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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

a most peculiar man...

I received an email from my dad today. It arrived just as I was dashing out of the office to go and play football, but I saw the sender's name, and as today was the day when my dad finally had his consultation with the specialist, I thought it was worth pausing for a moment to see what he had to say.

The subject header confused me for a moment -- "Fwd: Your Austrian booking confirmation" -- but then I remembered that when we were down there at the weekend, C. had taken the opportunity to book the some flights for our wedding in Vienna for them. Perhaps this wasn't medical news after all....

I opened up the email:
"Very many thanks C.

Had a good meeting with the surgeon. I have a large cancer of the kidney confined to the organ (Stage 2). A total radical nephrectomy is recommended (removal of kidney plus surrounding tissues). He hopes to have me in hospital within 3 weeks. Week in hospital off work around 4 weeks. Regular follow ups to check for recurrence. Cheque payable to you? Prognosis depends on the histology."
Somehow the email is typical of the man: it was a "good meeting" but he has a "large cancer". He needs a "radical nephrectomy"; he will be having surgery within the next three weeks.

This is big news.

Hell, even Raymond Terrific might agree that this is not just big news, it is massive news. ("Don't desert me boffins!"). And then, on the back of this, and without leaving enough of a gap for anyone to draw breath, nevermind for the ramifications of this news to sink in, he is asking who he should make the cheques for the flights to Vienna payable to.


But wait! We're back onto the cancer again.... his prognosis depends upon the tumour's histology.

Ridiculous, amazing, frustrating man.

Anyway, I spoke this evening. It is cancer, and because it is the size of a mandarin orange, it is classed at stage 2. It is operable - which is good - and in the next few weeks they will admit him and remove his kidney and all of the surrounding tissue. They will then examine the cancer to see how malignant it was. If it is the worst case, then the survival rate after 5 years (if they've got it all) is about 75%. If it's the best case, then the survival rate is over 90%. It's definitely cancer then, but apparently as cancers go, this is about the best news he could have got.

Again, I find it almost impossible to react emotionally to this news because of the calmness with which it was delivered by my father, and because I could hear my mum in the background talking to the dog and seemingly without a care in the world..... This is my dad we're talking about here, and yet I find myself being as rational and matter-of-fact about his health as I am about almost everything else.

It's good news though. Really. It is.

Well, it's as good as it could have been, and that will do for now.


In other news, and in a sudden change of subject material, I just wanted to announce that you are now able to subscribe to the Earworms of the Week podcast through iTunes.... (just click on the iTunes logo on the right hand side). That way all of the new podcasts uploaded will be whizzed automatically onto your computer). That struck me as kind of cool.

Out of interest, have any of you been downloading any of these?

I ask partly so that Erika - who has been putting an awful lot of work into this - can get some feedback, but also because she is going to have to delete some of the older ones to make way for the latest batch and wanted me to let you know so you have a chance to download them if you want them.

Get'em whilst you still can, ladies and gentleworms.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

oh no, I see a darkness

"You'll be glad when we've all gone so that the two of you can have the house to yourselves"

My uncle addressed my mum as she was preparing Sunday lunch. It was around about noon, and C. and I were just getting ready to head back up to Nottingham; my elder brother and his pregnant wife had already gone back to Cambridge; my younger brother and his wife were in their little house up the road and my aunt and uncle would be heading back to Herefordshire straight after lunch. The family had gathered to take my dad out for a meal on Saturday to mark his sixtieth birthday. The food had perhaps been a bit iffy, but it had been great fun and the company had been excellent - I hadn't really appreciated when I was fourteen what a nice, interesting man my uncle is.

My mum laughed.

"Actually, John's going out to a rehearsal after lunch, so I'll have the whole house to myself." She stretched out at the thought. "Bliss!"
My uncle smiled.
"Yes, sometimes it's nice to just be alone with your thoughts, isn't it?"
Mum nodded.
"Yes, I do like company, but it is nice to be all on your own from time to time. I wouldn't want to be on my own all the time, mind you." She paused for a heartbeat before continuing - only a heartbeat - but the silence reverberated around the room as the three of us let that thought and its possible implications to sink in. My mum looked up and smiled gently at us. "Of course, you should be careful what you wish for."

The moment passed and the conversation continued.


Monday, January 29, 2007

I click my heels and I'm there...

Ben Folds @ Wolverhampton Civic, 28th January 2007

The worst party I have ever had the misfortune to attend took place in Mapperley Park in Nottingham some time in the summer of 1998. It was at the house of a colleague of mine and as well as having a chance to relax in the sun and enjoy a BBQ, it was going to be an opportunity to finally meet the wonderful boyfriend she had been bragging about for so long. I was driving, but hey! I don’t need to drink to have a good time!

It was an absolute nightmare. The Wonderful Boyfriend was accompanied by a number of his friends, and they all – every single last one of them – thought that they were intellectual giants. At first I found it amusing when they started to have an ever-so-serious conversation about the existence of God and the meaning of Life, but it quickly dawned on me that they were being very serious and were attempting to have some sort round the table philosophical discussion. I don’t think my flippancy went down well – these people took their pretensions seriously – and before long I couldn’t help but notice that these clowns were trying to make out that I was some kind of feeble-minded fool for not taking part in their grand conversations. Yeah, whatever. You guys are the deep thinkers here and I’m the moron. I started to feel very sober and trying to calculate how early I could slip off home without offending my friend, but how much longer I could stay without actually killing anyone.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, an acoustic guitar appeared. Oh God. Wonderful Boyfriend then proceeded to play a selection of songs that everyone (except me) gleefully sang along to. The songs chosen for this impromptu sing-a-long? They were exclusively by the Ben Folds Five and the Barenaked Ladies.

I’d come across both bands when I was a student, but after this rather traumatic experience, I simply could not abide either. It wasn’t so much their music, it was the fans. Those pretentious, stuck up, odious little morons who thought they were so damn clever came to sum up people who liked the music of Ben Folds. They listened with a knowing smirk on their faces as they enjoyed a joke that none of the rest of us quite got. I wanted to take the inverted commas they always spoke in and ram them forcibly up their fundaments.

it took me until 2005 before I was sufficiently over this to actually go out and buy some Ben Folds records. I now own “Whatever and Ever Amen”, “Ben Folds Five” and “Rockin’ the Suburbs”. I quite like them. I still find Ben Folds to be a little smug, but I also know that he has written some good songs.

I was still a touch nervous about seeing him live though. Never mind what the music was going to be like: what about the fans? We popped into a pub near the venue for a spot of tea, and the first person I saw was a slightly geeky looking guy wearing a 2004 Divine Comedy Tour t-shirt. The Divine Comedy? Hmmmm. Clever-clever, knowing, ironic, wears his learning heavily upon his sleeve… yeah, that would figure. I steeled myself for a venue full of these people, and fought to keep the memories of that dreadful party under control.

In the event, it wasn’t that bad. There were one or two smug looking people around, but actually the crowd was maybe a bit younger than I was anticipating, and although I was wearing my Iron Maiden t-shirt, I also caught show of support for AC/DC and the Scorpions. Were they ironic statements, or was it okay to like both rock and mainly piano based smart arsed collegiate boogie-woogie? (that’s my term, by the way, I’m not sure you’ll find it on wikipedia). The support was some insipid idiot in a white suit doing an ironic cover version of “beautiful” by Christina Aguilera. Yup… that figures too. Still we missed most of him, and then settled in to wait for the main act, who sauntered onto the stage to “The Final Countdown”. Yup.

How was the show? Well, it was alright. I was mildly annoyed by the long and clearly rehearsed number about Wolverhamton (amended accordingly, I assume this is used every night), and I got a bit cheesed off at the “comic” use of sound-effects on a little synthesiser, but basically Folds is quite entertaining, and several of his songs – the ones where I don’t think he’s trying to be clever and is singing from his heart – are quite touching. Other songs I can well do without: the most rapturously received song was his cover of Doctor Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit”. I suppose the point of this is to highlight how appalling those lyrics are by stripping them of their original context and presenting them to a lovely piano melody. Yes. Very clever. The thing is though, that the longer this went on, the more I started to feel that Folds was not only satirising the lyrics, but was being quite snobby and superior to the culture that produced them. This impression was solidified when Folds threw in a comic “motherfucker” towards the end of the song. I’m hardly a Dr. Dre fan, yet somehow the whole thing made me feel distinctly uncomfortable and had an unmistakeable air of smugness and cultural superiority about it. It was… well, it was just so white and middle-class. That aside though, the gig wasn't too bad.

My main problem with the show was the two guys standing immediately next to me. They were both fairly young (maybe early twenties), but they did their best to ruin the show for everyone around them by singing (actually, bellowing) loudly and slightly out of tune to every song they knew, and by talking through the rest. At the end of each song, one insisted on doing those really piercing wolf-whistles right into my ear. They were clearly having a brilliant time, which is good, but they were also completely oblivious to everyone else around them. They kept turning to each other and remarking how ace the gig was and how clever Folds was, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Wonderful Boyfriend. I shot them a few death stares, which they missed, but in the end, the solution was simple: I left them to it and went to watch the show from the edge of the room whilst leaning against the wall. I think it’s fair to say that I was able to relax into the music a little bit more when I was out of their range.

So how was the gig? This is a tricky one. I was bored for bits of this gig, and I hated some other parts, but the thing is that I actually think that Ben Folds is pretty entertaining. He can’t help that I find some of his fans insufferable, or that the guys that I was standing next to were particularly annoying, or the fact that I was pretty tired. He did what he does, which is entertain a crowd with a pretty decent live show. He plays his songs well, he is about as dynamic as you can be behind a piano, and he engaged well with the crowd, both in conversation and in some quite cool direction of crowd participation in some songs. He’s also a pretty good song-writer. I just wish he would drop the inverted commas more often.


(and thanks to Sarah for the ticket and to Lord B and Hen for the lift and the company!)


Friday, January 26, 2007

and it's strange that you're here again, here again...


I've a confession to make: I have spent almost all of this week in very close proximity to this week's guest editor. During that time, I have done almost everything in my power to try and influence her selections. I haven't really been doing this because I want to have earworms of my choice in this slot (I can do that any day of the week, right?). I've been doing it because it is tremendous fun to try and plant odd songs into other people's heads. I tried the theme from 'Neighbours', I tried the soundtrack to 'The Sound of Music', I tried 'Star Trekking', I tried 'If You Leave Me Now' by Chicago, I tried the 'Rocky Theme'.

Judging from the list below, I failed utterly. It was a lot of fun failing though, and my head has been buzzing with any number of songs that are mildly embarassing to be caught singing in the office.

"It's life Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it...."
"It's worse than that he's dead Jim, dead Jim, dead Jim....."
"We come in peace, shoot to kill, shoot to kill, shoot to kill....."



Anyway, what could be more appropriate on Australia Day than having an Australian guest editing the earworm slot? Well, apart from the ritual humiliation of the English cricket team, obviously... but that's already happened.

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce for your earworming pleasure... one of the nicest people in the world....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #56 - Suburban Hen

You have failed miserably at trying to affect my earworms this week, Mr ST. Try as you might to have some Rocky action rocking my head (and you did try, you really did), it has not worked. Backfired though, didn't it?

10. 'Don't Stop Me Now' Queen

This was playing in that sports store in London on Sunday, wasn't it? And the guy with the very impressive rock rock hair was singing along? Maybe? That's how I remember it, and it's stuck with me ALL WEEK.

9. 'Feels Like Home' Chantal Kreviazuk

Look, I'm blaming the snow. And iTunes. And spending time with friends. It's got me all fuzzy wuzzy inside.

8. 'Uninvited' Alanis Morrissette

Two days ago I stuck the earbuds in and did some house work to the some of the 'City of Angels' soundtrack. This one stuck. It's not ironic.

7. 'Short Skirt, Long Jacket' Cake

I want a girl with eyes like a tiger.I do. I really do. Applications can be forwarded to suburbanhen@gmail.com.

6. 'I Will Not Go Quietly' The Whitlams

Great piano, great personal theme song. 'I will not go quietly, I will not behave myself'. Hehehehe. No, I wont. Except for the 'I was my own man' bit. I'm a girl, me. But you can pick up on just a bit of sarcasm in this one. Tongue in cheek, if you will. Maybe. Or not.

5. 'Mad World' Gary Jules cover of Tears For Fears

I think some of these are subliminal. I'm sure of it. Is my world mad? Oh, I dunno. Maybe just a tiny bit. This can be seen as a bit of a negative song (just a bit) but don't go reading anything into that. It's just a haunting tune, and I like that.

4. 'The Special Two' Missy Higgins

This one and the next are simply catchy Missy tunes that are on my Nano and therefor in my head a lot. No reason other than I really like Missy. You could take a look at the lyrics and try to read something into that, but you'd be wrong ;) (but I do drink whisky).

3. 'The Sound of White' Missy Higgins

See above

2.'The Blowers Daughter' Damien Rice

I wake up with it in my head. I don't know why. Can we not analyse this one? Ta.

1. 'Blow up the Pokies' The Whitlams

What are pokies? Fruit machines, only better. Gambling is legal in Australia and most pubs now have an extensive gaming area that resemble mini casinos. You can win thousands of dollars...if you're lucky. And of course, pokies are addictive. Tim sings about reclaiming your life from them. I've never been addicted to the pokies, but I know people who are.


Thanks Hen. I may have failed in my attempt to influence your choices, but ah! such a sweet failure! It's a good list. Now, if you'll excuse me, there are klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow.......

Next Week: Me
Forthcoming attractions: Pynchon, I, Brummie

The Earworms of the Week Podcast is here (thanks to E)

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah, Flash II, Erika]


sorry seems to be the hardest word

I woke up this morning to the sound of an alarm. As I slowly drifted up towards consciousness, I realised that the insistent alarm noise was not coming from anywhere in the bedroom, but seemed to be emanating from hallway. It was definitely nothing to do with me, so I gave C (who hadn’t moved) a nudge.
She stirred, sat up and then wandered out of the bedroom. She thumped down the stairs, switched off the alarm and thumped back up the stairs to bed.
“What time is it?” I asked.

Six? I have to admit that this news made me a bit grumpy. It wasn’t so much that I had been woken up more than an hour earlier than usual, and it wasn’t really that C. had inadvertently left her alarm on. I was cheesed off because my first instinct under the same circumstances would have been to apologise. I don’t think she was being rude, it just genuinely hadn’t occurred to her to apologise.

I mentioned the alarm again as we were both getting ready for work a couple of hours later. It had been in her handbag, apparently, which was at the bottom of the stairs. Still no hint of an apology though.

Now, I know better than anyone that C. goes well out her way every day to make my life easier and more comfortable. Nothing is too much trouble for her. Even now she is sat opposite me on the breakfast bar pairing my socks. I have got nothing to complain so now I feel slightly guilty about feeling mildly annoyed.

But I do feel mildly annoyed. I really do.


Blogger just forced me to switch. At first glance everything looks okay, but I do apologise if the change causes you any issues. That's progress, eh? I guess I've been assimilated, and my distinctness has been added to the whole.


and the pain was enough to make a shy, bald buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder....

Wow. I seem to have talked about a whole lot of different things this week. Are you ready for another sudden shift in direction?

Okay. Let’s go!

I used to pick my nails. I wasn’t ever really a biter, but I used to tear at them until I was right down to the quick. The problem is that I simply have no tolerance for long nails. Well, I say that, but I don’t mind them in other people. I just hate them on me. As soon as my fingernails reach a certain length, they really start to annoy me and I simply have to deal with them. In the old days, this meant either savaging them with a pair of blunt scissors or picking at them manually, and as a consequence, my fingers were always sore; I had those nasty little snags in the the corners where the nail joins the skin that always seem to hurt disproportionally to the size of the wound.

The solution in the end was quite simple: I bought a nail file. Whenever my nails started to bother me, I filed them down.

Simple, huh?

Just occasionally though, I lapse: I find myself somewhere that I don’t have access to a nail file, and I just can't seem to stop picking any irritating long nails down. Today was one of those days: one of my thumbnails caught my eye. Far too long. I picked it and worried it until I had shortened it. It looked deceptively neat though, so I was actually feeling quite pleased with myself….

…and then I peeled an orange.

As the citric acid leached under the nail and onto some of the exposed delicate bits underneath, I nearly screamed. I swore right then that I really would get round to keeping a nail file at my desk.

Oh good grief. Would you listen to me? Why stop at a nail file at my desk? Perhaps I should just cave in to the inevitable and buy myself a little bag that I can carry with me at all times? I could keep loads of useful things in there that I might need at any moment. A hairbrush is out, obviously, but how about a nail file and some moisturiser… perhaps I could also pop my wallet, my keys and my phone in there? That would improve the hang of my trousers no end….


I still haven’t worked out a satisfactory approach for toenails either.

Answers on a postcard.

Actually, don’t bother. I’ll manage.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

you're as cold as ice....

It's proper brass monkeys around here at the moment.

All the snow is now gone, but the cold spell has lingered. Now, I don't know about you, but this is just the kind of weather where I stand under my nice hot shower in the morning and I just can't face getting out. My towel will be perched on the bathroom sink, within easy reach, and my fleecy dressing-gown will be hanging over the edge of the door, but somehow I still can't face those few freezing cold, goosebumped seconds between switching off the shower and getting dry enough to dress. It's such a ghastly thought.

I like a good long shower at the best of times, but in this weather I will happily stand there for a few extra minutes trying to muster the courage to make that dash for the towel.

Actually, given that the alternative is getting dressed, scraping the ice off my car and going to work, maybe tomorrow I'll just stay in the shower.

I'll stay there all day if I have to.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

why do all good things come to an end?

photo by hen

For various reasons (all far too obvious to detail again here) I’m feeling a bit mortal at the moment. The circle of life is all very well, but I could do with something to take my mind off it for a bit. What was it that Woody Allen said? “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it through not dying”.

How about we play a little question and answer? I’ll set 5 questions, and anyone who feels like playing has a go in the comments. It’s totally frivolous, of course, but I’m making no apologies for that.

OK? Let’s do it:

1. What would your super power be? (yeah, it's an excuse to post that picture. What of it?)

2. What animal best represents your soul? (if you are a fan of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, I suppose this is a bit like asking you what form your daemon would take).

3. Share a happy memory or a magic moment from the last few days

4. What’s for tea?



I’ll go first:

1. Super power. Well, as a smart-arse, my first inclination would be to say something like “USSR”, but I’m going to resist. I suppose we’re talking here about super strength, the ability to read minds or control things made of metal… stuff like that. How about smelling really nice? All the time. That’s nearly as useful as flying and far more practical in a confined space. It’s either that or the mastery of public transport: the ability to always find the bus you need waiting at the bus stop, the train you need to catch waiting at the platform, and to find a cab for hire just when you need it. Now that would be useful.

2. Animal. C. thinks I’m a bear. I don’t know why, exactly, but I’m going to go with that. (A bear is probably too big for a daemon though, so I reckon a meercat)

3. Walking back from the pub with a simply lovely 31 year old from the tropics who has never seen snow before and can’t stop touching it, scuffing it around and giggling at the sheer joy and beauty of it all. Brilliant. That and then looking out of my bedroom window about an hour later and seeing everything all quiet, peaceful and muffled in the snow.

4. Tea? Probably a bowl of Toulouse sausage and lentil soup, but there’s just an outside chance that I might whip up some pasta. You know: hooped onions, garlic, pine nuts, mushrooms, pancetta and a Dijon mustard sauce? It’s a doddle to make and delicious and warming.

5. Earworm? I’ve been spending all week trying to influence someone else’s earworm selection, and all I’ve succeeded in doing is earworming myself: Chicago, Queen, the theme from Flashdance, Star Trekking… they’ve all been in there. The one that is most stuck though is probably “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti… better known as the theme from Rocky. Just like the Grandstand theme, it’s got a very surprising guitar solo about halfway through.

Well, that’s me.

Over to you lot. Only if you wanna, obviously.... but if it's all the same to you, I'd like to momento my mori another day, thanks very much.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

...and the cardinal hit the window

My father has been a doctor for more than 35 years. Ever since I can remember, he has always been on hand to offer advice and practical help with any medical worries I might have. I don’t ask him for advice very often, mind you, because his demeanour when I do is frequently prickly and often downright grumpy. I can understand that, I suppose: I don’t especially like talking shop when I get home from work, so why should he? When it has really mattered though, he has been there for me. He was there when I was six years old and I broke my arm. When I was twenty-one, he quickly realised that I might have glandular fever and made sure that I had all the right blood tests. When I hurt my back, he made sure that I had access to an orthopaedic surgeon for a consultation. He’s also been a constant, reassuring presence in the background helping me to understand what my neurologists have been saying to me about the WTs.

As Uncle Ben used to say to Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility”, and I suppose this is true to some extent of doctors. In addition to his day job, over the years my dad has also offered his services to various organisations for free: he gives up his time at weekends to cover concerts and major events for the St. John’s Ambulance service, and he used to volunteer to be the on-call doctor with the police for road traffic accidents and the like. He never travels anywhere without his medical kit in his car, including a portable set of defibrillators. His reasoning is that he never knows when he (or more to the point, when someone else) might need them. When he worked in General Practice, he was also the first to volunteer to be on-call over Christmas. He never let the fact that he had a young family of his own stop him thinking about other people, and I just got used to the idea that I wouldn’t get to open my Christmas presents until my dad had been round and seen anyone who needed help.

He’s always been a bit of a hypochondriac himself, mind you. One of the drawbacks of knowing so much is that you are well aware of what every little last twinge might be a symptom of. And he’s a terrible patient.

My dad rang me yesterday. I was driving home from the supermarket at the time, so I told him I would call him back in five minutes. By the time I got home, I was in a bit of a rush to get ready to go out to the cinema, so I put some soup on and started to hang out the washing whilst juggling with my mobile phone. My mum answered, and because my dad was busy doing something with his car out in the garage, we had a couple of minutes of chitchat. I stirred the soup and we talked about when I would be coming down at the weekend and what I was up to, and all that kind of stuff. Nothing in particular. After a couple of minutes, my dad came in and picked up the phone. We exchanged pleasantries, and then in an utterly neutral voice he told me that he had received the results of his recent CT scan and apparently he has a tumour in one of his kidneys. Because he had told me this news in a voice so flat that he might have been reading out a shopping list, it took a couple of seconds for the implications of what he had actually said to sink in. What? A tumour? Well, he’d only had the scan in the first place because of a slightly odd result he had received for a liver-function test he took in December. Did that mean they had caught this early? That they had found it by accident? Well, apparently the tumour is the size of a Satsuma. I thought about this. Satsumas are pretty large, and kidneys are relatively small. That sounded big. My dad continued: he hasn’t spoken to the surgeon yet, but although there is a chance that it might be benign, tumours in the kidney are usually malignant and he will probably have to have surgery. The good news is that there’s a good chance that it hasn’t metastasised, because tumours in the kidney take longer to do that than they do elsewhere in the body. The bad news is that when they do metastasise, these tumours tend to spread to the lungs and to the brain. His voice remained utterly neutral, and this neutrality and calmness governed my own reaction to this news. I was being told this news in such a matter of fact way that I had little choice but to accept it in the same way. My dad is a doctor, he knows better than most people what he is dealing with here and he knows that an emotional response is not going to help anyone. He’s likely to need surgery, and I suppose there must be a good chance that he will have a kidney removed. At least it’s in something you have two of, right?

My dad finished up by telling me that although my younger brother had heard the news, my elder brother was still in Korea and hadn’t heard. I’m hardly likely to be speaking to him in the next couple of days, but the subtext was clearly that I should leave it to my dad to break the news to him. How could I disagree with that? My dad is clearly the person that this news affects the most, but his understanding of what he is facing and a lifetime spent breaking this kind of news to other people has enabled him to remove the emotion and to talk about this in a calm and rational way. The dispassionate way that the news had been broken to me has utterly governed my own reaction. The little voice in the back of my head that is shouting “CANCER! CANCER! CANCER!” has remained just that… a little voice.

It is my dad’s sixtieth birthday next week. I hope there are many more.

Monday, January 22, 2007

gonna fly now...

I have some serious news, but I need to think about that a bit more before I write about it. I'll get onto that tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm going to talk about Rocky Balboa, the sixth and (presumably) the final Rocky film that Sylvester Stallone will make. It tells the story of a 50-something year old Rocky coming out of retirement to take up the challenge laid down by Mason "The Line" Dixon, the undefeated world heavyweight champion of the world. Apparently his nose had been put out of joint by some computer simulation on ESPN that predicted that Rocky in his prime would have beaten Dixon on a knockout. Frankly, the detail of the plot isn't really all that important....

I have long been a fan of the first Rocky film -- in the light of the increasingly ridiculous sequels, people tend to forget what a great film this is. Yes, it has a long fight scene at the end, but the story it tells is about so much more than just the fighting. Hell, the hero doesn't even win. How often does that happen in film? The new film is a return to this kind of simplicity, and it's all the better for it. The climactic fight scene itself is not too long, and it is fantastically exciting. I'm not a boxing fan by any means, but I absolutely loved it. I felt every punch with Rocky, and I felt that surge of excitement when the Rocky theme began to play.

It's clearly not art, and the scenes between Rocky and his son in particular jarred a bit, but overall it is a fantastic feelgood film. It's more than two hours long and it doesn't outstay its welcome one bit - in fact, if anything in places it almost felt a bit rushed. The original Rocky film has just been re-released on DVD with over 9 hours of extras. I imagine that when this comes out on DVD, it will surely have something similar. Yeah, so maybe all of the characters aren't fully drawn. The thing is though, that it doesn't matter a bit. I thought it was ace.

I've come straight home and downloaded the theme tune ('Gonna Fly Now' by Bill Conti) and I fully intend to play it over and over again when I go running tomorrow.... The end credits show various people of all shapes and sizes running up 'Rocky Steps' in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It might be cheesy, but if I ever find myself in Philadephia, that's exactly what I'm going to do too. As Aunty Wikipedia says, "The steps represent the ability of an underdog, or an everyman, to rise to the occasion". Who doesn't want some of that?

If this is the most depressing day of the year, then this is an excellent way to stave off the blues.

No "Eye of the Tiger" though. I suppose you can't have everything.

you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave

According to the sign over the door, we stayed in a four star hotel on Saturday night. It was the Kensington Palace Thistle on De Vere Gardens, and although I’m not a black belt in the intricacies of the hotel rating system, as the cab pulled up at lunchtime on Saturday, it looked like we were onto a winner. The hotel is this great big, shiny white building that dominates the street and looks out onto a park. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, we had got a fantastic room rate, and it looked so swanky that it was hard not to feel a touch smug.

That feeling lasted just about as long as it took to get to the reception desk. The receptionist quickly informed us – without checking the reservations – that our rooms weren’t ready. She then sized us up and asked us if we were sure we were at the right hotel. Yes thanks, you snooty cow. We left the bags with the concierge and headed out. As I was busy playing ancient computer games at the Science Museum, C. popped back later on to check in before she went off to meet her brother. The same receptionist was on duty, and she took the same trouble to be as haughty and as rude as possible. We had a twin room, instead of the double we had booked, but they were, alas, unable to move us. When I got back to the hotel later on, I was also interested to see that the room was dark, grubby and had sloping floors and peeling wallpaper. It was fine for one night, but was it really a four star hotel?

What is it that makes a hotel four stars anyway? I suppose I have always hoped that it was about more than having a trouser press and some tea and coffee making facilities in your room, but perhaps it isn’t.

I discovered at several points through the night that the head of my bed was pressed up against a wafer-thin partition wall that backed onto next door’s toilet, and that apparently the occupant had a fairly weak bladder and no sense of water conservation. I’d just drifted back to sleep when I was suddenly jolted awake at around 7am by cacophony of noise caused by the recycling people picking up what sounded like about 18 tonnes of bottles from just outside our window and tipping them into their truck from a height of about 100 feet.

Perhaps it’s not the hotel’s fault. Perhaps it’s just London. Is it like this everywhere? How do you people stand all the crowding and jostling on the tube on a Saturday night? All that pushing and shoving on the streets? That desperate jockeying to hail a taxi? All that rudeness?

God, I’m so provincial.


I've just checked the hotel's website - apparently it's a "welcoming hotel".


It was many things, but "welcoming" it was not. Well, not behind the reception desk anyway. I should say that the guys working behind the concierge's desk (who were all, as they often seem to be, Eastern European in origin) were friendly, chatty and generally helpful. It was just the receptionist who was a mardy cow, and the manager who did a disappearing act.

Oh, and the room was crap. Did I mention that? Do you think Google has got the hint by now? The Kensington Palace Thistle on De Vere Gardens is rubbish. That should do it.

Oooh, blogging is so powerful. Take that, mighty Thistle hotel chain! Quake in fear before my righteous anger!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

life is a game we play...


I'm just back in from a lovely weekend in London. I'd post up some pictures of the gathering of the blogging tribes at the Game On Exhibition at the Science Museum... but sadly my camera appears to have malfunctioned (and I had some brilliant pictures of Princes Street Mews, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and of the Zetland Arms to show to Des and the rest of the posse of being 17).

Luckily though, lots of other people took lots of photos, and you can see some of them here.

It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, so a big shout out to the blogging massif - Mr. Mark Reed (together with Ellen and Mr. X), Lordy B, Hen, Pynchon (and Lorraine), Graham and Stef. It was fun and we should do something like it again soon.

After everyone else had drifted inexorably back towards their computers, C, Hen, Bargs and I headed out for moules, frites and lots of Belgian Beer at Belgos. Then today, after kissing C. goodbye as she made her way to Heathrow, Finland and the start of her working week, I spent a happy few hours pottering about the West End, eating Square Pies and browsing the Apple Store with two of the loveliest people in the world.

What a great weekend.


2 other things to report:

1) The Brit Award nominations for this year were announced last week. Brilliant music blog, The Auditorium, is playing a little predictions game. Make your way over there now and put up your guesses for the eventual winners....

2) For some reason, I find myself slightly intimidated by many of the more popular or famous blogs... in the main they are famous because they are funny, well-written and all of that... but I still labour under some kind ill-thought through inferiority complex about them. Take those "post of the week" type things you sometimes see around the place: they are all about the same people nominating the same old blogs, aren't they?

But are they?

I've just volunteered to form a part of the judging panel for the re-launched Post of the Week blog. It's pretty simple really --- anyone can nominate any post, and a rotating panel of judges will read them all and vote. I won't be judging every week, but I will be doing my utmost to find some stuff worth nominating, and I urge you to do the same.... You lot write pretty well, so I'm hopeful at finding some good raw material for nomination every week. I hope you'll do the same.


Aw crap... I look up from this to see that I'm watching bloody Big Brother again! Gah!

Friday, January 19, 2007

this-ism, that-ism, ism ism ism...

Evening gang. I've an extra special set of earworms for you this week, including as they do a link to a SwissToni's Earworms podcast compiled by this week's Guest Editor....

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my very great pleasure to introduce you to my favourite ever itinerant Canadian....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #55 - Erika from Burnt Orange Revolution (catch it whilst you still can)

If I was going to do this strictly on the basis of those songs that have been whipping through my head, I would in all honesty have to replace a couple of the following with some of the trite offerings of the ever-increasingly-horrible Gwen Stefani or the shameful pleasure of the Pussycat Dolls. However, in the name of not having to dirty my name by confessing the true depths of my musical taste, and in order to share with you all some music you might not otherwise know, here is my special (if I can get the blasted thing to upload) Audio Complication of Mostly Mexican but At Least Reminiscent of Mexico Earworms…

Beck – Que Ondo Gűero

It’s in English and it’s written and performed by an American, but this, my friends, is what it sounds like living in Mexico .

My good friend P wrote up an excellent translation and cultural analysis of this song (in English) on his blog, if you’re interested:

Cielito Lindo – Trio Los Panchos

After living in and leaving in Scotland , any rendition of “Flower of Scotland” will make me mistily nostalgic due to associated memories and its omnipresence at that time. In England (I’m so sorry, English readers), it’s Robbie Williams’ “Angels” for the very same reasons.

This will be my Mexico song.

Perhaps the most famous traditional Mexican folksong, it not only captures the musical aesthetic that you hear blasting out of cars here (which makes an only temporarily refreshing break from the oom-ch oom-ch oom-ch common to Toronto) but the lyrics summarize the Mexican mentality towards life in a profoundly simple way:

“Ay ay ay ay, canta y no llores
Porque cantando se alegran, cieltio lindo, los corazones

Ay ay ay ay, sing and don’t cry
Because singing makes the heart glad, little heaven”

Sera Sera (Hips Don’t Lie in Spanish) – Shakira

Shakira is the top-selling Latina musical artist in the world, whether you love her or hate her, and has the business-sense to release her earwormy hits in both English and Spanish in order to capture both markets.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Shakira. Her choked-throat singing makes me cringe a lot of the time and she hawks everything from cameras to cellphones here so she is massively overexposed. I do admire her ability to wiggle her hips and have attempted unsuccessfully to replicate the movement on many separate occasions (always in the privacy of my own room), but her ribcage circles look more like epileptic seizures than seductive dancing. Everyone here assures me that she was better, more musical, more innovative, before she went blonde for the American market, but I’ve not had the courage to find out.

Yet this song does have an addictive quality. I roll my eyes when I hear the opening trumpet blast, but you know I’ll be singing it for the next four days…

Irreplaceable – Beyonce

Recognizing (or having it explained to her, as the case may be) the Shakira-led market plot of translating a hit in one language to another, Beyonce quickly released the Spanish language version of her hit English song. So successful was this remake, that she is apparently now releasing the album, “B-Day” with five new Spanish versions on it. Can anyone say ‘Show me the monnnnneeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyy!’ At least Christina Aguilera could cling to Latina roots when she re-released her first album as “Mi Relejo”

Humourously, Beyonce never bothered to make a video for the Spanish version, instead employing the much-beloved Kung Fu movie technique of bad dubbing. It’s a treat.

Me Voy – Julieta Venegas

The ever-delightful www.askmen.com describes Mexican pop-princess Julieta as follows:

" The accordion has never been as sexy as when Julieta coddles it on her lap and belts out scalding-hot Mexican rock. This multitalented singer with musical influences as diverse as burrito fillings is so hot that other stars of world music line up to collaborate with her."

I’m undecided right now as to whether I actually like her music or not – I’m leaning towards no – but this song has been literally following me around for months now. “Me voy” means quite simply “I’m going.”

Paloma Negra Chavela Vargas

I’m not sure which I love more about the divine Ms. Vargas: her rattly howling voice or her admission in 2000, at the age of 81, that she is a lesbian who may or may not have had an affair with Frida Kahlo.

Chavela Vargas is technically Costa Rican, but has been was warmly adopted as an honourary Mexican after moving here at age 14 and taking up singing “rancheras” – songs traditionally sung by men about their love for women.

This song is traditional, and includes the lyrics:

“Hay momentos en que quisiera mejor rajarme
y arrancarme ya los clavos de mi penar,
pero mis ojos se mueren si mirar tus ojos
y mi cariño con la aurora te vuelve a esperar.

There are moments when I would prefer to leave
and pull out the nails of my torment,
but my eyes die without the sight of your eyes
and my glowing love continues to await you.”

An album of songs by Chavela Vargas will leave you sobbing in foetal position on the floor, clutching a bottle of tequila and deeply regretful for every heart you’ve ever broken.

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps – Lila Downs

I included this song on my ST compilation CD last year so at least one person will be familiar with it. It’s probably most well-known as sung by Doris Day in English in 1964 (and used on the “Strictly Ballroom” soundtrack), but it was written in Spanish back in 1947 by Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farres. It has been sung by everyone from Nat King Cole to Geri Halliwell, as well as in Turkish (“Senden, benden, bizden”) and Jamaican ska (“rude, rude, rude”). This version, featured in the movie “Tortilla Soup” is in both English and Spanish.

The rhythm of this song is typically Cuban, not Mexican, but it makes me need to salsa in the worst way. If only I knew how to salsa.

Lila Downs is the pride of Mexico, and happens to live very close to me although I have yet to be invited over to her house for coffee.

Tu Recuerdo – Ricky Martin featuring LaMari

I, like many people, thought the arrival of “La Vida Loca” into the world in 1999 marked the beginning of the musical apocalypse. Sure, Ricky was pretty to look at and, yes, he could shake his bonbon with remarkable appeal, but the music was trite, banal, forcibly-heterosexual, and, if forced to give it some credit, at most prime earworm material.

However, Ricky, like most of the Latino one- or two- hit wonders we know, had a very successful career both before and after he woke up in New York City , back in the old country, and this music is significantly better. After Menudo, I mean. “La Vida Loca” came from his fifth album as a solo artist and he has recorded five more since.

This song is what you would expect from the bemuscled pretty boy, but it’s pretty.

Vía Láctea - Zoé

The album that this song comes from – “Memo Rex Commander y el Corazón Atómico de la Vía Láctea” – debuted at #1 on Mexico’s music charts, and P has had it on constant rotation on the cd player ever since its release. They’re Mexican and indie and completely brilliant, although I have yet to develop sufficient Spanish to understand the vast majority of their lyrics.

I’m actually including this in large part for the benefit of ST, as I always think of him/you when I hear it. Seems like a Spanish-version of your kind of music.

And because it’s nice to witness the wild success of a band who decided to cut their strings with a major studio (Sony, in this case) and go indie.

Li Migra – La Brujeria

You want an eye-opener as to the relatively tepid nature of English-language music, go look up this band on Wikipedia. They are allegedly a group of narcotraffickers wanted by the FBI who perform Satanic rituals onstage and who have been tied (by whom?) to the disappearance of 400+ women in Ciudad Juarez over the last decade. Their songs, like this one, provide instructions on how best to smuggle drugs across the border and highly recommend the assassination of white people. The undoctored photograph of a decapitated head on the cover of their album “Matando Gueros”(Killing Whites) is rumoured to be one of their personal victims. It’s deliciously theatrical stuff.

This one is about paying a “coyote” to take you across the border to the United States (pay attention and you could learn some wonderfully bad language):

“Te cobran to sueldo y largan to abuela
La pinche migra te esta esperando
Te devuelven despues de una paliza
La migra haya to abuela en el desierto
La mandaron a Tijuana pegada con palos
El brujo tiene contrabando bien bueno
Numeros de seguro y cartas verdes
La migra la migra
Te pegan bien duro
La migra la migra
Te pica el culo
La misma migra te pasan por lana

Earn your pay and bring your grandmother
The fucking border patrol is waiting for you
They leave you after a beating
The border patrol had your grandmother in the desert
They ordered her to Tijuana beaten with sticks
El Brujo has very good contraband
Social security numbers and green cards
Border patrol Border patrol
They hit you hard
Border patrol Border patrol
They kick your ass”

Give Peace a Chance – John Lennon

How is this Mexican?, you might ask. How indeed.

The average Mexican, contrary to the negative stereotype, works his or her tail off. One of the ways in which the woefully underemployed strive to put food on the table is wandering down the Metro cars selling everything from chewing gum to sewing kits.

The CD sellers are the most interesting, sporting backpacks with speakers in them, hollering their spiel over a blared sample of their pirated offerings. And every morning, without fail, the same fellow is there on the line I take most often, John Lennon’s floor-thumping anti-war song infecting my head for the remainder of the day.

Hence John Lennon = a consumately Mexican earworm.

And there we go. Hope you enjoy at least a couple of them, thanks so much ST for giving me the chance to submit again, and “mi casa es tu casa” if any of you ever want to swing by this incredible country!




Thanks E. One of the best and most eclectic selections yet. I can almost *see* my musical horizons expanding! May I be amongst the first to wish a feliz navidad to you and to yours.

In case this wasn't enough, all of these earworms are now available to download here. Thanks to Erika's hard work and enthusiasm, you can also download a good chunk of the last 8 guest editors' posts (RussL, the eye in the sky, Del, Martin, Jenni, Ben, Sarah and Flash).

Ah, she's a treasure. Give peace a chance.

Next Week: Suburban Hen
Forthcoming attractions: I think it's about time I did one, no?

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah, Flash II]


Thursday, January 18, 2007

show me your colours, baby....

I kicked the Big Brother habit a few years ago, and I haven't really been watching this one. I did happen to be catch some of it last weekend though, before the darts started. I saw what I thought was some pathetic bullying by three girls who were clearly not the shiniest pebbles on the beach. They were all sat on a bed bitching about another member of the house. At first it was laughable because they were moaning about how this person, the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, was doing all of their cooking for them.

How dare she!

Things rapidly took a turn for the worse though, and one of the girls decided it would be funny to impersonate Shilpa's accent.

Apparently it's got a whole lot worse since, and has kicked off a bit of a shitstorm (as well as, I couldn't help but notice, adding nearly 2 million people to Channel 4's viewing figures). There have been something like 30,000 complaints, major sponsors have pulled out, and there have been protests in India.

Are they racist? Are they 'just' bullies?

It all looks pretty bad to me. Even if they aren't being intentionally racist, they are picking on Shilpa's colour, her accent and her background as ways of singling her out and isolating her. Even if they aren't doing this in a conscious way (and they would all no doubt be horrified if they were called racists - or racialists, as Jade puts it), what does this say about British society? How much of a 'multicultural' society do we really live in? Is Jade Goody really the face of a modern Britain? Is she everything that's good about the cult of celebrity, or everything that's bad about it?

It's not just that either: Channel 4 are broadcasting all of this for our entertainment, and we're lapping it up. Lest we forget, all of those cameras are rolling 24 hours a day, and the footage that we see is a carefully edited package of highlights. This does not excuse the comments, but it does strip them of their context. I watched some of the highlights tonight, and they clearly know that they are onto a good thing here, ratings-wise, and they are milking it. They have started feeding leading questions to the main protagonists, prompting them to fuel the fire even further. They're not looking to defuse this, they're looking for the controversy.

Mind you, I had to laugh when Jo O'Meara, the former singer with S-Club 7 and one of Jade's coven, was summoned to the diary room when she had been crying. As she left the bedroom and headed across the house, she was muttering to herself about how they were going to be putting her onto TV when she was looking dreadful and not wearing any makeup. Well, I've got news for you Jo:

1) There are cameras running everywhere. They are running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We're seeing you now, you dozy cow, not just when you are in the sodding diary room

2) Us seeing you without your makeup is going to be the least of your worries when you finally come out.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this whole affair is that I never thought I would see the day when H from Steps emerged as a voice of reason.

But I can take it or leave it, obviously.....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

take a walk on the wild side...

Are you familiar with Ray Mears?

He may not look like it, but this slightly chubby fellow is one of the world’s foremost experts on bushcraft – the art of surviving and thriving out in the wild through the application of skill and knowledge rather than the use of equipment.

I’ve just spent a happy hour watching Ray and his friend Nigel (I think he was called Nigel) walking around wetlands picking up leaves, eating flowers, turning stinging nettles into string, baking duck’s eggs, trying to spear fish…. You know, the usual kind of stuff. I think he was trying to recreate the lifestyle of the hunter-gatherers who wandered around the land in the middle stone-ages, in a time before iron pots, knives and Tesco Metros. Something like that anyway.

Apart from the fish – which took him six hours to successfully spear -- it all looked distinctly unappetising. As they tucked into some water lily seeds, exhaustively crushed into a grey paste, wrapped in nettle leaves and baked in the fire, I couldn’t help but think how worthy it all was (especially when the seeds turned out to be disgustingly bitter).... And yet it was somehow still fascinating.

Mind you, if Ray Mears has been living off his wits in the wilderness, he certainly looks well on it. C. has long said that if she had the choice of anyone (else) in the world to be stranded in the wilderness with, she would certainly pick him as she would definitely never go hungry. She might be eating bitter grey sloop, but she wouldn't be hungry...

As I watched Ray getting excited over some 1000 year old soil that had been dug up in a marshy woodland (he actually tasted it. It was very smooth, apparently), my mind started to wander a bit…. I wondered whether there were conferences for experts in Bushcraft.

I bet there bloody are. I bet they have one at the NEC.

I imagine that they don’t need much catering provided for them, although I should think they need watching like hawks to make sure that they don’t try to start any cooking fires on the exhibition floor.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

so eat it, just eat it...

“What on earth is that?”

At first I didn’t realise that he was talking to me, and I carried on eating my lunch and browsing something or other on my PC. He waited for a moment, and then asked me again.

“What the hell is that you are eating?”

I paused, fork halfway up towards my mouth from the Tupperware pot and turned to face him. Ian was sitting at the desk behind me, and until he had been distracted by my lunch, had been having a conversation with Sarah about his workload for the next few months.
I wasn’t really in the mood for talking about it. I don’t often take lunch into work, but this week, in an attempt to get away from eating processed sandwiches and crisps every day, my lovely fiancée has been preparing delicious and wholesome meals for me. On this particular day, I had a big portion of roasted vegetables, couscous and some salad. It was delicious.

“It’s my lunch”
“It looks like mush”
“It’s very nice”
“It still looks like mush”

Ian had a big smile on his face and clearly thought that he was being amusing, but I wasn’t laughing. Ian is a big man in every obvious sense of the word: he is over six foot tall, but he is also massively overweight and must be pushing 30 stone. I do not have a problem with Ian being massively overweight, but quite why he thought I would be interested in his sneering comments about my lunch was beyond me. I cast him a look and turned back to my screen and began once more to eat my lunch.

I'm gonna be the man....

When I started my brilliant career, I thought I wanted to be managing director. I also thought it was only going to be a matter of time. Five years. Ten at the outside.

Turns out I was wrong – on every count.

Monday, January 15, 2007

but I remember everything....

One afternoon, when I was a kid - no younger than eight, but no older than twelve - I spent a very happy afternoon cutting myself with a pocket knife. It wasn't a very big knife. In fact, it was tiny and was attached to a keyring. It was, however, extremely sharp. I sat down one Saturday afternoon in front of a movie on General George Armstrong Custer. Whilst watching the film (which was good), I slowly and carefully cut nicks across the top of my foot and on my wrist. They weren't deep nicks, just deep enough to bleed a little and then dry up. It didn't hurt. Nobody saw me.

Most of those wounds quickly healed, but I still carry some scars from that afternoon - a couple of almost invisible white marks on my left wrist, just above my watch.

I don't know why I did it, and I didn't do it again.

Every scar tells a story: there's the snick on my lip caused by my careless teenage hand wielding a blunt razor; the white line on the top of my head from where my three year old younger brother threw a plastic bus at me when I was watching TV; the lump on my forehead from when my elder brother smacked my head against a garage door; the jagged line along my right thumb where I tried to catch a mug just at the instant it smashed on the side of the hot-water machine and its smaller, more hooked reflection on the palm of my left hand; the small purple mark on my right shin, the remains of a pressure sore from some ill-fitting ski boots; the faint mark over my ribs caused by the studs from someone's rugby boots as I drove them into the ground on a pitch just off the M69 near Coventry when I was 17... I'm 32 years old, and I've got the scars to prove it. If you were selling me on Ebay, you'd probably have to say that I was slightly worn.

I've got some other scars too, scars of unknown provenance. Perhaps they're the most interesting of all.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

oh it’s my only joy....

Note to self: the festive period is now over and it's about time I endured a few days off the sauce.

Last week, I managed to go out something like 5 days out of 7. I went to two pub quizzes, a meal out with some old friends, a meal with some colleagues and a night out on the lash in Hinckley to wish Statue John bon voyage for his trip to Australia (he leaves next week). We also had Hen and Bargs round for dinner on Friday night too, and managed to get through a couple of bottles of wine over a hotly contested game of Trivial Pursuit. I would say that I was only in any way drunk at one of those events, but I drank at all of them nonetheless. If memory serves me correctly, I had a glass of wine on the other day too.

I exercised on 6 of the last 7 days, but somehow I still feel bloated, so it's time for a few days off, I think. Between now and Saturday, I'm going to give my liver a rest and see if it makes me feel any better.

Can't do any harm, eh?

Friday, January 12, 2007

we don't need anything or anyone...

Should I be insulted that Blogger has been trying to get me to convert to a Google account for ages, and when I finally hit on the button to make the switch, it rejects me? Bloody charming.


Anyway. Deep breath. Evening all. The long haul through the first full week of the New Year is finally over. The weekend is here, people... it has landed. I don't know about you, but I think I'm mostly going to be sleeping.

To the business in hand then. I am delighted to welcome back into this humble Friday slot, the first ever Guest Editor.... Way back on 29th April 2005, this man gave us a rundown of his internal jukebox, a list topped by British Sea Power, of all people. Well, he's back, and he's still got Muse going round his head.

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your Earworming pleasure.......

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #54 - Flash from FLASHPOINT


Ah, it's nice to be back. I find this a very difficult time of year musically, there's very little that's new & fresh. Not that bonce isn't full of tuneage, as always.

Such as this little lot...

10- Knights of Cydonia - Muse


[watch it]

9. Fat Children - Jarvis Cocker

I'm the sort of looney that will try to find the ideal song to fit my 3-4 minute drive home from work. This has been on "constant rotation" in that slot because it's ruddy great. Good old Jarvis.

[watch it]

8. Pierrot the Clown- Placebo

I still find myself going back to last year's "Meds" album a lot. And I often start with this bleakly soft little ditty. It's tugs at me, y'know? It also conjures images of the time I spent in Lyon, which is a very welcome side effect.

[watch it]

7. Iris - Goo Goo Dolls

It should come with an earworm warning on it, this bugger should.

[watch it]

6. Old Macdonald Had A Farm

One of my colleagues has been singing this all bloody week & I've found my self following suit. Apparently his 18th month old son has just mastered the Eee I Eee I Oh bit. Aaaw.

[watch it]

5. Oh I am so ashamed of myself for not knowing the title of this - Alabama 3

One of the presents I got my girlfriend for christmas was a box set of the first season of The Soprano's. I've never previously seen the show but had heard lots of good things about so I've taken the plunge. What a cracking show, I'm watching it all the time! This theme song being in my head is a result of that.

[watch it - it's called 'woke up this morning']

4. Monster - The Automatic

Along with the aforementioned "Knighs of Cydonia", my Son loves this & gets me playing them all the time.

[watch it]

3. Dakota - Stereophonics

It's my ringtone for my girlfriend. *Blushing*

[watch it]

2. Sophie's Shoes - Gnu Cnu

Blatant self promotion? Maybe, but this is a true, genuine earworm. I've been recording this song all week long & it has totally & utterly taken over my brain! (If I was honest it would be number 1, but that would just not be cricket).

[you got a video for this mate?]

1. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol

Almost subconsciously this has wormed it's way into the musical centre of my short term memory. It's everywhere but in addition to that it's been the alarm clock this week, so has been implanted in my head from the very second I wake. Happily it often reminds me of being in Virgin megastore, Times Square (buying a thank you gift for Hyde) when it came on.

[watch it]

And that's me lot.

Thanks ST for having me back again. Always a pleasure, never a chore.



Cheerio mate. Let's hope the pixies don't keep you away for long, eh! Looking forward to that new Gnu Cnu (god, that's a mouthful) album. When is it hitting the shops?

Now, if you'll excuse me, we have Hen and Bargs coming round for tea in a tick... so I'd best go and freshen up. We're having sausages! I'm a bit unsettled, to be honest, as I usually have sausages on a Thursday night, and I don't really like change, but on this occasion I'm sure it will all work out okay.

Next Week: Ka (I hope...)
Forthcoming attractions: Suburban Hen

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah]


Thursday, January 11, 2007

you can hang out with all the boys...

Credit where credit is due, I have pinched this from Kev, but it is the funniest thing I've seen all day by an absolute mile. Perhaps Statue John should be thinking of a new sub-section for Stand By Your Statue?

Kev's a fundraiser for the Sobell House Hospice, incidentally -- that's the charity that the Ultimate Olympian is supporting, and it's a really good one... so maybe you could think about making a pledge to the Ultimate Olympian or indeed to Kev himself as he goes for 3 (or is it 4?) marathons.

New year, new generous you... or something.

you haven't found it baby, that's for sure....

Let's talk about football.

Nah - not that preening clown, his grasping wife and their stupid Hollywood pretensions. This is proper football. Serious football. And it's called 'football', not 'soccer', alright?

As I mentioned the other day, I play 5-a-side football a couple of times a week. There's a Powerleague with about 16 astroturf pitches conveniently located just outside the main gates at work, so it's pretty painless to slip out of the office at around 5pm and head off for a 5.30pm kick off.

How hard do you think it can it be to administer bookings of an hour each for 16 pitches? Apparently it's too hard. Our game is supposed to finish at 6.30pm, but just recently barely a week seems to go by without someone trying to chuck us off the pitch 15 minutes early for a 6.15pm game. It's bloody infuriating. The noggins behind the desk have a computer booking system and everything!

To be fair, Darren has been pretty good to us over the years, and he always tries to put us on a pitch with no one booked on straight afterwards, so we'll have a free run for a couple of hours to play until we get bored (usually meaning we play for 90 minutes). He used to be a right surly git, but C. started playing for a ladies team down there about 5 years ago, and she charmed him (steady on, he's gay... they just bonded or something). As soon as he connected her with me, he was nice as pie, and we always have a little chat as I fork out the extortionate £45 fee for a sixty minute game. He does his best for us every week, but he knocks off shortly after our kick off, and the guy who takes over seems to be a lot more slapdash in his pitch assignments.

This week, we had some bloke leading a pack of seven year old kids try to walk onto the pitch when we still had a good 20 minutes to go. He was adamant that he had the pitch booked for quarter-past, but we sent him packing back to the desk to go and check and carried on with our game (it was 6.10 anyway). 2 minutes later he was back, and he stood at the back of the pitch with the kids and waited for us to finish. I just knew he was going to try and throw us off early, and sure enough, with a good 5 minutes of our game still to play, he brought all the kids onto the pitch. We played on for a bit, but who wants to take responsibility for belting a ball into a seven year old's head? This guy clearly didn't give a monkeys, so we had a bit of a slanging match with him, occupied the pitch for a couple of minutes and then stalked off.

We're getting money off next week's game for the inconvenience, but the whole thing has left me feeling mildly pissed off. It's bad enough that Powerleague are incapable of sorting out their pitch bookings so that this sort of thing doesn't happen. What makes the whole thing worse is that this twat thought he had some kind of right to chuck us off the pitch 5 minutes early and was prepared to put a team of kids at risk to prove his point.

And it was cold, windy and raining.

And I was tired and not really feeling up for the game.

And we got thumped.


Two posts on football in one week? It's all incisive comment around here, innit?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I can feel the wheel, but I can't steer...

As you will know, I have been diagnosed as suffering from Transverse Myelitis. I have a lesion (or “sclerosis”) on my cervical spinal cord that has damaged the myelin sheath and affected the transmission of nerve signals down through my body.

My diagnosis is not definitive and may only be a transient one: if I have another “attack”, then I will be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It’s an attack that could happen tomorrow, could happen in twenty years time or may never happen at all. The symptoms from my existing lesion are so widespread across my body that I’ve actually wondered how I will know if I have had another attack anyway.

Perhaps it’s a little self-indulgent of me, but here is a catalogue of the symptoms that I experience:

-> A “pins and needles” sensation in my hands and (to a lesser extent) in my feet

-> A weakness across my shoulders and down both my arms. I’ve never exactly been mr.muscle, but I have had quite a significant loss of power and the muscles have actually started to waste, reducing power even further. I am now actively taking steps to try and minimise this damage through a thrice-weekly exercise routine using (tiny) weights

-> A loss of sensation, or a feeling of “deadness” that extends down my arms, my sides, my thighs and into the soles of my feet. Some days this feels worse than other days, but when I scratch my ribs, I only feel it at a distance.

-> A loss of endurance – this is a relative thing, as I’m still doing most of the things that I was doing before, only I do some of them more slowly and it takes more effort

-> I sometimes get the night-sweats

I’ve had many of these symptoms, to some degree or another, for 18 months. Some days are worse than others, but I feel most of those symptoms every single day. They have become a fact of life for me and I have more or less learnt to deal with them. I exercise regularly (four or five times in a week), and this can make my symptoms flare up, but it apparently won’t do me any long-term harm, and has the immeasurable benefit of making me feel better about myself.

This is the way things are for me, and I do the best that I can to cope with it. There are plenty of people who are far worse off than me. This is an inconvenience in my life, but it does not really stop me doing anything. I’m certainly not going to just sit around feeling sorry for myself and waiting for something else to happen.

I think I’ve been experiencing new symptoms. Amidst everything else, it’s kind of hard to be certain, but I’m reasonably sure that things are moving.

-> I have got a very specific sensation of numbness in the big toe on my right foot. This is different to the general loss of sensation I have in this foot.

-> If you’ll forgive the overshare, I am noticing that my “seals” (both of them) are weakening. I’ve never had the strongest bladder in the world, but I’ve always had full control of my “on” and “off” switches. Although this control is still largely in place, the use of the word “largely” probably tells you everything you need to know.

-> I have developed a pain in my neck, which is particularly noticeable when I am lying in bed. I have started sleeping without a pillow. I had something similar in the spring of 2005, and it turned out to be the first symptom of the lesion that was growing on my spinal cord. I have no idea if this is a sign of a new lesion or is simply the old lesion flaring up.

I don’t really know what to do. This is potentially a significant moment as it could lead me towards a firm diagnosis and a label that I will carry around for the rest of my life. I’ve already got a label, of course, and lots of people have labels: I had a sad moment at the doctor the other day when I went in to get some jabs for our trip to Ecuador. As the nurse brought up my medical record on the computer, a little window popped up telling her that my “Primary Condition” was Transverse Myelitis.

Life goes on, of course, and I’m hardly likely to let this new development beat me down. My label might be about to change. Everything else remains the same.