Saturday, September 30, 2006
In true girlie fashion none of us can decide what to wear to the wedding, we’ve all brought two options. So after what might have been a leisurely breakfast if it weren’t for the precision removal of food by the waiting staff at 10.30am on the dot, we do the tour of each other’s rooms giving views and advice.
David defies expectation by being on time (and also, bless him, coming via Sally’s to pick up my niece’s present – brownie points all round) and we leave for the church.
Now I’m not much of a wedding person (they nearly all seem to end in children or divorce and if you’re really unlucky, both), but I can’t remember having been to one where there was quite such a feeling of genuine warmth and well wishing for the couple in question.
Pab scrubbed up well and Emma simply shone with gorgeousness. The rather excellent photographer has put some photos up on his blog here, of which the above is one. The reception was easy-going and relaxed and the best man’s speech, consisting of Pab’s ‘unpublished’ blog entries, was inspired.
Returned to normal clothing, the newly wed pair were waved off for a romantic honeymoon of walking and youth hostels. Mad as hatters, but very lovely. As I say, I’m not much of a wedding person, but this wonderful couple of people find me making an exception to that rule.
To the bride and groom…chink.
Friday, September 29, 2006
As an aside to my travel winge, I should mention that sat stationery in traffic is an awful lot more bearable with friends like Sally and Caroline at the other end of a mobile phone (hands free of course).
One such conversation between myself and Sally (midway into her drive), probably bears repeating:
L: So Sally, what have you forgotten to pack this time?
S: Nothing, I’ve been really good and remembered everything.
L: Really? What even a hairdryer?
S: Yes thank you.
L: Clean knickers?
S: Yes. Look I’ve remembered everything for once. I even remembered the card for Pab and Emma.
S: Yes I’ve got everyth….oh fuck!
S: Oh fuck! I’ve forgotten your present for your niece…
Of course some readers will wonder why Sally has said item in the first place.
Well it goes a bit like this. Having been suitably chastised for forgetting adopted niece K’s birthday (see here for the humiliating tale), in the midst of all my pre-Greenbelt madness, I actually remembered to buy, wrap and pack birthday presents for the following:
- Belated birthday present for adopted niece K.
- The non-postable part of the birthday present for 'real niece', to be left with my parents so R could collect next time they visited.
- Birthday present for adopted niece R, whose birthday fell that week, so it could be sent back from GB with the rest of the Rabbit Corpse and Dog Collar family.
Except the latter wasn’t.
It was the present for my 'real niece'.
Meaning that the one in my parent’s hallway was…oh bugger!
Still no harm done. I ring my folks and arrange that we’ll swap when we meet up in two weeks.
Except then I got home from Greenbelt and realised, I’d left real niece’s present in the Duty Manager’s Office.
Happily for me, but most certainly not for her, Sally is still clearing up on site and bless her, finds the present for me and agrees to bring it to this weekend.
Except she’s forgotten it.
I’m sure my niece will see the funny side…right?
Before leaving the office I check the Travel England website and sure enough everywhere is plastered in warning notes. As I drive and the traffic reports cut in on the radio, it seems like I’ve made some good choices – the roadworks around Stoke aren’t too bad whereas it sounds like the M6 and Birmingham are generally are in meltdown. The M1 appears to be suffering accident after accident so I’ve done well to avoid that as well. So whilst my route is busy and the going somewhat slow at times all is going reasonably ok until I get east of the M1. Stuck on a single carriageway not having moved more than 500 yards 40 minutes the frustration kicks in. Big time.
Eventually I crawl level with a side turning and after a quick consult of the map, decide to go for it. Anything must be better surely?
Unfortunately I’m now on the kind of minor country road that doesn’t even feature on a road atlas, but hey, I know the rough direction I want and it’s better than sitting in solid traffic. Sat Nav is for wimps – this is the way to do it, window down, roof open, free-ranging.
Somehow (and please don’t ever ask me to explain how) I make it through and onto the delights of the Holiday Inn Peterborough. Caroline tells me that Sally has gone for a swim and that feels like the perfect way to rid myself of the journey stress.
And it is blissful to feel the day wash away, even if the 10m long pool barely caters for serious swimming.
Caroline joins us poolside and in her usual wicked manner threatens occasionally to wheel poolwards. The three of us chat and gossip and kick off our girlie weekend in appropriate style.
Between us, Sally and I demonstrate the twin options of the myopic swimmer. Sally opts for lenses out and can’t see a bloody thing, I opt for lenses in (strange pool and I don’t want to accidentally get the male changing room or something…I mean what would be the point if I couldn’t see anything…) and highly unattractive goggles.
All dried off we head to Caroline’s palatial suite for more giggling, catching up and room service amusement, a catalogue of errors and disappointments, of which I will mention just one.
What does it take to make three grown women shake with laughter so much that they lose all ability for function for several minutes? The answer is simple; get Caroline to order Sticky Toffee Pudding on room service, leave it to one side, whilst you all eat your main course and then watch Caroline attempt to eat the pudding. As this video clip will testify (honest to God we have not added sound effects), moist it was not…
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Or put another way, Indie Cult Comedy in a corporate entertainment hell about a cross-country road trip in order to enter a child in a junior beauty pageant, the former Vice President of the USA in a art house cinema about the kind of world we’ll be passing on to the next generation or Hollywood thriller in local desolate cinema where there is no future generation.
We go with the latter and sigh about the state of our neighbourhood when we find the car park playing host to the maddest bit of hand-break turn joy riding I’ve ever seen. The security guard is more sanguine however, as he watches on, drawing casually on a cigarette. He thinks the manager may have called the police he tells us. Either way only the first ten minutes of the film are accompanied by the background sound of screeching rubber and.
As it turns out, it’s a pretty good film albeit with some significant flaws.
The future is well portrayed, with enough references to the current to make it feel realistic, avoiding the common pitfall of having everyone flying around in hover jets or suchlike.
This is a world devoid of children, where the youngest person on earth is now 18 and no one knows exactly what has caused the global infertility (though no doubt PD James would have suspected it would be connected in some way with move away from the Book of Common Prayer).
And on the plus side, there’ll be a good decade free of joy-riding hoodies around the corner I guess, but I digress…
Thrillers rarely engage me to the point of caring (though I’d give most things a try for Clive Owen), but I’m genuinely tense hoping the car jump-starts or the door opens in time etc.
Generally people beating each other up on celluloid holds no enjoyment for me and if I’m watching on DVD I’ll actively hit fast-forward. However, when Marichka comes into her own and starts whacking the shite out of someone, I’m cheering inside.
That said there are problems. A crying baby in that circumstance could I’ll acceot stun a handful of soldiers into a stupor, but an entire company? Also one running gun battle is shot with blood splatter across the lens. However, all this achieves is to make me suddenly very aware of the camera and operator and in turn, my disbelief is harder to suspend.
Other plot holes annoy a little (just happened to find what you needed in the mist – how fortunate!) and the film is 30 seconds too long, with the possible highly ambiguous finish sacrificed for a far more resolved option culminating in a brutal cut to titles.
All in all though, a pretty good film; better than I expected.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Just a little bit of a dilemma, friends getting hitched on Saturday and I haven’t really given any thought to what I’ll wear.
Obviously the shoe side of things won’t be a problem, it’s the outfit itself that’s causing the problem.
The problem is this, weddings generally require colour, quite possibly pastel; I don’t do lots of colour generally and pastels not at all.
I do own a couple of tops that might vaguely pass for something of a ‘paler’ shade, if not strictly speaking pastel, that I bought in my year of blondness the other year*, but the blonde thing didn’t suit me anymore than these tops suit the current hair colour.
Maybe a slightly darker outfit is acceptable at this time of year?
I know, I know I’ve left this all far too late.
Let’s hope the bride has been a little more organised, eh?
*Also the year of my last passport application. I was wearing one of said pale tops when I stopped off in the photo booth. Of course the Passport Office now remove the white background so that the pale coloured pattern of the paper is visible all around your head. So what with pale skin, blonde hair and light top…basically all you can see is my eyes. Though on closer inspection, one ‘friend’ commented “fuck me, it’s Myra Hindley”. You know, it wasn’t just the high maintenance roots thing that caused me to turn my back on that look…
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Now we have two options here I guess.
- My local DIY/Plumbing store is diversifying into Victoriana leisurewear, or
- One shouldn't rely on Nade.em Signs to do your proofreading for you
Friday, September 22, 2006
Well my glimpse of a child-free utopia will have to wait. In the end we opted for Clerks II instead.
Kevin Smith definitely doing what he does best.
Randall's summation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as 'three movies about walking' is truly inspired.
Oh and C, given the Channel 4 and 5 documentaries you make me watch from time to time, the phrase "inter species erotica" is perhaps one for your lexicon?
I understand the film Children of Men is based on the PD James novel and explores a utopian future, where the world is completely devoid of fertility and therefore children.
As I understand it, it’s a light-hearted, life-affirming romp, where Clive Owen and Julianne Moore enjoy activities like being able to do a supermarket shop without driving their trolleys into misbehaving rug rats throwing tantrums in the aisles (having also been able to park their car in the now defunct parent and toddler spaces), enjoy meals out in nice restaurants free from screaming babies and find pleasure in recreational sex free from contraceptive concerns.
To be honest I didn't read the full review, but I think that was basically the gist of it...
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Being a member of a book group has many advantages, including introducing a breadth to your reading tastes, the opportunity to discuss a book you’ve just read with others in the same position and the informal discipline that the fortnightly cycle brings to your reading habits.
On the downside, sometimes you read books you really don’t like, or due to time pressures you find yourself rushing through a novel that really deserves more time.
A Happy Death by Albert Camus is little over one hundred pages in length, but it’s an intense, dense but well written read.
It deserves more than the time I was able to give to it.
Whilst there’s a lot to it, including the germination of some of Camus’ thinking and some beautifully written passages, it is still a deeply flawed novel in terms of structure, characterisation and the holding in tension of the narrative with the philosophical questions explored.
Much of the book (from character names and individual incidents) was rehashed and revised by Camus and used in The Outsider written a few years later.
The latter novel is far more successful and it’s perhaps understandable that Camus never published A Happy Death in his lifetime.
In summary, an interesting read, but if you were only going to read one of the two, I’d go with The Outsider.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
For fuck sake people, I read your blogs so that I don't miss out on such wonders. I feel distinctly let down by you all.
Apparently in a similar manner to Weezer's Buddy Holly video, Coldpay were superimposed as the house band onto some old TV footage; in this case the frankly terrifying daytime show Attitudes Across America.
It's hard to know what's more disturbing, the massive shoulder pads sported by the presenters, the huge brightly-coloured, plastic-framed glasses of the audience, Chris Martin's knowing hat-tip to the Miami location with the white jacket with sleeves rolled up or the... well I won't put words in your mouths, watch the video (if you haven't already) and I think it'll be pretty obvious what the fourth option is.
Way to go Barbara, way to go.
PS If I find out that any of you bastards knew about this and were holding out on me...
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Infamous recycler Steve Lawson provides a link to this quite stunning piece of looping by Imogen Heap (video link is halfway down on the right, it's HD quality so you may want to click Big rather than Bigger, depending on you bandwidth).
I've only ever heard her stuff before and whilst it's fascinating to see her create a piece live, I have to say it's been a long time since I've seen a performer quite so badly in need of stylist.
Now I now this makes me sound shallow and yadda-yadda-yadda it's really about the music not the image, but really - talk about car crash in a dressing up box...
That said she's performing on a radio recording relating to the release of the film The Last Kiss; so guest DJing we have the rather wonderful Zach Braff who as well as starring in the film has also scored it (rather fabulously judging by the details here). Accordingly if you're after aesthetic pleasures to match the sublime beauty of her voice, I suggest you focus on Mr Braff.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
So Steve and I were on the phone
It struck us that in so many ways, we're very misunderstood.
What's more, we know a number of people, who we rightly or wrongly believe are also regularly misunderstood.
So in the style of an idea whose time has come, may we introduce the Reasons Why I'm Misunderstood blog.
It's a team effort - if you feel you need to explain yourself to the world, then drop us an email and we'll add you to the crew.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I had to attend knowledge group meeting (poncy term for the technical leaders from across the UK and beyond meeting in a small room to share ignorance and lead the technical side of the company forward in something vaguely resembling a coordinated manner) in our Bradford office today.
I met up with a colleague just off a motorway junction as agreed, but then we had to face up to the traffic news, the M62 eastbound is closed.
It would have been a lovely drive across the back roads, with some lovely views in places…if it hadn’t been lashing it down half the time and if the fog hadn’t been so dense that I couldn’t see more than 10 foot beyond the front of the bonnet at times.
Still at least I like the colleague in question and he was very understanding about the dripping water into the passenger footwell due to the still undiagnosed leak. He also attended Greenbelt for the first ever time this year so we had stuff to talk about other than work (though it feels really odd letting someone from work have an insight into that side of my life).
Arriving over an hour late we found that the meeting hadn’t actually started yet as the technology that was supposed to allow our colleague in India join by telephone conference and the two from the southern part of the UK join by video conference was refusing to work.
The Sametime meeting room was fine, but whilst it can be useful for sharing documents etc, you can’t really carry out a meeting by text.
Eventually we managed one hour with India on a direct phone call and then in the afternoon we eventually got the video link with the south working.
Environmentally our company really tries to push video-conferencing to reduce travelling, but to win that argument the technology needs to work. Mind you the car travel option didn’t exactly stand up well today either.
Once the meeting eventually wraps (the afternoon was actually really productive) we’re eager to get back, so I forego the opportunity to catch up with those in the office I know from when I worked out of Bradford for a short while the other year, in favour of heading home, grateful that the motorway system is now at least functioning reasonably well.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Reader Advisory - this Racoon is in rant mode...
Back in June 2005 I took out a new 12 month contract on my mobile phone. When Orange wouldn’t match their ‘new customer’ deal for me (a long term customer), I threatened to leave. Strangely at that point they offered me a really good deal. So good that before confirming I ran through the details again with them not once, not twice, but three times, just to be sure.
Next thing I know they're trying to charge me an extra £10 a month.
After kicking up, they eventually admitted that they’d had some problems with their computer system that meant it had allowed their staff to offer deals that didn’t really exist.
I’m afraid my reaction was one of ‘well you have my sympathy, but that changes nothing, you made a 12 month legally binding contract with me and just as you wouldn’t let me back out, I’m afraid what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’.
We then hit the ‘computer says no’ syndrome, whereby the Customer Ambassador(!) I’d eventually been transferred up to, claimed that whilst I might be right it was physically impossible for the deal to be honoured.
Thing is just as it’s not my problem if their computer system screws up in the first place, it’s equally not my problem if their stupid computer system doesn’t enable them to meet their legal obligations. Let’s be clear that’s very much their problem.
Send me a £10 cheque each month if you like, I suggest, I really don’t care how you make it happen, but let’s be clear I will only be paying the agreed amount for the agreed service.
Accordingly she eventually agreed to fix the situation by giving me two £60 credits. The first of which would be credited to my account that month, the second in December.
I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to ring up to chase that second payment. The ritual is this, I ring Orange, get put in a queue for between 5 and 20 minutes, eventually get to speak to someone, explain the problem, the party at the other end confirms that there is a note on my account stating the second £60 was to have been made in December, they agree it hasn’t been paid, they can’t personally resolve that so they put me on hold, I get cut off, ring back go through the whole thing again and eventually get the solid, absolute promise that the credit will be on the next month’s bill.
The next bill arrives, no sign of any credit, start the whole sorry cycle again.
So come early August when I’m thinking of upgrading phone and contract, you’ll understand why given the credit still hasn’t happened, I’m not exactly feeling totally loyal to Orange. Mind you, if I leave will I ever see that money?
Plus the Orange shop wants to charge me £99 to upgrade phone, despite the fact that as a new customer going onto the plan in question I’d get it free (which I could effectively do by cancelling my current account and starting again, but I’d lose my number...even though I wouldn't if I move to a different provider).
So I head into Carphone Warehouse and enquire about other networks. A really helpful guy goes through the options and yes I can get a good deal and the phone free with various other networks. O2 are looking good, but given my particular pattern of usage the Orange call plan does suit me slightly better. So he asks why I’m wanting to change from Orange, so I explain that I’ve had problems but also that they say they’ll charge me for the upgrade. He doesn’t think that’s correct and suggests he rings them himself, which he does and bingo apparently I can actually get the phone free.
A little reluctantly I get convinced to give Orange one last chance and I sign up for the Racoon £35 contract for 18 months, giving me 500 cross network minutes, 200 texts and 250 landline minutes.
Then my next bill arrives.
Lo and behold they have at long last sorted the £60 credit. Only 9 months late.
But what’s this? Racoon 35 plan – correct so far. 12 month plan incorporating 250 cross network minutes, 50 texts and 125 fixed line minutes.
Oh and it gets even better they’re also charging me £6 for an additional 100 text bundle and £1.50 for an itemised bill, despite having opted out months ago.
So basically I agreed £35 for 500 cross network minutes, 200 texts and 250 landline minutes and what I’ve got is £42.50 for 250 cross network minutes, 150 texts and 125 fixed line minutes. Or even more simply I’m paying £7.50 more than agreed for roughly 50% less than was agreed.
So I ring them, listen to music for 10 minutes, then speak to someone who politely tells me that unfortunately all their computer systems are down, but he absolutely promises that someone will ring me back later or worst case the next day.
All I get the next day is a text asking me to ring them to provide feedback on how my experience of their customer services was.
There doesn’t appear to be an option for “very polite, but as much use as a chocolate fireguard”.
So I phone yet again and once through, a very helpful guy goes through it all and though I have to be really firm again and again about “this is the contract I signed, this is the contract I need you to honour”, it seems we’ve got there. He promises me all will be put right from next month’s bill and he’ll credit back 50% of the last month’s charges to compensate for this month. He can’t send a new bill confirming that, but he will send a letter.
I’m still waiting…
I’ll let you know.
Yeah right like anyone will have read all this, can’t say I blame you, but it made me feel better venting my spleen. And as someone who was once desperate enough for employment that I took a telesales job, I always try not to take out my frustrations with the wider organisation on the poor schmo at the end of the line; so better I take out my frustrations on the blog than Sanjev in Pune or Jason in Gateshead or wherever…
Plus in 18 months if someone could please remind me to reread this liturgy of pain when I’m deciding ‘should I stay or should I go’…
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
Heading on from Caroline’s I met up with my parents at our favourite hotel in Dartmoor. A lovely friendly family run country house hotel, which just couldn’t be more helpful in catering to mum’s needs. This year we’d arranged for a carer to come in to help get mum up in the morning, which helped it be more of a holiday for me, but more especially Dad.
We were really lucky with the weather, other than a bit of a chilly wind on the first couple of days, we enjoyed blue skies and sunshine. The perfect weather for walking around the Tors or just chilly out with a book.
The annual trip to Kit Hill in Cornwall was undertaken and memorial to Dad’s mother duly paid. The trip across the moors and across the Tamar is one of my favourites, just stunning.
On Sunday morning we sat out at a spot not far from the hotel and had lunch before I set off for home.
This is Mohican the Mischievous Pony. He came to say hello with his mum trailing behind.
Until he started wiping his arse on the corner of the car (I blame the parents).
We had a chat, he came to understand my concerns and stopped with the rubbing.
However, just as we’d forgiven him, the little blighter leant forward and deftly picked up my Mum’s bag with his teeth. The photo I don’t have is that as I darted out my seat and swotted him on the snout to make him drop it before he could carry it off.
Now that would have been an interesting end to the holiday.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
So given how much some of you enjoyed (endured?) the whole treadmill thing last month, let me leave you with another pageholder...
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Having eventually found a free disabled parking space, we walk through WHSmiths, have a quick look at Currys (hurrah the all-in-one printer-scanner that Caroline bought for £59 in Staples yesterday, is £139 here!) and then a third shop catches my eye.
I drag Caroline in – “you have to see what I was going to get you for your birthday”.
Well it only takes a minute to decide that a bonus birthday/“thank you for having me as a house guest” present is in order.
Much giggling later we leave the shop with a large box and bag and have to head back to the car, to drop off our purchases.
I observe that it doesn’t bode well, if three shops and 30 minutes in to our excursion, we’re already having to unload purchases…
The rest of the day is similarly wonderful – shopping with Caroline is much, much fun.
And we hardly bought anything.
I mean there were some shoes in the place that we didn’t even try on…
Many hours later we eventually leave (I’m not saying we shopped until we dropped, but the light was starting to wane by the time we exited the mall…).
The scores on the doors were:
1iz: one pair of luuurvely black boots, one pair of sensible black work shoes (mucho dull), couple of lipsticks, four books (two of which are for my mum) and a present for a friend.
Caroline: one luuurvely stripey knitted hoodie from Next (really excellent bright pink and red – yes really, no dark muted colours in sight, not like either of us really eh?), a couple of lipsticks (no really), a couple of small presents and a couple of items taken back to M&S. Plus the wonderful woman treated me to lunch, which culminated with the biggest crepe I have ever seen.
So not bad really, as I went to order the completing part of the set of items Caroline and Sally have chosen from a certain wedding list, we discovered the line has been discontinued and the internet orders already placed by the other two won’t be filled. However, in a rather poor piece of customer services, John Lewis will just tell the Bride and Groom, not you it seems. The fact that you have paid for a specified item and they don’t tell you that you can’t actually have it, all seems a little bizarre, but at least we found out and have all three cancelled and reselected.
You’re wondering aren’t you?
What was in the box?
Well we made it ourselves.
We chose the skin.
We stuffed it, selected a heart, gave it a voice (recorded out the back in the stock room amid much giggling) and brought it to life.
So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the fold, born on the 6th Septenber 2006, Mutie the Mutant Giraffe.
Why a mutant? Well as you all no doubt know, giraffes are remarkable in the animal kingdom for being the only creatures that are entirely mute. This one however has been trained to speak. Special. Mutant.
But more than that, Mutie is a very talented giraffe.
Safety conscious…he first puts on his knee pads.
Next the helmet.
Then he steps onto his boards.
And lo and behold we have the world’s first skateboarding giraffe.
He follows C wherever she goes...squeeze his tummy and he'll tell you why...
This is what happens when two normally mature professionals, take the day off work, eat pain au chocolat for breakfast and go shopping still high on the sugar rush.
As for even knowing about the Build-a-Bear Workshops, I blame a certain favoured niece…
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Time to panic. I can cover the first question reasonably ok (even at this early hour of the morning). The second is going to get trickier as my senior boss is sitting next to me and we never did quite agree what the job title is for the technical element of my new role. As for the third, well neither I, nor my reviewer, listed this course on the training request form that is supposed to be the catalyst for getting any training. So why am I on a C0nflict Management training course? Is someone in the organisation trying to tell me something?
So far so good…
“I’m the Project Manager for the F1rst T1me Sevverage programme”
Still on solid ground.
“…and I’m also the Technica1…errrrr what should we call it Fred*?
I shoot a desperate appeal for help to senior boss man and we decide on manager…
“…errr Technica1 Manager, for the Netvvork Des1gn teams across the business unit.”
Ok got through that one ok.
“and to be totally honest, I’m not totally sure why I’m on this course.”
Bit weak, but it’s accepted and we move on.
However, as we go round the rest of the room, it becomes apparent that the vast majority of people present have similarly not requested this course.
At the first break time we discuss how ridiculous this is and how we should really take the matter up with our Training Department as to why we get sent on courses we and our managers don’t feel we need, but can’t get on the courses we do request. We should call them to task for this complete ineptitude.
But none of us really like causing c0nflict…
*names changed/mispelled to protect...well me frankly ;-)
Monday, September 04, 2006
Firstly, try this little experiment:
- Raise your right foot off the ground and circle your foot in a clockwise direction.
- Whilst continuing to do this, draw the figure "6" in the air with your right hand, starting from the top of the figure.
I'm sure if I could be bothered to read all the comments here, I'd find the reason why, but life is too short you know. Especially, when you fill it with trawling the internet looking for bizarre things to do with your right foot...
The message about the precious nature of time, has similarly clearly not made it to those involved in this site Cats That Look Like Hitler.com.
I have to agree with this blogger, that whilst many of the entries are a little on the poor side, this moggy is clearly Adolf reincarnated:
I told you those feline fiends were evil...
Though you have to admit that at least the trains ran on time back in the days when every station had its own cat...