52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I just can't get you out of my head...

So, as I was saying, I went for an initial consultation with the hypnotist today. It was just a complimentary getting-to-know-you session, and a chance for me to see if it was something I fancied giving a try. It was also a chance for the hypnotist to ask me a few questions and to assess if he thought he could help me.

It was quite interesting.

The long and the short of it is that I've booked a session for next week, and it's likely to be the first of a number of sessions, perhaps as many as half a dozen. I didn't actually get hypnotised this evening: instead we spent a bit of time talking about my background (family, school, do I drink, do I smoke, do I have a history of depression, has anything been on my mind recently - that kind of thing) and we discussed what I was hoping he could help me with. I know that this may be hard to believe, but apparently the problems I have with my glasses could actually be about something other than my glasses.

I know!

For this reason, suggestion therapy isn't likely to do much more than push the manifestation of that underlying anxiety somewhere else. The better bet is to see if I can get to the root cause. It might be that I am worrying about my specs instead of worrying about something far more important - the WT's or my job perhaps. Perhaps it's something to do with a fear of abandonement or a fear of the clown I once met at someone's birthday party when I was five. Who knows?

Anyway. My first session is on Monday. I thought it was worth a try. I've been a lot better generally since I decided to do something about this, but I'm not going to let that fool me into not going ahead with it - and if this doesn't work, I'll try something else..

Just so you know though, I don't think I'm going to be blogging about it, except perhaps in passing. It's not that I wouldn't want to share the deepest, darkest secrets buried in the smothering blackness of my subconscious mind. It's just that apparently it's better to let anything that comes up tick away slowly in my head without trying to consciously analyse it, dissect it, or even really talk about it. As a blogger and an INTP, I'm thinking that this could be the biggest challenge of all.

Still, the first rule of hypnotherapy is that we do not talk about hypnotherapy, and rules are rules. It's a lot like Fight Club in that regard, only with a whole lot less fighting. And no smoking*.

Rather disappointingly, apparently you don't really go into a trance either. I suppose it's all very clean and clinical to be hypnotised in a matter of seconds, but I was rather hoping for some swinging pendulums and the whole "you are feeling very sleepy" schtick.

Oh well.

3, 2, 1..... you're back in the room!

* This has now got me thinking about who would play me in the film version of this blog. I'm not sure that Brad Pitt would get the gig, but I don't really see myself as Edward Norton either. Any suggestions? I also want to know what my Power Animal is. I was kind of hoping it was a Grizzly Bear, but I imagine it's probably a hamster.

read between the lines and you'll find the truth...

Apparently today is "Blogday 2006".

"Blogday was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On this day, every blogger will place a recommendation of 5 new blogs. In this way, all blog web surfers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs."

I'm a little bit put of by some of the spelling on their website (a "summery" of 2005?), but it's a good idea, and one that's very much in the spirit of my "Blog of the Week" thing that I seem to have stopped doing.

So here are my 5 recommendations. Some you may have seen before, and some of them are probably stretching the definition of the word 'international', but......

1) A Big Stick and a Small Carrot

In the spirit of this, my first recommendation is the first blog that came up when I hit the "next blog" button on the top of the page. Well, that was the plan anyway. I don't know if you've done it recently, but apparently the number of blogs is doubling every 6 months... but it's all about quantity and not quality.

Not to mention the fact that my "make poverty history" band actually seems to be stopping the "next blog" button from working, I'm going to need a new strategy.

6 Steps then.... go to a familiar blog and go out 6 clicks using the links that you find.

i Silent Words Speak Loudest
ii are the stars out tonight?
iii cage of monkeys
iv the whole wide world of fat buddha!
v bloggerheads
vi a big stick and a small carrot

Rather pleasingly, I've wandered into the world of politics - well, political comment anyway. This blog has been (sort of) recommended by the BBC, and has a nice light touch when dealing with serious issues. Plus it's always good reading to see the failings and inconsistencies of our leaders held up for our examination. And he's scottish, and that's international isn't it?

I think this is the first time this exercise has turned up something interesting.

2) Paul Daniels

It's only proper that I should recommend the blog of the greatest magician in the history of the world. Right? At the moment he's passing on his thoughts on the film "Dr. Doolittle 3" which he has just watched on his new surround system. The Paul Daniels view?

"It was SO BAD. AVOID this disk at all costs"

Phew. Thanks Paul. Narrow escape there.

3) Kerblog

Mazen Kerbaj is a Lebanese musician and comic book artist based in Beirut. He's been blogging about the war - well worth reading.

4) 1000 Shades of Grey

Brought to you by one half of Black & White & Read All Over, this blog welcomes you into Paul's world. Most recently, Paul's world has been detailing -- and critiquing -- the 8 step strategy to adopt if trapped in a lion cage (including the sage advice to 'Fend off attack' as well as to 'Keep screaming as loudly as possible'). Brilliant.

5) Travelling in a Fried-Out Combie

Blogging all the way from Sydney, Australia.... ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Jonny. Technically, he's from Bristol, but let's gloss over that for a moment and call this a proper international blog. He's mates with Mike, he's just started a new job, and he spends his time doing things like taking beach volleyball lessons, drinking in the Opera House Bar, watching Dwight Yorke bossing the Sydney FC midfield and going for early morning surfs before work. Bastard. (Except possibly for the Dwight Yorke thing).


This is harder than it looks.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

cool, cool water....

At first I thought there was a fly trapped in the rubbish bag next to the back door. Further investigation revealed that the strange hissing, buzzing noise was in fact coming from the pipes. Or perhaps more accurately, the noise was coming from the tiny hole in the water main and was being caused by water under pressure being forced out.


Making the pub quiz began to look optimistic and I began to hunt around for the house insurance details.

A short conversation ensued:

"Is the leak coming from within the boundaries of your property or from the water main?"
"Well, it's coming from the water main below our stopcock, but it is inside the property. In fact, it's in my kitchen."
"Was it damaged accidentally?"
"No. It just started to leak"
"Then it's not covered. You need to talk to the Water Board."

Thinking salty thoughts about the point of home and contents insurance if it won't cover damage to said home and contents, I picked up the phone to the 24 hour helpline at Severn-Trent Water.

"Is the leak coming from the water main outside your property?"
"No. It's coming from the water main where it comes into my kitchen"
"I'm afraid our responsibility stops when the pipe enters the boundary to your property. I can help you find a 24 hour plumber though"

A call back to the insurance company and it turns out that actually they *are* liable for any water damage to our property, so they are prepared to get an emergency plumber out for us. Clearly they didn't feel the need to tell us about that during the first call. Perhaps they didn't think it was pertinent.

We arrange to meet the plumber (he calls us when he arrives and we leave the pub quiz to let him in). He takes one look at the pipe:

"I know it sounds funny, but I just need to get my hammer"
He then proceeds to bash the bit of lead piping (our house is over 100 years old, so although most of the piping is now made of copper or plastic, there is the odd bit here and there that are still made of lead). Apparently this can stop most leaks.

The water turns from a small trickle to a modest gush, but some more hammering takes us back to where we were originally. The plumber promises to come back in the morning to fix the leak properly by replacing the bit of piping.

The next morning and the leak has got slightly worse. I go to work knowing that C. needs to leave to catch a flight at 11am. I cancel a few meetings and head home to allow C. to scoot off to the airport. I find her in a right state. The plumber has been unable to stop the leak and has left her on her hands and knees constantly changing towels in a desperate attempt to stop the kitchen from flooding. She nearly forgets her passport, but leaves on time. I start to wring out some towels when the plumber turns up again.

"We can't turn off the water main so we're going to try to staunch the flow with this jubilee clip"

He tries, and partially succeeds. Now I have to wait for the man from Severn-Trent to turn up and switch off the water supply. I wait about 30 minutes and then he arrives and begins to fiddle with the piping underneath the pavement outside our house.

"I can't switch the valve off. I think I'll need to request an emergency repair"
"How long will that take?"
"Well, it won't be today"

I now have visions of spending every 10 minutes for the next 24 hours changing towels and mopping up water underneath a leaking pipe. Luckily, after much fiddling, he is able to turn it off and the leak stops.

I'm currently sat in my kitchen waiting for the plumber to turn up and dig up some of my kitchen tiling to replace the defective piping.

Oh, apparently his van has broken down in Mansfield and he's not going to be able to get here until 6pm.

It's turning out to be one of those days....

(and a big hello to the friendly face of the Bloglines plumber above! Is it me or is that Harold Bishop moonlighting?)


Update -> 00:55am

Well, the water has been off, the kitchen floor drilled and a new piece of pipe put in. Sadly, when the water was turned back on, there was still a small leak. Nothing catastrophic, but still something that needs sorting.

I think I want to scream. I think my plumber wants to scream too.

Same again tomorrow then.

It's good this, innit?

And I've got a preliminary session with the hypnotherapist tomorrow.....


Update -> 10:06am

I think he's cracked it!

Some horrible gunky stuff, a bit of tightening and some windy, wrappy stuff appears to have stopped the dripping. Finally. Touch wood.


Monday, August 28, 2006

the monkeys stand for honesty, giraffes are insincere...

Bank Holiday weekends are great. It's only twenty-four little hours, but there's something about having that extra day off that just seems to make all the difference.

I don't usually do anything much with my bank holidays. I might spend a bit longer in bed, watch a bit of telly, pop down to the pub. That kind of thing. I was determined that I should make a bit more of an effort this time though, and so on Sunday morning, thanks to some free tickets we'd won in a raffle, we packed up a picnic lunch and we got in the car and drove to Twycross Zoo.

I'm not a massive fan of zoos, to be honest. I know that they have an increasingly important role to play in the preservation of endangered species, but there's something wrong about having these animals caged up in such small enclosures. It's bad enough for the smaller animals, but I really struggle to see how it can be anything other than cruel to keep an animal like a leopard or a lion in a cage that's too small for them to be able to run, or in fact to be able to do anything much but pace relentlessly around the edges of their sadly reduced world.

They did have some cute meercats though, and I have also discovered exactly what it is that Prince Harry does with his spare time (when he's not dressing in Nazi uniforms, smoking dope and groping poor unsuspecting girls, obviously.)

That's right. Prince Harry is a Javan Brown Langur, and his cage is just next door to that of a Diana Monkey. Coincidence? I don't think so.....

The zoo was a little bit too full of rude, squalling, fat, greedy, grasping little shits and their oblivious parents for my liking, but I suppose that was only to be expected on a bank holiday weekend in the middle of the school holidays.

Still, it got us out of the house, eh?

And as if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we followed up our visit to the zoo by winning the music quiz at the pub last night. It was the first time they've run it, but I reckon that Lord B and I are going to be pretty tough to beat at this...


Whilst we're on the subject of monkeys, we watched Kong on Saturday night. Would someone mind explaining to me what the point of that film is? The effects were pretty good, it's true, but I couldn't see how it added anything to the story that any of the previous versions hadn't already covered. Mysterious island? check. Giant monkey? check. Screaming blonde? check. Inevitable tragic scenes atop the Empire State Building? check.

What did this film do that the Fay Wray version didn't do back in 1933?



...and I don't mean to put a downer on anyone's day, but you do realise that this is the last bank holiday in England before Christmas?


It's a bit of a long haul through the winter from here on in, I'm afraid.


My blog is worth $20,887.98.
How much is your blog worth?

where do I sell?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Upon this my dreams are depending through the dark

Earworms of the week

10. ‘Blue Orchid’ – The White Stripes

The depressing sight of a ‘page unavailable’ error all over the ticket website let me to believe that I had probably missed my chance to see the Raconteurs playing at Rock City in October. As luck would have it though, I was walking past the venue the very next day and they had some left.

Excellent, and yet more evidence that the people who run those websites are total knobheads. The chance to see Jack White letting rip in a (relatively) small venue is not to be missed, and the Jundland wastes are not to be travelled lightly.

Oh. Apparently we’ve done Star Wars already.

9. ‘Sound & Vision’ – David Bowie

I read something once about how this song was interesting because it was in 3/3 time and not 4/4 like the vast majority of all popular music.

I don’t know about that, but I do like kittens.

8. ‘Dry Your Eyes’ – The Streets

This is an old Earworm faithful and crops up every time this pops up on shuffle on my iPod. For reference, I was listening to the version featuring Chris Martin on vocals, but I don’t think it much matters.

Plenty more fish in the sea. Good advice if you’re not fussed if you have cod, haddock or gooba fish.

7.‘Fake Plastic Trees’ – Radiohead

Apparently they didn’t play this at V last weekend. Shame. Good song (and of course, hearing someone say how they hadn’t played it immediately made it begin to play in my head).

6. ‘Closing Time’ – Semisonic

I’m sure this was used on something.

5. ‘One of us’ – Abba

I fucking hate Abba.

No. Let me rephrase that. I don’t hate Abba, I hate what Abba represent. I hate the way that a certain type of person always reacts when Abba is played. It reminds me all those awful fucking discos at university, and is a damn good reason never to set foot in a Reflex 80s bar, where I imagine those same people react in exactly the same way, only they’re slightly fatter and balder and unhappier.

Having said that, I do quite like ‘Waterloo’.

Why’s this song in my head? Dunno. I didn’t even know that this was by them until I looked it up, and by then it was too late – I’d already been singing it out loud in the office.

4. ‘Being Around’ – The Lemonheads

If I was in the fridge, would you open the door?
If I was the grass, would you mow your lawn?
If I was your body, would you still wear clothes?
If I was a booger, would you blow your nose?

What’s not to like?

3. ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’ – Scissor Sisters

Do you think the laser ‘pow pow’ noises are too much? Nah, this is kitchen sink disco. It’s got the lot, and that “no sir, no dancing today” lyric is just genius.

2. ‘Oh L’Amour’ – Erasure

Another song I had to look up to discover the full horror of what I was singing. Out loud. In public.

1. ‘Hunting High & Low’ – A-Ha / Coldplay

Initially this was in my head as a result of listening to the Coldplay cover version on my iPod, but it was the A-Ha version I kept finding myself coming back too. Oooh, I do like a nice slice of icy Scandinavian melancholy of a Friday night.


Timberlake might be bringing sexy back, but I’m thinking of resurrecting the Guest Editor slot. You know, the one where one of you lot gets to choose the Earworms of the Week (and the post header and everything!). I’m going to open it back up for anyone to have a go, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a go before because you can have another go. Starting next week.

What do you say? Who’s in?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

the needle returns to the start of the song and we all sing along like before....




We're all fine here. How are you?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

crazy in the coconut

That’s it. I’ve had enough of this and I’m going to seek some professional help. I think my brain has always had a tendency to latch onto some of the smaller things in life and then refuse to let them go, but it’s now getting silly. I’m sure everybody goes through phases where they worry if they’ve locked the front door, left the gas on or forgotten to put the handbrake on in the car. I’ve done all of these things, but the one that has really been wearing me down is my obsession with my glasses. I wish I could be one of those people who picks up a pair of specs from the optician and then wears them for the next couple of years without giving them a second thought. I wish that I could wear them easily without worrying about the fit and fretting about whether or not they’re rubbing on my nose or riding up over my ear. I wish I could learn that they only need cleaning when they are dirty and that a scratch on the lens isn’t important unless it obscures my vision.

I wish I could, but apparently I can’t.

When one of these things starts to play on my mind, I find it incredibly hard to forget about it. If I think that one of the arms is catching on my ear, then I will concentrate so hard on it that it feels as though all my senses are being focused on that ear. Of course, this makes it more or less impossible to tell if it actually is catching or not, and if I go into an optician and get an adjustment made, then I find I have become so hyper-focused on it that it will probably impossible to ever get the fit right until I just relax and forget about it. I find going to the optician a deeply humiliating experience because I find myself almost completely unable to articulate why my glasses feel uncomfortable, just knowing that they aren’t right.

It wears me out.

Like most people who are utterly dependent on glasses to see, I have a spare pair of specs at home in case of accidents. My spare pair are now quite old and are hardly the height of fashion, but in the last few months I’ve taken to wearing them every night when I get home and for most of the weekend. Why? Because they have glass lenses, and glass lenses are almost impossible to scratch. I am so obsessed with the idea of scratching my main pair – which have plastic lenses – that I would rather put them away and give my brain a break than wear them.

Of course, now I find myself worrying about the fit of my spare pair.

It’s time for this to stop. My logical brain tells me that this obsession is very unlikely to be simply about my glasses: after all, millions of people wear glasses every day and don’t seem to let it bother them. I cringe when I see people cleaning their specs on whatever comes to hand, but clearly scratching doesn’t bother them like it bothers me (I always use a microfibre cloth to clean my lenses). No, my obsession with my specs is probably a manifestation of some other problem – maybe the WTs – and I think it’s time I did something about it. I’m thinking about hypnotherapy to address the specific issue (‘look into the eyes, the eyes… not around the eyes, into the eyes” etc), but I’m also going to look into getting some psychotherapy to see if we can discover what I’m really worried about and to address the root cause.

If I believed what I saw on TV, then I’d think that every single American is in therapy. Maybe they are, but I don’t think I know a single person in the UK who has been to see a psychiatrist. Not one. What do you do? Look them up in Yellow Pages? Put your underpants on your head, pencils up your nostrils and say “wibble” and wait until they come to you?

neverending story...

Shuffleathon Update

Look, I know this is going on F-O-R-E-V-E-R, but look! Stef's review is in!

1. SarahY
2. MandyYreview
3. YokoY
4. AlanY
5. CharlieY
6. KaY
7. spinsY
8. bedshapedY
9. bytheseashoreY
10. Mike Y
11. AlecyaY
sort of review
12. PynchonY
13. Ben Y
14. Flash Y
15. Michael Y
16. Lord BargainY
17. TinaY
18. DelY
19. Mark Y
20. Graham Y
21. Stef
22. AdemYreview
23. ThreelightY
24. Jenni Y
resend (but no hurry)
25. Leah Y
26. Pete Y
27. Statue JohnY
28. MonogodoY
29. Him Y
30. Me!
31. TheCatGirlSpeaks (virtually)
Ymy review
her review

I know you're all on the edge of your seats, but we've only got a couple of resends to go and then we'll be done.


Monday, August 21, 2006

hammer of justice crushes you....

Perhaps it's just me, but I'm afraid that I can't help but be amused by Saddam Hussein's display of defiance in the court where he is being tried for genocide, war crimes and 'crimes against humanity'. Just as he did at his last trial, Saddam refused to enter a plea, wouldn't give his name and dismissed the trial as a "court of occupation".

Well, he's right, isn't he?

It's not that I have any great sympathy for Saddam, or that I am some kind of apologist for his regime. Far from it. What amuses me is the whole pretence that somehow this is anything other than a kangaroo court. Saddam was only toppled from power by a US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. He is only facing trial because the present Iraqi regime is being propped up by US military might and because the USA need to see their invasion justified by the formal legal demonisation of the former Iraqi president. The USA is a democracy, you see. The new Iraqi regime is a democracy. This is how democracies deal with things. It's all about the application of law and the meting out of Justice.

All Saddam has to do is turn up, be found guilty and be executed.

So what's in it for him exactly? Why should he recognise the authority of this court, or of the Iraqi Government, or of the US occupation? What he says or does in this trial will not make a damn bit of difference to the verdict, as he will surely be found guilty. So why not make a show of it and go down fighting?

It's not that I think Saddam wasn't involved in genocide, war crimes or 'crimes against humanity' (and that's a nice vague and mutable charge, isn't it? who decides what's included in that? how do you prove it?) - I think it's almost certain that he was. It's just that I think it's hypocritical to go through the motions like this and to pretend that it is anything other than a show trial being run by the USA for public consumption.

Still. When it's all over and done with, I hope they put the details of his last meal online. It's in the public interest, right? It's practically part of the healing process....

Justice (...and dinner) are served.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

we'll use the one thing we've got more of - that's our minds...

Is it really 14 years since I got my A-level results? That summer morning when I made a nervous phone call to find out if I had got the results that I needed to continue my education at University.

The A-levels I took were in English Literature, History and Geography, and I knew that I needed to get three 'B' grades if I was to take up my place reading Modern European & Renaissance History at the University of Warwick. I was fairly confident that I could manage this - in fact I thought I had an outside chance of getting three As - but it was still a nerve-wracking moment, and I couldn't shake the thought that I had completely fluffed one of my English exams thanks to a rather less than perfect understanding of Henry IV part II and the poems of George Herbert. In fact, I had woken up that morning having had a vivid dream that I had got AAD, so in the end I was quite pleased to get AAB - more than enough to get me to University (although 14 years is not yet long enough for me to find it in my heart to forgive one of my English teachers for his absolutely pathetic attempts to teach us those texts - so thanks for that Mr. Nurser).

A-levels are supposed to be the "gold standard" of exams in Britain: they determine if you are going to continue with your education, or if you are going to do something else with your life. Every year we hear that they are getting easier. When this year's results were announced this week, we saw an improvement in the pass rate for the 24th successive year.

I got my results in 1992, and the overall pass rate was 79.8% (a "pass" in this context is a grade from A-E) and the percentage of candidates scoring an 'A' grade was 12.8%. This year, the pass rate was 96.6% and 'A' grades represented an astonishing 24.1%. That means that 1 in 4 papers scored an 'A' grade.

By way of comparison, the percentage of papers getting an 'A' grade in 1978 was 8.9%.

Hardly surprisingly, this plethora of top grades means that the benchmark for getting into the most heavily subscribed courses at Universities has also risen. If you wanted to study Modern European History & Renaissance History at Warwick now, you'd need to get three A grades... which of course lots of people are now getting.

It would be lovely to think that this relentless improvement in results was down to the people sitting these exams getting brighter and brighter. It isn't. Obviously the exams are getting easier. Universities have been complaining for some time now that their new intake of students just isn't up to the standard they would expect of first year undergraduates, and presumably this will have the knock-on effect that degrees are getting easier (and more students than ever before are getting first class degrees).

Partly as a result of Tony Blair's misguided statement that 50 percent of the population should go to University, there are now more Universities in the UK than ever before, and something like 2.4m students currently in higher education. 40% of the UK workforce now has a degree. Is it worth the bother? (and apparently the average total cost of a three year course is £33,512). Wouldn't we all just be better getting a job?

What's really interesting to me though is this idea that we all have a *RIGHT* to further education. This implies that somehow it's unfair that people with brains should be able to qualify for further education and no one else can. In fact, it's more than unfair - it's discriminatory, and New Labour aren't having it.

I'm not suggesting that we create an intellectual elite, but how is sending everyone to university helping anyone?

It reminds me of that old joke about humanities graduates:

Q. What do you say to the holder of a first class degree in English Literature?
A. Big Mac and fries please.

How we laughed.

Actually, screw that. I'm sick of being sneered at by people for using words they don't understand, or for reading a book that they consider "poncey". Let's create an intellectual elite and bollocks to the lot of them.

Friday, August 18, 2006

that may be all I need to know....

Earworms of the Week

I had an incredibly vivid dream last night. We had gone to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers performing at some outdoor venue somewhere. For some reason we were able to walk right up to the front just as the band were coming on and pop a blanket down to sit on. We plonked ourselves down and watched the show. Flea appeared to have been replaced by some completely unknown English guy, but it didn't seem to affect the quality of the music, and he still took all his clothes off for the last song and played completely naked, with only his bass guitar saving us from getting an eyeful. They seemed to be good, although for some reason I wandered off and returned to find that I had missed most of "Dosed". Somewhat oddly, there was a break in the middle of the set when the band stopped playing and started handing out bits of luggage to members of the audience. At one point they waved a red rucksack in the air, and I realised it was identical to the one I was resting my head on, so I waved mine in the air at them and someone came over and was about to give me a box ("for adults only") when the guy next to me showed them his red rucksacktoo. I thought we'd have to somehow share the box, but this guy just took it from the girl who had brought it over, packed up all his stuff and left with his family, taking the box with him and without so much as a backwards glance. I thought that was a bit rude, to be honest, but the band started playing again and I soon settled back to enjoy the rest of the set.

Why did I have this dream? I think it's because Zane Lowe played "Californication" on his show last night.

What does it mean? Answers on a postcard....

I haven't been earworming any Red Hot Chili Pepper songs this week, but I mention it for your amusement. The subconscious mind eh?

Anyway. This week's 'worms!

11. “Wake up Boo!” – The Boo Radleys

The fact that this has been on rotation in my head is simply down to the pissy weather we've been having and the song's opening line.

Summer’s gone….”

10. “James Bond Theme” – Monty Norman

Ah, a veritable earworm classic.

9. “Let it Grow” – Eric Clapton

One of EC’s mellower offerings from “461 Ocean Boulevard”. I own this album thanks to a Clapton phase I went through when I was about 15. I don’t think I’ve actually listened to it since about 1990. Perhaps I should, “Willy and the Hand Jive” is a hidden classic. Actually, no it isn’t. It does have mildly amusing name though, which has to count for something, right?

8. “Jungle Boogie” – Kool & The Gang

This is possibly in my head as an inevitable result of seeing Samuel L. Jackson plugging “Snakes on a Plane”.

I wonder what that film’s about.

7. “Blueberry Hill” – Fats Domino

Whenever I hear this, I always picture Ewan McGregor singing it in “Lipstick on Your Collar”. I love the way Fats enunciates the lyrics and holds back until he almost misses the beat. It's a classic.

6. “Lovestain” – Jose Gonzalez

I like the idea of a “lovestain”

You left a lovestain on my heart
And you left a bloodstain on the ground

But blood comes off easil

Possibly the mellowest album I've bought in years.

5. “Time Of Our Lives” – Bill Medley & Jennifer Warne

How this crept through my filters I’ll never know, but here it is. I sang this out loud in the office at my desk. Easily-Infected-Gareth soon picked up on it, and has kindly offered to sing it in duet with me at my wedding. Alas, he’s not being invited.

4. “How Come” – Ray La Montagne

Beardy folk. Nice. He’s got a foghorn of a voice on him too. And a great beard. I think I first heard him performing when he was on “Later…” a couple of years ago. Why has it taken him 2 years to get this album into the charts? It’s a great record.

3. “Copacabana” – Barry Manilow

It’s a classic, innit? Mind you, it must be said that I do have a geekish tendency to flip into the Weird Al “star wars cantina” version when listening to this song (“music and blasters and old jedi masters…”).


2. “Casimir Pulaski Day” / “John Wayne Gacy Jr” – Sufjan Stevens

Truth be told, these are the two songs I’ve been listening to the most this week, and “Illinoise” hasn’t been out of my car either. Both songs are about death, and both songs touch me, but in very different ways. As I mentioned on Monday, “Casimir Pulaski Day” is about someone dying of bone cancer, and I find the lyrics incredibly moving because they seem to ring so true. “John Wayne Gacy Jr” is a different kettle of fish altogether and is a song about the infamous serial killer. Stevens handles the subject matter beautifully, and you can really hear the horror in his voice as he sings:

Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs

Oh my God

Followed by a gentle

Are you one of them?”


1. “Don’t Know Much” – Aaron Neville & Linda Ronstadt

Easily-Infected-Gareth got his revenge with this one. I’ve no idea why it was in his head, but now it’s very much in my head too.


Bloody earworms!

I got my head checked by a jumbo jet...

Apparently the UK is seriously thinking about introducing passenger profiling on grounds including ethnic origin and religion.

Well, it makes sense doesn't it? After all, these terrorists who keep trying to blow stuff up are all Muslims aren't they? If we stop all Asian looking people from flying (Muslims, Sikh, Hindi.... whatever), and perhaps people with funny beards as well, then we shouldn't have any more problems. It'll mean that the rest of us normal folk will be able to carry as much cabin baggage as we like. They probably won't even need to put us through a security screen at all.

Naturally, this policy will mean that the odd innocent person will be jailed without charge for several days and that whole swathes of people will be discriminated against because of the way they look.... but surely that's okay if it helps us to WIN the "War on Terror", no?

It is, of course, a policy that the police have been sucessfully applying for many years. After all, how many coloured people legitimately drive BMWs?

Benjamin Franklin's words have rarely seemed more apt: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."*

Aren't we supposed to be a democracy? Can they do this sort of thing?

Oh, hang on, here's Ben Franklin again:

"A Democracy will vote away its rights."

Bugger. And here was me hoping that "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." (James Bovard)

Damn fool idealism.

* Perhaps it's better to say that this quote has been attributed to Franklin. See here for details. Well.... I am a historian.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

which one holds the other, which one holds the string?

According to the Deputy Prime Minister of Britain, George Bush is "crap".

Who knew? John Prescott: idiot savant, and not just 'idiot' as had widely been assumed.

Still: monkeys, typewriters.....

Tony Blair should go on holiday more often.


Hats off to John Sentamu, the archbishop of York. Whilst the British Prime Minster suns himself on a Bajan beach, the second most senior cleric in Britain has cancelled his holiday so that he can sit in a tent inside York Minster for the next seven days on a liquids only diet to highlight the plight of the people suffering in the conflict in the Middle East.

Dr Sentamu said: "This act is a rallying call to people of all faiths and none, to encourage them to feel that there is something that can be done. The UN has a role, diplomacy has a role and our government has a role to play in bringing this conflict to an end. But we as people also have a role to play in showing our common humanity with all those who are suffering."

Common humanity, eh? Isn't that something that politicans have removed when they take up office? I'm not a religious man by any means, and I'm not sure that this protest amounts to much in the grand scheme of things, but at a time when our most senior politicans are rolling over to have their tummies tickled by the US, it's nice to see someone --- anyone --- standing up to be counted.

Thank the Lord that Christianity had nothing to do with creating the mess in the Middle East, eh?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio...

Shuffleathon Update

I don't know what you think, but it feels to m e a bit like this bloody thing has been going on f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Still, as someone once said, I've started so I'll finish.

[are we nearly there yet?]

I'm sure we'll get there eventually. I know you are all hanging on for the big finale and the stats-filled round up, but frankly there's no rush. We're only waiting on a couple of resends, and I reckon we can wait a bit longer yet.

I'm still taking suggestions for a song for the first dance at my wedding, by the way. In fact, I'm quite interested in a playlist for the whole thing, so if you've got any bright ideas, then fire away.

Here are some possible categories:

-> Most appropriate song
-> Most inappropriate song
-> It's crap but we love it
-> Get up and dance
-> Cheese
-> it's ace, innit?

C's brother and his missus starting their married life to "Let's Spend The Night Together" by the Rolling Stones has kind of set the benchmark. I'm counting on you.

Knock yourselves out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

And he takes and he takes and he takes....

Well, given that today is Tuesday, it looks like I must have survived my first day in my new / old job in my new / old company. On the other hand, the fact that I’m sitting here writing this at 09:44 in the morning over my first cup of coffee probably tells you everything that you need to know about my level of motivation.

I got off to a flying start yesterday morning when I turned up 15 minutes late to my own induction, and I suppose it’s been pretty much downhill since then. I watched a company ra-ra video telling me all about how wonderful everything is, I got told I needed to replace my ID badge with identical – but new – ID badge and, best of all, I got given a set of maps telling me how to get to the company’s head office. Yes, the same building that I have been working in for the last few years and the very same building I was sitting in when they gave me the maps.


Still, it’s not all bad news: when I got out of my car this morning and headed towards the main building, the car park smelt of steak and kidney pudding.


I was listening to “Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens on the way into the office this morning. I’ve only listened to it all the way through a couple of times, but it’s already worming its way into my affections. Perhaps it’s the slightly funny mood I’m in, but this morning I found myself deeply moved by “Casimir Pulaski Day”. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and achingly sad.

I love it.


and thanks for all your congrats, by the way. Much appreciated. C. very much likes the idea of a competition to choose the song for our first dance, so I reckon we'll be doing that at some point then!

I'll also see if I can find a nice photo of the two of us somewhere.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

been down that rocky road, but here we are, still around....

OK. I hope you're sitting comfortably, because I have some news:

We're getting married.

We started going out in March 1999. Our first kiss was in Tamworth Services on the M42 and was soundtracked by Huey Lewis & The News. "Happy To Be Stuck With You" is perhaps not the song that I would have chosen (and don't even get me started on that), but here we are seven-and-a-half years later and it looks like it might have been a propitious omen.

Before you ask, nobody got down on one knee or anything (and everytime I say that, I can't help but run that truly dreadful Morrissey lyric in my head: "Your boyfriend, he went down on one knee / Well, could it be he's only got one knee ?" One of the greatest lyricists ever? Pffff.)

The timing just feels right.

We actually made our minds up that we were going to go ahead with it a few months ago, but we only really crossed the Rubicon when we told our parents this weekend.

We're thinking Vienna in May or June next year (sporting fixtures permitting, obviously), but we'll probably also have a big shindig of some kind in Nottingham. I hope to see some of you there.

Um. That's it.

....as you were.

Friday, August 11, 2006

far away, the ship is taking me far away...

I know this is usually the bit where I do Earworms of the Week, but today I thought I'd go wild and do something a bit different.

Mandy's laid down the gauntlet, and I'm picking it up..... (and yes, I know that it's ridiculous to even attempt to answer some of these questions. Just take it as read that I realise that, and then I won't have to say it after every question).

Before you start thinking you might like to have a go at this yourself, please let me caution you that it is really very long and actually extremely difficult.

You have been warned.

What's a great late night song?

Hm. I generally like to listen to something a touch mellower in the evening. I'll say "River Man" by Nick Drake. We listened to this as we drove to the hot springs at Saturnia when we were in Italy. It was some time after midnight, and it was the absolutely perfect choice.

Name 5-10 wistful/bittersweet songs:

Oh, for heaven's sake. In no particular order:

1. "Make It Easy on Yourself" - The Walker Brothers
2. "Wichita Lineman" - Glen Campbell
3. "Caroline No" - The Beach Boys
4. "The Scientist" / "Fix You" - Coldplay (either will do fine)
5. "Hallelujah" - Jeff Buckley

The 4 Best Songs Ever Written:

1. "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" - The Smiths
2. "Back in Black" - AC/DC
3. "In the Ghetto" - Elvis Presley
4. "Hurt" - Johnny Cash (but only the JC version)

I know I said you should take it as read, but that's a HORRIBLE question to ask someone, isn't it?

3 Current Favorite Songs:

1. "Starlight" - Muse
2. "Chicago" - Sufjan Stevens
3. "All Sparks" - Editors

Classic Early Evening Drinking Music:

Erm. Could be anything really. I'll say "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" by Arctic Monkeys. That's proper psych-up music. Gets me in a good mood everytime. Billy Joel's pretty good too, but in a more chilled out, sing-a-long-y way.

3 All Time Faves That Never Get Old To You:

albums or songs? I'll go with albums, I think.

1. "Appetite for Destruction" - Guns N'Roses
2. "The Essential Billy Joel" - Billy Joel
3. "Hatful of Hollow" - The Smiths

Song You Want To (or did) Play At Your Wedding:

Hm. "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes, "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" by the Arctic Monkeys. Something like that.

"Hey Ya!" - Outkast

or perhaps,

"Too Drunk to Fuck" - Dead Kennedy's.

4 Records You Really Dug from 2005:

Um. This is hard. I can barely remember last week, never mind last year.

"I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" (again) - Arctic Monkeys
"Apply Some Pressure" - Maximo Park
"Hope There's Somone" - Antony & the Johnsons
"Hounds of Love" - The Futureheads

Favorite Records From This Year So Far:

"Supermassive Blackhole" - Muse
"It's a Hit" - We Are Scientists
"Sewn" - The Feeling
"Sheila" - Jamie T
"Crazy" - Gnarls Barkley

Good Angry Songs:

"Fucking Hostile" - Pantera, every time.

One of Your Favorite Lyrics:

"The Devil came and took me from bar to street to bookie" ("Up the Junction" - Squeeze)

5 Cover Songs Arguably Better Than the Original:

"Hallelujah" - Jeff Buckley
"Hurt" - Johnny Cash
"One" - Johnny Cash
"If You Go Away" - Dusty Springfield (covering Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas")
"All Along the Watchtower" - Jimi Hendrix

Great Dance Song You Maybe Never Realized Was a Great Dance Song Back in the Day:

Hm. No idea. I didn't like dance music much back in the day, and I don't much like it now.

Good Albums To Workout To:

Rock music in general, but anything by the Foo Fighters or Queens of the Stoneage in particular. It makes me run faster, you see (although I never get any further away from it).

Good Album to Clean The House To:

Do what? I'm reminded of the great line that never was in "Rocks" by Primal Scream (a song that I loathe, by the way):

Hoovers keep a hooverin'

Good Dining Music:

"Rejoicing in the Hands" - Devendra Banhart
"Way To Blue" - Nick Drake

it's that whole acoustic vibe.

either that or some Burt Bacharach.

Good Album To Have Sex To:

Even if it's a bad album, at least you're still having sex, right? I had great sex listening to "Parklife" once, but I'm not sure if that's what the question is asking.

Barry White, obviously. Or Chef.

A Good Album To Put You In the Mood (that is NOT Sade, Marvin Gaye or Barry White):

I don't need an album to put me in the mood. Certainly not Prince, anyway.

Good Album To Sleep To:

Sigur Ros are quite soothing. "Tak" perhaps.

5 Good Rock Songs That You Can Dance To:

"Seven Nation Army" - White Stripes
"I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" - Arctic Monkeys

um. And others. If you call pogo-ing dancing, then most things really.

Song That Is Too Damn Sad:

"If You Could Read My Mind" - Johnny Cash. God, I'm welling up just thinking about it.

Great Love Song:

"God Only Knows" - The Beach Boys

An Album Full of Tenderness:

Um. This question is making me realise how miserable most of my record collection is.

Song To An Ex That Isn't Meanspirited:

Where's the fun in that? I'd say "Long May You Run" by Neil Young, but that was about a car, so I'm sure it doesn't count.

Song To An Ex That Is Kinda Meanspirited:

"You're So Vain" - Carly Simon

Song to Listen to While in The Country Looking at Stars:

Something floaty and un-obtrusive. Pink Floyd perhaps. Or maybe something ethereal and feminine. Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos or Beth Orton perhaps.

Song to lose your Mind to:

The one I used to do it most often too was by Deep Purple actually. It just got funnier and funnier, and is perfect for air keyboard solos.

...or do you not mean that kind of losing your mind?

Probably "The Wall" then. Or anything by Muse.

Song To Cry In Your Pillow to:

"I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" - Dusty Springfield

Songs That Make You Feel Amped and Inspired:

I'm not really sure that I know what this means. I used to listen to "From Out of Nowhere" by Faith No More before I went off to sit any GCSE exams. Will that do?

Great Semi-Obscure B-side:

"Gravity" - Coldplay.

Song That Makes You Miss Your Mum:

Genuinely nothing. My mum doesn't really listen to much music.

That's Baby Makin' Music (No, Really):

What? Who wants that?

Criminally Underrated Band That Didn't Get Attention and Then Broke Up:

I'll vote Gene.

Best Fuck You I Am a Teenager in Pain Song:

By this, I assume we're talking about Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park and that kind of stuff? I hate this whole genre, frankly. "Sugar, We're Going Down" by Fallout Boy is pretty catchy though, if that counts.

I do like "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus too, although that's not quite the same thing, is it?

Feel No Shame: Great Current Pop Songs:

The Sugababes are great.

Album No One Would Expect You To Love:

Um. I'm probably entirely predictable. How about "Quelqu'un m'a Dit" by Carla Bruni? An album by a former supermodel sung entirely in French. It's aces.

Album No One Would Expect You To Dislike:

There are a few Morrissey albums I'm not very keen on. "Maladjusted", "Kill Uncle" and perhaps most surprisingly of all, "Ringleader of the Tormentors".

Album No One Would Expect You To Really Know:

That's a stupid question. I have the last offering by Gnu Cnu. They're brilliant but little known. They should be massive.

Emo Album You Actually Like:

I'm not familiar enough with the genre to say.

Good, But Overrated Cause Of Indie Revisionism:

Jeff Buckley. "Grace" is a good album, but you'd think it was the best thing ever recorded if you listened to some people (after his death). Same applies to most things by Nirvana too, although that's not really indie revisionism.

I should probably also add that there is no way that The Smiths could ever have been as good as their reputation would suggest. They were a brilliant band and are one of my favourite acts in the world ever, but their reputation seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year. Please God never let them reform and disappoint us all.

5 Desert Island Discs off the top of your head (30 sec clock):


"Hatful of Hollow" - The Smiths
"A Rush Of Blood To The Head" - Coldplay
"OK Computer" - Radiohead
"Final Straw" - Snow Patrol
"2ManyDJs" - Soulwax

3 Contemporary Artists That Were Your Faves 10 Years Ago:

1996? Pulp, Manic Street Preachers, Blur

Music That Makes You Feel Sophisticated:

Anything in French.

Or freestyle jazz, obviously.

mmmmm. Nice.

Fave Electronic Record You Own:

nobody listens to techno, it's over.

Fave Hip-Hop Record You Own:

Probably "It Takes a Nation of Millions...." - Public Enemy.

Hip-Hop Song You Know All the Lyrics Too:

Does "Hey Ya!" count? Otherwise, nothing.

Random Album You Loved In High School But Are Afraid To Admit It:

"Open Up and Say...... Ah" - Poison. The second CD I ever bought.

Album You May Have Listened To More In Highschool than Any Other Album:

"Appetite For Destruction" - Guns N'Roses, closely followed by "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" - Red Hot Chili Peppers.

If You Could Enter A Wrestling Ring to a Song It Would Be:

"Enter Sandman" - Metallica. Right up to the "BOH!" bit.

('exit light, enter Swiss....')

Album To Clear A Room With:

"Decade of Agression" - Slayer. I once played "Dead Skin Mask" on the radio and dedicated it to "all you lovers out there". Oh, how we laughed, etc.


If you decide to take this on, good luck.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

he's been happy with the company, they've treated him real fair....

As of midnight on Sunday, I will be transferred from one company to another. Unlike football players, a transfer fee has not changed hands, I most definitely will not be getting a signing-on bonus and an increase in wages is out of the question.

I had a choice though: I was told that my job was being transferred, and I had to choose to either accept this, or be deemed to have resigned. I wasn't going to resign (not in the short-term), so here I am.

As best I can tell, I am being shafted.

My basic terms & conditions are protected by law, which means that my salary can't get any smaller, I get the same holiday entitlement and I will only have to work the same number of hours a week as I do currently. Stuff like that. That's good, but it's far from the whole story. Amongst several things that I will be losing, my Private Health cover will cease when I transfer. As I've been undergoing various diagostic tests for the WTs, that's quite a big deal. Because I have claimed for it on my existing cover, there's a very serious danger that the WTs will be excluded from any new insurance I take out. Even if it is covered (and I think I can swing that as I haven't been diagnosed with anything), I am looking at being a couple of thousand pounds a year out of pocket if I want to keep any sort of cover. That's pretty rubbish really, especially as I am being forced into this position through no choice or action of my own.

The transfer process itself has been a shambles of non-communication, culminating with my discovery today that my current employer has been busy sending update emails out to a mailing list that none of the people being transferred are actually on. Muppets. Oh, and my career prospects are probably just that little bit worse too, as I leave a proper international IT company and join a UK retailer. I'm even getting a crappier computer to work with.

Still, on the plus side, my exit interview tomorrow finishes at 1pm, and my new employment doesn't start until Monday..... so I guess that means I get to start my weekend early, right?

I think it might be time for a new job. I don't have to take this shit.


(I realise there's other stuff happening in the world at the moment, but you can read about that stuff here. Nice to have you back Foxy.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I got a pocket full of kryptonite....

I suppose I quite enjoyed Superman Returns. The special effects were pretty decent and there's undeniably something thrilling about seeing our man leaping over tall buildings in a single bound, flying faster than a speeding bullet, saving doomed aircraft etc. etc.

The thing is though, that there's only so much you can do with a Superman film, isn't there? He's invulnerable, and ultimately that's pretty boring, so you know that at some point he has to lose his powers and get the crap beaten out of him. Then you know that he will regain his powers and truth, justice and all that other stuff will be restored.

Without going into details, that's pretty much exactly what happens here.

They're talking about a sequel, apparently. Let's hope they bother to think up a decent plot first. I'm guessing that Brandon Routh's Christopher Reeve inpersonation -- good though it is -- will soon wear a bit thin.

And I've seen enough of Kevin Spacey doing Gene Hackman doing Lex Luthor too. What about introducing a proper villain like... um... Nuclear Man? (yeah, Batman did get all of the good villains in the DC Universe didn't he?)

I'm more of a Marvel man really.

like a drifter I was born to walk alone....

I went into town this evening to watch Superman Returns. To get from the car park to the cinema, I have to walk past Rock City. I saw from the sizeable queue that there must have been a band on, and I quickly gathered from the haircuts and t-shirts that it was none other than Whitesnake.


Back in the slightly misguided heavy metal years of my youth, I used to own a couple of albums by Whitesnake. For reasons that are now lost, they were pretty famous at one point, and had hits with songs like 'Here I Go Again'. If my memory serves me correctly, Steve Vai was their guitarist for a bit, and he was so good that he needed a 7th string on his guitar! David Coverdale, meanwhile, was so rock and roll that he not only had enormous poodle hair, but was also married to a porn star by the name of Tawney Kitaen (that's her real name, right?)

When I walked back to the car from the cinema, the gig was over, but I was delighted to see that there was a crowd of groupies waiting by the tour bus for the great man to leave the venue.

I'm amused to report that Whitesnake groupies now are probably exactly the same as Whitesnake groupies back in the day..... and when I say 'exactly the same' I mean that they are exactly the same people. I have never seen so many 45-50 year old women squeezed into such ill-fitting and ill-advised clothes in my life. I have seen enough wrinkly cleavage this evening to last me a lifetime. Ooooh, that David Coverdale is a lucky man.

Oh. And apparently he named the band after his pet name for his own penis....

Fancy that.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

caught in a trap, there's no turnin' back....

Shuffleathon Update

'It's no good down here! I can't manoeuvre!'
'Stay on target'
'We're too close!'
'Stay on target'
'Loosen up!'

We're so nearly there. Not far to go now.... just the small matter of a single CD to be received and reviewed (and apparently it is now in the post) and a couple of re-sends and we'll be home and hosed.

[gone daddy gone]


Stef - we're all on tenterhooks. Do be sure to let us know the moment that elusive CD pops through your letterbox.

Jenni - you ready to concede defeat to the postal service and go for a re-send?

Almost there..... we've lost Tiree and we've lost Dutch.... but we're almost there.
Stay on target!


Monday, August 07, 2006

didn't we almost have it all?

I've just spent my evening listening to Whitney Houston, Paul Young, Phil Collins, Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson, Chicago and the Spice Girls.

.... just another evening chez Bargs then.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

come home....

My train on Friday night dropped me off at York. As I had about an hour to kill before Jamie's train arrived and before we were both picked up, I decided to wander into town. York is one of my old stamping grounds and I thought it might be nice to have a quick look at some of the old landmarks.

I love York Minster. I think it might possibly be my favourite cathedral in the whole world. It's not flashy or ostentatious, but it is HUGE. It is made of an attractive light coloured stone and it towers over the city (there's actually a planning regulation in York that has been in place for centuries that restricts the height of any buildings). I love the stained glass inside (York Minster is reputed to house half of the Medieval stained glass in England). I love the sculptures, especially the choir screen of English monarchs. Above all, I love the feeling of space that you get when you stand in the nave of this monumental piece of architecture and look down towards the altar.

...but I've probably bored you enough about cathedrals in the last few weeks, so I'll leave it there.

The reason I originally moved to York was to study for a Masters degree in Medieval History. The main campus of the University of York is situated a couple of miles from the town centre and is an extremely unattractive 1960s constuction. I was lucky enough that the Centre for Medieval Studies is located in the King's Manor - in the shadow of the Minster itself, and an extremely handsome building in its own right.

It was here that I spent many happy hours debating the minutiae of Medieval art and history, and it's here that a copy of my Masters dissertation resides in the library ("Historical Precedent and the Deposition of Henry VI" - you probably won't need to ring in advance to book a reading).

The Minster was not actually open to the public by the time that I got there, so I wasn't able to nip inside and wander around, but it was nice to see the old girl and it gave me a chance to have a look at some other areas of interest....

....like this.

I worked here for a number of months between completing my degree and getting a proper job. It's also here that I first hurt my back when they made me work unpaid overtime (the manager literally locked the doors to stop us getting out). It hasn't changed terribly much, and it gives me some satisfaction to think that I haven't actually bought a CD from HMV for many years.

York isn't a brilliant place to live really. It's quite a small town and is perpetually full of tourists. There are lots of fantastic pubs and restaurants, but there are also lots of shops where you can buy tea-towels, plastic swords and postcards and not many where you can buy more practical things. On the whole Nottingham is a much better place to live: it's a vibrant city with hundreds of interesting shops and several good music venues.

I do miss the architecture and the history though.

now I'm sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer...

Test Matches are brilliant. Where else would you hear something like this on the ball-by-ball coverage on the radio:

"The chicken is remonstrating with the steward for the return of the dolphin. A policeman is now coming to get involved. The chicken is dancing back to his seat as the steward carries the dolphin away."

Also sighted: Willy Wonka and some oompa-loompas, Hulk Hogan, The Incredible Hulk, the Super Montys, Batman, a ghost (and accompanying team of Ghostbusters), some scousers (complete with curly perms, moustaches and "calm down, calm down" hand motions), two daleks, some Fred Flintstones, lots of 1970s cricketers, a pirate gang....... and many, many more.

It's a cracking day out.

The cricket was a touch dull, but the crowd was *brilliant*.

I'm sitting in the railway station, got a ticket for my destination...

Whilst sitting patiently at Newark station waiting for my train, my attention was caught by a man in a shirt and tie running down the platform with an expensive looking camera. I watched him for a few seconds and wondered if he was like that guy who hangs around in Heathrow airport looking to take photos of the famous as they pass through - photos he will then sell on to various agencies and magazines and so on. To be honest, it didn't seem all that likely that anyone famous would be getting off the train in Newark on a Friday evening, so I went back to my book.

A couple of minutes later, another couple of people caught my eye. They appeared to be a couple, but the man had a pair of binoculas and a notepad. They appeared to be in an animated conversation about something as they walked down the platform towards me. As they got closer, I could hear that they were talking about trains.

They were trainspotters, of course.

Now I looked more carefully, there seemed to be about five or six of them on the platform. They were all in their fifties or sixties and they all appeared to know each other. They were gathering at the furthest end of the platform and pointing down the tracks. The man with the camera reappeared and hurried down the platform to join the others. I peered down the tracks, but couldn't see anything of note so picked up my book again. I was forced to look up again by a loud shout and a whistle. A man had emerged from the ticket office and was being hailed by the people at the end of the platform:

"Hey Fred! Fred! It's the ninety! it's on the sidings!"

Fred heard this and immediately began running down the platform with his camera at the ready. I shared an amused look with another passenger waiting for the 19:35 service to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I have no idea if my train was notable or not, but it was certainly on time.

It seems an odd way to spend your time, but live and let live, eh? They probably think that some of the things I do are pretty odd too.

And they'd probably be right.

Friday, August 04, 2006

all things go, all things go (I made a lot of mistakes)

Earworms of the Week

10) "Suedehead (live)" - Morrissey

The version off the "Beethoven is Dead" album in particular, since you asked.

9) "Leningrad" - Billy Joel

I've unsurprisingly had a lot of Billy Joel songs in my head recently - what with the concert and with taking his Greatest Hits CD with me on holiday - but he's just great, isn't he? I've been singing this one (out loud) for most of the day today. At my desk.

Inevitably, it wasn't long before easily-infected Gareth was singing along too, and I'm not sure he is even familiar with it.

8) "Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)" - Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel

I knew the second that this popped on on my iPod the other day that this would be with me incessantly for most of the next couple of years. The only cure is probably to listen to the theme from Flashdance, but that's a solution that has flaws.

7) "Fallen Angel" - Elbow

I like Elbow. I bet you would too if you gave them a chance.

6) “Kirby’s House” - Razorlight

My favourite off the new album after one listen (and to be fair, I'd already heard this on "Help: A Day In The Life"). It's a pretty poppy album. I'm not sure I like it yet, but I'm seeing them live in a couple of months, and that will probably tell me for sure.

5) “You Got the Love” – The Source feat. Candi Statton

Sadly, I caught this on the radio this morning.

Fatal. I didn't stand a chance.

4) "Smile" - Lily Allen

I'm not firmly of the opinion that not only is this song annoying, but that Lily Allen is also a tedious, attention seeking little brat. It's not this week's comments about Madonna/James Blunt/lesbian trysts in Ibiza that annoyed me especially, it's just her general "rent-a-gob" persona generally. Her comments about Pete Doherty and heroin addiction were just ill-thought out rubbish said whilst trying to be controversial.

"I do think he has to be exterminated. It is a bit dull, isn't it? I've always been surrounded by smackheads anyway. It's like, 'get over it'."

Do us all a favour and shut up, you silly little girl.

And her dad. I can't stand her dad either.

3) "It's Beginning To Get To Me" - Snow Patrol

Because it's great.

2) "Harrowdown Hill" - Thom Yorke

I'm not sure what to make "The Eraser". On the whole I think it's pretty good, but there's something prickly about it that stops it being an album that I can love. This song is aces though.... all looping bass and righteous anger.

1) "Chicago" - Sufjan Stevens

I'd heard loads about Sufjan Stevens without actually hearing any of his music. Apart from anything else, don't you think that "(Come On Feel The) Illinoise" is one of the greatest album titles of all time?

I downloaded this one cold, largely because it's his most famous song and because it's namechecked in a Snow Patrol song.

It's BRILLIANT. Kind of folk-y (unless my ears are deceiving me, I think there's some banjo in there), but with a wistful and slightly melancholic air and a repeating lyric. I love it.

I will be purchasing the album forthwith.


Right. Off to Harrogate and then the cricket.

See you Sunday.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

got your cards marked and they're coming for you...

As I went for my run along the river Trent this evening, I couldn't help but notice that something is going on: the river between Trent Bridge and the Toll Bridge is swarming with boats of all shapes and sizes and The Victoria Embankment has been closed to traffic as an assortment of rickety looking fairground rides are assembled by gangs of pikeys with sledgehammers.

It must be time for the Riverside Festival again.

"Nottingham's largest outdoor festival, the Riverside Festival attracts 100,000 visitors to Victoria Embankment every year, embracing the city's communities in three days of colourful entertainment.

Throughout the weekend two large stages present local, national and international roots and world music artists. A series of smaller venues provide children's entertainment and there are a host of street performers. The Embankment is also home to a street fair with both old and new attractions, including steam organs, funfair rides, river activities and craft stalls.

On Saturday evening at around 9.15pm there is a procession of illuminated boats on the river, followed by a breathtaking firework display."

Sounds brilliant, I know (who could resist a procession of illuminated boats?), but I'm not sure that even that eulogy can do the majesty of this festival justice. It doesn't mention the big marquee filled with little stalls selling fudge and cookies. It doesn't talk about the fortune tellers or the cider stands. It makes no mention of the magnificent stuffed animals that you can win at the fair - you know, the kind that will burst into flame at the mere *thought* of a naked flame. There's ropey burger bars, places selling candyfloss and bags of "olde worlde" sweets. Hell, there's even a British Army Recruitment stand and display area.

What more could you possibly want?

I have some fond memories of this festival - my absolute favourite being when I was wandering around the funfair one evening with a bunch of mates and we realised that there was a guy dressed in a gorilla suit dancing on the roof of the ghost train. As one man we all gawped, pointed and then shouted out "Clarence Beeks!".

Ah, happy days.

Unfortunately, I'm going up to Harrogate tomorrow night to go and watch the cricket at Headingly on Saturday. This means I'm going to miss the whole damn thing. Procession of illuminated boats and all. By the time I get home on Sunday evening, all that will be left of the festival will be the piles of litter left behind by the carnival folk.


Still. As I watched those guys hammering together those ropey looking rides, I couldn't help but wonder how many people are seriously injured in funfair related accidents.

However many it is, I'm amazed it's not more.


** photo stolen from Psycho Crow - check here for the complete set he took at the festival last year....