Saturday, March 31, 2007

Long Day

After fewer hours sleep than I care to reflect on, I’m up and out and at Stuart and K’s for 7am. We head off (complete with breakfast baps from K – she really is a marvel) for deepest darkest Leicestershire and the Greenbelt Festival Operations spring meeting.

It’s an intensive day, and the meeting hasn’t finished when, just after 5pm, S, K and myself have to make our apologies and leave.

Back in Manchester I’ve offered to drop S&K into town once they’ve changed, so that they can be on time for R’s 50th birthday bash. As it turns out, R invites me along and suddenly I’m in a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet shovelling food onto my plate like the best. What with the breakfast bap and now this, I think it can be safely said that I’ve fallen off the wagon big time.

It’s a lovely evening, but aware that I should still be preserving energy levels, I resist invites to go on to T’s stag do or back to S&K’s for more revelry and head to bed.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Manchester Versus Cancer

As a naturalised Mancunion, the sense of civic identity that exists in my adopted city never ceases to amaze me.

I spent the first eighteen years of my life in London, but despite the lyrics of that old song I don't think that being a Londoner was ever a notable part of my identity, nor a significant part of the identities of Londoners I knew then or have known since. Indeed prior to moving to Manchester I never really appreciated that your city or even region of residence could be a bond that tied you to others or form part of how you saw yourself.

Mancunion and North West identity are rarely more evident than on nights like tonight, as we head to the MEN Arena for the Manchester Versus Cancer gig.

With acts like McAlmont and Butler, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Charlatans, Ian Brown and Noel Gallagher playing, the stage is set for quite some night. As if this wasn't enough we have DJ sets from Tin Tin, Mani and The Doves, inter act comedy from John Thompson, Johnny Vegas and Alan Carr and musical cameos/collaborations from everyone from Andy Rourke, Denise Johnson and Peter Hook.

Truly our cup over runneth.

T who apparently ‘loves me and wants to have my babies’ on account of letting him have a last minute spare ticket, accurately describes his level of excitement as akin to a nine year old at their birthday party.

The night doesn’t fail to deliver. From Johnny Vegas attempting to crowd surf and encourage a crowd of 15,000 to surge forward to crush the heckler at the front, to hearing McAlmont sing Yes with a voice that was always stunning, but has developed depth and richness over the years, every bit of this evening’s entertainment hits the mark.

In Ian’s Brown’s first number I lean to T and comment “thank God his vocals are on form tonight”. Fatal last words. The next track has his tuning stumble and from then on he’s struggling (although he returns to his best for the odd track). As T observes at the end of the set, he’s seen the King Monkey give genius like performances and he’s seen him give bloody awful performances, but never before has he witnessed both in one night. Still when you command such effortless cool and home crowd adoration most things are forgivable.

The headline act is Noel Gallagher. To be honest whilst I have a lingering fondness for the antics of Burnage’s favourite sons (invariably interview gold), my love of the music waned as their embrace of Dad Rock grew. That said Noel on a stage with an acoustic guitar is something to behold. I have to confess he won me over.

Joined by a few musicians and a strings section, his version of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, is just beautiful (though nothing can compete with hearing Morrisey sing this) and by the time he plays Half a World Away with all its additional Mancunion nuances courtesy of The Royale Family, the crowd are eating out of his hand. As he leaves the stage he urges us to stick around for the finale, which he claims from having watched rehearsals put the words ‘car’ and ‘crash’ in his head.

Happily his prediction is misplaced and the finale is more than worth hanging on for. In a semi Stone Roses reunion, Mani joins Ian Brown (and Hooky and Andy Rourke – how many bassists do we need?) and we’re treated to I Am the Resurrection.

Quite some night – it’s always great to see Manchester celebrate it’s musical heritage like this and best of all, the event should have raised a shed load of money for Christies.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What Dreams May Come

As a parting gift last night, K handed me a tub of her finest Lasagne.

It's a fair size portion and with past experiences in mind, I decide just to have half this evening and save the rest for tomorrow.

Always learning...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hot Fuzz

By the power of Greyskull, this is a good film. Maybe not quite as strong as their previous offering Shaun of the Dead, but it's a fine way to spend a Wednesday evening with K.

If you're the right age to get all the cultural references, it's a riot; the Point Break ones in particular have me in stitches.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Feeling Small

I’ll put up with your macho posturing, your bullying attitude, your lads mag humour, the way you use banter to intimidate and your petty power games, because I must.

However, when your respond to my innocent statement about the small size of a stationary item, with a gag delivered in a belittling tone, inferring that I’ve just implied I have a small phallus, please don’t be surprised when I reply ever so slightly sarcastically, that “a knob joke doesn’t really work when it’s a woman, does it?” and that perhaps you might manage to notice that not everyone has a penis.

You sir, are an odious twat and if you insist on playing then I’ll happily forego my usual distaste for engaging in intellectual battle with an unarmed opponent.

Hear this sound? It’s the entire room laughing at you. You, your undoubtedly small dick and your even smaller brain.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Goddess or Witch?

The wonderful domestic goddess that is K, was cooking for a dinner party on Friday and rang to ask if I’d like to pick up some of the spare ragu on my way home from work, before their guests arrived.

Now I’ve probably mentioned before that my initial belief that no food stuff justified a cooking period of some 11 hours, were silenced by the first mouthful. This ragu is legendary and offers of supply are not to be taken lightly.

Sadly, an urgent last minute meeting with ‘senior boss’ meant I was running late. K insisted I should still come and she’d just hand it over to me on the doorstep, but much as my taste buds were twitching in anticipation, even I was brought up better than to interrupt someone’s dinner party just to make off with some grub.

Accordingly we rescheduled and I got to spend a lovely evening with K and S on Saturday night, catching up over a takeaway. As I left the dish of cannelloni ragu is thrust into my very happy hands.

In a feat of great restraint I resist eating it until yesterday evening and hell was the wait rewarded.

Trouble is I’m beginning to think K has crossed the line between domestic goddess and witchcraft. I rarely remember my dreams, but this morning I awoke with an incredibly vivid dream fresh in my mind.

I dreamt I had eaten half the gorgeous cannelloni last night (every nuance of the flavour was completely tangible), but had decided to save half of the wondrous dish for tonight. I dreamt that after a hard day at work I came home and the troubles of the day disappeared as I remembered I had the second half in the fridge waiting.

I woke up at this point.

I woke up happy, thinking oooh I’ve got that second half of the cannelloni ragu to look forward to.

Then it dawned on me that it wasn’t just a dream, it was an inaccurate dream. My fridge holds no such delights.

My mood drops, I drag myself to work, crestfallen and depressed.

My question is this though; what the hell is K putting in this stuff that it has this effect?

If her cooking didn't taste so damn good, I'd be suggesting we burn her...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Colour Correction

Those who know me, know that I take hair cuts and colours seriously. After more hair dos in my youth that frankly just 'didn't', I used to have more of a phobia about hairdressers than many have about dentists.

General avoidance of salons was largely possible through my student years, but the need to get a job in my 'sandwich' year, meant it was time to face up to my fears. My mother (bless her) decided to help with my therapy, by funding a cut at the salon (not cheap) that a friend recommended.

I've not let anyone else touch my hair since.

Such unswerving loyalty is not unusual amongst their clientèle, which includes many an actor, famous script writer etc, some of whom travel back to Manchester specially.

Accompanying the excellent hair styling, is intelligent, friendly customer care.

While P works his wonders with his scissors, we talk quality films, politics or Manchester's latest restaurant.

S and I rarely have explicit discussions about colour, rather we chat about what's up in my life and in an amazing feat of holistic analysis she prescribes the perfect response.

Unhappy at work and thinking about looking around? Time to be a little tamer in case of interviews.

About to go on holiday? Something manageable and UV resistant.

Relationship in a mess? Time for shocking vibrancy to restore cheer and confidence.

While S works her artist's pallette and I calmly exercise blind faith, we talk life, books, films, family.

The process takes hours, which on the surface of things would normally horrify me, but actually I've come to relish the periods of enforced inactivity. P&S (oooh good initials!) fit me in at short notice when necessary and know in return that I'll happily sit patiently between phases when their schedule gets hectic.

When, like today, they're relatively quiet, they'll often come and chat with me in the more private 1st floor area whilst I'm waiting for the colour to develop (usually there are 2 or 3 phases to the colouring process, due to my nightmare hair being so demanding). When the senior colour technician needs a passport form signing, I'm happy to help out. When P pops out to get a sandwich, he'll ask if he can get me anything. When S opens her M&S box of prepared fruit, two forks appear.

After sixteen years we know each other well. Highs and lows, celebrations and bereavements are shared, but above all, when I finally leave, it's with a hair do that most definitely 'does'.

Today S has taken a 4pm appointment for an urgent colour correction. It's not unusual for even top salons to send referrals, S is a genius. This particular caller has managed to turn her 16 year old sister's hair green apparently.

After consideration, S phones back to say given it may take some time, could they make 3pm instead? The caller replies that they'll try, they're on their way up from Cornwall now, but they expect it to take six and a half hours.

Suddenly my refusal to go to any other salon, seems quite moderate in comparison.

Post haircut, I hit the shops and finish up in M&S foodhall, where I bump into P&S.

In an update on the green hair emergency, apparently the sister had endeavoured to change her natural ash blond sibling to darkest brunette. The result (even after 17 washes), an intense grass green.

Happily S's reputation is well earned (which you'd kind of hope for if you've driven from Cornwall) and I understand the 'victim' was delighted and the sister relieved with the resolution to a mid brown.

As I say, only P and S get to touch my hair. A policy I'm in no rush to change, even or perhaps especially if I had a sister.

Friday, March 23, 2007


I had formulated a long post, working through some major issues that have caused me stress this week.

However, the value of the exercise is probably already achieved and posting would no doubt be impolitic, so you'll forgive me if I abbreviate to:


Suffice to say that the end outcome of the moral dilemma with which I've wrestled, is to reluctantly accept I need to stop covering up and compensating for the shortcomings of the two parties (from quite separate and discrete areas of my life) that have again and again caused me (and others) so much stress.

Well that's the resolution in theory anyway.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Sound of Laughter?

Post-illness resolutions suggest I shouldn’t be trying to juggle two social commitments in one evening, but the prospect of S being back in Manchester for an evening is too good to miss out on, even if I have also got Book Group.

Still, part of my other resolution is eating pre-evening events not post and early finishes, so it would seem to work to have a light bite with S straight after work and then drop her at her evening meeting en route to Book Group. If for once I commit to finding the will power to not stop too long after the literary discussions have finished, I reckon that’s sufficient trade-off.

So S and I meet in Jaffa Café in Rusholme for one of their wonderful mixed mezze. We haven’t got long, but it’s so good to see her even if it is just for a short while.

Days like today are the days I miss her and P most; days when I just need to escape into doing something spontaneous and easy and would previously have sent that mid-afternoon text of “fancy doing something tonight?”.

So it’s doubly nice to see S, although the poor woman has to put up with me ranting (it’s a wonder she doesn’t rush back to Mcr more often).

Having dropped S off, I head on to join the crew in discussing Peter Kay’s the Sound of Laughter. We decided to stray from our usual ‘novel’ format and decided that we also needed some comedy.

Unfortunately, Kay’s book just made me ache for a novel.

I realise that one of the joys of a novel for me is the use of language; I like flow and beauty of form. Likewise, whether it’s a novel, a work of non-fiction, a piece of journalism, or a technical report, I appreciate good structure and a well formed narrative.

Sadly Key’s foray into the world of literature fails to deliver on both those scores. The language is clunky, the concepts occasionally so banal as to irritate immensely. To be fair Kay acknowledges that the written form is not his forte when he reflects on the struggles he had on a degree course he blagged his way onto. He observes that writing ‘this book’ is the most writing he’s ever done in his life.

Now maybe I’m being pedantic, but what value is that statement? Is it in any sense worthy of remark that writing a 250 page, ‘first’ book is the most writing someone has ever done in their life?

Even that can be forgiven though compared to the structure of the work, which has more in common with a primary school assignment of ‘what I did in the holidays’ (I did this, then I did that, then I did something else), than a well crafted book worthy of publication.

Similarly, attempts at a narrative thread or a connecting theme only become even slightly apparent in the closing chapters of the book. This is a collection of anecdotes of his life with little connection other than that they happened to one person, rather than a story of a person’s life, giving insight into how they got from A to B, or how they became the person they are today.

One might expect from the title, The Sound of Laughter, this might be an insight into the source of Key’s comedy or the way humour has been present, shaping him, throughout his life, but the autobiography disappoints on this front. Instead we have a collection of incidents, some amusing some less so. The charm of the ordinary is there, just as it is in his stage and TV work, but without his delivery (he himself observes that his act relies more heavily on this than material), it never quite satisfies.

First Class F**kwittery

The lengths some people will go to, to get an upgrade.

Hat tip to Merlin for the story.

Seriously though as more details of this come out, the complaining passenger's reaction is all the more astounding. Whilst it's entirely possible that in doing the best they could in a difficult circumstance, the BA staff weren't as aware of the need to explain things to nearby passengers as they might of been, but it seems one of his main complaints was that the dead woman's daughter's grief was disturbing the peace.

Dear Lord, it's enough to make you wish she'd poured his complimentray peanuts down his throat until he choked, whilst shouting "I'm so f**king sorry if my distress at the sudden death of my mother is interupting your enjoyment of the inflight entertainment!".


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Becoming Jane

The concept behind Becoming Jane is a nice idea, but a little cumbersome. Speculation and extenuation of a real life situation, always gives you the problem that you are tethered at points to recorded history.

It’s no surprise therefore, that whilst Becoming Jane is a charming film, with a narrative that does reasonable service to Austen’s style, its need to tie in to reality makes it at times uncomfortably self-aware and constrained.

Likewise you can appreciate the temptation of using the device of mirroring tableaux, storylines and passages of dialogue from Austen’s work and to in turn suggest that real life episodes inspired those infamous literary moments, but it’s so consciously done that it impedes the film’s own flow.

Still it is a truth universally acknowledged (did you see what I did there?), that James McElvoy is a young man in possession of fine acting skills. Happily his performance here doesn’t disappoint and whilst none of us will be rushing out to buy the DVD, Becoming Jane is a charming enough diversion; especially after weeks deprived of a social life. Getting out of the house to watch an easy going film with friends is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.

Green Shoots of Recovery?

By the end of Monday, my voice was beginning to fade and my throat become sore.

Worryingly by the end of Tuesday, my throat was quite inflamed again and my glands back up. Please don’t say I’m coming back down with it.

Getting ready this morning after a bad night, with throat pain preventing much in the way of sleep, I decide I need a boost. Time to pull on those new trousers and new work shoes (complete with the highest heel I’ve worn since the 80’s).

I’d predict that your understanding of how a new pair of shoes can help lift the spirits will largely correlate with your gender. Certainly in the office, the women completely understand the joy of my one-a-day gallery desk diary entitled shoes, whilst the men frown and pass by.

However, as with all gender stereotypes, there are exceptions. Take the latest single from Paolo Nutini. “I put some new shoes on, and suddenly everything is right”. The dude understands.

After a dodgy morning today, things feel like they’re improving a little (the shoes obviously helped, perhaps those extra few inches mean I’m breathing cleaner air?). More likely though my throat is appreciating rest from my trying not to speak (well croak to be more accurate) unless absolutely necessary. Directing a team through the use of mime is a novel experience and not one I’d rush to repeat.

Still by the end of the day, my throat is definitely feeling better, so it seems to have worked.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

River Sense

The first time I saw one of the swing bridges across the Manchester Ship Canal operate, the Eng1neer in me was fascinated.

That said, after this has happened for the twentieth time, usually when as you’re late for work, you start to find the rat run to the cantilever high bridge more attractive.

The road to the high bridge rises up crossing perpendicularly over the road which runs along the bank of the canal.

My Sat Nav however, clearly doesn’t accept the high bridge as an acceptable route and does its utmost to redirect me to one of the swing bridges. Even at the last moment it urges me to turn left onto the canal side road (to be fair, the mapping hardly reflects the fact that Ackers Road is some 25m or so above Fairfield Road), resulting in the impression that it wants you to dive off the bridge into the canal far below.

I’m not suggesting that every morning I jump out of bed eager to make into the office for another day’s hard graft, but I’ve never yet felt so despondent as to take the Sat Nav’s advice.

Similarly I may not be the smartest cookie in the world, but even I’ve worked out you don’t switch your brain off and follow a Sat Nav’s instructions verbatim

Sadly the driver of this vehicle appears to have faith of a far blinder nature.

I’m not sure which bit of the story is most condemning of her stupidity; that she’d follow her Sat nav’s instructions to follow a track, ignoring the ‘unsuitable for motor vehicles’ road sign; that she’d continue to drive a sports car into a ford on the clearly swollen (and ironically named) River Sense; or that anyone would spend £96k on a car.

Given that after being rescued she was apparently picked up in a chaffeur driven Bentley, the phrase 'more money than sense' would seem to spring to mind.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Well I survived my first day back and managed to not break down sobbing at the pile of backlog I’m facing, or the fact that my deputy, couldn’t seemingly summon anything from his 40 years of experience to follow the simple directions I’d croaked at him about work priorities and as a result the team have basically been twiddling their thumbs for two weeks, until I came in and repeated what the priorities were and prompted him to actually get them going on said work. At which point he ably undertook to do so, needing no hands on help from myself – so why the bloody hell couldn’t he have done that two weeks ago? Grrrrrrr….

By the end of my day, my throat is quite sore again, which is a bit worrying, but another early night will hopefully help.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

More tidying

More tidying today and hovering. I’m feeling loads better, but I’m clearly not myself am I?

All being well, I’ll be back at work tomorrow, so time for an early night.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Making Your Mind Up

Warning this blog is about to hit a new depth in cultural low-brow.

Whilst Eurovision itself has long held a special place in my heart (what’s not to love about the excuse for a kitsch cocktail party and mild xenophobia?), but when it come to the precursor of selecting the UK’s song, usually I’ve got better things to do.

Sadly my social life is a little hampered by health right now and so I do the sensible thing of ruefully eschewing the offer of a night round at the Dog Collar and Rabbit Corpses household and end up in front of the telly watching Making Your Mind Up.

Liz McAtomicKitten and Brian East17’s efforts are pretty average, Big Brovaz had energy I’ll admit, but Hawkins and Brown were the biggest disappointment. Her voice is phenomenal, but his vocals on the night were incredibly poor.

As for the the runner-up, well Cyndi can certainly sing and whilst I'm never usually a fan of the Celine Dion school of co-opting people from other countries, I guess we need to get votes any way we can, given recent history. Whilst I'm not a fan of the ballad format in general, I suppose it fits for Eurovision, but stealing quite so much from Loch Lomond is a bit of a cheat isn't it?

As for the winner entry from Scooch - well what can one say? I'm all for camp frippery (where would Eurovision be without it?) and dressing as air stewards and camping it up with duty free trolleys surely qualifies highly on that front, but the song's rather weak and I fear it's just too thin an effort to do the business in Finland. Mind you it's nearly worth it for the line "Would you like anything to suck on as we land sir?".

So we have a song, but that’s a couple of hours of my life I won’t get back. Presumably this is why I don’t usually watch Saturday night TV. Ah well, health appears to be returning, which in turn should see my social life follow.

Hmmmm, time to design some airline themed Eurovision party invites I think...

And err book for the opera or something as well.


Today I've indulged in something of a tidying frenzy.

The large pile of 'stuff for filing' from downstairs has been sorted and taken care of.

The large pile of 'stuff for filing' from upstairs has been sorted and taken care of.

The missing pile of 'stuff for filing' (as identified by a missing 'period' in the bank statement filing) has been located (tidied into a bag at some unremembered point in the past), sorted and taken care of.

Bills have been sorted by type and filed, bank statements have been ordered by date and stuck in their binders, instructions and warranties have been safely stowed, tax stuff has been carefully tucked away for future action and a ton of out of date material has been shredded, compacted and emptied into the recycling bin.

As ever in this small house, things like files are tucked away in hard to get to places, so I tend to save stuff up and then have a purge. Now I knew I had let things go a bit, but even I was surprised to find stuff from 2004...

So does this uncharacteristic desire to tidy indicate that I must be very ill, or that I must be feeling better. Maybe it's just one of the first signs of spring.

Either way, I'm basking in the glow of a job well done.

I'm put in mind of one of my favourite lines from the excellent Sarah Dean, who has mused on how hard it is to 'do the right thing in life'. With so many competing ethical and environmental concerns it can be paralysing.

Perhaps one of the simplest maxims is: Think Globally, Act Locally

And just as Sarah suggests, I too can now relax knowing that the world may be a mess, but my filing tray is now incredibly tidy.

Now would seem an appropriate place to give Sarah a proper plug:

Girl and Dean return to the Canal Cafe with an hour-long show of lovingly and-crafted sketch comedy. The intrepid pair will endeavour to answer the important questions in life like:
  • What courses do Learn Direct have to offer the undead?
  • What does grade 6 on the classical guitar actually sound like?
  • What did people do before Spirograph was invented?
A wildly diverse celebration of false beards, hand-knitted costumes,and badly played musical instruments.

Dates: Thursday 29 March; Friday 30 March; Saturday 31 March 2007 Time: 7.30pm Price: £7
Location: The Canal Cafe Theatre, The Bridge House Pub, Delamere Terrace, Little Venice, London W2 Box office: 0207 289 6054

So if you live in London, well sorry there's not much I can do about that, but go and see Girl and Dean and the laughter might afford you some temporary relief at least.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Piracy's never looked so attractive

My recent confinement (thankfully only in a modern meaning), means I've been catching up on a pile of DVDs rescued from the bargain bins of Blockbuster.

However, being forced to sit through a tedious anti-piracy advert at the start of almost ever film is driving me up the wall.

For those of you who've never had the pleasure, here's an example of the little fuckers that you can't fast forward or skip past.

Now, call me irritable old cow (you wouldn't be the first), but I wouldn't buy a book that didn't let me skip the publishing info page and I wouldn't buy a CD where I can't skip the self-indulgent 'hidden track' at the end, so why do I have to buy DVDs that force me to watch this guff time after time, after time?

Mind you seems like I'm not the only one who objects to them:

Honestly if I have to watch another of these adverts, I may well scream.

Actually, rather than screaming maybe I should just buy pirate DVDs off the market in future; I bet they don't make you sit through tedious copyright featurettes...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ups and Downs

After a bad night where coughing precluded sleeping, the decision of whether or not to attempt some work today becomes easier.

Similarly, I'm not up to going out, but I'm desperate for some fresh fruit, so I'm glad that despite last weeks 'fiasco', I ordered home shopping again.

This time it was the wonderful Ocado (credit where it's due), who delivered everything perfectly (ringing to say they might be a few minutes late and was that ok, hey I'm not going anywhere), efficient, friendly and with 10% off, quality goods at a reasonable price.

This is how internet shopping should work.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I do pick up the odd cold, but usually I feel bad for a day or two and then bounce back pretty quickly. I can't remember the last time I've been off work for more than a day or two.

I was starting to get rather worried about the fact I didn't seem to be getting any better, but in the last 24 hours there seem to have been glimpses of recovery.

I saw the doctor again today and he wants me to take the rest of the week off, but at least it feels like the end might be in sight.

Didn't stop a well meaning work colleague sending me a whole load of work by email and 'helpfully' letting me know a web ortal through which I can access my work emails. Part of me says ignore both and concentrate on getting fully better. Part of me says if I could at least do a few hours a day, I wouldn't be facing such a complete mountain on Monday. Of course another part of me feels guilty about being off and thinks I should certainly start on the most urgent items.

I think I'm going to do denial for once.

La, la, la, now where's that copy of Heat magazine got to?

Monday, March 12, 2007

on the tip of my tongue...

A life of illness gives very little to blog about (yeah, yeah, I know, when does that ever stop me); I mean it can't be terribly rivetting to read about my throat pain.

The truth is, there really isn't much for me to write about. I'm a shut in. My only links to the outside world are text messages and the internet.

Seriously, I'm so bored I'm starting to worry about myself. Short periods of feeling ok don't make books or films attractive, so I'm watching crap TV and reading dodgy magazines (Elizabeth Hurley's wedding - dear lord did she go for excess!).

Of course the internet isn't totally edifying either. Reading people's blogs does at least make me feel in touch with some lovely people, but then the mouse wanders and I start wasting time on the most obscure things.

On a plus side though, I have solved one mystery. When Sally was visiting the other week, an actor and his family sat at the next table in the cafe to us.

We couldn't place him, but knew we'd seen him in various things and I was sure he was in some sort of political, humourous comedy. A small part in The Thick of It kept coming to mind, but I couldn't find any reference to minor characters.

Boy it's been bugging me.

And then the other day on New Street Law, there he was and yes, now I have his name I can confirm he was indeed in The Thick of It.

So ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jason Watkins. So satisfying when one of those "on the tip of my tongue" puzzles resolves.

Oh he was also one of the gay wedding planners in Confetti.

Never has the blog category of 'waffle' seemed more appropriate...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The cavalry

Early afternoon, not one, but two buddies arrive, armed with a tool kit and I'm ordered to sit-down, whilst operation-cupboard removal is completed.

Risking infection, they even stop to cheer me up for a bit.

Top friends, I'm sure it's just a side effect of the medicine that I get a bit teary.

No I don't think it's easily repairable either...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Diagnosis - "not good"

Hmmmmmmm...I think if your throat is so sore that it bleeds when you cough, it probably isn't good is it?

Can't sleep, can't swallow without extreme pain, can't think, can't speak beyond a croak, can't move without setting off a coughing fit, can't cough without spitting up blood, can't concentrate, can barely breathe; do you think I should go to work?

Funny that, the doctor didn't think I should either.

On the plus side perhaps, he thought I'd had my tonsils removed (I haven't) as apparently I have very little 'tonsil material'.

Maybe I coughed them up?

For those of you who can remember back long enough (or understand the rudimentaries of hyperlinks...), nearly three years back I had a similarly nightmarish bad throat and as a result discovered some strange prescription substances.

Well I found the end of the 'green' bottle, which, having been kept out of direct sunlight, had failed to do anything exciting. Ignoring the expiry date (hey what's six months between friends?), I was desperate enough to give it a go. Whilst it helps, it's not really reaching the core of the problem.

However, they now do 'kryptonite juice' in a throat spray and it does indeed seem to reach parts the gargle/rinse doesn't reach. Combined with the finest analgesics the pharmacy has to offer, the extremes of the pain are almost bearable.

You know what really helps though? Lovely friends who've texted from near and far (well various parts of Manchester and Wolverhampton) asking if there's anything they can do and friends from even further away, sending their love.

A text this evening from the Chorlton contingent reads "meals on wheels service leaving in 15 minutes". Sure enough a little later a wonderful home-cooked moussaka and fresh salad is delivered.

As I sit down to eat it a little later, I'm interrupted by the most incredible noise from the kitchen. Yes, a double cupboard (full of glasses, mugs and various food stuffs) has come crashing off the wall, wrecking half the stuff on the table below in the process.

Trust me, when you feel like shite warmed up, the last thing you need is a kitchen covered in broken glass and ceramic, balsamic vinegar, malt vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, honey and syrup. And that's before you notice the 2 litre bottle of caffeine-free diet coke that has been pierced and is spraying a fine spray of brown-coloured water several feet across the room.

Much clearing, mopping (floor and tears) and sorting later, the room is almost straight, the surviving items packed in a crate and the cupboard, which is still hanging on one bracket, propped from below.

Unfortunately the cupboard is too heavy to enable removal without help (well maybe if I was feeling competent and capable, but right now...). Time to take up one of those "is there anything we can do?" offers I think...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fiascos Rant

Despite Ocado seeming to give by far the most reliable home delivery service, they lose out slightly to some others when you could also do with medicines and newspapers etc. So having checked out the availability of deliveries, I plump for, well let's call them Fiascos shall we?

To be honest, the freezer and fridge aren't badly stocked, but I could do with some basics; bread to accompany the soup, milk to make porridge and some Ribena given I can only handle hot drinks.

So imagine my delight, when they fail to bring any bread. So I've just paid £4.99 for delivery and I'm going to have to go out anyway now. Great.

So I ring the customer services phone line and croak my complaint.

I'm told that apparently they were out of the particular type of bread I'd ordered.

Fine, so why wasn't it substituted with another type of loaf (let's face it their substitutions are usually quite 'broad', including irish stew as a replacement for a venison steak in this very order...)?

Well how would they know what type of bread to replace it with, is the defence?

Well number one you could take a guess, or hey, and here's a thought, you could read the substitution advice note that I specifically filled in for this very item saying any granary, seeded, wholemeal type loaf would do.

"Oh" is the rather inadequate response, "we won't charge you for the bread".

Really? Gee thanks! Stating again that I'm unhappy to have paid £4.99 delivery if they can't even manage bread, they offer to give me an 'e-voucher' for said amount.

"Exactly how likely do you think I am to want to order from you again in the near future, given this farce?" I enquire.

"Oh, well I could give you half the amount back as a refund".

I suggest that isn't acceptable, only to be told that they aren't able to give a full refund.

Tired of the game I suggest maybe it's time for me to speak to their manager.

"Oh alright, I'll give you a full delivery charge refund"

I rise above the temptation to point out that they've added lying to their list of shortcomings therefore and just croak thank you and hang-up.

Still at least they give vouchers to schools eh? ;-)

Of course the next delivery problem to be solved, is that in pursuit of a change at Book Group we decided to look to do a book with humour and maybe an autobiography. Putting the two together we settled on Peter Kay's Sound of Laughter. Aware it's still in hardback only, we did a quick trawl of t'internet and I offered to put in a mass order to get us the best deal. Accordingly, whilst I'm pissed off enough to not be able to make tonight's discussion of Nineteen Eighty-Four, I also have a box of books that need passing on.

Taking advice from a wise person whose brain is (unlike mine) still functioning well, I ring the nearest Book Group member and ask if there is any way they could collect. Happily the party in question has a day off work and can oblige. They enquire if they can do any shopping for me en route. "Well a loaf of bread would be wonderful..." I reply.

Accordingly, a little later, they turn up on my doorstep with a loaf and some flowers and after a short visit during which they are very lovely, take the books off my hands.

The party in question was Non-reader.

Here's hoping that humble pie is easy to swallow with a sore throat...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


So Monday I woke up feeling unbelievably grim. At first I tried to persuade myself that if I could just get into the office for a few hours I could get what I needed done for tomorrow's major all-day meeting.

As I attempt to get up and realise that a) I'm running a temperature again, b) my joints are aching horrendously, c) the glands in my neck are swollen to the size of golf balls, d) I have no voice and e) I feel like utter shite; it starts to dawn on me that not only do I have no chance of going to work today, it will need a miracle to get me there tomorrow.

So I manage to croak a few instructions to my secretary, send an email covering meeting logistics for tomorrow and disappear back under the duvet feeling like death warmed up.

Tuesday is no better and Tuesday night brings no sleep as a constant hacking cough keeps me awake.

Wednesday morning is possibly the worst yet. I ring the office again; this is no 48 hour thing.

Man I feel like shite. The only thing keeping me going is sipping down Covent Garden soup.

The only things that bring any relief to my misery is the chocolate that Sally bought (diet be damned, I'm ill and it melts in the mouth) and the fact that I'm wearing in my bright pink pumps, which are just about bright enough to raise a faint smile.

Heaven knows I'm miserable now...

Dear lord I hope I haven't given this to anyone else. Sally Stuart, K etc - shovel those vitamins down.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Fever phew

Somewhere in the course of the night the fever has broken and I wake up feeling incredibly better. Thank God, this was obviously one of those 48 hour things.

After a shower, a potter and chatting with Sally, I even feel well enough to pop out for a gentle late lunch at Dukes.

A lovely roast dinner later, Sally and I head to the Dog Collar's house to see the birthday boy for a bit. Then Sally drops me home, picks up her bits and heads South, leaving me to have a quiet night in to recover ready for a busy work week.

So why is my throat starting to hurt more?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine

The tickle in my throat has worsened and every joint in my body is aching, but summoning all my determination, Sally and I take the bus into town.

In Debenhams Sally finds a really pretty top and I get a black linen skirt with white embroidery. Every step now is an effort though, I feel grim. How annoying is this, I've been looking forward to Sally's visit for ages and now clearly life is catching up on me.

Sally wisely takes me for a gentle lunch, crap I must be ill, it's all I can do to force myself to eat a ham sandwich. Some paracetamol seems to help though and after an unrushed break, I start to feel a bit better and we push on.

It's Stuart's birthday today and I need to find him a birthday present. Trouble is I feel like crap and I'm really struggling for inspiration.

In Paperchase we find a figurine and prayer card of St Vivian - patron saint of hangovers. Actually on closer inspection once home I see he's actually patron saint of torture victims and hangovers, which might rather give one an unwelcome sense of perspective when daring to trouble him for help for self-induced morning-after symptoms: "errr...hi St Vivian...I appreciate you probably already have a lot on your plate trying to help those having their fingernails ripped out and electrodes stuck in places I wouldn't want to think about...but I had a dodgy pint (or 12) last night and errr could really do with your help regarding my pounding head...".

So with all other leads of iPod accessories and so forth having come to nought, I decide on St Vivian and a bottle of single malt.

As we go in search of the latter, we try one last shop for one of the other ideas I had. It doesn't have what I was looking for, but we do find this rather excellent T'shirt in a lovely dark green.

Pushing the boat out for some extra colour letters, I now have the tools to create Stuart a truly individual and changeable present.


It feels a bit dangerous to buy a T-shirt without the intended wearer present to try it on for size, but they say it can be brought back if necessary. Which is great, but rather annoying to get a present that doesn't work. So, whilst Sally pops in to Per Una in Marks, I dash back to Next and hold the T'shirt up against the shirt Karen bought for Stu the other week, which fitted well. The Alpha shirt is just a touch bigger, so depending on the cut/shape, should hopefully be fine.

My strength is fading fast again and we get a cab home with just a short turn around time to take some more pain-killer (me only), change and write cards etc before heading to the curry house for Stuart's birthday.

Sally bless her helps me play around with packs of tiny velcro letters to create a suitable message, but the little blighters get everywhere and I suspect I may still be finding stray letters in weeks to come.

The paracetamol is doing its job again, but somehow I suspect I won't be up for going on for the Chorlton drinking tour, post-curry. We take two pairs of keys just in case.

It's good to see folk I know, but a little tricky for Sally, who only knows a few folk and the way it works out, they end up at the other end of a long table. The food is good though (when it arrives, let's not talk about the service eh...), but by the time people are finishing up, I'm feeling pretty grim with a rising temperature and aches from head to toe.

So Sally, deciding she could also do with an early night takes me home and we each curl up on a sofa to watch Little Miss Sunshine.

The fire is belting out heat (which explains Sally's dozing off at points) and yet beneath the fleece throw, I'm simultaneously burning up and shivering. This is not good. I'm a crap hostess, but I can't fight this any longer and head to bed.

Friday, March 02, 2007


After the decidedly annoying start to the day, I manage to get through the rest of the day and home in time to have a quick superficial tidy-up before Sally arrives just before 10pm.

So good to see her, I've been looking forward to her visit for ages, but this rather annoying tickle is starting at the back of my throat.

Ah well, ignore it and it'll go away.

Besides, Sally has brought excellent gifts, including an excellent shopping-themed mug, which starts with the wise words "Let's go shopping. A girl can never have too many shoes!". So after some chatting and food, we head to our beds, time to get our strength up for tomorrow.


Our Client, a keen and very experienced sk1er, managed to return home from holiday with a plated and pinned fem*ur and a stapled, post-op wound, running up his inner thigh, from his knee, right up to, err yes, yes, I get the picture, no more details needed thanks...

Apparently this is all my fault, as my last words to him were "Have a good holiday, don't break a leg!".

I suppose therefore it is fitting enough that I'm doing penance, both in terms of trying to guide our work forward in the absence of his direction and in being increasingly asked to stand in for him in meetings and so forth.

Today there were three such meetings planned (have I mentioned I also have more than enough of my own work to be getting on with). So having crossed to the office on the other side of Horrortown, I'm there at 9am, waiting for the others to arrive.

I'm still there 20 minutes later, still waiting for the others to arrive. Hello? Anyone? Anyone?

Eventually I contact the meeting's convener on his mobile.

"Oh, did I not remember to tell you that the meeting had been moved to next week?".

Er no, no you didn't. Still I'm just mega busy and this has just wasted an hour and a half of my time. But, you're the client, so I'll just smile sweetly and then in private let out a frustrated "grrrrrrrrrrr!".

Thursday, March 01, 2007

World Book Day - 100 Books You Can't Live Without

As Fragile Tender so perfectly puts it, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Jane Austen kicks ass!"

This article from The Guardian features a list of the 100 books people can't live without, as compiled for today's World Book Day.

"In the end, quality tells. People may have bought The Da Vinci Code in its millions but, when asked to name the most precious book they have read, they relegated it to 42nd place and chose Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice."

Glad to see my decision to leave The Da Vinci Code unread on my bookcase has been vindicated. Of course given the general lack of female authors historically, it is of course also rather pleasing to see a woman at number one, even if her gender remains somewhat under-represented through the fuller list (only 23%).

I'm also kind of surprised to see the Bible so high up. Apparently "The Bible was fourth favourite book for those aged over 60, a generation which would have compulsorily taught it at school. It only fell out of the top 10 for those aged 18-25 and was still rated 19th by those under 18. I guess though, it's the way the question is worded. It's not, what's the best book or read ever, it's what book could you not live without, which would rather focus people's minds in certain directions (though the prevalence of English language texts and the lack of key texts from other religions, suggests this poll was rather narrower than the title of World Book Day might suggest).

Anyway...picking up Fragile Tender's gauntlet, how many of the 100 have you read? Bold the ones you've read. Bold and underline the ones you've read more than once. If you've only read part of a book then put it in italics. Oh and adding a category from me, add a * at the end if it's sitting unread on your bookshelf.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell

8 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare William Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler's - Wife Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernières

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown*

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving*

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel*

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth*

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez*

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie*

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry*

87 Charlotte's Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Alborn

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Misérables - Victor Hugo