Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

You know that feeling when you’re juggling various social commitments and you realise you’ve screwed up and are about to drop a ball. Accordingly, I’d ideally be in three places this evening (a nice prospect for New Year’s Eve). P&S have decided to stay in Wolverhampton after all and so I make my excuses and head back to Manchester solo.

The only way I’m realistically going to make both remaining commitments tonight is if I drive. Accordingly I won’t be drinking, not a drop, – a fact I would like you all to remember as I relay the next element of the story, one that has shades of our Sally.

So ready for the evening, I head out the front door.

Well sort of, as I turn to exit my porch, which is maybe six inches higher than the loose gravelly-tarmac pavement outside, I realise my heel (oh why do I bother) is caught in the porch matting and gravity is taking its inevitable toll.

I’d like it recorded that I actually fell in a surprisingly graceful manner and amazingly escaped with no more than small grazes to left palm and knee.

A suitably stylish manner in which to end the year I think you’ll agree.

Having regained some semblance of composure, I head on to the Rabbit Corpse and Dog Collar household for New Year’s Eve part one.

My buddies and adopted nieces are as welcoming as ever – this is a household that knows how to do hospitality.

Shortly after eleven however, I tear myself away and head to T’s for the final part of my New Year’s Eve.

A more sedate affair is in full swing when I arrive and it’s good to catch up with people I know. I even manage reasonably easily to be unremittingly pleasant to non-reader.

However, over the next few hours my sobriety starts to takes its toll and I yearn to join in the imbibing of wine. Trouble is, I’ve done that 3 hour wait for a mini-cab on NYE before and know that unless I’ve been organised enough to pre-arrange, it’s not worth the grief.

Not something that seems to have troubled Non-Reader though, who flusteredly announces at gone three that maybe she ought to call a cab, because although her car is outside she’s drunk too much to drive (as she explains to me in a very patronising manner as if I was unaware of drink driving laws and dangers; well fuck you love, my small family is one smaller as a result of a drunken bastard behind a wheel – I really don’t need a lecture, especially when I’m stood here stone cold sober because I’ve the capacity you seem to lack of thinking things through in advance). It must be the season of good will however, because such uncharitable thoughts are momentary, passing quickly and I do the only decent thing and offer her a lift.

In fact weirdly such irritations don’t seem to be riling me overly tonight and I seem to be able to just resignedly shrug them off. Hopefully, this is the start of a turn around and I can find a way to be in her presence without turning into a complete bitch. Ok some distance still to travel on that one I acknowledge, but tiny steps eh?

And that my friends is this closest this here blogger will come to a New Year’s Resolution. Judge me kindly.

Settled In

It’s good to meet S’s new congregation. Nestled in less than one third of the original building (the rest now serves as a community centre), a small group come to worship with palpable warmth.

I can see members already growing fond of P (a very typical reaction to meeting him) and the nervous testing out of each party between new priest and congregation seems to be going well.

After a snack lunch of beans on toast, I say my farewells and depart Wolverhampton, reassured that P&S are already rapidly making a new home for themselves.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


With a new kitchen with cupboards unsuited to her more diminutive stature, S is after a spice rack. Our searches of stores in Wolverhampton, suggest that these have been left in the 70’s and 80’s where they generally belong.

So in the absence of being able to provide such an item as a house-warming present, we settle instead for a trip to the renowned and rather plush Bilash restaurant.

Our starters are fabulous and worthy of a price tag in excess of the usual curry house. The main courses are good, very good even, but the prices are steep and we leave impressed with the quality, but suitably chastised by the bill to not be in any great hurry to return.

Compared to P&S’s first disastrous attempt to find a good curry house in Wolverhampton , it’s more of an success, but I don’t think they’ve found a ‘home’ just yet.

Walking home we extend our route and tour S’s new parish. The pattern of burnt out and boarded up properties that is evident immediately around the vicarage, is representative of the parish as a whole; with the hospital and the steel works closed, employment and trade have disappeared and the remaining housing stock is run down and surrounded by empty derelict spaces. The area, does however have character and I can see P&S making a home here.


Many, many years ago, when I was a child, my parents took us to Iron Bridge. I confess that in those days, the eng1neering gene hadn’t properly kicked in and my thoughts were pretty much “ok, it’s an ‘iron’ ‘bridge’, errrr what’s all the fuss about?”.

If anyone remembers the Absolutely sketches about the town council of Stoneybridge attempting to create tourist information and Olympic bid application films promoting their small Scottish town, you’ll get the general gist of my opinion back then.

Welcome to Ironbridge, with its errrrr, iron bridge.

So when P&S suggest a visit, I’m eager to revisit with a more educated eye. The bridge itself is nice enough, but it is its historic role that is impressive, something that didn’t really register on my first visit all those years ago.

The weather however, is less than impressive and after a mooch around in the drizzle we head to Enginuity and waste a few hours playing with all the hands-on attractions (much to the disgust of one mother with a pole up her arse).

I’d highly recommend it if you’ve got a day to kill in the West Midlands – just avoid the party hat wearing, juggling, wannabee children’s TV presenters, aka ‘demonstrators’. Shudder.

Friday, December 29, 2006


A&R are friends of P&S in Leicester, who I also know through them and Greenbelt. We’re invited across for an open house and with P’s kind offer to drive (I’m still feeling a bit jittery about motorways), we head east.

We’d hoped that another Leicestershire based mutual friend N, might also be there and sure enough mid-evening she arrives and is slightly surprised to find my Mancunion-self present. It’s excellent to be able to catch up. A fine evening.

Art, Parks and Books

Today we walk into the centre of Wolverhampton and visit the newly refurbished art gallery. Then after a fruitless search in a couple of shops we head to West Park.

A few brave rangers are hanging about outside the closed café in their green uniforms and pirate hats. Not it transpires an obscure Black Country custom, but a special pirate themed treasure hunt.

Mind you, I suppose that in itself could be a strange Black Country custom.

Just a shame they picked one of the windiest, wettest days of the year…

After the elements take their toll on us, we abandon the park and head for the nearby second hand bookstore.

Part of the peculiar joy of second hand bookshops is the common phenomenon (as captured so wonderfully by Black Books) of the concern being more generally organised to please the owner than to elicit custom. The public, let’s face it, are a nuisance and should be discouraged whenever possible.

If you can steel yourself against the unwelcoming entrance area and the steely glare of the proprietor that sums up in one glance all the contempt that they hold for anyone who doesn’t, well frankly who doesn’t spend their entire life in similar splendid dusty bookshelf lined isolation, then you still have to face a cataloguing system that owes little to the heritage of the Dewey Decimal System.

To be fair the proprietor of the store in Wolverhampton, whilst sporting a look and accent that suggests a kinship with Noddy Holder, isn’t too unwelcoming, but his failure to fully hold up the stereotype in this area is more than compensated by his book organisation, which reaches new levels of intrigue.

The shop comprises a set of small rooms leading off each other; looking for novels, I track down the fiction section, though the boundaries seem to blur on all sides.

First you have hardcover and paperback sections, fair enough. Then you start to notice that crime, thrillers and sci-fi have their own separate shelves, not so unusual, but Penguin books are also in a different place, and ‘classics’, and oh what’s this in a different room in the middle of sport and travel books, yes, a section for Charles Dickens. Turn round and there are some more novels in a section of ‘recent fiction’, but this is confusing as the main paperback section also includes books from the last few years.

Having scored some Waugh and Orwell I’m holding out for The Prince by Machiavelli. Which opens up further complications; is it classed as fiction, psychology, politics or even (based on some managers I’ve had) management science?

Screwing up all my courage, I approach the proprietor. Yes, he replies he thinks he probably does have a copy, have I tried the pocket edition section?

Thursday, December 28, 2006


A nasty incident on the motorway leaves me shaken and I’m relieved to make it finally to P&S’s new home in Wolverhampton. Their care immediately enfolds me – I couldn’t be in a better place.

Already the house is feeling more like a home then their previous one (which S actively loathed) ever did. Something about it just feels good; maybe it’s that the ‘work space’ is very distinctly separated, or maybe it’s the shape and vibe of the place. Still some decorating to do and boxes a plenty still to unpack, but it feels like their place and that in itself feels like a second home.

In fact the only drawback to the new house seems to be that is surrounded by derelict buildings and hence isolated rather from their nearest neighbours.

All in all though they seem to have settled in well and I can see that they’re going to be happy here. Visiting with them almost instantly feels so familiar and comfortable.

My room (and yes I am allowed to call it that – it has been officially named thus) is lovely; nice colour, its own sink and an interesting view over the ladies of the night out the front…

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Second Christmas, in Suffolk

My Aunt had intended to join us at my brother’s on Christmas Day, but sadly the cartilage behind her kneecap dislodged on Christmas Eve, leaving her in great pain.

By the next morning things had righted themselves and massively improved, but she was unable to drive.

Accordingly, we all decided that after a day to rest (too many busy days aren’t good for Mum), we would head over to Suffolk and take a belated Christmas to her.

Revisiting the eccentric house in a small Suffolk village brings back so many childhood memories. The variety and number of animals may have steadily reduced over the years (no chickens, no ferrets, no geese, only one breed of deer, even the faithful old donkey Wilhelm, a wedding present from my late uncle, finally passed a few years back), but it’s still a place of magic to a city kid.

As we cut down ivy from the old garage and the front paddock and chop mis-shaped carrots in the industrially root-chopper for the muntjacs, I hope little R and J have been touched by the same magic.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Fond Farewell

An email today from J, brings the news we knew was imminent, P passed away last night after a long fight with cancer.

He asked that we only be sad for a short while and instead, remember and celebrate his life.

The best I can promise is that I’ll try and do both.

Rest in peace, you dear sweet man, your time with us was a gift and you’ll be much missed.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Pretty much everyone in my department at work has been struck down with bad colds over the last few months, in fact of my colleagues have been afflicted several times. I alone pretty much, have survived each onslaught of bugs. Instead I wait until the moment we break up for Christmas and then, on cue, my nose starts streaming.

Joy of joys.

Fortunately I’ve rallied by today and make it over to my brother’s in West London where the family are congregating for a Christmas celebration. I might not be on top form, but I muddle through ok and my niece and nephew are a joy as always.

A good day all round.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Work Review

According to my annual review, apparently it's been a good year and the powers that be are well pleased with me.

Talking to an old and much loved friend last night, I find myself describing work in almost entirely positive tones. So strange to think that exactly a year ago I was totally despondent, in discussions with another organisation and seriously considering jumping ship. It's been a difficult journey, but somehow, by staying true to myself and refusing career advancement in preference for staying 'technical', I've managed to end up right now, somewhere really good. A job I enjoy and feel I can really contribute in.

I'm still growing into the role and the juggling act that comes with is a little stressful, but by and large, things are pretty good.

I feel like I'm tempting fate saying this out loud, but for the record let it be said: I'm actually pretty happy on the work front.

And most certainly not just because they gave us all mini-hampers full of booze and goodies.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Santa Claus is coming to town...

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout
I'm tellin' you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He's making a list,
He's checking it twice,
He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice...

Things is if you've already got a reputation as one of the Evil Twins, it's probably too late isn't it?

Still always nice to find your counter part exists in the animal world:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Elf Yourself

Laura's email tagging me with the five thing meme, also included a link to the rather wonderful Elf Yourself website.

Of course, as the name clearly states it is intended that you use your own photo in this endeavour.

Only a bad person would chose to elfmorphosise their buddies.

Only a very bad person would email links of their resulting artwork to others.

Only a very, very bad person would go on to add links to the dancing wonderment to their blog.

But a very wise, though very, very bad person would know that they ought to keep an eye over their shoulder for their buddies' revenge.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Five things...

The ever wonderful Laura has tagged me, so here we go...

Five things you probably didn’t know about me:
  1. I tell people that my middle name is Clare, but really it's Clarissa. I lie because I think Clarissa is a ridiculous name with illusions of Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs.
  2. In my heart of hearts I'm an avowed conservative evangelical and I sing Shine Jesus Shine every night before I retire. I only allude to post-modernist beliefs as I believe it is slightly more vogueish to do so.
  3. All allusions to being literate are a complete fabrication. I've not read a single novel since I left school. I didn't mean to join a Book Group I just accidentally wandered into the wrong room (I misread the sign on the door) and was too embarrassed to confess. I get away with it by scabbing reviews off the internet and blagging. Frankly, I can barely string two words together let alone sentences and employ a ghost-writer to create this blog.
  4. I was raised by wolves.
  5. Memes of this kind bring out the compulsive liar in me.
Right...Caroline, Sally, Stuart, Jude, Steve - consider yourselves tagged.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Just a little deluded?

According to the advert:

"Nature can do wonderful things with just a seed, some water and a little sunshine. But not half as wonderful as what Baxters can do with the results."

That's right, mass production of cans of chopped-up veg with some seasoning thrown in, really does leave the miracle of life in the shade.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Return to Manchester

After several months in the garage whilst insurance companies argued with warranty companies, P&S's car is at last ready for collection. Accordingly, we change plans and instead of me heading to Wolverhampton this weekend P&S return to Manchester.

Picking up the car takes longer than anticipated and hence by the time we make it to Dunham Massey it's time for lunch.

If there's one thing the National Trust tend to do well it's the coffee shop. S enjoys an excellent chestnut and vegetable bake, whilst P and I go for the rather fine looking turkey with all the trimmings.

The afternoon is spent walking around the grounds admiring the ancient herd of fallow deer.

Then it's back to mine for some chill time, before heading out to Rusholme (yes, I know, two nights running). For once the Punjab is not our destination and instead we chose to try the Sri Lankan and South Indian delights of King Cobra.

My Mustard Fish Curry, is superb - I don't think this first visit will be my last.

Their drive home may be slightly longer, but it's good to see P&S. They're really settling in to life in Wolverhampton it seems and already a long list of things to show me on my post-Christmas visit is developing.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Return to GMEx

When I first moved to Manchester, GMEx was the venue for large concerts (until the MEN Arena came along and stole its crown). Originally Central Station, a few decades after the railway moved out, it was converted into an exhibition centre. Whilst it works well in that incarnation, the acoustics for concerts were always notoriously bad. That said, it holds some happy memories for me - seeing James in 1990 and taking part in the now infamous 'seated ovation', being not least among them.

The video for the Sit Down used footage from the concert and captures the moment of a band surfing the crest of the wave of local adoration that had built up over the years and on the cusp of hitting the big time - soon they would start to sell as many records as T'shirts.

So when Stuart suggested getting tickets for Snow Patrol, my slight antipathy about seeing that particular band live and my generally dislike of 'stadium' gigs, was supplemented by a nostalgic desire to see the first concert back in GMEx for over a decade.

What can I say, I like Snow Patrol well enough, the splash of astonishing colour in rare tracks like Chocolate and Set the Fire to the Third Bar penetrates the averageness that to me pervades the bulk of their offerings. Live however they lack the charisma or strength of back catalogue to carry a stadium style gig and on top of this they regularly seem to have tuning problems with guitars and vocals.

Still, Elbow a band I totally adore are supporting and an evening with my buddies S&K is always something to look forward to.

Unfortunately a pig of a day has me running late and that combined with unprecedented traffic in Manchester this evening, means we arrive much later than intended - in time only to catch Elbow's last number.

Bars, burger stands and Oxfam campagn desks at the rear of the auditorium give the event the feel of a festival, but the hard flat floor prevents the associated chilling out. Combined with a low stage, it also means that K is struggling to see anything at all. Screens are used, but more as a means of decorative backdrop rather than the compensation for poor views that gigs of this size need.

As for Snow Patrol, well they largely left me unmoved. Maybe my mood didn't help, but for the first time ever I seriously contemplated leaving a gig early. They were competent enough, but I just didn't feel engaged.

Let's face it if the architecture of the venue is proving of higher fascination to you than the action on stage, you know something's wrong.

By the time they left the stage, I can honestly say I've never cared less whether a band returned or not for an encore.

So I'll still be forever grateful to those occasional musical gems that the lads send our way, but as for the bulk of their output and their live shows, I think I'll pass.

Snow Patrol at GMEx - definitely a case of a band punching above their weight.

Fortunately things pick up post-gig. Too late to catch a meal in town, we head to Rusholme and to the comforts of the Punjab. Happily after a few disappointing trip of late, the Punjab is back on highest form - fantastic food and friendly service. One of the best meals I've ever had there (and regular readers of my blog may have gathered there have been a few over the years...).

To wrap things up, the cheeky waiter brings us complimentary festive desserts, fitting for our mature palettes...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Death and the Penguin

I'm just back from Newcastle in time to make it to Book Group. So far, so good.

A new member, who seems lovely and dives right into the discussions with interesting opinions. So far, so good.

The book, Death and a Penguin, read by all, general consensus is that it starts well but loses it's charm in the second half, but it gave plenty of material for debate. So far, so good.

And then...

There's the small matter of my growing irritation with NR, which finds new depths tonight.

From hijacking the group discussion on the book to engage an individual in an unwanted private conversation (invariably about her), to talking over people, to offering up the most mind-numbingly vacuous statements in a patronising, superior way, to the playing the little helpless girlie card (somewhat lacking in dignity at the best of times, but when you're well into your fifties?), to self-absorption that makes blog writing seem like a reticent refusal to engage in the slightest introspection, to sharing of intimate sexual information about herself that I could so happily live without.

She annoys me so much it makes my teeth hurt.

I know that this is largely irrational and it brings out a very unattractive part of my character that I really don't like.

Most of all I know that the only thing I can change in all this, is my reaction.

Endeavours in this area are proving fruitless however. I'm pretty sure my irritation leaks out in action and inaction and then I try to compensate, try to make an effort, try to be nice.

Trouble is that this means indulging to some degree all the things that annoy me so. I swear after listening to her illogical, patronisingly expressed input I feel like I'm in one of those Zombie movies and my dissolved brain matter is about to dribble down my nose.

So I try polite disengagement. Neutrality works for Switzerland apparently. I stare at my glass and try and keep my head down.

Even this is unsuccessful, she senses she's lost a member of her audience and directly addresses this "do you understand what I'm saying 1iz?"

And what do you answer to that?

The truth? That I understand what she is saying but I just can't for the life of me see any intelligible connection between that and the matter being debated and if I'm really honest I perceive it to be yet another attempt to just talk about herself again.

So I flip and flop. Nice, nasty, disengaged, indulging.

I genuinely don't want to be a complete cow. I guess if I can't find a way to be in the same space as her without turning into a nasty, evil bitch, then maybe I need to stop going to Book Group.


An early start today, in order to catch the train up to Newcastle for our quarterly Know1edge Group meeting.

Days like today help me reflect on how my work situation has turned around in the last year. I may be being pulled in all directions and a little frustrated at not being able to cover everything as comprehensively as I would like, but compared to a year ago ...

I like Newcastle, but today is a very fleeting visit, train station, taxi, office, taxi and train back. Have to say I like the Geordie take on taxi receipts:

What do you think it says that on return to Manchester the equivalent receipt bears this image:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Strategy Day

I seem to be being pulled in umpteen different directions at the moment and hence a day out of the office is the last thing I need. However, a day reviewing and planning env1ronmental strategy for our UK operation in a small nature reserve’s visitors’ centre, has some compensations (even if a warm meeting room is not numbered among them).

Sometimes moving forward on this stuff can be slow; generally we make progress gradually, but frustratingly, sometimes we also slip backwards and hard won achievements are lost, usually following structural and management reshuffles. Tired of banging the same drums year on year and seeing successes come and go with the tides of organisational change, we decided a change of approach was required; time to get some of these issues sorted once and for all at a high and central level.

Without going into details, it seems to have worked. As hoped, gaining a mandate from the board has allowed us to successfully counter local resistance when experienced.

Hopefully we can now build on this and make best capital of the Road to Damascus moments our CEO has been having of late courtesy of Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Xfm Winter Wonderland

Normally I hate being seated at a gig, but after the week I've had (what was it that my mother used to say about burning the candle at both ends?), I have to confess that part of me is glad that we're up in the circle.

Rushing back from work, I pick up Stuart, Karen and Ray and the four of us head for the Apollo. A 6pm start isn't normal for a gig, but with a line-up like this to fit in...

Having grabbed a pint (diet coke for the designated driver), we take our seats at around 6.10pm. Seems we've already missed the Xfm Rock School winners Billion Babies (what a shame...if only we'd hurried more...), but presumably no more.

Soon enough local hero Clint Boon is on stage introducing the next act Little Man Tate. I've liked what I've heard of their stuff so far, they seem to be following well in the nice line of keenly observational lyrics from the New Yorkshire scene and they do a pretty good job of warming up the slowly growing crowd.

Hot on their heals are the Rakes, who improve as their set unfolds, but at times they do seem to err rather close to pastiche of various 80's acts. The nice thing though is that both groups are given a reasonable time allowance and we get a decent set from both.

Next another first for me at the Apollo, the arrival of a safety curtain.

Cunningly this allows the stage to be reset, whilst the entertainment keeps rolling via acoustic sets in front of the curtain.

Liam Frost enjoys something of a local cult status and his short set confirms why. In fact the beauty of his songs is only spoilt by the high-pitch, non-stop yapping of the two stupid bints sat to my right, who clearly have no interest in Liam's offerings.

After song after song has been ruined by their incessant yaking, urged on by Karen, I eventually summon up all my courage and do that very un-English thing of saying something: "I'm really sorry if you think I'm being rude, but could I possibly ask if you could talk a little quieter, or maybe you'd be happier in the bar?".

At which point the couple in front turn round and add their own reinforcement and to be fair the girls tone it down. A bit at least.

The safety curtain lifts and it's time for local legend in his own beanie hat, Damon Gough, or as Boonie introduces him: Badly Drawn Bloke.

The beauty of his songs hits me again, as they seem to each time I see him live. By the time we get to Silent Sigh, the worries of my week have disappeared and the melodies are just washing over me.

Again the safety curtain descends and John Power performs an acoustic set.

It must be hard to be forever overshadowed by the album you made with a group fifteen years, but I fear on the evidence presented tonight that shadow isn't about to be eclipsed by a new light just yet.

Next the Magic Numbers take to the stage and as ever, win the hearts of all who look on. It's such a pleasure to see and hear a band so musically tight. They really bring their song to life - definitely a band to catch live.

About two bars into the Manic's opener of You Love Us, I realise I'm in full agreement. I love this band - why have I left it so long since I last saw them live?

Ok they'll never be the band I saw in the early 90s (Richey will forever leave an unfillable hole), but much of the anger and energy is still there. Older, wiser, but still fiery and still able to kick some serious rock and roll arse.

What a band and what a way to finish one of the best gigs of the year. As balloons filled with confetti snow are unleashed on the audience (oh Wayne what have you started), I'm one happy punter (and am only slightly puzzled as to what happened to others that were supposed to be on the bill such as Mumm-ra).

Hopefully the night also raised a shed load for Shelter.

And what better way to round off the evening but a trip to our favourite curry house...mmmmm...Punjab.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Book Group Christmas Meal

That Café plays host to our Book Group’s Christmas meal and overall it does us proud. As ever some people rate quantity over quality, but you can’t please all the people all of the time and in my opinion it hits a pretty good mid-point balance.

The whole debate of heaps versus flavour reminds me of the years I spent of organising Christmas do’s for work. It started as a small little department affair, but it got a reputation and picked up more and more souls until J and I eventually culled the beast as the numbers swelled to over 60 for lunch and nigh on 100 for the pub crawl, comprising of folk from at least four different companies and with behaviour sinking to all time new lows year on year (not that it’s not amusing to watch one’s sixty year old Chief Eng1neer dance on the top of a bar, or hold a conversation with a co-worker whilst he keeps a restraining hold onto the back of a guy's jacket who is prostrate on the ground yaking every 10 minutes or so into the canal, but you know…).

Fortunately, behaviour this evening is far more civilised (when I think about it, I do work with animals really) and post meal most of us head back to T’s to continue the drinking.

The young couple from the neighbouring flat join us and are absolutely lovely, such open, generous souls, insisting their new optics are utilised to supply me with vodka (oh the way to this girl’s heart…). Conversations about festivals and holidays prompt them to open up their computer files and show me the most amazing collection of photos. These guys seriously know how to party. It’s like the opening titles to Human Traffic, with every photo of a group of caned revellers accompanied by the explanation “that’s J – he’s totally random”, “that’s S, she was seriously off her tits that night” or “that’s me with some Dutch blokes – not sure how we meet them”.

By the end of the evening I’m invited to A’s birthday party on Saturday.

It’s been a good many years since I spent time with people who lived life like this. Living for today and open to all comers and all experiences. I feel quite nostalgic and yes, just a little old.

Flatulence Grounds Flight

Oh dear.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Big words, no pictures

A rare evening in this evening and a phone call from Wolverhampton.

Good to catch up with S and P is in the background working on a report for the h0me 0ff1ce or as he describes it, big words no pictures.

Ironically, my work day has comprised of much the opposite as a large chunk of it was spent finding visual images to add to a 2 day training course.

Part of the introduction that my co-presenter covers, examines the history of s3w3rag3 in Liverpool. He covers this verbally, assisted by scribbled diagrams on the flip chart, but it would be nice to have something on the screen that complements this.

As ever Google is our friend, and I find a map of Liverpool’s s3w3rs from 1882 and a portrait of Jam3s N3wland, Britain’s first Borough Eng1neer and the brains behind the world’s first ever integrated s3w3rag3 system (in his year’s in office he succeeded in doubling the average life expectancy in the city – not a bad achievement by anyone’s standards).

As I run through the updated presentation with said colleague, we hit the slide in question and on seeing the image of what to me could be a.n.other Victorian gentleman, he remarks “ooh you found a picture of Jam3s N3wland!”.

Do you ever get the feeling you don’t take your work quite as much to heart as some of your co-workers?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pub trip revised

T and I had planned a pub trip for this evening, but childcare complications meant we ended up at T’s enjoying the company of young B.

And a very entertaining young man he is as well – it seems if he’s not falling out of trees he’s walking into lampposts. Still you can always rely on your loving parent to be sympathetic in such eventualities and not take obvious delight in one’s misfortune, or spread such tales around.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Family Geek - remote version

Sure enough within 24 hours Dad has questions about some of the upgrades etc and so I spend the evening proxied on to their machines explaining set-ups and fixing things to the way they like them.

Dad is I think slightly mystified as to how I can see his screen, but he’s a trusting soul and readily approves my request to control his system.

Not sure he found it quite so funny at the point when he logged onto his internet banking (he was having cookie problems he needed me to resolve) and I quickly emptied their account contents into mine, but you know these IT-innocents only learn the hard way ;-)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Family Geek

The fact that I have been christened ‘family geek’ is less of a statement about my IT abilities than it is an indictment of my family’s lack thereof. I do my best however and much of the weekend has been spent upgrading, optimising and downright fixing my parent’s computers.

Mum’s shiny new machine is a definite improvement on her last system, but I do wish they’d listened to my cautions about Dell.

First off the thing wouldn’t work at all when it first arrived. The support line had Dad taking the side off and fiddling about with the innards in a generally clueless manner (which is no disrespect to my Pa, he's a financial wizz, not a hardware technician) until he really put his foot down and spoke to a supervisor. Who in turn stated “ah well you haven’t paid for on-site support, so we’ll arrange collection, have a look and you should get it back after a few weeks”. Dad, never one to struggle with assertiveness politely pointed out that there was a world of difference between fixing a fault that had developed and a bit of kit that won’t even power up out of the box. Not to mention the hassles with the whole delivery and return malarkey for the machine’s disabled owner.

He later confessed to me that in his “she can’t get to the door, and you can’t even specifiy morning or afternoon, so I’ll have to stay home for a full day each time”, he may have neglected to mention that he’s retired and that stopping in didn’t actually equate to a day off work, but hey why disabuse them of their assumptions?

Upshot was that all things considered (including the “terribly sorry, you should never have been asked to take the side off and work on the motherboard yourself”), Dell relented and sent someone out who simply replaced the motherboard and hey presto, all was well.

Various settings need fixing though (which I sort easily enough), but more seriously the CD and DVD writer won’t function. In fact every time you try to open any facet of that software suite (even the bloody help file), the whole thing crashes.

After much piddling around to no avail, I find a newer version of the drivers and software on-line. Much to my relief and great satisfaction, this fortunately this seems to do the trick, but I understand my dad’s frustration – how would he know to do something like that? Is it really too much to hope that the basics work for people like my folks, out of the box?

My last act before heading back north is to set-up remote assistance capabilities on both of their computers – that way at least I can be of more use in future when I’m not able to be there in person.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Festival Operation Managers Away Day pt 1

Calling today the Festival Operation Managers Away Day seems like a strange choice of title.

I suppose it makes sense in terms of a day away from everything to get a lot of work done, but really, shouldn’t an ‘away day’ involve things like roller coasters and candy floss?