Thursday, May 31, 2007

Right Ho, Jeeves

As I was travelling light at the weekend, the P.G. Wodehouse omnibus stayed behind and accordingly I’ve only managed to read a few chapters of Right Ho, Jeeves, by tonight’s Book Group meeting.

To be honest I might have found more time this week, if the initial attempts had captured my imagination more.

There are so many reasons why these books probably are ones I ‘should’ enjoy, but somehow I just can’t get through to the good stuff. The obstacle can be summed up in one word: posh.

Do you have to feel an affectionate warmth for the aristocracy to be able to appreciate these stories? Am I an unbearable inverted snob for not being able to get beyond the superficial trappings?

Who can tell – the fact remains I find myself unable to give a toss about old Bertie and without sympathy, the stories fail to ignite my interest.

This one will return to the bookshelf largely unread I’m afraid.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Journey Home

After a lovely brunch with Jude and her sister C, I head south a little to my parents (the other justification for the airplane ticket indulgence, being that I can squeeze in a visit to the folks).

It’s great to be able to spend some bonus time with them and with a whole afternoon and good part of the evening together it’s good to catch up.

Then on to Gatwick, in plenty of time as I have no ID with me beyond bank cards, which BA tell me should be ok, but might not be (not terribly helpful advice really).

Anyway, having placed half the items in my wash bag in the ‘liquids and gels’ bag thing and taken my shoes off (I’m suspicious that this latter policy has been introduced by National Express as a means of trying to even up the playing field), I pass through security without issue and arrive in the departure lounge with well over an hour to kill.

What to do? What to do?

Oh look all the shops are open and the majority of the ‘tax-free’ is available to all passengers (ask yourself what the standard mark-up must be to make that one fly…).

It seems only reasonable to try and make as much of my £54 fare back in savings as I can.

However, I’m good and resist all shoes and even the half price Billy Bags, satisfying myself with some YSL Touche Eclat and a Diesel courier bag adding up to savings of £32. Not bad.

Well ok, not strictly speaking good either, but…

The flight is ease itself and after less than 40mins in the air, and a 10minute taxi ride, I’m home swiftly, with time to prepare for tomorrow, before hitting the sack after what has been a very busy, but extremely excellent bank holiday weekend.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rufus at The Old Vic

On making it to the pub to meet Jude and her excellent group of boys, my mood improves almost instantly.

A couple of rounds later, we head on to the Old Vic and mingle with the stars in more ways than one.

On the celebrity front (Denise Van Outen, James Lance, Mark Gatis, Stephen Fry etc) our cup overfloweth as we filed into the stalls and took our excellent seats just 12 rows in (even moving to the empty sets in the centre part way in, for an even more fantastic view).

On the visual front, presumably in keeping with the title of the new album Release the Stars, the theme appears to be stars and stripes, with the black and white stripped backdrop with large silver glittery symbols in the place of stars accompanied by the band dressed in all manner of clashing striped shirts and trousers, with 50 ‘stars’ consisting of glittery broaches pinned randomly across their attire. Better photos of the night can be found here.

And then Rufus appears.

What can one say? Musically sublime, vocally transcendental, exquisite performer, charmingly witty…fashion sense of a deck chair.

Not what one might call a good look; Rufus’ trousers being particularly upsetting.

He also experiences what he describes as a “Liberace moment” when his first spell at the piano suffers a false start as he has to stop to adjust cuffs etc.

Still all such wardrobe misgivings can happily be forgotten, when you have a performer of this calibre, backed by such an excellent band (the brass section are simply awesome). The music just sweeps you up and transports you. I whisper to Jude that moments like this could almost persuade me that I could get into classical music if I only knew how.

After an intermission Rufus returns in the lederhosen featured on the album artwork, working a look that is strangely disarming and works surprisingly well, perfectly complementing his boyish charm.

The evening’s set includes all the material from the new album Release the Stars, plus a few older tracks and a couple of covers. The new album may not quite reach the same overall heights as the Want duo, but key tracks like Tiergarten shine out and, across the board, the songs are transformed to a higher level by the live performance.

Tonight the spoken word duty on Between My Legs is ably undertaken by Francis de la Tour – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Time for the finale.

Rufus returns for the encore in a bathrobe with the band in tuxedos. After a couple of numbers, he pulls up a chair at the front of the stage and applies bright red lipstick, silver earrings and a pair of silver high heels. He then retires to the rear of the stage and hidden by a band member continues to transform as the music starts and the band, now in dance troupe mode, take their places.

Ok the next bit only truly makes sense if you can recall that Judy Garland film (Summer Stock?), in which they put on a show in a barn. In a famous scene, Judy, dressed in an evening jacket and black tights, wears a black fedora hat and sings “Get Happy” (you know the one “Forget your troubles c'mon get happy, you better chase all your cares away. Shout hallejulah c'mon get happy; get ready for the judgement day.”).

Suffice to say that when the last band member drops to the ground they reveal Rufus in full Judy tribute garb (sickeningly good legs) and they then proceed to re-enact the entire routine.

The audience are crying with laughter by the time it finishes and to get an instant standing ovation from this hard to please London audience is no mean feat.

A couple more songs and then we're done. The night was pure class.

If I was Jude’s bitch from the Arcade Fire night back in January, I’m now her bitch twice over. She is the mistress.


To list the crimes of the National Express journey from hell would take too long, so let me just give you the highlights:

  • It wasn't a proper National Express coach, they'd obviously subbed it out to a local coach firm.
  • The coach was not exactly comfortable and as I type this (three days later), my knees and shins are still sore from being wedged up against the set in front.
  • The heating wasn't working and it was bloody freezing. The driver drove with his window open, which meant we all basically sat there shivering in an icy gale. Everyone piled on as many layers as they could and pulled hoods up where available. The guy across the aisle attracted envious glances as he poured out cup after cup of hot drink, primarily it seemed for the purpose of keeping his frozen fingers warm.
  • The inclement conditions were clearly doing little to benefit the owners of the various coughs that surrounded me (a disinclination to remove cold hands from pockets might possibly explain the apparent inability for said individuals to hold their hand up as they coughed up their phlegm).
  • We hadn't gone 200 yards before the driver got into some argy bargy at the lights with another driver. As we turned out onto Whitworth Street the honking of horns continued and he cut right in across the car, all but forcing it off the road (seriously he must have avoided hitting it by about 5mm).
  • The honking and general cutting up continued down the motorway and his behaviour in London traffic was something to behold.
  • The river had his radio turned up so loud, that even halfway down the coach, with my iPod on as loud as my ears could bear, I could still not avoid the tinny noise of crap commercial radio stations.
Call me a diva, but by the time we stopped at a service station near Birmingham, the thought of a return journey of this kind was too much to support and, throwing environmental ethics to the wind, I phoned British Airways and found a return fare of under £60, which at that precise point in time seemed like the most excellent value.

So there we have it folks, £54 and the prospect of avoiding 5 hours of coach based misery appears to be the price of my principles...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Phone call

As the meeting breaks up and the Client is half way out the door, my phone buzzes. It's The Lovely Jude. I answer, asking if I can call her back and she just has time to get the words "ok, I was just ringing to see if you wanted to come and see Rufus Wainwright at the Old Vic on Sunday?".

It's a strange sensation trying not to squeal with excitement in a meeting room.

By the time the Client has finally departed (he came back to my desk for a chat...) and I get on the internet, my initial instant positive response starts to fade - the West Coast Mainline is closed for engineering works. The usual two and a bit hour train journey would now be closer to five with multiple changes and bus replacement elements.

The coach is cheaper but takes a similar amount of time. Pushing eco-concerns to one side I check out flights, but combined with high costs particualrly for the outward journey it's not really an option.


I place a quick call to my buddies. I need advice. I'm tired, I have the Personal Licence Holder training and exam tomorrow and busy weeks ahead - do I need a long journey to and from London? How much do I want to see Jude and get to this gig? If I don't go will I regret it forever, or, if I go, will I overdo things and end up regretting that?

Stuart does his best to advise me, but by the time he says "I mean he's good but it's not like you haven't seen Rufus before...", I stop him in his tracks and ask to speak to K - I need to talk someone who understands.

Perhaps predictably enough her response is different to Stu's. It's the push I need - she's right I will probably really regret this if I don't go for it.

A chance to spend time with Jude and get to see Rufus? It just has to be done.

So decision made, I ring Jude back and book the coach.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Which Cafe?

S is in Manchester this evening - time for a girlie night out.

A wonderful meal (is it ever otherwise) at That Cafe and lots of chat.

We even manage at last to decide on holiday plans, for the now traditional 'P is on staff conference - so we get to go away and play' trip.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


It wasn't an easy decision, but grasping the nettle on one of my two dilemmas, seems to be paying off.

Early days, but the replacement is fitting in well, picking things up fast and I can feel my stress levels reducing by the day. Hopefully once he's up to speed I might even get more time to work on my other duties that have been rather relegated to second place whilst I'm been frantically trying to stop the wheels falling off.

Whilst having to bring things to a head was something I struggled with, the 'old model' has been moved to pastures new and that seems to be, as we hoped, a gentler, easier, happier place for him.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Shock moment of agreement with right wing tosspot

I never thought I'd agree with a single thing that the spite-ridden old Lord Tebbit said, but it seems I'm wrong:

"I don't think that the Conservative party should be the party which makes Labour policies work. I think we should leave the Labour party to try and do that..."

For all my misgivings about Labour (and let's face it, they make a long list) , overall I'd still rather have their policies than Cameron's (obviously this is speculative, I mean do we actually really know what any of them are yet?) and rather have them try and implement than the Tory twats.

relevant quote can be found here, just over 1 minute in - warning viewers with a sensitivity to Tory bile and swarm should probably not click

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back - bad; neighbours - good

There's something about preparing food that seems to disagree with my back. I'm sure it must be a posture thing; I try looking down my nose at the veg with my shoulders firmly back, but it barely helps.

That combined with lifting of gazebos and such like two weekends running, has left me with a sore back.

In fact last Friday I gave in and sourced some of those air activated adhesive heat pads (ooh they're magic!) from a pharmacy and made it through the afternoon in the office through a combination of a lovely warmth penetrating my deep muscle and some anti-inflammatory gel. I fear this is a milestone in the ageing process and I am but months away from ralgex and exhaling as I sit down.

Another weekend of entertaining took it's own toll and as I reached down to lock the garage door this morning the aches and pains made themselves truly known.

Which might explain the dawning realisation as I left work this evening, that whilst I distinctly remember placing my gym bag by my front door last night, I can't really recall putting it in the boot of my car. This would tend to add up to suggest that the bag is lost somewhere between my front door and the garage. My usual habit is to put the gym bag down beside the garage, get the car out and then stow it in the boot.

I have horrible feeling that this morning that routine mutated slightly into: put bag down beside garage, get car out, close garage door, bend to reach the bottom lock, pull back, wince in pain, lose concentration, hobble to car, get in (no doubt exhaling as more poor limbs came to rest) and drive off without gym bag.

Sure enough the bag is nowhere to be found, not in the car, not in the house, not by the garage.

Cursing my own stupidity and vacillating between toting up the cost and inconvenience of my loss, and trying to persuade myself that there's nothing to gain from getting upset about something I can't change, I take a walk around the neighbourhood and the wasteland in particular hoping I might at least be able to salvage some discarded remains of someone's thievery.

No joy though. I head home.

A few minutes later there is a ring at the doorbell and my neighbour enquires if I happened to leave a gym bag by my garage.

Whilst walking the dog she'd seen it lying by the garage and when it was still there ten minutes later and there was no answer at my house, she took it in.

Returned safely I'm so relieved. At least now my attempts at exercise will only be governed by muscle strains, not a lack of attire.

Best neighbours in the world I tell you!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Catch Up

After various messages left on each other’s voicemails, P and I eventually managed to catch up with each other last night.

Would I be in if he, R and their three kids popped in tomorrow afternoon.

Heck it would be lovely; so after the car is serviced this morning, I rush to the supermarket to stock up and spend the rest of the morning preparing a veggie feast (chopping is a bit of a constant theme).

Since P and R left the city for the wilds of the Lancashire Yorkshire border, I’ve seen them too infrequently and sitting in the garden, watching the kids play swing ball and invent games with the left over flags from last week, it’s great to catch up with them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Following a trip down to East Anglia for a meeting today, I make it back in time for a Book Group planned tour of the Anthony Burgess Foundation house (following on from our reading of A Clockwork Orange last time). Unfortunately, an incident with a boiler has left the house with water damage that they are trying to put right and so our visit is postponed.

In keeping with our stated endeavours to read a broader range of books, this week we discuss The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which could barely be more of a contrast to the previous selection.

It’s been a long time since I read this book and whilst it may not be great literature I’m charmed once again by the simple flow of the writing and the wit extracted from the utter absurdity of everyday life.

It has of course suffered from endless physics students repeating passages to each other verbatim, but to allow that image to obscure the merit of Adam’s writing is a mistake. His gentle and wry view of the world around us was with us for too short a time. Hitchhiker’s may not change your life, but it will while away many an evening very pleasantly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Theme Continues

Thank you to Stick and the lovely C for the truly excellent card that arrived in the post. I think...

I don't know, give a dog a bad name and all that...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dressing up

Part of the deep intellectual conversation at the five o’clock club last night, was predictably enough about Eurovision.

The lovely Jude also had a party and let’s just say that she and C took the dressing up for the airline themed occasion fairly seriously. Hello mama!

In many ways Eurovision is just an excuse for grown-ups, be they participants or spectators, to run wild in the dressing up trunk.

It disappointed us slightly therefore that the winning entry was a rather dour power ballad from Serbia, performed by a stout, cropped haired woman backed by female backing singers who made Charlie’s Angels look like women with a curling tong phobia.

Several theories circulated at our party, including that a new hole in the ozone had opened up due to the amount of hairspray used on but one of the backing chanteuse, to a worry that their hairstylist started on the backing group and ran out of time by the point they reached the front woman.

T declared it a dyke victory, whereas P counter-claimed that it was in fact a victory for anyone who had suffered a pudding bowl haircut as a child.

A free copy of The Times on the train last night, offered up first the insight that with the big screens in gay pubs the country over, this annual event was akin to the gay world’s FA Cup and then the observation regarding the bloc voting scandal that we should rise above it all as we probably “don’t want to win a contest in which even Serbian hairdressers[…] have a vote”.

They’ve got a point.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Management Monday

After a morning in the office, I'm on the train south for another Greenbelt Mgmt Grp meeting, preceded by what is fast becoming a tradition: the 5 o'clock drinking club.

Not just one Jude but two, a Paul, a Steve and an evil Harv.


Bonus of bonuses, after a productive meeting, there's even 20 minutes spare for me catch a post meeting drink with the rest of the crowd before getting that late train home to Manchester.

A deliberate choice to leave the laptop at home, meant that the work undertaken on the trip down and back was for once limited to the small amount of paperwork I took with me. This ploy achieved the desired result and gentle snoozing as the world rushed by helped me catch up on energy levels after a busy few days.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Duke Special

Still exhausted after the party, in many ways I could do without a gig tonight and my gig buddy Staurt feels likewise.

Duke Special is however the perfect end to a hectic weekend. He is one of those performers that has the rare talent to transport you from you earthly concerns and carry you away on soaring waves of beauty.

Truly beautiful.

And to cap it all off, they perform the last song in the middle of the audience and then as we're leaving we find ourselves in the absolutely perfect spot for a bonus number performed in a doorway on one of the exit routes.

The band, Stuart, myself and two other lucky punters - now that's what I call an intimate gig!

Clear Up

Despite staying up to an ungodly hour last night to make a start on the clearing up (helped in the first part by the wonderful S&K- true friends stay behind after the party and help!), there is still piles of work to do today.

Gazebos dismantled and stored, barbecues scrubbed and cleaned, lights unstrung and put away, bowl after bowl of washing up, bottles in the recycling bin and so on and so on.

I keep finding passports and flags in the most unusual places.

Still at last it is done.

I collapse exhausted on the sofa.

I glance up.

Do you think I missed something?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Eurovision 2007

Gazebos up – check
Boards and cardboard strategically placed in garden to try and protect the grass – check
Picnic bench washed down – check
Fairy lights strung inside and out, off every available point – check
Meat marinated – check
Wooden skewers soaked and chicken and paneer kebabs made up - check
Salad dressed, coleslaw etc in bowls – check
Rolls sliced – check
Chutney and ketchups deployed – check
Onions and mushrooms prepared for frying – check
Glasses, plates, napkins and cutlery out on table – check
Cool box filled with ice on drinks trolley – check
House tidied – hmmm it’ll do
Bunting comprised of the flags of 24 finalists hung inside and out - check
Playlist prepared on iPod – check
TV positioned for optimised viewing – check
Chocolate fountain (newly arrived birthday present!) running – check
Strawberries, blackberries and marshmallows ready for dunking – check
Shedloads of pakora and samosas commissioned from favourite niece and en route – check
Barbecues lit – check
Alcohol and mixer supplies purchased - check
Cocktail shaker, jigger, umbrellas, twirly sticks, neon straws, sliced fruit etc out – check
Pims mixed – check
Rum Punch mixed – check
Sweepstake prizes purchased - check
Passports prepared for each country as basis of sweepstake – check
National flags and national airline insignias prepared for waving – check
Thirty plus friends arriving – check
European love-child of Christopher Biggins and Sue Pollard in the wings warming up - check

Cabin doors to manual – check

“Welcome to Eurovision Airlines – we hope you enjoy the ride!”.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Moore for men

According to Sir Patrick Moore (astronomer to the stars?), woman are to blame for falling standards of quality on the TV.

"I used to watch Doctor Who and Star Trek, but they went PC - making women commanders, that kind of thing. I stopped watching."

Well who can blame him? Women as commanders - what a preposterous notion!

Apparently he stated "I would like to see two independent wavelengths - one controlled by women, and one for us, controlled by men."

Hmmm very telling, that use of the word ‘us’.

Sorry Sir P, but 51% of ‘us’ are women (shocking I know, but what can I say?).

Any idea who we should blame for falling standards of reality grasping amongst the knighthood?

But in the spirit of education of this icon of British TV should the clueless one happen this way - Sir P, 'aliens' are the things that may possibly be found at the other end of your telescope's gaze, whereas that creature standing behind you rolling her eyes? Not actually a different species.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Firefighters or Strippers?

Thanks to the BBC for this story:

"A group of firefighters were mobbed by women who thought they were part of the act when they arrived to tackle a blaze during a strip show."

It appears that the mistaking of emergency personnel for strippers works both ways.

Though to be fair, I'm not sure one can really be said to be impersonating a police officer if you have the word Stripper emblazoned on the back of your stab vest.

Bank Holiday Weekend

After the sobering news on Friday, a gentle weekend was just the ticket.

In preparation for next weekend a new barbecue and gazebo were purchased and in the case of the former assembled.

It being a trolley type arrangement, with untold number of parts, it required a good bit of assembly, but my spatial awareness and ability to read technica1 drawings is not bad, so usually flat packs hold no major fear for me.

That said, can I just question whether it’s entirely necessary to give instructions like “fix bar D to cross plate E, using bolts Q, nuts R and washers S”, when the pack of nuts, bolts and washers uses a completely different nomenclature? Accordingly, I had to keep flick back and forward in the instruction booklet to the cross reference table that informed you that bolt Q was also known as M6o35 and nut R M5o45. Trust me by step 77, this becomes very annoying.

Still, five paper cuts later (I’m joking), and one trip back to the shop to exchange two parts that came damaged/broken, the barbecue was assembled and very fine it looks too.

Best of all, though I didn’t realise it when I purchased it (I was concentrating on spec and sale prices!), it’s part of the Anthony Worell Thompson range and therefore, come Saturday, we can enjoy the sport of getting the barbecue going by burning the cardboard packaging, complete with smug twat grinning TV chef image.

Saturday evening was spent eating salad in the garden at S&K’s and having a fine evening of catching up (so long since I last saw them ;-) ). It may be a sign of the fact that all three of us were drinking, but the principle point of entertainment for the latter part of the evening, was arranging a poor resting Millie dog with a bottle of lager under her paw, to look like she was passed out ‘tired and emotional’. You probably had to be there…

Monday was spent tidying garden and house (the former hampered a little by showers), some Greenbelt work and then a curry with friends.

As we walked in a party of three were leaving and after a few seconds of eye contact with the woman, I realised it was L who used to come to the literature evening class I went to, many, many moons ago.

There are signs that you haven’t seen someone for ages, when they say “and this is my two and half year old son”.

She also commented that it was me that had first introduced her to the Punjab many years back. Now that doesn’t sound likely does it…?

Friday, May 04, 2007


Sad news tonight.

Stuart expresses it better over on his blog than I could ever hope to.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Clockwork Orange

Pressures on time meant that my re-reading of Anthony Burgess' classic is rather rushed.

Which doesn't give this masterpiece the justice it deserves.

Frequently it makes difficult reading, but it's hard to think of a novel that better examines and demonstrates the power of language to reflect and in turn shape a sub-culture.

Mind you on repeat reading, I'm struck by quite how much of Russell Brand's stage act/vocabulary is borrowed from these pages. Phrases like "vidi my droogies" were always obvious enough direct lifts, but phrases like high-faluting and the like appear to be similar hat tips.

That said, whilst lack of time did leave me skim reading the final chapters, I'm fairly sure that Burgess isn't the origin of phrases like 'dinkle' and 'ball sack'. But you never know.