Tuesday, October 31, 2006


A very tired Dad phones me. Mum’s just been diagnosed as having a DVT and is in hospital.

It’s a rather large clot apparently and is well on its way towards her heart and lungs. Thank God they found it in time.

In the evening I manage to speak to Mum, who is bearing up ok all things considering, but hates being in hospital and is thinking some very un-Christian thoughts as she puts it, about the woman opposite who constantly shouts for the nurse.

Hopefully Mum may get moved to a proper ward yet. On the acute observation ward where she is currently everyone is apparently being terrible lovely, but aren’t experienced in coping with someone with MS or similar and it’s very noisy.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Sometimes I have to acknowledge that my learning curve can be very flat.

You see after the miracle manipulation, my shoulder was hugely better all Saturday evening and fine all day Sunday and Monday. I figure that which had once been trapped was now untrapped and all was well in the world of my shoulder and nerves.

And I was sensible enough to limit my swim to an hour and take it pretty easy.

And it felt fine at the time.


Oh bugger, it’s f’d again.

Ok, ok I surrender, no more swimming for at least a week (after all it’s very unseemly to have to ask one’s secretary to twist your arm about to try and undo the damage).

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The alcohol consumed, combined with the improvements to my shoulder achieved by the brute force and (informed) ignorance camp, mean I get a better night’s sleep. The extra hour thanks to the end of British Summer Time partly compensating for the late night.

Following breakfast and a devotional time, it’s back to meetings, through to lunch.

I’ve drawn the short straw and am down to facilitate the last session for Ops; trying to bring everything from the weekend together into firm decisions and actions.

We finish with a well earned lunch and then people depart for home. A small group of us however have one further treat in store as we escape to unwind together and the ever generous DC and Sally treat us to high tea in Crewe Hall.

The place is stunning and it affords me another “as only previously seen in the movies” moments. Yes I have now sat in a throne like tall arm chair in a extravagantly decorated room and eaten from a silver cake stand.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Full Saturday

Whilst swimming earlier in the week, I managed to strain my shoulder. I took a night off, but swam again on the Thursday.

It felk ok as I swam and given I was in the mood for a good long swim, I did lengths for 2 hours. Yes, I know in hindsight it’s easy to perceive the lack of wisdom in that, but in my defence can I reittereate that my shoulder f.e.l.t f.i.n.e.

Of course by the time I got home on Thursday night, my arm was experiencing shooting pains and worse still, an aching numbness that just wouldn’t quit.

All day Friday this had continued and last night I got little sleep. Still I made it to the breakfast, where cereal and toast have replaced the anticipated full cooked affair of previous years and locations. Whilst there is some minor disquiet about this, on balance it seems the centre suits us in every other way and that comfy rooms and warmth more than compensate for the lack of bacon and eggs.

Next we move on to the meetings – we have so much to get through. Some sessions see the Festival Operations and Programming Group join forces, at other times we make good use of the centre’s various meeting spaces to split up and work separately.

One particular issue hangs over the Ops team a little and hovers on the minds of the Ops Mgrs in particular, but we can’t really get together to discuss until the ‘free afternoon’.

Last week, we who were ‘The Five’, suddenly became four.

It didn’t come as a great surprise to anyone that the party in question felt it was time to move on, but there is genuine regret at the manner in which it got to that point and definite shock regarding the suddenness of the withdrawal. It certainly leaves us with a rather major issue at the same time as we’re already very concerned about workloads on certain individuals and the evolution needed as a team to suit a 20,000 person affair. It would be nice to take the time to replan and review the strategy at this point, but we can’t afford to wait for that process to happen before we address the immediate issues of how we cover the departing party’s portfolio. On a selfish note I’m particularly anxious on this front as, in the absence of any alternative put in place, I can see a lot of it will drift in my direction if I’m not careful.

On top of all this, sadly there seems to be a lot of personal politics doing the rounds on the periphery of all this and that, more than anything, I find troubling, negative and counter-productive. This is frustrating at the best of times, but right now it’s more than feels bearable when people are already at breaking point.

Not for the first time however, once we actually manage to sit down (the four plus B the Festival Director) and talk about our concerns together, the light starts to break through. Once more I’m a little choked by the support of the other three Ops Mgrs and by B in particular (who I suspect has little idea of the impact her calm, supportive input has on dispelling our fears). Suddenly, I feel reassured that we’re all pulling together in the same direction and the problems start to feel manageable again (if still rather large). My trust is restored.

Temporary arrangements are agreed to address the immediate consequences (B is a complete star in stepping in to take the short terms issues on a number of fronts) and we commit to having an away day together to go into the larger and longer-term issues in more detail. However if this is to happen before Christmas (and really it needs to), then it will need to be a weekday. So breaking all my resolutions about “no more leave for Greenbelt things”, I decide the ass has rather fallen in to the pit. Ah well, time to make use of that ‘unpaid leave’ option I guess…

Doubtless there is a lot of work ahead of us, but we have the start of a plan now (if George is lucky it might even be a cunning one) and it’s good to feel hopeful and even better to be able to report back to the wider team later on that things are in hand, that the temporary arrangements are as follows, that no major shake-up is on the cards, that we’re talking evolution not revolution and that we’ll be back in touch after the away day. I hope that those that had concerns feel reassured.

At the very least, hopefully we’ll have things more fully resolved soon enough as to avoid the moniker of “the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse” sticking. Though if we really must go down that route, I confess I’m quietly delighted to be ‘War’.


Following the evening sessions we all gather in the bar area (see Sally’s story about the ‘rather too much’ honesty bar) for the traditional pub quiz. Sally and DC have once again done a fine job of preparing this and it’s a good tool for getting the two groups to mingle a bit.

The only problem is that DC seems to have swallowed a management speak babel fish today.

Now I can hear what those of you that know him are thinking “but he’s always like that”, but trust me, today he’s channelling it in a completely unstoppable way. All day simple suggestions like “I think that within our teams we shouldn’t lose sight of what we’re about” has been translated instantaneously into “maintain the spiritual ethos of the micro-community”.

Which is amusing enough, but not exactly ideal when he’s trying to explain bonus points and joker rounds to a rowdy crowd. Bless. Fortunately Sally is there to translate and restore order.

Post-quiz, various small groups break-off to explore their own particular areas of interest: how to get red wine out of a carpet (a magical combination of dampened toilet paper and an empty bottle or glass scoring best), worshipping the various alcoholic derivatives of apple juice (vintage scrumpy, apple brandy…trust me don’t start a conversation with the culprits on this one unless you’ve got a spare hour or two), putting the world to rights, manipulating 1iz’s shoulder to release the amateur diagnosed ‘trapped nerve’ (actually, kudos to Shaun it may have started as an excuse to push my arm forcibly behind my back in a restraining type manner, but it bloody worked. Must be that pantomime horse wrestling experience paying off. Happily Z the physio gave him some tips before too much harm occurred – same basic principle she explained, but slightly less likely to snap one of my bones. Which is nice.), playing outside with sparklers or making balloon animals. The latter we can firmly blame on Caroline and her propensity for eccentric present buying (needless to say some animals produced did follow the basic mutant giraffe template).

Friday, October 27, 2006


As I pull into the car park of the centre, various bodies appear out of the main entrance in welcome. After a bit of a pig of a journey, this welcome lifts my spirits remarkably. These are people that I love so dearly and I’m going to spend a weekend with them.

Suddenly all is right with the world.

So right in fact that even the dreadful attempts at Karaoke in the pub we’ve booked for an evening meal (the numbers do rather narrow down the choice of pubs), fail to effectively dampen my spirits.

I think we can hold our heads high, knowing that none in our crowd took the dreaded mic. Sadly Oli remained 13 pints shy of the number he’d claimed would be required. I can’t help thinking that this was an opportunity lost…

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The History Boys

S and I break from our usual Wednesday night cinema pattern to make use of our only common night off this week. The History Boys is a wonderful, intelligent, engaging, moving, funny film – I’d highly recommend it, this is British filmmaking on good form.

Unlike many stage to celluloid transfers, The History Boys makes the switch well and it’s really only in the last scene, a very ‘theatre’ conceit, that you’re really conscious of its origins.

Whilst the potential provided by transfer of media was not capitalised on in that instance, in other ways the faithful adherence to the play is definitely positive. One scene is undertaken in French. Now my French (just like the headmaster’s, who stumbles into the scene) is not fantastic, there were words I missed, but you can understand enough. In fact the whole point is that some of the characters understand more than others. I guess it’s a risk that some audiences will have to rely mostly on the physical clues as to what is occurring, but actually that in itself is enough. Subtitles would certainly ruin the whole atmosphere and it’s a relief that the playing to the lowest denominator temptation is resisted.

The world of clever honey-voiced boys staying late after school to sing around a piano, isn’t exactly something I can relate to, but this is clearly a very personal play by Bennett and is crafted so well as to make the unknown credible. The characters are wonderfully well drawn and the acting superb. The decision to transfer the cast lock stock and barrel from the stage production pays off particularly well for the boys, where their familiarity as a group is palpable.

The dialogue simple shines at times, not least in some of the occasional one-liners (some recorded here). Rudges definition of history as “just one fucking thing after another”, has been widely reported, but for our audience at least it was the conversation between two teachers about one’s habit for laying his hand on pupil’s thighs that delighted most. The culprit attempts to claim that it’s more of a ‘laying on of hands’ than anything else. This is swiftly denounced by the other teacher “Hector darling, love you as I do, that is the most colossal balls…A grope is a grope. It is not the annunciation.”

Sadly the end scene does let it down rather and the implication that everyone who is x, will secretly aspire to transgression y, is a little disappointing, but don’t let that get in the way of you seeing this wonderful film.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

And you thought you were having a bad week?

Why does everyone seem to be having a shite time at the moment?

To top off a week of woe, on the way home from the Punjab on Friday night (a selfless buddy cheer-up mission honest. I hated every minute) I got a text from the wonderful C saying she was in hospital.

A fuller account is here. Oh and if that wasn't enough, here's what happened when she got home.

And in what (contrary to what Mr Shankley thought) is somewhat of a lesser matter. Liverpool lost 2-0 to the local red scum today. At least the ex isn't crowing by text as I would have anticipated. Yet.

Ok let me update my rant list for the week. I bloody-buggery-hate:
  • Under-performers whose problems I inherit and then get me all stressed out.
  • People who get on my tits generally and specifically by insisting that every conversation has to be about them.
  • Arseholes who defraud my friends.
  • Gravity and car batteries than conspire against those I love.
  • Manchester-fucking-United

Right who wants a piece? Come on, come on, roll up - I'll take on the lot of yer!

Friday, October 20, 2006


Ok I'm angry.

Really sodding angry.

Some utter and complete arsehole has cloned my buddies' debit card and emptied their bank account.

I'm fuming.

Sometimes really shitty things happen to really good people.

And it sucks.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cold Comfort Farm and Fup

The first time I read Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons I liked it well enough, but it took me a while to get its tone. On second reading, I find it much more enjoyable and excellently satirical.

Sadly other commitments have kept me from the last meet-up, where the group discussed Fup by Jim Dodge. Now that is a strange book. If I tried to explain what it's about, you'd only be left with the strangest impression. To be fair it's a very strange book, but utterly charming.

Now, I'm given to understand that our group's 'Non-Reader' has been gently, but firmly advised that she might get more from the group if she actually made some attempt to locate and read at least part of the occasional book.

Still as the proverb goes, when the gods seek to punish us they grant us our wishes. Accordingly two and a half hours after the start time, at a point when we've all moved on from the discussion of the book and onto other matters (putting the world to rights, that kind of thing), she strolls in and promptly monopolises the discussions back onto the book, which she has a) located (hurrah) and b) read the first 100 pages of (double hurrah).

B and I are seated such that we can disengage quite easily and whilst it might not have been the nicest act in the world, for self-preservation reasons we break into a private conversation. Trying to be a nice person, I try to open up a general conversation with the full group, but typically enough Non-Reader isn't interested if it doesn't place her in the sole limelight and starts fiddling with her phone to start showing us more photos of 'something to do with her'. So I give up, back to talking with just B and trying (upon request) to rescue D.

Whilst I say for we do this for 'self-preservation', when you think about it, it probably also helps preserve her ultimately.

But hey, who am I kidding? She pisses me off and I don't act well as a result.

And at the end of the day, maybe that's the thing I hold against her most, that I don't like what she brings out in me. And that's really more my responsibility than hers isn't it?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Weeks like this I could do without.

What do you do when you hit the point when you just can't solve the problem?

At least this is an inherited problem. Others before me have tried and come up against the same brick wall.

Which only makes it very marginally less frustrating to reach the same point yourself.

The truth is though that this isn't my problem and I can't go on carrying it and covering for it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Girls' Day Out

Whilst S&K try and find the answer to this dilemma, middle adopted niece H and I spend the day together.

S has laid down the boundaries for my stint in loco parentis. Playing on motorways and railway lines is ok. Playing with electricity and fire apparently is not ok (so that rules out electric railway lines then). He'd prefer if we didn't do hard drugs and no spirits before lunch.

Sounds fair enough.

I gave H some choices and she chose (when pushed - apparently she didn't want to be cheeky, well there's a first for everything) the Trafford Centre. It shall be our playground for the day.

First of all we shopped.

Then we lunched (tapas darling).

Then we did the movies (Open Season, not bad at all) and ice cream.

Then we shopped a little bit more.

Then we headed home.

Above all we had fun.

Of course given a least one of H's parents is likely to read this, can I just add that I believe the above falls within the prescribed guidelines. What's more we included salad in our meal, only soft drinks were consumed, Open Season is a natural history documentary(ish) and we only had two scoops of Ben and Jerrys (which shows positive restraint). I fear H was partially exposed to my worrying shoe addiction, but I don't think it will be hugely detrimental on the girl.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Back to the Blog

Last night, I received from different parties: one very amusing answerphone message, one text message and one instant messenger enquiry, all asking if I was ok given I hadn’t blogged in a while.

You sweet lovely people.

I know now that should I die, it would only be a week and a half before it was discovered. Which is reassuring in a world where milk deliveries are a thing of the past and the local curry house only extends it’s service of concern to certain favoured customers.

As this deluge of posts will attest, my silence has been contributable to a) being every which end of the country but home last week and b) a lack of Ts and Ys.

And not, as some of you may have feared (knowing me well and all) that I had been convicted by this article (courtesy of The Register) that The Lovely Jude brought to our attention.

Anyway, I'm back now, the glut of posts from the last week and a bit have now been posted. I'm piling more drivel onto the super-inter-webual thingy than anyone could ever possibly want to read.

Happy now?

Or in the words of all the sodding call centres I’ve called of late Reach Out and Touch the Screen apologises for the recent disruption in service provision, normal (low) standards should resume shortly. Your reading pleasure is important to us.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Last Kiss

I had free preview tickets for The Last Kiss tonight, so Phil and I met at the Printworks and replaced a proper meal with a bag of popcorn.

All I really knew about the film going in was from the link Steve Lawson had provided a while back re the soundtrack.

Well that and that it had Zach Braff in, which was probably enough to seal the deal for me.

It was a pleasant enough film, which once it got into it’s stride (and that took a while) was pretty interesting. Not least because whilst the story was engaging and the characters felt very real, none of them were set-up for you to feel particularly sympathetic with.

On one level I liked that – it’s more real to reflect that everyone has their flaws, there are no saints here, two sides to every relationship difficulty. Similarly they don’t just follow simple narratives that resolve in the usual cliched way. On the other hand though, this 'grey space' does mean that you’re not really rooting for anyone and that also slightly diminishes the experience. Whether the trade off is worth it, I’m not sure. I am glad however that someone is making films that at least dares to play around with that whole area a little to see what results.

As for the soundtrack – well the guy is a serious Brito-phile...

Monday, October 09, 2006


It would be easy to be cynical about the Vag1na Monologues and I guess that whilst I was up for the night out (the lovely K had got tickets) I hadn't really thought too much about what to expect.

I have to say though, it was a top night out. A mixture of dark and light, serious and hilarious.

The three presenters Natalie Cassey (probably best know for Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps), Nikki Sanderson (sp? off of Corrie apparently) and newsreader Carol Barnes, similarly brought a variety of angles to the piece and provided nicely contrasting styles and tones.

Natalie Cassey was really what made it though, she totally threw herself into it (a bit stage school pretension at times – bare-foot and cross-legged on her stool, but generally forgivable) and her earthy manner and comfort with ad libbing suited the material perfectly.

A fantastic laugh and definitely one for a girlie night out (thanks K!).

That said a few blokes had been brave enough. Though they might have regretted that at the point just after the interval when they were made to all stand up. They were teased a little, but generally applauded – or as Natalie put it “it takes some balls to come back in here after all this flap talk”.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Shopping for Shiny Things

I woke up yesterday with the hints of a migraine starting, so took my meds and went back to sleep (this combination often does the trick if I catch it early enough). Normally I’d wake up in about an hour; two at the most.

Six hours later I woke up, with a fairly clear head, but to the realisation I’d kind of lost an entire day.

So other than a bit of searching on-line for laptops and prices little was achieved.

I was starting to think (and hence save) about upgrading the laptop. It’s rather ancient, heavy as all hell, slow and various bits don’t work anymore. I’d upped the RAM at the beginning of the summer and had hoped that would buy some time, but I can’t see the point in paying out for the keyboard.

So having done my research on-line I head to the shops.

An excellent price for a HP in Staples, further undermines the concept of shelling out for a really lovely super light Sony Vaio. But I’m holding out until I compare in the flesh, so I head on to the Trafford Centre and John Lewis and the Sony Centre.

The very small Sony’s are gorgeously light, but I think too small for my purposes. The next size up would be perfect and 1.8kg is still a really good light weight.

The price tag however is not good. Even scouring on-line offers they are seriously pricey to get a reasonable spec.

However the Sony Centre does have a 10% off offer running in the store (supposed to be 5% on laptops, but it’s funny how that changes when you start to leave the store) and the next range up is comparable to the HP, but a bit more lovely.

So I take the plunge…a new lovely shiny, but not too expensive Sony Vaio is mine.


Just because I can.

Friday, October 06, 2006


i seems ha m lapop susained more damage han i realised.

cerain kes have sopped working. including he one alphabeicall before ‘u’ and he one before ‘z’.

i also can’ backspace or ge he lef shif ke o funcion.

bu a leas I can sill sa:


Thursday, October 05, 2006


Another early start, and I’m relying on adrenaline to see me through.

It just about does.

It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this really and I ‘think’ it went well; not that we didn’t also compile a huge list of things to improve for next time.

The journey back is pretty horrible (excepting the wonder of the Angel of the North, which never fails to take my breath). So glad I’m not driving. I’d love to have fallen asleep, but I feel obliged to keep awake in support of the driver.

On the plus side, the journey up and back have given an unusual opportunity for in depth chats, that have allowed me to see another side of my colleague. It's nice to get to know him better, to get beyond the surface stuff.

Absolutely exhausted though; still it’s Friday tomorrow, if I can just get through that the weekend beckons…

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Up early, colleague and I grab some breakfast before heading to the centre to set up.

It’s a bit of a rush, but we’re just about straight when the first of our 13 delegates start to arrive.

We now have two days to give these guys an in depth introduction to our specialist work area (am I being vague enough here?).

And do we mean in depth.

We make a good partnership I think, and it needs two people to break things up (it is very intensive) and to provide enough tutorial assistance to some who are struggling with the exercises.

We’re doing things from first principles here and in the absence of a computer for each delegate that means looking up tables and number crunching, where spreadsheets would normally take the strain and pain. But, on the plus side, this way they know the background and understand where things have come from.

That said, by the end of the day, we’re all exhausted, but whilst the delegates enjoy a drink in the bar, colleague and I are preparing the second day’s input.

The meal is good natured and the banter flowing freely, but colleague heads bedward early and not too much later I leave the guys in the bar to play and head back to my room to finish up some last bits for tomorrow before hitting the pillows.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Late setting off

After a manic day in the office and the client coming over and getting unduly excited about the new toy I’ve developed for him, colleague and I need to finally get together and finish the preparation for the training course we’re running in Newcastle for the next two days.

Lot’s of manic work and printing out of worksheets later, we finally get away, much later than intended and we head north via Manchester so I can dump the car (I'd suggested the train, but in the end colleague has decided to drive.

It becomes clear that we’re not going to get to Newcastle in time to eat, so we break the journey at a Ramada Jarvis and order a decidedly under-whelming meal which we eat whilst we work, pulling together who will present what for the first day at least.

We reach our hotel in Newcastle at 11.30pm, have a quick drink in the bar to unwind and then head to our respective rooms.

I just manage to stay awake long enough to sort out some final bits for tomorrow before I fall fast asleep.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Back from the wedding/girlie weekend, I’ve just time to sort out my bags before work in the morning and then the train down to London for Greenbelt Trustees and Management Group.

A little bit of a disaster going down when the woman next to me drops her possessions and in the ensuing clear up, I manage to knock my glass of water over my laptop. The rest of the journey is spent with me peeling off key after key and mopping furiously.

The laptop is pretty ancient, weighs a ton, has become slower than a slow thing and various ports have ceased to work. However I was hoping it would last a little longer before I needed to upgrade.

Ah well, it seems to have survived.

The meeting itself is well facilitated and some excellent stuff comes out and is discussed. Just got to put it all into action now…

Back home by 1.30am I need my bed – I’m glad I was organised and repacked my overnight bag on Sunday night.