Sunday, December 30, 2007


Back home at last.

It was a lovely week away, first with my family in London (despite half of them suffering from various forms of colds and flu) and then with P&S in Wolverhampton.

That said, it's good to be home and it still feels quite festive; thanks to the blue and white lights helping a humble umbrella tree make up for the lack if space afforded for a proper Christmas tree, all topped off by a lovely Amy Winehouse fairy courtesy of Heat magazine.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Last minute preparations

I was fairly well prepared for Christmas, but somehow it has all got away from me and now I'm in a bit of a made panic, trying to get everything sorted and packed, before heading to London straight from work tomorrow.

Still others are having a worse time of it. R and M phone in need of a jump start, they should have been on the road hours ago, but their car had other ideas.

Early in the new year they're about to set off on an even greater journey. Hopefully that will run a bit smoother. You can follow their progress over on their new Crunchy Spiders blog.

Probably best not to ask about the title...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tat, rain, mince pies and mezze

P&S arrive on the train mid-morning and after a cup of coffee at mine, we head out to drop off their Godson's present and then try and find a cafe for lunch in the infamously illusive Uppermill.

Thanks to the sat nav, Uppermill is less illusive than at times, but parking spaces are in short supply and as a consequence we end up in a garden centre on the outskirts, sheltering from the rain.

The cafe is surprisingly good, but pretty much all of the inside garden merchandise has been packed away to make way for Christmas tat as far as the eye can see.

It's a wonder of glitz and fibre optics and we while away a good hour sniggering at the utter wonder of it all.

Our favourite sign makes the mind boggle, until you can locate the item it refers to a little distance away.

Still quite disturbing mind...

That said, we all seem to come away with something. In my case a set of blue and white lights with a controller that allows a wide selection of operation, from annoying flashing, to more tasteful fades and some red and green stars. Even so I have to double take at the till point when at first I'm convinced they've under charged me, whereas it really is 'just that cheap'.

With the rain letting off a little, we push on with our planned walk around Dovestone reservoir.

Are we mad?

Quite probably, but in true style we're no the only mad Brits out in the inclement conditions. Still some views really only work in the damp.

Having battled our way around the reservoir, we call in on the wonderful A (a friend of S's who I've heard so much about, but never met). She provides tea and mince pies and it's so good to finally meet her - the sort of Septuagenarian that makes you feel awed.

Finally we head back to Manchester, pick up T and then enjoy a fine Mezze of Middle Eastern goodies at the Aladdin.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Later than planned, I'm around at my buddies for take-away and present exchange.

Eldest adopted niece K has even created a fabulous bonus pressie for me, made up of some rather apposite cards mounted in a picture frame.

Top of the general presents though has to be this rather wonderful money box:

In case the resolution isn;t good enough to read, the graduations for the money saved read: Flip-flops, sandals, stilettos and boots. Ace.

Of course I can now finally also blog about the pressie I managed to get for Stuart (new minister and sometime prison chaplain), yet another bible:

This one however has hidden wonders...

Oh the fun I've had getting it ordered off the internet, finding somewhere that could engrave it etc etc.


£18.95 for a Christmas lunch in Woeful W@rrington = Wrong

No sub from the company (summer ball whether we want it or not) = Wrong

Everyone sober because we all have to drive = Wrong

Afternoon disco = Wrong

Afternoon disco, whilst sober = Wrong, wrong

Spotting a glimpse of daylight through the blacked out windows, whilst on the dancefloor = Wrong, wrong, double-wrong

Going back to the office and having your annual performance review with your boss, which he was too busy to have at the appointed time this morning = surprisingly ok...

Not finishing until 7pm and finding the office completely empty, having to ring the buddies and apologise for lateness = So, so wrong

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

From stable to high street

Courtesy of the lovely man who serviced my security alarm this morning, reflecting on the madness of preparing for the festive period:

"I mean, Christmas, who's bright idea was that anyway?"

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hair and Shopping

Heading across town from the bus station to my hairdresser's, I plough through the crowds, relieved that I have only one present left to purchase.

Post hair, I pop into the relatively un-crowded House of Fraser, where I find the extra present for my niece that I'd been after.

Trouble is I also found the start of their clothes sale. Whilst many of their lines might ordinarily be far beyond my means, when they do sales they don't muck about. 50% off this, 70% off that.

I've been searching for a simple black cardigan for ages. Unfortunately the perfect one I find in the Whistles outlet, though modestly priced, is not in the sale.

But that's ok I saved serious money on a tailored white shirt and some black jeans, so according to Lori-accounting...

And it's to my eternal credit that I didn't spend the money 'saved' on shoe decorations for the Christmas tree.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Persuasion and Felicini

The annual book group Christmas meal is a small, but enjoyable affair.

I think I was the only one who had finished Persuasion. Not Jane Austen's best work if you ask me, but then I did rather rush read it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


It's freezing cold in the far north of Cumbria, but spending a day out on site, feels like no hardship after yesterday's endurance test.

Still compared with my team who spent most of the morning survey_ing, I had the cushy number, accompanying the Client around various sites, which meant that at least part of the day was spent in the car.

He's in festive mood and sports me one of the award winning Cumberl*and sausage at the famous Sh*ap Chippie.

To round off the day, we stop off at Teb@y services (if you've never had the pleasure, then trust me this worker's co-op is unlike any ordinary motorway services) and he buys the entire team tea and mince pies. What a gent.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


One of those meetings today that just seemed to go on and on and on.

I think I aged 2 years and got seriously close to losing the urge to breathe.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Welcome to Wonderland

In contrast to Sunday, tonight's Winter Wonderland, courtesy of Xfm Manchester, was a top gig. Top venue, top company, top bands.

With Karen's roast beef dinner still sitting warmly in our stomachs, nine of us headed to the Apollo, in time for all but the winners of the Rock School competition.

It's youngest 'adopted neice' R's first ever gig and she's bouncing with excitement. I tell her that in year's to come, when people ask her "what was the first gig you ever went to", she's going to have a pretty cool answer.

First up is the Ting Tings and they're absolutely excellent. I've liked their stuff on the radio and the energy of their live act just took it to different levels.

The Courteeners follow with a cracking set and the crowd are lapping it up.

Stephen Fretwell, meanwhile is good enough, but doesn't really capture my imagination.

Happily the Cribs are more to my taste and deliver a killer set (though I'd never noticed what bad posture Ryan has, until I looked at the photos I'd taken - ooh his back will be murder in years to come...).

The penultimate act is James Walsh from Starsailor, who blows the crowd away with soul-achingly beautiful songs delivered solo with acoustic guitar. Sheer quality.

And then finally The Charlatans, proving that they have a pretty decent back catalogue. Not at all sure about Tim's taste in macs, but happily it is soon discarded to reveal the more familiar black hoodie look.

All this and bucket loads of cash raised for Shelter - what more can you ask for?

Sunday, December 09, 2007


I don't think I was quite as grumpy as Stuart makes out, but it wasn't the best gig of my life.

I'm sure there are bands out there that can make Manchester Central (aka G-Mex) work as a venue (indeed I have a memory of a rather excellent James gig there circa 1989), but sadly Kings of Leon, whilst musically very tight, are not among their number.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

It's getting warm in here...

T's leaving do at the Aladdin (check out the 'booking' tab - bless!) in Withington, was a veritable feast of Syrian goodies and I confess to coming around to R's way of thinking that this might just be the best baba ghannouj in Manchester.

Really sad to be saying goodbye to T (again - it's becoming a yearly event), but so good that all the immigration nightmares are finally over and he can at last get back to E in Canada and be together for their first married Christmas.

After the meal, everyone pours over the road to the Red Lion.

Amusement ensues as J (ethnically Jewish, but not really religously practicing) remembers he has arranged for some friends to meet him in the pub. Some, as he puts it, "very very Jewish" friends. The problem? Well J had unthinkingly decided to wear this lovely black and gold t-shirt for the evening...

The look of pure evil mischief making that enters T's eyes when this news reaches him is quite worrying.

He ambles over and offers to take everyone's coats. Surely J must be very warm with his thick coat all still zipped up like that no?


It was a fine plan; a night away (the wonderful S took on all the admin and found a lovely hotel in Hathersage) and then a day in the country.

After a fine curry in a 'local' tandoori, we settled in to the hotel's comfy lounge and whilst S supped decaf coffee, P explored some rare single malts and I opted for the comfort of a few Baileys.

And then we decided that we needed to educate ourselves in the ways of Brandy...

Next morning, over a hearty breakfast we watch as the weather closes in and our plans become increasingly unrealistic.

Desiring a more local forecast than that provided in the national papers, P is dispatched up the road to the Outdoor shop, which carries walker's weather forecasts.

Rain, rain, maybe some wet snow and more rain...

P asks the shop assistants if they have a better forecast. They ask if he means more accurate. No, he replies, just a better one. They tell him it's 30 degrees C on the top of Kinder Scout. We don't believe them.

Maybe we should go to Chatsworth and explore the gardnes and maze? The rain grows heavier as we speak, sufficient to make any out door activity seem deeply unattractive.

We drive to Matlock Baths in the hope of trips on the cable car and or steam railway. Both are closed.

Arkwrights Mill is disappointing.

We return to Bakewell and mooch around the shops getting soaked before sheltering in the Treeline's gallery and cafe.

Icy, heavy rain makes any outdoor activity seem folly and with P still recovering from a cold, enough is enough and we head home.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Having soft lighting in the bedroom may be eco-friendly and make for a suitably relaxing ambiance, but it has its downsides.

Early start this morning and still pitch black outside as I dress in a hurry.

It’s only once I’m in the car and turning out the road, do I realise I have the ‘wrong’ colour trousers on. Similar material and style, but definitely dark navy rather than black and decidedly not going with the rest of today’s outfit.

Three-point turn, back into house, run upstairs, quick change, double check, dash downstairs, reset alarm, lock up, into car, back on my way.

Time to buy a higher wattage bulb maybe?

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Whilst the sound that the click-wheel on my laptop mouse makes is in many ways a very satisfying noise, it does rather give the game away that you may not be concentrating as much as might when you're on the phone.

Web-browsing? Me? I've no idea what you mean? Of course I'm paying attention to your heart-breaking tale of woe...ooh look someone's written on my facebook wall...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


In general I like Oxfam, I like their aims and on the whole I like the way they go about getting there. Overall I like the cut of their jib.

Heck, providing you also manage to keep the fun and the "I love you, you mad, crazy bastard" element in present-giving alive, I even approve of the concept of including 'ethical' presents like those available from Oxfam Unwrapped, in this season of goodwill.

This year's Oxfam Unwrapped advert's pretty ok too; not laugh out loud funny maybe, but amusing in its way and you can see what they're trying to achieve. And, in as much as I have any feelings on such matters, the bunch of celebrities gathered together in said film, are an ok bunch of folk. Helen Mirren - a fine, fine actor and strickingly beautiful; Rob Brydon - a very clever and funny man, born with a face for comedy; Helena Bonham-Carter - fine actor and you've got to admire her 'take no prisoners' approach to exploring an individualistic fashion sense.

All good. So why, oh sweet Lord why, did they have to include Helena's ridiculous giggle at the end.

It's driving me nuts.

Still I'm never happy I guess, last year's Alpaca Package was far more entertaining, but came with the slightly bitter pill of corporate tie-in with Mastercard.

Ah sod it, let's shake off this bah humbug mentality.

Come on it's nearly Christmas, let's stop finding the annoying and crap in everything. Go on, crack a smile I dare you.

Get into the spirit. Maybe even buy a goat. Throw caution to the wind - buy a herd!

But make sure the people in whose name you buy these beasts, still get the message that you love them. Don't lose the fun, don't forget to celebrate the joy of this time of year. So maybe couple the worthy goat with something that tells them how much you love them eh?

Christ on a bike maybe?

Monday, December 03, 2007

A crimp in the day

The current trend for puff sleeves is all well and good, but how the hell are you supposed to iron them?

Still, serves me right for going against one of the maxims that has served me immensely well in life~: if it needs ironing, why did you buy it?

Trouble is some things catch my magpie like eye and no amount of hanging them on the back of the bathroom door whilst having a hot shower, will steam the creases out adequately.

There's still no excuse for weirdos that iron things like underwear and tea-towels. Mother I love you dearly, you are a domestic goddess in many, many ways, but on this score j'accuse.

Just think of the amount of electricity and hence fossil fuels my dear ma has worked her way through over the years in her pursuit of the crease-free life. It's positively my environmental duty to redress the balance.

cartoon from
Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Still, this doesn't solve my dilemma about the puff sleeves. I mean, I've ironed the rest of it now, it makes the sleeves look even more crumply.

Back of the bathroom door? It's got to be worth a shot.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Partial effort

Still feeling a little under the weather, but bored out of my brains with being cooped up and not socialising (planned Yorkshire visit postponed until at least one of us feels healthy).

Happily, P&S are in town this evening and call round for their tea.

Not sure how much energy I'm going to have for cooking, so I marinade, prepare and cook some spicy-fish and rely on Jaffa for some gorgeous flat-bread and various yummy mezze dishes (I'd love to do what they do to make their spicy potatoes so gorgeously fabulous). Not a bad combination if I do say so myself.

Ok I'm fooling no-one that this constitutes a home-cooked meal, but half and half ain't bad given that Horton's not feeling one hundred per cent.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bleeding Hell

When bleeding a modern style radiator to relieve some pressure from a central heating system, the difference between tiny dribble and the bleed valve being completely disengaged and water pouring everywhere, is approximately one twentieth of gnat's whisker.

Just don't ask me how I know.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mother's Milk

It may be terribly illiberal of me, but must you really breast-feed your three year old toddler at the curry buffet. Must you really?

Still it's not just me, as Stuart so succinctly sums it up "if it's old enough to have teeth, it's too old".

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones

A bit too poorly sick to make it to Book Group tonight, but I did finish the designated novel, whilst pouring my woes into an Ultra-balm Kleenex.

It was a promising start, but either it rather lost its way in the second half or I did.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Props Weekend

At what seems to be becoming known as the Props weekend, the Greenbelt Festival Operations Team and Programming Group met for a review and planning weekend.

It felt like a productive time and hopefully good things will grow out of it. As ever I'm awed by the roomful of people that just blow my socks off with what they do and what they bring to the show.

The lovely folk at the Oblate Centre look after us beautifully and Sally does a great job of organising all the accommodation and socialising and it's nice to see her finally sit down and relax when a few of us find the time on Sunday afternoon to grab a posh high tea at Crewe Hall.

It's the kind of place that is just perfect for Christmas decoration.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On your doorstop

Sometimes I forget that despite working in a town that I may not exactly love, on an employment park nestled between the uninspiring town centre and a chemical works, there are perks.

Corporate membership of the gym next door, easy reach of one of the best second hand book shops I've ever come across and nestled in the middle of what many mistake for a giant roundabout, a hidden lake.

It's easy to let yet another week go by when you're just too busy to take a lunchtime stroll. The other day I made the effort though and it reminded me that I need to do it more often.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mixed Use

"Motorway Cycle Route" - hmmmm doesn't sound like the best idea.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


It all started with R and V giving K a gorgeous set of tapas bowls. Somehow the idea was born that K and I should cook up a storm and host a tapas evening, for a group of friends.

When you're catering for eleven people, even 'small dishes' are effectively a meal each. Accordingly, perhaps we were a little over ambitious, but this is the first time K has experimented with this cuisine, so there's a desire to try everything.

After early nibbles of olives, hummus, pita bread for dipping, the dishes prepared (from memory) included: cod and tuna chunks in lemon and spice marinade, tangy spare ribs, lamb skewers, meatballs in tomato sauce, patatas bravas, chicken in honey and mustard, aubergine fritters topped with tomato and cream cheese, ciabata topped with black pudding and onion chutney, toasted french bread with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese, chorizo cooked in red wine with shallots and cherry tomatoes, field mushrooms stuffed with stilton and breadcrumb, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, slices of mozarella and beef tomatoes dressed with olive oil and basil and numerous others that I can't recall.

The sangria flowed (very) freely and a good time was had by all.

Almost worth the full day of planning, shopping, chopping, preparation and cooking.

Now I don't want to worry anyone, but we got through the best part of a litre of finest olive oil...

Monday, November 12, 2007


An excellent morning of mother and daughter, doing what comes oh so naturally.

Shop, chat, have lunch, drink wine, try on silly hats, repack purchases into fewer bags so as to reduce appearances of excess...that kind of thing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


After September's return to Dartmoor, it's time for the other half of the deal, time for a long 'girlie weekend' with Mum.

After getting the train south last night, we're up early to head across to Wakehurst Place, Kew's 'country garden'. Being generous souls we even let dad join us.

It's crisp and bright - a perfect autumn day for a walk around the grounds.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Whereas some people's work tends to take them to exciting glamorous destinations, my profession is inherently more 'earthy'.

I know my way around the north west of England one pollution problem at a time.

So it's a pleasant change for once to get away to a conference located in the sort of city that is more usually associated with city breaks for sight seeing tourists.

Obviously I'm mainly seeing the inside of the Hilton hotel, but the evenings provide the odd spare hour which can be used for exploring.

Looking out my hotel room window I can just see the famous tower stretching up above the surrounding district.

If the conference finishes promptly, maybe I'll find time to get up the tower myself.

Or maybe a ride on a donkey?

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Difficult issues usually make for difficult meetings, but other factors play their part.

In an atmosphere of trust and honesty, tricky conversations can in fact be productive and positive.

Conversely, in an atmosphere of spin and lack of trust, suspicion is fostered and the results are decidedly less palatable.

Today is a meeting of two halves. The challenge, to transform the latter into the former.

Friday, November 02, 2007


In advance of tomorrow’s meeting, Manchester tonight is playing host to a gathered party from across the country.

Accordingly a curry with assorted folk from the region is convened.

Readers of Sally’s blog, will no doubt be able to predict which party had us all waiting...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Is there a Chiro shaped hole in your life?

Tonight is my follow-up consultation with the chiropractor at which he comes to the shock conclusion that for a not so small sum of money he can help me achieve a healthy spine and nervous system.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of time for the theory he espouses and I know first-hand that conventional medicine has its limitations and downsides (having found myself in the vicious cycle of analgesic headaches, he’s preaching to the choir on that one), but do I really need to adopt the doctrine of chiropractic practice wholesale, in order to receive treatment?

Call me a post-modernist, but you can’t ask me to be cynical about one meta-narrative only to expect me to replace it blindly and completely with another.

Yes, I’ll agree that stuffing your body full of chemicals is not a totally good idea, so why do you then expect me to unquestioningly adopt your recommended supplement regime of high dose Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Omega 3 and Glucosamene Sulphate?

With a website that even most evangelical Christians would find a bit ‘preachy’, a CD book of his deep wisdom that I must study and an earnest delivery style that just makes me want to giggle, I’m starting to wonder if this is all a good idea.

Underlying all this, is a deep-rooted lack of comfort with health care being coupled with financial gain. His message that remedial care alone only results in repeat problems, whereas ongoing care and change in causal factors is required for long-term resolution, makes perfect sense, but somehow the use of a graph and arrows pointing to ‘decision time’ makes it all seem a bit like double-glazing sales.

Still, I guess you want a practitioner that believes in what he’s doing (and boy does he) and he seems to be well qualified and knows his stuff. He also comes highly recommended. So I decide that as long as my lack of fervent conversion doesn’t stand in the way of treatment, I’m prepared to bite back on the innate reaction to the proselytising and keep sight of the good stuff. I just need to nod sweetly along as he goes for the hard sell.

Then the bastard starts hitting me in the back, wrenching my neck until it pops and twisting my arms in ways they really aren’t designed to go.

I think he smells the rat of agnosticism…

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lowry and Martyn Joseph

After spending the last two days down south with work, I’m getting withdrawal symptoms due to lack of contact with the Dog Collar and Rabbit Corpses household.

Happily tonight relief is available as J joins us from across the Pennines, as we head to the Lowry to see Martyn Joseph.

He’s good at what he does and has a very amiable stage presence, but musically it’s not hugely my cup of tea. Still gracious beyond measure he even thanked the guy on the sound desk, despite one of the worst displays of not paying attention and inability to fix problems I’ve witnessed since the last time I saw Sally standing at a mic on a stage repeating “can’t get the staff, can’t get the staff” at her entertaining side-kick.

Normally as you know I endeavour to capture a moment of all gigs on camera, to allow the dull greyness of this text to be occasionally broken up pretty colours courtesy of some lighting technician or other.

However, the Lowry in their greater wisdom, rather than adopting the reasonable tolerance approach to amateur non-flash photography that most venues run with, have outlawed all photography. No sooner is my camera phone out my pocket, than a steward creeps up behind and reprimands me. Zero tolerance.

Still this is the publicly funded building that feels free to evict young law-abiding lads who they simply don’t like the look of, with the rather disingenuous line that there was nothing for the public in the building.

Maybe one day they’ll twig that ad-hoc amateur photos contributes to a world of free publicity on the web, but in the meantime this blog remains deprived of such visual stimuli.

Still, not wishing to leave my reader's appetites unsated, here instead is a picture of a small kitten. So please say hello to Chaos, current winningest kitten on

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Dog Collars and Rabbit Corpses household and I head to the Showcase to see Ratatouille.

Not quite up to Arcade Fire standards, but a lovely way to round off K's birthday weekend.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Arcade Fire

After rustling up a cooked breakfast in an attempt to play a pale approximation of a genial host, I see my houseguests off onto their trains and then grab a little recovery time before K, S, D and I head to the MEN Arena to catch Arcade Fire.

I'm on record as not being a fan of arena or stadium gigs, so it has to be an exceptional act that can persuade me that they might just be able to pull off a show worth seeing in such a venue.

My faith in Arcade Fire is repaid. Sure it lacks the intimate wonders of St John's, Smith Square, but they've found a way to expand their magic to work the larger space. The use of projections onto the backdrop and mini screens, opened the show up to the larger venue, without seriously compromising the beauty of their performance.

And there's one serious advantage to an Arcade Fire in front a crowd this large, being amongst 14,000 people singing the chorus to Wake Up is quite something.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Tonight the best part of one hundred people gathered to wish a very happy special birthday to the excessively wonderful K.

As was fitting the event was a beautiful reflection of the guest of honour. The folk gathered included some of the loveliest, most fun people you could hope to spend an evening with; some guests had travelled hundreds of miles just to be there for this person’s special night; the buffet tables groaned under the weight of so much wonderful food and half of South Manchester will be fed on the left-overs for the coming week; husband and daughters revealed secret projects that left the birthday girl with tears rolling down her face; the DJ got into the spirit and played a mix of disco, dance and Madchester classics; everyone cheered each time the noise sensor cut out the PA; everyone piled ‘back to theirs’ when the function room closed; singing, laughing and drinking continued until 5am; at least one person fell down a hole in their attempt to walk home.