Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finally! Three points!

Today's soundtrack:  Wailing Souls - Most Wanted: Classic Cuts 1978-1984

Back to football today, in celebration of an increasingly rare event - an Everton home win!  Yes, it was only Burnley, and a Burnley reduced to ten men with half an hour to go at that, but I'll take that at the moment!

At the start of the day, I wondered whether the game would go ahead, if the fog blanketing Cheshire was at all widespread.  I'd have been sat in the Main Stand unable to see the near goal, never mind the Park End.  Happily the fog seemed to lift somewhere under the Mersey, and the ground was clear - if a touch crisp.  Happily the long johns had been called into service and my nether regions were reasonably snug for the duration.

The Bank Holiday brought about a capacity crowd, which was nice to see, although inevitably when the ground is full, the proportion of fuckwits in the crowd increases significantly - those who go to one or two games a year, get their football knowledge from Sky and have an opinion - usually wrong - on everything.  I don't know why they go, if they hate the players, the manager and the style of play so much.  I on the other hand would never shout expletives at the players on the pitch (hem hem).

Admittedly, it wasn't a day for the purist.  Burnley are a well organised spoiling team, and without particularly threatening themselves, were adept at restricting us to a) pretty passing moves that stopped short on the edge of the penalty area or b) long ball humps that came straight back to us.  Stalemate, and a first half that finished goalless, with very few chances.

And a very real chance that the second half would pan out exactly the same way.

Luckily, it didn't.  The game turned on a couple of incidents, just enough for Everton to make the breakthrough they just about deserved.  Firstly, Burnley had a man sent off for a second bookable offence - a silly tug on Steven Pienaar's shirt right in front of the referee.  Initially, Everton failed to capitalise on the extra man, persevering with the Yak up front by himself, supported by Tim Cahill and then Marouane Fellaini.  However as the game move into its final phase, Moyes brought James Vaughan on for Bily, and within a minute or two the lad had scored, a tap-in after the Yak had failed to convert.  Despite Yakubu looking suspiciously offside when the ball went in, the goal stood and - finally! - we had our noses in front.

The points were wrapped up in the final minute, when Pienaar squeezed a neat shot in at the near post following good support work from the Yak.  Three points, a nice climb up the table and a few more players coming back from injury.  Despite some tough games coming up, the future's feeling a bit brighter than it was before the game.

Plus points - the return of Neville and Vaughan, some neat approach play and the continuing improvement of Fellaini in a deeper-lying midfield role.  However we need to find a bit of ruthlessness up front to start converting draws into wins.  In a very tight league, every point will be valuable this year.

Incongruously, I'm typing this in sub-zero temperatures with some hot reggae playing in the background.  The Wailing Souls have been around for decades, but their best period is covered by this album, a dubbed-up collection of 12" mixes from the late seventies and early eighties.

Here's 'War' for your delectation.  Ire Ridim!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

...and relax...

Today's soundtrack:  Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On

I think you all know that the last month or so has been absolutely manic - lots of stress, lots of driving, lots of everything.

Well today that stops - for a time, at least.  Boxing Day.  Christmas out of the way, nowhere to be, nowhere to go.  Time to nest, kick back and chill.  The house needs a scrub, as do the cars, and in a week's time the Staines Run starts again for a couple of weeks - but for now - the world can stop turning for a bit.  You know it makes sense.

Another lovely Christmas yesterday - lie in, Buck's Fizz with the presents, phone calls from the family and all's well in the Waring clan.  In the afternoon, across to our kid's house, for more presents, lots of food and some good family chat.  I'm blessed with a wonderful family, no tension or strife, just people happy and relaxed in each other's company.  Spent most of the day (when I wasn't eating - mushroom and chestnut soup, smoked salmon and crab salad, turkey with all the trimmings, christmas pudding, profiteroles, since you ask) helping my nephew and niece get their new iPod Touches set up on iTunes, downloading games and music.  Nice to be involved and - for once - looking like I knew what I was doing!

So, home to settle down for the evening, to flop in front of a double Prison Break with some vintage port and a plate of cheese and biscuits, before retiring for the night.

And now it's early morning, Mrs W still in bed, cat fed and out playing, just Marvin and me getting it on.  But not in that way, of course.

When you are looking to chill out, who better to soundtrack that than Mister Lover Man himself.  Let's Get It On is quite possibly the raunchiest album made - smooth as silk and sweet as molasses.

Here's the man on Soul Train - Distant Lover.  Relax with Marvin, he'll cure your ills.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

...dressed in what they call "The Mode"...

Today's soundtrack - Depeche Mode - Songs of Faith and Devotion

(Especially for Kevin.)

A bitterly cold Manchester night.  Packed streets, last minute Christmas shopping for the masses, standing room only in the bars and restaurants of the city.

Met up with Kevin at the office, collected Ade and headed off to the Printworks for sustenance.  Hard Rock seemed appropriate, especially with the 'Mode on loop.  The staff obviously knew who tonight's headliners were!

A leisurely meal, waiting for Mark and Jane to arrive.  Then - eventually - off to the MEN.  Slightly nervous about missing the support band - after my unfortunate Joy Division incident I never miss support bands - but on this occasion I went with the flow (and luckily don't think we missed much.  Nitzer Ebb are the support on the next leg of the tour - now that would have upset me!)

Now I have to admit that I've never been the biggest DM fan.  Yep, I like the band, have a few albums, but have never seen them live and wouldn't necessarily turn to them first when putting the music on.  So to be going along with some really big fans was a bit unusual for me - it's normally me who knows all the songs and the trivia.  Not this time!

In our seats (seats!) in plenty of time for the main event, with a good view of the action.  After a build up of some thumping techno, the lights dimmed and on came the band.  Gore and Gahan out front, Fletch stood behind a keyboard, occasionally poking at a key or two, a drummer and a proper keyboardist.

Confidently (and bravely) the band started with three songs off the new album.  I guess you can do that when your fanbase is as loyal and devoted as theirs, but it did seem to get things off to a tentative start with the audience.  But with the fourth song - 'Walking in my Shoes' - things really got going.  One of my favourite DM songs, Gahan in good voice (as he was throughout) and the audience really woke up.

Other highlights - a thumping 'I Feel You', a delicate solo section from Martin Gore, and a rousing climax of ,Never Let Me Down Again', synchronised armwaving and all.  Back for a four song encore, inevitably climaxing with 'Personal Jesus'.

Enjoyed it immensely, even waving my arms around like a loon.  Dave Gahan is a perfect advert for a life of debauchery and substance abuse, Martin Gore is clearly more than a fey synth dilletante and Fletch is quite simply the luckiest man alive.  Kev asked me why they had stayed together so long - why indeed?  I suspect that being mates before they were a band is a large part of it - and also their ability to reinvent themselves, growing up as a band as they did as people, and finally I suspect their ability to release their personal pressures and concerns through their music.

Depeche Mode.  Grown up music for the masses.  Listen without prejudice.

Here's 'I Feel You' - filmed from the crowd on the night in question.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Travellin' Blues

Today's soundtrack:  Hindu Love Gods - Hindu Love Gods

Phew, what a week that was!  So much to talk about, we might have to split this blog over a couple of days.  I might even revert to daily postings over the Christmas break.  Or I might get a life instead - who can tell?

Firstly, the important stuff.

Matt was in hospital for six days in total, they let him out on Wednesday in the end.  After optimistic predictions of a Monday release were dashed (to his great disappointment) things moved on steadily until he was able to make good his escape.  I believe there is a half-dug tunnel behind one of the gent's toilets, if any current inmates are interested...

I got to see him on Sunday, when he was still in some discomfort and the drains from his neck were still draining steadily - and a lack of sleep was making him probably feel even worse than he was anyway.  But by Tuesday, when I got over for my final visit, the 'old' Matt back was again, one of the drains was out and the other was likely to follow imminently.

The body is a marvellous thing - cut it up, take bits out - but give it a couple of days and it steadily makes itself better, re-routing fluids and joining ends of cut flesh back together again.  Let's hope the self-healing process continues - with a bit of a nudge from the radiation in the New Year!

At the time of writing, Matt is back home, Facebooking and chilling.  Half the staples are out with the rest to follow on Monday.

Oh, and everyone who's emailed or otherwise passed on their thoughts, prayers and best wishes for Matt - thank you all, it's much appreciated and good to know that people - even complete strangers in some cases - have such generosity of spirit and goodwill.  You look for positives where you can at times like this, and this is certainly one of the biggest for me.

The stresses of the week were not confined to me - the car has been complaining more and more about the miles I have been subjecting it to, what with the weekly Staines run now augmented with a diversion or three to Bath.  Finally it spat its dummy out big time on the Tuesday night run to Bath and back.  An intermittent misfire now became permanent, preventing me getting above 2000 rpm and more pertinently - above 60 mph on the motorway (50 mph on any sort of uphill slope).  With my plans of nursing the car through the Staines project and getting it sorted in the New Year dashed, I had to get it fixed - and quick, otherwise I wasn't coming home at the weekend!

So - Wednesday morning, and I'm trawling the internet for local Nissan garages.  The nearest was in Shepperton, about 15 minutes drive away (or half an hour, with the car limping along at its current pace).  My plan was to leave Staines the following lunchtime.  What were the chances of getting it booked in, diagnosed and fixed within 36 hours?  Slim to none, I assumed.

But no, thanks to the good people at West London Nissan (free plug, chaps) the car was booked in Thursday morning, checked and fixed by lunchtime and I was checked out of the hotel and on the road by two thirty.  The rapidly arriving snow, coupled with my nervousness that the 'fix' may prove to be temporary, caused me to change my plan to detour across and see Matt so I headed home.  And got back without incident, thankfully.

Stress levels still hovering around the 'about to blow' indicator, I got in to see that in my absence, two parcels had been delivered and left a) with the neighbour and b) behind the bin.  Went out to the bin.  Nothing.  Looked in the bin.  Nothing (well, a load of rubbish, but you know what I mean).  Mrs W arrives home, not to a lovely welcome, but a tirade about the potential loss of half my Christmas shopping.  Bless her, she could obviously see I was on the verge of complete and utter breakdown and resisted the temptation to punch my lights out.  Instead, she knocked on the neighbour's door to find that not only did he have the parcel delivered directly to him, but had also taken in the parcel lurking behind the bin.  Panic over.

Mrs W then - sensibly - went out to another Christmas do, leaving me to slump in front of the telly, with drink and curry, to watch the Everton Under-11s take on the mighty BATE and slump to a creditable (but wholly irrelevant) 1-0 defeat.  It was nice to see the kids getting a runout, hopefully the experience will spur them on to fight for a regular position in the men's team in due course.  Adam Forshaw, Shane Duffy and Jamie Bidwell caught the eye of the new starters, and the old man, Carlo Nash, looked comfortable in goal.  They might not - yet - have the stature of the Arsenal kids, but they did not disgrace themselves either.

Today's soundtrack comes courtesy of the Hindu Love Gods, a one-off 'supergroup' comprising REM without Michael Stipe, but with Warren Zevon.  A drunken session of blues standards and other covers led to the album, which sounds like what it is - a group of mates relaxing (suitably refreshed) and having fun.  No classics, but 'good time' stuff  that brings a tap to the foot and a smile to the face.

Tell you what, you search for 'Hindu Love Gods' on YouTube and you get some funny stuff coming up.  What you don't get is any drunken blues.  So let's try something else!

Click on the DivShare player that should have mysteriously appeared below, and you'll hear the HLG's take on Prince's 'Raspberry Beret', and very fine it is too!

Oh, Kev - I'll get to the Depeche stuff over the weekend - I promise!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feeling Supersonic (Give me Gin and Tonic)

Today's soundtrack:  Oasis (of course)

The Boy won't be pleased about this but I've got to get it out of my system.  Sorry Matt.

Spent all day Friday at the hospital in Bath, waiting.

I'd arrived about half an hour after Matt went down to theatre.  A good thing, because I was having a bit of difficulty holding myself together and the last thing he needed was me fussing and fretting.  A bit of calmness from his Mum, a huge amount of maturity from him, and he was wheeled away, with me well out of it, battling the fog on the M4 and the mist in my eyes.

A nice touch on the way into the hospital, made me smile when I needed it.

"I'm looking for my son, he's having an operation today."
"Well, I can direct you to the childrens' ward sir?"
"Err, no, actually he's twenty."
"No, you don't look old enough sir..."

Well you get your positives where you can on a day like this, don't you?

I tracked down the day surgery and announced my presence to the girl on the front desk, and settled down to wait.  Could be 5-6 hours, they'd said.  Nothing was going to happen for at least that time, but where else was I going to be?  100 miles away in Staines?  200 miles away up north?

So I waited.  Drank coffee and ate doughnuts.
And waited.  Read my book.
And waited.

Matt's mum returned around four, and we sat and waited together.  Eventually some news began to filter through.

"First part of the operation finished, about two hours into the second part."
"Getting close, about 45 minutes to go.  All seems to have gone ok."

Then, finally, after eight hours of surgery, the news we'd been waiting and praying for.

"All finished, all fine, Matt's going into recovery now.  You'll be able to see him in an hour or so."

The second surgeon came to talk to us.  Yes, it took longer than anticipated, but no complications.  Just took a while to feel their way through the Waring Fat Neck and cut out all the Bad Things.  And all the indications are that they've got everything they need to get out - a big lump had to be removed, some other bits and pieces - but they managed to save some of the thyroid itself and it seems all major arteries, veins and nerves escaped untouched.

If there is any Bad Stuff left, the radiotherapy should sort all that out in a few weeks' time.

So finally, we got to see him.  He's going to have a cracking scar - no-one's going to mess with him round the pubs of Huddersfield, that's for sure!  Currently stapled together pretty much from ear to ear, tubes coming from orifices old and new, but - oh thank God - awake, breathing and talking.  With a raging thirst, of course.  Oh, and sadly lacking his collection of festival wristbands - they had to come off before the operation as well!

Spent about an hour and a half with him, then left him to sleep.  Lost it a bit again on the way out, but - finally! - pulled myself together before the long drive home.

Thank God Matt had the presence of mind to realise this was something he had to see the doctor about - and that they were quick to respond and get him in as soon as possible.  Thank God for the skill of the surgeons and the care on the ward.

Matt's still got a few hurdles to get over - not least the radiotherapy in the New Year - but this was the worst bit.  Let's hope the New Year brings good things - not the remorseless knocks and battles that 2009 subjected us all to.

You gotta walk, don't look back.

So today's soundtrack.  Nothing random today - for Matt, it has to be Oasis really.  But which song?  Well there can only be one.  A song of optimism, joy and defiance.

Maybe I just want to fly
I want to live I don't want to die
Maybe I just want to breathe
Maybe I just don't believe
Maybe you're the same as me
We see things they'll never see
You and I are gonna live forever

Take care, Matt.  Thinking of you always.  Gentle shoulder charge - Love you mate.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

As always, the Daily Mash is spot on...

RAFAEL Benitez last night said Liverpool have turned their 16th corner of the season and that this time everything was going to be grand.

The Champions League has introduced Benitez to some of Europe's most beautiful corners
As Liverpool went down to a final Champions League defeat by Fiorentina, Benitez said he was pleased with Alberto Aquilani's full debut and his ability to fit in to the team's style of play by running around looking confused and angry while achieving absolutely nothing.

The manager insisted: "We always start slowly in this competition, so being knocked out of it will really give us the motivation we need to go on and win it.

"We have turned many corners this season - some of the corners have led to more corners, while some of the corners have had little shops on them selling failure sandwiches.

"This latest corner seems to have led us into a dark alley that is filled with unstoppable zombies and their werewolf pals."

He added: "But I believe we have the quality to turn any corner that is thrown our way by the football-corner-throwing gods. Corners. Corrrrnerrrs. Thank you and good corners.”

Assistant manager Sammy Lee clarified Benitez's post-match comments, adding: "He has his lucid days and the kind of days where he buys Dossena. We're trying to work out a combination of medication that will stop him from mistaking Voronin for a footballer.

"In the meantime we just humour him by setting some training cones out on the pitch and telling him it's all the trophies he's won. It seems to calm him."

Club captain Steven Gerrard said: "The gaffer pointed out that if you turn a corner 16 times, you'll be facing the way you're meant to in the first place. To be honest, I just switch off these days and brush up on my Spanish. No, no reason."

Link here:  http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/sport/sport-headlines/liverpool-turn-corner-into-terrifying-alley-full-of-zombies-200912102300/

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Black Tie, White Noise

Today's soundtrack: The Who - Odds and Sods

Another early return home for the itinerant accountant this week, as Friday night was the big gala night out for the sales and marketing team from Mrs W's employers - a night out for which she'd somehow wangled an invite!

So - for the first time in a looong time - it was on with the monkey suit, the cufflinks and the dicky bow.  That's me, not Mrs W, by the way.  She had her new party frock on - it was red and long, fashion fans, with a pleaty bit on the front.  And very nice she looked, too.  By contrast, I could probably have done without sporting the extra chin which was rather obvious on the official photo...

I have to say that, despite these uncertain times, Mr W's company know how to put on a party.  Minor quibbles - the 'Liverpool Theme' involved all the table numbers being marked by a RED football shirt and the prominent Liverpudlians used to name the individual tables included only one with an Everton connection - and who now plys his trade in the Manchester area.

But we're not bitter.

Everything else was absolutely perfect - from the hamper and flowers in the room, the free drinks, carols, and the 'turns', to the full English breakfast the following morning.  The hangover was remarkably light, as well - all things considered...

Because we're not as young as we used to be, the rest of the weekend became an exercise in studied laziness, although there is the small matter of a football match to get myself along to this afternoon.  Not a good time to be playing Spurs, I fear.  But we'll see.

Short week in Staines was leavened by a final visit from Simon, his last week before his return to the daily grind - good luck for Monday, young man!  Not that you need it, of course.  We did the Jimmy Spice buffet thing again, which is highly recommended if you fancy a Chinese meal.  Followed immediately by an Indian meal.  With all the trimmings.


Watched 'The Damned United' this week in the hotel.  Bit of a strange one, really.  I enjoyed it while I was watching it, but at the end felt strangely dissatisfied.  I think it's a combination of things.  As a portrayal of the football world of the late '60s and early '70s, it is superb.  The impersonation of Brian Clough is, on occasion, spot on although occasionally veers off into camper territory than I remember from Cloughie.  But it's all a bit 'Mike Yarwood' on occasion as well.

I think I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd not read the book first.  The book is a masterful portrayal of what *might* have been going on in Cloughie's head during those few days as manager of Leeds, pulls no punches when it comes to his developing alcoholism and is just a far more rounded portrayal of a very, very complex man than the film allows.  The story is about much, much more than Clough's enduring bitterness following a perceived snub from Don Revie back in the '60s when manager of Derby.  It is, however, better on the relationship between Clough and Peter Taylor, the ultimate breakdown of which is the real tragedy of Clough's life.

So.  See the film, then read the book.  Not the usual order, I grant you, but trust me on this one.

Today's 'white noise' comes from The Who - not one of their established albums, but 'Odds and Sods', a collection of - yes - odds and sods from their career, including their first single, 'I'm the Face', from their days as The High Numbers.

As always with these things, it's a bit hit and miss, but there are a few gems lurking amongst the, quite frankly, lightweight early b sides and covers.  Gems like this one - Water - which was only ever a 'b' side (to 5:15, I think) but was a feature of their live shows for many years.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What would you tell your sixteen year old self?

Double post today but I thought you should all see this thread on the Word website, which is funny, moving and (for our younger readers) hugely instructional as well!

My response is somewhere about halfway down...

Just for the love of drilling!

Today's soundtrack:  Neil Young - Decade

A shorter week in Staines this week, I had a meeting arranged in Liverpool for Friday so had the pleasure of a relatively easy trip up the motorways on Thursday afternoon.  That said, still a few quiet nights to fill in the comfort of my Stainesian pied a terre.  I'm now a regular, of course, and the longer I've stayed in this hotel, the better the rooms have been.  This week, I was given a ground floor room, which I had some doubts about - until I saw the four poster bed!

A far cry from the first room they gave me, with the bathroom door that wouldn't shut properly and the noisy water pump that kept me awake half the night...

Still spurning the horrors of being the sad lonely bastard in the corner of the restaurant, my evening routine continues - nibbly bits to eat with cutlery purloined from the office, a smuggled drinkie or two and a DVD on the lappy.  I decided a bit of humour was in order this week so took the Eddie Izzard box down south with me.

Oh, I love that man.  Surreal, tangential, observational but above all funny.  And funny in an uncontrollably giggling, tearful kind of way.  Not nasty or shocking - just funny.  He also stands repeat viewing as well - the routines about cats and dogs, and the Death Star Canteen - I can watch them time and time again and laugh as much as the first time I saw them.

Eddie Izzard - definitely my favourite comedian.  And Son No 1 is off to see him in a week or so - lucky so-and-so!

Here's the Cats and Dogs routine - drilling just for the love of drilling!

Back home, after the obligatory dodgy Friday night film, I put BBC4 on, where it was 'Johnny Cash Night'.  I was only going to watch for a while but ended up there for hours.  It wasn't just the footage of Cash, excellent though that was (Jools Holland appearances around the time of the early American Recordings, the 'Hurt' video) but the extracts from his US TV show, when the cream of '60s and '70s rock guested on his show.  Successions of great performances, duets with Dylan and with Joni, Derek and the Dominos, Stevie Wonder and a brilliant performance of 'Ring of Fire' by Ray Charles, converting the original's rockabilly twang into something deep and slinky, straight out of Soulsville.

Hit it, Ray!

Another guest on the show was today's cover star, Neil Young, performing 'The Needle and the Damage Done' - his lament for the loss of Danny Whitten to the heroin addiction that eventually killed him.  A hugely powerful song that doesn't preach, but says more in just over two minutes than any 'Just Say No' campaign ever could.  Just as powerful on a cold, blustery Glastonbury evening earlier this year as it was back in the day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just when you think 2009 can't get any worse...

Today's soundtrack:  Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis

...it does.*

Roll on 2010 - the sooner the better.

But since "a double dose of positive mental attitude" is the prescription, I'm not going to dwell on that topic, I'm going to stick to writing about the good, the positive.

Like Everton.

Oh wait...

Another trip to Old Trafford, another defeat.  You could argue that United's first goal was a once-a-season special, that the third was a lucky deflection and that the scoreline didn't reflect the play, but that would be to ignore the fact that, once again, Everton went to one of the Big Four with a game plan that put avoiding defeat ahead of anything else - a game plan that rapidly unravelled the minute Fletcher scored that goal.  It was only in the second half, when Moyes was forced to play 4-4-2, that we looked in any way threatening.

Again, roll on 2010.

A double dose of Memphis this week, with Dusty on the soundtrack (about which, more later) and with part of my hotel-based entertainment this week involving 'The Road to Memphis', one of the seven films making up 'The Blues', the Martin Scorsese-produced series about the real American folk music.  The Road To Memphis focuses on a number of performers coming together for a major performance in Memphis - long-established performers like BB King and Ike Turner, but also Bobby Rush, scratching out a living on the chitlin circuit, and the wonderful Rosco Gordon, who gave up the blues for twenty-odd years to work in a dry cleaners in Queens, and who sadly died just six weeks after his joy-filled performance on stage in Memphis with some of the greats.

How 'Blues' is that?

Here's A Little Bit of Magic from Rosco.

Memphis just might be my favourite American city.  We spent a few days there a couple of years ago, courtesy of our good friend Elaine, and did the tour.

Graceland - which is as gloriously tacky as you'd expect, but also deeply moving as well.  I did have a barely controllable urge to sing a 'ragga' Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis's grave ("Too much fackin' perspective!") but managed to resist the temptation.  I'd have probably had my lights punched out by Elaine if I'd been in any way disrespectful!

Sun Records - the place just oozes history.  The tiny studio, looking just as it must have fifty years ago, and still in use.

The Stax museum on McLemore Avenue - sadly the original Stax building was knocked down years ago, but has been lovingly rebuilt as a shrine to the home of Southern Soul.

The Peabody Hotel, Rendezvous Ribs (yummy!), the Lorraine Motel, Schwab's department store, the Gibson guitar factory - all there and all fascinating.

And Beale Street - yes, it's a tourist location now, and all the old bluesmen in the film bemoaned the loss of the 'old' Beale Street - but it's still the best night out around.  Bands playing for change in the street and on the square - bands who would knock the socks off some of the biggest names around.  Playing for the joy of playing and for the love of the Blues.

And yes - Dusty recorded in Memphis - the incongruous blend of Soulsville and this slightly prim English rose managing to produce one of the best albums of the sixties.  Great songs, great musicians and a great soulful singer with a real feel for the music.  Apparently she was almost rendered incapable by nerves, and recorded most of her vocals one line at a time - but the end product was seamless.

*if you want to know what I'm talking about - have a read of this.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One Summer, this winter

Today's soundtrack:  Beck, Bogert & Appice

Another week in Staines, with the routine pretty firmly established now.  Early start on a Monday, lunchtime dart on a Friday, a night out with Simon and a DVD series in the evenings.

This week I watched One Summer, a drama I last watched when it was broadcast back in the mid-eighties.  For a host of reasons, the series didn't find its way onto DVD for many years - but did eventually come out a couple of years ago.

Essentially the story of two Liverpool scallies - Billy and Icky - who leave the city to start a new life in Wales, near the site of a school trip Billy had enjoyed some years earlier.  The boys hook up with Kidder, an ex-schoolteacher who lives in a semi-derelict cottage.  The story is essentially about the relationship between the two boys, and between the boys and Kidder.  Unfortunately there are no happy endings although one of the boys, at least, comes out of the story a stronger, more mature person.

The series was as affecting and moving as I remember it being all those years ago, although there were many details I'd forgotten - or failed to pick up on at the time.  If you chance upon a copy of the DVD - going for a song on Amazon - then it's definitely worth a few hours of your time.

You can find out more about the series here, if you're interested.

Back even further for today's soundtrack, to 1973, when the peripatetic Jeff Beck hooked up with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice in the shortlived supergroup, the imaginatively-named Beck, Bogert & Appice.  The album's ok, but not really a stone classic, despite the pedigree of the participants.  Sometimes the whole does not equal the sum of the parts, unfortunately!

Here's some grainy footage of the boys playing Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' - not as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan, and certainly not as well as Steveland himself.  But it still has a smidgen of charm, and demonstrates exactly where Nigel Tufnel got his haircut from!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

"So don't you like football then?"

Today's soundtrack:  Rockpile - A Mess of Blues Live 1977

My, but they're a strange lot, darn sarf.

Spent all week in Staines, getting my feet well and truly under the table.  I've been there long enough now to start getting to know people, and to enjoy a bit of old chat (as I believe they say down there.)

A bit of old chat with people like Jacqui, for instance.  Our conversation went something like this:

J:  Where you from then?
P:  Oh, up north, about halfway between Manchester and Liverpool.
J:  So who d'you support then?  ManYoo?
P:  God, No!
J:  Liverpool?
P:  What?  You must be joking!
J:  So don't you like football then?

Wrong, Jacqui, but at the same time, so very, very right as well.  Especially after Thursday night, when the unwinning sequence continued against Benfica.  Luckily, Simon was over again, so I was able to forget about the match as we put the world to rights over yet another Roshni's curry.  0-0 at half time was respectable, 0-2 at full time...not so much.

Still, we should still qualify for the knockout stages, when no doubt we will be humiliated by a half decent team of European veterans at the first time of asking.

At least we are not Liverpool, though.

I ventured out of Staines this week to visit the new shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, Westfield.

What a bloody silly place to put a shopping centre!  Probably not a good idea to drive there, though.

Still, once there, I had a good old meander, sorted out Mrs W's birthday stuff and copped a bite to eat - a very acceptable burrito from one of the varied concessions, since you ask.  It's quite an impressive place, if you like that sort of thing, but ultimately not as varied or comprehensive as I thought it would be.  Give me the Trafford Centre any day.

Another top tip for the weekend - if you buy the new version of Football Manager with the intention of whiling away the long, lonely hotel nights with a bit of computer-based escapism - then be sure not to take an empty box away with you.  Take the disc as well.

So I whiled away the long, lonely hotel nights with another DVD box set - this time going back in time to watch The Singing Detective, which was every bit as good as I remembered it - especially Joanne Whalley's eyes.  Oh yes.

Watching it again, would something like The Singing Detective ever get commissioned nowadays?  Imagine the pitch:

"It's about this writer, who is in hospital with a nasty skin disease.  While in hospital, he daydreams about a detective story, in which he also plays the main character - and sings as well.  "The Singing Detective", see?  He also has a series of flashbacks to a Vale of Dean-based childhood where everyone speaks in an impenetrable burr.  Oh, and at random points in the series, the actors will launch into improbable song and dance routines to break up the action a bit."

I don't think so, Mr Potter.
"Oh, and there's a bit of tit in it for the dads.  And Joanne Whalley is going to play a young nurse with big brown eyes."

Where do I sign up?


All with a bit of Rockpile in the background.  A Mess of Blues is - I think - a bootleg of a BBC radio performance from back in the '70s.  The cover says 1977, but I suspect that's a bit early.  Anyway, a decent performance it is, a young(ish) Nick Lowe performing with Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner (not that one) and Terry Williams.  Lots of stuff from Nick's first album, some decent covers and the glorious 'I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll).  Basic, no-nonsense pub rock, and there's nowt wrong with that at all.

Here are the boys, looking incredibly fresh faced, with the aforementioned bride.  Rock on!

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Today's soundtrack: Scientist v. Prince Jammy - Big Showdown at King Tubby's

Ah well.

Preston was not to be, then.  After a very strange interview that focused heavily on a role I had twelve years ago, I came out of the company's offices knowing full well that it wasn't going to happen.  Sadly it seems that, although the first two guys who interviewed me had thought I was perfect for the role, their understanding of what the role required was completely different to that of the Chief Exec!

So the company is back to the drawing board and, it would seem, so am I.  But not quite - the response down in Staines to the outcome was firstly sympathy...but quickly followed by a pleased 'so we can keep hold of you for a bit longer, then!'

Indeed they can.  Yes, the journey is a nightmare, and staying away from home for most of the week is a drag, the work is good and the people I'm working with are friendly and helpful.  Oh, and the money's alright, too!

Although not normally the shy and retiring type, I'm having a real problem motivating myself to go out and eat in public of an evening, so it was nice to spend one evening last week out with Simon, who lives not a million miles away from Staines.  After a couple of pints in the Slug & Lettuce, we agreed a curry was in order and wandered over to Roshni's, just next to the bridge over the Thames.  Roshni's had been recommended to me by one of the directors' secretaries, so we thought we'd give it a go.  'Fine Indian Cuisine', it said on the door - no back street curry house this!

Oh, it was fab.  I started with some Murg Kathi rolls - a new one on me, chicken tandoori wrapped in a very thin chapati-type wrap, with a delicate sauce on the side...quite possibly the nicest starter I've ever had in an Indian restaurant.  followed by Gosht Xacutii - Lamb cooked with coconut and masala spices.  Accompanied of course by a selection of rices, breads and veggy dishes as well.  Far too much, even for two stout lads like us.

We'll go there again, I feel!

The rest of the week, I was happy to pick up some stuff from the supermarket and graze in my hotel room (a much better room this week) watching DVDs on the laptop.  This week, it was Tutti Frutti, the '80s series with Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson about The Majestics, failed Scottish Rock 'n' Roll band on their silver jubilee tour.  I really enjoyed this series years ago when it was first on the box, and was pleased to see it  finally released on DVD a while ago.  Watching it now, whilst the '80s fashions have dated horrendously, the show is still really enjoyable with great supporting characters.  The series is completely stolen by Richard Wilson as dodgy manager Eddie Clocherty - the interaction with 'Miss Toner', his 'assistant' is an absolute joy.

Back home then, to a joyous welcome from cat and wife, to a Chinese takeaway and to a dozy evening that ended up with me falling asleep in the chair until three in the morning.  Takes it out of you, this working malarkey!

Off to Goodison to watch the injury-depleted Blues battle with the Villa on Saturday.  I wasn't expecting a great deal, but first half at least, we began to play like we can, missing players notwithstanding, and took a well-deserved lead just on the stroke of half time.  But of course, this is Everton, so we came out for the second half completely flat and had conceded within a minute of the restart.  I don't know what Moyes says to the team at half time, but the number of times we get caught sleeping within minutes of the restart is deeply worrying.

After the equaliser, things went flat for a while, sparking into life with a couple of sendings off near the end of the game, for the scorer (Bilyaletdinov) and one of theirs for a bad tackle on the Yak, who was looking to be close to back to form.  Indeed, overall the team seem to be getting things back together with some decent performances and although it was disappointing not to win, there were some signs that things might be turning around.

Just in time for Benfica on Thursday, a game I'll sadly miss being stuck down in Staines.

An obscure bit of dub on the soundtrack today, from a couple of King Tubby proteges.  Scientist and Prince Jammy share the album with five tracks each, the ten tracks being labelled 'Round 1' through to 'Round 10'.  Who wins?  It doesn't matter when the dub is as heavy as this.

Great cover art too!

Here's Round 5 - is there anything that isn't lurking somewhere on YouTube?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Welcome to the Working Week!

Today's soundtrack:  Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Rattlesnakes

Look, no daily count in the title today!  Now I'm working again, there's nothing to count from!  I might have to resurrect the count in due course, but for now, we're back to zero.

Yes - the working week.  God, it's hard, isn't it?  Although it did get easier as the week went on, I have to admit it's been a bit of a shock to the system.

But there is an element of riding a bike to it - there's nothing in the actual work itself that I'm thinking - how do you do this, I can't remember.  It's still all there, and the synapses are all flashing like buggery.  Assuming that's what synapses do.

But I'm still knackered.

I gave myself an early start on Tuesday, out of the house around half five, to try and avoid all the likely traffic build-up points before any traffic actually got there.  And that worked fine, getting me down to Staines before nine.  A bit too early for the company, actually.  Eventually though, I was through reception, and meeting up with all my new (temporary) colleagues.  The company currently employs a lot of temps, so getting me set up was a breeze - passes for the doors, computer logins, email addresses - all pretty much ready and waiting for me when I got there.

So I've spent the week talking to people, shadowing them while they work, understanding and documenting processes - and already coming to one or two conclusions where things might be improved.  There's a long way to go though - plenty of areas to cover!

Staines itself is - to my surprise - quite a pleasant little town.  David Byrne once described Memphis as "...home of Elvis, and the ancient Greeks".  If he had been writing about Staines, he might have said, "...home of Hard-Fi, and of Ali G".  Which would suggest that Staines was a warren of concrete underpasses, security cameras, populated by blinged-up wannabe gangstas with their kecks clinging precariously to their upper thighs.

Well not in the bits I've seen.  The Thames flows through the town, swans and rowers skim the surface, there's a market day on Wednesday and there's a Waitrose quite handy.  My hotel is a quaint old building just on the other side of the river to the offices, a short walk away.  Not the best hotel I've ever stayed in, but clean, comfortable and handy.  I've had no problem sleeping, anyway.  Here's the view from the office window - check those mean streets!

One thing I can never get used to is the 'stuck in the hotel, alone' syndrome.  Went out for a meal with the FD one evening, but for the other two nights I was left to my own devices.  Rather than sit alone in a restaurant, I chose to get some chuck in from the supermarket and squirrel myself away in my room.  Plenty of entertainment though - I took the 'Red Riding' trilogy of DVDs down with me to watch on my laptop - one film per night.

I blogged a while ago about reading the books - and I'm glad I read the books before watching the films.  The screenwriter and the various directors have done a really good job of extracting the meat of the story from the  books, without compromising too much in any particular area.  In fact, the films clarified a few areas in the books that I'd struggled with (I think - there's some conflation of characters that might have misled me a little bit) and - possibly the biggest compliment I can pay to the films - they've made me want to go back and re-read the books, in the expectation I will get even more out of them second time around.

So home for the weekend, and also Monday next week - when I have my second interview for the permanent job in Preston I've mentioned before.  Down to the last two - one final push, and I might be sorted before Christmas.  God, I hope so.

And all this to the jangly, literate sound of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.  An ideal soundtrack, actually, to the past week's bedsit life.  Back in the '80s, Lloyd soundtracked the existence of many sensitive singletons in his black rollneck sweater and Gitane-cracked voice, singing about simple metaphors, Eve-Marie Saint, girls with  "...cheekbones like geometry, eyes like sin, ...sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan.." and driving round in daddy's 'deux chevaux'.  Obviously I wasn't sensitive, or a singleton (for long, anyway) at the time, but Lloyd still soundtracked part of my life, and Rattlesnakes is still one of my favourite albums.

This is great - Perfect Skin, source of the great line quoted above.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 218: Signing Off...?

Today's soundtrack:  Various Artists - True Romance Soundtrack

Right, it's Monday morning, and tomorrow I start work!

On a contract basis, so come the end of November I might be right back where I started, but for the next few weeks I shall be spending my weeks in Staines, just outside London, doing an internal control review for a business linked with my ex-employer, who kindly referred the contract on to me.

All the planning is done, terms of reference have been prepared and reviewed - now it's just a case of getting down there and rolling my sleeves up.  Not without a certain amount of trepidation - it's been the best part of seven months since I picked up a calculator in anger - can I still do it?

Course I bloody can.

Spent Sunday frantically trying to finish off my chores - and finally got the bathroom finished, tiles grouted and cleaned.  A few scratches on the glass tiles I'm not too happy about, but otherwise a pretty decent job.  Then I watched a bit of the Blackburn-Burnley game, read the paper and watched the Grand Prix.  Nice to see Button finally sewing up the Championship - he gave up trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with a super drive from the back of the grids into the points - and ahead of Rubens Barrichello, giving him the margin of victory he needed to make the final race in Abu Dhabi academic.

We also finished the final series of The Shield as well, which I wholeheartedly recommend to you.  As good as The Wire and The Sopranos?  Probably not, but not embarrassed in their company either.  The series cleverly has you rooting for the bad guys and is really well scripted and acted.  Not sure what we watch now though...

Today's soundtrack is from the film True Romance, probably Mrs W's favourite film, and certainly one of mine.  Written (but not directed ) by Quentin Tarantino, the dialogue is sharp, the acting superb, with some nice little cameos, and the storyline as touching as it is violent.  Go and rent it, now.

The music included on the soundtrack is a combination of 'film' music, with an eclectic selection of tasty tunes from the likes of John Waite, Shelby Lynne and Soundgarden(!)  The highlight for me though is Hans Zimmer's theme tune, instantly memorable, played I believe on a vibraphone(?)

So, one and all, I suspect that might be the end of the daily blogs - at least for the time being - but keep checking back for at least weekly postings.

Take care - all of you.  I love you all.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Day 217: And the day started so well...

Today's soundtrack:  The Beatles - Mono Masters, Volume 2

"Previously, on 'Stuck Between Stations'..."

You recall yesterday's season ticket related trauma?
  • the discovery of the loss.
  • the frantic search of house and car.
  • the phone calls - to shops, club and police.
  • the 'crime number'
This morning then, it was up and out early to the club, clutching crime number and last year's season ticket,to try and make everything right.

Now I love Everton with a passion, but the only certainty with the club is that they will let you down.  Time and time again.  They don't mean to, they don't actively try to, but they do.

Except today, they didn't!  (Well they did - later on - but more about that anon.)

Parked up at the ground, queued up at the ticket window and eventually got to the counter.  To be told I was in the wrong queue and needed to go to another window under the main stand.  Which I did.  I told my tale of woe to the young lady there, who took my previous season ticket and crime number away into the back office.

And - wonder of wonders!  She was back in a couple of minutes with a new season ticket!  She did relieve me of a ten quid 'admin/handling charge', but I could live with that quite happily.

So, after all yesterday's trauma, getting the replacement card took all of five minutes.  Well done Everton - efficient and effective service!

Now, would the card actually let me into the ground this afternoon...

Well it did, but to be honest I wished it hadn't.  The team huffed and puffed against an effective Wolves team, missed a succession of straightforward chances before Joe Yobo gifted a goal to the visitors with fifteen minutes left.  Only an 88th minute equaliser spared the team's blushes.

Luckily, I'd not engaged in any pre-match banter with Kevin (other than a quick 'Come on you blues' text) so I didn't get too much egg on my face.

Unlike the young Liverpool fan who, no doubt invoking the spirit of 'Dr Fun', thought it would be a good wheeze to chuck a Liverpool beach ball onto the pitch at Sunderland.  A beach ball that deflected a shot from Darren Bent into the net, with Pepe Reina making a despairing dive in the direction of the beach ball instead.

Oh, how we laughed.

Apt that in a blog that is focusing heavily on events in and around Liverpool, today's soundtrack is provided by a bunch of cheeky young Scousers who could go far.  The 'Mono Masters' can be found in one of the recently released remastered box sets of Beatles stuff, and Volume 2 collects up all the latter period mono releases not included on any of the regular albums - essentially a few singles releases and some stuff from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

There's been a lot of debate about the relative merits of the new remasters, in either mono or stereo, when compared to the original releases, but given my exposure to the remasters is through some relatively lossy mp3 downloads, I'm not really qualified to comment.  At the end of the day, it's still The Beatles, isn't it?

Here's one of their throwaway b-sides.  Never found a place on any of their albums, was never an a-side...and is quite possibly one of the best songs ever recorded by anyone.  Oasis - and Liam in particular - learned everything they needed from this one song.  All together now:  "When the sun sheeeines...."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 216: Shitshitshitshitshit....

Today's soundtrack:  Kasabian - Empire

And the day had started so well too.  A quick trip out to Marks and Sparks to stock up with goodies for the weekend - including some cheeky bottles of wine and three walnut whips that just fell into my basket - plus the purchase of some more grout to finish off the bathroom when....disaster!

I looked in my wallet at the space where my Everton season ticket should be and...nothing!  It wasn't there!

Cue panic.

I got home, searched the car to no avail, and then went through the house from top to bottom, searching through coat/jacket pockets...


I couldn't remember where or when I'd last seen it - other than two weeks ago, at the last home game.  It had obviously fallen out of my wallet at some stage since then, probably when I'd been buying something.

So on the phone, mentally retracing my steps to every store I'd used my wallet in over the past couple of weeks.  B&Q.  Marks & Sparks.  Sainsbury's.  Tesco.  Blockbuster.  To be fair, everyone I spoke to was very helpful, and made the effort to check to see if anything had been handed in, but they all drew a blank.

Last thing I wanted to do was report the card missing - I had vague recollections of the small print that came with the card advising you to insure the card against loss or theft - because they were not replaceable.  I didn't want to have to go through that palaver - not least because the period when I could have lost the card straddled two insurance periods - the insurance renewal came up in the middle.  Unable to say with any certainty when the card had gone missing, I had visions of a stand-off between two companies, both denying responsibility.  But there was nothing else for it, I had to call the club.  By now, it is fast approaching the end of the working day, and I've got a match to go to tomorrow.  Can I get this sorted in time?

Completely thrown by the girl's response from the club.  "You need to report it to the Police, and get a crime number", she said.  "Without that number, we can't replace your card."

"But there's been no crime", I say.  "I just lost it".

"Sorry, we need that number".

OK then - so I called the Police.  To tell them I'd lost my season ticket.  "But no crime has been committed, Mr Waring.  Why are you telling us this?"

"Because the club told me to".

Ok then.  Card reported as lost.  And here's your number.  Which had the rather tell-tale letters 'L', 'O', 'S' and 'T' as a prefix.

So off to the club tomorrow first thing to give them this number, and see what transpires.

To be continued....

Kasabian's 'Empire' is the soundtrack to all this.  Despite being one of many 'K' bands that seemed to come from nowhere in the mid-2000s, Kasabian are a cut above your average landfill indie band.  Fixtures at Glastonbury, I always seem to be somewhere else when they are on - but they are by all accounts a great live band, particularly in the festival environment.

Here they are at Glastonbury in the 2007 rain, Shooting the Runner...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 215: Out on the Tiles

Today's soundtrack:  Various Artists - The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 5: 1965

With the impending resumption of the working week - suddenly the pressure's on to finish all the half-arsed (and half-completed) jobs that are kicking around - including the bathroom tiling, which those of you with long memories will recall I started way back on Day 179.  Over a month later, I finally got round to putting back the tiles I'd taken off - hopefully sag-free - along with the mirror tiles to replace those I smashed in the removal process.

Two key problems to deal with (well, three, if you include my general cack-handedness when it comes to Bob The Builder stuff like this).

Firstly, the reason the tiling was needed at all was to rectify a few rows of tile that had been forced into a space that was too small to accommodate them - hence the bowing of the tiles on the wall.  So if the tiles were actually to fit the same gap this time, I either had to trim the tiles or - hopefully - compromise on spacing to squeeze the buggers in.

Secondly, the mirror tiles were not made to the same dimensions as the tiles they were replacing, necessitating a gap around them that had to be filled somehow.  I am hoping the gap is groutable, as it is really too narrow to successfully cut tiles down to size.  The gap also means I need about four tiles to defy gravity during the setting period, lest they slide down the wall into the gap above the mirrors.

So today, it was all about sticking the tiles to the wall and getting them to stay there, keeping flat to the wall rather than bowing.  And - I think - I just about achieved that.  Tomorrow is about grouting and cleaning, when the job - should - be a good 'un.

Before and during pictures up there - there will - eventually - be an 'after' picture as well!

Quiet on the job front today following the frenetic bursts of activity earlier in the week - just formal confirmation from the insurance company of the terms around temporary work - essentially I can do 90 day's worth without my claim being affected.  Just need to sort the Job Centre out now, and I think we are good to go!

The rest of the day was spent making sure I had sufficient kit together for my Staines trip, and doing a bit of prep around the issues involved.  After a bit of consultation with former colleagues, that angle was satisfactorily covered, and I also seem to have commitment to a lunch from the good man who provided the introduction in the first place!  Coupled with plans for dinner with Simon when I'm down in Staines, and my social life won't completely grind to a halt while I'm out of the North!

Double Bubble on the Masterchef front, with the final semi-final and the 'eliminator' for the final.  Puzzlingly, the preview on the internet suggested there would be five contestants in the eliminator - how would that work, after four semi-finals?  All became clear, when the two final semifinalists could not be separated by the judges - so they put them both through!

And they were good, Steve and Daniel.  So good, that both made it through to the final, along with Simpering Sally (Marianne, actually).  So it was goodbye to hot favourite Ryan, and to Matt, who'd seen off other hot favourite Ludovic.

Smart money must be on Steve - but I wouldn't write off Marianne just yet...

Motown produced some of the greatest music in the '60s, and 1965 was probably when the best of the best was released, pretty well everyone being on the top of their game.  The 'Complete Singles' series is exactly what it says on the tin - a series of box sets, containing every single 'A' side and 'B' side released in a particular calendar year.  Amongst others, 1965 gave us:

Ask The Lonely
Nowhere To Run
Stop! In the Name of Love
Tracks of my Tears
Uptight (Everything's Alright)


It also gave us  'Do The Boomerang' and 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Me' - but overall, the level of quality control is exemplary.

Here's Martha and the Vandellas from 1965 with Nowhere to Run - Forget the Supremes, these girls were the best Motown girl group by a distance!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 214: You put the first disc in, take the first disc out...

Today's soundtrack:  Porcupine Tree - Coma Divine

...in, out, in, out....and continue for the next 70 discs.  All day.

That was today's job, folks, and very, very dull it was too.

Captain Paranoia had struck and I decided to do a full, permanent backup of my iTunes library.  In the past, I've backed up from one external hard drive (where my 'original' music and stuff is held) onto another external hard drive - but the backup drive is now too small to hold all my music and films, as well as my photos and other documents - so whilst the plan is to get another, bigger, hard drive for music backups, I thought I'd also copy to DVDs so I have a permanent and largely unbreakable backup.  So that's what I did.

Unfortunately I have got a BIG iTunes library and, whilst the process is all automated from within iTunes, you still need to feed it with blank DVDs on request.  Which I did - 71 DVDs, at approximately six minute intervals.  As the Yanks say, do the math.

And yes, 71 DVDs is a lot of gigs.  As in gigabytes, not concerts, although there's plenty of them as well!

Whilst all this was going on, I was pushing for some answers on the job front - and largely getting them, I have to say.

Firstly I took a call re the permanent role in Preston - still the preferred candidate, but one more person for them to consider in this round.  But all being well, I'll be called for second (final?) interview next week.  But either way, the timings of the permanent role will not have an impact on the contract work in Staines.

So - secondly - let's ensure the Staines work would not cock up the mortgage insurance.  No response to yesterday's email, so on to the insurers by phone (following a bit of nagging from Mrs W!)  And, again, good news!  Obviously they won't pay me while I'm working, but when I stop, the benefit kicks in again seamlessly and - even better - the payment period is extended to add back the period spent working and not claiming!  Result!

Finally, in touch with Staines to confirm that its all systems go for next week - starting work on Tuesday!  There might be some tweaking of Terms of Reference, but the meat of the review - and the cost/expense structure - is all agreed.

So - finally - I'll be working for The Man again and, for a period at least, not living the high life on your taxes. To the tune of sixty-odd quid a week.  Bring it on!

But Paul!  What does this mean for the blog?  I don't hear you wail.  I'm not sure actually.  I doubt I'll be able to update stuff on a daily basis, but I'm not about to stop.  Mind you, stuck in a hotel in Staines - with wireless access to the internet - it might be one way of staving off the 'sad lonely man in hotel' syndrome.  We'll see - no promises.  Enjoy it while you can!

Porcupine Tree?  What sort of name is that for a group, Paul?  Well it's a mighty silly name, if you ask me.  But - perhaps surprisingly - a remarkably good group.  'They' are essentially one man - Stephen Wilson - playing progressive rock (no shit Sherlock) blended with some 'heavier' material.  Heavy on the guitars and the synths, with some flowery lyrical flourishes, they are well worth a listen - if you like that sort of thing.  And I do.

Coma Divine is a live album from 1997 and captures the band on good form.  Long, instrumental passages interspersed with shorter, even poppier, pieces.  Probably one for the committed fan rather than the casual listener but never boring.

Here they are - Arriving Somewhere But Not Here!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 213: Drum....

Today's soundtrack:  Angelo Badalamenti - Twin Peaks Soundtrack

A watched pot never boils, a watched phone never rings...and, especially, an anticipated recruitment consultant never calls.  My last conversation suggested that the 'other' candidate would be interviewed either on Friday or on Monday...so, it now being Tuesday, I thought I might get the call.  Cue sound of fingernails being drummed on desk as tumbleweed balls blow by....

But no, not today.  It's not surprising, it's not unusual (as Tom might say) but it is a tad frustrating.  Especially as I have to make a firm decision on Staines by the end of the week...and I think I know what that decision will be!

Indeed, I spent a large part of the day putting together some formal terms of reference for the Staines contract, capturing, I think, all the issues we discussed in their offices on Monday.  Sent them down to the FD for comment/approval, then emailed the insurance company to find out the implications for the mortgage cover of accepting such a contract.  Now awaiting responses from both!

Had a good chat with Simon on the phone, now back from his overseas jaunts and looking for the next role.  He'd an interview in the afternoon in London, a very interesting role that I hope he gets - heaven knows it's an organisation that could use some decent people in it!

I promised to call him next week for a chat - true to form, he's the one being proactive about keeping in touch while I'm lapsing into my usual laissez faire mode - not good enough Paul!  My excuse that he's been jet-setting around the world and I've never known when he's going to be in the UK is at best weak - and at worst slightly pathetic!  Come on, Paul, get yourself sorted!

Postman called this morning with my new 'handsfree' car kit - my last one was fine, until I knocked off the microphone attachment with my head when getting out of the car a while ago, leaving me with a piece of a kit that was great for one-way communication - I could hear everyone fine, but no-one could hear me - but, quite frankly, lousy for the job it was intended to do.  The replacement has no moving parts at all - so nothing for me to break, hopefully.  Disappointingly, the thing only comes with a charger designed to fit into a cigarette lighter in the car - and it needed an initial ten hour charge to get up and running.  Absolutely useless, as the various chargers in my car only work with the ignition on - and I wasn't about to take any ten hour drives anywhere!  Luckily, I had an old Sony mains charger with the right connector on the bottom, so I took a chance with that, and it seemed to do the trick.  Warranty completely invalidated in the process though, I should imagine...

Spent the afternoon copying a couple of films over to my computer before running the discs back to Blockbuster - and then reviewing the online LoveFilm list, which we had allowed to run down to nothing.  A great process in theory, but in practice the website makes the selection process so difficult it is a real ballache.  Still, loads of crappy films are now queued up for our viewing pleasure - just in time for the postal strike to stop them being delivered anyway!

No matter, who needs DVDs when we've got Masterchef?  Second semifinal tonight - tall, serious Ryan up against tiny, excited David.  Ryan is the one who looks like he means business - you expect David to still be making butterfly cakes in the kitchen with his mummy - but on the day, it was a really close call.  Ryan getting the nod, but with David pushing him all the way with a good performance in the professional kitchen and some spectacular courses in the Masterchef kitchen.  Not good enough to dislodge mean, moody Ryan though - this lad has champion written all over him.

Not literally, of course.  That would look messy.

The Twin Peaks soundtrack is as mean and moody as our Ryan, the perfect soundtrack to the television series and, of course, to today's witterings here.  Twin Peaks was one of the television 'events' of the '90s - weird and unsettling in a way that only David Lynch can really achieve - that sense of something very disturbing existing just beneath the facade of everyday life.

I loved it, and got the first series on DVD when it came out, to share with Mrs W, who had never seen the original.  Probably on a ship somewhere at the time.  Sadly, we were watching it when Mrs W hear that her mother was seriously ill, and it got abandoned as we made a mad dash down to Birmingham - and because of the connotations we've never felt like picking it up again.

The music associated with the series is stunning though.  Sparse and moody, yet with an underlying beauty, the music soars at times with a huge sense of optimism.  I'm going to stop there before I start getting quoted in Pseud's corner - but just listen to this.  You'll see what I mean, hopefully.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 212: Head out on the Highway

Today's soundtrack:  CSS - Cansei De Ser Sexy

Up and out ridiculously early today, heading down the motorways to Staines for a planning meeting around the contract work that - might - be taking place shortly.  It's a long drive to Staines (just south of Heathrow, just off the M25) but it's the 'right' side of London if you're driving from the North West, and the public transport option would involve cars, trains, tubes and taxis - and around as much journey time as the drive.

Or at least it would have done if it wasn't for the big crash on the M40 around Northampton.  I'd been making good time up to that point, skirted Birmingham (taking the easy option of the toll road) and was all set for a 9:30 arrival in Staines.  Then everything ground to a halt.  A three-lane halt at that.  Traffic was stationary for a good hour, after which we started to roll forward, steadily, but at around 5mph, for a couple of miles.  Got to the obstruction just as it was cleared to the hard shoulder with all lanes open - the motorway had been closed completely, then expanded to just one lane, up till then.  At this stage the 'big' crash didn't look too nasty - a taxi hitting a Jag, from the looks of it - and there didn't seem to be any ambulances involved, happily.  There was a big pile of suitcases on the bank next to the motorway which suggested that someone's holiday (taxi on its way to Heathrow?) had been spoiled - but it could have been far worse.

Rest of the journey passed without incident, and I ended up getting to Staines just on eleven.  Enough time for an hour's chat with the FD about the assignment - and for me to confirm my interest - subject to progress on the permanent role that's still lurking in the background.  We've agreed a way forward, agreed charge-out rates and expenses - and will make a final decision on Friday about whether to proceed or not.  The company is still talking to other people about the role, but I do get the impression I'm the preferred candidate again.

Which is nice.

Journey back passed without incident, and I was home for half three - just enough time to churn out yesterday's blog and to prepare for the evening's entertainment.

Looks like being a Masterchef week this week, as the semi finals get underway.  Two chefs head to head each night, working in Michelin starred kitchens and cooking their own stuff in the studio.  For a while it looked like the Scottish lad was going through, but in the end 'Simpering Sally' (as we fondly call her) made it through to the final.  Bring on the next one!

A touch of Brazilian on the soundtrack today.  CSS - or Cansei de Ser Sexy (I got tired of being sexy) with their eponymous debut album.  Good fun, in an upbeat poppy electro sort of way, I missed them at Glastonbury a couple of years ago but they went down a storm apparently.  Not, admittedly, a band I would have gone out of my way to see, but in the overall scheme of things, the world is a better place for bands such as this.

Here they are at Glasto in 2007 - yes, it had been raining.  Dig the jumpsuit though!