Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The morning after

Showered and refreshed we make it to the station with just enough time to buy a ticket before the train pulls in. Some of last night's magic is lingering on in more ways than one.

At Oxford Circus it’s time to say thank you (words that don’t really seem enough) and goodbye to Jude and head on to Euston arriving with just 3 minutes to spare before the first off-peak train leaves for Warrington. As a result I’m in the office by noon and discover our boss has bought in an Indian buffet to treat us all.

Perfect timings, perfect gigs, perfect company.

Jude, you made a grown woman very, very happy. Big love to you and M and W for the tickets.

Still grinning.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


It was one of those times when everything just came together and worked perfectly.

It started with a phone call and ended with a totally perfect night of gigs.

Right the way through, it all just fell into place.

For example, I’m mad busy at work at the moment and have leave booked for Friday as it is, so whilst taking another half day’s leave isn’t really what I need right now given the present workload, Wednesday morning was about the one time in the past and coming weeks that is free of meetings and so can be taken off with short notice. Perfect.

Similarly Tuesday’s commitments are all early and so, with laptop in hand so I can work on the train, I manage to get away at 4pm and walking at a pace I make it to the station just in time to catch the ‘earlier’ of the two train options. Perfect.

I find the last ‘power point’ seat in standard class, get my presentation for the training next week finished off and even have time to read a little (a few pages of The Prince by Machiavelli, before deciding low-brow relaxation is more in order and so I pick up that bastion of fine journalism and cultural reflection that is Heat magazine). Perfect.

After what Andy from little Britain might call a minor kerfuffle at the Euston taxi rank (exactly how long does it take to organise a party of 20 into taxis people?), I make it to Jude’s offices, to dump my bag.

There are a few clues that Jude works in a different sort of office to me – for one thing the piles of CDs and other debris everywhere would never pass our ‘clean-desk’ policy and for that matter their desks are so small you’d never be able to lay out an A1 engineering drawing. Other than that it’s just like any other open plan office, well except maybe that we’re followed into the office by Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson can be seen hard at work next door and as the small lift opens to allow us to head back downstairs Jude catches up with a tall friendly ginger man called Chris Evans…

At the Italian across the road we get a swift, but scrummy, risotto. We walk out of the bistro and wave down the taxi that is passing at that exact moment. Perfect.

We make it to St John’s Smith Square by about 8pm and although it’s already full (not least due to the numbers of Coldplay and Snow Patrol present), it’s a fairly intimate and truly lovely venue so seats at the back aren’t a problem.

At 8.30pm, with allusions to the choir processionals that would once have started off events in this old church, Arcade Fire process in, playing acoustically. As they pause in the middle of the space for the first song before heading to the stage – the atmosphere is electric.

Our anticipation is not unrewarded and after the sound problems on the first few songs are resolved the music is just sublime. One of those gigs that take you up out of yourself, as you surrender totally to the aural beauty.

So musical, so alive, so soaring, so physical and so, so beautiful.

So perfect.

Part way through I lean to Jude and state that she not only owns my ass, but in the unlikely (typed unlucky there – how Freudian!) event of me having a first-born she now officially owns their ass as well.

This gig would be wonderful enough as it is, but being there with Jude is just the icing on the cake. It’s always best to go to a gig like this with someone who understands why your insides are squealing like a kid at Christmas. Perfect.

Apparently I’m forbidden from blogging the exact phrase Jude used to express the visceral effect the French Horn kicking in was having on her, but suffice to say it was a class expression that if it were relayed to you in a pub would have you snorting beer out your nose in laughter.

Fittingly given the venue, they concentrate mainly on the forthcoming second album, the Neon Bible, with a few older tunes thrown in. The new tunes are instant winners and tonight’s offering only confirms what I’ve gathered from preview snippets on the internet, the follow up to Funeral is looking like it’ll be one of ‘the’ albums of 2007.

A top, top gig and with the sounds of the final song Laika still ringing sublimely in our ears, we rush out onto Millbank for we have another gig to get to yet (we should only miss the first half hour at most if we’re lucky). Almost magically given our need for speed, a taxi immediately appears and whisks us over to the Astoria. Perfect.

En route Jude’s friend W texts to check we’re on our way and arranges to meet us in the Keith Moon bar; accordingly when we arrive not only are the VIP passes waiting for us on the door, but a couple of vodkas are thrust into our hands as we make it in to see the rest of the Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. set. Perfect.

It’s Sam’s 21st birthday and the first time he's sold out a venue of this size and status, which all adds up to something of a party atmosphere. Generally that means a great atmosphere, with fans so keen that already he’s achieving that point of not having to sing all of his songs at times and just letting the crowd (whose voices were in fine fettle) carry the tune. By the after show however, the outbreak of party hats and blowers is a little trying and we decide it’s starting to feel a bit like a youth group outing (great cake though!).

Although the live performance doesn't yet quite measure up to the achingly lovely album, it's not at all bad and it’s good to see him holding a venue this size well enough. Not bad for a 21 year old on his first album. The songs are cracking and played with enthusiasm and whilst it’s very evident that he’s still at the start of his career, the signs are he’ll grow into things just fine.

His guitar playing is amazing, just so casually executed, I’m in awe of how he makes such complex rippling sounds appear so effortlessly. Jude remarks that his guitar skills are pretty amazing for one so young and that he must have spent his teenage years practising. I reply that given his dress sense he perhaps had plenty of time on his hands through those traditionally hormone driven years. Perhaps we’re judging the lad too harshly though, as Jude points out, given the date, the tank top might be a birthday gift from his mother. We both turn our glances back to the stage and reassess the offending garment and then simultaneously turn back to each other and say “or maybe his grandmother?”. As I say, you need to go to gigs with people that think alike. Perfect.

Overall though, a good showing and whilst rather dwarfed by our earlier gig, I’m more convinced than ever that Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly would go down well at Greenbelt if we could get him (Ok Arcade Fire would be even better, but somewhat less likely let’s face it).

During the aftershow Jude sneaks off to find somewhere quiet to phone in her review. For the next week you can ‘listen again’ here (head about 1hr 33mins in) and hear for yourself what a music loving, wonderful, sharp and witty goddess she is and why she’s everything you could want in a gig buddy.

After a couple of drinks, we walk back to Jude’s office to grab my bag. Exiting the office, the Mr Ben magic is at play again and ‘as if by magic’ a taxi appears and takes us tired and happy back to Jude’s, where we promptly blow the lighting ring fuse, but that, as they say, is another story (and one involving the most wonderful Orbital style torch/glasses).

Tired and happy I curl up a very contented bunny.


Monday, January 29, 2007


Hanging up from a mobile phone call this lunchtime, I’m like a kid at Christmas. Giggling, grinning and just indecently excited.

“Have you won the lottery?” a colleague enquires. “No, it’s much, much better than that!” I reply grinning (have I mentioned that I’m grinning quite a bit at the moment?).

Now normally I wouldn’t blog in advance, in anticipation, of something, but this time I can’t hold back. The lovely Jude rang and basically said “get yourself to London tomorrow night girl, I’ve snagged us some Arcade Fire tickets”.

Cunningly, despite a diary packed with meetings and training, it falls just perfectly between commitments. So with a half day's leave it should all be possible.

As if the prospect of getting to see Arcade Fire in what I’m told is an excellent, intimate venue, isn't enough, Jude goes on to casullay mention that the timings should allow us to head to the Astoria afterwards to catch the end of the Get Cape Wear Cape Fly's set, oh it just gets better and better.

In fact it was this latter point, when relayed, that pushes Stuart to the point of maintaining his "no really, I'm very happy for you" response, through gritted teeth.

Leave booked, train tickets ordered, I’m grinning and expect to be grinning for the next 48 hours.

Jude, you are very, very, very wonderful and I’m so your bitch now. Aching cheek muscles and all...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Phone Calls

A couple of good catch-up phone calls today. Including one with an ex (and how nice is that to have an ex I’m still friends with?) and one with best mate S.

After various reschedulings, S will be coming to Manchester this week (yay!) and I’ve booked a day’s leave, so we’ll have loads of time to catch up.

I mention in the course of the call, my theory about having the best friends in the world that look out for me and she replies “Did Stuart mention I had a word with him at the bonfire before we left?”. I confess that something may have been mentioned. “I told him he had to look after you. I warned him that pre-Greenbelt you get too busy and forget to eat and he’d need to watch for that”.

Which is all very lovely and caring and wonderful, but doesn’t it rather make me sound like a stray dog that needs adopting? I half expected the next sentence to be a list of which immunisations I’d had and how often I needed worming tablets.

OMG…it’s just dawned on me what might have been hidden in that lovely pakora batter

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Pimp

Is it wrong to want to pimp your friends (and I mean as in procure their services for others, not add a super-sized spoiler and low-rider suspension)?

It’s one of those facts of life that we somehow learn to accept as we grow older, that sometimes shitty things happen to good people and equally sometimes good people do shitty things.

The world is after all a long way from fair in the short-term at least and we surely all have the capacity to treat those around us with something less than the duty of care we might hope to experience from others and that human failing whilst nothing to be celebrated, does not make monsters of us.

It’s been a rough week for a couple of friends of mine (I’ll not give details). A long chat with one of them last night, breaks my heart. His world fell apart this week and it’s difficult to see him in so much pain.

We talk and talk and he says it helps and I hope it does, but I feel like an amateur. I find myself drawing again and again on the things that helped me when I’ve hit those bad times. The kind words of friends, the sage advice, the permission to fall apart and still be loved and listened to.

I want to say to him “My friend I’m pants at this, I am but a pale imitation of those that go before; so let me instead introduce you to some pros”.

Because I realise that when my life has hit the skids, I had the benefit of some of the best in the business. The people who listened and cared and took me to their bosom (both metaphorical and literal) and slowly and surely eased away my pain and let the healing start.

Some of you will be reading this and if you think even for one millisecond that I might be meaning you, then I almost surely do. Last night I realised I’ve got the most amazing friends and I’m not sure I ever could say thank you enough, but for now, and for the record, thank you.

So as we’re supping our drinks I’m trying to do my best, to pass on what I have in my time received, to think of the things that were said and done that helped and so forth, but at the back of my mind I’m thinking, I should cut out the middle man.

I want to pimp my friends.

Death of a Salesman

Outside of the odd bit of Shakespeare, I can’t think that I’ve read a play since I was at school, so this week’s ‘book’ was an interesting experience.

Miller’s stage directions are detailed and emphatic, which I suspect gives many a director something of a dilemma, but as a reader it did at least dress the theatre of the mind.

However, one of the things that a novel achieves over plays and films, is the detailed insight into the internal monologue. A good actor may portray some of this, but a novel gives the author far more rope. Reading straight dialogue, you get glimpses of subtext in the nature of the phrasing and so forth, but it needs to come to life in your head before it truly starts to work.

In an astounding piece of “well duh!” thinking, I therefore conclude it is generally better to read a novel, but watch a play.

Tune in next week for startling new thinking as to why shoes are best worn on the feet and gloves on the hands.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Home Delivery

A phone call from Stuart. Apparently my oldest ‘favourite’ niece is experimenting in cookery for school and would I like to come round for tea tonight to try her pakora?

Sadly I need to wait in for the supermarket delivery I ordered in a moment of “I have no time/energy to shop this week moments” whilst down in London (plus I was swayed by the £10 off Ocado email – lovely Waitrose goodies at, thanks to the discount, justifiable prices!).

Well how about tomorrow, he enquires, there will be samosas tomorrow.

Damn it! Gym and the Book Group preclude even a brief sojourn to their pad. Ah well, them’s the sacrifices you have to make, think I.

A little later a text message lands: “we now do a delivery service”.

And so, just after nine, a plate arrives with some wonderful biryani and fish and chicken pakora. Mighty fine. How much am I grinning do you think?

Then whilst Karen catches up on a TV series she’s been watching, Stuart and I time the journey to what, come August, will be their new home. About 8 minutes we reckon – heck the pakora would still be hot ;-)

The neighbourhood is great and the house looks good. By the time we get back to mine (ie a mere 8 minutes later!), I feel like jumping up and down with glee and hugging Karen. So I apologise that she probably missed half the second half of the drama in question, but I’m just the teensiest bit excited!


The mysteries of the utility companies’ accounts department never fail to intrigue me.
Step One: they ‘estimate’ how much gas/electricity I’ll use and set my monthly direct debit payments accordingly.

Step Two: I’m never in when they call to read the meter (though I bet they have torches), so they base my quarterly bills on ‘estimated’ readings.
Now call me dense, but am I missing something here? Wouldn’t you expect the estimate they use in step one to be the same as the estimate they use in step two? If they think I’m going to use X units and so set my monthly payments accordingly, wouldn’t it make sense that the ‘estimated meter reading’ would be similarly based on X units?

But no, year on year on year, they insist on setting my direct debits higher than my ‘estimated usage’ (which is never far out from my actual when I read the meter for them) and so every year or so I have to ring them up and say “much as it’s nice for you to be holding £80 of my money in ‘credit’ I’d really rather have it back in my account please”.

Given the price hikes over the last year, it makes this pattern even more irksome.

Since the last time I got the account straight, over the last 18 months (a period containing more ‘winter’ than ‘summer’) they have taken what amounts to £5 a month too much overall. But get this, if they return £75 of the current £80 odd credit to me, they’ll actually want to up my direct debit from £26 a month to £28.

How does that make sense?

You’re habitually charging me around £5 a month too much, I have to keep ringing you up to get the surplus back and your solution is to put my monthly payments up not down.

It’s logic like that that keeps their coffers full and the interest on everyone’s cash lining their pockets not ours. Well f*** that for a game of soldiers.

At this point I will say something positive about the utility company in question. When I argued about the sheer lunacy of the ‘computer’ prediction, the human being on the other end of the phone did at least see my point and we ended up compromising on me getting the credit back without him upping my monthly payments. So the “computer says no” circle of hell was avoided thankfully.

Even so, I still have to resign myself to the knowledge that in a year’s time I will no doubt be once again chasing a refund. Maybe I should just see it as a stealth saving scheme? Crummy interest though.

I’ve been meaning to switch the utility in question to a more ethical provider for some time now. Anyone know if Equipower are any better at this billing stuff?

Innovation or signs of madness?

Sometimes I worry about myself.

It started simply enough, I went to get readings for my gas and electricity meters.

Both are located in the walk in 'room' off the garden that doubles as a shed, but whilst the gas meter is usefully located up high on the back wall (i.e. easily readable), the electricity meter is rather more annoyingly located about a foot of the ground in the bottom rear corner.

Accordingly every time I need to read the meter or rewire a fuse (oh yes we're talking old skool!), I have to battle to get access.

So I face the choice of emptying pretty much all the shed so I can get complete access to the meter, or move a couple of items and then lean over the remaining obstacles and with a torch, take a reading.

Except right now I can't find my torch. I can't be bothered to search for it and I equally can't be bothered to empty the shed completely (not least because it may still be too dark in that low corner to read the meter).

I try to think laterally. My old phone had a light on it (for the camera, but it doubled as a fine torch), but my new phone just has a flash.

But it gives me an idea...

And that ladies and gentlemen, is how I came to be stretched over the tea crate of garden tools etc stretching an arm into that far corner and taking this:

So demented mad woman who takes photos in a her shed, or cunning problem solver who uses new technology in creative and innovative ways? In the words of Marcus Bentley - you decide!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Down in London with work today for the AGM of the charity my company are patrons of. No HRH this year , but it is held in impressive surroundings, the I*C*E building on Gre@t George Street. A stones throw from the Houses of Parliament, it's everything you could want from a grandiose building of it's type. The eye travels up automatically and finds en route tributes to those Engin33rs of yore (only some of whom wore stove pipe hats). The names are legendary...well in my world at least (yes some of us knew who the Smeaton was that the Kaiser Chief's refered to, without the aid of Google). The building is beautiful and for a moment I could almost forget how much of my professional subs go towards the upkeep of a building I have visited only twice in my life - a hit rate that puts me about 200% ahead of most of my colleagues!.

Between a long (working) journey down, the meeting itself and then that long late night/last train journey back, I've put in eleven plus hour workday. So it seems fair enough to me that I juggle things a little so that I also fit in seeing Mum and Dad.

Mum hasn't been at all well. The doctor thinks it may be some new medication she had been starting to take and so she's slowly being weaned off that. It'll take a few weeks to reduce the dose and then have the last of it leave her system, so we're trying to be patient, but it's hard. She's tired (like falling asleep mid conversation tired), a little confused and generally just not quite 'there'. Most worrying of all is that these are the exact same symptoms that she had before the big time crash last year.

So we're trying to be patient and stay positive, but it's hard.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Post Rapture Pet Care

I trust dear readers, that you are all regular perusers of the divine Caroline over at One Pedestrian Away; but just in case you've missed this, I give you: Jesus Pets.

The claim it's for real (I maintain my reservations), but anyway, let me explain in their own words:
What is JesusPets?

If Jesus returns tonight, who will feed your pets tomorrow?

Who is going to care for your pets after you are raptured into heaven?

Many Christians believe that animals do not go to heaven. So when Jesus comes back and you return with him to heaven, will there be somebody to take care of your dog or cat?

That’s what JesusPets is for. We are assembling a community of heathen pet-lovers to care for pets that are “left-behind.” We are coordinating with feed mills and kennels in preparation for your post-apocalyptic pet care needs.
Not convinced you need their services yet? Well think on my friends, read the FAQs:
Your pet in a salad with fresh edamame

This is real folks. That unnamed food conglomerate is at it again.

You have to realize that some countries are going to take armageddon a little harder than others. The ones that have been around for say 10,000 years have seen it all before and they'll hit the ground running. 250-year-old countries? Eh, not so good.

This food conglomerate has operating plans to find your pet in those younger countries, return them for processing, and then use time travel to sell them pre-rapture to a well-known fast food chain.
Excellent, time-travelling catering suppliers and everything.

But it seems all is not well in the world of post-rapture pet care policies. It looks like it's been getting nasty:
Some information has been circulating about competing services by so-called "Christians" offering similar post-apocalyptic pet care. At least one of these services, and I'm not going to mention their name, has been making arrangements with an international resturant distributor. After the rapture, they plan to sell your pets to godless Asian restaurant chains for use as food.

I want to make it clear that JesusPets does NOT condone these practices and I assure you that your pets will be safe with JesusPets. Just because we are heathens does not mean we are not also pet lovers.
The again, maybe they'd do better to avoid the term 'pet lovers' given that in their FAQs they also state:
In the news item The End Is Really Really Near This Time aliens come and have their way with abandoned pets. It's not clear whether they are better described as Angels or Aliens but either way they like to go from planet to planet and have group sex with things.

Which circle of hell are you destined for?

Courtesy of the wonderful Fragile Tender we have:

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

I'm so boringly tame aren't I?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sister in Law

Channel Four tonight showed a fascinating documentary about women working in Cameroon's legal system called Sisters in Law.

It follows various lawyers, police officers and judges as they seek to redress the balance in a patriarchal society, where there hasn't been a conviction for domestic violence in 17 years.

Following stories of rape, spousal abuse, child abuse and so forth made hard watching at times, but the women fighting to change things are remarkable and there are beautiful moments of human nature at its best; moments between mother and child, moments when a man from a church becomes the saviour of an abused child, moments when the child is reunited with family and the joyful celebration of a group of Muslim women discovering for the first time that they might just have some rights.

One of the women featured reminds me facially of my friend M. The documentary confirms her take on the plight of women in the Cameroon and the prevalence of the opinion that is just fine and dandy for a man to beat his wife.

Sadly it would seem it is an opinion that has travelled to these shores with some of her fellow ex-pat friends. The husband has been it seems, in the habit of beating his wife, as he perceived was his right. M I understand put him right on this, as only she could. She may only be a slip of a thing, but she has an iron will of the like rarely seen, quite a formidable force when in full flow.

Accordingly, I'm not too surprised that the threat she apparently delivered to him that the next time he laid a hand on his wife, she'd beat the living crap out of him in return, appears to have done the trick.

So tonight I drink a toast to the feisty women of the Cameroon.

Friday, January 19, 2007


A hectic day at work today, but somehow we manage to meet the deadline. The team really pulled together to achieve this. I send them home as soon as the main submission is in, whilst I hang on so that I'm at the other end of the phone to assist the Client as he pulls together the last bits his end. It all seems to be ok and we even get a big thank you, which is always nice.

It's so late by the time I leave that I figure I might as well go for a swim after all (the kids are allowed in until 7pm on a Friday and the pool is bedlam until they leave). In fact the pool is so nice and quiet that I swim for 2 hours, unwinding from the week with each length. Of course it's only as I leave the gym that I remember I have no food in and need to do a supermarket run.

I eventually get in at about half ten. What a start to the weekend. A madly busy week, but productive all in all. Looking forward to a quiet couple of days off.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

As the saying goes...

S texts:
Regular caller at door: "any chance of a butty and coffee?"
Me: "I've run out of bread, is just coffee ok?"
Man: "Ok, beggars can't be choosers..."


The Client lands a panic job on us today. He needs the entire five year programme of work, broken down into set construct1on cost categories. The team is going to have to work flat out if we're going to achieve this in two days as needed.

Through the day however, the winds rise to gale force and then some and the message comes in that the Thelwell viaduct is closed.

Predictably enough at this point, the traffic diverts through Warrington and chaos ensues. Today this is helped along by trees falling and roofs being blown off and streets being closed as a result.

I ask the team if they'd like to head home early due to the transport bedlam that is building. Due to the rush job however, I have to be mean boss and ask them to take work with them. Still, one of us needs to stay in the office to cover the elements that can't be done remotely. I figure I'll pull a late one and hopefully kill two birds with one stone, break the back of the workload and sit out the worst of the traffic (the predictions are that the winds will drop later).

Our young graduate E commutes in by train from Manchester. I ignore the voices in my head that say "don't be a mother hen" and pass her my private mobile number and tell her to call if she's ever stranded.

I worry too much.

The office empties and in the peace and quiet that results (well if you ignore the sound of gale force winds outside) I manage to get a lot done.

Then my neighbour M from across the road rings and my heart sinks.

A huge willow tree has come down and hit the bungalow next to me. It's resting on their roof apparently. Unfortunately I don't have a day time contact number for the owner J either. Poor bloke - imagine coming home to that.

M fills me in on how the rest of the close is fairing. Another bungalow has lost part of its roof, a six foot wall has collapsed across the passageway (fortunately no one hurt) and various trees and lamposts are strewn across the ground. From what her son can see it looks like I've lost a small tree and a bit of fence, but sounds like I've got off light in the circumstances.

Then my phone rings again and it's E. The station is closed and there are no trains and no replacement buses.

Sometimes I'm right to worry I guess.

She makes her way back to the office and around 7pm we head off, wonderfully assisted on the way by the wonderful Stuart, who provides excellent traffic advice, updating us on which roads are closed as we go. We make it to her place in under an hour and a half (not bad in the circumstances) and then it takes me about another half hour to get back to mine.

In the darkness it's hard to assess the level of damage properly, but from what I can see there is remarkably little damage to J's house. The tree is resting on the roof, but its fall seems to have been retarded by the pavement around its roots. A few broken tiles maybe, but miraculously the roof doesn't appear to have been 'broken'. The full damage won't be clear though until the tree can be removed. Let's hope the wind tonight doesn't pick up too much again.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Running Training

Myself and a colleague have been running training for the past two days. It's an intensive course and by day two I'm drained. We've stuffed their heads full of our combined knowledge (yes dear sarcastic reader, it does take two colleague is a very wise and experienced eng1neer) and by the end of the course the cartoon above would seem appropriate. Stick a fork in them, they're done.

I think it went well though. The feedback sheets would suggest the delegates found it useful.

Predictably enough one participant is a little aggravating, thinks he knows it all, ignores our instructions in the exercises, rubs people up the wrong way etc. I don't envy his mentor.

Oh bugger.

Time for another session I guess.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Remember the days of these?

Well thanks to the lovely people here you can now relive those heady days of innocence, when bits of toast flying across a screen seemed even more wondrous than a digital watch.

A slightly more modern version is also available:

Sunday, January 14, 2007


ust before 2pm a text lands from K: “they offered us the church”.

It’s the news we’ve been waiting for…hoping for.

The job in question, seemed just so right for S and K and indeed the whole family. Everything about what the churches are about, their priorities, what they’re looking for in a minister etc, just seemed to fit.

Of course on a personal level, the fact that they will be moving even nearer is fantastic. There’s not many families that take you to their hearts the way this household does (even the dog is in on the act), and there’s only so many buddies in one’s life that you can just sit and talk with until 4am.

I’m so happy for them that this has all worked out. And yes on a selfish level, just a little bit happy for me as well.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Volunteer Curry

It was nice to catch up with old friends and meet a few new faces at this evening’s Greenbelt Volunteer and Angels curry in Manchester.

Of course Stage 2 Venue Manager extraordinaire and organiser of the event was duly mocked for ignoring his own email request to be ‘prompt’ and rolling in a little late.

Still nothing at King Cobra happened in a hurry and the service was as patchy as the food. Some dishes were delicious; others were distinctly average and less than piping hot. Eating burnt naan bread is not my idea of fun. Such a shame when a restaurant that you know can do ‘great’, scrapes in with ‘adequate’.

Most importantly of all, I make sure that my buddies S&K leave at a reasonable time – it’s a big day for them tomorrow.

Friday, January 12, 2007


On the eve of a weekend that will decide the future path and location of the Dog Collar s and Rabbit Corpses household, Stuart is in need of distraction. At least until the lovely K is back in. If there's one thing I can do, it's never-ending meaningless twaddle - a veritable celebration of the distraction exercise.

We talk, we fetch food (hunter gathering in Rusholme - it's what we do best), play Buzz and then pick up K and an excited H fresh from their trip to Starlight Express.

Just after midnight, we finish our latest game of Buzz and oldest Radlet KK, heads for bed. I comment that I ought to be on my way myself, but K persuades me to play her at one last game.

And then we start chatting and Stuart comes in and joins us.

And then K and I start talking about bras...and Stuart leaves us to finish of his sermon for Sunday (we're slightly worried about the subconscious inspiration he may have drawn).

And then, with said sermon complete, we all sit chatting about this that and the other.

And then I look at my watch.

It's 4am.

And you know it's been a late night when, on your way home, you pull up at the traffic lights behind a milk float.


I'll spare you the full rant, but grrrrrr...bloody buggery ticketing websites that breakdown at just the wrong moment, and touts that buy up tickets so instantly that shows sell out in 3 minutes and then tickets at inflation rates of 700% appear on scalping sites mere minutes/hours later.

Accordingly whilst we have tickets secured for the Manchester versus Cancer gig (Ian Brown, Echo and the Bunnymen, Charlatans etc), we failed to get any for Arcade Fire.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Catch 22

Not many books achieve the phenomenon of creating a phrase that goes on to enter the lexicon (Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four being unbecomingly greedy on this front). Fewer still achieve that with their title, but Catch 22 captures so many foibles of human nature so perfectly, that it’s no surprise really that the phrase Heller chose to represent the inescapable dilemma, should make it as a widely recognised idiom.
"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle."
"That's some catch that catch 22," He observed.
"It's the best there is." Doc Daneeka agreed.
The book was ground-breaking book when published and is no doubt still considered dangerous and subversive in certain circles. After all if we start to pick at the veneer of the illusion of moral imperative in ‘wartime’, where does it lead?

Early in the book there is an exchange between Yossarian and Clevinger:
"They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him calmly.
"No one's trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
"Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked.
"They're shooting at everyone," Clevinger answered. "They're trying to kill everyone."
"And what difference does that make?"

Clevinger really thought he was right, but Yossarian had proof, because strangers he didn't know shot at him with cannons every time he flew up into the air to drops bombs on them, and it wasn't funny at all. And if that wasn't funny, there were lots of things that weren't even funnier."
I guess the last thing any war-effort needs is someone 'taking it personally' and observations like that are as poignant today as they were when the book was first published.

The book is a pleasure to read and unusually for me, it had me laughing out loud in places. The serious message of the book is put across in a non-preachy manner, with the lighter note of the start, gradually giving way to a darker tone, with the absurdities increasingly having serious consequences. Similarly, the use of a company of diverse archetypes gives Heller the perfect framework for exploring different extremes of human madness.

Out of the six of us at Book Group tonight, I'd summarise that four of us enjoyed it and two really struggled. Regular readers of this blog may be able to predict who one of those was. I think we're yet to have a book she actually reports having enjoyed, but to be fair she had at least obtained a copy of this one and read the first few chapters.

Even more positively from my point of view, my resolution to try and rise above the irritation I feel in her presence seems to be working. Still a way to go, but a positive buddha-like achievement already, let me tell you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Miss Potter

If the film Miss Potter were an illustration in a children’s book, it would be well crafted, endearing and gently tinted in watercolours.

Which is all very fitting and just what you want from a girlie night out flick as K, V, D and I discovered. Engaging, short, sad in places and overall a very sweet tale.

Bless its fluffy little cotton-tail!


I heard the news reports; the iPhone combines a music player, a phone, a camera and an internet portal. Ok so it also has a touchscreen, but other than that my existing phone already does the other stuff.

A complete anti-climax thought I. Much as I love iPods, this just doesn’t sound like anything to get excited about.

In a way I was relieved, it sounds like they’ll come with a fairly hefty price-tag, so nice not to want what you can’t afford eh?

But then in an idle moment I clicked and followed a link and saw the details on Apple’s website.

And I have to admit, it looks mighty fine and as you trawl through the details and the specs, there are some drawbacks (at a max of 8GB this is never going to replace my iPod, I positively demand 3+ Megapixels for a camera-phone these days and what the hell do you mean it doesn’t do 3G?), but there are also many, many lovely looking features. Wireless would be handy, touchscreen will be great if it works as well as they suggest and oh my it even has sensors that detect how you’re holding it and switches between passport and landscape view accordingly.

Oh bugger, I think I might be starting to warm to the thing.

Damn you Apple and your beautiful design concepts!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Crack No More

The visual side of me likes to have a small photo on most of these blog posts. Often they are photos I've taken myself in the course of the event being described, but other times they are images found through google.

And oh the things you happen upon on the internet as a result sometimes.

In pursuit of a plumber photo I found:

Yes ladies and gentlemen, someone has invented a T-Shirt with a back flap that covers potential 'builder's cracks'. A fine idea, but wouldn't a longer T-Shirt or a belt work just as well?

Coming soon, no doubt, "Thong-No-More"...


Fortunately my morning’s diary consisted of an Environmental Strategy telephone conference for a couple of hours and this was easily enough undertaken at home, whilst the plumber did her thing.

As she suspected a new pillar in the tap and the job was done.

Friendly and efficient and not at all like Barbara. I’m singing her praises and passing her details on to others; for as Fergal Sharkey almost said, a good plumber these days is hard to find.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Working, not working

For many (lightweight skiver types – yes I am jealous), today was the first work day of the year. In my world however, it was a day marked by things not working.

In the usual early morning auto pilot I entered the bathroom turned on the shower feeding mixer-unit's hot tap fully and the cold tap slightly, and having busied myself for the obligatory ‘combi-boilers run hot then cold then hot again and no one can explain why” minute, I stepped into the shower.

Bit chilly thought I and reached down and turned the cold tap down a squidge*.

No change.

I turn it a little more and still no change.

I turn it off.

Still no change.

I try to turn it back on and discover the tap is now jammed.

I turn off the hot tap and discover that despite both taps now being off, ice cold water continues to pour.

I suffer the indignities of a decidedly cool shower and spend the rest of the pre-commute morning running up and down stairs turning the stop-cock on and off every time I need to use water (after all I did commit to turning off the tap whilst brushing my teeth, but this is ridiculous).

I find the number for a local plumber and place the call. They seem very efficient and nice and we arrange for them to call tomorrow morning as I’m not in this evening. As we say our goodbyes, I ask “oh btw, what’s your name?”. The deep, slightly gruff voice replies “It’s Lorraine. Lorraine the lady plumber”. To be fair it’s not the greatest mobile reception in the world and that may have distorted the voice, but I’m slightly expecting the plumbing equivalent of The League Of Gentlemen’s mini-cab driver Barbara to appear on my doorstep tomorrow.

After lunch, I catch the train to London and realise I really need to think about the ‘devotional’ I’m supposed to be giving at the start of this evening’s Greenbelt Management Group Meeting.

Needless to say such activities don’t come naturally to yours truly and I’m rather crapping myself about.

I manage to pull something together and it seems to go ok – not terribly sure if people follow where my mind goes linking the Christmas story, Epiphany, Greenbelt’s theme of Heaven in Ordinary and Sigur Ros’s paean to jumping in puddles, but some of them are good enough to say nice things about it after, so it can’t have been too terrible (or maybe it was and they have charitable over-compensating natures?). After all Hoppipolla is one of the most sublimely beautiful tracks of all time and plenty of compensation for having to sit through a few minutes of my waffling.

For once the meeting is finished in time for me to enjoy a quick post-meeting drink with the ever delightful Jude before heading off to catch a tube to Euston and the train home.

Unfortunately, I reach the Northern line platform at Bank just in time to catch the announcement that the north bound Northern line has just ceased moving due to some technical problem or other. Thankful that my cautious soul hadn’t left it to the very last moment to leave the pub, I just have time to travel further west on the Central line and then pick up the Victoria line and arrive at Euston just in time to catch my train (that’ll be the ‘last’ train) back to Manchester.

All is going well (usual very friendly, helpful staff, who I’ve got to know quite well on these late night journeys), until we get to Wilmslow. The interior lights go off and the train stalls.

Apparently, Network Rail have turned the overhead lines off. I mean I’m all for the energy conservation concept of turning things off overnight, but possibly best waiting until the lat train has passed through, no?

Twenty minutes later, power is restored thankfully and we potter on to Manchester.

* a squidge is the technical term for the distance that lies between “a tiny tad” and “half a gnat’s nadger”.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


P&S are up in Manchester this afternoon and evening and appropriately enough for Epiphany, we visit M&G and new baby C.

Then P pops off to do a favour for a friend and S and I settle down to watch This Life +10. Disastrously the recording seems to be slightly corrupted and by the time P returns with food we give up and switch to the Christmas edition of Doctor Who instead.

P has filled the role of hunter gatherer wonderfully and courtesy of Jaffa in Rusholme we have a feast of fresh pitta, baba ghanoush, hummus and more. Followed by some fabulous baclava. The boy done good.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


After a visit to my hairdressers, buoyed up by yesterday's successes, I hit the city centre shops for more sales shopping.

Yet more success, some tops and a pair of scarlet pumps. I wanted something like this to go with a particular outfit, but was loath to spend much on a pair of shoes with a single purpose. Ten quid though - can't be bad (after my colourist's sublime work this morning, they even match my hair.

Unfortunately, in between trying them on in Faith and getting home, they seem to have shrunk. Resultantly, I'll be spending my evenings pottering around my house breaking them in. In true Dorothy style I shall occasionally click my heels together and utter those immortal words "there's no place like home, there's no place like home".

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sales and Soirees

There is an upside to a meeting at one of Europe's largest s3wage plants, in that it's just round the corner from a similarly proportioned shopping centre. So when the meeting finishes at lunch time, well it's like a sign telling me it's time to nip there for my lunch break and quickly hit the sales before heading back to the office.

Not that I'm a great sales' shopper normally, but today I seem to strike it lucky.

A couple of tops half price and a jacket that was originally £99 marked down to £31. Bargain.

After an afternoon back in the office, I've just time to head home and change before heading around to the Dog Collars and Rabbit Corpses household for yet another party. This time it's the "we've got too much stuff left from the previous parties and we need you all to eat it up" party.

After a welcome from Millie the 'hound from the pound' that nearly knocks me off my feet, it's another lovely evening. Food, drink, good company and silly quiz games on the PS2 - what more could one wish for?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Back to Work

Well it was a lovely break, but it's back to reality today. Well almost the office is pretty quiet with a lot of people still off.

Back to the gym's swimming pool as well and man are my joints stiff. It takes sheer will power to keep going (especially as the post-Christmas period brings the predictable crowds that get in the way of us regulars).

Ah the etiquette issues of the narrow, busy swimming pool - now that could be a blog in itself.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Space

I’m generally a social sort, but after all the to-ing and fro-ing of the past few weeks, I decide to take a couple of days to just indulge in blissful solitude before returning to work.

I love you all, but right now all I want is to curl up in front of a warm fire, with a good book.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Day

By the time I got home last night, around 4am, I was starting with a headache and it’s not gone when I awake this morning. How’s that for irony eh? You spend New Year’s Eve stone cold sober and yet still manage both a headache and to fall on your arse.

The nagging head refuses to lift and so I cancel on my plans to join the non-football going element of the Rabbit Corpses and Dog Collars household for an afternoon walk and only just recover sufficiently in time to decide for the evening curry for 16 at Fusion in Chorlton.

The food varies from the absolutely excellent to the rather disappointing, but with time we reckon you’d learn which dishes to avoid and I suspect this won’t be our last visit. Stuart’s fish starter is particularly wonderful, not to mention large enough for a main.

There’s also nothing like the behaviour of other families’ children and lack of intervention from the respective parents within your party to both cause you intense embarrassment as the waiting staff struggle not to drop sizzling hot plates on their marauding heads and realise how well behaved your adopted nieces are.

Such thoughts continue as we head back to the Rabbit Corpses and Dog Collars household and Singstar is put onto the Playstation. Some kids play nicely with each other and some sulk and refuse to participate when they don’t do well – I guess it was ever thus and it’s easy to stand on the outside and observe which appear to be happiest as a result.

Next it’s Buzz, where a new general knowledge version replaces the music quiz of the past and general frivolity ensues (I may yet forgive K for the ruthless stealing of R and I’s points in the round designed to create maximum rivalry and threats of revenge).

A top night and in the stakes for best hospitality of 2007, Stuart and Karen have entered a strong early bid.