Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mother-Daughter Retail Therapy

Rejigging some leave from Christmas I’ve managed to arrange things so that I can take a day now to spend with Mum and Dad.

In exchange for some computer help from me over the weekend, Dad has given the go ahead for Mum and I to do what we do best – a girlie shopping trip.

Accordingly, 9am sees Mum and I en route to Croydon. The shops are amazingly busy for midweek – I guess the Christmas shopping rush has started already.

Happily, I’ve already done most of my Christmas buying and Mum’s for that matter, so our trip is free of stress and we’re able just to meander and pick up bits here and there; attempting to suppress the homicidal rages that busy shopping malls bring to the fore.

Of course shopping is really just an excuse for some mother daughter time together. So retail therapy gives way for a while as we get a coffee and chat away.

Keeping to our strict schedule, we meet Dad at the arranged point and I’m taken to lunch at a newly refurbished restaurant near where I grew up. It’s nice to spend time with them both and good that we get on so well these days.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The end of the long goodbye

For the fourth day in a row S and I meet up (I guess we’re both eager to squeeze what we can from these last few days), but I leave for London tomorrow, so this really is our last chance to meet up before they move.

We’ve planned an evening out at the Christmas Markets in town and best of all P is, as hoped, able to join us, fresh from his work leaving do (ever so slightly merry).

As we mooch and munch and chat and laugh, I’m reminded of how much I love these two friends of mine. We just get on so well and are so comfortable in each other’s company. I’ll miss the easy spontaneous meet-ups, but that’s the only thing that ends here, the friendship continues, just on a more organised basis in future. In fact my first trip to Wolverhampton and a shared New Year are already planned.

But, this era ends here, and having dropped them back at their Manchester home for the last ever time, I drive away sad, but at the same time grateful for the gift of all my wonderful friends.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Casino Royale

Mid-afternoon I receive a text message from S: “Unless you feel at risk of social overdose do you fancy seeing Bond tonight? Trapped in box nightmare.”.

I reply that I see it more as the opportunity to get one’s money’s worth whilst one can. Besides it is most surely a best mate’s duty to rescue a friend trapped in packing hell.

So after the gym I head straight to S’s and we just make it round the corner to the Showcase in time.

The intricacies of the poker scene are a little lost on S and I; at the point of high tension when you catch sight of the various card hands, we just look at each other with amused shrugs. This doesn’t spoil the film though, it has to be one of the best Bond films for a good while. Proper acting and dare I say a rather enigmatically sexy new central figure.

Daniel Craig in swimming trunks….mmmmm…well you wouldn’t kick him out of bed for farting would you?

It needs some tighter editing, there are plot holes big enough to drive an Aston martin through and the product placement (yes, yes Sony Vaoi’s are lovely, enough already) is a little tiresome, but overall it’s a cracking film.

Up the Candle

In conversation at the weekend, it transpired that Stuart had only lately come across the phrase 'higher up/lower down the candle' to describe relative styles of church worship.

I suppose I grew up with the phrase, but I share Stuart's fondness for it and have used it many a time in recent years to describe part of my journey as having been one of climbing the candle.

Proof positive of this directional movement must surely be that a bored lunchtime perusal of my SiteMeter shows that I rank 55 on Google for the search Ecclesiastical Regalia.

The post in question also reminds me of an associated phrase that entered my lexicon a while back. Sadly I feel non-conformist Stuart will have less opportunity to use "up to his tits in tat".

Readers may draw their own conclusions about the implications of this blog also enjoying it transpires, a ranking of number 1 on Google for Clockwork Nun...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Last Sunday

After a quiet day, I head round to P&S's and P and I load up the car and head to the tip. Our local refuse centre is great fun for anyone with destructive tendencies as you fling your rubbish into the 20ft deep concrete chasm.

Needless to say P and I take great delight in lobbing broken computers, lava lamps and all manner of stuff as far as we can.

Then the three of us head back to mine for the now (but short-lived) tradition of DVD and food. This time I've actually been organised enough to go to the shops and hence am able to cook up a lovely meal of salmon in lemon and dill sauce with steamed veg.

I know this won't be the last time we spend an evening like this. It's just going to take more organisation and travelling in future.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Canals, Christmas Markets and Curry

Next weekend will be P&S's last weekend in Manchester. Sadly however I will be in London, so this weekend is our last joint weekend. On the plus side I guess this does at least allow us a private goodbye period.

Despite a house in Wolverhampton still badly in need of decorating attention, P&S head back to Manchester this morning and so S and I can have a girlie day out together.

We head to Castlefield where we find a very polite protest being undertaken, with canal boats blocking the entrance to the Duke's cut.

A lunch in Duke's 92 and time to catch up. An unfortunate phone call midway, brings up the past and for what must be the first time in over a year a few tears come. Thing is there is still anger and remembrance of the pain of back then, but I know the tears owe a little to PMT and a lot to the circumstance of this weekend. But I don't want to ruin this day with tears, so I fight them back.

Moving on in more ways than one, we head onto the tow path and walk along the canal.

This has to be one of my very favourite urban walks. The area has changed so much in the 17 years that I've been in Manchester. The changes continue and the new Hilton tower now dominates the skyline.

We emerge from this slightly subterranean world onto Oxford Road and from here head past Central Library to Albert Square.

It's fun to explore the continental markets here and on Brazenose Street, though I'm still not tempted by the array of white and blue Dutch porcelain.

On the other hand I think Shaun might like this:

We head back down Deansgate and unsuccessfully search in various outdoor sport shops for the elusive non-breakable cafetiere for P.

Then back to Castlefield to pick up the car and then I drop S home - a few hours downtime before we meet up again, with P for a meal out.

As I drive back to mine the tears start to fall again. The reality of them not being just a mile away in future is really starting to hit home.

In need of a buddy, I ring Stuart, who provides me with much love, support and a firm talking to about still having 'family' here in Manchester. It works a treat, I'm still sad about the end of an era, but I don't feel so alone anymore.

Feeling stronger I pick up P&S and having failed to secure a table at the Cedar Tree we decide on the Punjab.

Unfortunately, what should have been a lovely meal at our home from home, is marred by some decidedly lack lustre dishes. After so many years of sterling service and consistently fabulous food, it's been so sad to see this place lose its touch over the last few months. But it's the company that counts.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mmmmm Punjab!

The lovely K is en-route with J to London for a girlie weekend, staying at Sally's. Sadly I couldn't join them but Stuart and I console ourselves with a trip to the pub and then on to our favourite curry house.

Better still favourite niece K meets us there post cinema.

It's a timely reminder that whilst some friends might be about to leave the city, some rather excellent buddies remain.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Line

It's long been the joke that Steve and I know where the line is, it's just behind our heels. So you can imagine people's delight/piss-taking on hearing that I've been asked to mentor someone in appropriate behaviour/communication.

Take this space to pause and wonder what that says about the rest of the organisation in question.

I know, worrying isn't it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


When I first met M, just under four years ago, she was curled up, silent and clearly terrified.

Having fled her home in Africa following the murder of her mother and brother and her own second period in prison (torture sessions thrown in at no extra charge), she'd arrived in Britain seeking safety.

What she found was an incompetent solicitor and a government who had just passed laws that left people like herself destitute with no legal means of feeding themselves or finding shelter.

Alone, cold, frightened - no wonder she looked like a text-book picture for 'traumatised'.

Very soon though this stranger started to come out of her shell and soon we could see for ourselves the political activist, the fighter, the intelligent, articulate, feisty young woman.

The next year was quite a journey - negative decisions, appeals, and finally 'indefinite leave to remain'.

In the midst of that we brought M to Greenbelt and she worked the Escape to Safety exhibition. I remember seeing her in action, seeing the educator in her come out and seeing her hold the respect of all who she spoke to - finding the guts to tell her story for the sake of the bigger picture, for the sake of others facing what she had. I remember feeling so proud of the community that had her saying that for the first time since leaving Africa she had found herself again.

I'm in awe of her. In my life I didn't need to develop the knowledge and philosophy that "Even at the worst moments when part of you just wants it all to end, you find that something in you still wants to hold on to life. But, you know you must never hold your own life so dear that you won't sacrifice it if necessary, for the sake of the next generation".

I remember talking to her when she'd finally got the positive determination and reflecting that at last she could now really start thinking about the future. Her priority was to train or work in some field that would be of use for the day she hopes for, when it's safe for her to return home. Something that would help her take her part in rebuilding her community.

And so, she's now in her final year of a Community Health degree, working every spare moment still to pay her way.

We've progressively seen her less and less over the years, and that's cool. She doesn't need us now, she's flown that temporary little nest that we were able to provide for her. She's found a new life here now and it's fantastic to see.

But tonight, P, S and myself head a few miles east to her new pad to catch up. It's been months, too many months. We get to meet her new man (who is clearly shy and in awe of her, but treating her well and that's good enough for me) and the bump that very soon will be a new life in this world.

M is glowing both physically and emotionally; a long long way from that scared little creature I first met all those years ago.

As we say our goodbyes at the end of the visit, we tell P he's a brave, brave man taking on our feisty M, but as we leave there's a lump in my throat. It's nice when things work out.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

And repeat...

This weekend ended like the last, the key ingredients being P, S, DVD and pizza.

Good friends at utter comfort in each other's company.

It's hard to countenance that these easy, spur of the moment, just round the corner from each other, meetings are about to end. It's been six months in the offing, but still I know I'm not prepared.

Happy evenings together are starting to become tinged with sadness.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hair and shopping

Years ago I had a real phobia about having my hair cut; a result of numerous appalling disasters. Then, about fifteen years ago, I went to this fantastic salon in Manchester and everything changed.

Apart from the year when P 'retired' due to ill health, I've not let anyone else take scissors near my 'difficult' twin crowned barnet.

His wife S runs the colouring floor and is undoubtedly the best colourist in Manchester, and generally considered to be one of the best in the country.

On top of this they are simply wonderful people and after years as a regular client, a trip in to get my locks tamed, feels like a catch up with friends. What films have we seen, what books have been read, restaurants visited and so forth.

People sometimes ask me what I'm going to have 'done'. Well the truth is I rarely think about it in advance, we know each other so well that all we need is a vague and most general of conversations and from that they do their thing. Leave it to the experts. I'm never disappointed.

S in particular has it down to a fine art. Once, after the nasty break-up of a relationship, I looked in the mirror at the end of the afternoon and found a stunningly bright array of colours on my head or as she put it so succinctly "I knew you needed cheering up". Similarly she knows I'll say if I have a job interview of similar imminent and accordingly she'll wordlessly make sure it's a little tamer.

So several hours after crossing the threshold, I leave with a head of hair three hundred times healthier and with a bag full of anti-chlorine products.

And so on to the shopping. I have a list of items to get for Mum, plus some Christmas shopping of my own and some clothes shopping for fun.

Regular readers will be surprised to hear that not one shoe shop was entered.

With arms achingly full of bags, I walk through the Christmas Markets, spread even further across Manchester this year.

The smell of mulled wine and hot spiced cider, provides a heady mix with that of cheese and salami.

Alongside the stalls of food and some genuinely lovely crafts, there are countless stalls of tat.

You know how people buy things on foreign holidays that make no sense once returned to domestic shores, the Moroccan slippers that fit so perfectly into that world, but lie untouched at the bottom of the wardrobe back home? Well I can't help feeling that a similar thing is happening in the Hansel and Gretel style stalls that line the squares and streets of Manchester right now. Buoyed up by the warm alcohol and the festive atmosphere, the unsuspecting public will be lulled into buying white and blue Dutch porcelain windmills and clogs or Italian lace tablecloths and the once home and sober, they'll unpack their bags and think "wtf did I buy this for?".

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Burmese Days

At book group this week we discussed Burmese Days by George Orwell.

None of us had managed to finish reading it, but only due to time pressures, we'd all enjoyed it greatly.

One of the key pleasures of reading a well written book set in a foreign culture is the way it transports you to a different world. Cheaper than the air fare and more environmentally friendly (although I'm aware my bowing bookshelves represent the sacrifice of several trees).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chlorine Hair

Well my shoulder seems to be holding up to the renewed swimming regime. The same cannot be said about my hair.

Chlorine and hair colouring is not a good combination, hopefully the long overdue trip to the hairdressers will help on this front. I'm hoping S can do her usual magic.

Because let's face it, goggles for contact lenses are bad enough, but I'm not going down this avenue for anyone:

I mean, look at it, they could obviously only find one model prepared to humiliate herself in this way...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Well if you absolutely must insist on breeding (and it seems some of you must), then obviously this is what every modern babe needs.

Never too early to start a love of all things white and shiny.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

End of the weekend

Strangely enough when I arrived back at the AFO conference, the crew were still up and drinking (pints of whiskey and coke in some cases). I have some catching up to do.

Despite this I still don’t sleep well and decide to sacrifice breakfast for some extra time in bed.

The last few sessions are again worthwhile and as we pack up and head our separate ways, I’m glad that P brought this to my attention. Some good stuff learnt, some interesting ideas to consider, some hopefully useful contacts made.

Back in Manchester I doze on the sofa before P&S come round for a quiet night of pizza and DVD. Perfect mellow end to a hectic weekend.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Magic Numbers

A less than comfy bed and the constant drone of an air con unit outside the window of my room, leaves me bereft of sleep. More happily though, after the rather unfortunate start to the conference yesterday, I’m glad to say that today went decidedly better.

It’s a mix of festivals represented here. Many are small folk festivals ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand, but there are also a few festivals that share more in common with Greenbelt in terms of content or size, such as Lamar Tree, Cambridge and Guilfest. The range of talks and workshops are similarly broad, with some interesting issues covered.

Above all it’s good to talk and hear what other people are doing. Sometimes it reassures you that we’re on the right track, other times it challenges you into thinking about something in a different light.

M and J are just there for the day and so having said goodby I grab a quick and uninspiring early meal at the hotel, before jumping in the car and heading back up to Manchester. The weather is pretty grim, which together with roadworks makes the going slow.

S and R are ready as I pull up and we get to the Apollo in time to hear half of the second support, Doctor Dog’s set. Not a bad sound, with a couple of numbers standing out. Hats, however, as I’ve sad before, are rarely a good idea in the world of music.

As we wait for the main act, Doctor Dog’s promo guy hands out some samples. Opening it up I find 7” vinyl. Hmmmm…what am I going to play that on I muse.

The young couple standing next to us are even more intrigued. They’ve never seen one before (oh my, I feel old).

Talking of couple’s K notes a very strange phenomenon at the Apollo tonight. Clearly the Magic Numbers are now the sort of group that courting couples come to. Muttering “get a room” under her breath, K manoeuvres us further forward to a space less overrun by raging hormones.

The other thing that has changed is that Magic Numbers can now headline a medium size venue like the Apollo. Whilst their performance is excellent and they have the means to carry off the larger space, I can’t help comparing it back to the last time I saw them, when it was that bit less slick and more intimate.

Their latest album is similarly pretty good, but somehow it doesn’t quite have the charm of their debut.

All in all a good night though, and as I drop S and K home before heading back down to Telford, I just hope that this time S bought the right size T’shirt…

Friday, November 10, 2006


Rushing away from the post shooting meal and drinking, I headed south towards Telford for the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) conference.

Driving down the unlit, wet, back roads of Cheshire, for the first time in my life I started to really wish I had a Sat Nav. Normally I’m a happy map reading kind of gal, but the combination of the pitch black and a county seemingly bereft of sign-posts, I was left to follow, my fortunately quite good sense of direction.

Arriving at the hotel, I register at the AFO desk, where they hand me various items for the weekend, including a Delegate’s Contact List.

My heart sinks. Oh please tell me they haven’t? Oh crap they have – there in black and white are my home address and phone number (provided to them for the joining instructions), which they are merrily giving out to 200 random strangers.

I raise the issue with the guy behind the desk and I’m initially met by a blank look and a lack of comprehension as to why this is a problem. It’s not being picky, it’s important stuff that organisations need to get right. I’ve had problems in the past and a friend had the horrendous experience of her work’s HR department giving out her home details to a colleague. She was then harassed and stalked for over a year and her life became a living hell. I’m tempted to suggest that I take his wife’s details and proceed to subject her to nuisance phone calls and stalking to impress on him the reason why you need to treat people’s details with respect. His failure to understand the issue or properly apologise or come up with any resolution leaves me struggling to control my growing fury at his incompetence, but I bite it back and keeping as calm and assertive as I can (Sally you’d have been proud), I try again to explain some of the reasons why this important, why I personally get skittish about this stuff.

He seems to vaguely start to appreciate that it was maybe a bit of a mistake to have done this, but even my mention of the clear contravention of the data Protection Act fails to illicit any reaction from him that suggests he’s really comprehending the gravity of the situation. Similarly when I say that I appreciate there’s not a great deal that can be done about the sheets already given out, but what about the large pile waiting for delegates that have yet to arrive, he just looks at me blankly.

Fortunately at this point the women behind him intervenes, clearly understanding the problem rather better. She apologises for the mistake and suggests they blank pen out the details on the remaining sheets, or better still if they can, print out some labels with the office address to stick over the top.

Lovely, I say, thank you for doing what you can.

Not a good start to the conference. I decide I need to unwind, so dump my bag in my room and head to the hotel’s leisure suite. Forty minutes of lengths in their rather small pool later (shoulder fine – yay!) and I’m much more relaxed and ready to track done Pete and co and hit the bar.

Unfortunately, the recoil from the gun has left me with a seriously bruised right shoulder, making drinking difficult.

Anyone got a straw?

On Target

I’m usually really poor at any activity that requires a steady hand or aiming at a target.

Remember that game Operation? As a child my young heart would sink when a friend suggested a game; old shaky paws here could only ever do the bread basket – anything else and the buzzer would sound almost instantaneously.

Ten-pin bowling? That’s just a way to break nails and embarrass yourself as far as I can see.

So when it was announced that as celebration for the successful completion of a large programme of work, we were taking a group from our team and the client’s, clay pigeon shooting, I was somewhat apprehensive to say the least.

On top of this, I really don’t like guns and the whole gun culture thing. Guns to me mean bloody conflicts and local communities torn apart by crime. When you see a gun round my way, it’s not going to be a happy ending.

Is shooting as a sport sufficiently disengaged from the destructive side of things? I don’t know. It’s not a world I’ve ever felt inclined to investigate.

Still, I do believe in being open to new experiences, so I agreed to go, even though I felt more than a little ambivalent about the prospect.

And so I found myself on a cold drizzly afternoon in November, holding a shot gun and attempting to follow a lump of ceramic whizzing overhead at some speed.

Some of my male colleagues did seem to get some kind of rush from the whole gun thing, but happily that past me by completely. In fact I seemed to disassociate from the whole weapon element of it and engage purely on a skill and accuracy front.

The second pleasant surprise of the day was that, as it turns out, defying my expectations and fear, I’m actually quite good at it.

We did six clays at each of six traps and I was quietly immensely chuffed to score 29 ‘kills’ (ok so I didn’t like the terminology) out of the possible 36. In fact as all the groups returned to the lodge, it transpired that I’d actually come joint top out of our party of about 40. Not bad for a girlie eh?

I have to say that it was mainly down to our wonderful instructor, who I think picked up my lack of confidence and was just such an excellent coach and so affirming that it made all the difference.

In addition to the esteem boosting satisfaction of knowing that there is at least one steady aim, target based activity that I have some aptitude for, my efforts also saw me rewarded with this errrr ‘lovely’ trophy.

I also came away with a rather large bruise on my left shoulder from the recoil action, but some things in my life will not be photographed for this blog…

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Advice Bureau

Well bless you dear, sweet people, you actually played along with the nonsense poll re my shoulder (still being rested btw). The results at this point are as follows:

And I'm very heartened to see that the many of you inherently understand that a blog is no place to seek medical advice.

Not so the rest of the world it seems, judging by the google searches that refer people to this blog.

So in the spirit of blog advice, perhaps it's time I opened up 1iz's advice bureau again, to impart some wise words to the souls whose searches have brought them to these shores.

  • ear plug blu-tack – yeah sounds like a great idea, can’t see a potential downside to that at all. Go for it.
  • giraffe mutants – why do I have this sneaking suspicion that this was Sally or Stick looking for a Christmas present for a certain someone?
  • giraffe tandem bar – eh? Nah you’ve lost me. Is this a drinking establishment designed with a couple of courting giraffes in mind? Talk about niche market. Not to mention that every time one of the giraffes passed out comatosed (they really can’t handle their beer those giraffes), the landlady would be obliged to turn to it’s mate and say “’ere you can’t leave that lying there!”. To which the longsuffering, designated driver giraffe would be required to reply “that’s not a lion, that’s a giraffe”. And let’s face it that would get a bit tiring for everyone after a while.
  • Luscious – at least one person reading this blog will understand why I’m a little nervous to find that someone has located me by searching on that particular term. Hmmmmm…
  • tablets that lead to vommitting – sheesshh some people are so posh they want a tablet for everything; what’s wrong with using two fingers down the throat like the rest of the world? And come to think of it isn’t sitting on the computer googling to try and procure such tablets, just a little bit premeditated? So, let's see, posh and suspected eating disorder... fuck me it's Victoria Beckham!
  • "i want to have a beard" – well my advice is either wait, do nothing or seek sensitive medical help, depending largely on the age and gender of the searcher. I’m sure you can pick which one is relevant.
  • anbesol for ear ache – it’s you with the blu-tack isn’t it? Think of the pain as nature’s way of trying to make you smarter.
  • "someone accused me of a crime" - whilst I acknowledge your obvious anxiety about this, I note that you state you've been accused of 'a crime' not accused of 'a crime you didn't commit'. I think you’ll accept that there is a small but salient difference between the two. And frankly if you will go around stealing small spotty dogs to satisfy your couturial aspirations, you only have yourself to blame. Unless of course you had a pair of killer stilettos in mind…now that I could see. Could you do a size 41? Oh and I believe the ears provide particularly soft leather by the way…

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Binge Blogging

Should I worry that I seem to binge blog?

Life gets busy and I end up with half-written draft entries that sit around for a week or so until I get the time to tidy them all up and publish.

Maybe binging is something in my nature? For example I've been swimming a great deal of late a habit that I'm paying for in the hair department (dear lord I'm actually having to use conditioner for once) and the left shoulder.

The latter does seem to be mostly healed thanks to a week spent on dry land. The occasional twinge, but generally ok.

So...the question is, am I ok to resume the exercise regime?

In the absence of an suitably available medical wisdom, I'm more than willing to be swayed by the random opinions of those who wander through this place. So what do you think?

When should I recommence swimming?
Right away, your shoulder is bound to be fine
Right away, you'll probably fuck your left shoulder up completely, but you have a spare
Do try and be sensible - leave it another week
A couple of months should do it
Why the fuck are you asking me? How the hell would I know?
Free polls from

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Flaming Lips

Flaming Lips gigs are a bit different.

The clues are in the entrance Wayne makes in his now legendary space ball (imagine a grown man in a huge hamster ball running over the heads of the crowd), the collection of santas and elves flagging the sides of the stage and the showers of confetti, streamers and fifty odd huge orange balloons let loose on a bouncing crowd.

With no album to promte on this tour, Wayne and co are clearly in more of a sing-a-longa party mood than ever, concentrating on their more anthemic numbers and refusing to be satisfied until the audience are all raising their voices in one accord.

Please forgive the excess of images, but this was some performance. In fact the only downside is that all the theatrics (and the over long inter-song waffling bollox) start to detract a little from the music. In fact it does feel rather like a gig for the already initiated and I worry a little about how my gig companion T is finding it. Is it quite so entertaining if you're not so familiar with the source material?

The second place afforded to the music itself is a bit of a shame when the band have so much to offer on that front, but then again it's hard to truly feel shortchanged when you've been part of this madness.

The image of huge orange balloons is one that will stay with me for some time and somehow I suspect that the usual 'guitar band in a dark pit' style gigs that I usually favour, may seem a little lacking in colour in comparison for a while.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bonfire and Biryani

P&S have laid on a wonderful evening for a small group of us.

The bonfire is stacked high with cut down shrubs, bits of left over wood, old flooring and broken furniture.

P is a pyromaniac at the best of times and I need little encouragement; soon we're scoring the house and garden for more things to burn.

The biryani, toffee apples, cookies and sticky toffee cake, also seem to hit the spot rather well as we sit soaking up the warmth of the fire, putting the world to rights.

Later I text P to thank him again for the evening.

The wit replies with the question "have you seen our sofa?"...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New Mills Bonfire

Last year, through a set of bizarre circumstances P,S and I ended up at the New Mills Firework and Bonfire night.

It was so wonderfully eccentric, that we decided to go again this year.

Happily it had all the charm of last year, but less mud. S even did better out of the tombola, improving on last year's can of McEwan's Export with a small bottle of port.

All together now: awwwwhhhhhhh!

The food stall however, was still offering fare that isn't greatly appetising, so we pick up some Dim Sum on the way home.


P&S have spent the day in Wolverhampton decorating what will shortly be their new home.

The allegiance of the workers in the local DIY store seem fairly apparent.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Another night at the Punjab, but this time with a small group of ‘nice’ people from work. A small leaving meal for one of my team, S, who is leaving us soon.

He’ll be hugely missed, but I’m not taking his decision to quit too personally as he’s emigrating to Australia. I mean you’d have to be a really bad boss to inspire someone to not just leave the company, but the entire hemisphere.

I know my limits.

Anyway...he’s actually going to work for our company out there, but I’m immensely sorry to see him leave our team. This isn’t just because he’s a really good technician, but because he has one of the kindest, most easy-going natures in the building. No one, and I mean no one, falls out with S. He engages, but doesn’t get embroiled, and that’s quite a skill.

It may not be a coincidence that he’s also one of the most quietly devote folk I have ever come across.

Frequently I suspect that God must be head in hands about some of those who claim to represent her here on earth. I mean guys like this aren’t really doing the big guy's PR any good. Or then there’s this...errrr...interesting church in Manchester, with their posters and car sticker based advertising campaign that has the aim of "Making Jesus Famous". The sheer arrogant gall of it, is actually quite stunning; like Jesus was some smalltime wannabee that no one had heard of before they thought to mention it. I can hear him now "Thank Dad, I've got that lot to sort my profile out for me.".


Not so much making Jesus famous as making themselves infamous, methinks...

Of course it’s easy to criticise sat on the edges spectating. Like I’d be any sort of glittering example to represent the deity. Oh my...can you imagine? Shudder. But given it became apparent last week that someone who has known me for years had no idea of my God-bothering ways, I suppose it can at least be said that whilst I may not be doing the Almighty’s marketing department much good, I’m equally doing it little ill.

S on the other hand, in his quiet way is a one person counter-campaign for all you see about Islam in the media.

You see S and the way he lives out his faith and you start to believe that Islam really could mean peace.

Of course the man is quite barking in forsaking the glamour of our first time s3w3rage project team to transpose his entire family to a country none of them have ever actually visited, but something tells me he’s going to be ok. Much missed, but ok.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Nightmare Before Christmas

I meant to mention, between the 'thing I can't talk about' and Book Group, I hid out in the tack-fest that is Botany Bay in an attempt to miss the worst of the traffic.

The whole of the fourth floor of this converted mill, is currently devoted to Christmas, with every part of the space filled with colour themed tat.

The pink and white room was my particular favourite...if that's the right word to use...

My pennies were safe.

Things you probably shouldn’t talk about on your blog, but what the hey:

Nonreader turned up only 40 minutes late and had not only obtained a copy of the JD Salinger collection of short stories To Esme with Love and Squalor, but had read two of them. Not admittedly the key one we’d all agreed we should read as a minimum, but hey ho.

Discussion of the stories included concern about the repeated motif of a relationship between a grown adult and a young child. A kindly interpretation is that the child in such cases is being used to represent innocence and the opposite and indeed possible antidote of the world-weary damaged adult. However, to the modern eye, some of the interactions and the repetition of the theme in several stories is more troubling.

In the opening story, the troubled central character alone on a beach has an interaction with a young girl, who has been left to play by her mother. Their interaction whilst charming on one level, contains several moments of physical interaction that give reason to pause. The man grabs her ankles playfully, and whilst he’s pushing her in the sea on a float, raises one of her feet and kisses the underside.

Certainly to the contemporary reader this raises questions. If a man you didn’t know was acting this way with your daughter, how would you feel?

In the eponymous story regarding Esme, a relationship is struck up between an American GI and a precocious young English girl in a country tea shop. This chance encounter appears to become the foundation for a correspondence between the two over many years to come.

We discuss how this again feels uncomfortable and also rather unsatisfactory, to which Nonreader chimes in to disagree with a story (about her, of course) to argue against this and being a ‘bad person’ I just had to follow it through:

NR - Well I struck up a correspondence with someone I met on holiday years ago and we’ve been in touch ever since.

L – what was the age difference?

NR – nearly ten years.

L - So how old was he and how old were you?

NR – oh it was a woman

L – errr ok, how old was she

NR – nearly fifty

L – and how old were you?

NR - Early forties

L - so you were both adults?

Dear reader, can I at this point at least claim some brownie points for not doing my finest, non-pc, aren’t playgrounds cruel, Joey-style “durrrhhhh” face?

In fact I didn’t even do it later in the evening when, she informed T in the most patronising manner possible that “you see what the second world war was about was that people didn’t want to be overrun by Nazism…”.

It’s enough to consider for a microsecond whether we dismissed eugenics too swiftly…

Things you can’t really talk about on your blog:

Well that’s eight hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Found a nice place for a lunchtime stroll though.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

That Cafe - once more with feeling

P is away at his annual staff conference (that should be fun given they’re mid redundancies…) so S is staying at mine for a couple of days. Her company is always welcome, but right now I’m particularly glad of it.

She suggests ‘one last visit’ to That CafĂ©.

A fine suggestion, but that word last is hard to ignore. The state of denial that has served me well for the past few months is getting harder to maintain.

Fittingly enough, the ‘last’ of our occasional, last minute decisions to catch the early menu, is also a first. Sarah even risks a sticky toffee pudding for desert, a definite improvement on Caroline's experience at the Holiday Inn the other month.

Unwittingly however, we’ve chosen the first Wednesday of the months and hence have stumbled in to ‘jazz night’.

Inexplicably this actually appears to be something of a draw and we nearly don’t get a table.

Fortunately, the ‘jazz’ isn’t too obtrusive or free form and it doesn’t spoil the meal.

As we leave I see the duo and lo and behold the female singer looks familiar. She does have a lovely voice, but jazz just isn’t my thing, so you’ll forgive me I hope (especially you Mr Lawson), for venturing the suggestion that this isn’t so much a happy coincidence as a hopeful sign that Manchester has a fairly limited pool of jazz musicians…