Friday, September 29, 2006

On and on and on...

So... the bathroom saga gets better.

It appears that when the builders first fitted the bath they tiled over the side panel in its entirety, encasing everything within - pipes and all - for eternity. The landlord noticed this and demanded that an access panel was put in so that if we ever needed access to pipes and so on it could be done.

With much muttering and grumbling the builders redid the side panel.

When the landlord rang me on Wednesday I asked about how much effort looking under the bath would be. The landlord explained that he'd demanded an access panel and joked that the way things were going it'd probably turn out to be fake.

There are, it seems, some things you should not joke about. Because as it turns out, the "access panel" was just four screws made to look like they gave you access.

Judging by the sawdust and the powder strewn over the bathroom last night, the panel is now definitely real, and it seems that the seal round the bath has been redone so with any luck downstairs will no longer be endampened in the future.

Only time will tell, of course.

I still can't quite believe that the builders would try and get away with the dummy panel, though. Surely they didn't honestly think that no-one would ever notice?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How Did I End Up Here?

There does seem to be a common factor to the results of me getting absolutely hammered - especially if it involves that variety of wine I can only describe as Gaybar White.

Now I'm not referring here to the subsequent throbbing head and general lack of interest in interacting with the universe (although I will confess this problem is much in evidence this morning) but instead to the fact I can never remember the journey home.

I always remember getting home and everything that occurs from putting the key in the lock, and I remember the goodbyes and everything that precedes the journey, but everything in between is invariably shrouded in mystery.

Last night for example I have a vague idea that I took the tube, and judging by The Device this morning I was probably plumbed into The Pipettes whilst I was on it (just been introduced to them by the lovely Lee and they're terribly good), but there's a definite vagueness about all of this compared to the concrete certainty that exists before and after.

I can only assume that my brain decides that given my state of inebriation it'd probably a good idea to conserve some mental energy for a bit and so it just stops recording what's going on around me. (Which seems fair enough given that what would have been going on around me would have been the Northern Line.)

That said I do remember a few things from last night with astonishing (nay terrifying) clarity.

  1. Writing on a nice young gentleman's stomach.
  2. Having my arm written on by another nice young gentleman (who was of the opinion that my arm was pretty good shape apparently - and he wasn't drinking).
  3. Agreeing to host the Halfway to Heaven Qwiz on the 11th October.

Ho hum.

On the latter point, incidentally, do come along if you're free.

And please, keep me away from the Pinot.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lawks

This happened just round the corner from where I work.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/5382368.stm

I saw the aftermath yesterday on my way back from the gym. I only realised the anti-terrorist shelter was knackered today though when I finally registered the twisted and torn metal posts sticking out of the ground.

Mind you, I think "anti-terrorist hut" is a bit of a grand name for it.

It was just a one-man booth with no door and a big window, to be honest.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Umm...

It seems Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas is releasing an album.

Now, I know my attempts at pedantry have been a tad off of late, but I have problems with the album title.

The Dutchess

Am I missing something?

Apparently (according what sounds suspiciously like a press release on Wikipedia) the title is "a play on the former Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, with whom she shares a surname and popular nickname" but somehow I can't help but feel that there still shouldn't be a "t" in it.

(I'm sure Si will correct me but at least I'm living and learning.)

That said, you can understand my suspicion considering the video for her (s)hit single "London Bridge" featured her mainly in front of Tower Bridge instead.

Comparatively Sober

Years ago, before Civil Partnerships and, yay, e'en before Ken's Register, gay men used to signal their total commitment to each other by moving in together and getting cats.

This weekend, whilst relaxing with my aunt in front of a Quatermass serial, I was asked - in fact for that read "demanded" - round to a flat in Clapham South where two friends of ours, Chris and Ollie, have done just that.

Frankly it's nice to see people keeping up the old traditions.

I arrived after my aunt's excellent dinner to find Chris, Ollie and the flatmate already pretty far gone. (The flatmate had reached that sort of giddy-smiley expression that babies get when wallowing in their own filth.) I was therefore exhorted to play catch up, something I feel I did with remarkable aplomb.

And much fun it was too. Frankly I hadn't seen either Chris or Ollie in far too long (Chris is, believe it or not, worse at keeping in contact with people than I am). And it was extremely nice to pick up where we left off and catch up again - even if said catching up did raise the worrying prospect of a New Year cruising round the Norfolk Broads.

I mean... it's damp enough during summer, but going in the height of winter is just asking for hypothermia and fungus of the knees.

Still, anyone who wants to know the reason I could barely string a thought together for much of yesterday now knows why. Frankly I'd forgotten what a committed liver-poisoner Chris is.

He makes me look positively tee-total.

As the old saying goes...

...it never rains, but it pours.

It's just a shame that "it" seems to be pouring into our downstairs neighbours' flat.

They popped up last night to say that there was once again a large damp patch in the ceiling of the room just under our bathroom.

Since there isn't a crack in our bath any more - due to its recent replacement - this can only mean something else is leaking. Something which is now buried under tiling and floorboards with a view that they need never be raised again.

Gah.

I knew the builders would be a bad lot when they turned up on horseback with lassos.

Monday, September 25, 2006

How many?

I've just realised that the flatmate has six different types of toothpaste on our bathroom shelf.

I'm quite staggered by this.

I have one.

Cheapo Goodness

So, I had my first ever experience of a Lidl on Sunday morning.

I popped over my aunt's this weekend to give her a hand with moving stuff, taking down curtains and so on (well, she's 64, widowed and understandably doesn't fancy standing on ladders without anyone there to call an ambulance if necessary).

On Saturday night we decided - based entirely on the attractiveness of the men in the catalogue - to visit the Matalan in Greenwich and see what was up for grabs. (In particular I was duped by the "well, he's pretty, so if I wear that I'll be just as hot" mentality that such marketing requires.)

I found the shirts I liked in the catalogue.

They were a lovely pattern. They were my size.

They were also made from the most horrible fabric ever. The expedition was, therefore, aborted.

So anyway, while we were there we bounded over to Lidl because my aunt's suddenly into tropical fruit juice in a big way and thought she could probably get her own weight in it there for 20p.

Which she did. But two things struck me.

First was that everything there seemed to be imported from Germany. All the juices were "Saft"s like Apfelsaft and so on. All the cooking instructions were "DE". And there was a huge pile of cans of Sauerkraut. It all seemed a bit strange. I felt like I was back in Berlin.

Second was that considering the somewhat cheapo reputation of Lidl, I had a very definite view of its target demographic and was therefore totally thrown by the horse-blankets and riding helmets they were selling at knock-down prices.

This may be my bad, of course but I hadn't really considered Lidl as the natural home of the gymkhana set.

Clearly I was wrong.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saturday Freebies

Well, it's Saturday... so how about a couple of free MP3s?

Some of you may enjoy these after all.

First up is "Cold Light" by Things We Made - a track from the Popjustice Singles Club. Most of what Popjustice gives away I think is utter rubbish, but this one I really like. It's quite a polished slice of synthy goodness and I find myself smiling every time I hear it.

Next up is a remix of an old favourite of mine, The Human League's "One Man In My Heart". EMP's 2006 "Stronger Than Faith" mix is a bit different from the usual EMP mixes since it isn't exactly club friendly - well it's just not that sort of song really - but I think is especially stunning given that like all "fan" mixes it was done without access to the master tapes. (And I love the distorted "Love Action" sample threading through it, too.)

For those interested, this and other such mixes are generously hosted on Afront's Pansentient League website, so thanks to Afront whoever they are!

Of course, the lyric of "One Man..." does rather suggest that Sue's got four men on the go, but that - for me - is a reason to love it even more. You go girl!

Okay... Didn't Expect That...

There are few occasions in this life when you get far more than you expect, but it's always a joy when the universe slips you a bung you weren't quite prepared for.

And no, despite my phrasing above I'm not referring to that night I was left practically unable to walk by a particularly well-endowed gentleman of my acquantance, but to the rather more mundane arrival of the new Scissor Sisters album on my desk on Monday.

Having been off work ill for a couple of days, of course, I didn't get it until Wednesday. And I was a little surprised by the packaging I must say.

I'd ordered the two-disc special edition version, as is my wont. The picture shown to me by Play at the time I ordered looked something like this:



So I was expecting a fairly standard jewel-case containing two CDs.

What actually arrived was a fairly large cardboard thing like this:



And when you pull the block on the right-hand side, both sides slide out to reveal the discs and the lift-doors open to reveal the booklet and a poster:



I mean, how cool is that?

Of course, as a cardboard item of dubious lengevity I may have to get a normal copy as well so I don't damage it too much.

As for my view on the record itself, I'm giving it a first listen now - haven't had a chance so far this week, I seem to have been sociable instead (I know... it's most unlike me).

So far there's only been one track I didn't think much of, but it's early days yet.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Richard Hammond

Following the unfortunate accident which has put Richard Hammond in hospital, one of my colleagues has taken to regularly checking up on the latest details on BBC News.

Transpires that Hammond's nickname amongst the Top Gear team was "Hamster", which lead to a rather unfortunate comment by said colleague just moments after checking one of the articles yesterday afternoon.

As he closed down his internet browser he said, and I quote, "Come on the Hamster!"

I just don't think those four words really belong together, do you?

(And incidentally, why is "Hamster" so difficult to pronounce without a "p" in the middle of it?")

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Tall One Walks Among Us

So last night I had a deeply enjoyable time at the Halfway to Heaven pub quiz after a personal absence of many months. The "Qwiz" was - as ever - raucously enjoyable in its own right (although we didn't win) and I feel a definite urge to attend a few more of them, and maybe even host one again.

(If truth be told I also had the enjoyable experience of getting flirty and tactile with a couple of people I rather fancy - which I always find is a welcome boost to my self-image and general mood.)

There was one odd experience, however. One of the young gentlemen attending was, in addition to being irritatingly and heart-achingly attractive, also upsettingly tall.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm tall myself (6'5" if you're asking) and I'm sure that many of my shorter hobbit-like friends will relish the fact the fact I've finally suffered from such an encounter.

But the fact of the matter is he was only slightly taller than I am. Barely an inch in it. And the thing is that I found it genuinely unnerving despite the fact that when faced with people significantly taller than I - say 6'7" or 6'8" - I don't bat an eyelid.

I just find it interesting that a subtle difference like that could make me think "hello, there's something wrong here", when major differences don't bother me at all.

There's probably a fancy name for that kind of reaction.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Independent Thinking

So obviously the world is still reeling from the Military Coup in Thailand which has just taken place - with a surprising swiftness it must be said.

I was, however, caught between hysterical laughter and disbelieving despair at the headline of the Independent today when reporting it.

"One Night in Bangkok".

Really.

Still, media coverage on the BBC is little better. Picture spreads such as "Thais wake to coup" (which when spoken out loud makes me imagine a country of Pigeon Impersonators) pale in significance against the stimulus-response journalism of "Thais wonder at coup aftermath", the opening lines of which go as follows:

Thailand has been in political limbo for months, but the events of Tuesday night still took everyone by surprise.

"What happened last night took me by surprise," admitted Giles Ungpakorn, a political commentator at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
Frankly it just reminded me a little too closely of KYTV.

Still, if nothing else it's raised a smile.

Curious...

My Forgotten English calendar has managed to come up with a word I'm sure I'd heard of before.

Sure enough, a quick check reveleaed I'd blogged about "gilravage" before (see here) where they'd announced it meant "to commit wild and lawless depredation" which I thought sounded rather fun.

Today though, it's got the same word, but this time citing a definition from John Jamieson's Etymological Scottish Dictionary of 1808. This definition suggests the word means "to hold a merry meeting, with noise and riot, but without doing injury to anyone."

It's interesting, of course, that across borders a word can change its meaning so subtly, but is it wrong of me to think that the last condition there probably isn't the case in Glasgow?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Membership Bee

So, while I was away I have apparently become a Co-operative Member.

I used to have a Co-Op Dividend card (my local supermarket's a Co-Op) but this whole loyalty system has been replaced with a new one called "Co-Operative Membership" that apparently is part of a massive rebranding of the whole Co-Op Group.

Now it seems they've chosen a stylized bee as the emblem to show me where I can use my new card. It's called the "membership bee", and the membership literature clearly feels insecure about this emblem since they've managed to devote an entire page in the handbook to justifying why. This is what it says:

"The bee symbolises many of our values. They share their honey with the rest of the hive like we share our profits with our members."

Okay, fair enough. Good start.

"They work together in gathering nextar for the growth and development of their community."

Hmmm? Go on...

"Bees are also responsible for pollinating many varieties of plants, playing their part in maintaining the environment around them. In fact, bees are responsible for pollinating 30% of the food we eat."

I must confess that at this point I lost grip on the similarity between the values of the bee and the co-operative group.

I have a nasty feeling, though, that it means staff up and down the country will be sticking their willies in the produce and trying to inseminate 30% of it.

And frankly I'm not sure that's hygenic.

Moving On

Youtube's such a great tool for lazy bloggers like me isn't it?



Nice to see that the Nana's didn't stray too much from a formula for their videos isn't it? Half naked men. That's all they ever did.

And I'm not complaining.

It Is Finished!

No, just the stint in the Netherlands (although as of my return last night that seems done for the time being) but the Bathroom.

Final delivery of a finished project was in fact on Thursday.

Yes, Thursday. Not Monday. Not even Tuesday. But Thursday.

Apparently the landlord saw the builder had put the shower in the wrong place and made him move it - necessitating removal and replacement of the tiles around it and the bath and so on.

Nice one.

Still, it's all very smart - if a little too stark and echoey at the moment. And it all smells very strongly of paint right now, but I'm burning scented candles to help cover that.

And I'm glad it was finished. There's just something so relaxing about having a deep hot bath back in your own house again after time away, isn't there?

Now I just have to spend the weekend sorting stuff back out again. Damnit!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

One... Two... Many... Lots

I don't like the Euro.

I'm not talking politically, here, mind - although I am, I'm afraid, not sold on the idea of losing our currency - but physically.

See... each element of UK coinage is quite staggeringly different from another. The currency uses a combination of markedly different diameters, thicknesses, colours and shapes that it takes a mere matter tter of moments for the eye to tell them apart.

Euro coins, however, are rather dull by comparison. Diameterwise, they don't differ very much, in thickness barely at all, and they're all round and a mucky gold colour, with the occasional flash of silver on the higher denominated ones.

And frankly, it's making it bloody hard for me - as hard of sight as I am of thinking - to tell them apart. Takes me twice as long to figure it out in the queue at the moment, and I'm often reduced to squinting and going "is that a ten?"

Thankfully the Dutch are all quite placid creatures so I'm not suffering coin rage yet, but I dread to think what'd happen with a more spikey population like the French.

So yes, not keen on the coins at all.

The notes, however, I think are rather smart I must say.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Trans-Europe Express

So, here I am back in Den Haag.

Four of us head out to sample the culinary delights of the Netherlands and find ourselves opting for a Tapas Bar.

In which one of the dishes one of my colleagues orders happens to be snails.

It's very odd sharing a Dutch-Spanish-French fusion meal, you know.

I am pleased to say, however, that I managed to stifle my inner "ew" and try the snails. Yay for experimental Rob!

Even bigger yay, though, for "I'm never having those again" Rob. There was something just a little bit mank about them.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Having Work Done

There's probably an rule somewhere that any work that takes place at the Lemon and Panda public house in Highgate (aka Chez Rob) must take two days longer than planned for.

There was the boiler trouble in January that took said amount of time longer than expected, and the work last year to cover up the cracks caused by the subsidence also took two more days to finish than we were told.

This time it's the bathroom being refitted. You remember me moaning about this a few months ago? Well, the promise of it in a few weeks was a little ill-advised, but at the moment the bathroom is in a state of no little upheaval.

The work has been sporadic. On Monday the bath and tiling vanished. On Tuesday the wardrobes in my bedroom moved (I was a bit puzzled about this), and on Wednesday the lino went.

On Thursday a few tiles went up and a new bath appeared which was filled with lots of tools presumably for our fun and delight. On Friday, the tiles decided to breed, a shower went into the wall and I was informed that it would all be finished on Monday instead of Friday.

Landlord and I think Monday is a tad optimistic. Tuesday seems more likely.

Thankfully they did at least plumb the bath in so I could use it even if the lack of grouting means the place isn't entirely waterproof. I'd been reduced to only showering at the gym and I was dying to soak for a bit.

Still, should be done soon. Of course since I'm away on another Evil Business Trip (TM) next week I won't have to deal with any further disruption to my tidy, ordered and staid existence.

So yay for that!

All I Ever Wanted

It's just criminal that this was never a hit. It's a fantastic song from a fantastic album and the video is just so cool.



Gotta love Susan vamping it during the final repeats.

That Frosties Ad...

... has been annoying me for ages. The sight of some hyperactive blond kid bouncing around the screen in desperate need of a high dose of Ritalin has caused me to suffer extreme bouts of teeth-gnashing and fist-clenching on a regular basis over the last few weeks.

So I was delighted today to find this on Weebl's Stuff.

Nice.

(And for those of you requiring proof that my sense of humour is still as low-brow as ever, this is still my favourite Weebl Toon of all.)

The Smell

The smell was first noticed on Tuesday. In a certain part of the kitchen you'd catch a whiff and think "ew" before moving past it and on with your life.

It hadn't really troubled me much - it was only a small pocket of odour - but Daniel remarked on it when he was over, and I just assumed that it was something rotten of the flatmate's in the fridge. (I'm used to this by now.)

By Thursday I had time to go through the fridge and ditch various out-of date foodstuffs and any suspect vegetable matter which I found. I had a feeling that it was probably the broccoli - I've always had a problem with broccoli, you just can't trust it in my experience.

Yet still the smell remained. And, if anything, it was becoming more insistent.

So yesterday I took action. Everything came out of the fridge and the fridge was cleaned with extreme prejudice. Vegetable bins and shelves now gleamed, and a chunk of ice slightly smaller than your average iceberg was chipped off the back of the main compartment (I've turned the fridge down a bit in response to this, I hasten to add).

Once the fridge had been done I turned my attentions to the bin. It's a big tall plastic thing in grey and not the easiest thing to fit in a sink and scrub at, but I managed to get it nice and clean and grime-free. To be honest I'd suspected this was the problem all along and only used the fridge as a procrastinating task, but I got to it in the end.

And yet still the smell remained.

With a heavy heart I decided it was probably time to move the fridge out and clean under and behind it. I thought about this a lot and finally decided that it was the flatmate's turn and he should do it when he's back, opting instead to go to Oxford Street and buy pants.

But last night I had cause to pop to the microwave and found the source of the problem. On Monday it appears I completely forgot about the tub of noodles I'd cooked - distracted as I was with many other sundry items of food Ben and I were consuming during our Whofest - and had left them in the microwave to gather additional stench.

Two binbags later and the smell is no longer apparent and I can rest easy again, only troubled occasionally with the realisation of just how drunk I must have been to forget food (and happily sit through the Mark of the Rani). I feel like such a fool.

That said, I shall probably get the flatmate to clean under the fridge anyway. He almost certainly deserves it for one reason or another.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Mark of the Rani

Last night the delightful Ben - who in the past has described me rather delightfully as his Doctor Who boyfriend - popped over for some food, wine and the latest in the classic series DVD releases "The Mark of the Rani".

Now, I've got to be honest here. The term "classic" is probably bandied around far too much, and when faced with a story like this I'm tempted to say it should be struck from the dictionary.

There's too much about it that's risible. The dialogue is terrible, the accents impenetrable (not to mention hugely variable) and the landmines that turn people into trees are just the ultimate in "let's throw some peril in because things are dragging, but who cares what it is" naffness.

It kind of sums up everything that's bad about mid-eighties Doctor Who. Gaudy, illogical, random, an old villain for no reason and just a bit lacking in something undefinable really. I'm very fond of Colin Baker's Doctor as a character, but he wasn't terribly well-served by either scripts of production.

And the poor Master suffers terribly. It'd been on its way for a while since he was brought back. Over the last few appearances he'd been reduced from a debonair anarchist to a borderline basket-case pursuing a vendetta against the Doctor which defied all logic. It's just as well Kate O'Mara's Rani is there to produce a much more entertaining adversary: an amoral, sarcastic, scientist who - like many of those watching - views the Master and the Doctor's feud as tedious and unnecessary.

As someone who's not fundamentally evil - just lacking in any care for others - she's much more believable as a bad guy when compared to the Master's moustache-twirling. She also gets the best lines and whilst she has a certain amount of respect for the Doctor (and he her) the Master is just an object of scorn: "You asinine cretin, what do you think I'm trying to do?" and "He'd get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line."

What a bitch. What a star.

So yes, the Rani's one of only two good things about the story really. The other being a young Gary Cady who is very hard to stop watching when he's on screen. Yes he's a bit pretty, but he's also wearing a nice period costume the trousers of which make it very clear that mother nature was very kind indeed.

Very kind.

Frankly we couldn't drag our eyes away from it, I must say. Every time Luke appeared on screen Ben and I stopped, glasses halfway to our lips, simultaneously and hypnotically droning "bloody hell" as we stared in awe.

Mr Cady is also one of the few actors who've appeared in Who over the years who've actually aged rather well. He and Nicola Bryant have definitely weathered well, which to be fair is more than can be said for either the other cast members or the episodes themselves.

Still, as I say, if you want to watch the Doctor battling a gay man, then the Rani is that villain.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Berlin Photos

I have uploaded the least bad photos from our Berlin trip here...

Feel free to comment as you wish.

Do You Suffer from Long-term Memory Loss?

I don't remember.



The finest song ever made about New Labour, and to my mind a much better single than Tubthumping.

Dream Ticket

The Popjustice website, whilst being increasingly erratic when it comes to finding stuff I'll like these days, has pointed me in the direction of this amusing little diversion: Concert Ticket Generator.

Naturally I set about creating my own dream concerts.

One for the electro-freak in me:



And this one would just amuse me no end were it a real ticket:



Ahh. If wishes were horses I'd have my own stable by now.

A Life of Luxury

It has to be said whilst the business trip suffered at the hands of the flight of doom, the perk of the whole situation turned out to be the hotel.

Which was glorious.

I was at the Hotel Des Indes and frankly I was agog from the moment I entered the place.

It's not cheap mind, but since I weren't paying, I didn't care.

Had an amazing massage on Thursday night too in their health club. I almost couldn't see afterwards, and spent the next two hours barely able to do anything other than slump.

Okay, so I ached a bit on Friday as my newly freed-up muscles got used to being loose again, but it was so worth it.

It's also made me even more inclined to take massage therapy up professionally. It's an idea that was only seeded last week, but it's really starting to germinate now.

You Nasty Little Fokker

So for my business trip I ended up flying on Tuesday to Rotterdam from London City Airport on a plane which was amusingly named a "Fokker 50 Turboprop".

I was a little worried by this. I was fairly certain that they built fighter craft and I didn't feel I wanted to spend even a short flight filling in for the rear gunner, but as it turns out I needn't have worried about that.

Instead I should have worried about being in a really small aircraft with tiny propellers (rather than a big fuck-off engine) that tends to bounce vigourously if beset by turbulence.

Even I - one who is not keen on flying whatsoever - have never been terrified all the way through a flight before. I swear I went white.

And to cap all that off to descend they had to point the nose at the earth.

Seriously, I screwed up my eyes and prayed.

And naturally the next few business trips I'm on are in the same bloody aircraft.

I really can't wait.