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

Friday, August 31, 2007

making life more tolerable....

Earworms of the Week

Evening all. My turn! My turn!

I heard this in the cinema whilst I was waiting for the Bourne Ultimatum to start. It's a stomach churningly awful number of immense cheesiness, but unfortunately that little guitar trill in the chorus also means that this has always been a weapons grade earworm for me.... so needless to say, the second that I heard it, I knew I was doomed and began to sing along immediately, much to C's consternation.

Never has a band been more aptly named.

Incidentally, the film itself is very good, as long as the handheld camera work in all of the many chase sequences doesn't make you feel sick.

9. Ace of Spades - Motorhead

Radio 1 were doing some gimmicky thing over the bank holiday where they played only hip-hop anthems on Saturday, only dance classics on Sunday, and only guitar music on Monday. As I drove down to my mum and dad's on Monday, it was the first time in absolutely ages where I was pretty much pleased with every track that came up on the radio. They even played the full version of 'Stairway to Heaven' for goodness sake. Mind you, as soon as they slipped this little beauty onto the airwaves, I was in earworm heaven. They might be a one song band as far as most people are concerned... but what a song!

8. My Doorbell - The White Stripes

Another song that I heard on the radio on the drive down to my parents' new house. This dates from Jack White's "Zorro" era, but like most of the best songs by the White Stripes is a stripped down and slightly eccentric little classic... Jools Holland accompanied them on the keyboard when they played this song on "Later..." recently, and it ruined it. Just guitar and drums! There's no denying that Jack and Meg have chemistry, and adding anything else to the mix seems to dilute it.

Apparently Tom Jones is going to cover this. God spare us.

No. Really. Spare us.

7. Suburban Knights - Hard-Fi

This has taken a little while to grow on me, and I originally had this down as nothing more than a Clash clone, but after a few listens I'm really starting to like it. It is undeniably Clash influenced, but there's also some Ennio Morricone Spaghetti western type soundracking in there.

Plus they're mates of Billy Bragg and hang out in the Leftfield at Glastonbury, so we should support our comrades.

6. Angry Mob - Kaiser Chiefs

I'm not a big Kaiser Chiefs fan and I haven't bought the last album because I think they are (in the main) horribly unoriginal sub-Britpop chancers, but for some reason I find this song strangely appealing. I think it's the chorus:

"We are the angry mob
We read the papers every day
We like who like
We hate who we hate
But we’re also easily swayed"

They're not half as clever as they think they are, but credit where credit is due. Anyway, I caught myself singing this in the shower, so it has to go on the list really.

5. The Pretender / My Hero - Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters sit proudly at the top of my "Bands I Want to See Live" list... so I was naturally delighted to be able purchase some tickets to go and see them at the NEC in November. Hurray! Actually these songs were in my head before I saw that the gigs were about to go on sale. "The Pretender" is the new single and is pretty much the Foo Fighters all over: pedal to the metal rock with a strangely amiable feel to it (thanks I think to Dave Grohl). "My Hero" is a bit of a slower one, and it's not really one of my favoruites, but as with "Angry Mob", I caught myself singing it in the shower, so it's clearly got stuck on my internal jukebox.

Special mention here for Lord Bargain, who bravely volunteered to accompany me to the Foos gig because he knows how much I'd like to see them... even though he himself doesn't really like the band at all. That's friendship for you. As it happens I'll be going to the gig in the company of Sarah and Mark, but the offer was very much appreciated.

4. Neighbourhood #2 (Laika) - Arcade Fire

The Arcade Fire are a band that so many people have raved about that I find myself instinctively suspicious of them. I haven't really listened to "Neon Bible" very much yet, but I caught about half of their set at Glastonbury this year and they were so impressive live that I am going to see them at the Arena later on in the year. They're in my head this week because I was exploring the interactive content on BBC3 and ended up watching their set from last weekend's Reading Festival. I thought they were brilliant, although C. told me that she thought that they were "depressing". Each to their own I suppose. I immediately dug the first album out and I've had it on in the car ever since.

3. Nobody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt - We Are Scientists

Well, actually, I replaced the Arcade Fire CD with the We Are Scientists CD on Thursday morning, and was immediately reminded how much I love the album and this song in particular. They're a great band: quite loud, angsty and slightly silly.

"My body is your body
I won't tell anybody
If you want to use my body
Go for it

Lots of "woah-oah-ohs" in this song too, which is always a good thing.

2. Anything Goes - Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw from Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom)

It's quite a rock-y list this week, so by way of a change of pace, here's a song that was planted in my head by a certain Mr. Mark Reed who mentioned it in a text message. You may remember that this is from that long opening sequence in the club where Indy has inadvertently drunk some poison and is scurrying around with some Chinese gangsters looking for the antidote / a giant gemstone / the ashes of an ancestor.

It's the mandarin bit that really sticks in my head:

"Yi wang si-i wa ye kan dao
Xin li bian yao la jing bao jin tian zhi Dao
Anything goes."

Incidentally, have you seen the pictures of Harrison Ford in full Indiana Jones get-up as they start to film the next movie? I had my doubts, but he's still got it.....

1. The Unthinking Majority - Serj Tankian
(it's a great video too, so do check it out)

Zane Lowe played this the other day, and I immediately loved it. Tankian is the singer from System of a Down, and this is instantly recognisable. It's very political, apparently:

"I believe that you're wrong
Insinuating that they hold the bomb
Clearing the way for the oil brigade
Clearing the way for the oil brigade"

...but to be honest I like it mostly because of the trademark slightly bonkers loud/quiet/loud format.

Let's rock!


I'm thinking of doing another Shuffleathon -- you know, that thing we did where you make a compilation CD, I draw names out of a hat and you send your CD to that person and they review it. You also receive a compilation CD from someone else and review that.

It took ages last time, but it was a lot of fun I thought.

Whaddaya say? Would anyone be interested?


anonymous call; a poison pen; a brick in the small of the back again

I lost a pen yesterday.

It wasn't an especially nice or an especially expensive pen, but I liked it. It was a blue/black gel pen that I bought in Muji for less than a pound. I liked writing with it and I was sorry to discover that I had lost it somewhere. At the first opportunity I will buy another one.

...and then in my first meeting of the day, I noticed that the guy sitting next to me had a blue/black gel pen from Muji.

I supressed my instincts to decry him as a thief and instead tried to shrug and accept that it wouldn't really be that surprising if someone else had the same pen as me. He could have bought it himself, after all.

...and then he picked up the pen and carefully read the sticker on the side, as though seeing it for the first time.

It doesn't mean anything. Deep breath. Deep breath. Concentrate on the meeting.

... and then he opened up his notebook and started to draw a couple of lines with the pen, examining the nib carefully each time, as though trying it out for the first time.


It cost me less than a pound.

He could have his own or he could have found mine lying around on the floor somewhere and picked it up. It doesn't mean anything. I lost the damn thing and I'm going to buy a new one.

So why do I still find myself to be mildly annoyed?

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

of recklessness and water....

I know there are probably worse things going on in the world and everything, but in my comfortable middle-class world, the clearest demonstration of man's continuing inhumanity to man is to be found in the swimming pool.....

There are only so many lanes in a swimming pool, and there are often lots of people wanting to go for a swim at the same time. If we all want to swim - and we do - then we are forced to share. If we want to swim, we must coexist with our fellow swimmers, sometimes crammed many to a lane.

In a harmonious world, a world where people gave a damn about their fellow man, this would not present any issues. Every swimmer would have an instinctive understanding of the space that their fellow swimmers required and would show some simple consideration: faster swimmers would be allowed to pass at each end, and slower swimmers would pause to let the quicker swimmers through. Nobody would have to feel rushed, or frustrated or angry.

Everything would be just peachy.

But we don't live in a world like that. We live in a world where, if they think of anyone or anything at all, people think of themselves. We live in a world where a swimmer will think nothing of pausing for breath at the end of a length, putting their arms behind them and generally taking it easy as the person behind them swims towards them. Their only concern at this time will be that they kick off for their next length at the last possible moment before the other swimmer arrives. It doesn't matter to them that they swim considerably slower than their fellow in the lane; it doesn't matter to them that they also did this at the other end of the pool too, that the other swimmer was forced to wait for half a length to give them enough room to kick off, and will now be forced to wait another half a length before kicking off. Hell no, the important thing here is that this person has the best possible swim that they can. To hell with anyone else.

If we can't coexist in a swimming pool, what damn chance do we have anywhere else?


Creepy boss update: C. had a meeting with the new boss and a number of other people today. C's current director was sitting between them, but new boss kept leaning behind his back to wink at C. during the meeting.... about 8 times in all.

I think the new boss likes C, but it's kind of hard to know for sure, isn't it?

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

you're not the boss of me now....

In stark comparison to my so-called career, C's doing quite nicely for herself at the moment. After a frustrating few years when she always seemed to be highly regarded but constantly passed over for jobs in favour of less able candidates, she's finally been getting a bit of recognition recently. The company has just been merged with another large retailer/wholesaler and has been taken off the stock market and is now in private ownership. As you might imagine, this has caused a certain amount of upheaval. The changes don't really affect me much, and actually I've been roped in to work on a large project related to the integration itself. C's position has been rather more fundamentally changed, with lines of management being completely redrawn and it looks like there's going to be further significant restructuring ahead. C's job is changing, but in spite of all of the uncertainty that brings, I get the sense that her stock has never been higher. After all, what's not to like? She's a very unusual beast in what is essentially a UK retailer because she speaks several languages fluently and is very good at everything she turns her hand to. As such, I think the new owners prize her, even if they have a rather funny way of showing it.

Last night, C. and the executive team of her part of the business were taken out to dinner by their new boss. Not only does their new boss head up the sizeable international wholesale business of the company, but she also happens to be the long-term partner of the new owner and has a hefty personal stake in the company. I've never met the woman, but I've heard lots of whispers that she's not really much cop, that her part of the business is run terribly, but no one dares to say anything to her because of her relationship with the boss. If that's true, then it's a rubbish state of affairs.


At dinner last night, apparently everyone was unsurprisingly falling over themselves to try and butter up their new boss and to make an impression... everyone, that is, apart from C, who didn't have the energy or the inclination because she's tired of being messed around and she's tired of the politics. At one point during the evening, in the middle of a conversation, the new boss lady stood up, walked across the room to the sofa where C. was sitting and began to stroke her hair. Not surprisingly, conversation dried up and people stopped to stare in slack-jawed amazement. C's response to this was to keep her composure and to say (in French - new boss is Italian and not very comfortable conversing in English) that she was going to stand up now as conversation was awkward between them with her sitting on such a low sofa.

Nicely done, but there's no escaping from the fact that this was a very clear gesture by the new boss to everyone else present in the room, people who had been busy trying to impress her all night, that C. is the one she has picked out. Later on in the evening she was busy telling C. (perhaps a little wistfully) that she had done so well, considering she was "just a baby".


Whilst I'm convinced that this woman was very much trying to make a point to everyone there, I'm also pretty sure that the way she chose to go about it was simply a reflection of a cultural difference between a hot-blooded Italian and a bunch of stiff-upper-lipped brits. I'm sure she didn't mean to offend anyone.....(except perhaps C's current boss, who is presumably very much threatened by this development). Of course, my rather less mature response to this story when a slightly ruffled C. relayed it to me later that evening was to insinuate that she was being "groomed" by the new boss for an entirely different reason....

For some reason, I also now can't shake the image of the White Witch from "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" feeding Edmund Turkish Delight, as if he were some kind of pet.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

tuesday - suffocation.

I don't want to sound ungrateful or anything, and I had a lovely time over the weekend and everything.... but why is it that the week after a bank holiday always seems to last f-o-r-e-v-e-r?

It's only a four day working week, but I was already clock watching at 10:04am this morning.

Rubbish, and three whole days of this week to go yet.

Even worse: that was the last bank holiday weekend we get before Christmas and the next holiday in my diary is for the end of January.



Monday, August 27, 2007


Whilst we were out today, it looks like someone was kept royally entertained....

Outside is great, but the stick game just makes it perfect.

Whilst I would never lay claim to being the most masculine man in the world, I have definitely gone soft over this cat. But surely you'd need a heart of stone to resist a little face like that?

I must never have children....


Photos by Hen, of course. Thanks for popping by and making sure our poor cat wasn't cooped up indoors all day.


and I remember how we'd play, simply waste the day away....

After more than thirty years in the same house, my parents have finally upped sticks and moved. They've only moved a mile or so down the road and into the village proper, but when I drove down there for the first time today, it still felt very strange. My parents moved to the old house in 1977 when I was barely three years old and I can't really remember any other home. Of course, I hadn't lived there properly since I finally moved out more than ten years ago after University. I was sort of expecting "moving out" to be a big thing, but in the end it was really a case of not moving back at the end of the academic year when I had finished my Masters. My room stayed pretty much just as I had left it, only I was now officially living at a different address.

Given that I started attending a boarding school in 1981 when I was seven years old, and boarded until the age of 18, at which point I left for University... I suppose you could say that I hardly spent any time there at all. You could say that, but of course it was here that I came back to when school broke up; it was here where over the course of several years I flattened a piece of ground until it became serviceable as a cricket pitch; it was here that I used to sneak out into the field for a crafty smoke when I thought no one was looking.

That house holds a lot of memories for me. Long after I moved out, this was the place that I still called "home".

So I suppose I surprised myself slightly when we drove past the old house on the way down to visit my mum and dad at their new address. The shell of the building was intact, but as I slowed down to have a good look, I could see that the entire garden, the garden that my parents must have spent thousands of hours trying to tame, had been decimated. The new owners appear to have gutted the house itself and are busy building two enormous extensions at either end of the building. I surprised myself because I felt almost completely detached from the whole thing. My parents used to live there; I grew up there. But my parents don't live there anymore. The house is changing, but the memories remain and the memories revolve around the people, not the place itself. It's only bricks and mortar. Only bricks and mortar.

I turned my head back to the road and drove on down into the village to see the new house, which, although it's very nice, I will never call home.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

shotgun wedding....

Why is it that the earlier I go to bed, the more tired I feel? C. has been away the last couple of days, and for whatever reason I seem to have ended up in bed a lot earlier than usual. My phone has a mildly annoying feature that, when I set the alarm, it tells me exactly how long there is to go before I have to get up. Usually this is about 7 hours, but for the last two days it has been telling me that I comfortably have 9 hours to go. So why do I feel so tired then? Eh?? Eh??

Ah well. Anyway. It's the weekend now, and I haven't seen a Saturday morning since God knows when, and long may it continue.

This week's Guest Editor is a long-time friend of this blog. In fact, as I believe I said the last time he appeared in this slot, he's the first blog that I found when I hit the "next blog" button in Blogger. As it turns out, he's also the only worthwhile blog that I have ever discovered through hitting that button.

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to offer up for your earworming pleasure.... one of the real gentlemen of the internet....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #71 - Charlie from Late Night Radio

Swiss! thanks for the chance. Always good times.

Besides feeling like a Triple-A player getting a cup of coffee in the majors, the thing I dig most about my yearly guest spot on the earworms of the week is seeing where my tastes go year-by-year. In 2005, I was listening to Mike Doughty. 2006 showed up, and even though it didn't make the list, I'm still listening to Mike Doughty. Guess whose forthcoming album I'm really looking forward to in late '07 or early '08? Yeah, Mike Doughty. But I digress - there's plenty of other stuff that gets stuck in my head (but not Kelly Clarkson. This time).

By the way, Swiss, shouldn't we trade CDs sometime? [ST's note: absolutely we should. Let's do that]

Anyway, on to the list:

10. Tay Zonday - "Chocolate Rain."

This song is the fucking terrible internet sensation of the week. I hope none of you have seen this, or any of its parodies on YouTube. I hope, if you've seen it, that this doesn't put it back in your head. I hope reading this doesn't inspire curiosity to look for it in those of you who haven't seen it. I hope once you find it, that it doesn't get stuck in your head for all eternity. I hope by the end of this column, you don't find yourself singing "Chocolate Rain, blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blah blah..." Good luck.

9. The Arcade Fire - "Keep the Car Running."

Everybody goes all gah-gah over the Arcade Fire's first album, but I don't really get that one so much. The second one, which spawned this track, seems to be a little more cohesive, and definitely produced the more standout tracks. Like this one. I still don't get the fuss over this band, but this song is a total keeper.

8. Galactic featuring Chali 2Na of Jurassic 5 - "Think Back."

Tops on my musical wishlist in recent months is some improvisational funky jazz with a rapper on top of it. Think Soulive's live show (guitar and keys solos included) with some awesome lyricist dude freestyling all over it. This, a collaboration with some notable hip-hoppers by one of the better funky jazz outfits in America, is almost it. A little too stiff and unimprovised, but close. I'm digging it.

7. The Raconteurs - "Steady as She Goes."

I'm lukewarm on this album, but mad hot on Jack White's guitar pyrotechnics. This song, particularly the part of the chorus consisting of "steady as she goes" has been stuck in my head since I picked it up a few weeks ago.

6. Mark Ronson - "Just."

Someone in my office has found it necessary to ask me if I listen to any Radiohead that's not a cover. The answer is not really (Warren Haynes, Easy-Star Allstars and the Devil's Workshop Big Band all do more), and the same can be said of me and Bob Dylan. Ronson's added horns and backbeats make this song funky as hell and catchy as balls.

5. Wilco - "The Thanks I Get."

This song was cut from the recent Sky Blue Sky record I haven't shut up about lately. If you've popped over to my site in recent months, you've heard me mention this record. If you've hung out with me lately, you've probably heard me talk about this record. If you've ridden in my car or listened to a burnt mix CD from me lately, you've probably heard pieces of this record. It's a gorgeous song, unfortunately cut from a great disc, and it's been stuck in my head for three months.

4. Drive-By Truckers - "Never Gonna Change."

DBT, to me, is country. It's not your faux-twangy Kenny Chesney bullshit, it's gritty, straight from the heart, three-guitar rockage featuring some of the best storytelling I've ever seen. This, from Jason Isbell (the third, probably best, and and now departed of their songwriters), is a prime example. I can not help wholeheartedly rocking out every time I hear "you can take me to the Colbert County jailhouse. You can throw me off the Wilson Dam, but there ain't much difference in the man I wanna be and the man that I really am."

3. Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds - "Eh Hee."

Yeah. Writing an earworm column is a lot like going to the doctor. It doesn't do you any good if you're not honest. I've got a pretty mixed relationship with Dave Matthews Band - they were the best thing since sliced bread for me in high school, then, somewhere around the year 2000, they just stopped making good music, like someone just flipped a switch. One weakness for me still, though, is Dave's acoustic performances with Tim Reynolds. Tim's a nasty, bad man on acoustic guitar, and his rockin' accompaniment somehow freshens Dave's tired tunes. Next thing you know, you're walking to work thinking "eh-EEEH-HEE" to yourself.

2. Grace Potter - "Here's to the Meantime."

There are many things going for Grace Potter. First, she has a fantastic voice. Second, she performs both on a B3 and on a Flying V guitar. Finally, she's gorgeous. What's not to like? Her tunes are soulful and remniscent of a Janis Joplin-meets-The Band thing, and she's spunky and awesome. My girlfriend would be a huge fan if not for the mild crush I've got on her.

1. Jason Isbell - "Brand New Kind of Actress."

Two tunes by the same songwriter in the same list, but since this is off of his debut solo record, it doesn't count as a repeat. The whole end of this song with the sing-song twang-rock repetition of "put the piece away, I don't care what you did" keeps me listening to this song over and over again. Isbell knows what he's doing - he's combined his gritty storytelling from DBT with the glossy production required to be a hit with crossover audiences, and he's combined them into something awesome. I'm almost more excited to see what becomes of him than I am for DBT's eighth album next year.

OK! Thanks guys. Check out some of these tunes if you like, and hope you enjoy. Cheers.


Always a pleasure to have you round these parts Charlie, always a pleasure. I love having some of our friends from the USA appearing in this slot... it's the way that they pick a mixture of things that are familiar to me (Mark Ronson, the Ranconteurs, The Arcade Fire) with things that I have absolutely no clue about (Jason Isbell, Grace Potter, Drive-By Truckers). By the sounds of it though, and after a totally coincidental conversation with Hen and Lord B, it looks as though my internal jukebox is going to have no escape at all from Tay Zonday.

Oh well.

Good to have you back Charlie, and see you again in 2008?

Next week: me. I think it's time I had another go.

Until then... it's a bank holiday weekend here, and the sun is forecast to be out for once. Happy days!

[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, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike, Michael II, Eye in the Sky II]


Thursday, August 23, 2007

making my escape, making my escape...

Although we haven't yet got a cat flap installed, now that she's had all of her jabs and things, Minou is allowed to wander freely outside for as long as:

-> we are at home
-> the back door is open
-> it's still light

Actually, she doesn't seem to wander very far at all, and she quite often sits in the garden yowling until someone comes out and plays the stick game with her (it's a very simple game really: you take a long twig from the bush in the garden and then the cat chases after it for several hours). After all that time of only being allowed out into the garden with a chaperone, I think she quite likes the company and isn't so sure about wandering too far on her own.

That's not to say that she doesn't wander though... oh no. She's quite a brave little thing and will fearlessly try to see off cats of twice her size when she thinks that they are encroaching on her territory (which now seems to extend outside the garden gate and out to the two cars parked immediately outside). Occasionally she will disappear out of sight entirely, only to reappear at the kitchen door every 20 minutes or so, as if she's checking that we're still there.

After getting up early to drop C. off at the station after her taxi let her down, I let the cat out the back whilst I was pottering about in the kitchen making breakfast, putting the kettle on and getting my football kit ready. After about 45 minutes, I was thinking about having a shower, but was getting a little concerned that I hadn't seen the cat at all. I went out the back and had a quick look, but no sign at all of the tell-tale "tinkle tinkle" from the bell and the tags on her collar. Hmm. I went back inside and fetched the tube of prawns and her bowl... a tink on the bowl and a rattle of the tube usually brings her running. Today, nothing.

I checked my watch. Nearly time to get showered and go to work. Now I was starting to worry... and then something caught my eye and I heard a faint "tinkle".

I looked up and saw that Minou was standing on the windowsill of the house over the road. On the *inside* of the window.


I'd seen the owner leaving about an hour before, so I knew the house was empty. I picked up the tube of prawns and found my way around to the back and into the garden. A kitchen window was open and there was a cat flap on the back door. As far as I know, Minou has never used a cat flap before, so I assumed that she had climbed in through the window. I quickly realised that she wasn't going to come back out through the window and that I was going to have to try and coax her out through the flap.

Was she having any of it?

Was she hell.

I rattled the prawns and called to her, and all she wanted to do was to wander about, clamber on the furniture and eat a second breakfast from the catfood that had been put down on the kitchen floor for the owners two cats (where the hell were they to protect their patch?). At one point, Minou yawned, and I really thought that she was going to curl up on the sofa and go to sleep.

I must have been there for about 30 minutes in all, trying to coax the damn cat to the catflap with a prawn and to either grab her, or encourage her through. No joy. She was keen on the prawn alright, but seemed wary of the catflap, and was doubly wary after a couple of failed attempts to grap her.

In the end, she came out under her own steam, looking a little skittish about the whole experience. She wouldn't let me get close enough to her to pick her up, but dashed out of the garden, down the alley and over the road until she was right outside our back door, where she mewled to be let in.

As soon as she was in, she mewled to be let back out again.

No chance sunshine.

It's a stressful business this cat ownership thing. This definitely wasn't in the manual.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

will soon be gone...

[I've tried to make this spoiler free, by the way]

JK Rowling has apparently now sold 325 million books worldwide. The last four books in the Harry Potter series have sucessively been the fastest selling books in history. She is estimated to have a personal fortune of something like £545m. So I suppose it's fair to say that she's done reasonably well since she first sat down in 1995 and hammered out "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" on an old manual typewriter.

I jumped onto the band wagon at around about the time of the third book, when I quickly devoured "The Philosopher's Stone", "The Chamber of Secrets" and "The Prisoner of Azakaban" and joined the growing throng waiting for the publication of "The Goblet of Fire", which is where it all seemed to go absolutely crazy.

I finished the seventh and last book ("The Deathly Hallows") a couple of weeks ago now and to be honest, I'm fairly glad it's over. I was always going to read my way through to the bitter end, but since the high watermark of book 3, some of the magic and charm was gone and the books have got longer and longer and the writing has seemed flabby, as if the publishers now felt that it was more important to get the book out quickly and to milk their cash cow than it was to make sure that the text was properly edited. When C. finished the last book, I asked her if she thought it was any good, and she paused for a moment before saying "No". Clearly this wasn't going to stop me from reading it, but did I agree? Yes, I suppose I did. Sure, it was interesting in places and it held my attention, but I found it largely unsatisfactory and felt mildly confused and a little bit cheated by the ending. By contrast, when I finished the last of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" books, I was in tears.

The world of wizards and muggles, of Hogwarts and Gringotts, of Dumbledore and Voldemort is - without question - beautifully conceived by the author. The stories are (in the main) engaging and the characters appealing. But in the end, what is Rowling's legacy? Are these stories that are going to stand the test of time? Rowling would probably be quick to agree that she's no C.S.Lewis, but her handling of the characters and their adolescent emotions was sometimes appallingly clumsy and the dialogue stilted. Consider Hermione for a moment: she was one of the three major characters, and yet after seven books, did she ever become anything more than a crudely drawn cipher of the class swot, sitting in the front row of class with her hand straining in the air to answer every question? Was Ron ever really more than the loyal but slightly dim best friend?

To my mind, the answer to both questions is no. We never really find out about Voldemort either.... yes, yes I get the parallels with Nazism and purity of the blood and all that, but are we supposed to believe he was just born bad? Is that how we explain Hitler?

Is it fair of me to fault Rowling because she doesn't have the grander ambitions of a writer like Philip Pullman? Pullman's "Dark Materials" books are aimed at an older audience, it's true, but the scope of his imagination seems so much grander, his references wider and his writing so much more artful....

Perhaps I'm being too critical. I am thirty-three years old and the books are, after all, intended for an audience at least half my age. Rowling's crowning achievement simply has to be that she got children to put aside their computers and their playstations for a little while whilst they sat quietly and read a book.

For that alone, I salute her.

Just don't get me started on the ending.





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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

dream on...

I've had a number of things chewing over in my mind recently, and maybe as a direct result of this, I woke up at about 4am this morning having had an extremely vivid dream:

It is late at night and I am in the living room at my parents' house. Everyone else has long since gone to bed. The phone rings (only it isn't a phone, it is coming from my laptop). I answer and there is a moment of silence at the other end before a slightly reluctant voice speaks. I recognise the voice at once, even though I haven't heard it now for something like 5 years. It is my friend Justin. He wants something but he doesn't want to tell me what it is and asks me to go and get my older brother. I go upstairs to the room where my brother is sleeping and try to wake him up but he's soundly asleep and he barely stirs. I go back downstairs to discover that Justin is now quite agitated and can no longer wait for my brother to get up and talk to him. He has something he needs to say and it now looks like he will have to say it to me. He tells me that he needs someone to look after his parents' luggage. They are in the airport and about to go to Eygpt, but for some reason they have to leave their bags behind and need someone to look after them. As we speak, Justin tells me that he has already sent them to my mum and dad's house and wanted to make sure that they would be taken care of.

...but my mum and dad have just moved, I tell him. The bags will be going to the old house, and there will be noone there to receive them.

And then I woke up.

What does it mean?

Answers on a postcard please.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

he ain't no drag....

We've just had my father-in-law staying with us a week.

I imagine that for lots of people, this could be something of a chore.... but as C's father lives in France, when he comes over to England, he wants to do all of the things that he can't really do when he's at home. So for the last seven days, I have mostly been:

-> going to the pub and drinking proper beer
-> having a curry
-> going to the chippie for a proper fish supper
-> watching Match of the Day
-> watching France vs England in the rugby and loudly supporting England
-> eating a full Stoke Breakfast of oatcakes, bacon, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheshire cheese

That kind of stuff.

As he also drove over from France, we now have a house full of delicious cheese and several bottles of really excellent wine that has been brought up from the cellar at home and "needs drinking now".

So you know, what's not to like about a visitor like that?

Mind you, I think he's always quite liked me from the moment on the drive back from the airport in France on my first visit when I asked if he minded if I tuned his car stereo into Radio 4 long wave to listen to Test Match Special. I don't think many of C's French boyfriends ever really understood cricket.

Their loss was my gain, I suppose.

Scattergories did take some explaining though....

(Incidentally, I get on very well with my mother-in-law too. She's not so big on football, it's true, but she's also excellent company.)

(....and I get on with C's brother)

(and I suppose I get on reasonably with their daughter too....she has her moments)

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

cry wolf...

C to me (whilst peering through the front window of Lord B and Hen's new next door neighbour): "Oh, you're right. He *does* look like a wolfman"

Me to C (slightly quickening my pace): "You do know it's possible to hear through glass, right?"


Friday, August 17, 2007

all my world is one grain of sand....

I don't know how it's been for you, but this has felt like a very long week indeed to me. Still, it's over now and I've got a nice glass of Semillon Chardonnay on the go and some fish and chips on the way.


Anyway. Friday = Earworms.

This week's Guest Editor is a long-time friend and sometime colleague of this blog. His taste in music is fantastically eclectic, and because I occasionally used to buy stuff from Amazon on his behalf, my recommendations are still hopelessly skewed by his purchases (Sapphire and Steel, anyone?).

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

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #70 - The Eye In The Sky

I'm afraid, all that clever writing stuff of an earworm guest editor's opening paragraph has deserted me. So, in no particular order, here are the tunes:

> Renaissance - Secret Mission

I ran into this on You Tube and it kinda stuck. Renaissance are one of those bands who seem to have (unjustly) been buried by punk. It has much to commend it: clear soaring vocals from the incomparable Annie Haslam, 12-string jangles aplenty, and some excellent Bass-as-lead lines from Jon Camp. No idea what the hell it's about, but that's often the way with an earworm.

> Caravan - disassociation / 100% proof

Many years ago, there was a "scene". The Canterbury scene, a vast soup of talent, jazz, exploration, humour, and taste. Several young men getting together in bands and grooving for the fun of it. Caravan came from this background (as did Kevin Ayers, and also Soft Machine) and produced a steady string of underground hit albums and a strong, loyal following. This pair of tracks - forever linked - are a wonderful, plaintive, tender ballad, and a cathartic blowout, release. Dig it man. Oh and if you've never heard of them, there's a sample of them playing something off the same album "In the Land of Grey and Pink" - Golf Girl

> Yes - Parallels

Hmmm. We start with a chord fanfare on church organ (recorded in Switzerland), heralding a ringing bass line, and then lifted to the stars by one of Steve Howe's lifting guitar lines. . . . . and then it has nowhere else to go so Jon Anderson starts singing. I love this track.

> Magazine - Shot by both sides

Another blast from the YouTube time machine. I was presented with Magazine by my contemporaries at the time they were happening. I gamely nodded and thought this is ok. And did nothing about it. After almost two decades dormant, the butterfly has emerged - I love this band. All indie bands should kneel down and face in the direction of Howard Devoto, the mortal remains of John "the Legend" McGeoch, of Barry Adamson, of Dave Formula's keyboard stack, and John Doyle's tasteful drums. For this is the womb that gave life to indie, the 2nd dawn of the electric guitar. The Smiths should eat Magazines shorts. Oh and this is a great record. Buy all their stuff. Do it now!

> Sally Oldfield - Waterbearer

I've just imported a remastered copy of this album from Japan. It comes in a replica miniature album sleeve, complete with facsimile lyric sheet from the original LP, and paper inner sleeve. The CD itself comes in it's own anti-static, dust and scratch guard condom to prevent damage to the disk, enclosed in a wholesome reusable cellophane wrapper to protect the sleeve. This is an artisan CD re-release. I tracked it from the Japanese stockists across the world to my doorstep courtesy of Japan Post's parcels tracking service, my anticipation building as it came closer. And it was worth every penny of the price. This remastering has revealed the depth and sparkle of every aspect of this album. Rich sonorous low's, sparkling high's polished like fine crystal in the early morning sun, cupping the wine of music in the glass of silence that you can hear, nay feel. Naturally with any eagerly anticipated purchase it sticks in the ears.

> Blondie - The Hardest Part [ST's note: dammit but Debbie Harry looks good in this video]

Debbie Harry and Blondie are best remembered for great songs such as Atomic, Heart of Glass, Call me, Hanging on the Telephone, Denis .... the list is extensive. Most bands would donate kidneys to have 2% of Blondie's catalogue of great songs. However, lurking amongst the album tracks are some gems that haven't seen the popular light of day because of the stellar nature of the other material. So here is a song about a robbery on an armoured car. Might I suggest this could be unique subject matter ? A swaggering, bravado performance from all concerned, and in the video, Ms Harry struts around in a coal black wig, sunglasses, and some scraps of a blackish material. It has to be said that her hip movements, whilst subtle and understated, suggest the ability to crack open an armoured car unaided is a real possibility.

Danger! Attitude ahead.

> Rick Wakeman - Myths and Legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table

Yes - I do own this, yes I do like it and yes, he really did perform this on ice at the Wembley arena. You may also recall the title track being used as the opening theme music to the BBC election night coverage. Stirring stuff.

> The Flying Lizards - Money

I just love the deadpan delivery of Deborah Strickland on this. One of those covers that becomes the definitive version. This is another recent acquisition of stuff I just had to have but couldn't find.

> Pink Floyd - One of these Days

I just found myself humming this. Off the sublimely titled "The Delicate Sound of Thunder" this version includes a nod to the Delia Derbyshire realisation of the Dr Who theme, and aerial swine.

> Donna Summer - Love to Love You Baby

Yes this is the 16' 52" fully orchestrated, satin sheets, tantric overdrive, funkified version. Recorded in Munich and with production as lush as a black forest gateau with double cream.

Oh dear - that just generated another earworm....

> Goldfrapp - Black Cherry.



In the space of a 20 minute drive to work today - without Radio 4 - my mental jukebox stormed through

Kraftwerk - Kometmelodie 2
X-ray spex - Identifty
Jon and Vangelis - the friends of Mr Cairo
Human League - the Black hit of Space
Elkie Brooks - Fool if you think its over
The Muppets - Mneh Mneh (Doo Do Da DOODOO)
Pink Floyd - The Fletcher Memorial Home
Status Quo - Rocking all over the world

- is nowhere safe ?


Ah, many thanks to the Eye for such a comprehensive set of earworms. Yes, Donna Summer, a bit of punk and some Alison Goldfrapp all on the same list? Ah, truly we have been blessed.

Next up: Charlie (hopefully)

[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, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike, Michael II]


Thursday, August 16, 2007

as long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine...

I think it's fair to say that I'm not particularly career orientated. I often work long hours and I like to do as good a job as I possibly can, but it's just a job and I certainly don't live to work. I do not define myself by how well I am doing at work.

After yesterday though, perhaps that's just as well.

Let me explain: for the last few months, I have been working on multi-billion pound merger. As you might imagine, it has been fraught with politics and emotion and and has often been really heavy going. Yesterday, I was invited down to take part in a big presentation to the bigwigs at the company's executive offices in Central London. My slot was fairly early in the day and went reasonably well, but I then had to spend the rest of the day sat patiently at the side of the room, listening to the other presentations - all of which I had heard before - and by about 2pm I was nodding off in my seat.

To be honest, I was tired before we even started. To get down to London in time for the 09:30 start, I had set the alarm for something like 05:15 and caught an early train. Perhaps going to the pub quiz the night before hadn't been the best idea, but the nervous excitement of the presentation and a few cups of coffee had kept me going nicely for a while... but after a break for lunch, the presentations resumed and I suddenly found it impossible to keep my eyes open. I tried to snap myself out of it, but every couple of minutes I could feel my head tipping forwards and my eyes shutting again. I felt helpless. I needed some fresh air, but the room appeared to be hermetically sealed; I needed some coffee, but the presentation on the supply chain was in full flow. I was trapped. I stopped listening and focused all my attention on keeping myself awake.

The feeling lasted for about ten minutes and then passed and I was fine again. The (no doubt fascinating) supply chain presentation finished and I was able to leave the room, splash some water on my face, get some coffee and walk around for a few minutes before the next presenter was up. As far as I could tell, I hadn't actually fallen asleep, but for a while there I had really been struggling. All I could do was hope that no one had noticed.

I looked across the room as I sat down and caught Hannah's eye. She smiled at me, nudged the guy sitting next to her and then mouthed "Are you awake now?" at me across the room.


I did what anyone else in my situation would have done: I scowled back at her and - much to her amusement - mouthed "Fuck off" across the room.

Way to get ahead, ST.

Me and my brilliant career, eh?


Oh well.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I was just guessing at numbers and figures...

I reckon that most people have an instinctive feel for numbers or an instinctive feel for words; that you either see the world in terms of 1s and 0s or in terms of a-e-i-o-u. That's not to say that the one view excludes the other, just that I reckon that most people have a preference.

I'm a words man.

Always have been.

As long as I can remember, I've had a facility for and an enjoyment of words, and it's a standing joke in our family that I never travel anywhere without a book. It's also something of a running joke in my family that I'm hopeless at maths.

To be fair, this jibe has some foundation in the fact that for many years I really, really struggled with mathematics at school. As is the tradition for the brighter students at an English Prep School, at the age of thirteen, I was sent off to sit a number of exams to see if I would be considered for a scholarship to attend Public School. I was duly awarded a scholarship, and proudly took my place the next term with my fellow high achievers in the tops sets of almost every subject...... every subject except maths, that was. In maths, I was put into set five. Out of six. All of my colleagues from the top form were in the top set. On the plus side, this meant that to have been awarded a scholarship at all, I must had done extraordinarily well in my stronger subjects, but it was a bit unusual. I was never exactly embarrassed by this, as I was also convinced that I was a no-hoper in the subject, but it wasn't really very much fun.

As it happened, I came top of the set by absolutely miles. As maths became less sums and became more about simultaneous equations, trigonometry, matrices and the like, I found it got easier. I didn't work well with numbers, but now I had a calculator to deal with that and could focus on things that now required the manipulation of formulae and not simply the ability to work with numbers. I found it much, much easier, as if it now used a different part of the brain. In the summer exams that year, I finished the exam with more than half of the allotted time still to go. As he had nothing better to do, my teacher started marking the papers of those who had finished in the hour or so still to go. After a while, he turned round to the blackboard and started putting up the scores so far:

Thompson: 46%
SwissToni: 98%

I got one question wrong. I think the score rather demoralised those yet to finish.

I was duly moved up to set three, and finished top of that set too... eventually getting an "A" at GCSE and idly contemplating doing the A-Level (until I came to my senses).

I'm still a lot more comfortable with words though, and I love the sound of the English language (sadly only English... I'm not very good at other languages).

So I find it incredibly frustrating that I'm not very good at Scrabble. Or cryptic crosswords. Or the Countdown Conundrum. They're about words, aren't they? I should find these a breeze, shouldn't I? Other people expect me to be good at them too. So why can't I do them?

I reckon it's because anagrams and crosswords and scrabble are all tied up with numbers. I think there is something very numerical about looking at a mix of letters and calculating the words that you can create from them. Hell, Scrabble even assigns every letter a number....

I do have tremendous admiration for people who are good at these things, but the plain fact is that I would like to be good at these things and I'm not.

I'm such an egotist.

And for the record... that's not the reason I have no intention of ever joining Facebook.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

turning japanese....

So, yesterday afternoon I popped into Nottingham to meet up with Sarah and with the intention of visiting "Cult Fiction: Art & Comics" which was on in Gallery at the Castle. We met up in the pub just outside the castle, had a leisurely drink and then headed up towards the gallery. It was approaching 4.15pm by now, but last admissions weren't until 4.30pm and we had plenty of time for a quick wander around.

The only problem was that the gallery appeared to be closed. We looked around a bit to see if there was another way in, and were approached by a man who had been out enjoying the early evening sunshine:

"Can I help you?"
"Yes, is the gallery still open?"
"No. I'm afraid that the last admission was at 4.30pm. We'll be shutting up soon, but there's still some time to enjoy the gardens if you like"

I was confused, and rather obviously looked at my watch. This confirmed that it was, indeed, still 4.15pm. I hesitated for a moment, but quickly decided that this wasn't an argument that I was going to win, so we turned on our heels and headed towards the Broadway instead.

The exhibition is on until September, so another time...

After another quick drink in the rather pleasant Broadway bar, Sarah and I decided that we would watch a film. Our options for the evening were "The Simpsons" (which I couldn't really watch as I imagine C. will want to see it), "The Walker" (which I couldn't really watch because it stars Woody Harrelson), "The Waitress" and "Tales from Earthsea". We opted for Earthsea in the end, and looked forward to some fairly unchallenging animation aimed at children.

....which is almost exactly what we didn't get.

This film was big in Japan: it pushed the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie off the top of the charts in Japan and remained at the top until it as pushed off by the last X-Men film several weeks later. I think something must have got lost in translation. In the following 2 hours, I don't think I understood a single thing that happened. There were some dragons, a king who got stabbed by his son, an utterly useless "archmage" called Sparrowhawk, a horse that looked a whole lot more like a llama, lots of guff about "true names", a wizard weirdly called "Lord Cob" in spite of being obviously female, who turned out to be a man (albeit one voiced by a woman), and a girl who may (or may not) have actually been a dragon. Indeed, for long periods of the film, nothing at all seemed to happen.

Still, some of the animation was very good... although I cannot imagine for the life of me how many kids are going to sit through that without a struggle.

All in all, it was a very trippy couple of hours.

To make up for the failure of our best laid plans for the afternoon, Sarah and I retreated to the Keane's Head where we had some more lovely beer and an absolutely delicious homemade Chicken and Tarragon pie.

No day that features a pie can ever truly be a write-off.

(Oh, and I've finished Harry Potter too. More on that another time).


Friday, August 10, 2007

do you wanna bang heads with me?


Weekend = Earworms.

This week's guest is an old friend of this blog, and when he last had a go at this slot, we had an interesting and eclectic selection that included the likes of Primus, Foo Fighters, Buddy Guy and George Michael.... this time around is no disappointment either.

Ladies and gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce for your earworming pleasure.....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #69 - Michael from Yummy Brain Gravy

Thanks ST for picking up on my offer/beg to share this pesky little group of songs that have been stuck in my head as of late.

"Stone the Crow" by Down - Metal supergroup here. Formed by members of Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, and Crowbar. I've read they were recording a third CD, so instantly I keep hearing Phil sing a line from this song "Long day kill me lord."

"Big Poppa" covered by Mindless Self Indulgence
- I've always had a strange fascination with covers of songs. Especially cross genre ones. This one is a prime example. It just keeps following me... partially by choice.

"Wicked Game" covered by Stone Sour - Last March (the 27th) I saw Stone Sour at the House of Blues in Chicago. It was one of the early dates with my now ex-gf. During the middle of the show, Corey Taylor (lead singer from Stone Sour and Slipknot) took out the acoustic and sang this little Chris Isaak song. Come May 27th, my gf broke up with me. So of course, now I think 27th of the month and this song are forever linked.

"Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer - I'm addicted to memes and quizzes. I took one that told me who my eighties rock icon was. I scored Robert Palmer. So of course, a bunch of his songs became instant earworms. Plus this has increased me need to do this particular song karaoke one night.

"Viva Las Vegas" by Elvis Presley - The weekend of August 3rd I was in Vegas for a bachelors party. That covers why this song showed up as an earworm.

"Heaven's a Lie" by Lacuna Coil - I promised ST some Italian Goth Metal... so here it is. I saw them with Stone Sour, although I was more excited about seeing Lacuna Coil (the opener) than Stone Sour (the headliner). For the past year I've pretty much had one or another Coil song stuck in my head, so I figured I should probably just share the one that started the interest.

"The Last Fight" by Velvet Revolver - Band you like puts out new CD. You listen. There's that standout song that follows you around. This is it. Thanks Velvet Revolver, whom I prefer to call Stone Temple Roses.

"Only Happy When It Rains" by Garbage - Browsing the ads last Saturday, I saw that Garbage were releasing a greatest hits disc. Sight of band = brand new earworm. Besides, Shirley Manson is my second favorite female vocalist of all time (Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil being the first).

"Mother" by Danzig - Recently went to a crowded, smoke filled bar to listen to some local bands. One band was rather terrible. Was a bunch of guys in their twenties, with a lead singer who was like a 50 year old version of the lead singer from Monster Magnet. They tried to do a cover of Mother. They failed at successfully remembering chords and most of the lyrics. They did succeed at putting the song in my head for days.

"Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol - Believe it or not, I hadn't heard this song till about two weeks ago. (I haven't listened to the radio really in over ten years). An online friend of mine from Malaysia sent me a link to a You Tube video she had made, and it had this song playing for the closing credits. I've since become addicted to the song.

And, for your listening pleasure and/or terror... a playlist of these earworms.

Thanks again for the honor ST.


Thanks Michael - the pleasure is all mine. It's always nice to have a list featuring some Italian Goth Metal. It just doesn't happen often enough. Doesn't "Chasing Cars" stand out like a sore thumb on that list? eh? Not exactly pedal to the metal, are they? You might also be interested to know that "Mother" by Danzig is also featured in the game "Guitar Hero II", along with "Them Bones" by Alice in Chains (who I know we share an interest in) as well as some Sabbath, Wolfmother, Guns n'Roses, Van Halen, Kansas, Thin Lizzy... in short, it's a bit of an old rocker's dream. I think you'd like it.

Next time: The return of the Eye in the Sky..... expect prog.

[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, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike]


Thursday, August 09, 2007

(letting in water)

I am incredibly hard-wearing on my shoes.

I'm an overpronator. This means that the outside of my heel strikes the ground hard and then my foot rolls inwards as I take each step. I'm 1m 98cm tall and I weigh something around 86kg. With every step I take, all this mass is magnified and forced down through my spine, through my legs and feet and out into the ground. This means that I place a lot of strain on my joints when I go running (unless I buy trainers with the right kind of support), and it also means that I go through shoes like nobody's business. I got a pair of shoes re-heeled a couple of months ago, and within three weeks, the outside edge of my heel was worn down so much that I needed to take them back to be done again. I like my shoes, but this was going to get really boring really quickly. More drastic action was required. I was offered harder wearing soles, but I decided to go nuclear: this time, I opted for quarter-steels, where the cobbler inserts a bit of metal into the heel to slow down the wearing process. It might sound drastic, but it certainly works. It does have it's downsides though..... I now sound utterly ridiculous as I clippity-clop down the street. As well as sounding like a berk, it's a noise that reminds me of being at school, where quite a few public school numpties (including me, it has to be said) had this done to their (new) shoes just because they liked the way it sounded. I suppose, to a certain ear, that clipping and clopping could sound vaguely patrician. Whatever. I don't really like it much any more, and it makes me feel terribly conspicuous. But y'know, what can I do? What choice do I have?

So anyway. I had the quarter-steel put in and put up with the ridiculous noise accompanying every step and the imagined stares, safe in the knowledge that at least I would no longer have to keep popping back to the cobblers every five minutes.

....well, except that no more than two weeks later I spotted holes in soles of both feet.


On the bright side, it's finally stopped raining, so at least my feet aren't getting wet.

The glass is always half full around here.

I'm telling you about my shoe-wear issues. Does it get any better than this?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

we've been up all night moving the goalposts...

In case you've been living in a cave for the last few weeks, you'll probably know that there is a massive sporting occasion going on in the England this weekend.


England will be taking on India in the third and final test match of the summer at the Oval. England will be hoping to snatch a win to share the series 1-1 and to protect their unbeaten record in home series since 2001.


Hold on.

The new Premier League season is kicking off too, apparently.

If you are remotely interested in this noble game (and a big hello at this point to any American readers who may have discovered the game in the last month or so) then you should be heading over to Cheer Up Alan Shearer. For my money, this is one of the best football blogs on the internet.

Oh alright then. Perhaps I should declare an interest at this point: this marvellous and insightful website is the brainchild of our very own Lord Bargain, although he is (occasionally) helped out by me and (very occasionally) by Flash.

If you get over there now, then you will be able to:

--> Marvel at the manifold marvellous contributions from several reknowned writers in the latest installment of the A-Z of football. I is for.... intelligence, injury time, international management, infiltration and Italia 1990.

--> Gasp in amazement at the stunning insight of ST's pre-season predictions. Or perhaps you will simply be stunned at how obvious they are.

--> Get involved in the Predictions League. Stun us all every week with your amazing ability to correctly predict the scores in every Premier League game. If you get started this week then you won't have so much ground to make up on Lord B.

Also look out for the moment when I put up that inevitable post where I say how I don't really like football anyway.....

Go and have a look. The Guardian football writers do... they steal ideas from us (well, from Lord B) all the time. Their most recent piece of thievery involves stealing the predictions league from us.



As you were.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

let's go outside....part i

Do you think that someone is trying to tell me something?

The RSPCA told us when we adopted Minou that we should keep her indoors for six weeks until she was comfortable and knew where home was. Judging by the fact that she spends a fair bit of time now sitting in front of the back door mewling, I reckon that 5 weeks indoors is about as much as she can take.

We let her out into the garden as much as we can, but we still feel as though we have to stand there and supervise her to make sure she doesn't get into any mischief. It's not enough though. It's clearly not enough. She spends a lot of the day shut up indoors when we're at work, and although I'm sure she's perfectly happy with this arrangement and spends most of the time asleep, this does mean that she has a lot of energy to burn off when we get back. Just before these photos were taken, I had spent 45 minutes out the back with her getting her to hare around in circles after a small branch from the hedge. As soon as we came back inside and had a bite of tea, she was at the door asking - no, demanding - to be let outside again.

We're going to get a cat-flap fitted in the next week or so, and the plan is that she will have free run during the day and that we'll try to keep her inside when she comes back in for her tea. I'm sure when we actually do let her out that she won't wander all that far: she wants to be outside, but I think she's still quite timid. We were woken up the other night by a terrified cat with saucer eyes jumping onto the bed in the small hours of the morning. We looked out of the window and there were a couple of foxes barking at each other in the street. The big outside world is a scary place, and it's going to be something of a wrench when we let her go out on her own.

Goodness. If C. and I ever have kids, do you think I'm going to be one of those "You're not going out in THAT?!" type fathers?