Thursday, December 23, 2004

Introducing Camp Reindeer

As a token nod to Christmas gaiety Camp Reindeer* has come out of hiding and into the lounge.

He earned his name from his glittery, fluffy, shiny-scarved nature, but I can’t help feeling it has unfortunate overtones of Guantanamo Bay.

*thanks to David, Sally and my team mates!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

We really must...

I don’t normally do New Year’s Resolutions, but maybe I should make a Christmas one?

Maybe I should commit to a 50% reduction in cards I write next year, that contain the phrase "we really must catch up in the coming year!"?

Of course the small print should make it clear that the reduction should be achieved in ‘real terms’ by improved performance in meeting up with friends through the year, rather than a reduction in cards written etc.

Mind you, in order to measure my success or otherwise, I’d obviously have to start a record of who I said what to this year.

That way spreadsheets lie.

Resolution abandoned.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Christmas Cards

I’m frantically trying to finish off the last of the Christmas cards and once again cursing myself for leaving it so late.

Of course one can perhaps be too organised in these matters. The other weekend I was stunned by the precision operation being run by my sister-in-law. The process had it’s own spreadsheet, with a full record of who they had sent cards to and who had sent cards to them stretching back over the past few years. It even recorded whether or not newsletters had been sent/received.

This data was the cue for decisions re who to send what. Frankly with the addition of a few algorithms the whole process could have been completely automated.

Maybe I have an irrational distrust of these Christmas newletters. It just seems so impersonal, strained and all too often so self-congratulatory. Very few seem to come off well, though I do have the soft spot for friends of mine who bring humour to the proceedings. A particular favourite from a few years ago started: “Five of the facts in this newsletter are complete fabrications…can you spot which ones?”.

So I won’t be doing a newsletter this year or any time soon.

I blog so I don’t have to.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Merchants and Unfortunate Events

The problem with splitting up with someone that you had so much in common with, is that all your favourite things have become tainted with memories. So where do you go to escape and take your mind off things?

This week the answer to that conundrum has been films. DVDs aplenty and two trips with Sarah to the cinema.

First off was The Merchant of Venice. A difficult Shakespeare play for the modern reader, but this film stays true to the original whilst also facing up to the issues of anti-Semitism relating to the character Shylock. Rather than brush over the ‘problems’, this adaptation faces up to them head on and skilfully adds simple snap shots that provide added perspectives and so question the most repugnant elements of the tale. All this it manages without undermining the strength of the original tale and the work as a whole. A fantastic film – well worth a viewing for Pacino's performance alone.

Lemony Snicket’s – A Series of Unfortunate Events, on the other hand, turns out not to be as good as you kind of hope it would be. Somehow it just doesn’t quite come to life and for the adult viewer is rather obvious and predictable. Jim Carrey excels as the evil Count Olaf, but it’s not enough to completely win me over.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Looks like we made it to the end...

It seems so ridiculous that when two people get on so well and are compatible in so many ways, you still can’t seem to sort out the baggage and issues that come with.

Still it seems that this is where we are.

Life sucks big time right now

Saturday, December 11, 2004


After the traumas of yesterday, a day with the family at my Aunt’s in Suffolk is just what I need. She lives in a unique and well one has to say quirky house in a small village.

Her occupation is the study of wildlife generally and deer in particular. Accordingly the main part of her 2.5 acres is made up of padocks for rescue deer (and their descendants) and presently 2 guest rare breed sheep (each the size of a small pony!).

When I was young and before my Uncle died so tragically, we’d spend weeks here helping out. In those days there were also chickens, ferrets, geese, ducks many more deer and my personal favourite Wilhelm the donkey.

For a kid growing up in the suburbs of London, this was a magical kingdom of strange attics and wild outdoors. My brother and I would help erect sheds, creosote donkey shelters, grind carrots, mend fences, cut back reed beds, collect eggs, swim in the river and above all spend hours exploring.

This is the first time my niece and nephew have visited. Like us they are growing up in a London suburb and whilst they number of animals may be somewhat reduced I see through their eyes that the wonder of this strange place lives on.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Day From Hell

When you pay year on year for emergency vehicle breakdown cover, it’s reasonable to expect that should you ever breakdown (as I did at midnight last night) a simple call to a phone number should be all that is needed to get help dispatched.

What you don’t need is to be greeted with the information that according to the computer your policy expired in 2003, despite the fact that you know you have renewed it twice since.

Eventually they agree to send someone out, provided I underwrite the fee on a credit card. Having just come from a gig I don’t however have one on me; fortunately Stewart comes to the rescue. Not the ideal way to cap off a difficult evening with some fairly serious post-gig heart-to-heart discussions.

One jump-start later however, I’m finally on my way (the long way around the M60 to try and charge up the battery). When I get in, I dig out the paper work and there sure enough are my renewal docs.

Fortunately I’m on leave today to get the burglar alarm serviced and then set off around lunch time down to Suffolk for a family weekend. Accordingly after just a few hours sleep I’m up ready for the service person to call and whilst I wait I get on to the insurers about the breakdown cover. It transpires that the system has one digit wrong on my registration number, but why the policy number didn’t do the trick remains a mystery. I await the manager’s call back…

I spend the rest of the morning getting the alarm serviced, packing a bag, wrapping presents and ringing around trying to find a garage who has the new car battery I need in stock.

By noon, still not having heard back from the breakdown people, I head over to Rusholme and pick up a new battery for the car (at least one thing goes right today!).

Sat in the reception area I go to check my mobile to see if the breakdown people have rung yet. That would be the phone that I’m sure I put in my bag before heading out. That would be the phone that is clearly not now in my bag. Or the car.

I get home and tear the house up searching. I ring and ring, but nothing.

I exasperated beyond belief I give up and call Orange to get it barred. Fortunately I have insurance so they will send a new phone out in the morning (not ideal as I’ve got a long drive ahead – let’s hope the new battery solves the problem eh?). However to get a new phone ordered, I first need a Lost Property Number from the police.

After about 15 mins I eventually get through to the police, who take a message and tell me someone will ring me back in a few minutes.

Half an hour later, nothing. I spend a further 10 mins getting back through to them to be told I have to come in, in person to complete the form. Why this can’t be done over the phone is a mystery as is why they couldn’t tell me this 40 minutes ago!

I give in and head out to the car (praying it will start). At this point it occurs to me that the one place I haven’t ‘tracked-back’ is my garage. I nearly don’t bother, but figure for completeness… I open the door and… sure enough, there on the cold wet floor is my phone. Cold and somewhat scratched, but working (well apart from being barred!).

Jubilant I ring Orange back who very efficiently check my security codes and set the process in place to remove the barr.

I try to ring the police to tell them I won’t now be coming in, but after another 10 mins trying to get through I give up and with the time now approaching 4.30pm I eventually head off to Suffolk.

I never want a day like that again.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


photos to follow...

I suppose if you’re going to steal 80% of your stage-act from Ian Brown, then it’s only reasonable that you dedicate at least one song to the man when playing his home town. Of course it could be argued that the Ian Brown crucifixion pose owes a rather impressive and lofty namecheck itself.

The influences permeate the music as much as the style of performance and were Kasabian to go down the road of name-checking every artist whose influence can be seen clearly in their work, then we could be in for a long night. The music is hugely derivative, but with songs of the quality of those on their first album, this is instantly forgivable.

This is clearly a band on the way up and the faith and backing of the record company can perhaps be measured by the sheer extravagance of the lighting rigs. The stage is expertly lit from pretty much every imaginable angle and the backdrop is a series of impressive rigs from top to toe – all used to full effect.

Initially this adds to the impact of the occasion, but as the night wears on the brilliance of the lighting starts to overshadow the performance somewhat.

Sadly Stewart’s work commitments prevent us from attending the rather tempting aftershow party being DJed by Mani.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Amazing what you find on t'internet

Hit number one when you uk google donner kebab.

None of which is inspiring me to break my vow of abstinence... What you've never had, you'll never miss.

Trying to be nice...

Today I was late leaving the office and by the time I’ve called in at Toys R Us to pick up the last of the Christmas presents for my niece and nephew (spent far too much as ever!), it’s nearly 9pm. Sitting in the car park waiting for the windows to de-ice, I phone Stewart who by the sound of his recent texts is having an even more stressful work time than me.

Unsurprisingly he’s still in the office and he fills me in on the nightmares that have unfolded at his work. He sounds so miserable. It’s a horrible situation, he’s stressed beyond belief and feels he has to work every waking hour he can for the foreseeable future preparing for meetings with lawyers and so forth. Tonight he’ll work until gone 11pm and tomorrow he’ll leave work at 9pm come to the gig with me and then go back to work.

I tell him that this is ridiculous and he’ll make himself ill working like this. His response is that this is his job, his responsibility. I argue back that this is BS, he’s not employed to work 14hr days, day on day on day, jeopardise his health and have no personal life. I also try to get him to see that however personal it feels, this person is taking legal action against the organisation, not him.

As ever I feel my words fall on deaf ears.

I head wearily home and the thought of cooking is too much, so I pop into Paradise for a lovely chicken shish kebab (grilled meat, salad, fresh bread – it’s almost healthy!). I’m worried about Stewart who not only won’t have paused from working since first thing, but in typical fashion will not have eaten a thing. So, on the spur of the moment I decide to try and cheer him up by dropping off his favourite donner (ugh!) kebab at his office for him. Meals on wheels if you like.

Taking kebabs to Rusholme feels a bit like taking coals to Newcastle. Worryingly when I get to his office the building looks ominously closed up and dark. You see this is why I don’t do spontaneous!

There’s no answer from his work line or his mobile and so I leave a message and start to head home (trying to ignore the demon of distrust in my head that says "working late eh?"). I haven’t gone more than 200 yards when he calls back very clearly from a train.

As it turns out, it seems my earlier phone call has proved the catalyst for him saying "f**k it" and rushing to catch the earlier train home.

Boy do I feel stupid now!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Monday, December 06, 2004


As feared the council had told M that they would be unable to take any measures to prevent the ‘neighbour from hell’ having access to the building, until such time as there was a successful prosecution etc.

Given that the guy was still coming and going at all hours (never staying long enough for the police to catch up with him) this is hardly a satisfactory situation. M and her other neighbours feel decidedly unsafe. M is back on the rehousing list, but is determined not to let him win and intimidate her. At time’s like this I remember what a tough cookie she is, I guess compared to torture and murder this is small fry. I also had to laugh when she related her surprise when the police ask whether or not she would be prepared to give evidence – particularly in light of his family already having been around to harass her. However, if the toerag was hoping he’d picked on someone who would be too intimidated to fight for justice, he so chose the person with the wrong back story!

However the problem of him still having access to the building remains. Our one hope, is that given he is just out of prison, he’s probably on licence and so if/when the police catch up with him, he’s likely to be straight back into custody.

Once again though, M shows her true colours. Not content to sit back, she organises a petition from all the neighbours in the 2 sets of flats and one way or another his flat is now boarded up and appears the council have found a way to speed things up.

You so wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of M - a force to be reckoned with!


The subject for tonight’s book group is Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf.

Sadly I had simply not had the time to get more than halfway through; this was more than some and less than others in the group, only two of our number having reached the end.

The consensus was that this was largely due to this being a book that demands one’s complete focus; not one to attempt after a long days work in an attempt to complete it by a deadline. Steppenwolf is an intense, at times profound read and is unwaveringly earnest. Which is not to say that it is not accomplished of deeply interesting, it is certainly both, but one has to work at it.

Accordingly it sparked some fascinating conversations tonight about the nature of identity, how to live and the pursuit of spiritual goals, but there was general agreement that this was not a book that one derives direct pleasure in the reading of. In contrast to works such as Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Camus’ The Outsider or even some of Hesse’s other titles such as Siddhartha, this is a dry and overly earnest examination of its weighty themes and consequently something of a disappointment.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Reality Shows Up

I know it won’t be a popular opinion, but I like Janet Street-Porter (here's some of the reasons!) and I’m sorry to see her voted off I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (yeah I watch it – so sue me!).

Paul Burrell had risen slightly in my opinions, and one has to admit he’s value for money in a Bush Tucker Trial, but his rather transparent manipulation of the memory of Princess Diana in his final night plea for votes, sends him way back down the respect list.

Yeah I know, I should get a life...

Trouble is 'real' reality, as opposed to that in the shows, is often so unappealing. Half-eleven at night and my mobile rings. M tells me that she was broken into again today. They took virtually everything including what she had managed to replace from last time. This is increasingly bizarre – I mean who steals a loo-brush?

The answer may it seems have been uncovered rather close to home as the police apparently recovered 90% of her stuff from a neighbouring flat (the resident having in the process done a bunk out the back window).

He’s still at large, but M doesn’t think he’ll be back.

If it was him, it would certainly explain how the perpetrator has both times, known she was out and got past the communal front entry security. M thinks the council will negate his pass key in the morning.

As Stewart and I talk afterwards though we share the fear that the council will have to follow standard eviction proceedings, which could I guess mean waiting for a conviction. What happens in the meantime is anyone’s guess.

I don’t want to worry M unduly, but at the same time, I want her to be safe.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

So in the good books!

The ear is still a bit painful in cold weather, so I opt for a day at home.

Stewart heads over to mine mid-morning, armed (of his own accord!) with a bunch of flowers, some scrummy pain au chocolat, bacon and a fresh loaf.

As I tend to the flowers, not a bad first effort from a man who has never, ever purchased flowers before (S: "I don’t see the point in flowers, they just die...", L: "sweetheart, giving isn’t about you!"), he does all the cooking and as we settle down to a brunch of warm pastry and bacon sarnies, he produces the piece de resistance: a copy of Monsters Inc, which he knows I haven’t seen. Apparently he even listens to me!

It’s the perfect film for a lazy day and the short pre-film For the Birds is hilarious - definitely gives Boundin' a run for it's money.

A blissful way to spend the day and there doesn’t even appear to be an ulterior motive...

Friday, December 03, 2004

Yeah, but no, but yeah...

My energy and finance levels aren’t fit for a big night out, so Jo and I settle for a curry at the Punjab (where else).

Jo persuades me to join the gang in getting tickets for Little Britain.

I don’t know how she managed it really; I’d already decided against when the first wave of dates came out for November 05. It seems crazy buying tickets (which aren’t cheap) so far in advance.

So many risks: will I still find them funny in a year’s time, will I still be friends with the people I’m buying tickets with, will I still be living in this city/country etc. I find it way too hard to think sensibly that far ahead.

It seems however that sufficient numbers of people either don’t share my reservations or else have overcome them as the first wave of dates have sold out. The new dates that Jo is referring to are in February 06!

How did I get talked into saying yes?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A Better World?

In the foreword to The Rough Guide to a Better World (and How You Can Make a Difference), Bob Geldof states:

"I said back in the 80s that to die of want in a world of surplus was not only intellectually absurd but equally morally repulsive. That still pertains. We will always have those doing better than others. That’s normal and good for them. What we don’t always have to have is rules, language, laws, treaties and ideas with inbuilt bias towards our successful selves to their cost. That’s not right and it need not be so. The cost of our success must not be misery of others. Indeed it has been shown over and over that it is clearly to our benefit to have healthy, free, educated partners."
That seems to sum it up quite nicely.

For your free copy of the booklet, head to your local post-office, or if like me that’s easier said than done, you can get an electronic copy on-line here. It’s good stuff.

I’m quite impressed that the Department for International Development has funded this. It may not be a searing indictment of government policy, but it doesn’t entirely pull the political punch either.

This could be the second thing this week to restore a little bit of my faith in the Blair government (and trust me it’s way down right now). If nothing else it makes me realise how much worse a Howard adminstration would undoubtedly be.

The second thing? Well, I may not want babies myself (indeed if I’m honest I probably may not want anyone to have babies!), but accepting that some people do (and it is I accept, kind of necessary for the prolongation of the human race, though whether that in itself is a good idea is a whole other matter!), I certainly think we need to make it possible for people to do so properly and as a society ensure that people aren’t discriminated against in the workplace as a result.

So three cheers for Gordon Brown’s proposal to up maternity leave and improve child friendly polices. It’s a start at least.

Of course it’ll still be a long while before employers really get their heads around being family friendly as my male colleague currently trying to negotiate a move to part-time work to accommodate child care is finding out. Attitudes like “you can’t have a client facing role” seem so intransigent – especially when your primary client is far ahead in this game and a good proportion of their staff work part-time themselves. It’s funny but somehow we seem to be able to manage the concept that Susan doesn’t work Friday and Fred only works 10am – 3pm.

It’s not rocket science…