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.