Month: December 2005

Happy New Year!

Another year wiser and another excuse to compile a series of lists and memories. In many respects it’s been the best and worst of years, but two events tip it firmly in the favour of “years to forget”. More on that later, let’s get the really important stuff out of the road first.
Best of 2005

  • Best ‘new’ blog (to me at least) – Southern Bird
  • Best blog post – impossible to tell, I’ll just direct you to troubled diva’s PoW competition.
  • Best software – the find of the year, for me, was definitely uTorrent
  • Best book – A Million Little Pieces edges it, just.
  • Best movie – Ray
  • Best album – Aerial by Kate Bush.
  • Best gig – Foo Fighters (simply because I was releasing four years pent up desire to see them live)
  • Best comedian – Lee Evans pips Eddie Izzard for the simple fact that I actually did end up with a little escaped pee in my pants. He was THAT funny.

The downside of 2005
Of course the year was dominated by two events, my father’s heart attack and the sudden passing of Louise’s Mum. My Dad is doing great, and having changed his diet and upped his exercise he really is a new man, it’s had the side effect of giving me a kick up the backside as well.

Louise is bearing up, although Christmas was hard, and is looking forward to seeing her Dad in a couple of weeks; he’s doing OK too, spent Christmas with some friends. Whilst I’m not in denial, I still find it hard to believe Grace is no longer with us. I can’t even begin to fathom how Louise feels, despite talking about it both frequently and at length I don’t think you CAN know unless you experience it. All I know is that it breaks my heart to see her so upset, and me so powerless to do anything to put the world right for her. She is ‘getting better’ though, and our family and friends have been wonderful.

I’ve had to re-edit the previous paragraph to remove every cliche ever known to man, or woman for that matter. Funny how they are only considered cliches because they are true, especially when dealing with ‘true friends’, comparing ‘blood to water’ and so on…

The upside of 2005
Blogwise I can happily confess that I’ve never updated my blogroll as often and with such quality sites. There are many new names on there (on the left) and while the new sites impress, the ‘old hands’ continue to get better and better. I could (have!) lose entire days absorbing what I can from your blogs, yet no matter how many talented writers I read I seem destined to remain stuck with my claw-handed fumbling and pawing of the English language. You gals and guys are an inspiration, thank you for writing.

And of course another year saw another Scottish blogmeet. It’s always fun meeting people who share a hobby and this year was no exception with not only a great turnout but a fabulous bunch of people too, a great time was had. I’m slightly disappointed that I didn’t get time to organise a second meet but I’ve already got plans for 2006!

Of course I should mention my new venture which has been well received. Whilst I do have a few plans for the first half of next year, beyond that the sky is the limit so fingers (legs, eyes, arms etc etc) crossed.

And finally
In closing I’d like to thank everyone who has read, or commented on, this site in 2005. It’s a funny little hobby but it keeps me out of trouble and has introduced me to a lot of fascinating, intelligent, talented and funny people. Not to mention a few hot babes too (pix, southern diva, pink….). I’ll also single out Adrian for offering not only the most comments but, without a doubt, the highest ratio of spelling mistakes per comment, it’s just as well the quality of his comments is so high. Finally a mention for Lyle, a gentleman who has helped me out of some rather deep and messy coding holes, very much appreciated.

So without further ado, I ask you all, ladies and gentlemen, to charge your glasses and raise them in a toast:

To the year 2006; as we slide down your bannister, may all the splinters face the other way

Happy New Year everyone. Take care of you and yours.

No rest

Lovely Christmas day, tempered with more bad news in the evening (more later but I’m not dwelling on it now). Delicious dinner, ate too much, drank enough to destroy my liver several times over and got some rather nice pressies as well.

Yesterday was spent in the company of friends, inventing cocktails, playing board games and laughing about things which were really funny at the time. Not so much now though.

Home today for a brief rest.

Tomorrow my parents over for dinner. Thursday a night at Louise’s cousins. Friday we’re down at friends for a cocktail night. Saturday.. well it’s Hogamanay of course! Sunday is a day of rest and we play host to Louise’s brother and sister on Monday.

I’m almost looking forward to getting back to work on Tuesday for a rest!

Hope you’re all having a good time as well.

Crimbo Humour

Certainly not original but tickled my funny bone. A little.

Things you can only say during Christmas:

  1. I prefer breasts to legs
  2. Tying the legs together keeps the inside moist.
  3. Smother the butter all over the breasts!
  4. If I don’t undo my trousers, I’ll burst!
  5. I’ve never seen a better spread!
  6. I’m in the mood for a little dark meat.
  7. Are you ready for seconds yet?
  8. It’s a little dry; do you still want to eat it?
  9. Just wait your turn, you’ll get some!
  10. Don’t play with your meat.
  11. Stuff it up between the legs as far as it will go.
  12. Do you think you’ll be able to handle all these people at once?
  13. I didn’t expect everyone to come at the same time!
  14. You still have a little bit on your chin.
  15. How long will it take after you put it in?
  16. You’ll know it’s ready when it pops up.
  17. Just pull the end and wait for the bang.
  18. That’s the biggest bird I’ve ever had!
  19. I’m so full, I’ve been gobbling nuts all morning.
  20. Wow, I didn’t think I could handle all that and still want more!
  21. I do like a good stuffing.

Anymore for anymore?

It’s unlikely that I’ll be back online until after the festive season has abated, sometime around the 28th I reckon. So to everyone who has visited this year, to those with whom I’ve corresponded, and to anyone who wanders by randomly, may I take this oppor-chancity to (ohh get on with it!) thank you for visiting and wish you ALL the best of times. Take care of you and yours.

Soundtrack your life

Every now and then I find myself thinking (I hesitate to call it planning) out blog posts whilst wandering around. This is no exception and, as you’ll find if you read on, I do seem to wax lyrical a tad. No excuse or pardon is requested, just a forewarning. This gets a bit… esoteric?

For a moment let me split the world into two types of people. Those who listen to music whilst walking around, and those that don’t.

Agreed? Good.

In the past, I’ve heard people say that the “iPodding” of the world is a bad thing with people more inclined to shut themselves away, close their ears and minds to the rest of humanity and try to create their own little utopia. I’ve touched on this before. However I hold this mornings saunter through early morning Glasgow as evidence to say that it just isn’t so (sometimes).

Picture the scene; people scurry to work, pirouetting their cappucinos out of harm’s way. Shop fronts flicker into life, shutters rattle and the daily flow of customers begins. Some dawdled, anxious to remain alone, some stride with purpose. On a corner two people meet, exchange pleasantries and wander off together, lost in conversation. Snippets are overheard as the light filters across the buildings, the pace gathering as the day begins. A swirl of strangers, the meeting of night and day, cash machines beep, papers unread under arms, crumbs falling from stolen breakfasts. Even the pigeons are lethargic, dawdling on the roads, skipping from underneath tyres. In the midst a man walks, observing. People and buildings, lights and reflections fall into his gaze. He looks up to admire the buildings, down to avoid the puddles.

Now, set that to music, something gentle and quiet – Veneer by Jose Gonzalez perhaps (which features the track used in the recent “bouncy ball” advert on the TV). Play it at a volume which allows the random sounds of the morning to sneak through, and enjoy your own take on the morning. A melancholy uplifting as you wander, a new sheen placed on old items, a fresh slant on the random. A change of stride, a change of pace and the day starts anew, different to the last, newer than old and moving under your control.

Reindeer

Arriving home to find a reindeer on your front lawn is always a little startling.

A letter of complaint

I’ll probably re-visit this post later, but I’ll post it as is for the moment.

I’ve been an Orange customer, on and off for over ten years (the longest I spent away from them was for one year). I’ve always been happy with the tariffs and offers, less so with the reception but it’s never been unsufferable. In short, I was a pretty happy customer.

Until now.

I’ll preface all this by saying that I’m STILL an Orange customer but there is a snippy letter being sent to their Customer Service department. If they don’t come up with something decent I’ll cancel my (new) contract within the alloted time period… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I currently have a C500 model of phone. There are now, as of last week, two newer models of this phone. I like the phone and want to stick with it. The C550 has extra ‘music’ buttons and little else to offer me, the C600 has a new operating system, better camera, better this and that and the other. I want a C600. I don’t want extra buttons I’m not going to use. My current phone is starting to show the signs of age. One of the buttons can be a little erratic and the battery life has started to drop.

My current contract with Orange has been rolling from month to month for over a year now (that’s on top of the initial 12 month contract period). I have looked around from time to time for better deals but I got a good deal when I joined and I’ve been happy with it. It suits (suited) me fine.

Basically, I’m happy to keep the same tariff but I want a new handset.

So I phoned Orange, asking how much to upgrade to the new C600 handset. They said £50. Survey SAID!! EAHH EAAAHHHHH.

I asked why I was being charged so much when I know that others have gotten it for free and I was told that my bills aren’t high enough to justify a free upgrade for that model. I could have the C550 for free if I wanted though.

I said I didn’t want that model as I didn’t want the extra music stuff on it. I wanted the C600… but I understood their pricing model.

“But” I said, “You are offering the C600 to new customers for free.”

Long story short, my point is this. Orange are charging me £50 for the privilege of keeping my existing number. Orange don’t put it that way of course, as they have offered me an upgraded handset for free but I chose not to accept it.

The actual conversation went on for a lot longer, including me interrupting “Paul” several times as he started to tell me why Orange couldn’t just offer upgrades for free and why they’ve got to keep up with the competition by offering NEW customers free phones… “Frankly Paul, I don’t care about that, that’s not MY problem, MY problem is the money coming out of MY bank account”.

So, I’m changing my phone number. I get the handset I want, on a cheaper tariff with more minutes and texts than before. Yes I probably should have walked away but tariff wise I fall nicely into many many deals so that’s never really much of a bargaining chip. I do wish I’d asked for some better incentives to stay with Orange but, in truth, the handset is the overriding factor and I didn’t want to risk them just saying “Well sorry you are having to leave us”.

Should I complain? I did put up a fair old fight on the phone and they didn’t yield one bit. But what of this “looking after our current customers” speil on all the recent adverts? Ohh I’m in a quandary.

What to do, what to do.

Not from Sveeden

Last night, which kinda snuck up on me, saw me and a few thousand others bopping along to all those wonderful old Abba hits. Yes that’s right. Abba. Or, more accurately, the tribute band Björn Again were in town.

I’ve seen them once before, almost 15 years ago now, when they played a gig at the Barrowlands. Last night we were in the ‘Armadillo’ which, whilst very nice, is entirely seated and kinda gets in the way of the dancing. Not that that stopped us mind you, it didn’t take long for us to be up out of our seats and clapping along with the best of them… ohh and I should pause at this point to apologise to the ladies sitting next to us, I’m sorry we didn’t know all the actions to EVERY SINGLE DANCE, and I’m also sorry that I was stone cold sober and not that fussed about learning them, despite your repeated attempts to coerce.

Of course it’s the music that’s the focus, and what bloody great pop songs they are too, whether the better know disco classics, the slower less familiar ballads and the, frankly, rocking Does Your Mother Know. Not that I want to remove any credit from the band who are pretty slick, well rehearsed and play the parts well. A couple of nice touches included some neat segues from Gimme Gimme Gimme! into Hung Up (the Madonna track that recently used it as a sample), S.O.S into the “sending out an S.O.S.” part of Message In A Bottle by The Police, and “Benny” even lapsed into a rap during Take A Chance On Me (as covered by Erasure.. I think…). A crowd pleasing Rockin’ All Over The World allowed the ladies to change into an even skimpier set of outfits and this is a band that knows it’s audience and how to play to it. And yes, the bulk of the audience was a fair bit “wiser” than us.

Quick Straw Poll: Blonde or Brunette? On the night it was definitely the brunette by a long way (which was good because I always preferred Anni-Frid to Agnetha).

What I still struggle to understand is why Abba’s songs appeal so much. Granted a few remind me of yesteryear, but there is a certain melancholy running through some of the tracks that seems to be at odds with both the music and the image of the band. The closing track, Thank You For The Music, being a good example; starting in a minor key with the lines:

“I’m nothing special,
In fact, I’m a bit of a bore.
If I tell a joke,
you’ve probably heard it before…

A quick change to a major key and we’re in lovely pop land for the chorus. Clever indeed.

What really struck me was how many of the songs I knew… all of them in fact. I think this surprised Louise as some of the songs aren’t heard often and don’t feature on the ubiquitous Abba Gold (although I’d suggest you skip that and get the Definitive Collection instead). Ring Ring, Honey Honey and Super Trouper being the notable “non-Gold” tracks. I credit my knowledge of Abba to both an ex-girlfriend, who played them constantly in her car, and to my Gran who had a copy of an Abba album that was always my choice when I was allowed to put on some music (wish I could remember which one, I’m tempted to say a Greatest Hits compilation but not sure which one, that was probably back in the late 70s early 80s…).

And in a nice piece of timing, you can tune in to ITV tonight at 9pm and hear some of Abba’s greatest hits and learn how they influenced others including Bono and Lulu (hmmm not the greatest selling point…).

Abba are one of those bands that everyone knows at least one or two songs of, in fact, I bet if you took a little time you’d be surprised at how many you knew. Go on, how many Abba songs can you name off the top of your head. Bet it’s more than one.

What it does mean is that you spend the entire evening singing along and wake up the next morning with a decidely delicate throat. Worth it though.

The F Word

Seems that Mr. Ramsay is in the papers again – no such thing as bad press, right? – for showing the deaths of six turkeys. For once I happened to have watched the show, and can admit that it was a bit of a shock (geddit!!).

For those who aren’t aware, Gordon Ramsay and his family have been looking after some turkeys for the past few months. The primary aim was to slaughter them and eat one for Christmas dinner, one of those “life lesson” things I guess. Fairy muff you might say, that’s his business etc etc.

Of course it’s slightly different as, when it came time to slaughter the birds, you saw it all. The method of slaughter is to insert an electric probe into the mouth of the bird, flip a switch and pass 600 volts through the animal until it dies. Apparently this is the most humane way (according to the farmer who was providing the service, but then he would say that…) and was described in detail – “Flip the switch, watch for it’s eyes to roll back… there we go” he intoned as the bird, shocked into rigidity, spends the last few seconds of it’s life straining every muscle and sinew… perhaps painfully, perhaps not, we’ll never know.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that for me to enjoy eating meat (and I do) something has to die. And whilst I did find the images being broadcast a little… unpalatable?… it certainly won’t stop me eating turkey again. Was it too graphic to be shown at tea-time on a Saturday night? Well I’d argue that the audience for The F Word isn’t young children, or at least shouldn’t be, and if the adults that were watching it found it offensive maybe, after the first of the five birds had been slaughtered (executed?) they should’ve taken the hint and turned over?

On the flip side of this is the fact that it took just seven people to complain about this to trigger Ofcom into action. What kind of culture are we creating here? A handful of people complain and the PC-sensitive ‘authorities’ leap into action and start banning things, left, right and centre. It’s getting ridiculous.

As for Gordon Ramsay but I hope he comes out with a statement on this, and I sincerely hopes it consists of little more than the abbreviated F word used in the title of his show. This madness has to end sometime.

Matchsticks

There is nothing better than lying, slightly bedraggled and hungover, on the couch all day watching crap TV and classic movies like Clash of the Titans. I’d forgotten just how spectacularly bad the latter was, although to be fair to the actors it can’t have been easy to work with that dialogue. Fantastically awful, I could barely take my eyes off the screen.

Louise was out for the day (and most of the night it turned out) so I had complete autonomy. I ate nothing but toast, drank a mixture of diluting pear and blackcurrant and then fresh orange and mango juices … um… not mixed together I hasten to add, and enjoyed a lovely little tube of dipped strawberry pieces from kchocolat, chocolate therapy indeed.

Thankfully my boxers remained both on my person and out of sight for the night, and whilst I do sincerely thank you all for your suggestions I failed to drink anything but Southern Comfort (half a bottle there of plus a couple of ‘hotel measures’), Stella (only one pint but it’s STILL going to get the blame for my sore head), red wine (two glasses), tequila (one slammer) and … well that was quite enough.

Dancing was had, boobs were fondled (with permission! honestly!!), footrubs were administered (three of), a shoulder was used (for drunken rambling) and a nipple was bitten (still smarts a little). In other words it was a fairly standard Christmas company party. Bloody good fun it was too (here’s some proof).

And the comedy incident of the night, for me at least, was when we finally vacated one of the rooms at 3 am (and sincerest apologies to the women who I startled in the corridor as she stuck her head out of the door to see what the noise was.. I don’t THINK she was completely naked…). Everyone pilled into one of the lifts and rather than add my bulk to the experience I hung back to get another one. The doors closed and I’m left alone in the corridor, watching for the number to change so I can push the button to summon another lift. The number doesn’t move, and I can still hear the drunken bums I work with..

“Push the fuckin button!”
“I DID… didn’t I?”
“Where the fuck are the buttons?”
“Whoa… it’s moving..”
“No… that was just D jumping up and down..”

And so on for about 5 minutes.

Plans today to go to the cinema, but as yet we are bother just trying to summon the energy to tidy the house. In fact I can hear the dulcet tones of my beloved echoing up the stairs as I type… better turn this music… up.