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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

simply waste the day away....

Right - we're back.

I'm going to be writing about my Glastonbury experience somewhere else, so I won't go on about it too much here. How about some photos though, eh?

ST & C. I'm squinting because of the sun and not because of my advancing state of inebriation. OK?

Obligatory picture of the flag type stuff they put up to try and distract you from the mud, the toilets and the ankle deep litter.

Ali. ST. Beer. Sun. Pyramid. Sorted.

Everyone looks good in a fedora.

OK. Almost everyone.

A few pints before I inexplicably fell asleep in front of Bruce Springsteen.

Festival glamour. She spent much of her time between bands reading a thriller. Written in German. How many people at the festival can honestly say that?

Rich & Laura share a toast.

I think it's fair to say that some people enjoyed Madness more than others.

Blur on the Pyramid.

It wasn't a perfect festival by any means, and in spite of what you may read, it wasn't even the best I've attended, nevermind the best ever... but it was still a lot of fun. Same again next year?

(I'll stick a link up to my more considered thoughts when I get one)


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

lay down in the green grass.....

Tomorrow morning we're off down to the Glastonbury Festival. In spite of surviving some of the wettest festivals on record, I've somehow fallen into the trap of wanting to keep looking at the weather forecast. It's good. It's bad. It's improving. It's good again. I've already packed my bag, and I'm of the mind that it's always better to take your wellies and not to need them than to not take them and to wish you had them. Still, it looks set fair at the moment, and I'm nervously anticipating that first pint of organic cider and the satisfaction of the weekend stretching out in front of me. I've done my injection now (right leg), so it's just the mojitos to make and I'll be ready to go.

Rain or shine, it's all good.

I'll obviously not be around here for a few days, but you'll no doubt find me around here (although I doubt very much that I'll be attending any twitter gatherings, that's for sure. I don't know what I will be doing instead, but there must be a million things better than that).

See you on the other side. Otherwise I guess I might just see you there, if you're going.

(incidentally, if you're worried about the value for money of a £165 ticket, I see that Neil Young is charging £55 on his current tour and Springsteen over £60. I realise the festival sets will be different, but that's a pretty big chunk of the entrance fee on just two acts out of hundreds.....)


Monday, June 22, 2009

slow down, you're moving too fast....

I had an early start this morning, leaving the house at a little after 5am to catch a flight to Edinburgh. After wrestling through the crowds of people flying out to Alicante, some enjoying their first pint of the day at 6am, I flew to the Scottish capital, took part in a workshop and then flew home. As I sat in my car on the short drive home, I was feeling distinctly weary and consciously decided to take things easy.

Considering that it is one of the major arterial routes from the motorway into town, the A453 into Nottingham is not a great piece of road. Apart from taking in the magnificent view over the Radcliffe-on-Soar power station, it is a winding road with a single lane on each side and just enough bends and dips to make overtaking hazardous. Not, of course, that this stops people from tanking past you on blind corners. I ended up sat behind a big lorry travelling at 40mph, but that was okay. I was only ten minutes from home and more or less exactly 36 hours away from my departure to the Glastonbury Festival. What's the rush?

After a bit, the lorry took the turn onto the A52, and I was left behind a little Fiat Panda that was travelling even slower. Again, not a problem. I listened to the announcement of the new speaker of the House of Commons and a discussion on some of the challenges he is likely to face, and thought about having pizza for my tea. I waited at the lights, turned past the chip shop and onto my street. There were a couple of people on the right hand side of our road, a student and her dad, I think, loading their car. I slowed a little to avoid a box that was sticking out slightly into the road, and gave them a slight mile as I went past them. No rush. No problem.

So imagine my surprise when I looked in my rearview mirror to see the student, feet planted widely apart in the middle of the road, somewhat pompously waving her arm up and down at me in a gesture intended to tell me to slow down. I actually double-taked. I was travelling at slightly less than 15mph, surely she couldn't be talking to me? There was no one else. I nearly stopped the car in the middle of the road to get out and tell her how fast I was travelling up the road. Does she know how fast most people drive around here? Has she seen the people ducking down the road to try and short-cut the queue at the traffic lights? Did she know how especially calmly I had been driving? Gah!

So much for taking things easy and having a relaxing evening. I am furious. In fact, I'm steaming. I think what makes me most angry of all is the self-righteous way that she stood in the road and gestured slowly and clearly, as though signalling to an aircraft coming in to land. How fucking dare she?

C. is telling me to let it go, but I've still half a mind to pop down the road and tell her what for. Given that I have just had a shower and I'm now wearing nothing but my Moroccan djellaba, I'm not sure this would be wise... I'd probably look something like Alex Guinness making his first appearance over the dunes in Star Wars.

....although on second thoughts, perhaps that would be no bad thing. [geek] The Jundland wastes are, after all, not to be travelled lightly [/geek].


Friday, June 19, 2009


It's been a long week, and as I drove away from work a little after 8pm this evening, I saw a crow picking at something on the road. I stopped and had a look: it was a rat. I suppose all the others must have got away okay before rush hour.....

Earworms of the Week

> "Rock And Roll All Nite" - Kiss

Two weeks running I get an earworm by Kiss? And neither of them are "God Gave Rock And Roll To You"? Where's the justice in that? I ask you. I'm not even an especially big fan of the band. In fact, I happen to think they're a bit ridiculous. No... they're a lot ridiculous. Still, not many bands make this list two weeks running, so they must be doing something right.

> "Magic Moments" - Perry Como

Weapons grade earworm. Awful, syrupy nonsense, but absurdly catchy. Perhaps the quintessential earworm.

> "The Boys of Summer" - Don Henley

This is something of a guilty pleasure for me. I'm not really a big fan of The Eagles, and I'd be hard-pushed to name another song that Henley (as a solo artist) has done.... but this song is just great, isn't it? Even an appalling cover version by DJ Sammy couldn't quite ruin this for me. Not quite. Right up there with Phil Collins in the pantheon of singing drummers, in my humble opinion.

> "Midlife Crisis" - Faith No More

Recently reformed in the classic Mike Patton line-up and headliners at the Download festival last week. Faith No More will always remind me of two particular moments in my life: "From Out of Nowhere" was the song we used to play to psych ourselves up before we sat each of our GCSE exams back in 1990. I was also lucky enough to be present at a gig at the Birmingham NEC in about 1993, when the band played their cover of "Easy" and the audience showered the stage with the velvet coverings on their seats. Brilliant band. I'm not sure why this song in particular has popped into my head, but I was thinking of the band during the week and this is the tune my internal jukebox was playing. Good song.

> "Superstition" - Stevie Wonder

Well, you can't argue with this one, can you? Quality song. No idea where it came from, but I'll take it all day long........ wouldn't you?

> "Blinded by the Light" - Bruce Springsteen

I'm sort of distantly aware of Springsteen's career, but I've never really been interested enough to buy any of his albums. He's headlining Glastonbury next week, of course, and a friend of mine - a big fan of The Boss - was kind enough to get me the 2 CD Greatest Hits album for my birthday back in March. We have gone to the festival together for many years, and I would have been delighted to stand and watch Springsteen with him, not least because he's supposed to be a legendary live act. Sadly, said friend is not able to attend this year, but I will be there next Saturday night, and will raise a pint of enamel-stripping organic cider or a plastic beaker of shiraz to absent friends. This, incidentally, is a cracking record. You're probably familiar with the Manfred Mann version of the song, although Springsteen enunciates the lyrics better, so it's harder to pick up a mondegreen like "wrapped up like a douche" instead of "revved up like a deuce". I did wonder why you would want to be wrapped up like a douche bag, to be honest..... although part of me prefers that as a lyric.

> "New Rose" - The Damned
> "Career Opportunities" / "Garageland" - The Clash

I went to watch a play called "Garageband" last night at the Nottingham Playhouse. It's about a bunch of middle-aged guys (and one girl) who form a punk band and try to recapture some of the enthusiasm of their youth. It was quite good, I thought. Not superb, but pretty good. It also featured lots of live music, which was very nicely done, even with the singer's thick Devonian accent. I'm not sure if they actually played "Career Opportunites" (too hard, perhaps... the Clash were deceptively good musicians), but I think it was played between scenes, along with loads of punk classics, along with "Garageland", which I thought they might have made more use of, but perhaps avoided as being too obvious. They did, however, play a pretty good version of "New Rose". The play was a reminder, if nothing else, of just how good some of those punk singles were. During some of the dialogue, it was suggested that "Anarchy in the UK" featured some of the most incendiary lyrics ever put to record. I'm sure NWA and others might disagree, but I was thinking about it, and - in the context of the times - they were pretty inflammatory. They're also surprisingly good, too. Johnny Rotten may have set out to shock, but he did have a way with words (although I remain unconcinvced by "Holidays in the Sun". New Belsen? Do we have to?)

> "All Sparks" - Editors

I don't really like Editors. The first album is pretty good, but the second one I can take or leave. I'm also not a big fan of the singer, although I don't think this is anything to do with his relationship with Edith Bowman (you left lovely Guy for that?). This is a cracker though. Simple lyrics and riff, but it's stood up pretty well, I reckon. I think the band themselves perhaps have the potential to go the same way as the Stereophonics and settle for the easy option of middle-of-the-road, lowest common denominator rubbish, but I hope not. I've seen them live a couple of times, and they are the only band I can think of who made more sense on an Arena stage than they did in a much smaller venue like the Rescue Rooms. Most bands I prefer in the more intimate surroundings, but somehow Editors sounded better bigger.

> "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" - Tight Fit

It's the first Test match tomorrow between the World Champion Springboks and the British and Irish Lions, and I'm starting to get very excited indeed. Lions tours are special: they only happen once every four years and see the very best rugby players in the British Isles come together to take on the very best of the Southern Hemisphere. For the South Africans, it's perhaps even more special: the last time the Lions were here was in 1997, and for most of the players, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Rugby is a proper game, and rugby matches don't come much bigger than this, and I'll be wearing my 1997 replica shirt with pride tomorrow and cheering our boys on. The song? It's a classic, isn't it? All the way from 1982, you know...... Before I go, though, here's a question that's been bothering me: who would win in an imaginary fight between a lion and a tiger. I have a feeling that most people would plump for the lion as the king of the jungle, but I've a feeling that the tiger would take it. Hmmm. What do you reckon? (check out the muppets doing this song, incidentally....)

Right. That's your lot. Have a good weekend, y'all and stay classy.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

there is no future in England's dreaming....

I'm madly busy at work at the moment. As well as all the normal cobblers I have to deal with, I've been travelling around the country and doing things like work-shadowing, interviewing and holding workshops. I've been to all kinds of fascinating places like Stevenage, Harlow, Hitchin, East Midlands Airport and Birmingham. I was in London yesterday and I'm in Edinburgh on Monday. Whilst I suppose it's good to get away from my desk, I haven't picked up my voicemails in a week and my email inbox long ago crossed the size limit threshold. Every outgoing email I send is now accompanied by some dire warning about how I really need to get my act together. Before I go to Glastonbury on Wednesday morning, there are documents to be written, estimates to be chased and management summaries to be delivered.

The idea that I might love all of this stuff to perhaps think about working longer hours for less money, or even working for free seems absolutely laughable. I realise that times are hard, but how on earth can a well-established company like BA really consider that a reasonable request to make? The Chief Exec is setting the example, I see, by giving up a month's salary. £61k, apparently. With a salary like that, I'm guessing he can afford it more than most. How about he and his fellow board members work for nothing and we use their salaries to prop up the company, not just those of the workers at the bottom of the pile? What a terrible pressure to put on your staff, many of whom have already been threatened with compulsory redundancies. Work for free, they're essentially saying, and you might have a job in the future. Refuse to work for free and you may well find yourself without a job at all. Presumably there's a very real chance that you could work for free and still find yourself without a job if things don't improve. If the people in my office got offered that kind of a deal, how many people do you think wouldn't be spending that time they're working for no money to actively use company resources to look for a job that actually did pay them some money? I know I would be. Can you imagine if your boss sat you down for a performance review and span you all the usual old bollocks about consistency forum scores and capability indexes and your performance against a few arbitrary targets before scoring you as "approaching expectations"? If you weren't being paid, why would anyone put up with that kind of crap? How would they expect you to score them in the Great Place To Work Survey? What kind of Legendary Customer Care would you be providing? What kind of feedback would the Staff Forum be collecting to present to the curious and apparently very-interested-in-what-we-think Executive?

That said, I suppose I give my company hefty chunks of my life for free now: I only get paid for 37.5 hours work a week, and yet I regularly turn in 50 hour plus weeks and work 12 hour days. Maybe that's not so different? Why do I do it? Good question. I don't think it's for love of my job. I think it's because I'm driven to want to do as good a job as I can. I haven't made as much of my career as I might have, for lots of reasons, but I do try, and I do hold out the possibility that one day it might all come to glorious fruition. It's frustrating as hell, but it's challenging and it pays me relatively well (albeit not as much as I believe I'm worth). If I wasn't being paid at all though, what's my motivation to bother putting in a full day, nevermind any of that extra time? None. No future. Dead man walking.

In an environment where several of my friends have now been made redundant over the last few months, I know that I'm lucky to have a job at all. I'm not feeling so lucky that I would work for nothing though. No chance.

Work? Proper bobbins.

Incidentally, it's a bit of a negative spiral this, isn't it? BA get into trouble because not enough people are flying with them, but who wants to book a flight with an airline that isn't paying it's staff and looks like it's on the verge of going out of business? Not me. I think I'd rather fly with those bastards who would charge you for breathing if they thought they could get away with it. It's not a happy place to be, is it? If, by some miracle, BA do manage to turn it all around, do you think that they'll show the appropriate levels of gratitude to the poor bloody infantry who saw them through by working for free? Not bloody likely. That's not really how capitalism works, is it?

Do you think they're still paying expenses? I'd love to see what their executives are claiming as they ask their staff to take pay cuts...... I bet they've all got immaculate moats, and even in the grips of an economic crisis, I imagine their ducks are well housed.


Perhaps we should have a fund-raiser for them? Get the BBC to dump Pudsey and the needy children and do it for British businesses going down the toilet? Shall we write a strongly worded letter to the Jon Gaunt outlining our thoughts?

Are you with me?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Millions of people swarming like flies round waterloo underground....

I was in London today, and I really don't know how you people do it. The architecture's alright: St Pancras has improved out of site, of course, and - the monstrous carbuncles around the National Theatre aside - the South Bank is quite pleasant too. Nottingham's not much to look at, truth be told, so a change of scenery is no bad thing. But how on Earth do you cope with all the people? It wasn't even rush hour by the time I arrived, and it's not really all that hot at the moment, but the underground from King's Cross to Waterloo, via Green Park, was horrible: it's dirty, smelly, hot, cramped..... and generally really quite unpleasant. I was certainly very pleased to finally surface into the fresh(-ish) air from a seemingly impenetrable labyrinth of subterranean corridors and endless escalators.

Going home was even worse. We were travelling at the very edge of the evening rush hour, crowds weren't yet really thick, but already people were travelling in that protective bubble that Londoners seem to acquire. Is it acquired, or is it something you have to be born with? That trance-like cocoon that envelops people and protects them from the heat, the dirt and most of all from the crowds. Some people use their books or their newspapers as shields; other people use their iPods; others just stare blankly into space. Everyone seems to avoid eye contact. For an out-of-towner like me, it's like travelling with zombies. Certainly a far cry from the four old dears who joined a nearly deserted train at Leicester on the way down. There were no reservation tickets on the backs of any of the seats, and the carriage was pretty much empty, but they insisted - politely, but they insisted nonetheless - that the people sat at their table moved so that they could sit in their rightfully allocated seats. I'm not sure how they would cope on a tube, to be honest. I doubt that even the full fury of four righteous old ladies would be powerful enough to get past the forcefields on display on the Underground. They'd likely have to stand pressed up against the doors like the rest of us.

Do I sound enough like a provincial ingenue yet? A greenhorn from the sticks with a hayseed hanging from my lips and a corn pipe?

I tell you what......that there London? You can keep it.

Went there. Didn't like it much. Soon came 'ome.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

rock you like a hurricane....

Glastonbury is almost upon us. In about a week's time, I will be spending my evening fretfully packing and worrying that I've got everything that I'm going to need. It's not as though I'm new at this - this will be the 8th time I've attended the festival - but it always feels like such a difficult thing to pack for. You're camping. It might be really hot, it might be really cold. It might be really wet, it might be really dry. Actually, over the course of 5 days, it could be all of those things. It will get dark too, so you'll need a torch. After going near those toilets, you're probably going to want some water-free antiseptic soap and likely some wet wipes for a whore's bath. A good hat is essential for keeping off any sun or rain, and you might want to pack a beanie to keep your head warm at night.

When you factor in things like how much shiraz you're going to take, I think you'll see that packing for a festival like this is no easy task. You always have to remember, too, that whatever you take, you're going to have to carry what feels like several miles from the car park all the way to wherever you decide to pitch your tent. Wheelie bags might seem like a good idea, but I suggest you try pulling one of those through a supperating bog......

It's been pretty wet for the last three years now, but oddly enough those are the ones that are easiest to pack for: you just need wellies, shorts, a poncho and a good, dry tent and you're pretty much done. Oh, and a folding chair. And a sense of humour.

I think I'm probably experienced enough now that I think I'm ready for most eventualities, and I don't obsess as much as some about the long-range weather forecast (plus you can now buy everything you might have forgotten on the site itself). Sure, I'd like it to be sunny this year, but it's not everything.

I did, however, have a chuckle when Metcheck published their first long range forecast for this year's festival.

[via GlastoWatch]

2,500 degrees, 1350 mph winds and several kilometers of rainfall in the course of 24 hours? How on earth are you supposed to pack for that? They've now amended that forecast for something a little more temperate, but where's the fun in that?

Roll on next week.


Monday, June 15, 2009

and we cry when they all die blonde.....

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;"

Ah, probably the most famous Shakespearean soliloquy to be delivered by a man whose very name was a toilet joke. What Shakespeare doesn't go on to say in that speech is that, not only are men and women merely actors, but that in our own heads, we're all playing Hamlet: we're the stars of our own dramas and everyone else in our lives are merely the supporting cast. If you're the star, then the absolute most that everyone else can hope for is that they might get to play Gertrude, Horatio, Ophelia or even Claudius in the drama of your life. More likely though, most people will end up playing the third spear carrier on the left. We Hamlets define the world by how it impacts on us, and not the other way around. When something happens, or when someone does something, we will immediately view it through the lens of how it affects us. Somewhat annoyingly for us Hamlets, then, the supporting players in all our lives are often played by terrible hams; the kind of actors who take it upon themselves to try and steal some of our limelight and to attract attention away from us, the stars of our own productions. It almost as though they thought this play was about them.

Surely this Hamlet complex is the only way to explain why so many people seem to be so wrapped up in themselves and their own lives and so insensitive to the needs of others. I'm sure we all see countless examples every day of our lives: the people who jump the traffic lights, as though red lights somehow don't apply for them and that it's okay for you to have to wait at a green light until they have gone through; the guy in the pool who ploughs up and down the lane you're sharing at a speed of his choosing, showing no consideration at all to your needs or the speed at which you're swimming, wrapped up only in his own requirements; the people you work with who will happily take credit but are quick to duck responsibility and to apportion blame; the guy who elbows his way to the front of the bar queue and gleefully gets served in front of you.... life sometimes seems to be a succession of little acts of rudeness; death from the thousand cuts of someone else's lack of consideration for another human being, or at least by their decision that their own needs are more important. Well, when you're the star of the show, it's you who should be getting the plaudits. Why worry about the little people?

Only life isn't really like that, is it? As Shakespeare goes on to say in the same soliloquy:

"And one man in his time plays many parts,"

He's referring, of course, to the seven ages of man; our journey from "mewling and puking" infant to decrepit old age, "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything". What he might also add is that, whilst we might all be playing Hamlet in the dramas of our own lives, we're also simultaneously playing all of the other parts in other people's dramas. You might be Polonious to your brother, Rosencrantz to your boss and the third spear carrier on the left to your neighbours....Everyone might be Hamlet in their own head, but we'd do well to remember that we're no more than a supporting character in everyone else's. To mix my metaphors, wouldn't we do better to think of life as a team game? No matter how good a Ronaldo or a Kaká might be, no matter how inspirational their individual brilliance on the football pitch might be, they still can't win a game of football entirely on their own. Even people in the apparently individual pursuits like tennis or golf will still rely heavily on their own support teams if they are to succeed; their coaches and their caddies, their physiotherapists and their psychotherapists.... even their families and friends.

As a contemporary of Shakespeare, John Donne, wrote:

"No man is an island, entire of itself
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
It tolls for thee."

I like the idea that we're all connected simply by being human. We're all in it together, aren't we? Anything we can do to help make all of our rides a little easier have got to be worthwhile, hasn't it? Isn't that a much nicer way to think about the world and the way we relate to each other? We're all ultimately in the same show and not just the stars of our own matinees. Wouldn't it be nice if we all tried to behave a bit more like it?

Of course, the somewhat inconvenient problem with this argument is that I'm not so selfless myself as to be beyond reproach. By railing against traffic light jumpers, swimming pool hogs, unscrupulous colleagues, queue jumpers at the bar and the like, I'm merely casting my own judgement upon them all; a judgement based entirely upon how the behaviour of those people has impacted upon me and how it has inconvenienced me. By acknowledging that fact, am I not also acknowledging that I am guilty of casting myself as Hamlet?

As Shakespeare also said:

"A pox damn you, you muddy rascal, is that all the comfort you give me?"


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Friday, June 12, 2009

I dread, dread to think what the future will bring....

Earworms of the Week

> "Ruby" - Kaiser Chiefs

Released in February 2007 and still bothering my internal jukebox in spite of the fact that I intensely dislike both the song and the band. Tribute, I suppose, to just what an effective earworm this song is. Speaking of irritating bands with baffling levels of success and an addiction to lazy, common-denominator music, I heard the Stereophonics version of "Handbags and Gladrags" in the car this morning, and was reminded both how crap they are, but also of Rod Stewart's glorious dismissal of them at Glastonbury in 2002, when he opened his set with the same song that the Stereophonics closed theirs with the previous night. Is that all you've got? Frankly, yes. Rubbish earworms.

> "Shine" - Take That

Derivative, sure, but still a supremely sunny piece of pop music by a band that I used to actively dislike because of their sheer dominance of the charts and their ubiquity. I don't know if I've mellowed or if they have, but now I find myself rooting for them in their glorious, relaxed Indian summer. They seem like nice blokes, don't they? They've got some songs too, haven't they? I don't rate this one all that much, but "Patience" and "Rule the World" are just brilliant. They still look pretty good too, eh?

> "Big Spender" - Shirley Bassey

In common with most of the songs that drift across the badlands between my conscious and sub-conscious minds, I have no idea where this comes from. What I do know is that I found myself sashaying across the kitchen as I cooked a beef and mushroom stroganoff, with this track providing the silent accompaniment as it played in my head. I shudder to think what anyone passing the window might have thought. Then again, if I had actually been playing the song, they might have thought even worse.... Another Glastonbury connection in this week's earworms. A monsoon is forecast, apparently.

> "To Lose My Life" - White Lies

Along with Jay-Z, White Lies have just been added to the bill of the Coldplay / Girls Aloud gig I'm attending later on this summer. If Jay-Z is anything like as good as he was at Glastonbury (another link) then he'll be worth watching, but White Lies are a band that I'm actually quite keen to see. They've just announced a date at Rock City actually, and if they haven't already sold out, then I might just pop along to check them out in a smaller venue.

> "Strutter" - Kiss

A "Guitar Hero" classic, of course. Although I'm keen to get my hands on the Metallica special edition of the game, I haven't actually been playing it at all this week. This appears on the list courtesy of appearing on my iPod twice in fifteen minutes when I was out running. How random is shuffle meant to be again. It's a silly song, like all Kiss songs, but even when our jogging, I can't resist doing a little bit of air guitar at the chorus.....

> "When the Sun Goes Down" - Arctic Monkeys

How can a band be this good so early in their career? Both this and "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" popped up on the same run as "Strutter", and both songs made me realise how talented a band the Arctic Monkeys were, even so early in their career. It's like they emerged fully formed. Speaking of bands getting it right almost immediately, I also heard "Mr Brightside" in the car this afternoon. I know I keep saying this, but the Killers wrote that song in their first 10 minutes together as a band, and I sincerely doubt that they will write another song better than this in the rest of their time together. What a brilliant record, and it sounded great played loud on a sunny day too. Killers and the Arctic Monkeys? Both bands I've seen playing at Glastonbury, you know.....

> "A-Punk" - Vampire Weekend

Speaking of songs that sound of summer.... can you get much better than this? Vampire Weekend are a band that make me think of summer even in the depths of winter, and they made the whole crowd wear sunglasses in the pouring rain at Glastonbury too. That festival again....

> "Brass in Pocket" - The Pretenders

For the longest time, I loathed Chrissie Hynde. I'm not sure why I did, but I hated her, and it had nothing to do with her music, either. In fact, about the only songs of theirs that I know are this one, the ones they did with UB40 and the one they used on Guitar Hero II. I think I must have mellowed in my old age as I now think that Hynde is okay; tolerable at least. As a result, I've also opened my ears up a bit more to their music, and picked up a hits album for buttons. How good is this song though? Instantly recognisable and another song to play when the sun is shining.

> "Gangsters" - The Specials

I haven't given the Glastonbury line-up a close study, beyond deciding that I'm not going to miss Spinal Tap and the Eagles of Death Metal double-header.... but I have seen that the newly reformed Specials are on just before Neil Young on Friday night. I'll have some of that, thank you very much. I was listening to their hits album the other day, and was struck again by how atmospheric their music is, and quite how much punch they try to get into their lyrics. They're also a lot of fun. Another band who have just announced a Rock City date, although I'm extremely doubtful whether there will be any tickets left for that one. Still, watching them from a farm in Somerset after a few pints of organic cider could be really special.


Right. That's it. With that, I'm actually going to treat my poor aching body to a day off, and instead of dragging my sorry arse down to the gym for a swim, I'm going to head home to cook myself some tea and treat myself to my first drink since Monday (thanks to the possible effects on my liver of the injections I do on Tuesday night). And the sun is still shining.


Have a good weekend, y'all and STAY CLASSY.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

convenient parking....

Think global, act local. That's a maxim that we should all hold close to our hearts, right? Well, I wouldn't say that global warming was exactly my prime motivation, but just the other day I took some decisive action to combat the volume of traffic on my own street, and also helped to make the journeys of the people around me a little shorter.

How so? Well, by sending an anonymous email to the Parking Enforcement department of my local council. Of course! How else would you do it?

Let me explain. There's an old guy who lives on our street. He drives an old "S" registered Skoda and he likes to park outside his house. I don't know his domestic situation, but he used to have a woman - his wife, I assumed - living at the same address. He also used to have a disabled parking space marked on the road directly outside his front door. Barely anyone has off-road parking on our street, and everyone is forced to park on the road. Space is often at a premium. Perhaps not surprisingly, this chap was very protective of his space.

Hang on, this is getting complicated. Figure 1 below illustrates how the pavement was laid out directly outside his house.

Figure 1.

So, as I was saying, this chap was very protective of his space, and although it was marked out very generously on the road, he always parked his car so that his front wheels were on the edge of the markings, not the end of his car. This left a generous half-a-car sized space at the back of his car, and it reduced a three car parking bay so that it could only accommodate two cars.... as illustrated in figure 2 below.

Figure 2

Well, I'm not sure that's very sociable when space is at such a premium, but perhaps he needed that extra space for some reason. He seemed perfectly mobile, and his wife wasn't confined to a wheelchair, but what did I know of their needs? For the most part, I bit my tongue, ignored the fact that he was consuming two spaces, and drove further away from my own house in search of a parking space. He was a note leaver, too. Anyone who encroached on his disabled bay would find themselves with a poorly punctuated note behind their windscreen wiper.

One day, I came home to find the council burning the disabled space markings from the road. I've not seen his wife for a while either. I have no idea if she left him, or she died, or what, but clearly she was no longer resident at that address, and they were no longer entitled to the disabled parking bay. Did this change the guy's parking behaviour? No. He still parks his car so that he only leaves enough room for one other car in the space. Worse yet, he has now taken to blocking out "his" space with traffic cones when he's out and about in his neat little car. See figure 3.

Figure 3. A traffic cone, earlier today.

This annoys me. Whatever his requirements when he actually was entitled to a disabled parking bay, the fact that he is no longer entitled to that space means he has no right to block out the space in front of his house as his own personal fiefdom. I'd like to always park in front of my house, but I can't. If he blocks out his own space, then he forces people like me further down the street just so he can park where he likes. It's simply not on.

So I complained. Anonymously. Via the council website. It felt good.

Before you judge me, there are other good reasons to have shopped this guy:

-> he's the prime suspect in the mysterious anonymous note about our cat. The poor spelling and random punctuation has his hallmark all over it. And we know he's a note leaver....

-> When he thought no one was looking, he took the broken Dyson out of the skip outside our house the guys using the loft extension are using. The nice lady who put it in there had actually knocked on the door and asked if it was okay, this guy just came over to see what he could scavenge. Later on, presumably once he had discovered that the Dyson was, in fact, broken... he dumped it back in the skip. Once he'd salvaged it, to my mind and probably to his, that Dyson now belonged to him. He didn't ask if he could put that back, he just chucked it in. If I'd seen him, I would have told him to take his damn rubbish to the dump and not put it in my skip.

-> He has a CCTV camera set up above his door. It used to point down at his door, and so presumably was some kind of deterrent to burglars. Now it's pointed at "his" space, presumably to see if anyone unauthorised parks there or moves his traffic cones.

-> Sometimes he uses yellow police traffic cones. He can't be allowed to use them, surely?

-> He's a leathery old guy and he likes to walk around in really tight white shorts with no shirt on. No one should have to put up with that.

-> He washes his car obsessively every Sunday. Including the wheels.

Ok, perhaps that last one isn't a very good reason, but when he does it as his car is taking up two spaces and we're parked several streets away...well... it's like he's taunting me. Especially if he does it with his shirt off.

Compare and contrast his approach to his space with the people who moved into a house at the end of the street a few weeks ago. They too have a disabled space outside their house, but they've put a little note on the tree just behind the space to say that they don't need the space, that they've asked the council to remove it, and that everyone should feel free to park there as they like. Now that's more neighbourly, isn't it?

I'm not sure complaining anonymously did any good - the cones still appear occasionally, although perhaps less often than they used to - but it certainly made me feel a whole lot better.

Local action. I feel so empowered.

[This is why they installed Visio on my laptop at work, right?]


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

cold mathematics.....

Waking up this morning, post-injection, without feeling like I'd been hit by a bus was certainly a good way to start the day. I actually woke up a little before the alarm and had surprisingly little trouble getting out of bed and performing those upper body exercises that usually guarantee that I will spend an extra five minutes in bed putting off getting up. Surely the day could only go downhill from here? It was Wednesday though, so actually my day was about to get better: Wednesday is, after all, the day when I spend the first hour of my working day reading with some seven year-old kids at a local primary school. It's a funny thing, but although I do this voluntarily and even though it gives me tremendous enjoyment and satisfaction, I still have to push through a slight feeling of inertia as I make my way past the turn-off for work and head an extra mile in the other direction to reach the school.

Why? Because the whole thing is slightly outside my comfort zone. I love to read and I would dearly love to pass some of that on to some kids who might otherwise never discover this boundless world of enjoyment and enlightenment, but I'm not really naturally comfortable around kids and would doubtless find it much easier to simply head to work, boot in my laptop, make a cup of coffee and get on with my day. But I don't, and every single hour I spend in that school seems to somehow recharge my batteries and set me up for the rest of the day, if not quite the rest of the week. It's certainly the most valuable thing that I do on company time, anyway.

Today I read with Jevon, Bethany and Dion, who were all great and have really come on in leaps and bounds over the last twelve months - not that I'd claim any credit for that. What really made my day was the ten minutes I spent at the end of the hour watching, and loosely supervising, as the whole class worked on some maths exercises. The aim of the game was to put numbers into a line: you get a line with two numbers at either end; you also get a set of other numbers. Your task is to sift through the numbers and to place them in numerical order on the line. That's reasonably straightforward if the numbers at either end of the line are 0 and 100 - you simply have to put all the numbers you have onto the line in numerical order. It becomes a somewhat harder task if the numbers on the end of the line are, say, 27 and 82, and your set of numbers includes some that are less than 27 and some that are more than 82. In that situation, your job is to sift through the numbers and place in numerical order on the line only those numbers that fall between the numbers on either end. This means that you may well have numbers left over, and the key to success is in realising this and not trying to squeeze all the numbers onto the line.

Easy, right? Well, yes.... although perhaps not quite as easy when you're seven. As you might expect, some of the kids got the general idea a lot faster than others, and some needed a bit of help, but it was fantastically rewarding simply watching the teacher going about her business patiently explaining to the class what they needed to do and then helping them as they set to work. I'm no mathematician, but I was still roped in to help half of the class as they worked, and I spent some time with a couple of the kids in particular, helping them to get their heads round the sequencing of the numbers. It only lasted ten minutes, then I had to leave to get myself into work, but it was a ten minute spell that put a definite spring in my step and saw me through the rest of my day with a smile on my face.

I don't know if I'm helping any of those kids, but they're definitely helping me.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

fell in love with a girl.....

Two years ago today, I got married to my beautiful wife in sunny Vienna, surrounded by my friends and family.

That was a good day.


Monday, June 08, 2009

we wonder if the thunder is ever really going to begin.....

I'm not a political expert, so I'm not going to go on about this... but I have three things to say about the recent European election results and the subsequent political upheaval:

1) It makes me sick to my stomach to hear the newly returned MEP for the British National Party, Nick Griffin, talking smugly on the radio about the "ethnically British" - meaning, moronically and transparently, white people. However, it also makes me feel pretty ill to hear Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, the same people who sent me this flyer, trying to distance themselves from the BNP, as if UKIP themselves were somehow an acceptable mainstream party. It's a pretty sorry state of affairs that either of these parties return MEPs at all, never mind that the BNP appear to have made an electoral breakthrough and UKIP pushed the Labour party into third place in the polls. I see that UKIP actually lost a member in the East Midlands constituency - where I voted - but that the BNP polled 8.7% of the vote (up 2.1% on last time). They didn't get an MEP this time, but they're not far off it. This is exactly why reasonable, intelligent people need to go and vote. Even in European elections.

2) I'm not sure that I thought it was possible, but I'm actually starting to feel a little sorry for Gordon Brown. Sure, he has his faults, but his party is starting to remind me of nothing less than the Conservative Party who tried so hard and so poisonously to get rid of John Major before the 1992 1997 General Election. We have members of the Cabinet quitting as polls close in the elections (although clearly having briefed the newspapers beforehand), we have ministers busy singing the Prime Minster's praises one evening and then quitting in high dudgeon the very next day when they don't get the promotion to the Cabinet that they feel they deserve..... and we have the Labour party as a whole apparently seriously trying to decide if they should keep Gordon Brown as a leader or try someone else in advance of the General Election. The funny thing is that, unlike the Conservative Party, the Labour Party seem almost completely incapable of back-stabbing and conspiracy. Apparently the Parliamentary Party is currently passing emails around stating their desire for a new leader, but that they don't really know what to do with them once they've signed them. FWIW, I think they'd be mad to think a change of leadership will do them any good at all, although quite why anyone thinks David Cameron is a valid alternative Prime Minister defeats me too. Really?

3) ...and whilst we're on the subject of the Labour Leadership, Tony Blair is looking luckier by the day, isn't he? Well, let's not forget that he promised at the last election that he would see the country through the whole term... only to quit whilst the going was still good. Let's not forget too that he kept his Catholicism a secret whilst in office and used his religious beliefs as his compass for taking this country into an unjustified war that we're still fighting. He even went so far as to suggest that "This is not a clash between civilisations. It is a clash about civilisation." How arrogant! I'm glad his religious faith gave him the certainty he needed that we were in the right. I'm still far from convinced. Still, why should he care? He's also busy coining it in from bankers like JP Morgan and Zurich (£7m a year) and on the US University lecture circuit ($250,000 for a 90 minute lecture) as he watches - no doubt with some amusement - as his old mate Gordon Brown crashes and burns, perhaps taking the country with him. Think this has got nothing to do with you, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair? Think again.


Lovely weather we've been having though, eh? (well... except for the fact that it pissed it down all weekend, but it's been nice today, so....).


Friday, June 05, 2009


The "Spoon Theory" is an attempt at an analogy to try explain to people how it feels to have an illness that might be invisible. It was first created by a lady called Christine Miserandino who was frustrated by people who couldn't understand why some days she needed a walking stick and struggled to do the simplest of things, but on other days seemed absolutely fine. You can read all about the theory here, but in a nutshell, the idea (first aired in a diner, when cutlery was plentifully at hand to illustrate the point) is that when you have an illness like Lupus (or like MS), you start the day with a number of "spoons". Every single thing that you do in that day, from the moment you get up to the moment you climb back into bed, every single thing has a cost in spoons. Once your spoons are gone, that's it... everything else is going to be very, very difficult. You can sometimes borrow from tomorrow's allocation of spoons, but if you do that then you'll pay the price the next day when you have fewer spoons to work with.

I've been lucky so far: I seem to have enough spoons on most days to still have the energy to go running and swimming and to play football, let alone to do all the other things we all take for granted, like getting up, going to work, cooking dinner and all of the rest of it. Yesterday for instance, I had a full diary of meetings, played a lacklustre hour of football and then went on a 30 minute run. Some days are different, though.

This morning I had to be up at a little after 5am to get myself down to Stevenage for a day of store visits. An early start, 5 hours in the car and a day spent standing up seems to have exacted a heavy toll on my spoon count. I was always going to be home in plenty of time to go for my normal Friday evening swim, but long before I pulled up in front of the house, it was clear I was going nowhere: the simple effort of keeping my hands on the steering wheel was making the muscles in my shoulders tremble. My spoons were all spent and swimming was quite simply out of the question. Even sitting on the sofa seemed to be incredibly draining and an early night seems very, very appealing.

I know I've got MS and that I now have to inject myself every week to try and slow down the progression of my condition, but I don't really feel sick. Not on most days, anyway. Today..... I'm not so sure.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

past the reefs of greed....

There are elections taking place across England today. Local Council elections and European Parliament Elections, anyway. It's not a General Election or anything like that, and we're not going to wake up tomorrow morning with a new Prime Minister or anything (worst luck). Still, in its own way, it's an important day. No day where you are asked to exercise your democratic mandate is entirely worthless, right? It's a tremendous privilege; one denied to millions of people across the world. It's a privilege we feel strongly enough about to try to impose by force in places like Iraq and Afghanistan......

It's also the first chance we humble electorate get to stick it to the grubbing, venal bastards who run this country.

In yesterday's Guardian, George Monbiot put forward that:

"...even in a first-past-the-post poll (such as the UK's notoriously unfair parliamentary elections) voting Green is the least wasteful decision you can make."

But how so?

"Look, for example, at how each of the two main parties desperately flails around for an explanation when it loses an election, blaming first one factor then another. They know that people voted against them, but have only the haziest idea of why that was (in Labour's case this time, it will be a little clearer). Vote Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat, and you might help to send someone to parliament. But they won't have a clear idea of what you want them to do when they get there. But if you vote Green, you tell the political class exactly what you want. It's plainly not a tactical vote. There is no Old Green and New Green – the party's policies haven't changed a great deal over the years. The Greens aren't old enough or big enough to have inspired the kind of blind inter-generational loyalty that has helped to keep Labour afloat. You are saying, unmistakably, that you want action on the environment and social justice."

That's an interesting point. The recent expenses scandals that have dragged on for the last few weeks have cast our elected officials in an appalling light. People want to punish them; to let them know that it's not acceptable for them to have their moat cleaned, their duck houses built and their mortgages paid by the tax payer. European and Local elections are often where this kind of punishment happens: they're simply not important enough to most people for a protest vote to feel like a wasted vote. Somehow a General Election feels like a much bigger deal. Actually, in my constituency at least, the reverse is true. I like in an area where Ken Clarke is the nailed on certainty to remain my MP for as long as he continues to stand for election. A vote for any party here is pretty much as good as any other and no-one but the Conservatives stands a chance of winning the seat. The Local Elections and the European Elections are different. For starters, I get to vote for more than one candidate, and more than one candidate will be elected. This opens things up a bit. It's entirely possible that my vote my make a tangible difference today.... especially if, as the polls suggest, "Other Parties" are currently running level with the Conservative Party on 30%.

So what are my choices?

Well, in the European Election I have:

> British National Party - "British National Party - Protecting British Jobs"
> Christian Party - "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship"
> Conservative Party
> English Democrats Party - "English Democrats - Putting England First!"
> Jury Team - "Democracy, Accountability, Transparency".
> Liberal Democrats
> No2EU: Yes to Democracy
> Pro-Democracy: Libertas.eu
> Socialist Labour Party (Leader Arthur Scargill)
> The Green Party
> The Labour Party
> United Kingdom First
> UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Four candidates on each ticket. Choose one party and make your mark.

Eliminate the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems and what have you got? Some very scary choices indeed (including at least one prepared to incontinently use the exclamation mark). People wanting to punish the main parties are going to be seriously considering voting for the BNP, UKIP and (WTF?) the Christian Party.

My choice in the Council Elections:

> Conservative Party
> UK Independence Party
> Liberal Democrat
> Labour
> Green Party

Two candidates to each party. Pick two of the candidates.

Hmm. On balance, I'm with George Monbiot. I don't agree with the Green Party on everything, but at the moment I'd far rather we pushed a green agenda than a racist one. As for the major parties, do they really think they've earned my vote? Yes, it's a protest of sorts, but there is no way on earth that I wasn't going to vote. This country is many things, but as long as sensible, intelligent people continue to go and vote, then there's some hope. If we don't vote because we're a bit cheesed off with the major parties, then the BNP have already won.

You know what really made my day though? In the school hall where I cast my vote, behind the ladies who handed me my ballot papers, was a montage made by a class of eight year olds. It was a summary of Richard Wagner's "Das Rheingold" with pictures of the dwarfs and kings and suchlike. I bet potential UKIP and BNP voters must have loved that. Me? I love the fact that I live somewhere where 8 year olds are taught about Wagner.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

little black book....

To the uninformed observer, it could appear as though my career is really starting to go places. For starters, my diary is absolutely full. It is a widely acknowledged fact that your importance in any organisation is inversely proportional to the amount of free time you have in your schedule. I have none. When asked what I was doing at 10:30 on Tuesday morning, I truthfully replied that I was attending three other meetings. I was tempted to go to none of them, but in the end managed the unhappy compromise of spending a few minutes in each of them. Well, I'm far too important to be tied down to only one meeting at a time, no?

One of the many meetings I've self-importantly attended this week was a briefing on some changes we're making to some internal processes. Sounds good, eh? Well, I was welcomed to the meeting by the announcement that I had been invited because I had been identified as an opinion-shaper in the department; someone with a real influence on what other people thought. They wanted to get on my good side. They were blowing smoke up my arse, of course, as was the person who told me this evening that the steering committee for that programme had received excellent feedback on the "builds" I made during that meeting.


My favourite though, the thing that really signals my arrival as a person of stature within my company, is really only a small observation: it was pointed out to me by someone that everyone in my department has started carrying around little black notebooks. Usually, people around the business either carry big leather portfolio cases stuffed full of paper, or they use spiral bound A4 notepads. For the last ten years, I've been using an A5 sized, (p)leather bound Moleskine notebook with squared paper. Each one lasts me well over a year and I've just started on volume 9 (I still mourn the new-ish notebook that was stolen from my car along with my laptop: volume 6 - you will not be forgotten). I don't really know why I started using them, but I've always hated carrying vast amounts of paper around with me, and somehow having a nice, neat little notebook encourages me to write spare, neat notes.... usually using a black ink pen. It's not much of a calling card, but people used to comment on it all the time, as though it was somehow freakish that I might use a notebook that was also used by the likes of Picasso, Hemmingway and Bruce Chatwin.

....And now, apparently and all of a sudden, loads of my colleagues are using them too. I looked around, and it's true. We're a relatively small team, but a good half of them seem to now be using small, black notebooks. Moleskine's or not, it's a bit of a coincidence, don't you think? It's not something that comes with a promotion or a salary bonus, but it's good to know that I've finally made some sort of an impact on my company in the course of my brilliant career. Everyone hopes to leave a mark, right?

Perhaps this is my legacy. I may be no good at my job, but I use lovely notebooks.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

the old familiar sting.....

Right. It's Tuesday night. Until last week, this was a perfectly normal night of the week. Now though, it's the night when I have to administer my weekly dose of Avonex: the medication that I inject into my thigh muscles in an attempt to slow down the progression of my MS.

It sounds pretty hardcore, I know....but I'm just an ordinary bloke There are thousands of people who have been doing this without fuss for a whole lot longer than my eight days. I'm nothing special and it's nothing that every single one of you wouldn't do yourselves if you had to. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" (or was that Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo?).

With that in mind, how about we set about a little bit of demystification?

Here's what you need:

-> a bottle of water, ibuprofen and paracetamol: injecting inteferon beta 1a into your body in an attempt to modify the behaviour of your immune system comes with side-effects. Most commonly, these take the form of headaches and flu-like symptoms in the hours immediately following your injection. Some people find these intolerable, and it is usually recommended that you pump yourself full of a cocktail of ibuprofen and paracetamol, inject yourself in the evening and then go to bed to try and sleep through it. It's also thought that drinking lots of water during the day can help minimise the side-effects. Well... it can't hurt, right?

-> some Avonex, a syringe, and a reasonably big needle: I chose to have bioset Avonex, the powdered form of the drug. I chose it for the simple reason that it doesn't need to be kept in the fridge and thus gives me the maximum flexibility. It does, of course, mean that the drug needs to be mixed up before it can be injected. Not an especially big deal, but you do need to make sure that it all dissolves okay and you're not shooting some lumpy powder into your thigh. The needle itself needs to be long enough to deliver the drug directly into the muscle.

-> A sharps box: to hygienically dispose of the used syringe and needle. You can't just chuck it in the bin, can you? This gets collected and incinerated by the same firm that delivers my syringes and stuff.

...oh, and you need at least one of these too.

You don't use sterilising swabs or anything - apparently they toughen up the skin - but you should probably go and have a shower before going any further. The 4.23 mile run I did before starting this evening is probably optional though.

So, you clip the vial with the powder in it onto the syringe. Then you inject the solution in the syringe into the vial and mix it up a little until it's all dissolved.

...then you draw the solution back into the syringe, remove the vial, put on the needle, take care to remove as much air from the syringe as possible.....and we're ready to go. Straighten your leg out to relax the muscle, use one hand to hold the skin tight - about a hand's length down from your hip - and then, with a few inches run-up to make sure you get through the skin..... push the needle into the muscle.

...like so.

It's a sharp needle, so it sinks in surprisingly easily and is completely painless. Push down the plunger with a slow, steady movement. Then we're done. All that remains is to carefully pull out the needle and chuck the whole lot in the sharps bin.

Done. That's it.

Nothing to it. And now you know.

No. Big. Deal.

Knowledge is power, people.....


Monday, June 01, 2009

where did your long hair go?

You might not believe it, given the state of my hairline, but I sometimes need a haircut. In fact, my hair - the bits that aren't falling out, anyway - is incredibly thick and wiry. I don't have anything fancy done, like, but I do need to have my hair cut every four weeks or so. If I don't, then it all goes a bit unfathomably frizzy and out of control.

Even though I only ever have the clippers applied all over, and given that I have two pairs of my own hairdresser's clippers kicking about the house, I still usually go to a local barber and fork out £4 for a 2 minute buzz. It's not that I don't trust C. with the job and she's done it many times in the past, it's just that I find the whole process a lot less stressful when done by a professional who doesn't carry about them an air of barely concealed impatience and who doesn't bang on about how my spiky hair cuttings keep getting into their bra. Sometimes I'll even pop into the posh(-er) hairdresser in town and spend £12 on a 10 minute buzz. The haircut that I get there isn't noticeably three times better, but once in a while it's nice to feel a touch pampered by the person wielding the clippers and really taking their time over the job.

I had my haircut this weekend. I wasn't planning to, but I had it cut nonetheless. I came back from my normal Saturday morning run and was aiming for nothing more than a quick trim of the bits around my ears; the first bits that start to look fluffy and out-of-control. A quick trim now, I thought, would save me a trip to the barber for another week or so. I'd charged the lighter pair of clippers up especially. I unplugged them, took them into the bathroom, adjusted the blade so that it was as short as possible against the plastic clip and then started to trim. One quick slash up from my sideburns and across the hair next to my ear. Three seconds. That's all it took. As I pulled the clippers away, I could see that something was horribly wrong. My hair hadn't been long by anybody's standards: I'd had a grade one cut done not three weeks before. Even so, my reflection in the mirror in front of me showed an expanse of skin where the clippers had run. How could this have happened? I stared dumbly at the clipper in my hand. I frowned. I stared a bit closer.

Shit. That little plastic slide that was supposed to cut my hair to a grade one? It wasn't there. It was not on the clippers. I'd just given myself a grade zero on a not insubstantial slice of my hairline. I stared at the damage wrought on the right-hand side of my head, then tilted my head and looked at the other, the untouched side. There was only one thing for it: I turned the clippers back on and tried to recreate my handiwork in the untouched pastures of the hair on the left-hand-side of my head.

Three seconds later, I turned the clippers back off and stared at my refection. The best thing that could be said about the face that stared back at me was that at least it was even - evenly stupid, anyway. I'd made myself look distinctly gonzo.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

I picked the clippers back up, cast around desperately for the number one slide, and then set about the remains of my hair in an urgent attempt to undo the damage. Thirty seconds later, the sink was full of clumps of my hair and the front of my head was unevenly clippered. The back, however, was still untouched.


I then sat, clippers in hand, at the bottom of the steps for the next thirty minutes - long, long minutes - as I waited for C. to return from her run. She barely had time to draw breath and to wipe her brow as she stepped through the front door before I pounced on her and begged her to rescue me from my misery and my ruination. I threw myself on her mercy, and in my hour of need, she rescued me. She was both exasperated and entertained by my predicament, but over the course of the next five minutes, she salvaged my ego and what was left of my dignity with those wretched clippers.

I love that woman.