Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Mrs Henderson Presents is pretty much everything you would hope from a comedy drama featuring Bob Hoskins and Judy Dench.
It’s not a film to change the world and it lacks a punchy ending but it passes the evening pleasantly enough for P, S and myself; a nice tale and some quality one-liners.
And let’s face it no one can say “oh do buzz-orrff!” in an upper class accent in quite the same way as Dame Judi can.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Friday, November 25, 2005
Sometimes you need to take a moment.
A time to reflect, to remember, to mark your cares.
Thanks to Maggi, for the link to this excellent site...the candle lighting is just that little bit more interractively satisfying than vurch.com 's prayer wall.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Often enough I have a winge about crap advertising, so in a break from my Grinch like norm, can I record how fab the Sony Bravia ad featuring thousands of colourful bouncing balls is.
Most impressive of all, apparently they really did fire 250,000 multi-coloured balls down streets in San Francisco and no CGI was used. The effect is mesmirisingly beautiful.
You can view the advert on Sony's website. Play it through and you'll also then find an option to view an extended 2 minute version, which also gives a better idea of the scale of the operation.
Occasionally, very occasionally, adverts can be art.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Sally’s blog records that the fun didn’t end there and their little whirly-gig of chaos continued down into Derbyshire and beyond. You may find the theme tune to Benny Hill starts playing in your head by the end of the tale…
In contrast I scurry off to the site and spend the morning surveying small settlements in Yorkshire. It’s a stunning morning, very cold, but bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine.
Which makes it all the more surprising when 20 minutes into my commute back to the office I hit this:
One minute sunglasses on, next minute can’t see your hand in front of your face.
And so the trauma begins.
A huge crash on the M6 means the southbound carriageway is closed around jn26, the queues that result form a ripple effect back up the motorway as crash after crash occurs as people pile into the back of the stationery traffic.
Traffic reports tell of a second full closure, so I take the advice and turn off onto the M61.
Of course the next traffic report informs me that there’s now been a major crash on the M61 and it’s closed up ahead as well.
So it’s off at the next junction and I weave my way through the byways and sideways of Lancashire, slowly, slowly southwards.
It’s so late by the time I reach Winwick, that I decide to take my bosses advice after all and turn left for home. I arrive back exhausted. A two hour journey has taken me nearly five exhausting, nail-biting hours.
What purpose does fog serve anyway?
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Why oh why oh why didn’t I go to bed before 4am last night?
It’s not big, it’s not clever and I have to facilitate a session this morning.
I pretend to be awake and think I just about get away with it.
Whilst Programming Group, continue to slave away and have soup, bread, cheese etc on-site, the Ops team finish up and head to the Gamecock in Austwick for Sunday lunch.
In comparison the service is fantastic and perhaps more to the point ‘friendly’.
They cope with a big group just fine. Some among us need to get away sharp, “no problem” the staff tell us “we’ll put their orders through first” and sure enough it arrives fast as anything.
By the time we get back to Dalesbridge the Programming Group are long gone (though their dirty dishes from lunch are not tsk tsk!). ETA dubious mitigating evidence has been provided by the divine Ms Dean in the comments, but I remain unconvinced...
A few of us are forming a private party, stopping over one more night as a chance to catch up with good friends away from the hustle and bustle of the wider group.
Having cleared up the meeting rooms (and done that washing up ;-) ), we collapse in front of the log fire and chill out.
Silly parlour games and much laughter ensue and all accompanied, by the rather fine selection of food David and Sally have brought up from their local ‘French market’.
A fine evening, with some of my very favourite people.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Obviously we all went straight to bed after the pub last night and are all up bright eyed and bushy tailed for the meeting Saturday morning.
The two groups get together for a bit of an ice-breaker session, where we all draw images that represent Greenbelt to us.
I’m slightly disturbed by how many people draw rabbits.
Can’t imagine why…
After that it’s on to the serious business and with the two groups breaking off into separate areas, it’s meeting after meeting all day (a Safety team meeting does away with my chance of a couple of hours off in the afternoon).
It’s good to be in this place, hearing people dream dreams and scheme schemes.
We end the day’s work element with a joint session looking at how we develop the site/festival in coming years.
After a buffet tea and an early start on the drinking duties, Sally and David present yet another classic pub quiz (with their able scoreboard assistant Maria). Much silliness ensues.
Then someone brings out a truly cheesy Karaoke DVD.
And someone else starts bringing out tambourines, triangles and other things that can be struck and rattled in annoying ways.
In a way it’s touching to know someone like Sally, who still sees and hopes for the best in people. Even people like me…
Item after item she hands over in response to my appeals of “oooh Sall can I have that tambourine please?”.
It takes a while for her to twig that our group are strangely lacking in percussive activity, despite the number of items I’ve relieved her of. Slowly the realisation dawns that far from it being a case “ah bless, even L1z and co are keen and joining in”, it’s more a question of ‘L1z and co have decided to embark on a disarmament programme – taking the weapons of mass disruption out of circulation'.
Steve S shoves some up his jumper, others get hidden under the coffee table and Shaun does a fine line in stuffing a few down the side of the sofa (a bit too far down as we realise, when we need Rob the Doctor to perform elbow deep surgery to reclaim the triangle…).
People are probably right, I’m a bad person.
Eventually the cheesiness of the karaoke becomes too much for certain of our group to bear and I’m persuaded to join them in a schism to the main house (log fire, more booze, no Village People covers…it’s a tough call).
Somewhere around 3.30am Steve S makes a plaster cast of Geoff’s face (photos to follow).
A fabulous way to round off the evening.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Having made reasonable time across to Settle (Rob is very forbearing of a spectactular piece of driving on my part, when I forget the double roundabout layout of the Tickle Trout junction and manage to leave the northbound M6, only to rejoin it 30 seconds later), we arrive at Dalesbridge for the newly combined Greenbelt Operations and Programming Group planning weekend.
Walking into the main house it feels like coming home...not so much due to the surroundings (though after three years they do feel familiar), but because of the people.
This is family.
Of course any good family reunion needs a recurring theme and it seems we are not spared our particular signature nightmare – the appalling service of food in a local hostelry.
Sally has called ahead and spoken to them about whether they can handle our requirements, so there really is little excuse for the shoddiness that ensues.
To give you some of the highlights:
Evil Harv (he tells blatant lies you know, not to be trusted…) and Joe, arrive well over an hour after the first group of us ordered…and get served first (smug bastards!). Explanation from the waitress: “well we did them ahead of the large order”.
When our food does eventually arrive it’s missing Martin S’s steak. Waitress response: “well it’s not on your bill anyway…” . Apparently this means we shouldn’t therefore mind (you’ll note the lack of apology, trust me it’s not the thoroughness of my reportage that holds the fault in this).
My plate is passed to me by the waitress, without any warning that it is nuclear hot. My squawks of pain and the smell of burning flesh from my thumb merely receive a vague shrug and she simply walks away. Again you’ll note the lack of apology/offer of medical care etc…
At length, Martin’s steak eventually arrives. With potatoes when he’d ordered chips. His remark to this effect is met with the classic line “well he’s done potatoes now”.
As Martin S boils like a volcano about to blow, the ever marvellous Martin F finds the landlord, ‘has a word’ and a bowl of chips arrives.
Of course this act of small amends is slightly undermined, when the bill arrives and we discover that not only is Martin’s steak now well and truly on the bill, but we’ve also been charged extra for the boil of chips.
Out of a party of about 25 people, we leave a tip of around 75p.
But as I’m feeling generous, here’s another tip for the New Inn at Clapham: your food is good, your beer fine, your bar staff lovely, but that waitress (you know - the grumpy, surly, misanthropic, rude, finger burning one) needs some serious training in customer care.
And hey, it’s not just us that think so...a couple of strangers approach our main table having finished their food. The woman enquires if we’re staying over at the inn. Fearing the worst (we might be a touch rowdy for some I guess), we assure her we’re not. “that’s a shame” she remarks with a conspiratorial glint in her eye “...we were hoping for safety in numbers at breakfast!”.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Well it’s all been kicking off again in Kansas (much one presumes to Dorothy’s horror).
This victory for the Intelligent Design/’let’s get confused about what science is’ supporters, can surely only been seen as a chink of light for other groups such as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Their open letter to the Kansas School Board is worth a read. As are some of the responses from members of the Board...
Apparently some supporters claim that introducing Intelligent Design into the science classroom is about encouraging a diversity in science education. As at least one wag has commented, this is a bit like saying that teaching that 2+2=5, is encouraging diversity into mathematics.
Of course you can trust The Onion (who brought us the wonderful “Christian Right Lobbies to Overturn Second Law of Thermodynamics”) to have wise words to celebrate the news from Kansas. Wisely they have recognised that the teaching of the scientific laws of gravity is all part of an Atheist plot,; so allow them to present: Intelligent Falling.
Maybe this parody makes it a little easier to understand the nervousness many in the scientific community have about the whole Kansas hooha. I mean would you want to work in a tower block designed by a Structural Engineer trained in Intelligent Falling, or a plane designed by someone from the Intelligent Falling school of Aeronautics?
But I'll give the last word to the Spaghetti Monster crowd:
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Well I guess I was never going to be a regular, but my visits to Sanctus1 have become slightly embarrassingly sporadic. Something always seems to crop up. Tonight though I’m determined to make it…even though I’ve been out almost every night for weeks and have a busy week ahead and could really do with a night in.
So I just need to squeeze in that Greenbelt telephone conference early evening and all should be well.
Then S texts mid afternoon, tempting me with thoughts of Orange Wednesday film nights. She’s suggesting The Constant Gardener, which frankly I’m not too desperate to see, but I’m aware I haven’t seen her for a week and I’m away this weekend as well. Somehow spending time with my best mate feels more important tonight…so I switch plans.
The Constant Gardener is surprisingly good. I suppose it was the John Le Carre origin that was putting me off rather, but it’s not at all like his older stuff.
It’s a beautifully told tale set in Africa, involving the corruption of pharmaceutical multi-nationals in collusion with the FCO. However, told through the eyes of a minor diplomat who’s wife has been murdered, the tale is essentially a personal odyssey, with the political ruminations secondary to the examination of emotions and relationships.
It’s tender, beautiful and achingly sad. The plot in retrospect is none too complicated, but the personal angle makes the unfolding of the truth completely compelling and gets a powerful political message about the continuing abuse of Africa across, without ever once shouting.
It makes Richard Curtis’ well-meaning, but ultimately mis-firing drama The Girl in the Café, look like amateurish agit-prop. The Constant Gardener is political drama at it’s best - I highly recommend trying to catch it before it leaves the big screen.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
I may have had one or two late nights of late and the odd vodka or ten last night, but it really isn’t my fault that I’m still in bed at lunchtime.
Having fallen into bed exhausted last night, I was woken up an hour later by the upstairs smoke alarm ‘peeping’ in that ‘my batteries dying’ manner.
Groggy and bleary eyed I fetch a chair, clamber up and reach out over the stairs to open up the offending beast. I can’t have been that drunk because I do remember having the very clear thought of “this probably isn’t such a great idea after all those vodkas”. Still it wasn’t going to shut-up so I had little option…
Back to bed and I can’t fall asleep. Eventually I drift off only to be woken up again about an hour later, by the heating switching on and making a rather strange noise.
Up again, I go downstairs to investigate…the pressure is low, so I top it up and head back to bed.
Another hour to drop off again (why is that? I’m dog tired) only to be woken up by a text message from a friend at the airport (to be fair it’s not ‘that’ early anymore).
Back to trying to sleep and…the landline rings. It’s I, who proceeds to abuse me for being still in bed.
He’s starting to stress out about finding the restaurant tonight.
I so don’t do other people’s problems when I’m tired…
I also don’t do:
- Tidying up
- Writing emails
- Reading reports
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Jo is a bad person who leads people astray and makes them drink far, far too much.
(it has been commented recently that I have a tendency to blame others for my lack of will-power when it comes to such matters…an unfair criticism I’m sure you’ll agree)
As a last minute addition, we’re joined by Jo’s very new partner. I approve heartily and only the best would be good enough for our Jo.
After the three of us share a pre-dinner drink and then a lovely Thai meal in Koh Samui, we meet up with K, S and J and head to Gaia for more drinks. We then move on, leaving J with other friends and head to Via Fossa, where eventually G, K and assorted friends also track us down.
An excellent night.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Then Stuart rings with the opener “What are you doing?” .
“I’ve just started eating my tea” I reply (hopefully in a tone that successfully conveys “I really want to speak to you, my wonderful, valued friend, but just for 5 minutes, because then my pasta will be cold”).
I am a little taken aback by his response of “Stop!”
But sometimes I guess you need to be stern with your friends. And the occasion of taking them out to the Punjab for a curry probably qualifies.
Half an hour later he and Karen call to pick me up (lifts and everything…I’m truly being spoiled).
In gratitude to their extreme kindness and excellent friendship, I will refrain from mentioning the first words out of each of their respective mouths…let’s just say sometimes comfortable friendship can cross the line into the realm of ‘two much information’.
Back home another late night phone call means my plans of an early night also go for a Burton.
Still there's a nice plate of cold pasta in the fridge for tomorrow - yum!
The utterly fabulous Caroline has posted here about how great moments of art (be it music, literature, whatever), can offer us glimpse of the divine. She writes:
"I harbour a bizarre image in my head where all the music, all the phrases, the melodies, the lyrics, the novels and the poems are actually floating around in the ether, already written and composed by God and the 'composers', 'musician's', 'lyricists' 'poets' gently run around with finely tuned butterfly nets and are gifted with ability to faithfully reproduce what they catch."I know what she means about those songs, novels, poems, paintings etc that just seem to open up views of something 'other' to us.
I suppose my theory as to how the process happens is a bit different though, less butterfly nets and more about getting truly in touch with the part of "being in the image of the divine" that is about being a creator.
Just as when you are on the receiving end of love and compassion you can catch in those acts echoes of aspects of God, so it is for me with great moments of art. A reminder of the shared image, a reflecting bowl on a heavenly ancestor...
So I suppose the difference is that I tend to see the creative skill as being more contained in the artist, a characteristic that reflects our heritage; rather than the skill being that of a capturer of something external.
Hmmmm food for thought...
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
So...this map shows the countries I have visited:
It's a bit deceptive really, I've only ever been to East-coast US and half the others it's been a case of sticking a toe over the border...
Even so apparently I've only visited 7% of countries. Woefully pariochial, or eco-logically responsible - you decide.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I suppose it's hard to imagine the QOTSA frontman on tour, sitting in hotel room with a little watercolour sketch pad.
This seems like a more rock and roll way of exercising one's creative urges (the website has a whole gallery of images - hover each one to reveal the secret art).
I'll be checking behind mirrors, paintings and bedheads in future...you never know...
Monday, November 07, 2005
Now I appreciate the reason for Word Verification on blog commenting facilities and indeed I was among those urging Sally to add the coding to try and solve her spam problems, but is it just me that feels like they're sitting an exam everytime they try and copy the letters into the box?
It surely shouldn't be as taxing as my brain seems to think it is. Ceratin fonts are harder than others...is that an l or an i? Or maybe just a rather short j? And is that a g or a p? I do wish they'd make the 'tails' clearer...
I worry how much concentration it actually takes me...that can't be right can it?
Still some people's blogs (mentioning no names Jude...) seem to have me down as a spammer and won't let me comment at all. Work computer, home computer...all fall short it seems.
I'm trying not to take it personally.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Well it started out as a cunning plan, P&S suggested that I get the train out to the peaks and meet them on their way home from picking up their new car in Sheffield (yes the long term car-free couple have eventually and reluctantly succumbed). The idea was that I’d meet them at Grindleford or Hathersage, we’d go for a meal somewhere and then catch the fire lantern procession and fireworks in Eyam.
Things started to go awry when I arrived at a very quiet Piccadilly. There were plenty of people mulling around, but something was missing. I couldn’t immediately put my finger on it, but then it hit me…shouldn’t there be some of those big things on wheels around…what do they call them…ah yes - trains.
Now I can understand that there can be times when engineering work means that 90% of the station has to close, but really you’d think that would be the sort of useful information that National Rail Enquiries might mention when you check train times the night before.
Eventually I find the bus replacement service and end up on the outskirts of Ashton having just missed the hourly Sheffield service.
A mobile phone call later the ever-wonderful P&S suggest I get the next train to New Mills and they’ll meet me there. S instructs me to find out if the train goes to ‘New Mills’ or ‘New Mills Central’ and the guard confirms it’s the latter. Which makes it all the more disconcerting to step out onto the platform of a tiny station that appears to be situated alone in the middle of nowhere. “If this is New Mills Central” think I “how bloody isolated is New Mills?”.
Walking up the dark lane, New Mills proper soon comes into view and I feel slightly less like I’m stranded in the middle of nowhere (though this most definitely is Royston Vassey territory).
As P&S arrive we notice a growing swarm of people in warm coats heading in one direction. Using our best detective skills we figure following them should lead to a bonfire and our hunch is correct as we join a happy throng of people in the muddiest park in Christendom.
It could definitely be described as something of a local affair (presumably for ‘local people’). One burger/candyfloss stall, one kiddies ride, a fairground attraction with a big mallet entitled the ‘Kiddie Striker” (three strikes for a pound it boasts, which would seem to be excellent value, though I suspect the NSPCC might have a view on it), one tombola run by the local sixth form (S gave in to temptation, paid a pound and won a can of McEwan’s Export) and one bloke on a microphone hidden on the side of a path.
In between quality records, he announces that everyone needs to move for safety reasons as the wind direction has changed. Accordingly could we all please “move to the area over there”. Fortunately we’re walking past him at this point and so his gesticulated direction works for the three of us, unfortunately the other few hundred people are left a little more confused. I don’t think he’s quite cracked this DJ lark yet.
Still it was a fine effort, some good fireworks worthy of a good few ooohs and aaahs. The bonfire was quite spectacular too, a huge mound of pallets with some furniture (sofa, bed etc) balanced on top. P and I worry a little at the wisdom of building quite such a structure out of fast burning pallets, especially with heavy items atop and the lighting of the pyre at a single point slightly downwind does nothing to reassure us. By the time we hear the people next to us comment “let’s hope it doesn’t collapse and roll down the hill this year”, we decide it might be time to edge away slightly.
The predicted collapse happens, but fortunately in a gradual, gentle manner and no lives appear to be lost.
Sated we squelch back to the car (“good job we haven’t removed the protective card from the footwells yet eh?”) and follow a most amusing tiny lane along the valley side, watching other displays as we go. It’s a pleasant change to not be the driver for once.
And I’m afraid finding it hard to be a fan of public transport tonight…
Thursday, November 03, 2005
For those unfamiliar with the niceties (surely the wrong word?) of Section 55, basically it meant that a person had to claim asylum at point of entry to the country else they would not receive any support whilst their claim was processed. Not allowed to work either, this basically left them destitute. Many survived solely through the compensation of charities, communities and churches, many still had no option but to live rough on the streets.
Now I can understand legislation to stop illegal immigrants claiming asylum 2 years after entering the country because the law has caught up with them, but this was not the way the legislation was implemented. For example, one of the three test cases that was brought to appeal concerns Wayoka Limbuela, from Angola. He applied for asylum the day after arriving in the UK, but this 'delay' meant he was refused support because he had applied 'too late'.
Having had a friend made destitute as a result of this revolting policy (her solicitor 'forgot' to post her asylum application...), this feels personal.
But for once common decency appears to have prevailed.
As one email I received on this suggested "God Bless their little ermine-trimmed cotton socks".
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
The last few days have seen a steady surge in referrals to this blog from people looking for the Chand Raat market.
Accordingly I guess it’s fitting time for me to offer another advice shop session for the hapless wanderers whose strange, fascinating and at times downright disturbing search terms have led them to my blog doorstep:
Getting the vaguely sensible/useful stuff out the way first: the Chand Raat Market will indeed be happening in Manchester again this year. So anyone looking to get provisions for Eid, head to L0ngsight Market tonight from 8pm. More details here.
Moving on to the more intriguing search terms:
- polar bears tolerance level – I have no idea what the tolerance level of a polar bear is and I have a sneaking suspicion that practical experiments in this area aren’t to be advised…
- cheer up sam endicott – yeah go on Sam, I mean you may be somewhat ‘living in the 80’s’ both musically and fashion wise (it probably is time to rethink that eye make-up sweetie), highly derivative and not exactly Brandon Flowers' favourite person, but Honest Mistake is still a better tune then most people ever manage to write (though Brandon probably has you pipped there as well to be fair...I'm not really helping am I?)
- pro-tensium – it’s made-up cosmetic firm nonsense, there is no such thing, it doesn’t exist, stop looking.
- UK wedding hair Alnwick – well if hairdressing services are of the same quality as hotel food preparation in that delightful town, then I’d suggest you think again…unless of course you don’t mind their interpretation of “just take a bit of the ends” resulting in you celebrating your big day with a crew cut.
- Dfs Number for Queen elizabeth grammar school – 324895. Next!
- why can custard powder be sometimes explosive – because bozos like you will always decide to conduct a goofy experiment to see if it’s true and that’s one of the ways nature keeps the numbers down.
- bedsits through out warrington – oh geez, what a thing to be needing to search for - your life must be one whole world of pain. Go to the train station now – you’ll thank me in the long run.
- waffle and daub architecture – When Puns Attack (hint try wattle)
- sperm wrinkle cream effectiveness – eeeuuwwwgghh! Just eeeuuwwwgghh!
- dan radcliffes mobile number – well I could tell you, but you missed out the apostrophe so I shan’t
- inappropriate use of anti vandal paint – tagging a tube train?
- what does mums gone to iceland mean – well indeed! Perhaps it simply means that the advertising executives responsible for this gem need a good feminist smack to the chops
- What Critics have to say about the asda mum in a million campaign – the response above may give you a clue as to what this ‘critic’ would have to say about it…
- irony in Reach out and Touch – you won’t find anything like that here thank you
- strange attics – or that
- bondage & domination in rochdale - and definitely nothing like that
- prescribes baileys – George has taught me that Baileys is the suitable prescription for almost any complaint. Usually around the middle of bottle two, I stop with the complaints and start agreeing with her (and anyone else in the room).
- ankle cuff short stories – Once upon a time there was an ankle cuff. It didn’t know what its purpose in life was. This made it very sad. One day it met another similarly aimless ankle cuff and they fell in love. They never did discover their reason for existing, but at least they had each other now. And that was slightly better. The End
This has been a public service blog.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Just what you've always wanted, cardboard boxes you can paint on-line!
My challenge - you have up to two minutes (no more, watch the clock, play along now!) to dress your box, take a screen-shot, display it on your blog and comment below with a link. Let's see what our doodles say about us.
Thanks to Dave W for the heads-up.