Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lowry and Martyn Joseph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 28, 2007


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

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

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Arcade Fire

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2007


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

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

Thursday, October 25, 2007


When it comes to aches and pains, I’m generally of the “leave it and it’ll sort itself out with time” school of thinking.

However, my back is still pretty bad and the added and unnecessary complication of a pinched nerve in the shoulder is only exacerbating matters. Given in to pressure from peers I’ve made an appointment with a Chiropractor who has been recommended to me (of course no sooner had I made the appointment than people changed their tune and said I should see my GP first, but hey…).

So tonight, I dash back to Manchester after work and subject myself to an analysis, the preliminary findings of which tell me that my left shoulder is slightly higher than my right, my right hip is significantly higher than my left and one leg is a few millimetres shorter than the other.

He didn’t say which leg, but I figure it might explain why sometimes in life I’ve felt myself to be going around in circles.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cannock Chase and beyond

Sometimes competing desires pull you in two opposite locations. Part of me, the tired part, would love nothing more than to have a free weekend, at home, with nothing to do. Another part however, wants to get down to Wolverhampton to see P&S. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with them, it’s been far too long since I last visited and it’s never harder to be no longer just around the corner, when your friends are going through stressful times.

The pull of friendship is stronger than the pull of the sofa and so Saturday finds me heading south to meet up with them on Cannock Chase.

We grab lunch at one of the most eccentric eateries that you could ever happen to come across, the Wimpy ‘shack’ at Milford. It’s hard to describe it properly, but if you can imagine a wooden shack/chalet, with a counter opening out onto some open air benches, adjacent to a small covered area containing further tables, all fronted by a handful of parking spots before the road, then you’re on your way. Kind of fast food drive in, meets seaside fish and chip shack, meets a Swiss chalet style wendy house.

Food is cooked to order and is surprisingly good. Which, no doubt explains the steady and impressive stream of custom, because on paper this really shouldn’t work, but some how it so does.

As we munch through our lunches, P reminisces about his misspent youth in the area and the role the Wimpy shack played even back then – a mad, eccentric, local landmark.

After a walk round part of the chase, we end up at a Forestry Commission coffee shop.

With about five people in front of us in the queue and three people serving behind the counter, you wouldn’t anticipate a long wait. However, despite a general hub-bub of activity, very little progress is being made. It’s hard to pin-point why; everyone is moving and working, but little is being achieved. It would be a fascinating study in time and motion, if it weren’t taking so bloody long and my back wasn’t hurting quite so much. Queuing the best part of half an hour for one tea, one coffee and one diet coke, is a little ridiculous.

Happily our evening meal out at a country pub goes better. With the rest of the country watching the rugby, a pub with no TV is blissfully quiet.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


After K rustles up a fabulous meal of fajitas, she, Stuart and I head to the Apollo for an evening with Rufus. Seats in the fourth row - Stuart did good.

We're running a little bit late, but what we catch of the support act Scott Matthews is pretty good.

Rufus however, is in another league. Words and photos can not do justice to the beauty of the music that pours over us. It was a night of total magic.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


This evening K and I meet at that temple of Mammon that is the Trafford Centre.

After parting ways on Saturday, K found a top for her party, but is still in need of some accompanying trousers and shoes. Oh and she needs a suit for an upcoming college assignment.

This time success belongs to the demon shopping partnership and just as we were giving up in M&S we spot just the things, a pair of trousers that will work well with the party top and a matching jacket that meets the need for a suit.

I text Stuart to notify him, that his wife has just purchased a pair of shoes that cost twice as much as the suit.

It would be pleasing to think that my penchant for quality cobbler's ware has rubbed off, but in truth it's more of a reflection on the fact that we found the suit in the sale and got it for the unbelievable bargain of £14.

A few shops later, we end up in Debenhams and whilst K submits to a makeover at the YSL stand, I leave her temporarily in order to pick up the coat reserved on Saturday.

Except that Little Miss Surly has had her revenge and no coat has been put aside.

Fortunately, there's one in my size out on the floor and that little fact is the difference I guess between me wryly shrugging my shoulders and being more than a little annoyed. Still it is rather lovely isn't it and beautiful material.

As the stores start to close up, K and I head to the food lanes and enjoy some tapas, before saying our goodbyes in the car park and going our separate ways.

Now if we could just find the exit to the construction work beleaguered car park...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sometimes you see something that makes a blog post just pop into your head.

Sorry Merlin, but a thousand jokes entered my head on reading the headline in this free paper.

Let's go with this one:

Judge: So why is that you claim that the deceased was insane when he altered his will in favour of leaving £8.3m to the Tory party....oh I see yes, the answer's rather in the question isn't it?

Panic on the forecourt of Piccadilly

Sometimes small factors seem to conspire against you. Today it was a combination of the postal strike and a heavy work schedule, that meant I came close to missing my train to London for the Greenbelt Management Group Review Meeting.

To cut a long and uninteresting story short (yeah, yeah, I know, and yet I'm still blogging it...), the postal strike meant that I needed to pick up my tickets from a fast-ticket machine and the work schedule meant that I'd not a lot of time and I was scurrying across the forecourt of Piccadilly station still in my work heels.

Credit card in slot, I expect it to spit out my tickets (that's how it works at the airport), but no, it wants a booking reference.


I phone Stuart in a panic and ask him to log in to my webmail and see if he can find the booking email (hey he's a minister, I must be able to trust him with my email password right?).

Simultaneously it occurs to me that I have my laptop with me, so I squat on the floor (easier said than done in heels), fire up the Vaio and race Stuart to find the booking reference.

Number procured and entered, I have my tickets and make it to my train with just a few minutes to spare.

Now do you think I should change that email password just to be safe?

Oh and if you received an insulting email from me a little after 2pm today, then take it up with the reverend...

Saturday, October 13, 2007


An early start this morning to catch the bus to meet K at 9am in town. We have a clear mission – find the perfect party outfit for K’s upcoming ‘significant birthday’. Trust me, I only get up at that time on a Saturday for the very best of buddies.

Party wear is only just starting to filter into the stores and it’s a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears; too big, too small, too shiny, not shiny enough, too high cut, dear lord too low cut etc etc.

K has a stand by outfit, but we're hoping it can be improved upon. Surely there has to be something somewhere?

I'm having marginally more success and find a party top for myself and the most gorgeous grey military style Matthew Williamson coat. Sadly my size is the only one missing from the rack, but hey maybe another branch has one in stock and they could find out and reserve it for me, like numerous signs in the store advertise.

Honestly, from the response I receive from the assistant at the cash desk, you’d think I’d just asked if I could eat her recently deceased grandmother. Some people are born surly, others have surliness thrust upon them...and some have their picture on Wikipedia illustrating the entry for 'surly'. Even her co-workers were rolling their eyes.

After a little bit of persuasion she does eventually toddle of and return with the message that one in my side has been put aside for me at the Trafford Centre. Job's a good 'un.

Mooching around departments and carrying hangers isn’t exactly the best medicine for my back and after about an hour or so, it starts giving warning twinges and a café stop seems politic. Who should we see on the escalator coming up to the first floor as we’re heading up to the next level, but R.

I’m blaming the level of pain I was dealing with at the time, for the fact that for a good few seconds I just stood and pointed, before I managed to summon the more appropriate response of calling his name or notifying K.

A lovely chance to catch up with R, but before too long we have to bid him farewell and recommence the hunt.

Unfortunately, the main quarry of something for K's party continues to elude us and before we know it, I have to bale on her in order to make it to my hair appointment.

A fellow client has mucked my hair colourist about a bit, so I end up with a bit of a wait between cut and colour. A beautician has just opened up shop in the converted basement, so I figure it's time to experience my first ever manicure (honestly I could be a girl really if I tried hard enough).

Very impressed at the ability to make even my worn and cracked taloons into something almost respectable, but I'm fairly sure that cuticle removement isn't supposed to involve a bit of a slip and a chunk of flesh gouged out of the side of your finger. She's very lovely and apologetic and I downplay it with "oh don't worry I hardly think it's going to kill me", but if I'm honest if I'd realised at the time quite how deep the cut was, I might have held back on the tip a bit...

So all in all not a widely successful day. I did however take one of the 'Bristol' trip pairs of shoes back for a refund. Can you guess which ones?

And yes you did hear right, I came home one pair of shoes to the lighter.

And they say the age of miracles is dead.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sightseeing or Shopping?

Up in Edinburgh for an all day meeting today, which unfortunately ends at such a time as to leave me with an hour and a half on my hands before a suitable train home (bad timing really, I blame the chair...oh wait, that was me...).

So what to do? What to do?'s years since I was in Edinburgh, maybe a spot of sightseeing? Plenty of time to wander up to the castle and back.

Then again we did pass a lot of fine looking shops in the taxi...

Ah the dilemma - sightseeing or shopping? Sightseeing or shopping?

Pah! I've see the castle before - it's hardly likely to have changed has it? Besides, there's an outstanding mission to find K the perfect outfit for her birthday do, I really ought to do some reconnaisance...

Though for the record I'd like it noted that no shoes were bought in the making of this blog post...

Monday, October 08, 2007


A lovely bonus surprise, P & S are in Manchester for the evening.

No surprises as to where we headed for a meal.

Mmmmm fish karahi…

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Maximo Park

I suspect that if Stuart wasn’t dog tired and I wasn’t in constant pain from my back (I'm not saying it's bad, but let's just say it was bad enough to keep me from joining K on a planned shopping jaunt today), then rather than simply just enjoying this gig moderately, we would have found it decidedly above average.

Everything was there; good material, tight enough musicianship, excellent energetic and engaging live performance.

Oh and a man looking rather good in a hat.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Whatever happen to….?

Personally I can’t think of anything more disagreeable than chasing fame, but in this celebrity, overnight reality show success obsessed world it’s clear that there are plenty of people that don’t share my worldview.

However, for those that do crave celebrity, I guess it’s wise to ensure that any attainment of fame is suitably accompanied by complementary attainment of funds. After all, you really don’t want to find yourself in the situation where your earning potential is waning faster than your star; for where notoriety extends beyond the income generating opportunities, alternative, every-day employment is never going to be a realistic prospect.

For example, imagine finding out that the occupant in the cubicle next to you is Howard Jones. Face it, you’d see that floppy fringe in your mind’s eye, every time you looked at him and you’d half expect him to turn up at meetings tailed by a bloke called Jed or something who would emphasis the key points of Howard's presentation through the medium of mime.

Similarly, a friend of mine claims to have once held a summer job in a branch of Sainsburys that also provided employment for one Matthew Corbett in the quieter Sooty years.

Alledgedly making the "Sooty naked" joke with you hand from behind a shelving unit became a sackable offence...

Though I guess you can at least imagine how Jones or Corbett got through the interview stage. Whereas current cause celebres like Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse may wish to think carefully about how quickly they allow what earnings they’ve achieved to date to errrr...'go up in smoke', given that they’re unlikely to be making the shortlist of any responsible civvy street job opportunity in the near future.

Which is possibly the ultimate curse for the ‘famous for being famous’ trench of reality show stars that recent years have produced. Big Brother is surely at the forefront of this movement, providing future potential employers with a unique opportunity of a prolonged interview (and you were worried about your Facebook profile...). Perhaps ‘Nasty’ Nick Bateman’s ultimate come-uppance for all the lying and deceit, will have been that I suspect many potential employers will have trust issues.

Similarly once you’ve witnessed the high-pitched squawking that Marco emitted in his role as sultan of the ‘lipgloss bitches’ it’s hard to imagine that the law student was deluged with hundreds of training contract offers on graduation. Indeed it was the fear of damaging her future career that drove a previous year's contestant from the same profession, to walk off the show a few days in. I guess she may in doing so have opened herself up to concerns about her ability to think something through properly upfront, but the fact that I can't recall her name suggests it was probably the lesser of the two available evils.

Charlie from this year’s offering of housemates doesn't at least seem to have any career prospects to jeopardise, but all the same the screaming harpie had probably better hope she finds herself a footballer, because her high-maintenance bitching ways have hardly commended her for any paid employment that involves interaction with the public, fellow workers, or well anyone basically.

So bearing all of this in mind, I can quite understand why Shaunie from this year's Big Brother would chose to try and shuffle through Manchester airport with hoodie up and eyes cast down. After all he's unlikely to make a lifetime's quantity of funding out of his post-show opportunities, so probably best to try and let the public profile die as quickly as possible.

Then again attempts at anonymity work so much better if you don't simultaneously attract attention to yourself with the brighest pair of canary yellow shoes I have ever had the misfortune to witness.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hi-Fidelity and The Thirty-Nine Steps

Back to work with a bolt today and a pile of accumulated work awaits me. Worse still, my back really doesn't appreciate sitting at a desk.

I head home and get a few hours lying on my back before forcing myself out again to go to Book Group. I would happily give it a miss, but I haven't been able to make the last few and so I need to make the effort if I can. I do however, stop only for a short time and then make my excuses and take my aching back home.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


After breakfast, we bid the excellent folk at the hotel goodbye and thank them for again making our stay truly wonderful.

Then it's the long drive back to London and the chance to spend a couple of hours with Mum, before I commence on the final leg up to Manchester.

It's so good to see her. I know it isn't easy for her, having to do respite care, whilst Dad and I go away. Fortunately they have so many good friends, that form a wonderful support network and together with my brother a day hasn't gone by without a visitor.

One flight later I'm back in Manchester and being greeted by the wonderful Stuart. I know, I know, short-haul flights are a great evil, but Dad really wanted to share the driving and it was the only realistic way to do the journey via London in a reasonable timescale.

Besides the introduction of shoe scanning at Gatwick, meant that whilst I just about managed to remove my own shoes, I paid a price. Ouch!

Still, back injuries aside (damn you pesky ponies), it was a great trip. Dad and I got on better than I could have dared hope and it seems like we achieved the objective of getting him a decent break. I just wish I had more leave and could do stuff like this more often.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thurlestone to Bolt Head

The weather is a little better today, so for our last day away, we head to the coast and our last walk of the holiday.

Sitting on the tailgate of the car, putting my walking boots on, I laughingly comment to Dad, "if you loved me you'd do my boots up for me - don't you know I've got a bad back?".

Oh fatal last words, as I bend down to tie my second boot, there's a sickening sound and feeling of something shifting in my lower spine, that well just isn't supposed to do that. Screaming agony returns, forcing tears of pain to pour down my face and trust me it's of more credit than you can possibly imagine that I didn't issue profanities in front of a parent. The only part of my body that wasn't screaming the f word was my mouth.

I hadn't thought it possible, but this time the pain is even greater, but after ten minutes or so, it again lessens slightly and wincing with every step we commence our walk. After-all sitting or standing are also excrutiatingly painful, so we may as well walk, besides there's a school of thought that suggests it's better to keep a bad back moving and above all I don't want to let Dad down on the last day.

It's a little slow going, but we manage a decent distance from Thurlestone around to Bolt Head and back.

For the remainder of our trip however, I have to get Dad to help get my shoes on and off. As he wryly observes, he came away to get a break from such duties...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Totnes and Dartmouth

With the weather decidedly wet and foggy a day up on moors seems ill-advised, so instead we head to Totnes with the intention of taking a return trip by boat to Dartmouth.

Sadly our plans look like they may be thwarted as the boat company inform us that whilst a boat will be heading to Dartmouth at the allotted time, it will only return in the afternoon if at least twelve people book tickets. Dad enquires how many places have been booked so far and receives the reply "well if you two say yea, that will take us up to....errr....two".

With no better ideas for what to do on a wet Monday in Totnes, we decide to take the planned boat to Dartmouth and with bus timetable in hand, find alternative transport back.

There's not a great deal to do in Dartmouth, a bit of a walk down the front and a mooch around the town, but at least it provides the opportunity to find a thank you present for the Dog Collars & Rabbit Corpses. On top of the their taxi services at the start and end of this trip, Stuart has been the saviour of my ABS/MOT nightmares, by taking my car in to the garage whilst I'm away, to allow them to do the necessary work to stop a little yellow light shining and more importantly to them no doubt send me a huge bill, and more importantly to me, issue a MOT certificate.

But what is the suitable present to buy from Devon. Try as I can, I can't resist the vanilla and clotted cream smells emanating from 'Edwards' homemade fudge shop. It seems just a bit too clichéd, but a taster confirms this is good fudge and hey we could always call it post-modern irony. Yep, I'll take a large box of assorted flavours please Edward.

The bus trip back is fairly uneventful until we reach the outskirts of Totnes and stop at a high school and the bus fills with young, mobile phone and attitude brandishing adolescents.

I'm not sure which is more fascinating, the anthropological spectacular playing out before us, or the vision of incredulity on my father's face.

Oh and some young girls - they hunt in packs.