Friday, March 31, 2006
I just heard their new single "I'm With Stupid" and basically it's fabulous! It's nice to see them back writing interesting and political songs rather than out and out gay anthems which really weren't pushing my buttons, if you know what I mean.
It's essentially about George Bush and Tony Blair and a reaction to the war and ongoing nonsense in Iraq. Here are a few verse lyrics so you can see what I mean:-
See you on the TV
Call you every day
Fly across the ocean
Just to let you get your way
No one understands me
Where I'm coming from
Why would I be with someone
who's obviously so dumb?
Before we ever met
I thought like everybody did
you were just a moron
a billion-dollar kid
You flew up all the way
like a hawk chasing a dove
I never thought that I would be
a sacrifice in love
I like the fact that the Pet Shop Boys can get away with song titles like "I'm With Stupid" and "Being Boring". The daft titles belie the actual intentions of the songs and it's always worth looking a bit further into their lyrical and musical intent before scoffing at the apparently ridiculous song names. It's much better than the superfluous fluff we are subjected to on a daily basis - there's only so many lyrics about how much someone loves someone or wants to be "wit" someone that I can take, and don't even get me started on rap!
Whether you agree or disagree with the politics is also irrelevent I think. I would have thought most people would agree about who was calling the shots when we all piled into Iraq.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
One ring to rule them all.
Not necessarily spooky I know, but things just have a way of accidentally coming to the fore when you least expect it. What's more is the ring itself holds its own story. It's not something I would have thought to tell on my blog, not because I don't want to, but because the ring is simply "there" on my finger, somewhat unassuming and wouldn't immediately spring to mind as a blogworthy topic. However it is certainly one of the most treasured items that I own.
The ring belonged to my grandmother - my father's Mum - who we called Granny K. It is from her that my family gets its Danish roots, which is something I am very proud of. She passed away in 2004 but lived well into her 90's, and for the most part had her wits about her right to the end. She was an amazing woman and although as a child she really scared the crap out of me, as I got older I came to understand her more and really appreciate her wisdom, intelligence and outspokenness.
Granny K gave me the ring when I was about 15 or 16. I don't exactly recall why - it wasn't for a birthday or anything like that I remember - just one of many times when we'd see her and she'd pull some gift out of nowhere and tell the story behind why she was giving it to us. It was the first piece of jewellery I had ever owned and I wore it constantly from the day she gave it to me, and even now it rarely leaves my finger, and this is why...
The ring was given to Granny K by her husband (my grandfather) Leon Kagan. He was a jeweller/engraver by profession. Obviously it is gold, but I have no idea how many carats or the origin of where it was wrought as the inscriptions on the inside are rather worn. However the letters inscribed upon the ring, LMK, were engraved by my grandfather...but here's the mystery...LMK doesn't really MEAN anything. Nobody in our family has those initials, and the only thing my grandmother could fathom was that L was for his name "Leon", M was for her name "Metha" and K was of course for the surname "Kagan". She always told me she found it peculiar that he had chosen to engrave the ring this way, but I guess from a romantic perspective it makes the most sense - however, I'm not aware of it being commonplace to engrave letters in such a way - they tend more to be initials for a single person, rather than some sort of combination of two.
The ring means much much more to me though simply because my grandfather died before I was born. I've always been told he was a kind and gentle man, and I know he was a fabulous artist from all the etchings, engravings and drawings that my parents have of his. This ring was, and still is, my connection to him, and I would guard it with my life - no amount of money, no matter how desperate I am, nothing will part me from this heirloom.
It's interesting also to note that the letters inscribed on the ring also make up the initials of my wife's "married name" - obviously the L and M are reversed but that seems to be in keeping with the weirdness of the letters' grouping when it was given to my grandmother.
Deb's comment, which prompted me to do this blog, was timely too - you find me at a crossroads right now and not quite sure which direction to take. Like I said at the start, I don't really buy into cosmic, fatalistic things, but it seems weird that I should be prompted to suddenly focus on something so close and dear to me which I would normally take for granted. Maybe it's a sign for me to take a chance and grab these exiting new opportunities?
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Half Nekkid English Rose
Anyway, I've plucked up some courage and with the ever helpful Martha created something which at the very least should make some of you laugh...or hurl! Therefore if you're squeamish about flesh shots, you might not want to see this.
I found this movie to be somewhat over-rated when I saw it, but maybe a second viewing would do it more justice. Nevertheless, you'll hopefully appreciate the irony that I am neither an American nor a beauty.
Happy HNT everybody!
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Last three days in a nutshell
Unfortunately the internet was down, so I couldn't update, but this morning it was all back up and running, so normal service should now be resumed.
However, it's unlikely that I would have managed to do a new blog anyway, since Martha spent the evening on the computer doing some personal things she's been meaning to sort out for a while. That left me with nothing much to do, and after channel hopping for a while and realising for the third or fourth time that there really was nothing worth watching on TV, Martha suggested that I pick out a DVD and watch the extras on it.
How this simple cure for my boredom didn't come to me in the first place I shall never know. I'm always banging on about how I never have time to watch the additional features on DVD's and how I'd love to sit down and watch them given half the chance, and then when the opportunity is there staring me in the face I can't even see it. I doubt a massive neon sign over the TV saying "Watch the extras on your DVD's you flaming idiot!" would have made much difference.
Hooray for wives then!
I decided I'd watch the extras on the Wallace & Gromit "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" DVD. It was great to learn about how they build the plasticine models, some of the background to the film and the characters, and also an extra short unrelated animation which was weird beyond belief called "Stage Fright". There were also some fantasticly funny but quite short Wallace & Gromit animations called "Cracking Contraptions" - seeing Gromit it a sheep suit being bounced up and down on a spring to help Wallace count sheep in order to fall asleep had me hooting with laughter.
Anyway, all was good with the extras and it kept me entertained for a good couple of hours. What did peeve me was towards the end there was a documentary which was virtually identical to another slightly shorter documentary on the second bonus disc. To me that's just shabby and lazy. If you're going to put extras on, at least make sure everything is unique. I'd have preferred it if the shorter documentary hadn't been on the disc at all.
So, what about last weekend?
It was pretty good. Swimming was excellent - Audrey's finally starting to regain her confidence after making very little progress for some time now. Something must have happened that really dented her confidence in the pool, because she was doing so well, then suddenly decided to regress almost to the point where she was when we started swimming with her all those months ago! It's nice to see her back to trying things she was perfectly capable of doing several months ago, but had somehow lost the will to do them.
On Saturday night Martha and I made our increasingly popular no-bake cheesecake which we were to take to my parents for Mothering Sunday the next day. We've got it down to a fine art now, and can whip this exctremely diet unfriendly cheesecake up in a little over half an hour. I'd share the recipe, but our repertoire is pretty limited as it is, so I wouldn't want to give one of our better recipes away just willy nilly. It's nice to preserve some of the mystery! If you want to sample the goods, you'll just have to pay us a visit!
Also on Saturday night I had a grooming accident with a pair of clippers and now have no sideburns. It doesn't look too weird, and they'll grow back pretty fast I reckon, but Martha hates it - however superglueing the trimmed hair back onto my face simply wasn't an option.
On Sunday we sprang forward one hour, leaving a 6 hour gap between us and the people in the USA/Canada people that we talk to the most. I've never quite understood why we change on different weeks - I don't think that's the case when we fall back in the autumn.
As I said we were bound for my parents for Mothering Sunday, so we packed up all our gear and off we went. My parents were going out in the morning so we were going to let ourselves into the house and start cooking lunch. As we pulled up to their house Martha turned to me and said "You did remember to bring the doorkey for their house?"
Normally I keep the key to my parents house on a keyring that also holds the keys to my car and our housekeys. However, because Martha was driving I had no need for them, so I'd left them back at home. After a moment of panic I got out of the car and checked to see if by chance my parents had left any windows or doors open that would allow me to get in. There was nothing.
Desperate times called for desperate measures! Martha wanted to drive home and get the keys - I said that would take too long and that I was confident I could get into their house much faster than that because I had "the knowhow"! Allow me to explain...
When I was at school I was somewhat of a latchkey kid (my Mother vehemently denies this). I didn't carry a doorkey with me, but when the bus dropped us off from school me and my sister knew where there was a key that would allow us entry in through the side door of the house. For the most part this worked excellently, but on the odd occasion my mother or father would lock the side door before leaving for work and forget to remove the key from the lock which meant even with the spare key it was impossible to use it to gain entry - or so you'd think. Whilst this was annoying, this actually posed only a slight problem for us and I knew that as long as that spare key was there I could get inside the house quite quickly.
Could it be possible that after 16 years there was still a spare key to the side door which would allow me to get into the house?
Martha spoke to Dad on the phone and he confirmed that there was indeed still a spare key in a secret location! Excellent - I confidently told Martha that even though the key was in the lock in the inside of the house we'd be the ones inside the house in no time, and I set to work!
I'm proud to say that old habits really do die hard. The time from our arrival, and that terrible moment of realising we had no doorkey, to actually breaking and entering was about ten minutes! It's nice to know I'm good for something even if it is breaking into houses!
I managed to cook a rather fab roast Sunday lunch, although I give my mother credit for actually telling me what to do. Apart from needing impeccable timing to make sure the meat, veggies and gravy are all ready at roughly the same time, cooking a roast is actually terribly easy. Don't let anyone tell or convince you otherwise!
We had one further trauma on Sunday - we forgot to bring Audrey's potty, and she ended up doing the nastiest poo in her nappy which seeped out and got all over her clothes. What was worse was we also forgot to bring her any spare clothes! After cleaning her up we threw her in the bathtub and Mum very kindly put her pooey clothes in the laundry. Mum doesn't have a drier though, and it was raining outside, so Audrey ended up running around in her nappy and her shirt (which was unscathed) for the rest of the day.
I guess you now know who not to come to for parenting tips!
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Music to my ears
It comprises 5705 tracks (which by Deb's standards isn't many) which are all LEGALLY bought and paid for by Martha and me. There are a few duplicates which were unavoidable, but also we omitted a few CD's which contained extremely embarrassing material which we'd never dream of putting into iTunes so I guess that evens it out.
Below is a complete artist list in some sort of freakish incomprehensible alphabetical order (don't ask me why)..."Compilations" is exactly that - usually movie soundtracks, but also a few music compilation CD's which do contain other artists not listed here.
I realise there are a few What The F's and doubtless some WHO The F's too, but I'm happy to field any questions you have.
Way Out West
They Might Be Giants
The Village People
The Other Two
The Mike Flowers Pops
The Lightning Seeds
The Divine Comedy
Public Image Ltd_
Pérez Prado Orchestra
Pet Shop Boys
Nine Inch Nails
My Life Story
Michael Nyman Band
Men Without Hats
Manic Street Preachers
Jim Carrey & Desi Arnaz
Heavy D & The Boyz
Girls Against Boys
Fat Les 2000
The Boo Radleys
The Bloodhound Gang
The Beautiful South
Tears For Fears
Blank & Jones
Friday, March 24, 2006
Close, but no cigar!
Gabby: Andersen Harvey, good afternoon.
Sales Guy: Can I speak to Gavin Kagan please.
Gabby: That would be me.
Sales Guy: I'm from *inane incomprehensible waffle*
Gabby: Pardon, can you repeat that.
Sales Guy: I'm from *again incomprehensible and something about how am I sorted with stocks and shares*
Gabby: Uh, well, that's not what our line of business is here.
Sales Guy: But you must be interested in making money.
Gabby: Well yes, but we make money a different way here - we're into logistics, not stocks and shares.
Sales Guy: No, not your company. You! Don't you want to make money on stocks and shares.
Gabby: Of course I want to make money, but I'm not going to take personal calls on company time.
Sales Guy: Why not?
Gabby: Well, I don't think my bosses would be too happy if I was discussing personal finances when I'm supposed to be doing a completely different line of work. If you want to talk to me you'll have to call me at home.
Sales Guy: OK, so can I have your home phone number?
Sales Guy: Well, what about your mobile phone number?
Gabby: No! What on earth makes you think I would give out those numbers to you?
Sales Guy: So we can discuss stocks and shares options to make you money. So will you give me your home number?
Sales Guy: Well then how am I supposed to call you at home?
Gabby: You're not. Have a good weekend! Goodbye!
If you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?
March 24th 2006 right? (unless of course you're someone who doesn't read my blog daily, in which case it's probably not, but I would imagine you're still in March or possibly early April 2006).
So would someone please tell me WTF this is about?
I had a flyer come in the office mail today for this party event and seriously had to double check what date it was. I thought it was some kind of joke, or maybe I'd just been mysteriously teleported into another time line.
And finally a Friday funny for your weekend:-
A bear, a lion and a chicken are talking.
"When I roar" said the bear, "the forest rumbles."
The lion sniffed.
"When *I* roar, the jungle trembles", he said.
"Oh." Said the chicken.
The lion and bear looked at the chicken, thinking about dinner.
The chicken smiled a small, knowing smile, and said
"When I cough, the whole world shits itself."
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Today was one of those days. Having said that, I didn't mind too much - what really peeves me the most is that I've spent most of the week twiddling my thumbs at work, and then in one fell swoop I've got a million things to do...it would have been nicer if all that work had been gently spread across four days.
Added to that was an unannounced visit from Her Majesties Revenue & Customs to check up on some files. Always a joy, never a chore! At least the two nice ladies today had a sense of humour but they cleared us out of paper by asking me to copy every last sheet of paper from about a dozen files before skulking off into the afternoon sun. I don't mind too much, since we try to keep a pretty tight ship particularly when it comes to Customs related matters, but their presence, especially unannounced, is very disruptive to your day and even more so when you're rushed off your feet already.
I also got my car fixed today so it now has its MOT certificate, and I've used the new whizzy "pay your car tax online" thing tonight so should be getting my tax disc in a few days. That also means I am £300 poorer than I was yesterday...easy come, easy go, I guess!
Funny how all of this comes the day after our Government's annual budget. I couldn't have picked a more appropriate time to meet with Customs and pay a wedge to Gordon Brown (texture like sun - I know it's old, but I never tire of it!).
I have this theory that it's a bad idea to have a "fat" Chancellor of the Exchequer. I'm not saying Gordon is especially, but any guy who looks like he's had one too many good meals who is put in charge of the countries coffers doesn't sit too well with me. Just look at Nigel Lawson - you can possibly take him a bit more seriously now he's lost the weight, but back when he was Chancellor he looked like he was eating all the pies and leaving nothing left for the rest of us. Some might actually say that was indeed the case, but I'll sit conveniently on the fence.
Anyway I'm not sure I can see Gordon Brown (finer temptress) in the position of Prime Minister...I don't like the way his tongue lolls out when he talks...if you've never noticed it, you sure as hell will now!
In other news, it is now 100% official that one of Audrey's chums from the childminders has chickenpox. Yes, I know I said this before and that time it was a false alarm, but this time it's been properly checked and verified. Audrey was with said person for two days this week, so we're bracing ourselves for "the pox" any day now. Luckily her ear is much much better, so I'm looking forward to a good nights sleep tonight.
Thank God tomorrow is Friday!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Mothers Day HNT
Anyway, I decided todays HNT should therefore be appropriately themed for all those wonderful mummies out there. I think you'll find it really needs no further introduction.
I do however feel that the picture needs some text to back it up. Martha as always did the Photoshop retouching, and did an excellent job. However, in doing so she pretty much had to obliterate every detail from the photo of myself that was used, hardly making it qualify as an HNT picture at all.
I do think you can tell it's me in there somewhere, and if you are in any doubt, here is the "source" image of my face to prove it. It's somewhat stretched and skewed from the actual original, but this is what Martha used as the overlay to put me into the poster artwork.
Happy HNT everyone, and a Happy Mothers Day to those celebrating it this weekend with their "mummies"!
I'm alive!!!!! ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm alive and well, although last nights chest pains were somewhat worrying.
I've had them before but usually can put it down to heartburn after a rather big/spicy/rich* (* delete as applicable) meal. This time however, all I've eating in the last couple of days is soup and bread for the most part. I probably wouldn't have even mentioned it had I not been just about to start writing my latest blog entry right at that particular moment.
Anyway, last night Audrey was crying again because of her ear. However, it seems to me that it is getting better. Although she had me and Martha fussing over her at about midnight, and again at 2am, she then managed to sleep though until waking up time this morning. Hopefully there wont be any need to take her back to the doctor, but we'll see how today pans out I guess.
The net result of all this broken sleep is Mummy and Daddy are feeling very tired lately. I probably shouldn't have kept myself up so late, but a combination of uploading MORE CD's into iTunes (I promise I'll shut up about this soon) and online chatting sealed my fate. It was only Audrey's crying and my personal feelings of guilt that Martha was dealing with her alone, that dragged my ass away from the computer, otherwise I probably would have still been sitting there well into the small hours of the morning.
Tonight I anticipate will be somewhat better since I need to organise my HNT post - which once again I've left until the last minute and have no idea what to do! That means hopefully Martha will be up for helping me out with that and therefore she will be on the computer for much of the evening. If I was more organised I'd take HNT photos at the weekend and have a whole bunch of them lined up weeks in advance, but lately they always seem to be done from start to finish the night before - that is not my style at all - I like to be more organised.
Anyway, one final thing before I finish up here - over on my list of Blog Chums, one of my earliest reads, Techymike has decided to hang up his blog for now. He says he feels he has little to say, and I can kind of relate to that. Sometimes days go by where I feel I have nothing to say, but I usually try to put something out there. Mind you some days go by when I want to say a heck of a lot more than I do, but simply can't.
Anyway, good luck Mikeh and please continue to drop by!
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
I did my weigh in and I'm somewhere between 157 and 158 pounds now which is an ever so slight improvement on last week.
Once again I'm trawling through CD's...I have one more pile to go, so should have them finished by Thursday.
Not much else to tell...Audrey seems a little better tonight - she was making mischief so she can't be that bad!
Monday, March 20, 2006
Double-pack with a photograph, Extra Track (and a tacky badge)
We've suspected it for a few days now, but it was only in the last two that we really knew it was bothering her. Right now she's dosed up to the eyeballs on painkillers and sleeping. When she's awake she just howls, but if you can convince her to suck water from her sippy cup that seems to alleviate the pain somewhat.
Martha took her to the doctors today, but they didn't prescribe anything for it and told us to come back if it was still causing trouble by Wednesday. Meanwhile, it looks like we'll be in for a rough night or two...
My car failed it's bloody MOT today...it needs a new shock absorber and some weird thing I have no idea about. Anyway, it's going to cost two hundred quid to fix which is just what I don't need right now. It's due to be sorted out on Thursday...meanwhile I'm still driving illegally.
I've spent my evening uploading CD's again...I'm on the last leg, doing all my Pet Shop Boys CD's which is a little bit more interesting for me. If you had to ask me what it is I like about them, I have to say it's not just about the music. It's the whole package. I'm a total sucker for great packaging when it comes to CD's and DVD's.
This is the guy who almost bought Nine Inch Nails "Broken" and "Fixed" simply because he thought the concept of the album titles was cool! He hadn't heard a single NIN song up to that point. I'm an advertising executives dream come true!
Take for example the Pet Shop Boys album "Very" and it's limited edition dance album "Relentless" which to me is arguably one of the most complete album "packages" you could ever think of. Not only, in my humble opion, is every single track on both CD's completely brilliant thereby meaning you never find yourself skipping a track, but the original packaging, a sort of Lego style orange CD case was so revolutionary at the time it was shortlisted for a contemporary design award. Additonally the computerised styling of the videos for the singles released off the album and the outfits donned by the Boys themselves created the overall "image" that made the package complete. It's a total marketing triumph.
I used to (what am I saying, I still do!) get laughed at by friends for buying two copies of the same album/single simply because the packaging is slightly different. What this proves is it's not simply about the music. It's also about the way the music is presented to me. Does the image on the cover connect with me, excite me, or otherwise engage me somehow? That is why I simply cannot bring myself to download songs from iTunes - you can snazz it up as much as you like, but at the end of the day all it is is a computer file. No sleeve notes, no jewel case embossed with the bands logo, not even a shiny CD to care for - just some dull souless digital file that sits on your desktop with a crappy filename attached to it. Seriously people, how boring is that?
The title of this blog is a line from The Smiths song "Paint A Vulgar Picture" and sums up the cynical attitude of marketing execs who reckon they see people like me coming a mile away. Ironically The Smiths singles and albums like the Pet Shop Boys, have equally been subjected to the "Repackage...reissue" syndrome that Morrissey seemingly so despises...or does he? I think he and Neil Tennant/Chris Lowe are much much smarter than that...
Stolen from Priya (A Movement In Time & Space)
Choose a band / artist: Pet Shop Boys (OK, who groaned?!)
Are you male or female?: The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On
Describe yourself: I Get Along
How do some people feel about you: Boy Strange
Describe your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend: Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend
Describe your current crush: Always On My Mind
Describe how you love: Closer To Heaven
Where you want to be right now: Discoteca
What would you ask for if you had one wish: Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)
Share a few words of wisdom: Happiness Is An Option
Where do you live: Suburbia
Now say goodbye: Do I Have To?
This was a lot of fun, and I could EASILY do it again using the same band with totally different answers, but just to prove I'm not a complete fanboy here's one with a different band...
Choose a band / artist: New Order
Are you male or female?: Mr Disco
Describe yourself: Weirdo
How do some people feel about you: Someone Like You
Describe your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend: Krafty
Describe your current crush: Perfect Kiss
Describe how you love: Behind Closed Doors
Where you want to be right now: The Beach
What would you ask for if you had one wish: True Faith
Share a few words of wisdom: Guilt Is A Useless Emotion
Where do you live: Dracula's Castle
Now say goodbye: Leave Me Alone
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Gooing down to the Ball Ring to buy a packet of pies
On Friday night we had our pizza night as planned. I got home ahead of Martha and started preparing them, as well as Audrey's supper. She doesn't like pizza very much, I think because of the crust, so I was going to cut her up some red pepper, some cucumber and give her some of the pizza pepperoni and a slice of bread and butter. As I buttered the bread I just thought to myself "Man, this is boring food! How can I make this more exciting for Audrey?". Here's what I came up with...
It was a complete success - she munched down all of the bread and pepperoni and a fair amount of the red pepper. I guess, like her old man, she thought the cucumber was a bit of a waste of space and didn't touch any of it, but I for one was really pleased that she got a kick out of my culinary masterpiece!
It was an early start on Saturday morning, getting Audrey's stuff for her overnight stay at my parents house ready and we did our regular weekly grocery shop before heading off to swimming. Swimming went pretty well, and my parents showed up right on time to pick Audrey up and whisk her away for a weekend of fun at their house, giving Martha and I 24 hours of alone time together.
From swimming we headed right into the heart of Birmingham to the new Bull Ring Shopping Centre. I'm well aware that I spelled it "Ball Ring" in the title of this blog - the title is nicked from a Birmingham born and bred comedian called Jasper Carrott and unless you know the way the local "Brummie" accent works it will mean absolutely nothing to you - let's just say that if you hear someone from Birmingham asking for a "Kipper Tie" they're more likely to receive a popular and refreshing leaf based beverage than an item of 1970's retro clothing... Anyway it took some time to actually get there - the traffic heading into the place was a total nightmare, but by 2pm we had crossed the funky doodle bridge into the shopping mall and were searching for a place to have lunch.
Easy right? Oh no!
In my experience of shopping malls, especially in Canada, you have a "food court" where there is a plethora of fast food places and restaurants all in one easy to find location, where you simply make your choice of what you want and sit down and eat it. Many's the time we've been to the Whiteoaks Mall in London, Ontario, and Martha, myself, and her Mom, or whoever is with us all eat completely different things from a variety of eateries and can all sit down together and enjoy our meals.
This idea obviously hasn't filtered into British shopping mall culture, and you'd think for somewhere as new as the Bull Ring they'd have got this fundamental part of the shopping experience right. Instead you get restaurants littered throughout the mall and each of them with precious little space to sit and enjoy your food. Also, the mall was VERY busy and when we arrived we took one look at the queues to two of the places we might have opted to eat at and decided there was absolutely no way we were going to wait that long for a meal which ultimately we would probably regret eating later. We therefore slunk into a Costa Coffee (my first time ever in such an establishment) where we grabbed an overpriced sandwich, crisps and drinks - but at least the queue was short!
After some food we found our bearings and started shopping. As I said in my previous blog, busy malls usually wind me up so much I end up wanting to punch someone. I tried to stay calm and let that all wash over me, and to a certain extent it worked. We didn't rush, checked out a few shops, had some fun but didn't really buy anything. It was just a joy not to have Audrey to worry about.
We did buy Audrey some clothes and a toy digger (she's into diggers at the moment!) which is funny, because it's so blatantly unrealistic. When you press a button it says "Right, lets get to work!" and "Let's get digging!" - now, in my experience those phrases don't exist in any worksmans language. If we're going for ultra realism I think that digger should say "Right, lets make a cup of tea!" and "Let's take a break!" - or am I being too harsh?
Anyway, we finally called it a day at the Bull Ring and headed home. We had a table booked at our favourite restaurant and had about half an hour to get ready. It was nice, because we made an effort to get dressed up. It's perfectly OK to wear jeans and a t-shirt to this place, but we decided we should make the effort and "sexied-up" for each other!
We had a great meal...I plumped for a pizza, which I found to actually be a little bland - without blowing my own trumpet too much, I think we make far better homemade pizzas on a Friday night! However, it was still a nice pizza - just a tad dull is all! I followed that up with cheescake and felt quite good that I hadn't completely over indulged.
When we got home we chilled out a bit and *censored* - ha, ha, ha!
What I will say though, is it was a PEACEFUL nights sleep, not having to worry about the munchkin waking up in the night. We slept in this morning until 9.30am - oh man, I can't remember the last time I slept in that late! It was bliss!
So, after a lazy start we headed over to my parents to have lunch and find out how Audrey had been for the past 24 hours. Of course she'd been a total angel for them, but when she saw us she had a bit of a meltdown, cried and wanted nothing but to be hugged by her Mummy! It actually turned out that she was pretty tired from a busy morning of painting and playing and I guess us showing up like that pushed her over the edge. By lunchtime meltdown was complete and she was just wailing, so Martha took her upstairs where Audrey eventually fell asleep for an hour or so, allowing us to finish up lunch in peace with my parents.
After she woke up we went out for a short walk down by the nearby canal then back to my parents for tea, before packing up all of Audrey's overnight gear and going home.
So, I guess it's back to normal now...Martha and I have spent a great weekend together enjoying the peace and quiet and the break from parental responsibility. We definitely need to do it again, but I have to admit it was wonderful to get back to Audrey to hug and kiss her and tell her how much we love and missed her.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Maybe I should get my stomach stapled first...
Unfortunately, I suspect by next Tuesday my weight will be back up again, because this weekend is going to be one of extreme indulgence.
Martha and I are ditching Audrey with my parents after swimming tomorrow and taking ourselves off shopping. I don't think we've been shopping as a couple since before Audrey was born. So we're in for a whole afternoon of retail therapy, and I've also decided that I am not going to let the fact that I usually hate busy shopping malls put me off. I'm going to try to relax and enjoy, and I think not having Audrey there will help with that a great deal.
Anyway the reason I say I'll pile on the weight again, is doubtless we will be eating lunch at the mall, so there's a good chance that will be fast food of some kind. I don't mind fast food in small doses. We tend not to eat at fast food restaurants unless we can't help it and we also try not to feed Audrey junk food either. However, sometimes you just get the hankering for some KFC, or a nice McChicken Premiere! I can feel the weight going on just thinking about it!
After shopping we've also booked a table at our favourite restaurant for supper. It's called "The Haywaggon" and is a pub which does some amazing Italian food. Let me tell you, when I'm there, it's no holds barred! Starter, main course, pudding, alcohol...try to stop me!
So then Martha and I are going to spend the rest of the night together without Audrey...
...and on Sunday go to my parents for Sunday lunch...doubtless this will be a roast of some kind. I guess it's just a "mother" thing, but of course I truly believe my mother does the best Sunday roasts on the planet, maybe even in the entire universe. Unfortunately, she's a self confessed disaster area when it comes to desserts, but I can forgive that when presented with a plateful of roast "dead animal of your choosing" with all the trimmings!
Oh, and don't forget that Friday night IS pizza night, so Martha and I will be building our very own pizza perfection at home tonight for supper! Do you think a whole ball of buffalo mozzarella on one pizza is too much?!
Yep, when all taken into account I think that'll just about put me back to my pre-workout weight - it's a bit frightening to think that you can undo two months of hard exercise in just three days!
In other news "I'm as excited as a really excited person who's got a special reason to be excited" (thanks Blackadder!) because the Pet Shop Boys are doing a free...yes FREE, GRATIS, WITHOUT CHARGE...concert in Newcastle in May. It's actually the "Battleship Potemkin" concert (that's the "boys" plus full orchestra and the movie shown in tandem with it) that they performed in Trafalgar Square, London in 2004, which I missed. It was also a free concert.
Well, I say missed, I actually decided not to go. The timing was bad for me and I have an aversion to London like you wouldn't believe. I wasn't too upset about missing it either - a few mates of mine went along and told me it poured with rain which would have been the final nail in the coffin for me.
Anyway, Newcastle works for me because it's close to where my sister lives, so I've asked her if we can stay there. Hopefully she'll be cool with that! Also, I'm now familiar with the music they composed for the film, so I'll probably get more out it than had I heard it for the first time at the original event. So fingers crossed we can sort out babysitting, transport and lodging for that! Chances of it raining up in Newcastle are fairly high (I've even seen it snow up there in May!), but I think the venue is much more to my liking, so if the weather sucks I don't think it will spoil it too much for me.
Meanwhile, I'm still wading through piles of CD's to upload into iTunes. They should be finished within a few days, at which point I plan to give you a precis of what musical delights reside on our computer.
Have a great weekend everybody!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Emerald Half-Nekkid Thursday
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of Ireland or the Irish. I spent three (well two if you want to get picky) years at university in Ireland, and whilst there were good times, fun times and ridiculously drunken times, on the whole it wasn't the best time of my life. I do sometimes get the impression that people look at Ireland through rose tinted spectacles - for all it's beauty, it has of course its problems, especially with us English folk, but I for one would rather not dwell on the past or get into religious politics. I also find many of the Irish people I have met to be extremely argumentative folk, almost as if they're looking for conflict and thrive upon it.
I don't want to generalise or piss anyone off, but that's just my view after having spent some time living there.
Fortunately they have great taste in alcoholic beverages - Guinness and Bushmills whisky are two of my personal favourites.
Anyway, back to HNT - this is an Irish film through and through, a little gem which is very funny, quirky, and a little bit wicked! Here in the UK it was actually called "Waking Ned" not "...Ned Devine" but someone in the USA decided just "Ned" was somehow misleading - how I'm not quite sure, but the name got changed, and all I could find were copies of the "...Ned Devine" version of the poster.
As always, if you've not seen this film, I'd urge you to rent it.
Thanks again to Martha for her Photoshopping - she had a dreadful piece of poster artwork to work with to start off, so don't blame her for the poor quality of the image!
Oh, and one other point of note - that's me IN A SUIT - my very own SUIT! See, I do scrub up well sometimes!
Happy St.Patrick's Day for tomorrow and Happy HNT for today!
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
"I like driving in my car, it's not quite a Jaguar"
Moving swiftly on...
My car is due for retaxing at the beginning of April.
For readers unfamiliar with this, in the UK one is required to pay a fee annually to keep their car on the road - in return you get a tax disc, a circular piece of paper which you display proudly in the windscreen of your car. The money made from this goes to the Government to pay for the upkeep of the all the roads in the UK, hence our fabulous highways infrastructure...oh sorry, I was having a daydream just then!
Anyway, in order to get your tax disc you are required to also have valid motor insurance and a MOT certificate. Again, for the uninitiated, this is an annual road worthiness test that every motor vehicle must undertake. Things like omissions, lights, windcreen, horn, seatbelts etc are all checked to make sure your car is safe to be out on the road.
These three things, the tax disc, MOT and insurance ensure you have a full year of safe and happy motoring...if you're missing any one of the three, you are, to all intents and purposes, driving illegally. That means your insurance is invalid, or you can be stopped by the cops and fined for not paying the Government for your right to drive on their beautifully tarmaced roads...whoops, drifting off into dreamland again!
Anyway, this week I got my reminder that my tax was due for renewal so I figured I need to dig up my MOT and insurance to get it. I'm not sure if other people do this, but to spread the cost I pay my insurance and have my MOT in October, then tax in April, rather than having the hassle of all three having to be paid at the same time. It works, and means I don't get into that last minute rush to try to get everything together in time to retax my car.
Well, I say it works, but this time it didn't!
Last October I did indeed pay my insurance but I forgot to get my car MOT'ed! I've been driving a car for 6 months without one, which basically means if I have an accident I'm buggered for the insurance! I feel like a total pillock - I've never forgotten to MOT my car until now.
So I guess tomorrow I will be booking it in as soon as possible for it's road worthiness test because I need that certificate before the end of the month to get my tax disc. I just hope my car is OK and doesn't need anything fixed in order to get through the test - I could really do without the financial hassle right now.
In other news, the chickenpox scare has passed. No idea where that came from...I just go on the information I'm given, so don't shoot the messenger!
Monday, March 13, 2006
And it's not the first time either. I thought it was guys who were supposed to be the ones too lazy to take 5 seconds out of their busy schedules to change the toilet roll?
I've told Martha many many times that I shall start a log of how many toilet rolls I find in this state. I've tried the "leave it alone" tactic...it doesn't work, so hopefully publicly naming and shaming will do the trick.
Anyway, I have to cut it short tonight - it's late and I can see nothing but CD's in front of my eyes...
Sunday, March 12, 2006
If music be the food of love, play on, and on, and on...
Well, on Friday I was yabbering on about how she probably had chickenpox. So far nothing has developed, and if you go by everything you read in books and on t'internet, she should by now have a nice spotty rash. However, I would say the odds of her contracting chicken pox still remain extremely high. We now have one definite confirmed case from a little boy that also goes to our childminders, so we're anticipating a rough week ahead of more high temperatures and the administering of lots of calamine lotion for the itching.
Meantime Audrey has been in excellent spirits all weekend (and I might add more than a little naughty) so the fevers she had last week remain a complete mystery.
We agreed not to take any chances and skipped swimming yesterday and decided to stay at home for most of the weekend, venturing out only to do a grocery shop yesterday and go for a short walk today. I therefore decided to tackle one of those projects that has been on my list of things to do, but which you never get around to actually doing even though there's no actual reason for not just getting on with it.
That project was to upload all of our CD's into iTunes...
As of right now I'm looking at three large cardboard boxes - one is about a third full of CD's which have been successfully transferred. The other two are full, and comprise those that currently need to be done. In another room is yet another box which is full of CD's now completed and on our computer, but also a large CD rack FULL of CD's that haven't been transferred. So, on balance, I might be about a third of the way through after almost two days of doing nothing but banging CD's into the drive, letting iTunes do its stuff, and swopping it for the next one. Oh, the excitement!
Actually, to be honest it's been quite good fun up to a point. It's been nice to find some stuff I've not heard in a while and I've found our list of "Artists" combined is more eclectic than I thought. When you see it written down it makes you realise that your life doesn't entirely revolve around the Pet Shop Boys.
What I find most frustrating about it though is the number of repeated songs you get and how difficult it is to actually nail down that they are different. I suppose in a day when songs are remixed and rereleased almost as a matter of course it makes that task even harder, but I do wonder how much of my hard drive is already used up by pointless duplicates. I've trimmed a few down when I notice them, but for the most part all the tracks on each CD are intact. The worst offenders so far for repetition across their catalogues are New Order and They Might Be Giants. Actually, I think TMBG takes first prize. Exactly how many "Best Of TMBG" albums are there?! There should be a rule that "Best of..." albums are not allowed until said artist either retires or dies.
Martha and I were also debating the legal side of uploading our CD's to our computer. When we started we cleared the computer of ALL mp3's - every single music file, legal or otherwise, was removed from our computer. We didn't back them up - we just erased them. Then we agreed that only 100% legal, bought CD's were allowed to go into our nice clean hard drive. So here's the legal question...what happens, after we've uploaded (backed up) all our music, if we then sell our entire CD collection? I'm not saying we're going to, but in theory does that then make all of our backup's illegal even though we bought and paid for the CD's legitimately in the first place? Hmmm!
Oh, yesterday Martha and I bought Lemmings for the PSP. Talk about impulse buying! After getting that email about it on Friday and writing a little about it in my blog on Friday, we decided it would be fun to get it. However, Martha is still busy playing something else, and I've been doing nothing but CD uploading all weekend, so for now it's hardly been played! I'm sure that will all change very soon though!
Friday, March 10, 2006
Life, love and lemmings!
Add to that a bunch of more work related problems, a lot of shouting and swearing at people who seem to think they are always right and I am always wrong, and it all made for a rather stressful day.
When I got home I prepared for our date. Martha had booked a table at a local pub - I say pub but as is the way with many pubs these days they tend to serve quite spectacular (and dare I say it - "posh") food. Anyway, when Martha came home it transpired that Audrey was once again very much out of sorts, running a very high temperature. In fact, Audrey was so out of it she fell asleep before we left.
The current theory is that it may be she has chickenpox which has allegedly been doing the rounds in the area lately, and we know that some of the kids at the childminders have been in direct contact with people who have had the illness recently. So far though there's no major discernable rash to confirm it, but we should know for certain in the next day or so.
Mum reminded me today that when she heard that one of the local kids had chickenpox she made sure that I went and played over to their house so I caught it! I'm not sure if that mentality still exists today, but I have to say that if it is chickenpox I'll be quite pleased that Audrey has had it and got it out of (or rather into) her system...
Anyway, Martha and I went for our meal. It was lovely! I had a well earned pint of Guinness and started out on the pate with crusty bread. I followed that up with duck in a lovely brandy and I think plum sauce. I was quite full after that but still managed to find room for a heavenly tiramisu (sorry Priya, I didn't get a photo, but I'm no longer jealous of yours!) and a cup of coffee.
Back at home we said goodnight to the babysitter and got ourselves ready for bed. We agreed that one of us would sleep in Audrey's room that night...and since Martha had been up with her the night before, that duty fell to me. However, before we got to bed, Audrey had already woken and was very listless. We gave her some medicine, but shortly afterwards she threw it up, so it was off to the bathtub to clean up and also to try to get her temperature down.
Once that was done it was fairly easy to administer some more medicine to her and settle her down for the night. We kept her in our guest bed, and I slept at her side until she woke me at 4am asking for milk. Again she was running a fever, so I gave her medicine as well as milk, and before long we were both back to sleep again until waking up time. All in all it was a pretty good night actually.
Today came and went, which after yesterday's stresses was quite welcome. Back at home we made pizzas for supper and have done the whole usual routine with Audrey, but still being mindful of her temperature. She has gone to bed without incident, but I suspect she'll be up in the night.
Anyway, tomorrow we have another house viewing at 10am. Hopefully the estate agent wont stand us up this time! Swimming looks like it will be cancelled for us so we'll have a pretty free day to get on with stuff.
Finally, here's a bit of fun I want to share with you guys. Martha registered her PSP online and now we get emails from Sony about forthcoming games. One we got today was for the rerelease of the classic game, Lemmings. If you've never played Lemmings then beg, borrow or steal a copy for your chosen platform - I reckon it must exist for everything from PC to Xbox and it is a wonderfully addictive puzzle game where you try to rescue the hapless Lemmings from certain doom by making sure they dig, build and jump to safety. This is a typical screenshot from the game - looks unassuming, but trust me, it's hellishly addictive!
Anyway, on the email there was a link to the Lemmings website which has an online "game" called Bootcamp. It's not actually the Lemmings game itself, so don't get confused, but just a bit of online fun! Click on the Lemming below to get to the game! Enjoy and have a great weekend!
Thursday, March 09, 2006
The Unfinished Blog
Grrr! I am so angry today - nothing has gone right, people have annoyed me left, right and centre, I've lost my temper, had people hang up the phone on me three times in the space of 10 minutes, and I'm only just starting to come down. Also, my day just got surreal...long story, and I'm not going to to talk about it here...at least it's making me chuckle now though!
Anyway, I had started a blog, but things started to go royally pear shaped and I lost the will to finish it.
I thought it might be fun to give you the blog up to the point where I quit anyway, and if you feel so inclined maybe you can finish it off for me! (shamelessly stealing OGO's Friday Story idea - bring it back OGO!)
Make mine a large whisky with a double dose of valium!
Ugh, I'm having a rotten day...
In fact can we rewind the last 24 hours and start again?
I got home last night in time to let the people in who were coming to view the house. As we are mere tenants and not the owners we were told by the estate agents that they would show the house, meaning we could just sit back and watch people meander through the rooms. I'm alright with that - I 'm happy to just sit there and make like a goldfish!
Not long after I arrived home the phone rang - it was the estate agents. The woman explained she was "running a little behind" and would it be OK if we showed the house instead. Roughly translated I think that meant "It's nearly 6pm and I'd really rather be at home than trying to sell a house, and since you're there and I'm not, you might as well do my job for me."
In spite of this annoyance, I agreed to do it - mainly because I thought I'd probably get shot of the people quicker that way. When they arrived I gave them the 10 cent tour. They were nice enough, and I guess because they knew we didn't own the house they were much more open about what they thought of it and it soon became clear they were not interested in buying it. Once we established that we ended up talking a bit about what we did and didn't like about it quite openly, and within 15 minutes of them arriving, they had said their goodbyes and left the building.
Martha came home with Audrey shortly before they left with a rather grumpy Audrey in her arms. Audrey was running a fever and wasn't herself, so we gave her some medicine which perked her up in no time and she ate a little supper, we gave her a nice bath and put her to bed.
We did our workout, which for me has become quite difficult lately because I still can't quite shift this cold. Anyway, I muddled through it and we then had to finish up tidying the house because tonight we are going out on a date and the childminder will be over to look after Audrey...perish the thought that the kitchen counters should have even the tiniest breadcrumb on them! Quick, call the social services!!!
Also I still hadn't decided what I was doing for Half Nekkid-Thursday, so we mithered over that for half an hour or so before Martha got to work doing her Photoshop magic on my ET arm (see below)!
Once Martha was finished I quickly wrote up my HNT post then minced around online not really achieving anything, and before we knew it, it was midnight! By the time we'd got ourselves together and ready for bed it was 12.45 and Audrey was fussing - her medicine was due to wear off at 2.30am!
Anyway we went to bed, and sure enough a few hours later Martha was up with Audrey who was running a fever again. I slept through much of this, although I do vaguely recall Martha getting up to go to her. I am thankful for that - we try to take it in turns to see to Audrey in the night if she wakes up.
However, Audrey then proceeded to STAY awake, and the next thing I knew I was being woken by her crawling into bed with me, with Mummy not far behind. Audrey would not settle, and in the end I took her to the guest bed to let Martha get some sleep. Using my masterful Daddy persuasion techniques Audrey was soon asleep again and I managed to sleep too until Martha woke me up at our normal waking time of 6.45!
When I got to work this morning I was met by a musty smell emanating from one of the downstairs offices. It's something I'd noticed for a couple of days, but because this room is right next to the toilets I figured the smells were coming from them - in fact yesterday I recall switching on the toilet extractor fans for that very reason! Today, however, the smell was obviously NOT coming from the toilets, so I investigated and...
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
HNT Phone Home
After some surfing and thinking I plumped for the ET poster. I could have gone the easy route and just used my hand as Elliot's, but I've always thought my fingers were rather bony and slender like ET's, so I gave Martha the challenge of Photoshopping my hand into ET's!
I actually think the result is great! One of Martha's best and it took her less than 20 minutes to do! And yes, she's available for freelance artworking at very reasonable rates! ;-)
Regarding the actual movie, I've always been in two minds about it. It's a great film, make no mistake, but I've always found it a little difficult to get in to. That whole dysfunctional American family thing is so alien to me!
...I'll get my coat...
Happy Half-Nekkid Thursday!
Firstly thanks to Carla for pointing me in the direction of Ann's Thoughts Du Jour. It's about time I had another British blog to read - I'm starting to pick up an North American twang! It's been quite refreshing to read about things that are a little bit more familiar to me as well.
Second up is Cruel Cosmic Jokes which OGO insisted on her blog that we all go look at. So that's what I did! As it's kind of a new blog (picking up from a previous one that I've not seen before) I'm kind of catching up on the "backstory" if you know what I mean, but it's all been quite interesting so far.
Third and finally, but by no means least, it's Scott and Julia's blog, "No, I will not fix your computer". I've stopped by their blog before mostly for Half-Nekkid Thursday, but they have an Ontario, Canada connection (which is where Martha is from). Plus the blogs title speaks volumes to me - it's something I feel like saying on a daily basis at work!
So, welcome all...
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Finally made it!
The house needed a tidy before tomorrow evenings first house viewing so Martha and I agreed that I would look after Audrey, bathe her, get her ready for bed, etc etc, while Martha started the tidying.
Sounded like a good deal to me!
Anyway, after Audrey was safely tucked up in bed we did our workout, after which neither of us felt up for doing anything else. Tidying came to grinding halt, and I decided to start my blog. The problem was the internet went down so I couldn't log in to do it. I wasted about a half hour because it was sort of *half* working, but eventually it gave up altogether, so I decided to quit for the night!
I had a few things to sort out before bed, so decided to leave the computer on, just in case the internet connection started up again. I'd got as far as brushing my teeth, taken a swig of mouthwash and came to the machine to take a look and bugger me if it wasn't back online again!
I quickly spat out the mouthwash and decided to get typing, and here I am!
And all I really wanted to tell you all was that I lost another 3lbs this week! I now weigh 158lbs!
Monday, March 06, 2006
My daughter the comedian...
At one point she had a mouthful of banana and turned to Martha and tried to say something, but it just came out as "Mnph, mnph, mnph, mnph."
When she'd finished her mouthful I said to her "What did you say to Mummy?"
Mouth now empty, Audrey replied, "Mnph, mnph, mnph, mnph."
I went to the bathroom to shave and shower and discovered to my dismay that the shower wasn't working! A pathetic trickle of icy cold water flowed from the head, and I just had visions of having to call someone in to fix it and all the pain that that entails.
I had a bath instead and as I ran it realised that the cold water here was also running a very low pressure! A-ha! It wasn't the shower! Maybe it was a frozen pipe, or a burst main? Still it didn't fix the problem, and made me more anxious about whether the actual problem was unique to us (again requiring a painful complaining process to the landlord) or whether it was also a problem at other properties along the street.
I finished bathing and told Martha what was going on and that she'd need to run a bath - except she couldn't because I had just used all the hot water and the tank hadn't refilled fast enough! It was therefore decided that she would shower at my parents house - fortunately that's where we were headed for Sunday lunch anyway!
I set about filling some buckets with what little water I could get from the taps, so that, if we got home and things were still not right, we could at least flush the toilets. I also popped over to next door and asked if their water was similarly disrupted. Fortunately it was, so I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it was a problem that the water company would have to sort out, rather than me.
Anyway, we left for a lovely afternoon with my parents, and fortunately came home to the water being back to normal again!
We've got someone coming to view the house this Wednesday, so I guess we'll have to make it look presentable. I really have a feeling the house will sell this time...I just hope our landlords honour our contract, as Martha and I have no plan B...actually come to think of it, we have no plan A either!
Hopefully we'll be going out one night this week on a date. After the slight washout that was Martha's birthday, we felt like we could use another night out...haven't decided if that will be for a meal or cinema or both yet, but I don't think there's much on at the cinema that I want to see right now...
So, not much is new...it was a good weekend by all accounts, but nothing magnificent to report either!
Friday, March 03, 2006
And they call it puppy love
Jessie (owned by my sister's boyfriend) gave birth to a litter of 6 a couple of days ago. Long time readers of my blog may recall she had pups before, but I failed to report that not one of those poor pups from that first litter is now with us. Some died shortly after birth, and the remaining two that did survive met with rather horrible demises before Christmas! Oh dear!
So let's hope these 6 little ones have somewhat happier times ahead of them.
The other nugget of news that I keep forgetting to mention is that our house (which we rent) went up for sale again this week. Whilst not entirely unexpected we weren't actually told about it. Again those of you have been reading this blog (in its previous incarnation) for some months will recall the house was for sale before Christmas with a good chance that we would be kicked out a mere fortnight before the festive season began.
Fortunately that didn't happen and we secured a new 6 month lease taking us up to the end of May, but we expected the house to go back on the market in the Spring, and lo and behold that's exactly what has happened. I'm guessing we'll be looking for new digs soon then...watch this space!
And for all you overseas readers, here's a typical picture of Britain in 2006. The "FOR SALE" sign hadn't even been up one day before some kids had kicked it down. We live in a lovely rural village, not in some scummy city centre, but maybe that's it - perhaps the kids here are just bored, so a wooden post in the ground makes for worthwhile entertainment!
Random Disgruntled Thoughts
The audio techies out there who are striving for aural excellence in their music must be turning in their graves these days. While they have been working towards the holy grail of sound quality, the musos out there are making their songs sound like beat up old 45's ON PURPOSE!
Personally I don't like it. Why would I want to intentionally listen to annoying scrunchy noises throughout a song? If I want that I'll eat a bag of crisps while I listen to my favourite artists or better still I'll dig out my record player and listen to some good old vinyl!
It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world!
On another tack, I'm not normally one for talking politics...but occasionally there are things that get my goat, like the thing about smoking in public places, and yes, I have an opinion on Iraq as well, but I don't like to bait people into pointless arguments if I can help it.
However, I thought I'd mention ID cards which are causing way too much fuss for my liking at the moment. I'm all for better security to stop terrorism, but why ID cards? Ultimately ID cards can and will be forged, just like every other piece of personal identification you can think of. You might as well stick with passports and stop wasting taxpayers money on yet another piece of crap we're going to have to carry around in our wallets.
No system is ever going to be perfect. Every computer or electronic device can be hacked if you know how to do it, information can be altered or recreated to fit a requirement whether those ends be honorable or not. I often think we need to put right the existing forms of identification before trying to fix a problem with something new.
There's a link here to an item about how the PSB's are so very anti the idea of ID cards because in a world where we preach freedom for all we are, in the same breath, creating a world where freedom of movement becomes more and more difficult. Big Brother is most definitely watching you.
It all rather reeks of a "quick fix" to keep core voters happy rather than a long term solution for a better future. I think as a nation (and I think I speak for my USA readership too) we need to look deeper at the real issues that have brought the world to the point we're at today. There's no point putting a sticking plaster over a gaping wound.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Life, the Universe and Half-Nekkid Thursday
My HNT today hopefully sums me up in my Britishness, my interest in science-fiction, and my somewhat quirky sense of humour. I'm not saying I'm specifically Arthur Dent, but I can well imagine my response to being swept off a doomed planet Earth and across the galaxy with nothing but a towel and electronic book, being much the same as his.
Thanks go out as always to my long suffering wife, Martha, for her Photoshop work and taking the photo of me in my jammies! (Click on the images to go full size by the way!)
So here's your multiple choice question...what's the answer to the ultimate question of Life, The Universe and Everything?
d) eight million seven hundred and sixty-seven thousand one hundred and twenty-eight to one against
Don't think too hard!
"A slipstream to a memory"
We had too much time to find for ourselves
And we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought, then thought: make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
Time would come to an end
We were always hoping that, looking back
You could always rely on a friend"
On this particular day, the song took me back to 1988.
I was studying for my A levels and was part of a group of four or five close friends who spent a good bit of time together, generally doing daft childish stuff to break free from the drudgery of study for what were at the time the most important exams we had ever taken. A level grades determine what Universities will accept you to do a degree, so they were a VERY big deal!
One of the friends I’ll call Tom – it’s not his real name but it’s not especially relevent. Like me, he wasn't the most outgoing of the group, but he had a quirky sense of humour and was always game for doing ridiculous things which in retrospect could have got us all into a lot of trouble. Some of the things we got up to were quite Pythonesque - a little off the wall, a bit surreal even, and I think most of the "cool" kids thought we a bit of a joke and, whilst they made fun of us, tended to steer clear of our weird little group. Tom and I shared a similar taste in music and TV programmes, and best of all his home was a mere 5 minute walk from our school, allowing us all plenty of time to go to his place to play video games or watch TV during lunchtime or "free" periods when there were no classes.
Tom was also pretty smart, although I think he hid his talents somewhat. He loved art, and was a very talented artist himself. His family had a wealth of information at their fingertips - I shall always remember his parents home, filled with books and videotapes in the hall and living room, all neatly piled up - I don't recall seeing any bookcases or shelves, and with two sisters already studying at university it seemed fair to assume that Tom would follow in their footsteps, fly through his chosen degree course and be very successful.
Anyway, on one perfectly normal school day Tom failed to turn up for class. None of us in our group really thought much of it. It was autumn and perfectly reasonable to assume that he might have a cold and taken the day off as a result. The next day he again failed to show up for registration, and our group of friends decided that at lunchtime we would walk up to his house to see how he was doing, and find out why he hadn't shown up for school.
When we got there we rang the doorbell, but there was no answer. We could see his bedroom window from the front and the curtains were drawn shut. The back of his house was fairly accessible so we decided to scoot around the back to see if we could get his attention there. We peeked in through the kitchen window and saw a figure in the kitchen who, on seeing us, promptly dashed off back into what would have been the hallway and disappeared! I don't personally know if it was Tom, but some friends swore it was, and we continued to bang and shout out for him, and wondered why he seemed to want to avoid us, his closest friends.
The days rolled on, and Tom continued to be a "no show" at school. Rumours started to circulate, and of course, as his friends, we started to get asked questions. We were literally in the dark as much as everyone else. It became clear that the situation was serious when our teachers began to ask us about Tom as well and we soon discovered that for some reason unknown to everyone, Tom had decided to lock himself away from the outside world. Teachers were asking us if we knew of any reason why he was doing this. Had he been bullied? Did we know any reason why he might be unhappy? To be honest, even now, I cannot think of a single reason why, other than maybe the stresses of A level work were playing on his mind. He wasn't bullied any more or less than the rest of us and certainly not to a point where you would do something like that, and as far as we knew he enjoyed our company. We also assumed his home life was fine. His Mum was a lovely lady and always very hospitable.
Anyway, one day we decided to go to Tom's house to see if we could be of any assistance. His Mum came to the door looking distraught and was visibly holding back tears, but asked us to come in to see if we could coax him out. We trooped upstairs and went to his bedroom door, which was barricaded from the inside, and tried to talk to him. Not one of us got a response.
That was the last time I ever set foot in Tom's house.
For weeks and months afterwards we all tried to think of what could possibly have happened to him to make him do such a thing. At Christmas I reached out again by sending him a card. Christmas Day also happened to be his birthday, so it seemed an especially good time to try to make contact. What is surprising is I DID get a card in return. I wish I had kept that card now because I don't recall exactly what it said - I do know it contained a one line message which on first inspection seemed quite innocent, but remember feeling it had a double meaning which came across as somewhat bitter and twisted. I didn't quite know what to make of it. I was so pleased I got a card from him and I think I even wrote a follow up letter to which I got no response. I was unable to expand on that success to make further contact and he was obviously determined to cut off all links with us.
As the years have passed we've occasionally heard rumours about Tom. I've never heard anything concrete to my knowledge - just stuff from a friend of a friend. Someone said he did come out of his room, but was institutionalised, some said he'd been spotted in the locality, but I have nothing to prove that any of this is fact. An earlier rumour that circulated was that he had taken a pair of scissors to his hair and cut it all off, but I've no evidence to say that he actually did. I do remember one day, not long after all of this happened, meeting his Mum in a supermarket. I was with a few friends and we exchanged pleasantries, but you could tell she was in no mood to talk about her son and scurried off very quickly before we had a chance to ask any pertinent questions.
Occasionally I get asked if I ever heard what became of him and sometimes when I get together with friends from that original group he might crop up in conversation, but to be honest what you are reading here is all I know.
I would love to know what happened to him, and even if he doesn't want to make contact with me or be my friend, I'd just like to know he's OK.
In rented rooms and foreign places
All the people I was kissing
Some are here and some are missing
In the nineteen-nineties.
I never dreamt that I would get to be
The creature that I always meant to be
But I thought in spite of dreams
You'd be sitting somewhere here with me."