Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fancy a Screwdriver?

"No thanks madam, I'm trying to fix the bus."

My boss returned from our client conference today bearing various gifts he snaffled off the stalls there. All of them free marketing items of course but they were intended by our partner companies to be taken away by our clients, so our aquisition of them is regarded as something of a triumph.

So what did I get?

I got the special pen.

Special in that it is long and silver and has a large neon light in the top which can be activated at the touch of a button.

I pressed the button and the top of the pen glowed a rich UV blue.

And all of a sudden my brain went "SONIC SCREWDRIVER".

I'm going to have such fun this evening pretending to mend barbed wire.

I Caved In...

I finally got iTunes.

The reason? Well... they've had too many exclusive tracks I need (well, okay... crave) and all the other download sites I've tried are all a bit crap, so I finally decided to take the plunge and sign up.

Well... it's alright. I'm so not using it as a media player (I loathe the interface for that part of the application - I guess I just don't "get" Apple software or hardware) but the actual purchasing of tracks was bloody easy.

Of course, then I had to convert the buggers to something I can use on The Device, but it seems that, for all this copy control technology the industry seems to be muttering about, it really is a doddle to just burn what you want to CD and then re-rip it all to WMA or MP3. Without even changing machines to do it.

(Sometimes I wish Apple and Microsoft would just sort out their differences over this format stuff. It just makes life difficult for the rest of us really.)

Still, I am now very much enjoying the "Angel City" mix of Bananarama's "Move in My Direction" (one area the iTunes store fell down actually - all the different mixes didn't have their mix names on so you couldn't tell them apart easily), the "Guilt" mix of Kirsty MacColl's "Innocence" (much nicer and less jangly than the single version) and Rachel Stevens' "I Said Never Again (But Here We Are) which is, quite simply, an amazing track.

I am getting increasingly fired up about Miss Stevens' album actually. It's shaping up to be one of the best pop albums of the year and I don't think I can wait.

Geek Nirvana!

Well, I am a geek and I freely admit it (regularly).

But today, thanks to Diamond Geezer, I was pointed in the direction of this page dedicated to London tube map variations.

I particularly like the image of the tube system overlaid on a satellite image of London. Makes you appreciate Harry Beck's genius even more.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Take BBC Three (Please)

Yesterday I settled down (following the squirrelling away of a large delivery from Tesco) to try and find something on telly to watch.

I failed and - not for the first time over the last few weeks - resorted to a Buffy.

Shortly after that I switched back over again and found that on BBC Three there was a programme being shown called "The Comic Side of Seven Days".

"Aha," I thought. "Topical Humour - this could be good."

I was wrong.

Now, to give them their due, the hour did feel alarmingly like seven days so at least that was accurate. The "comic" bit of the title, however, was sadly lacking. What the programme basically consisted of was a load of smug stand-ups who haven't made it big (and are therefore cheap enough to appear on BBC Three) taking easy pot-shots at people in a way which even "Have I Got News For You" would regard as obvious and vacuous. The lack of work that had been done on the format was compounded by the fact that it was all presented as one of those head-and-shoulders-only vox-pop things, CSO-d onto gaudy backdrops. The whole thing reeked of "no effort required".

Thing is, it wasn't totally bad. There were some laugh out loud funny bits, a sprinkling of amusing ideas but they were totally submersed in lazy, should-have-been-edited heavily rubbish.

Which, I realised, is actually BBC Three's hallmark.

Doctor Who Confidential surprisingly was pretty tight. But I can only assume that was by accident - and it's telling that it got some of the highest ratings for the channel. The rest of their output (the Mighty Boosh, Comic Side..., Little Britain series 2 and so on) could seriously do with someone taking stern control and kicking the complacency out of them.

Frankly if these programmes had tried to make it on the main terrestrial channels you can guarantee they'd have to raise their game, get more focus, tighten up and just try harder. And they'd be so much better for it. In a digital backwater with few viewers they can pretty much get away with anything, and the current output shows that they know that.

Lets be radical: I say we scrap any digital channel that's only on in the evenings and let their programmes fight it out in the mainstream. Those that are good, strong formats will survive and reach a wider audience. Anything else will go the way of all flesh.

And then everyone's a winner.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Surely I Can't Be the Only One...

...who finds the Pussycat Dolls' single "Don't Cha" an amelodic, lazy piece of pseudo-empowerment pappiness?

I really don't see how it's managed to stay at number 1 for so long.

Old Enough to Have a Long Memory

Oh dear. I'm reaching that age when things aren't new to me.

Channel 4 are apparently planning an interactive drama. Viewers will be able to vote to shape the plot, which as far as Channel 4 is concerned "is a UK first and we don't know of anyone else in the world that has produced a show in this format".

So... anyone else remember the BBC's "What's Your Story?"

In case you don't, there's a brief piece on it here.

UK first my arse.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Just In Case You Wondered...

No I still don't have a debit card.

Barclays, bless them, have been very understanding and helpful. I just spoke to the personal banker at my nearest branch who has been something of a brick over the whole thing, and he's finally lost patience too.

So he's set up the branch as my chequebook address and (once it's stuck overnight) will order me a replacement replacement card tomorrow. With any luck the chequebook address will override the system and the new card will then go to the branch instead.

Hopefully it'll turn up Friday and he'll ring me to let me know and I can go and pick it up. At least that's the plan. Obviously I still have doubts but I'm reasonably sure this'll work.

(SMS of course will probably spend the next three months trying to deliver the other one. But I don't care - as far as I'm concerned they're a bunch of useless dickwads who deserve a little slice of pointlessness directed their way.)

Well, That Figures...

Last week I discovered that I am, in fact, obese.

This came as something of a shock. Now I knew I was carrying a little extra around with me these days - I've had to go up a waist size even in GAP - but to see the "Obese" setting flag up on the Sadist's little body fat analyser was faintly terrifying. (I mean, you'd have thought there'd be another level between "Average" and "Lisa Reilly" wouldn't you?)

Anyway, being a kind soul he later sat down and figured out how many calories a day I needed just to survive and allow the fat to start disposing of itself. Thus I now find myself calorie-watching with a vengeance.

And of course, being a geek, I put together a spreadsheet for it.

Just typed the calorie value of my lunch into it and all of a sudden the calculations swung into effect and presented me with the total so far today:

666.

The fact it was that number panicked me a bit. I had to have an orange and grapefruit cereal bar just to get off it.

Where the Hell Am I?

I've heard tell of people who doze off on the bus or tube and then wake up somewhere they didn't expect to be (usually somewhere odd like the bus depot or Finchley Central) but it'd never happened to me before.

Until last night that is. Somewhere around Euston on my return journey home I dozed off and awoke with a nasty prickling sensation to find I was not only in Zone 4 but in Colindale of all places.

Lets just say I was slightly mashed after an afternoon - and, as it turns out, evening - of good food, fine wine (well, okay... cheap boxed), good conversation and a couple of... cough... "herbal rollups".

Taking that into account my arrival in at the wrong end of the wrong branch of the Northern line seems less sinister. (Frankly I think it's a miracle I managed to get as far as North London.)

Still, it was definitely worth it. My general downward spiral had managed to get slightly worse on Friday and Saturday but I think yesterday's managed to kick me out of it. I feel rather more positive today than I have in a couple of weeks.

Despite the wooliness.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Supernatural Ghoulies

They do say that there's always someone worse off than yourself, and if any proof were needed it came in the form of a URL forwarded to me by Darren this morning.

I find it oddly cheering to know that however tedious, difficult, thankless and inconsequential my existence seems at the moment, at least I'm not responsible for Rentaghost the Musical.

Personally I think they're missing a trick by not including the character of Ethel Meaker. The custard-pie fest that would inevitably accompany her signature song "Oh no! Look at me!" could be an absolute show-stopper.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Let's Try That Again...

So the latest is that the card will be redelivered tomorrow.

Some time before six o'clock apparently.

The third time, I'm hoping, will be lucky. The Personal Banker at Barclays rang me and it seems he'd had an interesting discussion where they claimed the entire building had been totally empty yesterday, which at no point would have been true because there's security on even when no one actually is in an office.

So... fingers crossed.

"If it's any consolation," the Banker said, "I got home last night to find a letter from SMS as well so I've got to try and arrange delivery of some tickets to my work too."

I wished him all the luck in the world. I think he may need it.

Needless to Say...

The new card didn't arrive yesterday. Indeed it would seem there wasn't the slightest attempt to deliver it.

Which is rather annoying really.

As is the discovery that they don't always use a courier service. Often they will send out cards by disguised mail, but apparently our postcode area has suffered a lot of identity theft and therefore a totally useless and unhelpful courier service (Special Mail Services) have been employed to lose it instead of the Royal Mail.

I'm starting to feel a little bit worn down by life at present. Put it down to post-holiday blues or whatever, but it does seem like doing the simplest things involves rather more of a fight than it should. I'm getting tired of relying on so many other people, but finding repeatedly that I'm so unimportant to them.

That and the usual lack of consideration you get from pretty much every other human being going about their daily lives is proving extremely wearing, as is the fact that the house still looks like a bombsite for the fourth week now.

The best option I suppose would be to get angry and start kicking, but I discovered yesterday that the fight has suddenly gone out of me and I just want to hide under a duvet and avoid life entirely.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Could Someone Please Explain...

...why Kate Bush is considered to be so wonderful?

I don't mean this in a "she's so overrated" way - or at least not yet. It's just that somehow I've heard nothing she's ever done apart from "Rocket Man" (which doesn't count) and "Wuthering Heights" (which I find ubelievably irritating).

So many people seem to be working themselves into a frenzy about her new album and I somehow feel I might be missing out on something important.

We Have Contact!

I am, after seven years now, a seasoned contact lens wearer. Generally I have no problems and have no qualms or panics about the whole process of inserting, removing or cleaning of lenses and so on. The whole system is quick and generally painless.

Non-lens wearers of course have more issues. The merest sight of one of us undertaking any part of our normal process can cause "ew, I don't know how you can put your finger in your eye" type responses in even the hardiest and least squeamish of people. Something about the eye is sacrosanct, an area not to be messed with and far far too squidgy.

But their reaction is nothing as compared to that of the contact lens wearer when something isn't right. Panic sets in. A speck of dust, a lens that just won't sit right, one that slips round the side of the eye or a drop of un-catalysed cleaning solution can cause overriding fear, panic and general discomfort which it is impossible to drag your attention away from.

You've done this a million times before, why should it be going wrong now? Perhaps this is it - the point of no return: you're about to go blind. I've been through this process myself countless times and anyone who dares to try and distract me while I sort it out can suffer untold misery at the wrong end of an extreme sense of humour failure.

Last night the flatmate suddenly and randomly had an attack of lens pain. He's been trialling a pair for a couple of weeks now - he's been a glasses wearer all his life - and last night one of them just suddenly went bad on him. The panic it caused was considerable: I think he was in severe danger in fact of clawing his eye out just to get at the lens.

Thankfully I had lens-friendly eye drops to hand to soothe it and was able to seize the opportunity to boss him around, shine a light in his eyes and impart some knowledge - something that happens so infrequently each occasion is to be relished. Finally, after much faffing around, it was removed and given a good solid clean.

I hadn't realised the method he was using to get his lenses out actually. Rather than doing the "pinch between thumb and forefinger" approach I use - pretty much the only way of removing them if your eyes are dry due to the way the contacts stick to your real lens - he has adopted a "rub it briskly to the edge and hope it pops out" system. Unfortunately yesterday this just left the lens round the side of his eye and it needed to be massaged back into grabbing position.

It was quite a diverting ten minutes I must say.

I dunno... vanity comes at such a cost.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Getting the New Card

I knew this would happen.

An attempt was made yesterday to deliver my new debit card to me. But of course it was sent to my home address which - due to me being a working puppy - was no bloody use at all.

So I get home to find a slip dropped through my door from Special Mail Services with a reference number I can use to arrange redelivery and contact details via Edison's All Electric Interweb or by Infernal Telephonic Device.

Of course... both the website and the phone line are automated and need the reference number. The reference number on the slip put through my door.

Which would apparently be the reference number written by a drunken spider on the Northern Line.

So I rang Barclays to see if they could sort it. They actually have a real number for SMS so they put me through and I spoke to a real person.

Or at least to start with I spoke to thin air. I went off hold and there was a long silence. "Hello?" I ventured. "What is the address?" came the response.

So I gave him my address, he told me it would be redelivered on Wednesday and thanked me for my custom. I yelped: "no, no, no - I want it redelivered to my work address". "What name?"

And then I had to give the name and address of my company to someone who I suspect is on the other side of the world, and for whom English was definitely a second language. It took eight attempts to get the first word understood by him two of which involved me spelling it. (And I wouldn't mind but it's a bog-standard English forename. It's not like it's "RibaldryGoLightly" or something.)

Still, it all got sorted in the end. And with any luck tomorrow I may actually be able to buy things again - as long as I'm in when they arrive of course. Which basically means staying at my desk all bleeding day I suppose.

There has to be a better way of doing all this, surely? How about asking where I would like it delivered first, that'd be easier. Or maybe delivering it in normal post like they used to, but me having to ring up and activate it like I had to with my Barclaycard.

Or maybe being able to go nominate a branch of the bank to go and collect it from, that'd be good. (Okay... apparently they can send it to my branch - but the branch that actually holds my account is in Canterbury so that's not much use really.)

It's all such hassle. The thing about banks is that you're effectively lending them your money (all of it, incidentally) so that they can use it to make more money. Barclays are effectively in my debt, so it's a little frustrating that not only do they take my money and use it to do God knows what, but that they make me jump through hoops in order to get at something which is technically mine.

Okay... rant over. All is calm. All is light.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Lions, Tapirs and Drag Queens - Oh My!

That's the way to the zoo.
That's the way to the zoo.
The monkey house is nearly full
But there's room enough for you.
Take a bus to Regent's Park,
Make haste before it shuts.
I'll visit you on Monday,
And I'll bring you lots of nuts.
"The what?" I replied. "The Gay Sunday", Smess repeated. I knew naught of this and enquired further. It turns out that London Zoo is one of the top locations for first dates between same-sex courting couples (Lord knows it's even been mooted for a couple of mine) and so they'd decided to capitalise on this by actively encouraging the moxen to turn out in force. All you needed to do was print out the "Gay Sunday" coupon and automatically you'd get 20% off entry to the zoo and a complimentary drink in one of the VIP areas.

In the interests of inclusiveness of course you didn't actually have to be gay to use a coupon, but in any case it all sounded like it could either be utterly rubbish or at the very least desperately surreal and so I decided I simply had to go. Thus it was that I joined Smess and Amy for a visit yesterday afternoon.

Naturally we hit the VIP area for our drink first and were confronted by two very glamourous drag queens who gave us lollies (remember: never accept sweets from strange men, children), had a limp cocktail, a brief look at the talent and then headed off to have a look at the animals.

And, a surprising number of empty cages and enclosures aside, it was a perfectly servicable zoo experience. No more, no less. I often worry about about these places, I must admit, but most of the animals seemed pretty cheerful (especially the bats which seemed to be having a whale of a time). I also got to see a great many things I have never seen before. I had no idea that Mara existed for example, I hadn't expected Tapirs to be quite so fucking huge, and I so want a sand cat at the earliest possible opportunity (they're so adorable when curled up and sleeping).

There was one skunk who clearly wasn't happy, mind. He spent his time racing round in circles, jumping up and down and looking faintly panic-stricken. I felt quite sorry for him really - not least because he seemed to be all on his own, but he was the exception rather than the rule.

The oddest part of the whole experience was the Children's Zoo area. In it we found such strange and exotic animals as: gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, rats and stick insects, which I must admit hadn't really been what I'd come to a zoo to see. This, however, was as nothing compared to the oddness of the "meet the animals" area, presided over by two proud zoo employees, there so that the kiddywinks could come and pet two of the critters present.

On one table there was a large, fat white rabbit with floopy ears lolloping around and being pestered by a couple of small children (I was caught between wanting to hug it or just hoping it would savage them). The other table though was attracting much more attention and so we crept closer to see what was happening.

And what was happening was a cockroach.

No kidding. A big fuck off cockroach was crawling up this girl's arm while she giggled with delight and exhorted her brother to stroke its shiny carapace. Now, I don't know about you, but I find the idea of a cockroach petting zoo somewhat disturbing. But I suppose I had come hoping for something surreal, and in that one glorious moment I received it in abundance.

So I think from every perspective it was a success. I enjoyed it, anyway, and the zoo was certainly packed with pooves.

I wonder who next will be courting the pink pound in this way. Buck House anyone?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Anywhen?

Yesterday in some email communication, the word "anywhen" cropped up.

The exact context was: "yeah, that week's pretty free for me so anywhen's good".

And I read it and it threw me a little. Obviously it's a sort of amalgam of "any time" and "whenever", the semantic equivalent of a dodgy mechanic welding two different cars together and hoping no-one notices, but someone did - and naturally that someone was me.

Clearly whoever came up with the word has a sick mind.

And naturally that someone was me. At least I think it was. I've certainly never noticed it before and it was after I'd written it down and read it back that I realised I'd done it. A part of my brain chastised me for doing it, but another part really rather likes it.

I have a nasty feeling I may start using it more often.

Just to upset people you understand.

Friday, September 16, 2005

One Bimbo Please

One of the more amusing aspects of foreign travel of course is the shopping.

Or more specifically the products you can buy.

In Gran Canaria our first excursion to the main supermarket in Sonnenland was interesting to say the least. This was partially because I regard Euros with the same mild curiosity I afford Monopoly money, but also because of the presence of such wondrous items as "Bimbo" bread and "Bonka" coffee. My favourite though was a totally butterlicious spread named "What - not butter". (This can probably be put down to my depraved upbringing. It's just that any use of the phrase "what-not" just makes me giggle.)

Place names of course can be equally smirk-inducing. I do hear tell of a German village which has the amusing moniker "Fucking". Not so long ago they apparently took a vote on whether to change it but in the end - thank heavens - it seems they decided not to, and have simply put the signpost outside in a tamper-proof case to stop people nicking it.

Of course it does make me wonder if any of our products or place names have a similar effect on visitors to our country. I'm not thinking of those which are just fundamentally amusing of course (places like "Pratt's Bottom" or "Slip End" - which incidentally was where our car was parked near Luton Airport) but those which could only be amusing to the not-we. There's got to be a few, surely.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Escalating Crisis

It's been a while since I last made any comment on the Archway tube station escalators (in fact it was this post here) so I just thought I'd give you a quick update on events over the last month.

Early August: Down escalator is installed and being tested. Tests show that a weight upwards of two bags of sugar will cause it to fail.

August 27th: Down escalator running. Rob almost collapses in shock. Rob text messages Chris to tell him the news. Ambulance is called.

September 13th: Rob arrives at station. Down escalator now an up escalator.

And why is the down escalator now an up escalator?

Well... because the previous up escalator (freshly installed but six months ago) has stopped working.

I swear it's simply impossible for that station to have two escalators running for any significant length of time. They should just give up while they're ahead and install slides for us to use.

Mind you, if they did that the gravity would probably fail.

Okay... Did I Just Imagine That?

See, this morning I logged onto my account to check whether the fraudulent card transactions I was warned of yesterday had appeared yet or not.

To find my balance had shot back up into the black. Yesterday the transations were affecting my balance despite not having physically appeared yet, today they hadn't appeared and weren't affecting it.

I was a tad confused, but it appears that they have been caught in time and cancelled. Which means that I am at least vaguely solvent, and will probably remain so since I can't take any money out until my newly issued bank card arrives.

Which could be anytime in the next three months I guess.

Still... Unwins take credit cards.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Oh Fuck

Just had a lovely phonecall from the Barclays Debit Card Fraud team. They've rung me before as it happens to check a spate of online purchases I'd made were acurate (they were) but this time it appears I've genuinely been stung.

Apparently yesterday someone put through £2k's worth of transations using my card details with an airline and a jewellers - and tried to do one more until my overdraft limit finally told them they could take a running jump.

They've been flagged as fraudulent and my card's been stopped, but until the transactions finally come through on my statement there's not much I can do about it. Then I can do a claim and get my money back, but before then, nothing.

I'm a bit stunned to be honest. I feel quite violated - and not in the good way.

"What Did You Bring That For?"...

...was a question asked of me a couple of times during the first two days of the holiday when people saw that I had a laptop perched on my living room table.

Obviously I pointed out that I was intending to do some writing and sequencing (plus it was needed to recharge The Device). Then they’d shrug their shoulders and move on to some other topic of conversation, but you could see them thinking I was far too much of a geek to be true.

Which is a fair assessment of course.

However, geekiness aside it rapidly became rather handy. One of my fellow holiday-makers for example, borrowed it for the purposes of showing everyone the DVD he’d purchased of his earlier diving expedition.

But mainly it came in handy for the purposes of providing a break from the Hed Kandi CDs we were otherwise listening to during the day. Requested for something more poppy I was gladly able to oblige since I not only had the device but also a DVD containing a backup of my entire MP3 collection.

Thus it was that a little touch of Windypops! was brought to Gran Canaria. (And more converts to the Pay TV cause have been signed up - the juggernaut seems unstoppable.)

Naturally, though, the laptop never got used to do any of the creative work I'd intended to. The idea of lying around and doing nothing won me over instead. (Something which I guess I should have seen coming.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Doris' Gay Jeep Safari

If ever there was a reason for not deserving the ribbing I got for living entirely in the complex, it was Friday's excursion: Doris’ Gay Jeep Safari. Now, how we were to tell that the jeep was gay I have no idea, but eight of us bundled into it anyway and Doris – a native German who’d been on Gran Canaria for thirty years doing this sort of tour - drove us up the twisting and turning winding roads into the mountains in the early hours of the morning. There we had breakfast of local breads, cheeses and tomatoes along with a strong coffee laced with some bizarre rum that almost took our throats out from the inside.

Alcohol for breakfast. A new pinnacle, I think.

Following this brief repaste we went even further into the mountains, Doris scattering cyclists and other road users before her, sheer drops on one side or the other (I realised at this point my fear of heights – or rather drops – is unlikely to ever be cured), and stopped at a mountain lake for a swim. Wonderfully warm it was too, and a beautiful place to be – even if the trees from the area which had been flooded to make the lake were still in there and tickled us as we swam. It was wonderfully idyllic and terribly "Swallows and Amazons", if truth be told. I was beginning to feel terribly outdoorsy.

Then we went even further up into the mountains (this was getting to over 1000 feet up) for lunch at a restaurant that made its own wine and then headed to the highest point we could get to (about 2000 feet) to see some spectacular views of the whole island. And, indeed, one incredibly buff cyclist.

At this point we’d mainly been going uphill and I wasn’t particularly relishing the downhill bit. Especially since the "off-road" driving we’d been promised hadn’t happened yet. Sure enough, whilst it had taken us about four hours to get up into the mountains, the return journey down a very steep and twisty dirt track took only half an hour and was by turns exhilarating and totally petrifying. I managed to get inside the cab for this bit – with one of our party whose sheer terror exceeded my own - and quite glad of that I was too.

The thing about off-road driving in a jeep is that if you’re in the back you have to stand up or risk being bounced out. (The cries of those behind as trees and other plant life attacked them at high speed was an interesting soundtrack, I must say.)

After careering down this near-vertical drop we arrived at a cave village (which I believe was Barranco de Guayadeque). The caves were all part of the lava formations and had been used by the original Guanche settlers as dwellings. The fact that they were still lived in – albeit now with porches and electricity – was bit of a shock to be honest, but breathtaking nonetheless - especially the chapel which was wonderfully eerie and strangely beautiful given that all the walls were striations of lava.

The cave bar next door also served us a wonderful local wine which sadly has to remain at a particular temperature from the volcanic rocks in order to remain palatable. As a result of that it couldn’t be taken away with us, more’s the pity. So we just drank the bottle there.

And that was it really. We went home, tired and happy, our adventurous spirits sated and our heads spinning from some of the things we’d seen and done.

Not to mention spinning from the booze. Doris certainly knew how to win the gays over.

I'm also very glad she didn't partake herself. I probably wouldn't be here now otherwise.

Continuing Disaster Area

As if there wasn't enough chaos in the flat at the moment...

The flatmate has now headed out to Ibiza for another week’s holiday. Sadly he left at eightish despite us only getting in at two and thus was faced with the small matter of cleaning clothes and drying them again in the matter of a very few hours. This was quite a tall order since using the washer/dryer at that time wasn’t really fair when it’s over the bedroom of the flat below.

So he had to improvise. And, as I passed by the kitchen earlier it did become slightly apparent – in the way of clouds of billowing smoke and an acrid burning stench – that maybe microwaving his socks to dry them wasn’t such a good move.

They were actually on fire as it turned out and due to some frantic rushing around (not to mention breath-holding) on my part are now merely soggy masses of disintegrating fabric and carbon.

I have a feeling that Chris and I will probably die together, you know. And it will probably be deeply stupid and humiliating for us, and yet somehow very funny.

Hey ho. Embrace your fate I say.

Volcanicity

So… Gran Canaria was lovely. This is official. I have returned rested and tanned (and thankfully my back is no longer peeling so yay for that) and with a new appreciation of holidays. I think I could get used to them. More please!

So what did I do? Well, for the most part very little. My natural inclination is not that of the seasoned clubber, so the delights of the Yumbo Centre – essentially Gay Central - were not of huge interest to me. The approach favoured by many of my fellow holiday-makers was to drink until about eleven at the complex, then go to the Yumbo center for more drink at the many sundry gay venues there, before going clubbing at about 2-2:30 in the morning, staggering home about 5:00. Somehow this completely failed to ignite my interest since I generally feel that 2:30 is about the time I should be in bed (and if I’m not I damn well go home).

As a result of this “nah can’t be fagged” attitude I did get ribbed as the man who barely ventured out of the complex – culminating in an award for “Explorer of the Year” at the awards ceremony on the final night (which I was actually rather touched by). But hey, I was sitting drinking and having conversations with some very lovely people at my leisure which I think is a valid choice. And certainly appealed more than shouting over the top of music from four different bars in a ghastly little hellhole that looked like an unfortunate architectural hybrid of the South Bank Centre and Elephant and Castle.

I demolished three books, several nice meals (including a record-breaking four hour one – and a wonderful four hours they were too), and had a very happy afternoon on a Catamaran around the Canarian coast from Puerto Rico. There was a lot of larking around (and occasional swimming) in the pool and lounging in the Jacuzzi, and I also taught Stephen and Gareth to play backgammon. This meant that I had a satisfying few games there (finally beating Chris who was a much stronger player than he used to be – he’s clearly been practising).

I don’t think I’ve been quite that content for years, you know.

Bear With Me...

I am currently resorting to an AOL Dial-Up connection since - due to various builder-related problems (yes they're still here when it should have been finished days ago) - the home internet connection, amongst other things, has blown up.

No really, it went bang and everything. I was there.

So my browsing today is all very slow and tedious and painful. In amongst getting the chaos sorted today I hope to do a few posts about what I did on my holidays, but it may take a bit!

Monday, September 05, 2005

So Long, Farewell...

I'm glad it chucked it down last night. Spending the next week in hot foreign climes when the weather was as good here would have been unbearable.

So anyway... Chris, Mikey and I are heading to Gran Canaria today. We'll be back at Stupid O'Clock in a week's time with (hopefully) a better colour and considerably less cash.

(And of course, I'm desperately amused by the fact we're going from Luton Airport. I shall probably start singing "oooh-ee-oooh" in the car on the way there.)

Have a good week people, and see you on the other side!

I Caved In...

I finally decided that I couldn't resist any more. Having fallen in love with every track on "the Best of Kirsty MacColl", I finally decided I had to progress to the three disc version "From Croydon to Cuba... An Anthology" and purchased both it and "The One and Only" yesterday (the latter for the 12" versions of New England and Terry and the wonderful sounding "I'm Going Out With an Eighty Year Old Millionaire" which has more than lived up to expectations.)

Following Kenickie's recommendation the first track on the anthology I played was "Berlin". And yeah... I was stunned. It's a sturdy pumping collection of synth banks, throbbing and pulsing under a hypnotic and deadpan sounding Kirsty than we're used to.

I mean... is there anything this woman couldn't do well?

And thanks to young Darren yesterday I also acquired the Tennant / Lowe "Battleship Potemkin" score and the "Best of Billie Piper" albums. This should all keep me busy for the next week or so, I think.

Loading up the device even now... This could take a while...

Friday, September 02, 2005

They're Not Pyjamas, OK?

Prior to getting my room (almost) sorted yesterday I peeled off my work things and jumped into a shorts and t-shirt combo I picked up from Next the other week.

Chris suddenly poked his head round the door and muttered something about being a bit early for jim-jams, a slur I felt I couldn't let pass.

"They're not pyjamas" I bristled. "They're loungewear. Pyjamas are something you wear in bed."

Some bizarre twist of the conversation then lead to me stating that I simply don't wear anything in bed. He seemed a bit surprised by this, which actually surprised me in turn. I guess I've got so used to sleeping in the buff I kind of think of it as the only possible option. (For the purposes of sleeping that is. And besides, handcuffs aren't items of clothing anyway.)

Am I alone in this? Is sleeping in the nip some kind of bizarre and unnatural perversion that I've adopted?

And Finally...

I have a bedroom again!

As a result of which I spent most of last night putting it all back together again.

It's all a bit sloppily done - my priority was just getting stuff out of the living room so we can use it again - but I can sort things properly over tonight and tomorrow.

It was an amazing feeling being able to sleep in a bed which was properly made, in a room that didn't smell of paint, where I had all of my things around me, and where this morning I could lay my hands on anything I wanted.

Well, anything apart from Alistair Appleton, obviously, but that's par for the course so I can't say I'm going to lose sleep over it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Overheard Conversations on the Night Bus

Returning home last night Chris and I were vaguely entertained by two young lads who joined us on the top deck of the bus in a state that my dad delights in describing as "being in their cups".

I say "vaguely entertained" because Chris was a bit upset by the realisation that they were 16. This seemed to unnerve him, for some reason. Not sure why, to be honest, but I was tired and sober and thus not interested in deep psychological discourses with someone who was - with the best will in the world - completely twatted.

Besides, I was more interested in the conversation of the young men, the salient points of which I shall summarise for you as follows:

  • The size of a book is the best way to judge its merit. (To be fair the cause of this reasoning seems to have had something to do with Charles Dickens so I can kind of see where they were coming from - his prose is a little bloated and unwieldy after all.)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is shit. (Again, I can kind of appreciate where they were coming from on this score - and it is another large shit book so you can see where that particular association came in.)
  • They were going to have to study Animal Farm next year.
  • One of them had just read it. (Good for him, too. Nothing like preparation, is there?)
  • George Orwell wrote Animal Farm.
  • Animal Farm is a short book and therefore good. (Despite being "full of fucking caricatures" apparently.)
  • George Orwell had a granddad.
  • George Orwell's granddad was the grandfather of George Orwell. (It was at this point I started thinking that perhaps it wasn't just alcohol that had been partaken of. Just a feeling, you understand, nothing sinister.)
  • It was a "fucking miracle" that one of their less able fellows managed to attain a "D" in GCSE English because "he's fucking shit at it innee?".
It was this last broadside that almost made me dissolve into a fit of giggles but I'm glad to say that my face was an impassive mask (cut off the back of a cereal packet).

However the best, as Scooch so rightly said, was yet to come. They ended up discussing the options for next term and it seemed that both, for some reason, were opting to take English (presumably as a foreign language) and were giving deep thunk to the other options they would take alongside it.

One of them had hoped to take drama. But he had a feeling that his grades wouldn't really cut it somehow. So instead it seemed he'd decided to take Philosophy.

Because it'd be easier.

Now, I don't mean to denigrate any drama students. Far from it, in fact: it's a great subject. Lord knows that alongside the software development and the Harry Potter dissertation I too took a drama module as part of my degree (and quite good I was at it too, apparently) - but somehow the idea that it's a harder option than Philosophy kind of threw me.

Mind you, it didn't throw me as much as the later realisation that a book I studied at the age of 12 has now found its way onto the A-level reading list.

Eric Arthur Blair must be spinning in his grave.

Loud and Cheap and Sleazy...

You could probably argue that after one morning staggering in at 2:30 and another of not terribly restful paint-fume-fuelled drowsing, that going out clubbing until 2:30 is probably not the most sensible of things to do on a school-night.

And you'd be right.

Oh well.

Last night was the London leg of the Pay TV World Tour, an event much anticipated by many of my dearest friends (thus proving their excellent taste in music), and an event which coincided with the opening of the club Contact at Madam Jo-Jo's.

The club was pleasant enough - it's a fab venue - and the music was initially satisfying, although became a little repetitive. All in all the promised pop from the flyers didn't quite go on for long enough and the rest of the music sounded like it had come straight from Electrogogo - not in itself a bad thing, but it made the policy didn't really stand out from other nights at the same venue nearly enough.

Plus even I mix better than most of the guys who were DJing. Which, considering my status as complete amateur is in no dispute, I think says a lot.

Club promoter was quite hot though. And had a fabulous jacket on.

So... the girls. How were they?

Well, my flatmate and I are seriously considering marrying them. It was one of the best sets I've ever seen, tongue-in-cheek, glamorous and charged with fabulous pop songs. And so the crowd went wild. Sexy Robot was probably one of the weaker tracks but was performed with such panache you couldn't help but love it - and any song which talks about a sex toy being "highly respectable, and totally erectable" deserves no faint praise.

This was followed by an inspired reworking of "Material Girl" as "Material Girls" which has been on loop on The Device since the early hours of this morning. They've totally made the song their own and I'm stunned by how much fun it is.

And then of course we had the wonderful "Refrain Refrain" - possibly the best song about song-writing ever and one of only two I can think of that change the key as they talk about doing so (obscure non-public ABBA song aside). And by this point the crowd was pretty much singing itself hoarse.

Grand finale was the wondrous "Trendy Discotheque", where lo the crowd did worship at the altar of the PayTVers and with one voice uttered the incantation "and who's a bitch!" at the divinely appointed moment.

The girls were signing and selling EPs at the back of the club shortly after and were so lovely and friendly it was rather humbling. For one thing they seemed to have really enjoyed themselves despite the relatively small turnout, and also were rather disarmingly delighted that so many of those present knew the words to the last two tracks (thank you so much www.cdon.com).

Naturally I was far too shy to ask for a photo - something I'm kicking myself for now - but hey. What can you do, eh?

And then it was all over. Set dispensed with, CDs signed and obtained and a night-bus home (for an appointment with some contact lens fluid and some eye drops) awaited. It had all gone far far too quickly, but somehow it still jacked a compressed dose of fabulousness firmly into the very centre of my soul.

I'm still buzzing from it even now and it seems we're all going over to Stockholm pride next year to see them again.

Which I think on the basis of last night/this morning's performance will be worth any money. Pay TV, put simply, rock.