Monday, January 31, 2005

Car pound?

Another day, another stolen car dumped on my property...

This time however, the car is pretty much in one piece, has all it’s wheels intact and if it weren’t for the evidence of hot-wiring, the missing tax disc and the fact that it’s dumped on the parking space next to my garage one might never guess.

Within an hour of two of ringing the police, it disappears. Hopefully its owners reclaimed it and were pleased to have it back. So all ends well. Especially as this time there doesn’t appear to have been any damage to my fence or garage.

Real Music?

News from Stuart today, that he has a new mobile phone (Sony K700 - same as mine) and he has his main ringtone as the Crazy Frog.

I don’t get this fashion for ringtone gimmicks at all. Though clearly the companies selling Crazy Frog, Dancing Hippo, Sweety Chick or whatever is the fashion this week are making an absolute mint (I fear at the expense of those who are unaware quite what a simply text is signing them up for).

Surely with the more and more phones (including the K700) including MP3 players and hence allowing the users to add their own real music clips, the days of such services are numbered?

I raise this query with Stuart:

L: “But you can have real music as your ringtone”
S: “I know, my other ringtone is Natasha Beddingfield.”
L: “But you can have real music as your ringtone”
I suppose Sally would have Will Young…

Sunday, January 30, 2005


I've never been greatly tempted to pay out for satelite telly (it's painfully obvious I can watch quite enough crap without that helping hand!), but the one thing that could get me to reconsider would be 24.

I treated myself recently to the box-set of the first three series and having been sort of housebound of late I finally managed to watch series three, which never made it to terrestrial telly. A total return to form in my opinion.

However, no sooner am I basking in the pleasure of having caught up, then adverts for series 4 on Sky One start appearing everywhere. Also not helping on the covetting front is a work colleague who has downloaded episodes as they come out in the US (he's up to episode 7 now I think - bastard!).

And tonight, presumably in an attempt to hook in new customers, Sky are showing the opening episodes on a Freeview channel as well as Sky One.

Oh the dilemma. Do I watch and then suffer the pain of waiting months for the DVD to come out, or do I refuse to let myself get sucked in by this marketing ploy in any way, shape or form (and I'm adamantly not about to sign up for Sky)?

Ali rings at just the right moment; I set the VCR to record; I'll decide another day.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

I Predict a Riot

Well today’s blog entry should have been a glowing review of the NME Tour gig featuring the absolutely stunning line-up of Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Futureheads and The Killers.

It’s hard to imagine a line-up I would be more looking forward to seeing and reviews from the early dates of the tour suggest it will be an absolute riot of a night.

There’s one very large fly in the ointment though – I’m supposed to be going with Stewart.

After stressing all day and some very sage advice from Ali, I ring him to say I don’t think I can do this ‘friends’ thing. I’m too angry with him for what he’s done and every text, email or phone call just winds me up and gets me upset again.

Maybe I should be a better person and be able to make this easy for him, but I just can’t. Maybe if I was feeling physically well, I’d have more strength to deal with it all, but right now I can’t stand the thought of being in the same space as him. I can’t manage the fake smile and small talk that will be needed to get through the night.

The last thing I want is to ruin the night for him by getting upset at him and right now I can’t see a way that that is not going to happen.

He offers to not go, so that I can, but however much I want to go to the gig, I know Stewart wants to go as much if not more. I need to think about what I need, but I don’t want to be a complete cow in the process.

After talking it over with Phil, I come to a decision. I can’t do this ‘friends’ thing. Not yet at least.

I text Stewart to ask him to sell my ticket (shouldn’t be a problem they were apparently changing hands for £200 in Newcastle the other night!) and to stop contacting me in any way.

1 hour later he replies trying to persuade me into a different course of action. Part of me wants to scream “what bit of don’t text me ever again, was so hard to understand” and part of me knows he’s feeling guilty and trying to be ‘nice’. But enough. This ends now. It has to.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Back to work

Back in work today, but between the hacking cough and still feeling decidedly unwell, I’m not sure it's entirely a good idea.

Ah well at the very least I manage to do a first trawl through the 170+ emails that have accumulated in my few day’s absence, which will be one less thing to face on Monday.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Going Stir Crazy

Thankfully I'm starting to feel better at last. I’m at least managing to read and do some emails. I hate being ill so much, it’s good to be feeling on the mend.

Back to work tomorrow hopefully.

Paul’s so right about your world contracting when you’re unwell.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Beaten by the cap

There are days when the thin illusion of being an independent, functioning, human being gets shattered by the smallest of things.

Today I’m brought to my knees by the child-proof cap on my cough syrup.

Look I’m ill, I’m weak from hacking my lungs up…normally I have no problems with these things…but…this one…this sodding cap…it’s not like the usual ones…it mocks me.

I am not defeated however. I do eventually triumph. I just maybe cry a little in the process.

Monday, January 24, 2005

About a cough

Sadly after feeling better on Saturday, I seemed to relapse on Sunday and the hacking cough prevents any meaningful sleep.

Accordingly and very frustratingly I’m off work (I so don’t need this right now).

Tired. Aching. Miserable.

No Book Group for me tonight therefore. Up for discussion was Nick Hornby’s About a Boy, which I read again to refresh my memory. It might not be the greastest novel ever written, but it’s a very enjoyable read and will I’m sure have stimulated a good discussion.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

It was supposed to be so simple

I made it through the week (just), but whereas the cough and temperature are demanding a weekend in bed, first I must get the car through the MOT.

Fortunately I wake feeling considerably better and set off for the garage at 8am. The MOT and service shouldn’t have been much of an issue, but 5hrs and £450 later…

It seemed if anything could go wrong it did. I even got home to realise that the box containing my locking wheel nut key and spares had not been returned to the car; cue yet another trip to the other side of Stockport...

Worse still although the precious MOT certificate has been issued (albeit with the ‘wrong' date on – don’t ask) there are still things to be sorted and service items carried over to next time due to time constraints. Not what I needed.

After an afternoon recovering I made it out for a quick, early curry with Phil and Sarah who I haven’t seen so much of recently and then home to bed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

New Bloggers

Over the last few weeks I’ve added/updated links (see right) to a handful more Blogs that I check regularly.

These include some notable new additions to the growing family of Greenbelt bloggers. I’m particularly looking forward to following Chronicles Volume 2 (aka Oliver’s Travels).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Aviator

Based on the fascinating life of Howard Hughes, The Aviator is more captivating than your average biopic.

It's also a pretty long film, but there were only a couple of parts that felt like they needed a bit of tighter editing.

Most of the performances are noteworthy (with the odd exception) and although this is a fairly biased account of his life it does spotlight Hughes' genius as well as his now more legendary eccentricities.

On the subject of the latter though, I'm not sure the 'it's all his mother's fault' isn't just a little bit lazy.

Phil, Sarah and myself all agreed that the film is far better than the trailers suggested.

Whereas watching the trailer for Star Wars III - Return of the Sith, I can't help but feel that in this case the final product will no doubt fail to live up to the promise of the preview.

Shall we?

Well it seems like some festivals do ask the question!

Monday, January 17, 2005

I take M's advice and make a phone call first thing this morning. I'm dreading it, but it goes fantastically well. I get the result I need right now. Right now I can't deal with anything more and now I don't have to, it can wait until I'm ready.

I'm so relieved and can now put it out of my mind and try and start to sort out the huge pile of drawings that seem to have been reproducing on my desk since I was last in the office.

After a busy day at work I decide I’m too tired to cope with the supermarket, so I head home to an empty fridge with thoughts of getting some Chinese food delivered.

Before I can make the phone call, there is a ring at the doorbell and I find Sainsbury’s To You on my doorstep with a pile of bags for me that have been ordered by my dear and lovely old friend Ali.

As I unpack the various bags I discover bottles of wine, some Caffeine Free Diet Coke (she knows me so well) a Chinese Meal (incl Crispy Duck yum!), a Viennetta (in-joke…), a DVD, a face pack, some bubble bath and a bouquet of flowers.

All the ingredients for a girlie night in!

I’m straight on the phone to her, hardly able to talk for laughing and smiling. Ali has ME and lives in Hampshire with her Mum at the moment. She tells me she was frustrated she couldn’t be in Manchester to cheer me up and was thinking what she would have done if we were still living in the same city – if she can’t turn up on my doorstep, then internet ordering is the next best thing.

Of course one vital ingredient is missing, but apparently even Sainsbury’s can’t arrange for her to be delivered in a bag alongside everything else.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Back to Reality

The weekend seems to have flown past, but it was good being able to spend time with the folks and give Dad a bit of a hand looking after Mum.

Much as I adore Manchester, sometimes I wish I lived closer to London (the feeling usually passes after a few days there though!).

At Manchester Piccadilly I bump into an old acquaintance who I’ve lost touch with. It’s strained and awkward and I make my excuses and head for the taxi rank.

I get home to find a letter I’ve been dreading. It's more than I can deal with on top of everything else at the moment. A series of phone calls help me out - first the wonderful Caroline calms me down and cheers me up, then my Mum rings and adds further sympathetic, supportive stuff and then M rings with her typical no-nonsense 'this is how you deal with it' advice.

The result I go to bed completely calm and fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Birthday Meal

It’s Dad’s birthday this week, so we go out for lunch at the Rubbing House overlooking Epsom racecourse to toast his health.

Outside of trips to the medical centre, it’s the first time Mum has been out of the house since her fall the other week (her leg is the most amazing range of colours from bright red to purple and black). Getting her in and out the car and house is a struggle (more so than usual, which is saying something), but she’s determined to make it and she does.

As we eat looking out over rolling downs bathed in beautiful sunshine, thoughts of "that hollow would make a good amphitheatre style stage", "I wonder how close the nearest houses are" and "nightmare perimeter to secure mind" run through my head. Most people think of horses when they look at a racecourse, these days I think of festivals.

But we all see the world in our own way anyway as is very obvious when my father holds forth on what the latest fashions in female hairstyles is. When queried as to the source of this 'what’s hot, what’s not' knowledge, it becomes apparent that my father’s barometer for contemporary fashion trends is the various female news readers he sees on TV.

Some read Vogue, others consult iD Dad checks out the News at Ten

Friday, January 14, 2005

London Calling

I wasn’t feeling at all well this afternoon when I made it to Piccadilly to get the train south to London. If I hadn’t pre-ordered the train tickets I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

I’m finding it hard to feel fired up about Greenbelt or anything much right now and whilst I hope tonight’s brainstorming evening will re-ignite my enthusiasm, I trudge up the stairs from Moorgate tube with little energy.

Even before I make it to All Hallows though, I’m hailed by Esther and we walk along London Wall together catching up. Already my step starts to lighten.

Inside are more faces, many familiar. I find myself delighted to see person after person. Several, due mainly to this blog I guess, know that things with me ain’t so great right now. Their hugs and warm words mean so much. Once in a while you need someone to just walk up to you and say “you’re wonderful and he’s a c**t” without any care or regard for any details that might lend that statement of support somewhat less than true.

Sometimes when your self-esteem has taken a kicking you need that vote of completely biased confidence.

In the same way, this meeting every year somehow manages to get to me and wake up my heart for the festival. This year I didn’t think it possibly could. In fact when Nicky asked me if I’d act as scribe for the Site/Site Vibing stuff I jumped at the chance to duck out of the ideas stuff. What would I have to offer feeling like this?

Somewhere down the line though, the festival gets to me again. Suddenly the dreams coming from people’s lips are things I want to see put into action. Things I might even be prepared to move heaven and earth to see happen.

Never mind baguettes and bagels, I now want the whole site set out like a tree, with tethered hot-air balloon rides to provide punters with an aerial view of all the avenues and pathways, roadways and fire-breaks, venues and campsite that make up the myriad branches.

That wouldn’t be too hard to achieve would it?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

That old-style religous abuse

I don’t really do proper church any more. I find my church in different ways these days, conversations with friends, times of private reflection, going to the theology society talks, little pieces of ritual and remembering here and there, bits of Greenbelt through the year and once in a blue moon a trip to St Luke’s for safe community rooted Anglicanism at its best.

It’s been many a long year, sense I frequented to a more mainstream form of church, but part of me still misses the sense of belonging that came as part of the deal.

It was never a relationship destined to succeed though, I’ve always been too cynical, too questioning, too downright bolshy and problematic. I can remember as a teenager questioning in some small way, the attitude/behaviour of the ultra-controlling youth leaders and being told "L1z the problem with you is that you have a problem with ‘authority’".

I can remember thinking at the time: "no the ‘problem’ with me is that I don’t see that as being a problem".

But for all that, I sometimes miss the positives (and there were positives).

However should I ever be tempted to travel back to that foreign land, such feelings quickly pass when I come across some of the dodgy stuff again (recent discussions on a certain email forum being a case in point). With the knowledge and distance created by my history and journey, such clap-trap seems so completely ludicrous. To question something and be greeted with the response of "you seem scared" and "why are you denying God’s goodness" and so forth is just so strange and alien to me now. How does anyone fall for this stuff?

It’s beyond me.

Or more to the point perhaps, it’s behind me…and for that I’m truly thankful.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Return to the Punjab

At times like these having good friends means so much and going for a curry tonight with Karen and Stuart, I’m reminded how lucky I am to have so many fabulous people in my life.

It almost makes things OK and that’s quite an achievement right now…

Monday, January 10, 2005

Peakes and Depths

Only three of us at Book Group tonight and for the first time we can remember, none of us had finished the book. Maybe that isn’t too surprising given that Gormenghast is a pretty dense read and far from short.

Accordingly our literary debate was somewhat limited and soon gave way to general talk about life, the world and everything.

As it turned out, our restricted numbers turned out to be far from negative, providing an intimate atmosphere that allowed us to open up and share some really personal stuff, to have the kind of conversations that just aren’t possible in a bigger group.

Sometimes you need something like that to move individual relationships on, to turn them into something that potentially has life outside of the group or activity.

Which kind of justifies not leaving the bar until 12.30am on a school night...

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Should I be more offended?

Reading some of the polemic about the BBC's screening of Jerry Springer – The Opera last night, you’d imagine that this was the most disgusting and blasphemous production imaginable, so why watching it was I not offended?

Well first off the bad language just doesn’t push my buttons – I’m pretty immune. Besides the 3000+ count quoted by certain parties is somewhat misleading. If you have a chorus of 30 people doing that opera thing of repeating lines again and again (my theory – it’s the only way the audience can make out the words properly amongst all that vibrato thingy), it adds up real quick. Besides how would you accurately represent the Springer show without such language? Can opera singers mimic the bleep machine?

Or maybe it’s the subject matter that I’m supposed to find offensive?

Well the first act is a parody of the bizarre topics on the show, which I found pretty amusing. Maybe it’s childish to find operatic renditions of phrases like “my mum was my dad”, “chick with a dick” and “three-nippled cousin fucker” amusing, but hey…

I suppose the show’s second act is potentially more troubling, but I can’t help feeling that those foaming at the mouth are looking for offence. After all it is at the end of the day a portrayal of a shot and dying Springer’s hallucination of a descent into hell, where characters from the first act’s ‘show’ take on the roles in his hallucination. So his warm-up guy becomes the devil, the guy in a nappy transforms to a guy in a loin-cloth aka Jesus and so on. Some of the protesters seem to struggle with that dramatic device though. It didn't seem to me to be in anyway suggesting that the naapy wearing coprophiliac was Jesus, but rather in Jerry's hallucination that character get's transormed into playing the Jesus role. Ok so I don’t agree with the theology portrayed in that hallucination, but why would I?

The specific lines that seem to cause offence need their full context to be understood. For example the chorus aka the show audience, pass bitchy and disparaging comments about all the ‘guests’ on the show as they walk-on; so is the ‘muttered’ phrase “raped by an angel” really so extreme when ‘Mary’ is introduced? It’s not like no one has ever speculated before on the options for the source of Mary’s pregnancy. Some have suggested rape by Roman soldiers and even if you go with the option of conception by God there is something deeply unsettling about the message from the Angel as relayed in the gospel books, where the pregnancy is announced to Mary as a statement of fact (“you will”) rather than a gaining of consent (“will you?).

Nor are the writer’s of this show the first to portray Jesus as nicey-nice and slightly weak character. In the parlance of the Springer show that get’s translated to “he’s a bit gay”, but the intended meaning is I think the equivalent of “sandle-wearing, hippy, do-gooder”. Then again I personally don’t see what is so offensive about the possibility that Jesus might have been gay so even if you take the phrase to be an ‘accusation’ of homosexuality I’m afraid I’m still not offended.

Maybe the second act doesn’t portray the Christian God in a positive light, but that’s free speech for you. More than anything, it just seemed to drag a bit to me and I lost interest (maybe if I’d listened harder I’d have found myself more offended?). But from what I took in of it, it certainly didn’t seem to me to have the aim of deliberately denigrating people’s faith position, but was more a device for discussing some questions about the confessional chat-show phenomenon.

Maybe things like this do portray Christianity in a disfavourable light and maybe I should be more concerned about the cumulative effect that has on society’s view, but I can’t help thinking that the Mary Whitehouse brigade do the faith a greater disservice still in the way they carry on.

In honesty I probably have to confess that it’s my distaste for their stance and hyperbole that predisposes me to view Jerry Springer – The Opera in a favourable manner. I get suspicous about their motivations. Phrases such as "Moslems and Sikhs can complain about what offends them, why shouldn't Christians. After all, this used to be a Christian country!" seem to betray an agenda here, a regret of loss of power and influence, a reluctance to work at what it takes to be an integrated multi-cultural and multi-faith society. Why do I suspect they are also the first to complain "it's political correctness gone mad!". Maybe without them I would be more open minded and as a result more offended. In the meantime, "cover me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians".

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Salon

Those who know me will probably have worked out that I have a close and fruitful relationship with my hairdressers. Whilst finding time to get my hair done is often difficult, I value the time that I’m in there with my head covered in foil when there’s nothing to do but sit back, sip wine and relax.

It doesn’t hurt that they seem to cut the hair of many of the great and the good of Manchester and beyond (numerous rich and famous ex-Mancunions come back to get their hair done here) and so the gossip is always pretty good too.

Today, for the second time, I found myself sharing the salon with the lovely Abbott family. The name Paul Abbott may not mean anything to you immediately, but he’s one of my favourite TV drama writers (think Cracker, State of Play, Shameless and so on). Last time he was fitting in a quick cut before jetting off to meet with Spielberg and this time he needs a tidy up for the forthcoming ‘awards season’.

It’s a different world…

Friday, January 07, 2005

Where did the time go?

As Jo and I sit in the Punjab catching up, the realisation hit’s us that we’ve known each other now for over 11 years.

Whilst that in itself is a fairly daunting thought, its implication is even worse: we started work (post-graduation) more than 11 years ago.

How can that be true?


Do you ever get days when ‘real life’ seems to have taken a strange and unexpected turn and you start to wonder whether you might actually be dreaming?

After all the talk about Big Brother struggling to get A, B, C or even D list celebrities this time around, my expectations were low. Consequently, the arrival in the house last night of some lad out of Blazin’ Squad, Caprice et al was none too remarkable.

But amongst the scrapings of the celebrity bucket are some surprise gems; Germaine Greer (who you’ll not be stunned to hear I have a fair amount of time for) and that advert for narcotic abstinence, Bez (who just makes me smile).

Hmmm… my expectations have heightened considerably. I just hope they don’t get voted out first.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

TV dross

Is it me, or was there almost nothing decent on the telly over Christmas and New Year?

Baring a few exceptions like the Shameless and Smoking Room Christmas Specials there just wasn’t much worth watching. Have the schedulers just given up?

I mean just how many compilation shows of "the worst bits of 2004" do we need? Just how many times do we need to see a kiss and tell trollop bring off a pig?

Mind you I’m kind of amazed how Richard Curtis et al got away with the second Dibley thingy. I’d heard it had stuff about Make Poverty History on it so had taped it out of interest. It was basically one long advert. Good for them.

Schedule allowing, Sarah will be partaking in the March of the Dibley’s planned for a few weeks time in London. Having a hoard of angry female priests beating a path to your door, should make one think you’d hope…

Monday, January 03, 2005

Catch Up

Apologies for the lack of blogging over the Christmas Break. The combination of spending the entire period at various different points around the country and the general gloomy nature of the last few weeks didn’t make for good blogging conditions.

For once I’m just really glad that the period is over with.

However I will share with you some of the highlights (we’ll gloss over the pain and bitterness shall we?) and things that I do feel thankful for:

  • Spending quality time with my niece and nephew (worth having to sleep on the floor for!). Christmas Day wasn’t exactly the one planned, but being with family and seeing the kids get so excited opening presents etc was great. Boxing Day was even better as we played with their new toys all day (although apparently using Aunty L1z as a climbing frame is better fun most of the time).

  • Spending time with Mum and Dad. Even though it hurts like hell to see how bad Mum is with the MS and I felt I had no emotional energy to support them, it was still good to get some time with them. And no arguments the whole time (minor miracle in itself).

  • Calling in at Sally’s on the way back north and having a planned hour’s stop off turn into an overnight stay. Realising how much I love having friends like her and DC (who also popped round) and how good it is to be able to spend time together.

  • Finding out that how great so many of my friends are, from the simple messages of "we’re here for you" to the spending hours listening to me talking myself round and round in circles.

  • Being an emotional cripple and finding that friends still take your calls.

  • Despite the difficulties New Year in the Yorkshire Dales with friends new and old was good - even in the bleak weather the area is so beautiful.

Well it’s a new year and I’m starting to vaguely feel back on top of things.

Normal Service will be resuming any time now.