Sunday, 29 November 2009

I may regret this...

Beth Orton once sang 'What are regrets? They're just lessons we haven't learned yet'. This line never made much sense to me until recently. I interpreted this literally, my understanding being that regrets were just things we hadn't got round to yet, which I knew wasn't true. I've regretted lots of things i've done in the past that couldn't be undone.

And these things are all pretty stupid and trivial.

I regretted sulking my way around a Tunisian castle as a kid only to realise when I got home that Life of Brian had been filmed in the very castle i'd been ignoring.

Whilst playing in the school band in the Efteling theme park, Holland, to a non-existant audience, I regretted saying (very loudly) 'If I was in a theme park I wouldn't be watching us', which lead to me getting evils from everyone else in the band.

On the same trip, when fronting our sixth form band I regretted singing something like 'I don't speak Hollish' and getting the finger from all the Dutch people in the crowd.

I regretted not taking socks out of my jeans before I throw them on the floor. This lead to me walking around Tescos a few weeks ago with a sock hanging out the rear of my jeans, like I had a smelly cotton tail.

I regretted getting smashed on Somerset Cider at Glastonbury 2003, making the Radiohead headline slot I'd been looking forward to for a year a complete blur. I regretted that the only memory I have of the gig was chastising someone who'd never heard a b-side they decided to play.

Amazingly the Radiohead thing actually really hurt me and I could never bring myself to watch the BBC footage and enjoy it. This was a band that i'd been obsessed with since their first (admittedly dodgy) album. 8 years later I had the chance to see them for the first time, at a once in a lifetime gig and I inexplicably got pissed and deleted the whole thing from my brain.

Anyway, enough embarrassment. I've only recently realised what Orton was harping on about, I'd simply not managed parse the the grammer properly. To paraphrase; If you're still regretting something, you probably haven't learnt your lesson yet. The thing you regret was a lesson in itself, and if that thing didn't happen, you wouldn't be the person you are today.

All of these silly regrets are generally quite funny, and everyone has done similar things. When I was telling some friends about the sock incident Jen and I were in tears, struggling to breathe through the laughter. Laughing that much and that hard has to be a high point in life and this would never of happened if my underwear hadn't been on display during the weekly shop.

So I don't really regret anything, mainly because I think it's all pretty funny and I have learnt my lesson - Stop being stroppy, engage brain before talking, consider that saying something you think is funny might be offensive to someone else, take your socks out of your jeans before throwing them on the floor and finally, live for the moment. Even if you don't remember the moment once it's passed.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Right, erm

Christ! I haven't written anything on here for a over a month. My New Year's Resolution was to write something on here every week. I think I lasted about 10 weeks before I realised that over the course of a week very little of interest happened. Still, for a while I managed a few posts a month. And now I'm down to one a month. That's 12 a year. My blogs are now less regular than a DFS Sofa Sale.

My blog must feel like a dejected gadget you get for Christmas. At first you think how on earth could I ever live with out this? Within about a month you realise you can clearly live without it, and 6 months later it's chucked in the drawer and never used again. This blog is like a sandwich toaster. As always, television can explain this far better than I ever could:

Daisy: In the end, our relationship was just like a sandwich toaster. You know, you just forget you've got one. And it just sits there on the top of the cupboard collecting a layer of greasy fudge. And even if you do see it you just assume it's broken, you think if it's working I'd be using it all the time, but you don't and it just sits there. Then one day, you get an overwhelming desire for toasted sandwiches, you know? And you get it down and it works, and you can't believe it, you know? And then you make every kind of toasted sandwich there is, you have toasted sandwich parties. You make Marmite and cheese, chocolate and...

Tim: Pilchards.

Daisy: Banana and...

Bilbo: Acorns.

Daisy: Acorns. And then as quickly as the desire comes, it just goes. And then you put the toasted sandwich maker away. And, you know what?
Tim: What?

Daisy: You don't miss it.

Bilbo: So what you're saying is 'Don't hide the toasted sandwich maker away, use him regularly and you'll get the most out of him'.

Tim: No, she's saying 'Chuck your boyfriend, have a sandwich'.

Of course, that analogy doesn't really work, because I'm not going to go mental and write every kind of post you can think of, or have a blog party where everybody groups around and laughs/crys at my cynical, irregular and miserable commentary on 2009. Maybe I should do a Peter Kay and start re-releasing old blog posts in a slightly different font.

That is all. I only wrote this because I felt bad for leaving it so long. Maybe i'll sneak something in before Christmas.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Another Day, Another Website

In early September we attended to Becky & Matt's wedding at the pituresque Rushton Hall. RNIB had owned and ran the country estate as a school for the blind since 1957 but decided to sell it on in 2003. To be fair, i'm pretty sure the ornate interiors were lost on most of the students (yeah, i'm going to hell).

I've actually visited the estate before in its former guise, as part of the Montagu School Band to perform christmas carols to the kids. We were told that after our performance one child who hadn't spoken for years uttered 'more'. But my black heart just cannot believe something so beautiful and uplifting could be true. Lying bastards.

I stupidly offered to create a website such that everyone can see pictures from the day. I say stupidly, because sometimes I forget that i'm not a web designer. The term web designer is generally (and incorrectly) used for anyone who works on a website, even though the design of the site is only one part of piecing the technical jigsaw together. I'm a Web Developer or (according to my employee) a Systems Analyst Developer. I'm not a graphic designer.

Because of this I agonised over the design of the site for hours plonking things on the page with no real concept of the complete design or understanding of how colours and shapes fit together to create an aesthetically pleasing site. That's probably why the end product turned out pretty simple. Luckily I think my hours of throwing stuff on a page ended up looking ok, but I can't help but think that a professional designer could of knocked it up in 10 minutes.

Anyway, have a look yourself here - According to my mum, I don't look good with a bow tie on. How rude.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

I'm Sorry, We've Ran Out of Home Made Pasta

Early September is always Holiday time for Jen and I. The kids are back at school (i.e. not where we're going), the weather in Europe isn't too hot, and the hope of any decent weather in England is officially on hiatus until 2010. We've been to Barcelona for the last two years, and despite us being able to taste Sangria on our lips (it's cheaper than Blossom Hill) we decided to go to Rome.

As usual, we left booking the holiday until a few weeks before we left. After days exploring Expedia it appeared that must hotels in central Rome were last refurbished in the early 80s. We ended up staying in a hotel that was on the outskirts of the city centre but only a 5 minute walk away from the Metro (a walk which, according to many reviews, passed a number of hooker hot-spots). We were initially sent to the wrong room, probably scaring the life out the person inside when I was trying to force the door open. I inadvertently had my revenge on the staff by constantly pulling on the emergency alarm in the bathroom for 10 minutes (I was trying to turn the non-existent extractor fan on), leading to Jen getting a confusing phone call about trouble in the bathroom from reception. The hotel was very contemporary, having not only a bidet but, next to the bidet, a telephone. And I thought ringing someone on the toilet was weird.

Rome is a deceptively small city and it's easy to stumble upon a breath taking view whilst aimlessly walking through the city (Rome's Metro doesn't stop at many of the big sites; they're building a third line but progress is slow as every time the tunnel advances they unearth some hidden treasure). For example, in the first 20 minutes of exploring Rome we walked down an insignificant backstreet and stumbled upon a beautifully decorated cross road:

Although it is one of the most well known sights of Rome, Fontane de Trevi is a perfect example of a monumental sight unexpectedly crammed in a tiny out-of-the-way square. Unfortunately the tiny square was permanently rammed with huge crowds whenever we walked through it, watched over by the fountain police (to stop people jumping in, apparently). Throwing a coin in the fountain is meant to guarantee a return to Rome. We chucked in 10 cents, so evidently we weren't that bothered. We attempted to take some photos of us sitting on the edge of the fountain, unfortunately this put us directly in the line of fire from small bits of metal flying from the crowd so the photos were a little rushed (hence, not shown).

The most iconic sight has to be the Colloseum, and like the immigrants flogging umbrellas and faux gladiators selling picture opportunities, it jumps out in front of you when you leave the Collosso Metro. Due to the pillaging throughout centuries the Colloseum looked far more impressive outside than in.

We made a habit of using the Collosso Metro at night, as the view on the road walking towards it is amazing. We'd first pass the Monument to Victor Emanuel II, and then walk down a long road flanked by the Forum and ruins of Ceaser's house, with the lit up Colloseum approaching on the horizon.

Anyone who knows me well knows that, much like everything in and attached to my body, my bladder is small but perfectly formed. Rome and I suspect Italy do not do public toilets. One night walking to the Metro I was so desperate I had a cheeky pee half way up a dead-end stair case. Luckily the wall was just above groin height. This has to be the most picturesque toilet experience i've had in my life (not difficult), I felt like Caeser having a cheeky wazz on his was to the Forum. To be fair, a pigeon had pooed on my head a few days previously, so I was just muddying up his turf as revenge. For cover I pretended to take some pictures, one of which is below. Unfortunately, as the camera was merely a prop in my cunning deception, the photo is rubbish. Regardless, here it is:

Although there seemed to be less beggars, dodgy street merchants and theft than in other major cities, those that did it were full on. Beggars were one of two types, either young pregnant girls asking for money to support their bambino or old ladies, hunched over with a stick stumbling around and incoherently mumbling whilst rattling a mini Pringle can full of change. The later were genuinely scary, you could imagine them grabbing your arm and placing a curse on you if you dared to put less than a euro in their retro-fitted savoury snack container.

The scariest beggar we saw was a hybrid of the two types, a scary pregnant old lady (we think the bump was fake). For some inexplicable reason she was wearing a glittery dome shaped hat, looking like she'd been involved in an accident involving a badly secured disco ball. When a waitress tried to shoo her away from an establishment the begger turned, looked the waitress in the eye and made an un-earthly wail at the top of her lungs. After a few seconds of wailing she turned around and continued mumbling at scared Americans. From that point on Jen and I referred to her as Mumm-raa, and regularly ran away if we saw her stalking a square.

Gingers have a lot in common with Vampires - pale skin, fear of the sun and despite all logic, they are deeply attractive to the opposite sex. Well, maybe not the last point, but the Sun is a bitch. And Rome in September gets a lot of Sun, ruining every other photo we took. E.g:

The food in Rome is great and unlike Barcelona the bill isn't full of mystery surcharges. We were genuinely shocked when we got the bill for our first meal and were asked to pay for what was written on the menu. The one night we decided to get food in the hotel we were told that they'd ran out of the home made pasta. We didn't that mistake again. The thing i'll miss the most is the amazing ice cream, which we stuffed in our faces daily.

After four days of walking the city and countless museums history fatigue began to settle in and apathetically it became difficult to be impressed by another gold leaf 20m2 fresco or a monument that only 50 people probably died building. Luckily we ordered things such that we visited the epic Vatican Museum towards the end of the trip.

I had to stop taking photos of the frankly awe-inspiring testament to the Catholic Church's greed and excess as I was concerned that carrying the camera over the border would infringe on the Obscene Publications Act. It is a huge place, and room after room is quite literally jammed with statues, paintings and frescos such that you become desensitized to the beautiful craft exhibited. If you gave every piece the attention it deserved you would never leave. I actually felt bad that I wasn't more interested in large bodies of work - it must be like Disney Land for a historian. Despite Scott's suggestion I didn't get round to asking the staff where the Nazi Gold was hidden.

The Vatican Museum houses the Sisteen Chapel, or as it should probably be called the 'Nippon Sisteen Chapel'. Nippon, a Japanese Company purchased the video and photo rights to the chapel in exchange for paying for its refurbishment. For that reason, photography is forbidden, a rule which is strictly enforced by the Vatican's miserable fun-sponge guards.

The 'Rough Guide to Rome' describes the Vatican staff as

'unsmiling suited functionaries that appear at every turn. A care free experience it is not'

We saw a Japanese couple being marched out of the Sisteen Chapel for taking a photo, a women being dragged away from St. Paul's because skirt length infringement and, ironically, an elderly lady being pulled from her knees for daring to try and pray at the tomb of Pope John Paul II.

Ironically, I think we saw my two favorite things about Rome on the first day. The first was The Capuchin Crypt, 6 rooms entirely decorated using the remains of 4000 monks. Oddly, it was more impressive than morbid. The Crypt's intention was to remind the viewer of the impermanence of life, which is very Buddist for a Catholic Church. No photos were allowed, so here's some I found on the 'nets.

The second was 'The Allegory of Divine Providence' a breathtaking fresco in Palazzo Barberini. I actually found it more impressive then the Sisteen Chapel, more alive, more vibrant, brighter and more awe-inspiring. The fact we were alone in the room and not being shouted at by the Vatican Police probably improved the experience. Something which doesn't come out in the photos is that the fresco looked 3d, the arches in the corner had amazing depth to them, despite the fact it was simply paint on plaster.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Bring on the wall, again

A while back I blogged about painting a pretty large flower pattern on our stairs' wall, aided by a laptop, GIMP and a projector. I mentioned that my Dad painted an awesome Star Wars mural in mine and my Brother's bedroom, free hand, making our monotone technologically assisted job seem a bit weak. Here's a picture Mum dug out:

The Ewok's village has unfortunately been cropped by the 80's lense, but rest assured Wicket was standing there, spear in hand. For added awesomeness, the Death Star and X-wings were painted using glow in the dark paint.

Dad's skills didn't stop with the Empire. Checkout this Thomas the Tank Engine and Postman Pat mash-up, a pre-teen equivalent of Alien versus Predator:

And as if that wasn't good enough, he built us a friggin' fort from bits of an old shed! I don't think I realised how lucky I was when I was a kid, having parents putting this much effort into making sure we had fun. Here I am looking pretty chuffed ruling the fort with my Brother* defending with a Shield, also made by Dad. There was even a trapdoor inside the fort so we could make a quick get-away into the bush behind.

I wish that fort was still there. I'd love to stand on top of it doing my best worst french impressions, shouting python insults at anyone who would listen. You English pig-dog!

Now go away, before I taunt you for a second time.

* We've decided that in this picture my Brother looks like a cross between Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Milton from Office Space

Monday, 3 August 2009

My Hometown is a Joke

I was born and raised in Kettering, a medium sized town in Northamptonshire, roughly in the middle of England. It's famous for shoes and being a bit of a Joke. Literally I mean. For some reason Kettering is funny.

The first use of Kettering in humour (that i'm aware of) is in Monty Python's Travel Agent Sketch, in which Eric Idle talks about being 'carted around in busses, surrounded by mindless oafs from Kettering and Boventry'. Since then (maybe in part due to the Python reference) there's been countless mentions of the town in mainstream British comedy.

A whole episode of Peep Show was spent in Kettering, mostly at the souless head office of Mark's employer. An entire episode of angry man sitcom 'One Foot in the Grave' revolved around a contrived joke about mishearing 'She's in Kettering' as 'She's in Catering'. There's even a classic comedy fanzine named 'The Kettering'. I've been trying to figure out why people find Kettering funny.

Maybe it's the word itself, Ket-err-rin' (as we from k-town say it). There must be something to this, as Douglas Adams & John Llody used it in 'The Meaning of Liff', a dictionary of words that haven't been invented yet. Kettering is defined as:

'...descriptive of the marks on one's bottom caused by sunbathing in a wicker chair'.

Personally though, I think what's funny about Kettering is what it represents. Kettering is funny because it's a town that has ideas above it's station, it's trying too hard to be something it never will. It has visions of grandeur, despite the fact it's always going to remain an insignificant smudge on the map between Leicester and Northampton. What other town would throw money at building an amphitheater jut down the road from a street where every other shop unit looks like it's been hurriedly deserted hours before the economical storm hit town, the remnants of the businesses once occupying the shops obscured by the 'closing down' graffitti painted on the inside of dirty windows. A road where, believe it or not, even charity shops are going out of business.

It's odd, because if you believed what you saw on the TV or road signs, you'd think Kettering was a bustling up and coming town. It's always on the ITV regional weather looking sheepish next to City's like Nottingham and Leicester. It's on sign posts miles away for no discernible reason. I live in Loughborough and Kettering is signposted on the A6, despite being a good 50 minutes away and 'Rock and Bowl' being one of its primary night spots.

The thing that perfectly sums up this desperation is Wicksteed's Park. Wicksteed's Park is the (i.e. only) theme park in Kettering. I'm not sure what the theme is though. Wicksteed's used to be fun, when there was an element of danger. The original rollercoaster had wooden carriages with no harness or belt, just a metal bar to hold onto at the front, perfectly positioned for smashing your teeth on. They had a centafugal death trap that stuck punters to the wall and pulled the floor away. Seeing someone vomit in it was always a treat, because one person to the left would be the unwitting receiver. A bit like a Newtonian version of Russian Roulette. Wicksteed's Park will never be able to compete with the big boys because Mr Wicksteed left what was then an expansive park with gentle boat rides to the people of Kettering, by way of a charitable trust. Wicksteed's spin is:

'Wicksteed Park is unique in that, unlike other parks, you don’t have to pay for the rides if you’re not going to use them'

But this is only because they have no right to charge. Wicksteeds is a nice park, in the traditional sense of the word, but it's tainted by its attempts to be a mega-attraction, with over priced food, tame rides and a lame mascot (Wicky Bear, whos clothes look suspiciously like Super Mario's outfit)

I think the writers of Peep Show picked Kettering because, like the character Mark, it is trying hard but always failing to be something it never will. At one point in the episode Mark and Jess visit Kettering's (fictitious) strip joint 'Lap Land' (Kettering does actually have a Lap Dancing club but it's called 'Cleopatras' and is above a working man's club). There's a huge sign on the wall, reading 'Lap Land, Kettering'. This sign is, possibly not deliberately, a perfect summation of the funny desperation of Kettering. Given how shit the club is, there has to be only one Lap Land in the world, yet the try hard Ketteringite who owns the place wanted to subtitle the name with 'Kettering' to make it seem like a chain, more important then it really is.

I think you can see a bit of Kettering in everyone. If they're naked, sunbathing on a wicker chair.

David Atkins comes from Kettering and lives in a house with Jen in Shepshed. He spends his days programming and pressure washing. He trys to write like a proper journalist, but really isn't good enough. He's a true child of Kettering.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Jen, Music, Good Films, A Lawnmower with a Bag and a Pressure Washer

I think about three years, I realised that I really don't need a lot of money to be happy. My happiness list was, in this precise order: Jen, Music and Good Films. All of which is pretty affordable. Apart from Jen, obviously. She's not for sale (that didn't sound right, it's not like I own her. Or could put a value on her. Look, she's not yours. I have got a VHS copy of 'The Big Lebowski' going free though if anyone wants a good film).

In the last few weeks I've found two things to add to the list: A lawnmower with a bag and a pressure washer.

I heart my pressure washer. I'm going to clean everything with it: the patio, the car, neighbour's cats, my teeth. For the first time in my life I actually left work early because I was looking forward to cleaning something. I'm a changed man.

So, that's my happiness manifest : Jen, Music, Good Films, A Lawnmower with a Bag and a Pressure Washer. Try it yourself. You'll need to find your own Jen though.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Jack Russell in a Pram

I last went to Glastonbury as a wide-eyed clean-shaven twenty one year old. It was essentially the last gasp of my student life; I had found out my degree results a week before and decided to start looking for a job as soon as I got home (I actually received a phone call from my Project Supervisor the Monday after Glastonbury asking if I was interested in a Research Position. I am a jammy bastard).

My first Glastonbury didn't quite go to plan. In 2003 it sold out fast and as all my friends had jobs I was the only one to be on the phone early enough to get a ticket. I ended up going with Kim's then boyfriend and his mates who were all five years younger than me. Don't get me wrong, they're cool people but spending the final weekend of my student life with a bunch of people who couldn't legally drink wasn't exactly what I had intended.

I remember the precise moment that I really got Glastonbury. It was when Doves were playing 'Satellites'. I think it was probably a mixture of the beer, lights in my eyes, tiredness and loud music but I was suddenly blown over the by the whole thing. Unfortunately it was about 11pm on the Sunday so I didn't have much time to make the most of my new found Glastonbury Zen.

I know what I really got wrong with Glastonbury that year. I treated it as just a music festival. After all, Loads of my favourite bands at the time were playing - Radiohead, R.E.M., Turin Brakes, Doves, Macy Gray, Manic Street Preachers. Because of this most of my time was spent walking between the Pyramid and Other Stage rather than exploring the vast site. Another mistake was the three pints of cider before Radiohead. The only thing I can remember about the gig was having a go at some strangers because they didn't recognise the b-side 'Talk Show Host'. What a Twat.

This year getting tickets wasn't difficult at all, probably because the process is now akin to getting a applying for a passport (except cheaper*) and demand is lower as every farmer and his dog have setup a festival. And when I say dog, I mean money-grabbing corporate-sponsored opportunistic events management team. Unlike 2003 the lineup wasn't perfect, but still better than most which meant there was loads more time to wonder around and take everything in. I'm not sure if writing this up chronologically would be interesting, so here's some random thoughts:

Randomness : Rihannon was convinced that she saw an evil Jack Russell being pushed round in a pram. We all mocked her for seeing things, it turned out to be true. Seeing a man climb a flag in the Jazz World field; as he reached the top it started bending to the floor, with him clinging on for dear life and hitting the ground at speed, huge cheer. Everybody at the Park Stage going mental when ever the sound check guy said 'Mike's Mike'. Hearing about MJ's death emerging from the tent early Friday morning for the long walk to the toilets and hearing a 'Shamone Muther Fucker' from every fifth tent.

Standing in a crowd with Maximo Park behind us watching Thriller on a big screen and everyone having a go at the zombie dance.

Beetle Juice singing Lionel Richie's 'All Night Long' in the Queen's Head.

Human Sized milk carton walking past us while watching Blur. Being accosted by the Green Police (see 'Staff'). Blokes walking around in their boxers and tight t-shirts - did someone steal their clothes? Trying to wave some friends over and having two blokes walking up and asking what we wanted. After we explained that we weren't waving to them they told us get over to the Dance Tent quick to see East 17!?. Getting a coffee Friday morning there was a man asleep on a chair that had fallen over, back to the floor. He suddenly jumped up and said 'right i'm off mate' to nobody and stormed off. Food stall selling the interestingly named 'Growler', dedicated to Pauline Fowler. A friend successfully walked a sizeable amount of 'treats' into the festival. Unfortunately they forgot they had them and left and re-entered the festival the next day when they were searched and the 'treats' were confiscated. whoops. Meeting some people at the front of the Pyramid stage Sunday 4:30am who were saving a space for Tom Jones. I think they may of been lying.

The mess in front of the Pryamid stage early sunday morning that was so disgusting it was almost beautiful

Being chased around Shangri-la by weird monsters barking at us.

Music : Managed to fit in alot of stuff. This is everything we saw in order.

Friday. Dan Black, Rumblestrips (Opening song 'Girls and Boys in Love' was brilliant. Left a few songs later when the lyrics descended into 'my first song' territory, I kid you not - 'I'm lying on my back, looking at the clouds, Lying on my back, looking at the clouds (x3)'), Fleet Foxes (I don't think the music scaled well to such a huge crowd), Friendly Fires (Amazing, loads of energy and the best/worst dancing you'll see from a front man since Ian Curtis), Lady GaGa (Not the car crash I was hoping for expecting. Left early so didn't get to enjoy all of GaGa's pointless anecdotes about being off her tits on acid), Fairport Convention (I wouldn't normally listen to folk-rock, but I did enjoy that song with 12 versus and one chorus. Kept having to restrain Jen from doing comedy barn dancing), Animal Collective (Saw them play 'My Girls' and 'Summertime Clothes' and then conceeded that we weren't drunk or high enough to get into it so headed for sleeping bags).

Saturday: Theoretical Girl (As John said, sounds like the Smiths if Morrisey was a girl), Eagles of Death Metal (good mix of The Eagles and Death Metal), Spinal Tap (including little-people dancing around a henge of stone), Dizzee Rascal (huge!), La Roux (we took a chance based on a few singles. can't win them all), Florence and the Machine (climbed up lighting rig wearing heels, crazy woman), Bon Iver (sounded amazing), African Sound System, Keith Allen (4am in Arcadia. He was going at 10 cpm (c*nts-per-minute) and spent 10 minutes plugging his keyboard in).

Sunday: The Rockingbirds (Unintentional listen. I would never of thought Country & Western would of made me fall asleep so quickly. Heard them laying on a hill in The Park having a sleep in the rain), Tom Jones, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ladyhawke (Storming set, was worried about being disappointed but Pip Brown was on form), Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ('Stagger Lee' was the most filth I've ever heard sang to a family crowd, loved it), Blur (Never listened to Blur much first time round, this was epic).

Staff : Nicest staff ever! Every person we talked to were nothing but lovely, always hoping we have a good festival. A toilet cleaner even offered to hold a lock-less toilet door closed for us. For unpaid volunteers, the spirit of them was amazing. That said, we did get accosted by the Green Police, 10 men and women dressed up as fairies telling us not piss in the bushes. This was outside a toilet block so I can't help think that they were preaching to the converted.

Driving : Driving to the festival was the only really affordable way of getting there. We set off first thing Thursday and arrived at 12pm at which point the heavens opened and Glastonbury Festival FM (the most amateur radiostation you'll ever hear) informed us that all camp sites were full, not the ideal start. Luckily mates had saved us tent space. We didn't quite consider how far the car park was from the camping when we packed. I swear on one of our three trips to and from the car my body was preparing itself for a blackout. It took 3 hours to get out of carpark Monday early morning and we got back at 9am. I have never been so terrified driving as I was for the first 20 minutes on the motorway. It wasn't that I was sleepy, I was just concentrating so hard on not having an accident it was inevitable i'd plough into the back of the car in front of us. Thank god for sleeping in service station car parks.

So did I get Glastonbury this year? Yeah, I think so. It was midday Thursday just after the first sip of Cider in the beating sun with my mates.

* HA HA! Biting Satire.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

2009, Week 14 & 15

I can't work out whether my posting has slowed down due to a) not doing anything interesting to write about or b) me being too lazy to be bothered. I think it's mostly laziness, which ironically is the reason for me not having anything interesting to write about. Not having anything interesting to write about has never stopped me before though I suppose?

Our house is pretty ugly, but I like to think its oddness is part of its charm. Who else can say they have a 2 x 3 meter room attached to their bedroom that is referred to as 'the void' on the blueprints? It's especially ugly from the front, an 80's affront to architectural beauty, with no redeeming features and an afterthought of an extension. It's our house though and I love it. I think I have a lot in common with it; born in 1982, aesthetically odd and probably vastly over valued.

There are two weeks of the year when the house does look marginally attractive, when the tree in our front garden blossoms. To counter that I have to spend two weeks driving around in a Skoda covered in girly pink petals.

This week I finished reading 'Book of the Dead', the complete history of zombie cinema. It's a book I've been wanting to buy for ages and was well worth the wait. For example, did you know there are zombie films named 'Urban Scumbags vs. Countryside Zombies' (German), 'Space Zombie Bingo' (Troma) and 'Nudist Colony of the Dead'. Ironically, the next book on my list to read is the 'Tibetan Book of Living and Dying'. Sounds similar, but it probably doesn't give any analysis on the implicit social commentary of 'Dawn of the Dead'.

I very rarely watch a film that affects me emotionally, and I watch alot of movies. The last film that caught me off guard was United 93. Before I'd watched the film I was very cynical of the whole idea, I couldn't believe that hollywood could tell the story in a tasteful and non-exploitative way. By the end of the film I was mentally and, to a degree, physically destroyed. I don't know why but I can feel when a film's got to me, normally about 10 minutes before the emotional crescendo that has been building through out the film peaks. When the film does reach it's inevitable climax it's like a punch to the stomach. And it makes me well up a bit.

Last week I watched 'Waltz with Bashir' and it completely bowled me over, much like United 93. It's amazing filmmaking and I think pretty groundbreaking for an animation (more so than any Pixar film of late). If you read this, please go watch Waltz with Bashir and United 93. If you're lucky there may be one copy amongst those 200 'Epic Movie' DVDs in your local blockbuster.

Monday, 6 April 2009

2009, Week 12 & 13

I hope I haven't offended The Elders of the Internet by not posting a weekly ramble last week. Some stuff happened that my head is struggling to filter properly. If this was a private diary I would probably write about it, but it's not. I've always said this diary/blog was to act as a memory warm-up in years to come, and i'm pretty sure that I've said enough to bring things back. Needless to say, if God does exist, he/she/it can go fuck himself/herself/itself with a big stick.

We've got a new family on the street and they've moved into our loft. For the last two weeks we've been woken up at 6am by birds scratching on the roof of the bedroom. Banging on the roof seems to stop the scratching for a while. A few minutes later the noise promptly starts up again, just as you get to that sweet spot when your minds starts drifting into dreamy nonsense.

One Sunday we were woken at 6am and I snapped. I stalked around the bedroom in my pants (good look) trying to work out exactly where the avian arsehole was. Once I found the bastard I smaked the roof, hard. There was silence for a few seconds and then all hell broke loose, baby birds screeching and the mum going crazy. Jen's taken to hitting the roof before we go to bed, see how they like being woken up! I really hope for our sanity and our loft's hygene they go soon.

The weekend before last was dominate by weddings. Saturday was my Cousin's wedding in Great Misenden and probably the first time I've seen almost all of the extended family for years. I'm quite anti-social, generally avoiding contact with people I don't talk to much (less anti-social, more lazy-social) but I think I had a brief conversation with everyone, which is an achievement for me. I forget how cool they all are. I think I'll make more of an effort from now on.

Sunday was a wedding fayre at the now dead-cert wedding reception venue. We keep flip-flopping between having a large invite-everyone-we've-ever-met wedding and having an intimate, close family and friends wedding. It's looking likely that we're going for the later. I think it's a mistake when a wedding becomes more about making other people happy, especially when many of those other people aren't (comparatively) that important to your life and relationship. Also, there's more money to spend on the Honeymoon and as we want to get half way round the world for at least 3 weeks we need all the money we can get.

This weekend Martin & Sarah came up and we all went out for some Japanese, Cocktails and Dancing. Well, lack-lustre dancing in a pretty much deserted Echos. Going to a night club at 11pm is a really bad idea. Especially because when you're literally the first people in the place the booze fueled facade doesn't exist. I can understand the toilets looking a state at 3am once it's been assaulted by inebriated students, but it's a bit worrying when there is mud coated up one of the cubical doors when you're the first person in. And where does the mud come from? the place is in the middle of a decidedly concretey town centre. Maybe they ship it in from Manchester to complete the shitty indy club from the early 90's look. Quality establishment.

As usual my head was banging the next day. People always say don't mix your drinks, so what idiot invented cocktails?

Monday, 23 March 2009

2009, Week 11

Short entry this week. It's a predictable and well versed observation, but hangovers get a lot worse, a lot quicker once you hit a certain age. Two days after going out, I still feel like crap.

A few days after my Birthday, I learnt that your mental powers start declining at 27. I have now reached my mental peak and it's all down hill from here. I regularly walk around looking for keys that are in my pocket. My brain is at its optimum. I watched an hour of TV yesterday and realised in last ten minutes that I've seen it before, very recently. If I can't get into MENSA now, I never will. I'm afraid. I don't want to be anymore of an idiot then I am already.

To help my body on its way to terminal idiocy we 'got our binge on' Saturday night under the guise of post birthday drinks. So that's Orange Tree, Moon & Bell and then everyone's favourite sticky floored club, Echos with Jen, Scott, John and Becky.

As usual John got me into trouble by telling Jen things that were only meant to be between him and me. That is, something I wrote on the blog last week. Apparently the term 'clam-fest' could be construed by some as offensive, so I shall not be using it again. I don't think it's wise to say something that could potentially cause offense, I'd much rather be sure of it.

As I was waving goodbye to the 26 year old me, I decided to also say goodbye to some treasured frequencies by standing next to the world's worst speaker in Echos. For the first and very probably the last time in my life (I'm not a slut, it just doesn't ever happen) I 'shooed off' a woman who asked John and I to dance by derogatorily waving my hand at her. My reasons were honourable, I don't think Jen should come back and see me dancing with some random girl. And she was rotund. She gave me a dirty look, some sort of 'don't go there' palm and walked off, which I think was fair enough. John's classic response was 'well, that didn't go well for any of us'.

And that's it for this week. I could rant about Tescos and my scratched up copy of Fallout3, but I really don't have the energy. If you ever have a scratched game, go to Blockbusters and they'll repair it for a few quid. Just don't shout at the staff when they ask you if you moved your xbox when it was on. You may know that you're joking, but the person behind the counter hitting the panic button doesn't. They give you funny looks and it makes you feel a little bit smaller inside. I blame my newly initiated mental decline.

Monday, 16 March 2009

2009, Week 10

Birthday Week!!! 4 day weekend!!! Unnecessary exclamation marks!!! Despite the excitement I expertly portrayed in the previous sentence, I had forgotten it was my birthday and continued to forget when it arrived. That's not really a surprise as I spent half of last year thinking I was 27 until Jen pointed out that I was 26. That really made my week.

For our birthday weekend we had a mini-break in London Village. We left late Wednesday evening and crashed at my sister's flat in Peckham, which is unfortunately not in the classy Nelson Mandela House (one can only dream).

On the over-ground in to London Thursday morning we had a Mary Poppins style welcome, as we watched some mad gypsy dancing with an umbrella outside of his caravan. I reckon this is the Mayor's new initiative to welcome tourists to London, paying gypsies to relive famous London scenes. Hell, it was more entertaining then a Routemaster that transformed into a, erm, Routemaster with its top floor blown off. Rewatching and describing that video, I've just realised how unintentionally offensive it is.

We'd hired an apartment for a few days. The first apartment we checked into had no hot water and a broken TV. After a wait for someone to turn up we were moved into a two bedroom apartment which was huge and had two bathrooms. We could both go toilet at the same time! Happy Birthday Us! The apartment was in a great location - This is the view of The Old Bailey we had 20 seconds from the apartment.

That evening we went to see Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage, my present to Jen (both the tickets and me sitting through it). It was, to say the least, the complete opposite of a sausage-fest. Let's call it a clam-fest. The show itself was technically smart but I think for someone who is not a fan (ie me), overlong and badly scripted. All the XX chromosomes' seemed to have fun though, whooping at the exemplary word-smithery such as 'I carried a watermelon' and 'Nobody puts baby in the corner'. Oh and fake-Swayze looked worrying old to be seducing a teenager. And he had funny hair.

Next day I dragged Jen on a walk around The Cirty, checking out St. Pauls (Huge!), The Globe Theatre and the current Turbine Hall exhibition at the Tate Modern, 'TH 2058' AKA 'Big Scary Spider and some Bunk Beds'. Here's some piccys.

Before lunch (a wise move) we went to The Hunterian Museum, a collection of various animals and body parts, mostly in Jars, collected by John Hunter throughout his life. It was fascinating, but unfortunately somewhere in the Royal College of Surgeons dinner was being served. So whilst we were viewing the insides & outsides of featuses, babys and adults, humans and non, we were getting a lung full of pie and mash. The shear scale of the main 'Crystal Gallery' finished us off and we had to get out for some fresh air and some tapas. On reflection, The Hunterian Museum was a bit like anatomical tapas.

In the evening we went to Adam Buxton's 'Out of Focus Group C' at the BFI Southbank. It is, as Buxton puts it '...basically an excuse for me to show some old and new video morcels I’ve made in between live performances from myself and other more talented actors, comedians and musicians'. And it was hilarious. Special guests were Doc Brown (comedian/rapper), Young Knives (who played 'Terra-forma' and 'Turn Tail', before backing Famous Guy for a rendition of 'I Like to Rock') and Kevin Eldon.

We finished the weekend by Chilling back at sis' and watching the ridiculously entertaining 'Taken', where Liam Neeson beats the shit out of anything on two legs for a few hours. I think he might be the new Seagal.

On our travels we had a new RCS (Rubbish Celebrity Spotting) to add to the list - that bloke off of that program in the flat with Samantha what's-her-name and that guy called Martin. Or, after some research, Ben Chaplin from 'Game On'. This spot is almost as good as Tim Vincent at a petrol station. Almost.

Monday, 9 March 2009

2009, Week 9

It's been one of those weekends that feels like it's over before it's began. That's probably down to lack of sleep, much alcohol and the take-away sweats.

John, Jen and I went to see Watchmen on Friday at Vue, Leicester, a cinema I loathe yet keep going back to. John's twisted mind can make the pre-trailer adverts entertaining, if not a little wrong on all levels. If you ever wanted to make an anti-advert, one which ensured no one bought your product, John is your man. Also, he made quite possibly the funniest ghost train related joke. Unfortunately I think If I committed it to the Internet's It guaranteed me an appointment with Beazlebub for eternity. Or maybe the big G likes paraplegic based comedy. Better not risk it.

Watchmen was long yet entertaining, if not a little tonally unbalanced. I think Snyder had a difficult Job; either make a film that is true to the novel yet a bit of a mess or radically veer away from the source material to make a more cohesive and ultimately accessible film. Either way you're going to piss off the fanboys or the critics. Despite the change to the ending (for the best I think) the film kept as close to the comic as possible for a big budget movie (ha! i said comic, not graphic novel. in your face fanboys!).

As Jen was wedding dress shopping on Saturday I had a loose end. I ended up in a Garden Centre with the 'rents which oddly enough it was my suggestion. The 21 year old me would be severely disappointed by my over enthusiasm to buy rhododendron compost. In fact the 26 year old me is very disappointed.

Saturday night was a pre-birthday pub crawl. Does 3 pubs count as a crawl? OK, pre-birthday pub stroll. I haven't seen Christof or Chris since my brother's wedding and I could quite happily talk rubbish with them into the early hours. Which I did, although according to Jen towards the end it was mostly me talking rubbish at them when everyone wanted to go sleep. Over excited I guess. As usual I put my foot in it, joking with Chris that the good thing about Game Station stores (one of which he manages) is that unlike every Game store I've ever been in it doesn't smell so bad that you gag when you walk in. Unfortunately, I completely forgot his girlfriend who was sitting next to him works in Game. I've done much worse though, some of which I'm too embarrassed to write down. If you want to know ask me about the drunk guy at the Who gig. We can go to hell together.

We had quite a few drinks in the Old Market, Kettering's most alternative alternative pub. Although maybe I need to re-evaluate that, because for at least two hours it was, erm, 'eclectic', at one point pulling out the Hammer & Ice combo of 'Can't Touch This' followed by 'Ice Ice Baby'. The audacity. And there was also a complete pub sing along of Chas & Dave's 'Rabbit', which was beauty in its purist form.

I'm too tired to write anymore, I'm almost 27 don't you know?

Sunday, 1 March 2009

2009, Week 8

To misquote the seminal work of the early 21st century's portentous rock poets Sum 41, this week is 'all filler, no killer', in that bugger all happened. This was, I like to think, by choice. As we have big plans for the next few weekends Jen and I decided to laze around the house, watch films, drink wine 1 and eat Jamie Oliver's Tiramisu2.

My new keyboard turned up this week. Stupidly, I didn't consider that it would be the same width as, if not wider than an actual piano. Because of this I've struggled to find it a permanent home. It's great though, and I wish i'd of got one when I started self-teaching last year. It's got USB MIDI, which let me hook it up to Garageband in minutes and take advantage of the great instrument sets such as 'Nature Sounds', 'Comedy Noises' and the must have 'Applause and Laughter'. I am the master of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I own that bitch.

As preparation for our trip to London Village in a few weeks I got a copy of the 'Rough Guide to London'. It's amazing how little you really see in a city without a guide book. I've spent many days aimlessly walking around central London yet upon looking at the guide book I realise that I've missed so many interesting things. For example, did you know that there is a lamp post near The Strand that is powered using methane collected from the sewage system? I thought not my friend, and you thought the Houses of Parliment are impressive? You fool!

Every so often I re-discover an album that I've bought and never really got into the first time round. Oddly enough, these albums tend to go on to become the ones I really love. I think this is because music that is initially difficult to get into or challenges the listener's conceptions ultimately has a greater pay off when you finally 'get it'. In the last few years this has happened with Midlake's 'Van Occupanther' (which I now adore) and Animal Collective's 'Strawberry Jam'. The last few weeks I've really got into the second Hot Chip album 'Made in the Dark', which I've had since release. I was initially disappointed with it, I think mainly because the lead single 'Ready for the Floor' was a bit too mainstream and that stupidly put me off the album. On reflection though, the album really is a funky bitch.

I've come up with a new nick name for Jen and it's a personal fave. I'm pretty sure in every relationship there are weird nicknames used to refer to either partners, which make absolutely no sense to anyone else. What is odd with Jen and I is that the names seem to change every month. For example, here's all the ones we could think of from the last few years: Jen, Jen-Meister, Jenny, Jennifer, Jennifer Jayne, JJ, JBoss, Abraham, JJ Abrahams, Jabraham, Jabraspam, Jables, Balls, Jables Power, Gorper-chov and my new personal favourite, J-Chops.

I'll finish with some wise words imparted from my soon-to-be brother in law.
Wise man say even crouching ginger can't hide because of his carrot topped shame

1 - Man on Wire (great), Strangers (not bad, first half tense but looses its way) and Hunger (brilliant, but really hard work)
2 - Not literally his, I wouldn't mess with the mockney chef. Him and his Toploader pals would beat me to death with drumsticks and then dance on my corpse in the fucking moonlight.

CNPS: 15

Monday, 23 February 2009

2009, Week 7

For a few hours this week, there was a big chance that I had been horribly killed. Well, at least from my from Mum's point of view, as there was a car accident in Loughborough and she happened to hear about it. I'm not complaining, it's nice to know that someone is thinking about you. I do feel sorry for my sister who lives in South London, she must get the 'just checking you're not dead' answering machine message twice a day.

Talking of the afterlife, it turns out that our potential wedding venue, Leicester's Guild Hall, is the most haunted building in Leicester. So haunted in fact that Yvette Fielding and a bunch of morons paranormal researchers have paid it a visit (you can watch the footage on youtube, although you really must have something, anything better to do, don't you?). There's also 'The Best Paranormal Evidence' which was shot at the Guild Hall, which is essentially sped up footage of sun light moving across a floor. These ghostbusters would shit themselves if they ever saw a disco ball in full swing. Oh, and if you really do buy into most haunted, you really have to read this expose of Derek Acorah, it's hilarious.

There's a weird looking monument that we drive past everytime we goto Loughborough, and I really wanted to go check it out this weekend. It's called the 'Temple of Venus' and sits solitary on a hill next to the A512 (picture here). I know it's on the Garendon Park estate which has partly public grounds, but there are no noticable footpaths near the monument. The only useful bit of information I could find was from the knowhere guide:
the venus temple, ... the farmer. whenever u try to cross his field to get to it, he fires his fucking gun! wanker.
Unsurprisingly, I rain-checked the idea and watched The Wire instead. Me being shot dead would only upset my mum and put a real downer on the weekend.

This weekend I really wanted to fix the floorboards in the bathroom. At the moment standing on them feels like being on a ship in stormy weather. It turns out this is because they're badly fitted and dangerously thin. Basically, until I fix them we need to introduce a weight limit on the bathroom. Until normal service resumes, fatties will be redirected to the shed with a bucket. As usual though, I procrastinated upon this all weekend and got absolutely nothing done.

My little sister was annoying me with compliments this week. She'd been listening to my 6th form band demo CD and asking why I don't record songs anymore. Buoyed by her encouragement I restrung my guitar (previous strings were 4 years old) and wrote a song about how I shouldn't write songs anymore. Unintentionally, It was actually a meta-song in that the song itself proved the point of the lyrics. Nevertheless, I ordered a shiny new 88 key 'stage piano' (i.e. keyboard) to try and start learning piano again, something which I started a year ago and quickly abandoned, blaming my previous keyboard and its sticky keys.

Plan next week? Putting some good time into procrastinating about floor boards and pro-actively planning my excuse for giving up on the piano again. After all, you've got to plan if you ever want to get anything done.

CNPS: 15 (stuck)

Monday, 16 February 2009

2009, Week 6

Good news! Somebody is reading this blog. In fact, possibly two people are reading this blog. I've always insisted that this is a personal exercise but now I have 'followers' I think I need to up my game and do more interesting things to write about. For example, the most exciting thing that happened this week was our bin being nicked by some Sulo stealing son of a bitch.

Sam, my future Brother in Law, has started blogging. You can read his Blog here. I hope he keeps it up. I think the more friends you have blogging increases the chances of having interesting intersections between blogs. For example I can blog about how funny I was when I last saw Kim & Sam and Sam can blog about what an insufferable twat I was when he last saw me. Light and shade, Truth and Lies, Sam and Dave.

I've started getting to the age where I understand the concept of nostalgia and given that most of the quizzes on facebook are nostalgia based (do you remember these 90s films? etc.) I think everyone else my age does too. I do think the internet ruins nostalgia though. It's great looking at the case of an old spectrum game, squinting at the tiny screenshots on the back remembering the hours you wasted trying to clear a screen. The problem is, with the internet you can boot up the game or watch a video in seconds and pretty soon you realise that Jet Set Willy really was just fucking annoying and that He-Man was a badly animated stinking pile of incoherent shit. Anyway, enough ranting. This week I stumbled across something that I never thought I'd see again, Chocolate Cigarettes. I was shocked; How is this possible in the politically correct 21st century? Should a post office of all places be selling such things? And 8 for 39p a packet! No doubt most of the 39p is going to Brown's pocket under the guise of funding treatment of chocolate based diseases on the NHS. Luckily, it was my brand (Coronation), so I bought a pack and had me some chocolate inhalation. Here's me doing my best Deniro

It was valentines this weekend. Jen got me a cool Robot t-shirt (see pic) and hotel chocolat√© goodies. I've been overdosing on chocolate this week. Round Scott and John's we had some absolutely amazing chocolate from Mary, a Belgium based chocolatier. I never really believed the phrase 'orgasm in your mouth' before (well, wrt. food) and I think these chocolates are the closest I'll ever come to that. They are £79 per box if ordering online though, which is what I think you'd expect to pay for non-coitus chocolatey climax.

Jen and I were watching the funny 'Free Agents', in which they were talking about magpie based superstitions. There seems to be quite a few of these. In Free Agents it was that you had to hop on one leg whenever you see a magpie. Apparently on Jen's first day at work at her previous Job somebody walked into the room and saluted her, blew her a kiss, and then walked back out again. This threw Jen a bit, obviously, but it turned out that she wasnt saluting and blowing a kiss to Jen, but a magpie outside.

I watched 'Night of the Hunter' this week, another suggestion from the good but brief 'Rough Guide to Horror Movies'. Although I think the film went of the rails at the end with its Saccharin Hollywood ending, the cinematography was outstanding and genuinely creepy. I've been quick to write off older (i.e. pre 1970s) films as over acted, but I think that they were more about escapism then the hyper-real movies we are used to now. Night of the hunter was surreal, almost fairy tale like and some of the shots were enfused with the threat of the titular hunter. Check out some screen grabs i've found on the nets...

CNPS: 15

Monday, 9 February 2009

2009, Week 5

Monday morning we woke up to the most snow we've had in 18 years. For the whole week snow kept falling, freezing, and almost causing Jen and I to have a minor car crash. On Monday we both left work early (for safety reasons, obviously) and because the snow was still novel we made a frosty guitar hero, which was soon David to the Goliath that was built by some neighbours over the road. Being cosy inside when it's freezing outside is amazingly relaxing, and thanks to flexi-time I can leave and return home early, get in a sleeping bag and watch The Wire. By Wednesday we were both fed up of the snow wishing it would get back to good old miserable rainy february.

All week The Met Office were advising people not to make non-essential journeys. What the hell is a non-essential journey? Going to work isn't strictly essential, getting out of bed isn't essential, brushing my teeth isn't essential, washing at least a week isn't essential, well, you get my point. Simon at work pointed out that all week had been like that magical time between Christmas and New Years, when the office was only half-full and it didn't feel like you have to work at full capacity (or in other words, it felt that staring out of the window cheering on minor car crashes was a legitimate use of time).

My sister met Prince Harry, Neve Cambell and Matthew Lillard this week. She meets alot of legitimately famous people working in a leading costume hire shop in central london. To be honest I think she goes on about it too much. I saw Tim Vincent at a service station 4 years ago and you don't hear me going on about that! show off.

Kim and Sam got me a Munny for Christmas. My Munny's accessory was a Baseball bat, so I decided that the Munny had to be a Droog. Here he is. Don't fuck with him, he'll break your legs.

droog munny
Jen's been doing some cooking this weekend and it's been tasty. First up an 'Onion Soup au Gratin' (Soup with cheese on toast on top to you and me), sounds weird, tastes lush. Then a chocolate beetroot cake. Apparently the beetroot makes the whole thing moist. Again, sound weird, tastes lush. Here's a picture of the chocolate cake being dominated by my naked Munny:

naked munny on cake
We decided to go see a potential wedding venue on Sunday - Leicester's Guild Hall. Despite the fact that the hall is a minute walk from the Shire's shopping centre, we'd never been past it before. More to the point, it's directly opposite Leicester's Cathedral, which we'd also never been to before. The hall is wonderful. Built in the 16th Century it looks almost untouched (apart from a neat visitors centre). Assuming it doesn't cost too much (which it shouldn't, as it's owned by the council), we've pretty much settled on it as our wedding venue. Also, a lovely hotel Jen found weeks ago for the reception is a minutes walk away, how good is that?

guild hall leicester front

guild hall leicester interior
On the way back from Leicester it started snowing again so we decided to go up Beacon Hill and take some photos, here's a few:

beacon hill in snow

CNPS : 14

Monday, 2 February 2009

It's Snowing!

I especially like the solar-powered lights for arms

Sunday, 1 February 2009

2009, Week 4

It seems that I've got into the habit of starting my weekly diary by moaning about the weather, and there's no change this week. It absolutely freezing. Colder than a cold thing in a freezer. I guess that means it's colder then than frozen peas. What a crap metaphor. Then again it doesn't help that I was walking around Bristol on Saturday night in a t-shirt getting blasted by the 'Siberian' gales. It was like having someone throwing frozen peas at you. Oh i give up...

I've become slightly obssessed with Twitter, having to check up on who I'm following at least every hour. I'm pretty sure it's one of those crazes that everyone will do a few months and then give up, like Tamagotchis, Myspace or being nice to each other. I'm current stalking following Graham Linehan, Stephen Fry (who isn't?), Peter Serafinowicz, Charlie Brooker and Jonathan Ross who are all pretty active.

We went to see Flic and Martin in Bristol this week. Half way down the M42 Jen realised that I hadn't replaced my tax disc and my current one was due to expires that day. Being the pathetic worrier I am I immediately assumed that if I got caught my car would be crushed, they'd put 6 points on my license and repossess my house. I had to pull into the next services, panic a little, breath, and then ring my Dad to convince me that everything was going to be OK, which of course, it was.

As soon as we got to Bristol (late) we were off to the city centre for a mini pub crawl. We start off at Goldbrick House a multi-story cafe/bar/restaurant. Each floor seemed to have a bar and with all the stair cases it was all a bit reminiscent of Relativity by Escher.

OK, that made me look more cultured then I am. What I actually thought it looked like was that bit at the end of Labyrinth when Bowie's chasing Jennifer Jason Leigh with his crystal balls, which I knew to be influenced by some mind-fuck picture. Talking of which, I vividly remember my Doctor having Ascending and Descending by Escher on his office wall. I'm guessing that it was intended to reflect the ongoing carousel of patients that is the medical profession, that how ever hard he was to work, he's really fighting a loosing battle against nature. Basically, he was saying 'everybody dies' in pictorial form, which is a pretty dark statement for a GP's office. Or maybe he just liked fucking with kid's heads with weird optical illusions.

Back to Goldbrick House. I had the first of a few weird toilet experiences in the pub. I went in to a cubical and started having a cheeky cubical wee when I noticed that my stream was not making the normal splashy noise. After checking and adjusting aim, I noticed that the toilet bowl was full of ice. This threw me. Is this normal? Maybe it's a mechanism to stop splash back? I then started questioning whether I was actually in a toilet, thinking that maybe I was actually as close as I'd every be to literally pissing in someone's champaign. Despite convincing myself that it was a real toilet after I finished I sheepishly ran out of the toilet hoping no one saw me.

This has lead to the weirdest Google search I've done in a long time. It turns out that ice cubes in urinals can provide a 'continuous flush' effect; ice cubes in bars tend to have more bacteria than toilet water and there is a myth that if everyone flushes 3 icecubes down their toilet it will cause a snow day. No word on icecubes in toilet bowls though.

Next pub was Llandoger Trow, famous for influencing Robert Lewis Stevenson when writing Treasure Island. We got asked for cash by randoms twice in the pub, the first a homeless 'need money to get to hostel' type and the second a charity collector selling badges. We reckoned that the second guy was also a homeless, guy, just one with a plan. Although the effort of creating a charity (who's patron was Jo Brand, he told us, nice embellishment), ID lanyard and a collection of attractive metal badges probably would of cost more then the quid I gave him. Ha, idiot!

Then came the second weird toilet experience. I walked into the toilet to be confronted by 10 men all cheering on one fella with his trousers round his ankles pissing into a urinal five feet away. As usual I assumed the 'play with phone until weirdos go' position.

Next up was Start the Bus, which seemed like a cool place and had Hoegaarden on tap (whoop!). Disappointingly the trip to the toilet was without event. lame. We had some food in Pizza Express, where
the second or possibly third weird homeless guy of the night tried to take my seat whilst I was in the toilet (OK, you can probably tell by now that I have a bladder the size of a Panda Cola bottle).

Finally we went to the Hatchet Inn an alternative pub orginating in 1606 (The pub that is, not that it started being alternative in 1606*, don't think there were many tudor emos).

After getting back to the flat we played a bit of Guitar Hero world tour with dual guitars. I haven't been so drunk in a long time, probably years. I remember thinking that I couldn't see the screen so I put my glasses on. Because I still had double vision I decided that my glasses were broken (?) and sat about a foot away from the screen and proceeded to fail everysong because I arrogantly kept setting it on expert. What a douche. Awesome night though.

CNPS: 12 (how many people have a number plate with 13 on it?)

* Not actually tudor period, that finished three years earlier. Plantagenet Era didn't sound quite so good.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

2009, Week 3

It's been a pretty miserable week, weather wise. Not cold, but all snowy, sleety and, erm, wety. And because of this most of my free time this week was spent watching movies, still getting scared by Dead Space and catching up on series 1 of The Wire. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Jen's been away in weekend in sunny Birmingham with Becky, which has meant I got the rare opportunity to do what I want all weekend, which is mostly watching movies, playing Dead Space and watching TV. (This of course is meant to be a hilarious wry juxtaposition on the previous paragraph, as I am in no way 'under the thumb', but I didn't know how to make it work and/or funny. If anything it shows how tragically dull my life is. boo).

Most of the weekend was spent round Scott and John's, doing the above. Scott's installed a wood burner in his house, which has led to a fun new game: Will it Burn. The first thing John said when I walked in on Saturday was 'does it smell of cat piss in here?'* which is pretty odd considering they don't have a cat. Maybe they've been burning cats. I think that's taking Will it Burn too far. Let's face it, you're not gonna get much heat out of cat.

I've managed to watch a few films this weekend, three (Eden Lake, Pineapple Express & Death Race) consecutively.

Eden Lake was enjoyable yet predictable. It's basically a run-of-the-mill 'yokels chasing tourists round a forest' type film, but with hoodies instead of yokels. I think the idea of using hoodies is inspired, because it does make the scenario slightly more believable. Most of the kids clearly didn't want to be torturing and killing people, but due to peer pressure and escalation they are forced into it. Unfortunately we managed to write the film's entire plot within the first five minutes, with a selection of endings. The film makers went with what we dubbed 'the comedy/ironic' ending, which was a tad disappointing.

This said, it was a well made film, and managed to drive us up the wall, which i'm pretty sure was intentional. The closing shot was especially effective at leaving the viewer feeling empty and frustrated, ruing over the futileness of it all. I also think it's hilarious that a movie about feral kids and their ignorant piece of shit scum parents was given 5 stars from the Daily Mail.

Pineapple Express didn't improve too much the second time round. I'll admit that It has its moments, but there's long stretches with no real laughs, let alone belly laughs. It does have a great line when Rogan is worried that when his girlfriend goes to college she will "start listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Shins and become a lesbian". I like The Shins, so maybe I should give Godspeed and Lesbianism a go.

Death Race was far better then expected, violent, stupid and there was plenty of live action stunts. Yet, I can't think of more then a sentence to say about it. Unexpectedly, out of the three movies, I probably enjoyed it the most.

I also watched 'Les Diaboliques', which i'll talk about more in a Blog/Rant I want to try and write this week. Finally, I saw the last half of Rocky 5. I've never seen a Rocky film before but it appears that they are morality tales, where the moral is that the only way of getting respect from your wife, child, coach, fans and enemy is to beat the shite out of said enemy in a parking lot. The priest cheering Rocky on when he was hospitalising some young ruffian was hilarious.

I began playing Continuous Number Plate Spotting (CNPS for short) a few weeks back, and I'm currently up to 11. I think this fact is a clear indicator of how bored I am driving to work and back. Nether the less, I'm going to make it 999. It may mean weekends touring the country's car parks but at least it's a hobby. And it's better then train-spotting, they can spot trains in any arbitrary order, where's the fun in that? Losers.

All in all, a pretty dull week so congrats if you've read this far. One more thing, I've finally paid up the outstanding balance on Glastonbury, so Jen has no escape now.

* They were burning wood that they think a cat may of peed on, which I spun for comedy value. Hilarious!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Face Full of Tooth Paste

I've got a fun new game. First find a video on YouTube that gives your victim a fit of giggles. Then, load said video onto iPod Touch and force victim to watch at inappropriate moment.

For example, the following video sets Jen off a treat

Turns out that giggles and brushing your teeth do not mix. It was like body-less Ash in Alien (after watching the video here, I think that comparison is pretty grim).

It's a Big BBC News Box day!

There's nothing quite like the feeling I get when I open and there's a huge solitary news box at the top of the screen, It's an odd mix of excitement and dread. Today I expected a big news box, and I got one, being the inauguration of Barrack Obama.

It's odd, finally having a president of the USA that the world actually likes. I think Graham Linehan summed it up perfectly here.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

2009, Week 2

The fuzzy happiness of the christmas holiday has worn off, leaving irritable tiredness. Most of the week was spent trying to catch up on sleep by going to bed earlier than normal and then playing round after round of expert suduko on the iPod. Unfortunately this meant I ended up getting to sleep later, annoyed that it took me 50 minutes to complete a game when it takes Jen 20.

Jen was off ill one day this week, which meant I didn't have her driving behind me before I get to the M1. When I take the exit onto the motorway I normally frantically wave at her, and I very almost did it to whomever was driving behind me that day.

Waving at strangers seems to get me in trouble. A few moths back I was driving, minding my own business when a kid in the car in front started giving me a damian-esque stare. I'm guessing it's just British Reserve, but I always tend to avoid eye contact in these situations, hoping the kid will go away. Unfortunately avoiding eye contact meant not looking at the road, which I'm pretty sure is frowned upon. Therefore, despite my 20 years+ experience of looking at things, the little bastard was winning. Not wanting to be outdone, I decided that If I waved at the kid he'd probably get embarrassed and play his evil Derren Brown mind games on someone else. Unfortunately, this slightly backfired as far from embarrassing the kid, it clearly freaked him out. I then had to spend the next 2 minutes not making eye contact with the kid and his concerned mother.

We got the new TV this week, replacing our CRT with a sexy HD TV, which makes our virgin TV signal look even more shit. It's like watching TV with the adobe 'water colour' filter permanently applied. Progress! It does make 'Dead Space' even more scary though. Who every did the sound design on the game deserves an award, or preferably someone jumping out of their cupboard's shouting 'boo' at every opportunity. Let's see how they like it! This is the first game I've played since I was a kid that clearly had a physical effect on me. I'm always quite shakey after I've played, my body clearly pumped with adrenaline. I think the last game that got to me anything like that is 'Alien Trilogy' on the PS1, and that was only the first few levels before it turned into a derivative FPS. Oh, and Sabre Wulf on the Spectrum, that had me running out the room screaming whenever the titular wulfy appeared.

We stayed over at Becky and Matt's on Saturday. On the way down Jen and I were working our way through the family tree as far as we can remember. I was slightly embarrassed that I couldn't really remember my Grandmother's name, on my Mum's side. I don't think the fact that I never met my grandmother is a valid excuse. I think her name was Christa, although this an educated guess based upon that fact that it's one of my sister's middle names. The only interesting thing I know about her is that she was in 'The League of German Girls', which was the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth (this little nugget won me a £10 book voucher for a year 9 report on world war 2, so hey, some good did come out of the Nazi party). You'd think this fact would lead me to ask many more questions about her in the past, yet I didn't. I also know that my Grandfather was a tank driver in the war, so I'd imagine there's a quite interesting story to be told. I'll find out more this week and follow up.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

2009, Week 1

2009 started as it did last year, a few people round ours (Becky, Matt & John), alcohol and the girls annihilating the boys on Sing Star (I blame everyone else, and the introduction of Sing Star Abba). Unlike last year, the party finished on the afternoon of the 2nd. As John and I were first up after the night before (not strictly true, I'm pretty sure I woke John up like an annoying kid on christmas morning) we decided to have a go on Gears of War 2 that I borrowed from my brother. We spent the morning on the sofa in sleeping bags, fully clothed. After Becky and Matt had gone, not wanting to upset the status quo we spent the next day and a half in sleeping bags playing GOW and watching a 3 hour IT Crowd Marathon. Best New Years Ever.

On Sunday we saw a preview of Slumdog Millionaire at Leicester Highcross's Showcase Cinema De Lux, thanks to the good people at As we were late we ended up on the front row (which thanks to De Lux's reclining chairs wasn't too bad). There was a couple with a small kid sitting next to us, who's kid kept trying to give her bottle to Jen thinking she was mummy. Normally I'd be annoyed, but hey it's free and it was actually quite funny seeing this kid run around without a care in the world whilst on screen [spoiler] slum kids were having their eyes destroyed by gang masters to increase their begging potential. It was a great film, melodramatic, but countered with gritty realism. Also, it had Paper Planes on the soundtrack, which is always a plus (although it didn't help save Pineapple Express from mediocrity). In fact, i'm not even sure how a kid got into a 15 rated film.

Over Christmas Jen and I were talking about the white stuff. Jen reckoned that it doesn't snow as much as when were kids. I countered (less eloquently then written, of course) that we romanticise memories of snow when were kids, and because of this these moments are permanently committed to memory. Snow was fun when you didn't have to drive expensive fragile sledges (cars), and when throwing an icy ball of pain at whomever you were with wouldn't cause serious rifts in the relationship. As if our omnipotent friend was trying to back me up the first day back to work was after a night of snow (As much I like God helping me prove a point, I can't help but think his messing around with a snow machine meant he really dropped the ball in Gaza)

We bought a new TV from Currys today, although we won't have till Wednesday. I've noticed that I've got into the habit of arguing with sales staff whatever i'm buying something of moderate value. I think I'm always in the right but I'm sure I come across as a bit of dick. Today it was over Curry's overpriced warrantee. Apparently because LCD TVs are new technology we don't know how long they'll last (These Colecos'll rust up on ya' like that!) and the normal manufacturing guarantee doesn't cover you if pixels fail (a half-truth, it will if more then x fail. In any case, if any fail out-of-the box, i'll just return the TV straight away using Curry's handy 21 day returns policy). Despite the half-truths and lies used to try and sell us the warrantee I politely declined. She responded with a look of disbelief, as if I've just shat on her sofa. She asked if i'm really sure I don't want their great warrantee. This set me off and I pointed the faults of her aforementioned reasons for buying their warrantee. I argued that I have accidental damage on my house cover anyway, so why purchase it again? She countered that I would have to pay an excess on home insurance, I countered that my home insurance excess was less then the cost of their overpriced cover. This went on for a few minutes whilst Jen stood there looking a bit embarrassed. The point was, it didn't get me anywhere, I'm pretty sure I didn't trigger some sort of sales epiphany: 'what an enlightening gentleman, I have seen the errors of my ways and will ensure that I'm 100% honest with any future customer, even if it means I cannot trick them into to buying our over-priced warrantee despite that fact I would get handsome reward'. So an extra new years resolution (taking the count to 4) is to stop getting into pointless arguments, I only come across as a self-righteous dick.

I've bought a fair few CDs this week. I had very little new music last year and as a result the stuff I did get was played to death. Some initial reactions: Santagold - Santagold, solid pop record, although I'm already fed up of the few tracks that have been played to death on adverts. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles - Nice to hear something legitimately different, the chopped up vocals on opening track is awesome, although I was listening to it at work and freaked out for a few seconds when I was convinced I was played NES in the office. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes, Pitchfork's album of the year. This wasn't what I'd expected, very laid back, I can see it being a grower. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours, Another Pitchfork pick and I really enjoyed it on first play. Sounding like LCD Soundsystem and Rapture with a careful measure of 80s (see Ladyhawke) I can see this becoming something of an obsession this year, if not a little throwaway (see Ladyhawke).