or so, fact fans) and, to be honest, it has been the first time in a while when I've regretted not being able to drive. Not because I've any great desire to see me mother, of course, but because I could have done some driving and saved my sister from having to do it all. Not that she'd have thanked me - IF I could drive I'd probably have a knackered old Land Rover or something equally uncomfortable!
Anyway, in order to take my mind off my poorly ma, I went to The Box last Friday night to see The Lockdown make a return to Crewe for a rare gig. They were ably supported by several assemblages of young things. There was one lot just finishing as we arrived, but I didn't hear enough of them to form an opinion. Can't remember who they were either, but I think they were All Is Falling. They were followed by another female-fronted band in Angel Range, who showed promise. They were pretty good, in fact. Then there was the quirky, slightly different Swim Into Scarlet, who have already come to the attention of the BBC. They started things off with an instrumental track, which I think is a neat idea - it confounds the expectations. They then gave us an interesting set, full of old skool indie riffing (notes of early Orange Juice) with some of the doom-laden angst you expect from teenagers. Nothing I saw changed my opinion from last time, that they could develop into something special. Last up, of course, were headliners The Lockdown, who sounded pretty good despite having only had one rehearsal. (Mind they have played these songs a few times - they ought to be able to do them in their sleep!) I may, of course, be slightly biased, but I did (once again) find myself wondering why these guys hadn't decided to give it a go full-time? They've certainly got the tunes and a year or so of hard gigging round the country, getting their faces and songs in front of more critical audiences, would do them the world of good.
And finally Jazz Fest. Or, as it's properly known, The Nantwich Jazz & Blues Music Festival. This year's event was the 14th and once again, seems to have been a big success, so far. I didn't get to see The Blockheads on the Friday night as I chose to go to Morecambe to watch Crewe (and the less said about that the better!). I didn't get out to see any of the bands on Saturday either, but joined the Easter Sunday throng for the traditional twenty minutes of queueing at the bars and toilets and occasionally seeing a live band. I did actually want to get to the White Horse to see the Salt City Jazzmen, who are still a fine trad-jazz act, but my companions refused to go, so I managed to get through the day without seeing any Jazz at all. In fact, all I saw were the rock covers band Mutha Humbucker, the acoustic warblings of Silken and my ex-colleague's blues band, Steamy Windows. It was a good day out, although considering I started at 1pm, the fact I was still awake and standing at 10.30 was something of a minor miracle. There are some more acts on today but I won't be seeing them as I'm off to watch my little smashers, Crewe, again, despite Friday's result.
...but at least my thyroid function tests were normal...
Saturday 27th February
Having had a few Free Fridays now, I ought to have done a bit more than a few web updates. Admittedly, the web updates did need doing, but I've not yet got round to doing any of the other things I thought I'd get round to doing. So I've made a little list, let none of them are missed. Now all I've got to do is make a list of places that I could have put that list, so I can find it and remind myself of the stupid things I said I'd do... No, not really. I was kind of hesitant about sharing the list though, if only because you chaps will keep reminding me about the things that I haven't done. (I seem to remember saying I was going to learn to drive a couple of years back, for example. Road users will be relieved to know that I haven't managed it...) Anyway, here it is - Jim's To Do List for 2010 or beyond...
- Win the Lottery Jackpot - Hey, who doesn't want to be rich? Well, to be honest, I don't really want a huge pile of cash. Enough to buy my own house would do me. Wait a minute, who am I kidding? Of course I want a huge pile of cash. I want to be rich, RICH, RICH!
- Record my music - obviously I'd actually like to win enough on the lottery to buy my own house and build a studio, but I've got enough gear now to get on with this anyway.
- Lose a bit of weight/get fitter - don't really want to lose the bulk but do acknowledge that I'd be better off replacing some of the blubber with a bit of muscle (see below). Not really considered how I'm going to do this but, given that I've got some free weights and a rowing machine, I do at least have some tools at my disposal. That said, last time I took the rowing machine out, it sank...
- Update website - it needs a bit of a re-design, I think and if I want to put my music stuff on it, it definitely needs switching about a bit. Need to get my Horror Film reviews section on the go too. I also need to ensure I come up with posts to keep the blog stuff going. I'm still likely to code it all by hand, so it'll take f-ing ages.
- Do more creative writing - not sure what, maybe some more terrible poetry or even some short stories. Or perhaps the long-awaited great comic novel.
- Update my CV - talking of creative writing... No plans to look for another job right at this moment but it pays to be prepared. It would be a straightforward job, not worth mentioning but the only electronic copies I know about are stuck on my broken PC. Luckily I found a couple of paper copies last night, so just have to go through the rigmarole of re-creating that in Word, and adding the details of my current job. Which I love and have no intention of leaving, obviously.
- Fix my broken PC - talking of broken PC... I think I can cobble together one working PC out of my two old ones, I just need to find the time and patience to give it a go. I also need to perfect my soldering skills (of which I have none) to repair the USB connector on my portable drive. I had a try before Christmas but it didn't go well - I actually had more succcess sticking it back together with Blu-Tack!
- Learn to drive - yeah, right!
Anyway, I swear my doctor is actually making me sicker. I went the other week and my blood pressure was high (160 over 110) and then later in the day I was struck down with vomiting and diarrhoea. I went back last week (having been sick all week) and my blood pressure was even higher (180 over 120, fact fans) and the results of my blood tests showed that I had high cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes! The only good news was that my thyroid functions appeared normal and my liver function tests showed an improvement. (Probably because I don't drink anywhere near as much as I used to!) So I'm on ACE inhibitors for the blood pressure, statins for the cholesterol and can look forward to some prescribed exercise. Woo hoo!
I have to confess that I bought Mojo magazine last month. Normally, I avoid buying it as it seems to be aimed at middle-aged men still desperately believing the 1970s were the best decade ever. But they lured me in with a free CD of various artistes covering the songs on Syd Barrett's 'The Madcap Laughs' album, an article about said album, an article on the recording of Captain Beefheart's 'Safe As Milk' album and a feature on Dr Feelgood. And once again I found myself conned. The cover CD has three decent covers on it - REM and Robyn Hitchcock (separately) doing 'Dark Globe' and Marc Almond doing 'Late Night'. The rest, well, the rest don't add anything to the orginals. Which is kind of a surprise given the album was mostly Syd and his guitar. In fact, some of them are pretty awful - I'll quite happily pay to never have to hear The Besnard Lakes' version of 'Love You' ever again. Luckily the article about the genesis of the original Madcap Laughs album, including a bit about the cover art, was pretty interesting. And the article on Dr Feelgood was worth reading. The Beefheart one less so. It was basically an extract from John 'Drumbo' French's book, and he clearly has an axe to grind. Anyway, given that you can still get The Madcap Laughs for only £4.98 from Amazon, I recommend it as being better value than shelling out £4.50 for Mojo's pee-poor cover CD. Heck, even £4.50's worth of Mojos are better value!
Still on a music tip, I made a rare trip out to see old faves, Sgt Wolfbanger at The Box t'other night. I might not have gone along, to be honest, as the credit crunch is biting hard, but I scooped a few quid on the Lottery. Not the jackpot, of course, but four numbers and enough for a couple of nights out. (Hey, even dwarves started out small.) I think there were four bands on the bill but by the time Jules and I had stopped chatting in the pub (I say "chatting" but really it was just Jules letting off steam about Cheshire East councillors, The Alex, and other general stuff) it was a quarter after nine so we missed the first band on. Apologies to you, Proud Proud People, I'm sure you were excellent. The second band on, Swim Into Scarlet, were all about 15, looked about 12, and were actually pretty good. They gave us a bit of an old skool indie sound with nods to Wire, Gang of Four and the like. With a little more practice and a bit more adventure they could develop into something special. The third band The Fears had a stadium-friendly sound - all big guitars, pounding rhythm section and epic vocals. It sounded slightly out of place in the tight confines of The Box, but if you closed your eyes and imagined yourself in a field somewhere it sounded perfect. Finally, Wolfbanger closed the night with another solid set. They even surprised us by chucking in a couple of new numbers, which fitted in seamlessly. And all too soon it was over. Another top notch night out. Might find time (and cash) for another one soon!
Paris is in India???
Sunday 31st January 2010
Books, glorious books. Something and something for cooling the blood. Or maybe not. Have to admit that I haven't really spent much time reading for the last year or so. There was always something more interesting on the Internet to grab my attention... Even when I couldn't watch the television (aerial troubles, compounded by the digital switchover, you really don't want to know) I didn't read much, preferring to waste my time on the Interweb. Anyway, I've acquired a few books recently so have started to read again. Well, I say 'read' but, to be honest, some these haven't been read so much as dipped in and out of at various times.
- The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown - Yep, the latest blockbuster from Dan Brown. Not a book I would have chosen for myself, obviously, but I was given it as a present by a dear friend, so I couldn't well refuse it. That said it turns out not to be as badly writtren as I was expecting. Yes, some of the prose is clunky and some of the expositional stuff is crudely levered in, but it's not a bad yarn for all that. Brown at least knows that the crucial thing in a thriller is to get you from A to B without giving away too much. This races through at breakneck pace, with all the action taking place in the space of about twenty-four hours. The trouble is that even at that speed things don't add up - the Masonic conspiracy theory, the dubious science, the convenience of some of the plot twists and the apparent incompetence of the CIA, for example. It's an OK read, but I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to get a copy.
- Liberty in the Age of Terror by A.C. Grayling - a fascinating and, at times, unsettling assemblage of Grayling's writings on the subject of civil liberites, highlighting how the State has eroded our freedoms in the name of the War on Terror. More importantly, Grayling explains why these freedoms are important and why we should not take their erosion lightly. Compelling reading.
- Our Times by A. N. Wilson - I have to say that, however witty the author may be, it's hard to feel comfortable reading a book which blames immigration for the disintegration of British society in it's preface. It's a shame because some of the points Wilson makes are both valid and amusing but one can't help feeling slightly distrustful of the basic premise of the book. In the end it seems that, like Morrissey, Wilson is pining for a lost Britain that never existed.
- Crewe And Its People by Jules Hornbrook - A bit of local colour from me old mucker, and author of crewe blog, Jules. Here he gives a potted history of several Crewe people, some of whom are famous and some of whom are well-known locally and some of whom just have interesting stories to tell. Yes, it is a "local book for local people", but it's also a good book for dipping in and out of. A perfect Toilet Book, in fact, if that's not too much information.
- American Flagg Vols 1 & 2 by Howard Chaykin - only books in the sense that they're compilations of Mr Chaykin's American Flagg comic books. Strange how time alters your perceptions. I thought these were a bit racy when I were a lad, now they seem a bit sad. 'Tis a simple tale of one lone man standing up against injustice. Standing up against injustice whilst also being irresistible to women... Clearly aimed at the adolescent me, rather than the mature (yeah, right) me.
- The Fallen by Dave Simpson - Journalist and uber-fan Simpson attempts to track down almost everybody who has ever played in The Fall. Given leader Mark E Smith's tendency to fall in and out with people fairly regularly, and the fact that some of those people haven't been heard of in twenty-plus years, it's a monumental task. In the end, Simpson doesn't quite manage to track down all 43 (at the time) ex-members of The Fall, but his travails in doing so make fascinating reading. If you've ever had any interest in The Fall, you should buy this book, although I'm sure MES would prefer you bought their latest album...
- Up Till Now by William Shatner - The Kirkster gives us a run-through of his life so far. And his co-author does us the favour of allowing Shatner to tell it in his own inimitable style. (Although it's probably best not to try to imagine Kirk reading it aloud - it might take too long with all those dramatic pauses!) To be fair, although Bill plays it coy when it comes to naming the leading ladies he's had dalliances with, he doesn't spare us the details of his failed marriages or the tragic death of his second wife, Nerine. Whether you enjoy this will, I guess, come down to how you feel about Shatner. I quite like him - he's demonstrated a rare ability to laugh at himself in later life - and think the book's a good read.
- Creeping Flesh - The Horror Fantasy Film Book Vol 1 - Another of the free books I received at Christmas. It's a labour-of-love guide to some of the forgotten delights of televisual and film horror. Covers such curios as the BBC's Ghost Story for Christmas series, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's ill-fated Hound of the Baskervilles film and Times-Square-schlock-film fanzine Sleazoid Express. It's another good book for dipping in and out of. (Yes, a Toilet Book.) And yes, there is a Vol 2 available, apparently. Might have to look out for that.
- Headpress Guide to the Counter Culture - A harsh critic might say of this one "Hey, guys, if you want to get in to the alternative scene, these are the books/films/comics/albums you should have lying around at your flat to make you look really hip." I'm not a harsh critic. It's interesting and probably worth a flick through just to see how much of the material covered in here you can claim to have read/watched. It is, in fact another Toilet Book. That makes three on this list, so perhaps I ought to put a bookshelf up in the bathroom? Mind, I'd have to do something about the condensation and the damp in there, if I did that...
Well, that's it for now. I'm afraid my plan to avoid buying cheap DVDs went out of the window and I've got a few more to watch. But I'll save them for the next update - I've got to get round to watching them all at some point!
Yours sincerely, Albert Einstein
Friday 22nd January 2010
Who says the blog is dead? Well, obviously mine was until I got my day off... It's the third of my non-working Fridays (not counting New Years Day, obviously) and already I've done a second update for the website. That's as many as I managed in the last six months of last year! Not that I should be feeling proud of that because I haven't managed to do any of the other things I was thinking I could on my free day. Admittedly, some of my plans have not been helped by the recent cold weather. Most of my first free Friday was spent shivering under a duvet on the sofa, watching telly and trying to keep warm. It was so cold, fact fans, that pipes INSIDE my house froze. And whilst I've become used to the condensation freezing on the inside of my windows during the winter (especially the North-facing ones) I wasn't expecting the deep coating of frost on the inside of my bathroom window which I hope you can see in this lovely photo.
And, before you say it, I do know that it gets cold in the winter, thank you. But this year it got a lot colder a lot earlier than usual. Last time we had any snow laying for this sort of length of time, I was still at school! And I don't remember school closing at the time. I think we got an afternoon off when the heating broke once, but there was none of this nonsense about conditions being dangerous. It's OK though, I'm not bitter...
Anyway, this week's tedious list covers my recent-ish music purchases. Given that I've not mentioned much in the way of music purchases in a good nine months, the definition of 'recent' must be taken fairly loosely.
- Microdisney: Daunt Square and Elsewhere - Absolute genius blend of West Coast guitars and biting vocals from the 1980s. I still don't understand why they weren't so much more successful. Radio-friendly tunes and intelligent lyrics should have made for a success but somehow didn't. Still, at least it means I don't have to share them with thousands of other people, I suppose... Anyhoo, this is a quality compilation covering fairly evenly everything up to and including penultimate LP 'Crooked Mile'. Final LP '39 Minutes' is a tad under-represented but then it wasn't particularly liked by the band themselves so I guess that's fair enough.
- The Fatima Mansions: Viva Dead Ponies - Upon the demise of Microdisney, lead singer Cathal Coughlan pitched up with this bunch. Unlike his former band, I can very much understand why they weren't hit- laden either. Less radio-friendly musically and darker lyrically, and difficult to pigeonhole, there was no easy way to sum them up or lump them in as part of a scene or movement. It's all quality stuff though. Well worth the effort of seeking out this 2CD re-release. The first CD contains the 'Viva Dead Ponies' and the second is a compilation drawn from other releases.
- Stump: The Complete Anthology - Another bunch of Irish mavericks who surfaced in the mid-to- late 80s and never achieved much commercial success. (Hhmm, seems to be a theme here...) Stump were never really likely to achieve great commercial success though, despite being a fantastic live act. They nearly got close to the Top 40 with the brilliant Charlton Heston but that was about as commercial as they got. Their combination of Beefheartian riffing and wry tales is not for everyone I think. This anthology covers their first EP, the mini-LP 'Quirk Out' the debut LP 'A Fierce Pancake' and a number of tracks recorded post-Pancake which might have made a second LP if they hadn't split up first.
- Snuff: Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other - A 2CD retrospective from 2005, covering just about the best of everything these loveable punk-popsters ever recorded (although no 'Bran Flakes' or my personal fave, 'Angles I-V') Conclusive proof that four chords and an ear for a tune is all you really need. Still occasionally gigging, apparently, so I might have to keep my eye out to see if they're doing anything near me.
- Chas 'n' Dave: Best Of - Gorblimey, guvnor, if it aint the kings of cockernee rockenroll, or rockney, to give it its proper name. All ver classix are 'ere - Gertcha, Rabbit, Margate, er, Snooker Loopy... Actually, it's all good fun and there's one or two surprises in there too.
- The Wurzels: The Finest 'arvest of - Not purchased in any expectation of classic tunes but merely for the novelty and to make sure I've got more material for any CDs I have to knock together for long car journeys with my sister and her family. That said the song 'I'll Never Get a Scrumpy Here' contains possible the greatest rhyme in all rock'n'roll - You never get surprises/Living in Devizes. Yeah, chew on that, Dylan.
- Linton Kwesi Johnson: Bass Culture - Back at the very end of the 70s, while I was still living in Walsall, I spent a lot of time at the Central Methodist Hall on a Thursday night, where they ran a 'youth' disco. I'm not sure my mum and dad approved, to be honest, but I'd be down there most weeks with my mate Daniel Lawson. It was there that I developed my taste for reggae and dub, which would dominate proceedings early doors till they switched to more chart-friendly disco stuff. When I moved to leafy Cheshire reggae was, unsurprisingly, thin on the ground, so when I came across LKJ's 'Di Black Petty Booshwah' single I snapped it up, despite having never heard anything else by him. It was great (I've still got it somewhere, I think) and Bass Culture is the album it came from. This is fantastic, politically charged dub poetry, backed by fine work from the legendary Dennis Bovell.
- Black Uhuru: The Dub Factor - Their 1980 LP 'Sinsemilla' was breaking during my final summer in Walsall and was considered the hottest thing of the day. I never really got to listen to it and still haven't got round to purchasing it, preferring instead to opt for this. It is an awesome dub album, produced by legends Sly and Robbie back in 1983. Probably best listened to whilst having a "smoke" it's still awesome stone cold sober. If you like this sort of thing, that is.
- Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost - Can't say I really remember hearing much Burning Spear back in the late 70s but I suppose I must have as I recall his name was dropped quite often. Still, here I got not only his classic 1975 LP, 'Marcus Garvey' but also the classic dub remix, 'Garveys Ghost'. Think I'm sorted for dub now.
- Pere Ubu: The Tenement Year - I was introduced to art-rock/no-wave stylings of Pere Ubu many years ago by my brother-in-law. I purchased their classic debut 'The Modern Dance' on cassette at some point, but never saw anything else by them, despite rumours of there being other albums. And then in 1987 this appeared, as if from nowhere. I didn't know they'd split up, then ended up sort of back together under a different name and decided to become Pere Ubu again. All I knew was that the band that had put out an album ten years ago suddenly had another out. I bought it and loved it. Favourites are probably 'George Had A Hat' and 'We Have the Technology'. This reissue has some bonus tracks which include another new fave in the shape of 'Postman Drove A Caddy'.
- Pere Ubu: Datapanik in Year Zero - At the same time as picking up the Tenement Year re-issue I picked up this box set which includes their early singles, all five studio albums up to 1982 (at which point they split) and a CD of odds and sods featuring various members of the group in their pre-Ubu guises. Well, the early stuff is good, the studio albums all have their moments, some more than others (obviously) and the odds and ends are interesting listening, so all in all I think I did quite well for the twelve quid I paid for this.
- Tom Waits/Crystal Gayle: One From The Heart soundtrack - Never thought I'd say this about a Tom Waits album, but I'm not sure I should have bought this. It's a re-issue of a CD I already own but has two additional tracks. The trouble is the two extra tracks aren't really worth the cost of the entire album. That said, the album itself is fantastic - top quality writing from Tom and lovely contrasting vocals from him and Crystal. These songs stand by themselves without the context of the film to support them. Just wish I'd thought to download the extra tracks and save myself a few quid...
- Various Artists: Now That's What I call Xmas - I think we should all have a Christmas album to listen to during the festive season and I got fed up of spinning Chas'n'Dave's Christmas Carols, so opted for this. Largely filled with your bona fide Christmas classics, there's enough here to keep you going in the kitchen while you're wrestling with the sprouts or trying to defrost the turkey. Hopefully you'll have managed those by the time you reach the slightly disappointing third and final disc...
Hhhmmm, having looked at that list I perhaps should have prefaced it as being my recent purchases of ancient music... Don't think I've bought anything that's been recorded in the 21st Century! Oh well. Never mind. Anyway, that's enough for this free Friday update. Next time I really will get round to talking about the books I've been reading. Honest.
You don't think you shine, but you do. But. You. Do.
Saturday 16th January 2010
Thought I'd get an update in before Christmas, but I never managed it. So anyway, what capers. What comedy capers. Since I was last with you, my company has had a round of redundancies. It's never a happy time when your company has to lose staff, especially as there wasn't much indication that this was coming. I wasn't one of the unlucky few this time round which, with my track record, was a pleasant surprise. A slightly less pleasant surprise was finding out a few weeks later that the company had taken me up on my proposal and that from the 1st january, I've been working a four day week. Part of me doesn't mind - I like the idea of a four day week, to be honest - but I'd rather still be getting paid the same amount of money. Still, it's better than working no days a week, I suppose and does serve me right for volunteering. Just got to make sure I use the days off to do all the other stuff I keep saying I'd do if only I had the time...
As if getting an extra day off every week wasn't enough excitement for me, I managed to lose my wallet. There wasn't much cash in it but it did have my bank card, credit card and Crewe Alex season ticket. Not to mention my lottery ticket... In an early morning stupor, I'd forgotten to put it back in my pocket after I bought my ticket on the train. (The 8.33 London Midland from Crewe to London Euston, fact fans.) I got off at Alsager and went to work but my wallet didn't. I realised I was wallet-less about fifteen minutes after I got off the train. Luckily, while I was panicking, my boss found me a number for London Midland and I was able to explain to James at Customer Services my predicament. He tracked the train to Stafford, made a phone call or two and rang me back to tell me the train manager had found my wallet and left it at Stafford for me to collect. Not only that but all my cards and cash were still in it. Thank feck for that! I borrowed some cash and hopped on next train to Stafford to be re-united with said wallet. I didn't know whether to jump for joy, cry with relief or punch myself in the face for being so stupid. I owe someone up there big time.
The problem with the sporadic updates is that I forget things. For example, whilst writing down stuff that I've done recently for this update, I remembered that I went to the cinema to see Funny People a while back. So much of a while back, in fact, that I should have included it in the last update. Anyway, luckily it's not a third entry in the Babs Streisand's Funny Girl/Funny Lady series, but a Judd Apatow comedy starring Adam Sandler. It was alright and not certainly not the dumb-fest of other Apatow films (Knocked Up, Zohan, etc). In fact, despite the laughs, it's a noticeably darker film than some of Apatow's others - neither lead character is particularly likeable and the shadow of death and unfulfilled lives hang over everything. It does have a lot of funny moments and funny lines but it's not one I'll be rushing out to get on DVD, to be honest. Unless it's going really cheap, of course.
More enjoyable as a cinematic treat was Sherlock Holmes. It's an enjoyable romp through Victorian London, starring Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law as Doctor Watson. It's directed by Guy Ritchie but is thankfully short of cockernee gangster-types. In fact, I didn't even realise it was Guy Ritchie film till I saw the credits. Anyway, it's a cracking movie even if it does take some liberties with Conan Doyle's most famous detective. Certainly anyone raised on Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett's iconic portrayals of Holmes will be gnashing their teeth but I think Downey does a good job and Law's Watson is much closer to the literary Watson than others have been. and there's two decent villains in the movie and a nice set up for any sequel. Definitely worth going to see.
Of course now, I'm on reduced wages, I'm either going to have to cut out the buying of cheap DVDs or buy stuff that's even cheaper that what I've been picking up recently. Either way, this is probably going to be the only list of DVDs I do this year, unless Morrisons/Amazon/HMV/whoever start knocking them out at 50p...
- Robobcop Trilogy - Ahead of the forthcoming "re-boot" of the franchise (which has recently been put on hold, hurrah!) I thought I'd re-acquaint myself with the originals. Easily summed up as the good first one, the surprisingly decent second one and the ludicrous third one in which RoboCop stops killing everybody, develops a social conscience and learns to fly...
- Leon - absolute classic starring Jean Reno as the titular hitman. Having reluctantly saved a young Natalie Portman from Gary Oldman's bent cop, who was gunning down the rest of her family at the time, Leon finds things spiral out of control as Natalie decides she wants to be a hitman and then tries to take revenge on Oldman. Thing end badly for Reno and Oldman, but at least Natalie lives to star in The Phantom Menace....
- Magicians - a Mitchell and Webb vehicle, in which they play their usual mis-matched characters who somehow get along together. This time the two play a magic double-act which falls apart after Mitchell accidentally kills his wife not long after catching her in flagrante delicto with Webb. A magic competiton brings them back in contact but can they reconcile their differences and work together to win the competition? Well, yes, sort of. The trouble with this is that it seems like an extended episode of their TV shows. I believe that David Mitchell has recently said he thought this film came tooearly for them, and he might be right. It's worth checking out though, but only if you can find it cheap, like I did.
- The Man With Two Brains - another classic, this time starring Steve Martin as brilliant brain surgeon Doctor Hfuhruhurr, who is married to manipulative goldigger, Kathleen Turner. Whilst visiting a fellow brainologist he meets and falls in love with the brain of Anne Uumellmahaye (voiced by Sissy Spacek, fact fans). Capers ensue as he tries to keep the romance secret from his wife and find a way of keeping Anne's brain alive. Top quality.
- Jerry Springer: The Opera - What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fucking fucking fuck? Classic 90s OTT skewering of Jerry Springer's televisual freak show. If you haven't seen this, you haven't lived.
- One From The Heart - Las Vegas provides the backdrop to this Francis Ford Coppola musical. Yes, the man who directed Apocalypse Now and the first two Godfather films also directed a musical. A musical which had a projected budget of 2 Million dollars, ending up costing 25 million and bankrupted Mr Coppola. Mind you, serves him right - he could have saved a fortune if he'd shot the film on location instead of building a mini version of Las Vegas in the studio... Anyhoo, it's a bittersweet love story, which has a fantastic soundtrack by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle. The film is not bad either.
- Hollow Man - Kevin Bacon stars in this re-working of the Invisible Man story. Full marks for the FX but not many marks for the plot, I'm afraid. It's the usual cobblers about the mad scientist experimenting on himself and turning madder. Tedious.
- Omen Pentology Box Set - More satanic child nonsense than you can shake a stick at. The original is a true horror classic, of course. The second one neglects the plot in favour of ramping up the gore, whilst the third neglects the gore in favour of ramping up the ludicrous dialogue and Gregorian chanting. The Box set also include the made-for-TV 4th film and the recent remake of the original. I've not got round to watching either of those yet.
- Hector's House - Classic 1960/70s kids TV featuring a hound, Hector, his partner ZaZa (a cat) and the next-door neighbour, Kiki the frog. This was, like Magic Roundabout, actually a French production that was adapted for British TV. Unlike the Roundabout, this one was fairly faithful to the French original. Every episode, ZaZa and Kiki take the mickey out of big, stupid, old Hector, leading him to invariably end the episode with "I'm a silly old Hector" or some variant thereof.
And that's your lot for this brief update. Next time (hopefully next week) I'll give you a proper run down on some of the music that I've bought recently and a rare glimpse into my reading habits. Well, I say habits, but the truth is, I don't actually read that much and have only recently started ploughing through a few books. I might also include some photos - I've got a load from Christmas that I haven't uploaded yet. Don't hold your breath though.