Year: 2005

Ho ho … meh

This week has flown in (…what an odd phrase that is. From where, pray tell, has the week arrived and couldn’t it have walked or cycled or something?), I can barely believe that it’s Thursday today and tomorrow heralds the auspicious event that is our company night out.

The US-based staff have been flown in, rumour has it that we’ll even be getting a couple of free drinks bought for us and, whilst it would be churlish of me to say it I’m going to say it anyway, it’s just as well we’re getting a couple of freebies as this year the hotel we are using has us entering the upper tier of exortion. Seriously, would you CHOOSE to pay £4 for a drink? Add in the train fare to get there, which includes a trip on the clockwork orange and the £20 taxi home … is it any wonder I’ll be consulting with my friends “hip” and “flask for” most of the night?

Of course this all pales into significance behind one of the most dreaded decisions of the year, what to wear!

I HAD planned on wearing a deep wine coloured shirt I have, and possibly not bothering with a tie… only to stumble across some photos from last year’s party and, that’s right, I wore the shirt last year. Can’t possibly wear it again. Faux pas, n’est ce pas?! (oooh multilingual!)

Thankfully I have tomorrow afternoon off so it’ll be a quick trip to my favourite men’s clothing store to pick up a new shirt. Unless George don’t have anything I like the look of in which case I’ll head to Primark… hey, did you hear they are opening a Primark on Oxford Street? Wonder if they’ll put the prices up?

Aside: How many people do you know who pronounce “Primark” as “Pree-mark”, what’s that all about? Same vein as “Nikee” as opposed to “Nike”?

As usual, I’m sure it’ll be a great night. Every year I go through the same, “can’t be arsed” routine beforehand and every year I’m disappointed at how quickly the evening passes and find myself wishing it had lasted longer. So I guess that only leaves one more decision to be made.

Which pair of festive boxer shorts should I wear, the flashing santas or the comedy snowmen?

Help me get drunk

My first ever drink in a pub (the same pub I celebrated my 18th birthday in after drinking there for about a year…) was a pint of “heavy” (80 shilling) and that remained my tipple of choice for many years, bar the occasional Newcastle Brown or a lager on warmer days. Ohh and for the record my first ever alcoholic drink was vodka. Straight. Whilst providing cloakroom services for a Boys Brigade dance. Sorry Mum.

Why heavy? Because I was nervous, naive, and I wasn’t really sure what to ask for, so when the bloke that got served before me ordered “two pints a heavy” I thought, yeah, that’ll do me!

As Guinness started it’s rise to prominence I switched my allegiance, although I’m just as likely to be found drinking an American ‘beer’ like Miller these days. Carlsberg is pretty nice, and… well I could go on but that’s not what I wanted to ask about.

If I’m not drinking beer, or occasionally wine, I drink Southern Comfort. Either straight (over ice of course!) or with lemonade, it’s one of the few spirits I drink. I will accept a Gin and Tonic, and have been known to drink the odd tequila and lime but I just can’t find a spirit that I enjoy as much as Southern Comfort.

Whisky I can’t stomach, nor will my body accept any aniseed flavoured drinks (Ouzo, Pernod etc etc), I can drink vodka if I have to but don’t really enjoy it (although I am looking forward to the bottle of Absolut Raspberry we have recently purchased for consumption over the festive period). As most bars have a fairly wide selection of booze these days, I’m asking for suggestions. What drink should I try?

Some guidelines. NO COCKTAILS! I want something I can order in pretty much any bar from a spit-n-sawdust establishment to a neon-glow style bar (ummm is neon back in??). Definitely no whisky or any of it’s derivatives like Jack Daniels, I’ve tried various rums and never really took to them, and I’d prefer something that will take a variety of mixers, lemonade, coke, and so on. Ohh and it must be alcoholic.

I know for a fact that some of you imbibe the occasional alcoholic beverage so have at it!

Everlong

Foo Fighters

Hello? HELLO!!

Sorry, my ears are still ringing. Fuck me, that band are loud. They are also quiet when needed, funny, engaging, and very energetic. And that’s just the front man. More to come, but first….

Ranty bit
Rock Steady security. What a jumped up bunch of oiks they are. In the queue at the cloakroom on the way out they admonished one guy for coming into the queue to join his mates. No-one else minded but they hauled two of them aside, talked at them for about ten minutes and then let them rejoin the queue where they’d come from… what the feck was the point of that?

P.S. You don’t need three people to tell us to ‘keep moving’ along the queue. The British public is very adept at queuing, it’s in-bred I think, but hey maybe without you guys there to keep us right we’d all just have stood there, wondering how on earth we were going to get our coats back… sheesh..

Disappointing bit
Dear large rock band (or dear S.E.C.C.) I’d much rather fork out an extra £10-15 and hear you in a stadium than put up with the dodgy sound in the big red shed. Suffice to say that R.E.M. sounded better at Loch Lomond, and I was about 500 metres away from them, last night I was no more than 60 or 70 metres yet still some of the songs sounded bad.

The good bits
Overall though this was an excellent set by a tight band that just kept cranking out the tunes. The opening four of five ripped past before the venerable Mr. Grohl paused to tell us that Glasgow was the place they always enjoyed coming to and was probably the best place to play a gig in the world. Every gig I’ve been to in Glasgow has the act saying the same thing, something I don’t recall hearing when I’ve been to see other acts in other places…

They plundered their back catalogue for some old favourites, including the not often played This Is A Call from their first album, and we got a lesson in showmanship with a nicely deconstructed version of Everlong which Dave held on his own for most of the song. What a feeling that must be, to have 10,000 people singing along to you and your guitar.

We even got to see Taylor (the drummer) singing one of the tracks from the ‘soft/acoustic’ disc of the new album, with Dave (the… umm… other drummer) taking a seat behind the skins and going at it in his usual quiet and restrained fashion (there was a certain sense of embarassment as, on the big video screens they had above the stage, the cameraman was focussing more on Dave playing the drums than Taylor who was singing the song! No doubt about who’s band we were seeing).

It’s been said before that Dave Grohl is the nicest guy in rock, and this comes across during the interaction between some of the songs when you genuinely get the feeling that he’s just dead chuffed you’ve turned up and that he’s having a good a time as you. He’s got that whole ‘self-effacing’ charm thing down pat, and you felt like he was talking to you rather than just obligingly filling the gaps between songs.

Highlight of the evening was both Learn to Fly (for personal reasons) and inevitably both Monkey Wrench and the closing All My Life. Not a bad gig for my first experience of the Foo Fighters live, it certainly won’t be the last.

As the lights came up and we all started the exodus, I experienced something new; the sound of the assembled crowd singing along to the background music. Maybe the fact that it was ACDC’s Highway to Hell had something to do with it, but I’d warrant that it wasn’t by accident. A great show, by a great showman, with a great band. What more can you ask?

Setlist (tbc)

    In Your Honour
    No Way Back
    My Hero
    Best of You
    Up in Arms
    Learn to Fly
    Times Like These
    The One
    Stacked Actors
    Big Me
    Generator
    Have it All
    Breakout
    Everlong
    Monkey Wrench
    ———-
    This is a Call
    Cold Day
    All My Life

Addendum
Foo Forum is already full of people bitching at the shortness of the set, but equally Dave Grohl is ill so I’m just glad they played. That might also explain the dodgy vocal mix on some of the tracks as he was obviously struggling.

Live music

It’s getting close to the end of the year and the first ‘best of’ lists have begun to surface. I’m a huge fan of such lists because of my constant belief that I’ve missed some cultural zeitgeist or other, so much so that I am currently running about a year behind everyone else in a desperate attempt to keep up.

Aside from the usual culprits – book, cd, dvd, movie – on the more musically inclined lists there is always the ‘best gig of the year’ to be considered. And therein lies a sticky (literally for some venues) problem.

How do you rate the ‘best gig’? Is it the music? The atmosphere? The energy of the band on stage? The interaction with the crowd? The interaction IN the crowd? Or that undefinable something that pushes beyond your expectation? And after considering allof that do you also need to consider how much your pre-gig expectation will come to weigh on your decision?

And finally there is our old favourite ’emotional attachment’ to consider as well. Of all the gigs I’ve been to this year, a couple have had a definite advantage because they are already benefitting from a non-musical memory or influence. In that sense, given that I’m already pre-disposed to the gig itself, it’s quite possibly unfair to compare these gigs with others.

For example.
The Kings of Leon gig (last year) was excellent. They translated the album in a tight, powerful live act, handled the audience well and paced the gig well. It was easily one of the best gigs I attended. However, whilst the R.E.M. concert was musically better than I had expected, it wasn’t on a par with the Kings of Leon gig. Despite that I have no qualms stating that the R.E.M. gig was better. Not only was it in my ‘hometown’, but it was with the same group of friends that, in the very same spot some 14 years before, I saw Runrig. Now that’s entirely unfair on the Kings of Leon but hey, it’s not MY fault, right?

I have two gigs left this year. Next week I’m off to see Björn Again, and tonight is a gig which I’ve been anticipating for about eight years.

I bought their first album on the back of one song, something which broke my long standing “always hear three good songs before purchasing the CD” rule, and passed up the opportunity to see them the next year. I still regret that decision.

Since then I’ve not been able to see them when they appeared at Glasgow Green in a double-headline with the Red Hot Chili Peppers as I was boarding a plane at the time, nor when they headlined T in the Park this year as I was in Torquay. They’ve visited Scotland every year since I bought their first album and I’ve never managed to see them live. Until tonight.

And this is what I mean. I have such eager anticipation of the gig tonight, and that anticipation rides on the back of over eight years of yearning, that I’m worried it either won’t meet my expectations or that it will gain extra credibility because I’m finally seeing them live. It’s almost unfair to the other gigs I’ve been to this year.

Anyway, I have the t-shirt, I’ve got iTunes primed with their last couple of albums, and I’m certain of one thing. The Foo Fighters will rock.

Prison Blog

I received an email, to Scottish Blogs, the other day asking for some help with a fairly unique blog. If you are interested let me know and I’ll pass on your details:

I am going to prison on 20th dec to continue a sentence for a road traffic offence, I expect to be there for four to six months.

I though it would be interesting to do a blog from there as having already done a month of the original sentence,(I am out on appeal), I feel I could give an interesting insight into life and conditions in Scottish prisons today. Obviously I couldn’t do this myself as there is no internet access for prisoners. I would need help to set up the site and input to it from my correspondance. Do you know anyone from the blogging community who would be willing to work with me on this issue.

Could be an interesting site, any volunteers?

Resolute

What is it about this time of year that causes so much stress? Is it the incessant commercialism? The shops crowded with ignorant and stupid people, all bustling around with nary a mind for anyone else, laden with bags full of lead that careen off my kneecaps at regular intervals.

Or maybe it’s more to do with the calendar, the advent of another year looming into view, for who doesn’t already have plans in January. We do. As you tick off the days of December you suddenly realise you’ve not seen this person or that couple, and that appointment you re-scheduled a couple of months back is in danger of getting in the road of your ‘quick’ catchup with some old school friends. But you’ve got too many things to do, it’s not like you are sitting around doing nothing.

So you make plans. You cram in, lunches, drinks, nights out, shopping trips or whatever it takes to ensure that we can end the year, or at least get to Christmas, safe in the knowledge that we’ve seen everyone we need to see.

Question: Why the NEED? Will they disown you if you don’t see them? Will they find out that you saw everyone else but them? Are they having the exact same thoughts?

Then you spend the next few weeks in a blur. You rush around in a state of befuddlement never quite sure which pub you are in, which shop you simply must visit before Saturday, and what time you said you’d meet your Dad so you could help him with Mum’s gift (no Mum, not you… I’m generalising…). Your calendar is suddenly full and when you do stop to rest you feel guilty because, surely, you should be doing SOMETHING!

At a time when friends and family should be the priority we find ourselves scheduling them in…

“no no we can’t see you then, but there’s a slot free on Tuesday, how does that sound?”

At least that’s what it feels like.

Two of my best mates work in the same city as me, less than a 15 minute walk away. Yet I never seem to have the time or inclination to meet them. Why is that? Despite my feelings about them, and how much they mean to me, I seem to treat them as an inconvenience or just something that needs to be dealt with. How horrible is that?!

For the record then: Stuart, Bill, fancy a drink sometime? I’m free the Thursday after Christmas….

After a year dominated by awful events I already know what one of my resolutions will be for 2006. I just hope I can fit it into my schedule.

Waiting on the sun

Louise had to be in work early this morning, which means I end up sitting here at 7.25am pondering all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Should I have a coffee now or go for a wander with my camera? (coffee). Should I just crack on with some work and get ahead for the day? (alas yes). Will anyone notice if I fall asleep under my desk this afternoon? (probably not).

I’m not a morning person usually, despite being the first in the office on most days, preferring the still quiet of a late night than the lethargic tempo of an early morning. It’s been a long time since I was up and out before the dawn, admittedly not so much of a challenge in the winter but it’s still a rare occasion. Sunrise isn’t due for another hour or so by which time the office will slowly start to gather pace, and the next thing you know it’ll be just another day zipping past at breakneck speed.

So I’m pausing to enjoy the moment. I’m going to get a coffee and spend 10 minutes watching the light change over the river, the glow bloom on the buildings, and sparkle off the crystal frost on the grass. It’s nice to have a moment like this in a day.

Maybe I should get up early more often.

Best Spam Ever?

OK, this is a little long but for once it’s not complete jibberish or a request for money, nor will my penis grow larger and I won’t become rich overnight. No no, this spam is about vampires.

Yes. Vampires.

Apparently there is a group (collective term anyone?) of vampires hanging around in Tottenham. Google suggests that no-one has reported this type of spam (in combination at least) before. How bizarre.

Entire email is pasted below with the errors as received.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am writing to you about a gang of satanic practicioners in your midst that have been exposed enough, by the social changes that have been occurring in the world economy and national society genetic science, for me to complain. This gang is international, a multi cultural group of people who make contact with their victims such as me through the welfare services
and the public services that the government set up for the people in society. Places like the education system. They have a loyalty to darkness, kings and princes( typical vampire culture in the films) but are always hanging around the welfare system which they are poliically opposed to (plenty of undereducated poor people – typical vampire and mass murderer feeding ground). I am certain they are the snuff movie culture in britain.

Read More

The Goblet of Fire

Movie info from IMDB
Movie reviews from Metacritic

Finally got some free time today and nipped to the cinema to catch the latest Harry Potter movie. Bloody glad we did too!

From the opening credits to the closing scenes this is a dark movie, much darker than the previous movie and all the better for it. The movie centres around a wizard tournament into which Harry finds himself mysteriously involved. Dangerous challenges abound and for the first time in this series of movies I found myself not noticing the CGI scenes as much as I did in the past.

The tone of the movie allowed the pace to high, moving from action sequence to action sequence with a little character development along the way. More back story, more side stories and the series becomes deeper and richer and now feels a lot more mature and well crafted than the first two movies did (the third was a marked improvement).

The teenage actors are still a bit wooden, but the supporting cast grows stronger and stronger and keeps things at a consistent level. And of course the appearance of the villain of the piece, finally, puts the marker down for the next three movies in the series. I sincerely hope they can keep the cast together for, if they were to change them now, it would lose a lot of the consistency they’ve managed to achieve already. You truly feel that you are a Muggle in the world of magic.

No comparisons with the book are required, I don’t think. The movies stand on their own as unique versions of a story, in the same way the Disney’s Cinderella is more fondly remembered than the story from which it came.

The Goblet of Fire is an altogether different movie from previous as it marks the turning point in the series, the overall feeling of foreboding and evil (well, nastiness at least) was well handled and didn’t venture into pantomime territory. Thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m pretty sure this one will stand up to some repeat viewings, there are better movies out at the moment but this one is worth a look.

Ho Ho Ho

Why is it that, when you are completely physically exhausted, your brain refuses to shut down and let you go to sleep? Is it just me?

A day spent up and down ladders, moving large heavy boxes. A day of construction, organising, tidying, moving, considering, discussing, trying, replacing, tweaking, finishing off. A day spent wondering where the hell we put it all last year, and how it seems to expand every time we bring it all down from the loft.

Yes, we are now living in Santa’s grotto.

Admittedly, this year, I’m happier than usual that the tree and assorted decorations are going up. If nothing else because Louise loves this time of year so much, and it was nice to see her with that child-like smile on her face as we opened box after box of ornaments and sparkling things. Her glee at ‘discovering’ a forgotten item kept me going through the day, until we both collapsed on the sofa wondering why it takes so long to decorate our little house.

This morning the empty boxes have been returned to the loft and some sanity has been restored to the house – it was getting to be a bit too much of an obstacle course for my liking. Just making a cup of coffee required you to negotiate the “wall of tinsel”, slalom round the intricate course of “fallen baubles”, before the last, death-defying, tightrope walk along the fairy lights.

Now all we need is some snow.