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

Monday, July 30, 2007

the hammer of the gods....

So anyway. On Saturday, we went to the Test Match at Trent Bridge in our traditional fancy dress. This year, the theme was VIKINGS....

From l-r: Conan the Terrible, Thor the Great, Freygunnr the Fearsome, Odin the Magnificent, Brynhildr of Long Eaton and (crouching) Dave

Say "Grrr!"

The modern viking nowadays has less of an urgent need to go out pillaging...

"We come from the frozen North in search of fertile lands to pillage. We will perhaps wait until the tea interval"

Many thanks are due to Brynhildr for her fantastic photos, more of which can be found here. I'd've brought my own camera, but sadly I had no pockets... frankly it's no wonder the vikings were always stealing what they needed.

Quote of the day was from Chantelle, the N-Power girl who greeted me on the gate by looking me up and down and saying:

"Are you really that tall?"

No love, I'm being operated by Frank Oz. Dear oh dear.

Odin the Magnificent sups on his mead and contemplates his nomination as moment of the day on ESPNStar, the TV channel that broadcasts cricket across the subcontinent and (presumably) to millions of people.

Text A for the WG Graces.
Text B for Sylvester and Tweetie-Pie
Text C for the Vikings.

Lots of prizes!

I can only imagine we won comfortably.

It's been a fair old while since I had a fringe.

It was weird.

Because even vikings have a home to go to, you know.


like a record baby....

Sitting behind us in the crowd at the test match yesterday was a hospitality box full of young British Asians (the accents were pure midlands, innit?). India were well on top of the game and were building up a substantial lead over England, putting themselves in an increasingly dominant position. England were toiling away manfully in the field, and although to my eyes the game was an awful lot more absorbing than it had been on the Saturday, I could well understand why the more casual observer might be starting to get bored.

The inhabitants in the box behind me were proudly waving an Indian flag over their balcony and greetng every boundary that the Indian batsmen hit with raucous chants of "India! India! India!".

Fair enough. They were quite noisy, but far less irritating than the increasingly drunken chants of "ENG-GER-LAND, ENG-GER-LAND" emanating from the Barmy Army in the William Clarke Stand. I know it's not Norman Tebbit's cup of tea, but I don't mind it in the least when British citizens don't support the "home" team. Why on earth should anyone feel threatened by that? What's wrong with people celebrating all of the aspects of their heritage? Besides, the run rate was slowing down as the English bowlers started to get into the game, and hits to the boundary were few and far between... so I was starting to get interested in the game. Were England too far behind now to stage a comeback and save the game?

The lack of action from India didn't seem to worry these excitable supporters just behind me though. Oh no. Not when they had Monty to cheer.

When he wasn't weaving a spell with the ball from the Pavilion end, Monty Panesar was fielding just in front of us - well within shouting range.

Monty was born in Luton and lives in Northampton, but he was the first Sikh to play cricket for England, is fast becoming one of the best bowlers in the world and is very big news indeed. He's polite, well-spoken, tee-total and extremely talented. For young British Asians, it would be hard to think of a better role-model.

Every move he made was greeted by an enthusiastic shout of "MONNNNNNNTTTTTYYYY!" from the young India fans behind me. At one point, there was a slightly frustrated cry of "Monty! Make something happen!"

It seems that for the young British Indian, test match cricket is a great game as long as one of India or Monty Panesar wins.

Sometimes I love this country. I really do.


funny clothes, tinkling bell...

C. finished with the new Harry Potter whilst I was at the cricket yesterday (where I noticed that lots of other people were reading it with the test match as their backdrop). We've only got the one copy in our house, so I was waiting for her to finish before I can get my teeth into it.

So, what did she think? Is it any good?

Well, without wanting to spoil anything for me, she gave me a one word answer:


Oh dear.

Rather than just drop everything to read this, I reckon I might just carry with on with the book I've currently got on the go.

It's about Lance Armstrong and the 2004 Tour de France (which was to be his record-breaking 6th win). In the light of all of the scandals that have erupted in cycling since, some of the sections writing about Michele Ferrari, Alexander Vinokourov, Tyler Hamilton, Bjarne Riis, Floyd Landis and the like can only be read with a strong sense of foreboding and sadness about what we know happened next... positive drugs tests, mainly.... followed by vehement denials and often court cases.

Was Armstrong clean? I don't know.

I'd love to believe that he was, but I'm not sure I completely can.

Does it matter? Surely he's a hero anyway?


As for this year's Tour: well, congratulations to Alberto Contador, but with the best will in the world, that's not going to be what the world remembers, is it?

The Tour will endure, I have no doubts about that.... but the riders are going to have to change.

Anyway, wizardy nonsense can wait for another day.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

sex farm woman...

Just in case anyone was actually thinking about buying their new album, the Stereophonics have come up with a foolproof plan to make these people change their minds.

I think that is quite possibly the most repugnant album cover I have ever seen. It is quite stunningly awful.

Have these people never seen Spinal Tap?

"Smell the Glove" anyone?

Jesus. I knew they were shit already, but it's good of them to advertise their utter crassness to the whole world too.

Billy Bragg used to put stickers on all his records saying things like "Don't pay more than £4.99 for this album". I imagine that these idiots are putting stickers on this monstrosity saying "Self-awareness, maturity and any sense of irony not welcomed here."

Maybe the artwork says that eloquently enough already?


You're a nut! You're crazy in the coconut!

I was thinking about Darren when I was at work today. Obviously I've been trying hard to erase the whole shower incident from my mind, so I wasn't dwelling on that especially.


No. I was thinking about his slightly crazed smile. He doesn't look like a particularly happy-go-lucky kind of chap. I don't know if he has ever been in the armed forces, but he has the slightly stiff-gait, ramrod straight back and perfectly pressed shirts and suits that make me think he has a military background. The manic grin, therefore, comes as something of a surprise and it looks a touch out of place on his face, just beneath the eyebrows that are raised so high that they actually threaten to disappear into his very short and immaculately groomed hair. It's the kind of smile that doesn't so much look fake as a touch desperate. It's the smile of a man clinging onto his sanity by this fingernails. It is perhaps the grin of a man who is desperately trying to hide the darkness within.

I learnt a bit more about him today. Apparently he's a qualified hypnotist and likes to use these techniques in his day-to-day life. He tells the story about how it was proving difficult to get his young daughter to take some medication, so he fed her some strawberries and made a real point of squeezing her hand as she ate. The next time she needed to take her pill, he carefully squeezed her hand so that she remembered the positive association, and the pill tasted like strawberries to her. She's never had a problem taking medicine since.


His friends, I was told, remain somewhat sceptical of his powers. So sceptical, in fact, that only a demonstration was ever going to convince them that there might be something in this after all. So Darren hypnotised them, and whilst they were in a trance, suggested to them that whenever he pressed an imaginary button on the table, they would collapse into hysterics.

Worked a treat apparently.

So I'm a little bit torn about what I should do the next time Darren chases me for an overdue project status report. Should I reach for an imaginary button on the desk and watch as my colleagues around me collapse into fits of giggles, or should I look at him blankly for a moment before saying:

"Sorry Darren, I didn't recognise you with your clothes on"

On the other hand though, do I really want to be there when his smile and his possibly tenuous grip on his sanity slip and the darkness comes welling out? Not really. I've seen films about evil hypnotists, you know....

So, in the meantime, I'll greet that manic smile and slightly disconcerting personal style with a forced grin all of my own.

It's probably better that way.


the price of gas keeps on rising...

This probably isn't of much interest to anyone but me and Hen, but it looks like Allan Donald is back on my street. (For previous installments of "Allan Donald is on my street" news, click here....)

I'm interested because the Trent Bridge Test match starts tomorrow and after the sterling performance of England's second string seamers at Lords last week, the South African fast bowling legend and now England bowling coach has clearly been making a big difference.

Hen is interested because he is still driving an absolutely colossal 4x4 with a plush leather interior and because it's people like him who are destroying our climate.

330 Test wickets notwithstanding, I reckon Jimmy Anderson's improvement over the last few weeks has bought him some slack, but I accept that I may be in a minority on this one.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

a little less conversation....


As I often do on a Tuesday lunchtime, I had nipped away from my desk and gone out for a run alongside the canal, looping back by the river Trent. For once in this miserable summer, the weather was nice enough that I could wear my sunglasses, and it was warm enough that by the time I walked back into the changing rooms at work, I was pretty hot and sticky. I heard the sound of running water as soon as I walked through the door, and as I walked past the doorway to the showers, I saw out of the corner of my eye that someone was in there. It doesn't do to linger by the showers though, and I wasn't particularly interested, so I continued on towards my locker, my thoughts starting to drift to the double egg sandwich waiting for me on my desk.

Before I reached my locker however, I was shaken out of my bubble by the sound of someone hailing me.


It was coming from the showers.

I tentatively backed up and peered cautiously through the doorway.

Standing before me was Darren. Darren joined the company a few months ago as the manager of one of the programmes that I work on. He's got quite a military manner about him and is always absolutely immaculately presented and briskly efficient. He seemed nice enough, but not so nice that I would really ever want to pop down to the pub with him to chew over my lack of project status reports or anything like that (perhaps I'm being unfair, but he doesn't look like he would have all that many other avenues of conversation). And yet here he was, standing stark bollock naked in the shower and apparently wanting to engage me in conversation.

"I thought it was you" He had paused in the act of soaping himself to turn so that he was fully facing the doorway, and he was beaming at me. I looked him coolly in the eye.

"Hello Darren"

"You been out for a run then?"

I looked down at myself. I was wearing a sweat soaked Helly Hansen top, a pair of shorts and my running trainers. I was carrying my sunglasses and my iPod.

"Yes, I have." Was he really expecting me to just stand here and chat whilst he washed the soap off himself? Apparently he was.

"Oh yeah? Where do you go?" He was still grinning at me, but now he had a look of slightly demented enthusiasm too.

"Along the canal and back down the river" I was struggling not to be monosyllabic. YOU'RE NAKED MAN! NAKED!

"Yeah? You do a lot of running then?" I had a horrible feeling that this conversation could go on for a while. How short could I keep this without being rude?

"A bit." A edged away from the doorway and made a break for my locker. I took a breath, fished out my key and stripped down, getting ready for the moment when I would head back to the shower, hoping that Darren was going to be finished. I don't mind showering with other guys - hell, I went to boarding school - but I didn't really want to be chatting to Darren as he stood there beaming at me, perhaps with his hands on his hips.

As I started to wander over, I heard the sound of the shower being switched off, and Darren emerged through the doorway.

"Do you do half marathons or marathons or anything like that?"

He stepped out of the showers and -- Oh God -- moved towards a bag on the bench directly opposite the doorway. I resigned myself to the continuation of our little chat as I showered.

"No. My knees tend to give up the ghost after about ten miles." Darren - still naked - was nodding at me now, his eyebrows so far up his forehead that they were disappearing into his hairline. "I do triathlons occasionally though."

I hung up my towel and selected the shower furthest off to the side of the doorway and out of Darren's direct eyeline. I had a feeling I may have offered him a conversational window of opportunity. He duly took it.

"Oh yes?" His voice drifted in through the doorway. "I've always fancied doing them, but I don't think my swimming is good enough"

"Oh, you don't have to swim all that far. Only 400m in a sprint triathlon". This wasn't so bad. I flicked open my shower gel and began to soap myself down. Just as I was working my way methodically from arms to shoulders and down my body, Darren appeared in the doorway. Naked. I think he might have brushed his hair, but he was still naked.

"Oh really?"


"Right. Perhaps I should give that a go then." His head disappeared again, and I quickly finished my shower and began to dry myself down. I usually like to towel myself dry in the shower area before I head back to my locker, but just as I was getting on with this, I realised that Darren wasn't finished yet. I don't think my piss off vibes were working.

"So have you got a locker here then?" His head had appeared in the doorway again. At least he was now wearing his pants. I however, was still naked.

I nodded, and tried to hide behind my towel.

"I've just been taking my bag into the gym. I'll have to look into getting one of them" Hiding wasn't working, so I decided that perhaps I would dry myself off beside my locker. I quickly wrapped the towel around my still dripping body and walked past Darren into the changing room, quickly heading off towards my locker in the other corner of the room.

"How far do you run then?"

"About 4 miles, I suppose" STILL NAKED! I was wondering if I should move a bit faster to cut this conversation short, but I supposed that Darren didn't mean any harm and I was still so hot that if I rushed now, I was going to be quietly overheating at my desk for the next couple of hours.

"Perhaps you'd show me your route next time?"

I shrugged. I hate running with other people. I like to disappear into my own little world behind headphones and sunglasses. Besides, Darren would probably shout motivational phrases at me to pep me up and to keep me moving. God no. Oh, and I WAS STILL NAKED.

"Yeah, why not?"

"Perhaps I could share your locker....?"

Good grief man. Forcing me to engage in conversation with you when you are naked and covered in lather is one thing, asking me if I'd share my locker with you is quite another.


Is nothing sacred?

"Right. Well see you later then mate."

Mate? Really?


The door banged behind him as he left but the changing room quickly fell blissfully silent. I paused for a moment, as if checking that he was really gone, and then with an almost imperceptible sigh of relief, I continued to towel myself down.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

cold, cold water surrounds me now...

At the risk of sounding like a survivalist or as a supporter of some strange millennial Christian cult, I have to say that I find it quite alarming just how close to the Dark Ages we appear to be.

A little bit of water (well, several weeks of solid rain... finishing up with a month's worth falling in a single hour on Friday), and the fabric of our nation seems to be on the verge of falling apart. Apparently 350,000 people in Gloucestershire are going to be without running water tonight - an irony that is surely not lost on them as they sit in their sodden homes.

In spite of our pride in our wonderfully advanced civilisation, it seems that we are only ever around 72 hours away from chaos.... the 72 hours that it takes for the supermarkets to start running out of supplies. Apparently supermarkets across the west of the country have started selling out of basic essentials like water, bread and milk as people panic buy now in case they don't have the opportunity later. I should think that come tomorrow, it will be a case of the survival of the fittest, as hunter-gatherers in coracles strike out looking for their next meal, and the rest are just left to rot in their lovely detached houses with double-garages.

... and to think that only this weekend I was laughing at the British National Party's plans to build a refuge in rural Croatia. Apparently this is where the leaders of Britain's premier political purveyors of racist stupidity are planning to go when the oil supplies finally run out and the world collapses into anarchy.

As The Observer reported yesterday:

"One day some in the party hope it will become a sustainable community, one that is not reliant on fossil fuels or outside power of any kind but instead is capable of harnessing solar energy and tapping into local streams for fresh water."

I'll bet that sounds like a mighty attractive proposition to large portions of South-Western England at the moment (the terrible company you'd have to keep notwithstanding).

Oh hold on, what's that last bit about tapping into local streams?

Have those deep thinkers at the BNP taken flooding into account, do you think? Wouldn't it be ironic if this blissful idyll was destroyed by rising waters caused by global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels?

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people, obviously.

(The BNP, I mean. Not the people of South-Western England. I'm sure some of them are lovely.)

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

we do nothing but compete....

[what follows is a re-posting from Post of the Week. I was head judge this week, and I figure that you'll all be interested in knowing what won, right? right?

Don't agree? Well bloody go and nominate something else then. To be perfectly honest with you, some of the posts nominated last week just weren't up to standard. Every single one of you lot on my blogroll on the right hand side of this page is capable of writing posts that are more than good enough to win post of the week, and all of you will read plenty of posts worthy of nomination.

So. Why am I telling you this? Because I'd like you all to consider nominating a post this week. Click here and nominate away.



Good Evening.

It is my great honour to be announcing this week’s winner of the coveted title of “Post of the Week #27″. Not a vintage week for nominations, in my opinion, but there were still some gems in the shortlist and the judges have again been more or less unanimous in their judgement of the winning post.

Ah, come on Swiss…. stop rambling and tell us who won….

Well, without any further ado, it is my pleasure to announce that this week’s winner is:

Dad Gone Mad: “Caught in the Act

I felt a tear run down my right cheek. My chest wanted to explode. How do they do this? How do they become so special? And how do I forget that they have this incredible capacity to love each other?

Read more….

Our Judges said:


The winning post this week was nominated by (the apparently blogless) Dennis. Good work.

Your shortlister this week was Sarah.
The judging panel consisted of yours truly, TimTim and last week’s winner Edvard Moonke.

Each winner is invited to join the following week’s judging panel. Dad Gone Mad is therefore cordially invited to help us adjudicate next week’s winner.

Previous Winners of this most coveted title can be found here.

Thanks everyone. It’s been emotional.

See you next week.


I'm going to go on about this pretty much every week from now on, especially when I'm on the panel, so it'll probably just be simpler to start nominating. That way I may just shut up about it.


Friday, July 20, 2007

but heroes often fail...

Straight in? Why not?

Earworms of the Week

> “Sometimes” – James

As I write this, it is absolutely bucketing it down outside the window, and apparently 2 months of rainfall is forecast to fall in the next 24 hours. It’s been a wet summer of “endless rain, endless rain”. This song reminds me of being in the kitchen of the flat upstairs from mine in Venice. I spent many happy hours sat around the dinner table listening to music with my friends Olly, Mark and Dom. At the time, I was completely obsessed with “The Holy Bible” by the Manic Street Preachers and “Dog Man Star” by Suede, but Olly introduced me to the pleasures of James in general and of this song in particular. I used to love the intimacy of that line in the chorus:

”Sometimes when I look into your eyes, I swear I can see your soul”

At the time, I held out absolutely no hope that I was ever going to be capable of forming a meaningful relationship, and somehow that line gave me a yearning for something I hadn’t ever really experienced and desperately wanted to.

Do I look into C’s eyes now in search of her soul? Hmmm. Perhaps I should do it more often. She’s got nice eyes.

> “The River of Dreams” – Billy Joel

Yes, yes. Clearly it’s a ridiculous song. Clearly it’s far from being amongst BJ’s best… but can anyone around my age tell me that they don’t have a soft spot for this song?

I bought the single, as I recall.

> “Shake Your Blood” – Probot feat. Lemmy

Probot is Dave Grohl’s heavy metal side-project, and it does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: each track features a different guest vocalist from an 1980s metal band that Grohl adored, and makes an attempt to imitate that band’s style, which usually involves Grohl going ballistic on the drums. This one features Lemmy F. Motorhead himself… and as you might expect, it rocks…

Not everyone’s cup of tea, I shouldn’t thing, but I like it.

> “City of Blinding Lights” – U2

I’m very much in two minds about U2 generally, and I don’t really listen to them very much by choice. Having said that, they certainly know their way around an earworm, and when I started talking to someone about how when I signed up to an Oxfam text message campaign once, I started receiving spam texts from people like Chris Martin, Kofi Annan and Bono himself. It was bloody annoying.

For some reason, I equated all of that with this song.

Don’t ask me why. I don’t know how my brain works.

> “Black Mirror” – Arcade Fire

People rave about the Arcade Fire, but I’ve always been a touch underwhelmed by them, to be honest. I like “Funeral” well enough, but was it the best album I’d ever heard? No it was not. “Neon Bible” was greeted by the music press with even more superlatives, but I haven’t even really been bothered enough by it to listen to it through more than about twice. I’m sure that’s my loss, but I only got to track 3 the last time I tried earlier in the week. This song is the album opener though, and I reckon that the fact that it has stuck in my head could be a good sign, right? I don’t think they’re the future of rock, but I do think that they deserve a fair listen.
At some point.

I actually saw about half of the Arcade Fire’s set at Glastonbury before heading off to watch the Arctic Monkeys on the Pyramid Stage. From what I saw, they seemed to be pretty good, and I reasoned that I was more likely to be able to pick up a ticket for the band’s winter date at the Nottingham Arena than I was to be able to get tickets to watch the Arctic Monkeys anywhere in the next couple of years. I was right too – I was able to snap up some tickets a couple of days after I get home.

Perhaps I was looking to be critical of them, given how they seem to be flavour of the month. Although they sounded good, my lasting impression of the bit of the set that I saw was that their fans were incredibly rude as they pushed past me in the mud in front of the Other Stage to get to the front… perhaps they’ll be a little nicer at the Arena.

Perhaps they won’t.

Perhaps I shouldn’t hold a thing like that against the band?

> Theme from Battlestar Galactica

“The Cylons were created by man.
They evolved.
They rebelled.
They look and feel human.
Some are programmed to think they are human.
There are many copies.”

We’ve been busy trawling our way though the DVDs of the new version of this hoary old classic, and we’ve now got about halfway through the second series. As well as being the main theme used over the opening credits, this is also played on a loop over the DVD menus, which I left playing in the background as I read the paper the other day. I pretty much tuned it out, but I think it must have sunk so deep into my subconscious that I will never shake it out.

What do I think of the series? It’s pretty good. I have my reservations about some of the religious overtones that seem to be becoming more prominent with every episode, but there’s still plenty here to keep me interested.

> “Personal Jesus” – Depeche Mode

I think this must have been on my iPod when I was out running the other day. I have absolutely no recollection of hearing this song at any point in the last few days, but here it is playing on my internal jukebox.

I’ve had worse.

> “Hush” – Deep Purple

Let’s be clear: the version of this that has been on a loop inside my head is absolutely, categorically and definitively the Deep Purple version. My brain is very much a Kula Shaker free zone, and long may it remain so.

One thing I love about Deep Purple is the keyboard solos. Utterly ridiculous and utterly brilliant all at the same time.

> “Island in the Sun” – Weezer

Hip Hip.

> “Life Becoming A Landslide” – Manic Street Preachers

Gold Against the Soul” is certainly not their best album, but it does contain a number of excellent songs – including this one. I think I love it for the ambition of the lyric that links the howl of childbirth to the cry of anguish at the meaninglessness of life and your own inevitable death.

As I keep saying, they don’t make bands like that any more. Does Kate Nash write lyrics like that?

> “If You Could Read My Mind” – Johnny Cash

This song never, ever fails to move me. Gordon Lightfoot’s lyrics on their own tend to lurch into the saccharine, but the cracked and broken gravitas of Cash’s voice never lets the song slip down that path. This is just a raw, beautiful song of love and loss. “Hurt” was one hell of a legacy to leave the world, and that video brilliantly splices footage of the younger Cash with the old man he became… but for me this is the way that I will remember Cash. It’s the sound of a man who is at the very end of his life, singing to the dead wife he will soon be joining. Saying it’s intense doesn’t do it justice.

Right to the very end, he was an immense talent.


Incidentally, the podcasts are now back online..... recent additions include C, Planet Me, The Ultimate Olympian and my Glastonbury earworms. Go check it out. It's very easy to use, and you can even subscribe through iTunes.

Thanks as always to my Mexican correspondent for these.

Next week, perhaps I'll even have pulled my finger out and got us a Guest Editor for this slot.

Any volunteers?

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

I rest my case.....

If you're reading this, then I'm sure you must read other blogs.

I can't believe there are all that many people who restrict their reading to a single blog, and I find it even harder to believe that -- if these people exist -- that any of them would choose this as their one and only stop. So I suppose, by deduction, that means that if you are reading this, then you must have a list of other blogs that you like to read too.

I know there's a load of crap out on the internet, and that there are an awful lot of mind-numbingly tedious blogs out there, but you are clearly a discerning and selective reader, so imagine that you only select the very best of the best. I reckon you must read an awful lot of really good posts every week, perhaps even every single day, written by some of the best writers on the web.

You and I both know that there are some great writers out there. Some of them have thousands of readers passing through every day; some of them have book deals and appear on chat shows.... but many of them don't. Great writing is not the preserve of the popular bloggers and it can be found almost anywhere. I make no claims for greatness for this blog, but I know that every single one of the bloggers that I read regularly are capable of both making me laugh and of making me cry .

I sometimes wonder why these blogs aren't read by more people. I know there are zillions of other blogs out there, but wouldn't it be great if there was some way that this great writing could be showcased in some way?

Can you guess where I'm going with this?

Well, there is a way you can shout out to other people when you have found some really great writing. You can head over to Post of the Week and you can nominate these wonderful posts by all of these amazing bloggers.

There's no prize (although winners are free to brag all they want), but every post nominated is in with a chance of being put on the shortlist for the week and of being named (oh the glory!) Post of the Week.

Have you read anything good this week?

Why not go and nominate it?

Go on. Do it. It'll only take you 2 minutes, and think how it will make that blogger feel.

Don't be shy, and definitely don't be giving me any of that crap about how it's run by a clique and that only the most well known bloggers or members of the gang win. Do you know who has won? Ever? Well, here's the list. Lots of people have won it. And if no one you know is on that list, then doesn't that give you more incentive than ever to go and nominate someone you read? The pool of winners can only get more diverse if more people take the time to nominate. I'm asking for your help. Anyone can win this. It doesn't matter who you are or how popular (or otherwise) your blog is: the only criteria is that the post is good.

Think the judging is a fix? Think that only blogs that the judges know will ever win? Well, think again. I'm on the panel for starters, and you can be too. You can volunteer to be a judge or a shortlister and take your turn on the rota.

Here's the thing: There are currently only 8 posts nominated this week. As of midnight tomorrow, a shortlist will be produced of between 6 and 12 posts. The winner will be chosen from that list on Sunday night by the judging panel (who all vote independently) - and this week I'm the head judge.

So what are you waiting for? Go nominate someone. Just one person. Before midnight on Friday.

Do it.

Do it.

Or if you can't do that, then at least tell me what's stopping you.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

(have pity on the working man)

I was at my desk the other day when my mobile phone rang. A quick look at the display revealed that it was my the head of my department.

"Hello. Do you want to go to the Test Match on Friday 27th?"

As you know. I like my cricket. I have bought tickets to go to the Saturday and Sunday of the same game. So why was I suspicious?

"Is there a catch?"
"No. You'll just be going with [insert name of one of our outsource partners here] and a couple of other guys from the office"
"Um. Okay then"

And that was it. I was going. Not because I'm especially important (ha!), but more because everyone in the office knows that I like my cricket and that there were some seats going.

So it goes.

I have something of an ambivalent view of corporate hospitality. I know that they pump lots of money into the sports that I love, but as someone who puts his hand in his own pocket and actually pays to go to matches, it's a bit galling when large swathes of the crowd don't appear after lunch because they are too busy being entertained over lavish meals that take longer than the designated break in play. It's almost as if the people being entertained aren't actually interested in the game itself..... Mind you, as I spend one day every year at the Test match getting plastered whilst wearing fancy dress, perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to criticise.

....it's just that corporate hospitality isn't something that really happens to me.

Still, this is a game that is taking place a 5 minute walk from my house; my ticket and all of my meals and drinks for the day will be completely free; I will be getting paid for my time; I won't have to go into the office... and - most importantly of all - it's a match I would happily have bought a ticket for myself and taken a day off.

What can you do?

I've just seen the menu:

Lunch (13:00-13:40)

Caesar Salad with a twist!
Topped with a Roasted Fillet of Chicken and Crispy Bacon

Melon opera served with Summer Berries & Fruit Compote


Peppered Sirloin Beef

Smoked Haddock, Salmon & Spinach Roulade

Filo Tartlet of Creamy Brie, Cherry Tomato and Pesto
Sat on a Rocket and Herb Salad.
Roasted Vegetable Kebab with a Spicy Scented Rice Timbale

Cherry Tomatoes with Balsamic Syrup & Spring Onion Salad
Pasta Salad with a Honey & Mustard Dressing
Hot New Potatoes


Cup of Rich Chocolate Mousse
Topped with Fresh Rasberries
Accompanied with a crisp biscuit.


Selection of Cheeses
Accompanied with Grapes, walnuts and cheese biscuits


Freshly Brewed Fairtrade Coffee
And Mints


Afternoon Tea (15:40-16:00)

Freshly Brewed Fairtrade Tea

Mini scones
Served with preserves and clotted cream
Assorted Fruit Frangis

(pedant's note: capitalisation and line breaks all as found)

Now, I know I probably won't get to eat all of that, but I still reckon it's going to be quite a tall order to get through that lot and not miss any cricket. Forty minutes for lunch? Are you mad? On a normal day at the cricket it takes me pretty much that long to get a sandwich and a pint, nevermind sit through a table-waited 5 course meal with coffee!

Do you think it would be rude of me to excuse myself from those vital corporate conversations at the meal table and take my plate out to my seat?

Yeah. Not going to happen is it?

Do you reckon I can turn up in shorts, with a Test Match Special Radio and a copy of Wisden?

No. That's not going to happen either.

I wonder how I'll cope?

Safe to say that my Saturday at the same game will be a somewhat different experience.

(Although please note that we are now going to the game as vikings. Zulu is being saved up for next year when it will apparently be more politically palatable to be wearing the uniform of the colonial aggressor when playing the South Africans....yes, yes. I know.)

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the indisputable leader of the gang....

I just tried to take a cat for a walk.

Now there's something that I never imagined I would hear myself saying. How the hell do you take a cat for a walk?

Well, you use a lead and harness, obviously.

Minou has been gracing us with her presence now for a little over two weeks, and since she started feeling better after a cold, she has proven to be quite an active little tyke. She spends most of her day whilst we are at work either sleeping or pottering about quietly in the kitchen and the dining room, so come evening, she is ready to go. No sooner has she been fed when she sets off tearing around the house on a mad half hour, burning up some of that pent up energy. She calms down a little at bedtime, and although she doesn't really sleep on the bed with us, she has taken to sleeping at the top of the stairs on the landing.

This peace lasts until roughly 05:30 in the morning, when I am suddenly awoken by the tinkling of the little bell attached to her collar and the feel of her paw pressing against my nose. She's pretty much all go after that, haring around the room, walking across the headboard of the bed, and most frightening of all, balancing on the edge of an open window....

The RSPCA have told us that we shouldn't start letting her out of the house for another 4 weeks, but she's clearly starting to chafe at the bit a little. So we bought her a harness with the intention of letting her start to get accustomed to the world outside her vantage point on the breakfast bar in the kitchen.

Actually, she didn't really seem to mind the harness at all and she took a great delight in padding gently around the rather damp garden and carefully examining every nook and cranny. In fact, I think it's more realistic to say that I didn't take the cat for a walk at all: she took me. We certainly pootled around at her pace and did the things that she wanted to do.

Even a tink-tink-tink on her bowl didn't bring her shooting back into the house for her tea, and in the end I had to carry her in after she'd had a bit of a scare when she nearly fell off a little wall.

God. She's been here two weeks and already our lives revolve around this willful little creature.

How do you people cope with children? I'm exhausted just looking after a cat.


Monday, July 16, 2007

red from the night before the night before....

I went back to the eye doctor today.

Attentive readers may remember that I have been toying with having my eyes zapped for a little while now. Initially I was looking at one of those bargain basement Optical Express places, but in the end I came to my senses and decided that if I was even going to think about getting this done, then I should see the best person I could find and to hell with the expense. The best person turned out to be a professor of Opthalmology, and over the last few months I have had a couple of consultations with him, and a load of really detailed scans in the eye department of my local hospital.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from the professor telling me that although my left eye was suitable for laser treatment, a combination of the astigmatism in my right eye and the size of my pupils meant that my cornea would not be thick enough for LASIK. He went on to say though, that if I was still set on corrective surgery, that a toric implant in my right eye and LASIK in my left eye could be the way to go.

I wasn't really sure what to make of this. My rationale for seeing someone like this in the first place was that I wanted to make sure that I had the best possible advice before going ahead with something as drastic as eye surgery. They're my eyes, for heaven's sake. You don't want to be mucking about with your eyes, do you? I get reasonable correction with my glasses and with my contact lenses. As I've got older, I've found that it's become harder and harder to wear glasses as I have become less tolerant of the fit and they way that the lenses get dirty. It sounds stupid, but I hate it when I have to go out in the rain when I'm wearing my specs because I know that I will have to clean them off when I get into the dry. Sadly, I also seem unable to wear my contacts for much more than 12 hours at a time - less if I'm at work and using my VDU screen. It doesn't sound like much of a reason for undergoing surgery, I know, but without correction I am absolutely crippled. I can see nothing. This fact is never far from my mind, and my life revolves around always making sure that I have a spare pair of glasses or contacts to hand in case something happens. Not needing to do this would be revolutionary. Hell, just waking up in the night and being able to see would be amazing.

So today I went back to the professor to discuss with him how I might move this forwards - or to determine if I should just let this drop once and for all.

The upshot of the consultation? I'm not sure.

I think that on balance I want to go ahead with this.

LASIK is permanent. By its very definition, the procedure involves cutting away a certain amount of corneal tissue and is thus irreversible. It's a pretty reliable procedure, but the results are not completely predictable, and no one person who has this done heals in exactly the same way as any other. It's a quick process and basically only affects the surface of the eye. It's a pretty good procedure, but it's not foolproof and it's permanent. Once it's done, that's pretty much it.

An implant is an initially more invasive procedure: the eye is cut open to enable the insertion of a lens behind the cornea. The procedure can be done under local anesthetic, but it is often done under general and takes a few days longer to recover from than laser surgery. On the other hand though, this process has been used for cataract operations for many years and is well understood (the long term effects of laser surgery on the eyes are not really known). Because no tissue is being taken away, it is also a reversible process and the results are in many ways far more predictable than with laser correction.

The implant is also about twice the price of laser surgery, but luckily for me, price isn't something that I need to factor into this.

C. and I spent about 30 minutes grilling the professor with as many questions as we could think of as we attempted to explore all of the risks. How long does an implanted lens last? What's the procedure like? What are the chances of something going wrong?

The long and the short of it is that, although no surgical procedure is entirely without risk, my chances of this surgery going well are pretty good. In fact, the implant is probably a better option for me than LASIK in both of my eyes (if money isn't an issue, which fortunately for me it is not). The reason being that the results are likely to be both more predictable and more reliable (if I had LASIK in one eye and an implant in the other and something went wrong, then the difference between my eyes would be so great that I would be unable to wear glasses and would have to rely on contact lenses. This alone makes me think that it would be more sensible to have two implants).

It's still a pretty big decision though, and not one that I intend to rush.

...even though if I do get this done, then I could legitimately refer to myself as a cyborg.

What do you mean that's not a good enough reason?


You're no fun.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

and I swear...

I've just been to see Die Hard 4.0 (or "Live Free or Die Hard" if you like. I prefer the UK title, to be honest. It's simpler and has fewer "War on Terror" connotations).

What was it like?

Well, it was pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Die Hard film. It was both very silly and very entertaining. Apparently people had been worried that the producers' decision to push for a PG-13 rating in the USA would mean that the film would be a somehow watered-down version of a Die Hard film.

Well, allow me to reassure you that this is definitively not the case. This is the most violent and blood-thirsty film of the whole sequence. Yeah, I know buildings and airports and subways and stuff all get blown up in the first three films, but that's somehow quite impersonal destruction. In this film, people get killed. Often quite indiscriminately. People get beaten. They get shot in the knee. They get chopped up in cooling fans.

So how exactly did this manage to get a PG-13 certificate and thus be available to that all important pre-teen audience?

They cut out the swearing.


There is notably less swearing in this film. Two "fucks", obviously including one "Yippee ki-yay motherfucker" right at the very end.

Does this affect the film? Not really. What really gets me though is that apparently lots of fairly indiscriminate violence is deemed to be okay for an impressionable young audience, but somehow swearing is totally unacceptable.


So blowing up buildings, shooting people and stuff is okay, but saying "fuck" is bad?


We're doomed. We really are doomed.

On the plus side, the soundtrack to the film very prominently features some Fogerty.... Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son", to be precise.

Yee haw!


Friday, July 13, 2007

And if you're homesick, give me your hand and I'll hold it....

"Oh, bless her. That cat really loves bags"

Minou has indeed shown a real love of luggage in the 2 weeks since she adopted us. There's a hard-shelled wheely bag on the landing outside the bedroom that has just enough give on it that she loves to sleep on it. There's also C's work bag that is often lying around near the kitchen and that she loves to rub up against. So perhaps it wasn't all that surprising to see the cat padding and pawing at my football bag, which was sat in the little alcove off from the kitchen.

....and then I realised that I recognised that facial expression: that look of mild distaste with the ears slightly pressed back from the head..... the cat was peeing on my bag. Not 2m from her litter tray, she was pissing on my bag.


That's how my day started.

How was your friday?

Earworms of the Week.

> "November Rain" - Guns N' Roses

Ridiculous, but what can you do?

> "Hole in the Head" - Sugababes

Pop perfection?

> "Always the Sun" - The Stranglers

I have absolutely no idea where this one came from - the iPod probably. I've always had something of a softspot for the Stranglers. "Golden Brown" is a decent record, but for me it's always been about "No More Heroes". I bought the best of the Stranglers for 99p from Our Price once upon a time, you know.

> "S'il Vous Plait" - Fantastic Plastic Machine

From the "Spaced" soundtrack.

di di do, di-di-di-di didi do, di-di-di-di didi do, di-di-di-di didi do. S'il vous plait!


> "Suspicious Minds" - Elvis Presley

My friend Deneal does the most uncanny impersonation of Elvis Presley that you are ever likely to hear. He's so good at it, and it is so much his party piece, that he even performed this song at his own wedding.


"We can't go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams
On suspicious minds"

Appropriate? You decide.

> "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" - The Eels

They're not happy lyrics, but somehow this is a very happy and life-affirming song.

Go figure.

> "I've Been Everywhere" - Johnny Cash

I played Johnny Cash to our tour guide -- Ivan -- when we were driving around Ecuador in March this year. He absolutely loved him. Earlier this week I was making a Cash compilation CD to send out to him in Otavalo, and of all the 20-odd classic songs I managed to squeeze onto that CD, this is the one that stuck in my head.

Good song too.


> "Heinrich Maneuvre" - Interpol

Goodness. What to say about the new Interpol album? Reading the horrible hatchet job of an album review on Stylus only made me want to like the album more... and on a few listens it seems pretty good.

This is the track that immediately grabbed me. Yeah some of the lyrics could be better ("You wear those shoes like a dove"? eh?), but in general the whole album sounds pretty good to me, if perhaps not quite as good as their debut.

Mind you, could the bassline on this record sound any more like Peter Hook from New Order if it tried?

> "America" - West Side Story OST

So there I was, innocently having a conversation with a colleague about songs that get stuck in your head, when he began to sing the chorus of this song.

Damn, but it's catchy.

You just try shifting this one from your head.

"Everything free in America....."

It's an über-Earworm. No question.

> "People Love The People" - Cherry Ghost

Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.

What a voice.

What a sentiment.

Great song.


Have a great weekend y'all.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

the kids are alright....

So there I was, packing up the phone to send back to the BBC, and all ready to forget about Glastonbury for another year, when something on the radio caught my ear. Something about ticketing for 2008....

Apparently Michael Eavis is going to tinker with the ticketing system again next year:

"The problem with the clientèle at the moment is that they're becoming a bit older and a bit more clever and they've got the gear to buy the tickets as they have fast access to the ticket system and can buy more"

According to Eavis, the festival next year needs to have about 30,000 to 40,000 more people between the ages of 16 and 18.

"Younger people have more spunk and really add to the character of the festival- that's how it always used to be"

The total attendance at this year's festival was 175,000 people. If the attendance in 2008 is more or less the same, then that's quite a lot of kids.

So how do you ensure that tickets are getting to the kids and not to those pesky adults? Why, you make sure that 40% of all tickets are sold exclusively over the phone, of course.... cos all those kids have got access to mobile phones but not necessarily to high speed internet connections.


I know you're an all round good egg and all that... but.....




-> **newsflash** people other than kids aged 16-18 have (and are able to use) phones to buy tickets. Selling tickets over the phone is no guarantee that they will go to the yoof. And why the hell do they deserve tickets any more than anyone else? Besides, they're all on "Pay as You Go" so what happens when they run out of credit whilst on hold? Surely this system favours all of the rich, middle-class adults with contract phones?

-> Children have access to the internet too. Haven't you read about the threat of predatory paedophiles in chatrooms? (Just ask the guitarist with one of this year's headliners) Why would they be hanging about there if kids didn't go online? Eh? Where do you think they plagiarise their coursework from?

-> This year, I couldn't get through on the phone or on the internet. I only got a ticket because one of my friends got lucky. Why are 16-18 year olds going to be any luckier than anyone else next year? What are you going to do? Insist on a proof of age before selling the ticket? Cobblers.

-> The tickets cost £145 each. How many kids have that kind of cash? How many kids who do have that kind of cash lying around don't have access to the internet?

-> What about their parents? Are they coming on their own? Really?

-> They're too young to drink! What's the point of them being at the festival if they can't enjoy the cider bus?

The ticketing system this year was generally pretty good. Yes, it was difficult to get through, but you managed to almost completely eliminate touting, which can only be a good thing. Why can you not resist the temptation to tinker?

Leave it !!

In other news, apparently the site is now nearly clear of rubbish, and the cows are soon to be let back out into the fields.

Yay for the cows!



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions...

I love books me.

So when the Ultimate Olympian sent me a link to this with the words "Saw this, thought of you", what the hell else was I supposed to do?

[I'm dumping this flash nonsense. You can see my shelf here]

I think I'm going to use this little baby to try and keep a list of the books on my "To Be Read" (TBR) pile. Not just books that I abstractly want to read, but books that are actually sat in a pile next to my bed waiting for me to pick them up and read them. That kind of a TBR pile.

Well, the ones nearest to the top anyway.

If I can work out how to do it, I'll embed it in my sidebar too. That way you too can see how long that Henry James stays there unread as I plough my way through sport books....

Won't that be fun?

Go on.

Sign up.

You know you want to.

(and where can I get one of these for records?)


and for reference, of the books listed above, I am actively reading:

-> the biography of Keith Miller
-> "The Master" (no, it's not a Doctor Who novel...)
-> That book on the Tour de France.)

Although I did have a brief diversion on Monday when I read "Elektra: Assassin". That's literature too, right?


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I know it's hard to keep an open heart....

I've bought two albums so far this week, and after a couple of listens, both of them seem to be winners.

It was probably predictable that I was going to like the new Interpol album. I've said before that Interpol are probably the band that best personify my music taste: slightly spiky indie-style music played by four skinny white blokes blokes. Doomy lyrics.

Yeah, I think that about sums it up.

I suppose to the uninitiated, "Our Love To Admire" is more of the same. To my ears though, it sounds like they have moved on: the music is more textured and even singer Paul Banks hints that there might be some depth in his monotone.

I like it, although "No I in Threesome" is still a terrible name for a song in anyone's language... even if the song itself is actually almost tender.

Cherry Ghost are a bit different. In spite of the fact that they performed at Glastonbury, I first heard them a week or so ago when Lord B insisted that I listen to their cover of "Welcome to the Black Parade" on the Terrahawk's Live Lounge. As novelty covers go, it was amazing.... and as Jo Whiley rightly called, it made it sound as though it had been performed by Johnny Cash.

You might be familiar with "Mathematics" or "People Help the People", but this is a fantastic album. Simon Aldred simply has the most wonderful voice that manages to convey a tremendous depth of emotion.

It's a hauntingly beautiful album.

So how come I've been earworming "November Rain" all week?

I just can't get that ridiculous video out of my head, particularly that bit where Slash leaves Axl's wedding, walks down the aisle dressed in his customary leather chaps, leather jacket and top hat, and pushes his way through the doors. For some reason, we see that the church (apparently some kind of TARDIS - so big on the inside, so small on the outside) is actually in the middle of a desert. Slash walks on out of the churchyard, then strikes the most preposterous power-stance and launches into a splendidly elongated solo (the sixth best of all time, and apparently the longest to appear on a top ten single ever, fact fans).

It goes on for hours. Tumbleweeds blow past him as he plays... but he barely seems to notice, cigarette remaining firmly locked between his lips.


...but the song's frankly a bit of a rubbish one to have stuck in your head, isn't it?


Monday, July 09, 2007

a splendid time is guaranteed for all....

I went out running on my normal route on Sunday evening: up towards Wilford, hook back across the playing fields towards the river, and then across the Toll Bridge, along the Embankment up to Trent Bridge and then head back for home. About four miles in all.

Somewhere on this route, somewhere along Wilford Lane, I run past a Social Club. I have no idea what this club is or what you have to do to become a member. The only thing that I do know about this club is that - according to the sign that is always up just outside their driveway - it holds some sort of auction on a Monday night.

Normally I pay it no mind and just carry on past. Yesterday evening though, something caught my eye: there was a new poster stuck over the auction sign. It was a lurid fluorescent yellow, and written on it in bold, black letters was the following message:




As I ran past, I couldn't get this message out of my mind. Who was this Chris Austin? What was his special talant? Would to-night be my only opportunity to find out?

I was almost tempted.

But then I remembered I was a spelling and grammar nazi and I kept running.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

go grease lightning...

Since Des Walker's parents moved away and he stopped needing to come around to bring his kids to visit and to do things like paint their front gate, there haven't really been many former international sporting stars hanging around this quiet suburban street. This might all be about to change though, and there's the intriguing possibility that the number of Test wickets taken by residents around here may be about to rise by the small matter of 330.

There's been a big 4x4 parked right outside my house all weekend, and this morning I saw its owner climbing inside and driving off, and it was none other than the South African fast bowling legend Allan Donald. How cool is that? He's number 16 on the all time Test wicket taking tables, for heaven's sake!

Given that Donald has just been appointed as England's fast bowling coach, and given that England were playing the West Indies in a one day international at Trent Bridge yesterday (a 5 minute walk away), perhaps it's not so surprising that he wouldn't head off straight after the game and that he still might be hanging out near the ground the day after the game. There aren't any decent hotels around here, but he could have been staying with friends or something and was only now heading off.

On the other hand though, when I went out for a run a few hours later, I saw that the car had returned and was parked up outside my house again. Maybe it wasn't just a flying visit after all. There are a number of houses on the street that have either recently been sold or leased out and the English national Academy (where I assume the bowling coach would do most of his work) is based in Loughborough, a short drive from here.... so it's just possible that I might be seeing a lot more of "White Lightning" over the next few months.

I was at Trent Bridge in 1998 for that famous duel between Donald and Michael Atherton, and it remains the most incredible session of Test cricket that I have ever seen.

Do you reckon it's safe to ask him about that yet? He was pretty angry at the time - I'm not sure that 9 years is quite long enough to calm down.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

why can't we just play the other game?

Is it just me, or has this week lasted forever? Well, it's over now anyway.

Time to kick back, open a bottle of wine (well, finish off the nice bottle of Cab Sav I opened yesterday anyway) and relax.

Oh, hang on - there's something else I need to get done first.....

Earworms of the Week

> “Screamager” – Therapy?

On the BBC Wimbledon round-up the other day, they showed a montage of the rain falling and the covers coming on and off the courts. To soundtrack this, they used that old “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine / you make me happy when skies are grey” song. Rather than thinking how charming that all was, I was immediately thrown back to about 1994 and listening to “Troublegum”, which ends with this song being played on a loop so that the “…please don't take my sunshine away” bit is repeated until it sounds like “No way. No Way. No Way. No Way…”. Once that little seed was planted in my head, “Screamager” wasn’t very far behind.

Still a brilliant song.

I used to have a room at University around this time that had a window that looked out head-on onto the main path that students used to get from the main campus to one of the main accommodation areas. I used to have a massive Therapy? “Teethgrinder” poster above my bed, and this was clearly visible from the main path and attracted a lot of slightly worried stares…

> “Tour de France Etape 1” - Kraftwerk

The prologue of the Tour de France takes place in London tomorrow, and as I was reading about the riders, this unsurprisingly popped into my head. I know it’s a sport that appears to be absolutely riddled with drugs and corruption, but I still find myself awestruck when I watch these wiry little guys cycling up mountains that I ski down.

Mind you, I find it even more awe-inspiring when someone like (ex-Wolves legend and cancer survivor) Geoff Thomas does the same thing for charity.

> “A Fortnight’s Time” – Maximo Park

“Our Earthly Pleasures” is my favourite album of the year so far by some distance. I saw Maximo Park performing live on the telly the other day, and although “Our Velocity” is still a real standout track, both on the album and when performed live, this song is really growing on me. I think it’s something to do with the lyrics:

“Would you like to go on a date with me?
And I know it's old-fashioned to say so
Five times five equals twenty five
Don't you know your times tables by now?”

What’s that all about?

What about this?

“When it comes to girls, I'm mostly hypothetical
If I list their names, it's purely alphabetical
When it comes to girls, I'm truly theoretical
If I test their nerve, it's merely dialectical”

Any ideas?

Still, very catchy.

> “Lah-Di-Dah” – Jake Thackray

This was requested by C’s dad for the wedding, and it’s hard not to love this song, which is about the whole pantomime of getting married

“I'll be nice to your mother,
I'll come all over lah-di-dah,
Although she always gets up me nose.
(I love you very much.)
And so I'll smile and I'll acquiesce
When she invites me to caress
Her scabby cat;
I'll sit still while she knits
And witters, cross my heart,
And I shan't lay a finger on the crabby old batface.”

All sung in a winning 1920s stylee.

> “Pleasant Valley Sunday” – The Monkees

I watched a documentary on the “pre-fab four” recently and was interested to learn quite how little the band had to do with any of their early records – in may cases they didn’t even play the instruments, so the whole thing was actually even more of a sham than I thought. Still, you can’t deny that they did do some brilliant songs. There are the obvious ones (mainly with the word “believer” somewhere in the title), and there are some of the less obvious ones like “Last Train to Clarkesville”, “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” and this. It’s not music that’s going to change the world, but it’s a great pop record. Sometimes that’s all you need.

> “Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors” - Editors

To be perfectly honest, the song that has most stuck in my head from the new Editors album is “Spiders” – but that’s entirely because it contains one of the funniest lyrics I have ever heard. Picture Tom Smith singing this with an absolutely straight face and in that great, portentous voice:

“There are spiders in your room / But there always will be”

Mmm. Deep.

“Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors” on the other hand is a whole lot less funny, but it is actually a pretty good record. The rest of the album? Hmmm. I’m not convinced.

> “Conquest” – The White Stripes

The White Stripes are brilliant at the best of times, but when you add a comedy mariachi trumpeter….



> “Proud Mary” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

I don’t think John Fogerty actually played this at Glastonbury, but it’s one of the great man’s best records.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ on the river.


> “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” / “Imperial Body Bags” – Manic Street Preachers

Until I saw them performing some of the songs live at Glastonbury the other week, I had steadfastly resisted the desire to buy the new Manic Street Preachers album. I’ve not really been a huge fan of anything much they have done since “This is My Truth…” nearly ten years ago. The new songs sounded good live though, so I figured I’d give it a crack. “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” is a catchy little duet with Nina Persson from the Cardigans, but the song that really grabs me is “Imperial Body Bags”.

This is proper old school Manics. Who else would think of this rhyme?

“Imperial bodybags, coming home in dribs and drabs
Life is numbers, with doggy tags”

They don’t make’em like this anymore.

> “Evil” - Interpol

The new album (“Our Love to Admire”) is out on Monday and I’ve been listening to their first two albums for much of this week. To be honest, I prefer the first album to “Antics”, but this song is a real standout for me…

Apparently they’ve added some texture to their sound for the new record… but can I be the only one who actually likes a singer who sounds like an undertaker reading from a law book? Surely not?

…. killer video too (if a touch freaky).


Right, now about that wine......


get a good job with good pay and you're okay...

My health insurance premium has just come through.

You might remember that this was the cause of much debate back in August last year when I was transferred from a company that provided insurance as part of my package to another company that didn't. I was clearly going to be out of pocket over this, but seeing as I was seeing a neurologist about the WTs at the time, I felt I had little choice but to ensure that I maintained cover, pretty much whatever the cost. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with my new employer, I was also given a small salary hike and a one-off payment to cover me for the equivalent of one year's premiums.

That year is now almost over. My premium for next year?

£93.88 per month.

I know that my last set of MRI scans cost £900 and I'm hardly likely to let the insurance cover drop now.... but.... I have to admit that I took a very deep breath when I opened the envelope and saw that.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

it seems like years since its been clear....


That's it.

I know it's ridiculously English of me to talk about this, but I am now officially bored of the weather we've been getting this summer. It just has not stopped raining in weeks. Last month was apparently the wettest June since records began (which sounds impressive, but records only began in 1914, which isn't really so very long ago in the grand scheme of things, but I suppose the wettest summer in the last 90 or so years is still pretty wet).

Frankly I'm amazed that there's any water left in the sky to fall, but it's been relentless.

Normally this doesn't really bother me - my bedroom when I was growing up had a partially flat roof and I used to love the sound of the rain beating down on it. I like rain. Hell, I spent a weekend in a tent on a muddy farm a couple of weeks ago, and that was just brilliant.... but this is ridiculous. Occasionally the sun comes out and it looks like things might be looking up.... but before too long it's pissing it down again with renewed fury, often with the sun still out (raincoat, umbrella and sunglasses? It's quite the look this year). You can't seem to go anywhere without getting caught in it. The last few times I've been out running, I've been drenched. Now, I quite like running in the rain once in a while, but every time I go? No thanks.

It was nice for most of the day today.....and then I went out to play football and it rained solidly for about 4 hours.

Is it me? Is it something I've done? Was it something I said?

I'm supposed to be going to the One Day International between England and the West Indies at Trent Bridge on Saturday. D'you think I should get the hint and maybe take an umbrella? Or perhaps I should just save myself the trouble of a drenching and stay in bed?

I suppose it could be worse: at least I don't live in Hull.

Not because of the floods.

Just generally.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I can't remember, tell me what's his name?

We've done Santa.

We've done Spanish Cardinals.

We've done the Flintstones.

We've done Biggles.

We've done Star Wars.

It's one of the biggest decisions of the year and it simply cannot be rushed.

Well, if I have achieved nothing else today, I reckon that the thorny issue of what fancy dress we are going to wear on the Saturday of the Trent Bridge test match has now finally been decided.

Yup. We're going to do "Zulu".

Well, we're going to do the British soldiers from "Zulu" anyway. I don't imagine that anyone is that keen to go as a Zulu warrior (which if memory serves me correctly is a costume that consists of a grass skirt and some grass leg warmers).

It's a pretty simple costume to put together too: red jacket, pith helmet, medals, white straps.... perhaps even a sabre or service revolver or two.

Most importantly of all, it's a costume that allows plenty of scope for ludicrous facial hair.

What do you mean it might be a slightly culturally insensitive choice for a game against India? Surely it's clear that we're aiming for the British Army on the Cape, not the British army on the sub-continent?

To my eyes that's a wholly different set of atrocities, isn't it?

And we get to pretend to be Michael Caine all day too. Who could object to that?

Altogether now: "Stop throwing.....those bloody spears.........AT ME!"*

* yes, I'm aware that Caine doesn't actually say this in the film. But everyone thinks he does, and that's what matters.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

tuesday's grey and wednesday too

I have spent all day today thinking that it was Wednesday.

I'm sure that somewhere in the rational part of my brain (assuming that there is one) I knew exactly what day it was: I still managed to turn up to all the right meetings and I even remembered my appointment this evening at the osteopath... but for some reason, today has just felt like a Wednesday.

Finding out that it was in fact only a Tuesday was something of an unpleasant surprise.

Don't you just hate it when that happens?

I bet my whole week is out of sync now.


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Monday, July 02, 2007

oh you know that I'd do anything for you....

Goodness me. Who knew that such a small thing could soak up so much attention?

She's adorable, of course... but she's also skittish, prone to begging for food and just now discovering all about climbing on the kitchen surfaces.

The cheeky little tinker.

The RSPCA advised us that we should keep her indoors for 6 weeks before we start to introduce her to the outside world, so although we can make a fuss of her when we are at home, when we're at work she's left all on her own inside the house (well, a couple of rooms anyway). Hen kindly came in to check on her at lunchtime today, and reported that she was all curled up and fast asleep. That was good to hear, but it does mean that when we go to bed, she's wide awake and eager to wander around her new home exploring.

Did I mention that she has a collar with a bell and a couple of tags on it?






.... until the small hours of the morning when she decided she wanted a bit of smooch and jumped on the bed in search of a tickle, which obviously involved making sure that we were both fully awake and actively responding to her polite (but insistent) requests.

It's funny really - to look at her you'd think that butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Ha! She's been here for less than 2 days and I am already completely under her spell.

I think the Ancient Egyptians had it about right: cats are a higher form of life and we are their slaves.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am being summoned to worship.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

what's new pussycat?

We've had a new addition to the family.

She's called "Minou".

We went to the RSPCA rescue centre on Saturday and she chose us.

I heart her.

(more photos here... courtesy of Hen, of course)